the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Thinking About Religion

I don’t know if it is stress, loneliness, the upcoming Holiday season, or economic fears about the future, but I thought about religion today.  Perhaps, it is the book I am reading, “The Jew and the Lotus,” or the pizza slice I had for lunch.  Although I’m a rational person, in another place, under different circumstances, I could see myself as a person involved in spirituality and mysticism, which to me, is the logical extension of creative writing.  After all, f irst a man talks to his Penis in silly sex stories, and soon, he is inevitably conversing with God.

I like to read YOUR posts where YOU write about your religion, no matter what your faith.  Even if I don’t believe in Jesus Christ or the holiness of Buddha, these are all human attempts to understand the world, which is… well, human.  I know it is cool to make fun of religious people, and they sometimes deserve it, but I respect those who think about the deep questions, such as “Why do shitty things happen to good people?” and “Will praying increase my traffic on my blog?” I regret that I don’t have more spirituality in my life.  The “community” of Twitter is fun, but it doesn’t truly connect me to the ethical and spiritual thinkers of the past and present.

When I hear a religious person talk, my mind’s first instinct is to say “bullshit,” but my heart believes that there is an energy out “there.”   Even when I encounter one of you online, available on IM, I can feel YOUR energy.  What is this energy?  Is it in my brain?  Why do I have a special connection to certain people?  Is it random or for a purpose?  Is there a universal energy — a God?  And what does this mean in reference to ethics or day to day life?   As for my own religion — how should a Jew act?  What does being Jewish mean?  Do I have to believe everything in the Torah?  Do I HAVE to eat gefilte fish?

I’m not going to bored you today with the crap that sometimes fills my mind when I’m not blogging or watching Judge Judy.    And don’t worry about me suddenly changing my blog title to “Scientologist of the Month.”  I don’t get involved in any religion which doesn’t joke about itself.  But I do think my “rational self” suppresses my more spiritual and mystical side, the one born a Pisces, the Neilochka who isn’t so straight-arrow logical, who might EVEN believe in the supernatural power of words.

OK, enough.   Back to the empirical world tomorrow.


  1. TMC

    It’s spelled Buddha, Mr. K. : ) (thanks, changed it — Neil)

    And though I’m not an expert in any way, having earned a degree in the whole religion thing, I can say with some authority that no, you don’t need to eat gefilte fish.

  2. Lucy

    When I connect online, I don’t feel energy. I worry that I’m part of a Turing test.

  3. Kristin T.

    I like that you’re thinking about religion so broadly, from so many angles. There’s the all grown-up side, that involves exploring the deep questions about life. And there’s the childlike side, where you’re tuned into some energy you can’t understand, but just sense. And then you manage to throw your own heritage into the mix, and still be hilarious. Seems like you’re in a good place. (But fine, go back to the empirical world, if you must.)

  4. headbang8

    “…human attempts to understand the world, which is… well, human.”

    I call myself a secular humanist. Yes, I believe there is some energy we feel from others as a result of our human spirit. But to leap to a belief in a god in the sky from that base seems ludicrous to me.

    And actually, surrendering our spiritual understanding of each other to a god who only speaks to us nowadays only through highly dubious books, potentially belittles and betrays our innate humanity.

    But the fact that people believe these books over what their spiritual sense tells them, shows how corrupt and out of touch we are with the energy that flows between us, as humans.

    To them, these words are more powerful than their own hearts and minds. Maybe their hearts and minds are weak from disuse. Or maybe words (or pictures, or music) do have supernatural, spiritual power. Not just the word of a so-called god, but the words we exchange every day, since only humans can use language and it is one ofthe defining elements ofour spirit.

    Why do bad things happen to good people? Because the universe is morally neutral. It is only our efforts, as human beings, which make it otherwise.

    I believe in the power of humanity, rather than the power of god.

  5. Neil

    Headbang8 — I mostly agree with you, and I am not promoting a religious point of view, but it seems to be something that is central to most cultures and even hangs on in advanced countries in the 21st Century, even if this concept of “God” goes under different names. People will always have those big questions — what happens after you die? How did the world begin? What is the basis for doing anything good or bad? A morally neutral world gives a lot of power to men to figure out what to do, but not a whole lot of guidance. And considering that humans tend to be crappy towards one another, what holds it all together?

  6. threeboys1mommy

    What do you mean Twitter doesn’t connect you to the spiritual thinkers of the present… you’re following me aren’t you?

    My faith is such a big part of my culture that I’ve never really questioned it, even though I often think This is straight up voodoo shit!… it’s just a part of who I am, and I’m fine with that.
    This Pisces goes the flow.

  7. better safe than sorry

    my kids are all being raised as RC’s, their high school is located right next door to a mosque, which has seen it’s share of bomb threats and picketing, which has a direct impact on a catholic school right beside it. my kids have a religion course every year, but it’s world religion, in which they learn about the other faiths, i think it’s taught them to be more open minded and respectful of others. to me it’s about trying to be a better person each and every day, which sometimes isn’t always easy. i question why a God, any God, would allow a child, an infant, to die of cancer.

