Monday, April 06, 2009

When to leave frumkeit?

The interviews that I've posted have prompted both positive feedback and also a number of negative reactions. Many people have said that the subjects interviewed only perpetuate the stereotypes which I had hoped to overcome. Although I thought it was clear that they are mature and thoughtful individuals who didn't leave religion based on shallow, impulsive motivations, and who are living meaningful and productive lives, many people still were quite critical of them. They felt that each one simply demonstrated a weak and untenable approach to rejecting Judaism, thereby proving the critics right that people who leave really have no idea what they're talking about.

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
(I suppose some of those categories overlap a bit, but it covers the general areas for me. Please don't try to disprove the examples above by showing, for example, that other branches of Judaism do provide a creative outlet. We're all well aware that there are many different kinds of societies in Judaism and that some of them have environments which don't have the flaws mentioned above. However, disproving the example is pointless because a) the examples are just that - examples. The general category still stands, even if you feel a specific illustration of it isn't accurate. And b) irrespective of the possibly mistaken impression the person has, the fact remains that this is the reality to them! They may be wrong, but they think they're right, and since they believe that Judaism is falling short somehow, they have a right to act based on what they perceive to be true.)

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?

59 comments:

laura said...

I'm grading this post *sensible*, because I think it is, but I wish you'd have a *sensible, yet disappointing* option for posts that are too sensible to merit the XGH treatment. ;-)

laura said...

I do have a gripe with your too-understated-for-my-taste reference to the consideration of how leaving affects one's children, but I'm too tired now to make an articulate argument.

Hasidic Rebel said...

I have a serious problem with this whole discussion. Even you seem to claim that people need a justifiable reason to leave. You make it sound like people need a reason that makes sense to others. They don't.

Often people leave for reasons they can't articulate. They may have suffered a lot of pain, such that it's hard to describe leaving in rational terms. It doesn't make it illegitimate. Some people (XGH?) might express distaste for someone whose reason for leaving isn't up to par with his/her intellectual standards. All that means, though, is that he/she doesn't find that story meaningful. So be it. One need not make apologies.

The Hedyot said...

> Even you seem to claim that people need a justifiable reason to leave.

Not really, HR. True, I gave reasons that I thought were justifiable, but I also said that "any person is entitled to take whatever steps he wants to in his own life, for whatever reasons he desires". When giving those reasons, I wasn't saying they were necessary, just that these are reasons which would make sense to someone else.

I very much agree with you that very often people can't articulate (let alone make sense of) the emotions and motivations that are going on inside of them, especially on these issues. That's partly why I feel that anyone should be able to leave for whatever reason seems right to them.

להבל וריק said...

I totally agree with you. We should not decide for others if they need a good reason or not.

Personally, I would give one reason to stop keeping torah: Cheeseburgers.

But the guys at Burger King don't mind my hat, so I have no need to leave completely.

abandoning eden said...

so are all people who go OTD men? And as that's clearly not the case, Why are you referring to us of all as "he"?

The Hedyot said...

> Why are you referring to us of all as "he"?

Kol Kevodah Bas Melech Penimah. :)

Freethinking Upstart said...

Hedyot,

I think that there are two issues that are getting mixed up here.

1) Your interviews and the apparent intentions and reasons for doing the series.

2) Whether or not people that leave the frum lifestyle need to justify themselves and if so, what are acceptable means of justification.

My critiques have been directed at 1). I was under the impression that you were trying to give people, particularly frum or fence riders, a good impression about "koferim" and I would argue that you've failed miserably on that front, as I and many others have pointed out.

However, regarding 2), I don't feel people that change their lifestyle need to justify themselves to me. Perhaps their family and friends will expect that from them, and perhaps rightfully so. Personally I think their are myriads of reasons to leave frumkeit, some of which are better then others, but that's a full length discussion.

Mikeskeptic said...

I agree that there are several different issues being mixed up here. First, very few skeptics would a priori choose to be frum. That is, skeptics do not become BTs. So, it's obvious why a skeptic would be tempted to leave orthodoxy and I don't think anyone is questioning why that would be the case. The issue we all struggle with (if we struggle at all) is that leaving frumkeit means tearing yourself apart from your family and community. This is painful, not only for the person leaving, but also for the people that person leaves behind (or maybe takes with them?). I would venture to say that for most frum skeptics, the attraction of escaping is outweighed by these costs. This is why we tend to assume that people who do leave were not well adjusted emotionally or socially or are abnormal in some way.

