Progressive Jews, Secularism and the Future of Judaism

 

In the last few years, I’ve written about American Jews and their future, especially regarding their allegiance to the Democrat or Republican parties; recently, the numbers haven’t changed much. Most non-traditional Jews (about 70 percent) identify as Democrats and the remainder of Jews, mostly Orthodox, support Republicans.

Rather than look at party affiliation, however, I’ve become increasingly concerned with the growing emergence of the radical Left and the Jewish affiliation with them. In addition, the efforts to make Judaism more “palatable” to Jews who are not Orthodox is slowly tearing at the fabric of the Jewish faith. Ultimately, my concern is that the existence of the faith could be in jeopardy on two fronts: the growth of anti-Semitism, and the disinterest in continuing the Jewish faith in a form that resembles its roots.

The first front, anti-Semitism, has been of growing concern. The main source for data is the Anti-Defamation League, which has become strongly influenced by the Left. In 2017 the League reported an increase in anti-Semitism of 57 percent, ranging from anti-Semitic tweets to bomb threats sent to Jewish institutions. Our federal government also collects information on anti-Semitism here. At the federal government level, we have also seen a reluctance to hold members of Congress accountable for anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Although these data are cause for concern, I think that the Jewish community is at even greater risk for discounting anti-Semitic attacks, and I think those responsible may in part be the Progressive Jews themselves; they either keep silent or ally themselves with Progressivism.

In many ways, Progressivism is a secular religion. Here is one source’s definition of religion and secularism:

. . . in the social sciences, when trying to describe religious life, we refer to the 3-Bs: belief, behavior, and belonging. Religion generally involves one, two, or all three aspects, to varying degrees, and depending on the religious tradition or culture at hand. By belief, we mean belief in supernatural beings or entities, such as God or gods, spirits, angels, demons, jinn, etc. as well as non-empirically verifiable realms, such as heaven, hell, etc. As for behavior, we mean things like ritual performance, prayer, holiday celebrations, fasts, feasts, confession, bat mitzvahs – the myriad things people do in relation to religious beliefs. And by belonging, we simply mean identification with or membership in a religious community, tradition, denomination, or congregation.

So to be secular means that 1) a person does not believe in supernatural beings, entities, or realms, 2) a person does not engage in religious behaviors, and 3) a person does not identify as religious and is not a member of a religious community.

A number of questions arise out of these definitions: (1) What does it mean for a Jew to be a secular Jew? (2) Can a secular Jew (who doesn’t believe in G-d but in Progressivism) still be a Jew? (3) By whose standards? Finally, and the most serious question is, (4) What are the ramifications for a Progressive Jew, and to the Jewish community and faith, when Jews don’t believe in the G-d of Judaism, but rather their own vague, mystical version of G-d, or no G-d at all?

In setting out to look at those who affiliate with Reform Judaism, the most liberal group in the Jewish faith, I wanted to better understand their beliefs. It’s no surprise that the actual beliefs vary from Jew to Jew, but here is one set of ideas from a Reform Rabbi:

There is no catechism, and there are no required beliefs. Everyone is free to believe and profess whatever they have learned about and believe. In fact, I know of one Reform Rabbi who believes that Torah was revealed at Sinai. Some of his colleagues (myself included) may not agree with him, and may not even understand how he reconciles that belief with Reform Jewish philosophy, but that doesn’t disqualify him as a Reform Rabbi. . . Many Reform Jews have a deep belief in a God that is not literal or theistic, but rather is more mystical or spiritual. Many believe that though the Torah was written by humans, there is still a deep, abiding and divine wisdom that is imparted through the teachings which separates Torah from other literature (bold sentence by me).

From his definition, I assume that Jews can believe in anything they wish; they can create their own understanding of God; the Torah was written by man, but it still offers wisdom. Could someone explain what the bolded sentence means?

Conservative Jews are substantially more observant than Reform, but the amount of practice, observance and community participation varies from family to family.

