Why Jews Have Abandoned Judaism

 

Abandon is a pretty strong word; I could have worded my title differently, but I believe that most of modern Jewry have, for all intents and purposes, left the fold. Only a small number of Jews are observant Jews, and I am not one of them. I decided to explore this question, and hopefully clarify for myself not just what it means to be a Jew, but what it means for me to be Jew. As you look at the lives of Jews whom you know, you might want to explore some of these issues with them. I am including some of my personal experiences as a Jew, and I will leave you to determine the legitimacy of my claims.

First, I was raised in a nearly secular family. We rarely if ever discussed G-d. I don’t even know if my father believed in G-d. Although my mother occasionally mentioned G-d, her level of belief (if at all) was unclear. Both my parents were raised in broken homes, with some version of Judaism that might have included keeping kosher, but I honestly don’t know if they observed any of the holidays. I know that my father read Hebrew, but I just now realize that I don’t know if he was a bar mitzvah. And both my parents have died. When I asked my father why he grudgingly went to synagogue on the High Holidays, he said he didn’t need to go there to experience G-d. Whether he experienced G-d elsewhere I’ll never know.

But for some strange reason, my mother decided that she wanted us to have some kind of Jewish upbringing. So we went to Hebrew School three times a week after public school for a couple of years. My brother was a bar mitzvah, but when my parents asked if I was interested in being a bat mitzvah, I said no. Mainly, I didn’t see a good reason to do it. Besides, my folks had limited funds and I didn’t want them to have the expense.

Once I left home, my Jewish practice was mostly abandoned. I picked it up a bit when I was hired to teach an afternoon class at a local synagogue for kids around ten years old. The curriculum was up to me, and I don’t remember much about what I taught. But the principal of the school liked me and kept me on for my senior year of college. For some reason, I still felt emotionally connected to Judaism but didn’t practice anything. I was a Jew in name only; I wouldn’t call myself a secular Jew since I’d always believed in G-d.

So how would I describe my faith through the early part of my adult life? Weak, indifferent, even haphazard. Many of you know that I practiced Buddhism for 20 years, married a gentile, and found my way back to Judaism. Not much of a Jew.

I think I’m typical of modern Jews in many ways. I held on to my Jewish identity (which Buddhism was indifferent to) and made some periodic efforts at observance: a Passover seder here, a Chanukah celebration there. I even went to Israel for a year and fell in love with her. But not enough to change my ways.

The way I’m quite different from today’s Jews is my deep belief in G-d. I have also integrated some Jewish daily practices into my life, including a limited observance of the Sabbath; I study Torah with a study partner and have co-written a book on Judaism. And I was never attracted to Leftist ideology, which I think many Jews have used to replace their faith. They don’t realize in accepting Leftism, they are betraying many of their Jewish values. More on that later.

So why are so many Jews indifferent to Judaism and have abandoned their faith? Here are some explanations:

Many Jews never found a way to connect to Judaism in a deeply spiritual way. Those raised in some Orthodox families felt beleaguered by the 613 mitzvot ordered by a G-d they couldn’t relate to. Many were raised by parents who held disdain for Judaism, due to Marxist leanings or disillusionment with the Holocaust. Many were raised with no Jewish identification at all. Many gravitated to Buddhism, which provides community, and Zen, in particular, focuses on meditation and has no dogma. It was my meditation practice that ironically deepened my connection to G-d, but that isn’t the experience of many other Jews. And Buddhism doesn’t speak of G-d, so that fact freed them from having to deal with the “G-d question.”

Many people became disillusioned with Judaism after the Holocaust, and they passed on that anger and disappointment. People felt that G-d had made a covenant with the Jews to protect us, and many people and their children felt they had been abandoned. For myself, I don’t know the reasons that G-d didn’t step in, but men were the ones who created the Holocaust, through their free will. Still, those who survived had serious questions:

Was God dead? Was He just indifferent–or worse, a sadist? If He could not be counted on to live up to His reputation for mercy and intervene, what good was He? And if He did not intervene, by what reasoning did He merit our allegiance?

