Jewish Atheists

For Atheists of Jewish origin and others interested in Jewish history and culture.

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Started by Freethinker31. Last reply by Freethinker31 Sep 19, 2014. 4 Replies

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Comment by Grinning Cat on April 25, 2016 at 10:59am

Just found out about this cartoon:

“Blood, frogs, lice, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn, and an American-style election campaign.”“Blood, frogs, lice, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn, and an American-style election campaign.”

(from the New Yorker, via Friendly Atheist)

Comment by jlaz on September 25, 2014 at 4:58pm

Thanks Grinning Cat, that review on Amazon by the Rabbi was I thought worth the read.  Haven't checked out the book itself.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
"Like I said before -- Jewshness is BOTH culture and religion," January 7, 2005

By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom

Comment by Grinning Cat on September 25, 2014 at 2:09pm

"I don't have a problem with religions when they make the lives of people better"

A few years ago the New York Times had an article, "More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops", which, among other things, quoted and pictured a South Carolina church musician who's on the board of the area's humanist group. “I did struggle at one point as to whether or not I should be making music in churches, given my position on things. But at the same time I like using my music to move people, to give them comfort. And what I’ve found is, I am not one of the humanists who feels that religion is a bad thing.”

Comment by Grinning Cat on September 23, 2014 at 4:53pm

Natalie, I'm rereading your post and will heartily second "I don't have a problem with religions when they make the lives of people better". (With a note of caution that we don't want to encourage magical thinking and blind obedience! Nontheistic "religions" such as Ethical Culture and Humanistic Judaism definitely have something to offer.)

In "Humanist Jews" I posted a diagram I found, showing some of the relationships between groups that are secular, humanist, and/or Jewish, and various combinations of the above.

Comment by Natalie A Sera on August 18, 2014 at 10:02pm

Even if it turns out that there was no slavery in Egypt, and no Exodus, there is something to be learned from that story, and the fact that it has been passed on for SO long tells me that it has its own internal validity, even if it didn't happen just the way it was said to have happened. But then I don't have a problem with religions when they make the lives of people better; it's only when they destroy people and cause strife and discord and assert their claim that they are the only true religion, and therefore need to rule the whole world that my hackles get raised.  Judaism hasn't done that for more than 2 millennia, but we have some cousins who still believe that they are commanded by god to do just that.

Comment by Grinning Cat on August 18, 2014 at 2:07pm

Of note: secular humanistic rabbi Judith Seid's book God-Optional Judaism (which I recommend, btw) got a thoughtful, positive five-star Amazon review, which I just discovered, from a (theistic) Hasidic rabbi! "Seid has given a lot of serious thought to her presentation and, whether or not you can accept her point(s) of view, it is clear that she is fully committed to her Jewish identity. I recommend this book to anyone -- Jewish or not -- who would like to understand why being Jewish is so much more that a 'faith' or 'religion.'"

And Natalie, thanks for pointing out the nature of the Hebrew scriptures, and how the name "Tanach" rejects the theistic assumptions inherent in "Old Testament". What you said afterwards bears repeating: "it's basically up to you to enjoy your Jewishness without letting anyone else... try to determine what you should or shouldn't do."

[No gods needed; and I agree with Seid that that too is valid Judaism.]

Comment by Natalie A Sera on August 18, 2014 at 12:07pm

Freethinker, the Tanach ( a better word than Old Testament, which implies that there really is a god who made a covenant with the Jews, and then threw them overboard when he made his New Testament documenting his new covenant with the Christians) is a mixture of mythology, some of which predates the Jews, a genealogy, a set of laws (which don't make sense to us, but we don't live in that time period), sermons or preachings by the prophets, literature, poems, and proverbs, and gradually creeping in, some verifiable history, such as the location of the First and Second Temples, the Pools of Siloam, and as recorded in other peoples' histories, conquests and defeats. So those who yell and scream about the whole Tanach being a myth are uneducated, and Jews have every right to be proud of and enjoy our heritage, in line with the right of every other ethnic people on the face of the earth. There is a difference between "Judaism", which is the belief in god, and extends from minimalist observance to life-consuming Orthodox observance, and "Yiddishkeit" or "Jewishness" which is taking pleasure in our culture without believing in or observing all the commandments in the Tanach. And even there, there are SO many writings about how to observe the mitzvot, that you could get really lost, so it's basically up to you to enjoy (And I mean that) your Jewishness without letting anyone else, whether Jewish or Atheist, try to determine what you should or shouldn't do, or insult you because of the fact that you know more than they do (I had that experience too, which is why I don't bother with this site very much any more -- but I wanted to respond to your concerns, and to tell you that the anti-Semites in the main room are mostly not worth bothering with.)

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 3, 2014 at 11:29pm

PS. Why give the Jews a homeland in the most violent part of the world, just because the Bible says so?  Why not give them a chunk of Bavaria?  

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 3, 2014 at 11:26pm

Freethinker, There's a Philip Roth alt-history novel, The Plot against America, in which the country becomes much more anti-Semitic (under a Lindbergh Presidency!).  But I don't worry  about American Jews - they're thoroughly entrenched and assimilated...and  financially/politically too influential and too committed to Israel.  

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 3, 2014 at 2:59pm


I have thought about Israel my whole life.  A map of it was on the wall of our Hebrew school classroom.  

I loved it at first because in the beginning it was about tough, secular Jews kicking ass, not praying like the whimpering hasidim or other puny stereotypes.  

I loved it because Jews had to have a homeland where no one could throw them out.  That argument has weakened, since America is far more hospitable than anywhere they've ever been, and they're less threatened here than in Israel.  

Lately my feelings about Israel have run head-on into my hatred of religion, as Orthodoxy seems to be taking over the country.  And on a broader scale, Islam is the cause of most of the enmity towards Israel.  So the Israelis have to defend against fanaticism from within and without.  

Really, you could have a nominally Jewish country, e.g., following the Jewish calendar the way America follows the Christian without denying anybody their rights, but the f'ing Orthodox won't have that.


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