From Jew to Feminist to Atheist

Reader Alyssa wrote a fine piece at Feministing about her journey from Jew to feminist to atheist.

I am a feminist atheist, but for most of my adult life I was a practicing Jew. Ironically, if it wasn’t for my Jewish upbringing, I probably wouldn’t be such an ardent feminist, but if it wasn’t for my feminism, there’s little chance I would be identifying as an atheist today.

As I got older and more well-read, however, I started to see that all Judeo-Christian religions preach a form of patriarchy, some of an extreme variety. Such realizations opened my eyes to some of the other negative aspects of religion: violence, sectarianism, authoritarianism, xenophobia and homophobia. It took me awhile until I had the intellectual open-mindedness to fairly and critically analyze Judaism, but when I did, I took a hard look at the evidence and came to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, there is no god.

Now, I am proud to call myself a feminist atheist. For me, bearing such a label means I have an obligation to promote equality, freedom, human rights, rational and independent thinking, and evidence-based policies and programs. It’s a pretty daunting agenda for the future, but I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my time.

Check out the full piece and let Alyssa know what you think!

  • cipher

    Alyssa describes her upbringing as progressive, but tells us that she went to a private religious school and that her synagogue was gender-segregated. This indicates that she grew up Modern Orthodox, as opposed to ultra-Orthodox (the black hat crowd; they actually prefer the term “Chareidi” – “those who tremble”). Doesn’t really sound to me as though she experienced all that much discrimination. They allowed her to lead morning prayer services at her school. She was able to purchase tefillin, wear them in the presence of others – in the black hat world, she would have been ostracized at best, beaten up at worst. Come back when you actually have something to complain about.

    The commenters as well – “I’m a feminist atheist!” “I’M a feminist atheist!” I’m Spartacus!

  • Milena

    She wasn’t exactly complaining, but rather exposing her own experience of coming to atheism through feminism.

  • Alyssa

    Milena is right, the piece wasn’t meant as a complaint. Rather, it was an attempt to share how I became an atheist and the role feminism played in that transition.

    The congregation I personally attended was reconstructionist and it was very progressive, but I was exposed to many other branches of Judaism as well, including modern orthodox, ultra orthodox, and conservative. It was this exposure that really got me thinking about the patriarchy in religion. From there, I started to read more about the other negative aspects of organized religion and then finally started to question my faith in god. Feminism was merely the gateway to that intellectual process.

  • cipher

    Alyssa,

    You went to a Reconstructionist synagogue – and they had a womens’ section?

  • Alyssa

    No. Other (orthodox) synagogues I was exposed to through friends, family and the Jewish community I grew up in did, however.


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