Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I wrote this post about a month ago, but decided not to post at the time. I stored it at a corner in one of the warehouses of the Frum Factory. Tonight, I was in the mood of posting, so this rant was dusted off, adapted to reflect current events, and posted.

The history of the United States is speckled with paradox. Most notorious is the conflict within the man who composed the inspirational verse that all men are created equal, yet was a slave master himself. As Dr. King pointed out, after four score and seven years, plus five score later the Negro still was not free.

I always found the Puritan way of life to be bitterly ironic and psychologically perplexing. How could victims of harassment at home introduce it to the New World? How could heroes who endured persecution on their own hide by the establishment create the institutions that would inflict the very same persecution on others? How could brave men infused with the spirit of freethinking and the valor to defend their beliefs against a tyrant succumb to the temptations of repression and intolerance?

Perhaps years of shuffling in exile bowing heads to others drove them to establish a colony where they, and they only, make the rules? Perhaps the whiff of ownership intoxicated the pilgrims whose perceptions were accustomed to a sense of not belonging? Perhaps in order to protect their faith from unfavorable laws they enacted such laws against the Quakers in a subconscious defense mechanism? The Puritans were a moral failure. They failed to weed their hearts of bigotry and hatred, but instead turned the hate against anything non-Anglican.

Orthodox Judaism in general and Hassidic culture in particular is repressive. Freethinking is overtly discouraged. The Talmud catalogs certain philosophical fields as thought-restricted. Not too long ago, my Hassidic sect was shrouded in inquisitorial terror. People accused of inconformity with the spiritual leadership were excommunicated, physically assaulted, and their property damaged. Hassidim are not allowed to say what they think, for they are not supposed to think that way in the first place.

None of this is new or different to a seasoned blog reader, but how disappointing is it when refugees of oppression share the same outlook with their oppressors.

Haven, Not Heaven is a blog for former religious Jews—strictly. Its implied mission statement is to provide a haven to OTDs for philosophical discussion, leisure chat, and inspirational support free from the nagging remarks and challenging arguments presented by soul-saving commenters. The Havemen make it clear they are not trying to avoid debate. Many Havemen hold public blogs open for theological discussion. But Not Heaven is precisely that: Heaven; a utopia where everything is agreeable, friendly, and pleasant.

The disturbing thing about HNH is its criteria of admission. Applicants must declare their disaffiliation to God, Torah, and observing Jews. But Associate status is not guaranteed with the oath of admission alone. Hopefuls still have to prove their OTDness. They may have to check in on the Sabbath or submit an essay that manifests high levels of heresy. Even when admission is granted, poor heretic has yet to reach the Promised Land. Imagine the horror with which Havemen of low caste have to cope. They must constantly guard their language lest their words are misconstrued as pro-God and they will be kicked from the Haven.

McCarthyism, anyone? The Salem witch hunts? Torquemada?

Torquemada! That’s a home run.

When summonsed before the Inquisition, the accused was asked to enumerate all known enemies. If a name given matched with a name on the witness list, the inquisitor had to discredit the testimony given by that witness. This was the sole opportunity of defense for the accused. HNH detectives apply the same methods of interrogation. First impression is all that matters. No indictment; No cross examinations; no due process.

One might wonder why they are so defensive. Granted a person is not as atheistic as the rest. Granted he or she is not as God hating, as religion bashing; just a semi-heretic. Why the rejection? Why resort to the tactics of the Hassidic fear-mongers? Is it the same warped psychology that has driven the Puritans nuts? Are these actions fueled by retaliatory feelings? This is our place; here we will give the frummies what they deserve.

No. This place is different. This place is held to a higher standard. This place is where freedom of speech is cherished. Don’t defeat the purpose. I have a dream that one day HNH will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: A safe place. I have a dream that one day bloggers will not be judged by their beliefs but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

By executive order, President Obama has shown that we cannot defend the values of liberty by not living out to those values. Let the Havemen show that freedom of expression cannot be gained by stifling it.

Don’t turn your haven into a hive and your non-heaven into burning hell.


  1. Atheists are just as intolerant as anyone else. Look at Communists. The inquisition was mild by comparison.

    Anyway, drop outs are just losers riddled with guilt and they don't want to be reminded of that fact.

  2. I disagree. All dropouts are not losers.
    I think OTDs have values and would like to live up to them, but they sometimes need a wakeup call.

  3. Product:
    You have seventy-five different blog names. How are we supposed to trust you?

  4. You have seventy-five different blog names
    Perhaps, (and 75 is not exact, but close), but they all promote the same message, although each from a different angle.

  5. >they all promote the same message

    And what's that?

  6. The repressive nature of Hasidism

  7. Don't tar all HNHers with the same brush. It's the blog administrators that are the filthy hypocrites. If you read OTD's blog (but I warn you, there are a million better things you could be doing with your time, such as watching movies), he spends half the time complaining about the name-calling that he is subjected to from past frum commenters (he has since enabled comment moderation, so nothing "disagreeable" gets through) and the other half the time calling those frum commenters by far worse names than he was ever called.

    As an HNHer and an open-minded agnostic, I want to tell you that not all of us are like that.

  8. Anonymous,
    Personal attacks are unnecessary and objectionable. I ask you not to use this forum for such rhetoric, as insult does not achieve any desirable purpose.
    The fact that a Haveman had to post anonymously, speaks volumes. You cannot express yourself freely.
    I’m aware that not all Havemen are as judgmental. However, few people in your ranks are willing to step up and do the right thing.

  9. I disagree. Insult has the very well-documented psychological purpose of raising the insulter's self-esteem. It's caffeine for the ego. But I would not mind your deleting the comment, having gotten the insult out of my system.

    What can we do? The ones who can change blog policies are the administrators. I don't know how many of the other readers feel like myself (I couldn't put up a post asking, obviously), but if dissent were to be expressed, the dissenters could just be kicked out with no one the wiser. I would give you my login info, but once the administrators see you commenting, they could very easily figure out who's given it to you. Even if you don't comment, they could probably figure it out from some detective work involving IP addresses.

    In my opinion, debate is the engine that drives a blog, and if you don't have it, the blog has no life, and will eventually die. Already the frequency of posts and number of comments has dropped off from last month.

    I'm open-minded to everyone but the closed-minded, whether religious or atheist.

  10. Shoot. I forgot to post as Anonymous and guess what? I've already been booted from HNH. Ah well, it was getting boring anyway.

    By the way, Product, when you're done reading this, please delete all my comments. I've been planning on joining a different blog community, and I would rather not leave any links to what is now the past.

  11. Tamim,
    You are the Emile Zola of the Havemen, and you paid the price. We owe you a standing ovation!

  12. I appreciate your kind words, Product. Well, yours too, OTD. ;)


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