I think that your idea of exit interviews for skeptics is a great one, whether or not it repudiates our biases about people who leave. The value of these interviews may just be in showing that people who leave are able to live happy fulfilling lives outside afterwards. But it shouldn't be taken to mean that if you leave your wife and kids because you like cheeseburgers, you won't regret it. The point is not to justify leaving, but just to show that people who are raised frum can be happy without frumkeit.

This will take on more relevance in coming decades as Orthodoxy begins its inevitable collapse and people are able to stop being observant without having to leave their families.

abandoning eden said...

> Why are you referring to us of all as "he"?

Kol Kevodah Bas Melech Penimah. :)

you have got to be fucking kidding me. :)

The Hedyot said...

Sorry, AE. I couldn't resist. :)

I'm sure you understand that it's used simply as a general pronoun, and not intended to exclude anyone. I suppose I can make an effort to be more inclusive and sensitive, but writing he/she or switching the pronouns constantly actually feels a bit contrived to my ears, so I prefer to avoid it.

Next post I do, I promise to use only female pronouns, just for you.

Jewish Atheist said...

Interesting post.

I think that your interviews are having a great effect, one I didn't expect. Who knew that we OTDers had our own stereotypes and judgments about other OTDers?

Thanks for opening our eyes to the diversity among us. Keep it up!

Baal Habos said...

I am a bit confused.

It is my contention that most people who go OTD do not believe in the tenets of Orthodoxy, for whatever reason. Some get there due to historicity, some get there by intuition. It makes no difference and they're both equally valid.

Now to your position. Of course, everyone can do whatever they please. But are you saying that it's "logical and mature" in any sense of the word, for someone to believe in TMS and the Mesora, for someone to believe that there's an omnicient omnipotent being that does not want us to eat cheeseburgers, for someone to believe they will go to hell if we do, yet yet still give up OJ for a Cheeseburger and life as a free bird?

A simple "yes or no" would help me out here.

The Hedyot said...

> are you saying that it's "logical and mature" in any sense of the word, for someone to believe in TMS and the Mesora... yet yet still give up OJ for a Cheeseburger and life as a free bird?

No, that's not what I'm saying. If someone were to actually have such a conviction I don't think it would be consistent to act contrary to what one believes in. But I don't think most frum people have that convction. Yes, they may say they believe, but for the average guy that 'belief' is not based on a strong conviction, but is rather due primarily to social factors.

So in my list of justifications above, the reasons that I gave which were not purely intellectual ones, were not in contrast to a firm intellectual underpinning. Rather they were emotional factors that exist alongside a weak intellectual commitment to the principles of Orthodoxy.

> It is my contention that most people who go OTD do not believe in the tenets of Orthodoxy, for whatever reason.

I don't agree with this contention. I think that most people don't really think much about the tenets at all.

Bruce said...

I think you list is a good one. Obviously, people can leave for any reason they want. But some decisions are justifiable and others are not (although no one needs to justify their decisions to the rest of us).

I understand DH to simply be listing a set of justifiable reasons. As such, it is a pretty good list.

Freethinking Upstart said...

>I think that most people don't really think much about the tenets at all.

I think the Hedyot is absolutely correct. It's a point worthy of much discussion.

Baal Habos said...

>I think that most people don't really think much about the tenets at all.

Sure, that's true; for believers. They're on auto-pilot and they never question it.

But are you saying it's rational for an FFB to have their first Cheeseburger without thinking about the tenets of OJ? (Damn, it's hard to nail you down!!!!)

The Hedyot said...

> I think that most people don't really think much about the tenets at all.

And to elaborate on that, the broader implication is that not only when a person leaves are his actions not based on an intellectual rejection, but also when he is still living a frum life his actions are not based on a firm conviction.

I've made this point to many frum people, when they challenge my decision to leave.

Very often, they'll say to me, "You only left because of emotional reasons!"
"Is that so wrong?" I ask.
"Yes," they say. "You shouldn't be living your life based on emotional reasons."
"Well, I was only frum for emotional reasons too. So, based on your logic, leaving frumkeit was the right thing to do!"

