Jewish Atheist

An agnostic atheist perspective
from a once orthodox Jew.
Who the hell am I, and why would I have the chutzpah and azus (brazenness) to make this blog?
I’m probably not too different from you. Except that I’m an atheist.
I was raised Jewish (Orthodox), studied in yeshiva in Israel for a few years, and got really into Judaism. It wasn’t overnight. I needed convincing and some answers, but it seemed that I had gotten them, and soon I took the plunge.
Looking back, I guess I was “fundamentalist” - though back then I might have preferred a term like “ultra orthodox” or “yeshivish”. I even did kiruv (outreach) and anti-missionary work in my zeal. Sure, I was perhaps a bit eccentric, but I was more or less an average yeshiva bochur (student), and I was appreciated as being “the guy who has the answers to lots of secular questions.” Or so we all liked to believe.
I suppose my exposure to tough questions doing kiruv was a first step in opening my mind to some questions. I soon discovered that despite what most of my rabbis said, evolution actually did make a whole lot of sense. I soon discovered that Judaism is often not all that different from Christianity and many other religions. I realized that, looking objectively, there is some pretty crazy stuff in the torah and judaism. It might’ve bothered me at the time, but never shook my faith; in fact, reconciling it probably bolstered my faith - at least for the time being.
But questions remained. Slowly I took certain parts of it less seriously and gradually became much less observant - but still quite unsure of how I felt about Judaism on the whole, though god was still in the picture, if only in the background.
I thought to myself, “damn, I’m probably just a few good atheist books away from really giving up on this.” And so I avoided those books! Or at least, put them on the shelf, so to speak.
In the past few months I moved away from the Jewish neighborhood I’ve been living in for awhile. It’s been a good opportunity to finally start thinking about my beliefs and of what makes sense to me. So I finally reached for those forbidden books (actually, mostly youtube videos at first!).
And I’ve realized something.
Pretty much nothing about God or the foundations of Judaism really make a lot of sense.
I know that’s a bold claim, and it’s one I intend to demonstrate.
So why am I making this blog? What gives me the right to speak ill of my former religion, peers, and rabbis?
Well, firstly - and I’m saying this right now, in the first post, just to make this clear to any pissed off readers: This is my blog, so fuck you and your taboos and sensitivities. If you can’t handle some criticism, then bury your head in the sand. Secondly, this blog is my attempt to make sense of my paradigm shift, of coming to grips with what feels like a different reality and what’s been (and continues to be) a difficult journey. This is for me, and this is for whoever wants to consider another perspective, those who’d entertain the notion that they just might possibly be wrong.
I’m going to post my mini-revelations, those posts which inspire me, and try to give an authentically Jewish approach to doubting your religion.
And it is doubt. Remember that word.
It’s not faith and it’s not hate.
When I say I’m an atheist, I mean an agnostic atheist. We don’t say “there is no god”, but that “we don’t believe in any god.” However, we’re open to evidence. It’s basically a scientific, skeptical approach: Until you give sufficient reason to think any of this exists, then it’s no more likely than any other religion, superstition, myth, or whatever. That’s not faith. That’s not hate.
And hey, if someone reads what I’ve got to say and concludes, “whatever, I’m still gonna do it.” That’s fine. Hell, I even understand it. I’m not here to force anyone away from their own decisions.
What I would like to do is offer information and let people decide for themselves.
Judaism teaches us not to entertain doubt, but if you’re really going to accept an entire religion without asking if it makes sense, then I really don’t think there’s any way to reason with you (or to consider yourself reasonable). If, however, you think it makes sense to think and make sense, this is the place for you.
I’m not here to disparage, but feelings will likely get hurt. (And, ok, yeah, I’ll probably disparage now and then - but even then, it’s also for educational purposes.) I don’t think most of my former peers and rabbis had ill intent. I just think they’re wrong and cutting moral corners by not offering the full truth of things. Mostly, I think they’re just misguided, and to be honest - and I know how condescending this sounds - I honestly feel bad for religious jews, and religious folk in general. They’ve been trapped by one of the earliest and most appealing pitfalls in human history. Often they seem happy enough, which I guess isn’t too bad (though there’s certainly what to say about that - and I will); but many seem quite unhappy. Many have questions. Many feel alone. Many feel crazy for thinking clearly. I know I did. So I’m going to question them, especially when they’re in a role of indoctrinating another generation of impressionable kids.
This is my journey, my fight from fiction to reason.
Join the ride.

