Can you have Judaism without God? Many Jewish atheists believe you can :

[S]chrogin, 64, is a dues-paying member of Congregation Beth El, a Reform synagogue here in Berkeley. He is among its most active members, attending Torah study, and, for a time, heading its social action committee. [ . . . ]

At the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many Jews who identify as atheists, secular humanists and other religious “nones” attend synagogue. Most go once a year — like Christians who go to church only at Christmas or Easter. But others, like Schrogin, are active, integral parts of a religious community that, ideologically, they stand apart from.

“Atheism and Judaism are not contradictory, so to have an atheist in a Jewish congregation isn’t an issue or a challenge or a problem,” Shrogin said. “It is par for the course. That is what Judaism is. It is our tradition to question God from top to bottom.”

Atheism is entrenched in American Judaism. In researching their book American Grace, authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell found that half of all American Jews doubt God’s existence. In other groups, that number is between 10 and 15 percent.

After reading this article I immediately thought of the Christian trilemma (“Liar, Lunatic, or Lord”), which philosopher Peter Kreeft describes as “the most important argument in Christian apologetics”Although C.S. Lewis’s version is the most famous, the Scots preacher John Duncan (1796–1870) provides a more succinct version:

Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.

Because the veracity of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) is dependent on the integrity of Moses, I think we can develop a “Jewish trilemma”:

Moses either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or he was himself deluded and self-deceived, or he was what he claimed to be—a messenger of the Divine Lawgiver. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.

If there is no Divine Lawgiver then the Law of Moses is nothing more than the quirky ramblings of an ancient Hebrew who was (a) completely insane, wholly self-deceived, or (b) the greatest conman ever to come out of Egypt.

Which do the Jewish atheists believe it to be? And why would they bother study a text produced by despicable/disturbed/deluded prophet?

Articles by Joe Carter

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