By Rabbi Rami Shapiro
A new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll reveals that more than half of all Americans have changed religions at least once in their lives. There was a time when people stayed with the religion of their birth. Those where the good old days when leaving one’s religion was punishable by death. Of course in some Islamic countries the good old days are today, but here in the US of A we are free to change religions at will.
As one who likes to keep up with the latest religious fads (I passed on priestly pedophilia, but other Catholic traditions do have a certain allure) I have decided to change my religion. Well, not change my religion, after all how can I change Judaism? No, I mean I will opt out of Judaism and join something else. The question is what religion will I join?
Hinduism attracts me because I love all things elephant (with the exception of today’s Republican Party). But then I would be subject to the caste system, and with my luck I would be tossed in with the Dalits, the Untouchables.
When I first learned this I thought it would be cool because I thought Eliot Ness was going to be my boss. Then someone told me that the dalits had nothing to do with the FBI, so I lost interest. Then someone told me that the dalits were really the Daleks from the Dr. Who television series, and I am a huge Dr. Who fan and hate the Daleks who are always out to get Dr. Who, so Hinduism is out.
Buddhism is an option. By being a Buddhist I can still hang out with Jews since almost all the Buddhists I know are Jews. On the other hand, Buddhism doesn’t make room for God and I can’t seem to shake Her, so being a Buddhist isn’t going to work.
Becoming a Muslim or a Christian are also out since they worship the same insane warlord as the Jews from whom I am trying to switch. This would be like a Coke drinker switching to Pepsi when the whole point was to give up brown sugar water altogether.
Taoism is probably the religion for me. First, its “bible,” the Tao te Ching, is only 81 poems long so there isn’t a lot to learn or carry around. Second, the great Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu seems to share my sense of humor, something that no saint in any other religion does. And third the yin-yang symbol is round and therefore lacks the sharp points of the Star of David and Cross of Christ so there is less chance of poking myself when wearing religious jewelry.
So I guess Taoism is it. And today I am officially switching to Taoism. That’s it, then. I’m a Taoist. You know what bugs me about my Taoist religion? It just isn’t progressive enough. Too traditional. Tai Chi is too slow and too long for me. I’ve got to change Taoism, make it hip and modern, and more to my liking. But I sense resistance from my Taoist co-religionists. They don’t want to change. I’m frustrated with conventional Taoism. Maybe I should find another religion more suited to my nature. I wonder if Judaism has anything to offer me?