Thursday, May 25, 2006
A Jewish atheist? How queer!
Allison, in her comment on the Purification post asked a good question; how can I be both a Jew and an atheist?

I was born and raised in the Jewish community, in which, there is a language (or 3 - Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino), a culture (or 8) and especially a learning process. I learned some things as a child in the Jewish education system that remain with me to this day.

Tikkun olam - the concept of repairing the world. Everyone has an obligation do their part even if that was just to plant a tree. It was explained to me in the concept of social justice. I cannot even explain how much that has affected my life. It is with me every day and keeps me satisfied in my career.

Lashon harah - the idea that spreading gossip, specifically true gossip, is wrong. I learned as a girl that lashon harah is like killing three people because it destroys the reputation of the victim, damages the perceptions of the listener, and diminishes the standing of the speaker. This concept makes me a lot less likely to gossip.

Gemilut hasadim (which we always said was Gimme loot, Hasadim!!!) which is acts of kindness.

Het (pronounce hate, ironically) literally means something that goes astray. It is a term used in archery to indicate that the arrow has missed its target. It is also the Hebrew word for sin. We believe that human beings are not basically sinful. We believe that one needs to atone to the person we have gone astray against and if that happens to be God, then you need to make your peace with God, if that is another human though, it does no good to atone in any other way than trying to get right with that person.

These, and a few others, were really important concepts to me (and y'all know about the food thing. Love me some Jew food).

The most important concept to me growing up, and almost all Jews who grew up in the community feel this way to some degree, Hitler would not have cared if you didn't believe in God. Hitler would not have cared if your mother was not Jewish (officially making you not a Jew since it is traditionally matrilineal) therefore, you are a Jew.

I don't happen to believe in a God. I believe that people can do good or bad in a God's name but I don't believe that there is anything out there to be answerable to, or a heaven to be working toward. I do good things or bad things because I am human and usually I do good because I want to, not because of any punishment or reward I might get.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Amen, Sistah! Do good for goodness's sake. As a Member of the Tribe, I completely agree.

Blogger Uccellina said...

To add another perspective, I was not introduced to the religious aspects of Judaism until I was about eight or nine, when my mother married my stepfather, who had been raised Conservative. But our family mythology had always been Jewish, and I was raised with stories of holocaust and pogrom, and the knowledge that these things could happen again. For me, Judaism was an ethnic identity and a persecution complex, rather than a religion.

Blogger TBLJ said...

To me being an Atheist and a Jew makes total since. I attend a shul regularly and people would probably classify me as religious but I am not sure how I feel about the G-d thing. :-) I just tell people that I haven't gotten to that chapter yet and when I do I will let them know. :-)

BTW thanks for stopping by my blog.

Blogger Allison said...

Makes perfect sense to me - thanks for that great explanation. Unitarians believe a lot of the same things, really about life lessons that focus on the here and now rather than the afterlife. I think it's great to adopt what is meaningful about a religion or faith, rather than to blindly follow just because someone, or some book tells you. But that's me. Maybe I'm a closet Jew too!

Blogger Annika said...

Can I be a Jewish Atheist too?

Blogger Faith said...

Absolutely - I welcome everyone into the fold!

Blogger htrouser said...

Have to add my own amen here! Though it's a little weirder if, like me, you're ethnically Jewish, but raised in complete absence of Jewish religion or, on the whole, culture (long story!). I'm experimenting with various (low) levels of Jewish practice, but completely averse to belief in God and uncomfortable with God-language in general. The problem, I guess, is in transmitting a coherent atheistic Jewish identity across generations if you're not in New York or Israel!

Blogger Vernon Singleton said...

You say, "usually I do good". How do you know this? If you get your notion of good and bad from the Torah, then you believe what it says about good and bad. If you belive what it says about good and bad, why don't you believe what it says about G-d?

Blogger dfadf said...

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