Judaism teaches that maintaining Jewish continuity will bring blessings to one’s descendants. But the descendants of identified Jews (anyone with one Jewish grandparent) were the ones who [cynics might argue] fell into Hitler’s trap, the observant along with the secular, the pious along with the apikores (apostate). For those left to sort out the implications of the devastation, nothing could possibly justify what was seen as God’s brutal and wholesale betrayal of the Jewish people.

Through the centuries, Jews were persecuted by the peoples with whom they lived. When Marxism offered an alternative utopian view in the 19th century, many Jews joined up. And especially when Marxism was lauded after World War II, the Jews were even more enamored. Many found their way to the Left as well, and for many years, much of Marxist belief is found in Leftist doctrine.

Many Jews who are on the Left must suffer cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, they hold on to their Jewish identification, and yet they want to be accepted as part of the Left and promote Leftists ideas. It will be interesting to see whether Jews begin to realize, like the German Jews, that they have never been fully accepted, demonstrated by the Left’s acceptance of anti-Semitism.

Judaism in its Orthodox form is demanding. We live in a time when we want life to be carefree and convenient. Many aspects of Judaism require a Jew to make the faith central to life. Many everyday actions call for blessings and acknowledgment. It is easiest for some to simply discredit this ancient and rich faith because it is not easy to develop a coherent practice.

Jews feel little if any responsibility for perpetuating Judaism. At one time, it didn’t occur to me that every Jew is called to help Judaism survive. So I married the man I fell in love with since he didn’t mind my following whatever practices I wished; he even participated at times. We were even married by a Reform rabbi, who said he wouldn’t marry us if my husband had a serious connection to another religion (which he did not). Nearly 45 years later, we are together, but Judaism struggles in our home.

There are many other reasons why Jews have abandoned Judaism, and many of them have abandoned it for the religion of the Left. But here’s the truth:

You can’t be a Jew and be on the political Left. Jews on the Left have betrayed Judaism in a number of ways. It calls on us to remember that each person is created in the image of G-d; it doesn’t leave out Conservatives. It requires Jews not to destroy the reputation of others; presidents and attorney generals are not free game. If we look at the values that the Jews on the Left espouse but ignore, they would not be able to justify their actions and behaviors in many situations. I reject that a good Jew, defined most broadly, can legitimately follow Leftism.

It simply can’t be done.

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There are 97 comments.

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  1. Stina Member

    None of this is really new… Moses refers to Israel as a stubborn and rebellious people even as he begs for God’s mercy after the golden calf episode in Exodus.

    They aren’t chosen because of their goodness, but because of God’s mercy. They are an everlasting example of God’s unfailing love and mankind’s intractable rebellion.

    Just as Jews fall away and disaster befalls them, God calls them home and blesses them. Pretty sure it will keep happening until the End of Times.

    • #1
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:00 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    You may be right, Stina, but I worry theday will come when we are indifferent enough not to fight back, and will simply assimilate. With the level of drifting away, intermarriage, and other factors, we could be in trouble. G-d may save us from an outside enemy. The question is, can he save us from ourselves? I don’t have your confidence.

    • #2
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Susan Quinn: You can’t be a Jew and be on the political Left.

    I agree.

    Of course, I don’t understand how you can be a Christian and be on the political left.

    And how a black person could ever consider voting Democrat is beyond me.

    So clearly I’m missing something here…

    • #3
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  4. MarciN Member

    Susan Quinn: Many of you know that I practiced Buddhism for 20 years

    Perhaps that’s the key to everything else in your story. :-) Physicists talk about the signal-to-noise ratio. Perhaps there’s too much noise in modern times for people to be spiritual. :-) We could all profit from meditation. :-)

    • #4
    • May 13, 2019, at 7:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. Vectorman Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: You can’t be a Jew and be on the political Left. Jews on the Left have betrayed Judaism in a number of ways. It calls on us to remember that each person is created in the image of G-d; it doesn’t leave out Conservatives. It requires Jews not to destroy the reputation of others; presidents and attorney generals are not free game. If we look at the values that the Jews on the Left espouse but ignore, they would not be able to justify their actions and behaviors in many situations. I reject that a good Jew, defined in the broadest way, can legitimately follow Leftism.

    When we look at the founders of America, we see that they recognized the tremendous debt they owed to the Jews. Many ministers and others knew Hebrew, and studied the Torah. Even the brilliant scholar Thomas Jefferson, who fought for religious tolerance, recognize the necessity of the Judaeo-Christian basis of America:

    In a letter to John Adams dated August 22, 1813, Jefferson named Joseph Priestly (an English Unitarian who moved to America) and Conyers Middleton (an English Deist) as his religious inspirations.

