Judaism Without God?

Huffington Post has a short article up about the phenomenon of Jews who don’t believe in God. Turns out there are a lot of us:

Atheism is entrenched in American Judaism. In researching their book American Grace, authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell found that half of all American Jews doubt God’s existence. In other groups, that number is between 10 and 15 percent.

Those figures have some in the Jewish community alarmed. A recent issue of Moment, a magazine of Jewish thought, asked influential Jews if Judaism can survive without God. The answers were split.

Half? Goodness! That’s a lot. Putnam and Campbell’s book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. Looks like I should read it.


Later in the article we come to this:

Shaul Magid, a professor of modern Judaism at Indiana University, said atheists may join synagogues because American Judaism lacks “a vibrant secular Jewish movement.”

“They go because they want some kind of ethnic identity,” Magid said. “They don’t care about the prayers. It allows them to feel a sense of Jewishness, but has little to do with religion.”

That’s what prompted Jennifer Cohen Oko, a Washington, D.C.-based writer, to join a Reform synagogue, her first. Neither Cohen nor her husband believe in God, but, like many Jews, they joined for their two children.

“I want my kids to understand they are Jewish, to be proud of being Jewish and to understand their heritage,” Cohen said. “And then they’ll have a choice. If they want to go that way (towards belief in God), great. If they don’t, they’ll have a sense of where they came from.”

That last paragraph well represents the view my parents held when my brother and me were growing up. We were members of a local conservative synagogue. My brother and I attended Sunday school, had our Bar Mitzvahs, and then attended our synagogue’s “Hebrew High School” program, in which teen issues were discussed from a Jewish perspective. But it wasn’t about belief or about getting right with God. It was about having a sense of Jewish identity, and of understanding something about Jewish heritage.

When I moved to Kansas I became a member of the local synagogue and even attended services regularly for a while. Eventually I stopped doing that, since the experience mostly reminded me why I hated religious ceremonies in the first place. But I did want to announce to the world that there was now another Jew in Manhattan, Kansas. I have not joined the synagogue here in Harrisonburg, but I’m happy that there is one.

Anyway, let’s have a look at that forum in Moment Magazine. Since, as HuffPo says, the intent was to ask influential Jews whether they thought Judiasm was meaningful without belief in God, I’m sure no one will be surprised that they asked me for my opinion. Well, OK, I was pretty surprised myself.

Alas, as often happens with these things my remarks got pruned down so much that I think my point got a bit garbled in the published version. Here’s a fuller version of what I said:

Judaism is a culture as much as a religion. When people describe themselves as Christians, they imply some element of belief–the beliefs may vary, but it would be hard for them to say, “I am a Christian” if they don’t believe in God. In Judaism, there is a vibrant Jewish community separate from the theological underpinnings of the Torah. You don’t have to believe God made a covenant with our ancestors where he gave us the land of Israel and commanded us to live by His teachings to be Jewish. On the other hand, if people don’t believe in God and everyone is merely going through the motions, is Judaism worth preserving? Even if it contributes to polarization and tribalization? I don’t have a sharp, cogent answer. The line that keeps coming back to me is from the Danny DeVito movie, Other People’s Money, where DeVito’s character says “Lawyers are like nuclear weapons. The others guys have theirs, so I have mine, but once anyone starts using them they screw everything up.” And to a certain extent that’s how I feel about religion–the other guys have theirs, so I have mine, but once anyone starts using them outside their proper place things start getting messed up. Right now, given the world the way it is, it feels very meaningful for me to be part of this community and for Jewish culture be preserved.

Not everyone has such a benign view of the matter. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz offers these cheery thoughts:

The question “What is Judaism without belief in God” can best be answered through similes. The simplest simile would be that it is like humanity without life: a collection of dead bodies, cemeteries and memorials. Judaism without belief in God is just like that: a combination of obscure historical notions such as the Shoah, a faint attachment to Israel and wonderful material for Woody Allen movies. … When one speaks about Judaism as an idea or a culture, it becomes quite ridiculous; it is like an attempt to write literature by using only three or four letters of the alphabet. It can be done as a gimmick, but the result will be neither important nor impressive. It is true, however, that in many parts of the world, Jews subconsciously define themselves as the void that remained after God had left–namely, empty shells, hollow puppets that continue to talk and preach despite having lost their contents long ago.

This guy’s hardcore! A collection of dead bodies? Empty shells? Hollow puppets? I won’t attempt a reply, beyond noting that understanding the Shoah, feeling an attachment to Israel, or appreciating Woody Allen movies is nothing to be trifled with.

Senator Joe Lieberman offers this:

There can be Jews who are good people without belief in God, but ultimately Judaism cannot continue to exist without belief in God because the Jewish historical narrative depends on it. I was raised in a traditional setting, to believe that we’re judged–and this comes from the prophetic writings–by our behavior, not whether we observe this or that ritual, though we should observe those rituals. Judaism without God, in my opinion, will not remain Judaism and will ultimately vanish. My somewhat circular logic is that I accept the truth of the promise that God made to our forefathers and foremothers: that the Jewish people will be eternal. But I also believe that the promise was conditioned on a continuing belief in God.

I’m wondering if maybe Lieberman’s remarks also got edited a bit too much, since that doesn’t really make much sense. The most intelligent version of the, “Judaism can’t survive without God,” thesis comes from Rabbi David Wolpe:

Yes, there can be Judaism without God, but only briefly, as it cannot reproduce itself. Judaism without God is running on the momentum of past generations. It can last a generation or two, but will disappear without the roots that gave it nourishment. I don’t believe that people will continue to light Shabbat candles because it’s a cultural practice, but they will do it because it’s a mitzvah. Absent a connection to God, Judaism cannot sustain itself. For many people, it’s difficult to believe in God, and yet they feel deeply attached to their Judaism. Transmitting it, however, will be an insurmountable challenge. Judaism without God eliminates large and important sections of our tradition, like prayer. You start out with a lessened tradition and without a compelling reason to continue it. That’s a poor prescription for longevity.

There might be something to that. Perhaps my attachment to Jewish culture is parasitic on those who do it “for real.” Though it means something to me to be Jewish, the fact remains that Jewish practice plays a very small role in my life. I have a mezuzah hanging next to my front door, and I enjoy participating in the occasional Passover seder or Hanukah lighting ceremony, but that’s about it.

On the other hand, as sociologist Phil Zuckerman notes in Society Without God, even in Sweden and Denmark, where nonbelief is the norm, the church continues to thrive as a social institution. So perhaps things are not as gloomy as Wolpe suggests.

Anyway, most of the responses are pretty interesting, so go have a look! I’ll close with one more quote from the HuffPo piece:

Children are what brought Schrogin to Beth El, but he has stayed for the sense of purpose organizing its community service projects has instilled. “My rabbi said, “You know Maxim, God doesn’t care whether you believe in him or not. All that he cares is that you do the right thing.” Our action in the world is much more important.”

Well said! If only more religions took that attitude.

Comments

  1. #1 Tony P
    September 25, 2011

    Very interesting post. I suspect that within the Catholic Church there are a lot of non-believers too. I haven’t identified as Catholic for decades but I know I couldn’t be the ONLY one who came up through Catholic schools at a fairly subversive point in time and turned out as an atheist.

  2. #2 David
    September 25, 2011

    I call myself a cultural Christian, as my love of art, music and literature is very tied up with Christian ideas. I used to sing in a choir and could feel very moved at the music and words even though I was not a believer. At Christmastime I join atheist, Christian and Jewish friends to go carol singing (an excuse for some good wine after). This is not hypocrisy, in the modern sense of the word, just enjoying playing a part. I was brought up in the UK and suspect, like Tony P, that much churchgoing there was for social reasons.

  3. #3 Vince Whirlwind
    September 25, 2011

    At church yesterday, the priest told us the parable of the two sons whose father asks them to work in the fields: The first son tells his old man to bugger off, but, later, ends up outside working in the fields. The second son says, “yes dad, sure”, but never gets around to it.
    “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.”

    Still, I don’t know how much longer I can continue subjecting myself to an hour of mumbo-jumbo every Sunday. I feel like a hypocrite. And I’m not at all sociable anyway – I only go to give the children the opportunity to understand religion.

  4. #4 JimR
    September 25, 2011

    In the past two years I have become closer friends with two Jewish men, one secular and one devout. Both have taught me a lot about the cultural aspects and the devout has taught me many of the beliefs and given me a glimpse of the religion. I must say on both counts I have been impressed by the depth and beauty of both. An article in this month’s Free Inquiry talks about looking at a religion from both within and without. I now can view the Jewish religious aspects as quite beautiful from my minor understanding of the inside, and still think it is quite absurd from the outside to adhere to 613 laws.
    I am richer for the former viewpoint and think it would be a shame to lose the Jewish perspective of millennia of history. My impression of both men is that they are very confidant, but never arrogant. They have a sly, self-deprecating humor that is an enjoyable component of their mien.

  5. #5 Moopheus
    September 25, 2011

    I’d have to say that most of the Jewish people I’ve known in my life, including most of my father’s family, were not very religious or completely secular. Few went to any synagogue on a regular basis. I presume articles like this are mainly for the benefit of nonjews who don’t know a lot of Jews. I mean, who else would not know this?

  6. #6 Deepak Shetty
    September 25, 2011

    But it wasn’t about belief or about getting right with God. It was about having a sense of Jewish identity, and of understanding something about Jewish heritage.

    I think you imply that this is a good thing. I’m not entirely sure about that – it lead’s to a us/them kind of thinking, does it not?

  7. #7 Omer
    September 25, 2011

    I wonder if anyone here read Alan Dershowitz’s “The Vanishing American Jew”; the numbers pretty much suggest Rabbi Wolpe is right – secular Judaism is a vanishing phenomena. Dershowitz’s book is funny because he understands this but isn’t willing to accept it – so secular Jews may be as delusional as religious jews when it comes to religion :-)

  8. #8 Anat
    September 26, 2011

    Like atheists of other flavors, non-believing secular Jews draw members from among those who were raised more religious. The offspring of secular Jews will end up assimilated in general western culture, but the offspring of Reform, Conservative and even some offspring of Orthodox Jews will be at some point secular Jews (and some offspring of Orthodox Jews will be Conservative or Reform). So ultimately the Orthodox (and especially the Haredim among them) breed all other groups of Jews.

