Humanistic Judaism. I had never heard of it until several weeks ago when I was informed by an acquaintance that he would be celebrating Rosh Hashanah a week later (or earlier I can't quite remember which) than other Jews I know because he is a Humanistic Jew. Me being the curious me, I did a little research to find that Humanistic Jews embrace a human-centered philosophy, a nontheistic Judaism, ergo no God of Israel. They do adhere to elements of their ancient culture, sans God.
This came to me at a time when I am saddened by the loss of ritual, symbolism, and tradition in my own culture. What I see is our American moral compass being systematically splintered. Our American value of "independence" is leading our culture away from the norms and values that once bound us as a nation.
I can envision an archaeologist in a thousand years unearthing two relics -- we know them today as the great seal of the United States of America. One relic will display the eye atop the pyramid. It symbolizes the approval of providence (God or universal being). There is no eye on the second relic. That archaeologist will eventually be able to determine when the American culture elimintated God.
Civilizations rise and fall, and with them their beliefs, norms, and values. God has already been eliminated from the Jewish culture for some, and the Christian culture for many Americans. Today we celebrate Christmas, but do we celebrate it's symbolism, ritual, traditions? Or, is it merely a time for retail stores to finally leap into the black?
Guess I'm wandering around attempting to figure out what is happening to symbolism, ritualism, tradition -- those cultural elements that bind us together and identify us as a culture. As they will, the times they are a changing. It's all ephemeral anyway and perhaps just an illusion.
Oh, and for the record, research suggests that Thomas Jefferson himself was a Humanist. All this ballyhoo about our Founding Fathers. Harrumph! It's so complex and yet so simple...we are born, we live, we die. All of this arguing and killing is just about speculation anyway, isn't it? "Now I see through a glass darkly, but then shall I see face to face." (I Corinthians 13)
In the meantime, check out this discovery in Uppsala, Sweden. At one time these folks too bound themselves together with symbols, rituals, and traditions. Time will tell what it was all about before the Vikings made landfall. Pretty cool stuff.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.