I’m really confused about religion. My ancestors were Jewish but my parents and grandparents were raised atheist and had no religious education because they lived in the Soviet Union, which had a policy of State Atheism. They identify as Jewish because “Jewish” was considered a race in the Soviet Union, was documented as such in official papers such as Passports and Birth Certificates, and it evolved from a religion in Czarist Russia to a culture in the Soviet Union. We live in the United States, and it’s confusing because we don’t know who we are. Judaism is not defined as a race here but, rather, a religion that we have almost no connection to. I grew up in the United States and was raised as an atheist/agnostic by my parents but had some exposure to Judaism as a child through my mother and grandmother because they took some classes at a local Jewish center when they immigrated. They told me some Biblical stories and ethics, celebrating Jewish holidays as a family, and observing some Commandments during the holidays. However, this was done out of hope and cultural reasons rather than belief, so I was an atheist for a long time. I was happy with myself as an agnostic: I believed in G-d and wanted to serve him through art because I loved writing and taking ballet class as a child. However, we live in a town that was created by the Puritans, so it is mostly of Christian families but with enough amount of Jewish and Asian immigrants to make the Christians uncomfortable. As a result, in High School teachers taught us Christian ethics that were at odds with my family’s (to trust them and not our parents, to fight for the victim, to disturb hierarchy with our voice) and Christian students and their parents bullied us by means of ostracism, verbal abuse, cyberbullying, and sexual harassment without rebuke from teachers so that we would feel insecure/get a mental illness and seek Christianity for solace, eventually to convert. This is almost what happened to me because I was bullied. Trying to figure out who I was, last summer, I read some of the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and then the New Testament. I read Christian websites that claimed that everyone needs to be Baptized or else they will go to Hell forever because of Original Sin, and that those who are non-Christians are influenced by Satan, who is at war with G-d. I’m so scared because I don’t want to go to Hell, but I am also a little skeptical because I think that non-Christians are more moral and intelligent and interesting than Christians (at school, the Chinese students who converted to Christianity wore immodest clothing and cheated on tests and got into worse colleges while the Buddhist/Atheist Chinese students were really well educated in STEM, really driven to succeed, and committed to education and kindness and making life easier for others without self-righteousness), and I think the world would be a better place with diverse cultures and beliefs rather than just one way of thinking like the Christian religion wants there to be. Being Jewish, however fluid that word may be, and being free to explore the world and think critically is part of my identity. What should I do? I feel warm and fulfilled at a Synagogue or with my family or eating Jewish food or spending time with my Asian friends or learning about Ancient China, but I feel so afraid of eternal damnation. It’s like there’s a spirit inside me, trying to exchange my soul into a different one. There are so many thoughts in my head I can’t get rid of. How can I be confident that Christianity is not true? How could G-d allow a place like my public high school, where our nation’s law of separation of church and state was ignored at the expense of violence to students, violence that caused our mental health to deteriorate so much, to exist?
Thank you for reaching out to us.
Based on all the background that you are relating, it is understandable that you are confused and feel pulled. In truth, it is not really possible to explain all that needs to be explained in a mere online post, what you need is a few days to investigate compare, and decide for yourself, which religion is saying the truth, Judaism, Christianity, or the Russian atheists.
When thinking about comparing Judaism and Christianity, let’s take a quick look at the origin of both religions. Judaism makes a claim which is very different than any other religion. It is documented in the Bible that God reveled Himself on Mount Sinai, and gave us the ten commandments, in the presence of hundreds of thousands of witnesses. This is acclaim that is unapparelled in any other religion.
It is written in the Bible, when Moses was talking to the Jews in the name of God (Deuteronomy 4-32) “When you will search from the beginning of days before you, from the day that God created man on earth, from one side of the world to the other, has there been anything as great as this or has anything similar been heard. Has it even been heard (or claimed by anyone) that a whole nation should hear the word of God speaking from within the fire, as you have, and experienced? Or has here been an experience that God has taken one nation out from within another nation, with miracles and wonders, with wars, and a strong hand as YOU HAVE SEEN God perform in Egypt before your eyes?”
This is a major difference that separates Judaism from all other religions. There is no other religion that can make a claim that hundreds of thousands of people had divine revelation. This claim is not only accepted by all Jews, but was documented in the Bible, without any uprisings at the time saying that it wasn’t true. No other religion can make such a claim. They ALL say the same thing, a man gets up one day and exclaims, “believe me that God revealed Himself to me, that I am special.” This is in part why God specifically revealed Himself to ALL the Jews at once, not merely to Moses or any other single prophet. Christianity and 100’s of other religions, and cults are based on people believing a single person’s claim. A claim that anyone can make up…
Another point. Even the Christians agree that the God revealed Himself at Sinai, and gave the Jews the Bible. They also agree that the Bible was the book that was studied and revered by the Jews for 1,300 years before Jesus came around. The Christians however make a claim that the Jews totally reject. They claim that God decided to change his Bible, and revise it, and the Jews totally reject this claim. In fact, there is a specific commandment in the Bible (Deuteronomy 13-2) that states that if a person will claim to be a “prophet”, and he will perform miracles, and then say to you, go worship other God’s, that his is a clear sign that this person is a false prophet. Then God said that this prophet is making false claims to take you away from my service and he should be killed! To the Jews they see Jesus’s, or any of his disciples claim, that he is a God as a fruition of these verses of the Bible, that God Told us 1300 earlier that he is a false prophet, and making false claims. Now you can understand why the Jews were willing to have themselves killed, not to convert to Christianity. They were not quite afraid of all the Christian claims that all Jews go to hell, because when we look at the original text that was given by God Himself, we see exactly the opposite of their claims!
As a side point, Christianity makes two main claims regarding Jesus, one is that he is a son of God, and secondly that he is the Messiah. It just so happens to be that the two ideas contradict each other! Everyone knows that the Messiah is a descendant of David, and that the Messiah had to have Paternal lineage to the house of David. So how can they claim that Jesus was a son of David from his father when they also claim that he is the son of God and God is his father? Obviously one (or both) are not true.
Therefore, you have nothing to fear from all the threats that they tell you, because it isn’t back up by much, and the Jews vehemently reject all their claims from the very first day that they started claiming what they believe.
If you would like, there are seminars, where you can spend a few days exploring all of these issues, ask question and talk to people who will be happy to answer all of your question, and open your eyes to the rich 3000-year-old heritage that we have. They are usually over a weekend, in a hotel, and are offered, at a very low price. If you would like me to find out about them for you let me know.
Your last question, is another issue and maybe we can talk about it at a different time.