Monday, August 13, 2007

Essay Question for the Orthodox

I thought this would be interesting:

Imagine that, through no "fault" of your own, you come to believe that God does not exist and that Orthodox Judaism is not factually correct. Furthermore, you are so convinced of your new belief that you can't imagine ever going back to your previous beliefs.

What do you imagine doing and thinking about over the next few weeks? How does this affect the future you always imagined? How does it change your relationships?

Answers of "that could never happen to me" will be roundly booed. I'm especially interested in answers from Orthodox people with no serious doubts, but this is open to everybody.

19 comments:

Skeptodox said...

I would start a Jewish skeptic blog.

(I'll probably post on this soon, but a while ago I asked my father whether, if he came to believe that God did not exist, he would go to shul. He wasn't sure.)

amechad said...

Halakha is still binding. The Jewish history is still existing.

The Constitution was written by men, doesn't mean it's not law. The Torah was written by men, doesn't mean it's any less law. For thousands of years, the Jewish people have still been a nation and a nation has a law, a land, and a language.

OK, I'm Conservative-theologically oriented (historical school) and not really Orthodox but I am Orthoprax (i.e. observant/shomer mitzvot precisely because of what I write above)

if you will it... said...

A mate and I had a similar conversation recently (what if you discovered you weren't actually Jewish, and would you stay in Israel?).

I think can happen to people, in fact many people change their religious beliefs, for some it is a direct correlation with making aliya.

Some things I can't imagine my life without. Shabbat for example, it's such a staple of my week, but it's also a staple social event... perhaps being able to do it with a cellphone wouldn't be horrific.

Judaism is broad, the boundaries of acceptable behavior are wide too.

XGH said...

I would try and think like amechas above, but coming from an OJ background I would find that difficult. So instead I would probably get depressed and act passively agressively towards religious authority figures.

jewish philosopher said...

I would tell anyone interested in listening about my amazing discovery and I would resign from my synagogue.

ADDeRabbi said...

it would definitely kill my kavana during shemoneh esrei. i'd probably also refuse to daven for the amud on yamim noraim.

Ezzie said...

So instead I would probably get depressed and act passively agressively towards religious authority figures.

Who'd have thunk it?! :P

Eh, old question. I think I've told you my answers in the past... but it likely would not change much of what I do at this point in my life, though I'd likely be both impressed at the successes of the religion while depressed about some aspects and possibly in general.

shnitzi said...

First it would kill my kavana and learning. Second it would make me suspcious of all orthodox faithful. Then I would ask what others would do if they discovered what I did. I would follow whatever others would do in my situation. As my circles are pretty orthodox most people would say that they would leave completely. Thus the group identity excludes me and I would make a quiet exit.

Big Al said...

Amechad, your answer intrigues me for many reasons, and I would really appreciate clarifcation, as I find your analogy difficult.

First of all, abiding by American law *is* a choice. Failure to adhere runs the risk of punishment, of course, but that is a risk I assume every time I drive over the speed limit, and one I don't assume when I, say, don't commit perjury. There is no similar punishment for failure to adhere to halacha, other than possible social ostracism.

Second, American law, by and large, makes logical sense, and is designed to protect our well being. Of course, we may disagree at times, but clearly, there are few, if any chukim. No American law tells me to wear straps around my arms, or kill an Amelakite.
For the most part, it is not fear of punishment that keeps me from sticking to American law, it is my moral compass and common sense. That same moral compass often is at odds with Halacha.

I think your answer may make sense to you now, but if you really believed that the god did not exist, would you continue to wear straps around your arm, day after day, year after year, for no other reason but abiding to laws made by those that *did* believe in the divinity of the torah?

Anonymous said...

Your question is something I struggle with on a daily basis since it describes me quite well. A former believer identified as such in my professional and personal life and now without belief. I guess I just muddle throug. If people are happy being religous/orthodox, I see no reason to interfere in their happines. I do not advertise my new belief/non-belief because I am either a coward or sufficiently ensconsed/comfortable in my outwardly observant lifestyle that it makes no sense to re-orient my entire life. One may say that makes me a hypocrite; I might say that it makes me a pragmatist.

Danon said...

I'd say F*ck it & To hell with it all! And I'd feel relieved and on my way.

Baal Habos said...

JA, excellent question for believers. I'd love to hear the answer from people that have not been exposed to any skepticism at all. Of course, anyone reading your blog is out!

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I think the loss of identity would be profound, and would probably lead to a degree of depression in anyone who has been deeply committed to his/her faith.

This isn't entirely an abstract question for me, since I have seriously wondered whether my faith would survive at several points in my pilgrimage. It seems that I have a psychological need for an explicit philosophical center to my life. So I would probably study philosophy and look for a school of thought that I found meaningful.

Indeed, I am much attracted to Buddhism and Taoism, which parallel the teachings of Jesus in some significant respects without the theistic foundation. So I can imagine myself meditating on Buddhist koans or some such practice, thus supplying a substitute spiritual and ethical foundation for my life.

Anonymous said...

Would you finally let the Palestinians have their land and dignity? Would you finally understand that for no religion was worthy all these years of pain and suffer? would you at last understand why the majority of the world,cant support your arguments? I wish you didnt have to stop believing in anything to realize it..I wish we all agreed and believed in humanity.Then in our gods.
Sofia.

Barbara said...

Actually it's the Muslims who use force to spread the word of Allah. If you fail to see the difference between Islamic hegemony and Jewish pluralism, the demagogues have deluded you.

Mikeskeptic said...

I would start a Yahoo group for frum skeptics.

onlyajew said...

I think I would continue to live the same life. But what would you do if through no "fault" of your own, you come to believe that God does exist and that Orthodox Judaism is factually correct. Furthermore, you are so convinced of your new belief that you can't imagine ever going back to your previous beliefs.

What do you imagine doing and thinking about over the next few weeks? How does this affect the future you always imagined? How does it change your relationships?

A question for you....

Geonite said...

Been there and done that.

I'm still working it all out in my head twenty years later.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you what actually happened. Like many posters before, I determined that I should keep it up, perhaps with the removal of the more detestable aspects. I reinterpreted traditional practices, in the mode of Reconstructionism, and had other explanations for why I kept kosher and shabbat. The only major change in my practice was, as they say on the UWS, keeping 612 instead of 613, but then, that had always been the case, I simply stopped feeling guilty about that one. (Don't get me wrong, I violated it more with my eyes and left hand than with another person, but holding hands happened pretty frequently.) But once you're reinterpreted, it doesn't have the same absolute feel, and it becomes easier and easier to give up parts of it. Well, shabbat is good, but really, how does not using the phone or taking the subway fit into my interpretation? If I'm going to go on a picnic with a girl on Saturday (with bread and wine) is it wrong to go to the zoo also? That's also restful, isn't it? Keeping kosher is fine...but if I'm going to eat at a vegetarian restaurant, what's wrong with bringing it home? How about vegetarian food in other restaurants? Really, it was just a matter of time for each observance. Not that they're gone entirely, but they've become shells of what they once were. I will not eat dairy out and then insist that my dishwasher can only be used for meat dishes. So, I like the idea of reinterpretation, I just don't know that it always works.

Plus, a lot of my usual routines became harder. Could I spend shabbat meals at the same place, listen to the same sermons?