It seems that many people feel that there are only certain, very specific, reasons to stop being frum, and if your motivation for leaving does not fall within those rationales, then your choice is clearly illegitimate and your rejection of your family’s tradition is indefensible.
Irrespective of the conclusion that the critics seem to be drawing, the premise of these objections do touch on an important question: Does one need a justification for leaving religion behind? And if so, what is a justifiable basis for doing so?
One can find a broad range of opinions addressing this question. On the one hand are those who feel that any reason whatsoever – no matter how trivial - is good enough, since there’s no rational basis for a religious lifestyle anyway ("Does anyone demand a solid intellectual refutation to reject the tooth fairy?"). At the other side of the spectrum are those who feel that no rationale at all could ever justify a person leaving frumkeit, since it’s the only true and right way to live ("It doesn’t matter what perfectly constructed argument you have, if you say 2 +2 = 5 you’re obviously making a mistake!"). And there are those in the middle, that seem to grant, albeit very cautiously, that in certain situations, leaving frumkeit could possibly be the prudent and correct choice for a person.
I haven't totally made up my mind about it, but personally, I feel that any person is entitled to take whatever steps he wants to in his own life, for whatever reasons he desires, and does not have to explain himself to anyone. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all reasons are equally valid. Sometimes people do things for stupid reasons. Ideally, any significant choice a person makes in his life should be approached with deliberation and proper reflection.
Off the top of my head, here are some general reasons why I think it makes sense for a person to stop being frum:
If he has put a sufficient amount of deliberation into the issue and concluded that...
- he is unhappy, and his unhappiness is a direct result of the frum lifestyle (e.g. if his frum society insisted he value things that he finds deeply objectionable)
- due to frumkeit, he is always going to be lacking things that he feels are essential to his life (e.g. he feels there is no outlet for his creative expression)
- he finds that many of the core premises of the frum lifestyle factually untrue (e.g. historicity of the Bible)
- he finds too much of that lifestyle (either practical or theological) to be incompatible with what he feels to be right (e.g. perspectives on homosexuality or women's issues)
- it provides no significant benefit or meaning to his life
- he no longer trusts the system
Obviously, in a situation where the person has certain practical obligations and commitments (such as kids), that affects the decision somewhat. But in a normal situation where the person is single and mature minded, he should be allowed to pursue a path that he feels is right for him.
What do you think?