  8. Neil

    Better Safe — In this book I am reading, one of the Jewish leaders says that is the central problem with most religions — none of them adequately deal with that issue of the child dying of cancer. The rabbis themselves are pretty honest that mainstream Judaism is pretty vague — and confused — on this issue, throwing up their hands and saying “God works in his own ways.” Their vision of heaven and hell is not concrete as in Christianity, and the next world not as vivid as in mainstream Islam.

    I was getting into the Buddhist idea of Karma, but then I read that the traditional Buddhist might think that the child’s dying happened because of karma from this child’s bad doings or thoughts in a previous life. I’m not sure I like that point of view.

    I know there was a popular book written years ago by a rabbi in Massachusetts titled “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I should check that out.

  9. ingrid

    Thank you for this post. It is making me think. That’s all I can say right now. But thanks.

  10. ali

    just thinking of eating gefilte fish makes me vomit in my mouth a little. i guess i’m not a very good jew 😉

  11. V-Grrrl

    I have been thinking about religion since I was a kid. Raised Catholic, went to Catholic primary schools, became “born again,” attended evangelical, non-denominational churches for a few years in my late teens, early 20s, and then became an Episcopalian and very active church person after that. I sent my kids to Christian schools, but I never stopped wondering, questioning, considering what I really believed.

    When I moved in March of this year, I did not re-establish myself or my family in a church and haven’t been to a service since last February. Consider that I went to church EVERY Sunday, even during college, and you’ll how big a shift this is for me.

    For the first time in my entire life (and I’m way older than most of y’all), I am not going to church on Christmas.

    And I’m OK with that.

    My 11-year-old daughter, though, misses our church days, longs for church, and therein lies my quandray…

    At least I don’t have to agonize over the gelfite question.

  12. Neil

    V-grrl — but you had the matter of that green bean casserole.

    Ali — I’ll tell you the honest truth. I actually do like gefilte fish. And I love horseradish. They should put that stuff on burgers.

  13. sarah g

    The first step to finding any answer, is to first have a question. The next step, is simply being open to the answer. This case, you’re the only one that will recognize it. I still stand by that He will find you, and together you will both find the way that your relationship needs to work. As you know, you’re always in my prayers. Blessings to you all.

  14. Caitlinator

    I’ve been thinking a little about this and even was going to blog about it if I found the time, but you beat me to it. I wondered if, even though I am not Hindu, I could still celebrate Diwali and mean it. I wondered if, even though I am not Jewish, I could still celebrate Hannukah and get something out of it. I wondered if, even though I am not Catholic, I could practice Lent and be forgiven. Can you take part in religion even if you’re not religious?

  15. Finn

    Energy — that’s it exactly. There is certainly something, something that is beyond all of us.

    And yes, you have to eat gefilte fish. But you don’t have to like it.

  16. Jack

    The best part of Gefilte fish is the actual capture of the fish. Few people know that the mighty Gefilte is the king of all fish. If you want to catch one you have to sail way out into the ocean blue.

    In fact many people say that the quest for the Gefilte is among the most intense and most spiritual of their lives.

  17. Pare

    I can’t go deep for a comment about religion, or my feelings abt God, or even gefilte fish, because I am too distracted by this sentence: “After all, f irst a man talks to his Penis in silly sex stories, and soon, he is inevitably conversing with God,” wondering how it will look after I cross-stich it onto a throw pillow.

  18. Neil

    Caitlinator — It actually sounds like a very American idea. More money for Hallmark. Wasn’t St. Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day once solely religious holidays that everyone started to celebrate? The only bad part is that God gets cut out of it. I mean Jews love to celebrate Christmas, until we actually have to deal with the Jesus part.

  19. Jessica (from It's my life...)

    I’ve been thinking a lot about religion these days too. I thought that working in a synagogue for 6 year would have completely cured me, but apparently it only takes 6 months to get over the fact that rabbis are all fallible humans and to start to crave that spiritual community again. Or maybe it’s just the bagels and lox, but I guarantee it has nothing to do with the gefilte fish. BLERGH.

    Also, I saw what you did there. Talking about penises for the extra traffic. Shame on you. 😉

  20. gorillabuns

    I’m Catholic and I don’t feel guilty about not going to church like I should but you can be rest assured, I feel guilty about how a particular person didn’t deserve to park closer than me and I wanted to key their car in return. in the church parking lot.

  21. Chris

    We endured something very painful with one of our sons several years ago (not our oldest son who has type 1 diabetes, it was our middle boy – something different). Someone gave us the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” and we found it intelligent, helpful and therefore comforting. It was a terrible time for us. It’s not a very long book. I think you’d enjoy reading it Neil.

  22. margalit

    Jew and the Lotus is a thought provoking book. I used to work with Moshe Waldoks and have had many discussions with him on the combined spirituality of Judaism and Buddhism. There is a whole movement of Judaism devoted to this kind of spirituality.

