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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Prayer and belief

Because Mormon posthumous baptism of Jews and Holocaust survivors was in the news, Lisa sent Leo and I an email about her own participation in this, or lack of it.  Then she wrote a long message about her spiritual beliefs (including Marianne Williamson, The Four Agreements, and the Dalai Lama) and invited us to reciprocate.  Leo wrote a message talking about Buddhism being great but kind of isolated, and that his kids believe in God, so he should probably going to a non-sectarian church (there are several he would probably like).  But I never sent a message, for several reasons.  One being that Lisa is always much more interested in what Leo has to say, so I wasn't sure she was really asking me.  Another is that Leo at least, maybe both of them, think I'm some kind of fanatic because I actually belong to an organized religion. Another is that I have no idea what to say, since I don't know what I believe, and I've been in the throes of an existential religious crisis for at least 20 years. (There are so many things about Judaism as a culture and a religious tradition that awe and inspire me, and there are so many things about it that disgust and embarrass me.)

Then, just a few days later, my friend Janet posted an article about prayer and the brain on FB, and wrote a long message about praying regularly, even though she's not religious.  For some reason, her message elicited an immediate and visceral response from me:

I think human spiritual experience is so much more complicated than the fundamentalists and religious fanatics who dominate the conversation in this country would have you believe.  I joined a synagogue for the sense of community and belonging, but my experience of God and my participation in prayer is very personal.  I feel more connected to a higher power when I walk in the snowy woods with my dog than almost anywhere else.  And I'm not actively praying or consciously meditating while I'm walking - I'm just being . . .

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