Where Are the Jews?

Many Christians visit this atheist blog. Some come regularly to read and comment, some for a brief time to learn about atheists or to challenge or clarify their own beliefs, a few to preach, and a very few to snipe or condemn. In the last 15 months I can remember Muslims commenting here three times. Forgive me if I’ve missed them but I can’t remember any practicing or observant Jewish people commenting here at all. They are a small minority in English speaking countries and they are not inclined to evangelize but still their complete absence from our discussions here is puzzling to me.

Living in Los Angeles all my life I have had many Jewish friends but only one with a sufficient closeness to discuss such personal things as religious beliefs and he turned out to be an atheist. So other than attending a few weddings, a Bar Mitzvah and a Passover Seder I know very little about their faith, only that there are five basic forms in the U.S: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform being the largest groups, and Reconstructionist and Humanistic being newer, smaller groups.

More to the point, I know nothing about how they feel about atheists and atheism.

So it would be interesting to learn from those of you who have firsthand knowledge about the following questions. I expect that the answers may vary depending on the form of Judaism.

• How do Jews feel about, react, respond, deal with atheists in their families, in their community or at work?

• Do Jews have a different feeling or attitude toward atheism in general than Christians or Muslims have?

• Do you have any ideas why we don’t hear from them on this site?

Richard

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    Do you have any ideas why we don’t hear from them on this site?

    It’s obvious. Hemant wrote a book that is aimed at Christians and he has actively sought to open up dialog with Christians. If you want to see more Jewish readers and commenters here, then go to some Jewish blogs and leave comments linking back to here.

  • Cameron Pittman

    Hey there Richard,
    I’m a conservative Jew and I read your blog.
    For the most part, atheism isn’t quite as frowned upon in Judaism as it is in other religions, as far as I can tell. For example, I know of a few kids from my old synagogue who admitted to the entire congregation during services that they were secular Jews (ie Jews who don’t believe in god) and no one seemed too upset. It’s fairly common. My mother’s response when I told her that I don’t really believe in god was just “you probably will when you have children.” So all in all it’s not a big deal. Belief in god isn’t necessarily a prerequisite to being Jewish; I have many Jewish friends who don’t believe in god but still consider themselves Jewish. Judaism is a culture and we’re tied together by much more than a set of beliefs.
    If I were to speculate as to why believing in god isn’t as important in Judaism as it is in other western religions, I would start by saying Judaism stresses happiness in life more than other religions and rarely is any afterlife or punishment/reward for our deeds discussed. I didn’t learn about the Jewish version of the afterlife until I was in 8th grade. Judaism focuses much more (than other religions) on enjoying life to the fullest and respecting and protecting life rather than being good in life to find paradise afterwards or to appease god. In that respect, I would say Judaism overlaps with atheism to a good degree.
    It’s true that Jews are less likely to proselytize and that might be why don’t you don’t hear from us as often. Or you might not hear form us as often because many of us still consider ourselves Jewish and shy away from the atheist crowd. We’re still accepted within the Jewish community and don’t feel the need to reach out to atheists to find people like us. Regardless, we generally subscribe to a live and let live policy.
    Anyways, sorry if I rambled a bit, and I hope this answered some of your questions. Please ask if you have any more or would like clarification. Keep up the great blog!

    -Cameron

  • http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com JewishAtheist

    They’re all over at my place. ;-)

  • http://bligbi.com KC

    How do Jews feel about, react, respond, deal with atheists in their families, in their community or at work?

    It depends on what kind of Jew they are. My dad’s family was/is religious and they disowned him. On the other hand, one of my sister-in-laws is religious (Reform) and she’s the only in-law I get along with (the rest are actual and cultural Christians).

    Then there’s the local synagogue (Reform) whose rabbi has shown up in the grocery store looking for those of us who purchase certain things. He’s nice though and is more interested in getting people involved in the community than converting anyone.

    Do Jews have a different feeling or attitude toward atheism in general than Christians or Muslims have?

    I think so. Being Jewish doesn’t require one actually believe in “God” so outside of my dad’s family I think they’re more relaxed about it. IMO&E, leaving the culture is more important.

    Do you have any ideas why we don’t hear from them on this site?

    Well, a lot of Jews are atheists. There’s also the fact that Hemant has built his reputation around Chrisitanity. I”m sure if he’d sold his “soul” to the Jews and wrote a book about it – they’d be more obvious.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Perhaps the fact that Judaism isn’t an evangelical religion has something to do with it. An other issue may be that most Jews have kind of learned not to confront Christians about Christianity so as to avoid persecution. As a consequence, there may be some atheist bloggers, who don’t advertise their Jewish heritage..

