As I wrote in my previous post, this past weekend I attended prayer services with my father. I really really hate going, but I do it to make him happy. Afterwords I was thinking to myself, why do I hate going so much? I came up with many answers, more than I would like to list in this specific post. But one reason that stood out in my mind was that it upsets me to see all the children being brainwashed. First, I do not like how this reminds me of my own background, and second I am truly upset to see children go through this indoctrination.
I realize the term "brainwashing" is very strong and will be somewhat controversial with many of my readers. However, after looking at how children are introduced to Judaism at such a young impressionable age, I can think of no other term. The first example is, when it comes to the time in the services to take the Torah scroll(s) out of the "Holy Ark", children are encouraged to get very very excited. They run up to the Torah scroll as it is being walked around the room, or are carried by their father (women being seated separately, this can only be the father) and are told to kiss the Torah. I remember when I was young and how exciting this was for me, and I see that same excitement in the eyes of the children today.
The Torah scroll is the holiest object on earth for Jews. Orthodox Jews are taught that anyone that should even witness a Torah scroll accidentally drop must fast and give charity so that they could be forgiven. Forgiven for what? One person dropped the scroll, so I could maybe understand why he (once again women not being allowed to hold a Torah in most communities) in theory might have to ask for forgiveness. But just witnessing someones mistake, how does that require forgiveness? It doesn't.
The truth is that this whole practice of treating the scroll as an almost god like object is part of instilling an incredible reverence and fear towards the religion that is based around these scrolls. This starts at a very young age. If at 2 or 3 years old you are told to run to the Torah and kiss it, how likely are you to question what is written in the Torah later in life? Obviously this is not full proof, because plenty of people to question and even leave the faith. But the same aw and reverence instilled in me and countless other children, makes it an incredibly scary thing to do.
There are other forms of childhood indoctrination. Children being told to SCREAM out prayers before they even understand what those prayers mean. And this is the very difference between education and indoctrination. Education teaches kids, and adults to think and understand. Indoctrination and brainwashing instills habits. Habits like saying prayers and blessings blindly and habits like treating a simple scroll as if it is godly. Only after these habits are ingrained in the children they can be educated on some reasons. But by this point, the behavior is already a part of the persons identity, so the reasons don't necessarily matter.
As I said I realize this post will be more provocative than most of my previous posts. I encourage my readers that disagree to comment in the comment section bellow. I hope no one takes personal offense as I know many of my readers are religious and have children. I simply explained how I see things. I look forward to discussing and debating this with many of you.
Now, for a technical note. I recently got back in tough with someone from my high school by the name of Steve. We hadn't spoken in about 10 years, so he was surprised to hear that I was no longer a believing Jew and that I was openly gay. He also has been reading this blog and has become a fan. Steve and a friend of his have a podcast called "Sunday Six Pack" (http://sundaysixpack.podbean.com/) where they discuss everything from sports to politics. He invited me to be a guest on his podcast that will broadcast Sunday, March 4th. I will obviously post a link to that broadcast when it happens. There should be a lot of interesting discussion and debate. So stay tuned! :)))