Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

MORE musings on Atheism…

Posted by shiduri on August 6, 2006

The Tribe Barbie Jewish Tiffany Shlain

I’ve been getting some powerful responses to my “Musings on Athiesm” post… (Good old http://www.myspace.com is a great way for spewing sharing thoughts and feelings on the internet) While some friends have disagreed with me, their responses have been warm, supportive, and loving. One message, however, was pretty callous, and made me angry…

Just because you don’t believe in the jewish religion doesn’t mean you are an athiest. Athiesm is, like all religions, a unprovable theory. Agnostic is a better word. And I don’t know much about Judaism, but the fact that you can drop out so quick (and publically advertising your descent no less) tells me that your belief was somewhat weak anyway.
Death is a part of life. Focusing on the pain and loss is not a worthwhile use of thought. I think it’s time for you to move on, and thats exactly what they were saying at the funeral.
And judaism is larger than believes and funeral ceremonies. It’s also a greater social and ethical code to life. You can never rinse that away from the person you are.

After reading that charming message on myspace, I feel it necessary to clarify that I whole-heartedly embrace the cultural, social, and ethical spirit of Judaism — Trust me, I am (and will always be) a proud Member of this ever-questioning, diverse Tribe of perpetual rabble-rousers….

My faith has always in flux — From dancing naked under the orange tree in the backyard during my ‘Wiccan years’ to embracing Taoist teachings, my thoughts and feelings on religion and G’d have been part of my struggle to make sense of an unsettling world. But no matter what I chose to believe (or not believe) I have always seen myself as being first and foremost, a Jew. For me, (and for many many MANY others) being “Jewish” transcends the religion … After all, the name “Israel” (as in The People of Israel) means “one who struggles with G’d,” and this highlights the very combatively contemplative essence of being Jewish. Questioning the religion, and questioning G’ds existence (while not recommended in Biblical times!), is part of the nature of our People.

Lastly, I’d like to add that according to the omniscient and omnipotent Wikipedia, an ‘Athiest Jew’ is NOT a contradiction in terms… SO THERE! HA! 🙂


6 Responses to “MORE musings on Atheism…”

  1. mishgolden said

    Of course there are atheist Jews; there have been plenty, especially in the recent couple of centuries (take most Soviet-raised Jews as an example). You can believe that dieties do not exist and still be a member of this earthly tribe.
    But I do agree with the posting you’re commenting on in one (and probably only one) sense — atheism, like theism, is unproven belief. Though I would not call atheism a religion (from what I understand there are no ceremonies and no ethical code, at least) the belief that there are no deities is no more provable than belief in any god or gods. This insight, I think, is the advantage of agnosticism (that, and the mild, tolerant attitude it brings to questions about deities) — saying “I don’t know — and nobody knows! — whether there are any gods.” Frankly, I think that the existance of deities is not about knowledge, but belief. After all, what fact would really prove to a committed theist that no gods exist, or to an atheist the contrary?

  2. Oyster said

    Atheism amongst Jews isn’t so much of a contradiction as it is with other faiths, because Judaism isn’t merely a faith. Judaism is perhaps best described as a natiionhood / peoplehood (though I despise the latter term as being weak and smacking of an apologetic avoidance of calling the Jews a ‘nation’). We have a common history, philosophy, faith, language, etc. that binds us together. The more elements of this common nationhood that we uphold the better we keep ourselves united with the tribe.

    So, in short, there is both a theoretical and historical basis for “secular Judaism”, but I have yet to see such a movement of Jews that can effectively pass down their Jewish identity without the faith component (however you define that).

    You want to see more on this? Check out the Bay Area’s own Ken Goldberg and Tiffany Shlain’s “The Tribe”! (video)

  3. Laura R said

    First of all, I think sports fans are religious (with their ceremonies and ‘nationhood’), so I am wary of anyone who calls himself nonreligious or atheist. In addition to being ‘unprovable theory’ (however irrelevant, religion is all about experience, not proof) atheism is a conclusion that takes a LOT of thought, research into other explanatory systems, etc. I think people should try to come up with their own individual explanatory system, rather than stubbornly saying ‘there’s no higher power.’ To me, it just leaves so many holes, so many things left unanswered.
    I find it interesting that you say you don’t believe in the ‘Jewish’ G-d (a question I was asked recently as well) yet you don’t spell the word out. Hmmm. Not criticizing, just wondering.
    I think the fact that you are trying to sort things out/ explain things attests to the fact that you have religious tendencies, which is generally something atheists shy away from.
    Lastly, the use of the word ‘descent’ struck me in the comment. At first I thought he or she meant ‘dissent,’ but descent implies judgement. I don’t think you are ‘falling’ in any way. It’s very Jewish of you to question everything and only believe in something you truly believe. Bravo!

  4. I’m very sorry you had to endure that abusive comment. You don’t need to justify your Jewishness or your beliefs. That’s exactly what they are, beliefs. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed reading your post on atheism, although I was saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. Not only was the writing good but I felt like I got a glimpse into someone’s soul as they grappled with a very big issue. I am thankful for the insight you offered into what someone in your situation goes through, both the pain of losing a loved one and the forming of beliefs.
    And if someone wants to say they’re atheist, agnostic or whatever else, whether they came to that conclusion through research or simply decided one day, I say let them. Who are we to judge their beliefs when we don’t KNOW anymore than they do?

  5. shiduri said

    Just to clarify – the reason i don’t spell out G’d is because i know many of you who read Oy Bay! ARE religious and might be offended — while i do not believe in the G’d described in the Biblical narrative, (I see that as a product of time/place/collective anxiety — thank you very much Professors Ron Hendel and Alan Dundes) I am open to the possibility of an unbiased and unexplainable Higher Power. And YES, I agree, “Athiesm” is just as much a belief as any other religion — and its a really dogmatic one at that 😦 —– SO, MEA CULPA: I’m an Agnostic 🙂 Fine.

  6. Oyster said

    Wait, we have many religious readers?

    Baruch HaShem!

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