We do have a discussion area for Jewish Atheists, and I may pose this question there also, but I thought I'd ask a broader audience for their views on a few community-related matters. In Judaism, there are a few practices and what-not that seem to me to have a basis in human needs, but which (my opinion) maybe could be improved upon and used in an atheist world.
Anyway, I had not really thought of it much, but I have noticed that there seems to me to be value that I might also want to have, that some of my Jewish friends and family have a Mezuzah on the door of their house.
One of the things I like about this is that this serves to communicate in an unobtrusive low-key way to the Christians and other religions in the neighborhood "this house is a bit different, don't expect to see a lot of Christmas lights, and there may not be a high probability of success here at this house for Chrystian proselytizerss."
I got to thinking about this when I was thinking about Channukah Candle-lighting, and how there is some obligation to display the candles in the window (I guess there are a few things in Judaism which sort of ask you to make it clear to your neighbors that you are Jewish).
I'm wondering if any Atheists have come up with any similar ideas to a Mezuzah? Maybe a similarly-sized doorframe ornament that instead of a torah scroll contains some reasonably smart other verses (or perhaps instead of parchment, it could be 21st-century worthy and you could push a button and read a bit of this and that?).
I had never really considered getting a Mezuzah for my house, but noticed one on the house of another Jewish atheist I know, and it got me to seriously considering it, but then I wondered if there's anything better or different I can get with a clear Atheist angle. I might consider it as long as it doesn't go out of its way to be obnoxious or negative. The point with a mezuzah is you're following what you're supposed to be doing for Judaism and it contains some verses inside that one believes in strongly. It isn't saying "screw you" to the neighborhood, but "we believe in this".
Maybe the Secular Humanist Jewish folks have come up with some ideas on this.
Ok thanks, I'm not sure, I'll have to think it over, as to whether I want to do something like that. A mezuzah I'm accustomed to (it's not breaking from the mainstream that much) but these would go a bit beyond that.
my father was Jewish but we never had a Mezuzah at our house.
the obvious choice would be the scarlet A. or a sign that says "reasonable person inside".
i pretty much agree Pat. although i'm fond of wearing atheist t-shirts and the scarlet A hat is my go to piece of headwear.
Hi Michael - thanks for the thoughtful points.
I put in response to a couple of other folks, I think there's some merit to questioning whether there is any need for an Atheist mezuzah idea of any sort. For one thing, for me, I don't like initiating to others what I believe or don't believe, so it seems arguably somewhat needless.
On the other hand, some atheists may just see it as striking chord they want to strike- identifying something of themselves, for those who initiate a visit to the house, but in an unobtrusive way, and perhaps a reminder to oneself as one dwells in and moves about a place, of what one personally thinks are the important things.
Thanks for the thoughts. I can't really remember if we had a Mezuzah. It strikes me as kind of a classy under-stated thing in some ways, but I guess at this point I'm not sure and the scrolls inside are not quoting from a book I believe to be the height of wisdom or truth.
Maybe an atheist mezuzah could contain a Humanistic Jewish quote or affirmation (one idea: Sherwin Wine's "איפה אורי?" / "Ayfo Oree?", below), and the outside could have a symbol such as a Humanorah: ...which would explicitly refer to nontheistic Judaism ...and, if you like, it could have an (early-)21st-century-worthy QR code.
איפה אורי? אורי בי.
איפה תקותי? תקותי בי.
איפה כחי? כחי בי וגם בך.
Eyfo oree? Oree bee.
Eyfo tikvatee? Tikvatee bee.
Eyfo kokhee? Kokhee bee - v'gam bakh.
Where is my light? My light is in me.
Where is my hope? My hope is in me.
Where is my strength? My strength is in me – and in you.
(From Wikipedia; I changed the transliteration of איפה "eyfo" for clarity.)
Thanks for the further ideas. The Humanorah seems kind of cool (not a mezuzah, not a menorah, and makes you think) and it seems logical to consider a Sherwin Wine quote.
There are all manner of good quotes out there if one just wants to memorialize a quote that expresses one's own particular philosophy, but I suppose for these mezuzah or humanorah purposes iit could be narrowed to atheist or secular-oriented quotes that have some basis in the Jewish tradition.
We have been born once and cannot be born a second time; for all eternity we shall no longer exist. But you, although you are not in control of tomorrow, are postponing your happiness. Life is wasted by delaying, and each one of us dies without enjoying leisure.
I never heard of these Epicurus sayings, but they certainly do seem worth mulling over.
Have you looked into this further? I may bring this up with the people from the Society of Epicurus. I wonder how difficult it would be to have a mezuzah or doorpost of some sort custom-made with the welcome inscription that was at the entrance of Epicurean gardens:
"Stranger, here you will do well to tarry; here our highest good is pleasure. The caretaker of that abode, a kindly host, will be ready for you; he will welcome you with bread, and serve you water also in abundance, with these words: "Have you not been well entertained? This garden does not whet your appetite; but quenches it."
And maybe with another Epicurean symbol, perhaps the letter PHI.