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TL;DR at the bottom

I'm Jewish. there is no debate here. My mother is Jewish so I am Jewish. But my father (not Jewish) is an anti-religion Atheist, banned all religious practices in our house (except celebrating Christmas as an American thing in a non-religious way), and raised me an Atheist. I don't know whether I would consider myself atheist anymore. I don't definitely believe in G-d or anything supernatural but I also don't believe it is 100% certain that G-d/the supernatural doesn't exist. Since coming to college I have become very involved in my university's Hillel. I love it there. I love the Shabbat services. I love the people. I love the community. I joined a Jewish learning fellowship last year and was in a Jewish book club. I was never connected to my Jewish identity growing up (though I knew I was Jewish because of my mother) but now I feel that being Jewish is an important part of who I am. I want to be more involved. I want to go to synagogue. I want to read the Torah. I want to celebrate the Jewish holidays. But I don't believe in G-d. I don't want to offend anyone or be mocking Judaism's practices and beliefs. Also on a related note can I wear the Star of David necklace?

TL;DR I'm Jewish by birth but raised Atheist and still don't believe in G-d (but not 100% sure G-d doesn't exist). Can I practice Judaism/do Jewish things and participate in Jewish life or would that be offensive/not ok?

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    Being an adult what prevents you to do so? According to Judaism, since your father is asking something against our commandments, you're not required to do this particular will of him. Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 20:54
  • @Kazibácsi he seems to be asking whether he could start practice Judaism despite not believing in God, regardless of what his father thinks (it's evident that he's already doing things his father may not like from his joining Jewish groups).
    – Harel13
    Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 21:35
  • Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first question. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 3:23
  • If you like learning from books, you might benefit from some recommendations on this this list - there are other books more geared towards "allowing you to believe in God" when raised agnostic. Feel free to ask if you want recommendations
    – mbloch
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 3:25
  • You absolutely can practice Judaism even without presupposing the existence of God. Orthoprax Judaism does not require that you believe in God. There is no list or set of dogma that a Jew must believe in the Bible or Talmudic tradition. In fact, God would prefer you observe the Torah even without belief, "better to abandon Me than My Torah from Eichah rabbah - midrash (פתיחה, סימן ב).
    – Shmuel
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 2:12

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Midrash Rabba Eicha

ר׳ הונא ור׳ ירמיה בשם ר׳ חייא בר אבא אמרי כתיב ואותי עזבו ואת תורתי לא שמרו הלואי אותי עזבו ותורתי שמרו מתוך שהיו מתעסקין בה המאור שבה היה מחזירן למוטב

R. Huna and R. Jeremiah in the name of R. Hiyya bar Abba said: “It is written ‘And me they abandoned, and my Torah they did not keep’ — if only they had abandoned me but kept my Torah, by being engaged with it the light within it would have returned them to good.”

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for the opportunity to respond to your question.

According to the story you recount, that you are not sure whether God exists or not, (an honest statement) you are in the category of what is called Agnostic.

This place is absolutely legitimate as a Jewish person.

For a Jewish person in your situation, it takes great courage and indicates strength of character to challenge the natural currents of your upbringing.

If you study Jewish history, you will discover that many have faced the kinds of challenges that you face. And in spite of all this, by the grace of the Creator of us all, somehow that Jewish thread, that inner Jewish spark has survived and endured even to this very day.

The short answer to your question is yes, you can “practice” Judaism and Jewish life and practices in every way.

It is possible that you are in a category described as a “Tinook sh’Nishba”, One who was removed from Jewish life, without choice, in their infancy”.

Such a person is exceedingly precious according to the Torah.

In regard to your expressed desire to learn, or read Torah, this is also completely legitimate and to be encouraged.

Jewish tradition teaches that each individual is to “know and believe” that there is a First Cause.

This idea of knowing and believing is discussed in a book called the Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato.

He explains that “knowing” pertains to all of your individual intellectual capabilities. These are the faculties which you possess to understand and comprehend the world around you. To the best of your ability, you must study everything that exists in the physical, natural world around you and realize that this is not by accident. It is not random, but has a First Cause and that whatever that cause may be, it was/is with intention.

According to the teachings of Rabbi Luzzato, what transcends your individual, intellectual capacity is the domain of your faith, what you believe.

Your belief is shaped by the effort that you make in regard to your knowledge.

And this is only the beginning of your personal path.

May God bless you in all your ways, to go from strength to strength, and from success to success in your pursuits.

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You are definitely Jewish, so you are commanded to practice Judaism. No observant Jew would accuse you of being offensive or mocking Judaism because you don't fully believe. In the introduction to Lamentations Rabbah, God is quoted as saying He would rather people stopped believing in Him as long as they followed His commandments, because such practice will guide them on the right path.

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Belief in God is the basis of Jewish faith and practice.

If you don't believe in God, then you are considered an apostate.

If you believe in God, and don't follow any of the mitzvot (Torah commandments) then you are also an apostate.

You aren't the first or only Jew to question God's existence, but the way I see it, questioning his existence or even not believing he exists does not prevent you from practicing Judaism.

As a Jew, you are obligated to keep the mitzvot.

The real question is, why would you personally practice Judaism if you do not believe in God? That is a question only you can answer.

Supposing you do practice Judaism and don't believe God exists, you will find people who ask you why do the mitzvot matter to you, or why you would subjugate yourself to them if you don't believe in their very foundation. Some religious Jews, possibly a lot, may call you on apostate and not associate with you.

Religion is personal. I advise you to investigate all angles and do a lot of study. Good luck!

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