Invited post: On Jewish Atheism
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to contribute to this blog and explain, in Frank’s words “why I say there is no god even though I am Jewish (heir to the land of the Israelite, the people of god)”. This sounds like a direct questions but it has more layers than an onion. I will peel this onion a little bit. For starters, I will assume that the “why do you say” is just a manner of speaking. I say it simply because that is what I think.
About being a heir to the people of god, I would say that every people is a people of their god. Jews being “THE people of THE god” comes from the narrow Judeo-Christian perspective. From the Jewish perspective, as Jorge Drexler said in one of his songs, “there is no people that hasn’t considered itself the chosen people”. And from the Christian point of view, it is informed by its relationship with Judaism. After all, Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism, in essence a mixture of Jewish ethical monotheism and Platonic dualism. Through history it had a love-hate relationship with Judaism. I am glad that now is more love than hate (although for some Christians the love is only because of the supposed role we will play during the second coming of Jesus… not something to feel good about!).
Then there are two big questions: why you do not believe in god, and how come you don’t believe in god if you are Jewish? In this post I will give an answer to the second one.
A very common misconception among non-Jews (and even some Jews) is that being Jewish is about religion. But it is not: it is about participating in a national culture, the culture of the Jewish people, a people with a defined national and historical identity. This culture obviously includes religion (let’s call it Judaism), but it also includes history, literature, philosophy, music, and more important sense of shared destiny. In the same way, there is much more to being Mexican than being Catholic, and nobody would say that you have to be Catholic to be Mexican. In the US about 60% of Jews consider than religion is an not important part of their Jewish identity. A small proportion of non-religious Jews are secular humanistic Jews, who choose not to accept the idea of a god and instead focus their energies into the human experience and the human capacity to improve the world. I am one among them.
I am Jewish because I consider myself part of the Jewish people, I share the history, I celebrate the holidays that my ancestors celebrated, I am invested in the fate of Jews everywhere and in the future of the Jewish people. I just simply do not believe that a supernatural deity has any role to play.
OK…enough for now. I will tackle Frank’s first question about the cosmic overlord in a following post.
Julian M Burgos is a good friend of mine since elementary school.
He’s a marine biologist (BSc, MSc, Phd)
investigating benthic ecology,
born in Argentina,
now residing in Reykjavík, Iceland,
with his wife and son.