Richard Dawkins speaks to a Hasidic rabbi on religious day schools and evolution

(Warning: there's a loud noise at 0:48. Be careful if you're wearing earphones!)

Richard Dawkins speaks strongly about young-Earth-creationist "science education" in an insular religious community doing kids a grave disservice.

In his own words:


In North London, the Hasidic community is the largest after Israel and New York. Here, religious division is taken to its extreme.

These ultra-Orthodox Jews only marry within their sect, television is frowned upon, and of course, children attend exclusive religious schools, cloistered away from external influences that just might persuade them to look outside their community.

Rabbi Gluck is London born and bred, but you wouldn't necessarily know it. His accent is a testament to the isolation of this religious sect.

"Why should children be victims of the particular tradition in which they happen to have been born, rather than choosing for themselves by being shown all the evidence?"

"I think it's important for a minority to be able to have a space where it can express itself, where it can learn about itself."

"Well, couldn't you preserve the customs, the traditions, the history, without somehow imposing upon the children views about the universe which modern science would say are simply false?"

"I would say, impose upon a Jew anything, I would say that's something which is impossible, I think scientifically impossible! We believe that God created the world in six days; we know about evolution, every single Jewish kid knows about evolution, and has thought about it, and has studied it, and has looked at it, and has thought, 'What's going on here?'"

"How many of the children who come up through your school system end up believing in evolution?"

"I think that the majority don't believe in evolution."

"They're being taught that the entire world began after what archaeologists would recognize as the agricultural revolution. I mean, these children are being brought up in a very distorted world indeed. The age of the earth, five thousand years -- I'm sorry, Rabbi, that's ridiculous."

Of course, Rabbi Gluck is right that it's important for us to learn about our own background. But what upsets me is that in pursuit of that, these innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods.

[RG, sarcastically] "You are the new Messiah!"


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Secular Judaism / Humanistic Judaism is indeed a way for Jews to relate to their history, traditions, and community, honestly, without the woo. There are active, thriving secular Jewish communities and (especially relevant here) schools, whether called folkshuls or something else. (Of course, theistic rabbis would insist we're doing it all wrong! :)

There's a group "Humanist Jews" here on A|N.

Dawkins hit it all right on the head, and you cannot even pry these people out of their beliefs when you prove them wrong.

One example I might give here is that religious fundies refer to evolution as "evil" lution. Almost unanimously they claim the earth is only 6,000 years old, a position they arrive at by strictly following Bishop Usher as he traced back geneology of everyone living by the bible book of Genesis, then further using bible books on into our present era. This would assume the bible is perfect as history. That idea seems absurd on the surface to start with, but the irony is that the average fundy does not believe there is one ounce of truth in Catholicism. Therefore, Usher and all Catholics are flat out liars.

How can they believe this trash with the obvious contradictions? It's what they have to believe in order to continue believing their bible. Most of these arguments start with the "fact" that everyone knows god has to exist for anything to be true. This is what the theist uses against the atheist. For hasidic Jews however, we would also have to throw in tradition.

There are people who call themselves jewish, who are not orthodox or hasidic. Why do they get to live normally without feeling so guilty about themselves due to the fact that they do not do everything orthodox judaism says they have to do, while orthodox jews can't live or do anything until they do their religion first? I was raised Jewish. What kind of bad things will happen if you were raised Jewish but you don't use the label jewish and you do not participate in any form of Judaism, not humanistic or anything? Will you feel despondent with guilt for not participating in Judaism??

Responding to two of your questions:

"Why do [liberal Jews] get to live normally without feeling so guilty [about not following Orthodox practice]?"

The Orthodox would like us to think that they define the One [ha!] True [ha!] Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism itself, some two millennia ago, was itself a HUGE reform and change from previous beliefs and practices -- not that there was a simple straight line before or since!! If those changes that led up to modern Orthodoxy are legitimate, so are the ones leading up to moderate, liberal, and even nontheistic varieties of Judaism.

I've posted this graphic in "Humanist Jews": Barry Martin Dancis's map of the diversity of the "Network of Jewish Currents, Varieties, Branches, and Offshoots". (click to enlarge)

(Early Israelites/Jews were polytheistic; they rejected all but one of the false gods around the fifth century BCE. Nontheistic Judaism could be the logical completion of that process!)

"What kind of bad things will happen if you don't use the label and do not participate in any form of Judaism?"

Nothing that's not caused by people and emotions.

Maybe your own doubts about how you "should" identify and what you "should" do, and whether or not you want to be part of a Jewish community of some sort. Maybe disapproval and friction from family members or others who hoped you'd keep the identification and some sort of practice. Maybe your own feelings about that.

I know, or have met, someone who was raised with (theistic) Judaism, became an atheist, and no longer considers himself Jewish; people with a theistic Jewish background who became humanistic or secular Jews; people who grew up with humanistic Judaism; and someone who's a lifelong atheist, with no Jewish cultural background, who adopted humanistic Judaism, by choice. They're all fine.

 What kind of bad things will happen if you were raised Jewish but you don't use the label jewish and you do not participate in any form of Judaism, not humanistic or anything?

Nothing. I think it's good for us to use no labels.

As a sweetie of mine has said, labels are useful servants but terrible masters.

(They can be a starting point for describing some aspect of yourself; they can help you find others with whom you have common ground there. They shouldn't become a restrictive prescription for the "one true way" to be or do X.)


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