Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Skeptic’s Story

Guest Post

An anonymous poster who identified himself as a long time lurker on the site wrote a comment introducing it with the following words: ‘This post really spoke to me’. I have decided to turn his comment into a guest post because of the heartfelt way he speaks about his own experience.

Here is a man who wrestles with his faith and has privately ‘dropped out’ and yet publicly has ‘stayed in’ appearing outwardly Frum. I believe that his experience is not as uncommon as one might think. I have heard this story in various different incarnations many times.

In my view one of the biggest theological dangers of our day is maintaining our religious beliefs in the modern world – a world where information about everything is available with lightening speed. That includes a tremendous number of skeptic websites and blogs.

I’m not sure I have any answers but it is worthwhile noting that even people with a normal non abusive or dysfunctional background can easily drop out. My only questions are how many more people are there like this and is there anything that can be done about it?

I present the following in its entirety. I have edited it for grammar, spelling, and somewhat for style but have otherwise left it intact.

I'm married for 15 years, my wife and I are, if one can't call us atheists then perhaps the term is, skeptics. No one knows apart from my wife and me.

For 5 years I didn’t step foot in a shul - while living in a frum community as a real part f it. That included Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Purim, Tisha Báv, all spent at home, away from the kids so they wouldn’t know. Yet my wife and I are struggling to pay enormous tuition for our kids.

Why? We don't know. Our therapist can't figure out - ascribing it to being children of holocaust survivors terrified of the repercussions on our relatives (though we both have family members who are no longer frum or have married out).

Only recently have I started going to shul again, just on the weekend, where recently, for the first time in years I put teffilin on, on a Sunday.

I am a fake, a phony. Yet I have kept kosher all my life. I even fasted yesterday (Shiva Asar B’Tamuz).

Once upon a time I "felt" God, or the idea of the celestial being, but now I just don't know. I can’t deny His existence but can do nothing at all to feel tuned in.

We rejected the charedi lifestyle a while back, opting for modern orthodoxy as we felt that we would hopefully find more of a "connect" there. We found a great community, amazing social life, great yeshivot for the kids, even a warm rabbi and rebetzin at shul. But I don’t know what Judaism means to me, at the moment it feels like a legacy to pass on to my kids.

At the Shabbat table recently the conversation evolved into what we all felt would be the most important thing we needed to ensure to provide for our kids futures. The dominant response was to keep kids on the derech, parents willing to spend anything and do anything to make that happen.

I didn’t respond out loud but I came to the conclusion that I want my kids to be happy. If that means my son telling me he doesn’t want to go to learn in Israel, that’s fine with me. If he says he's gay, or marrying his non Jewish girlfriend, I'm really OK with that. He's not at that stage yet but the way I feel now, I want the kids to be happy and I will shed no tear if any of the above come to pass.

As a commenter on the previous post succinctly pointed out "Why do they start believing"? Starting from my 8th day of life I was forced into something that I had no input into.

I have rambled so much, mainly because this has been very therapeutic for me.

I know that the chareidim will use me as a proof of the failures of modern orthodoxy but guys, I tried your life for many years first. And no, I wasn’t abused by my elementary school rebbe, or beaten. I just have never, in all my life, felt engaged.