    As said by de Tocqueville, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” And the Jews defined what is good 2,500+ years ago.

    • #5
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:29 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Vectorman Thatcher

    MarciN (View Comment):
    Physicists and Engineers talk about the signal-to-noise ratio. Perhaps there’s too much noise in modern times for people to be spiritual.

    FIFY

    • #6
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Coolidge

    I had no interest in Judaism, really, until visiting Israel while in college. Here was something you could take pride in as a Jew, a land farmed and built up by Jews, a place Jews could call home with their own army to protect them. That’s the beauty of the Birthright program that brings thousands of young Jews to Israel each year, all expenses paid. For young Jews with no deep connection to Judaism, a visit to Israel may serve to bring them back to their faith. That, at least, is what happened to me.

    • #7
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:32 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  8. Full Size Tabby Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    None of this is really new… Moses refers to Israel as a stubborn and rebellious people even as he begs for God’s mercy after the golden calf episode in Exodus.

    They aren’t chosen because of their goodness, but because of God’s mercy. They are an everlasting example of God’s unfailing love and mankind’s intractable rebellion.

    Just as Jews fall away and disaster befalls them, God calls them home and blesses them. Pretty sure it will keep happening until the End of Times.

    There certainly are many times it has been recorded that the Israelites abandoned their walk with God, yet He keeps retrieving them.

    My understanding (through my Christian belief lens) is that God chose the Israelites to be His people so that the Israelites could demonstrate for all the other peoples of the world who God is and how wonderful walking in relationship with Him is, such that all the nations of the world would choose to walk in relationship with God. We could probably generate a long theological discussion whether the earthly life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (whom I believe to be the promised Messiah) overtook that responsibility from the Israelites. But Christian New Testament writings strongly suggest that God still has a role for the Jews, and so the Jews will not disappear until that role has been completed. 

    • #8
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:41 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: You can’t be a Jew and be on the political Left.

    I agree.

    Of course, I don’t understand how you can be a Christian and be on the political left.

    And how a black person could ever consider voting Democrat is beyond me.

    So clearly I’m missing something here…

    No, not really, @drbastiat. It’s just that I can only speak for Jews, I feel, and where extinction is a distant but always possible outcome, I worry.

    • #9
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:41 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    I had no interest in Judaism, really, until visiting Israel while in college. Here was something you could take pride in as a Jew, a land farmed and built up by Jews, a place Jews could call home with their own army to protect them. That’s the beauty of the Birthright program that brings thousands of young Jews to Israel each year, all expenses paid. For young Jews with no deep connection to Judaism, a visit to Israel may serve to bring them back to their faith. That, at least, is what happened to me.

    I’m so glad, @yehoshuabeneliyahu. I certainly developed a strong commitment to Israel, but I was primarily exposed to the secular side. I didn’t make the connection to the spiritual side of Judaism. That took much longer, and although I felt a strong connection to G-d, I didn’t feel a strong connection to the faith otherwise. I don’t know if that makes sense.

    • #10
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:44 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    But Christian New Testament writings strongly suggest that God still has a role for the Jews, and so the Jews will not disappear until that role has been completed. 

    If the Jews aren’t careful, we could disappear before that. G-d doesn’t interfere with secularism, intermarriage and conversion of Jews.

    • #11
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Full Size Tabby Member

    Overall, the problem that has plagued humankind since the beginning of humankind in the Garden – our desire to be our own god, defining for ourselves good and evil, rather than submitting to good and evil as defined by the real G-d.

    Maintaining relationship with G-d is not easy for our ego-driven selves, but He promises great blessings if we do. As humans have become materially wealthier it is easier for us to pretend He doesn’t exist, and to pretend that we can do it ourselves.

    As to the details, the problems of persecution and assimilation are recorded throughout Scripture. The Prophet Jeremiah lamented that he thought he was all alone. Jeremiah was showed that he was not all alone, but he still didn’t have a lot of company. 