Hasidic Rebel said...

I think we're confusing the issues here in a different way. Belief is one thing, lifestyle choice is another. OTD'ers are not necessarily skeptics in the intellectual sense, nor is there a logical path from skeptic to OTD.

I know many out and out apikorsim who don't leave simply because they have no issues with the lifestyle. Jewish culture (yes, even the Orthodox variety) can have a powerful draw for many people. While stifling and restrictive to some, others find it rewarding and meaningful even without subscribing to conventional Orthodox dogma.

In the same vein, many might subscribe to Orthodox dogma (or some personal version resembling it), but still feel the lifestyle too restrictive and feel themselves boxed-in. Orthodoxy is as much a culture as a belief system. It might be only the former that one discards but not the latter. It is conceivable that one would leave the "lifestyle" while still keep shabbos, kashrus, and the basic tenets of faith. Just like one need not wear a shtreimel and grow payess to be a chasid, one need not wear a yarmulke and/or subscribe to the chumra-of-the-month club to be, strictly speaking, Orthodox in belief.

I think DH's series is a great one, although not for its stated purpose (which, quite frankly, I'm still unclear about). It's simply a human interest genre, to use contemporary journalistic parlance. It may or may not shatter someone's preconceived notions of OTD'ers, but I for one don't give an iota's crap-worth about that.

(As an aside, it does seem that the only ones who take issue with its supposed lack of substance are those self-professed in-the-closet types. While I won't presume the ability to psychoanalyze anyone, my instinct is to read into it a degree of defensiveness about sticking it out, manifested by subjecting the choices of others to such intense scrutiny.)

The Hedyot said...

> Are you saying it's rational for an FFB to have their first Cheeseburger without thinking about the tenets of OJ?

Yes. If they never really thought about the tenets when they followed the rules, why should they think about them when they are violating them? I'd suggest that when an FFB feels guilty about doing something like that, usually it's not the violation of the tenets that's tugging at her heartstrings, but the violation of communal and family norms that is making her feel guilty.

Hasidic Rebel said...

"The point is not to justify leaving, but just to show that people who are raised frum can be happy without frumkeit."

Question is, what if the stereotype of OTD'ers being unhappy turns out to be true, does that categorically translate into "bad decision"? I'm not so sure.

I think there's value in just showing the various profiles that exist in switching lifestyles, even if only to show the struggles encountered in such a path.

The Hedyot said...

> what if the stereotype of OTD'ers being unhappy turns out to be true, does that categorically translate into "bad decision"?

If the basis for the decision was to have a more satisfying life, than yes, I think it would be deemed a bad decision. But if the basis was simply to live a life that wasn't based on what the person thought to be untruths, then the resultant emotional state is irrelevant.

Hasidic Rebel said...

"...not only when a person leaves are his actions not based on an intellectual rejection, but also when he is still living a frum life his actions are not based on a firm conviction."

I think that's an extremely important point. I've often argued that when frum people claim OTD'ers had difficult lifestyles (broken homes, troubled pasts, emotional issues), they are ipso facto claiming that for them the lifestyle has a positive emotional draw. So neither path is the more intellectually sound one.

And while skeptics here aren't quite making that claim (the may, after all, be miserable), they're still admitting to stick it out for the emotional benefit, i.e. avoiding the emotional baggage that come along with leaving.

It is my contention that, at the end of the day, lifestyle choices -- whether staying or leaving -- are always emotionally driven.

Hasidic Rebel said...

"If the basis for the decision was to have a more satisfying life, than yes, I think it would be deemed a bad decision."

Not necessarily. The decision could've been sound: leaving a difficult lifestyle for the hope of a better one. Just because at any given time the person may not be very happy doesn't meant they won't ultimately find happiness and fulfillment after a time.

Consider an analogy: an African living in a mud hut might choose to immigrate to the U.S. hoping for better conditions and end up miserable in some immigrant slum. Does that mean the hope of a better life in the U.S. was necessarily a bad one?

Were the crowded tenements of the Lower East Side necessarily better than the squalor of Eastern European shtetlech? Not so sure. A tenement occupant, even if only eking out a living from an apple pushcart on Orchard Street, might've ended up producing a generation of Holywood moguls, high-powered attorneys, world-class brain surgeons, or just your run-of-the-mill affluent Jewish American in the suburbs.

Freethinking Upstart said...

@Hasidic Rebel,

>(As an aside, it does seem that the only ones who take issue with its supposed lack of substance are those self-professed in-the-closet types. While I won't presume the ability to psychoanalyze anyone, my instinct is to read into it a degree of defensiveness about sticking it out, manifested by subjecting the choices of others to such intense scrutiny.)

I'm not in the closet. I don't introduce my self, "Hello, nice to meet you Ploni, the Orthodox Jew, I'm Freethinking Upstart, the Kofer."

My complaint with the series is not with "substance." Rather, my point is that interviewing someone that has left Orthodox Judaism and eventually joined the Roman Catholic Church or someone that became an atheist at the age of 13 after reading a bit about the theory of evolution, does NOT shine a positive light, especially for those that are frum and those that are sitting on the fence.

Freethinking Upstart said...

correction:

"I'm not in the closet. I don't introduce..."

Should be...

I'm not in the closet but I don't introduce..."

Hasidic Rebel said...

"I'd suggest that when an FFB feels guilty about doing something like that, usually it's not the violation of the tenets that's tugging at her heartstrings, but the violation of communal and family norms that is making her feel guilty."

Exhibit A: the number of professed frum skeptics (including vehement apikorsim) who still have an inexplicable aversion to eating treif.

It's usually a slow process, starting with baked goods at Starbucks without a hechsher, to non-kosher but psychologically safe meat products (say, beef or poetry without cheese), to mixed meat and milk, to pork and bacon. (With the exceptionally brave soul graduating to kangaroo and horse meat.)

Baal Habos said...

>> Are you saying it's rational for an FFB to have their first Cheeseburger without thinking about the tenets of OJ?

>Yes. If they never really thought about the tenets when they followed the rules, why should they think about them when they are violating them?

Because thet were on auto-pilot and presumed it to be true. That's not the same as dis-believing. After two years, I think we drilled down to our difference. Of course, I think you're way off base. I don't believe that's rational behaviour for an FFB. I say that before a rational FFB has a cheeseburger, he/she will have clearly decided that OJ is false. How they came to that conclusion may vary. Just my opinion though.

Hasidic Rebel said...

Freethinking -- Point taken. Regardless, though, since it's not the lack of substance you're criticizing, only the piece's effectiveness, my assertion didn't apply to you anyway.

And as I implied, I was going out on a limb, perhaps unfairly. Was just a thought.

The Hedyot said...

Exhibit B:

I had a harder time going from Badatz Mehadrin to Rabbanut, than I did going from kosher to non-kosher.

The Hedyot said...

> Because they were on auto-pilot and presumed it to be true. That's not the same as dis-believing.

True, it's not the same as actively disbelieving. But acting on a presumption based on trusting what other people tell you is a weak foundation.

As I see it, there are three levels:
1) Believing in it strongly.
2) Beliving in it simply because thats what you were told (what you call auto-pilot)
3) Disbelieving strongly.

I maintain that most frum people live their lives on level 2, and therefore, to go to a state of violating things, theres no need to actively go to level 3 (as I understand you're suggesting), but simply making the easy switch within level 2 of switching from doing what you are told to do, to not doing what you are told to do. Such a switch does not take any major intellectual shift.

The Hedyot said...

> Not necessarily. The decision could've been sound: leaving a difficult lifestyle for the hope of a better one.

Good point. I agree.

Baal Habos said...

> maintain that most frum people live their lives on level 2, and therefore, to go to a state of violating things, theres no need to actively go to level 3 (as I understand you're suggesting), but simply making the easy switch within level 2 of switching from doing what you are told to do, to not doing what you are told to do. Such a switch does not take any major intellectual shift.


That's a disingenuis use of auto-pilot. When people are on auto-pilot operating with a presumtion of truth, that means they did not analyze the reason for their belief. Yet their belief is strong enough to make them give up careers, devote their lives to learning, become suicide bombers (Islam) and even give up strawberries lo-aleinu. Giving that up requires active disbelief of what you call type 3. Well, maybe not strawberries, but eating a cheeseburger would require active disbelief .