  9. #9 csrster
    September 26, 2011

    Anat – yes, that’s why you sometimes hear that “every Jew has at least one Orthodox great-grandfather”. Because by the time you get more than three generations from someone observant you’ve usually completely assimilated. )This is also what Wolpe is saying.) But my impression is that in the US the few who drop out of strict Orthodoxy rarely go on to the more liberal congregations. So I don’t think Reform and the like can replenish their numbers by recruiting from the ex-Orthodox.

    I think Reform (like liberal christianity) can only flourish in very specific social circumstances where you have
    i) a societal expectation that people identify with some religion, and
    ii) a dominant secular culture which expects religion to confine itself mainly to the private sphere.

    Those factors brought Reform to the fore first in Germany and later in the USA, as well as giving rise to the “centrist” Orthodoxy still practised by most European and Israeli Jews. However in both the USA and Europe i) is fading fast which is why middle-of-the-road Judaism is dying out.

  10. #10 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “I want my kids to understand they are Jewish, to be proud of being Jewish and to understand their heritage,”

    This isn’t a problem.

    What makes it a problem is if you’re considering yourself more human than others, or specially marked. And that is a big part of what religion does to dehumanise people.

    One thing I hope they refrained from is the circumcision ceremony. The lack of a foreskin is not a natural result of being Jewish, it’s a test for the parents to pass to prove that they prefer to believe in the right precepts even above the mutilation of their child.

    There’s time enough when they grow up to decide to leave a tip.

  11. #11 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “When people describe themselves as Christians, they imply some element of belief–the beliefs may vary, but it would be hard for them to say, “I am a Christian” if they don’t believe in God.”

    Actually pretty common in the UK wrt Church of England.

  12. #12 Jud
    September 26, 2011

    Jason writes:

    There might be something to that. Perhaps my attachment to Jewish culture is parasitic on those who do it “for real.” Though it means something to me to be Jewish, the fact remains that Jewish practice plays a very small role in my life. I have a mezuzah hanging next to my front door, and I enjoy participating in the occasional Passover seder or Hanukah lighting ceremony, but that’s about it.

    On the other hand, as sociologist Phil Zuckerman notes in Society Without God, even in Sweden and Denmark, where nonbelief is the norm, the church continues to thrive as a social institution. So perhaps things are not as gloomy as Wolpe suggests.

    wow writes:

    What makes it a problem is if you’re considering yourself more human than others, or specially marked. And that is a big part of what religion does to dehumanise people.

    Jason’s hopeful close and wow’s concern both ignore the central fact that there aren’t many Jews. Sorry, Jason, but outside a few big cities there won’t be enough “secular Jews” to create a social environment, much less one of such long standing as to become “an institution.” And wow, having grown up Jewish in a majority-Christian environment, let me tell you that the “we’re-better-than-you” vibe was definitely coming from the majority toward the minority, not the other way around. Was I sometimes able to feel as a result, “Damn, at least I’m not a bigoted lunkhead like [various bigoted lunkheads]“? Sure, but then atheists get the same “opportunity,” don’t they?

    Jason, let’s face it, the central reason for the existence of Judaism is because it is a religion. This ain’t some social club – we’re not the Elks. (Though we may be Odd Fellows; always wondered who thought of that name.) So for folks like you and I who no longer believe in God, we may tell ourselves that we are “culturally Jewish;” we may have a much better idea of what a really good bagel is like than most other folks (much, much less like a dinner roll with a hole in the middle); we may know all sorts of “fun facts” about Judaism, remember how to recite prayers in Hebrew, and know some Yiddish phrases and jokes; but we are, when it comes right down to it, *not* Jewish, any more than Jews for Jesus.

    That’s incredibly disappointing on a certain level. Not so very long ago, the Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews, and we are no longer meaningfully part of those who are helping to keep the religion going. But if we wish to be truthful with ourselves, we must acknowledge that *because* we wish to be truthful with ourselves about the non-existence of a Deity, or deities, we cannot honestly think of ourselves as Jewish. Atheists with Jewish ancestry, some cultural and religious background, some helpful grounding in viewing things differently than the majority? Yep, I think that’s about the size of it.

  13. #13 Anat
    September 26, 2011

    csrster,

    Actually a surprisingly (to me) high proportion of US Orthodox Jews have been shifting to more liberal streams of Judaism for generations. I saw the stats about a year ago, I have no idea if I can locate them again. So I think secular Judaism is here to stay, but it just doesn’t get transmitted longitudinally.

  14. #14 eric
    September 26, 2011

    Jud: Sorry, Jason, but outside a few big cities there won’t be enough “secular Jews” to create a social environment

    I think this is completely wrong. Remember that the world population was less than 300 million in the 1300s, less than a billion in 1800, less than 2 billion in 1900. Throughout that time, Jews have always been a small minority in (the vast majority of) western towns and cities. If there were thriving Jewish communities in Spain prior to the lat 1400s – and there were – it is difficult to see why there couldn’t be thriving Jewish communities in hundreds of American and European towns today, given that there are so many towns today with larger populations (compared to back then).

    Some examples might be in order. Granada and Paris had about 150K people in the mid 1400s. They had thriving Jewish communities. Today, there are about 200 U.S. cities with populations over 120K. 200 >> “a few big cities.”

  15. #15 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “having grown up Jewish in a majority-Christian environment, let me tell you that the “we’re-better-than-you” vibe was definitely coming from the majority toward the minority, not the other way around.”

    Yes, every “minority” believes they’re the butt of discrimination. Just ask the Christians.

    The exclusion of any mixed marriage is a we’re-better-than-you-ism.

    The feeling that your rites are right is a we-re-better-than-you-ism (see the circumcision).

    The feeling that you need to carry on with Jewishness, that there’s something inherently necessary to there being a particular sense of jewishnes is a we’re-better-than-you-ism. Though this is often enacted by those outside the group, going “It’s a wonderful example of an ancient way of life!”.

    And, of course, the belief that God has particularly picked you out is the ultimate we’re-better-than-you-ism. See just about every religion, even some sects of religions generally considered immune to this.

    “Sure, but then atheists get the same “opportunity,” don’t they?”

    Under what circumstances does this happen?

    “Damn, at least I’m not a bigoted lunkhead like [various bigoted lunkheads]”

    No, I’d like to be as bigoted as I want to to individuals. I’m not willing to subsume my ability to diss someone just because I’m busy dissing an ephemeral “group”.

    “but we are, when it comes right down to it, *not* Jewish, any more than Jews for Jesus.”

    When it comes right down to it, either you’re as Jewish as any other Jew, or the word has no meaning.

    “Not so very long ago, the Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews”

    And a long time ago, the Jews were doing the same.

    It has more to do with three things:

    1) Humans. Always the bloody humans.
    2) Separation. Separate=different, different=other, other=scary
    3) Religion. God loves US, therefore THEY who aren’t loved by God aren’t as human as we. Not only the Nazis but the Jews themselves. After all, you could have lied and said you weren’t a Jew.

  16. #16 Jud
    September 26, 2011

    eric writes:

    If there were thriving Jewish communities in Spain prior to the lat 1400s – and there were – it is difficult to see why there couldn’t be thriving Jewish communities in hundreds of American and European towns today

    I was speaking specifically about “secular Jewish” communities, in the context of Jason’s reference to the church in secular European countries as still serving a social function. Far easier to serve a social function as a loose-knit club to which most citizens belong, rather than as a loose-knit club to which very, very few citizens belong. The Jewish communities of medieval and Renaissance Europe were anything but secular, and anything but “loose-knit.” The word “ghetto” was first coined to denote areas of Jewish residence in European cities.

    Wow, not sure what you mean by the statement “When it comes right down to it, either you’re as Jewish as any other Jew, or the word has no meaning.” Do you mean that since my mother was Jewish, I am? That since I was “raised Jewish,” I am? My definition of Judaism includes actual belief in the religion, a central tenet of which is the existence of a single all-encompassing God (“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”). I don’t believe in that central tenet. Therefore how can I be Jewish? I don’t think I can, any more than someone who believes in the divinity of Christ can (again, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”).

    There are certainly people who *do* believe in the fundamental tenets of Judaism, and I’d say such folks *are* Jewish.

    If you disagree with actual belief in Judaism as a dividing line, what, if any, other division would you propose between Jews and non-Jews?

  17. #17 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “I was speaking specifically about “secular Jewish” communities”

    However, your assertion was that if there aren’t enough Jews being religiously Jewish, that they would be unable to be Jews any more.

    Despite any denudation in their numbers from some becoming secular, there are more Jews than in the 1400′s living in the same area.

    By your assertion, this means they must have died out in the 1500′s.

    “Do you mean that since my mother was Jewish, I am?”

    Yes.

    “My definition of Judaism includes actual belief in the religion”

    Well, then someone could become a Jew by believing in the Jewish religion. And if someone wanted to proclaim anyone without a foreskin is Jewish, then about 50% of the planet is Jewish.

    The problem with your definition is that your claim relies on that definition, but your definition is based on making your claim true.

    Circular reasoning.

    Just because I don’t go to the Welsh Tabernacle Choir doesn’t make me not Welsh.

    And being a Jew doesn’t require that you go to Synagogue either. You do not change mentally or physically if you stop going or if you start.

    Therefore you are still Jewish if you go or not.

  18. #18 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “There are certainly people who *do* believe in the fundamental tenets of Judaism, and I’d say such folks *are* Jewish.”

    And those who DON’T believe in those fundamental tenets are also Jewish.

    “If you disagree with actual belief in Judaism as a dividing line, what, if any, other division would you propose between Jews and non-Jews?”

    Just the same as you’d use between Slav and Oriental: genetics expressed in physiological features.

    Now if you can show some genetic change that happens when you stop believing in something, I’ll reassess my assertion.

  19. #19 Jud
    September 26, 2011

    Yes, every “minority” believes they’re the butt of discrimination. Just ask the Christians.

    Well, as eric mentioned, you don’t need to put “minority” in quotes when speaking of Jews in European or American contexts, with the exception of very, very few communities.

