Thursday, December 2, 2010


My goal in this blog is an exploration of questions of identity -- how can a person like me (and I assume many others) have a strong Jewish identity without believing in the religion? Who can influence me, inspire me, serve as a model? How have selected individuals approached these issues?

Identity has lots of consequences, including who one chooses as a hero. Here is an interesting essay about religion, politics, and identity: KEEP YOUR IDENTITY SMALL by Paul Graham.

His most important point:
I think what religion and politics have in common is that they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan.

Which topics engage people's identity depends on the people, not the topic. For example, a discussion about a battle that included citizens of one or more of the countries involved would probably degenerate into a political argument. But a discussion today about a battle that took place in the Bronze Age probably wouldn't. No one would know what side to be on. So it's not politics that's the source of the trouble, but identity. When people say a discussion has degenerated into a religious war, what they really mean is that it has started to be driven mostly by people's identities.
He concludes: "The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you."

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