Friday, August 03, 2007

Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness

As has been pointed out, I have not posted in some time and so I thought I'd just throw a potboiler post out there and maybe it'd pull me into the blogging mood again.

Fun quote I found:

"Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

Anyone know it? It's from a pretty well known book.

Naturally though, I don't mean to malign all of orthodoxy or Orthodox Judaism in particular, but it is perfectly true that people who don't think tend to easily fall into prescribed ways of thinking. They let others do the thinking for them. This is just as true for religion and politics and for whatever else that people think about. Now, obviously, not everyone can be a leader, but it frankly saddens me and worries me for humanity's future that so many are so willing to mentally unhook themselves and live their lives by their respective received wisdom without hardly an independent critical thought.

So, yeah, think about that.

109 comments:

avrum68 said...

Shabbos arrives soon, this will be quick.

Almost every BT I met in Jerusalem came from a philosophy or science background. In general, they their seeking within the social and hard sciences provided them with piss poor directions about "meaning of life" issues.

I know, I know..atheists think "meaning of life" issues are irrelevant. And neuroscientists think dreams and emotions are nothing more than random firings of neuronal energy.

But for the non-materialists out there, OJ Judaism can be a huge draw, intellectually and emotionally.

However, and perhaps this was always so, my "gut" tells me not very much is going on "out there". And that following halacha has very little to do with any other than following what other men believed to be the "best way of life".

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

Why are you so caught up with atheism?

In any case, I wasn't really referring to BTs, but to the masses of people who just maintain the status quo. Orthodoxy is not growing because of the huge number of BTs - it's growing because Orthodox Jews have big families.

Miri said...

Orthoprax-
"but it frankly saddens me and worries me for humanity's future that so many are so willing to mentally unhook themselves and live their lives by their respective received wisdom without hardly an independent critical thought."

First, I'd like to point out (and I feel like I've said this here before) that really, I wouldn't be too worried about humanity. We don't actually get any stupider as time goes on, the masses have always, consciously or unconsciously, made the decision not to think. I'm talking about people in general here; Jews, Christians, Communists. Masses don't think, that's the benefit of being the masses. And we're still here.So, you know. Just wouldn't be too concerned about the future as far as the stupidity of man goes.

Secondly, yes, it's true that the majority, even the vast majority, of Orthodox Jews don't really think. And it's definitely true that it's easier to be plugged into a system and let it do the work for you. But I don't actually think that that's what G-d wants from us as a nation, because real Torah Judaism is supposed to be about that constant never-ending search for truth. Which generally requires some brain activity. and I think pretty soon, the ignorance is going to cause an implosion, and a revolution, and the masses will be smushed under the crumbling Chareidi structures, and what will be left will be those of us armed with the knowledge they denied themselves. That's the hope, anyway.

alex said...

"Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so." -- Bertrand Russell

"Five percent of the people think; 10 percent of the people think they think; and the other 85 percent would rather die than think." - Thomas Edison

Question for all of us: Which category are we in?

avrum68 said...

"Secondly, yes, it's true that the majority, even the vast majority, of Orthodox Jews don't really think"

Who do you folks hang with? I'm assuming the med slinging is towards the Charedi communities. Because in my little shabbos book club alone we've got 4 doctors of varous specialties, lawyer, therapist, software designer and stock trader. All Orthodox of various stripes. Issues of theology are always being brought up...EVERY SHABBOS.

Perhaps it's time for some new friends?

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

It's not so much a matter of fearing for humanity's continued existence as it is worrying about the _state_ of humanity's future existence.

The same can be said about Judaism.


Avrum,

You put way too much stock into the degrees people hold and what jobs they do. Many intelligent OJs are quite adept at compartmentalizing and that doesn't mean they think critically about popularly held beliefs.

People often confuse musing about ideas with actually thinking critically about them. These are not the same.

Miri said...

Orthoprax-
"It's not so much a matter of fearing for humanity's continued existence as it is worrying about the _state_ of humanity's future existence."

Yeah but that's my point though; since I don't think humanity, or Jews, or Judaism, is any stupider, or more intellectually stagnant, than it ever really has been in the past, I see no reason to think existing conditions should really change dramatically. Unless the above implied implosion really does happen, which I think would be a change for the better, honestly.

Avrum,
There will always be Jews that think. There will always be Jews that think they think. And there will always be Jews who don't think. Your friends might. I know some of mine do. That isn't an implication for societal trends though.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

Roman civilization at the height of its development was comparable in many ways to Western civilization of the 17th-18th centuries. In many respects, the modern Muslim world is still living in the Middle Ages.

Dark Ages do happen.

Our currently existing conditions are but a speck in history. There's hardly cause to assume that it will stay this way.

Not that I think we're necessarily going that way any time soon, but one shouldn't be overconfident.

I sometimes marvel at how few minds the entire structure of modern civilization depends on to exist. To demonstrate: think about how many people are knowledgable enough to know how to build something like an air conditioner from scratch. The list is likely shockingly small.

Miri said...

The Muslim world is still living in the Middle Ages... debatable. But during the Middle Ages, The Muslim countries were the most scientifically, mathmatically, and culturally advanced nations in the world. I mean, I'm pretty sure that that only proves your point about these things being cyclical...but come one man, most air conditioning repair men can probably build air conditioners from scratch. I wouldn't give people that little credit.

avrum68 said...

"You put way too much stock into the degrees people hold and what jobs they do."

And your assuming way too much about our shabbos book club. My point is simple, the general consensus, among atheists anyway, is that deists are dumb Americans who don't know any science. And if they did, they'd abandon their childhood beliefs and jump aboard the progress wagon So I introduce the fact that, because my wife is a doc, we tend to hang with other docs, all religious. Of course, the next accusation is that smart people believe stupid things. So it's a no/win situation really.

Orthoprax...why is it that "off the derech" types and other skeptics are the only ones making decisions based on critical thought? Wanna bet that a strong majority of folks who walk away from religion do so due to psychological and not theological reasons (it's quite obvious by the psychic energy they invest in their blogs and the angry tone in their comments. Of course, the same can be said for BT's...the point, there's very, very few folks who arrive at their conclusions based on a objective criteria).

avrum68 said...

"That isn't an implication for societal trends though."

You're right. Societal trends would suggest that we spend our time surfing porn, shopping at Walmart/Target, sitting in 1.5 hours of rush hour traffic to and fro, and dedicate most of our money to hospitals and other medical research centers so we can continue doing the aforementioned "waste of time" activities.

Since we're not going to get the "Does God exists or not" question settled, we can probably agree that, at a bare minimum, Orthodox Judaism provides buffers from sliding into the hyper-commerce/pleasure-over-pain culture we're steeped in.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"but come one man, most air conditioning repair men can probably build air conditioners from scratch."

I doubt that. They can fix it, but that doesn't mean they can build it.

The issue gets even more pronounced when you get to things like microchips and rationally designed pharmaceuticals.


Avrum,

"So I introduce the fact that, because my wife is a doc, we tend to hang with other docs, all religious."

Yes, you mentioned that - ad nauseum. It's significance, however, is marginal.

