Tuesday, October 28, 2008
[You are so busted.]
One unfortunate problem that seems to be increasing in recent years is the presence of secret atheists within the Orthodox community. These are people who may be from very respectable Orthodox homes and communities but who secretly do not believe in, and often do not practice, Orthodox Judaism. They like to call themselves Orthoprax, Frum skeptics or Hassidic rebels.
There is a group for these people on yahoo.com. Some of them have blogs. You can read about a young Orthodox father who secretly checks his email on the second night of Rosh Hashanah. You can read about Hassidic Jews secretly eating pork on Yom Kippur. Hella Winston in Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels page 51 indicates that there are at least hundreds of the these people.
In a certain way, this is a testimony to the beauty and warmth of the Orthodox community. Some people choose to remain within it even though they don't believe in it. To the best of my knowledge in other religions, for example Christianity, this is very rare.
The question is how should the Orthodox community respond to these people who hate Judaism, however who wish to remain in the community?
Seemingly, these people may have a very negative influence on others – for example they may secretly try to corrupt immediate family members, classmates, etc. I would assume that the recent kosher chicken scandal was the work of such an individual. We can only imagine in what other ways these people may be spiritually undermining the community – whether in making their family’s kitchen not kosher, writing not kosher mezuzos and tefillin, leading the congregation in prayers which they do not believe in, spreading illegal drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Fortunately, I believe that there is a solution to this.
I would suggest that anyone who suspects his spouse or child of being a secret atheist should install monitoring software on their home computer. This may easily settle the question. An additional option might be in some case to use hidden cameras, for example in a child’s bedroom or in the kitchen or home office. If the suspicious person is using a vehicle or carrying a bag or a briefcase, a GPS tracking system can be used to monitor their precise movements. In some cases, a cell phone may be used as a tracking device.
If that is not practical or is inconclusive, then ask that person to take a lie detector test, during which he will be asked about his belief in the divine origin of the Torah. In addition, he should be asked to take an STD test and a hair drug test. A refusal to be tested should be taken as an admission of guilt.
Once a person is found to be guilty, then all communications with him should be severed permanently and his name, address and photograph should be published on a website established for this purpose.
In summary, I am suggesting that we use the same methods to screen our spouses and children which the FBI has used for decades to screen applicants. In addition, I think that religious organizations, such as schools, kosher supervision organizations and others, should use these tools. From now on, we should have zero tolerance for secret atheists.
In any case, this is my personal suggestion. Each individual case should be subject of course to the guidance of senior rabbis.
As a postscript, I want to mention that some commentators have suggested that once a secret atheist is discovered, we should attempt to be “mekarev” him, meaning that we should use gentle persuasion to convince him of the truth of Judaism. I personally feel that gentle persuasion, such as inspirational lectures and invitations to Sabbath meals, is surely the correct strategy to use when dealing with someone who has always been an atheist. However, in regards to someone who has been Orthodox for years yet has chosen to reject Orthodoxy, I cannot believe that gentle persuasion will be effective. After all, he has already heard many lectures and celebrated many Sabbaths yet he was apparently not impressed. In addition to that, even if he at some point claims to have repented, he has no credibility since we know that he attempted to deceive us in the past. I feel that the only appropriate response is to focus on damage control – in other words do everything possible within the law to protect Orthodox Jews from his influence.
In addition to that, some people might question the ethics of invading the privacy of secret atheists. However consider the case of a man who is providing financial support to a 20 year old daughter under the impression that she is Orthodox while in fact she is smoking marijuana every Friday night or the case of a woman who is married to a man and having children with him under the impression that he is Orthodox while in fact he is surfing the Internet early every Saturday morning. Don’t those people have a right to know the truth and evaluate the relationship accordingly?
Posted by jewish philosopher at 10:15 AM