This entry was written by whyevolutionistrue
posted on September 26, 2011
I consider myself a secular Jew: I don’t believe in any of the tenets or holy books of Judaism, nor in any divine being, but I still identify with Jews, hang around the Lower East Side when I’m in New York, am proud when a Jew has a big achievement like the Nobel Prize, and use a fair amount of Yiddish in my speech. Steve Pinker, I believe, is about the same, and we’ve had discussions about things like where to find the best “smoked meat” (the Canadian equivalent of pastrami) in the delis of Montreal.
I still believe that Judaism is the only faith that also comes with a purely secular version. I’ve never heard of a cultural Catholic (is that someone who eats fish on Fridays out of solidarity with believers?) or a cultural Muslim (nonbelievers who fast for a month during Ramadan?). Now I’m sure that my readers will be able to point to a few counterexamples, but, as Jason Rosenhouse points out in his latest post on EvolutionBlog (drawn from a piece on PuffHo), estimates of the incidence of atheism and agnosticism among American Jews are as high as 50%. That means the percentage of cultural Jews must be far higher than the cultural versions of any other faith. If you’re a reader who considers yourself a secular version of a non-Jewish faith, do weigh in.
I haven’t analyzed, although I always meant to, why it’s important for me to be a cultural Jew, though Jason has been more introspective. It’s not about associating with a community of like-minded people, for I never go to synagogue, and haven’t since I was 12. Perhaps it’s about solidarity with a group that has tremendous respect for learning and debate and, despite centuries of persecution, is still around, having produced way more than its share of academics, comedians, songwriters, and Nobel Laureates. (We are, however, severely deficient in the sports department, but I don’t see that as a liability.)
One thing I do know, though: it’s not about the food.
Smoked meat, Schwartz on St-Laurent Blvd.
Like I'm a cultural Québecois Catholique?
Yes. I agree. There are "cultural Catholics" too. Coyne thinks there aren't, because he has no exposure to those. But i know many. They don't really believe in god, they don't go to mass, they live totally secular but they will celebrate Christmas, even get married in a church, and if when they die, they may agree to a Catholic burial just to follow the family tradition. I'm sure the equivalent "secular Muslim" exists. I actually know a couple of RL examples, French friends of my husband of Muslim origin that will celebrate the Id al-Fitr, and circumcise their male progeny, but they do not believe in god, happily munch on a ham sandwich, etc.
They don't really believe in god, they don't go to mass, they live totally secular but they will celebrate Christmas, even get married in a church, and if when they die, they may agree to a Catholic burial just to follow the family tradition.
That describes a good proportion of Quebecois.
People here are a bit more touchy when it comes to their language, more so than about their religion. Our common cultural reference shifted from being tightly woven around the French Catholic church - they had this deal with Britain, they would keep us quiet if they were allowed to do schools and hospitals which in turn would keep us under their total power- to the French language.
So most Québecois speak French, but I don't think it is the case with Hebrew - or Yiddish for that matter. No?
No, not the case with Hebrew or Yiddish. Secular Jews, as a rule, speak neither (unless of course they are Israeli); Maybe Coyne learned to read Hebrew for his bar mitzvah but hat's about it, probably.
And yes, in heavily Catholic countries or provinces or regions you find a lot of "cultural Catholics".
But why does he say it's not about the food? Jewish kosher-style deli food is fantastic. I do not eat it anymore because they are not many vegetarian options.
Fairmount Bagels, on Fairmount street.
NY is the bagel capital of the world :-) I love bagels; I'll have to try the bagels from that store in Montreal, next time I'm in town.
NY is the bagel capital of the world :-)
How careless. Especially coming from a New Yorker. Any self-respecting Montréalais will consider this a formal declaration of war. (Who dips his or her bagel in the other's blood wins.)
As a Cultural Atheist, I'm shunned everywhere. Christmas? Hanukkah? New Years? Thanksgiving? Ramadan? Boxing Day? St. Patrick's day, and etc...
Maybe the solstices and equinoxes will work for me.