Atheism and ignorance

In a Pew Forum survey released Tuesday, atheists and agnostic surpass all other groups in their knowledge of religion. How … Continued

In a Pew Forum survey released Tuesday, atheists and agnostic surpass all other groups in their knowledge of religion. How do you explain this? Educational level? That they have given more consideration to the religions they have rejected?

Is knowledge of religion important? Why?

The Daily Show host Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Leibowitz) recently revealed to great laughs that the actual meaning of Sukkot is “how many holidays can Jews fit into one month.” While a comedian, Stewart’s words are often accorded journalistic integrity. In this case, after articles in both the New York and LA Times scorning Israel’s UN delegation for not attending a speech by president Obama which occurred on Sukkot, a well known commentator on Middle East affairs actually referenced Stewart’s joke as evidence of the absence’s sinister meaning. It was a frivolous political gesture, these observers reasoned. After all, Sukkot is not a real holiday, right?

Wrong. Sukkot is one on the major Jewish holidays in a cycle, as Stewart’s joke implies, of major events that start the Jewish New Year. In fact, Sukkot is one of only three holidays mentioned in the Torah mandating Jews to visit the Temple in Jerusalem.

Stewart’s brand of ignorance is not only commonplace in our society, it is elevated to the position of hilariousness and special insight.

To be fair, active atheists and agnostics like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris (both of Jewish descent) present in fact quite the opposite of Jon Stewarts antics, indeed taking their studies of G-d very seriously. Both have devoted their lives, careers and all of their intellectual might to pondering the questions of our prophets and sages from Abraham on, namely: What is the nature of G-d and His relationship to humans? Atheists make a case against G-d (though surely would find it a bit odd to argue that the fully assembled car in their driveway had no designer). These writers can even do religion a service by bringing the G-d conversation to Americans that is lost as so many abandon their houses of worship and lives centered on divine principles.

It’s up to religious leaders to educate the people who claim attachment to their faith, and even, especially, apostates should know exactly what they are rejecting.

And just to give Jon Stewart the (yarmulka covered) heads up: As of this writing there are still two days left of Sukkot and, even more, we still pack in another festivity; Simchat Torah, which is 1) a major holiday and 2) not just an excuse to drink and dance. Simchat Torah is rather our yearly excuse to drink and dance with the our Holy Scroll, celebrating another cycle of its unbroken reading by Jews all over the world.

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  • Carstonio

    Kenk, were you not aware of the Jewish custom of not spelling out the name of that religion’s deity, or were you attacking the custom”

  • kenk3

    Kenk, were you not aware of the Jewish custom of not spelling out the name of that religion’s deity, or were you attacking the custom”Posted by: Carstonio—————————————–It’s an moronic custom, close to the traditional jewish practice of a mohel sucking on a baby’s penis after circumcision.

  • woodstock-41

    correction:140 U.N. Nations [minus 42] will be OIC & Arabi League Free. “Free at last!” O’ Europe!

  • david6

    Of course Stewart was not being ignorant here. It’s a silly accusation from someone who takes himself and his puffed up view of religion too seriously.

  • Carstonio

    Secular: “Isn’t this all silly, you cannot call the name of your deity or even write it.”

    While I wouldn’t describe the custom in those terms, both of you have a valid point. It’s one thing to have a principle about not using certain words lightly. It’s another to have a rule forbidding even using the word. It reminds me of how Godwin’s Law is misinterpreted as saying that it’s wrong to invoke Hitler in an online argument.

  • bullet-504

    Last time I checked, Stewart was a Jew. How is that atheist ignorance?Oh, and my car was designed and manufactured mostly by computers and robots.

  • thomaschiinc

    We are joining the revolution by driving to Washington DC for the October 30, 2010 RallyWashington DC 10.30.2010 Selling Sex with Sarah Palin by Thomas Chi Our goal is the publish a sequel to Selling Sex with Sarah Palin by riding on a road trip to Washington DC with the Comedy Central March to Keep Fear Alive Insanity Bus Gas, Food, We Drive Until We Drop

  • Jihadist

    Oh, and my car was designed and manufactured mostly by computers and robots.- bullet-504 *******************************************Ehhhh…who designed and manufactured those computers and robots? Other computers and robots? I must be living the world those Transformers are said to come from.

  • bullet-504

    @ JihadistExactly. If this universe was designed, then what designed the designer?

