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tobyk100

Can I Be An Objectivist And A Jew?

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I am a youth member of my local reform synagogue. The majority at my Temple do NOT believe in god. Personally, I do not believe in god. I still like to go to service because I enjoy the community aspect, but recently I have had feelings of borderline nausea when my Rabbi tells me "Part of being Jewish is helping other people."

I enjoy going to Temple to be with my friends ect. but I disagree with the ethics my Temple (My Rabbi/Teacher/Cantor) accept as self evident.

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Helping other people isn't a bad thing as long as its based on your values.

If you don't believe in God, though, and reject it's form of altruism, then you aren't a Jew--your a person who participates in church activities for social reasons. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but you should never pretend to support their philosophy to gain their approval (I'm not saying you do), and you should be careful not to involve yourself in activities which betray your values.

Edit: I see you're new here. Welcome to the forum. I hope you find it to be a great place to discuss and learn Objectivism.

Edited by dondigitalia

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Thank you for your reply;

The Judiasm I practice (reform) does not require you to believe in god.

The altruism of my temple is summed up by Hillel;

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?" [that makes sense] "And if I am only for myself, then what am I?" But as an objectivist I AM only for myself.

This brings me to another question that I forgot to ask:

My temple is requiring me to do 12 hours of "community service."

you should be careful not to involve yourself in activities which betray your values.

Is there any way I can do community service that "trades value for value"?

P.S. I am thinking of leaving my temple, I can't stand the fact that we value people sacrificing themselves for other peopl, but I want to be with my friends. :P

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In the greater context of things, I find being an atheist, selfish, Jew, is an easy thing to do. It should still be possible for you to keep your Jewish "identity" while not having to deal with any attributes of the faith that you dont like. I feel that Jeudaism has enough positive merits (praise or learning and scholarship, an intense respect for the law, etc) that being supportive of Jewish identity is not a major problem.

With regards to your present community, you will probably not be able to change the values of the community. So either you leave or stay. If you leave, well, thats that. If you stay, if may be possible to only accept "service" which either you personally enjoy or want to do instead of being compelled to do what you dont want to do. For myself, I know I would not mind with tutoring or helping out with teaching, but that is a personal preference for me.

Edited by Strangelove

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Is there any way I can do community service that "trades value for value"?

Now, I whole-heartedly disagree with the entire idea of "community service," but there is a way to make it selfish. I think most high schools require doing community service to graduate (which is ridiculous!). For mine, some friends and I sang old jazz favorites at an old folks home. It was selfish because I really love vocal jazz, and it was really nice performing for people who lived their youth in that era.

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It depends; what does 'being a Jew' mean to you? There are various definitions out there; some people will say a Jew is an active believer in Judaism, whereas others will say you are Jewish iff you have a Jewish mother. Some see Jewishness as a chosen identity, like being a Christian or a Marxist, whereas others see it as being 'given' from birth, like being a woman or a caucasian.

What makes you choose to self-identify as a Jew? What does it mean to you? Is it something you are free to reject, or is it given, like being a member of a race (Jewish mother)? In the latter case, theres obviously no conflict with being a Jew and being an Objectivist, since your being a Jew is completely unchosen. In the former case, you'd have to ask slightly deeper questions.

Edited by Hal

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TobyK100, I am curious. How big is "reform Judiasm" within the Jewish community?

I believe that most practicing American Jews are Reform. In my experience, many, but not most of them are atheist (including my former Rabbi.)

By the way, I find the idea of Reform Judaism slightly ridiculous. What kind of religion does not require its adherents to hold any particular belief? (How am I supposed to make fun of reform Jews if I can’t pin them down on anything?) It’s basically Unitarianism plus bagels and guilt trips.

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Personally, the most rational group of folks I've associated with have been in the Jewish community including Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews. Jews seem to be predisposed to a love of knowledge, ideas and this world - their tribe has been in existence for 5000 years for some reason :)

The best conversations about philosophy, meta-ethics and politics I have are with an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine that I see about once a month. We seem to be in agreement on many points although of course not everything. He's even come to a couple O'ist events in the area. Kinda wish I was born into a Jewish family myself instead of the Catholic cult :D

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I've always thought that UNLIKE a African American, who CANNOT wake up one day and decide to be white, a Jew CAN decide to leave his/her faith.

I think I remember Ayn Rand writing, (and I quote loosely), that you shouldn't associate yourself with people by geography, or coincidence of birth. If I were to go from a completely clean slate, I would NOT come to Judaism.

My parents are Jewish. Why does that mean I should be Jewish?

I have no reason to feel Jewish, I only have reason to go to my temple (my friends), and you can only go to my temple if you are Jewish.

By the way, I have kept somewhat kosher my whole life. That means that I have never eaten pork, shellfish, or a cheeseburger. But now I ask myself, "WHY?!" There is no reason behind any of these things I do.

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But now I ask myself, "WHY?!" There is no reason behind any of these things I do.

Sometimes the reason behind doing things is just: because that's the way you've always done them. A lot of the things we do in life don't really merit serious examination, so we just do the things we've been "trained" to do by our culture, family and friends. A great deal of our behaviors are like this. But when you finally DO think about it, there might be reason to change it. And for that reason, I'm telling you, for the non-existent God's sake, go out and have a cheeseburger! And get bacon on it!! :)

Seafood is gross, though. You can do without the shellfish. :D

Edited by dondigitalia

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By the way, I find the idea of Reform Judaism slightly ridiculous. What kind of religion does not require its adherents to hold any particular belief? (How am I supposed to make fun of reform Jews if I can’t pin them down on anything?) It’s basically Unitarianism plus bagels and guilt trips.

Well, in Reform Judaism many of the 613 commandments of the Torah (mitzvot) are held to be up to the individual conscience (such as the dietary restrictions), but certain of the moral ones are binding on someone who would be Jewish. Many (all?) Reform Jews adhere to the Pittsburgh Platform (1885), which puts it this way (Article 3): "We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject al such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization." More than that I don't know enough about to say, so you might want to make the acquaintance of your neighborhood rabbi for more information.

Edited by Adrian Hester

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One could argue that intrinsticist dogma is not compatible with modern civilization as such… neither are ceremonies meant to prostrate oneself before a superior being.

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I've always liked the idea of Judaism, but is there something in objectivism that is against religion? I know many are atheist, but I haven't read everything and only have a basic understanding.

I guess it's more of a personal decsion to decide whether or not you feel you can be jewish and an objectivist at the same time.

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I've always liked the idea of Judaism, but is there something in objectivism that is against religion?
There is a fundamental incompatibility between Objectivism and religious faith. The presumption of god's existence cannot be logically reconciled with the law of non-contradiction, which means that a truly religious person cannot be an Objectivist (because Objectivists do not embrace contradictions). There are other reasons, such as the ethical foundations of Objectivism vs. religionousity. I happened upon a statement underscoring the incompatibility of Objectivism and religion, from an article to appear in Virginia Tax Review, where Susan Pace Hamill argues against cutting taxes on religious grounds, pointing to the imcompatibility of Christian / Jewish ethics and Objectivism (I will leave out the part where she quotes the Bible to establish God's POV). She says: "Objectivist ethics represents a form of atheism because the human person is substituted for a supreme deity. Within the framework of objectivist ethics individuals owe no moral obligations to endure greater sacrifices for anyone else's benefit because only each individual's own self-interest has any moral relevance. Human beings acting in their long term self-interest are considered the sole source of all wealth, and, through the strength of their own rationality are viewed as capable of acting morally without God's grace or God's standards of justice as a guide."

I read this and say, is that supposed to be an argument against Objectivism?

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I read this and say, is that supposed to be an argument against Objectivism?

Nice. This is always the part I find most amusing when I am discussing my view with someone,

They will say "But that is SOOOOOO selfish,"

I look at them and smile, "I know."

Well passover is coming up and I have to decide if I'm going to keep kosher. I think I will in front of my dad. but when the cats away...

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I am a youth member of my local reform synagogue. The majority at my Temple do NOT believe in god. Personally, I do not believe in god. I still like to go to service because I enjoy the community aspect, but recently I have had feelings of borderline nausea when my Rabbi tells me "Part of being Jewish is helping other people."

I enjoy going to Temple to be with my friends ect. but I disagree with the ethics my Temple (My Rabbi/Teacher/Cantor) accept as self evident.

If you're referring to judiasm, then no. You cannot mantain an atheistic moral structure and a seperate, mutually exclusive dogma at one time. If you mean race, then only if you don't live to irrationally further your race by doing and working towards race-oriented goals. The aryan race is a bunch of crap and so is all the eugenics with it. Work on finding brothers of the mind, they're much more important than brothers of ancestry.

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