Saturday, March 12, 2011

Leah Jane

Hello and Happy Saturday!

Thank you so much to Lily Shahar Kunning for sharing your very interesting faith journey with all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers!
Thank you so much Lily!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Leah Jane.
Leah Jane is an Apikoros and I know you will enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Leah Jane's Introduction:

I am Leah Jane. I'm an over-educated, loudmouthed, somewhat unconventional, autistic poet-dreamer who likes to smell flowers. All you need to know about me is that despite its depravity, I remain always a great lover of humanity and will always try to push it collectively in the right direction, despite it being a spirit-breaking labour. I love the world too much to be happy in it, but that doesn't mean I can't try.
I also am the blog mistress of The Quixotic Autistic ( ) where I can be found talking about autism from my own point of view as an autistic person.

1)What religion do you practice?
After much deliberation and consideration, I decided to label my own spiritual practices as “Apikoros”, which describes in the Jewish tradition, anyone who holds heterodox or unconventional views. It sums up what can be described as me attempting to follow in the footsteps of Baruch Spinoza, Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and other great Jewish figures, who pushed boundaries and flouted tradition in favour of something more personally meaningful.
It's largely informed my a deep love for both the universe we all share with one another, and a desire to emphasize our connected fate over divisive forces. I'm more or less a secular Jew at this point.

2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
My father was a non-practicing Jew, and my mother had been Lutheran as a little girl, but I was never pushed into any particular religious tradition. I also grew up in a primarily Japanese-American neighborhood, which I think, in the long-term, influenced the way that I understand human nature, because my neighbours introduced me to Buddhism and Shinto at an early age.
When I became a teenager, I studied many of the world's religions, partially because even though I did not believe in an anthropomorphic, aware God, I was feeling spiritually deprived from the death of my father, and wanted to better comprehend human nature, something which I felt as an autistic person that I had to learn from scratch. I found many of the ideas enchanting, but I felt they were saddled down with unnecessary dogma and lofty declarations about the universe that were not falsifiable.
I reached where I am today by going back to my father's religion, and becoming infatuated with several Jewish concepts, but in particular, the principle of Shalom, or “peace”, stuck to me. The ideas of social justice, community, and covenant stayed in my heart, and I decided, ultimately, that these concepts were too wonderful for me to abandon just because I did not agree with all of the rest of Judaism. So I decided to become a secular Jew.

3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other.
I'm extremely liberal. I try my best on principle to accommodate all view points, but a few conservative or orthodox schools of thought directly clash with my firm philosophy of treating all people with dignity and respect.

4) In your opinion, what makes you moderate/conservative/other?
Probably my most defining liberal feature is the absence in my world view of a sentient, humanoid God figure, and my emphasis on shared culture, celebration of love and peace, and social justice over adherence to Holy Books.

5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
I think a staunch belief in the traditional canon of one's religious literature/oral tradition would be the best definition.

6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
I don't believe in an otherworldly paradise after death. But the way my belief system works is that I am trying to push humanity towards the closest thing we will get to paradise on earth. We may never reach it, but that is no reason to never stop trying. We can do better.

7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
Right now, we have yet to reach the paradise I dream of: A world free of oppression, hunger, privilege, illiteracy, poverty, inequality, and terror. I hope though, that in due time, we will all be welcome into this paradise, regardless of religion or creed.

8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
It's something that I came to on my own journey, and which I am continuing to discover and unfold as I get older and I change. It's a synthesis of both my traditional heritage and my own thoughts and ideas.

9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
I like to celebrate the Jewish high holidays, either at home, or among close friends who share my culture.

10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Absolutely. We're all brothers and sisters, and the way I see other religions is as a series of roots all coming out to form the same tree.

11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I have on multiple occasions celebrated with other faiths. I have attended Eid celebrations, Buddhist meditation sessions, and when I lived in Japan, I attended Shinto ceremonies, a Seicho No Ie class, and prayed nightly at the Butsudan with my host family. I see no reason why I shouldn't, as long as the holy days and ceremonies are rooted in love or another noble virtue.

12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
The Burka is a personal choice; As long as a woman is not being forced against her will by family or courts to don it, I am fine with her decision. Sharia law I look less kindly upon, because I believe human rights trump all other laws.

13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
It appears to have no real explanation other than a belief stemming from ancient cultures that women are somehow unclean or incomplete versions of men.

14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
I have no place of worship specifically.

15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
It affects most, if not all, of my ethical decisions and the way I interact with my fellow humans and animals. My opinions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage are informed by years of Jewish persecution at the hands of gentile ideology: I have come to believe that any judgment upon others based on your own personal views is not acceptable.

16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
I would have no problem whatsoever. Whatever root they take, it all leads back to that same tree. But I would be devastated if they adopted a religion which participated in the oppression of other people.

17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?

18) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
There are plenty of Jews who would actually consider me to be “not practicing” because of my views on God and the universe. I also am not particularly popular with Atheists and Agnostics. Perhaps the closest representative to my “religion” in mainstream culture is pantheists and secular Jews. Einstein is a popular example today, although he is, tragically, frequently misquoted. Same goes for Carl Sagan.

19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
I've never had people perform criminal acts or violent acts against me. I've been harassed on the job before for my religious views and cultural background, and it was a heartbreaking experience. I can't even imagine living in a world where Pogroms are still commonplace.

20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
No. Sometimes I feel that other people misunderstand me or pigeonhole me based on either stereotypes about Jews or Atheist/Agnostics, but that is their way, and not my tragedy.

21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
It does. It offers me a chance to sit back and contemplate just how tiny I am, and yet it gives me a sense of purpose and direction, and most important of all, community.

22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
I've never seen any proof of it offered. But I'm not closed to the idea until I see irrefutable proof that it's not the case.


  1. Thank you so much for your post, Leah Jane. I've greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts and agree with your view point :)



  2. An interesting site indeed. Spending much time here it will be a joy to think a while, answering the questions as well.

    Please have you all a good Sunday.

    daily athens

  3. > I decided to label my own spiritual practices as “Apikoros”, which describes in the Jewish tradition, anyone who holds heterodox or unconventional views.

    That’s a rather kind interpretation. “Apikores” is typically used to mean “heretic,” with all of the same negative associations and more. It comes from “Epicures”, a philosopher who rejected superstition and advocated a life of asceticism, but whose followers gained a reputation for indulgent hedonism.

    Might not “Jewish Pantheist” more accurately describe you, without the negative connotations of “apikores”?

  4. Thanks for featuring me, YMR!
    And @G*3: I use the A word for the reason some gays self-describe themselves as the F word, or why some women call themselves "bitch". It's a matter of reclamation and pride in my difference in my case.