Friday, July 1, 2011

Old Habits Die Hard

My university has a message board where every student is allowed to post, and all posts are listed under the person's legal name. Of all the topics discussed, the perennial favorite is religion. Typically religious topics spiral into a debate between a few evangelical Christians and a few Atheists.

The current topic of choice is "Why God Chooses not to Answer Some Prayers". In the course of the debate, one Atheist student responded, "You know man invented G-d right?". A Christian noticed the inconsistency of claiming that God does not really exist while writing his name with the "-", which is done as a form of reverence. The Christian assumed that the Atheist must have thought that writing God's name this way was a form of degradation rather than reverence, so he responded by "informing" his opponent that Orthodox Jews write God's name this way as a form of reverence.

Given the Atheist poster's highly Jewish-sounding name, I assume that he wrote "G-d" for an entirely different reason. Both frum and traditional kids are instructed from an early age not to spell God's name as a form of respect and old habits die hard. Therefore, the Atheist student feels the need to treat God's name with reverence even as he claims that God does not exist, due to the education that he received during childhood.

I assume that most people who have gone OTD have done something similar to this. Have you said a bracha on treif food? Sat in the dark while using the computer on shabbos? Said something like, "I went to the movies last shabbos and baruch Hashem it went well".

Do you think that this is inherently negative? It occurred to me that perhaps there is something to be said for treating God with reverence even if one believes that He exists only in ones mind, due to the benefits that religion has provided humanity or simply due to tradition. Or perhaps the Atheist student still believes in God in his heart but not in his mind?

As an aside, I have learned that it is not a halachic problem to write or erase shem Hashem on a computer anyway as computer pixels have no mamashus and are not halachicly considered writing. For the same reason, typing on a computer is allowed on chol hamoed even when real writing isn't.



  1. Not halachically considered writing..... I have to laugh at the odd yiddish words i do not understand and the loopholes that the "Grand Dynastic Rabbis (tm)" dream up.

    I do make brachas on treif myself.

  2. it's similar to me not eating non-kosher meat until 8 years after I first stopped keeping kosher and several years after I stopped believing in religion entirely...old habits die hard

  3. How about kissing mezuzahs that changes to checking at least where the mezuzah should be. How about thinking about which shoe to put on first or to wipe one's tuches with the left hand, spitting to the left and saying Boruch Hashem?

    I always compare it to phantom pain sensations on amputees.

  4. It's not just old habits. It's current habits that one devises in order to prevent others from arousing suspicion about our lifestyles.

    An old friend of mine approached me the other day while I was gardening, for example, and asked me about attending a certain shiur. I almost told her that I was no longer frum at all - engaged to a Catholic, in fact - but couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead, I played along and told her to call me.

    We tell lies to ourselves and to others. Is it good or bad? I don't know.

  5. It's hard to change the neurological hardwiring that's created in us in our early childhood. That would include both using spellings like "G-d" or being influenced by peer pressure. :-)

  6. Perhaps the Atheist student wrote G-D out of respect for his religious peer?