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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Q18.4.7 TOC Q18.4.9 >

Question 18.4.8:
Fallacy: An atheist could be considered a "good" Reform Jew


A person's individual beliefs with respect to G-d are personal, and are not inspected by Reform. Even in traditional Judaism, there have been times when the greatest Jewish thinkers have questioned the existance of G-d. Judaism, in general, does not question one's belief; rather, it looks at one's adherance to the yoke of Mitzvah, as interpreted by the appropriate movement.

However, the position of Reform with respect to Atheism is shown in its policy relating to accepting atheists for conversion. A responsa in Jewish Year 5754 ( stated:

The important qualifying phrase is commitment to this religion. Reform Judaism is a religious movement, a community of faith dedicated to G-d. A ger must show a readiness to accept that faith in order to join our community. [...]

[...]for Reform Judaism, a prospective convert had both to embrace the Jewish people and make a solemn declaration of faith in G-d, the G-d of our ancestors, as the one and only G-d. While many rabbis then and now insist on certain rituals and other obligations as incumbent upon the prospective convert (e.g. immersion, circumcision, a course of study, examinations, etc.), the sine qua non of conversion for Reform Judaism, as it is for all branches of Judaism, has always been faith in G-d. The centrality of G-d in the Reform conversion ceremony is verified by examination of the succession of rabbinic manuals published by the CCAR.


Some contend that since we find among the members of Reform congregations certain Jews who are avowed atheists or agnostics, we should not hesitate to accept a convert who falls into either category. It is true that some Jews experience crises of faith. We acknowledge the reality of the spiritual journey and struggle our brothers and sisters endure, and they remain part of us as long as they do not abandon our people or join another religion. However, that flexibility is reserved for those who are already "citizens," who already belong. It is the nature of the conversion process that the convert must meet standards which, in practice, are not demanded of the already-Jewish: a program of Jewish study, required synagogue attendance, participation in synagogue and communal activities, and the like.


Reform Judaism is a religious movement of Jews dedicated to the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people. If we do not insist that the ger meet this fundamental standard and find herself ready to affirm the reality of G-d in Jewish religious life and experience, it would be a legitimate question whether we have any standards at all.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <>