Note: A slightly different version of this essay was published in Free Inquiry magazine in 1990.
Recently, in downtown Denver, I was accosted by an earnest, smiling young man who wanted to save my soul. When I told him that I was an atheist, he looked at me in astonishment and confessed that he had never actually met such a person. He was fascinated. He wanted to know all about this wonderful belief system. (I was in a hurry, unfortunately, and couldn't spare the time to satisfy his spiritual hunger, but I like to think that I planted a seed, and that from that tiny acorn etc.)
What a relief, then, to turn to atheist and humanist journals and encounter no such blindness, no such singlemindedness, no such ignorance that other views exist! No, unfortunately, not quite.
Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers - call them whatever they prefer, virtually all of them share one very large blind spot: they are almost all ex-Christians, and therefore they measure their shiny new non-belief not against belief in general, but against Christianity in particular. It is thus ex-Christians who write the literature that, to the world at large, represents the views of non-believers. Literature that is specifically intended to present the arguments against religious belief tends in fact to present the arguments against Christian belief.
Now, this presents both practical and philosophical problems. Consider a believing Jew who reads such literature or hears a talk given by a spokesman for the non-believer movement. The arguments against Christian belief will have no effect on him. Of course Christianity is all nonsense! He knew that all along; he's been told that all his life. In all likelihood he'll go away confirmed in his religious belief. After all, he's been taught that the two religious alternatives are Judaism and Christianity, and now he's just heard the opposition demolished - and by a former Christian, at that! He has not heard non-belief presented as an alternative to Judaism.
It is in the nature of traditional Jewish culture to believe itself innately superior to all others, and an ex-Christian, intent on explaining his own journey from belief to disbelief, is not the one to attack that sense of superior difference. Thus, speaking pragmatically, there is a need for an attack on Jewish beliefs which will make an appeal to both the emotions and the intellect of the Jewish believer.
This is a challenge I accept happily. At the end of this essay, I'll have something to say about the need for atheists to attack all religions, religion in general. But for now I will limit myself to attacking Judaism.
I'll begin with a few words about the process whereby a Jew becomes an ex-Jew. Naturally, I will really talk about the process I experienced. I am, after all, the ex-Jew I know most intimately.
I remember that I first rejected my religion emotionally, and only later went through the intellectual process of rationalizing my break with my upbringing. For me - and I suspect for many other nonbelievers - the need and the desire not to believe preceded any rational analysis of belief. At the time, though, the result was not liberation, but guilt.
I'm sure Christians feel guilt, but I'm just as sure that few of them can feel the intensity and depth and sheer quantity of guilt that Jews feel. Christians, after all, have only been working on guilt for two thousand years. Mere pikers! Jews have had far more practice.
In particular, Jews are beset all their lives with guilt at not having lived up to parental expectations. How much more is this true for ex-Jews, who have betrayed and broken the hearts, not only of their physical parents, but also of their spiritual parents, their ancestors - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those ancient fathers' wives, whatever their names were. And of course the Big Father, the one at the top of Jacob's ladder.
So the process of breaking away from their religion is a long and difficult one for Jews, a battle between growing dislike for the faith and growing guilt at what the young man (as it usually seems to be) is contemplating. Finally, when the tension grows too great and the emotional bond snaps (and I'm talking only about those for whom the bond does snap, not for those who surrender and meekly reenter the fold), the intellectual examination of the whole question of belief begins. This process of reasoning - often a relentless chewing over - may last a lifetime or only a decade, but its main purpose is to find a solid, intellectual, non-emotional basis for the former Jew's now being a former Jew. For you must understand that, to the ex-Jew, the rejection of Judaism because of boredom or distaste is indeed reason to feel guilty, while coldly rational grounds for such rejection are a defense against guilt, an answer to those who still call themselves Jews and who accuse the ex-Jew of betrayal. Who can argue against logic?
To be effective armor, though, the result of the rational process must also guard the ex-Jew against the smug assertion of his former coreligionists that there is no such thing as an ex-Jew. "Once a Jew," they will proclaim, "always a Jew." This assertion is such a powerful emotional weapon against the ex-Jew that I think it appropriate to subject it to a fairly detailed examination.
What does it mean to say, "I was a Jew but now am not"?
Inevitably and unfortunately, this leads to the question, "What is a Jew?" I say "unfortunately" because this is a very old question, indeed, one for which Jews, non-Jews, ex-Jews, and, yes, anti-Semites have all produced their own self-serving answers. Still, perhaps we can say enough about it to satisfy our purposes here.
