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Blake Stacey

I was at a conference once, hobnobbing with some folks at the hotel bar, and the conversation turned to celebrating the Jewish holidays. "Wait," said a woman to the fellow who'd raised the topic. "I thought you were an atheist."

"Well, yeah," he said. "It's called multitasking."


The one thing that bothered me about "Galaxy Quest" was the fan character who, when told that it was all real, exclaimed "I knew it!". Fans don't think that way.

Cultural Catholicism has a certain appeal to me, but in the end, I have to reject it. I can't see a way to adequately separate the pretty bits from the centuries of oppression and terror.


I think the problem with your formulation of the atheist jew is that while people do consider themselves culturally Jewish, they are only really "atheists" and still "jews" because of their tradition of being other-ed by centuries of anti-semitism. Although yes, the history and family are nice.


While reading the part about the different Star Trek series, I hit upon something.

Original Star Trek = Judaism
TNG = Christianity
Voyager = Mormonism
Enterprise = the Gnostic Gospels

The original ST started it all, and created a fan base. Later advances and culture changes created a need for a more updated version so TNG was born. Then someone came up with an idea that they thought could take away some of the fanbase from the previous two and Voyager became a cult classic. Finally, someone wanted a different version and created Enterprise. Unfortunately, many ignore Enterprise because they don't consider it canon, so it's not included in the Trekkie Bable.

Okay, I'm kidding... sort of.

Steve Caldwell

Regarding Star Trek, there are two bits of fan fiction you may want to check out:

Visit to a Weird Planet

Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited

One story involves Kirk, Spock, and McCoy arriving on a Star Trek original series set due to a transporter mishap.

The other involves Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley arriving on the "real" USS Enterprise due to a transporter mishap that wisks them from the original series set to the actual ship.


Does that make DS9 Protestantism?

Dean Allemang

back in Boston, I was a member of a group called, "Goys for Jewish Holidays". We had no Jewish family tradition, but we loved many of the holidays, and had great fun observing them.

I am also a member of the Uhuru cult (we believe that the historical Uhuru actually got the chance to act on her obvious skills, and that the "answer the phone" version we see in the texts is sexist revisionism).


Pulp fiction and its true believers

Theological chatter about 'God' is mere scripticism -- just like Baker Street Irregulars parsing the holy canon of Sherlock Holmes. The BSI deny the existence of Conan Doyle, preferring to believe instead that Dr Watson is indeed the chronicler.

They gather together to iron out contradictions in the received Word. They write learned "theological" papers. Like Christ, Sherlock Holmes has taken on a life of his own outside the canon — witness a clever novel, ’The 7% Solution.’ But at least the Irregulars know that the object of their devotion is a fiction.

The almighty lords of dualism: Yahweh, Allah, Christ are moral equivalents of a comic book super-villain, The Joker. Lurid pulp about them enjoys fanatical cult followings.

I can have opinions about a fictitious character ’Sherlock Homes’ as presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in ’The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’. I can also have opinions about another fictitious character 'Christ' as presented by Paul’s genuine letters.

All I can know about these fictional characters is what I can read on canonical pages directly devoted to them. (No one will ever find a genuine autograph of Sherlock Holmes.)

Theology can add nothing - Theology is fifth-rate fan fiction.

the anti_supernaturalist


If you've seen documentaries like Trekkies, you'll know there are some people who show a rather frightening level of devotion to Star Trek - completely remodeling their houses so they look like sets from the show, for example. And this is for something that people know is pure fiction. By comparison, it's small wonder that so many people become so fiercely devoted to the cultural tenets of their religion, whether they believe it's literally true or not.


each religion has what is "literal" and "metaphor" specific to the individual believer, and for a religion to be a religion e.g. worship of the supernatural somethingorother, at least some ridiculous claim must be taken as literal. IMO, that's why any theist gets their panties in a bunch, they know they're lying.
oh, and I love jello salad. probably the only reason I miss going to church and church dinners

Mark Fournier

In something I wrote, there was a section on Trekkies. I think this explains the devotion:

A new myth may originate as a story, fictional or with a historical basis, or as a philosophy. Sometimes the myth may depict a utopia, although utopias have something of a bad reputation, usually because they are often advanced as political theories and given the backing of state power. Yet a utopian ideal, presented without the slightest political ambition, may have tremendous power. The most interesting recent example of this is Star Trek. In the early days, Trekkies were generally reviled even by the other contingents of science-fiction/fantasy fandom. The actors involved in the show thought they were nuts; William Shatner coined the phrase “Get a life!” in response to the tableaus of Vulcan-eared, Federation uniformed nerds he met at conventions. But something unexpected had happened. Star Trek presented a utopia in which humanity had not only survived well into the future, but had met their problems head on and triumphed. All races, creeds, and nations would live in peace, advances in technology and social understanding would eliminate need, and humanity would rise into the heavens themselves and ply the stars in mighty ships like gods. And within this gaggle of nerds were people inspired to pursue careers in science and technology to meet the challenges ahead, and others who were resolved to act as if that utopia already existed, and to live by its codes. As the people involved in the shows met these fans, they discovered that they were actually very nice people who had been genuinely inspired to try, in their own lives, to bring that utopia to fruition.
No one had to tell them to do this. This dream had sufficient power to awaken on its own.


Thanks for your mention of secular Catholicism. I hadn't known other people were doing that! As I was raised a Lutheran whose faith and knowledge was more important than ritual, I had difficulty understanding my partner's cultural Catholicism. For me, if God didn't exist, that was IT. I didn't understand why he would still feel an attachment to the tradition. It took a lot of talking out and understanding for us to finally settle on the label of "Atheist Catholic" for him, using the Atheist Jews as a model. We are both pleased to see that he is not alone in this practice.