    • #12
    • May 13, 2019, at 8:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    As to the details, the problems of persecution and assimilation are recorded throughout Scripture. The Prophet Jeremiah lamented that he thought he was all alone. Jeremiah was showed that he was not all alone, but he still didn’t have a lot of company. 

    Good point, @fullsizetabby! I’ve been thinking about this more, and about the comments so far, and I fear that Jews take for granted that G-d has chosen us and will take care of us. That’s not news. But we’ve gotten so complacent. I don’t take for granted that we are chosen, no matter what. Although I didn’t reject G-d in my life after the Holocaust, and can give reasons why He didn’t intervene, it still makes me wonder, given the devastation.

    • #13
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Percival Thatcher

    When God makes a promise, whether it be of a land or to a people, I see no reason to hold that the promise is rescinded.

    • #14
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Susan great post. I have a couple of comments.

    Susan Quinn:

    Many people became disillusioned with Judaism after the Holocaust, and they passed on that anger and disappointment. People felt that G-d had made a covenant with the Jews to protect us, and many people and their children felt they had been abandoned. For myself, I don’t know the reasons that G-d didn’t step in, but men were the ones who created the Holocaust, through their free will. Still, those who survived had serious questions:

    Was God dead? Was He just indifferent–or worse, a sadist? If He could not be counted on to live up to His reputation for mercy and intervene, what good was He? And if He did not intervene, by what reasoning did He merit our allegiance?

    Judaism teaches that maintaining Jewish continuity will bring blessings to one’s descendants. But the descendants of identified Jews (anyone with one Jewish grandparent) were the ones who [cynics might argue] fell into Hitler’s trap, the observant along with the secular, the pious along with the apikores (apostate). For those left to sort out the implications of the devastation, nothing could possibly justify what was seen as God’s brutal and wholesale betrayal of the Jewish people.

    I agree with Stina that the Holocaust was quite similar to several events in the Old Testament. In the OT, the Israelites constantly abandoned their ways and traditions, and disaster ensued. There was always a remnant of faithful remaining, but it was a small group, and even they were not spared the catastrophe. Daniel and the Exile is the principal example, though there are many others throughout Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

    From my perspective, I don’t see any modern Jews who are practicing Biblical Judaism. Much of the Law of Moses is quite brutal, applying the death penalty not only to murder, but to breaking the Sabbath, idolatry, witchcraft, cursing God, rape, and homosexuality. I know that for about 2,000 years, the Jews have generally not followed these provisions of the Law, but I don’t think that they claim that there is any new revelation relieving them of these rules.

    The Law includes extensive instructions for animal sacrifice, which modern Jews no longer practice. As I understand it, the justification for this is the destruction of the Temple, but: (1) the Temple could be re-built, and (2) there was a mobile Tabernacle before the Temple.

    It appears to me that modern Jews have rationalist justifications for these departures, and I’m actually pleased that they no longer engage in these practices, but it seems to me that this is a theological problem in Judaism. It is not a problem that I need to solve, but I think that it is something that my Jewish friends should consider carefully.

     

     

    • #15
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:35 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Susan Quinn: You can’t be a Jew and be on the political Left. Jews on the Left have betrayed Judaism in a number of ways. It calls on us to remember that each person is created in the image of G-d; it doesn’t leave out Conservatives. It requires Jews not to destroy the reputation of others; presidents and attorney generals are not free game. If we look at the values that the Jews on the Left espouse but ignore, they would not be able to justify their actions and behaviors in many situations. I reject that a good Jew, defined in the broadest way, can legitimately follow Leftism.

    I’m not sure that the highlighted part is correct. The OT is replete with prophets who use shocking language to criticize Jews who have strayed, especially if they are in positions of high authority, such as the long list of dreadful kings.

    This is not unique to the OT. Jesus was shockingly critical of his opponents on several occasions, with most of His ire reserved for the Jewish leaders who vigorously opposed His message. He was generally forgiving toward the common people, apparently viewing them as having been led astray by the leaders.

    This was not always the case. First, there were some Jewish leaders who followed Jesus, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and Saul of Tarsus (who became St. Paul). Second, in one portion of John, Jesus faced criticism from the crowd, not specifically the Jewish leaders in opposition, and He rebuked them quite harshly by calling them something like “children of your father the devil.”

