This topic is somewhat connected to the last post on US-Israel relations.

Over the past year, after finally admitting to myself that I no longer believed in God, I've spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and discussing atheism.  It felt very liberating to remove the last mental roadblock that for so long prevented me from truly exercising my critical thinking skills, and I have to admit that I was quite self-congratulatory about finally being able to think through everything without that vague feeling of guilt that always lives at the back of your mind during the time between losing your faith and admitting that you've lost it.  However, during the past few weeks, as Israel has been all over the news, I've realized that I still had some work to do.  The fact is, unquestioning support for Israel was so ingrained in me after having identified as a religious Zionist for approximately 5 years that (as I realized with some horror) I had continued to avoid any media or discussions dealing with the truth about Israel.  It was as if that part of my brain existed in some alternate Fox News-style universe, convinced that it was fair and balanced while being completely and utterly biased in favor of one very specific view.  Was I really a freethinker who turned fundie the minute Israel was mentioned???  Yes.  Yes, I was.

Since having this realization, I've experienced a sense of emptiness that far surpasses what I felt when I "let go of God," as that somehow felt like a much more organic process.  I suppose it is because in a way, apart from my (unobservant) family, Israel and my support for it was the only factor that continued to connect me to Judaism.  I noticed even before admitting my atheism that I was not only uninterested in all things Jewish, but that I actually felt a strong distaste for the faith, because at its "purest", it represents all the things that turn me off from religion: legalism, ritualism, isolation, groupthink, sexism, etc.  I have been unable to continue participating in rituals (high holidays, Shabbos candles, etc.) that some atheist Jews keep up in honor of the culture.  The thought of ever again limiting my love life to include only Jewish men just makes me laugh.  And now that I can no longer pretend to blindly support Israel, it seems as though there is nothing at all that connects me to Judaism.  I guess if I had been a Christian, this wouldn't bother me, but as a Jew I still fear being a self-loather, a traitor, etc.  I'm surprised, as I stopped being observant some time before I admitted my atheism, but there it is.

I guess I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this, either in connection to Israel or to any other aspects of Jewish/Jewish-American culture.  It's certainly not a hurdle I expected, though I guess I should have.

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There is a new political conservatism which seems to be related to a more religious worldview. The only example I need is Ben Stein, who proves that knowledge does not equal rationality.
I'm afraid that I come from the opposite end of this. I lost my belief in god about 11 years ago, which is around when I started getting interested in Judaism. I would convert to Judaism if it weren't for that pesky lack of belief in god. While I also cannot stand: legalism, isolation, groupthink, and sexim, I actually enjoy ritualism. I didn't have much ritual growing up, and the religion in which I was raised had more isloation, groupthink and sexism than most Jewish congregations. I'm not sure whether or not it was more legalistic, but there were an awful lot of prohibitions. Being a wannabe Jew, I have trouble accepting Israel. I feel like I can't be the Jewish person that I want to be because I don't have a knee-jerk reaction of supporting Israel. Taking the implicit association tests, I favor symbols of Judaism over all other world religions and am biased toward all things Jewish. It's hard to be a supporter of Israel right now. I know that a good portion of the people who started Israel were secular, and Israel is the safe haven for the Jewish people all over the world. But Israel does have a lot of policy issues. Although some may accuse you of it, you certainly shouldn't feel like a traitor against your people for expressing concern about Israel. If anything constructive criticism makes both secular society, the USA, Israel and the rest of the world stronger.
Diana, I was born into a secular Jewish family and upbringing. I was a conservative/progressive/Reform Jew, frowned upon by my orthodox school's ethos. I participated closely in all the rituals on a reform level. My Jewishness consisted of ingrained ritual, habit, coming together socially with family on Friday nights and high holy days. Among other things though, subconsciously I questioned mine and others understanding of the meaning of it all as all of the above had something to do with god, myth and irrational concepts. It never rested well with me and over the years after much reading of others non theist views in the newspaper and after reading Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, it all fell into place for me. I felt privileged to be free of the constraints of religion.

I had also stopped following any holidays or rituals a few years before becoming an atheist, so my transition was smooth. However as my family continued to be tradition and ritual driven I found myself separated from them in these instances. That divisiveness is what we are struggling with at the moment. I cannot bring myself to be a part of it any longer as I prefer to have integrity for what I stand for now and my rational freethinking viewpoint I am so relieved to own. I don't miss any of the rituals or holidays as they made no sense to me at the time subconsciously anyway. I am struggling to find a middle ground for peace and their sake however and partly for me. I know they are very unhappy and view me as a traitor in the family, reluctantly accepting me as an atheist outwardly and irrationally and possibly defensively calling me anti-semitic too.

I have no ties with Israel as my great great grandparents come from Germany and Lithuania. So how would one partake in being a 'proud Jew' when I am more a 'proud and strong atheist'?

Loren - I can identify with a lot of what you say.  Only recently did I look into the Pesach myth ... there doesn't seem to be any historical proof of Moses or any of it ... apart from maybe some leader of a group of lepers coming out of Egypt and that's according to a Roman possible anti-semite!  The only way I can take it, is like Santa Clause - not too seriously ... sing the Dayenu's, identify with slaves ... hope for peace in Jerusalem (as if hope can achieve anything - that's another story ...) and rejoice in surviving ... but not look too closely into any of it.  Isn't that what most ppl do anyway?  Well, that's how I'm managing ... 'ish'!