"Of course, the next accusation is that smart people believe stupid things. So it's a no/win situation really."

It's also a patent fact. The point is that while critical thinking is often correlated with intelligence - the two do not necessarily go together. To show evidence of critical thought - you need to present evidence of critical thought. Not evidence of intelligence.

Indeed, wasn't that recent terrorist bombing in England masterminded by Muslim doctors? What about Dr. Baruch Goldstein, that paragon of rational thought?

"why is it that "off the derech" types and other skeptics are the only ones making decisions based on critical thought?"

They're not.

"Wanna bet that a strong majority of folks who walk away from religion do so due to psychological and not theological reasons"

Duh. Though typically it's a mixture. How many people who escape from a cult come out being not upset about their experience?

avrum68 said...

"Duh. Though typically it's a mixture. How many people who escape from a cult come out being not upset about their experience?"

Orthoprax, if that's the case, wouldn't therapy, rather than theology, be a better fit for such folks. In my experience, there's two types of skeptics. The first are my secular friends, no Judaic background, but truck loads of guilt. They assuage this feeling by reading all the reasons why this "thing" they know nothing about is wrong, and then parrot the authors as if they claim to the conclusion themselves.

The 2nd type are the Orthodox Jews who grew up in repressive possibly abusive families/communities, and instead of admiting that this had nothing to do with ritual, law, etc., but pathology i.e. abuse, they lash out at rabbis, standards of kashrut, etc. It's much easier to do battle with an "invisible" God, than confront your parent's, wife, brother, etc.

It's quite obvious both groups are alive and well. The atheist/skeptic Jew blogs are so full of self-hatred (masked as, ahem, critical thought) that's it's oddly sad, and yes amusing, that they take each other so seriously. I'm not implying your one of these folk. Perhaps you grew up in a healthy Orthodox home, with loving parent's who did the best they could, but you saw through the inconsistencies and falsehoods of Judaism and came to your logical conclusions. It's possible, but unlikely...kinda like revelation, huh?

avrum68 said...

"Yes, you mentioned that - ad nauseum. It's significance, however, is marginal."

It's not marginal at all. For example, the fact that Time featured a debate between Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins, and not two accountants, speaks volumes about who are society deems worthy of addressing the issue "does God exist".

Look, it's quite clear why skeptic/atheist types get irked when I introduce the makeup of my shabbos book club. Why? Becaue it destroys the arguement that knowledge of science debunks the possibility of a revelation at Sinai.

Perhaps it would be best if scientists stayed away from theology, and deists focused on morals, ethics, spirituality, etc. Though I'd agree with atheists on this point, mainly that clergy invoked science whenever it suited their agenda, threw the first punch in this fight.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

Often it is the dissatisfactions in the religious life they live which brings them to question the underlying assumptions behind that life.

That doesn't mean that they are wrong to question, but that there are reasons besides for intellectual integrity that they seek them out.

It is a gross fallacy to presume that people who are not your brand of religious are so solely because of psychological issues or to maintain a secular lifestyle. Naturally you would make that presumption, however, because the idea of your religion being wrong is barely conceivable for you.

All you have to do is put your feet in another religious man's shoes and you'd quickly see how limited your perspective is. You don't think devout Muslims or Mormons think exactly the same things about skeptics as you do?

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"Look, it's quite clear why skeptic/atheist types get irked when I introduce the makeup of my shabbos book club. Why? Becaue it destroys the arguement that knowledge of science debunks the possibility of a revelation at Sinai."

No, knowledge of comparative religion, archeology and history debunks the Sinai revelation - as you understand the event.

What you learn in medical school is entirely irrelevant to that goal.


"For example, the fact that Time featured a debate between Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins, and not two accountants, speaks volumes about who are society deems worthy of addressing the issue "does God exist"."

These are scientists who self-selectively wrote books on the subject. Time didn't pick two scientists at random. It's not the degrees that matter.

resh lakish said...

Surely the brilliantly smart people in your book club know the difference between being a deist and being a theist...

resh lakish said...

Look, it's quite clear why skeptic/atheist types get irked when I introduce the makeup of my shabbos book club. Why? Becaue it destroys the arguement that knowledge of science debunks the possibility of a revelation at Sinai

Massive fallacy: snobbery and appeal to authority.

I have known very well-educated people, PhDs even, who are astonishingly unthinking in certain areas of their lives (religion often being one of them). Whereas I have met many thoughtful and critical people, both believers and otherwise, without letters after their name.

In any event, I don't think knowledge of natural sciences "debunks" the mesorah. As Orthoprax said, archeology, comparative religion are far more problematic.

It's not marginal at all. For example, the fact that Time featured a debate between Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins, and not two accountants, speaks volumes about who are society deems worthy of addressing the issue "does God exist".

Time Magazine as an arbiter of truth? Brilliant.

(Lest you accuse me of bitterness, I disclose that I have numerous letters after my name).

avrum68 said...

"Often it is the dissatisfactions in the religious life they live which brings them to question the underlying assumptions behind that life."

I have no doubt there's an element of truth about this claim, but the first "nail in the coffin" is psychological, not theological. Of course, I can't prove this, but my view is reinforced via anecdotal evidence i.e. bloggers, as well as my experience as a therapist. And for the record, I'm not a practicing Orthodox Jew by any standards. Not even close. But I study, eat, sing, daven with 'em because they are the most learned, serious Yidden around. Well, that, and my wife considers herself to be OJ.

"It is a gross fallacy to presume that people who are not your brand of religious are so solely because of psychological issues"

My friend, this isn't a fallacy. I'd say it's the strong, strong majority. However in a narcissistic society such as ours, it's much more common to project our shit on a president, rabbi, etc. Anyway, I'd wager big bucks if we can read the bios of Jewish Atheist, Mis-Naggid, etc., etc., you'd stumble upon some pretty sad backgrounds...the atheist lit came later.

"Naturally you would make that presumption, however, because the idea of your religion being wrong is barely conceivable for you."

Man are skeptics presumptuous. So for the record...I'm not a practicing Orthodox Jew. Not even close. But I study, eat, sing, daven with 'em because they are the most learned, passionate, warm, serious Yidden around. I don't believe the Oral Law is divine, though I do believe that a revelation took place at Sinai. I'm a fan of psychodynamic lit, and hope to do post grad work in Self-Psychology in fall 2007. I compose indie/ambient music, and ride my bike more than my car. In other words, I don't wear black ;)

resh lakish said...

Orthoprax, if that's the case, wouldn't therapy, rather than theology, be a better fit for such folks.

The atheist/skeptic Jew blogs are so full of self-hatred

The lightning-fast resort to ad hominem is unfortunate, but not so bad. The thing I really think is fascinating is why some believers seem unable to accept that many thinking people come to a conclusion that traditional religious beliefs aren't true. Perhaps because the thought is so threatening, they would rather question the skeptics' bona fides and dismiss them either as (a.) people creating a justification for following their yetzer; or (b.) people with psychological problems.

