As a convinced atheist, I ought to agree with Voltaire that Judaism is not just one more religion, but in its way the root of religious evil. Without the stern, joyless rabbis and their 613 dour prohibitions, we might have avoided the whole nightmare of the Old Testament and the brutal, crude wrenching of that into prophecy-derived Christianity and the later plagiarism and mutation of Judaism and Christianity into the various rival forms of Islam. Much of the time, I do concur with Voltaire, but not without acknowledging that Judaism is dialectical. There is, after all, a specifically Jewish version of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, with a specifically Jewish name—the Haskalah—for itself. The term derives from the word for 'mind' or 'intellect,' and it is naturally associated with ethics rather than rituals, life rather than prohibitions and assimilation over 'exile' or 'return.' It's everlastingly linked to the name of the great German teacher Moses Mendelssohn, one of those conspicuous Jewish hunchbacks who so upset and embarrassed Isaiah Berlin. (The other way to upset or embarrass Berlin, I found, was to mention that he himself was a cousin of Menachem Schneerson, the 'messianic' Lubavitcher rebbe.) However, even pre-enlightenment Judaism forces its adherents to study and think, it reluctantly teaches them what others think and it may even teach them how to think also.
Christopher Hitchens
I fancy my father thought me an odd child and had little fondness for me; though he was very careful in fulfilling what he regarded as a parent's duties. But he was already past the middle of life and I was not his only son. My mother had been his second wife and he was five-and-forty when he married her. He was a firm, unbending, intensely orderly man, in root and stem a banker, but with a flourishing graft of the active landholder, aspiring to county influence: one of those people who are always like themselves from day to day, who are uninfluenced by the weather and neither know melancholy nor high spirits. I held him in great awe and appeared more timid and sensitive in his presence than at other times; a circumstance which, perhaps, helped to confirm him in the intention to educate me on a different plan from the prescriptive one with which he had complied in the case of my elder brother, already a tall youth at Eton. My brother was to be his representative and successor; he must go to Eton and Oxford, for the sake of making connexions, of course: my father was not a man to underrate the bearing of Latin satirists or Greek dramatists on the attainment of an aristocratic position. But intrinsically, he had slight esteem for those dead but sceptred spirits; having qualified himself for forming an independent opinion by reading Potter's Aeschylus and dipping into Francis's Horace. To this negative view he added a positive one, derived from a recent connexion with mining speculations; namely, that scientific education was the really useful training for a younger son. Moreover, it was clear that a shy, sensitive boy like me was not fit to encounter the rough experience of a public school. Mr. Letherall had said so very decidedly. Mr. Letherall was a large man in spectacles, who one day took my small head between his large hands and pressed it here and there in an exploratory, suspicious manner - then placed each of his great thumbs on my temples and pushed me a little way from him and stared at me with glittering spectacles. The contemplation appeared to displease him, for he frowned sternly and said to my father, drawing his thumbs across my eyebrows -'The deficiency is there, sir-there; and here,' he added, touching the upper sides of my head, 'here is the excess. That must be brought out, sir and this must be laid to sleep.'I was in a state of tremor, partly at the vague idea that I was the object of reprobation, partly in the agitation of my first hatred - hatred of this big, spectacled man, who pulled my head about as if he wanted to buy and cheapen it. (The Lifted Veil)
George Eliot