The assertion that a Jew is always a Jew rests on two bases: first, that Judaism is a racial identity and not just a religion, and that one cannot therefore shrug it off or reject it on an intellectual level; and second, that no matter how the ex-Jew chooses to identify himself, the world, the others, the goyim, will persist in identifying him as a Jew, and so he might as well give up the fight and accept his Jewishness.
Let's deal with the second idea first.
For the past half-century, everyone's favorite example of the evil goy has been the Nazi. Or, if one prefers the rhetorical device of using a specific individual, then the favorite example becomes that personification of evil, Adolf Hitler. They - he - did more than kill six million Jews; they killed the delusion that a Jew can ever fit in to the surrounding gentile society. How often I was told about the German Jews, those idolatrous seekers after assimilation, who looked and acted German and thought that was enough. But when the time came, the Nazis remembered who was who, who was a real German and who was in fact a Jew, and then ...
I was always struck most strongly not by the historical fact being related, but rather by the smug voice in which the tragic tale of the German Jews was told. The unspoken message was that the Holocaust was the German Jews' punishment for forgetting that they were really Jews, not Germans. The spoken message was that the bogeyman will surely return - not German, this time, but no less Nazi - and then all of those modern Jews who have tried to forget who and what they really are will suffer the appropriate punishment. So you might as well accept your dreary fate and go to shul on Friday evening and Saturday morning, because you're trapped anyway, no matter how much you may twist and turn and try to escape.
In this view, the evil goyim are simply God's tool, his method of punishing those Jews who get uppity and forget their proper place in the world. It's interesting to me that this whole attitude rests upon the ghetto attitude that the Jew really does belong on the bottom of the heap, and that those Jews who forget this fact and get above themselves will suffer for it. In short, this might be called the argument from intimidation.
To all of this, I say that I'd rather be a free man and take my lumps than accept the subservient, averted-face posture of the slave. No low profile for this atheist. If it's true that the goyim see me as a cur, why should I live down to their expectations and live a life of physical deprivation and mental imprisonment? More realistically, why should I deprive myself of a life of freedom and openness just because some day someone might try to reduce me to the status of a cur?
The first argument used against the self-proclaimed ex-Jew - that Judaism is a racial identity that one cannot unilaterally shed - at least has the appearance of intellectual grounding. But does it really?
I suppose that to answer this argument, one should first consider the question, What is a race? I think this would be a fruitless approach, however, since the word "race," as most of us use it, means whatever we want it to in the heat of the moment. Just what do Jews mean by this fuzzy concept when they use it in the argument we're considering? Surely not that Jews have been separate from other human beings since we all split away from our apish ancestors and became human beings!
Obviously, Jews (and ex-Jews) are not a separate species from other humans. We are, after all, cross-fertile (as some of us have enthusiastically proven over the centuries).
Much more to the point, history demonstrates the futility of trying to trace the racial bloodlines of any Europeans. European history is in large part a story of invasion, conquest, and the resulting ethnic and sexual mixing. Some Jews may still hold to the myth that their ancestors managed to hold themselves aloof from all of this homogenizing, but this is to choose mythology over history. After all, if the myth of racial purity were true, modern European (and American and Australian and South African, etc.) Jews would look (and act) just like those Jews whose ancestors remained in the Middle East and never joined the Diaspora. But instead, those Middle Eastern Jews look and act very much like (surprise!) Arabs. I've been told (but never confirmed) that there are very old Jewish communities in the Orient whose members look quite Oriental. Then there are the Falashas of Ethiopa, Jews who claim to trace their ancestry directly back to the Jews of biblical Israel; they are quite black. Even the Levantine nose is not universal among European Jews. It is, on the other hand, common in the Levant, and not just among Levantine Jews. Certainly it's true that a lot of Jews look like the stereotypical idea of what a Jew looks like; it's also true that a lot of Jews don't. There is no Jewish mark of Cain.
Thus the myth of a Jewish racial identity is precisely that, a myth. (And given the history of this century, it is a myth that Jews should be particularly eager to see discredited.)
We are left, then, with Jewry as an ethnic community as well as a religious one. This is undeniably the case. Any group that holds itself generally aloof from its neighbors, that has or at one time had its own language, that has its own music and literature and cultural ways, can be called an ethnic group. But I can't see that anything significant follows from this admission. So ex-Jews were brought up in a particular ethnic community; so what? Why does this mean that they must always consider themselves part of that group? Is an individual to be pigeonholed for the rest of his life by an accident of birth? If Western civilization has made one single important contribution to the world, it is the concept of individuality: the idea that a man is what he chooses to be, not what his community ordains him to be; that each of us represents only himself and is not a mere cell in some familial or ethnic organism. This, to my mind, is the true essence of humanism.
