Saturday, 20 December 2008

Relations with Relations

Life is hard. In particular, choices we make in life are hard. It's difficult to know precisely which choice will elicit which reaction from whom.

In fact, if Life were a video game, Choice would be the evil monsters you have to kill along the way, with some sort of Choice Big Boss at the of it, who you had to defeat using nothing but your words, whilst it threw rocket propelled grenades at you. A difficult task indeed.

Obviously, real life is nothing like a video game. There's no answer book, no walkthrough, no Dragons of Eternity guarding the Mountain of Doom that we have to defeat, afterwhich our overall purpose is revealed. We have to find our own purpose in life, and be happy with it.

No-one makes their choices in a vacuum, because we're all connected to people somehow. Therefore a sceptic being sceptical about religion may very well have the effect of upsetting said sceptic's religious, Ultra-Orthodox family. You'll notice I didn't say the sceptic has a choice in whether or not they're sceptical: I think scepticism is something thrust on people, rather than an actual choice we make.

The choice comes in what we do with that scepticism. We have to decide to live life and we either live it in line with religion or we don't. There's no halfway house: you're either going to turn on the computer on the Sabbath, or decide not to because it's the Sabbath. There are similar choices for sceptics in other religions to make like this. In other words, life isn't agnostic. Life is one way or the other. No-one can rightfully be said to teeter on the brink of Orthodoxy and Atheism, though this is what the tag-line of my blog claims, because there's simply no halfway house to teeter in. You can be an atheist and doubt you're right, but you're still atheist until you realign your values and subsaquently your actions: if there's no change in actions, I'd very much doubt there has been an actual change in values; people act on the values they hold.

I believe this to be true in a general sense. Where it gets skewed is where there are other people concerned. Say, your family. Though my values have changed compared to when I was growing up, I choose not to act out on all of them whilst I still live at home, because I don't want to offend my parents. Therefore, when at home I keep kosher and don't ever admit to them I don't keep kosher out of the home, or in any way lead a life which isn't in line with Orthodox Judaism.

Obviously, they're not silly and because they know my views and know that I have a non-Jewish, atheist girlfriend, can guess that not keeping kosher is the least of my transgressions. But this is something which hasn't really been spoken about until today.

A relative decided to confront me about my beliefs and lifestyle around the Shabbat table at lunch time, something I didn't exactly appreciate. I didn't appreciate it because apart from it being inapropriate to deny god at the table of any Orthodox Jewish family, I'm trying to protect everyone from my views, especially my younger sibling.

I'm not going to be convincing anyone in my house that god doesn't exist, neither do I seek to. But I do know that arguing for atheism will cause anguish and pain. To explain why I have a non-Jewish girlfriend means I have to outrightly deny all that which my family hold dear, out loud.

True, it's something I've done bit by bit through the past year.
True, the very fact that I have a girlfriend who isn't Jewish is already a denial of every Jewish value ever established.

But until now, there was some sort of tacit agreement that life is what it is and I'm making different choices to those my parents made. Now, however, I'm being forced to reveal all my cards on the table in one go. I feel that doing so would irrevocably damage the relationship I have with my family.

But why do I have a non-Jewish girlfriend?
Because I don't believe there's any inherent difference between a Jew and non-Jew, so to justify the fact that she isn't Jewish isn't really meaningful to me beyond the understanding that my family are demanding an explanation. Because I don't want to bring up my children in any sort of religious life-style. Because I want to be an all-in atheist and it's unlikely a non-Jewish atheist girl from a secular home is going to be reverting back to religion any time soon, something which can't be said from a tight-knit community of Jews.

Why this particular girl?
Because I love her and she's a rare catch. Because she shares my values and opinions on life. Because, in a nutshell, I feel we can have a good future together.

I love my family dearly, neither do I seek to deny the Jewish heritage of which I'm very proud. In an ideal world, I could have my family and heritage, and still get involved with this girl without anyone minding. But this doesn't seem to be a very realistic aspiration.

It's ever so difficult to have to choose between the girl I love and my family who I love. But this is the position I'm being pushed into from all sides, explicitly or implicitly, and it is quite pressuring.

I always knew there'd be a time when it became impossible for me to live at home, if I wanted to act on my values. I wonder if that time is now. I wonder if leaving the home is the right choice: some distance, so as not to flaunt my lifestyle, may be better than the daily reminder or heresy that I seem to have become.

Indeed, choices are hard.


The Hedyot said...

Inspiring words.

Freethinking Upstart said...

That's pretty rough.

I hope I don't fall for a girl that isn't Jewish. I don't want to be put in your situation.

Envy you, I don't.

Halo said...

If you have the money to live separately from your family, why not do it? what's the down side? I assume you are old enough where you don't need your family's assistance

Jewish Sceptic said...

It's doable, but I can't *really* afford to move out yet: I'm a full time student, so can't get paid for a full time job; rent is high in the city I live in and I can't move in with my girlfriend as she attends university in a different city from me.

But I did forsee the eventuality that I'd have to move out, and I've saved enough money for a number of months rent, until I can find a part-time job...

Halo said...

look for a roommate or two. That should help. Some students live in large apartments up to 5 people

jewish philosopher said...

"But why do I have a non-Jewish girlfriend?"

What would be your motive for atheism otherwise?

Jewish Sceptic said...


Your insinuation that I left Judaism to become involved in an otherwise forbidden relationship is not only untrue, but nothing less than an insult to any thinking person's capacity for free thought and choice.

The whole "people only leave Judaism for sex" myth is a fallacy. Leaving Judaism is a very difficult choice, especially for someone from an Orthodox home and with Orthodox friends. It completely uproots every part of someone's social life, which they then have to start rebuilding.

If sex or women were motivating factors, I'd just explore that *and* stay in an orthodox home and continue to have orthodox friends. There's no need to declare myself an actual atheist for this.

If I've thus far misunderstood, and you meant that my religious values were compromised because I fell in love with a non-Jewish girl, then I'd hasten to inform you that I had my questions and did my research and thus made my choices prior to asking her out. So no, she wasn't a factor at all.

Mark said...

I feel for you Jewish Sceptic, but it could be much worse. I asked you once on a previous post if you have an email address where you can be reached. Do you?
Also, as for JP, ignoration is the best mediacation for people with issues of retardation. That's the only way bloggers have learned to cope with him.