    But what do I know? I’m a second generation atheist from an extended family with a Christian tradition.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    I’m Jewish.

    At least technically. My mother was Jewish but I was raised as a Christian after she converted. (Not sure the tenses in that sentence make sense, but just in case, she is still alive.)

    Anyway, I had a Jewish-atheist-communist grandfather and a Jewish-didn’t-talk-about-religion grandmother. They weren’t observant. Usually I say I’m “half Jewish” although that doesn’t really make sense. At any rate, if I were ever to become religious again, I would look into reform or humanistic Judaism.

    One thing I love about Judaism and I think definitely sets it apart from the other two big monotheist faiths is that it is not evangelistic, as Jeff said. Jews don’t convert others. You can convert to Judaism, but as I understand it, it is usually discouraged.

    As KC and Cameron said, believing in God is not necessarily a prerequisite to being Jewish. Becoming an atheist does not make you not Jewish.

    You should read Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander if you want to see how orthodox Jews might respond to apostate family members. It has more to do with not being observant though, than with not believing.

    A lot of Jews are atheist, so I would not be surprised if they are on this site and just self identify as atheist in this context.

    Donna

  • Solomon

    In my experience, Judaism is much more about what you do and how you live your life than what you actually believe. So, atheism for the most part is not really a big issue. I think you’ll find that (with the exception, perhaps, of among the orthodox) there are a great many Jewish atheists who choose to identify as Jewish for cultural or ethical reasons rather than theological ones.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Judaism isn’t an evangelical religion

    I was just about to say the same thing. I have known many Jewish people when I lived and worked in the New York area for ten years, but none that are vocal about their religious beliefs. I think mostly, being Jewish is their heritage and culture more so than religion.

    And the way I understand it, even those who are religious are not confrontational. Aren’t they known to be peaceful people who do not fight back (i.e. the Holocaust)? They believe they are God’s chosen people and therefore feel no need to include or convert anyone else, as far as that goes.

    But to repeat what Jeff said, “What do I know?” I’m just a liberal Christ lover who believes that Christianity does not have a monopoly on the truth…

  • http://pastorwick.blogspot.com Wick

    Does step-Jewish count? :)

  • The answer…

    …is that we don’t care. Christianity is a religion based around fear, with the threat of hell and damnation on the forefront. We don’t have this in Judaism. If fact, we are challenged to think for ourselves, make our own decisions, and question the scriptures (unheard of in Christianity) in our religious journey. Sure we have the ten commandments, but the average human shouldn’t have to be told what is “good” or “bad”. One should be able to walk through life, knowing that helping others is good, and hurting others is bad. For me, the church (temple/synagogue) experience for me has always been about identity, and that’s what a lot of Judaism is. Passover, Channukah, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Purim… these holidays seem to serve us as a reminder of our people’s struggles and our strength, and how they can be applied to how we live our modern lives. While there are Jews who take the God side of the religion more seriously than others, for the most part we respect the beliefs of others and their decisions.

    Christianity, on the other hand, does not have this “revolving door” or the acceptance of other beliefs, because the penalty for dismissing Christianity as a religion results in burning in Hell for eternity. This trumps any sort of logical debate, or any logic for that matter.

    Reality? No matter what your religion, you can’t escape Christmas. Who doesn’t love shopping, colorful lights, and watching Christmas Story? Heck, we even have a tree with lights and Jewish decorations, not to mention a holiday that revolves around planting trees. Even though Christmas is really a pagan holiday that Christianity bastardized for it’s own purposes (yes, this is true, look it up) it’s till fun and interesting. This is the basis for the answer to your question… acceptance. The majority of us Jews don’t care. If you live a good life, are charitable to some degree, and respect your fellow man, then you’re good in our book. We have no threats of eternal damnation, to fear to monger, and no ultimatums to disperse. Believe what you want! You’ll find little of this sort of tolerance with other religions, so honestly, Jews might be more on the atheists side, as long as one is a good person and uses logic and strives to learn. Of course not all would approve or “sponsor” atheism, but we would certainly accept it as your right as a human to not believe in God, without underhandedly “feeling sorry” or “praying for you” or the other obnoxious things a lot of Christians do.

