Sunday, February 12, 2006

An Amusing Anecdote

This goes back to my Israel trip. I had been spending the week in Jerusalem with my rather religious and politically right-wing relatives. And my tongue was hurting from all the time I had to keep it clenched between my teeth. I had no desire to upset these people or argue with them. I hadn't even met them before and they kept me in their home for a week. Shalom bayit was the rule, even moreso than I'd do at home.

And this family was extremely political (as every family is in Israel). One of the first things the father of the household did was introduce me to Arutz Sheva. One of their older children was involved in the protests in Chevron. And the mother of the family spoke about the ineptitude of the government and the bias in the media daily. And all of this was stacked on top of the religious views on a level much higher than I'd get at home. It wasn't difficult to keep quiet, but the fact that I had all these silent protests in my mind made it difficult to interact with them as I had to think far ahead before I said anything.

Anyway, one night that week we were sitting around the dining room table eating dinner and the topic of alternative medicine, specifically acupuncture, comes up. So they all focus on me as the future doctor and ask my view on the matter. I silently sigh with relief that now I finally have a topic that I can freely intelligently discuss without fear of significant reprisal. So I give my standard skeptical review of such treatments, that they may have some curative properties but the underlying theories are nonsense. That the majority of time patient relief is found through psychological manners on par with the placebo effect and so far no reliable research has found significant credence to the practitioners' claims, etc.

But as I'm talking, the father of the family says in a joking way, "Oh boy, looks like we have an unbeliever here."

And I just paused for a moment and I laughed to myself, "More than you know."


Enigma4U said...


Seems we have very similar experiences in our lives. I stay away from theological discussions for the same reasons you listed, but when it comes to quack medicine, I am fairly vocal about my opinions, and have earned a reputation as the designated skeptic of the family (which is not meant as a complimentary term.....more like, "Poor skeptic, of course homeopathy won't work for her, she doesn't believe in it"). It's funny how the belief in religion and quack medicine somehow intertwine. Recently, my sister emailed me an article by a macrobiotic nutritionist about how eating fruit at the "wrong" time, or at the wrong temperature, can be detrimental to one's health. When I told her this was non-scientific and highly questionable, she emailed me a page out of Maimonides's Sefer Hamadah which "corroborates" this idea. Needless to say, I laughed silently.

Orthoprax said...


Yeah, I've also somehow received the nickname "skeptic" as well of the family. I had never thought that I gave that impression when so many of my views I keep to myself.

"It's funny how the belief in religion and quack medicine somehow intertwine."

Well, when a person has been conditioned to accept claims without critical thought then the door's open for all sorts of silly ideas.

Mis-nagid said...

Ditto. Freaking ditto.