I can't resist commenting here on a particularly silly rationalization that is becoming popular among American Jews. Some of them, uncomfortable with the religious dogmas they were brought up with, but unable to overcome the guilt they would feel if they simply declared themselves ex-Jews, have chosen to call themselves "ethnic Jews." This seems to mean that they can hold on to ethnic pride and ethnic identification, and they can wear various newly invented ethnic medallions around their necks, but at the same time they are excused from obeying Judaism's onerous dietary laws. Just think of it: they can say proudly that they are Jews, but nonetheless they can eat pork! In a curious twist, some "ethnic Jews" don't eat pork, but they do celebrate a version of Hannukah which is indistinguishable from Christmas. ("Oh, well, it's the Holiday Season. ... ") One wonders if they have ever heard of moral courage or intellectual integrity.
They seek the comfort of belonging to the group. They cannot imagine the freedom, the feeling of liberation, one gains by leaving the group and by defining oneself purely on one's own terms.
Since we've already touched on this idea of ethnic pride, let's pursue it a little further.
Ethnic groups are very given to falling into this trap, and I suppose that the more an ethnic group knows itself to be despised by its neighbors, the more it resorts to ethnic pride in self-defense and self-justification. Certainly Jews are prone to this particular bit of self-deception. Thus every Jewish child is told about outstanding musicians (usually violinists, sometimes pianists) who are Jews, or outstanding scientists (usually physicists), and the child is instructed to take pride in the fact of these famous people's Jewishness. Because they are Jews, the child can walk a little taller.
But why so? Why should I be proud of the accomplishments of someone else who comes from the same ethnic group I do?
Let's say that Mr. A is a famous violinist and also a Jew (or possibly an ex-Jew, although Mr. A is unlikely to say so in public). If I brag about his Jewishness, I am either saying that Mr. A accomplished his virtuosity because of his Jewishness (because of some talent for the violin which he inherited along with his surname and facial features - i.e., something "in his blood"), and so his accomplishment is yet another proof of the innate musical superiority of all Jews, or else I'm saying that Mr. A accomplished what he did due to his own efforts but that because he and I are both Jews, I shine in his reflected glory. That is, either his blood deserves credit for his virtuosity, in which case he proves the superiority of Jewish blood, or he himself deserves the credit, in which case he has added to the cosmic credit of his entire "race" - which still proves the superiority of Jewish blood.
If I'm saying the first thing - that Mr. A's Jewish blood deserves the credit for his virtuosity on the violin, and not Mr. A himself - then I'm really devaluing the years of hard work and practice Mr. A. surely put into developing that virtuosity. I'm implying that virtually any Jew who was willing to work the same way could develop into just as brilliant a violinist. I suspect that Mr. A feels otherwise: he knows just how unique he and his talent are, just how much work and self-discipline went into attaining his present technical and artistic level, and just how many others he passed on the way, others who were not willing to discipline themselves to the degree he did. How thoughtlessly cruel to ascribe what he has achieved to the spiritual superiority of his ancestors to the goyim around them!
But, just for the sake of argument, let's assume that Jewish blood really does confer superior talent for the violin and physics. (My own tin ear is a strong counterargument to the first assertion, and my college grades in physics to the second, but let's let that pass.) Let's assume that there really is some genetically determined superiority, retained within the group because of the supposed avoidance of intermarriage over the ages. This is then a pure accident of heredity, no more meaningful than a Levantine nose. Why should one be proud of it - any more than one should be ashamed of inherited drawbacks, such as Tay-Sachs disease for Jews, sickle-cell anemia for blacks, and so on?
Perhaps the superior talents of Jews are not due so much to genetics as to ethnic traits. For example, Jewish culture has always demonstrated a great respect for learning, and so Jewish children are encouraged from an early age to read, to accumulate knowledge, and to accumulate the outward confirmations of superior knowledge which universities confer. As a result, at all levels of school, Jewish children, as a group, usually rank at or near the top of the grade ladder.