Who the hell am I, and why would I have the chutzpah and azus (brazenness) to make this blog?

I’m probably not too different from you. Except that I’m an atheist.

I was raised Jewish (Orthodox), studied in yeshiva in Israel for a few years, and got really into Judaism. It wasn’t overnight. I needed convincing and some answers, but it seemed that I had gotten them, and soon I took the plunge.

Looking back, I guess I was “fundamentalist” - though back then I might have preferred a term like “ultra orthodox” or “yeshivish”. I even did kiruv (outreach) and anti-missionary work in my zeal. Sure, I was perhaps a bit eccentric, but I was more or less an average yeshiva bochur (student), and I was appreciated as being “the guy who has the answers to lots of secular questions.” Or so we all liked to believe.

I suppose my exposure to tough questions doing kiruv was a first step in opening my mind to some questions. I soon discovered that despite what most of my rabbis said, evolution actually did make a whole lot of sense. I soon discovered that Judaism is often not all that different from Christianity and many other religions. I realized that, looking objectively, there is some pretty crazy stuff in the torah and judaism. It might’ve bothered me at the time, but never shook my faith; in fact, reconciling it probably bolstered my faith - at least for the time being.

But questions remained. Slowly I took certain parts of it less seriously and gradually became much less observant - but still quite unsure of how I felt about Judaism on the whole, though god was still in the picture, if only in the background.

I thought to myself, “damn, I’m probably just a few good atheist books away from really giving up on this.” And so I avoided those books! Or at least, put them on the shelf, so to speak.

In the past few months I moved away from the Jewish neighborhood I’ve been living in for awhile. It’s been a good opportunity to finally start thinking about my beliefs and of what makes sense to me. So I finally reached for those forbidden books (actually, mostly youtube videos at first!).

And I’ve realized something.

Pretty much nothing about God or the foundations of Judaism really make a lot of sense.

I know that’s a bold claim, and it’s one I intend to demonstrate.

So why am I making this blog? What gives me the right to speak ill of my former religion, peers, and rabbis?

Well, firstly - and I’m saying this right now, in the first post, just to make this clear to any pissed off readers: This is my blog, so fuck you and your taboos and sensitivities. If you can’t handle some criticism, then bury your head in the sand.
Secondly, this blog is my attempt to make sense of my paradigm shift, of coming to grips with what feels like a different reality and what’s been (and continues to be) a difficult journey. This is for me, and this is for whoever wants to consider another perspective, those who’d entertain the notion that they just might possibly be wrong.

I’m going to post my mini-revelations, those posts which inspire me, and try to give an authentically Jewish approach to doubting your religion.

And it is doubt. Remember that word.

It’s not faith and it’s not hate.

When I say I’m an atheist, I mean an agnostic atheist. We don’t say “there is no god”, but that “we don’t believe in any god.” However, we’re open to evidence. It’s basically a scientific, skeptical approach: Until you give sufficient reason to think any of this exists, then it’s no more likely than any other religion, superstition, myth, or whatever. That’s not faith. That’s not hate.

And hey, if someone reads what I’ve got to say and concludes, “whatever, I’m still gonna do it.” That’s fine. Hell, I even understand it. I’m not here to force anyone away from their own decisions.

What I would like to do is offer information and let people decide for themselves.

Judaism teaches us not to entertain doubt, but if you’re really going to accept an entire religion without asking if it makes sense, then I really don’t think there’s any way to reason with you (or to consider yourself reasonable). If, however, you think it makes sense to think and make sense, this is the place for you.

I’m not here to disparage, but feelings will likely get hurt. (And, ok, yeah, I’ll probably disparage now and then - but even then, it’s also for educational purposes.) I don’t think most of my former peers and rabbis had ill intent. I just think they’re wrong and cutting moral corners by not offering the full truth of things. Mostly, I think they’re just misguided, and to be honest - and I know how condescending this sounds - I honestly feel bad for religious jews, and religious folk in general. They’ve been trapped by one of the earliest and most appealing pitfalls in human history. Often they seem happy enough, which I guess isn’t too bad (though there’s certainly what to say about that - and I will); but many seem quite unhappy. Many have questions. Many feel alone. Many feel crazy for thinking clearly. I know I did. So I’m going to question them, especially when they’re in a role of indoctrinating another generation of impressionable kids.

This is my journey, my fight from fiction to reason.

Join the ride.

  1. jewishatheist posted this