    I think that you are correct in your central conclusion that Judaism is incompatible with modern Leftism, but I think that the principal problems are three core Leftist propositions: (1) you should distrust or even undermine tradition; (2) you should question and even reject authority; and (3) it’s morally acceptable to do whatever you want to do.

    • #16
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:48 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I agree with Stina that the Holocaust was quite similar to several events in the Old Testament. In the OT, the Israelites constantly abandoned their ways and traditions, and disaster ensued. There was always a remnant of faithful remaining, but it was a small group, and even they were not spared the catastrophe. Daniel and the Exile is the principal example, though there are many others throughout Judges, Samuel, and Kings.

    From my perspective, I don’t see any modern Jews who are practicing Biblical Judaism. Much of the Law of Moses is quite brutal, applying the death penalty not only to murder, but to breaking the Sabbath, idolatry, witchcraft, cursing God, rape, and homosexuality. I know that for about 2,000 years, the Jews have generally not followed these provisions of the Law, but I don’t think that they claim that there is any new revelation relieving them of these rules.

    The Law includes extensive instructions for animal sacrifice, which modern Jews no longer practice. As I understand it, the justification for this is the destruction of the Temple, but: (1) the Temple could be re-built, and (2) there was a mobile Tabernacle before the Temple.

    It appears to me that modern Jews have rationalist justifications for these departures, and I’m actually pleased that they no longer engage in these practices, but it seems to me that this is a theological problem in Judaism. It is not a problem that I need to solve, but I think that it is something that my Jewish friends should consider carefully.

    Your understanding comes from Christianity’s view of Judaism. But I’ll try to respond. There is nothing in the Bible that is anywhere similar to the Holocaust, in any way. I would also suggest that remnants of Jews remaining doesn’t prove anything. I don’t know what you mean by biblical Judaism. I see many Jews who substantially follow the 613 laws. Most of the severe penalties were not followed because people followed the law. There is a story in Leviticus that describes a man who used G-ds name in vain and was stoned.

    The Temple will not be rebuilt until Moshiach is expected. It’s not known exactly when that will be. But obviously, we don’t see it as imminent. It is said though that there are conditions that would cause it to happen, but I don’t know enough to debate it. I also don’t think you are in a position to judge whether we have “theological problems,” and quite frankly, it wears me out to argue for Judaism with you. Your knowledge is incomplete, and so is mine.

    • #17
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:49 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I’m not sure that the highlighted part is correct. The OT is replete with prophets who use shocking language to criticize Jews who have strayed, especially if they are in positions of high authority, such as the long list of dreadful kings.

    The prophets had a special role; it was their job to speak for G-d and to call out those who strayed. We no longer have prophets.

     

    https://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/4128735/jewish/9-Ways-to-Talk-Like-a-Jew.htm

    Not gossiping.

    Any kind of speech that can in any way cause damage to another person—slander, bad-mouthing and bad publicity are all forbidden. The damage that can be done can spiral out of control and cause a loss of health, money, reputation, career, spouse and even life. There are more than 30 separate commandments governing evil speech, emphasizing that we must be exceedingly careful with our words at all times

    • #18
    • May 13, 2019, at 9:56 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  19. I Walton Member

    I found this very interesting for a lot of reasons, but the thing that stands out is that you could have written Christian wherever you put jew and for the most part it would follow sensibly. Jews seem to consider themselves jews whether they believe or not, I think Christians do also but without ethnic content. I’ve always lived in Christian dominated countries so I have no feel for muslims, Buddists or any others. Singapore was the closest place to being purely secular and had fewer jews and a good many Muslims and Hindus but in general I’ve never known an atheist but the Singaporeans came closer than any other group. There are folks who say they don’t believe in God or Christ or afterlife, but everyone I’ve ever known took most of what they believed on faith that struck me as religious. What I’ve learned slowly over nearly 80 years is that the Jews and eventually the Christians once Rome was painfully put into perspective, is that it all accumulates by trial and error very slowly from the ground up. Higher levels get it wrong or try to use it for their own interests, which we all do, but those at higher political levels are as likely to screw it up as not for everyone else. That’s why the Christians took so long to sort it out. Well the Jews too, but they’ve been around long enough to practice more and that’s why its important to pay attention. The left aren’t believing Jews or Christians, they have other simpler faiths and really screw matters up for everyone because they’re alway acting at the higher levels where it’s very difficult not to screw everything up for almost everybody including themselves.

