- We are deeply unhappy and unfulfilled.
- We have no morals.
- All we do with our lives is eat cheeseburgers, have sex, and do drugs.
- The main reason we left is because we wanted to have sex.
- We intensely despise religious Jews and Judaism.
- The whole purpose of our lives is just to make money.
As anyone who has bothered to get to know us knows, the notion that our lives are nothing more than miserable cesspools of decadence and materialism is really quite a far fetched thing to believe. Although there are some exceptions, most of the people I've met who have left frumkeit behind are really not that different from any other person who is trying to live a decent and fulfilling life. They try to instill their lives with meaningful experiences. They strive to better themselves. They struggle to reconcile their past lives with their current ones. They still care about having meaningful and committed relationships. They try hard to live their lives with integrity. They endeavor to help other people. And they do all this even though they may not believe that doing so will earn them heavenly brownie points.
The simplistic explanations that are often given for why people leave religion are also an endless source of frustration. Very rarely do any of the pat explanations offered (“he ended up with a bad crowd”, “he read the wrong books”, “he discovered porn”, “he hung around with girls”, "he couldn't control his yetzer hara", "he came from a troubled home", etc.) give a realistic picture of the dynamics that are going through the persons head and heart when they are experiencing those changes in their lives. (And FYI, if any frum person wants to have sex, there are plenty of easier ways to go about getting it than having to give up your entire social support structure of family, friends, and community.)
Despite this unpleasant situation, I can’t really blame a chareidi person for believing much of this nonsense. After all, there usually are a few notable examples that can be pointed to which supposedly prove their assertions. And even if it is totally untrue, how many frum people ever have a chance to genuinely get to know any ex-frum people? Such people are shunned from the community, thereby precluding any chance of getting to know what their lives are really like, or what really motivated their decision to leave. In the few circumstances where contact is maintained, the topic of the person's transformation is usually verboten. So a typical chareidi person really has no basis on which to question the commonly accepted claims he hears all around him.
For this very reason, because chareidi people currently have no way of overcoming the stereotypes to which they are subjected, I’ve decided to launch a new initiative. I’m excited to announce the start of a new series on this blog, called, “Better Know a Kofer”*. Every few weeks I will be posting an interview with a person who grew up frum (preferably chareidi, but we won’t exclude anyone) and no longer is. I’ll try to explore as many areas as possible, from why he chose to leave, to how she lives her life now, to what their current relationship with Judaism is like, to anything else that can shed some light on this terribly misunderstood topic.
If you would like to be interviewed for the series, feel free to email me (daashedyot at the gmail), and I’ll be happy to arrange it.
Stay tuned for the first installment, which I hope to post in just a few days!
*Yes, DovBear, you inspired me.
Update - Here are direct links to all the interviews: