Monday, 24 June 2013

Atheism from Islamic and Jewish backgrounds

Atheist group targets Muslims, Jews with ‘myth’ billboards in Arabic and Hebrew

With discussion taking place on a number of websites about One Law for All, Islamophobia, and related religious questions, I was intrigued by the pair of posters issued by the  American Atheists ( back in March 2012.

Links to two articles about athiesm, one from an Islamic background and the other from a Jewish perspective are reproduced below:

The Golden Era of Arab Atheism?

It is unlikely that Western media will take note, but there seems to be a rejuvenation of Arab atheism. Western media never take note of Arab intellectual trends, especially if they deviate from the classical conventional assumptions about the Theologocentric (as Maxime Rodinson called it in his La Fascination de l’Islam) impulses of all Arabs and all Muslims.
Secular trends in the Arab world have been long ignored in Western media and even scholarship. Furthermore, Saudi and Qatari media, which dominate the bulk of pan-Arab media, will certainly suppress such news, but there is a new phenomenon. Arab atheist groups are spreading on the Internet and Facebook groups dedicated to Arab atheists are increasing in popularity. And the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd even took note and published an article about “the secret world” of atheists. There are reasons for this phenomenon.
Jewish Athiest
Who the hell am I, and why would I have the chutzpah and azus (brazenness) to make this blog?
I’m probably not too different from you. Except that I’m an atheist.
I was raised Jewish (Orthodox), studied in yeshiva in Israel for a few years, and got really into Judaism. It wasn’t overnight. I needed convincing and some answers, but it seemed that I had gotten them, and soon I took the plunge.
Looking back, I guess I was “fundamentalist” - though back then I might have preferred a term like “ultra orthodox” or “yeshivish”. I even did kiruv (outreach) and anti-missionary work in my zeal. Sure, I was perhaps a bit eccentric, but I was more or less an average yeshiva bochur (student), and I was appreciated as being “the guy who has the answers to lots of secular questions.” Or so we all liked to believe.
I suppose my exposure to tough questions doing kiruv was a first step in opening my mind to some questions. I soon discovered that despite what most of my rabbis said, evolution actually did make a whole lot of sense. I soon discovered that Judaism is often not all that different from Christianity and many other religions. I realized that, looking objectively, there is some pretty crazy stuff in the torah and judaism. It might’ve bothered me at the time, but never shook my faith; in fact, reconciling it probably bolstered my faith - at least for the time being.
But questions remained. Slowly I took certain parts of it less seriously and gradually became much less observant - but still quite unsure of how I felt about Judaism on the whole, though god was still in the picture, if only in the background.
I thought to myself, “damn, I’m probably just a few good atheist books away from really giving up on this.” And so I avoided those books! Or at least, put them on the shelf, so to speak.
In the past few months I moved away from the Jewish neighborhood I’ve been living in for awhile. It’s been a good opportunity to finally start thinking about my beliefs and of what makes sense to me. So I finally reached for those forbidden books (actually, mostly youtube videos at first!).
And I’ve realized something.
Pretty much nothing about God or the foundations of Judaism really make a lot of sense.

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