Dear Rabbi Singer,
I am a somewhat fanatical atheist from a primarily Jewish family (3 of 4 grandparents). My values regarding family and community, as well as my own cultural self identification, are very much aligned with Judaism. I attended some Hebrew school under duress, but eventually got my way and opted out. I often argue that being an American Jew is an identity that extends and can exist separately from religion and faith, but I know that this position is often in the minority.
When discussing religious identity with dates (especially early on) I feel conflicted about saying I am Jewish, as I know that what this means to me is not a generally accepted definition, and feel that this would be misleading. At the same time, the first few dates are probably not the best time to attempt a nuanced conversation about atheism or the evil inherent to religious faith.
What would you recommend as the most tactful and honest approach to this subject during the first few dates?
Dear Honestly Faithless,
The most honest approach is, as always, the whole truth and nothing, but the truth. If your maternal grandmother was Jewish, according to all religious opinions you are technically Jewish (like it or not), so you can tell your date just that. You can also tell her that while you are biologically Jewish, you are intellectually and practically non religious. That is the truth, right?
Then, it’s up to your date to decide whether she wants to get to know you better or not. All you can do is be yourself. You’ll find the right woman who will accept you for who you are.
Best of luck to you!
defneitaley more than just not religous, crazy more like it. there is no such thing as a jewish-born atheist.. more like a jews that thinks he is atheist
He may as well say he isn’t Jewish.
There is no such thing as an atheist. No one on earth can prove that G-D does not exist, so the non believer must call himself an agnostic but certainly not an atheist.
First of all, there is a precedent for this, it’s called Humanistic Judaism – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanistic_Judaism
Secondly, discussing religious views is a bit of a minefield when you’re first getting to know someone. Unless you’re screening for marriage or something, I would avoid the topic entirely, or just say, like the Rabbi mentioned, that you’re non-religious, or even better, a secular (which means non-religious) Jew.
Regarding atheism specifically, and in response to Monty, atheism isn’t the position that gods don’t exist, rather, it is a response to theistic claims that they do, as unsupported by evidence. Simply put, atheism is the lack of belief in a god or gods.
To lack belief in a god, one does not need to disprove the existence of one, any more than one needs to disprove the existence of garden faeries or unicorns to disbelieve the existence of them. With regard to claims of existence, the burden of proof is always on the one making the positive claim.
Agnosticism refers to a claim to knowledge. The vast majority of theists are agnostic theists, in that they don’t claim to KNOW that a god exists; rather, they believe that one does, and go through life under that assumption, but are open to another possibility.