Jewish Atheist said...

There isn't a clear line between belief and lifestyle. When I came to disbelieve in the tenets, THEN the lifestyle became oppressive for me. (I felt stupid going to shul and social life revolved around shul. I felt I couldn't voice my honest beliefs and opinions. I felt uncomfortable giving the impression to the world that I was an Orthodox Jew and therefore subscribed to the beliefs that they believe, etc.)

The Hedyot said...

> Yet their belief is strong enough to make them give up careers, devote their lives to learning, become suicide bombers... Giving that up requires active disbelief of what you call type 3....

I disagree. For many it only requires the right social circumstances and emotional factors to come into play.

Think about it this way: It's only the right social circumstances that are making them 'believe'. Therefore it only takes other social conditions to make that 'belief' go in a different direction.

Hasidic Rebel said...

JA -- I'm not saying there's no connection at all. Only that they don't necessarily go together. I've had my times where going to shul was a misery-inducing nuisance, and other times when I quite enjoyed the weekly shmoozing and socializing, with davening being only a peripheral irritation. The latter instance showed me that one can enjoy the climate if it provides sufficient emotional stimulation, even if one rejects the principle underlying the practice.

I think the misery many find themselves in are not caused by the practices per se but the social climate that forces one to live a double life.

Baal Habos said...

>Think about it this way: It's only the right social circumstances that are making them 'believe'.

Nonsense. It's years and years of intense indoctrination from birth.

The Hedyot said...

> It's years and years of intense indoctrination from birth.

Granted, indoctrination does include ideology, but it also consists of a lot of social pressure and emotional appeals. For the people that don't think too much about the ideological and phiosphical aspects, I think its primarily these things (trust, emotions, social factors) that are keeping them tied to the lifestyle.

Obviously, it isn't ever black and white. Everyone is made up of some degree of all these aspects, but I think that for many people it's primarily not intellectual factors, and therefore it is not necessary for them to come to any intellectual realizations to adopt a new way.

Mark said...

I see I'm late to the party, but I'll try to get to the point.

As to Hedyot's success or lack thereof in his attempt to portray 'Apikorsim' in a positive light, I think it's not as relevant as the issue raised in this post. I remember commenting on the first story in this series that 'Kofer' has to be defined in the way you're using it. I think this post basically comes back to this issue.

I see a split between the sceptics and the others here. BHB JA and myself seem to fall under the category of rational animals. Meaning we take things from the head on down. For people like that, it would be inexplicable if they just decided that being Frum is to restrictive and left. That's not how we work. It has to be based on a rational analysis of the basic tenets of Judaism, after which some will decide to leave, others to stay, based on the circumstances. This doesn't mean that emotions, social pressures don't play a role, it does mean though that people like that can't consciously ignore their beliefs. We must investigae their validity.

Having said that, I think BHB seems to have a problem recognizing that most people are simply not that way. As Hedyot pointed out, most people don't really 'know' the tenets of Judaism, they just proclaim their belief in them. This means that such a person can just get fed up with it, go into McDonaldds and order a cheeseburger. It doesn't mean he is consciously ignoring his deeply held convictions, he doesn't have those.
Having said that, there are people who just decide to start doing what they want, and when asked how about God etc. they reply that they simply don't care. This may sometimes be rationalized later on, by supposed findings of Judaism untenability, but that's secondary. So it is a matter of fact that some people just don't care. But they're not the types that need a rational justification for their actions.

Now getting to what is good enough reason to leave. Objectively speaking, it depends on the person. For some it must be a rational decision, for others, religiousity is a social thing, as is their reason for leaving it. Still, I personally can relate to, and respect more someone that investigated the matter fully. I admit it's a personal projection, but that's that.

Finally, I think it would do a lot of good, if Hedyot interviewed people that left based on a rational rejection of Judaism. I think it would shut up many of the Frumakes who claim that all apikorsim just want to have sex and eat Treif, andrationlize it later. People that leave on emotional reasons, are important for a different angle, but this point, that people do find Judaism to be simply FALSE, no more no less, is crucial, and needs to be brought to light. For that we need a 'rational animal' as I call him.

Baal Habos said...

