Godless Jews – The Original Atheists With Attitude (Part I)

I am starting a series of articles for Jbooks.com on the subject of Jewish Atheism. Each article will profile a great figure in the tradition of Jewish atheism. Below is an excerpt from the first essay exploring the godless thoughts of Ernestine Rose. Hope you like it.

Godless Jews – The Original Atheists With Attitude (Part I)
By Roi Ben-Yehuda

Before the intellectual trinity of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins set the theological world ablaze with their atheistic best-selling books, there was the unique phenomenon of the Godless Jew.

For almost two centuries Jews have contributed a disproportionate creative role to the discourse of doubt, skepticism, and atheism. Jewish intellectuals, the likes of Emma Goldman, Ernestine Rose, Sigmund Freud, Woody Allen, and Ayn Rand have all brought to bear their considerable talents on the question of God’s non-existence.

It should come as no surprise that the same people that gave the world monotheism also played a significant role in its negation.At the heart of Judaism there is a profound respect for questioning, dissent, and doubt—a tradition of theological chutzpah.

Moreover, the experience of Jews as outsiders, with its consequence of “otherness,” has created a culture that is tragically familiar with the absurd and unjust.

To read the rest, please click here.

6 responses to “Godless Jews – The Original Atheists With Attitude (Part I)

  1. katia santibanez

    Great article.
    Looking forward to read more articles about Jewish atheists and their great minds.
    Ernestine Rose is still nowadays very inspiring.

  2. Excelent article! I’m an Argentinean Jew, my family has been atheist Jews for 4 generations now (well, I consider myself ‘agnostic’, but the rest of the family is ‘atheist’ so it doesn’t matter).

    Just one thing: Spinoza was not quite an atheist, he was more like a pantheist. Hi was consider heretic, but not an atheist: his blibical criticism were the pillars where Reform appeared in the XIX century.

    Ah, other thing: in the Talmud there is the story of an Atheist Rabbi: Elisha Ben Avuia; he was widely known as atheist, but was still considered a Rabbi (teacher). Amazing!

  3. El Sheik, thank you for your kind words. You are right about Spinoza and Elisha – the latter was indeed a bad ass back in the day. Stay tuned for the second part in that series in which i explore Marx and Freud.

  4. I’m totally waiting for the second part!

  5. I loved your article. I am Jewish, but God has always been a man made concept to me. I can barely listen when people talk to me about the works of god, or praying to god. I happen to live in a very catholic state (New Mexico) so this happens a lot. I am looking forward to reading more about Jewish atheists. By the way, how are you able to live in Spain? I badly want to move back to Italy but with my American passport it seems like an impossibility. Would an Israeli passport help?

  6. Personally I think you’re just trying to be inflammatory.

    It is oxymoronic to talk of “godless jews.” It’s like saying “cheeseless cheddar cheese.”


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