    Someone mentioned above that Judaism isn’t an evangelical religion, and that many Jews are “cultural atheists”. To some degrees that is possible, as the religion is heavily based on past events, like Passover (Exodus from the slavery of Egpyt). While the parting of the sea and the plagues might seem far fetched, one doesn’t have to go far to find other examples of oppression, like the holocaust. So sure, we’re pretty tight amongst our own, and it’s an exclusive club. Of course feel free to convert… but there’s no pressure. I myself embrace my past, but do not believe in a single omniscient entity. It’s just silly to me.

  • stogoe

    Aren’t they known to be peaceful people who do not fight back

    Well, in the scriptures that Christians call the Old Testament, there’s a ton of slave revolts and conquering the heathens and plagues and stuff. I think the Holocaust was less to do with pacifism and more to do with being a small, despised minority who was a convenient scapegoat for Germany’s post-WWI economic failings.

    Nowadays, I couldn’t say if the Jewish zeitgeist has veered towards pacifism or not.

  • http://themousesnest.blogspot.com Mouse

    I tend to say I’m ethnically Jewish and that I was raised by a Jewish atheist. When I was in high school, a good number of my friends were agnostic Jews. As a number of people have said above, there’s often a bigger emphasis on the cultural identity than the belief in God.

    In my extended Jewish family, very few people are observant. The black sheep of the family, in fact, is the Conservative Jew (who is also conservative politically).

  • Mriana

    For the most part, atheism isn’t quite as frowned upon in Judaism as it is in other religions, as far as I can tell.

    I don’t know. I have a Jewish friend who asked, “You don’t believe in G-d?” It made me a bit uncomfortable that she would ask such a thing. I never dreamed she would ask. That’s something my Christian friends would ask- so I thought. Squirming, I fell back on the love and compassion thing, calling it a God to appease her and trying to keep it humanistic at the same time. To my relief she accepted it, said there is a big move within the Jewish communitee like that and drop the subject, but for a moment I thought I was going to get something equivalent to the Evangelicals- no matter what I said. However, she did not say, “That’s not God!” or any other equivalent saying of an Evangelical Christian.

    Still, It made me wondered what would have happened if I was straight forward with her instead of beating around the bush? Would she have said, “Oh we have something like that called Humanistic Judaism. They don’t believe, but respect the cultural traditions.” or whatever her understanding of it is.

    Do Jews have a different feeling or attitude toward atheism in general than Christians or Muslims have?

    I think so. Being Jewish doesn’t require one actually believe in “God” so outside of my dad’s family I think they’re more relaxed about it.

    Do you have any ideas why we don’t hear from them on this site?

    Well, a lot of Jews are atheists.

    It may not be an evangelizing religion, but some Jews can really make you squirm with their questions. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I had been upfront and not been appeasing. Did she know I was beating around the bush or what? Did she know I was talking about something that was purely emotion, but trying to get her to back down by calling it God? I don’t know, but I was relieved she didn’t take it any farther, like some Christians do, because in the end, she probably would have figured it out, if she hadn’t already.

  • Drew

    Judaism is a religion of laws, not belief. If you follow the law, you’re doing what G_D wants. End of the story.

    So, they don’t prostletyze, they don’t evangelize, and they don’t argue with atheists. Mostly, anyway. :D

  • http://off-center.tatuskofam.com Drew

    “…and a very few to snipe or condemn”

    That comment is nice to hear. I am pleasantly surprised too. I am also saddened that my expectation is that most Christians snipe and condemn those who are different who who do not feel a need to place Christian beliefs at some level superior to that of any other beliefs one might have.

  • Julie

    • How do Jews feel about, react, respond, deal with atheists in their families, in their community or at work?

    I’m “technically” Jewish also. That is to say, I’m Jewish according to the Jews. My mother is Jewish, non practicing. My children will be Jewish as well, if you buy the matrilineal Jewish way of thinking about this. I personally don’t! My father is an atheist. He never got hassled about it by any Jewish people in our family. No one really cared.

    • Do Jews have a different feeling or attitude toward atheism in general than Christians or Muslims have?

    Couldn’t say. My family was so just barely Jewish that I don’t think they really cared. They’re sort of agnostic, cultural Jews. Just because they might not think the God in the Bible is real doesn’t mean they’re not going to enjoy matzoh ball soup.

    • Do you have any ideas why we don’t hear from them on this site?

    Couldn’t say for sure, although I agree that Jews don’t proselytize and therefore don’t really care, maybe.

