I got an email from the second interviewed kofer, Gaius Octavius, that he wanted to post a follow-up to his interview. Here are his remarks:
Most of the criticisms of my interview were along the lines of (a) you are boring and/or a square; (b) at thirteen you were too young to become atheist because you could not possibly have understood evolution; and, (c) if you were intellectually honest, you would have asked rebbeim questions. That you didn’t just proves you were looking for a reason to become not frum.
(a) You are boring and/or a square.
I regarded this criticism as the most surprising; it simply never occurred to me that people read blog posts simply for their entertainment value. I would imagine that most of the people who post on these blogs fancy themselves intellectuals and would not admit that they read blogs solely to be entertained. With that said, my life would be very interesting to most people who read Da'as Hedyot. With that said, I am constrained by my desire to maintain my anonymity from writing about it.
(b) At thirteen you were too young to become atheist because you could not possibly have understood evolution.
At the outset, I will admit that when I first believed in the theory of evolution by natural selection, I had a rather primitive understanding of the theory. (As an aside, the same could be said of Charles Darwin, who developed the theory without being aware of Mendelian genetics).
But my decision to believe in the theory of evolution was not just because it made sense to me, but also because I became aware that it was the general conscious of scientists that it was correct. In that sense, I chose to accept one form of authority, scientists, over another form of authority, rabbis. And before becoming aware of the theory of evolution, I was already skeptical of the religious explanations for the natural world, particularly since in learning gemara the amoroim struck me as so primitive.
My explanation for why I accepted evolution without fully understanding it might bother some people who find it not very intellectual. But if you had a medical issue, I suspect that you would readily accept the diagnosis of a western trained medical doctor over a Santeria practicing witch doctor. But using your logic, the fact that you would take a medication without fully understanding how it works is proof that you are just looking for a reason to not believe that Santeria is the true faith. After all, you accept that this medication will be effective without having reviewed any of the clinical studies or read the peer reviewed articles that explain how it works.
(c) If you were intellectually honest, you would have asked rebbeim questions. That you didn’t just proves you were looking for a reason to become not frum.
Firstly, there was nothing that I would have heard had I asked that would have surprised me. While issues of emunah and/or hashkafah were not a formal part of the curriculum, (which was almost entirely gemara), being in yeshiva all day meant that I was frequently exposed to the “party line” on issues of belief.
Further, in the yeshiva environment I was in, it was made clear that having “emunah peshutah” was preferable to “rational belief.” As such, asking questions would hurt the perception of me in implying that I did not have “emunah peshutah.” (And at that time I thought I would remain fake frum.) Further, I never got the impression from my rebbeim that they had anything other than “emunah peshutah” and I believed that they would be uncomfortable with me asking them. In the yeshiva I went to, rebbeim were there to answer questions on the difficult tosfos that you did not understand, not why does Bereshis say that the world was created in six days less then six thousand years ago when science provides overwhelming evidence that it does not.