Who knew I’d write a book that would help a Jew connect more deeply with his Jewish spirituality? “I heard my rabbi better this year as I fasted and sat all day in the synagogue on Yom Kippur in Riverside, CA., and was more focused. Yes, I really think that reading your books and connecting with you helped that much.”
Hi , Frank, when I first wrote to you after reading one of your posts on Huff Post, I was depressed. You were so kind to write back. It really made a difference to me.
A few weeks ago, via Facebook, I promised to give you my thoughts inspired and influenced by your latest book WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace I finally got them together, so here they are:
1. Religion must be beautiful. We should try to live beautiful lives. That’s why great music and art belongs in the churches and other houses of worship. You opened with Camilla Tilling. Wow! As a Jew I’ve been envious of the Lutheran Bach, the Catholic and Orthodox plain chant (and it’ wonderful sense of mystery and transcedence ), the Verdi, Mozart and Brahms requiems and masses etc. I do find inspirational music in Reform synagogues rarely, and mostly out of nostolgia and sentmentality. I mostly listen to Brahms et al, and simply declare it Jewish for me.
2. Religion is not a refuge from reality, It is a means of coping with it. That’s what I think you mean by ” atheist:” someone not at odds with reality, like Wallace Stevens’ man with the blue guitar. Religion is not a fairy tale, but it contains stories to teach us. We’re always adding to them and elaborating them based on our experience. It is continuous and dynamic. It changes as we change. But it’s rooted and anchored.
3. Religion is not about getting it right. It’s about screwing up.
4. Religion is not a solo instrument. It’s an ensemble. We cannot practice it alone.
5. Religion calls us to this world, and most importantly, calls us to love others, our family, friends, congregation, community, and the STRANGER!
6. Thanks to you, I can say that I am a follower of Jesus. Did I say Christian? No. To the extent that Jesus preached love of the stranger, helping the forgotten and the miserably downtrodden and oppressed, and emphasized the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself, yeah, I’m up with that. The field of Jewish-Christian polemics, while intellectually amusing in seminary (Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, medieval polemics, ludicrous at times) is not really at all relevant anymore, as the divide is no longer between one religion and another, but between those who exclude and condemn (or worse), and those who include and reach out.
Well, that’s a little of how I connected with the themes of your book. My thoughts would not have come out this way without your book. I heard my rabbi better this year as I fasted and sat all day in the synagogue on Yom Kippur in Riverside, CA., and was more focused. Yes, I really think that reading your books and connecting with you helped that much.
I write to you out of profound gratitude and fraternal love. I hope to meet you some day.
WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD is being used by many book groups, churches and college classes. It is one of the TOP 10 most popular book club nonfiction books.
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Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace