Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Judaism, a religion and a people   posted by Razib @ 7/10/2007 10:47:00 PM

Some of the comments below stumbled upon a topic which I think is important to highlight: that many Americans Jews who consider themselves religious wouldn't really be considered religious in a non-Jewish context. Most of you likely know that Judaism is both a religion and a nation (ethnicity). This isn't that exceptional. Some Zoroastrians present their own faith in the same way, as do many Hindus and some neo-Pagan reconstructionists (e.g., the Asatru). But in an America framed by Protestant assumptions about the centrality of religious profession, confession and adherence to a creed, when someone asserts that they are of a religion x the background schema of Americans is to assume that that entails adherence to a set of belief axioms. But check out some of the data from the American Jewish Identity Survey:
Belief that God performs miracles

Disagree strongly Disagree somewhat Agree somewhat Agree strongly
Jews by religion 11% 17% 31% 36%
No religion 7% 11% 31% 47%

I am contrasting Jews who have some religious affiliation (as opposed to avowedly secular Jews who have only an ethnic attachment) with those Americans who claim "No religion" (which can range from New Age theists all the way to materialist atheists). The point is that even religious Jews in the United States are in many ways more like the non-religious than they are like other denominations. This is reflected in their political liberalism as well as their hostility toward manifestations of "fundamentalist" religion (e.g., Creationism).