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Jewish Atheists

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

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Discussion Forum

Letting go of Israel, or The Self-Loathing Jew

Started by Diana D. Last reply by Alan Perlman Apr 15, 2013. 21 Replies

Am I Still Jewish?

Started by Cecilia. Last reply by Michael Pianko Mar 20, 2013. 14 Replies

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Comment by Natalie A Sera on June 22, 2012 at 6:37pm

So, Alan, just curious: if you have since abandoned all identification with and participation in Judaism, why are you here on this group at all? I can understand not participating in the religious aspects of Judaism, but when you say you've abandoned identification, that says to me that you don't consider yourself a Jew, and so I see a self-contradiction in your joining the group.

For myself, I don't practice Judaism as a religion, because I don't believe in practicing religion at all (not even the paganism that "atheists" who don't want to be Christian somehow think it's OK to practice), but I definitely identify as a Jew ethnically, and I AM interested in the ethics that have evolved over the centuries. I don't particularly base my ethics on the Tanach or Talmud, EXCEPT when they make sense to me. In other words, it's not because god said anything, but because intelligent, thinking people wrote down convincing reasons for behaving in one way or not another. I do think there are valid cultural values in Judaism which DON'T revolve around a belief in god, even though Orthodox believers claim they do.

So what say you?

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 22, 2012 at 6:20pm

In March of 1979, after reading a Detroit Free Press article about a local “atheist rabbi” named Sherwin Wine, I visited the Birmingham Temple (Farmington Hills, MI).  As soon as I saw the Torah in the library and the Hebrew word adam (”humanity”) in large stylized letters on the front wall of the main room, I knew I had found my spiritual home (at least then -- see below).

I met the brilliant, charismatic Rabbi Wine, joined the congregation, toook his courses, and for the past 30 years, I have studied, practiced, and written several articles on Secular Humanistic Judaism, as well as a book on the Torah from a humanistic perspective ("An Atheist Reads the Torah" -- on amazon).

Unlike most people who write about the Bible, I have a PhD in linguistics, which enables me to define and explain the key difference between Torah translation and rabbinical inferences about the text.  My motivation for writing the book is a sincere desire to let others know what the Torah really says, so that they can decide for themselves what its place should be in their lives.  Quick summary: It's pretty barbaric, and none of it happened.

I consider the fact that I am not a Biblical scholar to be another asset. It has often been noted that real innovations typically come from outside a field, because the practitioners pursue only the accepted lines of reasoning and inquiry. That may be the case here.  Only an outsider would dare to challenge two millennia of established tradition, taken-for-granted thinking and Torah-centric Judaism. 

I bring no awe or reverence to the Torah – only a sincere desire to know what it says, with no interpretation, spin, or clerical filtering whatsoever.  This knowledge is what I offer the reader of the book.

I am not a nonconformist by nature.  I seek above all the truth.  I would love the security that comes from being part of a large group of believers.  But if I find what they believe (or profess to believe) to be “ego-dystonic” — not resonant with who I am — if I find it in fact unbelievable, then I can’t go along.   

The decision to be a secular humanist was for me a realization of who I always was.  As a youngster, I waited for God to show up and do something, as he did in the old stories.  But after a period of wait-and-see, and especially after the Holocaust, I gave God his walking papers. He has not responded or even called me since. 

It would be such a better world if people could unburden themselves of gods and their many demands. 

I have since abandoned all identification with and participation in Judaism.  I have no patience with Reform Jews and their penchant for midrash (= making stuff up).  Even Rabbi Wine's then-bold alternative looks like fence-straddling...because if you don't believe in the miraculous rescues of the Jews that form the basis of most of the holidays, if none of the Exodus and Passover stories happened, why bother? 

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 22, 2012 at 3:46pm

I have been a Jewish atheist since age 12, when they put "under God" in the pledge, and I said, "I'm not saying that."  Great to meet a group of like-minded folks.

Comment by Selina Mannion on May 5, 2012 at 11:24am

am writing a book on people who leave their religion. I am including my story with leaving islam. If a jewish person on here has an egaging story on how they embraced secular values please contact me. thanx

Comment by Selina Mannion on January 18, 2012 at 4:38pm

I am writing a book on people who leave their religion. I am including my story with leaving islam. If a jewish person on here has an egaging story on how they embraced secular values please contact me. thanx

Comment by ronys on December 3, 2011 at 11:40pm

Sure there are, but they're mostly in Hebrew!

hofesh.org.il ("Hofesh" means "freedom" in Hebrew)

hiloni.org.il ("secular")

http://www.daatemet.org/index.cfm?LANG=en

http://bfree.org.il/

http://hiddush.org/

Not to mention various facebook groups:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/243225482377402/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/IsraeliAtheist/

etc.

Comment by Harvey F on December 3, 2011 at 10:25pm

I wonder if there are any Israeli humanist/atheist groups or activities here. I haven't found any...

Comment by Natalie A Sera on November 24, 2011 at 8:29pm

Interesting, Sophia! When I was still a believer, I lived in Japan and   married a Japanese man who converted to Judaism (even though I never asked him to do it), and we were married at the Tokyo Jewish Community Center in Tokyo by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, who is quoted in that article. There were still a good number of Jews in Tokyo at that time (1970), who had escaped from the Nazis. I remember having lunch after the morning Shabbat service, and listening to them singing the old songs they had brought from Europe. However, they were making sure that their children managed to get to the US, if at all possible, or else Europe or Israel, so I'm sure that the escapee Jewish community there is dying out if not already dead. On the other hand, there must surely be Israelis who work there, and probably Lubavitchers (you find them EVERYWHERE), so maybe the community center is still there.

Comment by David Danon on June 13, 2011 at 7:31am
It's alright, I've been beaten up on both sides, kids at my old catholic school weren't very nice, but high school is when they get a lot nicer
Comment by Natalie A Sera on June 12, 2011 at 8:57pm

David, I'm so sorry you had that experience. Fundies are fundies, no matter what their religious roots, and are NOT known for any concept of the basic humanity of all people, let alone respect for anyone but their own group. I shouldn't hate anyone, but I do hate fundies of any stripe, primarily because they insist on forcing their views on the rest of us :-(

I have had contact with Chasidic groups in Los Angeles, in Katmandu, Nepa, and in Grodno, Belarus, and they have no problem considering me Jewish -- first off, they want money from me, and second, if I would follow their ways, they would be only too eager to marry me off to some schmuck. Neither proposition is acceptable to me!! LOL!!

 

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