>Having said that, I think BHB seems to have a problem recognizing that most people are simply not that way. As Hedyot pointed out, most people don't really 'know' the tenets of Judaism, they just proclaim their belief in them. This means that such a person can just get fed up with it, go into McDonaldds and order a cheeseburger.

You mean Jacob Stein is right?

gamzoo said...

It's funny. Since leaving the OJ life style, I've become a vegetarian, which is in some ways a stricter diet than frum people have. But I'm glad I'm not limited to Jewish approved restaurants

gamzoo said...

>You mean Jacob Stein is right?

JS thinks that all people who are OTD are sexed crazed maniacs. Not exactly Mark's point

Mark said...

>You mean Jacob Stein is right?

No, I mean that most people don't think in rational terms. Not that they're sex addicts, but they ae not slaves to their minds. If something is too much, they'll drop it given the chance.

Let's face it BHB, we are a Yothe Min Haklal. It's just the way it is.

Baal Habos said...

>JS thinks that all people who are OTD are sexed crazed maniacs. Not exactly Mark's point

But JS's point is not strictly sex, at least I would hope it's not even though he constantly rails about it. it's about freedom from religion. And the way Mark and DH are stating it, they seem to buy into that possibility. I'm simply claiming that no one would eat a ham sandwich, unless they'd give it some serious thought and concluded that OJ is bogus. People don't just say, "I had a bad day at work and I'm not sure about so I'll have a big mac".

But, I see that there are other opinions in the world, so I don't think there's any need to belabor the issue. (Probably a bit too late for that!)

Mark said...

BHB,

It doesn't usually start with ham sandwiches, but I have come across it to often to deny its existence. Some people simply do not care.
JS is still wrong in claiming that sex addiction and general Prikas Ol is the ONLY reason for not being Frum. His premise is (he has stated it often) that someone who grew up Frum can't possibly be unconvinced of Judaism's truth. He doesn't even allow for honest mistakes in judgment. I don't believe in any such nonesense. What I am saying is that for some people the process isn't rational, not necessarily sex driven or whatever, some simply can't take it socially, but JS is right about some people. I know the type personally.

evanstonjew said...

A reason for staying vs. leaving Orthodoxy is the expected utility when comparing the two alternatives. In thinking about the payoffs one has to take into account transportation costs.Some of the costs are:Does a person feel sufficiently comfortable in the secular world to make a go of it? Here one has to think of new friends, dates, marriage choices, fitting into a non-frum spouse's family. If the answer is that one really can't get along or doesn't have a clear place in the secular world, but would like to give up mitzvot while staying close to Orthodox culture, then I feel many times yatzah sechoro behefseido. In any event one needs a plan. Being unhappy inside Orthodoxy doesn't entail being happy outside.

We are comparing costs over a lifetime. It would be an easier decision if one could run around in one's twenties and thirties but return home when middle and old age roll around. But it's not that simple. In the interim one has made choices etc.

My general point is too much attention is paid to issues of truth and justification and not enough to the actual nitty gritty of becoming and staying not frum. When that is looked at up close we would get a better unstanding why going OTD might not be as easy and cool as it is imagined when one still is Orthodox. And then again it might be once one leaps a very easy transition. Here people who have left can be of great value.

Freethinking Upstart said...

ej has pointed out something that would be particulary worthwhile.

How about a series of inteviews about real life transitions from frum to secular? Ask questions about diet, relationships (jew, non-jew, opposite sex,) dating, marriage, work, school, identity, loss, family.

I *might* even be interested in participating in something like that. As many have pointed out, the arguements and debate have been worn out by multiple sites and blogs. How about some real practical advice that could come about through sharing real life experience?

topshadchan said...

bhb
"Giving that up requires active disbelief of what you call type 3. Well, maybe not strawberries, but eating a cheeseburger would require active disbelief ."

i think you have people all the time who believe but get a taivah and act on it.
its no stirah.

Are you telling me you never did an aveira while you were a believer?
or are you saying eating cheeseburgers are particurlaly aggregious aveira?
Me personally, never had a taiva for cheeseburgers, as i hate cheese.

topshadchan said...

hedyot
Is your series restricted to those who left or will you be interviewing those who left the faith, but stayed in the fold.

Baal Habos said...

