I have a deep internal controversy in my mind. On the one hand I do not think that traditional Jewish theology and related mythology are anywhere close to being truly representative of the way the universe actually operates. On the other hand I have this unquenchable desire to see the Jewish people soldier on and for my own children to be proud Jews and for their children, and so on.
That may seem to some like an irreconcilable contradiction, but fortunately the Jewish people are not defined by religion alone. They generally conceive of themselves and are conceived by the nations of the world as being a people too. Judaism may be the religion of the Jewish people but it is not a required system of belief to be a Jew. Good? Good.
So the next reasonable step a person might consider is to vaunt the peoplehood side of the Jews and let the religious aspect wither. That might sound good in theory, but the fact of the matter is that secular Jews, as they are called, have numbered days especially in the Diaspora. Pride in being a member of a people is not enough to prevent intermarriage or otherwise general assimilation into the popular culture. The Italians in America, for example, had at one time a strong ethnic conception of themselves opposite the general American, but today that distinction is disappearing and the Italians as a discernable group is rapidly evaporating. The same can be said about the secular Jew. Even those who continue to see themselves as Jewish, they don't see it in any meaningful way. It is a fact of birth, nothing more.
The only place I can see where the secular Jew would have a regular life span would be in Israel itself. There a person need not hold any special consideration of themselves as Jewish because Jewishness is everywhere they look. They are immersed in it. They cannot assimilate into a foreign popular culture because the popular culture is still a Jewish culture. But even here there is some threat of the secular Jew losing all meaningful conception of what it means to be a Jew. What does it mean to be a Jew? I'm not even sure I can answer that fully, but I think it means more than the superficial nature of contemporary Israeli popular culture.
So what then is the next step? I can tell from personal experience as well as demographic statistical analyses that Jews will most likely retain their Jewish identities if they come from more observant households. This is certainly true in America where assimilation and intermarriage is rampant among Jews and is worse depending on how liberal the Jewish denomination is. Among the three largest movements, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, the rates of intermarriage decrease as one goes towards the more conservative side.
Generally, I think, the more one's life is invested in doing Jewish things, and I mean really Jewish not being involved in nebulous tikkun olam or philanthropic causes which may also be virtuous in their own sense but not necessarily Jewish, the stronger one's Jewish identity becomes. So the step which must be taken to counter the threats of assimilation and intermarriage is to include Jewish activities within daily life and to pass those deeds onto our children.
Fortunately (though that's questionable), there is a group of people who already do all of this successfully and they have the statistics to prove it. These are the Orthodox Jews. They are the best retainer of Jewish people in the world today and are even exponentially increasing in number. Perhaps this is an irregular occurrence and the bubble will soon pop, but this does not seem to be in the cards for the near future.
So the internal controversy that I mentioned at the beginning of this article is whether I should actively undermine the Orthodox ideology and widely present the truth as I see it or let Orthodoxy do its thing and create a great number of well-invested Jews who will strengthen the Jewish people as a whole? Which matters more? The kinds of Jews that exist or the strength that the Jews will hold regardless of ideology? Should I combat Orthodoxy on ideological levels or should I aid Orthodoxy on its existential mission? Should I be true to myself and publically leave Orthodoxy or true to myself and stay within the only large movement which shows promise for future generations? That is certainly a pickle, isn't it?
I think to solve the problem the trick is to either stay within Orthopraxy but form a more skeptical movement which will moderate the extremes of the fundamentalists or perhaps to somehow reconstruct Jewish life, in an admittedly Kaplan-esque sort of way, with all the sociological strengths of Orthodoxy but none of its ideological weaknesses. Now that would be a real challenge.
What would really be optimal would be to form a reconstruction of Jewish life, but to do so in a way so closely met with tradition that it could be seen as an outgrowth of Orthodoxy and could even be considered a legitimate form of Orthodoxy itself. That would produce a more united Jewish community as each side could still consider each other of the same stuff and would work together respectfully rather than antagonistically. It is a terrible precedent when, for example, there are some Jewish movements who accept people into the Jewish sphere which other movements do not. When Orthodoxy doesn't recognize Reform conversions and marriages then over time Orthodoxy may not even see Reform Jews as Jewish themselves. Their very claims to Judaism become suspect. This can only lead to a worse separation among Jews than there is already.
In many ways I fear to act but there are even more ways in which I fear if I do not act.