    Regarding minorities believing they’re being discriminated against, they’re often correct, aren’t they?

    The exclusion of any mixed marriage is a we’re-better-than-you-ism.

    I think there’s more than one way to view this. It was always presented to me as a practical matter of survival of the religion, since in the USA around 90% of the children of marriages between Jews and non-Jews aren’t Jewish. You can see the eventual denoument. So to the extent one thinks of Judaism as something worth preserving, that would be counter-productive. Growing up, I never was presented with the mindset that we wouldn’t intermarry because we didn’t want to “lower ourselves.” That, it seems to me, would tend to be a majoritarian viewpoint. “We’re good Americans, not dirty Jews,” or variations thereof, were unfortunately not at all unfamiliar taunts during my childhood. Having been confronted with the ugliness of that sort of thinking, I’ve always had a visceral reaction against engaging in it myself.

    The feeling that you need to carry on with Jewishness, that there’s something inherently necessary to there being a particular sense of jewishnes is a we’re-better-than-you-ism. Though this is often enacted by those outside the group, going “It’s a wonderful example of an ancient way of life!”.

    Yes, certainly one would have to think there’s value in a belief to want to see it continued.

    And, of course, the belief that God has particularly picked you out is the ultimate we’re-better-than-you-ism.

    Yep, belief in exclusive divine favor has certainly been an unpleasant characteristic of religions, nation-states, and various other political or cultural subdivisions from time immemorial.

  20. #20 Wow
    September 26, 2011

    “Well, as eric mentioned, you don’t need to put “minority” in quotes when speaking of Jews in European or American context”

    You do if you’re talking about in Israel.

    And what about Christians in the USA? They proclaim that they’re a persecuted minority in the USA. And I never limited to only Jewish. Hence I DO need to put minority in quotes when speaking of minorities.

    Because they are a minority in their own mind, irrespective of the facts.

    “It was always presented to me as a practical matter of survival of the religion”

    So you’ll all be dead if you stop believing in the Jewish god?

    Or is it a fact that the faith is not the people. Just like everyone else on the planet?

    “since in the USA around 90% of the children of marriages between Jews and non-Jews aren’t Jewish.”

    One of them is Jewish in every case of a marriage between Jew and Non Jew.

    “So to the extent one thinks of Judaism as something worth preserving, that would be counter-productive.”

    I don’t assert that it is something worth preserving. And it is orthogonal to whether Jewish people are worth preserving. And there are still more Jews alive now than in the 1400′s, so it’s only non-productive if you think that there were no Jews in the 1400′s.

    But the people are not their religion.

    Judaism is a faith and Jewish is the race. They are orthogonal except in that Judaism voluntarily limits itself to a subset of the latter.

  21. #21 Jr
    September 26, 2011

    Israel would seem a prime candidate for a country that could support a very secular population that still followed many Jewish traditions. (I find it hard to believe that the number of rabbis and synagogues would not plummet if everyone became an atheist however.

    Where Jews are a minority I suspect it is different. A person can as secular as they like and still feel an attachment to the Jewish religion but in the long run I think marriage with non-Jews would cause a secular Jewish minority to disappear.

  22. #22 Jud
    September 26, 2011

    “If you disagree with actual belief in Judaism as a dividing line, what, if any, other division would you propose between Jews and non-Jews?”

    Just the same as you’d use between Slav and Oriental: genetics expressed in physiological features.

    Now if you can show some genetic change that happens when you stop believing in something, I’ll reassess my assertion.

    Religion is genetic? Sheesh, who knew (including any adherents of the religions, or the dictionary)?

    And Slav vs. Oriental is a religious-type division? Again, sheesh, who knew?

  23. #23 eric
    September 26, 2011

    Jud @16:

    I was speaking specifically about “secular Jewish” communities, in the context of Jason’s reference to the church in secular European countries as still serving a social function.

    Well, if you are saying you don’t think that secular-Jewish-communities-who-physically-congregate-around-a-synagogue are supportable outside of big cities, you might be right. Then again, the internet has allowed a lot of ‘tiny per capita’ groups to form thriving communities that would otherwise be impossible. So that physical focal point may no longer be necessary for the group, as a group, to survive.

    It was always presented to me as a practical matter of survival of the religion, since in the USA around 90% of the children of marriages between Jews and non-Jews aren’t Jewish.

    Those statistics probably refer to not being religiously Jewish. As in, the religion won’t survive if that trend continues. The cultural continuation is, I expect, a lot greater than 10% (of such marriages). But that’s just a guess.

  24. #24 Wow
    September 27, 2011

    “but in the long run I think marriage with non-Jews would cause a secular Jewish minority to disappear.”

    Only because the religion requires that they aren’t Jewish any more.

    They are still Jews. It’s that their religion has abandoned them.

    In the long run, the intermarriage of Jew and non-Jew will remove the Jewish race no more than the interbreeding of the Welsh with the English has removed the Welsh race.

  25. #25 Wow
    September 27, 2011

    “Religion is genetic?”

    Nope.

    Lovely strawman you’ve got there, though.

    JEWISH is Genetic.

    But I guess you’re actually one of the faithful and trying to pretend to be a fifth-columnist to scare the Jews back into their religion.

    Judaism isn’t genetic.

    Therefore not following the Jewish faith is not genetic and therefore doesn’t change your genes and therefore you remain a Jew.

    Now, if you can find out a genetic change in believing in the Jewish faith that then reverses or disappears when you stop believing in the Jewish faith, I’ll agree that your religion is a requirement for being a Jew.

  26. #26 Jim Harrison
    September 27, 2011

    I’ve thought for some time that the greatest threat to Jewish identity was not loss of faith but cultural assimilation in a society that isn’t hostile to Jews, indeed, where Jews have gradually become just another kind of white person and the fraught racial/ethnic divisions are blacks and Hispanics on one side versus Caucasians and Asians on the other. Even the American right wing, which was vehemently antisemitic before World War II, has decided that Jews are honorary Aryans. How do you keep people vitally interested in their cultural heritage if nobody is attacking it?

  27. #27 SLC
    September 27, 2011

    Jerry Coyne also addresses this topic over at his blog.

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/secular-jews/

  28. #28 Comrade Carter
    September 27, 2011

    I’d say I’m the second or third or fourth Catholic that came up through the Catholic schools (Hagerstown, Maryland) and eventually (well, in my case it was when I was eight) decided that I was an Atheist.

    It wasn’t that hard, and no… My Scottish Mom never killed me. I think she figured I’d come back, but it’s 40+ years later and I’m still here.

    My Mom, unfortunately, is not.

  29. #29 Jud
    September 27, 2011

    I’ve thought for some time that the greatest threat to Jewish identity was not loss of faith but cultural assimilation in a society that isn’t hostile to Jews

    Yeah, I would tend to agree with that – it’s just become less generally important, as seems to’ve happened with Christianity in Europe (and perhaps here, though lip service is paid).

    Even the American right wing, which was vehemently antisemitic before World War II, has decided that Jews are honorary Aryans.

    Well, not quite. :-) Jews and Israel have been adopted as stalking horses of a hoped-for apocalypse, not as “one of us.”

  30. #30 Jud
    September 27, 2011

    Wow writes:

    But I guess you’re actually one of the faithful and trying to pretend to be a fifth-columnist to scare the Jews back into their religion.

    Has it occurred to you that if your argument depends on factually incorrect premises such as this, it’s wrong? Or doesn’t factual correctness matter?

    The notion of Jewishness does indeed have aspects of ethnic identity and to some extent shared genetic heritage, though to call Jews a “race” is plainly wrong under historical definitions of the term; and in modern biology, the term is essentially bankrupt as applied to any human subgroup.

    But this is a separate discussion from the one Jason posed in his title – Judaism Without God? – which I answered in the negative. I do not think one can claim to be an adherent of a religion without believing in its central tenet. Can one claim shared culture, shared ethnicity? Sure. Shared religion? I don’t think so. (I’m not sure how such statements could be seen as an attempt to scare people, but I guess I just don’t think like Wow.)

  31. #31 Anat
    September 28, 2011

    To Jud:

    You are assuming that Jews are adherents of the Jewish religion. We disagree. Plenty of us identify as Jews but aren’t adherents of Judaism. Jewishness is an identity. In my case it is based on culture and upbringing. When you say “Can one claim shared culture, shared ethnicity? Sure. Shared religion? I don’t think so.” Secular Jews are not claiming to be adherents of Judaism, so it is wrong of you to claim that we are and argue against us based on this claim.

  32. #32 Wow
    September 28, 2011

    “Has it occurred to you that if your argument depends on factually incorrect premises such as this, it’s wrong?”

    Yes.

    However, you haven’t shown why it’s wrong: your actions are all to SCARE Jews back to the Jewish faith.

    And if it WERE wrong, it doesn’t make religion a genetic factor, therefore it doesn’t make it a factor for race.

    A Jew would still be a Jew even if they were, say, Pastafarian, and this doesn’t change if my interpretation of YOUR actions are wrong or not.

    “though to call Jews a “race” is plainly wrong under historical definitions of the term”

    +++
    Race (classification of humans)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Race is classification of humans into large and distinct populations or groups by factors such as heritable phenotypic characteristics or geographic ancestry, but also often influenced by and correlated with traits such as appearance, culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.
    +++

    “the one Jason posed in his title – Judaism Without God?”

    Yes, the title is always complete and correct. The actual content is completely unnecessary. So this:

    “My brother and I attended Sunday school, had our Bar Mitzvahs, and then attended our synagogue’s “Hebrew High School” program, in which teen issues were discussed from a Jewish perspective. But it wasn’t about belief or about getting right with God. It was about having a sense of Jewish identity, and of understanding something about Jewish heritage.”

    Is actually saying “Judaism” not “Jewish”.

  33. #33 Jamie
    September 28, 2011

    I find this very interesting…considering the other day in my Comparative Global Issues class, the topic was brought up the Judaism is indeed considered a race rather than a religion. With the Jewish new year coming up, I, being a Jew, have been thinking about this a lot. Talking to many of my friends, they prove this article to be true: many of them do not believe in God, but do consider themselves Jewish. To me, I don’t find this possible. How do you identify yourself with a religion, but not believe in God? I took the time to think about this, and then realized it IS possible. Judaism is not just a religion, its a culture. The holidays may bring up God, but most are about getting together with family. This blog is so interesting, I plan on bringing this up to my family during Rosh Hashana:).

