Tag Archives: religion


As many of you know, I do not believe in God.  But, there are times when I come close, like on early winter mornings when I am out shoveling snow as more falls all around me in total silence.  Or when those impressive rainstorms blow in, creating a deafening sound and then roll back out, leaving a mossy smell behind.  Or when I see baby bunnies, stretching out on top of each other.

Or, during peach season.  During peach season, I almost could believe in God.

Ban from Facebook the people trying to ban from Facebook the people praying for the death of Obama

There is a Facebook group called something like “Ban from Facebook the Group Praying for the Death of Barak Obama,” or something equally catchy.  Most of my friends have joined.  I have not.

I couldn’t even find a Facebook group dedicated to earnest prayer for the untimely demise of our President.  I found several groups with a couple of hundred members who were hoping Obama would die, but no one praying for it to happen.

This may seem to be splitting hairs, but it’s not.  Since I don’t believe in God, a bunch of loons sitting around praying for the President to die seems to me a gigantic waste of time, but certainly not worth getting hot and bothered over.

Even if I did believe in God, I still wouldn’t get ants in my pants over this one.  Because, hey, if there is a God, I am sure as shootin’ hoping Hesheit is not in the business of knocking off Presidents just because someone started a Facebook group.  That would fly in the face of that whole Benevolence thing.

Free speech is free speech, and freedom of religion is freedom of religion.  We don’t get to pick and choose.  If these people want to spend all their spare time praying for the President to die, that’s their business.

At least it keeps them from actually doing anything dangerous.


             If one does not believe in God, one should probably think twice before sending one’s children to a synagogue preschool.  Yes, they will learn all the cultural shit about Purim and Passover and Shabbat.

            They will also come home talking about God.  A lot.

            The scene is bathtime.  All three slippery little people are in the tub.  Benjamin spies a speck of dust on the wall.

            “Mommy, what that?”


            “That black thing.”

            Mommy inspects, sees nothing.  “What black thing?”

            “That black thing.  That Lilah’s gina?”

            “Um, no sweetie.  Lilah’s v@gina is on her body.  It is where your p-nis is on you.”  I find it amazing, by the way, that he hasn’t brought this matter up before, as he’s been bathing with a baby girl for seven months.

            “Why, Mommy?” Ben wants to know.

            “What does Lilah have a v@gina?”

            “Yep,” he nods conclusively.

            “I know!” Zach pipes up.  This could prove very interesting; there is a damned good chance I am about to hear about X and Y chromosomes from a preschooler.  I wait.  “Girls have v@ginas and boys have p-nises,” he explains to his brother, “because God decided to build them that way.”

            Now, what the fuck?  We don’t talk about God in the house, mostly because we subscribe to the whole lotta hooey school of religion.  (And don’t go getting offended.  I don’t think other people are dumb for believing it, just like I don’t think other people are dumb for liking blue cheese.  It’s just not in my life.)  I guess the preschool talks about God, but I am pretty sure they did not explain human genitalia theologically.

            But, my curiosity has been aroused.  He’s been bringing up God a lot in conversation as an explanation for things, and I want to know exactly what he thinks he is talking about.  “Zach, who is God?”

            “He’s someone who lived in Egypt.  A long, long time ago.”

            So, there you have it, folks.  A long, long time ago in Egypt, a guy named God decided to give little girls v@ginas and little boys p-nises.

Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas

            When I was in my early twenties, my sister had a son.  My nephew was two or three years old when I visited them one year during what has come to be referred to as “The Holiday Season,” which is a euphemism for “The Season During Which the Dominant Religion (and Those Whose Families Once Affiliated With This Religion and Still Celebrate its Holidays) Try to Pretend That Having Christmas Trees in Public Buildings Does Not Violate the Separation of Church and State.”  My visit happened to coincide with a minor Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah.  It is a tradition at this time of year to give small gifts to children, so I brought one along.

            As is usual in the observance of Hanukkah, my sister was lighting her menorah every night for eight nights, adding one candle for each night.  This is done to celebrate the miracle in which God supposedly allowed a group of violent religious fundamentalists, known as the Maccabees, eight nights of light for the price of one night of oil.  She was also giving her son a gift each night, spreading out the gifts from all the relatives over the eight nights of the holiday.

            I was completely taken aback.  Partly this was because my sister has never been much of one for religion.  But partly it was because I had never before been in a house where gifts were given on all eight nights.  In our aunt’s house, where we lived for the second half of our childhood, gifts were all opened on the first night.  The family gathered in the den, surrounded by mounds of presents, and we each took turns opening gifts.  In twenty-eight minutes, there was wrapping paper everywhere and each of us had his or her gifts for the season.

            I assumed this was the way the holiday was celebrated in all families.  I figured that in the modern world, families were too busy to celebrate each and every night and that we were doing pretty darned well by at least remembering to light the candles every night.  So, when I saw my sister doing it the old-fashioned way, I was a bit awestruck.

            Over the years, my attitude towards this practice has evolved. We, too, celebrate each night.  There are no gifts the first night, as we give to charity instead for that one evening.  The rest of the nights, there are gifts, spreading out any from other relatives plus a few from us over the eight nights.  My friend, Caroline, once told me about a family that shares experiences each night: games, ice cream, whatnot.  I like that, too, but this really is the only time, other than their birthdays, that our children get new toys from their parents, and unlike the Maccabees, we are not zealots.

            To me now, the idea of opening a whole slew of gifts on the first night is a bit grotesque.  It smacks of consumerism rather than meaning.  It debases the participants because it really has nothing to do with the holiday and everything to do with getting new stuff, which is ugly.  But, more than that, it is about Christmas.

            To me, a Jewish household that has a single big night of gift-giving is aping Christianity.  This practice is akin to Jewish households that have Hanukkah Bushes.  I am not, of course, referring to mixed-faith households, in which each religion is recognized.  But ours is a fully Jewish household, and if we were to try to pretend Hanukkah is Christmas, it would feel a bit too uncomfortably like a certain famous Harriet Beecher Stowe character.

            I suspect that, as our kids get older, we will not celebrate every night together, just as we won’t have Shabbat dinner as a family every week.  But, I do hope we are wise enough to recognize that we are simply outgrowing a practice that is mostly for the kids and scale back, rather than giving a lot of gifts at once.  I hope we are all comfortable enough with our own heritage to not need to leech the trappings of someone else’s, a practice that treats Christmas and Hanukkah as though they are only about greed.

            Because, as everyone knows, the best part of Hanukkah is not the presents, the lights, the dreidels, or even the gold coin chocolates.  It goes without saying that it’s all about the doughnuts.