Secular Judaism

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The Issue of Secular Judaism

The majority of people think of Judaism as a natural kind of religion. Judaism, however, can be summed up as all of the Jewish people's cultural traditions and beliefs. Consequently, Jewish secularism is another name for secular Judaism. The Jewish faith used to be guided by a system of principles, values, and beliefs known as Judaism; everyone was obligated to uphold these standards. Secular Judaism is a practice that is currently connected to Jews who identify as such but are not religious. The Jews are divided into different religious groups including the Orthodox, the conservative, and reform. They have also developed other smaller groups such as the Karaite (Biale 21). Each of them practices Judaism depending on how they understand and interprets the rules. However, there is a larger group of people that do not identify with any of the globally recognized Jews but still claims to be Jews. Since they are not attached to religious practices, they have identified with the secular factor. This paper discusses the issue of secular Judaism against religious Judaism, highlights the practices of each of the groups, and concludes whether each of the Jews requires an identity depending on the kind of Judaism they practice. The paper will also describe the core values of each group.

Differences Between Secular and Religious Jews

Both secular and religious Jews are identified as followers of Judaism, thus making it almost impossible for a third party to tell whether one is religious or not. According to David Biale on, “Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Jewish Secular Thought,” he defines secularization as a concept that is politically and metaphysically opposed to religion (Biale 3). Each Judaism group practices their own Judaism rituals, which differs from rituals practiced by the other groups. The practices are followed according to the religious law which are central commandments to Judaism. Also, these rituals govern their daily life and determine their culture regarding the clothes they wear, and the kind of food they eat. The general law governing all Judaisms is referred to as Halakhah, which means the path one walks. The commandments are referred to as the Mitzvot and religious Jews should follow keenly.

Beliefs and Practices of Religious Jews

Religious Jews believe in the 613 commandments, which are found in the Jewish Bible. They included the rabbinic law which had a large body of rules and contained various punishments for those who violated them. Because the rules had been retrieved from the Bible, nobody had the mandate to change or alter with what they said; they were to be followed without questioning or wavering. Their house of worship is the synagogue which predated the second temple (Malkin 33). Also, Judaism strictly follows the guide of Jewish prayers and worship, as well as keep the Jewish dietary laws which include not taking kosher foods among others.

Beliefs and Practices of Secular Jews

Most secular Jews have argued that the Jewish religion has numerous limits that are meaningless to religion and should not be observed. Normally, religion is a matter of spirituality, and most of the religious practices are not attached to God. Jews observe the Sabbath, festivals and other holy days. Secular Jews do not consider themselves religious but identify themselves with good deeds; they do not believe in the abstract definition of God (Troen 153). These contradict with the belief of religious Jews, who believe they are attached to God by religion rather than culture. Therefore, the difference between secular Jews and religious Jews is the practices. Secular Jews practice modernity and do not identify with the holy days and feasts.

Reasons for Secular Judaism

Today, most Jews have converted to secular Judaism because they consider humanity more valuable than just a mere belief in God. Secular Jews believe that it is even more religious to be a person of good deeds than to believe in a God and not practice as he requires. The current world is changing, and religions are reforming, for instance, many people identify with their religion because they were born by parents who belonged to it. One identifies as a Jew because they are born by a Jewish mother (Malkin 56). However, with innovation and modernity, they have decided to identify with secularism because they feel that the traditions and practices do not add value to their current lives. Therefore, judging secular Jews as people who have abandoned their faith is an old way of arguing things out, and should be avoided. Faith in a supreme being is determined by deeds to humanity. Secular Jews have not abandoned all the values of the Jewish religion, and that is the reason why they still identify with Judaism.

Values and Beliefs of Secular Jews

In the ancient teachings of Judaism, the followers of the faith were encouraged to feed the hungry and clothe the desolate. Secular Jews do not negate any of these values and beliefs. Instead, they encourage helping the needy and living in harmony with other human beings. They, however, argues that some practices such as forbidding Jews from eating some foods as stated in the Jewish Bible are ancient and should not be observed in the modern world. Secular Jews claim that it is wrong to limit a person’s rights by deciding what they can and cannot eat. The current generation consumes different kinds of products, and at times the components are not known (Troen 155). They also argue that even the religious Jews have perhaps consumed the forbidden foods, only that they are not aware of it. While embracing modernity and innovation, they claim the religious practices and beliefs have no concrete basis or scientific support (Biale 24). They also believe in operating with logic and an explanation of every happening and the practices they are asked to embrace. Since reason does not support some of the practices, they choose to not adhere to them and stick only to that which makes sense.

Differences in Observance

Religious Jews observe not only the Sabbath but all the religious days and feasts as dictated in the Jewish Bible. Secular Jews observe whichever they feel is relevant for their spirituality or connected with their cultural identification. It is forbidden for a truly religious Jew to ignore the holy days and feasts, regardless of their commitments. Therefore, they are often ready to sacrifice whatever it takes for their religion (Kavka 126). Secular Jews, on the other hand, feel that it is not worth to give up anything for the sake of religion. In fact, some of them work on the Sabbath day, and sometimes ignore the days that should be keenly observed by all who follow Judaism.

Freedom to Define Faith and Spirituality

Secular Jews do not adhere to all the 613 rules because they feel that others are repetitive and others to limiting for the current generation. Since they are people of logic and reason, they often argue why children are exempted from adherence to the commandments, yet they start to embrace them at a particular age. It is only fair if people are allowed to live within their definitions of faith and spirituality.

Works Cited

Biale, David. Not In the Heavens. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2010,.

Kavka, Martin. "WHAT IS IMMANENT IN JUDAISM? Transcending a Secular Age." Journal of Religious Ethics, vol 40, no. 1, 2012, pp. 123-137. Wiley-Blackwell, doi:10.1111/j.1467-9795.2011.00511.x.

Malkin, Yaakov. Secular Judaism. London, Vallentine Mitchell, 2004,.

Troen, I. "Secular Judaism in Israel." Society, vol 53, no. 2, 2016, pp. 153-162. Springer Nature, doi:10.1007/s12115-016-9991-x.

April 13, 2023


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Judaism Religious Beliefs God

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