When we turn to the descriptions of Progressive Jews, secular Jews (which may include many Progressive Jews) and Reform Jews, a disturbing factor stands out: They have the religion of Progressivism: secular Jews have no belief in God; Reform Jews believe in their own manufactured belief in G-d; and Conservatives are a mixed bag. There is no traditional religious grounding to be had.

I do understand that many of these Jews across the spectrum may practice some Jewish rituals: holding a seder or lighting Chanukah candles and exchanging gifts. But most of these practices in most families are superficial and often don’t include the deepest meaning of these occasions.

Why does all of this matter? I’m proposing that the less connection that Jews have to Judaism, the less commitment they will have to its survival; we have seen this occur in history, time after time. After over 2,000 years, Judaism might be changing into a kind of identity, like being a football player or a gourmet cook. The Progressive Jews in their many forms will have other priorities: creating an ideal world, fighting climate change, providing healthcare for everyone, and eliminating obstacles that are in their way; these causes will become their new idols. The only problem is that religion and religious beliefs will continue to be seen as roadblocks to the overall Progressive movement—by Jews and non-Jews alike. And the Jews will be more vulnerable than ever to anti-Semitic forces.

What will the Progressive and secular and even Reform Jews do then?

[For those who don’t know me, I was raised with little background in Judaism but have always had a strong belief in G-d. I, like many non-Orthodox Jews, married a gentile. I call myself a returning Jew, and am grateful to all those who have helped me along the way. So I am part of the problem, as well as (hopefully) part of the solution.]

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  1. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Richard Easton (View Comment):
    The mainline Christian churches are dying. The evangelical Protestant/traditional Catholic Churches are doing better.

    Do you draw conclusions from those data, @richardeaston? Is it because mainline churches are becoming Leftist (sorry if that’s obvious)?

    Richard, the Pew results above (#19) do not show that the Catholics are doing much better than the Mainlines. Catholic numbers may not be declining much, due to immigration, but that’s probably not going to last.

    I think meant that traditionalist communitites are growing in each denomination. Traditional Catholic communities are growing more than cafeteria-Catholic communities. Traditional Methodist or Lutheran communities are growing more than left-leaning Methodist and Lutheran communities. 

    People understand intuitively by experience, if not by deliberation, that a religious faith which takes a backseat to politics and culture might as well be ignored. 

    In my own Catholic community in Texas, we are seeing that Catholics from Mexico tend to be very passionate but poorly educated on theology. That is a fragile faith which can break with hardship and be blown about by political winds. But the hispanics have not been affluent for generations, so they have more children.

    In other words, as with Jews, Catholicism is often cultural more than theological. Such a cultural bond is at least an opportunity for rekindling.

    • #31
  2. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    I think meant that traditionalist communitites are growing in each denomination.

    Isn’t it the Presbyterians that are  having the wildest version of this? Episcopal’s?

    The multicultural kooks got all of the real estate they are dying off and can’t even meet their overhead. The traditionalists are sitting on folding chairs in high school gyms and are growing like crazy.

    There is a lesson in there.

    • #32
  3. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I simply can’t get my mind around the possibility of a supreme being but human civilization doesn’t do well without it and without it in a particular way as it evolved from the Jews and was picked up by Christians.  I can’t get my mind around that either.

    • #33
  4. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I think that distinction between a fixed set of beliefs and a cultural and/or social affiliation exists in regard to all common belief systems. That includes political alternatives to spiritual religions. 

    In other words, many people who vote Republican or Democrat associate strongly with the identity while having little understanding of that group’s history or policies. It’s not much different from having grown up a Jew or a Catholic. 

    And we each have multiple identities by affiliation. I am an American, for example, but am also a Southerner and a Texan. Sometimes those associations come into conflict. Which identity one refers to depends on which is more relevant to the circumstances. 

    That’s what it means to be a secular Jew or secular Christian. It means the affiliation remains, but it is not often relevant to one’s life. A secular believer in God remembers Him in occasional rituals but generally ignores Him and places little faith in prayer to affect one’s life.

    • #34
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What does it mean for a Jew to be a secular Jew?

    I think “secular Jew” is an oxymoron. Maybe a better term would be “non-practicing jew” or a secular individual who was born into a Jewish family and raised as a Jew.

