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From a friend:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum" -Noam Chomsky

In some ways, this fits Orthodox Judaism to a T. 
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"Pious Encounters": on how such horrible bigotry and racism goes on in otherwise intelligent (in this case, Orthodox Jewish) people who are skilled at logic and reason:

The answer lies in the fact that they both have areas of discourse where reason, however strong, doesn’t penetrate. They were indoctrinated from childhood with certain ideas being a priori truths. These ideas cannot be questioned and are accepted unequivocally. This, I can only speculate, creates a spot in their minds where logic is superfluous and even harmful. And since they have certain topics that are off limits to logical scrutiny, they will say things that seem absurd to those who lack the same indoctrination.

We are all guilty of faulty reasoning at one time or other. But the total breakdown of reason among intelligent people who are indoctrinated in fundamentalist faiths goes far beyond the simple failures of logic we might experience day-to-day. And they produce the kind of bigotry and indifference to other humans that we so often witness.



Emphasis mine. And I entirely agree.
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I'm still reading The Demon-Haunted World, and just now I read "But the tools of skepticism are generally unavailable to the citizens of our society. They're hardly ever mentioned in the schools, even in the presentation of science, its most ardent practitioner..."

The mention of schools + science + skepticism sparked something interesting in me. As I mentioned in my last entry, in 1998 I was reading Awake My Glory.  But in 1996 I was reading The Psychology of The Psychic and looking for Skeptic magazine at the library (I kept seeing references to it in the catalog but never found it.)  I was reading and looking for those because of a project assigned in science class: read a science fiction book and then write a report about why the "fiction" part is/must be fictional.  (As usual, I read more than I needed to for the report, yet had a really tough time coming up with the requisite three or four or whatever pages.)  I read about how Harry Houdini conducted experiments to test other magicians' work.  I read a paragraph that can be read to anyone as their personalized horoscope and often met with "wow, that's spot-on!"  I read about telekinesis and aura photography in books that believed it was valuable (okay, I guess I got a bit sidetracked.)

And yet this skepticism and application of the scientific method didn't carry over into my critical (or maybe "not so critical") evaluation of things like Judaism or Awake My Glory.

Moreover - in that same seventh grade science class, an interesting incident occurred.  On a test, we were given a little story about someone applying the scientific method to some theory she had about plant growth.  The directions said to find and correct all the things she was doing wrong.  The opening lines were something like "Rochel was given a small corn plant.  She measured the plant and it was 2 mm."  When the teacher handed back our tests, she told us she was surprised that so many of us had missed a major part of that question.  Two millimeters couldn't be the right size for a corn plant; Rochel must have measured wrong, and we should have noted that. 

But to us, information was presented as fact, thus it must be fact.  The story said someone obtained a measurement of 2 mm, so that must be what it is. It seemed off, but we weren't there, so we have no option other than to take it as written.

I think that really reflects the mentality imparted by the Orthodox world - or at least my Orthodox world - about history (and religious issues) in general. There's that (famous?) midrash that Moses was 10 cubits (roughly equivalent to 15 feet) tall.  Many people believe that and take it literally, even though, like a corn plant being 2 mm, it doesn't mesh with what we know about the species.  An authority says it, and we weren't there, so what other choice do we have?    I was fed so many wacky things as bald simple fact and I took them as such because I was a kid and they were adults and even if things didn't mesh with my current observations of the current world, it's not like I could easily prove or disprove them.

(I was also told as a kid that Darwinian evolution had been disproven by science, which led to an embarrassing conversation followed by lots of googling in my freshman year of college.)
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Reading

1998: Awake My Glory by Rabbi Avigdor Miller.  I was excited to happen upon it in my school's library.  It seemed to offer some manner of logic and discussion of belief. I believe I put it down once he began denouncing public libraries, though. That's crazy talk.

2008: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. Appropriately, I got this from the public library in the People's Republic of Berkeley.

They're kind of oddly parallel to each other, in the vastly differing worlds from whence they each came.

Actually, I just did some quick math, and I think I read Awake My Glory in 1997.  Oops. Whatever.
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Today I am feeling like I wished I lived in New York, for no particularly reasonable reason.  It's mostly random.

I just spent some time looking at the few posts I made on hashkafah.com way back in January 2005. I hung out there for about a month before deciding that I was getting too worked up and pissed off, at which point I blocked the URL in my hosts file so I wouldn't go back.

My posts there were mostly about premarital sex (I found the opinion by R' Yaakov Emden before it became more widespread knowledge and posted it in response to someone's request for anything of that nature) and chastising this woman who seemed to be a teacher in an Orthodox school in England trying to seek help for a girl who was being sexually abused by her father - except that the woman insisted that being open about the abuse or doing things that might make the father's horrible actions public or possibly lead to his or the girl's removal from the home were off-limits. A real doozie.

It's weird seeing how my thought patterns went just four years ago. (I remember that time - I was really, really stressed out.) I feel like I've changed a lot in the interim, and I'm not sure how or when.
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I've realized something pretty amusing over the past few weeks: when I was young(er), I confused the concept of being "crunchy" (as in crunchy-granola) (I didn't know that term yet, and I'm not even sure it existed at the time) with the idea of having a bunch of kids. Like upwards of 5-6. I'm sure anyone reading this who's truly crunchy is laughing at me right now...

I think there are some common threads (like the sort of down-home sensibility) between the life lead by your average mother of 6,7,8, or more kids and the life of a crunchy person, but they're definitely not the same, and they're not even based in the same beliefs.

Perhaps next I'll venture into how I mistook the tomboy/slightly butch aesthetic (which I see as rooted largely in practicality) (which can lead people to avoid makeup and tight/short skirts) for modesty (I think "tzniut" conveys my thought a little better here.) That one's pretty funny too.

