A People Apart? Judaism as Ethnicity or Religion and the Costs of Assimilation

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  1. Avatar Guy
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    Do I lose my status as a non-practicing Jew if I choose not to practice Judaism? The religion of Judaism holds no appeal for me, as is the case with every religion. The culture of Jewishness (particularly Brooklyn Jewishness) suffuses my personality and my speech. I use some Yiddish words in my day-to-day speech. Since I came to college, I’ve started to meet people who don’t know what I’m saying: they didn’t grow up with Jews everywhere, so the words are just nonsense. When I describe myself as “ethnically Jewish”, I am describing my ethnicity, not claiming pseudo-membership in a club I don’t want to pay dues to.

    In short: yes, you are being a bit strict in your analysis of your coworker’s attitude.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I’ve never practiced anything jewish but i still know it and feel it a part of myself. This has been enhanced over the last 12 year by my wifes family who do practice. This doesn’t add up to a lot, we put on tiny hats and they said a few prayers a few days ago while we together for a family vacation.

    What Americans have done along with all sorts of multi ethnic people is take the parts we like, or can’t leave behind, mixing it with what we choose for our lives. That seems like a completely healthy way to build the lives we want. It isn’t doing something just because it has been done. I’m not against doing something based on tradition, that is as fine a reason as any, as long as you are choosing that path. Just mindlessly repeating something without feeling or choice can be done faster and better by robots.Report

  3. Avatar James K
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    says:

    I can understand wanting to maintain a connection to your heritage, though in my case that’s mostly restricted to having a tie with my clan’s crest on it (having said that, I’m much more of an ethnic majority than you are).

    Out of curiosity, how would you feel about Jewish people who took the time off, but didn’t do anything religious with it? Because that’s basically how I celebrate Christmas. I don’t go to Church or anything, but I do meet up with family (either in Wellington or up in Auckland), have lunch together, exchange gifts etc.)

    It seems that this is a mid-way point for those of us who want to maintain some tie to tradition, but who no longer have the intellectual connection to some of it.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to James K
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      says:

      I’d actual feel that a Jewish person would be cheating but a nominal Christian would be not. The festivity part of Christmas has surpassed the religious part of Christmas since at least the Christmas Carol if not before. Even in the very religious times of European history, most people probably but more in store in the festival aspects. Since the festival aspects of Christmas overcame the religious aspects long ago, taking time off to have fun or be with family is in keeping of the spirit of the holiday as practiced. Taking time off of work for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur and using it to have fun is so contrary to the typical practice of the holidays that doing so seems like your abusing the system.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to James K
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      says:

      @james-k

      I agree with my brother. Christmas has just become a thing of its own and quite secular in many ways. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not the same especially because Yom Kippur is a day of atonement and you are supposed to fast. Christmas is also an official government holiday in most of the world. Lots of the world basically shuts down on December 25th.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        As opposed to shutting down for the Entire Month of September.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Shutdowns don’t have to be religious. Ever try to work with a Swedish technology company in August? For all practical purposes, the whole country is on vacation.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Michael,
        Spain too takes monthlong holidays.
        I’m more annoyed, truth be told, with folks not bothering to get their part of the work done by their vacation, and thus leaving everyone more than a month behind schedule.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @michael-cain

        Many European nations do take the entire month of August off and we might be healthier if we did the same. This does not change the fact that many to most people in Western Countries are not required to take off PTO to get Christmas Day off. Suppose I started my own law firm. I would be considered a bad boss if I stayed open on Christmas Day even if many of my employees were not Christian.

