on types of atheism and pseudonyms|
Jon Murray, Essays on American Atheism , volume 1
(American Atheist Press: Austin TX 1986) p 177
"Atheist Pseudonyms" june 1978
All of those assembled classified themselves by one of the less definitive titles
which Atheists all over the United States unfortunately use to shield themselves
from the social pressures of outright identification with their true feelings.
Terms such as humanist, agnostic,
ethical culturist, deist, freethinker, rationalist,
secularist realist, and objectivist all serve a purpose for their
users, but often are not a true expression of their thoughts.
The use of such terms is common, and the initial argument we had over the
question of "Why lie to yourself and others by not coming out and saying what you
really are?" went as expected. When we began to probe the subject a little
deeper, however, a position statement on the part of those gathered began to
emerge. This position has deep implications affecting the struggle for civil
rights for Atheists and indeed the freedoms that we all attempt to secure for our
"Israel" october 1981
Now, some of you have written this journal [American Atheist] in the past
referring to yourselves as Jewish Atheists. A spate of letters has been
received at the Atheist Center objecting to any comments in this journal
regarding Israel or Judaism, by persons designating themselves as Jewish
Atheists. There is no such thing as a Jewish Atheist. The term "Jewish" refers to
a religious stance, not an ethnic group. "Semite" is the proper term for the
ethnic group. There are many non-Semites who are religiously Jewish also. (Sammy
Davis and Elizabeth Taylor, to name two!) All "Jewish" customs are based on
religious ritual. The true Jew has no secular holiday or custom or food habit.
All of these are dictated by holy rote. Everything that an individual hails as
making him "Jewish" is based on religious ritual.
emailed comment from a reader, M.E., sat, 8 feb 1997:
On the page on Jewish Athiests there is some discussion about whether a Jew
can be secular or atheistic. The comments defining Judaism are historically
inaccurate. ... My understanding is that even in the orthodox liturgy, they
refer to the Jewish People. The Jewish people derived from the Hebrews - a group
of semites. The Jewish People were around long before the Jewish religion -
therefore they are an ethnic group. While there is also a Jewish religion
currently defined by orthodox ideology which had its origins in the Pharisees,
the Jewish people do not universally share that philosophy of life. People are
frequently confused between the Jewish People and the Jewish religion. A
religion is a set of beliefs. If you agree with that set of beliefs, then you
ascribe to that religion. As a people, the Jews are known to disagree on many
things. There is a saying - "2 Jews, 3 opinions".
Therefore the Jews can more accurately be described as a civilization, which
includes many cultures (Ashkenazic, Persian, Sephardic, etc), distinct humor,
literature, music, languages, etc.
Another problem with defining Judaism merely as a religious group, is that
you could not explain how people like Herzl and Einstein could call themselves
Jews along with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They did not share the same philosophies
of life - only their attachment to the Jewish People.
In summary, many Jews are secular, many Jews are atheists. Not all Jews
share the orthodox belief system. Even at the time that system was developed
there were many different kinds of Jews - Zadokites, Pharasees, Essenes. Jews
have always been a pluralistic society. You should contact Professor Malkin in
Israel at the Institute for Pluralistic Judaism. He is an expert on this subject
and has interesting courses on Judaism during the Helensitic times. You also
might want to consider attending a Colloquium this October in Detroit which is
gathering many of the great Jewish scholars in the World on the subject
"Reclaiming Jewish History". If you're interested I'll find out if there is any
re. cultural/Catholic/Jewish/atheists, see Graham Greene,
Charles Maurras, Miguel de Unamuno, Michael Harrington,
Mordecai Kaplan, Sherwin Wine
and Ahad Ha-Am.