September 16, 2019

Letters to the editor: Atheism and Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn Wasn’t Jewish

No need to twist history. Felix Mendelssohn is [repeatedly referred to in the Journal and online as being Jewish].

A Christian who converted to Judaism is not anymore a Christian, but a Jew. Similarly, Felix Mendelssohn, whose Jewish father Abraham Mendelssohn had converted to Christianity, was not Jewish. Felix Mendelssohn was not circumcised, and was brought up without religion until the age of 7, when he was baptized as a Reformed Christian. His funeral was held at the Paulinerkirche, the university church of Leipzig. Felix Mendelssohn’s grandfather, the German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, was Jewish. Thus, Felix was Jewish only according to Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws.

Edith Shaked Perlman, Los Angeles

An Atheist Answers Prager

I am not an “influential” living atheist, just a living one, but I am eager to respond to Dennis Prager’s column (“Two Questions for Atheists,” June 10). Do I hope if I am right or wrong? My hopes lie somewhere else. Do I ever doubt my atheism? No. 

Prager’s rumination actually supports the fundamental objection against the existence of Divinity: Man was not created by God but God was created by Man. Particularly in the early days of humans on Earth, understanding of nature and life was simplistic; religious tales seemed to be helpful in dealing with harsh reality. (Remember Marx, labeling religion as the “opium of the masses?”) Unfortunately, religion morphed from fairy tales into a tool of exploitation.

Our mind is advanced enough to instill big questions but still not advanced enough to find sufficient answers. What I hope for is better understanding of nature and myself. I accept only objective, observable reality (or materialism, to use a “dirty” word Marx also favored). Until I see undeniable evidence, I don’t have doubts. Since thousands of years were not enough to generate a shred of such evidence, I am not concerned about eating crow or earning Prager’s respect; I am not an agnostic but a proud atheist. 

Peter Hantos, Los Angeles