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 June 23, 2012 at 2:31pm

In reply to commments/questions on Humanistic Judaism: Yes, it did enable me to maintain Jewish identity without believing BS.  Rabbi Wine insisted on using as examples "real Jews in real time," not Biblical figures.  He and his followers reinterpreted each holiday to purge it of divine involvement.  Services: subject matter consisted of statements/reflections around a certain theme, plus music (secular Jewish/Hebrew).  Then they backslid.  His successor never even acknowledged receiving my book.  I think I know why. They're back to the old stories and midrash, a word Rabbi Wine never used.  And I've moved on, from religious humanist to secular humanist (terminology from Sam Harris). 

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 23, 2012 at 2:21pm

PS. to Prog Rock Girl: Yes, they are too smart, but social pressure makes them show up at High Holidays, perfumed and dressed to the nines, to see and be seen, and to mutually pretend.  Turn off reason and yield to groupthink.  And the davening can be very restful... 

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 23, 2012 at 2:18pm

Comment on Jewishness: I think that if we can document the proposition that circumcision undermines human well-being (back to sex again) and if medical reasons are bogus, then the truth should be told, and parents would have more of a choice.  In reality, this is a deeply-ingrained custom that most Jews wouldn't ever abandon (wasn't Luke uncircumcised?).  See Genesis Ch. 19. 

Christianity didn't require circumcision - major selling point.

To fellow linguists: IMO, there's still some mystery about exactly who wrote the Torah and when.  There could have been four authors...or multiple authors, all writing in the style of one of what appear to be the four authors.  But apparently there were four documents edited into one.

Welcome, Steph and Prog Rock Girl.

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 23, 2012 at 2:01pm

Natalie...I agree completely.  The Tanakh is worthy of anthropological, linguistic, and other scientific forms of inquiry.  I'm not that interested in it. 

There is a clear bright line between this and regarding the Torah as an actual historical accounting...and, further, acknowledging divine power, both then and now.  A line I will never cross. 

Where I thought you were going with that it's also full of ancient directives, many rules and regs, harsh punishments.  Priestly stuff.  To modern people, mostly laughable.  A few commonsense rules (don't make a harlot of your daughter).  


zei gezint,

Cousin Alan

Comment by Natalie A Sera on June 23, 2012 at 1:47pm

Michael, I really don't follow your reasoning. If people can identify of being Irish, or Polish, or Chinese, why can't I identify as being Jewish? It's my heritage. I value it. I have absolutely NO guilt about not following religious customs, but I can and do enjoy the holidays as a reason to get together and feel like I'm with family (we all ARE family -- no Ashkenazi Jew is more than a 4th or 5th cousin away), just the same as former Christians enjoy celebrating Christmas. They excuse it as being a pagan holiday -- but if they AREN'T pagans, I find that rather hypocritical. But getting back on topic, I see no reason not to enjoy my roots and my mythology and my history -- everyone else is allowed to do that, so why can't I? And as far as Torah, if you think it's just mythology, you haven't read Leviticus. The Torah and the rest of the Tanach include documentation of the way an ancient culture lived and believed, and studying it is just as anthropologically valid as studying the culture of any other people. I don't see any reason to be hostile to the Jewish writings or historical practice, because it's just another culture. The fact that I don't accept the beliefs about divinity means no more and no less than the fact that I don't accept Christian or Muslim or Japanese beliefs, either. I just get tired of the singling out of Jews and Judaism as so much worse than other ancient and not-so-ancient cultures -- beliefs that the ancient Jews were genocidal because as the victors, they wrote about their victories in their own idiom, (the defeated don't write history). I get tired of rants about "Abrahamic religions" or Judeo-Christian morals, when the rants are really about Christianity, because these people know nothing about Judaism.

As an Ashkenazi Jew, I do separate Judaism and Jewishness (or Yiddishkeit) and while I really don't believe in god, I do value my Jewish heritage. And after I die, no it will not matter, but I'm not concerned about that -- I'm concerned about living my life as pleasantly as I can.

Comment by Prog Rock Girl on June 23, 2012 at 11:13am

Cool :)

Comment by Steph S. on June 23, 2012 at 10:20am

Hello group!

I'm interested in learning!

Comment by Adam on June 22, 2012 at 10:13pm

Alan:     Welcome. While not a linguist I have a pretty solid background in rabbinic literature and yiddish simply based on knowing the culture I came from. I was raised being told that the Orthodox believe the torah was written by god, the Conservatives that it was dictated by god, and the Reform that it has some good ideas in it. I guess my perspective as a secular Jew is that it's a solid piece of fiction that can be utilized from an anthropological standpoint. I learned that a lot of rabbinic laws were drashed out after the Jews lost the right to govern themselves so they were never a binding legal code, just a set of exaggerated statements meant to instill values. There are books of laws that people can be sentenced to death for that were never carried out. Until perhaps now when people take them as Truth and not in historical context. Just another reason why studying religion can be important even to the non-religious.

Michael:     It's always nice to see that even in a safe place people can still come in on the offensive.

     Seriously, please don't come on and define how people are Jewish or not. That's just as bad as the christians claiming no one can truly be an atheist. As a completely secular, cultural jew who comes from a practicing background I can tell you that guilt has absolutely nothing to do with my identification.

     And as for nothing ever mattering: why does that apply to someone's cultural identity and not your son's circumcision? Why are the things you care about special cases and everything else is moot? If you want to take the nihilistic long view and say that nothing will matter in the long term then there's nothing so heinous that humans can do that won't be lost to the universe in billions of years. If you do believe that then circumcising your son should be fine. If you don't then tone down the hyperbole a bit.

Comment by Prog Rock Girl on June 22, 2012 at 10:09pm

Really I think most Jews now are too smart to really believe in the Jewish religion.

Comment by Michael Pianko on June 22, 2012 at 9:44pm

                Comment by Michael Pianko1 second ago           Delete Comment

I also have a degree in linguistics, although it is just an undergraduate BA degree. And my MA degree is in Yiddish language and literature. Alan, You have about the same worldview as I do except that I never bothered with humanistic Judaism and I am against all circumcision (even adult circumcision and circumcision for medical reasons, which are always bogus).

Now lets think about what kinds of bad things happen if you don't identify with Jewish culture: you may feel guilty for not identifing with Jewish culture, and maybe other people will be angry at you if you say anything against Jewish culture or the Jewish religion, but nothing actually bad will happen. You will not get struck by lightening or hit by plagues. HaShem will not punish you, for obvious reasons. My impression is that ethnically Jewish atheists would not be doing Jewish culture if they did not think their ancestors were Jewish. My impression is that ethnically Jewish atheists still feel guilty about the possibility of not doing something Jewish. You may call your feeling "getting Joy from Jewish culture" or something like that, but that feeling = doing Judaism to avoid feeling guilty for not doing it, even if you don't consciously realize it.

In the long run nothing really matters, not Judaism or anything, because in the long run we will all be dead and then nothing matters for obvious reasons if you are an atheist. Furthermore I can't admit tha tgod is imaginary and religion is a fraud around most Jewish I would meet at Young adult Jewish events sponsored by the Jewish federation, and in case I have a son there will be no circumcision and what are peoplel going to do about it even if they believe in the bogus medical reasons? Fight me or kill me if I have a son in order to get to circumcise him? The Jews invented circumcision in order to inhibit masturbation and I could explain further... Try reading two good books I bought and read, The god virus, and Sex and God, both by Derrel W. Ray, Ed.D.


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