    With the modern conception of ethnicity, I think it is clear that Secular Jew just means ethnic Jew. Since now ethnicity and religion are separate things it makes perfect sense to have a secular Jew. The same way you have a secular German or Italian. 

    You can insist on being both, but honestly that doesn’t make anymore sense than just being one or the other. After all if after all if being a Jew requires an ethnic component what is to be made of converts and the children of mixed marriages? Ethnicity is by far the weaker and least objective description of a person. So frankly if I were rectifying the terms I would make Jew a religious description like Catholic or Buddhist. Then one is defined by their actual belief and so secular Jew  would be like saying secular Catholic, an oxymoron. But I think the ethnic definition currently has supremacy in the modern conception. And certainly does for antisemites, as a lack of religiosity on the part of their victims does not deter them. 

    • #35
  6. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    In other words, many people who vote Republican or Democrat associate strongly with the identity while having little understanding of that group’s history or policies.

    Supposedly, you vote against whoever you hated in high school. Whatever you think their party was, you join the opposite. lol

    • #36
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What does it mean for a Jew to be a secular Jew?

    I think “secular Jew” is an oxymoron. Maybe a better term would be “non-practicing jew” or a secular individual who was born into a Jewish family and raised as a Jew.

    With the modern conception of ethnicity, I think it is clear that Secular Jew just means ethnic Jew. Since now ethnicity and religion are separate things it makes perfect sense to have a secular Jew. The same way you have a secular German or Italian.

    You can insist on being both, but honestly that doesn’t make anymore sense than just being one or the other. After all if after all if being a Jew requires an ethnic component what is to be made of converts and the children of mixed marriages? Ethnicity is by far the weaker and least objective description of a person. So frankly if I were rectifying the terms I would make Jew a religious description like Catholic or Buddhist. Then one is defined by their actual belief and so secular Jew would be like saying secular Catholic, an oxymoron. But I think the ethnic definition currently has supremacy in the modern conception. And certainly does for antisemites, as a lack of religiosity on the part of their victims does not deter them.

    I’m fine with your suggestion, @valiuth. I think the reason secular has come into use is because of the absence of G-d. But I’m fine with ethnic.

    • #37
  8. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    After all if after all if being a Jew requires an ethnic component what is to be made of converts and the children of mixed marriages?

    I think the difference might be, converting to Judaism is a great big headache. You have to want it and they don’t really recruit. It’s a bigger deal as a practical matter. 

    If any of that is wrong, have at it.

    • #38
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    After all if after all if being a Jew requires an ethnic component what is to be made of converts and the children of mixed marriages?

    I think the difference might be, converting to Judaism is a great big headache. You have to want it and they don’t really recruit. It’s a bigger deal as a practical matter.

    If any of that is wrong, have at it.

    I agree, @rufusrjones. No ethnic component is required; I think that’s come into use to mean, as Valiuth says, the secular. The only converts recognized at the Orthodox level are supposed to ask three times to convert, as well as go through an education process and certain rituals. It is a big deal.

    • #39
  10. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    With the modern conception of ethnicity, I think it is clear that Secular Jew just means ethnic Jew. Since now ethnicity and religion are separate things it makes perfect sense to have a secular Jew. The same way you have a secular German or Italian. 

    I have never heard “secular” used in conjunction with nationality that way except in regard to religion. A secular American, for example, is someone who wants a hard separation between religion and politics (explicitly between “church and state”, but implicitly a separation of ideas). 

    When an American identifies himself or another by ethnic heritage, “secular” isn’t mentioned. He simply says, “I’m German and Irish” or “an Italian American.”

    Is that not your experience? Is it different in Europe? 

    Certainly, “Jew” is used to refer to ethnicity or religion, if not both. But nobody would know what “German” means apart from nationality or ethnicity.

    • #40
  11. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    I Walton (View Comment):

    I simply can’t get my mind around the possibility of a supreme being but human civilization doesn’t do well without it and without it in a particular way as it evolved from the Jews and was picked up by Christians. I can’t get my mind around that either.

