Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Right, Left, and Censorship

Rabbi Gil Student now has an official policy banning "comments that attempt to undermine Judaism." In the comments section, he provides an example:
Do not debate whether the Torah is from Sinai.

Isn't it interesting that virtually all the frum blogs ban skeptical comments, while all (as far as I know) skeptical blogs allow religious ones?

He argues:
I have no doubt that skeptic blogs will take this as an admission that traditional Judaism cannot withstand criticism. Let them. It is nothing but a willful delusion.


If traditional Judaism can withstand criticism, then why doesn't it? Where can skeptics or even Orthodox people with serious questions go to have their questions answered? We can go to individual rabbis, of course, who will give us idiosyncratic answers which they would never even own up to in public.

If you're so concerned about people being "at-risk" for going off the derech, Rabbi Student, you should give us skeptics something other than the brush-off that we've been getting from rabbis our whole lives.

(I see a similar pattern among political blogs, although much less pronounced. DailyKos, for example, allows all kinds of dissent, while Little Green Footballs -- winner of the JIBs for "Best Israel Advocacy blog -- will ban you for saying something the site owners disagree with.)

19 comments:

G said...

"Isn't it interesting that virtually all the frum blogs ban skeptical comments, while all (as far as I know) skeptical blogs allow religious ones?"

I hear your point but...
Well, yeah. Religion can have a wonderful time by itself whereas religious skepticism by definition needs a counterpoint.

avrum68 said...

Your assumption JA is that Jewish skeptics are REALLY discussing theology and Jewish law. I don't buy it. Nor does Adin Steinzlatz (read his section on doubt/faith in Tshuvah).

I'd say that the majority of skeptical Jewish bloggers, like many bloggers, create pseudo-selves (mostly anonymous) to vent PSYCHOLOGICAL claims masked as political, theological, intellectual, etc.

So there's nothing to debate, because we're not really discussing theology. My hunch is that, due to the biting sarcasm, personal attacks and lack of empathy (from both sides), certain folk are simply walking away from the discussion.

Jewish Atheist said...

G:

You have a point.


Avrum:

Then how do you explain Gil's willingness to talk about the DH... as long as one doesn't question that the Torah is from Sinai? It's completely absurd.

avrum68 said...

JA...

Gil, and other frum types, suffer from the same type of projection/splitting/pseudo-self (self-psychology terms for how we deal with aspects of ourselves we don't want to look at)that skeptics do. However, because it's SO easy to be secular i.e. it's harder to daven, keep kosher, etc., than to not do these things, religious folks have to be more guarded with respect to which battle they wade into.

Whenever you have folks trying to justify their position with aggression i.e. pushiness, sarcasm, insults, you something else is going on besides the altruistic claims being presented.

Jewish Atheist said...

But this isn't about censoring rudeness or sarcasm. He'll censor even the most polite and respectful arguments that he disagrees with.

Skeptodox said...

I find it fascinating that Orthodox people like Avrum can't believe that people exist who have legitimate intellectual issues with Orthodoxy. It has to be something else, a deeper psychological issue.

avrum68 said...

"I find it fascinating that Orthodox people like Avrum"

That's rich. I'm not Orthodox...not even close. Oopsie.

"can't believe that people exist who have legitimate intellectual issues with Orthodoxy"

Oh, I have no doubt they exist. But I wouldn't turn to the blogosphere to find 'em.

"It has to be something else, a deeper psychological issue."

Most of the time, yes.

avrum68 said...

"He'll censor even the most polite and respectful arguments that he disagrees with."

That remains to be seen. However, if I was running a "pro-marriage" blog, and the comments section was inundated with divorcees preaching the wonders of promiscuous sex and the horrors of marriage (again, masked pain and loss being sold as intellectualism and enlightenment), and I'd delete 'em as well.

littlefoxling said...

In my view, the problem is not Gil’s decision per se, but about a pattern you see in the OJ community. Not every blog, class, or discussion has to be about skepticism and I understand a decision to have certain skeptic free zones. But, when in every blog, class, or lecture in the frum community, skepticism isn’t tolerated - you start to wonder – when does the average OJ get his dose of skepticism? When is he exposed to the arguments of other religions or atheism? And, if he isn’t even exposed to the arguments of other religions or atheism, how can he possibly conclude he believes in OJ without having heard the alternatives?

Mordechai said...

