Tuesday, July 22, 2008
[George Collins on Sexual Addiction - Part 1 Part 2]
There are a certain number of Orthodox Jews who choose to leave Orthodoxy. I would estimate that about 3% of those raised as ultra-Orthodox and 10% of those raised as modern Orthodox leave Orthodoxy as teenagers or adults. In addition to that, there are hundreds of people who continue to pose as Orthodox Jews although they no longer believe in the basic principles of Orthodox Judaism (see Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels by Hella Winston page 51).
What is motivating these people?
If asked, the standard answer seems to be something along the lines of “I feel that Judaism is ridiculous and science has proven it to be false.” When questioned more closely about what exactly proves to them that Judaism is false, they have difficulty explaining and usually don’t want to discuss it. When they are questioned about the absurdity of atheism and are asked about how they explain the existence of the universe, the existence of life and the authorship of the Torah, they are unable to answer. Nevertheless, the Jewish skeptics are not at all bothered by these philosophical problems. Therefore, I have a hard time believing that these people are motivated by scientific or philosophical questions. They don’t seem to be doing any real searching. They may go online and enjoy ridiculing Jewish leaders from Moses to present day rabbis however that is generally about as far as their "intellectual" activity goes.
So what is actually going on?
One clue I think is the gender of the people involved. Based on my experience on the Internet, about 90% of Jewish skeptics are male. Winston in her book (page 57) seems to have noticed this as well. There seems to be something about the secular world that attracts Jewish men far more than women. The desire for sex is strongly influenced by testosterone, a hormone found in much higher levels among males than among females. 72% of visitors to Internet pornography sites are male and sexual addiction is most commonly a male problem.
In addition to that, it would appear that sexual prohibitions are generally among the first ones breached by Jewish skeptics and among the most frequently breached. In Judaism, basically any sexual stimulation outside marriage is prohibited. Even though there are good reasons for this, apparently many Orthodox Jews find these restrictions to be very burdensome and they are anxious to abandon them. One subject in Winston’s book (page 123) considered wearing a t-shirt stating, “I eat everything and I fuck everything.”
The eagerness to dispense with the Jewish sexual prohibitions is the one common factor which I have noticed in all apostates I have been personally well acquainted with (and there have been several, including my first wife) as well as with all of those profiled in Hella Winston's book (with the exception of Malkie Schwartz, who is the only person mentioned by their real name).
I think therefore it is reasonable to suggest that the current wave of Orthodox Jews leaving Judaism is primarily motivated by a desire for greater sexual freedom – pornography, strip clubs, prostitution, casual sex, etc. I think this can be called an addiction in the sense that it is a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences to the individual's health, mental state or social life. The idea that “I feel that Judaism is ridiculous and science has proven it to be false.” is then adopted in order to escape from feelings of guilt.
In other words, I think that the Orthodox community is currently under siege from sexual addiction. That’s what the “Frum skeptic”, “kids at risk” and “Orthodox drop outs” are really coming from.
I want to point out that probably 90% of the time, addiction is based on pain. People suffer because of divorce, abuse, their parents' divorce, the death of a loved one, etc and they choose to medicate themselves with something harmful. The next stage is to rationalize and decide that they aren't doing anything wrong. The earlier in life pain is suffered, the greater affect it generally has. It is therefore imperative that we try to shield our children from unnecessary pain. That means: if at all possible, don't hit kids, scream at kids, hit your spouse, scream at your spouse or leave your spouse.
In any case, first of all, we must save ourselves. Torah study is of course protective. I have yet to meet an atheist who previously studied Torah full time until age 25 or later. We must develop self control. And we must be vigilant regarding our loved ones. No one should have a computer without filtering software and we should be monitoring each other. We should also be prepared to intervene and to expel from our schools and our homes people who have this addiction until they have demonstrated full recovery.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:36 PM