  • agnak

    What kind of logic is this? Stewart, a Jew, makes a self-deprecating joke about a jewish holiday. This displays atheist ignorance.*head-desk*

  • FarnazMansouri2

    WHO is THIS YAHWEH folks are talking about? The tetragramaton is not the name of God. It is the tetragramaton. This is not like Hindu urine drinking or Christian ceremonial Christ eating. In some ways, for normative, rational Judaism, it is a statement of limits, philosophical more than anything else.

  • Carstonio

    Stewart’s brand of ignorance is not only commonplace in our societyHecht seems to be overreacting. Stewart was lampooning the very ignorance that Hecht sees him as embodying. He was also using self-deprecating irony about his own people’s religion. Hecht may have a point if Stewart was a Gentile, because then it would sound like he was bashing both Jews and Judaism.

  • JonMoles

    It’s called a sense of humor, look into it. Also, by what basis do you claim that Jon Stewart is ignorant of Sukkot? Because he made a joke about it? Grow up.P.S. Nice touch with the parenthetical Intelligent Designer jab. Any other discredited arguments you want to make?

  • gladerunner

    “Atheists make a case against G-d (though surely would find it a bit odd to argue that the fully assembled car in their driveway had no designer).”I am an atheist and I certainly agree that the car in my driveway had a designer, or more likely a team of designers. (not necessarily very good ones) Anything that complex and powerful certainly did not create itself. Random bits of nothingness did not fall together to form the car.

  • kenk3

    Dr. Mr. Shmuck Hecht,You’re obviously a superstitious freak for not even allowing yourself to spell the word of my father: “god”.Yours truly,-Jesus

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Watchmaker:You could learn a great deal from Jonathan Stewart Liebowitz. Not least that he never changed his name — perhaps a quick google of “Stage Name” might be in order. Or Rabbinic name: RaSh”I, RaMBa”M, RaMBa”N, S’fas Emmes, and many many more.Rashi is an acronym for Rav Shlomo Yitchaki. Rambam is an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Greek Maimonides). These men did not choose their acronyms, nor did they use them to avoid bigotry from a gentile world, and the galut of both men, particularly that of Rashi, was more hostile than the America, than that Jon Liebowitz faces.No, Jon Liebowitz did not choose an acronym, but simply lopped off his surname, while not concealing his Jewish heritage. He follows a long line of comedians who have done the same.I enjoy Jon Stewart Liebowitz’s work very much. Too bad we have not yet reached a time when the Liebowitzes of this world can simply be. When they do not have to undergo even partial deracination in order to share their gifts with this world.

  • watchmaker

    Show-biz stage names are hardly confined to ethnic Eastern-European Jews.I sincerely doubt that Paul McCartney, Marie Osmond, Bob Barker, Julie Andrews, Tupac Shakur, Elton John, Freddy Mercury, Cat Stevens, Marilyn Monroe, Muddy Waters, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, or MC Hammer adopted stage names “to avoid bigotry from a gentile world” as they are/were all well ensconced in that “gentile world”.To see anti-semitism under every rock, to preach that one shouldn’t take on a stage name for any reason ever because it is some kind of sin against Judaism, to preach that “you don’t know how good you have it” because things were much worse in 11th century Troyes, France, is just plain patronizing and offensive.Other than the mild amusement of seeing someone who takes himself way too seriously argue that if you make a joke about a Jewish holiday it means you are completely ignorant, there is absolutely no point in reading this column. No one needs lessons in humor from a dour “yeshiva-lady”. I really pity the students at Yale who go to Mr. Hecht for advice on anything other than reading the Gemara.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Marie Osmond’s last name is Osmond, and the last name of Paul McCartney is McCartney. In fact, with one or two exceptions, eg., Tu Pac, who changed his name for political reasons, none in Watchmaker’s list changed his/her surname, and not a single one changed his name to avoid its ethnically recognizable roots.I don’t think that R. Hecht is a “yeshiva lady”: for one thing, he is not a woman. I do think that Watchmaker’s watch does not keep good time. More and more, religious, secular Jews, and atheists such as yours truly, are reinscribing the missing Liebowitzes of this world. We are marking the mass graves they were thrown into, for instance.And the absence of LIEBOWITZ from Jon Stewart’s “stage name” is not do to forgetfulness on his part. If anything, it is do to memory.

  • MaxSewell

    It seems to me that most atheists and agnostics have a better understanding of the formal texts and history of the major monotheistic religions because their doubts led them to examine their beliefs (or lack of them).And Stewart was joking. It’s his job. It’s what he does. I can’t see how you missed that.

