FailedMessiah quoted an amazingly simplistic article about why many jews are atheists. Failed Messiah also had a great response. Here’s the highlights:
Why so many Jews are atheists
Rabbi Levi Brackman • Ynet
It is indisputable that a disproportionate amount of secular Jews self identify as atheist or agnostics…
Now, it is undeniable, and Hitchens agrees, that Jews have traditionally been deeply analytical questioners. One has only to study the Talmud (the magnum opus on Jewish law canonized in the fifth century) to recognize this. In fact the entire genre of rabbinic literature is full of questions, arguments and intellectual query…The Jewish mystics wanted to understand what the Bible meant when it said that God is one. They question how one unified God was able to create a universe so fragmented. The question of why a God would care what humans do (or don’t do) is a question that Jewish mystics prominently ask.
These are questions that atheists also ask. It is fair to say that most Jewish metaphysicians were skeptics at heart. They doubted the simplistic way of understanding the Bible. But their motives for asking these existential questions were different than those of the atheist. For the mystic intellectual inquiry brings a deeper appreciation and understanding of the truth inherent in the words of the Bible. The atheist, conversely, questions in order to disprove. The fundamental quest for truth, however, remains similar.
In my view, many secular Jews become atheists because of a lack of Jewish knowledge… Most contemporary Jews—if they are given a Jewish education—discontinue all formal Jewish education at around age thirteen…
Thus, most secular Jewish adults, at best, have a thirteen year olds concept of how Judaism perceives God… Indeed the concept of God I believed in at age thirteen has little resemblance to what I believe in today after many years of study.
To be sure, belief in monotheism is not solely dependent on an in-depth knowledge of Jewish metaphysical teachings. But a sophisticated understanding of the uniquely Jewish concept of God is necessary if such a belief is to stand to the intense scrutiny of a deeply analytical and questioning mind. My experience tells me that most Jews—especially those who claim to atheists—lack such knowledge and the God they say they don’t believe in I don’t believe in either. It is difficult to take the claim of being an atheist seriously knowing that the individual has not studied the extensive literature on Jewish metaphysics…
Lets list a few of the common reasons people – Jews included – give for being agnostics or atheists:
1. Large chunks of the Torah are factually incorrect. The universe is not 6,000 years old, no worldwide flood took place, millions of Hebrews did not flee Egypt, and the Land of Israel was not conquered like the Book of Joshua claims. This is not speculation; it is science-based, fact-based reality. And it doesn’t even begin to touch on the Torah’s internal contradictions, of which there are many.
2. Theological issues surrounding the Holocaust.
3. Corrupt rabbis and religious leaders. (This was a quite popular reason 120 years ago, and it seems to be regaining its popularity today.) Some of the proponents of the mysticism Brackman cites were, in fact, major criminals or enablers of major criminals – just like today.A Jew whose Jewish education stopped at 13 is far more Jewishly educated than your average hasidic Jew is secularly educated.
A Jew who goes to college and graduates will have taken physics and other advanced sciences. A hasid who learns in yeshiva will generally have a secular education that stopped about the 8th grade. But because much of science and history contradicts Torah, that hasid’s science education will in all likelihood stop even earlier than that – much earlier, in fact.So while a non-Orthodox Jew knows something about Judaism, the hasid knows little about science or history...Convincing answers exist for the science / Torah split for people who want to find convincing answers. For people who simply want to find the truth, convincing answers are much harder to come by.Acknowledging this conflict – and honestly acknowledging the very real issues Judaism cannot answer in this regard – has to come before chiding people who lack faith.But to do this one needs to know these points of conflict actually exist…
“These are questions that atheists also ask. It is fair to say that most Jewish metaphysicians were skeptics at heart. They doubted the simplistic way of understanding the Bible.”
“But their motives for asking these existential questions were different than those of the atheist. For the mystic intellectual inquiry brings a deeper appreciation and understanding of the truth inherent in the words of the Bible. The atheist, conversely, questions in order to disprove.”
“The fundamental quest for truth, however, remains similar.”
“Thus, most secular Jewish adults, at best, have a thirteen year olds concept of how Judaism perceives God…
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- ismael-sarepta said: It’s more the case that *religion* has a childish understanding of God. When was the last time you heard your rabbi speak lucidly on Deism, or Apophantic Theology, the Divine Substance, or even understood what Maimonides was saying?
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