Thursday, April 2, 2009

Don't daven for me.

Last week I got a phone call from an old friend who went to high school and yeshiva with me. We had been good friends in school but had only talked a few times in the last few years. He was calling to ask me about my relationship status, as he wanted to set me up on a shidduch date. I informed him that I am no longer frum (apparently he had not heard that I "frei'd out," which was surprising to me, since everyone used to gossip about the "frei'aks" in our community), so it would probably not be a good idea for me to date a frum girl.

After my friend got over his initial shock that I went off the derech, the conversation inevitably turned to the reasons why I left. I often try to avoid this type of conversation when I meet frum folks, as they tend to turn unpleasant, but I used to be really close to this friend and I wanted to be truthful with him. I informed him that I am no longer a believer, and tried to explain why. I explained in length that there is no evidence that any gods exist, that there is no good reason to believe that the Torah is the word of God, and that many of the stories in the Torah are almost certainly false (e.g. the flood).

My friend answered back with a bunch of the usual frum arguments, he was particularly fond of the argument that multitudes of people witnessed the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and such a revelation could not possibly be faked (Kuzari). After I explained to him why I thought each of his arguments was invalid, he tried the old tactic of Jewish guilt. He told me that millions of Jews had died over the millenia because of their belief, and I was spitting on their graves with my denouncements. He then asked me if I would be able to swear on a Torah that I don't believe in God, and I answered that I could. After he heard that, he told me that he was very sad for me and that he would daven for my neshama. I told him that he really shouldn't worry about me, and that I hoped we could still be friends. He politely agreed, but I got the feeling that I may not hear from him again.

Maybe it would have been better not to have told him that I'm an atheist. Many frum people seem willing to accept that I became not frum, but they have more trouble accepting that someone could stop believing in God and the Torah. I guess they'd rather think I'm just some hedonist who couldn't handle the restrictions of Halacha. I don't really care if they think that, but I don't like feeling that I have to lie about who I am just to avoid unpleasant conversations.

19 comments:

  1. > ....but I got the feeling that I may not hear from him again.

    Oh, you'll hear from him! Trust me. They don't give up that easily. I had a guy from my yeshiva days find out about me, and this is what I had to endure!

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  2. you started out good, but then you ended up fighting over a pseudo issue.

    theology is a pseudo issue, the issue between you is not who is right and who is wrong about theology.after all, he is as much entitled to his beliefs as you are to yours. the issue is, bottom line, this is who I am; can you accept it or not.

    If people ask me, I just say it wasn't for me.

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  3. so no, never hide that you are an apikores but keep the issues focused where they belong: do you want a relationship w me or not.

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  4. Hedyot,

    Thanks for the link. Luckily my encounter didn't last as long as yours! I'm not sure if my friend will try to call back, I think he got the picture that there is not much point in trying to be mikarev me.

    Kisarita,

    I know what you mean. I wish the conversation hadn't gone in the direction it did, but he really seemed focused on trying to determine my motives for leaving. I wish I could have the type of relationship with my former community where we can just "agree to disagree" but many of them can't accept that.

    (incidentally, I don't generally think theology is a "pseudo issue". That may be a useful position when it comes to personal relationships, but I think it is essential to our survival that we publicly address the issue of faith.)

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  5. Did you go to Oholie Torah or Lubavitcher Yeshiva? BTW I went to OT from 1st grade through the middle of Mesivtah what waste of of my years there LOL..

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  6. >He then asked me if I would be able to swear on a Torah that I don't believe in God, and I answered that I could

    Ha. I never heard that one before.

    >but they have more trouble accepting that someone could stop believing in God and the Torah

    Of course, because that's exactly what believers are taught, that non-belief makes no sense to one who already has experienced the truth.

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  7. "Did you go to Oholie Torah or Lubavitcher Yeshiva?"

    No, I didn't live on Crown Heights, I went to Lubavitch yeshivas in different cities (just as big a waste of time).

    "that's exactly what believers are taught, that non-belief makes no sense to one who already has experienced the truth."

    That's exactly right. I remember being taught that it's impossible for a Jew to "really" be a non-believer, since we inherit emunah in our neshamas from Avrohom Avinu, and anyone who thinks they don't believe is just being fooled by the yetzer hara. What a load of crap.

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  8. One thing to note is how similar this is to the entire approach of evangelical Christians. Many of them are convinced that everyone deep down really believes in Jesus and that they are actively deluding themselves. Moreover, the "I'll pray for you" is a classic ending gambit when they have nothing else to say. I wonder if your friend realizes how many similarities there are.

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  9. Maybe this feature of Judaism and Christiany came about by some form of religious natural selection. A religion that convinces its followers that non-belief is impossible may be more likely to "survive" than a religion that doesn't. Or maybe it's just the kind of thinking that comes with irrational faith.

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  10. Ha! What you wrote is a textbook example of a spilling-the-beans conversation.

    Lubavitchers are used to dealing with people who believe in Judaism and don't follow halacha, but real atheists freak them out. I speak from experience. On mivtzoim I used to be able to talk to every single Jew I met except for atheists. Their cold certainty that everything I was telling them was 100% BS made conversation impossible (and scary).

    Now I'm that obnoxious atheist. Life is full of surprises...

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  11. Yeah, I had the same mivtzoim experience.

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  12. Ex Shmais ReaderApril 6, 2009 at 9:47 PM

    I rarely met an Atheist Jew on Mivtzoim.

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  13. but when you do, boy is it uncomfortable...

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  14. There was an old Russian atheist janitor in my yeshiva that we'd always try to put tefillin on. We were never successful.

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  15. Time heals all wounds my friend.

    Apikores you need to let go of the frum world. In fact let go of all things related to Judaism.

    If it causes you pain, then why hold on to it?

    Jewish Atheist spends the majority of his blog bashing religion, especially Orthodox Judaism and he isn't a very happy fellow. Because he continues to hold on to a world that caused him nothing but pain. I hope you don't become that way aka make your whole life about bashing Orthodox Judaism.

    I am not a fan of Judaism either, but my advice is for your sake.

    Just let it go man and free yourself from it all.

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  16. Shalmo,

    I'm not sure why you think that the frum world is "causing me pain" or that I have not "let go".

    In fact, I have very little to do with Orthodox Judaism in my daily life (besides my occasional interactions with family and old friends). My "whole life" isn't about bashing OJ, it's just something I do for fun on my blog.

    In fact, I am rather happy right now.

    Thanks for your concern, but I think it is unwarranted.

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  17. I know I am weighing in late, but here goes:

    I don't know all that much about you, and just found this blog a few minutes ago, but I am going to pass a bit of judgment anyway (at least I'm upfront about it...).

    This post seems to be an intelligent one. You seem to be confident in your decision, and sure that all religion is false and there is no G-d. I can respect that.

    But, the fact that your profile picture is one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe makes me feel as if this blog is a cynical rebellion against your past. The name of your blog as well reflects on the need to prove yourself, which is a sign of no confidence at all. And the fact that you cannot respect the choice of others demonstrates your insecurity on what you proclaim to be your beliefs.

    Again, I have just found your blog, and it is possible that if I read more my opinion will change, but lechoira, that is the impression you made.

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  18. Where in this post do you see disrespect for others' beliefs?

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  19. e-First off, I didn't way is was this post in particular, but a general feeling I got from this blog. And I did say I am open to changing my way of thinking, but that is what I get from all of this.

    Secondly, I quote "My "whole life" isn't about bashing OJ, it's just something I do for fun on my blog."

    'Nuff said.

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