January 9, 2007

What Attracts Atheist Jews To Israel

I have been arguing/debating/lecturing a few people on the Raving Atheist forums lately on the fact that a very high percentage of Jews in Israel are Atheist or Agnostic, that the majority of Jews in Israel never attend synagogue on Saturday mornings, and that the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl was in fact an Atheist Jew.

This is something that many Israeli bashers really don't like. They like to blame the Israeli conflict on religion. Sure, the land of Israel was picked because it was the birthplace of the religion, but the reasons for Jews to go live there are very mixed.

I just want to make something clear. I am happy to live in Canada at this moment and have no desire to live in Israel, so I can only speculate (a very good educational guess) as to exactly why an Atheist or Agnostic Jew would want to live in the land promised by the Invisible Sky Fairy.

1. To escape anti-semitism. This was Herzl's main goal. Unfortunately, his dream didn't happen before Hitler proved his point. Anti-semitism can get out of hand anywhere in the world at any time. Recently, many Jews left France for Israel to further justify this point in today's "modern" world. Nobody mentioned if these French Jews believed in God or to what degree. In other words, I wouldn't be surprised if many non believers were amongst those who migrated to Israel. Anti-semitism is a hatred of ethnic Jews more than it is of religious Jews. If I was in France and saw what was going on there first hand, I might have jumped ship too.
This idea of escaping anti-semitism can be equated today as assuring oneself that he or she will be treated as an equal.

2. To be with family. Lets face it, most Atheist Jews have religious Jewish relatives. If economically viable, for example, a family business, I can see why a Jew may leave for Israel. Also, one person, a husband or wife may become very religious in his or her life and ultimately decide to live out the rest of their life in Israel, taking the family with them. There is no assurance that some or most of the family share equal beliefs.

3. Atheist Jews born in Israel. Contrary to the garbage fed by Liberal Israeli haters and the Arab media, over 65% of Jews alive today in Israel were born in Israel. Israel is a modern country with a modern education system. And education creates Atheists. Scientific facts, geology, and archaeology all make a literal bible nothing more than a Dr. Seuss novel. From there, the more questions one asks (and Jews are taught to ask questions), the higher the probality that one who honestly looks at the answers, will turn into an Agnostic if not Atheist in many instances.

The above reasons leads to another main reason for an Atheist Jew to go to Israel:

4. Politics.

Where on this planet can an open Atheist get elected and become a trusted politician, with a high post?

Not many places, and definitely not the USA (Atheists are the least trusted minority in the USA), and probably even Canada today.

Now where can an open Atheist Jew get elected and become a trusted politician, with a high post? A religious Jew has a shot, just don't admit to Atheism. In other words lie about yourself.
Hey, wait a sec, isn't being a good liar a prerequisite to making it big as a Politician in the US?

The only place an open Atheist Jew can get to the top or near the top politically is most likely Israel. Maybe, Denmark, Sweden, and even the UK (guaranteed assassination in the UK), too. But you'd have to be slightly to aggressively anti-Zionist in those three countries to make it.

Separation of church and state doesn't matter much when it comes getting votes in a country where the majority believes in God. Politics shouldn't be like that, but even today, this is the way it is in the USA and Canada to a lesser extent.

To conclude, if I want my political ideas to be considered on an equal playing field (where religion does not matter), I can only have this Utopian equality in Israel.

Some Atheists have defied the odds in the world. Surprisingly Wikipedia lists 3 from India. Many were communist, but only one was brutal (Stalin, the poster boy for political Atheists in the Theist world). Former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski, is an Atheist, but his voters thought he was just an indifferent Agnostic. Agnostics can get away with so much more socially than Atheists because they can still be saved (to the Theist). Agnostics are just one crisis away from being devoutly religious (to the Theist).

The Wikipedia list is most likely missing quite a few Atheist politicians. Especially those in Israel.

Remember this exchange with George Bush Sr.:

Sherman (interviewer from American Atheists): What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

Right now, an equal political chance doesn't matter to me and I don't feel threatened as an ethnic Jew, so it is still Oh Canada for me.


  1. I wonder if Bush is really that religious or just a cunning politician who knows how to tap into the public's mood. If he is as religious as he states, then his stupidity is only compounded by it. I know there is a lot of discussion about whether America is really a nation that separates Church and State in practice, but then, I'm comparing the U.S. to the Holy Roman Empire, where the Church and State operated hand in glove. As long as politicians have religious beliefs, you cannot avoid religious values permeating policy decisions. That doesn't imply that Church and State are entwined.

