Just-released polling data shows that when asked, only 42% of Israelis defined themselves as secular, and of those 82% conduct a Passover Seder and 24% attend synagogue services over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur! What’s all this mean and why is it important?
For starters, it suggests that the language we are offered by pollsters, both in Israel and pretty much everywhere else in the world, is far less nuanced than are our own spiritual identities. Perhaps, at least among Jews, should stop using the language of ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’ altogether. It’s not as if it serves us well. It actually polarizes communities in ways that leave nobody but extremist happy, and as these numbers demonstrate, fail to meaningfully capture what most Jews actually feel and do.
Instead of using ‘religious’ and ‘non-religious’, themselves terms foreign to traditional Jewish thought, perhaps we should simply ask people what they do, what practices they practice, how they work for them and what those who think of themselves as religious leaders could do to better support them in their practice, whatever it is.
Clearly this is not simply a Jewish thing, and the same trend which can be seen among Israeli Jews, is on the rise among Americans of all religious persuasions.
If the past decade could be called the “Rise of the Nones” i.e. the massive growth of Americans who refuse to check any of the usual boxes when participating in studies of religious identification, then the coming decade will come to be know as “The Rise of the Both/Ands”.
We are secularists who celebrate holidays and even visit houses of worship; we are traditionally observant but pluralist in our thinking and theology, etc. We are the people who made Beliefnet.com an idea whose time had come. As someone interested in BOTH old ways and new trends, I hope that those most committed to the old ways, appreciate this reality and figure out how to participate in it. We need each other.