In the years just after World War II, Zionism (the desire to rebuild a Jewish national presence in the Promised Land) became a popular Jewish cause all around the world. Many Jews who were not practicing Judaism at all with religion became involved with the establishment of the State of Israel. Even today, many years after the successful founding of the State of Israel, there are Jews whose only real tie to Judaism is their belief in Zionism and their support for the State of Israel. They are joined by many Jews who are members of synagogues and support a modern Jewish religious movement, but who also find their prime identity as Jews in the Zionist cause.
Broadly speaking, Zionists are proud that a small and struggling state made up mainly of Jews has created a modern democracy out of what were barren mountainsides, near deserts, and mosquito-breeding marshes. Zionists also point with pride at the ability of the Israelis to defend their land against the claims and armies of neighboring Arab nations.
Secular Jews express their Jewish identities in a variety of ways. Some feel attached to the State of Israel, but their Zionist leanings are not a strong driving force in their lives. Some feel a tie to Jewish religion and attend religious services from time to time, often on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur , but they do not maintain a lifelong membership in a synagogue or temple. Some secular Jews express their identity through study sometimes returning to the study of Judaism in their later years, sometimes seeing study as a way of searching for their roots. Often, secular Jews look for spirituality——sometimes turning to Jewish ideas and practices, even if they never fully return to the religious practices of their ancestors.
Some few Jews are ideologically secular. They may be atheists who do not believe in the existence of a god. Or they may be agnostics, unsure of whether or not God exists. Among religions, Judaism is somewhat unique in that it makes room for both atheists and agnostics to remain Jewish. It is often pointed out that there is no positive commandment in the Torah requiring a Jew to believe in God. When it comes to belief, the Torah commands that Jews adhere to the laws of the covenant, which means that idolatry (the belief in many gods) is forbidden. But a person can theoretically live an exemplary Jewish life without a belief in God. Moreover, connection with the Jewish people is determined by birth, not by belief. If a person is born a Jew (or converts to Judaism), he or she is identified as a Jew. There is no question about this. Even the most religious Jew accepts birth (or conversion) as the only criteria for membership in the Jewish people.
Religious Jews today disagree on what Judaism is and what it should be. Orthodox Jews claim to hold the true religion of Judaism. In fact, Orthodoxy only began to organize and solidify its beliefs in the nineteenth...