It is true that Rabbi Gil Student should not have banned skeptic comments, what he should have done is banned comments with no substance as in juvenile comments from both sides.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I'd say that the majority of skeptical Jewish bloggers, like many bloggers, create pseudo-selves (mostly anonymous) to vent PSYCHOLOGICAL claims masked as political, theological, intellectual, etc.

That's an argument in defence of a no-skeptics policy?

What is this business of dividing up a human being into tidy constituent parts? — This is the theological part of the person, and that is her psyche over there.

The issue is, some people are struggling to make sense of the faith they have grown up in. Does it matter whether the doubts have a psychological source rather than a strictly theological one? The need is real in either case, and your response is, Take your doubts somewhere else.

I am a living example of someone whose spiritual and religious inclinations run very deep, but who could not be satisfied with trite answers to deeply troubling questions. My spiritual community was of no assistance in the struggle. That my faith has survived (in a radically different form) is due to my determination to work at the issues, for decades, in isolation.

That my faith has survived also testifies to the sincerity of my drive to orient my life to G_d, notwithstanding the intensity of the struggle.

Holy Hyrax said...

JA

I agree regarding Gil. Personally, there have been great discussions on his blog. I think the problem is that it then spirals into insults such as calling someone that believes an ignoramous, primitive or have nazi like behaivor. I think the same goes for little green footballs. Its not alternative opinions that is the problem. Its when comments like calling Israel a nazi like state that goes beyond all friendly discourse.

btw- just how many OJ blogs are there around that skeptics have enjoyed debating from before? Honestly, I don't think there are much. And how many of the OJ blogs that you know of have moderated their comments?

My name is Aaron, and that's it. said...

Stephen made a great point. It's dishonest to separate psychology and theology. Any good philosophy must take human psychology into account. And a theology leads to neuroses or doesn't take into account normal human drives, like intellectual curiosity or sexuality, - that theology must own to its weakness. My psychological dissatisfaction with judaism's restrictions on pornography made it easier for me to discover oj's shortcommings in restrictions on free intellectual investigation. What matters is not what psychological dynamics brought you to an existential crisis but the accuracy of your observations about the nature of reality.
Why is it ok for religion when psychological manipulation of an individual through prayer, dance and song brings them to religious truth? And why is it not ok when sexual angst brings them to a feeling that Torah was written by men?

avrum68 said...

"My psychological dissatisfaction with judaism's restrictions on pornography made it easier for me to discover oj's shortcommings in restrictions on free intellectual investigation."

This is a joke, right? Are you being serious? Well if nothing else, at least your honest.

avrum68 said...

"Does it matter whether the doubts have a psychological source rather than a strictly theological one? "

Yes, yes it does. Especially with regards to the medium you choose to discuss the struggles. Moreover, I've yet to read one...ONE...honest blogging post about how one's upbringing, socio-economic situation, sexual preference (actually, we have one commenter admitting his interest in porn turned him off of OJ), etc., etc., contributed to their doubt. No, rather what we have is post after post of "what if's" concerning Egyptian record keeping, etc.

It's dishonest, and it keeps you from addressing the more pressing issues.

jewish philosopher said...

I allow all comments on my blog.

As Britney Spears memorably said "Hit me baby one more time!"

My name is Aaron, and that's it. said...

Avrum68, you're 1 less than 69 yourself. But that's beside the point. You're missing my main point: when your religion clashes with your psychological makeup, your intellectual senses are more acute to notice ligitimate intellectual shortcomings of religion. It's just like in science: research in one area often brings about brekthroughs in a totaly unrelated area because the scientist is alert to making good observations. Dissatisfaction on a psychological level prompts you to think seriously about things that "happy" people tend to overlook. Have you ever experienced finding something in your house while looking for something else? What counts is that one gives a thorough look.

My name is Aaron, and that's it. said...

We are all motivated by one thing or another. Nobody is 100% objective. But having ulterior reasons to find support for your position, while making you prone to overlook facts that contradict your beliefs, will also make you work harder to find new facts that supports them. Working harder will result in your finding something which those who don't look hard - because of opposing biases - would never discover. Thus it's never enough to point out someone's biases. You have to address the facts and ideas themselves. There are too many facts to address? Pick a different subject to ponder.

Jack's Shack said...

Faith is called faith for a reason. I don't expect nor need everything to fit into a tight, little scientific bundle.

Some people find it very hard to have their beliefs challenged- deviation makes them worry about the choices that they have made.

It is sometimes tough to realize that we might have made a poor decision.