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BAJS Conference 2015

Atheism, Scepticism, and Challenges to Monotheism

5-7 July 2015, The University of Manchester


This conference is hosted by the British Association for Jewish Studies, in cooperation with the Centre for Jewish Studies and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester, and with the Institut für Jüdische Philosophie und Religion, Universität Hamburg.

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.


The academic programme will run from 9am Monday 6 until 5pm Tuesday 7 July, although there will be a (optional) kosher wine reception at the John Rylands Library on the evening of Sunday 5 July and an (optional) opportunity to eat together later that evening.


For a provisional programme, including abstracts, see the Programme page.

Keynote speaker

The keynote speaker is David Ruderman. For more information, see the Keynote Speaker page.


Registration is now closed.


The Ethica of Spinoza © 2007 Shoshannah Brombacher, PhD
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