    • #19
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):
    I found this very interesting for a lot of reasons, but the thing that stands out is that you could have written Christian wherever you put jew and for the most part it would follow sensibly. Jews seem to consider themselves jews whether they believe or not, I think Christians do also but without ethnic content.

    @iwalton, a primary difference between Jews and Christians is that a person is a Jew if born to a Jewish mother, Technically, my rejection of a Jew who is a Leftist is my personal assessment and has no power. And yes, some Jews call themselves Jews even if they don’t believe in G-d. Go figure.

    • #20
    • May 13, 2019, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. SkipSul Moderator

    These are interesting questions all, and in many respects not unique to Judaism save for one massive issue: for Jews it’s quite literally family. There are few examples in these days of faith and ancestry being truly intertwined (Jainism is the only other one coming to mind, but even that’s not a perfect analog – Jains insist that one is born Jain, and cannot convert to it). To say one is Jewish is to assert both an ancestry and a faith in a single word. This is not the case in Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam. Thus to be born a Jew, and yet be apostate, must seem a double falling-away. I would suspect, therefore, that for some the weight of an ancestral claim on faith is perhaps unbearable, while to others a joy and comfort. That might account for some.

    Putting aside that issue, though, Christianity likewise, and across nearly all branches, is itself seeing its younger generations drifting off. I would posit that the reasons are similar in this case for Jews and Christians both. Moreover, they are complicated, and therefore not easily solved.

    There have been a number of studies in recent years of these declines in churches, each study giving a slightly different set of reasons, but taken together seem to point to some common causes.

    • For many families, church attendance was, even when reasonably regular, intellectually and spiritually isolated from the rest of the families’ lives. This would indicate attendance was primarily for cultural reasons. And the more infrequent the attendance, the greater the odds that the next generation drops out entirely.
    • The secular culture is increasingly morally opposed, and openly antagonistic to religious life. This would be the case on matters like abortion, marriage, and even being visibly faithful in public. That much is, of course, kinda obvious. 
    • What’s less obvious, though, is that many parents and clergy failed to educate their children to respond to these issues. So when a child comes home with a bunch of hostile ideas, the parents and clergy have been poor at teaching counters, or have responded with just telling the kids to shut up. We can blame secularism all we like, but we have to learn to counter it.
    • We live now in an age where people are taught, and indeed expected to radically self-define. I’d say we’re in a new pagan era of sorts, where the cult is the Radical Individual. People can cherry pick what they think they want to be. Yet Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all communal. 
    • Our institutions are geared primarily for only 2 groups of people: children, and married and settled adults. Young unattached adults, late high-schoolers, college students, and grads tend not to be welcomed in church by the communities because they’re seen as transitory and undependable. Bit of a vicious circle there.

    There are other causes, of course: liberalization, watering down of faith, stripping the faith of anything and everything supernatural (Jesus was a nice teacher, Abraham was just symbolic, the destruction of the Caananites was just a turf war, etc. etc. etc.), and then the horrors of the Holocaust and Communism.

    But all told, what all of this adds up to say is this: Religion is now no longer seen as even necessary for many. And so they walk away from all faiths – religion just isn’t needed by them.

    • #21
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  22. SkipSul Moderator

    Just to illustrate my already over-long comment at #21, @titustechera pointed me to this earlier today:

    https://www.firstthings.com/article/2019/06/back-row-america?fbclid=IwAR20H3ACUWgWtW_koJhckOMq4eSWnjBiZzB4UTIUAiued7dQs5m7TnHXj_s

    It’s a fascinating look at a part of America to which we are often oblivious – where faith continues to be a necessity. This faith, the author has come to respect, but still (as one other commenter pointed out) does not understand because he dismissed it years ago as nonsense. He still seems to see it as just a crutch.

    • #22
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  23. MarciN Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    There are other causes, of course:

    Wonderful summary of the causes and effects. :-)

    I would only add that I read an article twenty years ago in a Catholic magazine that reported on a study the Catholic Church conducted to learn why so many children of Catholic parents were drifting away from the Church. The researchers found, contrary to the theories they had formulated going in to the study, that the happier the family life when the children were living at home, the more likely the children were to remain in the Catholic faith. In other words, kids who grew up with a happy family life tended to stay with the Church as adults.

    The researchers looked at a lot of factors, including religious education. This finding was quite surprising, but intuitively, it makes perfect sense with what we have learned about dysfunctional and/or chaotic families. :-) In other words, the loss of family stability that plagued the postwar years had a strong negative effect on the churches too.

    The go-to guy on this subject of the new family life was of course John Updike, who described the postwar suburban life and its new morality pretty accurately. :-) He wrote in fiction but somehow described the truth perfectly. :-)

    • #23
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    We live now in an age where people are taught, and indeed expected to radically self-define. I’d say we’re in a new pagan era of sorts, where the cult is the Radical Individual. People can cherry pick what they think they want to be. Yet Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all communal. 

    An excellent comment, @skipsul! The point highlighted here especially was intriguing to me. This identification especially happens with some people who call themselves “spiritual”; they believe they are capable of creating their own religion (although they don’t call it that)! I think this is nearly impossible for most human beings, because we pick things we like, things that are fun and/or easy, things that are exotic or intriguing. There is no coherence to these kinds of practices. I’ve always felt that if you disagree with an aspect of your religion, wrestle with it rather than simply throw it away, read about the subject; speak to a religious teacher you trust; meditate with it, it will take you deeper. I’ve found that approach extremely helpful with Judaism–it stretches me, educates me, intrigues me and engages me–and ultimately brings me closer to G-d.

    Thanks!

    • #24
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:24 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  25. MarciN Member

    Just as a postscript to my earlier comment: The findings of the Catholic Church’s study were very understandable and predictable to me. Child psychologists talk about how important the first three years of life are for children because that is when they learn trust–when the parents respond to the baby or toddler, the child learns to trust the parents. Babies and toddlers then grow up to trust others in their world. If that trust is broken for babies and toddlers, as it so often is in dysfunctional families, how can those children grow up to have faith (trust) in G-d?

    This is why that sacrifice couples so often make to ensure that their babies and toddlers get the best start in life the parents can give them is so important. Mistakes or neglect during those years often cannot be undone.

    • #25
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:29 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  26. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I’d say we’re in a new pagan era of sorts, where the cult is the Radical Individual. People can cherry pick what they think they want to be.

    Just trying to make that argument here on Ricochet leads to controversy. I’ve been trying to make this point for months.

    • #26
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Stina (View Comment):
    Just trying to make that argument here on Ricochet leads to controversy. I’ve been trying to make this point for months.

    I wonder why? It seems obvious to me.

    • #27
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. SkipSul Moderator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    Just trying to make that argument here on Ricochet leads to controversy. I’ve been trying to make this point for months.

    I wonder why? It seems obvious to me.

    It’s an uncomfortable truth. We all want our freedom, we none of us want to be told we’re misusing that freedom, and we’re used to be told that such things are “victimless”. Plus, as conservatives, we’re all already quite naturally awfully skittish about belonging to any group higher than ourselves (what are we, commies?!?!). There’s a real tension in life between belonging to oneself, and having obligations to communities, families, and nations.

    • #28
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:46 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    I think it’s important for me to add to my comments about picking and choosing –that I could be accused of doing the same. There are more Jewish laws that I don’t follow than those I do. My Torah study partner says that everyone has to find their own path and another Ricochet friend says we all have our own arc. I won’t make excuses for it. I won’t justify it. It’s how I’ve chosen to live my life as a Jew, gradually including more over time.

    • #29
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:48 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  30. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    There’s a real tension in life between belonging to oneself, and having obligations to communities, families, and nations.

    That’s true. But each of us must find that balance for ourselves. And I can judge Jews who are Lefties, and so what? This reminds me of Dennis Prager speaking about Christians who tell non-Christians that they are going to go to hell; usually they do that from a place of concern, not condemnation. Dennis is famous for saying, so what? We are all entitled to follow our own paths, and others are entitled to have their opinions about them; we don’t have to reach consensus. Someone in another OP told me that Judaism is no longer legitimate in that it’s been expanded (or whatever) into Christianity. Okay. So what? I didn’t agree with him, but I loved that he felt free enough to express his point of view.

    • #30
    • May 13, 2019, at 11:53 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
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