Conversely, most skeptics are hardly threatened by the existence of intelligent or educated believers (many of us used to educated, intelligent believers). But unless such believers can establish not just that they exist (which they clearly do), but that they have a compelling basis for why they believe it, it isn't going to do much for the skeptics.

I might suspect that the faith of intelligent educated believers is maintained by compartmentalization (as OP suggested) or some other method of dealing with a cognitive dissonance (there are many), but I would never deny the bona fides of their profession of faith.

avrum68 said...

"Surely the brilliantly smart people in your book club know the difference between being a deist and being a theist..."

They do. And they are. What's the problem?
"Deism differs from theism in that according to Deism God does not interfere with human life and the laws of the universe."
Yup, my group to the core.

And what's with the tone, aluminum on a filling or something?

"Massive fallacy: snobbery and appeal to authority."

Hm, we're blogging here. Though if you were consistent, you'd have sourced "massive fallacy".

"Time Magazine as an arbiter of truth? Brilliant."

Irrelevant, it proved my point. Mainly that we DO turn to the hard sciences for opinions on matters that - and here's where I agree with both Orthoprax and yourself - are best left to theologians.

"(Lest you accuse me of bitterness, I disclose that I have numerous letters after my name)."

As do I. And yet we're both blogging on a Sunday.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"Anyway, I'd wager big bucks if we can read the bios of Jewish Atheist, Mis-Naggid, etc., etc., you'd stumble upon some pretty sad backgrounds...the atheist lit came later."

I know most of the skeptical bloggers and the ones you name had pretty regular childhoods and those two, at least, refer specifically to the intellectual causes for their skepticism. Or maybe they're just lying completely about their pasts.

"And for the record, I'm not a practicing Orthodox Jew by any standards. Not even close."

Probably because you just want to live a life less burdened, not because you've intellectually analyzed the topic. You probably had a rotten childhood too. How often did your father beat you?

Orthoprax said...

"Irrelevant, it proved my point."

No it didn't. The hard sciences may have something to say about God and the universe, but they say very little about Sinai.

avrum68 said...

"The lightning-fast resort to ad hominem is unfortunate, but not so bad. "

And you entered the foray like this:
"Surely the brilliantly smart people in your book club"
Infantile sarcasm. So we're both guilty of something.

"The thing I really think is fascinating is why some believers seem unable to accept that many thinking people come to a conclusion that traditional religious beliefs aren't true."

And would the same be true for baal tshuvah?

"Perhaps because the thought is so threatening, they would rather question the skeptics' bona fides and dismiss them either as (a.) people creating a justification for following their yetzer; or (b.) people with psychological problems."

I base this on clinical and anecdotal (read the blogs) experience. But I have no doubt certain Yidden, having grown up in a healthy, nurturing religious environment, rejected the premise of Judaism based on logic and objective data.

"Conversely, most skeptics are hardly threatened by the existence of intelligent or educated believers"

In your mind perhaps. I'd suggest reading anything whereby Dawkins/Harris debate/discuss Francis Collins. They're practically foaming the mouth. Those are good examples because a quick google search provides the evidence. Everything else would be anecdotal.

Miri said...

"Evidently, then, our non-intellectual nature does influence our convictions...and pure insight and logic, whatever they might do ideally, are not the only things that really do produce our creeds...Our passional nature not only lawfully may, but must, decide an option between propoitions, whenever it is a genuine option that cannot by its nature be decided on intellectual grounds...."
-William James, "The Will to Believe."

Perhaps not the best quote to illustrate my point; but what James is trying o say throughout his essay is that essentially, no one makes decisions based purely on logic. Not religous people, not secular people, not theologians, or atheists, or scientists. Choosing to believe, or not to believe in something is a decision which inherently contains an emotional factor, and therefore to say that anyone makes a decision about belief based purely on logic and reasoning is patently false.

Even the well-educated Jew, whatever his religiosity be.

resh lakish said...

"Surely the brilliantly smart people in your book club know the difference between being a deist and being a theist..."

They do. And they are. What's the problem?
"Deism differs from theism in that according to Deism God does not interfere with human life and the laws of the universe."
Yup, my group to the core.


But you said your group is all Orthodox? But one of the core features of Deism is a rejection of divine revelation. Once you credit the Creator with a theophany, you're a Theist. This is important, because a Deist can't really be Orthodox (although he/she might be Orthoprax...).

And what's with the tone, aluminum on a filling or something?
No aluminum -- just I think that these debates benefit from at least a little precision, and I wanted to find out if you were really critiquing skepticism/atheism/agnosticism etc. from a deist perspective, or you were merely a little confused deism for theism.

As do I. And yet we're both blogging on a Sunday.

Largely becuase I'm too busy during the week, and obviously can't do it on Shabbat. But I should really be doing other things.

resh lakish said...

"Time Magazine as an arbiter of truth? Brilliant."

Irrelevant, it proved my point.


No it didn't. Here is where I get a little ad hominem: Time is a news magazine for people who are not deep thinkers. Try the Economist.

avrum68 said...

"I know most of the skeptical bloggers and the ones you name had pretty regular childhoods"
"Or maybe they're just lying completely about their pasts."

Bingo. As a therapist, I can attest to the false-self we project to family, friends, lovers...Moroever, a blog allows us to let out all sorts of pseudo-and as-if identites.

"Probably because you just want to live a life less burdened, not because you've intellectually analyzed the topic"

Right, right. You've got me nailed down Orthoprax.

"You probably had a rotten childhood too. How often did your father beat you?"

Clearly not that much. Why? I have a blog ;)

avrum68 said...

"Even the well-educated Jew, whatever his religiosity be."

Agree.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"Bingo. As a therapist, I can attest to the false-self we project to family, friends, lovers...Moroever, a blog allows us to let out all sorts of pseudo-and as-if identites."

Blahblahblah. I don't buy it. But it's always easier to malign one's character than actually respond to their points.

"Right, right. You've got me nailed down Orthoprax."

I just threw at you exactly what you threw at other skeptics. See! Look how well it works!

resh lakish said...

"Or maybe they're just lying completely about their pasts."

Bingo. As a therapist, I can attest to the false-self we project to family, friends, lovers...Moroever, a blog allows us to let out all sorts of pseudo-and as-if identites.


And maybe you're lying about being a therapist. See how tedious this gets soon? One of the necessary conditions of this kind of dialogue is that you at least provisionally accept that the other person isn't making stuff up.

avrum68 said...

"No it didn't. Here is where I get a little ad hominem: Time is a news magazine for people who are not deep thinkers. Try the Economist."

My point exactly. So when a magazine for "not deep thinkers" turns to scientists to discuss the possiblity of God, they do so for a reason. So when I read this:
"but it is perfectly true that people who don't think tend to easily fall into prescribed ways of thinking. They let others do the thinking for them. "

I remind them that there are bright religious folk who, because of their background, are prone to think critically of said topics. You might not know any, but thank God, I study with a group of 'em.

"Try the Economist"

When I want a "hate-on" for Israel, I turn elsewhere.

avrum68 said...

"Why? I have a blog ;)"

Should've read:
"Why? I DON'T have a blog;)"

avrum68 said...