    Prager’s book, Rational Bible: Exodus shows how the distinct laws given by God to Moses differed from other laws in other civilizations in use at the time. It was very informative.

    • #41
  12. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Certainly, “Jew” is used to refer to ethnicity or religion, if not both. But nobody would know what “German” means apart from nationality or ethnicity.

    I don’t think historically this is true, even if today it is the case. At one point French meant Catholic, and for the Germans at least prior to the rise of the concept of Germaness (a 19th century invention) the dividing lines were religion. Bavarian meant Catholic, Hanoverian meant Lutheran.  Part of the creation of the modern nation state was the separation of these identities, and in someways the creation of national identities (German, Italian, etc.) was used as away to over come religious difference between regions. “You might be Lutheran, and you might be Catholic but we are all German!” One might say, and to that you could have added “you might be Jewish”. But of course the idea that one could be German and Jewish did not stick, except in the minds of many German Jews many of whom even converted to be better Germans. When the racialist theories of the Nazis became implemented Judaism wasn’t viewed as a religion with adherents, it was a biological fact. They were classified as a separate race (species really) and past conversion and even distant relationships were tracked down.  So as I said even if Jews purely wished to look upon themselves as just a religion they can’t because others will not.

    Of course I think that even Jews themselves saw a kind of appeal in the idea of Judaism as an ethnicity, as that concept created bonds across the various cultures that practiced Judaism.Without the ethnic view of Judaism I don’t think you would have a state of Israel. After all Catholics don’t need a homeland they have many. Likewise Judaism as a just a religion arguably wouldn’t need a homeland either, a homeland for whom? German Jews, Russian Jews, English Jews, Egyptian Jews? Do the Quakers need a homeland too? Mormons? But a an ethnic minority in a world of ethnic states? Without a state? Well if the Romanian, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Poles have homelands why not the Jews too? 

    Granted this isn’t all that airtight and coherent, but I don’t think humans have ever been that logical and strict about these things. 

    Frankly this is why I think the American model for a country is the best and most rational model. Devoid of either ethnic or religious requirements it places of constraints and creates no contradictions for its residents based on their religions and poor definitions of ethnicity. American is an identification and that rests easily on top of older more confusing ones. Unlike the previously mentioned Germans, we can actually say to all our residents Catholic, Irish, Jew, Hindu, Tibetan, Ukrainian, Mormon, secular demi-Jews from the upper east side… doesn’t matter we can all choose to be American or not its a free country.    

    • #42
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Certainly, “Jew” is used to refer to ethnicity or religion, if not both. But nobody would know what “German” means apart from nationality or ethnicity.

    I don’t think historically this is true, even if today it is the case. At one point French meant Catholic, and for the Germans at least prior to the rise of the concept of Germaness (a 19th century invention) the dividing lines were religion. Bavarian meant Catholic, Hanoverian meant Lutheran. Part of the creation of the modern nation state was the separation of these identities, and in someways the creation of national identities (German, Italian, etc.) was used as away to over come religious difference between regions. “You might be Lutheran, and you might be Catholic but we are all German!” One might say, and to that you could have added “you might be Jewish”. But of course the idea that one could be German and Jewish did not stick, except in the minds of many German Jews many of whom even converted to be better Germans. When the racialist theories of the Nazis became implemented Judaism wasn’t viewed as a religion with adherents, it was a biological fact. They were classified as a separate race (species really) and past conversion and even distant relationships were tracked down. So as I said even if Jews purely wished to look upon themselves as just a religion they can’t because others will not.

    Of course I think that even Jews themselves saw a kind of appeal in the idea of Judaism as an ethnicity, as that concept created bonds across the various cultures that practiced Judaism.Without the ethnic view of Judaism I don’t think you would have a state of Israel. After all Catholics don’t need a homeland they have many. Likewise Judaism as a just a religion arguably wouldn’t need a homeland either, a homeland for whom? German Jews, Russian Jews, English Jews, Egyptian Jews? Do the Quakers need a homeland too? Mormons? But a an ethnic minority in a world of ethnic states? Without a state? Well if the Romanian, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Poles have homelands why not the Jews too?

    Granted this isn’t all that airtight and coherent, but I don’t think humans have ever been that logical and strict about these things.

    Frankly this is why I think the American model for a country is the best and most rational model. Devoid of either ethnic or religious requirements it places of constraints and creates no contradictions for its residents based on their religions and poor definitions of ethnicity. American is an identification and that rests easily on top of older more confusing ones. Unlike the previously mentioned Germans, we can actually say to all our residents Catholic, Irish, Jew, Hindu, Tibetan, Ukrainian, Mormon, secular demi-Jews from the upper east side… doesn’t matter we can all choose to be American or not its a free country.

    These are excellent observations, @valiuth! I wasn’t aware of the connection between regions and religions. And you are correct, too, about the racial theories of Judaism. The Jews saw themselves as German Jews, but Hitler and the Nazis wanted to be sure the Jews knew they were not authentic Germans. Good points.

    • #43
  14. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Today isn’t my day to write about this stuff but I basically agree with everything in this video. I lived in a highly diverse area along time ago. I loved it except for the part where the government was shoving way too much down our throats in a certain narrow aspect with thoughtless central planning.

     

     

    • #44
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What does it mean for a Jew to be a secular Jew?

    I think “secular Jew” is an oxymoron. Maybe a better term would be “non-practicing jew” or a secular individual who was born into a Jewish family and raised as a Jew.

    But the question is, does the person believe in G-d, @stad? The whole thing about being able to be an ethnic Jew and not believe in G-d is what I think is involved.

    That’s what I mean.  To me, a Jewish person believes in God, a secular person does not.  However, I do see where one could claim to be Jewish on an ethnic basis.  This is getting confusing.  I think I’ll go play a computer game . . .

    • #45
  16. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I think there are two channels of leakage away from authentic Jewishness.  Pardon my presumption but here goes:

    (1) Ersatz culture warrior. I have known non-religious Jews who are passionate about leftist things not just as a substitute for religion but as a defense against the guilt of abandoning their heritage.  Refusing to enter the synagogue is somehow not apostasy if one is outside the door battling the enemies of those inside.  Many leftist Jews appear to want to assume that all conservatism is of the ‘blood and soil’ variety and thus innately narrowly nationalistic and anti-semitic.  Therefore, serving the progressive cause protects religious Jews from persecution so long as it opposes this caricature of the right. There is thus a strong need to find anti-semitism on the Right because of the self-justification it provides for being an apostate. (If the right is not reducible to this caricature or if antisemitism increasingly comes from the left, denial ensues.)

    (2) Religion as a lifestyle accessory.  “Cafeteria Catholicism”, and the decay of some mainline Protestant denominations is attributable to a pervasive narcissism in which one takes religious elements as lifestyle augmentations, selected not because of a perception of a truth greater than oneself from which moral obligations emerge but for personal satisfaction of one kind or another.  Jews are no less vulnerable to this form of secularization which is masked by selective participation–maybe more so because of their statistically greater education levels and thus increased likelihood of being au courant regarding the pernicious intellectual trends of today.

    • #46
  17. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Susan Quinn: After over 2,000 years, Judaism might be changing into a kind of identity, like being a football player or a gourmet cook.

    Hi Susan, where are you dating Judaism from? If from the birth of Jacob (Israel) then closer to 3900 years ago. If the giving of the Torah, 3600ish. First Temple 3000 years.

    I just don’t see 2K years ago as the starting point for Judaism. Christianity is almost 2K years old. Judaism predates that by a considerable amount.

    • #47
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I think there are two channels of leakage away from authentic Jewishness. Pardon my presumption but here goes:

    (1) Ersatz culture warrior. I have known non-religious Jews who are passionate about leftist things not just as a substitute for religion but as a defense against the guilt of abandoning their heritage. Refusing to enter the synagogue is somehow not apostasy if one is outside the door battling the enemies of those inside. Many leftist Jews appear to want to assume that all conservatism is of the ‘blood and soil’ variety and thus innately narrowly nationalistic and anti-semitic. Therefore, serving the progressive cause protects religious Jews from persecution so long as it opposes this caricature of the right. There is thus a strong need to find anti-semitism on the Right because of the self-justification it provides for being an apostate. (If the right is not reducible to this caricature or if antisemitism increasingly comes from the left, denial ensues.)