        There are exceptions of course.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I cannot imagine a more horrible time than August for a month-long vacation. October? Sign me up!Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Mike,
        I’d go anywhere but Pittsburgh in August. Couldn’t be worse than the air about this place.
        Maybe colorado, or oregon…Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I have lived in the Southeast for almost 40 years and have never completely enjoyed a summer below the Mason Dixon line. It’s just too hot and humid. Cape Cod last July? That was nice.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        @mike-dwyer

        Northern Europe is pretty temperate. They don’t have the hot and humid summers common in much of the United States or even the hot and dry ones common in large parts of the Southwest.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        August in Colorado is monsoon season. Which means that the mornings are glorious, and the afternoons can be pretty much anything, from a continuation of the morning to hail accumulations measured in inches. The water vapor satellite loops when the monsoon is flowing are cool to watch; about 2:00 in the afternoon, the thunderstorms “bloom” over the mountains and move east.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        August is the best month for San Francisco.Report

      • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Many European nations do take the entire month of August off and we might be healthier if we did the same.

        I’ve heard that, but I wonder how true it is. Some people must work in August, probably to serve those who don’t. “We” might be healthier, but there still are probably some who have to work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing–and I imagine those people might get a premium for working those days–but it reminds me of the “I have Thanksgiving off and so should everyone else, unless they work at a cinema” discussion a while back.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to James K
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      says:

      Maybe Easter might be a better day for comparison than Christmas as far as Christianity is concerned. Few adults receive any kind of Easter Vacation (though, of course as a Sunday, those working weekdays have it off), and it’s of greater religious importance to Christianity while at the same time has a much smaller secular component than Christmas.Report

  4. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    I’m basicially in the same boat as you Saul, although in my case, it’s christianity. That’s why I describe myself as “culturally christian”. I enjoy the time off for xmas and such, enjoy the cultural aspects of the religion. Hell, I’ve even managed to go to church once or twice, usually for non religious regions like my friend is giving the easter sermon. I’ve never seen the point of “celebrating diversity” either, for the same reason you identified.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    The use of the word yiddishkeit is too Ashhkenzai-centric. It confuses the Ashkenazi experience with the Jewish experience, something that is done way too often by Jews and non-Jews alike. Even if the vast majority of Jews are Ashkenazi, its in bad form to use the Ashkenazi experience is the definitive form of Jewishness. It wrongfully excludes non-Ashkenazi Jews.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      And that’s a bit of why calling it an ethnicity is problematic.
      It’s a bit like hispanic — an expression of an overarching culture, irrespective of racial boundaries.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Jewishness is an ethno-religious group. Its possible to be completely Jewish and not religious at all. Even the most assimilationist, anti-religious Jews who completely tried to leave their Jewishness behind found that others did not let them do so. Leon Trotsky and other Jewish communists targeted by Stalin are prime examples.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Lee,
        what sort of ethnicity has every single possible race in it? Isn’t that a bit odd.
        I’m not saying that the concept of Jewishness isn’t important, just that calling it ethnicity is wrong.Report

  6. Avatar j r
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    says:

    What is the point in being born Jewish if one does not do anything or identify as Jewish?

    Is there a point to being born?

    Perhaps that is too existential a question. A better way to express this might be to ask: is there any good reason why who you are born has to dictate who the person you become is? Obviously they are related, but your conception is awfully deterministic. You are imposing a particular meaning on an ethnic identity, but there are obviously many others. Do you wear a yarmulke and tzitzit? There is nothing that you are saying about your co-worker that a more observant Jew could not say about you.

    Also, I don’t get the focus on what your co-worker does. Does his choice to be less religious negatively impact your religious experience?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r
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      says:

      Does his choice to be less religious negatively impact your religious experience?

      I can’t speak for Jewish people on this as I am not Jewish, but I can give my impressions. My own impression has always been that, to some extent, yes, this fear is in play. Inasmuch as, as Saul expresses it, his concern is for the preservation of the Jewish cultural identity and this the people, which is not taken as a foregone conclusion, and inasmuch as the practice of Jewish religion is identified as a major means of the sustaining cultural and societal and ethnic Judaism through history. (Since by Saul’s own account, practice of the religion out of a sense of genuine divine obligation is not in his case a driving reason for his strong felt need to nevertheless practice).

      Then, yes, to me it’s clear how one could come to palace where one experiences others’ decisions in the cultural group not to practice the religion as a threat to the religious experience, and, indeed, the preservation of cultural identity itself.

