Having been raised Jewish by two non-religious atheist Jews, participating in religious activities was not a particular focal point of my childhood. However, I did attend synagogue on most high holidays and I did go to nursery school, an after school program and summer camp for many years through the Jewish YM & YWHA (Young Men and Young Women's Hebrew Association). So my childhood was not completely devoid of Judaism or religion. But my parents were quite unconventional as they also had no problem allowing me to sing in the neighborhood church choir which I did for many years of my childhood. I also took piano lessons with the choir director. In fact, another Jewish friend of mine sang in the choir as well and took piano lessons with the choir director. I would say that being exposed to different religions had given me a more open-minded, tolerant and universal perspective on religion.
But regardless of the religion in question, organized religion in general never really resonated with me. Something never felt quite right. Perhaps the reason for this is that religion is a business? And perhaps money and business really have no place with God? But in our society that is dictated by commerce, religion would have it no other way I suppose? Those who are paying members, who make the most money and/or who donate the most money are the ones who receive preferential treatment in our society, especially in religious organizations! I learned this lesson early in life when my mother and I attended a Passover service at a neighborhood synagogue. We weren't members and we really didn't know anyone at this synagogue but my mother felt that we should go.
Traditionally, during Passover, the adults hide the afikoman matzah (flat bread) and the children search for it. Sometimes the children hide it and the adults search for it. At this particular Passover service the synagogue staff hid the matzah so that the children could search for it. It was explained that the winner (whoever found the matzah) would receive a subscription to some Jewish magazine. Anyway, I end up finding the matzah. I didn't care about the Jewish magazine, however my mother was very upset. You see, I never did receive that magazine subscription. In fact I never received even one magazine! My mother would continue to call and call and call the synagogue trying to get me my magazine subscription that I rightfully won. But you know what? They didn't care. You know why? Because we weren't members of the synagogue! And we never donated any substantial amount of money. My mother explained all of this to me. It gave me a bad feeling about religion, unfortunately Judaism in particular. But this is the world me live in. Religion is a business....and Money talks! We didn't give enough money to the synagogue, therefore we were not important.
I visited my father in New York recently and we had dinner with a couple that he is friends with. John and Sara are both Jewish (names changed for anonymity purposes). In fact, John was orthodox Jewish for a very long time. He is not so orthodox anymore. Ofcourse we entered into a discussion about religion and Judaism and I had no choice but to voice my disdain for the whole organization. I let them know that I do not celebrate Holidays nor attend any religious services anymore. Regardless of the religion, everything appears to be money and ego based. This, unfortunately is the world we currently live in. But as a spiritual individual I feel that being surrounded by people who only care about what I do for a living, how much money I make and how much money I donate to their organization is not a satisfying environment for me. I suppose I should move out of LA huh? Lol
It seems that the more money you make the more important you are. The more money you donate the more important you are. What one does for a living is more important than one's spiritual/ religious philosophy. Money is more important than a kind heart. Money is more important than one's dedication to the craft. It's more important than the good deeds and charity that we perform in life. The most important people who make the most money and who donate the most money usually sit in the front row of the religious service on their high horses. They are better than everyone else and they know it. Religion has become a competition of sorts between the haves, the have nots and everyone else in between. Egotism at it's finest. How is this spiritual? How is this Godly? No, this is religion in a materialistic commerce-based capitalistic society. This is our unfortunate reality and I want no part in it.
The couple's eyes lit up. I hit on something that they were very aware of. John had been attending a Jewish organization (for anonymity's sake I will not mention the name of the organization) everyday to pray with a minion. That's a group of men praying together. He was very dedicated. Soon he noticed that everyone was receiving gifts from this organization except him. A humble man, he was not upset. However his girlfriend Sara noticed what was going on and felt that John's dedication was being under-appreciated, particularly because he did not make a substantial living or donate as much money as everyone else at this organization. John let it go until finally one day the organization actually asked him to deliver a present to someone else in the organization. It was completely disrespectful. John still did not receive a gift. And although John didn't really care about getting a gift, it was more so the blatant disrespect and the feeling that he was being taken advantage of that upset him. This organization obviously had no appreciation for John's dedication to his craft. John decided to stop attending the prayer session daily and only attends once a week now. It's unfortunate as this is all predicated on money!
So my final thoughts are that obviously religion/ spirituality/ God in our current society is a bit tainted by commerce and capitalism. In reality everything is tainted by commerce and capitalism. Don't think so? Well, I have just one word for you... Christmas! Must we all go crazy one month a year buying a million presents for one another to place under a tree...all in the name of Jesus? People getting injured and stomped on at stores so they can buy the last Playstation? People maxing out their credit cards all in the name of Jesus?... um... I mean Christmas?...um I mean commerce? I highly doubt this is what Jesus had in mind!
My true feeling is that ones relationship with God, the Divine Spirit, whatever name you wish to call it...is a personal relationship. There is no need to pay anyone to maintain this relationship. There is no need to spend a ton of money or buy a million gifts for anyone. It isn't even necessary to gather with others and pray, although I understand that socially it may make one feel good to do so. And ofcourse I do believe in the power of prayer and when you do so in groups it makes the prayer even stronger. But I personally am a bit of a loner. I need to be around the best energy. For me... that's my cats! They don't care how much money I make, what I do for a living, or how much money I donate to whoever... they just care that I open that can of food everyday!
My suggestion... Do what makes you feel good. Attend religious gatherings if it uplifts you. Don't attend if it doesn't. Celebrate Holidays if it makes you Happy. Don't celebrate Holidays if it doesn't. I know I started feeling much better and less stressed out when I stopped celebrating all Holidays. This was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's a personal choice. Live a righteous life. You are one with God regardless of what you do for a living, how much money you make, how many presents you buy/ give, etc. You've got nothing to prove to anyone. We must understand that religion is a business. God, the Divine Spirit, The energy that created everything... that is already within us. You can't pay for that. You are that. Peace and Blessings!
Jennie Haiman is a Reiki Master Energy Healer, Co-Founder of Self Saviorz Society California Non-Profit 501(c)(3), Poet, Author and Entertainer with goals to help raise the vibration and consciousness of humanity!