  2. Fascinating read, BEAJ.
    As an agnostic Jew, and an American oleh, I'll take a stab at this, too...

    We want a place where the culture is Jewish. Where the cycle of holidays is familiar to us. Where we can rest on Shabbat (most Israeli Jews oppose complete revocation of the Shabbat Laws).

    We don't like the faint feeling of cognitive dissonace we get when we love Israel and America. We don't like the faint feeling of being an "outsider" that America tends to foist on those who want to do something different.

    We want our Jewishness to blend in, naturally.

    Or, maybe, we just want better weather.

    One last point: While 65% of modern Israelis were born here, I'd be willing to bet that 80%, or more, of them have at least one parent, or two grandparents, who were olim. Israel is a country of immigrants in a way that the US (and Canada) haven't been for many decades.

  3. You might be interested to know that Eyal, whose comments you've seen on my blog, is an atheist from Israel, now living in the US. I believe he's now a US citizen.

  4. hammer:
    "I like Israel, I just wish they would stop pussy footing around with those who want their total destruction."

    Me, too.

  5. Atheist Jews born in Israel.

    I have a friend who was born in Israel who lives near Tel Aviv who I have been corresponding with for more than ten years now. She is an atheist but still celebrates traditional Jewish holidays similar to how many atheists celebrate the secular aspects of xmas and Thanksgiving.

    Since some of her relatives have come to live here and become U.S. citizens to get away from the violence and constant threat in their homeland, I asked her why she stays there with her family of four children in the shadow of constant threats and she says simply "because it is our home."

    I asked the same question of a friend I write to in South Africa after she told me her home must be protected with barbed wire and bars on her windows. She said she stayed there because it's her homeland and the only one she has ever known.

    While some people will scoff at this question, what if the Native Americans found the means to try to threaten by force to take their land back and tell us we needed to move someplace else? (Well, our ancestors already put them in "their place" now, didn't they?)

    The point is, Israel is there now and the land they occupy is tiny in size. It's the only home most of its current citizens have ever known.

    More focus should be put on the crazy-ass theocracies that surround them who believe it is their allah-given duty to take over the world and make this one universal islamic world-government for Allah. WTF do we do about them? Lawd knows we can't reason with a fundamentalist of any kind. Fundie muslim committment to their Allah is much stronger and more literally dangerous than that of any xian fundie.

  6. Hey BEAJ- I know you aren't thinking about making aliya- but you might enjoy being in Tel Aviv- its a very vibrant city!

  7. Don't forget the two other reasons, BEAJ:

    5. The falafel.

    6. All that hot Palestinian ass.

  8. as you well know, beaj: being Jewish is more than just believing in the religious angles.
    The historical and cultural ties are so important that I've never met a Jew, even those who've converted to other religions, who didn't still "feel" Jewish in some way.
    I remember reading an interview with the Cardinal who'd converted to Catholicism from Judaism who said that he still often saw and/or considered things from a Jewish perspective.
    We are what we are and I, for one, would never trade that for a second even though I'm pretty much as secular as most non-believers.

  9. Southfield, that reminds me of something I read in Dawkin's 'God Delusion'. Something along the lines of in Northern Ireland, if you tell someone you are an atheist, they will respond with "Yes, but are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"

    For those of us who were theists before becoming atheists, our outlook is still shaped in some way by our past religion and cultural beliefs.

  10. Israel is obviously positioned upon land which is religiously and culturally relevant to jews. No big surprise. People have emotional attachments to the area of their origin.

    The unfortunate thing is, from my position as an atheist, that the choice for the position of Israel feeds into the religious lunacy concerning prophecy which huge numbers of american citizens, and at least a few australians consider to be a biblical sign of armageddon.

    No doubt you are familar with these prophecies. The jews must inhabit the land of Israel for the prophecy to be able to come to fruition.

    So, one wonders whether the staunch political support that the majority of americans have for Israel is based on compassion because of antisemitism, or because they are seeking wish fulfillment for their biblical prophecy.

    The Israel/Palestinian/American situation IS a heady mix of religious politics for this reason.

    Jews may not pay the christian prophecy much attention, and neither do I, (except that they scare me because I think some of them would do anything to make the prophecy come true), but I would hazzard at a guess, that the majority of Israel's staunchest allies do.

  11. Beep, there are many evangelical Christians who support Israel for prophecy purposes,and yes it is scary if any war in the middle east that the USA is involved with has the leaders even thinking that way. This is why I don't think anyone who thinks Jesus will return within the next 30 years should be able to get elected.

    Regardless of that type of support, the reasons I offer for Israel's right of existence and right to defend herself has nothing to do with religion. So the fact that some people support Israel because of moronic reasons doesn't mean I am wrong.

