Monday, January 08, 2007


A question that is debated every so often in the frum-skeptical community is this: Are we witnessing the beginnings of a new social movement in our communities, a new Haskalah that has the very real potential of carrying away large parts of the younger generation on the sweeping winds of social change, forever transforming the face (and viability) of the community as we know it? Or is the community of hidden skeptics much smaller than it seems at first glance -- the voices deceptively amplified by the narcissistic and self-referential nature of a burgeoning online community -- and destined to go the way of the dodo bird when even our children are effectively brainwashed to obediently toe the line and grow up (or already grew up) to be good little believers?

In other words, is this the painful beginnings of an exciting new social development -- incubated in forced ignorance, hatched by a sudden burst of freely available and easily accessible information, and nourished by the freewheeling Internet spirit of effortless and ubiquitous human connection? Or are we merely witnessing the few grotesque offspring of the goose that laid the golden egg, soon to be effectively crushed (or expelled) by a community that does not tolerate deviant geese and suffers not such aberrations as golden eggs?

I've been meaning to post my thoughts on this for a while, but the day is short and the work is long, the workers are lazy and the reward isn't great. Instead, I'll repost something from the comment thread on the previous post, something that touched on this subject.

Writes Mikeskeptic:
Do we frum skeptics aspire to be the vanguard of a new Enlightenment that could slowly unfold over the next generation or two or are we content to be just the most recent links in a chain of secret apikorism that undoubtedly stretches back 25 centuries, but remains an obscure sideshow to the continuing successful transmission of fundamentalist Orthodoxy?
And I reply:
"Do we frum skeptics aspire to be the vanguard of a new Enlightenment that could slowly unfold over the next generation or two"

Yes, I think many of us would love that. The hitch being that unlike the great social movements -- such as Socialism and Zionism -- the original Enlightenment piggybacked on, we don't have much to sell. We need a movement with lofty goals and a great promise of social change that inflames the passions of the heart and stirs the depths of the soul. Something that inspires the famed idealism and passion of the young and ignites the zeal of the old. A movement that inspires yearning for something bigger, something more, and something better -- with a strong intellectual bent to wrap it up and make it all smooth and palatable, like a glass of fine wine.

Simple disbelief does not a movement make. Where is the inspiration and excitement in that? And unlike what some would have us believe, mindless hedonism has zero pull as well. Otherwise, half of Williamsburg's youth would've been hipsters or "artists" by now. There's a reason this doesn't happen.

Additionally, it needs a fearless and brave leader to get the ball rolling. It's really hard to be the vanguard of anything while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. (Well, unless you're going for some sort of Trojan horse tactic. ;-) )
What do you think?