If we are proud of this trait, if we see it as a proof of our superiority to other peoples, then we're really saying that we can rank ethnic groups along a spectrum from inferior to superior, and moreover that the traits possessed by our ethnic group are the very traits which determine how a group ranks. This is, to say the least, self-serving. Another ethnic group might feel, for example, that excellence in certain sports is a more proper basis for locating ethnic groups on this spectrum. Under such a method, Jews would not rank well at all. The same Jewish culture which encourages intellectual exercise, discourages the physical variety. The very idea of such ranking of ethnic cultures is a socially dangerous one, as Jews should know all too well; they should be the last to indulge in it.
Now, let's consider the second possibility: that when I remind everyone of Mr. A's Jewishness, I'm really reminding my listeners that, as a fellow Jew, in some sense I partake of his achievement. This is of course absurd. Was I in the practice room with him during all of those hours and years? Did I share in his frustrations and disappointments, his struggle to pay for lessons, his self-denial while he worked his way through school? This claim of kinship is nothing but a cheap and scurrilous attempt to take credit for what someone else has done, and it deserves no further discussion.
The whole nonsense of ethnic pride doesn't even take into account the lone genius, such as Gauss, who stands out so strikingly from his family and their immediate culture (which in Gauss' case was that of a small German village, not that of the great professors of Goettingen). The greatness of a such a man is clearly an utterly individual thing, an accidental combination of genes and personal inclinations, that makes a mockery of the idea that his ethnic group, because of genes or cultural traits, can take any credit at all for his genius. We should indeed honor such men as Gauss for their accomplishments, but we should honor them and not their cousins or their ancestors.
Near the beginning of this essay, I said that the internal intellectual critiquing of one's childhood faith is preceded by an emotional turning away from that faith. This emotional revulsion may arise from various causes, but for me, an early spur came from the distasteful attitudes towards themselves and others that I detected in my fellow Jews.
More than they seem to today, anti-Semites used to accuse Jews of harboring the belief that they are indeed God's chosen people and are therefore destined to rule all other peoples. (Just where are those Elders of Zion, and how do I get in touch with them? I think I could rediscover my faith very quickly if rewarded with my own country to rule.) I've never encountered any Jews who expressed a desire to rule the world. Most of the Jews I know worry a lot more about how they'll pay next month's bills - in contradiction to the most durable of the stereotypes about Jews.
The sad secret of Jewish culture, however, is that the first part of that old anti-Semitic charge is essentially true. Indeed, Jews do believe themselves spiritually superior to the rest of the world. Call it being God's chosen people or call it belief in the innate superiority of Jewish blood, the result is the same: contempt for the goyim. This is simply the converse of ethnic pride, its morally reprehensible flip side.
If others display physical skills superior to yours, then denigrate the value of such skills, sneer that they are proof of their owners' brutishness. You are built of too fine and pure and delicate a fiber to indulge in such nonsense; yours is the world of the mind and the spirit. In the same way, you must discount the value of lack of inhibition or of high libido: a cultured and refined people (guess who) hide their light under a bushel because they actually prefer to do so and because to do so is, well, nicer.
This just hints at the number of bizarre misconceptions traditional Jewish society believed and still believes about non-Jews.
Jewish parents of old-fashioned, and especially European, background are still convinced that every non-Jewish husband beats his wife, does not provide for his family, drinks to excess, and spends his (remarkably copious) spare time with prostitutes and other women who are not socially admirable - and moreover that these are crimes of which no Jewish husband in the history of the world was ever guilty.
Jewish boys were always told (and perhaps still are) that, as a consequence of all of these Christian social institutions, non-Jewish girls, shiksas, are always on the lookout for eligible young Jewish men, since they know that these will work hard to provide for them, will be good husbands, will not beat them, drink, chase women, and so on. But beware, all good Jewish boys who consider marrying one of these bewitching Gentile females! At heart, every shiksa is a slut, an unfaithful wife, a spendthrift, and, worst of all, a disobedient and disloyal anti-Semite who, at the first sign of an argument with her spouse, will call her faithful, loyal, hardworking Jewish husband "a dirty Jew." In short, in the heat of anger (a failing to which goyim are far more susceptible than Jews), her true feelings will emerge. The irony of this indoctrination, inevitably, is to make shiksas creatures of considerable fascination to every Jewish boy.
When I was young enough to believe what I was told, I swallowed all of this nonsense. (Took it as Gospel, you might say.) I knew all about goyim because I had been told all about them by the one set of authorities a young child believes without question: his parents. Later, through experience, I discovered something amazing: goyim of my age were remarkably much like me. It was a short step from there to the realization that what I was being told was simply the Jewish equivalent of anti-Semitism.
