I had an interesting conversation this past Shabbos with one of my wife’s friends. She’s a fairly typical frum girl, went to a somewhat liberal bais-yaakov type school, and is well-educated (master’s degree). She came to visit us Shabbos afternoon, and I’m afraid that the conversation turned to religion. As the conversation moved from minhagim to halachah she realized that I think most of it is nonsense.
It was fascinating how she brought up the typical arguments in favor of Judaism, no doubt gleaned from high-school and seminary hashkafa classes, and how easily I was able to brush them aside with counter-arguments. It was like walking through a security fence made of tissue paper. Of course I didn’t change her mind, but to her credit she readily admitted that I had some good points.
The conversation brought home to me again that most frum Jews (and I imagine most other religious people too) never give much thought to why they believe what they do, and accept the “proofs” they are taught as children without ever evaluating these ideas as adults. Worse, this girl is probably somewhat smarter than average, yet her ignorance of history (even Jewish history), theology, and logic was appalling. Granted, theology isn’t a particular interest of hers, and most of us are ignorant of subjects which don’t interest us, so perhaps she can be excused. But the fact remains that she is going through life with an unexamined belief system, relying on flimsy arguments she was taught as a teenager.
Another interesting thing I noticed was that many of the points that came up I’ve seen around the blog-sphere or have discussed here. I realized that as I write, ideas that have been floating around inside my head for years coalesce into coherent points. It also (unfortunately?) makes them more prominent. For the most part, I’ve managed to compartmentalize. There’s what I believe (or don’t), and there’s what I do. As the ideas become more prominent, it becomes harder to perform the actions without thinking about them. Why bother? Well, that’s another post.