What is Judaism? What does it mean to be a Jew? Most people, both Jewish
and gentile, would instinctively say that Judaism is a religion. And yet, there
are militant atheists who insist that they are Jews! Is Judaism a race? If you
were to say so, most Jews would think you were an antisemite! So what is Judaism?
Clearly, there is a religion called Judaism, a set of ideas about the world
and the way we should live our lives that is called "Judaism." It is studied
in Religious Studies courses and taught to Jewish children in Hebrew schools.
See What do Jews Believe? for details. There is a lot of flexibility about certain
aspects of those beliefs, and a lot of disagreement about specifics, but that
flexibility is built into the organized system of belief that is Judaism.
However, many people who call themselves Jews do not believe in that religion
at all! More than half of all Jews in Israel today call themselves "secular,"
and don't believe in God or any of the religious beliefs of Judaism. Half of
all Jews in the United States don't belong to any synagogue. They may practice
some of the rituals of Judaism and celebrate some of the holidays, but they
don't think of these actions as religious activities.
The most traditional Jews and the most liberal Jews and everyone in between
would agree that these secular people are still Jews, regardless of their disbelief.
See Who is a Jew? Clearly, then, there is more to being Jewish than just a religion.
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