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Judaism And Atheism: The Challenge Of Secular Humanism

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Chapter Summary

Atheism, understood not simply as disbelief in the biblical Deity, or deities generally, has scarcely any impact on Judaism until the modern era, when Jews suddenly find themselves in a position to respond to, some of the more radical interrogations of faith that increasingly characterize the intellectual life of the West from the seventeenth century to the present. That response, and the trajectory of progressive disbelief that can be traced from Benedict Spinoza to contemporary advocates of a 'godless' Judaism, constitutes the focus of this chapter. Each of the figures in the chapter exhibits both a pattern of growing dissociation from many of the basic assumptions that have sustained Jewish theology over many centuries and a growing interest in a materialist interpretation of religious experience. These thinkers represent a secular counter-tradition within the discourse of Judaism in the modern age that preempts and surpasses the arguments introduced by new atheists.

Keywords: Atheism; Benedict Spinoza; Judaism; secular humanism



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