At this point I'd like to say thanks to Jewish Atheist for being the inspiration for this blog, and to Abandoning Eden, who has given me the fortitude to make my life more than just a blog entry. I'm humbled by the excellence with which these and other bloggers write.
I've harboured reasonable doubts about God since I've been 17, but only recently formulated them into an actual opinion about religion. Orthopraxy was my very first step, pushing aside all my doubts, until I had enough knowledge to make an educated choice on the subject. Agnosticism was my next step, but this could never be a permanent state for me and lasted only a few short months. Now I'm more or less swaying towards atheism, and the only thing which stops me from being one completely, is The Community (tm) and The Family (tm).
My family on my mother's side is sefardi and is pretty patriarchal - I'm convinced my grandfather and my uncles are in some sort of Jewish mafia. They meet once a week and sit in circles, discussing things in Arabic. Though I don't understand Arabic, I know a few words and from what I can glean it's usually about business.
My family know about my doubts, but they feel these can be overcome if I continue acting like an Orthodox Jew and seek "help" from Rabbis. I love my family. I love the Jewish community. It's really all I've ever known, though I've had and continue to have friends of Other Places and Religions. That's probably not a typical Orthodox thing, but I was very inquisitive and pushed myself to be more outgoing than I really was, and somehow, I managed to make all sorts of friends.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I'd be dating a non-Jewish girl, and yet here I am. Not only is she not Jewish, she's an Atheist, pretty much like me. The first thing I have to say about her, is that she is not at all like the typical image of a 'shiksa' implanted in Orthodox Jewry's collective brains. In fact, she's more Jewish than I ever knew to begin with, it sort of hit me some time after I asked her out. She's practically Shomer Negia (she won't even shake a strangers hand - less about modesty, more about she doesn't know where they've been) and she keeps tznius to modern-orthodox levels. I'll be a bit personal and say we haven't had sex, though she has no philosophical objections to sex before marriage, and though I no longer do.
I love her, she loves me, we like being in each other's company and we get on really well. BUT... what would family say? They would freak out of course. I'm terrified they would ostracise me completely..
I realise it's my life, but I also realise I don't live in a vacuum, I have people who love me and whilst they may let me make my own choices without the shouting and fighting, they may just end up really sad and depressed because of my actions. I don't want that to happen. I always assumed there'd be fighting and shouting, I can handle the anger. I can't handle being the cause of my parent's sadness. I fear this is how it might end, though.
My parent's know I'm agnostic, because I've told them, but also because I don't participate in synagogue prayer anymore. They've already asked "where did we go wrong?" to nothing in particular, and I've had to reassure them they didn't go wrong, I'm still the same son.
So! After strengthening my resolve, I've decided to tell someone I'm an atheist with a non-Jewish girlfriend and see how that rocks the boat. That someone is a good friend of mine, and also a distant family relation. They're the only person I feel comfortable telling everything to, and the person I think will take it the best out of everyone I know. When I say "tell them everything," I mean everything... the doubts since 17, lack of shabbos keeping, lack of kosher keeping, atheism, non-Jewish girlfriend. It may seem like a bad joke to this friend, because it appears that I am far more religious than they are. However irreligious they may have been, never have they had a relationship with a non-Jewish person, and from what I know of them, they never would. I've always been the most religious in my family (what's right is right!) and now I'm set to be the least religious and make my first forays into intermarriage - what's right is right, after all.