    (2) Religion as a lifestyle accessory. “Cafeteria Catholicism”, and the decay of some mainline Protestant denominations is attributable to a pervasive narcissism in which one takes religious elements as lifestyle augmentations, selected not because of a perception of a truth greater than oneself from which moral obligations emerge but for personal satisfaction of one kind or another. Jews are no less vulnerable to this form of secularization which is masked by selective participation–maybe more so because of their statistically greater education levels and thus increased likelihood of being au courant regarding the pernicious intellectual trends of today.

    I agree for the most part, @oldbathos. I don’t think the Progressive Jews see what they’re doing as a conscious substitute for Judaism; it’s just an outcome, and they would probably deny it. I also especially agree with your point I put in bold. Guilt comes easily to us Jews! Better to pass it on! The lifestyle accessory is fascinating. People can pick and choose the things they wish to do, how it will look to others, and how they can, once again, assuage their guilt. I struggle with this myself: I’m not prepared to adopt full orthodoxy, but making decisions on what I feel I am willing and able to do is a source of discomfort. I care less about how it looks to others, although I’ll be putting out my large Chanukiah again this year!

    • #48
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: After over 2,000 years, Judaism might be changing into a kind of identity, like being a football player or a gourmet cook.

    Hi Susan, where are you dating Judaism from? If from the birth of Jacob (Israel) then closer to 3900 years ago. If the giving of the Torah, 3600ish. First Temple 3000 years.

    I just don’t see 2K years ago as the starting point for Judaism. Christianity is almost 2K years old. Judaism predates that by a considerable amount.

    Someone else pointed this out. A thoughtless error. I’ll go with your dates. Thanks for clarifying for others, @instugator.

    • #49
  20. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Thanks for clarifying for others

    You are more than welcome.

    • #50
  21. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):
    have never felt alone in the world, the way so many of the kids do today.

    I agree with all you say, @marcin. It’s interesting that I always maintained my belief in G-d, although my folks never spoke of Him. But He showed up in Hebrew and Saturday schools, and somehow that penetrated. I agree that Christianity is at risk, too, although you’ll be a tougher group–larger, for one! Thank you.

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    Many Reform Jews have a deep belief in a God that is not literal or theistic, but rather is more mystical or spiritual.

    Could someone explain what the bolded sentence means?

    I think the concept is one of making things happen versus providing some source of power to enable humans to make something happen. If your vision is a G-d that makes things happen, then you are engaging in an exchange — a quid pro quo — to induce the use of the power of your behalf. Performing rituals and demonstrating devotion, making prayers, are examples of things that humans do to induce G-d’s favor or at least not demonstrate ingratitude that would keep G-d from dispensing favor. On the other hand if G-d is simply a force that you can link into, like tapping the power grid, no judgement is made no exchange is required. You simply do those things that establish the linkage and the benefits flow.

    I think that the latter is certainly true for the Left. It goes along with the view of entitlement–even from G-d. No serious commitment required. Thanks, @rodin.

    To be fair, the prosperity Gospel is as bi-partisan as pork barrel spending.

    • #51
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    Certainly, “Jew” is used to refer to ethnicity or religion, if not both. But nobody would know what “German” means apart from nationality or ethnicity.

    I don’t think historically this is true, even if today it is the case. At one point French meant Catholic, and for the Germans at least prior to the rise of the concept of Germaness (a 19th century invention) the dividing lines were religion. Bavarian meant Catholic, Hanoverian meant Lutheran. Part of the creation of the modern nation state was the separation of these identities, and in someways the creation of national identities (German, Italian, etc.) was used as away to over come religious difference between regions. “You might be Lutheran, and you might be Catholic but we are all German!” One might say, and to that you could have added “you might be Jewish”. But of course the idea that one could be German and Jewish did not stick, except in the minds of many German Jews many of whom even converted to be better Germans. When the racialist theories of the Nazis became implemented Judaism wasn’t viewed as a religion with adherents, it was a biological fact. They were classified as a separate race (species really) and past conversion and even distant relationships were tracked down. So as I said even if Jews purely wished to look upon themselves as just a religion they can’t because others will not.

