My first choice, when I rag on religion, is Judaism, just because I know it first-hand.  Of course, there's always more to learn.  Through my current wife, I became aware of what goes on in Jewish enclaves/ghettos (depends on who's herding Jews together, Jews or gentiles) -- the threats, the ostracism, the mind control, the obsession with ritual (these people REALLY observe all the Sabbath and milk/meat separation rules, and it is a major pain in the ass). 

I also became aware of sectarian rivalry -- no, make that contempt -- between the two major Jewish gene pools, the Ashkenazic (Eastern Europe/Poland) and the Sephardic (Spain/Muslim world).   My wife's family includes rabbis from both.  The Sephardic one thinks the Ashkenazic a bunch of dolts who can't read or understand Scripture and commentary properly.  I would assume the disdain is mutual.  At least they don't blow themselves up.

One Sephardic Jew argued with my wife on Facebook that "Sephardic" does not refer to a "sect" (yes, it does; check the dictionary)...but to a philosophy and a method of reading the holy texts.  Oy gevalt, gimme a break.  Religious people have to be SO special!

Needless to say, none of these folks would consider my family, with their four-day-a-year observance and opulent bar/bat mitzvahs, to be real Jews.  The same for everybody to the left of conservative -- Reform Jews, humanists, Reconstructionists, etc.  You don't count.  But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter.  If you say you're Jewish, that's enough.

Superstitious remnant

One bit of Jewishness that seems ubiquitous (I have to believe that the Orthodox, with all their superstition, use it) is what jewniverse.com called "the three most important Jewish words."  I couldn't wait to see what they were; Judaism is full of Very Important Words.  Would they be God, Torah, mitzvah (a good deed?).

No. The three most important words were kein ayin hara, pronounced colloquially "kenna hurra."  It is to be uttered right after reporting or remarking on anything positive, e.g., "Your kids are getting so big, kenna hurra."

It's purpose is to ward off the Evil Eye, hard to pin down, but apparently a traditional malevolent force that seeks out good and gleefully balances it with misfortune.

Our language is the product of our history, so it's no surprise that there's so much God-talk.  Each atheist has to adapt his/her own strategy, and this has been a fruitful topic at A/N. Along with other substitutions, I advise not shouting God's name at the moment of orgasm, but rather the name of the person who is giving you said orgasm.

Atheists also have to deal with the remnants of superstitious ignorance that still occur in the language.  It's amazing (to me) that so many liberal Jews use "kenna hurra."  I've even had doctors usher me out of their offices with it.

On the jewniverse site, one article proclaims, with some pride, that the writer and her husband are getting more superstitious, using the phrase more and more (along with the old-country pu-pu-pu spitting gesture).  Yeah, well, the older you get, the more uncertain life looks.  But that's no reason to fall back on religion.  Sorry, but I find it the path of weak people. 

Intent of "kenna hurra"

I can understand the desire that another's circumstances go well (or continue to go well).  I can understand our powerlessness in the face of chance, and I can understand the need to acknowledge it.   And maybe uttering "kenna hurra" says to the listener, "Hey, I'm just as aware as you of the fragility of life." 

But I'm all for dropping the superstition.  I'll try to come up with alternatives, but for now, I replace the "kenna horra" with an expression of approval ("Your kids are getting so big - that's terrific!").

Of course, I have geography working for me.  Here in New Hampshire, nobody says "kenna hurra" to me (so I don't have to be a wiseass and say, "The Evil Eye??? Where???").   And nobody knows what it means. 

 

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Tags: and, language, religion, superstition, superstitious

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Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 5, 2013 at 12:27am

Alan, I am not in any way against the seven words. And I see a parallel between words or expressions of a religious nature and words or expressions including but not limited to the seven.

My objection is reserved for things like ethnic or racial degradation. It is not okay for a white redneck to refer to someone as a nigger or an anti-semite to refer to someone as a kike.

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 4, 2013 at 6:01pm

I absolutely agree.  Actual differences among humans are small. Tribal affiliations and animosities will be the death of us.  Not to mention the genetic problems with inbreeding.

 

Are you referring to George Carlin's Seven (later amended) Words You Can't Say on TV?

 

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 4, 2013 at 10:11am

I tend to be an iconoclast but am only troubled by selective words uttered with malice. 

As for the divisive identification with aspects of jewishness I say the hell with it. Assimilation centuries ago would have been far better for jews.

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 3, 2013 at 2:54pm

For a while, my wife said "deities," but it was cumbersome and stuck out.  Still, she was determined not to say "God."  That alone, by weird logic, was her grandmother's reason to say my wife believed in God.

Comment by Chad Kreutzer on November 3, 2013 at 10:58am

As in: "By His noodley appendages, typos will be the death of me!"

Comment by Chad Kreutzer on November 3, 2013 at 10:54am

Yep. I rarely use "God." Probably a carryover from my Christian upbringing, but do oftentimes use invoke Odin, Thor, or the FSM's noodly appndages.

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 3, 2013 at 10:51am

Chad, It's a fine line, and committed atheists have to figure out where it is, on a personal level.  I myself use "God," but only before "-damn." I also make liberal use of "Jesus" (and variants, e.g., "Jesus H. Christ") as an expletive, but my Jewishness sort of nullifies any actual belief behind it.

Comment by Chad Kreutzer on November 3, 2013 at 10:11am

I tend to think some cultural things with superstitious origins are harmless and "just polite" like saying "bless you" after someone sneezes. I suppose it's similar to how I'd fight tooth and nail against any new religious display on public land, but I advocate a case-by-case policy for older displays: Just because it is religious in origin doesn't mean it's religious now, and it may be of historical interest to allow it to remain.

Comment by Alan Perlman on November 2, 2013 at 8:57pm

To Joan...Well said.  Your statements about the physicality of death should be read by every atheiat.  It takes a lifetime of practice to prepare for death.  Zen recognizes that.  But the Abrahamic religions pounce when you're weak, at death's door. My wife has an awful story about an intrusive rabbi when her mother was dying. 

zzzzzSorry I fell asleep.  I do that whenever some well-meaning moron says atheism is a religion because we can never KNOW...zzzzz woops, nodded off again. That canard has been answered 10,000 times, and it tells me a lot about the ignorance of the person saying it.

 

To GC...It seems that  the evolution of the human mind follows a path of internalization.  At first, everything -- compassion, justice, forgiveness -- came from God.  Little by little some people realized that human beings can create all those things, though religion keeps them in a childlilke state.   Thanks for the interesting info.

Comment by Joan Denoo on November 1, 2013 at 6:18pm
The arrogance of a priest, pope, potentate, preacher, or anyone else to accuse without evidence, try without witnesses, find guilty without hearing the testimony of the accused, not willing to admit DNA evidence, passing judgment on guilt or innocence and allowing an execution to occur, is preposterous. .

A process of law enforcement, investigation, court proceedings, with appeals to re-examine, without prejudice, has the potential to maintain law and order, Nothing less brings justice.

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