  34. #34 emma s
    September 28, 2011

    I have never thought about whether I believe in God or not. To me it doesn’t matter. I embrace my religion as a culture. To me the history and the family aspect of Judaism is more important then going to temple and saying and understanding prayers. It stood out to me, in the article when it said, “Judaism is as much as a culture as a religion.” I agree with that statement completely.

  35. #35 Wow
    September 28, 2011

    “To Jud:

    You are assuming that Jews are adherents of the Jewish religion.”

    Actually, they seem to require that Jews are defined by their religion alone.

  36. #36 Valhar2000
    September 28, 2011

    This reminds me of a story told by Isaac Asimov, about how he was once harangued by some guy who said that he was insufficiently observant of Judaism, and, when Asimov replied that he did not believe in God, told him that the cultural aspects are the important ones that Asimov, as a well-known Jew should promote. Asimov then dismissed him in a very funny way.

    What do you, Jason, or other secular Jews, think of people who are Jewish ans raised within a Jewish tradition but do not care enough about it to even be called Secular Jews?

  37. #37 Anat
    September 28, 2011

    What do you, Jason, or other secular Jews, think of people who are Jewish ans raised within a Jewish tradition but do not care enough about it to even be called Secular Jews?

    To each their own. It’s a choice as valid as any.

  38. #38 Wow
    September 29, 2011

    “It’s a choice as valid as any.”

    However, Jud doesn’t want you to be called a Jew unless you chose HIS way: believe in the Jewish faith or be not a Jew.

    Why they’re the determinant of the sole characteristic a Jew must have is anyone’s guess.

  39. #39 garanti belgesi
    October 1, 2011

    What makes it a problem is if you’re considering yourself more human than others, or specially marked. And that is a big part of what religion does to dehumanise people.

    One thing I hope they refrained from is the circumcision ceremony. The lack of a foreskin is not a natural result of being Jewish, it’s a test for the parents to pass to prove that they prefer to believe in the right precepts even above the mutilation of their child.

  40. #40 Jud
    October 1, 2011

    Wow writes:

    your actions are all to SCARE Jews back to the Jewish faith.

    It must be so since you wrote SCARE in all caps. :-)

    I’m being quite unsuccessful in scaring anyone back to the Jewish faith, starting with myself. Nor am I trying to say being “culturally Jewish” isn’t a valid life choice. I’m just fine with the relationship anyone else wishes to have to his/her religion, ethnicity, ancestry, etc. It’s simply that in my own personal opinion, stuff like actually believing in Yahweh is part of the dues you pay in order to authentically consider yourself an adherent of Judaism. (Belief in Yahweh plus some ritual mumbo-jumbo will make you authentically Jewish to the satisfaction of even the most Orthodox Jews, regardless of whether your mother was Jewish.) To my mind, being “culturally Jewish” is something like being a “lapsed Catholic.” Leaving out the “lapsed” ISTM would be leaving out something important. If I hear someone say he’s “Catholic,” without modifier, I think he’s a believer, at least to some extent, including believing in the divinity of Jesus. Same with “Jewish” – without modifier, I ordinarily understand myself to be dealing with a Yahweh-believer.

    Also, re “race” – Anthropologists, let alone biologists, are moving away from use of the term because of its scientific vagueness combined with its often-pejorative use by laypeople. But not even under the older anthropological use of the term would Jews be considered a “race.” Wow’s (deliberately?) incomplete quote-mine from Wikipedia doesn’t change that. There is of course some genetic identification between religious and non-religious offspring of Jews, since one’s degree of observance doesn’t change one’s ancestry. This originates from taboos against intermarriage both among Jews and those in whose midst they lived. Those taboos had their basis in religious differences. This doesn’t make Jews a “race” in the old, outmoded sense of the term, and there is no modern scientifically valid sense of the term.

    In fact I’m not sure there’s a precise biological term for the degree of genetic identity shared among those whose ancestors were Jewish. Thus I think we may have to settle for some vague sociological word like “ethnic group.”

  41. #41 rey
    October 2, 2011

    All the rabbinnic rituals are crowding God out and making atheists. This is why the prophets in the Tanakh itself rejected even the rituals from the Torah when the people relied on them too much, and said things like in Micah 6:8

    He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the LORD require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

    When religion is little more than ritual, God might as well not exist. More focus needs to be put on morality.

  42. #42 Iain Walker
    October 2, 2011

    rey (#41):

    When religion is little more than ritual, God might as well not exist. More focus needs to be put on morality.

    And if more focus were put on morality, why would God come into it then?

  43. #43 Webmaster
    October 2, 2011

    On the other hand, as sociologist Phil Zuckerman notes in Society Without God, even in Sweden and Denmark, where nonbelief is the norm, the church continues to thrive as a social institution. So perhaps things are not as gloomy as Wolpe suggests.

    wow writes:

    What makes it a problem is if you’re considering yourself more human than others, or specially marked. And that is a big part of what religion does to dehumanise people.

  44. #44 Maddie
    October 2, 2011

    After giving this blog some thought, I have come to agree with what is being said. My family is very conservative. We will go to services for the High Holy Days, light the candle for Hanukah, but not much else. In fact, my parents don’t even know the words to most of the basic prayers. However, my family is the one that hosts all of the Jewish holidays at our house. I was raised to follow the Jewish traditions to the minimum. We never have Shabbat dinners but follow the basic traditions. Has this really effected if I believe in God? In my opinion, it shouldn’t matter. Judaism to me is more about spending time with your family rather than reciting prayers and truly believing in them. I would still consider myself Jewish even if I didn’t believe in God. Judaism being more of a culture in my life has allowed me to call myself Jewish, even if I don’t follow everything the religion brings.

  45. #45 Ilana Goldberg
    October 3, 2011

    In the midst of the high holy days, I can’t help but feel an even greater attachment than usual to my Jewish customs. However, I’m not sure if this is an attachment to the big man up in the sky or to the traditions my family has practiced for centuries. Although I am still in the process of developing my views on God and the true meaning of the Jewish fate, after years of Sunday school, innumerable Hebrew tutoring lessons, and becoming an adult within the Jewish congregation, I have to come to realize that Judaism cannot just revolve around one aspect of our ever-growing culture. The belief in God, although an extremely important aspect of our religion, is not the glue holding our people together: it’s the feeling of being a part of community and surrounding yourself with loved ones a few times a year to celebrate the holidays.

    My parents joined our temple for my brother and I, like many of the parents mentioned in the blog. Being a part of our congregation has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me thus far. It has allowed me to connect with others within our Jewish community and take my first steps into adulthood. However, going to temple is not the most important component of my Jewish life: it’s the traditions. Our religion constantly brings my family together for holiday after holiday, and is often one of the few times we can all get together. I can’t even begin to explain how much I appreciate all of the times I have cooked, laughed, ate, chattered, cooked more, ate more, and reminisced about past experiences together in the presence of my loved ones during the holidays To me, this is more important than any of my experiences in temple. Being with my family and a part of the greater Jewish community is what truly symbolizes my Jewish fate.

  46. #46 Wow
    October 3, 2011

    Ilana:”However, I’m not sure if this is an attachment to the big man up in the sky or to the traditions my family has practiced for centuries”

    JuD: “Or just one of the ways you show your attachment to your family.It must be so since you wrote SCARE in all caps.”

    No, it’s because your words make it so. You’re just a fatheist, trying to scare Jews into remaining of the Jewish faith because YOU are afraid :-)

  47. #47 Jud
    October 3, 2011

    Wow writes:

    JuD: “Or just one of the ways you show your attachment to your family. It must be so since you wrote SCARE in all caps.”

    Not content with quote-mining Wikipedia, Wow now resorts to making up quotes for me. (I never wrote the sentence in bold in the quote above that he attributes to me.)

    I hope the smiley at the end of Wow’s most recent post indicates he’s not trying to be serious, since if he *is* trying to write serious responses, he’s not succeeding.

  48. #48 Wow
    October 3, 2011

    Not content with scaring Jews with their extermination because HE considers a Jew to exist only if they believe in the Jewish God, Jud now goes completely nuts and conspiracy theorist.

    “Quote mining Wikipedia” means “Comes up with a quote I don’t like but can’t refute”.

    And “making up quotes” means “You’ve synthesised what I said correctly, but don’t like it being so clearly stated, so I’ll pretend it was a quote of me, despite the nonsexistence of quote marks so I can pretend it’s bad”.

    And “I hope the smiley indicates he’s not serious” means “I just got buttfkd with the same silly rhetorical device so I’m going to slam him for it and ignore my use”.

  49. #49 Webmaster
    October 4, 2011

    I am richer for the former viewpoint and think it would be a shame to lose the Jewish perspective of millennia of history. My impression of both men is that they are very confidant, but never arrogant. They have a sly, self-deprecating humor that is an enjoyable component of their mien.

  50. #50 Jud
    October 4, 2011

    Wow @48:

    Sheesh, take a pill, or maybe deep, cleansing breaths, whatever works for you.

    BTW, if you don’t want to be accused of making up quotes, it might be helpful not to put stuff I haven’t said inside quotation marks. Just sayin’.

  51. #51 Wow
    October 5, 2011

    “it might be helpful not to put stuff I haven’t said inside quotation marks”

    No, I don;t think it would have helped because you’d find something else to avoid the accusation with.

    Quotation marks can also be paraphrasing.

    It is also extremely hypocritical of you when you’ve rewritten what I said to make out I’ve said religion is genetic when it was explicitly said that religion didn’t change genes but that if you could find evidence of genetic change when changing religion that I’d reconsider.

    But then again, you’re probably unable to consider new evidence that would change your opinion, therefore cannot conceive of anyone else being affected by actual evidence either.

    PS It is also completely opaque now as to what “quotation” (see how you can put quote marks around things that aren’t actually quotes? There are reasons other than this for them too, such as “scare quotes”. English. Try learning it sometime) you are having a problem with.

