Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hi

This is OTD's second blog, mostly for backup purposes. See my real blog here. Thanks.

Movies

I've recently watched a bunch of movies. Basically, I was raised without a TV in the house, and I saw my first movie at age 21.

Like Product, it was nice seeing classics like James Bond or Star Wars for the first time, and getting an idea what all the fuss was about.

Anyway, why am I telling you this? (So frummies can continue to make fun of my family and community? No.) Because I've always wondered what my parents were smoking when they decided to go BT. I know they watched some movies, and those apparently had a strong influence on them. I watched Fiddler on the Roof, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, Yentl, among others. (I think FOTR clinched it for them, btw.)

What was my general impression of the movies? Not bad. They might make a halachic "mistake" now and then, but who cares? My major beef with the flicks was that they're a romanticized version of Orthodox life. Nothing is nearly as delightful and endearing in real life as they are in those movies, and the people are certainly much less approachable. And tolerant. And open-minded. But hey, if it nets Aish some converts, who am I to object?

Friday, March 27, 2009

False Confidence

People are often willing to accept a claim if the speaker presents it with great confidence. The confidence can be conveyed both by the choice of words and by the manner in which they are expressed. If the speaker is genuinely confident of the truth of the claim, then presenting it with confidence is quite appropriate. But if a questionable claim is presented with confidence, the audience can be misled into thinking that it cannot seriously be questioned. For example:

I certainly don't want to suggest that all adopted children are miserable, but the fact is that a majority of adopted children do suffer from a serious problem of self-identity and that the problem is most serious during their teenage years.

Is this claim true? It is certainly plausible, but in the absence of solid empirical evidence one could just as plausibly claim that it is false. But if it is asserted in a confident tone of voice, and in a way that suggests that everyone who knows anything about adoption would know that it is true, most people will be inclined not to challenge the speaker. They will believe that it is probably true.

False confidence is different from deliberately telling a lie. Of course, if a lie is to be convincing, the liar must tell it with confidence, so in a sense lying does require that the liar present false confidence. But we are here describing a different technique, one used by those who believe that what they are saying is true, but who want their audience to accept the claim without critical scrutiny. It is a way of suggesting, rather than saying, to the audience that there is no need to ask for the evidence. It suggests that anyone who did ask for evidence would only reveal their ignorance or naivety.

The effectiveness of false confidence in persuading an audience to accept a claim depends in large part upon the plausibility of the claim being made. No amount of false confidence would persuade most of us to accept a claim that flies in the face of common sense or is inconsistent with what we strongly believe to be true.

(Taken from a book. None of your goddamn business which one.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lubavitch

Related post by Apikores.

One of the first times I really doubted my religion was whilst engaging in conversation, or what passes for debate in the frum world, with Lubavitchers, as a nine year old.

Until then, I had never really been confronted with differing religious viewpoints. Sure, I had some secular relatives, but we didn't actually pay attention to their beliefs. They were, after all, secular, like goyim, nebach, and it was our job to make them frum. Who cares what nonsense they believe in?

This was different. These were frum kids, a few years older than me, as passionate about their beliefs as my friends were about theirs. (I liked to sit on the sidelines and watch.) Here was a group of kids, living a very similar lifestyle, engaged in awkward debate over whether the rebbe was moshiach or not.

I find it fascinating to observe pother people and learn about their thoughts and opinions, particularly when they're not being shoved down my throat. This time was no exception.

One of the Lubavitch boys really nailed it: "If you were raised in our world, you'd also believe these things!" This struck me as profound, and really stuck with me. Really, at the end of the day, how many of us don't just adopt the beliefs of our parents and families?

That may have been when it hit me that I was going to have to be as objective as possible, and try to find what I really believe. It's too easy to stick to what you're raised with, and I certainly don't judge people who do, but I felt I had to give it my best to look and find truth wherever I might find it.

Comment from Garnel

I was recently going over the archives (I do that on a night where I know I probably won't be getting much sleep anyway, and found this gem from Garnel (here): "What does your hatred of the concept of God say about your belief in your own divinity?"

Yes, of course. Brilliant. From The Leader, Himself.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some thoughts about this blog

I'm still in shock over meeting all these frummies online. You know? I never knew so many frum people were online. Where I come from, no one frum uses the internet (at least not for blogging). How was I supposed to know I'd meet so many fakers?

