A Moment Symposium: Only a Third to Half of American Jews Today Believe in an Almighty Deity. Can There Be Judaism without Belief in God? Moment Asks 15 Thinkers-From Philosophers to Politicians to Poets-To Weigh in on This Ever-Present Question

By Berman, Daphna; Breger, Sarah et al. | Moment, September-October 2011 | Go to article overview

A Moment Symposium: Only a Third to Half of American Jews Today Believe in an Almighty Deity. Can There Be Judaism without Belief in God? Moment Asks 15 Thinkers-From Philosophers to Politicians to Poets-To Weigh in on This Ever-Present Question


Berman, Daphna, Breger, Sarah, Elis, Niv, Epstein, Nadine, Levin, Sala, Schwartz, Amy E., Moment


ADIN STEINSALTZ

The question "What is Judaism without belief in God" can best be answered through similes. The simplest simile would be that it is like humanity without life: a collection of dead bodies, cemeteries and memorials. Judaism without belief in God is just like that: a combination of obscure historical notions such as the Shoah, a faint attachment to Israel and wonderful material for Woody Allen movies. Unlike most of the people in the world, for whom religion is an entity superimposed on an existing nation, in Judaism there has never been anything that makes any sense of the Jewish people; it was not so in the past, and it is surely not so now, with all the ethnic, social and historical differentiations that exist within our nation. This is also true about Jewishness in general: When one speaks about Judaism as an idea or a culture, it becomes quite ridiculous; it is like an attempt to write literature by using only three or four letters of the alphabet. It can be done as a gimmick, but the result will be neither important nor impressive. It is true, however, that in many parts of the world, Jews subconsciously define themselves as the void that remained after God had left--namely, empty shells, hollow puppets that continue to talk and preach despite having lost their contents long ago.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is a winner of the Israel Prize and recently completed a translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew.

REBECCA GOLDSTEIN

As an atheist who identifies with my Jewishness, I believe this is a very important question. From a purely philosophical point of view, it might seem like a contradiction; Judaism is a religion that at the very least presupposes, as all religions do, a belief in God. But many of us make a distinction between Judaism as a religion and Judaism as a cultural and ethical outlook. Many Jewish secularists have strong emotional ties to Judaism; they are moved by Jewish history and identify with the ethics of its civilization. And although they don't believe in any supernatural premises, they recognize that they are informed by Jewish values.

The contradictions might seem glaring, but centuries of Jewish history since the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, have proved that Jews are too strong for narrowly defined contradictions. One of the most important responsibilities a person has is to carefully and conscientiously examine her beliefs. She has a moral responsibility to not simply inherit her beliefs, accepting them as she does her name, to not assert propositions about the world just because of the group that she was born into. If an open-minded look at the world makes her conclude that this is a godless universe, does she have to renounce the culture she grew up with, that has done so much to develop a moral outlook and human values? The answer, for me and many others, is no.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, professor and novelist, is the author of Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction.

JOE LIEBERMAN

There can be Jews who are good people without belief in God, but ultimately Judaism cannot continue to exist without belief in God because the Jewish historical narrative depends on it. I was raised in a traditional setting, to believe that we're judged--and this comes from the prophetic writings--by our behavior, not whether we observe this or that ritual, though we should observe those rituals. Judaism without God, in my opinion, will not remain Judaism and will ultimately vanish. My somewhat circular logic is that I accept the truth of the promise that God made to our forefathers and foremothers: that the Jewish people will be eternal. But I also believe that the promise was conditioned on a continuing belief in God.

Senator Joe Lieberman is an Independent senator from Connecticut and author of a new book on the Sabbath, The Gift of Rest.

ROBERT PUTNAM

I don't know whether it's theologically kosher to be both a Jew and an atheist, but if it isn't, half the Americans who call themselves Jews aren't quite legit. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Moment Symposium: Only a Third to Half of American Jews Today Believe in an Almighty Deity. Can There Be Judaism without Belief in God? Moment Asks 15 Thinkers-From Philosophers to Politicians to Poets-To Weigh in on This Ever-Present Question
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.