    This brings me to my one real hangup with my own Jewish background. I think it’s really gross that we grow up with this idea that we’re God’s “chosen people.” Even though I grew up thinking there might not be a God, I still felt special thinking that I might be his among his favorites if he existed. I think that way of thinking, even just a little bit of it, leads to bad stuff. Dawkins brings it up in The God Delusion, and he’s right, I think.

  • Mriana

    Well if Muslims would stop trying to blow Jews off the face of the earth! It takes two you know. After WW II Jews are not going to be defenseless. They will protect themselves even if they would prefer non-violent ways. However, if someone comes to where you live and started killing people, you’d defend yourself too.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The chosen people

    I’ve often wondered if Judaism gives any rationale as to why G-D supposedly chose the Hebrew tribe to follow the mitzvoth. Does Judaism consider the choice to be
    1. just arbitrary,
    2. for some particular purpose stated in Jewish scripture
    3. or is it assumed to be for a particular undisclosed (hidden) purpose?

    I’ve always wondered that…

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Jews don’t evangelize because they’re inversely racist. The Jews are obsessed with the idea of ethnic inclusion and that’s why many atheists who were raised Jewish have renounced the theological beliefs but not the “cultural” ideas. While the Christians unabashedly brainwash their children into deluded God belief, the Jews put most of their energy into teaching their children of “their peoples’” struggle. It’s even telling that many atheists who were raised Jewish still accept the arbitrary notion of matrilineal descent. (I could digress into my thoughts on the vacuity of culture and tradition, but I won’t). The Jews simply don’t want you unless you’re one of them (blood-wise, that’s all that matters). The idea of the chosen people may not be advertised, in an attempt to assuage jewish hatred, but it’s definitely a central tenant of Judiasm. It boils under the surface. For example, it’s implied when Jews consistently advertise the inclusion into their group of Einstein, Oppenheimer, and other supreme geniuses who happen to have Jewish parents.

    In fact, the Jewish definition of a Jew, a birthright, is so incredibly disgusting and I’m surprised the people on this blog haven’t noted it. The Jews consider the Jew a member of a collective, a “people” as their fond of saying. The point is that one’s individuality doesn’t matter. It’s not what you believe, but what you’re born into. This dangerous idea, that we’re defined by genetics rather than our individual values, is a principle motivator for racism, including anti-semitism (I believe Harris mentions this in End of Faith). I’ve always admired Christians for their emphasis on belief (nothing else mind you). It makes sense because it puts value on who someone is as an individual.

    Also, note I never used the term Jewish atheist. It makes absolutely no sense. There is no question posed where “Jewish atheist” (both words together) is a valid response. For example:
    Q: What’s your religion? A: Atheist
    Q: What’s your religious background? A: Jewish
    Q: What culture do you identify with? A: Jewish

    And don’t respond stating this post is anti-jewish, that’s absurd. It’s more a condemnation of communism and Judaism as a religion than anything.

  • Rovakur

    My two cents… For those who don’t know, the late Stephen Jay Gould was raised Jewish and considered himself a “Jewish agnostic” (e.g. 1998, p270 = second paragraph of NOMA essay, published many times, originally in Natural History). From what I’ve read of his work, and of him, I speculate he would have answered your three q’s as Agnostic/Jewish/Jewish.

  • AJ

    Does that question ever end well for the Jews?

    Steven Weinberg, Steven Pinker, Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer, Sam Harris, Jonathon Miller, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Fry, David Cross are people I admire and greatly enjoy whenever they speak or write.

    I think that a disproportionate amount of Jewish people I know about are atheists, and I remember Jonathon Miller commenting that he made the same observation in “A Brief History of Atheism”. He said that him and his friends didn’t really get involved in the Judaism, in a foreign language, unusual tradition that seemed alien to them.

    In the same way I think Muslim and Hindu families that move to the west not in an isolated community, but into the majority society, tend to either convert or lose beliefs. Moderate religious families isolated from a community of fellow believers tend not to be compelled to indoctrinate their children with their religion.

