Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Who I Am

As the name of this blog suggests, I am a Jew. I grew up in El Paso, Texas (yes, there are Jews there), in a relatively observant home. My grandparents and a great many of my relatives are Orthodox, although my immediate family is Conservative. I went to a religious private school until the 7th grade, and I continued my religious education thereafter, including studying at a yeshiva in Israel for a summer. With the exception of high school football games, I had Shabbat dinner with my family every Friday night until college. I went to synagogue regularly, often missing school even on minor holidays (a fringe benefit I did not oppose). In short, I was raised to be a “good Jewish boy.”

My parents often wonder what went wrong.

Despite my upbringing, I am an atheist. Or at least, that’s the best word I have to describe myself. As far back as I can remember, I have had a philosophical mindset – I’ve always lived with my head in the clouds, pondering the Big Questions, obsessed with arguments for their own sakes. It was therefore only natural for me to major in Philosophy when I left my home behind for the University of Texas.

For me, philosophy wasn’t just a major. It was a way of life, a mode of being. Taking required classes and passing my tests was only a secondary concern – I was hungry for knowledge and I consumed it greedily. I was more than a gunner in my philosophy classes – I did extra reading, not to impress the professor, but because I read that shit for fun. I loved nothing more (and still love nothing more) than to sit out by the pool on a sunny day with an ice-cold glass of bourbon, a hookah full of apple tobacco, and a copy of Beyond Good and Evil.

In a very real sense, philosophy became my new religion. It permeated every area of my life. I looked to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics for guidance on how to be a good person. I read Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra for inspiration like others read the Bible. I cared deeply about things like the ontological status of universals. I took this shit seriously, and inevitably my philosophy and my religion began to clash.

I honestly don’t remember when I stopped believing in the God of my ancestors. Just like my Bar-Mitzvah suit, I outgrew my Judaism gradually, hardly noticing that it was becoming increasingly tight until the constriction was manifestly uncomfortable. One day, it just burst at the seams and I could never wear it again, even if I wanted to. I was an atheist, past the point of no return.

And yet despite all this, I am still a Jew. I remain connected to a community whose traditions I have largely rejected. I am drawn to my People, even when I feel like a stranger in a strange land in their houses of worship. Although I have the ability to lead a full Saturday morning service in Hebrew, to chant the ancient words of the Torah, I will not bow my head to the God who claims to have led me out of Egypt.

My family still thinks that I can somehow be “redeemed,” that I’m simply going through a period of “questioning.” On a certain level, they’re right – I am always questioning, I’m still obsessed with the Big Questions. It’s just that I’ve found my answer to one of them, and it’s not at all what they had hoped for.

I have started this blog as a forum to discuss the Big Questions, to work out my conflicted issues with Judaism, and whatever else comes to mind. I hope y’all enjoy it, and of course, comments and feedback are always appreciated.


Blogger lawsomnia said...

yasher coach. or something like that. looking forward to seeing what you have to say.

Friday, July 14, 2006 2:12:00 PM  
Anonymous tRJ said...

I will be eagerly reading and commenting here. Shortly after being baptised, I left the Presbyterian Church. I no longer take communion or pray. I also refuse to bow my head and go through the motions.

I'll be curious what sort of things you have to say here.

Friday, July 14, 2006 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Jurist said...

As a devout Christian/former Philosopher/law student, I suspect I'll find this very interesting.

Friday, July 14, 2006 8:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Saturday, July 15, 2006 2:18:00 AM  
Blogger Suave_Mandingo said...

I too enjoy conversations like these. Although I have not been to church in a while, I still have my faith as a protestant. Strangely, my thorough scientific training has only solidified the mystique of religion and a higher order.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Glad to see there are other atheist jews out there. Although I prefer the title humanist.

I also am passionate about philosophy (I was a philosophy major) and am heading to law school in a month. I am jewish, as well.

I don't actually believe in any of the stories (literally outsides of a literary interest), but I like to be in the culture. I think the morality is more important than the beliefs anyway.

I am a fan of rorty, nietzsche, kierkegaard, levinas, mill, aristotle, some plato, kaufmann (humanism, existntialism, greek, and prgmatism).

Anyway, I will be checking in with your blog regularly.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

I think my first question for you (which will probably be one of many, because amusing as your other blog is, I can comment on this kind of thing much better than hookers etc.) is what makes you think the answers you are looking for are the big ones? They're interesting alright, and if you're such an addict to them then surely they are alluring because they are essentially infinite...but aside from the addictive factor, what's so great about the big questions?

I'm a Lutheran who reads the bible and goes to church with varying regularity, but despite loads of questioning/doubt, I've never had a minute in life where I remember really questioning whether God actually existed. So I'm prolly gonna disagree with you a LOT, but we're lawyers, that's what we do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 7:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a word for people like you, or at least for people like you when they consider raising kids without a religion: Unitarian-Universalist. Look it up.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 5:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

being physicist I don`t understand scientists-traditional religion believers.Traditions are in sharp contradiction to scientific knowledge.Religion is comfortable clothes,a way of adaptation to everyday life for them,I think

Sunday, December 30, 2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Chicko said...

I guess every atheist today heard of Richard Dawkins and from there to other writers that deal with the issue like Sam Harris.
I wonder what some of you think of the sudden 'projection of atheism' in our days especially after the 9/11 bombing.
Other then that did you hear of DAAT EMET?

Sunday, April 19, 2009 10:23:00 AM  

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