I moved from the USA to Israeli 10 years ago (aka "made aliyah"). I did so because I met a lovely divorced Israeli woman who had 4 children at a conference in Florida, and we remained in contact over a couple of years and saw each other at similar computer conferences, and we married. I was religous then, but didn't move there because of religious reasons, but for love.

 

And we still love one another. I, obviously, stopped believing in a God, but, as far as my wife is concerned, I am just an apikoris (heretical without being a non-believer). So I encourage that viewpoint. I live in an Orthodox "settlement" (aka "the suburbs") and so "coming out" would be a bit of a problem, but the guys I hang around with, the daf yomi, those who ask me for a d'var torah, etc, are used to my apikorsim views. It has taken me some time to get the subtle hint when I have crossed the line, from time to time, in my conversations.

 

I use that prolog to say that I do not believe that there is a divine right for the Jews to own the land. I do, however, believe in colonization of the land, in the same spirit that just about every other land was colonized. In the beginning there was an honest interchange. Jews bought land from Arabs or cultivated land that the Arabs never wanted (you woldn't think that you could get malaria here, but at one time, you could). Then mass aliyah begins. The Arabs from Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt come in. The game of "who can settle the most and the best" is in full swing. And had that been left like that, all would have been ok.

 

And then the assholes start to arrive. The religious ones. And the muftis declare that it is a capital offence to sell land to a Jew. The Jews demand their religious inheritance and the muslims want theirs. And now, there is no longer an honest interaction or conversation going on. Because Islam can play victimhood much better (how, I don't know), and people love to support the underdog, the world has taken sides. When a big section of land was given to them, and the Jordanians massacred many thouands of these Arab settlers in order to take it and call it "Trans-Jordan", the world was silent. And while many of these survived and still dwell in tent cities in that same area (aka "Jordan"), and awaiting for the world to help, they are still ignored.

 

But somehow, it became an Israeli issue. It is certain to me that one day, a line will have to be drawn, and it will be announced "Ok, Arabs to the right, and everyone else to the left of the line". And while the lie of the "settlement issue" keeps going on, after all, once the line is drawn, you have to move, so what's the big deal if people are building. Get the final line drawn and move along, people are still taking sides. And oh, yeah, Obama arrives today. I am *NOT* going to drive into that giant parking lot known as Jerusalem with all of his special security. No way!

 

Despite all of this, with one step son having left active military service and another planning to start next year (hesder program), I would prefer that we have no enemies. And I would prefer that the world sees the conflict with a bit of clarity: you have Hamas fighting Fatah, making Abbas a persona-non-grate with no power, and each one flexing muscles at the other. And until the gang war is taken care of, there is a problem with any negotiations - you cannot negotiate with Fatah since those sided with Hamas will not accept any agreement, and negotiating with Hamas is not an option.

 

Did I mention that I love living here? :D

 

While the rest of that is background, you have the beauty of the land, the Israeli culture of looking for some "body" of water (mayaan) to splash around in (often an ancient pool), the food, the music, the very typical Israeli personalities (a readiness to fight and hug), and the politics. Oh yeah, while we may deny it, where else in the world do you have more than 36 political parties! We love parties! :D And I love my wife and step children (who are VERY Israeli, and are so cute with their occasional broken English), and their children (being a grandparetn is more fun than parenting).

 

Anyhow, hugs to all from this israeli americai!

Speaking of self-loathing Jews, here is a video with Shmuely Boteach (narcissist extroadinaire) debating Sam Harris on the existance of God.

 

I so wish this guy would just finally convert to Christianity and stop being such an embarassment!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hnqo4_X7PE

Diana,

I don't know why some people gravitate to religion and others don't get it.  Easy answers, social cohesion, fear of death are my suggested hypotheses. Just park your brain at the door.

Judaism, in addition, is what I call a high-input/low-output faith: MUCH ritual, little talk of posthumous reward or punishment.  So why bother?  Rabbis have concocted volumes of BS answers. 

It's truly a religion for the obsessive-compulsive.  Even moderately Orthodox, as I'm sure you know, are fanatic about their stupid Sabbath, refusing to do even practical things like drive or make phone calls.  The Torah calls only for abstention from work: if you're an accountant, don't do accounting.

Although ethnically Jewish (my grandmother's Yiddish accent would make my name come out "Challen") and duly bar mitzvah'd (Adelphia Hotel, Phila.) and having attended my share of Seders and High Holiday services, I was delighted to put it all behind me after high school.  I was 12 when they put "under God" in the pledge. I said, "I'm never saying that" -- and never did.

In the early 80s I joined the founding congregation of Humanistic Judaism, under the brilliant Rabbi Sherwin Wine, and from my studies of Jewish history (the Torah is not it), I learned to view my heritage with more pride.  Yes, I hated that the rabbis counseled passivity in the face of persecution, but there were heroic Jewish fighters -- and athletes too.

Eventually, I gravitated towards a purer humanism/skepticism.  Why burden myself with what other Jews have or have not done?  I'm not them.  I learned a little about hand-to-hand combat, so I'll never be bullied - never have.  I left the Jew-saturated North Shore of Chicago to move to rural New Hamphire.

Jews are few and far between, and I can't say I miss it.  Just because I have contempt for fur-hatted idots bobbing up and down, their side-curls flying...or for passive sheep that almost never fought back...or just because I'm proud to see what Jews have done in Israel (they have to have a homeland, after all)...doesn't make me a self-hating Jew. 

I am an individual human being.  I'm a man, an atheist, a husband, a musician, a writer...and somewhere out there, culturally and genetically Jewish.  That's it. Hope that helps.

 

shalom,

 

Alan

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