    Of course I think that even Jews themselves saw a kind of appeal in the idea of Judaism as an ethnicity, as that concept created bonds across the various cultures that practiced Judaism.Without the ethnic view of Judaism I don’t think you would have a state of Israel. After all Catholics don’t need a homeland they have many. Likewise Judaism as a just a religion arguably wouldn’t need a homeland either, a homeland for whom? German Jews, Russian Jews, English Jews, Egyptian Jews? Do the Quakers need a homeland too? Mormons? But a an ethnic minority in a world of ethnic states? Without a state? Well if the Romanian, Bulgarians, Serbs, and Poles have homelands why not the Jews too?

    Granted this isn’t all that airtight and coherent, but I don’t think humans have ever been that logical and strict about these things.

    Frankly this is why I think the American model for a country is the best and most rational model. Devoid of either ethnic or religious requirements it places of constraints and creates no contradictions for its residents based on their religions and poor definitions of ethnicity. American is an identification and that rests easily on top of older more confusing ones. Unlike the previously mentioned Germans, we can actually say to all our residents Catholic, Irish, Jew, Hindu, Tibetan, Ukrainian, Mormon, secular demi-Jews from the upper east side… doesn’t matter we can all choose to be American or not its a free country.

    These are excellent observations, @valiuth! I wasn’t aware of the connection between regions and religions. And you are correct, too, about the racial theories of Judaism. The Jews saw themselves as German Jews, but Hitler and the Nazis wanted to be sure the Jews knew they were not authentic Germans. Good points.

    In the early 1990s, an atheist whose parents had come from Europe commented to me about a perceived questioning of his Jewish identity by Orthodox Jews: “It is very simple for me. If I was a boy in Europe when the Nazis took over, they would pull down my pants, look, and say I was a Jew.” There was a bit of cold fury in the remark, because it was so true.

    • #52
  23. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    In the early 1990s, an atheist whose parents had come from Europe commented to me about a perceived questioning of his Jewish identity by Orthodox Jews: “It is very simple for me. If I was a boy in Europe when the Nazis took over, they would pull down my pants, look, and say I was a Jew.” There was a bit of cold fury in the remark, because it was so true.

    But the Nazis aren’t America. In America, because Jews are treated so well, they are at risk of vanishing. When Jews are treated badly, they (like every other people) stick to each other and assimilate less. Ironically, the least anti-semitic country in the world can get of Jews by assimilating them. 

    • #53
  24. Manny Coolidge
    Manny
    @Manny

    Another excellent post Susan.  You really make me think.

    Now I’m not Jewish (except on my wife’s side, and she’s secular though not atheist) so I really don’t and can’t have an opinion to your questions.  But my experience with interacting with her family is that even the most progressive and secular Jews have an attachment to their Judaism, but not necessarily to Israel.  You ask this question:

    (2) Can a secular Jew (who doesn’t believe in G-d but in Progressivism) still be a Jew?

    I’ve actually debated some on this question.  It struck me as absurd that you could be Jewish if you did not believe in the G-d of the Old Testament, but the reaction I got, and these were observant Jews, that it doesn’t matter.  Jewishness is more an ethnicity than a adherence to some creed, even if you don’t believe anything in the religion to be true.  Now they quoted some text and Jewish theologian, which I don’t recall any longer, but when I did some superficial research, their claim seemed to be justified.  It’s still surprising to me but there it is.  Perhaps someone can clarify that for me.

    • #54
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Manny (View Comment):

    Another excellent post Susan. You really make me think.

    Now I’m not Jewish (except on my wife’s side, and she’s secular though not atheist) so I really don’t and can’t have an opinion to your questions. But my experience with interacting with her family is that even the most progressive and secular Jews have an attachment to their Judaism, but not necessarily to Israel. You ask this question:

    (2) Can a secular Jew (who doesn’t believe in G-d but in Progressivism) still be a Jew?