I think it's significant that we don't have a word for this virulent and widespread form of ethnic hatred, so I might as well coin one right now: it's anti-goyism. This word is particularly appropriate, since in the original Hebrew, a goy is a people, and goyim was used to refer generally to the nations of the world. Thus the converse of anti-Semitism is a hatred and fear of all of the rest of the world.
Is it true, as I was taught, that virtually every goy is an anti-Semite? I'll satisfy the stereotype by answering that question with another question: is it true that virtually every Jew is an anti-goy? Answer: not quite, but almost.
Am I overdoing it? Am I seeing anti-goyism everywhere, even where it doesn't exist? Blame that on my Jewish upbringing, on my training in keeping a sharp eye on my neighbors for signs of anti-Semitism.
But then, anti-Semitism is so useful. Here's why I say that.
Just as much as the Jews in the rest of the European world, American Jews are quick to see anti-Semitism everywhere. Perhaps this is simply a manifestation of the old Jewish persecution complex and the despicable cultural tendency toward what can only be called excessive self-pity. If this is so, it's repellent enough, and the self-pity and the persecution complex, both of which struck me forcibly as an adolescent, surely explain the turning away from Judaism of many a young Jew. After all, no one with much self-respect and ego-strength wishes to be identified with an ethnic group which indulges in such contemptible mental habits. But I'm afraid this whole matter of calling every critic an anti-Semite is a deeper and more sinister matter. It is quite simply a deliberate, fully conscious ploy, a way of silencing critics.
Consider how many years it took before American Jews gathered the nerve to criticize Israeli policies in the occupied territories. They were afraid of being labelled "Jewish anti-Semites," a wonderfully designed phrase - designed to make Jews who criticize their own people feel particularly guilty. And even now, a non-Jew who dares to criticize the policies of Israel or of any official Jewish body can expect to be attacked with the "anti-Semite" label. And it works. Who can forget the Six Million? Who can forget the Holocaust? (You can't, because we won't let you!) Criticize anything Jewish, and we'll link you to the Nazis. And you'll run for cover. If you write anti-religious essays, you probably already limit yourself to anti-Christian rhetoric and leave the Jews and their religion alone; that is to say, you avoid even the risk of being labelled an anti-Semite. Thus, the effectiveness of the label in stifling criticism is precisely why Jews are so overly quick to use it.
In my case, I realized at a fairly early age that I was uncomfortable being part of a group which revelled in such distasteful attitudes. The intellectual rationalization came years later, but the disgust began early.
In the end, Jews, just as do members of other religious groups, retreat into spurious justifications of their rituals and dogmas. Trying desperately to reconcile their intelligence and Western education with their need to still call themselves Jews, to make various gestures to salve their guilty consciences, they insist that the nonsense they were brought up to believe in has some objective justification.
The dietary laws, for example, are said to have provided Jews in Biblical times with protection against rampant illnesses of the day. These were really health rules, not religious dogmas after all! How can anyone argue with them, then? My response probably deserves a book of its own. The whole rigamarole of the laws of kashruth, the dietary laws, is so arcane and convoluted that it provides endless opportunities for scorn and logical attack.
However, let's stick to the more general substance of this argument.
First, the bulk of the dietary laws are not of Biblical origin at all, but rather were decreed by medieval rabbis, based on their interpretations of the Old Testament. Are we moderns really to believe that the twisted, hair-splitting reasoning of those men is a valid health guide now, in the twentieth century? I am unaware of any objective proof that the dietary laws benefited the Jews of the Middle Ages, that their health was better than that of the goyim among whom they lived. Second, I defy anyone to provide a sound reason why, for example, meat and milk should not be mixed in the same meal - or, even more bizarre, why the utensils used to eat meat and milk dishes should not be interchanged! The same can be said for any of the other innumerable, and equally bizarre, dietary laws. Finally, even if we accept for the sake of argument that these laws once had utility, pragmatic justification, what is their relevance to us today?
I must add a very personal slant on all of this. When I was a boy in South Africa, my father, as one of his duties, was a shochet; i.e., he performed the kosher killing of beef animals and chickens. I watched him do the latter in our back yard quite often, and once (and only once) I went with him to the slaughterhouse to watch him do the former. More than thirty years have passed, and the sights and smells and horror of it all are still seared into my memory. I invite today's earnest young Jews - neo-Jews, one might call them - to visit a kosher slaughterhouse and watch the ghastly agony of animals bleeding to death through their slashed throats, choking on their own blood. Who would wish to worship a God who ordained this abomination?