  12. Pusgut blog host says: I like using the word "assmonkey." I want this blog to be the number one match when it comes to anyone searching the term on Google.

    An assmonkey is someone who refuses to try to understand a concept or idea without fully understanding it, and takes actions based on their misunderstand or wilful ignorance of the facts. Action can include preaching and writing, as well as suicide bombings or demonstrations. An assmonkey can also be someone who supports assmonkeys. Yes, one can be an assmonkey by association.

    WELL GUESS WHAT? If you look up assmonkey in the dictionary, there is your photo.

  13. Rickey, it is great to see you forming whole paragraphs. Commend your ESL teacher for me.

  14. Rickey is all over. At the rate of his intellectual development, he may be able to pass to middle school in a couple of years. However, he'll never get a passing grade in "deportment." His concepts and arguements are infantile, and it looks like he is seriously regressing.

    It looks like the Wikipedia list is missing some really big name atheist politicians -- for starters, Mao, Fidel, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Min, Hu, Jiang Zemin, Deng Xiaoping,Boris Yeltsin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Putin, Brezhnev, Khrushchev, Lenin, Malenkov, Andropov, Erich Honecker, Walter Ulbricht, Nicolae Ceauşescu, and the list could go on and on. This is just a quick sampling.

    Strange that a list of atheist leaders doesn't include all the past and present Communist leaders, who are atheists by doctrine as well as belief.

  15. I don't know that most on your list are Atheist. Some believed in supernatural entities, some believed they were Gods.
    Those who wish to separate church and state or just want a secular country aren't necessarily Atheist.
    And Communism is not the Atheist doctrine if you meant that.
    Wikipedia is probably missing lots of Israeli politicians.

    When people associate evil regimes with Atheism they are missing a lot of the evil religious regimes that have been prevalent throughout history.

    One more thing, Atheists are probably the most under represented minority in Western jails.

  16. I am an atheist from Israel and I see no problem with it. As some noted before, I live here because it is my country and my friends and family lives here. Furthermore, it is not a religious country (in most aspects) and I have many atheist and agnostic friends.
    I believe that it is crucial to promote atheism, especially in Israel where we see crazy religious people from both sides hampering the hope for peace.
    We must understand that religion is a big danger that we, as intellectual atheists, cannot be indifferent about.

  17. The only place an open Atheist Jew can get to the top or near the top politically is most likely Israel. Maybe, Denmark, Sweden, and even the UK (guaranteed assassination in the UK), too.

    What about Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister from 1874–1880?

  18. I would really want to hear your opinion about the origins of Anti-Semitism. This has bothered me for a long time. maybe, as in science, if you can track down how it came to be real, you may also stop it.

  19. Anti-semitism unfortunately is fueled by humans who are naturally pack animals. I believe we are all prejudiced to at least some degree, and when things go bad, just like many look to God, they also look to scape goats, and Jews throughout history were forced to be the other part of society, as they did not accept Jesus and were just different than the majority.
    They were forced to be entrepreneurs, and that turned into financial success in many instances. They made easy scapegoats as new governments looked to acquire their successful businesses and above average living conditions for free.

  20. Interesting read. Thank you.

    I have a quick question, though. Why did they pick Israel as the place as their country, and not somewhere else where they would hopefully meet with much less opposition? I do know that it was the birthplace of Judaism, but the Zionist movement was mostly secular and there's no reason for them to choose the place with religious significance. Not saying that other places wouldn't meet with so much opposition, but Israel seems like a terrible place because Islam seems to be against Jews.

  21. Back in the late 1800's most Jews were religious, and Judaism originated in the region. The Palestinian region satisfied both secular and religious Jews.

  22. There's no such thing as an atheist, whether Jew or Gentile.

  23. Jews are largely indigenous to the land of Israel, they are called Jews in relation to the region Judea as ethnic Arabs are called in relation to the region Arabia) Why would an atheist Jew want to live in Israel? Why would an Ohlone American Indian want to live in San Francisco? It's a stupid question that doesnt merit an answer but here is one anyway: They like the culture and society better than whatever crappy western imperialist country they happen to be born in.

  24. Please check out My Jewish Atheism at http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2013/05/08/my-jewish-atheism/

  25. As a racially Jewish Atheist I enjoy being in places like Tel Aviv because I feel free from experiencing religious and racial prejudice. If the people who do the promotions for Israeli Tourism were to back off a notch on the religious sights and show a little of the secular traditions, maybe they would make more of a connection with an increasingly secular world.