      My belief is that this applies across religions, cultures, and societies, and indeed is a a major socil-evolutionary function of religion among humans in general. It’s just that where the religion/culture is more dominant, the sense of true threat from others’ non-practice proportionally decreases, so that disapproval of non-practice takes the form more of, or is experienced more as, general in-group/out-group signification or the like.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        come to a place whereReport

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @michael-cain

        I think you really hit the nail on the head here and I think you are right that it applies across many different cultures, religions, and societies especially among first-generation immigrants who have a love-hate idea with their children becoming Americanized or secularized.

        Of course the interesting thing is that this operates on a scale. I am Reform Jewish and stay clean-shaven and am probably more secular than not. There are plenty of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish people who think the spread and advancement of Reform Judaism damned the preservation and continuation of Jewish identity.

        It was discussed above but I do think the Jewish way of thinking about religion is different than Christianity. I am not a fan of the phrase Judeo-Christian because so much about how Christians interpret the Torah (their Old Testament) is different and in my view wrong. They lack Talmud and this causes all sorts of distortions. Also Judaism does not have the fire and brimstone hell that Christianity developed. Judaism has always seemed more comfortable with a “We don’t know” kind of viewpoint and ambiguity. But like my Orthodox counterpoints, I dislike the Seth Roganization of Judaism and Jewish culture. I think that it is fine to have figures like Seth Rogan be part of how Jewish people are seen but we shouldn’t just be seen as all being about jokes. The Guide for the Perplexed is more important than Knocked-Up or Sarah Silverman or Matzvah Ball Soup.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Michael Drew
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        says:

        @saul-degraw I think you wanted to address that comment to @michael-drew rather than me.Report

  7. Avatar Kim
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    says:

    Personal question: Do you eat pork? Shellfish?Report

  8. Avatar Mike Dwyer
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    says:

    I really enjoyed this post Saul. Especially this:

    “So why do I go and insist on taking time off work? The reason is am not a very religious Jew, I do love being Jewish. I love the Yiddishkeit (Jewishness). I love being part of nearly 6000 years of history. Nearly 6000 years of joy, and rage, debate, laughter, and much suffering. These are the stories of my ancestors.”

    Very similar to my own experience, though substitute ‘Catholic’ for ‘Jewish’. I consider myself culturally Catholic though basically non-practicing in the religious sense. I still observe Lent, still say go through the motions when I attend a Mass. It’s 100% about respect for my family and also there’s a real comfort I find in the rituals I grew up with. And I don’t hate the Church. I just have problems with the theology.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      I’m sure I’d feel the same, if I grew up Catholic.
      Judaism seems much less … about being dictated to,
      and has much more room for interpretation. At
      least that’s my impression.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kim
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        says:

        That’s a good observation Kim. I think Judaism has much more of a history of sects that pop up with different perspectives but still remain within the larger faith. The last time that was really tried in the Catholic Church we ended up with the Reformation.Report

    • Avatar gingergene in reply to Mike Dwyer
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      says:

      It’s funny to read people here saying they don’t understand how one could be “culturally but not religiously Christian”. I think perhaps these are the proverbial fish unable to describe the water they swim in. America as a whole is culturally, but not religiously Christian. And some of it is terribly subtle- how many restaurants have I been in that had fish specials on Friday? How many businesses are open 6 days a week, but not Sunday? Sunday Brunch? And of course the overt examples: holidays based on religious celebrations, witnessess vowing to tell the truth on a Bible, “In God We Trust” on our money, “One Nation, Under God” in our pledge.