  • http://tara72.blogspot.com/ Tara

    May I recommend watching Lewis Black’s (he’s Jewish) stand-up segment on religion? This is a link to the section from “Red, White and Screwed”. I think he does a pretty good job of explaining things. :-)

    Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWqtpqQjNug

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Also the idea that all those raised Jewish are now atheist isn’t true in the least. Jewish raised people do tend to be more secular as opposed to their Christian counterparts, but the percentage of atheists raised Jewish isn’t much higher than the national average. From the link below (paragraph beginning with: ” Some Jewish leaders scoffed…”), it seems to be around 17% (of individuals raised Jewish who do not believe in God or G-d as Jews usually write it).

    http://www.njhn.org/weblog/2006/04/humanistic-judaism-in-news.html

  • CelineGreen

    Until recently, when my (grr) work schedule changed, I was one of 3 non-Jews to attend a weekly Israeli folk dance group that meets in a synagogue social hall. It occurred to me at some point over the years that some of my favorite people in the group are the most conservative and religious people I have regular contact with (besides my mom, who is a Romanian Catholic nun). And here’s agnostic/atheist me, not feeling freaked out, as I often am among conservative Christians. Now why would that be? Because these folks have been nothing but kind and generous to me, knowing that I’m not a Jew, and there is no agenda to the niceness, and no one has tried to “convert” me. If I were attending a dance group primarily made up of Christians, I would bet good money that none of these things would be the case.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Wow, antisemitism raises its ugly head yet again. Sigh.

  • Iris

    Yeah, wasn’t expecting that here, of all places. I can only speak for myself, but in my experience, a belief in God was only ever weakly connected with being Jewish. It isn’t a devotion to God that makes one Jewish; it’s more of a devotion to the traditions involved. I was never taught to think of the Bible as literally true, ever. There are thousands of years’ worth of commentary on the Bible, how best to interpret it, and how it should affect modern life. No one ever claims to have “the answer,” and all things are usually open to interpretation. The thing I like about Judaism is that no one ever tells you what to believe, and if you choose not to practice it, that’s ok. No one’s going to hell. To me, Jewish culture seems to be all about food, family, and education; all of which should be an important part of one’s life anyway. I think that’s why so many people want to keep Judaism a part of their lives even if they don’t believe in God.

  • Mriana

    Family, food, and education. Sounds good to me. Where do I sign up? ;) I have always thought Jewish people were fun people. Can’t put a finger on it, but they are invariably nice to be around.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ writerdd:

    Is your comment in reference to my post? Can you please be more specific?

    A condemnation of adhering to archaic culture and tradition does not equal an ethnically bigoted viewpoint.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ Mriana (and writerdd at the end):

    Your post is quite ridiculous as well. I’m not denying the fact that you’ve had positive experiences with Jews. That’s great. I just think it’s absurd and dangerous to generalize this viewpoint to all Jews. Imagine if someone had said: “I have always thought Italian people were fun people. Can’t put a finger on it, but Italians are invariably nice to be around.”

    Or even worse imagine if I had classified my opinion on the academic talents of blacks from my experiences with poor, inner city blacks at my public middle school. People are not a result of their genetics and not a reflection of whatever group we want to classify them as being a part of. People are who they are because of who they are, not who they’re parents or ancestors are. This is why I’m so critical of Jewish culture because it constantly tries to define its members as part of a group that one is born into.

    So when I see Albert Einstein, I think of him as a great scientist who was willing to challenge the principles of Newton. The average Jew sees him as a great JEWISH scientist. Same for Edward Teller, Oppenhgeimer, Carl Sagan, etc. On a related note, when I see MLK Jr., I see a great champion for civil rights, not a BLACK leader.

  • Karen

    So when I see Albert Einstein, I think of him as a great scientist who was willing to challenge the principles of Newton. The average Jew sees him as a great JEWISH scientist. Same for Edward Teller, Oppenhgeimer, Carl Sagan, etc. On a related note, when I see MLK Jr., I see a great champion for civil rights, not a BLACK leader.

    You must be like Stephen Colbert, who doesn’t see color. ;-)

    Honestly thought, isn’t it obvious and even somewhat understandable why a very small minority group would do this? Yes, black people are justifiably proud of MLK, and Jews are proud of Einstein – why not? I mean, really, can’t you cut them some slack?

    Of course long-persecuted groups will hold up their best members as examples of the good in their culture and the rightness of their way of life. Jews have long valued education and intellectualism highly, perhaps more highly than other cultures. The fact that they’ve turned out so many wonderful scientists is a great accomplishment that reflects that shared value.

