Atheism in Judaism
Sherwin Wine: Humanistic Rabbi
FAQ: Who We Are (2/10) - 2.7. What about other movements?
Humanistic Judaism practices a non-theistic form of Judaism.
For those involved in Humanistic Judaism, Judaism is the culture and the
historical experience of the Jewish people. Jewish history has taught us to
rely on human power to discover truth. It is a break from both Reform and
Reconstructionist Judaism because it does not use theistic language in its
liturgy. Additional information may be found in the Humanistic Reading List,
of which includes:
This message is intended to provide readers of soc.culture.jewish with
a list of references to allow them to learn more about the current practices,
past practices, beliefs, and history of the Humanistic Judaism Movement.
Humanistic Judaism is less well known than Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.
But, on a behavioral level, it claims to represent many more American Jews than
any of these official ideologies.
Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the founder of the movement, identifies three kinds of
Jews who are neither honestly Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. He calls these
types the involuntary, the ethnic, and the humanistic. Rabbi Wine defines the
involuntary Jew is the individual of Jewish descent who finds no meaning either
in his past or in the unique practices of his ancestral religion. He defines the
ethnic Jew is the person of Jewish descent who bears a strong attachment to the
Hebrew and Yiddish cultures out of which he emerged.
Rabbi Wine feels that these affiliations are negative. He prefers the
positive definition of Humanistic Jew: The Humanistic Jew is an individual, of
either Jewish or non-Jewish descent, who believes in the ultimate value of
self-respect and in the principles of humanism, community, autonomy, and
rationality. He also finds meaning in the celebration of life as expressed
through the historic Jewish calendar and seeks to interpret this calendar in a
naturalistic way. He perceives that the power he possesses to determine and
control his own life is the result of two billion years of evolutionary history.
Therefore, his religious feeling re-enforces his sense of human dignity.
On the last page of his book, "Judaism Beyond God," Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine
says: "Humanistic Jews want to bring their belifs and their behavior together and
to find their integrity. They are eager to affirm:
- That they are disciples of the Secular Revolution.
- That the Secular Revolution was good for the Jews.
- That reason is the best method for the discovery of truth.
- That morality derives from human needs and is the defense of human dignity.
- That the universe is indifferent to the desires and aspirations of human beings.
- That people must ultimately rely on people.
- That Jewish history is a testimony to the absence of God and the necessity of human self-esteem.
- That Jewish identity is valuable because it connects them to that history.
- That Jewish personality flows from that history -- and not from official
texts that seek to describe it.
- That Jewish identity serves individual dignity -- and not the reverse.
- That the Jewish people is an international family that has its center in Israel and its roots in the Diaspora.
- That the humanistic Gentile has a positive role to play in the life of the Jewish
Humanistic Jews want to translate these affirmations and commitments into an
effective life style -- for themselves and for those who share their convictions.
They need a community of believers to worth with and to share with in this
pioneering venture. They also need a cadre of trained leaders and spokespeople to
provide scholarship and guidance along the way. Humanistic Judaism was organized
by Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, who founded its first congregation, the Birmingham
Temple, in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In 1969, Rabbi Wine helped to found the
Society of Humanistic Judaism, whose membership comprises 19 congregations and
chapters, plus over 1300 families and individual members, as of June 1993.
The Society for Humanistic Judaism is the US affiliate of the International
Federation of Secular Humanistic Jews. The Federation's academic institution, the
International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, matriculated its first
class of rabbinical candidates in September of 1992. An overview of the current
status of Humanistic Judaism, written by Egon Friedler, of the Uruguayan Movement
for Secular Humanistic Judaism, recently appeared in _Midstream_ (October 1992).
Additional information on Humanistic Judaism, as well as publications on
Humanistic Judaism, may be obtained from:
Society for Humanistic Judaism
28611 W. Twelve Mile Road
Farmington Hills MI 48334
phone +1 810 478-7610
The executive director of SHJ is internet-accessible. Her name is Miriam
Jerris; she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. SHJ publishes a
quarterly journal, Humanistic Judaism. Ordering information is in the periodicals
mailing list. Membership in SHJ is $50 per household per year. Reproduction of
this posting for commercial use is subject to restriction. See Part 1 (general)
for more details.
re. other cultural/Jewish/Catholic/atheists, see also
Mordecai Kaplan, Ahad Ha-Am,
Graham Greene, Charles Maurras, Miguel
de Unamuno and Michael Harrington.