Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Another Skeptic's Story: A Guest Post

SH: A month or two ago I asked anybody interested to submit their own "Pandora's Box" story. A description of those moments when the sturdy faith of your childhood began to falter, what caused your "eyes to open", and how did you deal with it. If anyone else is interested in submitting any sort of "skeptic story" (or anything interesting about Judaism, skepticism, or religion) just email me at Now without further ado....

A Guest Post By Anonymous:
I’m sixteen years old, and I get my first explanation as to why I have doubts. I'm at the shteeble, and me being the masochist that I am, pick out a chassidishe mussar sefer from the bookshelf, and leaf through it until I find the section that discusses masturbation. Along with the usual warning, that each wasted seed creates a black demon that attacks the soul after death, a new tidbit catches my eye: it weakens one's Emuna. So not only am I causing myself to get bad breath, go blind, and die early, at which I'll be kindly greeted with 845 billion demons (rough calculation, assuming I never masturbate again), but it's also fucking up my faith. Years later, one of my psychologists changes it to an intelligent, humane argument: Cognitive Dissonance. The ego, masturbation, and God can't all fit in the same mental space, hence God has to go, so the ego can live on. Trust me though, it was the ego that got shafted; not for nothing was I a top learner and quite the frummie.

It's eight years later, and my darling wife sends me to the shrink. Not that she knows about the masturbation, Heaven Forbid, but she notices that something's amiss. To my great surprise, my unhappiness isn't normal, and the masturbation isn't the cause of it either. I'm suffering from Dysthymia (low-grade depression), which apparently started when I was a young teen.

While my mental health improves over the years, and the sexual addiction subsides, the sickness of doubt doesn't cease. It must be a sickness, I conclude, because I couldn't put a finger on what it is that's making me doubt. Nobody I know struggles with their faith. My therapists, my lifelines, give me many palatable reasons for the sickness. Mesorah comes through the parent-child relationship, which I never had much of. I'm blaming God for things that I should blame my parents for. I got a fucked up version of the religion. Judaism is experienced emotionally, and I was robbed of my emotions. And so forth. But the questions never leave. How are we so sure we possess the truth? Why the Holocaust? Why did God give me this wretched existence called "my life"? Am I to believe that God created one billion Chinese people just so that we can have cheap Chanukah presents?

I'm hitting forty, and my latest shrink is going hardcore, shaking me up. Apparently, as big a pleaser as I am, I'm not that great of a husband or father. I need to do less pleasing, and more emotional growth. Out of that comes the inner me, a little braver, a little less fearful, more alive than ever. And I'm done with delegitimizing myself, and my questions. If I'm to please this big omnipotent dude, I need to get some good reasons why. But I'm still only flailing in the ocean.

Then a stroke of fortune - hashgacha pratis, as they say. I'm at a party by the neighbors, and the discussion turns to something about Emuna, and in my new life, I go contrarian. Little do I know, one of the people in the conversation is a closeted kofer! He starts pointing me to various blogs, video debates, books. He asks me tough questions, and gives me the tough answers. Three months later, I'm teetering, but still a believer. I go to my Rabbi with the questions, but he's no use. Besides the contradictions between Judaism and science and history, besides the Torah's insane moral compass,what's getting me is how the Torah is so much more sensible now. "Let there be a firmament in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters" (Genesis 1:6). I never understood what that meant, meforshim and all. Wikipedia leads me to a paper by Paul H. Seely in the Westminster Theological Journal, and the light bulb goes on. Of course that's what it means.

Nine months of research, debates with four rabbis and two shrinks, and I have my truth. It's mine, and no one can take it from me. It's clear, natural, pure, sweet. It's a truth not enforced by fear, fear of Hell, fear of damnation, fear of excommunication, or worst of all, by subduing my intellect.

My wife is puzzled by my revelation, and my therapist is still scratching his head. To their credit, they haven't shunned me. Some days, it seems like they understand what I'm saying, and I wonder if they are starting to question themselves. Mostly, though, they are still convinced my emotions are playing with me.

I'm not sure what the future will bring, or what the right path is. My kids are not youngsters anymore, and they are happy, but I cringe when they ask good questions and are fed silly answers, or if they should have to worry about black demons haunting them. I'm taking things slowly, still making my way through the light.

Now that my shpiel is concluding, it's time for the thanks. Thank you, Judaism, for teaching me about being grateful. Thank you, dearest wife, for saving my life a million times over, and for your nourishing love. Thank you, Zeidy, for teaching me intellectual honesty, to the best that you could allow yourself. Thank you, Freud and Company, for helping me achieve some peace and joy. Thank you, God, for nothing.


Baruch Spinoza said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shilton HaSechel said...

Erm... Baruch not to be a prude or anything but I deleted that last comment cuz even I was getting a lil' annoyed

this guy is pouring his soul out and you're talking like Jewish Philosopher.

GuestPoster said...

I read Baruch's comment before you removed it. While his sex-related snark was a bit over the top, I can accept that I got a bit too Freudian. Baruch - maybe you ought to pay a visit to the couch, or better yet, you and I should hook up (wink, wink), and we can explore the cause of your frustrations.

Baruch Spinoza said...

Shilton, you cannot compare me to JewishPhilosopher. Everything I said was about sex. JewishPhilosopher never talks about sex. He is afraid of it because, oh my science, penis and vagina, oh no, we cannot talk about that! I also was not offensive. JewishPhilosopher will try to be offensive. My entire post was a joke. I considered it extremely funny how the Guest Poster talks about Freud and his entire post is filled with sexually subliminal messages. Besides the Guest Poster is not bothered by it, he probably smiled or maybe even laughed by some of what I said. You are just taking yourself too seriously.

"Baruch - maybe you ought to pay a visit to the couch, or better yet, you and I should hook up (wink, wink), and we can explore the cause of your frustrations.":

Just a warning. I will probably accept something like that, seriously. ^.^

Shilton HaSechel said...


Nu I take myself too seriously there have been worse crimes ;)

לכל זמן ועת

I felt your remarks were somewhat inappropriate (maybe the GuestPoster disagrees nu nu) and I hope I have not offended you but you seem to keep harping on sexual themes in EVERY comment.

Please put up with my "seriousness" and tone down the "sexualization" of everything in your comments on my humble little blog.


GuestPoster said...


Believe it or not, I did not intend to convey any "sexually subliminal messages". So that leaves us two options: a) all those years of porn had a deeper effect on me than I imagined, or b) you're the freak. Your pick.

Baruch Spinoza said...

"or b) you're the freak. ":

Absolutely. I am insane. But I do not suffer form insanity, I enjoy every minute of it. People might laugh at me because I am different, I laugh at you because you are all the same to me. Following boring social norms. Social norms is nothing but a tyranny over human mind on how to act. How boring. I want to see some individuals acting how they would if there were no social norms. Be so much more interesting. So yes, I am insane, but it does not bother me in the slightest. "Insane" is just anyone who does not fit in with the rest of people. But the rest of the people are entirely boring. So I consider it to be good to be an outcast. I never had a part of me in my personality that desired to fit in.

Anonymous said...

BS, I will call you lady gaga from now on....that was a paragraph right out of her biography!

maybe sir gaga


frumheretic said...

Excellent post, straight from the heart!

And don't forget to check out this old post of mine:

GuestPoster said...

@frumheretic, thanks for your kind words.

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