    I’ve actually debated some on this question. It struck me as absurd that you could be Jewish if you did not believe in the G-d of the Old Testament, but the reaction I got, and these were observant Jews, that it doesn’t matter. Jewishness is more an ethnicity than a adherence to some creed, even if you don’t believe anything in the religion to be true. Now they quoted some text and Jewish theologian, which I don’t recall any longer, but when I did some superficial research, their claim seemed to be justified. It’s still surprising to me but there it is. Perhaps someone can clarify that for me.

    Thanks, @manny! Those Jews are correct. If you are born to a Jewish mother, or have converted through the Orthodox rules, you are a Jew–whether you like it or not! Seriously, though, my point was that those people who don’t believe in G-d probably do not have the same commitment to the preservation of Judaism. They “wear the trappings” to some degree, but they do not help the Jewish community when they take on Progressive ideas. In fact, I think in some ways they betray Jews who are concerned about keeping Judaism alive. And I don’t expect all Jews to support Israel, although most religious Jews do. The Torah makes that clear.

    • #55
  26. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    they do not help the Jewish community when they take on Progressive ideas.

    I took some classes at a synagogue. One time for the heck of it I looked at some of their videos. The rabbi was telling the children about how the adults are screwing them over with climate change. I don’t get why they need to do that.

    • #56
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    they do not help the Jewish community when they take on Progressive ideas.

    I took some classes at a synagogue. One time for the heck of it I looked at some of their videos. The rabbi was telling the children about how the adults are screwing them over with climate change. I don’t get why they need to do that.

    This kind of story makes me crazy!! But it happens. Sigh. They need to do it because they are Progressives before they are Jews–rabbi or not.

    • #57
  28. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    RufusRJones (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    they do not help the Jewish community when they take on Progressive ideas.

    I took some classes at a synagogue. One time for the heck of it I looked at some of their videos. The rabbi was telling the children about how the adults are screwing them over with climate change. I don’t get why they need to do that.

    This kind of story makes me crazy!! But it happens. Sigh. They need to do it because they are Progressives before they are Jews–rabbi or not.

    The rabbi is a good guy and a great speaker. I was recommended to do this because he was so good. That was literally the first thing I clicked on and I just can’t look again. I’d love to convert except I can’t vote Democrat. lol

    • #58
  29. Manny Coolidge
    Manny
    @Manny

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    Another excellent post Susan. You really make me think.

    Now I’m not Jewish (except on my wife’s side, and she’s secular though not atheist) so I really don’t and can’t have an opinion to your questions. But my experience with interacting with her family is that even the most progressive and secular Jews have an attachment to their Judaism, but not necessarily to Israel. You ask this question:

    (2) Can a secular Jew (who doesn’t believe in G-d but in Progressivism) still be a Jew?

    I’ve actually debated some on this question. It struck me as absurd that you could be Jewish if you did not believe in the G-d of the Old Testament, but the reaction I got, and these were observant Jews, that it doesn’t matter. Jewishness is more an ethnicity than a adherence to some creed, even if you don’t believe anything in the religion to be true. Now they quoted some text and Jewish theologian, which I don’t recall any longer, but when I did some superficial research, their claim seemed to be justified. It’s still surprising to me but there it is. Perhaps someone can clarify that for me.

    Thanks, @manny! Those Jews are correct. If you are born to a Jewish mother, or have converted through the Orthodox rules, you are a Jew–whether you like it or not! Seriously, though, my point was that those people who don’t believe in G-d probably do not have the same commitment to the preservation of Judaism. They “wear the trappings” to some degree, but they do not help the Jewish community when they take on Progressive ideas. In fact, I think in some ways they betray Jews who are concerned about keeping Judaism alive. And I don’t expect all Jews to support Israel, although most religious Jews do. The Torah makes that clear.

    I just looked it up.  It was Maimonides himself that they quoted.  Since it appears to be common knowledge, I won’t cite anything, but it’s still surprising.

    • #59
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