Monday, December 08, 2008

How The Orthodox See The Rest Of Us

I just love the window Beyond Teshuva provides into the Orthodox mind. The bloggers are so excited about Orthodox Judaism and so unable to examine themselves that they are utterly honest about the mental gymnastics necessary to sustain Orthodox beliefs.

Here's Ron Coleman on how seeing non-Orthodox people on Facebook strengthens his belief in Orthodoxy:
The other side: And that brings me back to a point related to my first one. The more I am exposed to what’s out there, whether it is among my former friends, associates and classmates who “look me up” or vice versa or among new people that I meet, the better I feel — by far — about the decision I have made about how to live my life. I cannot stress how much more valuable this is to me than the finger-pointing homilies in frum literature, periodicals and classrooms about the emptiness of gentile or non-frum Jewish lives. I see people whose lives are pathetic or sad, yes. I encounter a very distressing number of photographs of people of both sexes in their twenties, not life’s losers but professionals and prospective professionals, who are comfortable posing with alcoholic beverages hoisted in the air, as if life were just one drunken binge. This could go into the “dignity” point above, and it is a sad thing to see. But I also see people with rich, full, interesting and accomplished lives, professionally and, by all indications, personally, and nothing — not a thing — makes me want to switch places with them. The overall effect for me is one of chizuk, reinforcement.

Two points:

First, the Orthodox Jew will find "chizuk" (a decidedly religous idea -- the non-religious don't need "chizuk") wherever he looks, because he can interepret what he sees however he wants. If non-Orthodox people are pathetic or undignified, it makes him glad to be Orthodox. But then again, if non-Orthodox people lead "rich, full, interesting and accomplished lives," it makes him... glad to be Orthodox.

Second is the smug judgment of others. Coleman writes about people posing with drinks in their hand as if that were self-evidently undignified and a sad sight to see. Note that this has no foundation whatsoever even in Orthodox Judaism, which encourages the use of alcoholic beverages specifically to enhance the joys of the Sabbath meal (and of holidays and weddings, etc.) and nowhere opposes responsible drinking outside of those occasions. He attributes his priggish attitudes to Orthodoxy, and it gives him more chizuk by declaring Orthodox people superior.


Ezzie said...

While I noted to myself the either-side-of-the-coin point, I don't see how that reflects in a bad way on OJ whatsoever or somehow demonstrates "mental gymnastics". In fact, let's say I said:

JA is so excited about being anti-OJ and so unable to examine himself that he is utterly honest about the mental gymnastics necessary to sustain Orthodox beliefs.

While often decrying problems in the Orthodox community that he feels are because of their inherent beliefs and approach, even people who do quite well don't sit well with him because they're too happy - that happiness is only because they lie to themselves.

Would that be about the same?

Re: Smugness - I don't know about your Facebook, but I'm presuming he's not talking about people sitting there nicely raising a drink at an event. I'm guessing he's putting the example nicely.

Ezzie said...

Grr. Orthodox should be anti-OJ in that paragraph.

Jewish Atheist said...


Okay, I guess I could see myself writing that many Orthodox people live lives of quiet desperation and also that I wouldn't trade places with Orthodox people who are leading happy lives.

Re: the smugmess, maybe, but I've got to go with what the guy wrote rather than what he might have meant but not wanted to write.

Orthoprax said...


Seems to me like this whole post is a show of how you gain chizuk for yourself in your decision to be non-Orthodox. Hmm?

Jewish Atheist said...


Not at all. I feel the same way about being non-Orthodox now as I did this morning. This post is about showing others the psychology of Orthodox thinking.

Ezzie said...

Right, but why would you care? Unless it's pretty much for the same reasons they're writing about it. Either you both don't really care, or you each need that chizuk.

Jewish Atheist said...

He's looking for reasons to be happy with his choice. I'm trying to understand how adults manage to be Orthodox in the modern world.

Anonymous said...

While one might argue that the first point is a potent one, that would seem far less true about the second.

Jewish Atheist said...

Well, I'm also criticizing Orthodox Judaism, of course. It's not just trying to understand.

Holy Hyrax said...

>This post is about showing others the psychology of Orthodox thinking.


>Well, I'm also criticizing Orthodox Judaism, of course

as usual

Anonymous said...

Haha great points. I love how no matter what, they win. That alone makes me suspicious. If there is no test that could potentially falsify their ideas, there is also no reason to believe that they are true. There is reason, however, to believe that they are corrupt and using false logic, etc liberally. OJ does this with many, many ideas, not just this "chizuk" by looking at the irreligious. Just switch sides and ideas as needed to come up with the conclusion you want. LOL

Holy Hyrax said...

Something very interesting actually happens here and it is really no different when any group hates another. Just look at what Margo says. That orthodox Jews are corrupt and use false logic. She, as well as JA treat orthdox people as a monolith and are able to pick up bad things and well, advertise it to everyone to show how bad, or corrupt this group is. Nazis did it with Jews and yes, I am sure there were many many bad Jews that gave Nazis that added fuel. Same thing with orthodox people. There are many crummy people, but to call us "corrupt" is just to justify your own dislikes or hatred toward this specific group. I notice many militant atheists do this. So what happens here, this propaganda is plastered on [cyber] walls for all the lurkers and simple to see and read so their hatred for OJ can begin.

