Good news: As I know from the weekly reports I get from Beliefnet, traffic on this still relatively new blog keeps going up. That’s heartening. Yet if you follow the comments box at all here you will have noticed something odd: this blog seems disproportionately popular with people who hate me and everything I stand for. I still marvel at it. A lot of these folks seem to have lots of time on their hands to monitor my every post. Some spend more energy writing here than I do, putting up multiple responses per blog entry. Many commenters “discovered” me through blogs that have linked to things I’ve written — religion- and tradition-hating blogs like Little Green Footballs, PZ Myers’s Pharyngula, or Dan Savage’s group blog at The Stranger, which all specialize in one-note jeering.
There’s no way to know what this reflects about actual readership. Certainly, I would be grateful to hear from a greater number of people who see the world more like I do. I understand that would expose you to the same venom that greets me every time I look at the comment threads. Who needs that? Be assured, that’s why I unpublish the most offensive, obscene and vilifying comments. I know that in our country, sensible people are still in a majority, if barely. For example, just on the issue of life’s origins and history, so central to any authentic Torah worldview (cf. Rav Hirsch), a recent Zogby poll shows 52 percent of Americans agree that an “intelligent design” guided evolutionary development while only a minority, 33 percent, accept the materialist Darwinian account.
Anyway, I thought you might be interested in knowing how I deal with it. I mean, subjectively. I’ll tell you after the jump.
On one hand, God informed Abraham at the very beginning that Torah would be divisive: “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Some will indeed curse you, God warned Abraham, while others will bless you. The “Abrahamitic nation” was formed in the first place, writes Hirsch (on Exodus 6:3), to oppose the effects of “materialism.” This was intended to be the primary way by which Jews would strive to “become a blessing” to others. On the other hand, no one likes to be vilified.
The hate you get, whether you’re Jewish or (nowadays) Christian, from the party of those who curse Abraham’s legacy is something I long ago became accustomed to. Apart from being inured by familiarity, the impact is softened by friendships with sympathetic colleagues. My conviction is also stiffened by all the name-calling, contempt, insults, and vulgarity. I’ve worked my whole professional life in the impoverished but I think noble circumstances of conservative-leaning magazines, newspapers, and educational foundations. I have had many different kinds of people as colleagues. A very few made a bad impression. The rest have been remarkably decent, kind, genteel, and considerate people — a little different from what you hear about the world of profit-making and certainly from the backbiting world of academic-employment. More to the point, what a huge contrast with numerous folks I’ve come in contact with on the other side of the philosophical spectrum. Whenever I have doubts about my convictions, the nastiness endemic on the secularist Left reminds me of what, ultimately, I’m fighting for. If you think of a person as nothing more than a clever animal, then to write about or treat him brutishly becomes more easily justifiable. I’m far from a perfect specimen of humanity but I’m glad to be on the side that stands, in general, for decent values in their own personal interactions with other human beings.
You’ll ask: If the sides were reversed, if I were a Lefty, would I be subjected to as much vituperation as one comes to expect if you’re on the Right? (Cf. the case of Sarah Palin.) I don’t think so. The one major experience I had with switching sides — when Doubleday published my book explaining why Christianity is wrong in regarding Jesus as the messiah and as God’s “son” — is illustrative. When the book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, came out, the very first email I received in response turned out to be one I’ll always remember. It was from a lady in Atlanta who professed to be a Christian and anticipated, with satisfaction, looking down on me in Hell from her vantage point in Heaven.
It was the only — the only — such communication I ever received from a Christian. The first and last. I received a ton of email, mail and phone calls in response to that book. It still comes in. Many of my correspondents were serious Christians who wanted to argue with me. After all, I was calling their whole religion into question at its core, in a way Jews have shied from doing at least since the Middle Ages. But with that single exception, Christians have done so with courtesy, kindness, and good cheer. Most didn’t even want to argue. They just wanted to tell me they had read the book, found the Jewish view illuminating despite major disagreements, and God bless you, David, for writing it. That was it. It’s been an amazing experience.
They also had the guts to write to me using their real names. The contrast with the braying, vulgar, obsessive, insulting, childishly name-calling rhetoric of too many anonymous or pseudonymous atheists, evangelizing skeptics, Darwinists, gay-rights advocates and so on really couldn’t be more dramatic.
Or more confirming that ideas, after all, have consequences.