Tag: religion

Changing the Conversation about Religion, Sexuality, Abortion and Justice

It’s time to talk about religion and abortion.
It’s time to talk about religion and sexuality.
It’s time to talk about religion and justice.


For too long, the extreme religious right has dominated public conversation about religion and sexuality in this country. As a result, an unprecedented number of bills are being proposed–and far too many are passing–that attempt to write one narrow-minded, dangerous religious view of abortion and sexuality into law.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice believes that it’s time to tell the truth: most people of faith, like the majority of Americans overall, support access to contraception, sexuality education, and reproductive healthcare including abortion. We hold this view because access to education and services accomplishes two vital goals that are deeply grounded in both religious and democratic values:

  • Empowering individuals, couples, families and communities to have a healthy and fulfilling relationship–indeed, a sacred relationship–with sex, sexuality and reproduction.
  • Respecting the right and moral agency of each person to make personal reproductive health decisions according to their own beliefs and values.

As people of faith, and as Americans, we are called to seek for justice for all. Restrictions on access to sexuality education and reproductive healthcare are unjust because they disproportionately affect those already struggling – most often low income communities and people of color. Silence is no longer an option and it’s time for a change. Whether or not you identify as a person of faith, we need your help to change the conversation about religion, abortion, sexuality, and justice. Join us!

Today I pledged: 

YES! I believe that It’s Time to change the conversation about religion, abortion, sexuality and justice. Therefore, I pledge:

  1. To speak up and take action when religion is being used as a tool of judgment and shame rather than a positive force for compassion, health and healing.
  2. To help change the perception of religion by sharing the truth whenever I can: The majority of people of faith – in keeping with their religious values, not in spite of them—support access to contraception, sexuality education, and reproductive healthcare including abortion.
  3. To model a different kind of conversation, creating space for a more honest, thoughtful and mutually respectful dialogue on matters related to religion, abortion, sexuality, and justice.
Join me in taking the pledge. Its time for an open, honest, non-judgmental, conversation about religion and sexuality, abortion and justice.  Take the pledge here

Spiritual but Not Religious: How Religion Lets Us Down


Pew Research Center’s Portrait of Jewish Americans, its survey and analysis of American Jewish attitudes and beliefs, has emerged as THE topic of conversation in the Jewish world. Some celebrate the survey; some wring their hands over what it says about us Jewish Americans.

The Union for Reform Judaism released a preliminary analysis for the Reform Movement.

Jewish Religiosity or Lack Thereof

Most fascinating are questions about the religiosity or lack thereof of our Jewish brothers and sister. According to the study, only a slim majority of U.S. Jews say religion is very important (26%) or somewhat important (29%) in their lives. We might surmise that almost half of the Jews do not consider themselves religious.

In a related category, we see that Jews are not significant worship service attenders. Roughly one-third of Jews (35%) say they attend religious services a few times a year, such as for the High Holidays (including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur). And four-in-ten say they seldom (19%) or never (22%) attend Jewish religious services.

Similarly, those Jewish practices defined by the study – beyond the popular Passover Seder and, for some, fasting on Yom Kippur – do not attract significant adherents. Only a quarter of Jews (23%) say they always or usually light Sabbath candles, and a similar number say they keep kosher in their home (22%).

Yes, it seems that a vast majority of U.S. Jews consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.” Just what does this mean?

What’s the Difference Between Being Spiritual and Being Religious?

I think spirituality is the sense that we are all part of something greater. Spirituality can lead to behaviors and thought-processes, which connect us with a larger reality. Spirituality can but does not necessarily include a connection to a higher power or divine.

Now religion is a collection of beliefs, rituals, and prayers intended to help people retain a feeling of connection to an intensive spiritual encounter. Religion aims to connect us with our spirituality. For Jews, our Torah teaches that generations ago, our people – the children of Israel, the Jewish people – had a spiritual encounter with the Holy One that embedded within us a clear sense of who we were and how we should live forevermore.

Jewish rituals are intended to lead us back to the central experience of the Exodus from Egypt and our later spiritual encounter at Mt. Sinai. Jewish religious prayers return us to these spiritual events, as well as our arrival into the Promised Land, and our covenant with God.

Religion Sometimes Spoils Spirituality

So why do so many people say they are spiritual but not religious? Religion can be its own worst enemy. Sometimes religion just gets in the way of the spiritual quest. When the religious rituals become overly dry and ritualistic, they tend to suck life out of a potentially spiritual moment. When religious leaders become overly concerned about saying just the right prayer or about standing in exactly the right position when they pray, our traditions can strangle the spirituality right out of us.

I don’t believe that God cares how big our sukkah is or how long we sound the tekiah gedolah on the shofar. Nor does God does ask us to separate out our women, to eschew the non-Jew, or to extend our power over others for so-called holy purposes. Of course, when religious leaders – rabbis, teachers, communal leaders – speak such nonsense in God’s name, they further alienate Jews from the religious part of Judaism that could be strengthening their spirituality.

What do we do?

Rituals find meaning when they point us back to the holy, the spiritual. Rituals are significant when they inspire our spiritual core.

It becomes the responsibility of religion – and religious leaders – then, to return to Judaism’s roots, to rethink/reform/renew Judaism’s ritual components, and to embrace the holy in the midst of the rest.

How do we do that? 

Let me know what you think…

A Rabbi, A Priest and a Minister Walked into a Bar…

My day was the beginning of a great joke: A rabbi, a priest, and a minister walked into a bar and ordered drinks … except it wasn’t a bar, we didn’t order drinks, and instead of just a rabbi, priest and minister, more than a dozen religious leaders gathered together.

I was attending my first-ever interfaith clergy association meeting. Assembling at Unity of the Oaks in Thousand Oaks, we sat together and broke bread (a meal that amazingly addressed the needs of everyone – carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-freers…). We updated each other on the happenings in our churches, temples, mosques, and meeting rooms. Theologically diverse, and in some cases holding diametrically opposed values, we rose above differences to embrace that which unified us: a desire to engage the sacred, to create a world filled with compassion and justice.

So many people complain that religion, the opiate of the masses, has been the cause of more warw and violence than anything else. History provides plenty of fodder for those arguments; the past is littered with crucifixions, crusades, inquisitions, and genocides, colonization, missionizing, and more. Most poignantly, this year we commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which was nothing if not a misappropriation of Islam for vile purposes.

Yet religion – most all of them – at its core pursues peace. So every instance of an individual or group, picking up a knife or gun and claiming that his “god has called him to slay the unbeliever,” should be recognized for what it is: the misuse, misappropriation, and desecration of the words and intent of the Divine.

Religion’s purpose is to uplift and to strengthen, to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. That’s why more social justice work is done by religious people than any other. And that’s why more joy and love emanated from that interfaith gathering, as Jew, Christian, Morman, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian Scientist (and others) came together to break bread and break the down barriers that attempt to divide us. It was an energizing experience, one I hope to enjoy again and again.

NOTE:  I have begun writing for another blog in Calabasas Patch. Sometimes I will double post. Sometimes I will write content special to that readership. Either way, may my words bring wisdom and illuminate the intersection of spirituality, religion, and daily life. Check out my other blog on Calabasas Patch.