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BAJS Conference 2015

Atheism, Scepticism, and Challenges to Monotheism

5-7 July 2015, The University of Manchester


Call for abstracts


Submitting an abstract

Numbers will be restricted this year, and the strict deadline for submitting an abstract is 5pm on Friday 1 May 2015. To submit an abstract, please download and complete either the individual paper form or the panel form (.rtf) and email it to We will email confirmation of safe receipt within one week. If you do not receive an email, please phone +44 (0)161 275 3614 to check. We will email confirmation as to whether your abstract has been accepted for the programme by Wednesday 13 May 2015.

Conference theme

Jews from across a wide spectrum of perspectives have wrestled with the questions posed by atheism and scepticism. Since, arguably, atheism is not recognised in the Hebrew Bible, the related theme of ‘challenges to Jewish monotheism’ is suggested with regard to the ancient world. Philosophical scepticism and atheism (in both theory and practice) raise questions for Jews about the nature of authority, modes of enquiry and textual analysis, intellectual exchange with non-Jewish culture (including polemics), and shifting conceptions of heresy, nonconformity, and irreligion. What is the relationship in the Jewish imagination between atheism and scepticism? What are the limits of scepticism in rabbinic thought and methodology? What does it mean to be an atheistic Jew? How have Jews engaged with historical-critical and scientific discourse? There have been many different Jewish responses to such questions, ranging from stout defences of monotheistic Judaism, to radical reformulations of Jewish religion, to theological resignation and apostasy, to the establishment of alternative universalist systems of thought by ostensibly non-Jewish Jews. These responses, which include the varieties of Jewish religion but also non-religious ways of being Jewish, appear in many different forms including philosophical, theological, sociological, psychological, legal, mystical, and literary genres.

We welcome contributions from all periods and regions, whether narrowly focused or broadly contextual, synthetic or analytical. The intention of this interdisciplinary conference is to encourage contributions on any issues relating to the engagement of Jews with atheistic and sceptical worldviews for the purpose of understanding Jewish culture and history. The conference will provide a forum for the exploration of these questions both from within Jewish Studies but also from contributors who have not previously been involved in BAJS. The expectation is that the conference will result in an edited collection of essays on this theme.

As ever, the annual conference is likely to include papers that fall outside of the conference theme, and we encourage colleagues to submit abstract proposals for such papers.

Student bursaries

There will be an opportunity to apply for financial assistance with fees and accommodation for postgraduate students who contribute a paper and who are BAJS members. Please include a cover letter requesting financial assistance and explaining how attendance at the conference will benefit your research, with your abstract submission.