I always wonder what I would be like today if my childhood had been just a little different. As I said before in an earlier post How I Became Skeptical, the things that really got me thinking were rather small. It was the mere discovery of the concept of the DH that began to make my little head spin. Just finding out that Karaites still existed and firmly rejected TSBP got me in a tizzy.
Evolution never worried me because I always knew that evolution was true and I also always "knew" that you don't take those parts of the Torah literally. I always "knew" that the Rabbis in the Gemara knew how to learn not how to cure diseases or study biology. Since I had always "known" that these things were not threats to Judaism I never got worried by them.
What if I had grown up knowing about the DH and the human origin of the TSBP? What if I had grown up knowing the apologetics to explain these things away. I would probably have been desensitized to these things and would never have been surprised by their discovery. I would never have received that terrifying jolt of terror, that feeling that "they were hiding this from me!"
Once I found that there were things that my Rabbis had never told me I started thinking and once that started it was all downhill (or uphill depending on your opinions about religion). The faith-panic that I was unable to deal with as a child of 14 totally threw me off balance and broke my conditioning. Maybe if someone had pounced on me as soon as I had a glimmer of doubt, and explained it all away, maybe then I would have turned my brain back off and continued to follow Jewish doctrines like a sheep. Since I let my doubts simmer untreated for years, they began to grow unhindered, like a virus slowly infecting all of my childhood faith with doubt. Maybe once I had my first tiny little doubt no amount of apologetics could "save" me. I feel that those simple little books with with their little seditious suggestions were my Pandora's box. The day I began to wonder if my Rabbis got it wrong, spelled the end of my credulity.
So for anyone out there who wants to brainwash their kids into the Jewish faith (not that I support brainwashing) this is what you should do:
1. Tell your kids about every reason people have had and will have to doubt Judaism
2. Tell them that all the doubters were and will always be wrong
3. Repeat and Reinforce the above constantly
Withholding Bible criticism, philosophy, science or anything from someone can result in "disastrous consequences". The best is to expose them to everything, thus desensitizing them, and then use apologetics to explain that evolution, the DH, and everything else inimical to Judaism are either A. Not true or B. Not threats to Jewish faith.
B. is the best option because A. might collapse later on in life. If you grow up thinking that the DH is rubbish and then pick up a Kugel's book then you will undoubtedly experience the "belief shock." However if you were raised with B. and you believe that the DH is true but is not a threat to Judaism. You will never be hit by a wave of doubt.
This is a lesson that all faiths should learn before they set up their insular societies and education systems. Sheltering only works to a certain extent.
These passages were my Pandora's Box:
The substance of this Biblical account is history. The reference to the Chaldees is anachronistic since the Chaldeans did not penetrate southern Mesopatamia until towards the end of the second millennium BC... The Chaldeans were inserted to identify UR to readers of the Bible in the first millennium BC.
A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson
If you grow up Orthodox you learn that every word of the Torah is untampered with the existence of an anachronism in the Torah deeply worried me.
Biblical scholars have conjectured that the Old Testament is composed essentially of four major narratives, the "J", "E", "JE" and "P" documents woven into one.
Jews, God, and History By Max I. Dimont
I had never heard of the DH before reading this. It came as an unwelcome surprise.
Looking back I can't believe how much of an effect these relatively innocuous passages had on my teenage psyche. But I still remember reading these things today. I remember the terror I felt when I read these things, the confusion, the disillusionment. I might be dramatizing a bit (then and now) but I was genuinely afraid that maybe just maybe my Jewish way of life was a lie. I'm sure many people would not have reacted the way I did but nevertheless this is what began to make me "tick."
These tiny meaningless little things were my Pandora's Box.
I would love to hear what your Pandora's Box was.