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 Alan Perlman on November 9, 2012 at 9:46pm

Natalie...More to come.  For now, see one of my posts on Christmas: 

Comment by Natalie A Sera on November 9, 2012 at 12:08pm

Jews, like Christians come in a vast range of beliefs and practices, although I don't think even a Satmar ultra-Orthodox believer would deny that a person born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. They just frown on our sinful ways! :-) My grandparents were Orthodox, but not that far on the ultra fringe -- they kept kosher, and my grandfather wore tzitzit, but they didn't hesitate to eat at our house, and my mother was definitely NOT kosher. Of course, she didn't serve them non-kosher style meals -- no cheeseburgers, but we had Pesach at our house every year, and my mother did not separate dishes and we didn't do the search for chametz -- there was still bread in the bread drawer.

And I don't mind if the Orthodox go their own way, as long as they don't bother ME (And that goes for Christians, too!).

And it makes me feel good to know there is another person who is delighted NOT to be a part of Christmas -- I wish the atheistic community were more open to that idea. Sometimes I feel scorned, even here, for not wanting to celebrate even token Christian events like Christmas and Easter. I know it has sentimental value to them, but not to me! And I'm looking forward to your reposts! :-)

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 9, 2012 at 10:44am

For sure, even the most atheistic Jews (unless they're from Utah) feel an attachment to their culture and history, all aspects of it.  A few years ago, a whole issue of the SHJ's magazine was devoted to "Jewish humor" -- there definitely is such a thing.

But I don't underestimate the differences with religious believers, who simply do not consider people like us Jewish.  As for food, a truly observant Jew would never set foot in a "New York-style" deli -- not kosher.

I've done several blog posts on Christmas and will repost them, edited, as another Happy Season arrives.  I've gone from "jealous at not being a part of it" to "delighted not to be a part of it."

Comment by Natalie A Sera on November 8, 2012 at 9:08pm

Thanks, Alan. When I have more spare time, I will check out Rabbi Wine. I checked out the Society for Humanistic Judaism, but their membership fees were too expensive for me.

I have no illusions about Judaism's "specialness"; I just feel attached to my own people just as all ethnic groups do. I don't think we are any more nor any less than any other ethnic group, but we ARE an ethnic group, and deserve to enjoy the uniqueness of our own culture.  I love Yiddishisms -- named my latest cat Momzer, because he IS one. I love Jewish food, especially New York bagels, and I treasure the memories of Pesach, when I would come home from school to the heavenly smells of my 3 aunts, my mother and my grandmother cooking in the kitchen and all talking and enjoying themselves. I used to hang out with them in the kitchen, just listening to the chatter.

If Italians and Japanese, and Hispanics, and Irish, and African Americans can revel in their cultures, I want ours to be just as worth enjoyment and pleasure, and I don't want to have to hide the fact that I am Jewish. With the Christmas season coming up, which has ALWAYS been uncomfortable to me, it assumes even more importance. I resent the badge that I saw on Facebook that said "It's OK to say Merry Christmas!" as if anyone were denying people that right. But I still feel that Happy Holidays is FAR more inclusive, and I don't really WANT to be wished a Merry Christmas. I just plain don't like the holiday. It has no pleasurable associations for me, and it bothers me when atheists say they celebrate it, without acknowledging that no matter what they do, they're celebrating a religious holiday, be it Christian or Pagan. Paganism is real -- never totally died out, and it is religious beyond any shadow of a doubt. 

Anyway, that was a bit of a rant, and there are plenty of things I believe that are not popular, but I WILL read your blog, soon! :-)

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 8, 2012 at 12:27pm

Natalie...Glad to have you with us! 

I've found that Jewish atheism draws many kinds of people, all trying to figure out what Judaism means without God or worship -- and without taking the Torah to be anything but stories.  So many Jewish holidays are based on these and other non-events (rescue by God is typically at the center of the story) that the Jewish atheist is hard-pressed to figure out what to hold on to. 

At The Birmingham Temple, Rabbi Sherwin Wine creatively reinterpreted the holidays and life-cycle events so that humanists could participate and celebrate with dignity.  Sherwin started the whole thing; for 12 years, I was in his congregation and was exposed to a full-fledged "Judaism Without God" (title of his first book). 

At the same time, my secular education and subsequent speechwriting career exposed me to wisdom from many ages and cultures and undermined Judaism's "specialness."  See my blog for speculations on these and other matters.

Comment by Leila Cook on November 7, 2012 at 3:59am

Alan- I am enjoy some of its ideas and reject many others just as I do everything I read and study.  I have five young children and speaking in images helps them grasp a real life concept sometimes.  Its the same thing as telling a fable with the intent of teaching a lesson through it.  Its not literal.

Michael- at the risk of being quickly unpopular here, I think you should allow your brother and his wife to do what they feel is best for their son.  Now, I am not saying I condone the practice- I have five girls so I have never really had to think about it- just that I am certain their intent is not to do damage to their child. 

Comment by Michael Pianko on November 6, 2012 at 10:04pm

Yesterday my brother and his wife had a son. They are Jewish. My family is Jewish. They are going to have the son circumcised. Of course, circumcision is serious abuse and its massively weird that Jewish parents have to pay someone to cut off part of their son's crotch (the crotch, of all body parts?!!). The practice should not exist. You knew that, right??

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 6, 2012 at 8:37pm

No mystery to it - tikkun olam is known in English as charity/altruism/social justice/environmental responsibility.  I'm not a big fan of Kabbala.

Comment by Leila Cook on November 6, 2012 at 3:27pm

I guess the concept of tikkun olam to me is the sum of all the positive things we do in life.  I try to explain to my kids that it is like a puzzle and every time we do some kind or thoughtful act we are putting pieces of the puzzle back together.  That's kind of a Kabbalistic concept but it is a concrete image they can grasp. 

Comment by sammy on November 6, 2012 at 2:45pm
You are right. (Even thou i was in the orthodox community my whole life and i cant tell u enough how much they controlled and tortured me so i shouldn't "leave"...)

But i guess the real Tikkun olam is to be a fine human being and - as you said - respectful to each other.

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