In other words, I am totally not a modest woman who wants to have 9 kids, but I can sorta kinda see why I used to think I was.
balmofgilead: (dudley pippin)
From the [livejournal.com profile] altfriday5:

1. The list of the top 100 challenged or banned books from 1990 - 2000 is here: http://www.ala.org/ala/oif/bannedbooksweek/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm (or, for a less youth-oriented list, go here: http://books.google.com/googlebooks/banned/). Which of these books have you read?Read more... )

2. Which of those books, if any, had a strong effect on you -- either positive or negative? How did they affect you?
Yes, the lone nude sunbather in Where's Waldo? caused me to be attracted to women! (Um...that is not true. I never even knew there was a nude sunbather in there until I asked someone why it was banned.)

I really enjoyed I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,and it gave me enormous respect for Maya Angelou. I also love Lois Lowry's books (The Giver and Anastasia Krupnik). I think I sort of model myself after Anastasia sometimes. Also for awhile my mom cooked cholent (stew-dish with meat and beans) with the meat inside a stocking to keep it together. We got this idea from one of the Anastasia books.

Bridge to Terebithia made me cry, which doesn't happen often.

3. Have you ever been personally affected by or involved in a challenge or a ban of a book? If yes, tell us a bit about it.
My school censored parts of The Crucible. I think it was the part where a boy and girl hold hands behind a shed. Also, they cut out the pages with some statistics & the chapters about sex and prostitution in a book in our school library.

I wasn't allowed to do a book report on Franny and Zooey because Salinger also wrote Catcher in the Rye (my teacher just wanted to play it safe, and I acquiesced. I'm sure she has read both books.) My friend's cousin got The Red Pony removed from the curriculum because it has a scene where the horses mate.

And they didn't censor Hamlet when I was in school, but in succeeding years they cut out some pages and replaced them with "clean" dialogue. It's a tiny bit possible that I caused this, 'cause I pointed out to a younger friend the whole bit about "post/With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!" or something. She and I laughed about it, but it's entirely possible that until she drew people's attention to it, no one had noticed.

These things haven't really affected me, in truth, because I've always been allowed to read whatever I want and to wander around the library picking out my own books. There were girls in my school for whom this was not the case, though.

4. Have you ever read a book that you felt should have been banned? If yes, why?
The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, because it is a font of misinformation in girls' religious schools. Okay, not really *banned*, just removed from use as a textbook. I don't endorse book-banning.

5. How do you feel about the banning of books? Is it an important issue to you?
I strongly disagree with book banning.
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They express it better than I can:

Let’s jump across time and space to a class room somewhere in Queens. One of the more precocious and/or obnoxious students comments to the rabbi that what the class has just learned is stupid. With the subject being divine writ, stupidity isn’t exactly an option. The rabbi, like the good, slightly nervous, slightly confident, slightly educated product of the chinuch* system he is, reflexively offers the only doctrine he knows: “It’s not stupid, you just don’t understand”. Ahhhh, yeshiva.
--from an article on bangitout.com (emphasis mine)



*education
balmofgilead: (Default)
Probably old but interesting: point-by-point answer to that stupid "letter to Dr. Laura" that's been floating around the intarwebs for so long.

I have Issues with traditional observance just as much as the next guy, but I'm informed about this stuff, and so many people aren't. And an addendum to j: no one's ever interpreted the mixed fibers thing to include fibers other than wool and linen.
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I'm really angry, and I just have to get this out somewhere.

After vowing to avoid my standard internet timewasters (and blocking them using a HOSTS file), I ended up browsing a bulletin board. An Orthodox Jewish one, as it were.

There's a post from someone who has been a teacher for 15 years. She asks for suggestions on how she should help female students who inform her that they are being "visited" at night by their fathers, or molested by their male teachers, to get the fathers/teachers to back away. Yes, that's right, because these men are just letting their 'evil inclination' get the better of them, but that doesn't mean they're bad. (Apparently this has happened several times over the years.)

I don't ever post on that bulletin board. I really have no desire to engage in discussion with these people, and frankly, if they want to live their lives by some very strange laws that I may not agree with, that's fine with me.

I had to post, to say FOR SHAME in the biggest, blackest letters you can use on that forum, for suggesting that a girl being abused by her father should continue to respect him and just attempt to get him to come to his senses. That it is incumbent upon her, especially as an authority figure, to actually do something. A few people had asked why she hadn't gone to child protective services, but no one had scolded her, and I felt it was necessary.

She had the nerve to post back that the father would probably then be separated from the family, and wasn't it better to deal with this than to grow up with no father at all? Holy crap. Now, I may not be the paragon of virtue to these people, but I grew up without a father, and I think I came out okay if I do say so myself. Certainly healthier than children who have been abused. You can't even compare growing up without a father to growing up with a father who abuses. One of them's unfortunate and a little difficult, the other one causes irreparable psychological damage. The only person I ever knew who committed suicide had been molested by her father as a teenager. Thirty years later, she still couldn't deal with it, and she decided to end her life.

Are people fucking crazy?
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"Not only did they miss the boat, they were so far away from the dock that they couldn't even hear the foghorn."

-a friend of mine

this is a rant, not a carefully-constructed position statement )

And this part is: religion was wrong for me because it prevented me* from being able to feel a sense of communion with [all of] humanity. To me, feeling a basic sense of communion with humanity is a very vital thing and an important factor in living a happy and well-balanced and productive and caring life.

I wrote some things yesterday and today but they're too rough-around-the edges to post. I'll post them tomorrow.

*I'm not implying that it works this way for anyone else; I can't know.
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I keep on pledging to stay away from this stuff, but it's just so bizarre that I can't help myself. It's all true, by the way.
Reasons Why I Never Fit In Well In The Orthodox Jewish Community )

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