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 Freethinker31 on August 4, 2014 at 9:12am

Alan......Like  the Germans  would   agree to that....Israel belongs  to the Jews  now  and  they  are doing well...Good luck to anyone  who attempts  to defeat them...

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 Freethinker31 on August 3, 2014 at 3:27pm

Alan ......Sadly  this is true.....But I haven't  given up on them yet.. Although  I agree with you  on American Jews  having it pretty good here.....It still is nice to know there is somewhere we can go  as a last  resort......My  ancestors  emigrated  from  Russia  when  the  Cosacks  tried to kill off the Jews  in the Pogroms...So  Israel  is the only Homeland  I would have ,if anything  bad  happens  in the US..   

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.

Comment by Freethinker31 on August 3, 2014 at 1:27pm

Alan.....You forgot  to  include  the mutual  love  for the State  of Israel....It is after all , the Homeland  for all the Jews  in the world, including  Atheist Jews  like us......Israel is the only  absolute for me  when considering  my Jewish identity...

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 3, 2014 at 1:01pm

Over and over I have been asked, "How can you be Jewish and be an atheist?"  People who ask this have not thought it through (and have probably had no occasion or motivation to do so).  Judaism is one or more of the following:

(i) a religion, with mythology and ritual, just like every other; there are different sects and different degrees of observance (most middle-class Jews of my acquaintance practice Judaism Lite -- High Holidays, Passover, and Hanukkah).

(ii) a spurious and ad hoc genetic grouping; this notion is fostered by the fact that Jews around the world live in enclaves, intra-marry, and thus overestimate their genetic unity, whereas a white suburban American Jew has little in common with an Ethopian or Oriental Jew. 

(iii) a culture of song, food, language and other traditions held in common by the people who believe (i) or (ii).

So as a Jewish atheist, I ignore or ridicule (i), conform to (ii), and have a passing acquaintance with (iii).  

When burying the mice our cat kills, I chant phrases in Hebrew from the Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead).

Comment by Freethinker31 on August 1, 2014 at 10:12am

jlaz.....I know  it is  very  frustrating.. A married couple are  Jewish  friends  of mine, I told them I was an Atheist, and  they just  shrugged....They  are not religious but  want to be accepted  by  the Jewish  community....So they belong  to  a Temple and  go to services  during  the High Holy days....The wife admitted she was unsure  if there was a god  but  would never  say so  publicly...I bet  there are  many like her  who are on the fence.... I, myself, want  to embrace what  I truly  believe and  am tired  of faking  it....

Comment by jlaz on August 1, 2014 at 12:18am

Actually maybe that's a bit unfair as to what I said about guilt/nastiness.  I can't really expect ardent believers to hold their tongues forever when I am kind of clear (not constantly loud, but clear) as to what I believe.

I got kind of an interesting comment back recently from a relative.  I said that I thought the invention of the day off from work once every 7 days, and the choice to relegate this for contemplation of and commitment to the most important things in life, seemed to me like a wonderful innovation of the Jews, or whoever may have come up with it.  A relative interjected that it was an invention of God.  What are you gonna do?  :-)

Comment by jlaz on August 1, 2014 at 12:15am


Best of fortune.

I have found that some Jews are ok with me being an atheist, and some are not.  Some of my family members who believe ardently in God are sometimes a bit negative.  It's not nearly as bad as the severe issues I see from some Christians on this board, but there is a more subtle Jewish-guilt/nastiness thing that maybe you've encountered.

Other options for some Jewish atheists wanting a sense of community include Unitarian Churches and, and some group activities (hiking for example) that have nothing to do with religion per se.

One experience I've had with most of these is that it's not just about whether they're atheist.  For example I once attended a Jewish Secular Humanist service that I didn't find that inspiring.  On the other hand, there is a Reform synagogue that I attend once every year or two (kind of "for the heck of it").  The Rabbi knows that I'm atheist and is ok with my respectful attitude when I attend, and I have found his comments well worth listening to, even with all the theism.  Just as when I was a kid and would look forward to the Rabbi's comments because usually it was philosophy discussion (was I starved for it?) or political philosophy discussion (when Israel was under attack), I think now that it's not just about whether or not the speaker is Atheist, but what do they have to contribute to my thinking overall.

Anyway, some further thoughts.


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