Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jewish Atheist Ponders A Name Change

When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people. --Abraham Joshua Heschel

I've been experiencing a little bit of a softening towards religion. I still believe it false, yet the bitterness left over from my exodus from Orthodoxy has receded a bit. Sometimes I feel a bit trapped by the name and theme of my blog and blog persona.

Atheism isn't like religion. Religion is often a big, sometimes the biggest, part of one's life. Atheism, on the other hand, sort of fades into the background. In my non-blogging life, and when I'm not reading a headline about the latest homophobic legislation, I never think about the issue of God.

This blog is and has been useful for me to vent some of my anger and to interact with religious people in a way that I can't do in real life. (In real life, for example, it's considered pretty rude to question the very foundation of someone's belief system.) The arguments I've had on this blog and on others using this handle have clarified some of my positions and modified some others.

But the blog also skews things. The name itself sort of divides the world into an us vs. them thing (where "they" are far more numerous.) Atheism is sort of unique that way. You wouldn't find a blog called "Unicorn-loving Nonbeliever-in-Unicorns." Due to the overwhelming theism in our culture, atheism is an in-your-face stance.

But it's kind of silly since when it comes down to it, whether a person I know believes in God doesn't matter that much in the grand scheme of things. As Heschel writes, what ultimately matters more than what you believe is what kind of person you are. (I'm not saying that believers are "unintelligent," btw. I'm generalizing from the quote that the ideas about which we disagree aren't as important as the humanity we share.)

Also, I'm tired of arguing about evolution, the Bible, and morality.

Anyway, I guess I'm saying I'd like to branch out, but I'm not sure how or to where.

(This post semi-inspired by a post by True Ancestor as well as all the theistic and atheistic bloggers who speak the language of my soul, so to speak.)

24 comments:

dbs said...

Its’ actually a good name. One of the things which I like about your blog is that you don’t always philosophically line up with your handle. It’s funny that I often see you comment on things in the defense (or, explanation) of orthodoxy. There aren’t that many of us who can fully appreciate both sides.

For myself, I’ve come more to appreciate that what people believe is always partly (and usually mostly) a subjective choice. Some choices may be farther away from empirical reality, but they can not be proven or disproven any more than others. So, I suppose that my tolerance for religious choice has been enhanced by my contact with those who choose not to believe.

Anyway, branch out... who knows, you may pick up more readers than you lose…

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Atheism isn't like religion. Religion is often a big, sometimes the biggest, part of one's life. Atheism, on the other hand, sort of fades into the background."

Depends how you define "religion." I'd say you have a nontheistic strain of Judaism. This makes your chosen pseudonym rather apt no?

kasamba said...

Forgive me for asking this, but I'm new to your blog, so if you don't mind indulging me; I just have one question- how does someone handle tragedy without some sort of faith?

Orthoprax said...

Kasamba,

"how does someone handle tragedy without some sort of faith?"

Realistically.

I've got a question for you: Why do those who believe in an afterlife cry at funerals?

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

I'm fine with my name, I don't see you problem. There is no contradiction being a Jewish Atheist.
If someone is born a Jew, you are a Jew for life(it's the rules). You just don't happen to believe in God. Like me, you have been identified as a Jew by most of the world.
In fact, your blog tackles atheism and Judaism back and forth more than any other blog I know of. Mind you [url=http://recoveringorthojew.blogspot.com/]Recovering Ortho Jew[/url] is beginning to challenge you in this dept.
Most Atheists know that we aren't about organized religion. Any ways, I think your blog name is appropriate for those who matter/thos who know what your ID name means.

CyberKitten said...

As much as I enjoy reading and contributing to your Blog you should take it where you want it to go. I don't think you'll lose many readers... you're just too interesting for that.

See where the mood takes you. I for one will be tagging along for a chat.

B. Spinoza said...

>Depends how you define "religion." I'd say you have a nontheistic strain of Judaism. This makes your chosen pseudonym rather apt no?

Orthoprax, Nontheistic doesn't have the same implications as atheism. Atheism seems to imply (for most people) all rejection of spirituality. Therefore, I do think the name Jewish Atheist is misleading.

And like JA said, there are more important things than a person's metaphysical beliefs. When someone asked the Buddha how the Universe came to be or if there is a soul, he said that it doesn't concern him. What concerned him was his ethical teachings and not metaphysics.

Why do we need to emphasize the differences when we can focus on the positive?

Laura said...

I totally understand your burnout - I couldn't do it, that's for sure. I don;'t think you need a name change to talk about other things. Write whatever you want, that's the beauty of a blog - you're not stuck in a particular topic area if you don't want to be. I'd look forward to reading your views on other subjects.

Sadie Lou said...

I've got a question for you: Why do those who believe in an afterlife cry at funerals?

um...because we won't see that person for a long time--if ever again.
duh.
What a heartless question disguised as a "clever" rebuttle.

JA--
I can't wait to see what "branching out" could mean for this blog. Your posts are always one of my daily stops. I'm glad we met and have endured each other's opinions long enough to have gained a mutual respect and understanding.
I'm sure that this blog will continue to be just as engaing.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie lou said: I'm sure that this blog will continue to be just as engaging.

I certainly 2nd that.........

smoo said...

"I'm tired of arguing about evolution"

I think you're evolving. There is the unexpected shift in direction on the journey of life. May you 'follow your bliss' (as Joseph Campbell has espoused) and enjoy the ride!

kasamba said...

Ouch- I was just asking.
(Thanks sadie lou!)

Stephen (aka Q) said...

The blogger formerly known as Jewish Atheist?

There was a time when I seriously considered not visiting your blog anymore, just because it isn't particularly uplifting to be repeatedly put on the defensive about one's faith. But that was always offset by the respect you show to the theists who comment.

Since then, I have noticed an evolution in your blog. It isn't as adversarial as I once found it.

I don't suppose the name matters to those of us who already "know" you. But it might put off a new visitor.

Foilwoman said...

JA: Why can't you be Jewish Atheist who writes about a number of topics? I know single-issue blogs get the most hits, but if you're interested in music or politics or cooking or family life or book reviews or movies or philosophical debate or whatever at any time, why not just post on it as you? I don't think the title you gave your blog limits you. Heck you could be Jewish Atheist writing about sex. Or death. Or power. Or exile. Or urban life (or suburban life or whatever). You get the idea. Just as long as you keep blogging. Thank you.

BTW, I didn't find Orthoprax's rebuttal to Kasamba "heartless", I found it funny and exposing a gap between belief and behavior that isn't exactly rational (If you truly believe someone is going to a far, far better place and that you will eventually join them a funeral should be a happy event. If you don't believe that, it's a tragedy. Or you're doubting your espoused dogma.) and don't know why it had to be "labelled". It's a valid sceptical question a believer should be willing to answer without getting defensive or huffy.

kasamba said...

Athiest: Well, what's YOUR answer to my question?
How does someone react to tragedy without a belief system to cushion them?

Jewish Atheist said...

dbs:

Anyway, branch out... who knows, you may pick up more readers than you lose…

Maybe I will. :)

Orthoprax:

Depends how you define "religion." I'd say you have a nontheistic strain of Judaism. This makes your chosen pseudonym rather apt no?

I certainly have Judaic influences, but I'm not sure it's fair to say I have a strain of Judaism, theistic or not.

kasamba:

how does someone handle tragedy without some sort of faith?

We grieve, we lean on loved ones, we remember the good times. Probably the same as everyone else, but without the prayer. If anything, it's a little easier because we don't have to struggle to understand why life isn't fair if God is all-good and all-powerful. It just isn't.

BEAJ, CK, Laura, Sadie Lou, smoo, Q, Foilwoman:

Thanks for your kind words and insight. :)

Spinoza:

Why do we need to emphasize the differences when we can focus on the positive?

Exactly.

jewish-man said...

I've got a question for you: Why do those who believe in an afterlife cry at funerals?

We don't cry for him. He's going to a better place. We cry for ourselves. For what we lost.

Kelly said...

"I've been experiencing a little bit of a softening towards religion. I still believe it false, yet the bitterness left over from my exodus from Orthodoxy has receded a bit."

I think it takes a big person to let go of bitterness. Congratulations to you.

r10b said...

Where else can a post about changing the blog's name spawn a discussion of why afterlife-believers cry at funerals?

Maybe it is time for a change. I'll be interested in what you say...whoever you are.

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"Orthoprax, Nontheistic doesn't have the same implications as atheism. Atheism seems to imply (for most people) all rejection of spirituality. Therefore, I do think the name Jewish Atheist is misleading."

Are you sure that you're not splitting hairs? The term "atheist" can be considered broad enough to include non-theism.

Sadie,

"What a heartless question disguised as a "clever" rebuttle."

Heartless? My point was simply that faith usually offers little solace in terms of dealing with tragedy. You may tell yourself that the person has gone to a better place and that you'll see them soon, but you still hurt and death is still terrible.

JA,

"I certainly have Judaic influences, but I'm not sure it's fair to say I have a strain of Judaism, theistic or not."

A personal strain, then. In my organismic view of Judaism, you definitely have a place.

Jewish man,

"We don't cry for him. He's going to a better place. We cry for ourselves. For what we lost."

What have you lost? That you can't see him for awhile? Is that like the tears a mother might have after her child gets married and moves away from home? It sure doesn't seem like those kinds of tears.

dbackdad said...

It's your show JA. I'd follow you anywhere. But your name is fine. I certainly don't expect you to always riff on religion or evolution (though I enjoy your discussion on both). People get too stuck in trying to fit everyone into a slot. And they also are quick to judge because of how someone looks ... or their name. I feel your name serves a purpose for both those who share your views and those who don't. For the former, they may come expecting an affirmation of their views but are exposed to a discussion of varying viewpoints that increases their breadth of knowledge. The latter come expecting a fight and are exposed to the same thing and maybe come away with a better appreciation of opposing viewpoints.

Anyway, that's my long-winded way of saying ... DON'T CHANGE THE NAME.

B. Spinoza said...

>Are you sure that you're not splitting hairs? The term "atheist" can be considered broad enough to include non-theism.

it maybe, but I'm just saying how it is commonly understood, and what it usually means to me. I wouldn't consider the Hindu Pantheists to be atheists, would you? I usually think of atheism going together with materialism or scientific positivism.

Godol Hador said...

You can't soften! Who will be left to argue with?

David said...

JA:

The name of your blog makes for a great Zen koan. To hold both words in your mind at the same time, with reference to the same person, is challenging, invigorating. Like your blog.

Your blog name is like your given name: it's an attempt to fix the ever-changing to a given point. Can't be done, but can't be avoided.

Keep up the good work.