Last week, I went to the grocery store to do my weekly shopping, but when I returned home I realized that I missed out on getting five boxes of free matzah. That makes me a super bad Jew. It means that I forgot that Passover was coming up and that I missed out on free stuff. Then again, I am an apostate to Judaism, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising”.
Now, I want to make a separation here. It isn’t because I am an atheist that I also consider myself to be an apostate to Judaism. The two are certainly connected, but not the same thing. I became an apostate to Judaism much, much later.
I have already written about how I became an atheist, but I have never really written about my decision to leave Judaism… at least not in those terms. For me, there were really three separate parts to my journey away from Judaism.
The first part of the journey is actually pretty obvious. I no longer believed in God. My journey to atheism was the first leg of my journey to becoming a Jewish apostate, but it certainly wasn’t the last. There are many atheists who also consider themselves to be Jewish in some sense and there is nothing wrong with that. It just isn’t where I am any more. I can’t even in good conscience call myself a secular Jew. I no longer want any connection to Judaism.
It wasn’t until after I became an atheist that I learned that much of the Jewish “history” as written in the Torah is bullshit. Passover has always been my favorite Jewish holiday when I was a believer because I loved to find the matzah as a kid. Now it is still my favorite Jewish holiday for a different reason. It is an opportunity to inform Jews and Christians about the fact that the Jewish Exodus from Egypt never happened! In fact, much of the “history” of the Jewish people that has been written in the Torah never actually happened either. It’s almost completely bullshit. That realization added a great deal of distance for me on my journey from identifying myself with Judaism even culturally.
The final break from Judaism for me occurred around my sister’s wedding. The night before the wedding there was a service that took place at her synagogue in which the Rabbi was going to give a special shout out to the couple. I was expected to go. During the service, we were all asked to stand at one point (which is pretty standard) and I did. The Rabbi started reading from his prayer book out loud (as Rabbis do). In his reading, he talked about how the Jews were the chosen people of God by blood. It was at this point that I decided to sit down. Apparently, everyone noticed.
This was the moment I finally broke from Judaism completely. It is the reason I consider myself to be an apostate to Judaism. I just could not stand (literally and figuratively) for a religion and a culture that considers themselves to be superior by blood. Ironically there was a guy in Germany who claimed the same thing and the similarities here are tragic.
Don’t get me wrong, there are obvious differences. Jews aren’t throwing “gentiles” in ovens, but the thought of being chosen by God is the same. The point of viewing others as not chosen is a big moral issue for me.
It’s harsh, but there it is. I know most Jews today in America don’t really go around consciously thinking that they are chosen through blood by God, but that is an important aspect in the religion and in the culture.
For me, I can no longer identify with the religion or the culture of Judaism. I consider myself to be an apostate. While I still have family and friends who identify with Judaism for religious and/or cultural reasons, I cannot. I am friends with many secular Jews and I think that’s fine that they want to retain the Jewish identity, traditions, and culture without a belief in a deity. I can’t.
If you are a Jew without God and want to find like-minded people, check out my spotlight article on the Society for Humanistic Judaism.