A Newsweek headline (January 30, 2012) asks Why Jews Vote Like Atheists. Unfortunately the short article doesn’t answer the question. So I will: Jews vote like atheists because most Jews are atheists or at least functional atheists. An atheist is someone who denies the existence of God, and a functional atheists is one who may or may not deny God but lives as if God is irrelevant to their lives.
How do atheists vote?
According to the article, atheists are somewhat conservative on financial matters and liberal on cultural matters: separation of church and state, reproductive rights, gay rights, etc. Yep, that’s me.
Why are so many Jews atheist or functional atheists?
The article doesn’t say, but I suspect it is because the god we are given to believe in is essentially unbelievable. What most Jews know about God comes from our liturgy, and the God presented there is an all powerful Guy who loves us and takes care of us and wants nothing more from us than an endless string of praise and platitudes. It’s hard not to be an atheist when the only God you are offered is the one you outgrew in the ninth grade after reading about the Holocaust.
But don’t imagine that Jewish atheism is a modern phenomenon. We have a 2000 year history of atheism going back at least as far as the first century atheist Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah. (If you haven’t read the novel As A Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg, you should. If you have read it, read it again.) So maybe it is in our DNA.