Celebrity Atheist: Paul Giamatti May 23, 2011

Celebrity Atheist: Paul Giamatti

Actor Paul Giamatti made a statement affirming his atheism in an interview with the Metro (UK)

Are you a religious man?

I consider myself an atheist. My wife is Jewish and I’m fine with my son being raised as a Jew. He’s learning Hebrew and is really into it. I will talk to my son about my atheism when the time is right. But there’s a great tradition of Jewish atheism, there are no better atheists in the world than the Jews (laughs).

(via The Jewmanist)

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  • Much like Gumbercules, I love that guy!

  • Larry Meredith

    I’m confused… why be fine with raising a kid Jewish if you don’t believe in any of it?

  • Brice Gilbert

    I’ve read another interview where he talks about this and it essentially comes down to letting his wife introduce what she believes, and he figures introducing atheism in the teenage years (when we discovered) it will work better.

  • But he still believes in Narfs.

  • Calvin

    @Larry Meredith There’s a difference between atheism and anti-theism. Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re against it.

  • Dancy

    Also, I’ve discovered that many Jews are culturally Jewish as opposed to spiritually Jewish.

  • Religious indoctrination works on the midbrain level. That’s why religion tries to grab kids early and build up these irrational links between emotion and rituals/Sky Fairies.

  • ButchKitties


    Being Jewish (and to some extent, being Catholic) is as much an ethnic/cultural identification as it is a religious one. There’s some discussion of this in previous posts.



  • what is a ‘Narf?’

    yes, Larry, there are plenty of atheist Jews. many of them are my friends, they are wonderful people and atheists. Jewish culture is culture, as well as identity and religion; it’s cool like that and the monotheism i like the best of all of them.

    PG really impressed me in that hBO series in which he played one of the founding fathers. he was *awesome* and delivered all the classic Founder’s lines with perfect pitch. rent it if you can. the funnest part of that series was when the character Sam Adams was in the scene. Founding Father Atheists rocked!

  • I’ve read another interview where he talks about this and it essentially comes down to letting his wife introduce what she believes, and he figures introducing atheism in the teenage years (when we discovered) it will work better.

    Generally, I think this is a horrible idea. It will probably turn out okay for Giamatti because being a secular Jew is well accepted. There are tons of Jewish atheists. However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend that atheists let their theist partners indoctrinate their children and wait until said children are teenagers (when their brains have already developed and the god-concept firmly implanted) before introducing them to atheism. Honestly, I think it’s about the worst thing you could do. Children aren’t born theists. They become theists when parents, teachers, and the surrounding culture insert the idea of a single male deity into their brains. If you wait until the teenage years even to mention atheism, what’s the chance that those children will suddenly be able to conceive of a purely materialistic universe?

    FWIW, I didn’t “discover” atheism in my teenage years. I was born an atheist and have remained one all my life. If my parents had chosen to indoctrinate me into a religion instead, who knows if I would be an atheist today? There’s a very strong chance that I would not. Although it’s hard to imagine myself as a believer, my life could certainly have taken a different path. There’s every possibility that I could have become a faithful Catholic or Mormon or Baptist. If those religions had gotten to me early enough, anything might have happened. I wouldn’t underestimate the power of indoctrination.

  • I never did understand the whole “culturally Jewish” and “Jewish atheist” deal. I guess because, to me, saying I’m a “Catholic atheist” and “culturally Catholic” makes no sense. Any Catholicism present in my culture would entail actually following the religious practices and customs, something I abandoned along with the religion.

    Is there some difference in cultural Judaism that I’m missing? I’m eager to learn.

  • S.S.

    A secular or atheist Jew is one who is not observant of the religious elements but who recognizes their Jewish heritage. Judaism places practice over belief, especially in Reformist synagogues. Although Judaism at its core places a god on the throne, you can be a secular Jew by not invoking God in ceremonies and festivals in order to feel part of a greater Jewish community. These holidays are always historical or nature-focused, such as Hannukah and Sukkot. Historically, this has been very important, as Jews have been long isolated and ill-received.

    The bottom line: practice over belief.

  • Makes sense. Thanks!

  • Interesting. So who is Paul Giamatti? Besides an actor. Little details… 🙂

  • CanadianNihilist

    cute answer.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    what is a ‘Narf?’

    It was a reference to Giamatti’s role in the movie Lady in the Water, where Bryce Howard played a magical sea nymph known as a Narf.

  • Thegoodman

    I get the feeling from what I read and hear that ‘Jewish Atheism’ is like putting a more PC term on being a snob.

    “I want to surround myself with only Jews so I don’t get corrupted by any of their non-jewish ideals, despite the fact that I don’t participate in the jewish religion.”

    I am not an anti-semite at all nor do I subscribe to any jewish conspiracy theories, but I do find the snobbery of the jewish community more offensive than others. I know all religious communities are guilty of this to some extent, but I don’t know of any other that allows its members to reject the theology but continue to live the lifestyle.

  • ludovico

    “Celebrities! Is there anything they don’t know?!” — H. Simpson

  • Now I’m an even bigger fan of this superb actor.

  • Beryl

    I’m a goy, an atheist, and a member of a Jewish community organization. I don’t detect much snobbery. Protectiveness of the culture, sure, but not in a way that devalues other cultures. I can see how refusal to give up an identity could come off as snobbish. I think it’s more stubbornness than anything else, and I’ve come to find it appealing in a local culture that otherwise tends toward homogeneity.

  • Thegoodman


    Thanks for the insider response. Stubbornness sounds like a better word for it.

    Paul Giamatti is one of my all time favorite actors so I am excited to see he has joined the club.

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