30 April 2008

Lonely man of Faith?

I think not. The Rav is wrong. The real lonely man is the Frum skeptic.

And it's not just the Rav who was wrong. Mis-nagid was wrong. Or at least, he's wrong in my experience. In one of my first on-line encounters with him, I got the impression from him that skepticism runs rampant in the frum community. Well, I for one, just don't see it. And I get the same feedback from other another blogger who davens in an MO shul. Skepticism in the established Frum communities is a rarity. Even more surprising is that it's so misunderstood that when subtly bought to the limelight in a Jewish Observer article (see below), many JO readers misinterpreted the issue as simply one of people needing to learn more Mussar and Hashkafah to strengthen Emunah. There seems to be no awareness of this underground world that venerates science and history and which presents serious challenges to an educated believer.

A mere few months ago, things were really looking up for Frum Skeptics. There seemed to be a Neo-Haskala sitting on our doorsteps. First, there was what seemed to a burgeoning Skepti-Blogosphere. But there was more than that. Much more. There was that article in the Jewish Observer about Adults at Risk highlighted here and here. And then was even the story of Orthodox Rabbi David Gruber who came out of the closet.

But it all soon fizzled out. It seems to have been just a temporary tease.

Yet even if I dare to imagine and hope, difficulties arise. I must admit to myself that I have no concrete aspirations with my skepticism. After all, let's think this through. What is the reasonable best that we can expect? I don't expect Orthodoxy to simply throw in the hat. And that's for the simple reason that there is simply no battle against skepticism for them to lose! After all, they're thriving. And it seems the more right wing they are, the more they're winning. The Chareidim are winning the battle for the actions, if not hearts & minds, of the Jewish religious people. And what I see is that the actions of one generation, becomes the hearts and minds of the next.

Even if hundreds would suddenly step into the public, we're not going to see a psak from Gedolim saying it's OK to not believe. On the contrary, a mass movement of skepticism will just give more fire to the Chareidim to batten down the hatches. No libraries, no books, no TV, no Internet. No nothing. Just Torah.

Any mass movement of heresy, even accompanied by Orthopraxy, will just serve to have that whole movement labeled Assur. If Conservative Judaism doesn't cut it, if Modern Orthodoxy doesn't cut it, if Baaleh Battish is just barely tolerated in the growing chareidi world, what chance for a skeptical movement to be tolerated? It would be just another movement cast away by Orthodoxy. They might even add a 20th bracha to the the Shmoneh Esrei, this time targetted against the Orthpraxers!

It would bring me no closer to what I'd really want..

The bottom line is that I can't change the past and as I've said, I'm not walking away, not even from my right wing farfruhmpte neighborhood.

So what is it that I want?

It's to get rid of this isolation.

Yes, I've found some bright spots. There's an oasis of sanity that I've encountered through this modern miracle know as the web. I've developed a fairly large network of E-pals, some of whom I've spoken with, some of whom I've even met. Some have developed into quite nice friendships. And then there's my wife who finally really understands where I'm at.

However, being human, I always want more. I want to have my cake and eat it too. And that's the ability to speak my mind at all times. Even when I go to shul, when I go to a shiur (yes a shiur), a wedding, etc. Even when I go to work, my true feelings and beliefs need to be locked up behind my false frozen smile. Even though I have the benefit of my Oasis, my mind is ceaselessly whirring to itself most of the time. (Is this what Gay people go thru? It's awful. ) It's not that I want to run up to the Amud and contradict what the Rabbi says. It's just that I'd want to be able to chat about it in real time with people who feel the way I do. No no, not during Chazoras Hashatz of course, I'll be glad to wait for the kiddush!

Heck. It would be nice to even just know that there are people in the room who feel the same way as I do.

But alas, that just does not seem to be the case.

Sincerely yours, the lonely man of skepticism.

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