Jewish atheism

Jewish atheism refers to the atheism of people who are ethnically and (at least to some extent) culturally Jewish. Because Jewish identity is ethnoreligious (i.e., it encompasses ethnic as well as religious components), the term "Jewish atheism" does not inherently entail a contradiction.

Based on Jewish law's emphasis on matrilineal descent, even religiously conservative Orthodox Jewish authorities would accept an atheist born to a Jewish mother as fully Jewish.[1] A 2011 study found that half of all American Jews have doubts about the existence of God, compared to 10–15% of other American religious groups.[2]

Organized Jewish life

There has been a phenomenon of atheistic and secular Jewish organizations, mostly in the past century, from the Jewish socialist Bund in early twentieth-century Poland to the modern Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations and the Society for Humanistic Judaism in the United States. Many Jewish atheists feel comfortable within any of the three major non-Orthodox Jewish denominations (Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist). This presents less of a contradiction than might first seem apparent, given Judaism's emphasis on practice over belief, with even mainstream guides to Judaism suggesting that belief in God is not a necessary prerequisite to Jewish observance.[3] However, Orthodox Judaism regards the acceptance of the "Yoke of Heaven" (the sovereignty of the God of Israel in the world and the divine origin of the Torah) as a fundamental obligation for Jews. Even among non-Orthodox Jews, espousing atheism remains problematic outside of the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations and the Society for Humanistic Judaism. The Reform movement, for example, has rejected efforts at affiliation by atheistic temples.[4] The presence of atheists in all denominations of modern Judaism, from Secular Humanistic Judaism to Orthodoxy, has been noted.[5]