      Saul, it sounds like you would like to be able to swim in Jewish waters, even if you don’t believe in the Great Fisherman in the Sky, and I can understand that.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to gingergene
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        says:

        @gingergene

        I would say Sunday Brunch is largely not seen as being Christian because it goes against blue laws. A Sunday Brunch with bottomless Mimosas or Bloody Marys is something that unchurched coastal elitists do. There was a conflict in Greenpoint Brooklyn between the Sunday Church goers (largely working-class immigrants) and the secular and wealthier hipsters who brunch.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to gingergene
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        says:

        Offhand, I can think of more businesses that have Monday as their one day closed than Sunday. Sunday does typically have the earliest closing time for the “open 7 days a week” businesses.Report

      • Avatar gingergene in reply to gingergene
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        says:

        Saul, I think Sunday Brunch in many places is now mostly about people too hung over to make it out before noon, and who might want to have a drink when they do. But where I live, there is a thriving brunch culture that doesn’t include alcohol- it is still very much a hang-out-after-church thing. My point is that this stuff evolved from Christian-church-based practices into something that is so ingrained in our culture we sometimes can’t even think that it once had anything to do with religion at all.

        Mo, maybe the Sunday closed thing is not everywhere any more, but in many parts of the country it is very real, and has its roots firmly in Christian tradition (or else it would be a Saturday thing). How many government offices with weekend hours have them on Sunday? I can go to DMV, to my county pool or the the city-run recycling center Monday – Saturday, but not one of them is open on Sunday.Report

  9. Avatar Mo
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    says:

    I would presume that Aaron uses PTO for other things. At my company (as well as my prior two employers) we get ~5 personal holidays (separate from vacation) that you can use for whatever. If you want to use it to celebrate Rosh Hashana, Dwali, Eid el Adha or Festivus, that’s you’re prerogative. If you want to use it as additional vacation days, that’s fine too. Since everyone gets them, it doesn’t disadvantage the non-religious for not taking holidays off. How is that not an adequate solution?Report

  10. Avatar Pinky
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    says:

    I’m probably the wrong guy to join this conversation. Traditions and culture mean nothing to me. I go with what I believe to be true. I can’t speak to the meaning of cultural Judaism, but as a Catholic, I don’t think it’s possible to be merely culturally Catholic.

    I guess I come at this question two ways. First of all, can a person consider himself a member of a religion without belief? I realize that I’m using the word “religion” in a more Western sense here (religion as belief system), but I think it applies to both Judaism and Christianity. Both are religions of belief rather than simply of practice. Definitely true of Christianity. As for Judaism, I think the first commandment functions as a creed.

    Secondly, what satisfaction is found in practicing a religion that you don’t believe in? I know, there’s a sense of identity, but the identity (to me) has value only insofar as it points to a meaning. The Jews didn’t wander around the desert for no good reason. The Passover isn’t remembered because it’s a tradition. Abraham’s children are not as numerous as the stars in the sky because of a series of coincidences – and if they are, what’s the point in commemorating it?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      Pinky,

      If you live in a place with a large Catholic population, you can spend much of the year engaged in Catholic-centric events without ever setting foot inside a church. My year involves Lenten fish fries, church picnics, sports events and various alumni events with my alma mater. So in that sense, yes, I do believe there is a Catholic culture separate from the faith.Report

    • Avatar j r in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      Both are religions of belief rather than simply of practice. Definitely true of Christianity. As for Judaism, I think the first commandment functions as a creed.

      I am not sure that this is an accurate characterization. My understanding of Judaism is that the primary means of honoring the covenant with god is through the practice of the religion and that Jews don’t spend the same amount of time contemplating faith in the same way that Christians do.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to j r
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        says:

        There are definitely differences between the Jewish and Christian approaches to belief. I think the Abrahamic faiths are significantly similar to each other, and different from other faith traditions, in their approaches to belief that there’s value in comparing them. So, for those sentences to make sense, I guess I have to define what I mean by approaches to belief. I mean that, for the Abrahamic faiths, there’s an interaction between ritual, belief, and covenant. You wouldn’t find a similar relationship in, say, Confucianism.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        I’m no theologian, but from what I do know you are conflating lots of things about the “Judeo-Christian” tradition that just are not there. For instance, this is from the Wikipedia page on the Jewish Principle of Faith:

        Although Jews and religious leaders in Judaism share a core of principles, and there are many fundamental principles quoted in the Talmud to define Judaism (often by what it is not), it has no established formulation of principles of faith that are or must be recognized by all observant Jews.