    My father was Jewish, though he was a lifelong agnostic, and he taught me to admire the Jewish practice of tzedaka, or charity. The idea is that we all have an obligation to contribute what we can to bring justice to this world. It’s not based on any charitable feelings or warm fuzzies, and it’s not giving to spread the gospel of Judaism, or make people monotheists, but because we must all care about making sure others have a more just life. I think that’s a terrific value to hold.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ Karen:
    The problem is that the Jews and blacks have nothing to do with Einstein and MLK. (Side note: I do see color, I just put no value on it.) There’s no special connection between a Jewish person and Einstein. Einstein is a genius because of the complex arrangement of his brain and his brash insights into cosmology. If anyone has a connection to Einstein, it is the individuals who have pursued and continued his line of work. I see people like Hawking, Lisa Randall and others as far more connected to Einstein than the average Jew.

    Furthermore, your last paragraph is strangely analogous to the Christian who sees religion as good due to its charitable efforts. You need a tradition (your case a Jewish one) to tell you to participate in charity? You need someone to teach you the value of helping others? You’ve simply replaced the notion of the divine in encouraging charity with the equally vacuous notion of culture serving the same purpose.

    In fact, your last paragraph is one reason why I find the concept of Jewish atheist so incredibly odd. Many of these individuals have given up the easily noted fallacious theological views of Judaism but have appealed to the need for attachment by adhering to Jewish cultural traditions. People on this website, more so in the atheist community at large, have derided the moderate religious for staying in the church due to the community aspect. But are the atheist Jews doing anything different?

    Goddammit, does anyone actually AGREE with what I’m saying? Similar discussions have occurred on the NoGodBlog (run by the American Atheists and a self-described Jewish atheist). Many people there have expressed sentiments in line with both what I’m saying and the dissenters (writerdd, others) are saying (30/70).

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The Unbrainwashed said,
    …does anyone actually AGREE with what I’m saying?

    Sometimes life transcends and is more complex than simple logic…
    11th commandment: Only Jews can criticize Jews…
    12th commandment: Only Blacks can criticize Blacks…

    Why? Because of prior bad behavior by those in power.
    Wait another hundred years, then you will be right.

  • Mriana

    The Unbrainwashed said,

    January 25, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    The problem is that the Jews and blacks have nothing to do with Einstein and MLK.

    How so? Black people had a lot to do with MLK and still do! Have you ever been to a MLK march and rally? Such events are loaded with Black people, bi-racial people and the White relatives (AKA moi) of the bi-racial people.

    You know, I don’t understand you, and IMHO, you are full of horse manure.

    (Side note: I do see color, I just put no value on it.)

    Goddammit, does anyone actually AGREE with what I’m saying?

    No and for your information, I see my sons when I look at them and when I look at a friend who happens to be Black or Brown, I see my friend. Seems to me, that I put even less value on it than you do, because when I look at my sons I do NOT see my sons as being Black and White or just Black or what have you. I know, but that is not what I see, because I see my sons, but it seems to me you are making a big deal out of colour and ethnicity- I have not except to clarify the group of people I am talking about.

    IMHO, you sound like you have an issue and it’s not a good one. In all honesty, you are coming off to me as someone who wants to hide various groups and not acknowledge them, which is just as bad as racism, IMO. Take from a mother whose children inherited two ethnic backgrounds and have learned about both of them. They are proud of both and do not deny either one.

    Or even worse imagine if I had classified my opinion on the academic talents of blacks from my experiences with poor, inner city blacks at my public middle school. People are not a result of their genetics and not a reflection of whatever group we want to classify them as being a part of.

    You seem to be putting too much into what I said. I never said anything about genetics. As I said before I was talking about a group of people. Oh and she is a very nice rabbi who doesn’t believe in an afterlife and has a very nice congregation who joined us many times on a picnic, invited us to a sedar, and alike. The “us” was the church I was attending. However, I still see her on campus because she teaches there in the fall.

    IMHO, I think you need to get over whatever issue is sticking up your craw. If you called my sons malattos, I wouldn’t say a word, but if you called them monkeys, I’d probably get smart and tell you we’re related to some very nice apes or if you called them the N word or me an N lover I’d probably never speak to you again.

    There is a BIG difference between distinguishing a group of people and being racists. There is also a big difference between distinguishing a group of people and focusing on colour/ethnicity. What you are doing is focusing on colour/ethnicity. What I did was clarify who I was talking about not some general group of people for clarity.

    I don’t know what your problem is, but IMHO you need to get over it. Not only that, you don’t have a clue what you are going on about, esp when you are talking to me. I don’t know what it would take for you to get over it though, but you are talking to the wrong person here and acting like a fool. Sorry, Unbrainwashed, but in this case you’re brainwashed by something.

