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Paul Simon writes: "I guess I'm asking you to define your terms, a fair request of an academic. Albright never espoused nor practiced Judaism, nor was she raised Jewish. If you consider her Jewish, you also consider former Secretary of Defense Cohen Jewish, I assume". As I say below with regard to the conversos, converted Jews are aware of their ancestry, although they do not talk about it. We went into the case of Cohen some time ago. Jewishness ia inherited from the mother. His was a Protestant, and he viewed himself as such. On the other hand, Senator Dianne Feinstein, whose mother was Christian, chose to follow her father's religion, which she can do.
Paul continues "So, if it is genetic, as you seemingly assert, the thousands and thousands of Spaniards (and Latin Americans) who are descendants of the Conversos, where do they stand?" Good Lord, I have never said that being Jewish was genetic! I have made a special study of Spain in the 18th century, and the foreign travelers have left fascinating accounts of the conversos there. They made a great show of being Catholic, but at home in private they practised their Jewish rites. Something similar can be seen among the American Indians. In Chichicastenango in Guatemala they attend mass and then go up the mountain to practice their pagan rites. I plan to post a related item on Oaxaca, Mexico.
As for the conversos in this continent, Professor Carlos García Prada, a Colombian who taught at the University of Washington, told me that he became very friendly in Seattle with a family of conversos. He used to go to their home for dinner, and one night the mother pulled out a rusty key and told him it was the key of their old house in Toledo. They hoped to recover it some day. I imagine the Palestinians who lost their homes feel the same way. How far the new generation of descendants of conversos are aware of their ancestry, I do not know, but my guess is that most of them are.
Paul asks: "Is your definition that being Jewish is a choice like being Catholic, or is it genetic? If it is genetic, does it somehow fade over time through multiple generations practicing another faith?" Again, it is not genetic, it is like being a Catholic. This brings up the whole question of the history of religions, which is a major interest of mine. Religious labels are often just that, I am distressed by the ignorance of most people about the tenets of their religion . They are therefore unable to engage in a rational discussion. I have been examining Egyptian religion, and it is amazing how many beliefs of Western creeds and Islam go back to it. Egyptian religion must have taken centuries to evolve in circumstances about which we know little.
Religion attempts to explain two things: What is the world all about and how therefore should be behave? Let me tell an allegory about primitive times when men were using their fingers to try to figure out what became arithmetic. One leader said that one and one made three, and his followers became known as Threefers. Along came another leader who who said that they made four. His followers became known as Fourfers. Then other leaders started the Fivefers, Sixfers and Sevenfers. The members of the various groups did not understand the arguments, but all were convinced that they were right and the others viciously wrong. Not being intellectuals, they started bashing each others on the head. A more sensible man spoke up and said "Calm down, folks. Let's talk about this reasonably". The Threefers accused him of anti-Threeferism and stoned him to death, which was the common way of disposing of trouble makers. All this set the progress of arithmetic back several centuries.
Religion is the main interest of my life, and I could write a book about the beliefs I have carefully worked out. I will. however, refrain from publishing it. I seek a peaceful life and the company of reasonable people. There is a long list of them: Eric Boehm, Siegfried Ramler, and many more.
Ronald Hilton - 5/9/02