        One time only, faith in God is mentioned in the 24 books of the Jewish Bible. In verse 10 of the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43 (Yeshayahu 43:10), the commandment to know God is followed by the commandments to believe and to understand God, denoting descending importance. Hence, an explicit, paramount definition of faith does not exist in Judaism.

        Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to j r
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        says:

        Words like “faith” and “belief” can carry certain connotations. I wouldn’t define Judaism as a set of beliefs. I agree that it tends not to be as theological as Christianity can be. It’s not so much a belief in G-d as a relationship with him, sometimes a rocky one, but a relationship – kinship is too strong a word, but there is an intimacy. My point is that Judaism isn’t a relationship with ritual or a relationship with a set of rules. It’s a relationship with the divine. I don’t see how it could survive as a relationship with a tradition, unless that tradition is grounded in the divine.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to j r
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        says:

        @pinky,

        What exactly is informing your understanding? I am open to being convinced otherwise, but it really seems like you are projecting a very Christian understanding of theology onto Judiasm.

        If you have any sort of reference material that backs up what you’re saying, I’d be happy to consider it. In the meantime, I’m just going to leave this here:

        [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw&w=420&h=315%5DReport

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      Pinky,
      Judaism never really had to develop a creed.
      it is quite possible to be a jew and not believe in G-d, though you’re generally encouraged to shut up about it and not go around preaching “there is no god”, as you might influence other people who are only doing good because they believe in the Big Man In The Sky.

      Judaism, more than many religions, is about practice. If Christianity, as it was practiced, generally fell somewhere around “Neutral Good”, Judaism was more Lawful Neutral, with some foot in Lawful Evil. (Now’s different, of course. All Praise the Enlightenment!)Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Yes and no. Judaism is about practice but what is the point of the practice except to honor and please G-d. If you remove G-d from Judaism, you remove its heart and soul. You can still be culturally Jewish but it’s a fairly recent development to be culturally Jewish but not religiously so.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Kim
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        says:

        Not that what you say is wrong (and I certainly don’t know enough about Judaism to judge), but is it a significantly less recent development to be non-religious at all?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Kim
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        says:

        @dragonfrog

        Interesting question and one that is hard to answer. It is relatively recent to be able to declare yourself non-religious without too many socially adverse side effects. Baruch de Spinoza was probably the first example of someone who was ex-communicated from Judaism but also decided not to embrace Christianity. He is the first modern example of a secular Jew in that regard. As far as I know, Spinoza never stopped identifying as Jewish despite his ex-communication and isolation from the Sephardic Amsterdam community.

        There were plenty of issues with secular Jews through out history. Secular Jews in the classical world where called Hellenizers because of their desire to be part of the higher-echelons of Greek and Roman society but they never stopped fully identifying or worshipping as Jews even if they switched to the other side politically like Josephus Flavius.

        I suspect you are right that plenty of people in the past were doubting, secular, non-practicing, and non-religious but just more quiet about it.Report

      • Avatar Michelle in reply to Kim
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        says:

        @dragonfrog : No, I’d say that the decline of religious faith is a relatively recent development overall. Our society has become increasingly secular over the last 100-150 years, a trend that’s accelerated over the last two or three decades.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      Pinky,
      it is quite possible to practice a religion because you like being a part of a community that does good. Yeah, sure, they may say some silly stuff about God Man in the Sky, but… does it help someone? Maybe it’s just helping Jimmy Who’s Twelve in the corner, but it’s helping!Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      I’m not sure what this says, but as someone raised Catholic and now not Christian at all, I tend to identify with Catholics and Catholic traditions a great deal more than I do with Protestant ones. In fact, Protestants drive me a little crazy sometimes. I may not be “culturally Catholic,” but I am certainly “Catholically cultured.”Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        When we say “popish plot”, we mean that in the nicest possible way…Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        In high school, when I still identified as Catholic (though by 16 or 17 I was all but agnostic), my friends, who were almost all Southern Baptists, frequently referred to me as “The Papist,” frequently accompanied with ethnic epithets based on the fact that I’m half Italian.

