Thoughts about my atheist father

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by LincolnSpector, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. LincolnSpector

    LincolnSpector Member

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    My father was born, raised, lived, and died an atheist. He saw no point to religion at all. For him, it seemed stupid.

    I should also mention the he was the the most moral and principled person whom I've ever personally known.

    I don't think he ever understood how two of his sons became religious Jews as adults. It bewildered him, but he didn't fight about it. And, of course, he graciously took part in weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.

    Two interesting stories:

    1) He served in the Pacific during WW2. He was a sergeant. The only other Jew in his platoon was a Lieutenant. When Yom Kippur was approaching, the Lieutenant asked him, as a personal favor, to attend services with him. My father declined. Shortly after the holiday, the Lieutenant was killed. My Dad always felt bad about that.

    2) He spent the last 8 or so years of his life in a large retirement home, and the last few months in that home's nursing facility. When he died, we had a memorial for him at the home. The home's chaplain, an Episcopal minister, told me that few weeks before he died, my dad asked him to arrange a meeting with a rabbi. I have no idea what they talked about.

    Maybe he wanted to convince the rabbi that there's no God. :)
     
  2. Marcialou

    Marcialou We are stardust

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    Lincoln,

    Those are good stories about your father. I like your interpretation about his meeting with the rabbi. I'm sure it wasn't the first such conversation he would have had with a dying person.

    I was also raised by atheist parents, but they were strongly Jewish-identified, celebrated holidays and made a point of giving us a Jewish education. I knew my father wanted a Jewish service when he died. What I didn't know, until the time came, was that he even wanted the part where you pay someone to pray over the body overnight. That was a surprise.

    My husband grew up in a roughly similar household. His father came from Poland and studied in a yeshiva until he dropped out. He had been a staunch atheist since childhood but never-the-less read religious texts from time to time and discussed them with the rabbi at his kids' Hebrew school.

    We were with him the week before he died. By this point he couldn't remember anything or anyone except from the old country. He was also in a lot of pain. Once when my husband was moving him, he blurted out, "Oh God." Then when he was settled he said, "I don't know why I said that. I don't believe in any of that stuff." He was a man true to his convictions until the end. He also had a Jewish funeral and was buried in a white robe draped with a tallis.

    Did your father have a Jewish funeral and was he buried in a Jewish cemetery?
     
  3. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule New Member

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    I'm trying to figure out if there is anything intended here other than thoughtful reminiscence.
     
  4. LincolnSpector

    LincolnSpector Member

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    Being Jewish was a very minor thing for my dad. He was married three times, and only the first one (my mother) was Jewish. My dad didn't deny being Jewish, but people could know him for a long time and not know it about him.

    If we had given him a Jewish funeral, he would of risen from the dead to lecture us that. :)

    My mother, who was raised in a religious family, was much more Jewish-identified. But it was more a nationalist thing than anything else. When I was in my 20s, she tried to talk me into moving to Israel. She even accused me once of being a self-hating Jew because I didn't want to move there--and by then I was practising the religion.

    In my Mom's home, the only Jewish holiday we celebrated was Chanukah, for which we had a Christmas tree with a star of David on top.
     
  5. Quirkybird

    Quirkybird Granny to five

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    I wish my parents had been non believers, it would have made my childhood better. The constant force feeding of religion and ghastly church attendance spoilt what should have been a great childhood with the sun, sand and sea.
     
  6. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    My father didn't go to church...In fourth grade I quit going....he and I stayed home while my sisters and mom went....I started going back in 7th grade....for the girls..not my sisters...the other girls.

    My dad said he didn't go because he didn't want anyone preachin to him for 30 minutes without a discussion...the preacher told him you can come ask anything you want...he said no why can't we have a Q&A right in the service...I want to hear others questions too...
     
  7. Quirkybird

    Quirkybird Granny to five

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    Good for your father!:D
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    side note...I've attended a UU service where they did that...20 minute talk followed by 20 minute discussion.... not all are like that...but I found it extremely refreshing...

    at our church I instituted, got the preacher to agree to a once a month...Ask the Preacher... about 20% of the congregation regathers after our regular service, after snack time, for another hour of discussion...asking questions about the service that day...or any other topic on belief and understanding... it is great.
     
  9. Quirkybird

    Quirkybird Granny to five

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    I believe our middle daughter attends a church like that where discussion during the sermon is welcomed. Our grandson (12), who has high functioning autism, is quite happy to discuss the sermon with them, on the occasions he attends the church, and asks some very challenging questions. He even gave them a discourse of his own a few months ago!
     
  10. just me

    just me New Member

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    Your father was a good person, no matter what he called himself.
    true christians can be turned by the over religious bible thumpers.
    your father was a christian in spirit.
    just me
     
  11. LincolnSpector

    LincolnSpector Member

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    Your father was a wise man.

    That's one of the reasons I prefer small congregations that meet in homes over large ones that meet in synagogues. Less lectures, more conversations.
     
  12. LincolnSpector

    LincolnSpector Member

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    I have no experience as either a child or a parent in an overly-strict, force-fed religious family. It sounds, as you said, ghastly.

    When I married my first wife, someone gave us a book called "How to be a Jew," which would more accurately have been called "How to be an Orthodox Jew in My Congregation." I still have it and it's useful as a reference, but the author's opinions border on the bizarre. At one point, he cautions against using Simcha Torah or Purim as your child's first introduction to Synagogue, because it may give the impression that synagogue is fun.
     
  13. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    UUs if that is what they attend...are big on lay speakers....
     
  14. b.finton

    b.finton New Member

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    Name me a prophet that didn't have trouble with "religion."

    b.
     

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