I don't write to get a reaction. My intention never was, and never will be, to piss frum people off. And no, I don't do it to proselytize. I blog mostly to share my story, NOT shove my opinion down anyone's throat. Just because you've devoted your life to sneaky kiruv doesn't mean everybody else is as disingenuous.

I didn't leave because I could pull fossils out of my ass, as rubecube says, but because I no longer wanted a part in, or believed in it (yes, it may be hard for some of you frummies to understand, but the time between leaving the community and meeting you again online had been some of the best times of my life).

Still, I thought I had seen so much mind-fucking and brainwashing in your community I would be personally immune to it for life. Then, I met Garnel.

You know, what really bothers me about religion is you can't think, you can't search. You start off with the "belief" that God exists. You then spend the rest of your life justifying it, and explaining it and excusing it. I tried to be as objective as possible, spent years thinking about it, and came to the conclusion that God does not exist. If you think you've been perfectly objective, and came to the conclusion that God does exist, please let me know. (If your name is Garnel, stay out of my face. You're the biggest liar the world has ever seen.)

There's an incredible stigma attached to going OTD. One reason I wasn't used to the abuse heaped on OTDers is I went OTD only after escaping your cult. Then I met you people... Seriously, a week before I went OTD I was hanging out with some friends. They had no idea. (These particular friends haven't called me since, mind you.) I'm that good. A lifetime of feigning emuna has taught me some serious acting skills.

That's what bothers me so much about you people. So many of you claim that we never listen. We, nebach, spent our years ignoring our teachers and that's why we went OTD. If only you knew... I spent my entire life in yeshiva, learning my brains off. I spent endless years in your yeshiva system thinking, looking and searching, always having to hide my kefirah. I spent more than three years after high school in yeshiva (mind you, I should have a PhD in gemara or something, for all my trouble. Of course, I don't have a single credit).

You'll never accept a kofer. I can spend fifty years learning, if I believe differently than you, I'm automatically crazy, or wrong. In fact, there's a famous gemara about a kohen gadol who became a kofer later in his life. Of course, the lesson was: "See, you can never be too careful! If even such a tzadik can become a kofer, you have to work really hard to avoid it! Must try harder!"

That's what really bothers me about your world, and the nature of religious beliefs. You basically start off with a conclusion and work your way backwards, hoping it all adds up. If you search really hard, you'll probably hit a brick wall: Sinai. It either happened, or it didn't. So many frum people will say you can never know anything for sure, you might as well not try. The less you think, the better off you'll be, let's face it. That is so tragic. SEARCH, LOOK, as hard as you can. Think and look everywhere possible, and trust your judgment even if brilliant liars try embarrassing you (see Garnel). To quote a famous gemara (Bava Metzia?): If you search, you will find.

Which is what's so tragic about this approach. If you refuse to look because it's not recommended by your religion, or more likely, you're afraid of what you will find, what hope is there for you to be right? How can human beings ever come to know anything if they don't even try? It's the greatest cop-out in the world! How can humanity ever get anywhere if people close their minds? What hope is there for anyone's beliefs to make any sense if they're all taken on faith, and faith alone? How can you possibly say we're right and they're wrong, if all your beliefs are faith-based? Besides, it's like saying, "I may as well never study, I'll never be another Einstein." YOU DO YOUR BEST, FOR PETE'S SAKE!

Even more sad is when people like Garnel throw their brain out the window when the science they know contradicts the beliefs they've been indoctrinated with. As Rationally Pious recently learned the hard way, the odds in favor of his religion are far less than 50%. Even if they were, who are you to judge someone harshly for no longer believing in God? But of course, OTDers are held in such high regard in the frum community.

Which is why it's so offensive to me when you people recommend books etc. Speak to this jerk, or that jerk. All the "Permission to Believe"'s in the world are a joke if the "Permission to Dis-believe"'s are off-limits. You encourage critical thinking in every area other than your religion, and you expect me to take you seriously?

I didn't listen to your rabbis? You better believe I did. I listened until I could take it no more. I listened when he said that every blade of grass has a little angel watching over it and telling it to grow. I listened when he said that the entire world is renewed every second, and there is no such thing as nature. I listened when he said that all goyim are here for scenery, they're here to make our lives more interesting. (Of course, we all know after Moshiach comes, they'll all be serving us.) Yes, there are more stories where those came from.

Of course, you can blame me, or call me names. You can attack my family too. Criticize the schools I went to, the city I lived in. Go over my life-story with a fine-toothed comb, and claim "this did it" or that did it. Or you can admit that your religion might be anything less than perfect. And that's not happening anytime soon.