In the eyes of halacha, who is in greater violation of the prohibition of blasphemy, an idolator or an atheist?

Whichever is worse, is that the case by both Jew and Non-Jew?

  • 1
    Are you asking in terms of blasphemy in particular, or which is worse in terms of halacha in general? Dec 5, 2019 at 5:18
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/40178/…
    – Alex
    Dec 5, 2019 at 6:21
  • 2
    All these answers are discussing the opening chapter of Mishneh Torah which relates only to Jews but your question is undifferentiated. It begs for clarification from you. Is your question addressing all people including non-Jews, or only Jews? Is there a difference in regard to each of these three categories? Dec 5, 2019 at 11:03
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? whats worse: Apikorsus or Avoda Zara?
    – DonielF
    Dec 17, 2019 at 18:01
  • What makes you think that, in the eyes of halacha, it could make a difference whether the violator of the prohibition of blasphemy is an idolator, an atheist, or neither? Why not assume that anyone who violates that prohibition is equally guilty, and is to be equally punished?
    – Tamir Evan
    May 5, 2020 at 10:13

2 Answers 2


Rambam in Guide for the Perplexed 1:36 writes as follows:

How great, then, must be the offence of him who has a wrong opinion of God Himself, and believes Him to be different from what He truly is, i.e., assumes that He does not exist, that He consists of two elements, that He is corporeal, that He is subject to external influence, or ascribes to Him any defect whatever. Such a person is undoubtedly worse than he who worships idols in the belief that they, as agents, can do good or evil.

(Friedlander translation, my emphasis)

  • daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/more/a8-2.htm#1 check if this this chapter
    – kouty
    Dec 5, 2019 at 7:26
  • 1
    But does "as agents" here mean they worship idols alongside God as servants of God? If so I would think that this isn't quite a proof for worshiping idols in general
    – b a
    Dec 5, 2019 at 11:28
  • @kouty With ba's edit, that should be daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/more/a10-2.htm#1. (You'd have to scroll down to the section titled "[ההגשמה גרועה מעבודה זרה]" to see [the Hebrew translation of] the quoted text itself.)
    – Tamir Evan
    May 5, 2020 at 6:19
  • 1
    A question, is this an answer in the eyes of halacha as the op wrote
    – kouty
    May 5, 2020 at 9:18
  • @kouty You could ask the same about the other answer, as well.
    – Tamir Evan
    May 5, 2020 at 9:43

Rabbi Tovia Singer seems to say that idolatry is worst than atheism. Saying that should not be mistaken as saying atheism is the preferred path.

I am an Orthodox Jew. Nevertheless, atheism can purify much in religion according to Rabbi Kook.[1] Kook wrote that G-d needs atheists:

”Because atheism cleanses the dross of ‘petty religion,’ the narrowness and provincialism of established Jewish religion that frequently becomes arrogant, rigid and judgmental. We need these people, these atheists, whom seek to befriend.”[2]

Thus, atheism is a good path to rational religion (though not the only one).

[1] Religious Zionism of Rav Kook by Dr. Pinchas Polonsky

[2] Essay by Rabbi Alan Brill


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