I was watching this incredible video of an underwater volcano explosion, and it reminded me of an incident that occurred to me a few years ago, one chol hamoed, back when I was still pretty frum. I had gone to visit the Soreq Caves near Jerusalem. These are caverns with incredible stalagmite and stalactite formations that have built up over hundreds of thousands of years from the slowly dripping minerals. (According to wikipedia, the drip rate is approximately .005 inches / year. At that rate, it would take around 2,400 years for just one foot to build up!)
One nice thing that the frum world does is that people are always encouraged to seek out the natural beauty in the world, being that they consider it a testament to the handiwork of the creator. So witnessing this magnificent natural beauty really moved me. It truly was an awe-inspiring sight. But then the guide told us an interesting tidbit: up until only a few years ago, no human had ever laid eyes on these caves because they were entirely sealed off to the world. They were only discovered because of excavation blasting that was being done for a construction project. Surprisingly, hearing this detail had an unexpected effect upon me. It just made no sense whatsoever - if god wants us to marvel in his beautiful creation, why would he have kept this treasure hidden away from the world all this time? I was really thrown off by this piece of information.
This issue continued to bother me as I saw more and more of these fantastic formations, each more stunning than the last, and I tried coming up with some plausible resolution to my dilemma. The best answer I could muster was that god had chosen to save this cave for our generation, and I should be grateful for this 'gift' that was denied to everyone but us. Kind of like getting exclusive entry to a prestigious art gallery. It was an answer, but it didn't really satisfy my discontent.
I'm not saying that this incident caused me to stop believing in god, or that as result of it, any dramatic changes occurred in my life. I probably went home, forgot about it within a short time, and my life continued pretty much the same way.
But it did definitely affect me. Like so many other similar incidents that I encountered. Every one of those experiences, regardless of how trivial they were, caused another chink in the armor of my faith. When people ask me what caused me to stop believing it all (an entirely different, though not unrelated, question than 'why did I leave frumkeit?'), I usually have a hard time answering that well. This partly explains why - it's hard to pinpoint any one specific idea that thoroughly changed my view. In fact, I don't think that there really ever was one. Rather, like the accretion of minerals that formed these amazing structures, it was a slow and steady accumulation of countless small experiences, incidents, conversations, and personal revelations that finally tipped the scale of my belief towards a more skeptical worldview.
It's kind of ironic though, how seeing god's beauty can contribute to losing faith in him.
Photo credit: flickr user Sagipolley