Can A Defact Atheist Honestly Convert?

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This topic has 4 voices, contains 3 replies, and was last updated by  Debbie B. 1148 days ago.

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June 7, 2011 at 7:13 am #5837

youngidealist

Hi.  I’ve been falling in love with a Conservative Jewish woman, and she has been falling in love with me, but I’ve already experienced and rejected Christianity and consider myself today as a defacto atheist.  She spent half of her life in Israel and she’s been serious all of her life about marrying a Jewish man. She has finally compromised and started dating me as I showed a willingness and desire to look into the prospect of conversion.  I still find things to be sacred and while I think it not likely, I want to think that there might be a pantheistic God that exists. I’d almost say that I’d wish to be seen as ignostic.

I see prayer and meditation as beneficial and I have always envied the Jewish community and Jewish families. I would be happy to raise my children Jewish, especially after her comforts and traditions and to make her happy.  I’ve been attending some services and I enjoy them more every time I go. The words about God as I understood them in Christan terms don’t sit well with me, but the Jewish idea of God seems so much more malleable.  I think it would make me happy to see Jewish prayer as a meditative means of communing with the universe and the loving community around me.

Whatever I do, I need to do it honestly. Can anyone help me to determine if Conversion into Conservative Judaism is honest and possible for someone like myself?

June 7, 2011 at 11:56 am #5839

Tclynch

Hi There,
  Well, I think that is really something you have to decide for yourself. Faith comes from within. I know how you feel as I was not attracted to Christianity and for most of my life didnt think much about religion.
  I have been interested in Buddhism on and off over the years and only learned about Judaism recently. I’ve been very surprised how emotional it has been for me. However, I think conversion is a very personal process. It’s something you have to work through. Talk with a Rabbi, even more than one from different synagogues. Get different opinions.

June 8, 2011 at 3:14 am #5842

Steve

Thank you for your response Tclynch.  I seem to be having the hardest time getting to speak with a rabbi.  I know that I will find one to speak with eventually, but I’m really eager to get more perspective.  I’ve been trying out some thought experiments in my mind to help.

  The faith that comes from within me is a faith in love and truth.  If a conscious being created me, my intuition tells me that it created me with this in mind: build a family, love them, care for them, and love philosophy.  Personally, I’ve felt so empty my whole life from being in a home, alone with my hard working mother who was always too busy trying to care for me.  I want to do right by her and build a whole and secure family for myself.  If the world felt the same way, I would consider all people to be family in my eyes.

  This is the major flaw that I see in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism.  They are great at developing family and love within a community, but in their own ways they still attempt to be exclusive.  Talking to Jewish people and to rabbis might reveal to me that this is a misconception on my part, and if that is the case then I am ready to begin the conversion purely for the sake of extending an arm to a community that loves a sense of building a secure family as I do. 

  I understand that there are sects of Judaism which would be happy to accept me with this purpose in mind.  But this woman who I love feels strongly about Conservative Judaism, and looks up to Orthodox Judaism, even though she doesn’t agree with many of it’s practices.  What’s more, I think she actually enjoys Reform practices more, but she has this sense about her to always do things properly in some fashion or another.  When she compromised, it wasn’t for any other reason than that I pointed out the contradiction of how I was considering a huge change to go through that will last my whole life, but we haven’t even kissed yet. We’ve just pined over each other with her religious convictions in the way of our attraction.  If it made no difference to her, I would practice Conservative practices with her but convert to Humanistic Judaism, which does fit my own personality well.

  Even if we weren’t falling in love, having a Jewish friend as close as her makes me want to be able to cross that bridge and solidify a sense of family between us.  We already think of each other as family, but as I’ve mentioned I envy and love Jewish culture and I wouldn’t be completely comfortable unless I could be considered a part of her tribe.

  Then there’s the matter of if I should be convinced of something regarding Judaism before converting.  In orthodox Judaism, this is clear. I cannot agree to many of their practices and I don’t see them being much for exceptions.  As for Conservative, I can’t be sure yet. The Conservative rabbi I’m planning to see seems very open minded.  At the last services he tried to give reasons why Stephen Hawking should accept God from the same pantheistic respect that he and Einstein referred to in their descriptions of  physics in the universe.

  Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, I know that converting and raising Jewish children with this woman some day would make me happy.  As far as my personal convictions are concerned, the ends justify the means. The only question holding me back is if part of the means might include being dishonest, which I’m mostly just incapable of and don’t wish to be with her.

June 10, 2011 at 4:09 am #5850

Debbie B.

I am a Conservative Jewish convert and I personally have spoken to a number of other converts about their conversion experiences: several Conservative converts, a Reform convert, and a couple of Orthodox converts.

My sponsoring rabbi felt that a belief in God was an important aspect of Judaism and he also required a fairly traditional observance of kashrut and Shabbat, although somewhat more lenient in some of the observance details than an Orthodox rabbi would be. (For example, allowing me to continue to drive on Shabbat or holidays to one of the two congregations that we are active in—we live within walking distance of the other one, but we love the farther one too much to give it up.)
However, I have friends who admitted to being basically “agonstic” to their sponsoring Conservative rabbis and although it would have been problematic if they had absolutely rejected the idea of God, it was OK for them to have some uncertainty. The interesting thing is that at least one of these converts came to believe in God some two decades later and I think the other may also believe in God these days too. I also have a friend whose Conservative sponsoring rabbi was very lenient in what she required in terms of kashrut observance–even saying that if it would cause a problem with her Mexican mother to not eat pork, it was OK to do so for the sake of honoring ones parents.

If you feel that Reform Judaism fits you better, perhaps it would with help your partner’s feelings about it to know that if all the traditional rituals are done for a Reform conversion (i.e. immersion in a mikveh, and circumcision for a man, and coming before a panel of three Jews [regardless of what movement of Judaism they affiliate with]) then it is considered valid by the Conservative movement. Orthodox rabbis usually do not accept non-Orthodox conversions as valid, but I do know of some individual cases in which an Orthodox rabbi accepted the Jewish status of a Conservative convert (In one case, after a few months of consistent attendance at daily morning prayer the Orthodox rabbi finally decided he was Jewish enough to count in a minyan).

I think you need to experience Judaism in a particular community for awhile and really learn about all the details of expected observance and belief before you can make an informed decision about whether conversion to Judaism and in which movement is right for you. Something that is important to know is how much more important the “doing” part of Judaism can be compared to the “believing” part. It is different from Christianity in this respect. That’s why you really need to learn a lot to convert. At least for the more traditional kinds of Judaism, “belief” alone is totally insufficient for conversion.

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