15 March 2007

Lean on me

A few weeks ago Miri asked

BHB-while yes there is a strength in numbers, I don't see why findinglike-minded people should logically support your new beliefs. after all, when you stil believed, there were lots of like-minded ppl around you, and yet you later came to the conclusion that they were wrong. Why should the fact that other ppl believe similarly to you affect the logical soundness of your new beliefs?

Miri eventually sharpened her question to this
"...if the erosion of trust in the system is a by-product of the gradual realization of the fallibility of our authority figures -parents, teachers, the ppl we always assumed knew everything -trust moves into the self bc it has nowhere else to go. however, if one looks at the situation from an objective point of view, there's no logical reason why trust in oneself is better placed than trust in anyone else.barring situations wherein authority figures are abusive or clearly stupid, or in situations where perhaps an individual's judgements has long been established to have a more grounded value than those of said authority figures, what is it in the environment that should lead me to believe that I am a more reliable source than those who have already tried to be my sources?"

Several individuals weighed-in in a set of questions and answers that went through till 02.13.07 - 6:26 pm

It is worthwhile reading, especially in light of XGH's recent change of attitude.

My answer to Miri's first question and my take on OJ has not changed. I'll recap briefly:

I was a doubting skeptic in isolation for many years, afraid to trust my judgement without having a venue to exchange thoughts, hear potential answers and weigh them. It was almost exactly a year ago that accidental exposure to other skeptics clinched it for me in a matter of months. It is not a matter of numbers, rather it is a matter of validation of thought processes.

In answer to her re-framed question - my initial beliefs about OJ were completely uncritical and unthinking. Like most Frum people, it was based on blind trust. When subjected to analysis, I no longer found it credible. (Of course your mileage may vary).

We can discuss that more, but I'd like to get back to my own transformation, which is what this blog really is about, experiences. Namely the fact that I needed some sort of validation for my thought processes. Think of it as Scientific Peer Review. I now know that I am not the only one out there like that. I've had Email conversations with at least two others, who have described the same experiences. And I consider both of those to be much more knowledgeable in Judaism & Science than I am. So it's not an issue of facts but beliefs.

I would suspect that what happened to me is typical of skeptics. But of course, I don't know unless you tell me.

I would like to take a little poll here.

For the Confirmed skeptics:

A) Did you fully trust your skepticism without input from other "Frum Skeptics"?
B) If someone like Mis-Nagid would begin to believe would it change your mind? It would not for me (Sorry, Mis-nagid).
C) If every skeptic would begin to believe, would it change your mind?. (It would give me serious pause, but truthfully, without concrete evidence, I can't imagine ever going back to believing status.

For the Believers:

A) If your own Rov or Rosh Yeshiva would turn into a skeptic, would that cause you to re-examine your beliefs? Of course it will never happen, but "what if"?
B) What if your Godol would falter? What would that do to you?
C) What if many Gedolim would start to question and deny? How would that affect you?

I'm not trying to suggest things here or point to historical events. I know it has happened, but in the big scheme of things, it is quite rare for Rabbonim to go OTD. I'm simply trying to gauge how Support comes into play for beliefs.

For the Baalei Tshuva & Converts:

Here's where it gets tricky, if you were actively searching for a spiritual change, for whatever reason, these questions may not be applicable.

A) Did you come to be interested in OJ without a support system?
B) Did you come to accept OJ without a support system?

In short, how much weight is to be attached to external support systems in modifying and accepting beliefs? I don't see it as a weakness in my skepticism. I know someone may try to compare this to a Galileo and claim that if our skepticism was warranted, we should not need support, we should be able to firmly proclaim ""Eppur si muove" ("And yet it moves"). But I say it's not the same.

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