Sabbath laws are similarly justified as wisely providing humans with a needed one day of rest after six days of labor. One day out of every seven! What a very humane God this must be! He may consider one day out of seven sufficient rest; I do not.
I remember, when I was a teenager in Indiana, hearing Christian fundamentalists using the very same justification for blue laws, Sunday closing laws. Clearly, the real motivations are quite different. On the political level, both Jews and Christians are simply trying to find ways to justify incorporating the Bible into human law. Emotionally, they are rejecting human autonomy - the heart of humanism - and finding reasons for subordinating themselves to the rule of an imaginary father in the sky. The latter motivation, the emotional one, is beneath the contempt of a self-respecting adult; the former, or political, motivation is both laughable and frightening, for who can say where it would end?
Circumcision is touted as providing protection to the circumcised man's wife ("wife," of course; not his "sexual partner") against cervical cancer. Statistics seem to bear this out, although I gather the picture is not so clear as we used to think it. Assuming it to be true, can anyone really believe that the ancient Jews knew this?
In ancient times, circumcision was a common ritual in various religions (and it still is among various primitive peoples). Just like other ancient peoples, the ancient Jews practised this particular form of self-mutilation because of their religious fantasies. Any health benefits were unknown to them and were a fortunate byproduct. Indeed, one wonders how many Jewish male babies in those ancient times died awful, agonizing deaths because of infected penises, due to lack of sterilization of the instruments used to perform the circumcision. I suspect the number of dead babies was higher than the number of Jewish wives spared cervical cancer because their husbands had survived their babyhood surgery.
I've always found it interesting and annoying that, while the literature of disbelief is quite nasty enough toward Christianity and its dogmas, that literature handles other religions with kid gloves. This is especially true of Judaism.
I suppose this attitude arises from a fear on the part of the writers of sounding anti-Semitic. If they were to attack Judaism head-on, with the same hostility and scorn they display toward Christianity, I can assure you that the charge of anti-Semitism certainly would be used in response. As I explained above, this charge has proved itself very useful.
Even when I still considered myself a Jew, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with the use of that ploy to silence critics of Jews, Judaism, and Israel. Now that I am a member of the community of nonbelievers, the ploy more than discomfits me: it angers me. The use of the "anti-Semite" label cannot be allowed to continue to undermine the efforts of those who see all religion as a mental trap and a social danger.
Philosophically, there's a broader issue involved in this matter of supposedly anti-religious arguments being actually no more than arguments against Christianity. In my mind, at least, the issue is not whether or not Christianity is a philosophically acceptable belief system, but rather whether any form of superstition is acceptable. If we undertake to show the believer the illogic and mental bondage of superstition, then we must be not only ruthless in our argument, but also general. No matter whether he subscribes to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, astrology, or such recent pseudo-archaisms as the New Age and Wicca, we must show him how fundamentally silly it is to accept on faith the existence of invisible forces no one has ever measured or quantified, and for whose existence there is not a single item of objective proof.
It is not enough to inveigh against one set of dogmas; rather, we must assert to the world our belief that no intelligent, self-respecting man should put his faith in that which is invisible, unmeasurable, and undetectable. Under any name, no matter how old and entrenched, superstition remains superstition.
It is surely true that the need and desire to believe precede belief. That may be due to a personality failing about which we can do nothing. We can, however, make our case plain enough so that the hard-headed, clear-eyed position begins to seem a virtue in itself.
We atheists must adopt a non-apologetic approach. We must shed the self-effacement which has too often characterized us. We must assert the moral and ethical superiority of our position. Indeed, we must be as ready to do so as the religious are with regard to their position. We must tell the world of the robustness and joyfulness of the intellectual, moral, and emotional freedom which atheism represents.
Over the years, I've noticed that this essay gets quite a few hits from neo-Nazi sites, both here in the US and abroad. Apparently those vile wretches, contemptible creatures who laughably imagine that they're part of some master race, think that criticism of Judaism by an ex-Jew somehow supports their fecal philosophy. One can expect nothing better from people with shit for brains.
Both of my parents had family members in Eastern Europe who were murdered in the Holocaust. Other family members were in the British Army, fighting against the Nazis, and some of them lost their lives. At the same time, Nazi airmen were dropping bombs on England, slaughtering innocent civilians. I was born in England during the war, so I was one of their targets. It should be obvious that I despise the subhumans in the original Nazi Party and their modern successors.
So if you are one of those bottom feeders who has followed a link here from one of those neo-Nazi sites, and if you have managed to read aaaaalllll the way down to this point, let me make something clear:
Nazis suck circumcised donkey dong.