Am I a “Cultural Christian” or a “Secular Jew?” Like It or Not, We Are All Culturally Defined by Religion.

Can you be a “Cultural Christian” or a “Secular Jew?” There is some debate around the definition of those who do not actively practice the traditional requirements of organized religion, but still feel an underlying draw to that religion’s culture.

Arik, for example, who does not believe in his religion’s god, still believes he is a Jew. He believes he is part of Jewish culture despite his separation from his religion’s doctrine. He calls himself a “Secular Jew.”

Secular Judaism is a way of defining the cultural influences his ancestors have bestowed upon him. He is imbued with a pattern of customary beliefs, social forms, and behavior that is deeply rooted through his succeeding generations from Eastern Europe and the religion they practiced—Judaism.

Arik’s values and social practices exist because of his ancestor’s religious doctrine, and with a deep overlay of the geo-political and socio-economic status of his family roots.

Like Arik, many of us who come from families who followed the teachings of Muhammad, or Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Sikhism; and have societal characteristics from these religions regardless of how deeply we believe in the gods of these religions and their doctrines. Our customary beliefs and social forms are also tied to  the geo-political and socio-economic impact of from families who were Turkish Christians, or African Buddhists or an Israeli Jew.

I am one-half Scandinavian Lutheran, with relatives who emigrated through the gates of Ellis Island, and one-half pre-Revolutionary War American protestants. I’m a melting pot of immigrant sweat-labor and white-collar entitlement and traditional Protestant Christian values. And, at the end of the day, if I had to pick a cultural designation, I’d probably call myself a “Cultural WASP”—a White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I celebrate Christmas and Easter, am reverential to pastors and priests, and say an occasional “Thank God.” I was baptized, but rarely attend church services. I believe there could be a god, but I’m wholly unsure of which (if any) religion he (or she) subscribes to. I have a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes me as a “Christian” but don’t know if there is a difference between the Magi and the Three Wise Men.

My culture is defined by Christian values, even though I am not a practicing Christian.

Yep, I’m definitely a Cultural WASP. What about you?

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