  • Mriana

    Sometimes life transcends and is more complex than simple logic…
    11th commandment: Only Jews can criticize Jews…
    12th commandment: Only Blacks can criticize Blacks…

    Why? Because of prior bad behavior by those in power.
    Wait another hundred years, then you will be right.

    And only White/Native American mothers of White/Black/N.A. children can affectionately call their son, when they have their natural afro grown out, “My little black cotton ball” while patting the top of their heads and get away with it. :) I do so love my younger son’s natural fro. Wish I could grow one. :D But I like my native hair too.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Unbrainwashed,

    I think it’s not as much as what you say as how you say it. I can see some of the points that your are making as possibly valid and interesting, but the manner in which you present them can be described as offensive. Don’t you think?

    Jewish people, on the most part (the way I understand it), consider themselves a nation. A culture. A heritage. I come from an Asian culture that has much pride and stick with each other as much as they can. They frown upon marrying outside of the race (especially the upper class). I know of many other cultures with similar feelings of exclusivity and even superiority, so why are you singling out the Jewish?

    And yes, I admit I agree with some of what you say. My brother rants about the Jews in the corporate world every time we get together. But then again, I can find worse criticisms about my own culture, and even Americans, not to mention my fellow Christians. So how is that productive?

    And by the way, you are not a bad person, Unbrainwashed. I think you’re brave for speaking up your mind honestly in the face of rejection and criticism. I admire you for that. Now if we can just get the rest to not be too offended by the comments…

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    January 25, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Unbrainwashed,

    I think it’s not as much as what you say as how you say it. I can see some of the points that your are making as possibly valid and interesting, but the manner in which you present them can be described as offensive. Don’t you think?

    I agree with you, Linda, but the way she is talking now, is just plain off the wall and not legitiment, at least concerning what I said.

    They frown upon marrying outside of the race (especially the upper class).

    OK I just may give myself away as to how colour blind I actually am, but isn’t your daughter bi-racial too? She looks mixed- like Asian and European? Then again, I might not have a clue about Asians either. :(

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    11th commandment: Only Jews can criticize Jews…
    12th commandment: Only Blacks can criticize Blacks…

    Great point, Jeff!! :-)

    I guess it would be out of the question to suggest that we apply that to Christians, Atheists, and other religions as well?

    But wait… I like being criticized and challenged. It must be the masochist in me.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    OK I just may give myself away as to how colour blind I actually am, but isn’t your daughter bi-racial too? She looks mixed- like Asian and European? Then again, I might not have a clue about Asians either.

    Yes. You are right. I rebelled and married an Irishman. But as my brother says, we are bananas (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), so the cultural rules don’t completely apply to us. ;-)

  • Mriana

    :lol: That’s good you can joke among yourselves, Linda. :) Yeah, I was in the rebellious stage too when I hooked up with their father. I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into with him, but since I divorced their dad I have managed to show my sons that not all Black people, not all Black men are like their father. Which is a good thing that they know people are the same can be either good or bad or a little of both. Sort of helped that I introduced them with the rev of the local NAACP too and got them involved in that as well as MLK Day activities and alike. They might not have seen hardly anything of their father growing up, but they still learned about both sides though and they are well aware of family history. I’ve hid nothing from them and they think their family histories are rather neat, despite the historical autrocities. At the same time though, they had relatives on my side fighting for civil rights long before there was a Civil Rights Movement. Thus they do have a pretty cool family tree. It’s a shame I couldn’t tell them more about their dad’s side or that he was more involved so they could learn more personal information.

    It all works out and they can take pride in both sides of their family tree and their ethnicities. Yes, they identify as both Black and White and sometimes Native too, but they’re 1/16 Shawnee and the Cherokee is way back there, so it barely counts.

  • http://tara72.blogspot.com/ Tara

    Well, this is timing:

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/law/01/25/circumcision.case/index.html?eref=rss_us

    The father has converted to Judaism after divorcing the mother, who is Russian Orthodox.

    The son is 12 and the parents are fighting over whether or not he should be circumcised. The judge did an amazing thing – he said to ask the son what HE wants to do.

    Tara

  • Julie

    Unbrainwashed, I doubt you’ll see it back here, but I do agree with you. Like I said in my post, my family is Jewish, and for many years, the idea that I was one of the Chosen People really seemed cool to me, even though we never set foot in a temple and we were pretty agnostic. I was determined to pass my heritage on to my kids. It seemed a shame to lose it, after so many generations.