"And maybe you're lying about being a therapist."

Lying about being a therapist will come across, quite simply, in the content of the post. Lying about your beliefs, desires, etc., happens all the time. It's how most folk get through their dreary jobs and marriages. Truth be told, it's not lying perse. Rather, coping to the best of their "unconscious" abilites.

" See how tedious this gets soon? One of the necessary conditions of this kind of dialogue is that you at least provisionally accept that the other person isn't making stuff up."

I don't agree. In my profession, whenever you move away from facts i.e. I'm a lawyer, I ate a tuna sandwhich, and move into the areas of desires, motivations, etc., you're stepping into a cess pool of unconscious decision making. And Lord knows, the skeptic Jews are FULL of this energy. I'd suspect that the religious folks are as well, but the come across less histrionic.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

Is it fun for you to make up personal histories for people whom you've never met?

I mean, why bother analyzing the substance of their arguments when you can lampoon the quality of their characters?

avrum68 said...

"Blahblahblah. I don't buy it. But it's always easier to malign one's character than actually respond to their points."

What's your point? That skeptical Jews who create blogs lived happy lives. I don't but it. Their blogs are drenched in disdain for Judaism, and their comments are much too angry for someone who was raised in a happy home, and simply came to the conclusion that God doesn't exist.

For an elequent, and surprisingly psychodynamic leaning, take on this topic, I'd recommend Adin Steinsaltz's book Teshuvah, chapter 7 "Problems of Faith". Wonderful stuff.

avrum68 said...

"Is it fun for you to make up personal histories for people whom you've never met?"

The blog postings and comments speak for themesleves. You don't need years of analytic training to figure where the motivation is coming from. However I have no doubt there are exceptions to the rule, there always are.

"I mean, why bother analyzing the substance of their arguments when you can lampoon the quality of their characters?"

You're wrong orthoprax. I do analyze the substance of their comments, and when appropriate, I respond. However there are people with much more knowledge of the minutiae of halacha, midrash, etc, than I - think RJM - so I humbly allow them to tackle the challenges.

Moreover, I've debated Jewish Philosopher time and again about his narcissistic and harmful posts/comments. So I have no problem throwing 'em down with both sides.

resh lakish said...

Some of Avrum's comments earlier reminded me of something I read not long ago. It does seem that the psychopathologizing of dissent has a venerable history as a way of enforcing orthodoxy (small O) in authoritarian doctrinal systems:

http://www.jaapl.org/cgi/reprint/30/1/136.pdf

"Repression of political and religious dissidents was only the most overt symptom of an authoritarian system of psychiatric care in which an expansive and elastic view of
mental disorder encompassed all forms of unorthodox thinking and in which psychiatric diagnosis was essentially an exercise of social power."

avrum68 said...

"It does seem that the psychopathologizing of dissent"

This is a good point. And I guess if I were to dedicate my career to kiruv via psychoanalysis lit/practice, create blogs about the topic, publish books...yes, you'd be right. But I'm simply a blogger, with too much time on his hands, calling out other bloggers on their mishugaus. Nothing too sinister, I assure you.

Miri said...

This is why I find these discussions frustrating. It stops being a debate about texts and information and becomes so volatile and personal, which of course proves nothing except that everyone's emotional. Can't you guys just agree that there will always be people on both sides of the fence yelling at each other, and move on? I mean really. There are many points in this comment-thread that are worth arguing about. But you guys are missing out on every opportunity for it. It resembles less a meeting of intellectual minds in an exchange of ideas, and more a bunch of kids on a playground about to get into a fistfight because "My Dad can beat up your Dad!"

I'm just saying.

Oh, and also, Avrum?

""Even the well-educated Jew, whatever his religiosity be."

Agree."

By that phrase, I specifically meant the non-believers. I'm not sure if that came across.

avrum68 said...

"By that phrase, I specifically meant the non-believers. I'm not sure if that came across."

It did. And I still agree with you ;)

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"What's your point? That skeptical Jews who create blogs lived happy lives. I don't but it. Their blogs are drenched in disdain for Judaism, and their comments are much too angry for someone who was raised in a happy home, and simply came to the conclusion that God doesn't exist."

Yeah, go on, do your best to not even try to look at it from their point of view.

Maybe if it was a Mormon who found out at age 30 that what he's been doing his whole life is nonsense and that his parents, teachers, and all people of significance in his life were making him feel like an outcast - along with threats of metaphysical horrors - for just doubting the party line, then maybe you'd understand why one might be angry with the system.

And not only that, but many bloggers are stuck in marriages where they cannot reveal their skepticism to their partners for fear of their family breaking apart and so they vent anonymously online and you have the gall to tell them they have some Freudian psychosis from a bad childhood.

Get a clue.

avrum68 said...

"who found out at age 30 that what he's been doing his whole life is nonsense"

So I'm supposed to buy that 30 year old adults, who've survived the most rebelious years - that being adolescence and young adulthood -and have come from relatively healthy families with strong connections to yiddishkeit, attend a lecture and/or read a book, and WHAMO, they wake up to the fact that they've been living a lie. Please.

"and that his parents, teachers, and all people of significance in his life were making him feel like an outcast"

Which is why I believe this is a psychological and not a theological issue. Moreover, my friends who grew up in healthy religious homes were never meant to feel like "outcasts" and questions were encouraged.

"and you have the gall to tell them they have some Freudian psychosis from a bad childhood."

First of all, Freud didn't deal with psychosis (Oddly enough, that's my specialty), he didn't think it was treatable. Rather, Freud dealt with hysteria, what is now known as neurosis. So yes, I do believe, based on posts/comments, that the majority of you are reacting to an oppressive past that has little to do with God, prayer, etc. Though it feels more sophisticated to blame it on the "Inconsistincies" of halacha. The honesty is lacking. That's all.

Orthoprax said...

Whatever. You believe what you want to believe. No shocker there.

avrum68 said...

"Yeah, go on, do your best to not even try to look at it from their point of view."

Pal, I read the posts. Moreover, I've printed them out and discussed them with friends and rabbis. I thoroughly enjoy this approach to learning Torah. Very interactive. But when you have a bunch of individuals dedicating huge swaths of their time to creating and maintaining blogs, to debunk something that is "nonsense", the jig is up. Why spend so much time debating silly, infantile, ideas? Get some balls, inform your partner, tell the kids, and spare 'em what they probably already know. Kids are resilient, and there's good therapy in America.

resh lakish said...

Get some balls, inform your partner, tell the kids, and spare 'em what they probably already know.

I don't say this lightly or use this description frequently, but you are an asshole.

Miri said...

I've already accepted the fact that none of you are actually going to hear what I'm saying, so really this is just for my own amusement.

Orthoprax-
"Whatever. You believe what you want to believe. No shocker there."

He will believe what he wants to believe. SO WILL YOU. No matter what you try to tell us. Everyone does, that's how people work. All people. That was the point I was trying to make when I brought an actual piece of text somewhere back there.

Avrum-
I have to agree with Resh Lakish. That was a fantastically insensitive remark. You don't have kids, do you?

Orthoprax said...

