Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The great coming out

I don't think there can be any question that the mass comings out of homosexuals in the last decade or two will change how we think about homosexuality for a very long time. What's only beginning to become clear is that something similar is happening with religion and atheism. I've recently come across things to get me thinking on that line from two different directions.

On the macro level, there's this article by Christopher Hitchens on his book tour. Frequently, he said, he'd get the impression that half the people at his appearances came believing they were the only atheists in town. Presumably they left with a different view.

On the mirco level, yesterday I got back from visiting relatives out east. Among the relatives was my mom's brother, who I had known for some time was rather anti-religious. A few years ago he married a Jewish woman, with a Jewish wedding ceremony, which meant he had to convert to Judaism. This left my mom somewhat confused as to what he actually believed. A little bit before the trip we found out just how far he had gone--he took off three weeks to go to Israel to help repair barriades for the Israeli army. While we were there, my aunt described him as a born again Jew.

I noticed something funny while we were there, though. He talked about religion the way he always had. Among other things, he talked about how crazy the hard-core orthodox Jews he met in Israel were. When my aunt was present for the religious discussions, she described herself as more or less agnostic. And my uncle informed me that his father had told him that he was an atheist. I was mildly surprised by the bit about my grandfather, given that he had a church funeral and all with a minister saying nice things about him. My mom got a word in edgewise there, saying he had thought churches provided good communities for people, but she didn't dispute what he believed.

All the time I was thinking, "you know what? If these people had grown up with my generation, they would have had none of this ambiguity." It's just inconceivable to me that someone who had Sept. 11th as a formative experience would fail to be direct about religion--partly from my own experiences, but largely from my last few years of generally interacting with people my age. The world is changing.

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1 comment:

Techskeptic said...

as for the jewish thing...

A friend of mine who i send many atheism related links to explained it to me....

For most jews, judaism is a tradition more than a religion. Of course they this orthodox jews are weird, anyone taking any religious text literally is weird.

but my father was also jewish, suffered concentration camps, and racism, but he considered judaism a tradition also.

That is why your relative didnt really behave differently when you spoke to him again, he simply related himself to a different group of people without really having to change his beleif system.