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Suppose a Jew believes that there are multiple gods, but he does not worship them in any way. Is this a violation of the prohibition against idolatry for Jews?

We see from this answer that similar belief for gentiles does not constitute idolatry. Only the worship of other gods makes one guilty of idolatry. Is the same true for Jews, or does simple belief in the existance of multiple gods make a Jew idolatrous?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It is forbidden. I have included relevant snippets, but it's best if you read the whole thing.

Rambam Avodah Kochavim Chapter 2

Halacha 3

The worship of false gods is not the only subject to which we are forbidden to pay attention; rather, we are warned not to consider any thought which will cause us to uproot one of the fundamentals of the Torah. We should not turn our minds to these matters, think about them, or be drawn after the thoughts of our hearts.


What is implied? There are times when a person will stray after star worship, and times when he will wonder about God's oneness: Perhaps He is one, perhaps He is not?


This prohibition - though [severe,] causing a person to be prevented [from attaining a portion] in the world to come - is not punishable by lashes.

Halacha 6

Whoever accepts a false god as true, even when he does not actually worship it, disgraces and blasphemes [God's] glorious and awesome name.

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Pardon that I don't have a Rabbinic source to cite, but:

Shemot 20:3 You shall not have the gods of others in My presence.

This would appear to state that there exist the gods of others. So your question may be answered if by "belief" you mean something like 'an understanding that a thing exists'.

What it is that you 'believe' about those things that others call 'gods', and whether you have thus transgressed, is another matter.

Again, I wish I had better sources for the logic of these statements. Drawing from Ariel's answer to this question, citing Rambam on this exact topic, Halacha 3:

Since he may not know the guidelines with which to evaluate [ideas that will lead him] to the truth in its fullness, he may come to heresy.

I think the Rambam indicates that a person can have the capacity to make the evaluations [of this question] with right-discernment. I do not have more for this forum at this time, except to recommend that the Rambam has given a good guideline.

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So what is your answer here? Are you saying that believing that multiple gods exist is not idolatry, or are you saying that we simply acknowledge that other people believe in other gods? If it's the latter, then this doesn't really answer the question. –  Daniel Apr 19 '13 at 21:31
I am saying that if one thinks of those other gods in the way we consider Hashem, then it would be idolarity. To consider them gods in some sense like 'supernatural forces that grant insight / real things to those others that worship them' - there would seem to be no transgression. But without a source to cite for this kind of interpretation, I answer only to give you the direction of my study. –  Zachariah Apr 19 '13 at 21:41
And how did you arrive at that conclusion from that source? –  Daniel Apr 19 '13 at 21:44
I agree with @Ariel's source. I think that if there is room to further split this hair, it is not worth contemplating unless someone has been put before the specifics of the situation and one is deeply-rooted in the bases of the law. –  Zachariah Apr 19 '13 at 21:59

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