  52. #52 Jud
    October 5, 2011

    Wow writes:

    English. Try learning it sometime) you are having a problem with.

    Oh yes, I am eager to learn from a “master” like you, as aptly illustrated by the gibberish above. (See – I know how to use scare quotes!)

  53. #53 Wow
    October 5, 2011

    Jud, try learning some English. And including the grammar.

    And stop trying to hide your failures.

    A Jew doesn’t stop being jewish just because they stop believing in the specific fairytale of the Jewish faith.

    Because being a Jew is a genetic feature, just like being Slavic or Celt.

    And since you’ve been unable to show any proof of a genetic change when changing religion (any religion: I’m not going to insist it has to bet the Jewish one), this goes to show that the Genetic Traits that confirm you as part of the Jewish people doesn’t change and make you not Jewish when you change or lose faiths.

  54. #54 Jud
    October 5, 2011

    Wow writes:

    And including the grammar.

    That’s a sentence fragment.

    And stop trying to hide your failures.

    I’ve got many, but you haven’t identified any. You’ve made plenty of ungrounded assumptions and baseless charges, though.

    Because being a Jew is a genetic feature, just like being Slavic or Celt.

    There is a genetic aspect to all three of these ethnicities, but to consider genetics the defining feature is far too simplistic, for Slavs, Celts, and especially Jews. It is at least under-inclusive, in not considering converts to be Jewish. It is also my personal feeling that it is over-inclusive, and that non-believers with Jewish ancestry (like me) are no longer, strictly speaking, Jewish. But others are certainly free to disagree, as they have in this thread. The vast majority have done so cogently. Try as I might, though, I can’t see reason so much as simply repeated, unevidenced assertion as the basis for what you have said.

  55. #55 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    Yes, Jud, you’re still talking bollocks.

    “but to consider genetics the defining feature is far too simplistic”

    Which is for what reason?

    “and especially Jews”

    No, if you absolutely had to single one out for being most tenuously nongenetic, you’d have pointed out the Celts not the Jews.

    “It is at least under-inclusive, in not considering converts to be Jewish”

    Nope, you convert to a religion.

    But you are still welded (not merely wedded, WELDED) to the idea of Jewish religion == Jew.

    Therefore you can’t explain why it’s “too simplistic” because your only reason for it being too simplistic is that you consider someone converting to the Jewish faith to be Jewish.

    As I said, that’s wrong.

    “It is also my personal feeling that it is over-inclusive, and that non-believers with Jewish ancestry (like me) are no longer, strictly speaking, Jewish.”

    Yes, your personal feeling is that if you AREN’T following the jewish faith, you’re no longer Jewish.

    A second attempt to beg the question: if being a Jew is genetic, then there is no change if you stop believing in the Jewish faith because YOU STILL HAVE JEWISH ANCESTRY.

    But you insist that this is not the case, therefore being a Jew is inherently religious in source.

    You have also skewered your own argument earlier that secular Jews would no longer exist. Except that requires that Jews who no longer follow the faith would no longer BE Jews. But just here, you’ve said that the definition of Jew HAS to include secular Jews because they have Jewish ancestry.

    Then secular Jews will continue to exist.

    The problems you’re having making an argument for why it’s not a genetic definition are based on your DEMAND that religion be included. Then using that inclusion of religion as why Jewishness isn’t genetic. Then using that conclusion that since it requires following the Jewish faith, that non-faith Jews are not Jews at all.

    Bollocks.

    That’s circular, tautological reasoning begging the question of whether Jewishness HAS to be religion based.

    It doesn’t.

    Therefore those who are no longer following the faith but have Jewish ancestry are included. Therefore your complaint: “It is at least under-inclusive” is not valid.

    As to someone converting, you have to show that you can gain Jewish ancestors by “conversion”.

    Because as far as the real world is concerned, you can only convert to a Faith, not a race.

  56. #56 Jud
    October 6, 2011

    Because as far as the real world is concerned, you can only convert to a Faith, not a race.

    Oh, I agree that one cannot convert to a “race” as far as the real world is concerned, because as far as reality is concerned, “race” is an outmoded, meaningless concept.

    But you can certainly go ahead and keep on using it if you need it to formulate your own concepts.

  57. #57 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    Still begging the question, Jud.

    “because as far as reality is concerned, “race” is an outmoded, meaningless concept.”

    Why? Because it doesn’t let you define Jewishness as being tied inextricably to the religion?

    That is EXACTLY what “begging the question” is.

    OK, so what IS the current mode word to replace “race”?

  58. #58 ildi
    October 6, 2011

    “because as far as reality is concerned, “race” is an outmoded, meaningless concept.”

    Why? Because it doesn’t let you define Jewishness as being tied inextricably to the religion?

    No, because race is just as much of a social construct as religious affiliation.

  59. #59 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    “No, because race is just as much of a social construct as religious affiliation.”

    Really? So I’m a Celt because I’ve joined some social construct?

    Eskimos just decided to be Eskimos, they’d be just as able to be Hispanics, all they have to do is decide?

    Remember: we still use “Species”, even though biologists understand that the differences between species gets VERY blurred at times.

    But they DO NOT insist that there is no such thing as “Species” and all those that consider doing so have at least some other term that they want to use in its place.

    So if “race” isn’t a difference between Innuit, Hispanic and Indian, what is it that makes them different?

    In what way can someone say “I have Hispanic parents” or “I have Jewish ancestors”, if there is no such biologial thing as “Race”?

  60. #60 ildi
    October 6, 2011

    Really? So I’m a Celt because I’ve joined some social construct?

    No, you’re Celt because you were born into a group that has been identified by culture and location and superficial physical characteristics as a “race”.

    So if “race” isn’t a difference between Innuit, Hispanic and Indian, what is it that makes them different?

    Location and cultural differences.

  61. #61 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    “Location and cultural differences.”

    So an Eskimo who moves to Guatamala and worships the Sun God is a Mayan?

    Nope. Not buying it.

    Try something compelling if you want to sell that idea.

    And this would make all Jews not Jewish: they have no location. Therefore the “loss” of the Jewish race is moot: they haven’t existed for thousands of years.

  62. #62 Wow
    October 6, 2011

    “superficial physical characteristics”

    So how do you gain those physical characteristics?

    From your parents.

    How?

    Inheritance of genetic coding.

    So there IS a genetic difference?

    Yes.

    Does that change if you play the bagpipes and move to Glasgow?

    No. You still retain those inherited characteristics.

    Seems like the difference isn’t location and cultural differences, then, doesn’t it.

  63. #63 ildi
    October 6, 2011

    You still retain those inherited characteristics.

    It’s how those characteristics are used to determine what ‘race’ you are. Malcolm X was black until he went to Africa. Asian Indians were white until they migrated to South Africa. Irish were a ‘race’ in the U.S. until they weren’t. There are black Irish, blonde Italians, where all of a sudden these superficial physical characteristics make them the exception to their ‘race’ – biologically, skin color or shape of the nose or eyes is about as useful for distinguishing people from each other as height is. There are bigger differences genetically within races than between races. Biologically it is pretty much meaningless.

    Ironically, ‘Jewish’ is an exemplary example of how you look really has little to do with self-identification as a Jew, whether religious or cultural, currently or historically – skinning the end of your pee-pee used to help.

  64. #64 Vicki
    October 6, 2011

    One of my closest friends has been white for about ten years: that’s how long he’s lived in Canada, where Irish people are considered white. Before that, he lived in Ireland and England, where “white” doesn’t include Irish.

    It’s not just that “race” is about superficial physical characteristics, it’s that it’s about wildly varying superficial characteristics, some of them not heritable, such as accent and clothing. (Americans are more likely to conclude that a man is black if he’s wearing casual clothing than if he’s wearing a business suit.)

  65. #65 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    “Before that, he lived in Ireland and England, where “white” doesn’t include Irish.”

    Absolutely false. The Irish are “white” here in England.

  66. #66 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    “Malcolm X was black until he went to Africa.”

    Black isn’t a race.

    In fact, since the genetic variation is so wide in Africa, you couldn’t have picked a worse one.

    The Tutsi are a distinct race from the Zulu.

    Even if they move to Oxford and play cricket and worship at Cantebury Cathedral.

  67. #67 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    Race is classification of humans into large and distinct populations or groups by factors such as heritable phenotypic characteristics or geographic ancestry, but also often influenced by and correlated with traits such as appearance, culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

    from

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_%28classification_of_human_beings%29

    So a Jew is more likely to worship the Jewish god, but this doesn’t mean a Jew is not able to worship at the CoE.

    An Anglo-Saxon is more likely to worship at the CoE, but this doesn’t mean they can’t worship at a Jewish temple. In fact the Anglo Saxon is more likely NOT to worship at all. Even though this was DEFINITELY NOT TRUE 200 years ago. But the RACE didn’t change. Just what was normative for where most of those Anglo Saxons to live.

  68. #68 Vicki
    October 7, 2011

    I think I’ll take my friend’s account of his experience over your assumption that he must be lying or mistaken.

    If you had told me that only some people in England today think of the Irish as not white, I’d consider that he was, understandably, more aware of the times he was discriminated against or suspected of being a terrorist than the times that Anglo-Saxons thought he was like them.

  69. #69 Wow
    October 7, 2011

    You can. You’d be wrong.

    I have many Irish friends, live in England and have for a little over 20 years and have visited Ireland a few times.

    So according to your friend, what are the Irish when they’re in England? Black?

    “If you had told me that only some people in England today think of the Irish as not white”

    What are they thought of as, then? Irish? Well, funnily enough, nobody says the Irish aren’t white.

    But maybe you can find out what your friend meant when they said “The Irish are not considered white”.

  70. #70 eNeMeE
    October 7, 2011

    What is someone who converted to Judaism called?

  71. #71 Jud
    October 10, 2011

    What is someone who converted to Judaism called?

    Other Jews would call that person Jewish, just as other Catholics would call someone who converted to Catholicism a Catholic, other Muslims would call someone who converted to Islam a Muslim, etc. I would tend to agree with these folks. I presume Wow would tend to disagree.

  72. #72 Wow
    October 10, 2011

    “Other Jews would call that person Jewish”

    Really? Why? We have several self-confessed Jewish people here and they wouldn’t.