My boyfriend is of Latin American descent, and though he was born and raised almost entirely in the US, the rituals of the Church are a comfort and reminder to him of his family's love. He is perfectly capable of going to Christmas Mass and badmouthing the Pope on the way home, all the while challenging his family on the Church's anti-gay and anti-woman policies. It has been a real eye-opener to me, and a great learning experience.

Just because we oppose irrationality and belief in things that aren't true, doesn't mean we want or need those cultures to disappear.

a fellow from Spain

Trekkies "know that "Star Trek" isn´t real, unless they are certifiably mentally ill." Are you sure about that. I think most trekkies have a pretty foggy notion of reality (joke, of course).

There are no jews among my acquaintaces, the jewish community is virtually non-existent where I live (northwestern Spain), but I have read a few things about secular judaism and find it fascinating. I am an ex-catholic atheist and some of my friends share my (lack of) beliefs. We usually go to christenings, weddings, funerals and the like, but for us this is just a social duty. It doesn´t have the deep meaning some jewish atheists apparently attach to their religious rituals.
Your idea of a future when all religion is like that of secular jews is attractive, but I don´t think it would work. The problem is this: if you are atheist/agnostic, in order to get comforting feelings from religious rites, you need to share them with genuine believers. Imagina a future when all jews were non-believers. Would religious rites still provide the "warm" feelings they want to get from them? Would the sense of "belonging" still be there? I doubt it. Most of them would probably feel they take part in something empty. To establish some kind of "bond" with a community of believers, you need a community of real believers.
But it is a lovely dream, anyway.

John McPherson

You can't be a "secular Jew" in the sense that you don't believe in God or that the Torah is divinely inspired yet you are a Jew. You may call yourself a Jew, but by definition, you are not a Jew. Jews are not a racial group. It's a religion. You simply become a semitic atheist. All the rest is eye wash.

As for perceptions, the Nazi result is extreme. But Jews who had, generations before, completely left the community were not regarded as Jews if their grandparentage was mixed. It is true that whether or not they were practicing Jews, they were considered Jews (but that has more to do with bogus Nazi racial theory than perception elsewhere).

The reason the Jews were consistently persecuted over the centuries was their failure to assimilate. Fail to assimilate and you will be marginalized and persecuted. It's a universal truth, in every society in human history. The great, ongoing, American experiment is to see if that trend can be changed.

Greta Christina

John: If you are unaware of the fact that secular Jews were put into concentration camps just as much as religious Jews, you need to study your history more.

But more to the point: If you are going to blame thousands of years of anti-Semitic persecution on the Jews' own failure to assimilate, then you have branded yourself, not only as a reactionary, but a repulsive bigot.

I am now no longer going to respond to anything you say. Please do not comment in my blog again.

John A.

Right. Comparing believes to Trekkies. That is okay. We forgive you. Unlike you, we will not say crap and call you names because we are hurt by some comment. We forgive you, and urge you to follow in the same example to make the world more peaceful. Clearly, adding gasoline never put the fire out. I guess some people just forget that all the time. I think they need to go back to grade 5 or something. Sorry if you find this offensive, I was not namecalling, only pointing out the failing SECULAR education system.

John A.

John MacPhearson you're giving everybody a bad name. You're probably not even a believer. Whatever fool takes this as example of believers, will obviously hate other believers. Perhaps this is the reason why many atheists think believers are stupid. Well I guess a select few are, but then it is also stupid of you (not all, just the ones who judge) to base this image for all other believers. Fools I tell you. To all others, if you are not fools, I respect your atheistic point of view all the same, so no need to start yelling if you are not one of these fools I speak of.

Leonard Grossman

Saying religion is "just" a metaphor trivializes the power of language. And it is not that religion is a metaphor but that many of the stories, legend, and tales which religions incorporate may be considered metaphors. But if there are metaphors they must stand for something. Otherwise, what is a metaphor for?

eric stone

I have to disagree with you on this point. I'm opposed to sectarianism in any form because I think it is a major source of hatred and war. I think calling oneself a Jewish atheist is a form of sectarianism that sets one apart from the rest of the movement and weakens it.


Just as calling oneself a Protestant is a form of sectarianism that sets one apart from the One True Church and weakens it?

Pan Demonium

I am leaving this comment looong after this blog was posted, but I just came upon it and agree with your basic premise...

In fact, the desire for religious experience without the need for faith is one of the main reasons I became a SubGenius minister. This wacky cult of weirdness satisfies something in me I can't quite explain, but I think you might just get it...

The Church website:


Go to any Romance language country and you will find cultural Catholics. Likewise, most northern Europeans are cultural Protestants. I can readily tell the two apart, because of turns of phrase, little likes and dislikes, on right and wrong, and so on. It is possible that 100 years from now, there will be little difference between the cultural Catholics and Protestants. Belief in God is not an issue. Most of these "cultural" Christians are polite agnostics, or simply don't want to think very much about the immanent. A big giveaway is conversion: cultural Catholics are privately disappointed when one their own becomes Protestant, and vice versa.

I believe that North American Judaism is very attached to circumcision precisely because it is seen as the last defense of Judaism against secularism and assimilation. I definitely agree that the Jews are more of a tribe than a faith. Following the Law is more important than any doctrinal "faith". Judaism is surprisingly tolerant of theological disagreements. "Jewish atheist" is NOT an oxymoron. You are seen as a fellow Jew if you were born of a Jewish mother, and you desire to circumcise your sons. That way your sons cannot deny their origins. Judaism is patriarchal in that a woman's denying her Jewish ancestry is not seen as a threat. And the children born of a Jewish mother are accepted as Jews, no matter what the Jewish mother believes and no matter what kind of household she runs.

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