Talk to folks like XGH, Baal Habos, Happywithhislot, Billie Jean (for a short list) for folks in middle age who came to skepticism. GH's developments have been especially public. Mis-nagid is married with children.

They each deal with things in their own way.

Maybe some of them, unlike you apparently, don't want to ruin their marriages and would prefer to keep their skepticism to themselves. Others are rather invested in Judaism. They like the lifestyle, they even like the theology but they can't justify it intellectually.

Others, like the Hasidic skeptics, literally do not have a life outside of their communities - which they would be ousted from if they ever came out of the closet.

It's easy for you to tell them what to do, but it's not you who then has to live with the consequences.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"He will believe what he wants to believe. SO WILL YOU. No matter what you try to tell us. Everyone does, that's how people work. All people. That was the point I was trying to make when I brought an actual piece of text somewhere back there."

That's not what William James was talking about. Emotion plays a part in forming our beliefs, but reason should play a greater role. At least I try to base my beliefs on intellectual foundations.

Avrum is simply making up stuff about people and trivializing their problems to undermine them.

Miri said...

Yes that is what William James was talking about. I read the whole thing through, don't worry. Essentially, and this fits in perfectly with his definition of pragmatist philosophy, everyone believes what makes them happy and what works best with their reality. I mean, I'm oversimplifying the language a little, but essentially, yeah, that's what he's saying.

Miri said...

I'm not really sure what Avrum's deal is, but I think this argument has gone a little far with the emotional hyperboles...

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

Only with genuine options for which intellectual reasoning is not compelling for either conclusion does William James say that one is permitted to rely on our passional nature.

Otherwise we should maintain an empirical, intellectual, reasoned approach for forming beliefs.

Miri said...

Yes. But he ends by saying that we cannot make decisions about belief based solely on the intellect. he says that IF such a thing were possible, then it is ideal; but that it isn't possible to make decisions regarding faith without emotional involvement. Give me a couple minute s and I'll give you the appropriate quote.

avrum68 said...

"I don't say this lightly or use this description frequently, but you are an asshole."

Without givig too much away, I've seen, twice, the horrible outcomes of observant homes whereby one parent hid their distate for Judaism to the detriment of their kids self-esteem. In other words, it messed them up good. Better to fight with yourself than the rabbis, that's all I'm saying.

avrum68 said...

"Avrum-
I have to agree with Resh Lakish. That was a fantastically insensitive remark. You don't have kids, do you?"

No, but I've been counseling 'em for years.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"but that it isn't possible to make decisions regarding faith without emotional involvement."

Depends what kind of faith, naturally. I have no emotional involvement in, say, Scientology - so it is rather easy for me to see that their emperor has no clothes.

Beliefs about people, however, like whether they come from bad families or whatever has nothing to do with this and would not be justified at all by William James as a matter of faith.

avrum68 said...

"Avrum is simply making up stuff about people and trivializing their problems to undermine them."

If I was, you wouldn't get so hot under the collar. If I said: "Skeptical Orthodox bloggers buy BMW's rather than Mercedes", you would've ignored me.

Another thing Orthoprax...
"Otherwise we should maintain an empirical, intellectual, reasoned approach for forming beliefs."

The most significant decisions of our lives are made with emotion. Our defenses kick-in and we deny this with all sorts of rationalizations, but in the end it's emotions that guide our decision i.e. whom to marry, which house to buy, to leave/stay/choose a religion, what is good art, on and on and on.

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"If I was, you wouldn't get so hot under the collar. If I said: "Skeptical Orthodox bloggers buy BMW's rather than Mercedes", you would've ignored me."

You are maligning friends of mine, so I take offense on their behalf.

avrum68 said...

"I'm not really sure what Avrum's deal is, but I think this argument has gone a little far with the emotional hyperboles..."

So says you. I'm not surprised though. We're on a electronic medium - blogs - specifically utilized by materialist-leaning oriented folk. I'd imagine the more "spritiual" folks are out frolicking in the sun. Anyway, I figure that with everyone throwing around their pseudo-selves, I'd raise the curtain a bit. I do it with bloggers like Jewish Philospher, and I do it here.

avrum68 said...

"You are maligning friends of mine, so I take offense on their behalf."

I'm providing an alternative explanation about why somebody would spend so much time debating something that's, according to you, nonsensical. THAT is nonsensical. Or perhaps there's other reasons.

Miri said...

Avrum-
Anyone whose had kids could never have said what you did. And I'm sorry, but if that's the way you feel about the situation after counseling kids for so long, i would not send my kids to you.

Orthoprax-
"The freedom to believe can only cover living options which the living intellect of the individual cannot by itself resolve; and living options never seem absurdities to him who has them to consider....If we had an infallible intellect with its objective certitudes, we might feel ourselves disloyal to such a perfect organ of knowledge in not trusting to it exclusively., in not waiting for its releasing word. But if we are empiricists...then it seems a piece of idle fantasticality to preach so solemnly our duty of waiting for the bell.Indeed we may wait if we will...but if we do so, we do so at our peril as much as if we believed. ..We ought, on the contrary, delicately and profoundly to respect one another's mental freedom..."
-William James

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

To note, your delightful approach does remind me of JP's. Character assassination, trivilization of significant life problems, dismissal of issues.

All you have to do is blame the Holocaust on Reform people and I'd think you two were the same person.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

Of course, but that doesn't justify people to believe whatever they want. It has to first breach the borders of what our intellect can discriminate and only then can we permit our passions some control.

avrum68 said...

"Anyone whose had kids could never have said what you did."

Cue the sappy music. Please Miri...I've seen more than my share of parent's who do such f'ed up things to their kids...jeez, where to begin.

My point is that many of these bloggers would do their families, and yes...kids, a huge service by spending more time working on themselves, and less time finding comparative flood stories to prove the Torah is merely fiction. They think it's academic, it's not (especially in the blogging format). I'm requesting that people be a little more honest about their intentions.

"And I'm sorry, but if that's the way you feel about the situation after counseling kids for so long, i would not send my kids to you"

Miri...exactly my point. This is a blog, where we can allow our all of our pseudo-selves to run wild. In the counseling office, feh, we're all super nice, sweet, and empathic. That's the facade. That's life.

avrum68 said...

"All you have to do is blame the Holocaust on Reform people and I'd think you two were the same person."

Now there's the tone that I'm talking about. Good on ya.

Miri said...

orthoprax-
according to James, Scientology is a dead hypothesis to you; that's why you have notrouble seeing that the emporer is naked. It doesn't enter into the equation, bc emotions are only involved in making decisions between living hypotheses. Taht's what James was saying. And, I was talking about belief in G-d and religion. Who's talking about belief in whether or not anyone's childhood sucked? mah hakesher?

Avrumwhy should you be surprised that I think we're going too far with the emotional hyperboles? all I meant was that you guys have taken a topic that is theoretically intellectual and made it emotional, personal, and uneccessarily loaded. What do electronic mediums have to do with anyhting?

"specifically utilized by materialist-leaning oriented folk. I'd imagine the more "spritiual" folks are out frolicking in the sun."

