Shtreimel has raised the question of "What type of rebel are you?" I think there are a few more categories that can be drawn besides his three, but the general ones he proposes are definitely a good start. I find myself asking that question so often lately. It's usually phrased somewhat differently, more along the lines of: What do I believe? Do I think it's all a load of bull? Do I even believe in God? Do I believe but not care? Different choice of words, but essentially the same query.
I'm gradually coming to some sort of clarity on this issue, but one thing that I keep coming back to is that every time an issue arises and I ask myself "What do I believe about it?" I always hear myself replying, "Well, I was led to believe..."
What's the difference between believing something and being led to believe something?
Someone much smarter than myself can go into the exact definition of what belief is. I'm not absolutely certain. A hasty definition that comes to mind would be the conviction that something is true, particularly of an idea that that one can't be certain of. But at heart, belief is about something that a person truly believes in themselves. (Yes, I know that is so circular, but my point will be clearer when contrasting it with the next idea.)
Yet most often when an issue arises that stimulates me to take a look at my convictions in a particular area, I usually discover that I don't have any real beliefs of my own on the matter. True, there are some ideas on it floating around in my head, but in 99% of the cases those aren't my own ideas. They are ideas that someone else told me to subscribe to, and which I kept as my own all my life. I was led to believe, and I willingly followed where I was led. But did I believe it myself? In most cases, the answer is no.
I really don't have a problem with this idea in general. It's understandable and acceptable to me that not all of my beliefs are my own. I think that we all do this in so many areas of our lives, not just matters of religious thought. There's no way that we can subject to analysis every idea that we are expected to believe or take for granted. We all have ideas in our heads which have shaped our personalities that haven't been thoroughly scrutinized and filtered.
Yet it's very disturbing how often this has been happening to me. How frequently I realize that on so many issues that my life revolves around (or in some cases revolved), I don't really have my own convictions. Some people might say that absence of belief is like saying "I don't believe", but to my mind, that's already a belief in itself, and while applicable in certain cases, most often a better way of expressing it is simply "I don't know".
It affects me on many levels. The most obvious one is in the myriad areas of Jewish practice. (This actually doesn't really bother me as much as it used to, as I've come to an overall conclusion that I don't care about most of it, so asking me what my beliefs are about halacha is like asking me what my beliefs are about head lice.) But it's about much more than halacha. I've realized that many of my values are also not my own. The way that I approach relationships is not my own. The qualities I admire in another person are not my own. My goals in life are not my own. The way I want to raise my family is not my own. My overall understanding of life, of Judaism, of practically everything of any consequence - it's all viewed from the frum perspective I was indoctrinated with that I no longer believe in.
Do you realize how utterly frightening this is? When I remove all these ideas that I've only subscribed to, and then look at what's remaining on the board, I'm left with a terribly short list of views that I've truly acquired on my own. It's practically a blank slate.
Ok, I'm probably overstating it a bit. Admittedly, throughout the past few years, most of my views on many issues have been modified somewhat in parallel to the changes I've made in my lifestyle. But despite that, on almost all important and central issues, there is still a very large and substantial part which is not my own, and when that is removed, there is a gaping hole in it's absence.
But there is more. Not knowing right or wrong might be the most obvious dilemma I face, but more important than that is that I simply don't have a fucking clue how to figure out the right answers to all these questions! I wasn't taught how to figure things out, to investigate, to come to my own conclusions. I was taught to listen, to accept, to ask someone else what to believe, how to live my life, what's right and what's wrong, and accept that he knows best.
And now I find myself with nobody to trust, but also no tools to figure things out on my own.
Where do I start?