  • Jihadist

    Exactly. If this universe was designed, then what designed the designer?- bullet-504 ******************************************The Singularity is said to cause the Big Bang that made the universe happened. The Singularity just happens, like spontaneous combustion out of POOF!Which bring us to cause and effect and such……of the Singularity and such.The expanding, contracting universe is suck and blow, suck and blow..Uhhh..my universe creation-evolution illiteracy from a mind that is black hole. Nothing in any holy texts ever claimed on “intelligent design” by the Creator. This is an American phenomenon by certain religious groups.

  • watchmaker

    “none in Watchmaker’s list changed his/her surname, and not a single one changed his name to avoid its ethnically recognizable roots”Really? No one changed their surname? And how do you know why Jon Stewart chose his stage name? Are you a mind reader? Did it occur to you that “Jon Stewart” might roll off the tongue easier than “Jonathan Leiberman”? Did Freddy Mercury want to hide his Parsee heritage, or is “Mercury” simply easier to say than “Bulsara” for native English speakers? Didn’t Yusuf Islam change his name for religious reasons?Paul McCartney — Sir James Paul McCartney (Dropped 1st name)The fact that Jon Stewart _can_ make jokes about Jewish holidays on national television says volumes more about an inclusive society than your pompous and paternalistic whining that no Jew may ever change his/her name — and if that name no longer sounds Eastern European it is some kind of sin against Judaism and proof of apostasy. The fact that Jews didn’t even have surnames until the 18th century seems not to be part of your world view. “Yitzhok ben Avraham” is a Jewish name. Isaac Abrahamson is just a name. (And while we’re at it, Isshaq ibn Ibrahim is the exact same name in Arabic…)

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Part IReally? No one changed their surname? Nevertheless, for the last time I will address Watchmaker’s typing.Paul McCartney — Sir James Paul McCartney (Dropped 1st name)DID NOT CHANGE SURNAMEMarie Osmond — Olive Marie Osmond (Dropped 1st name)DID NOT CHANGE SURNAMEBob Barker — Robert William Barker (Shortened 1st name)DID NOT CHANGE SURNAMEJulie Andrews — Julia Elizabeth Wells (Changed LAST name)Tupac Shakur — Lesane Parish Crooks (Changed LAST name)ALREADY ADDRESSEDElton John — Reginald Kenneth Dwight (Changed LAST name)ELTON JOHN CHANGED HIS FULL NAME IN HOMAGE TO saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry)Freddy Mercury — Farrokh Bulsara (Anglicized 1st, (changed LAST name)Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam — Steven Demetre Georgiou (Changed LAST name)Marilyn Monroe — Norma Jeane Mortenson (Changed LAST name) MARLYN MONROE’s FIRST NAME was changed by a Fox studio employee. HER LAST NAME IS HER MOTHER’s MAIDEN NAME, ADOPTED BECAUSE IT ALLITERATES WITH MARILYN.Muddy Water — McKinley Morganfield (Changed 1st & LAST name) HERE, the BLOGGER IS GOING FROM RIDICULOUS TO INSANEStan Laurel — Arthur Stanley Jefferson (Changed LAST name) SEE MC Hammer — Stanley Kirk Burrell (Changed 1st & LAST name)CHANGED NAME to fit in with HIP HOP CULTUREMos Def — Dante Terrell Smith (Changed 1st & LAST name) CHANGED NAME to fit in with HIP HOP CULTUREJon Stewart — Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz

  • FarnazMansouri2

    PART II of Reply to Watchmaker’s TypingThe list of Jewish celebrities who changed their names would take roughly thirty posts for me to complete. Watchmaker is advised to use Google.And how do you know why Jon Stewart chose his stage name? Are you a mind reader? Did it occur to you that “Jon Stewart” might roll off the tongue easier than “Jonathan Leiberman”?I did not say that no Jew may ever change his (sic) name.I did not say that changing names is apostasy, particularly irrelevant in Stewart’s case since he is an atheist.As for the rest of the incoherence, having to Waspify one’s surname, or feeling that doing so will improve one’s chances either for success or getting along is NOT evidence of an inclusive society! Quite the opposite.

  • APaganplace

    Jon Stewart makes no secret of his Jewish heritage. At. All. To imply otherwise is either ignorant or not-quite honest, shall we say. Also, were we on topic somewhere, here?