1) almost everyone has a computer with internet connection, so- what?
2)Again, what? spiritual people frolicking in the sun...I don't understand. You do speak english, right?

Oh, and by the way, it's night here. so the spiritual sun-frolickers are busy doing non-sun related things.

Miri said...

"Cue the sappy music. Please Miri...I've seen more than my share of parent's who do such f'ed up things to their kids...jeez, where to begin."

Ok, so my comment was a fairly naive expression based emotionally on a background of parents who would take extreme offense at the way you're talking. Meh.

"My point is that many of these bloggers would do their families, and yes...kids, a huge service by spending more time working on themselves, and less time finding comparative flood stories to prove the Torah is merely fiction."

Try being someone who's lost faith in something and then talk. There are people in the world who are unable to live peacefully as hypocrites and liars. You might not be able to understand what that's like.

avrum68 said...

"....made it emotional, personal, and uneccessarily loaded. "

Miri, I didn't title the post "Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness". And I didn't malign an entire group with this ditty:

"Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

Of course, Orthoprax attempts to cover his tracks with this:
"Naturally though, I don't mean to malign all of orthodoxy or Orthodox Judaism in particular, but"

And the "but" kicks-in. My original comments suggested, poorly I might add, that I spend huge swaths of time with intelligent, critical thinking Jews (who's practice/belief vary on the Orthodox spectrum).

avrum68 said...

And to continue may last point...

The yids I spend time with, primarily at shul and book club, specifically choose books that act as a catalyst for critical thought (hell, a few of us are waddign though The God Dellusion - during the week of course, for kicks).

Miri said...

Orthoprax was bringing a quote to be used as food for thought. Speaking of which, Orthoprax, where was the quote from?

And yes, it started out being an innocent claim that you know religous people who think (as do I- in fact some of my best friends...) but it degenerated. I'm sorry for falling into that with my last couple of comments, but I was getting frustrated...

avrum68 said...

"Ok, so my comment was a fairly naive expression based emotionally on a background of parents who would take extreme offense at the way you're talking. Meh."

Hey, so would mine. We all get "over the top" on blogs.

"There are people in the world who are unable to live peacefully as hypocrites and liars. You might not be able to understand what that's like."

I understand very, very well. Too well. However it wasn't until I read Steinsaltz's take on doubt that I realized how bang-on he was visavis the reasons behind the energy we expend on tryig to convince other's of our opinion. More often than not, it has nothing to do with what we're conscious of. And his warning, be very careful...because you can spend an entire lifetime battling ghosts (if you're a Jungian, read: shadow stuff).

Miri said...

maybe; maybe sometimes it's just the frustration that comes with a simple failure to communicate...which is generally a two-sided thing...

avrum68 said...

"Orthoprax was bringing a quote to be used as food for thought. "

And took a broad swipe at Orthodox Jewry in the process. Swell. Let's continue...

"but it frankly saddens me and worries me for humanity's future"

So essentially, somehow, Orthodox Jews are contributing to a calamity...an Armageddon because of their inability to "think critically".

"that so many are so willing to mentally unhook themselves"

Who are these "so many" and how does Orthoprax know they are "so willing" to remain dumb and numb?

"live their lives by their respective received wisdom without hardly an independent critical thought."

You're telling me that this is merely "food for thought" and not a shot at an entire community (to which Orthoprax knows a tiny fraction of)?

avrum68 said...

"maybe; maybe sometimes it's just the frustration that comes with a simple failure to communicate...which is generally a two-sided thing..."

I agree, which is why blogs are a horrible medium for this type of discussion. However some of us get bored at work, and/or their wives are away, so we waste time :(

Miri said...

"Who are these "so many" and how does Orthoprax know they are "so willing" to remain dumb and numb?...You're telling me that this is merely "food for thought" and not a shot at an entire community (to which Orthoprax knows a tiny fraction of)?"

How do you presume to know exactly how much of the religous community Orthoprax does or doesn't know? For that matter, how much of the Orthodox community would you presume that I know? I can tell you, I bet you'd be off by a long shot. Especially for someone who admittedly socializes with a select group hmself, and doesn't even consider himself one of them?

Based on plenty of experience with a few different communities I can tell you that Orthoprax is pretty much on the nose with his statement...his only mistake is implying that it's anyone who's religous as opposed to just being the majority of people who are.

"agree, which is why blogs are a horrible medium for this type of discussion. "

blogs are a wonderful medium for this type of discussion when the people involved are actually interesting in having a discussion, not a playground battle.

avrum68 said...

"Orthoprax is pretty much on the nose with his statement...his only mistake is implying that it's anyone who's religous as opposed to just being the majority of people who are."

Ok, so his observations, according to you, are correct.So it's ok to paint an entire community as being non-thinking sheep, if YOU think they are. But if I provide a possible psychological explanation, bakced up by Rav Steinsaltz, clinical work and anedotal experience, of why skeptical Jewish bloggers do what the do I'm engaging in "Character assassination" (according to Orthoprax) and according to you I'm being "fantastically insensitive".

You're right Miri, "everyone believes what makes them happy and what works best with their reality." I take offense to an entire community being called sheep, and you feel it's ok because Orthoprax's title/blog entry confirm your own biased understanding of said community. So we're all zealots.

avrum68 said...

"blogs are a wonderful medium for this type of discussion when the people involved are actually interesting in having a discussion,"

Blogs, particualrly of the Jewish variety, are procastination tools providing individuals to become anonymous, and play with pseudo-identites, while engaging in gossip and character/community slights. Take away tone, affect and any personal contact, and you've got a horrible medium to be understood and/or empathize.

Miri said...

I find it amusing that Rav Steinsaltz,(and I've seen no quotes, so I don't know what you're referring to exactly) "clinical work" and YOUR anecdotal experience trump William James (an important personality in phsychological and philisophical thought,)and MY anecdotal experience. And not only that but you feel quite comfortable in taking my words completely out of context. Maybe you blame the forum because you don't know how to use the forum, have you ever considered that?

1)You've provided exactly NO psycholigical explanation for why "an entire community are unthinking sheep." You've attempted, and failed, to make excuses about why people who go off the derech are angry. You haven't explained or proven anything.
2)"Fantastically insensitive" was referring specifically to a single remark of yours; that it's ok to go off and abandon your family because America has good psychologists for the kids. (have you ever considered the members of the community who can't afford the good ones and so get sent to crappy social workers who essentially mess them up even worse? Talk about your anecdotal experiences, I've got a few of those stories for you...)

I feel it's ok to call them sheep because that's what they happen to be. Ie, it's truth. And so far I've heard not one word from you that can actually contradict that statement.

Maybe you're a zealot, man. Me, I'm just a cynic...

Miri said...

If you think it's a horrible medium for communication, it certainly explains why you're so unable to communicate on it. Funny, it's just words. I thought psychologists were supposed to be all about communication, why do you seem to be having such a hard time with this?

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

"according to James, Scientology is a dead hypothesis to you; that's why you have notrouble seeing that the emporer is naked."

Correct. That's why I said it depends what you mean by "faith."