  23. uncouthheathen

    I’ve been gearing up to go to grad school to study comparative religion. i’m not religious, but i find religion fascinating. i don’t like it much – but i love to learn about it. I’ve been reading a lot of books on religion, and I have a huge list of others that I’d love to read, too. Right now I’m reading God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. It’s interesting. I’m adding the Jew and the Lotus to my list.

  24. Charmarie

    I was a Christian. When I was 15 I gave my life to God and what was taught by my church to be true and correct actions. I was a very active participant in church and believed God to be wholeheartedly true and alive in my life. However after several years of being in an abusive relationship while pregnant and having been cheated on simoultaneously. I took a step back and re-evaluated what God was all about. There was no way that “God” was supposed to let this happen to me. People in my church including my Pastor told me to keep praying and fasting for God to hear me. I began to see things in my church change, like the Deacon cheating on his wife, yet he still had the audacity to bring the morning word during Sunday School and the clear fakeness of the worshippers. I was 7 months pregnant at the time and decided to stop going to church. Since that day over 6 years ago I said screw that and decided I needed to seek out that “energy” or “spiritual” help myself.

    I have Buddhist beliefs, I am no longer a Christian, not do I affiliate myself with any specific religion because of the hypocracy of people in the church. I am a spiritual person and believe “something” is out there be it God, Buddha or whatever. However I am more grateful that I was able to seek out my own answers and not rely on answers just fed to me.

    Seems people are having pretty good luck with Scientology though 😉 (I’m kidding…)

  25. SciFi Dad

    Easier to just let you read.

  26. Amy Nathan

    To me my religion is my heritage and my history – and it only dapples in beliefs. I know what I don’t believe though am not always sure what I do believe. It changes often. Usually when I am terrified.

  27. mommymae

    do you eat canned gefilte fish or fresh? that canned shit sucks, but i would venture a try at fresh.

  28. HeyJoe

    Interesting post, Neil. I have also noticed that it seems “cool to make fun of religious people,” (and yes, many of them deserve it) particularly in the blogging world.

    While I do not consider myself a zealot by any means, I do believe there is something spiritual about our lives and our world. What is that “energy” that makes you Neil and me Joe? I don’t know, but I’d like to believe it’s more than dumb luck and random circumstance that put us here.

  29. Sarcastic Mom

    Wow, I’m glad you told me about that book, or it would have been really embarrassing when I titled the one about you and I exactly the same….

  30. Danny

    Interesting post, but today I’m here only as a representative of the Gefilte Fish Anti-Defamation League. My suspicion is that many people who trash this splendid delicacy have never tasted it, they just hate the idea of it. A good piece gefilte fish is a work of art. With some red horseradish? YUM!

  31. deidre

    When people ask, I say I’m Jewish but I’ve never been to temple. For me putting a name on what I believe is about heritage.

    Horseradish is so good.

  32. AnnieH(the other Annie)

    Well, Neilochka, I’ll have to whisper here–I’m Catholic, but I suspect that gives the Pope a shiver up his spine every time I say it. I believe that a person’s religion should be lived out in daily life and I’m fortunate enough to work in a job that allows me to do so. Although, now that I think about it, all I do most days is give a lot a IV pain medicine and keep my patients looking tidy. Maybe that’s exactly what Jesus had in mind though when He encouraged us to care for the sick, homeless and imprisoned. IV Fentanyl and tidiness. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. Perhaps I need to start my own religion.

  33. Bryan

    Can’t wait for our annaul Channukah celebration this Sunday. Brisket, potato latkes, and gefilte fish with cocktail sauce(a mixture of Gold’s red horseraddish & Heinz Ketchup). I was in Pathmark today and was disappointed that Adler’s fish wasn’t on sale. I usually stock up on jars this time of the year. I like to have a reserve. In the event of a blizzard, I’ll have something to eat.

  34. Annie

    For me my spiritual life is about spirit, not religion, I rejected most religions early on, but I knew there was something out there(or in here)and have spent my life connecting to it and learning. Everyone has a spirit and it is waiting to hear from you, Neil :-).

  35. leah

    i recently had a conversation with my chiropractor about worm holes in space and their connection to people that have near death experiences, (going through a tunnel towards a white light…)

    i’m not one to rule things out just b/c i cannot see, touch, or prove them. nor do i understand others’ that rule things out b/c it isn’t “logical”.

    i believe there are many levels of energy out there and that, we can experience that even with on-line interaction.

    part of what made einstein such a genius is that he had an open mind. he dared to believe in the impossible.

  36. Andrew


    I concur with one of your other readers, that it’s wonderful that you appear to have a very open mind when it comes to religion.

    Personally, as a Christian, I am always prompted at this time of year to reflect on my religious beliefs and what Christmas means to me.

    For me, although you may probably disagree with me on this point, Christmas represents a great time to reflect on the love of god, and the extent of his sacrifice in the gift of Christ, who (I believe) paid the cost of my sins through his painful death on the cross.

  37. ingrid

    awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome awesome


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