  • watchmaker

    Mr. Hecht:Put down the Talmud, keep your hands in plain view, and step away from the desk.I believe it was RaSh”I [Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhok] who said it best, in c.e. 1053 (4853), on the occasion of his bar mitzvah: “The complete absence of a sense of humor is a sure sign of rabbinic incompetence and not getting out enough.”You could learn a great deal from Jonathan Stewart Liebowitz. Not least that he never changed his name — perhaps a quick google of “Stage Name” might be in order. Or Rabbinic name: RaSh”I, RaMBa”M, RaMBa”N, S’fas Emmes, and many many more.

  • compchiro

    Kezn2,2. Mohels do NOT suck on the penis in the way your little mind seems to think. The original practice was to apply suction over the circumcision cut to draw out a drop of blood. This was done to represent the fact that the Brit Milah (the proper term for ritual circumcision in Judaism) is done to set forth the rule that Judaism does not practice human sacrifice. It also shows that no one can die/give their blood for another’s “sins” (which helps to debunk the whole Jesus myth.) Additionally, since Judaism actually DOES understand and respect science in most ways (which is why educated Jews understand the evolution is real), the current process (even among most Orthodox Mohelim) is to use a sterile pipette between the Mohel’s mouth and the penis to draw the blood through, thereby assuring a safer process for both Mohel and child. Rabbi Hecht,

  • FarnazMansouri2

    For rational Judaism, HaShem is most commonly used to refer to the deity. It simply means the word “name.” It’s a stand-in. God, in rational Judaism is to be understood as without limits. Human is given the ability to name, and, thereby, to conceptualize, all that is not God. By definition, naming involves imposing limits. This becomes extremely complex, needless to say, in very short order. No one has ever seen God, since the ability to take in, conceptualize, comprehend the limitless, is not possible for the human mind. Hence, the God construct in language involves all ways of knowing open to human–linguistic/semantic, mathematical, etc.

  • Carstonio

    I don’t blame Stewart for using an Anglicized stage name. Similarly, I don’t blame the early 1960s crooners from Italian and Jewish and Polish backgrounds who used Anglicized names. My real concern is with the concept of treating other cultures as strange or bad because they’re different. It has the effect of keeping Americans in a cocoon where they’re not exposed to those influences. Leibowitz may be hard to pronounce for many Gentile Americans, but then, Stewart may be hard to pronounce for many Israelis or Chinese or Greeks. The original concept of Intelligent Design does not even raise the notion of a deity being involved.Not quite. Technically, the “designer” could have been a superintelligent alien race. But Kitzmiller v. Dover made it clear that the concept was created as a tactical maneuver by creationists, to teach sectarian religion under the guise of science.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    I believe most gentiles can pronounce Liebowitz, as in Fran Liebowitz. American gentiles are not at all bad at this. Note for instance that they can say Wittgenstein, Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Einsenstein, Kafka, Beethoven, Tolstoi, Mossadegh, Saddam Hussein, Netanyahu, Abbas, etc.I’ve never heard a single American human being grossly mispronounce Liebowitz.

  • watchmaker

    You: ‘I never said “no one changed his surname.” ‘You: “none in Watchmaker’s list changed his/her surname, and not a single one changed his name to avoid its ethnically recognizable roots”Which is it? And for the record, by surname I mean “a hereditary name common to all members of a family, as distinct from a given name.” Also known as “last name”.Did Freddie Mercury change his name from Farroukh Bulsara to “avoid its ethnically recognizable roots”? I don’t know. You don’t know. He’s no longer with us so we can’t ask him.Did Jon Stewart change his name to “avoid its ethnically recognizable roots”? I don’t know. You don’t know. Lucky he’s alive — why don’t you ask him rather than impose your own tunnel-vision hyper-sensitive Ashkenazi mentality?Why do you have a reason for _every_ last name change but not his? Did you make them up? Do you not care because none of them is Jewish?If you’re running for Pope you might want to consider that the position only exists in one religion, at the moment.Church-ladies have nothing on meddling tunnel-vision Ashkenazi militants who are convinced that they alone are correct.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Church-ladies have nothing on meddling tunnel-vision Ashkenazi militants who are convinced that they alone are correct.What’s up with all the misogyny, btw.? YOu call Dr. Hecht a “yeshiva lady,” me a Church lady?What are you a Wasp Wanabe Gent? LOL!