"And, I was talking about belief in G-d and religion. Who's talking about belief in whether or not anyone's childhood sucked? mah hakesher?"

When I said earlier to Avrum that he'll believe what he wants to believe that was in reference to his remarks about the personal histories of skeptical bloggers. You then responded to me that he'll believe what he wants just like I'll believe what I want and you quoted William James. My point was that William James is not talking about his kind of belief at all and therefore your statement was misplaced.

"Based on plenty of experience with a few different communities I can tell you that Orthoprax is pretty much on the nose with his statement...his only mistake is implying that it's anyone who's religous as opposed to just being the majority of people who are."

Actually, if you see my post, you'd note that I was actually speaking very generally. I wasn't targetting religious people specifically at all. And although Avrum claims otherwise, I wasn't targetting Orthodox Judaism specifically either. In fact, I said as much in my post.

"Orthoprax was bringing a quote to be used as food for thought. Speaking of which, Orthoprax, where was the quote from?"

George Orwell's "1984." ;-)



Avrum,

As a final note, I'd just like to say that I find you annoying. You talk plenty but say very little.

If you want to use these forums as a place to let your mature facade slide, be my guest, but know that you are not impressing anybody.

avrum68 said...

"As a final note, I'd just like to say that I find you annoying. You talk plenty but say very little."

I've said plenty. The fact that you don't like it, and that you feel that I've maligned your friends, well that's another issue.

" but know that you are not impressing anybody."

If I wanted to impress people, I'd be posting on a kiruv site. By your reaction, it's quite clear my message was understood.

Miri said...

Orthoprax,
Yeah, so I misread your statement. Sorry; the phrase "believe what you want" sets off a chain reaction of thought-process in my head, and I get carried away...it's an association thing. It appears I have a tendency to get distracted by phrases and not read them in their proper context; anyway, guess that whole thread of argument was unnecessary then.

"Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness," while it was not targeting religous Jews, can however easily be interpreted that way, given the context; so at the very least, you have to admit that that is what the reader would be led to believe you were referring to at first glance. Intentionally or unintentionally.

(Also? It does happen to be true. Just saying.)

Unfortunately, I have not yet read "1984" (shameful I know; it's on the list) so that would be why I didn't get the quote...thanks for the source.

avrum68 said...

"1)You've provided exactly NO psycholigical explanation for why "an entire community are unthinking sheep."

You've misunderstood. Orthoprax's title and blog copy imply that Orthodox Jews are sheep. Here's the quote:

"I don't mean to malign all of orthodoxy or Orthodox Judaism in particular, but it is perfectly true that people who don't think tend to easily fall into prescribed ways of thinking. They let others do the thinking for them."

He can provide all the disclaimers he wants, in the end, he painted an entire community, his community, with one stroke.

"that it's ok to go off and abandon your family because America has good psychologists"

I was playing out a "worst case" scenario for our author. I'd like to believe that our skeptical bloggers have healhty enough marriages to weather the storm (like all other marital storms). With respect to children...they already know ;) Sucks, but it keeps us real.

"it's ok to call them sheep because that's what they happen to be"

Lovely.

Miri said...

No, I didn't misunderstand. Not on that one anyway. You claim that Orthoprax called all Orthodox Jews unthinking sheep. You then then claimed that you were trying to provide psychological explanations for why all Orthodox Jews might be unthinking sheep. But you didn't.

"Get some balls, inform your partner, tell the kids, and spare 'em what they probably already know. Kids are resilient, and there's good therapy in America."

You were not playing out a "worst case scenario." You were calling these people cowards for remaining where they were.

"Lovely."

Look man, if you want to ignore fact because it makes you a little uncomfortable, be my guest. I just call it like I see it.

avrum68 said...

"You claim that Orthoprax called all Orthodox Jews unthinking sheep."

Yes.

"You then then claimed that you were trying to provide psychological explanations for why all Orthodox Jews might be unthinking sheep."

Seriously Miri, I have no idea what you're refering to. I was merely providing a hypothesis about why skeptical and atheist Jews would spend so much time blogging about something they consider to be irrelevant, nonsensical, and childish.

"You were not playing out a "worst case scenario." You were calling these people cowards for remaining where they were. "

My statement was too vague, I apologize. The "therapy" advice was in relation to ANYONE in the family. The kids (who may or may not be affected if one of the parent's discloses they don't believe in God), the couple (who may need a "coach" of sorts to provide context to their pain), but especially the doubter, who will have to decide if s/he can live out a life they don't believe in.

Again, I've witnessed two families whereby one of the parent's believed they were doing their children a favor by not disclosing their disinterest in Judaism. The results were a disaster...the kids know.

And that's why, in family therapy, we always include the children. The parent's think it's because we're gong to "fix their kids", but we actually use their insights and symptoms to guage how a healthy a family is functioning.

"if you want to ignore fact because it makes you a little uncomfortable, be my guest. I just call it like I see it."

I'd call it an opinion, with almost no factual quality whatsoever. But hey, I can't use these forums, so...

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

Yes, I'm certain you know what I meant better than I do.


Miri,

""Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness," while it was not targeting religous Jews, can however easily be interpreted that way, given the context; so at the very least, you have to admit that that is what the reader would be led to believe you were referring to at first glance. Intentionally or unintentionally."

I was targetting the whole concept of an orthodoxy and the way people generally relate to their respective received wisdom. Orthodox Judaism is one example, but it was hardly the whole idea or even intended specifically. In fact I specifically said that I was not targetting Orthodox Judaism especially.

I do believe that what I said rings true for Orthodox Judaism as well as, say, Southern Republicanism, Arab anti-Zionism and Western democracy - but the point was in how people interact with their respective orthodoxies and how they often freely give up their mental autonomy to the populist ideas.

Orthoprax said...

Miri,

Also, it's not like the quote I lifted was particularly remakable. Even people who've read the book wouldn't necessarily pick up on it.

But the book is interesting to look at as a way authority tries to enforce an orthodoxy - albeit an extreme one in an extreme way - as the book describes.

Btw, if you're ever in NY, let me know. Maybe we could get coffee or something. ;-)

Kylopod said...

I don't think the statement "orthodoxy is unconsciousness" (emphasis on the lowercase o) applies very well to Orthodox Judaism or to any religion today. The reason why is related to something I wrote on your blog a while back.

Religion today is a lot less unconscious than it was in the past. Even for people who think they're simply doing what their parents taught them, in our society there's an element of choice that not only wasn't available in the past but often wasn't even conceptualized. The average Christian, Jew, or Pagan in ancient to early medieval times, and perhaps even later, probably was not consciously aware of how many of his or her beliefs were "religious," medieval philosophy notwithstanding. It's not like that anymore, even among fundamentalists. Contemporary religious people who resist modernity are usually very aware of what they're doing.

I have little doubt that there are still numerous beliefs today held unconsciously, but these are the ones that aren't particular to a religion, and are probably held to be true by Christian, Jew, and atheist alike. We might be surprised at what future societies will regard as our "religious" beliefs.

Miri said...

Avrum,
"I'd call it an opinion, with almost no factual quality whatsoever. But hey, I can't use these forums, so..."

