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Book of Matthew: Losing my religion: A rant about non-believing

Published: December 5, 2008
Section: Opinions


“Are you Jewish?”

It was a simple question, almost trivial. Let’s face it, here at Brandeis, everyone gets asked at least once.

“No,” I answered plainly, without giving it much thought. But no sooner had the word left my lips did a mental conversation ensue in my head:

Wait, I am Jewish, aren’t I?

Yes, I am.

What am I saying, then?

Well, either I have a serious memory problem, or a serious religion problem.

I’m pretty sure my memory’s fine.

I thought about it for a while. A long while, in fact. I reflected upon my life, a life that, whether I like it or not, has been strongly influenced by both Judaism (the religion of my mother) and Christianity (the religion of my father). But in the end, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t believe any of it.

I did not attend Hebrew School, attend services, celebrate religious holidays, or become a Bar Mitzvah because I wanted to. All of these took up a lot of time, a great deal of effort, and more often than not bored me out of my mind. If at any point in my life I had been given the option to ignore these traditions, I would have. I followed them for the simple fact that my family wanted me too.

But family traditions aside, I’ve become convinced that organized religion is detrimental to humanity. Think, for a moment, about the hundreds of wars that have been waged over religion, and the millions who have died in the name of some “god”. Is it not ironic that most religions preach peace, but constantly practice war against non-believers?

Think about the promising political careers, especially those of American politicians, that have been cut short, the strong leaders who never were, because they did not follow a certain religion. At the time of this writing, I can only think of one openly atheist member of Congress: Congressman Pete Stark (D-CA), and he is a lucky one, serving in a relatively liberal district. Now that I think about it, unless the nature of politics changes, I am sacrificing the possibility of my own political career with this publishing.

Think about the scientific progress that has been hindered, from the Catholic Church’s suppression of science during the Renaissance to modern government opposition. Stem cell research, which has the potential to improve or save thousands of lives, has been constantly assaulted because of a few powerful men who feel that their “god” is more important than the rest of us.

I do not believe in a “god,” at least not the “god” that the various holy books depict. While I acknowledge the possibility of their being elements of our universe that we do not understand, I feel that it is the height of human hubris to take all of this, revere it as a “god,” and put it in a book; to assume that this book is the absolute word of “god,” and to follow it blindly.

With the holiday season looming ever closer, I cannot decide whether it is appropriate to forgo my usual political talk and print this column. But here it is. I’m sure many of my family members will have some questions about my rant when I go home over semester break, so to help answer them, I will end by including a quote by Stephen F. Roberts, often repeated by my good friend Adam:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Perhaps you ought to think about it as well.