Top Shadchan, excellent point and I was waiting for someone to ask that. I'd have to say there is a certain class of aveira, eating treif being one of them, that is considered by people to be so taboo, so against what the god of OJ wants that to violate it would be an act of apostacy.

G*3 said...

At what point has someone officially "left frumkeit?" The definition used here seems to be when one leaves the community, thereby equating frumkeit with frum society rather than frum beleifs or even frum actions.

On another note, the people DA chose to interview so far are different then what seems to be the norm in the skeptic-blogshpere. Most here have intellectual issues with frumkeit and have spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. The two people interviewed are going to annoy such people. The first was someone who left becuase of intellectual issues with halachah, but then became a Roman Catholic, a religion in which not thinking is a virtue and which actually forade its adherants to read the bible for centuries so that they would be unable to think about their religion. The second was someone who became a full-blown atheist at thirteen. Perhaps this guy is a genuis, but the average thirteen-year-old has neither the intellectaul capacity nor the knowledge to arrive at an intellectual conclusion about religion. I'm sure there are many who started down the road to disbeleif as teenagers, but to have arrived suddenly as this person did is unusual and hard for many here to swallow.

laura said...

Baal Habos, if most OTDers would leave for the reason you describe, a series like the one Hedyot is doing would be unnecessary. The truth is, most people who come to the realization that OJ is based on a false premise end up staying.

Regardless, Stein's assumption is not valid. I am quite convinced that if you'd do an objective, empirical study of people who left OJ, their reason for leaving would not be because they wanted to indulge in sex or other sources of enjoyment. Certainly not for *most* of them. I'll elaborate when I have more time.

The Hedyot said...

Just because people do things for emotional reasons, doesn't mean that they are acting irrationally. Pursuing a meaningful, satisfying life that is compatible with what you value is not an irrational choice, even if you can't logically prove its validity.

JS's argument is that people who go OTD are motivated solely by shallow and base urges, which they are unable, or unwilling to, control. Saying that a person wants to have meaning in their life is not the same as saying that they want an orgasm.

Haliczes said...

Is it just me, or it is kind of fucked up that an oft-repeated argument made by frummies for staying frum is "we'll make your life miserable if you leave"?

Does Evanston seriously think that in one's giddy youth independence is well and good, but we're gonna long for "home" when we get old? Dude, I'm at home--bacon, cross, goyische spouse, and all. This is my family and my community. I know it's hard to grasp, but I actually have a life, and it doesn't include the frum community in any significant part.

Heck no, it's not more convenient to be able to go back to mommy and daddy's house in one's old age, if for no other reason than mommy and daddy are generally pretty likely to be dead, time being what it is.

Further, I think several commenters here are making some serious errors, both commenters I generally agree with and commenters I generally disagree with.

The error is one of oversimplification. There are not two opposing spectrums of emotional influences on decision versus intellectual influences on decisions. One may have any number of approaches to intellectuality, and as some commenters have hinted at, there are many different kinds of emotions.

Religious doesn't run on a scale from left to right, or from anti-religion to ultra-religious. Neither does rationality. Theology, philosophy, and science, are all more complex than that.

The Hedyot said...

Here's an interesting article on the topic: The End of Philosophy (NY Times).

smaimon said...

I'm sephardic and get annoyed sometimes with the whole leaving/staying idea. I'm not old enough to remember but I've been told before the Sephardim went black hat, you did whatever you pleased in your private life and that was that. no such thing as leaving/ staying/ becoming frum/ becoming unfrum/ being too frum/ not enough. I still have some relatives like that, (fewer and fewer...) who basically as long as you don't intermarry or convert you're in.

Solomon Schimmel said...

In my book "The Tenacity of Unreasonable Beliefs: Fundamentalism and the Fear of Truth" (Oxford Univesity Press, 2008, pages 212-213) I list eighteen factors which contribute to the abandonment of fundamentalist religious beliefs, behaviors, and commitments. Although the factors are relevant to general loss of religious belief, rather than exclusively to fundamentalist beliefs and commitments, they are all especially relevant to fundamentalists. Although some of these are justifications for giving up a belief and a religious commitment or lifestyle, others are factors that conribute to the process, but not "justifications" offered by the individual for why he or she gives up the belief and/or religious way of life. (The list below adds two more factors).
The list is meant to be descriptive, and does not itself promote the rejection of religious beliefs or ways of life.

