Christians believe that Jesus is their savior and that he's the son of God; without him, there is no way to get to Heaven otherwise. How did you handle the feeling of letting go of Jesus and the idea that was the only way and letting go of the salvation of your soul? I know many Jews and Christians who think Jesus was more a prophet than the son of G-d. So was it easier to put him in that view? Did you feel any anguish or emotional conflict?
I sent this inquiry to our Jews by choice and asked for their replies. Here's what they said.
My own observations are these:
Christianity has different degrees of belief (just as Judaism does).
(1) You can be a Christian with a minimal sense of Jesus and Heaven, ie such people are "ritualistic" Christians where it's more a matter of tradition and community and reciting familiar words; Jesus being your savior and Heaven are vague undefined elements.
(2) Then there are "active" Christians who really do believe in those things and for whom Jesus is the whole point of their lives.
(3) And then there are people from a Christian heritage who think it's all a bunch of hooey.
I imagine that a Christian who converts to Judaism either fell in the first category all along and was drawn to Judaism because Judaism gave their love of ritual some meaning; or they had been in the second category and outright lost their faith; or they were in the third category and were glad to recognize in Judaism a religion that doesn't rely on supernatural stories about virgin births and walking on water.
Going from the first category to Judaism would be a process of evolving; it's all but impossible to believe someone could jump from the active second category straight into Judaism; it's quite likely that many, many converts come from the third category.
So on your questioner's question about "letting go of Jesus": for the Jewish convert he was already gone.
Interesting... As you know I grew up in the Roman Catholic school and the last thing my school principal Sister Madeleine said to me at graduation was, "You know I and the other sisters here in the convent love you a lot, you are a very special child. Please promise me you will be baptized one day before you die. I really want to be able to see you in heaven!"
So it got me thinking about why is the "heaven" idea so quintessential to the Christianity ideology. And of course the holy trinity -- Father, son and the holy ghost.
For the years after that traumatizing request, I spent years studying and learning about other religions as a hobby. Actually, it is more of a process of personal search. For me personally, it was the Daoist philosophy that helped a lot with the conversion process, believe it or not! It was the idea of karma from the eastern philosophy (Dao, Buddhism and Ayurvedic altogether). In this universe, we are all beings searching for happiness. And if we think about it, happiness is different for everyone because of the influence of personal religion, upbringing, environment, family, etc.
Sister Madeleine was right, in her ideology. The basis of her message was out of love. If we take one step up on the macro chain, her love was based on the boundary she defined, so I appreciate the love fully. Am I damned if I am not a Christian? Well, the question is... Jesus was a good Jew. He was the "son" in the trinity, therefore, he only accepted the Father and Holy Ghost out of the trinity. So, what do you say to that???
At the end, I think if we can accept the different meanings of happiness to different people AND let it be. Just accept the fact that different people have different ideologies, but the most important is we all strive to be kind in our own definition. That is MY essence of tikkun olam. After all, we are in pursuit of happiness in this world.
I was raised “born again.”
I feel no anguish AT ALL about letting go of the idea that belief that Jesus is the son of G-d as the only ticket to heaven. I was raised Christian and was TORMENTED by this being drilled into my head. I never truly believed it, although I claimed to because I knew if I didn't I would spend eternity in hell being tortured for my sins and be consumed by flames. But it never ever ever made sense to me or felt like it could possibly be even remotely true. When I discovered that one of the responsibilities required of being Jewish is to question everything, I couldn't convert fast enough. It's a horrible feeling to be told that you are going to hell because you don't believe in your heart something people are telling you you have to believe.
I grew up Catholic, and I thought about this question a lot.
I had great regard for Jesus, and especially for the things he said about showing kindness to other people. I thought that he spoke for God but had always (since the age of 8 or 9) had a hard time believing that he was God. Why would any human being be God? It worried me that I had to believe this, above all, in order to be saved -- to not spend eternity in hell. Why were my thoughts more important than my actions?
In high school I went with a boyfriend to some Protestant retreat where we were told that anyone who didn't believe in Jesus would go to hell. I said that I didn't think a merciful God would send Jews to hell -- God had made covenants with the Jews. The minister quoted various new testament verses to me. I just couldn't buy it. Jews had been born into their religion, just like I had.
I became an agnostic and married 2 agnostics of Jewish descent. At 60 I had a gig at a synagogue, and when introduced to the rabbi, asked if I could make an appointment to talk to her.
She gave me a lot of things to read, and I learned that Jews do not view the Messiah as a savior from sin, nor will he be God. There's not really a lot about the Messiah in the Torah.
When I got closer to conversion, Rabbi M-M asked me (as, she told me, she asks everyone who grows up Christian) what my relationship to Jesus was. I told her that it was rather like my relationship to Abraham Lincoln -- someone in history that I think a lot of, and even love. But do I think either of them were God? No.
Later, as I read about early Christians and the Roman Empire, I wondered if the Romans didn't deify Jesus so that they could ignore most of the humanitarian things he said. What they thought mattered most was belief in him.
I'm not worried about being saved. I have a relationship with God, which must mean the same thing, and I don't believe in eternal damnation. I don't know what happens afterward, but I have chosen to live a Jewish life.