Godless Jews

Nov 9, 2015

by Herb Silverman

I’m not accustomed to being part of the majority in most things, especially religion. One notable exception comes from a recent Harris survey that shows the majority of American Jews do not believe in God. While I’m mildly surprised by such a high percentage, I’m not totally shocked. Throughout my academic career, hardly any Jews I have known believed in God. This, of course, is not a random sample because the percentage of atheists in academe is higher than in the general population, rising to about 93 percent in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

Gentiles are often surprised to learn that there is no religious belief requirement to be a Jew. Jewish law says I’m a Jew because I was born of a Jewish mother, just like I’m an American because I was born in America. These definitions have nothing to do with beliefs.

While there is considerable diversity within Christianity, most Christians believe there was something very special about Jesus. Some even believe that Jesus is God as the second person in a Holy Trinity. We all can name many well-known Christians like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Mother Teresa, and the Pope. But most well known Jews are atheists: Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman (no relation, unfortunately), and many more. I’m hard-pressed to name even one pious Jew, dead or alive, who is a household name worldwide — except maybe Jesus. And I have my doubts about him.

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6 comments on “Godless Jews

  • I’ve never been able to pin down what it is to be a Jew, because every Jew I’ve ever known has been and remains a distinct individual in their own right; the only thing they have in common is a mother who’s a Jew.

    Yesterday, I had a conversation with our neighbour of twenty years standing, about Israel; she laments what’s happened to that state since it was established, and she and I agree that two mentalities have contributed to its present parlous situation: religious fundamentalism, both Arab and Jew.

    Among many other things, our neighbour teaches Judaic history, and Arabic dance, is married to a Jew, has no religious affiliations or beliefs, but she and he have a firm relationship with their local Rabi.

    To her, and her old man, being a Jew is being a loving, creative, rounded, inquisitive human being, always striving to learn, never unquestioningly accepting the status quo.

    A bit like me really; accept, I’m a goy boy.

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  • It is not surprising, there is a big chunk of the Israeli Jewish population who are secular. it is assumed that a lot of them are atheist (like me for example) but maybee bigger part of the secular Israeli jews are what we called tradisonals (Masortiim מסורתיים). those are people who beleves in god and do some of the practices (which practice – it depend on their desicion – most of them are driving in shabath (saterday) but will eat only cosher. the problem is that this group is under pressure of “Jewish evangelists” and they adopt more and more religious practices and become fully religions.

    Unfortunately they are to become a majority. We can see that in the distribution of elementary schools. A survey of TAUB institute shows that while 38% of the kids study In General school (secular but the coriculum become more and more religion). 20% are in Ultra-orthodox schools (which predict more religious in the next generation while the total share of the ultra-orthodox is about 10%) and 14% are in what was a mild religion schools -State-Religious schools. The rest 28% learn in Arabic speaking schools whiteout mentioning the variety of the religious level in that sector (or multy sector – muslems, Christians on their own splits, and Druze. But for now we are talking about jews, the secular schools are 52% if the total – and its shrinking ) Hebrew speakers or google translate speaker can read (or impressed) here http://www.hayadan.org.il/israel-to-become-third-world-281112 (disclamer – this is a science news run by myself. Another disclamer –the rest of the media don’t care – when there is not a war issue they are in the mood of Bread and circuses).
    It is not the same of the 52% of the American jews are atheist, but anyway until now it probably drop to 50%. As someone said “it’s hard to be a Jew”. It is harder to be an atheist Jew.

    One may ask if you are atheist why to stay a jew (as Proffessor Dawkins wrote in “God delusion). The answer that how we born and you don’t need to change culture and probably not to change the formaly religions while all the rest are wrong equally.

    We have a tradition from Spinoza to Einstein and on of those kind of Mix. Anyway our enemies doesn’t make that distinguish or maybe they hate atheist even more than they hate Jews (and theirs extremers also hate any other beleave or non beleave but the Islam). Off course, I am not go to political issues just what they say themselves.

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  • אבי בליזובסקי, thank you for your insight into the Israeli Jewish secular and Atheist predicament. Evangelists and fundamentalists do seem to spring up when faith, or more possibly its ability to politically influence societies, is visibly threatened.

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  • Hi Phil. unfortunately in Israel there are abundant signs that this is not the case. it is the secularity in danger. More and more neighborhoods and cities are filled with Charedim, the 61 Knesset member (out of 120) depend on them and now they Conditioned their approvel on the state budget if they will not get another half a billion Shekels on the billions thy already have – mostly for their “Education” systems.

    P.S Facebook should have write my name in both Hebrew and english

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