  • watchmaker

    “having to Waspify one’s surname, or feeling that doing so will improve one’s chances either for success or getting along is NOT evidence of an inclusive society!”Unfortunately this “Farnaz” character has yet to address exactly why he thinks anyone who is not Jewish may adopt a stage name and any reason given or implied is valid; however, if someone who is Jewish does so it is only because they feel an overwhelming need to “Waspify” themselves.This is obviously a case of the “Farnaz” person being a “self-hating Jew” who is jealous of the mainstream (= “Christian”) culture in the U.S.See, “Farnaz” isn’t the only one who can pull ridiculous conclusions out of thin air.Here’s the only fact that matters: “Stewart” is not a “Waspified” name (whatever that means). “Stewart” is Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz’s midle name. Which is still unacceptable to the Name Change Chief of Police, “Farnaz”.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Watchman,Farnaz Mansouri is my name. It is an Iranian name and I am an Iranian Jew. I am also a woman.Rest ye.

  • Carstonio

    Compchiro, I question whether intelligent design as a concept even existed before people like Michael Behe came along. The basic flaw in “there appears to be a design process” is that it assumes that order can only be designed. Postulating a designer doesn’t explain why there is order, but instead simply substitutes one unanswered question for another.

  • Bios

    CARS,Thanks.

  • Carstonio

    How would you refute the analogy: if cars clearly have a designer, then trees, the universe, us, we also have a designer.For one thing, we can document the design process of a car to prove it was designed. I’m not necessarily arguing that natural objects weren’t designed, but instead pointing out that the claim that they were rests on assumptions and speculations. We can’t just say, “Objects we create are designed, so everything else must have been designed as well.” We have to develop a hypothesis that can be tested, and if such testing isn’t possible with the design hypothesis, then it’s indistinguishable from speculation.

  • compchiro

    Carstonio,”Not quite. Technically, the “designer” could have been a superintelligent alien race. But Kitzmiller v. Dover made it clear that the concept was created as a tactical maneuver by creationists, to teach sectarian religion under the guise of science.”Sorry but the “Intelligent Design MOvement” is no the same thing as the ORIGINAL concept that there appears to be a design process. I pay no attention to the religious movement. It is the work of uneducated fools. The Kitzmiller vs Dover case never addressed the original concept because the Dover School Board people were not interested in the basic concept, just the idiocy of creationists (or more likely they only believed that ID is what Robertson and his mentally vacuous followers believe.)Just as educated people ignore the mistranslations of the TaNaKH that Christianity uses, so do educated people ignore the creationist misuse of the ID concept.

  • Freestinker

    “Compchiro, I question whether intelligent design as a concept even existed before people like Michael Behe came along. The basic flaw in “there appears to be a design process” is that it assumes that order can only be designed. Postulating a designer doesn’t explain why there is order, but instead simply substitutes one unanswered question for another.”==========Another logical flaw (begging the question) is assuming who or what the designer was without evidence. Even if the universe and organic life were “designed”, that fact alone doesn’t support the god hypothesis. Evolution itself could be the designer.

  • Bios

    COMP,Sorry to de-fascinate you.Cheers.

  • compchiro

    BIOS,”I asked him such a question ‘cause I have not been able to convince believers around me around this issue and because Mr. Hecht mentions it in his post. So I figured he would provide an elegant answer and he did not disappoint. “”Sorry to de-fascinate you.OK. Sorry about the misunderstanding. But my fascination about the idiocy of some religous folk does not change because you are not one of them. Unfortunately there are still plenty left, and Hecht is one them.Hate to tell you but not amount of intelligent, well-thought out explanations such as one put forth by Carstonio on that issue will help you answer the religous idiots around you. They are not capable of understanding intelligence or logic. BTW, not all religous people are idiots. I know many who although they may believe in deity also believe in evolution, and the big bang theory, and reject the creationist foolishness. In fact, back in the day when I believed in God (as a practicing Jew who almost became a Rabbi) I knew full well that the TaNaKH was never to read literally (and that it was written by men, not god), that God did not cause illness or disaster, that the general concept evolution was fact, and that creationists were/are idiots. Luckily over time, I also realized that there is nothing even close to resembling valid proof that God exists outside the imagination of those who choose to believe in him/her/it and that that was not a valid reason to believe in said entity myself.

  • Bios

    COMP, Your brutally harsh narration is outstanding. I absolutely have to learn how to do it. Keep writing.BTW, I agree 100% with your post and I’m impressed with the fact that you almost became a rabbi. Some story you got there.Cheers