The point I was trying to make is that you've provided us with at least as much, if not less, "factual quality" as you have provided us with. You claim all your years of experience being a psychologist; I claim all my years of experience growing up in and being a product of, the Jewish community. You cited a source, I cited a source. So far I don't see any cold empirical reason why your opinion negates mine.

Orthoprax-
"I was targetting the whole concept of an orthodoxy and the way people generally relate to their respective received wisdom."

I know, I got that. I just meant that given the context, ie the fact that this quote was quoted on a blog which has a tendency to discuss Orthodox Judaism, the first assumption the reader would jump to is that that's what you're referring to.

"In fact I specifically said that I was not targetting Orthodox Judaism especially."

I know you disclaimered it. Unfortunately, people don't really take disclaimers seriously anymore.

It would be cool to get coffee with you sometime; unfortunately it looks like I'm not going to be making it to NY any time soon...damned Israeli school system.
I'll have to raincheck the offer. :)

jewish philosopher said...

Very very few people live according to rational thinking rather than emotion.

Orthoprax said...

Kylopod,

"It's not like that anymore, even among fundamentalists. Contemporary religious people who resist modernity are usually very aware of what they're doing."

You make a valid point. There are different levels that an orthodoxy is assumed unconsciously. In "1984," the idea was to change the language itself so the very concepts that embody unorthodox thoughts would have no words to describe them.

Rand, in a similar way, has a book where she writes of a future society where the concept of the ego is suppressed and individuals refer to themselves in plural form.

While that is extreme, the changing of terms is a common political ploy to calm or enrage the masses - depending who's doing the neologismics.

The point is that the very awareness of other active ideas 'out there' makes an orthodoxy more conscious of itself. Nevertheless, many people still approach their respective orthodoxies as if they are self-evidentially true.

Perhaps in modern times, orthodoxy does not mean a coma as much as it does severe stupor.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

OP,

Much of what you've asserted in this post doesn't resonate with me at all.

In fact, my feelings are quite the opposite in several respects. Orthodox Judaism has stimulated me to be a contemplative and critical thinker. For example, many things the common man takes for granted we have been trained to scrutinize and question.

The Torah student is encouraged to more precisely define concepts and ideas that remain fuzzy or vague in the mind of the average person.

There is no doubt that Torah study and the intellectual culture of Modern Orthodoxy makes for a much more reflective and principled existence than popular, vapid, cliche-driven modernity ever could.

We may have some axioms we accept as fundamental to our philosophical outlook or way of life, but at least we accept them knowingly, grapple with them and seek to understand them. Most people pass through life without giving more than a second thought to its meaning, or the values they have chosen - or been indoctrinated - to live by.

Orthoprax said...

RJM

I would point to you as an exception to the rule.

Anonymous said...

I have been told by a rabbi not to think too much. I don't think he objected to my thinking-- he just didn't want me to think about things that led me to question Judaism.

Naturally, it's fine to sit and think all day about the proper procedure for bringing a korban, and one is encouraged to spend endless hours on truly byzantine discussions about who owes whom how much when the ox one guy was watching for his neighbor gores his other neighbor's daschund who wandered in through the open gate.

So, Orthodoxy is hardly against thought-- it's just against any thought that questions Orthdoxy.

Kylopod said...

It's interesting you should mention Orwell, because my latest blog post was about his essay "Politics and the English Language." In Orwell's vision, language is not merely a tool of the propagandist--that's the popular, superficial understanding of his theories--it is something that works on people's thinking unconsciously.

Take the word fundamentalist, which I used before. I saw an interesting essay about the evils of fundamentalism, described as follows: "the religious fundamentalist, in that he cannot distinguish between himself and G-d and thereby equates his own whims and decisions with those of the Creator himself, has no higher moral authority and is thus capable of any inhuman atrocity. In the same way that Hitler and Stalin made themselves into gods, and probably believed it, the fundamentalist uses the same powers of delusion to persuade himself into the belief that everything he thinks or does comes from G-d. He can do no evil."

Now what's wrong here? What's wrong is that this piece is written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom most people would unhesitatingly describe as a fundamentalist. R' Boteach seems completely unaware of this fact. To him, fundamentalism is immoral and destructive, but he would never think to call himself a fundamentalist.

But actually, R' Boteach is using the word fundamentalist the way most secular people do, as a vague slur that incorporates all the negative stereotypes our society has about fervently religious people. The word originally referred to a specific movement of Protestants who believed in Biblical inerrancy. It was a term people adopted proudly to describe themselves. It has since flipped around. Outside of Protestant Christianity, people today almost always apply the term exclusively to other people.

Googling the word, the first page of hits included an essay called "Why Fundamentalism is Wrong." Here is how that page defines the term: "a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part." By that definition, most Haredim would not qualify as fundamentalists. I daresay that most Christian fundamentalists wouldn't either.

The word "fundamentalism" masquerades as a neutral, objective expression for any anti-modernist religious group, when in fact it has a distinct connotatation of unthinking, doctrine-obsessed bigots. You might try to argue that most fundamentalists are that way, but you don't have to. The word "fundamentalist" practically makes the point for you. The implication is that anyone who subscribes to the traditionalist variety of their religion is automatically unthinking, doctrine-obsessed, bigoted, etc. You don't have to worry about arguing this point, because the English language gives fundamentalists practically no way of countering it. The absence of a neutral word for the concept is an excellent example of how you described Orwell's vision: "the idea was to change the language itself so the very concepts that embody unorthodox thoughts would have no words to describe them." But notice that it isn't a conscious process; like R' Boteach, most people use the word fundamentalism without even realizing that they're simply confirming their own prejudices.

I think the secular orthodoxies hostile to religious traditionalism are far more ingrained and unconscious than anything so-called "Orthodox" Judaism has come up with. In fact, the very word "Orthodox" was not chosen by Orthodox Jews originally. It was first applied by Reform Jews to their more traditional brethren, in much the way that Hasidim did the same thing with the word Misnagdim, or "Opponents."

"Orthodox" may literally mean "correct belief," and that was its original meaning when the Eastern Orthodox Church gave itself that name. But by the nineteenth century the word had acquired some negative connotations. So, not surprisingly, early Orthodox opponents of Reform like R' Hirsch resisted the term, accepting it begrudgingly only after it became too popular to ignore. A similar thing is happening with the word "ultra-Orthodox," which masquerades as a neutral term despite having a prefix that in virtually all other circumstances is inherently pejorative when applied to social groups.

They say that history is written by the winners, but apparently the language is too.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

OP,

To be honest with you, I am not much of a maverick. Although I am an independent thinker, I basically reflect the philosophy of the Yeshiva from which I received semicha.

There is nothing that I write or state that I would feel uncomfortable discussing with my Rosh Yeshiva; in fact, he has directly inspired most of it over the years!

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Last time I requested a new post, I was successful. I'm trying again...

Orthoprax said...

Good timing. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Orthodox

Ortho - straight

Dox - teaching

straight teaching back to Sinai

Orthoprax said...

Woah, deep...

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