    But now, I think the idea that we are some special breed is horrible. I’ve done a complete 180 on it. I don’t want to pass it on to my kids. I don’t want them to think they are special because they were born Jewish. I don’t like it when Jews try to feel me out to see if I am Jewish, and when I am Jewish enough for them (because my mother is Jewish), I don’t like it that I’m suddenly in the Jew club. I find all this reprehensible. I’ve experienced it with jobs and also dating. As soon as it becomes clear that I’m passably genetically Jewish, I’m in! That makes no sense, really.

    For a long time, I bought into this tribe mentality, even though I was always pretty agnostic. Now that I’m just an out and out atheist, I really see tribe thinking as just dangerous.

    On the other hand, my sense of humor, my taste in food, my politics, and my relationship to my family are undeniably influenced by being Jewish. There is simply no way to deny aspects of my heritage. My entire family would probably classify themselves as “agnostic Jews,” but if you come visit us on any agnostic holiday, you will just feel like you’re hanging out with Jews. They’re Brooklyn accented, funny, liberal, loud–it’s the real deal for sure.

    So I value a lot about being raised culturally Jewish, but I don’t want my kids connected with the inherent racism that comes with being “genetically” Jewish. It’s totally abhorrent to me. And I agree with you that the matrilineal Jewish stuff is just not even really meaningful…unless you’re Jewish. That’s why I say, I’m Jewish according to the Jews. But according to me, I reject the special status that comes along with Jewishness by birth. I don’t want it anymore.

    Julie

  • Hayley

    @Unbrainwashed:

    You’re misrepresenting the idea of Jewish atheism as somehow racist. Is pride in one’s culture racist? What about when that culture has been persecuted for thousands of years, and when its successes (Einstein, Mahler, whoever) and cohesiveness stand as beacons in the darkness of that persecution? And if you look at non-Jewish media representations of Jews in the US and in Europe, the messages are overwhelmingly negative: the women are harpies, the men are feminine, everyone loves money and power, everyone’s ugly and twisted–pride in one’s heritage and culture is a form of combating this. For many Jews, secular and religious, that’s how they see it. (Never mind the fact that people of other religions and cultures can convert, and are fully accepted.)
    I agree with you that the idea of cultural exclusiveness, when partnered with the idea of being a Divinely Chosen People, is problematic and politically dangerous sometimes, BUT I don’t know any Jewish atheists who buy into that. In fact, many Jews, both practicing and not, are turned off by that idea–and that’s why it’s becoming less centralized in certain movements (such as humanistic Judaism and Liberal Judaism), NOT to fly under the radar of everyone else (and I find that idea offensive; it ties very neatly into anti-Semitic discourse and conspiracy theories. Please clarify?). This respect for one’s background and people–that’s a part of the human experience.
    Your argument assumes ONE type of Jewish atheist who is unwilling to relinquish the idea of ethnic supremacy when he or she becomes an unbeliever. I’m sorry, but I just don’t know anyone who is like that–and man, do I know a lot of Jewish atheists. We’re very nice people, you should hang out with some and see how diverse our opinions are instead of constructing some sort of straw man. Julie, above, might agree with you, but for every Julie there’s at least one Hayley who sees the idea of cultural Judaism as a matter of pride, a way of finding people with a common background, and a reminder of strength in the face of oppression, but does not claim that the Jewish people’s history makes them better or worse than anyone else.
    For the record: I’m a fourth-generation secular Jew (matrilinear, but that only really matters to the Orthodox and Conservatives, and I’ve never known an atheist who gave credence to that idea), my father is a practicing Christian, and no one has ever made me feel like less of a Jew for my Christian parent. I celebrate my Jewishness because I like the community, because I love the history (I’m a Classicist and I study this stuff anyway), because it’s how I grew up, and as a way of subverting the anti-Semitism I’ve encountered.
    Besides, there’s a whooooole debate about what makes a Jew, and there are probably as many opinions as there are Jews. The idea of genetic Jewishness is only one part of that–it’s a fascinating debate and you might want to look into it before oversimplifying everything. Trying to say “Jewish atheism is this!” or “Jews think that!” is like trying to say “Americans are all like this!” There’s an old joke: you ask five Jews a question and get six different opinions. Judaism and atheism mean so many different things to different people, and to lump everything together like you’ve just done–well, you’d better be damn sure you know what you’re talking about, and I’m not at all convinced you do. But good for you for bringing up some interesting points, and I hope I’ve responded delicately ;)


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