    And no, you’re still demanding that religion==race. A Catholic is not a race. Muslims aren’t a race.

  73. #73 eNeMeE
    October 10, 2011

    So Abraham and Sarah were not Jews? And neither were their children?

  74. #74 Jud
    October 10, 2011

    you’re still demanding that religion==race.

    Sorry, perhaps it’s my lack of familiarity with English, at least the way you are using it, but I thought *you* were the one who was equating what many people think of as a religious affiliation (Jewishness) with your favorite term, “race.” Yet, other religions (Catholicism, Islam) are not thought of by you as “races.” Perhaps it’s that, though all 3 faiths have proscriptions on marrying those of different religions, (1) Judaism’s historically lower numbers made it easier to enforce non-intermarriage from *outside* the faith, i.e., it is easier to discriminate against minorities; and (2) related to #1, Catholicism and Islam have historically been quite successful at proselytizing, whereas for Jews it was often treated as a capital offense, tending to cut way down on the success rate.

    However, despite some degree of genetic similarity this may have created among many current and former adherents of Judaism (by the way, do you consider Sephardim and Ashkenazim the same or different “races”?), as I and others have noted upthread, the term “race” in its popular meaning is no longer thought of as useful by geneticists; and historically, its usage to refer to Jews has been done by not-very-nice persons, with whom I would not wish to share opinions regarding anything related to Judaism.

  75. #75 Jud
    October 10, 2011

    Wow writes:

    We have several self-confessed Jewish people here and they wouldn’t [consider converts to be Jewish].

    I have searched this thread and fail to see any “self-confessed Jewish people” saying converts aren’t Jewish. The only one I see here implying such a view is you. You have not, at least so far in this thread, “confessed” to being Jewish. Thus it appears your statement is either simply incorrect, or rests on assumptions regarding others’ views you may consider logical, but have not been explicitly stated and thus are not necessarily true.

  76. #76 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    Testing to see if all my comments are going into moderation…

  77. #77 Wow
    October 11, 2011

    “I have searched this thread and fail to see any “self-confessed Jewish people” saying converts aren’t Jewish.”

    Take another look.

    If someone is Jewish when not going to church, then going to Jewish church isn’t going to make someone Jewish.

    PS I doubt you went all through this thread. But lies come easily to you.

    “or rests on assumptions regarding others’ views ”

    Or the consequence of their views.

    Of course, you, being illogical, can entertain many inconsistent and illogical views all the time.

  78. #78 Wow
    October 11, 2011

    “perhaps it’s my lack of familiarity with English, at least the way you are using it, but I thought *you* were the one who was equating what many people think of as a religious affiliation (Jewishness) with your favorite term, “race.””

    Yes, it’s not just your lack of familiarity, but your lack of wit.

    “And being a Jew doesn’t require that you go to Synagogue either. You do not change mentally or physically if you stop going or if you start.

    Therefore you are still Jewish if you go or not.

    Posted by: Wow | September 26, 2011 1:06 PM”

    So please explain how that statement led you to think that you genetically changed when going to a Synagogue?

    Oh, that’s right: you can’t.

  79. #79 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    If there are rules for what bumps you into moderation, I have not found them. Let me try with no links, and only one quote:

    From the Washington Post, covering a brainstorming session for a traveling exhibit called “Race: Are we so different?” funded by the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation:

    If there was a consensus that emerged from two days of conversation, it’s the notion that race is a cultural construct. Investigations into the human genome have so far failed to turn up any evidence that there’s such a thing as, for example, a Caucasian. Human beings are genetically rather homogeneous compared with other animals. But the lack of biological support for traditional categories of race does not change the fact that race is a lived reality. The exhibit should discuss this “paradox of race/no-race,” in the words of anthropologist Micaela diLeonardo.

    It will take a long time for people to grasp the illusory nature of race at the biological level, Goodman said. It’s like understanding that the Earth isn’t flat. It looks flat when you’re walking around, but if you go up high enough in an airplane you can see the curvature. Someday, he said, people will no longer be flat-Earthers about race. They will see with different eyes.

  80. #80 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    Finally! (Must be a word limit as well as a no-link rule and the limit on the number of postings in a row…)

    Black isn’t a race.

    Someone better let the U.S. Census Bureau know. Black is a race as much as Jew is a race.

    I had quotes from the American Association of Physical Anthopologists Statement on Biological Aspects of Race and from the American Journal of Physical Anthropology’s Special Issue: Race Reconciled: How Biological Anthropologists View Human Variation published May 2009, but related to the OP, I think Tzvi Freeman at chabad.org said it best:

    While the Jewish people began with the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, many people have converted to become Jews over the millennia–beginning with the “mixed multitude” that came with us out of Egypt. Today there are African Jews, Japanese Jews, even Eskimo Jews. It seems difficult to call such a mixture a “race”.

    (Incidently, there is really no such thing as a “race.” The term “race” implies to most people that there are different categories of human beings based on their genetic makeup. The fact is that there is no basis in genetics for these distinctions. For example, an African from one family may have more in common genetically with a Swede than with another African.)

    What could be said is that we are a “family”. A family can adopt others as their own. But there are conditions to adoption. You need to keep the family rules. In our case, those rules have to do with the mission we were given at Mount Sinai over 3300 years ago.

  81. #81 Wow
    October 11, 2011

    “Someone better let the U.S. Census Bureau know. Black is a race as much as Jew is a race.”

    Wrong.

    Black is a census term. Not a race.

    I’m pretty certain that, unlike you, the US Census Bureau know that they’re a census bureau.

    “(Incidently, there is really no such thing as a “race.”

    I guess that was unclosed quotes.

    You keep repeating it, but you haven’t yet managed to say what it is, other than “location and society”, which is obvious bollocks as shown earlier.

    “In our case, those rules have to do with the mission we were given at Mount Sinai over 3300 years ago.”

    Nope. That was a fairy tale.

  82. #82 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    You keep repeating it, but you haven’t yet managed to say what it is, other than “location and society”, which is obvious bollocks as shown earlier.

    I have said repeatedly that it is a social construct, which is how the Census Bureau uses it, and how physical/biological anthropologists describe it. You have not demonstrated that this is “obvious bollocks”.

    “(Incidently, there is really no such thing as a “race.”

    I guess that was unclosed quotes.

    No, all three paragraphs are the quote from Tzvi Freeman. Your arguments are with him, not me.

    One of the abstracts from the American Journal of Physical Anthropology:

    Interest in genetic diversity within and between human populations as a way to answer questions about race has intensified in light of recent advances in genome technology. The purpose of this article is to apply a method of generalized hierarchical modeling to two DNA data sets. The first data set consists of a small sample of individuals (n = 32 total, from eight populations) who have been fully resequenced for 63 loci that encode a total of 38,534 base pairs. The second data set consists of a large sample of individuals (n = 928 total, from 46 populations) who have been genotyped at 580 loci that encode short tandem repeats. The results are clear and somewhat surprising. We see that populations differ in the amount of diversity that they harbor. The pattern of DNA diversity is one of nested subsets, such that the diversity in non-Sub-Saharan African populations is essentially a subset of the diversity found in Sub-Saharan African populations. The actual pattern of DNA diversity creates some unsettling problems for using race as meaningful genetic categories. For example, the pattern of DNA diversity implies that some populations belong to more than one race (e.g., Europeans), whereas other populations do not belong to any race at all (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africans). As Frank Livingstone noted long ago, the Linnean classification system cannot accommodate this pattern because within the system a population cannot belong to more than one named group within a taxonomic level.

  83. #83 ild
    October 11, 2011

    You keep repeating it, but you haven’t yet managed to say what it is, other than “location and society”, which is obvious bollocks as shown earlier.

    I have said repeatedly that it is a social construct, which is how the Census Bureau uses it, and how physical/biological anthropologists describe it. You have not demonstrated that this is “obvious bollocks”.

    “(Incidently, there is really no such thing as a “race.”
    I guess that was unclosed quotes.

    No, all three paragraphs are the quote from Tzvi Freeman. Your arguments are with him, not me.

  84. #84 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    Arghh, how tedious this is! Too long, and it goes into moderation, then when I break it up into parts, I get blocked for posting too often! Here’s hoping that 15 minutes is long enough to appease the capricious moderation-god.

    One of the abstracts from the American Journal of Physical Anthropology:

    Interest in genetic diversity within and between human populations as a way to answer questions about race has intensified in light of recent advances in genome technology. The purpose of this article is to apply a method of generalized hierarchical modeling to two DNA data sets. The first data set consists of a small sample of individuals (n = 32 total, from eight populations) who have been fully resequenced for 63 loci that encode a total of 38,534 base pairs. The second data set consists of a large sample of individuals (n = 928 total, from 46 populations) who have been genotyped at 580 loci that encode short tandem repeats. The results are clear and somewhat surprising. We see that populations differ in the amount of diversity that they harbor. The pattern of DNA diversity is one of nested subsets, such that the diversity in non-Sub-Saharan African populations is essentially a subset of the diversity found in Sub-Saharan African populations. The actual pattern of DNA diversity creates some unsettling problems for using race as meaningful genetic categories. For example, the pattern of DNA diversity implies that some populations belong to more than one race (e.g., Europeans), whereas other populations do not belong to any race at all (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africans). As Frank Livingstone noted long ago, the Linnean classification system cannot accommodate this pattern because within the system a population cannot belong to more than one named group within a taxonomic level.

  85. #85 Wow
    October 11, 2011

    “I have said repeatedly that it is a social construct”

    And I’ve said repeatedly that it can’t be since moving an Innuit to London doesn’t change their race.

    “which is how the Census Bureau uses it”

    Nope, they’re using it to get demographics. Just because Pastafarianism got on the ballot doesn’t make it a religion.

    “You have not demonstrated that this is “obvious bollocks”.”

    Maybe because you didn’t read?

    The Tutsi are a distinct race from the Zulu.

    Even if they move to Oxford and play cricket and worship at Cantebury Cathedral.

    Posted by: Wow | October 7, 2011 5:47 AM

  86. #86 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    “And I’ve said repeatedly that it can’t be since moving an Innuit to London doesn’t change their race.”

