The Double Life of Hasidic Atheists

Batya Ungar-Sargon in Aeon:

ScreenHunter_1001 Feb. 12 17.19Solomon is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men and women whose encounters with evolution, science, new atheism and biblical criticism have led them to the conclusion that there is no God, and yet whose social, economic and familial connections to the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities prevent them from giving up the rituals of faith. Those I spoke to could not bring themselves to upend their families and their children’s lives. With too much integrity to believe, they also have too much to leave behind, and so they remain closeted atheists within ultra-Orthodox communities. Names and some places have been changed – every person spoke to me for this story on condition of anonymity. Part of a secret, underground intellectual elite, these people live in fear of being discovered and penalised by an increasingly insular society.

But they are also proof of the increasing challenges fundamentalist religious groups face in the age of the internet and a globalised world. With so much information so readily available, such groups can no longer rely on physical and intellectual isolation to maintain their boundaries. In addition to exposing religious adherents to information that challenges the hegemony of their belief systems, the internet gives individuals living in restrictive environments an alternative community.

More here.

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