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Criticism of Judaism

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Criticism of Judaism has existed since Judaism's formative stages, as with many other religions, on theological grounds.

Rejection of concept of a personal god

Philosopher Baruch Spinoza rejected the orthodox understanding of the Torah, its view of God, and he rejected the idea of the Jews as a chosen people.

In his Theologico-Political Treatise Spinoza rejected the idea of the Jews as a chosen people and saw the Torah as merely a kind of Jewish constitution. He further felt that Judaism allowed for little in the way of speculation or internal reflection. Spinoza's critique of the Judaism of his day formed the foundation for his broader radical critique of theology that would follow in his later writings, which have been seen as precursors to later trends in Enlightenment thought. An earlier heretic, Uriel da Costa, a convert of Jewish ancestry, had also been met with a writ of cherem for his denial of the immortality of the soul.

In many religions ex-members and excommunicates became known for doctrinal disputes with their former faith. In Judaism a process similar to excommunication is called cherem. The process is a form of ecclesiastical censure that states the person is not to be listened to by the community. Among people declared cherem there were a few critics of Judaism. However, cherem has rarely been practised since the Enlightenment.

Criticism from Christianity

Paul criticizes Jews for their failure to believe in Jesus (Romans 9:30-10:13) and for their view about their favored status and lack of equality with gentiles (Roman 3:27).[1]

Criticism from Islam

A prominent place in the Qur'anic polemic against the Jews is given to the conception of the religion of Abraham. The Qur'an presents Muslims as neither Jews nor Christians but followers of Abraham who was in a physical sense the father of the Jews and the Arabs and lived before the revelation of Torah. In order to show that the religion practiced by the Jews is not the pure religion of Abraham, the Qur'an mentions the incident of worshiping of the calf, argues that Jews do not believe in part of the revelation given to them, and that their taking of usury shows their worldliness and disobedience of God. Furthermore, the Quran claim they attribute to God what he has not revealed. According to the Qur'an, the Jews exalted Ezra as the "son of God." (See the Quranic statements about perceived Jewish exaltation). This however, has no historical basis, is not mentioned in any Jewish text or oral tradition, and is not practiced by modern Jews (nor is there evidence to show that it ever was practiced). The character of Ezra became important in the works of the later Andalusian Muslim scholar Ibn Hazm who explicitly accused Ezra of being a liar and a heretic who falsified and added interpolations into the Biblical text. In his polemic against Judaism, Ibn Hazm provided a polemical list of what he considered "chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission (tawatur) of the text".[2][3]

Kosher slaughter

Kosher slaughter as a practice has attracted widespread criticism from animal welfare groups who claim that the absence of any form of anesthesia or stunning prior to the severance of the animal’s jugular vein entails prolonged and unnecessary pain. The British Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC), an independent body which advises the British Government in matters of animal welfare, has demanded that kosher slaughter no longer be exempted under relevant legislation, demanding that animals be subjected to stunning before slaughter. FAWC Chairwoman, Dr Judy MacArthur (herself a farmer and qualified veterinarian) has defended the organisation’s stance, criticising her detractors by claiming that "(kosher slaughter involves) a major incision into the animal and to say that it doesn't suffer is quite ridiculous." [4] This claim is contrary to those made by supporters of kosher slaughter, who claim that the extreme blood loss caused in the process results in a rapid loss of consciousness and therefore an absence of pain.[5]

Criticism specific to Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism is criticized by some leaders of Orthodox Judaism for not properly following Halakha (Jewish religious law).[6] It is also criticized by some leaders of Reform Judaism for being at odds with the principles of its young adult members on issues such as intermarriage, patrilineal descent, and the ordination of lesbians and gay men—all issues that Conservative Judaism opposes and Reform Judaism supports.[7] (The Conservative movement has since moved in the direction of allowing for gay rabbis and the "celebration of same-sex commitment ceremonies."[8])

Discrimination against non-Jews

Judaism has been criticized because its religious laws contain several provisions that discriminate against non-Jews, such as the rule that there is no need to return lost property belonging to non-Jews, and the asymmetry in compensation rules following ox-goring incidents.[9][10][11] However, religious authorities point out that those religious dicta must be interpreted within the context that they were created, and that non-Jews in that context were idolaters.[12] In addition, arguments against such discrimination were posited by leading rabbis starting in the middle ages, and the rules are no longer enforced.[13]


Judaism has been criticized because its religious texts condemn homosexual activity, and because some formulations, such as Orthodox Judaism, prohibit homosexual activity.[14][15][16] However, Reform Judaism accepts gay and lesbian members and rabbis. Orthodox Judaism does not exclude homosexuals, but does require that they not engage in homosexual sexual activities.

See also


  1. E. P. Sanders, Paul the Law and Jewish People, Fortress Press, p.154
  2. Encyclopedia of Islam, Uzayr
  3. Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, Tahrif, Encyclopedia of Islam
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
  6. Avi Shafran, "The Conservative Lie", Moment, February 2001.
  7. Joe Berkofsky, "Death of Conservative Judaism? Reform leader’s swipe sparks angry rebuttals", j., March 5, 2004.
  8. Laurie Goodstein, Conservative Jews Allow Gay Rabbis and Unions, The New York Times, 2006.
  9. Fraade, Steven D. (1994). The Other in Jewish thought and history: constructions of Jewish culture and identity",. NYU Press. p. 145-165. ISBN 0814779905. 
  10. David Novak (1979) "Noahide Law: A Foundation for Jewish Philosophy (Elimination of the double standard)" in Tradition in the public square: a David Novak reader, (2008) Randi Rashkover (Ed.). p. 132-136, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
  11. Shmueli, Ephraim (1990). Seven Jewish cultures: a reinterpretation of Jewish history and thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 261. ISBN 0521373816. 
  12. Tomson, Peter J. (1990). Paul and the Jewish law: halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum. p. 151-163. ISBN 9023224906. 
  13. Schwarz, Sidney (2008). Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World. Jewish Lights Publishing. p. 74. ISBN 1580233538. 
  14. Greenberg, Steven (2005). Wrestling with God and men: homosexuality in the Jewish tradition. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 3-40. ISBN 0299190943. 
  15. Raphael, Marc Lee (2005). Judaism in America. Columbia University Press. p. 121-123. 
  16. Denise L. Eger (2001), "Embracing Lesbians and Gay Men", in Contemporary debates in American reform Judaism: conflicting visions, Dana Evan Kaplan (Ed.), Routledge, p. 180-192

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