It's an interesting feature of human psychology that when a person makes a significant lifestyle change, he often develops a strong dislike for the culture he left behind. The depth of this emotion often correlates with the feeling of security the person has about himself and his new choice. Those who are comfortable with their sense of self and their choice often have far less resentment towards where they came from while those whose switch was motivated in part by a lack of self identity can develop a viscious hate of their former lives.
Tali Farkash's latest piece for Yediot Acaharonot points out something interesting I've noticed about the off-the-derech phenomenon which is one major are where this phenomen manifests. Yes, it also occurs when people make the right choice and become frum but in a far stronger way. As Farkash notes, based on a recent 2 page spread in the Israeli newspaper by a woman who had left the Gerrer way of life:
Sarah, previously a pious Gerrer hassid and currently a pained secular divorcee mother of two, spread her story across the pages of Yedioth Ahronoth to show anyone who still had any shadow of a doubt in their mind just how hard it is to be a woman, and haredi on top of that, and a Gerrer hassid on top of that. With the precision of a plastic surgeon, she deconstructs the enigma called a "modern newly secular person." But even here, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Perhaps it is just a feeling, but those who leave religion never really leave, they escape. To Tel Aviv, to a commune in the Galilee, to a kibbutz in the Negev, to the media. Or, like a beloved childhood friend of mine, they choose to put into action the over-played expression and escape to Honolulu, leaving me sending her signs of life via email.
Out of all of those I have met who have left the religious way of life – and I have met quite a few – not one of them became a "conventional secular person" with a Mazda 3, two kids, and a monstrous LCD in the living room across from the sofa. They are always something a little different with a lot of pain.
Yes, yes, I've heard all the lines. Of course there's a lot of pain. Imagine the lie that religious Judaism is, according to these people. Imagine all the years the person suffered by being denied their free choice in food, entertainment options and sexual partners, all the time they spent actually believing that God created the universe and that the Torah is true.
Of course, baalei teshuvah go through this as well. Imagine all the years the person lost by living a secular lifestyle when he could have been raising the purity of his neshamah, all the lies he was told by his teachers and friends about how real freedom means treating all values as relative and putting one's sense of material satisfaction first.
But somehow, the bitterness that one sees with lapsed Jews doesn't exist in the same way with the newly religious. Yes, most baalei teshuvah are dismissing of Reform and Conservativism and view secular Judaism, especially the chiloni culture with disdain. But one doesn't see the constant vitriol that the lapsed crowd seems to possess abundant amounts of.
For some, it seems that their entire new life is defined by hating where they came from. They talk of nothing else. If they want to say something positive, they praise the false prophets of their new culture who in turn never actually say anything confirmatory about atheism but rather spend their time attacking religion. Most of the time, however, it's attack after attack on their old way of life, accusations of coercion and a demand to be left alone even though no one's attacking them.
I wonder why it is that baalei teshuvah develop far great intellectual variability than that, spend more time leaerning about their new lifestyle instead of worrying about and assaulting the lives they came from. Certainly people would all agree it's healthier to move on, so why don't some?