1. The believer experiences intellectual doubts about the rationality of the beliefs of the religion. The first, and most respectful approach to “defundamentalizing fundamentalists” is to try to understand the logic and rationale of their beliefs, and engage them with reason to in order to persuade them that their beliefs are false or wrong.
2. The believer finds another belief system that is more plausible and/or attractive.
3. The believer finds the requirements of the religion to be too demanding and so he abandons the religion.
4. The religion generates deep guilt in the believer. Rejection of the religion alleviates the sense of guilt.
5. The life experiences of the believer are inconsistent with the dogmas of the religion or with the person’s feelings about God.
6. The believer comes to see his religion as incompatible with his emotional or moral sensitivities.
7. The religion stifles the creative impulses of the believer (e.g. with restrictions on artistic, musical, or literary expression) and he reacts to that by modifying or discarding his beliefs.
8. The repressed sexual impulses of the believer that are controlled or inhibited by the religion, become so powerful that they lead the believer to reject his religious beliefs in order to find libidinal satisfaction.
9. The above could also apply to other impulses or needs that the religion attempts to control (e.g. food consumption, the nature of one’s work, or leisure activities).
10. The believer comes to see that religion is an obstacle to his or her social or economic advancement and therefore discards it.
11. The believer becomes disillusioned with or resentful of his religious parents, leaders and teachers.
12. The believer has bitter social experiences with the community of believers.
13. The believer develops feelings of spiritual emptiness and no longer experiences the presence of God in his life.
14. Substitutes are provided which serve the functions served by religion. This can be a non-fundamentalist version of the same religion, or an entirely different ideology or world-view that serves purposes similar to those served by fundamentalist religion.
15. The believer is persecuted by powerful authorities for his adherence to his beliefs. Oppression and persecution of fundamentalists has sometimes resulted in their abandoning their faith. However, it often has the opposite effect of intensifying religious zeal. The coercion might prevent overt religious behaviors (and even that doesn’t always work since some religious fundamentalists seek martyrdom) but it is harder to suppress or eliminate beliefs and feelings by oppression or coercion.
16. The believer is subjected to anti-religious indoctrination by those who control the sources of information and education and introduce teachings that go counter to the fundamentalist beliefs.
17. The believer is exposed to satire and mockery of his religious beliefs and his religious leaders and teachers.
18. The believer is exposed to the general socio-cultural process known as “secularization”, which incorporates, among other factors, many of the above.
19. The doubting believer has a community of supportive doubters which gives him emotional and moral support, and a ‘safe haven’ if he leaves his fundamentalist community and lifestyle.
20. A new narrative of the self gradually or suddenly supplants the earlier religious self-narrative.

Solomon Schimmel

Bodz said...

I've been following discussions like this for years, and they all seem too unidimensional. For more than a decade I have been writing a memoir in which I try to go beyond my own motivation for leaving what I once thought was the only guilt-free way of living, to understand the motivation of those deluded relatives and rabbis who tried to make me doubt the legitimacy of my own impulses and feelings by giving the impression that they never had doubts or impulses or feelings. I still wonder how much they had to bury inside themselves to maintain their straight and narrow veneer. Now that I have gone far enough into my memoir to put it on line (memoir-guide.com), I find that my own reasons for walking a road parallel to the derech were more psychological than religious. From an early age, even when I was at a yeshiva gedola, I could not escape the sentiment of Thoreau: If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man. (“Essay on Civil Disobedience”) Change does not take place overnight. Losing a family and a supportive community is never easy (even if their support has been conditional on your living a lie), and it never becomes altogether comfortable trying to explain matzo to the Gentile family I married into; but the compensations are great. And when I eat matzo or go to shul, it's because doing so satisfies a true need for me.

alex said...

"Although the factors are relevant to general loss of religious belief, rather than exclusively to fundamentalist beliefs and commitments, they are all especially relevant to fundamentalists." -- Solomon Schimmel

Your list seemed very fair. It's hard to even add to that list! One question I have, given what I quoted from you here, is why did you title the book in such a way that it appears that only fundamentalists are your target?