I am not calling anyone a Nazi here, so don't even start. Simply saying that methods like this (that are not unique to this blog) is just such a standard for anyone disliking and, eventually dragging another group through the mud.

Infact, getting chizuk from the bad of the irreligious is no different than the secular humanist getting his "chizuk" from an immoral theist.

Anonymous said...

Holy Hyrax--
Perhaps I wasn't clear enough or you misunderstood me.
I did not say that OJ are corrupt and use false logic. I said that if your beliefs are unfalsifiable (as happens to be the case with the majority of OJ beliefs), they are very likely corrupt and supported by false logic. "Corrupt" refers to the specific belief that cannot be falsified by any test, not the person who holds the belief, nor his actions. The person and actions may or may not be corrupt, that is not the point here. The logical support for the belief in question is corrupt, that is my point. There exists no way to falsify it,; that's called corrupt, in my book.
Also, I'm not drawing "chizuk" from this. I do find it interesting and amusing, but this isn't verifying my beliefs for me, as "chizuk" implies.

You also say,
"Infact, getting chizuk from the bad of the irreligious is no different than the secular humanist getting his "chizuk" from an immoral theist."
First of all, the point here is that this guy draws chizuk from the good and bad of the irreligious. Anything can supports his belief because he just reinterprets things as needed. Secondly, I don't get "chizuk" from immoral theists, and my position is not threatened by moral theists, because that has nothing to do with whether or not religion is true.

Hope this helps, take care.

Holy Hyrax said...

But he is not talking about a belief. This is not like saying I believe in Torah because of codes, but still believe in Torah because the Koran was just proven true [all hypothetical]

He is merely saying that a) seeing all that bad behaivor outside makes him realize how his laws make good people and b) that seeing good actions in others reminds him of the good in his religion as well

I mean, you have to ask yourself WHY he does not want to switch them even though they lead rich lives. It's because he sees his religion as being just as rich if not richer when all things are said and done.

>Anything can supports his belief because he just reinterprets things as needed.

Not likely. Again, this is not a "belief" issue but one of personal preference when weighing all things considered.

>Secondly, I don't get "chizuk" from immoral theists, and my position is not threatened by moral theists, because that has nothing to do with whether or not religion is true.

You may not get chizuk, but there are plenty out there that just love showing how bad religion is to self promote the merits of their own life decisions.


non of this has anything to do with whether or not religion is true or not.

Holy Hyrax said...

Infact, nothing from what I can see he said deals with OJ being true or not.

Off the Derech said...

You're full of shit.

Tobie said...

Oh please, nobody is religious because of chizuk. Chizuk is just giving yourself a nice psychological pat on the back, something to cheer you up and get you out of bed in the morning. As such, it's no different than any other attitude-related decision and is often illogical. If I decide to make lemonade out of lemons or look on the bright side, then I am ridiculous and hypocritical for letting all sets of life circumstances affect my mood in the same way? Chizuk isn't supposed to make sense and it's not supposed to be used as a positive proof of anything.

G said...

You know for someone who gets so wound up when he feels that orthodoxy is painting all of non-oj with the same brush you sure are quick to do the same thing.

"How The Orthodox See The Rest Of Us"...really?...How ALL of orthodoxy sees ALL who aren't?! From one blog post written by a BT...really?

Jewish Atheist said...


Let's try to keep it civil. :-)


I disagree. I think without chizuk, some people would go OTD.


Yeah, you're right. The title is unfair.

jewish philosopher said...

Well, I'd like to put my two cents in.

First of all, generally atheists are psychopaths who are a hazard to themselves and others. Look at Richard Dawkins, the most famous and perhaps most intelligent of the bunch. He has been divorced twice. To the best of my knowledge he is not on speaking terms with his only child. Would it be unreasonable to assume that he is difficult to live with? Personally, I’m very proud of not being an atheist.

Second of all, how is atheism falsifiable?

Anonymous said...

Holy Hyrax--

You're right, when he said, "he better I feel — by far — about the decision I have made about how to live my life." I interpreted that as referring to the truth value of the religion, since that is how I like to make religious decisions--based on whether the religion is true or not. I guess if he's discussing his personal preference and couldn't care less if his religion means anything at all in real life, as long as it makes him feel warm and fuzzy inside, I'm fine with that. Just don't expect it to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, too. I don't like to decide things like that; if I did, I'm guessing I'd be a major drug addict right now.

You're not worth addressing.

Holy Hyrax said...

Fair enough Margo

But this was about him, and unfair for JA to (once again) fish for something to use against Orthodox Jews.

jewish philosopher said...

You're not worth addressing."

Because I am so right.

Check out this roster of prominent atheist leaders:
Christopher Hitchens - alcoholic.
Sam Harris. Never married, childless.
Michael Shermer. Never married, childless.
Arthur C. Clarke. Married once briefly. No children.

And these are the good guys. I’m not going to go into the serial killers, mass murderers, etc.

It must be hard to be an atheist and then have some wise guy like me point out that the emperor has no clothes.