What does it mean to be religious?

I had a conversation today with a very good friend. We were talking about what it means to be religious. Not by other people’s standards but by our standards. To put this in perspective my friend observes all the Orthodox rules for the Sabbath: no driving, no TV or electronics, no turning lights on and off etc. Yet, if you ask her she will tell you she does not feel religious.

I go to synagogue 7 days a week still! That is how far I have come since I began saying Kaddish for my beloved father 16 months ago.  I study Torah on Saturdays and spend 2 hours a week in lectures at Talmudic University. And if you ask me if I feel religious I have to tell you no. I don’t know what it really means to feel religious. I eat kosher style but I do not keep kosher. I drive on the Sabbath and I shop too. So how can I be religious? Worse yet, as much as I want to follow the precepts of the Torah I still talk about people, say mean things, loose my temper, swear (but I NEVER use G-d’s name in vain) and certainly do not do enough mitzvahs (good deeds). 

Then I ask myself, if I am not Orthodox how can I be a really good Jew? But I can’t be Orthodox because I just don’t believe what they believe. It doesn’t work for me and not because I am lazy. Maybe I have just too many questions, maybe I don’t like to be told what I have to do. Or just maybe I am too independent a woman who believes that I am equal to any man. And by the way, if you ask an Orthodox woman she will tell you she is respected and honored as a woman. So please don’t feel like you have to defend yourself if you are an Orthodox woman. You have my greatest respect.

So now please tell me what does it mean to be religious in any religion?



5 thoughts on “What does it mean to be religious?

    • Ellen Brazer says:

      Thank you for giving me that point of View and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful reply. I love the idea of hearing from the perspective of other religions. It is when we reach out to each other and understand that which makes us different and that which makes us the same that can change the world.
      May G-d bless you and keep you and all the people that you love healthy. We all need to pray for peace and understanding. It really is the good deeds we do that make us better.


      • chicagoja says:

        It’s always nice to hear from someone who is isn’t looking to convert everyone else to their way of thinking. By the way, I’m not religious in a conventional sense. I pray to the God, as you said, that lives inside of us.


  1. SaintlySages says:

    A Catholic point of view: Augustine (354-430) suggests that the word “religion” may be derived either from (1) the Latin “reeligere” (to choose again), as one again seeks God whom he lost by neglect, or (2) the Latin “religare” (to bind), as religion binds us to God. Thomas Aquinas (1226-74) defines religion as the virtue whereby one renders to God what is due to Him. The 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2135) defines religion as a virtue: “Adoring God, praying to him, offering him the worship that belongs to him, fulfilling the promises and vows made to him are acts of the virtue of religion which fall under obedience to the first commandment.” Shalom! God bless!


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