    How do you know? Let’s assume a male. Put a suit on an Inuit, let him loose in London – what ‘race’ would people put him into? Hispanic? Native American? Asian Indian? It wouldn’t change his self-perception, but that perception is based on where he was born and his cultural environment. Move his ancestors a couple thousand years forward and miles south and he may self-identify as Mayan.

    “The Tutsi are a distinct race from the Zulu.”

    No.

    I keep trying to post a quote from an abstract in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, without success; maybe I can get one sentence past the moderation-censor?

    “For example, the pattern of DNA diversity implies that some populations belong to more than one race (e.g., Europeans), whereas other populations do not belong to any race at all (e.g., Sub-Saharan Africans).”

  87. #87 Vicki
    October 11, 2011

    No, my friend wasn’t considered black, he was considered Irish. But “white” wasn’t considered to include Irish any more than it was considered to include Asian and Black.

    Your question is like asserting that a Chinese person must be white because they obviously aren’t black, or that I must be Asian because I’m not black.

  88. #88 ildi
    October 11, 2011

    Nope, they’re using it to get demographics

    What does this even mean? Demographics of what, if not race? According to wiki (your favorite source):

    “Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are of Hispanic or Latino origin (ethnicity).

    The racial categories represent a social-political construct for the race or races that respondents consider themselves to be and “generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country.” OMB defines the concept of race as outlined for the US Census as not “scientific or anthropological” and takes into account “social and cultural characteristics as well as ancestry”, using “appropriate scientific methodologies” that are not “primarily biological or genetic in reference.” The race categories include both racial and national-origin groups.”

  89. #89 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    “What does this even mean? Demographics of what, if not race?”

    Well, they ask how old you are too, in demographic ranges.

    Age isn’t part of race.

    But lets see, if Black is race, then we have a negro living in Harlem. Ticks “Black” on the census.

    He then gets a scholarship and eventually ends up living in Manhattan. A completely different “Community”. Does he now tick “White”?

    And Jews live in a community where there are white anglo-saxon protestants, atheists, Chinese, Indians, French, and so on.

    Therefore “the community” isn’t the religion one gets to go to, unless you segragate yourself. And if you’re segragating yourself and using that to denote what YOU call race, then there’s a simple solution to the problem of “Jewishness disappearing if you stop believing in the Jewish Woomaster”: don’t use “going to the Synagogue” as your method of segragating yourself.

    Simples.

  90. #90 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    But lets see, if Black is race, then we have a negro living in Harlem. Ticks “Black” on the census.

    He then gets a scholarship and eventually ends up living in Manhattan. A completely different “Community”. Does he now tick “White”?

    No… Harlem and Manhattan are not different communities in this context, but then you know that. An actual example (since you didn’t like the Malcolm X one for some reason) is a black from the U.S. deep South in the 50s moving to Paris and being able to pass as white. (Really, ‘negro?’)

    I’m having trouble deconstructing your last paragraph, but it sounds like you’re finally accepting that race is a social construct, since you accept that what I (and 312 million other residents of the U.S.) call race can be different from how other countries describe someone’s race – even if the person’s appearance has not changed.

  91. #91 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    “No… Harlem and Manhattan are not different communities in this context”

    In what context? They ARE different communities. You’ll not find them mixing in the same circles socially AT ALL.

    Oh, I get it: begging the question again.

    You decide that religion is a definition of race, therefore a definition of race that doesn’t include it isn’t the right one.

    Well, some would say that is circular reasoning: I bet you just think it has no loose ends…

    “I’m having trouble deconstructing your last paragraph, but it sounds like you’re finally accepting that race is a social construct”

    Nope. Here’s what it says:

    “Therefore “the community” isn’t the religion one gets to go to”.

    What it DOES say is that if the segregation is being made upon lines that INSIST that you’re different because of the religion, therefore the difference is a necessary and ultimate decider could decide to segragate based on ancestry. Then there’s no need for saying “Secular Jews” because the definition of Jew is secular.

    Simples.

  92. #92 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    PS in case you’re all scared of neo-Darwinism, saying that the Jews are genetically different from, say, an Aryan isn’t racist.

    Saying that the Jews are genetically INFERIOR to, say, an Aryan because they’re genetically different is.

    And if you’re defining yourself by your religion, then it’s YOU who want to lose your Jewishness because you’d prefer believing in your particular fairy story more than you’d prefer to believe in your parents.

  93. #93 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    “In what context? They ARE different communities. You’ll not find them mixing in the same circles socially AT ALL.”

    In the context of what race one self-identifies and is identified by others. (What makes you think that people from Harlem and Manhattan never mix? Have you been to NYC?)

    “You decide that religion is a definition of race, therefore a definition of race that doesn’t include it isn’t the right one.”

    I’ve never said this.

    “PS in case you’re all scared of neo-Darwinism, saying that the Jews are genetically different from, say, an Aryan isn’t racist.”

    No, I’m citing the literature that says there is no difference. How hard is this concept to grasp?

    Race as Biology Is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem Is Real: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives on the Social Construction of Race.
    Smedley, Audrey; Smedley, Brian D.
    American Psychologist, Vol 60(1), Jan 2005, 16-26. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.60.1.16
    Racialized science seeks to explain human population differences in health, intelligence, education, and wealth as the consequence of immutable, biologically based differences between “racial” groups. Recent advances in the sequencing of the human genome and in an understanding of biological correlates of behavior have fueled racialized science, despite evidence that racial groups are not genetically discrete, reliably measured, or scientifically meaningful. Yet even these counterarguments often fail to take into account the origin and history of the idea of race. This article reviews the origins of the concept of race, placing the contemporary discussion of racial differences in an anthropological and historical context.

  94. #94 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health)
    AH Goodman
    US Southwest and Mexico Program, School of Natural Science, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002, USA
    There is a paradoxical relationship between “race” and genetics. Whereas genetic data were first used to prove the validity of race, since the early 1970s they have been used to illustrate the invalidity of biological races. Indeed, race does not account for human genetic variation, which is continuous, complexly structured, constantly changing, and predominantly within “races.” Despite the disproof of race-as-biology, genetic variation continues to be used to explain racial differences. Such explanations require the acceptance of 2 disproved assumptions: that genetic variation explains variation in disease and that genetic variation explains racial variation in disease. While the former is a form of geneticization, the notion that genes are the primary determinants of biology and behavior, the latter represents a form of racialization, an exaggeration of the salience of race. Using race as a proxy for genetic differences limits understandings of the complex interactions among political-economic processes, lived experiences, and human biologies. By moving beyond studies of racialized genetics, we can clarify the processes by which varied and interwoven forms of racialization and racism affect individuals “under the skin.”

  95. #95 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    “Why genes don’t count (for racial differences in health)”

    Should be good. The first attempt by you to show why you hold to your “Race is Religion” canard…

    “Such explanations require the acceptance of 2 disproved assumptions: that genetic variation explains variation in disease ”

    OK, problem here for this dood: I’ve never heard of that assumption and don’t see how it applies to “race”.

    “and that genetic variation explains racial variation in disease.”

    Yeah, problem again: this is double counting.

    “the notion that genes are the primary determinants of biology and behavior, the latter represents a form of racialization, an exaggeration of the salience of race.”

    Three more problems:

    Nope, not saying that genes are primary determinants of biology (see Prions) and ESPECIALLY NOT behaviour. And neither are these things indicative of “Race”.

    And when you’re talking about race, then you have to make race salient. It would be rather like, in a discussion about mathematics, complain that someone is exaggerating the salience of mathematical proofs.

    So this looks like a strawman argument: I’m not asserting what this paper is proposing to refute.

  96. #96 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    “What makes you think that people from Harlem and Manhattan never mix?”

    What makes you think that Jews and Goyim never mix? Therefore, since non-Jews don’t in general go to a Synagogue, a “race” defined by “the community” also doesn’t go to a Synagogue. Therefore, since “the community” still doesn’t change if no Jews ever go to their Church again, their “race” as defined by their “community” doesn’t change.

    Therefore the “complaint” that secular Jews are destroying the Jewish race is false.

  97. #97 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    American Journal of Physical Anthropology Special Issue: Race Reconciled: How Biological Anthropologists View Human Variation
    Volume 139, Issue 1, pages 47–57, May 2009
    How race becomes biology: Embodiment of social inequality
    Clarence C. Gravlee
    The current debate over racial inequalities in health is arguably the most important venue for advancing both scientific and public understanding of race, racism, and human biological variation. In the United States and elsewhere, there are well-defined inequalities between racially defined groups for a range of biological outcomes—cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, low birth weight, preterm delivery, and others. Among biomedical researchers, these patterns are often taken as evidence of fundamental genetic differences between alleged races. However, a growing body of evidence establishes the primacy of social inequalities in the origin and persistence of racial health disparities. Here, I summarize this evidence and argue that the debate over racial inequalities in health presents an opportunity to refine the critique of race in three ways: 1) to reiterate why the race concept is inconsistent with patterns of global human genetic diversity; 2) to refocus attention on the complex, environmental influences on human biology at multiple levels of analysis and across the lifecourse; and 3) to revise the claim that race is a cultural construct and expand research on the sociocultural reality of race and racism. Drawing on recent developments in neighboring disciplines, I present a model for explaining how racial inequality becomes embodied—literally—in the biological well-being of racialized groups and individuals. This model requires a shift in the way we articulate the critique of race as bad biology.

  98. #98 Wow
    October 12, 2011

    “How race becomes biology: Embodiment of social inequality”

    Yup, thought so.

    You’re still hooked up to “if you define race by genetics, you must be a Holocaust denier”.

    Nope.

    Religion DOES NOT define the Jewish race. Ancestry does.

