Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Gadol Hador and Me

The venerable Gadol/XGH:

Jewish Atheist was originally a commenter here, but then went off and started his own blog. Of course back then, he and I didn’t agree on anything much. Maybe he even started his own blog just to counter all the nasty anti-skeptic things I used to write Nowadays though, at least intellectually, there’s not a huge difference between us.

However, having said that, we still choose to lead our lives very differently. I’m still frum, while he is out eating lobster and enjoying other fine aveiros. What gives? You might say, he has the courage of his convictions, whereas I’m a wus. He’s still single, whereas I’m married and tied to all the commitments that marriage and community brings. But I don’t think that’s it, or at least it’s not the whole story.

Here is how I responded:

I think the difference between you and me is that you're willing to act as if Orthodox Judaism is true in order to get what it offers and I'm not. I'm pretty sure I've always been incapable of doing what you do, but maybe if I'd gotten married and settled into a community as an adult before I reached my intellectual conclusions, I'd have made the same decisions you have.

Anyway, here's to hoping both our paths work out. :-)

Two completely unrelated thoughts:

1) There's a difference between theory and practice. In theory, Gadol/XGH and I sort of have similar beliefs. He makes all the same arguments against Orthodox Judaism that I do, although he stops short of making the obvious (to me) conclusion. In practice, we're at opposite ends of the religious spectrum. I think the gulf between theory and practice is something we bloggers should keep in mind when debating online. It's sometimes hard to picture the disembodied debaters as people.

2) I'm tempted to believe that Orthodox Judaism encourages its members to marry so early partly to increase retention. (It also works the other angle by encouraging high birthrates.)


Orthoprax said...

"I think the gulf between theory and practice is something we bloggers should keep in mind when debating online."

Hmm. It's constantly on my mind. I think about it for all sorts of people. Not just Jews - but for all sorts of people from other religions or cultures, why exactly do they do what they do?

Sure there's the party line but folks are individuals and I am certain that skepticism is not confined to Orthodoxy.

Ezzie said...

I don't know if (2) is true or not. To some extent, it's a similar argument made by many Orthodox about certain segments of Orthodoxy... I don't think it is for retention per se, I think it's more about giving more time to have kids for the next generation. With such a low population and such determination by many to wipe us out, one way or another, that isn't exactly surprising.

And the practice/theory difference is a huge one. This is especially true for people who may struggle online with certain issues - for others to bring those out into the open (often done as a joke) can seriously hurt people... and not necessarily restricted to religious issues. It's why some people are absolutely neurotic about their anonymity.

It's also worth keeping in mind with any debates, as you say. These are real people we're debating with - the stuff out there is not just some esoteric conversation. People get truly upset, pissed off, insulted, etc. It's one thing to have rants on your blog that aren't directed at individuals per se (say the ones you hate from PJ) - while those are on the line, I think they're okay. They're his own clearly biased opinions, presented in a cynical/sarcastic/humorous way. But when people start trying to 'pick' on other bloggers, or go crazy in comments sections, (or in nasty e-mails, since I've received some of those) that's where things start to cross a line.

LT said...

I'm tempted to believe that Orthodox Judaism encourages its members to marry so early partly to increase retention.

And we all know how well that's working out.

The irony is that the increased pressure to marry young will probably have a negative effect on retention in the long run. It ostracizes and marginalizes singles (making it more likely that they'll leave the fold), and it leads to bad marriages (witness the rising divorce rate among modern orthodox Jews).

C.L. Hanson said...

J.A., one reason I find your blog so fascinating is all of the parallels with my own experience leaving Mormonism.

I couldn't stop laughing when I read the line "while he is out eating lobster" because I can just hear people from my own community saying "she probably drinks a big mug of coffee in the morning now..." while the average person would probably be thinking "Lobster? Coffee? What are they talking about...?"

On my blog roll there's a huge collection of "New Order Mormons" who disbelieve all or part of the religion but continue to practice because they don't want to leave the community. They get into disputes with the people who actually believe as well as with the proper apostates who don't see any good reason to keep going to church.

(We even have this same situation of people being encouraged to marry young and have kids right away, which increases the probability of staying with religious practice for life.)

In the LDS community there's a big problem of confusing disbelief with rejection of family, community, and heritage. Over on my blog, I've been encouraging people to look to the Jews as a good example of how to continue to honor your family's heritage even when not everyone in the family believes the same thing about the mythology. (I've made the connection explicit in the comments of this post: Recovery, Self-Discovery, Community, among other places.)

So I can't help but want to stop by your blog and that of the atheist Jew to get ideas from the real deal... ;^)

Jewish Atheist said...

C.L. Hanson:

The parallels are really funny. There's a Mormon at work and people think it's kind of funny that he'll drink coke but not coffee since coke is cold, but won't drink iced coffee since it's still coffee, etc. I completely understand. :-)