Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Hiding From Heresy


When my doubts started I developed a sort of defense mechanism. Whenever perusing the library shelves I would stop short before reading anything inimical to the faith. Every time my hand reached out to grasp a books about Bible Criticism I would stop myself. Every time I was about to read a book of philosophy I would hold back. This wasn't because I thought reading "heretical" things was assur (forbidden). No, thank God, I was never so naive to think that. I did it purely for myself, so that I wouldn't distress myself further. I said to myself "Shilton, you're distraught enough as it is with all those gaping holes in your faith, why do you want to exacerbate things by reading more things which will cause you to doubt your cherished beliefs" And back to to the shelf the heretical book would go.

I deeply regret that defense mechanism because since I avoided reading "heretical" works I did not develop a coherent picture of what I thought and what I believed until I had wasted many years in Yeshiva. It was the ultimate bitul zman. If I just would have pulled the damn book of the shelf, opened it up, and imbibed the bittersweet, forbidden fruit of heresy, I would have saved myself a lot of time and trouble. Perhaps things would have worked out better than they did.

Today after a long dormancy that defense mechanism decided to rear it's ugly head. I don't want to get into the details right now, but while perusing the shelves I found something which slightly disturbed me, which might bring into question some things I take for granted and might cause me to rethink my life. I held the book in my hands and hesitated. And for the briefest second a little voice in my head piped up, a little voice from my childhood, and it said "Put it back on the shelf! Save yourself the distress. Just don't read it!"

No! I was disgusted with myself for even entertaining the thought for a moment! I refused to listen to that remnant of my past. That fearful Shilton who was scared that truth might pop out and frighten him at every corner! That Shilton who deluded himself by keeping himself ignorant! That Shilton who wasted years of his life for naught! I grabbed the book and proceeded to the counter and bought it immediately! No regrets no hesitation.

I will never hide from the truth again. I will embrace her like an old friend and follow her wherever she leads.

19 comments:

Baruch Spinoza said...

"Perhaps things would have worked out better than they did.":

What does not kill you only makes you stronger.

"That fearful Shilton who was scared that truth might pop out and frighten him at every corner!":

No you are not necessarily fearful. A brave person is someone who feels fear and proceeds further. Not someone who feels no fear at all. So you can be terrified but brave at the same time.

I am not afraid to think about anything. I rethink everything over and over again with a lot of skepticism. But there is just one thing I am afraid to think about. And that is death. I am quite sure that when I die the soul that I way will die forever and since then I will never experience life every again. I am so scared by this that I try not to think about it so much. That is really the only thing that I am scared thinking about. Not because I am afraid of reaching a conclusion, I already have, I just do not like to rethink the conclusion and its implications.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>So you can be terrified but brave at the same time.

That's me now. Back then I would run away.

Josh said...

Must you leave us in suspense concerning the title of the book?

Baruch Spinoza said...

"Must you leave us in suspense concerning the title of the book?":

It was either probably Kosher Sex by Shmuley Boteach or the Kabbalah/Zohar sefer.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Must you leave us in suspense concerning the title of the book?

Lol It's nothing special. It's only a big deal for me because I'm still in the midst of an identity crisis. Most people will roll their eyes and say "that's the book?"

But let the speculation begin!

>It was either probably Kosher Sex by Shmuley Boteach or the Kabbalah/Zohar sefer.

the Zohar? I love the Zohar! What cherished beliefs could the Zohar destroy. I guess a misguided belief held by some that Judaism has always been rational but I'm way past thinking that.

Baruch Spinoza said...

"It's only a big deal for me because I'm still in the midst of an identity crisis."

Are you too young to have a mid-life crisis? ^.^

Anyway, if it makes you feel any better I am very certain that you would become a happier person soon. When you really struggle to find what is true and you genuinely follow what you think is true you will be a happier person otherwise. I know I am happier since I gave up Jewish beliefs and most other people say the same thing. So do not worry about your current feelings, they are temporary. One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star.

rabbichaplain said...

I can imagine hesitating before reading certain books as well. But I guess having been exposed to much of the skeptical and heretical basis before heading to Yeshiva, I always felt differently about engaging said literature. At the very least, it is good to know what is out there, even if you don't accept the material. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the time you spent in Yeshiva for without that, your skepticism might not be grounded in a strong Judaic background. One thing I advocate for the OTD's or Orthoprax out there who have don't believe is that if your leaving was intellectual and not the result of traumatic experience/s, to be honest and sophisticated in thought.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Nevertheless, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the time you spent in Yeshiva for without that, your skepticism might not be grounded in a strong Judaic background.

True thanks to Yeshiva I can pick up a Gemara and just read for which I'm very grateful. But I also wasted a lot of time in Yeshiva just twiddling my thumbs (at the best of times) and not accomplishing anything.

Also most of my knowledge of Tanakh, Jewish History, and Jewish philosophy was acquired in in spite of Yeshiva which did not teach ANY of those fundamental bits of Judaism.

Anonymous said...

Was it John Cardinal Newman?...

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthodoxy relies on people to do that.

Anonymous said...

Shilton

It could be worse - if that's any comfort. I "woke up" only in my late thirties, with a wife and kids already firmly "on the derech".

Baruch Spinoza said...

"One thing I advocate for the OTD's or Orthoprax out there who have don't believe is that if your leaving was intellectual and not the result of traumatic experience/s, to be honest and sophisticated in thought.":

Why is it so hard for religious Jews to understand that lots of people give up Judaism because Judaism is stupid? Is it really so hard to understand why people would leave Judaism after it teaches people to suspend their reason and believe in talking snakes and giant arks build by 600 year old men? Why do you have to assume that the main reason behind people leaving is some tramatic experience?

tesyaa said...

Spinoza: a lot of people who are within the system and happy within the system don't THINK at all. They don't mess with the status quo, so to speak, because it's working for them. Sometimes it takes a traumatic experience for a previously vapid person to even use his or her brain and think about the big picture. It's not that the traumatic experience causes people to go OTD; but the traumatic experience causes some people to THINK for the first time in their lives.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>It's not that the traumatic experience causes people to go OTD; but the traumatic experience causes some people to THINK for the first time in their lives.

Very true. The frummies are wrong in ignoring the intellectual reasons. But one can't deny that intellectual questions are often brought about by traumatic experiences. Traumatic experience invariably bring one to ask that fateful question "why?" A question very inimical to Orthodox dogma.

Undercover Kofer said...

I swear by a Tenach that I refuse to read any more posts until you divulge the name of that book! :P

Shilton HaSechel said...

Lol maybe when I'm done reading it :P

Anonymous said...

You sort of denied that it was the Zohar, but remained silent about Kosher Sex (as if there were such a thing). Hmmm.

If I were to guess, was it Crusin' With the Tooz by John Mathusak (the defensive tackle)? Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann? Is it God's Word? by Joseph Wheless? All three of them challenged my beliefs.

Lisa said...

Never be afraid to read something. I have books by Finkelstein and Silberman some two feet away from me (not library books; I own 'em). There's a New English Bible, complete with treyfer sefer on the bookshelves behind me. Atlas Shrugged is two shelves away from Seder Hadorot and Zohar Chadash.

You never learn anything if you're afraid to read something that might challenge your preconceptions.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Glad you agree, Lisa

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