  99. #99 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    HUMAN GENETICS
    Volume 126, Number 3, 355-362, DOI: 10.1007/s00439-009-0674-1
    Looking for race in all the wrong places: analyzing the lack of productivity in the ongoing debate about race and genetics
    Morris W. Foster
    The ongoing debate about the relationship between race and genetics is more than a century old and has yet to be resolved. Recent emphasis on population-based patterns in human genetic variation and the implications of those for disease susceptibility and drug response have revitalized that long-standing debate. Both sides in the debate use the same rhetorical device of treating geographic, ancestral, population-specific, and other categories as surrogates for race, but otherwise share no evidentiary standards, analytic frameworks, or scientific goals that might resolve the debate and result in some productive outcome. Setting a common goal of weighing the scientific benefits of using racial and other social heuristics with testable estimates of the potential social harms of racialization can reduce both the unreflexive use of race and other social identities in biological analyses as well as the unreflexive use of racialization in social critiques of genetics. Treating social identities used in genetic studies as objects for investigation rather than artifacts of participant self-report or researcher attribution also will reduce the extent to which genetic studies that report social identities imply that membership in social categories can be defined or predicted using genetic features.

  100. #100 ildi
    October 12, 2011

    You’re still hooked up to “if you define race by genetics, you must be a Holocaust denier”.

    That strawman is the best response you’ve got? I’ve tried, but I guess you can’t argue in good faith with a ‘flat-earther.’

  101. #101 eNeMeE
    October 12, 2011

    Me

    So Abraham and Sarah were not Jews? And neither were their children?

    Care to answer this, Wow?

    Or the previous question:

    What is someone who converted to Judaism called?

    (not-Jewish is a not-answer)

  102. #102 Wow
    October 13, 2011

    “Care to answer this, Wow?”

    Abraham and Sarah would not be Jews if ildi and Jud were right and the required measure to *be* a Jew was worshipping to the Jewish God that the Jews currently worship at, so I don’t really see why this needs answering.

    “What is someone who converted to Judaism called?”

    What was their name before they converted?

    “(not-Jewish is a not-answer)”

    Why?

  103. #103 Wow
    October 13, 2011

    “That strawman is the best response you’ve got?”

    What strawman? You’re the one bringing straw to the hoedown.

    Jew doesn’t require being of the Jewish faith.

    If “race” is an outmoded and useless concept, then what is “a Jew”? Just another human?

  104. #104 eNeMeE
    October 13, 2011

    What was their name before they converted?

    That’s an answer. “Not-Jewsish” is a non-answer because it doesn’t show anything about what you think they should be called. Which makes it impossible for anything to proceed, since no one has actually defined terms.

    Why did the second question need answering? Because you didn’t answer the first one which could have made this all much easier. So I figured I’d be more of an ass, and see if that got a reaction.

    If anyone wants to continue this, I suggest you define your terms. I tend to use Jewish (and I think this is the most common version) to mean people of Jewish ethnic origin and people who follow Judaism (regardless of ethnic origin, mostly because “people who follow Judaism” and “people of Jewish ethnic origin” are a pain to keep repeating).

    So, for the purpose of getting this thing going somewhere potentially interesting (and allowing me to go back to lurking without being frustrated about the lack of clarity (and yes, it’s all about me)) why not call them FoJ (follower) and EtJ (ethnic), and then people can be a bit clearer about which groups they are talking about and stop all the wasted commentary…

  105. #105 Wow
    October 13, 2011

    “That’s an answer. “Not-Jewsish” is a non-answer because it doesn’t show anything about what you think they should be called.”

    You never said what they were called before.

    What were they before they converted?

    Since you haven’t supplied one, I’m going to say that they were West Indian before they converted.

    After conversion, they’re still West Indian.

    “why not call them FoJ (follower) and EtJ (ethnic)”

    Because there’s no need to call them that.

    NOTE: Ethnic doesn’t mean what you think it means this being further reason why we shouldn’t call them FoJ and EtJ.

    How about we just call them “Jew”?

  106. #106 eNeMeE
    October 13, 2011

    Ah, you’re using a language other than normal english. I’m done.

  107. #107 Wow
    October 14, 2011

    I think I now understand what you’re saying, enemy.

    You’re talking about

    The Jewish Faith
    and
    The Jewish Race

    I’ve already said they’re two separate things and neither requires the other, therefore a Jew remains Jewish (The Race) even if they don’t follow the Jewish faith.

    But if this thread is about “What happens to the Jewish Faith if the Jewish Faith is no longer followed?” then the answer is quite obvious: the Jewish Religion no longer exists.

    This would be no more problem than when the Greek Mythology became the Mythology rather than the Faith. No more problem than when Druidism stopped being followed.

    But what happens to the Jews? They’d still live, die, be as good or as bad as they were before and they’d still have the same ancestry.

    The Jewish Race would be unaffected.

  108. #108 ildi
    October 14, 2011

    If “race” is an outmoded and useless concept, then what is “a Jew”? Just another human?

    The next question is: does race as a social construct serve a useful function? In my perusal of the literature in google scholar, there were some articles on public health that talked about self-identification as a particular race providing valuable information regarding possible health risks because of the environmental factors associated with many diseases (e.g., hypertension, diabetes).

    Until recently, religious beliefs and rituals were one of the core elements of ethnic and racial identification. (Commemorating the formation of national identity and won/lost battles is another one.) As (if?) society becomes more secular, what does it mean to maintain ties to ethnic roots? If a Jew drops the idea of being God’s chosen people, what satisfaction remains in celebrating the rituals commemorating this covenant? If the point is to never forget the atrocities suffered by one’s ancestors, is there an implicit assumption that one’s ethnic group isn’t as capable of committing the same atrocities, given the proper circumstances? Does tribalism cause more harm than good?

    In addition to secular observation of religious rituals, other ways of maintaining cultural identity which divorces itself from religion and war are folk dancing, roots music and ethnic cooking. If it is important for people to have a sense of continuity and heritage and unity with a group, can we satisfy this need without the downside of making someone the ‘other’? Or, can we stick with sports being a substitute for war?

    My point is that I don’t really have answers yet, but that there are assumptions about how we see ourselves as humans on this shrinking planet that need to be addressed when we realize that dividing ourselves into races is an illusory categorization. In the same vein as there are assumption that have to be questioned about our place on this planet when we drop the notion that some deity created it just for us, or that we have to question to origin of our moral values when we no longer believe that some supernatural being tells us what to do and enforces it with the carrot and the stick.

  109. #109 Wow
    October 14, 2011

    “The next question is: does race as a social construct serve a useful function?”

    Well, you’ll have to answer the first question first:

    If “race” is an outmoded and useless concept, then what is “a Jew”?

    There’s no point answering your question until you’ve discovered what else you’d use to replace “race”.

    “Until recently, religious beliefs and rituals were one of the core elements of ethnic and racial identification.”

    Until recently, location was THE CORE element of ethnic and racial identification.

    But we discovered that we were the same people when we moved abroad.

    We didn’t disappear. So religion and ritual is no longer a core element (if indeed it ever was in living memory).

    “As (if?) society becomes more secular, what does it mean to maintain ties to ethnic roots?”

    Nothing.

    No more (and in fact quite a lot less) than having college classes on “Basketweaving” or being a member of the Historical Recreation Society.

    It’d be a passtime.

    “If a Jew drops the idea of being God’s chosen people, what satisfaction remains in celebrating the rituals commemorating this covenant?”

    Does there have to be any? People playing in reenactment societies get fun out of it.

    But “None” is a satisfactory answer.

    “If the point is to never forget the atrocities suffered by one’s ancestors”

    That point is not held in the religion. That would be called “History”. The rest of that paragraph is pointless drivel with no application to religion or the rituals thereof.

    “Does tribalism cause more harm than good?”

    In fact, if you believe you are “God’s Chosen People”, then you’re less likely to be a human amongst others.

    “If it is important for people to have a sense of continuity and heritage and unity with a group”

    It isn’t necessary for people to use religion to do that.

    “Or, can we stick with sports being a substitute for war?”

    Has nothing to do with religion, race, community or anything here on this thread.

    Thanks for wasting my time reading it, though.

    “when we realize that dividing ourselves into races is an illusory categorization.”

    OK, so there is no Jew already.

    Therefore there’s nothing lost if there is no Jewish faith either.

    Why were you so insistent on religion being so important and central for a concept you think doesn’t exist, “A Jew”?

  110. #110 ildi
    October 14, 2011

    Why were you so insistent on religion being so important and central for a concept you think doesn’t exist, “A Jew”?

    I have never said that… “race is a social construct” does not equal “the concept of ‘Jew’ doesn’t exist.”

    The rest of your comment is, as you say, ‘pointless drivel.’ Your unwillingness to argue in good faith is no credit to you. You win! Great success!

  111. #111 Wow
    October 14, 2011

    “I have never said that… “race is a social construct” does not equal “the concept of ‘Jew’ doesn’t exist.””

    1) You refused to say what “a Jew” is if race isn’t the answer.

    2) You think race is a bad idea because it divides us:

    “but that there are assumptions about how we see ourselves as humans on this shrinking planet that need to be addressed when we realize that dividing ourselves into races is an illusory categorization”

    “A Jew” is an illusory categorisation as much as “a race” is.

  112. #112 Wow
    October 14, 2011

    OK, if this isn’t pointless drivel, can you explain what this has to do with the bloody topic about race, religion and ritual:

    “Tf the point is to never forget the atrocities suffered by one’s ancestors, is there an implicit assumption that one’s ethnic group isn’t as capable of committing the same atrocities, given the proper circumstances?”

    and

    “Or, can we stick with sports being a substitute for war?”

    and

    “what satisfaction remains in celebrating the rituals commemorating this covenant? ”

    Hmm?

    None.

    Now, let’s have a look at that dictionary:

    pointless
    adjective
    1. without a point: a pointless pen.

    2. blunt, as an instrument.

    3. without force, meaning, or relevance: a pointless remark.

    4. without a point scored, as in a game: a pointless inning.

    Now check over point 3 there.

  113. #113 ildi
    October 14, 2011

    No, really, Wow, you win; I’m not wasting my time explaining the obvious to someone who is only intent on trolling.

  114. #114 ildi
    October 14, 2011

    btw, Jason made my point for me in his next OP “Herman Cain’s Pseudomathematics”

    Finding out that Cain was a math major gives me the same flush of embarrassment I get when I hear that a Jew did something bad.

  115. #115 Wow
    October 24, 2011

    “I’m not wasting my time explaining the obvious …”

    Maybe it’s obvious to you, but all you’ve managed to say is it is so.

  116. #116 Shaun
    November 2, 2011

    Fantastic post I very much enjoyed it, keep up the good work.

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