“Believing in”

Been thinking a little bit about the concept of “belief” lately.  Loosely related, I thought this post was interesting.  Here are some excerpts to entice you to read it (bolding mine):

We [Jewish people] face the now-universal injunction for those who consider themselves “religious” (there has never been such a thing on the face of this Earth before Christianity; Christianity is the first and the last ‘religion’) of “but do I really believe in G-d?” This injunction, this “test of faith” is part and parcel to a Christian mode of subjectivity which has made the (simultaneous) production of, and disavowal of doubt–the challenge of “true faith” versus “hypocrisy”, “heresy”, and “unbelief” which together form the Christian problematic–an integral part of religious experience.

It is significant that seldom in Jewish history have we drawn lines around the ‘community of believers’ in contradistinction to the apostates and the heretics. If anything, we only ever condemned those who refuse the work, a term in Hebrew (avodah) which has nothing to do with our capitalist understanding of labor but instead refers to the act of bringing about that which underlies and redeems the world, of performing mitzvot (commandments), of tzedek, tzedek tirdof (“Justice, justice you shall pursue,” Deut. 16:20). As our sages said, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” (Rabbi Tarfun, Pirkei Avot 2:16).

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8 responses to ““Believing in”

  • queenieofaces

    (Psst, you should come talk to me about belief in Japan because boy that is a wild ride.)

    • epochryphal

      queeeeenieeeee talk 2 me abt belief in japan! abt belief vs religion vs superstition vs folk practice vs just the way it is, abt shinto and its coexistence wt state and w christianity and buddhism, abt those spiritworkers and how they are classed comparatively, abt what conversion means, aaaaa!

      • queenieofaces

        This is literally what I’m reading about for my examinations now so UM YES JUST POINT ME IN A DIRECTION AND I WILL GO.

        (Also, conversion is a wild ride since the religion I’m currently studying is…technically not one that you’re expected to convert to [it’s something you do, not something you convert to] but I may be required to convert on paper in order to carry out part of my research, making me more bureaucratically converted than, you know, people who grew up with it.)

        • epochryphal

          OK YES WHERE. here in coyote’s comments or on my blog or yours or over email or where. i’m flexible.

          but plssss yes also what is a Protected belief/practice (are there, in japan?), what is eccentric, what is normal and not considered belief, any and all of these and the above directions. most of all wtf is superstition vs folk practice vs belief system.

          • queenieofaces

            ANY OF THE ABOVE??? (although my blog doesn’t have a comment section which makes it hard and maybe we shouldn’t take over Coyote’s comment section; I’m often easiest to reach via gchat in which case you will get PURE UNFILTERED QUEENIE INFO DUMP)

            OKAY, so I had some problems with The Invention of Religion in Japan, but I really liked the way he thinks of religion-superstition-secularity as a triangle with each corner defining the others. Civilization and Monsters, which I also had issues with (in particular his attempt to create a black/white binary in his conclusion NO DUDE STOP), does have some good things to say about the way that modernity is defined in relation to superstition as well, and that in order to create modernity you also need to create superstition. I also just generally have a ton of thoughts about modernity/modernities and creation of orthodoxy and constructed traditions and who gets left out when modernity comes in and everything has to be categorized as religious, secular, or superstitious.

  • Arrela

    “belief” is such a weird concept.

  • epochryphal

    i really love the final quote: “The question of faith will never be answered in terms of a verbal affirmation of belief, but in the existential and practical orientation towards the shattered divinity of a broken world.”

    i also feel like this clashes Hard against the christian (evangelical?) admonition to Declare your faith, to Say it, to expect persecution and be ready to die saying you’re christian, that anything less is betrayal. so much about speech acts.

    definitely snagging that quote for prompting belief discussion.

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    This is one of the things that attracted me very much to Judaism. A greater emphasis on actions than on belief.

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