        Ah, the South.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Chris,
        you had it easy. At least they weren’t convinced you were an agent of satan. (not me. friend of mine, lived in a small town, not in the South). I think the “hands turning orange for a week” didn’t help…Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris
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        says:

        Maybe it’s just the people I hang around with, but I can’t imagine anyone deploying “papist” or “popish” in any serious way intended to insult.

        The term just seems like such an anachronism, like calling someone a Huguenot or something (and “popish” in particular just looks funny, when written out). It’s something you say when you want to sound ancient like Mr. Burns.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I don’t remember where the line is from, but the scenario is about a Catholic who is renouncing his faith. He’s asked, “are you becoming Protestant?”. He replies no, he’s just lost his faith, not gone crazy.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris
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        says:

        I imagine there are still some people in Ireland who use the term “Papist” seriously, but my friends were using it as a joke, though a joke born of hearing the adults in their lives basically say that Catholics were evil and not at all Christian.Report

      • Avatar Mo in reply to Chris
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        says:

        @pinky When I (raised Muslim, now agnostic) was marrying my wife (a Catholic). She was talking to the priest that was marrying us about being in an interfaith marriage, he said, “Oh, I’ve seen many of them turn out quite well. In fact, my sister is married to a Protestant.” This was in the US in 2010.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Pinky
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      says:

      I have met people I’d consider culturally Catholic, who don’t actually believe in the religion.

      They may go to a Catholic church weekly, or just C & E, or when they visit their parents, or not at all since their wedding and that was mostly because the same priest who married their parents was still there. When discussing in detail some of the articles of faith Catholics are required to believe in, or whether they agree with any of the past century’s worth of papal pronouncements, their beliefs will sound an awful lot more like Unitarian Universalism, agnosticism, or even atheism.

      But they were raised Catholic, and when asked about their religion that’s what they’ll say. I suspect this is because they share your perception that there is no such thing as a cultural Catholic – so while they don’t believe in God, the God they specifically don’t believe in is the Catholic one; the local church whose location they know but don’t go to is the Catholic one, etc. – and therefore, they must be Catholic in the only way they believe possible: religiously.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    There are a lot of little dynamics here that really can’t be looked at without looking at them through the lens of each other.

    I mean, for one thing, when the anti-semites really start getting on a roll, they don’t particularly care if a Jewish person is particularly religious, whether they are particularly secular, or if they have particularly converted to any other religion. They care about the Jewishness as an inheritable ethnicity.

    But, for another, Jewish observation involves a lot of self-othering. There are a lot of little things that can’t be done, or have to be done instead of something else and so an observant Jewish person will likely decline a lot of invitations to do this, that, or another thing because of violations with the Sabbath, or High Holy Days, or food taboos, and these “sorry I can’t be part of y’all, I’m Jewish” will eventually result in fewer invites.

    For the most part, America prefers its ethnicities to be suitable for EPCOT. Funny clothing, funny songs, funny foods, child appropriate, and easily compartmentalized. People say “I’m Scottish, Irish, German, English, and French” and expect that someone who says “I’m Jewish” has the exact same relationship to their ethnicity. When it’s not, people don’t really know how to react to that.

    That said, “Jewisher Than Thou” is a concept that I suppose I never really gave much thought to but, in thinking about it, of *COURSE* it exists. And, of course, it’s very much like Carlin’s rules about driving: people who drive slower than you are asses, people who drive faster than you are maniacs.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      But, for another, Jewish observation involves a lot of self-othering.

      I think this is true although I would have phrased it differently, and it reminds me of the other thread we had recently where I was observing that Jews are rather historically unique in that there aren’t really any comparable ethno-religious-cultural entities that have survived more or less intact since X,000 B.C. Modern Wiccans might be something of an analog religiously (if you ignore the basic absence of them for 3,000 years or so).

      The more observant you are as a Jew, the farther back in time you’re going and your othering yourself through that process. Not in a selfish-othering-way, just in the removing yourself from the modern historical context that most other folks share.Report

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