'I Don't Believe in God, But I Do Believe in Jews'

James Parker, in the latest Atlantic, on Larry David:

IN MY DREAM, a long-fingered witch was zapping me with heart attacks ("Feel that? Feel it coming?"), and then, disconnectedly, I was in a car with Larry David, driving through Brooklyn. As we entered an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Larry said, "Oy gevalt! It's Passover!" and piously bowed his head. "Larry," I said, surprised, "I didn't know you cared about this stuff." And in my dream Larry David replied, with great solemnity: "I don't believe in God, but I do believe in Jews."

Not a bad line, right? Pret-tay, pret-tay good, as Larry himself might say. The unconscious--mine, anyway--is rarely so aphoristic. Even better, it's a line that happens to be true: Larry David, culturally speaking, is indeed both a figure of pioneering godlessness and a loyal celebrant of the traditions, religious and comic, of his people. I say godlessness because atheism won't do here: too programmatic, too broomstick-up-the-ass. From the post-moral peevishness of Seinfeld (which he co-created) to the flying yarmulkes of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which he created and stars in), Larry has been in a class of his own, spinning a kind of hilarious materialist fairy tale that depends for many of its effects upon the vacuum left by a just-departed divinity--a God who has bolted from the room like Groucho Marx, cigar smell and a hanging one-liner the tokens of His absence.
Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in National

From This Author

Just In