There’s nothing so beautiful that it cannot be perverted and debased and ultimately used for evil.
Love is great, but sometimes love leads to murder. Marriage is great, but sometimes marriage leads to murder. Religion is great, but sometimes religion leads to murder. Torah is great, but studying Torah sometimes makes people worse.
One great description of me is “Torah weirdo.” That’s more of a reflection on me than it is on Torah.
Judaism is great, but the type of person who wants to convert to a religion is usually neurotic and unstable. Example one — me.
I discovered Judaism through listening to Dennis Prager on the radio when I went to UCLA in 1988. One thing that I loved about Prager was that unlike all of the serious Christians I knew, he didn’t regard the sins I wanted to commit as immoral, only as unholy. The other Jews I met held similar views.
Prager was a great bloke. He even enjoyed a little porn now and again.
A 1996 poll of Jewish attitudes showed that, in the words of Norman Podhoretz, “Jews are firmly committed to permissive social codes, sexual codes in particular. The gap between Jews and others in polls regarding non-marital sexual behavior, marijuana, and divorce laws is quite substantial: 58 percent of Jews had liberal responses on these items as opposed to just 31 percent of non-Jews. In like fashion, huge gaps separate Jews from others on abortion (86 percent vs. 44 percent) and control of pornography (71 percent vs. 45 percent).”
So I decided to convert to Judaism. In a way, it was like being reborn. Most of my ties to the goyim were weakened when I converted to Judaism in 1993 and I developed ties to Jews. From my neurotic unstable insecure place, I started taking on a tribal mentality. I thought first and foremost about Jews but all of my thinking was shot filled with my flawed psychology. I started worrying about another Holocaust. I got ready to get while the getting was good because Jewish history taught me that things could shift at any time. What the majority of the population thought about things stopped concerning me so much. I was looking for a niche where I could make myself great. Jews are like most people in most things but Jews do put a higher premium on social and economic success.
When I decided to write a book on porn in 1995, I figured it would be a stepping stone to a brilliant writing career. That the goyim would despise me for this didn’t matter so much. That Orthodox Jews would despise me for this didn’t matter so much. I was a rebel. I knew better.
At the time, my ties to my family and to my old friends and communities were weak and my ties to my new Jewish friends and communities were not strong. I was in no man’s land. Part of me was still goyish and part of me was Jewish. Part of me was holy and part of me was not. Guess which part won out?
I discovered that Jews were more calm about the natural passions for things such as sex, money, power. My choices were not unfathomable to my Jewish friends because they knew other Jews who’d made similar ventures. What two years ago would have seemed impossible to me suddenly became possible. I began doing what I wanted (indulging my passions).
As the years went by and I became more immersed in traditional Jewish life, I left the porn behind in 2007. Orthodox Judaism has a strict moral code and the stuff I was doing was incompatible with that. It wasn’t theory that changed me as much as developing ties to real people and to real community. “Judaism” as a religion and “values” are all fine and good, but Yiddishkeit is concrete. You don’t have as much room to do your own thing once you join a distinct community. Then you’re accountable to real people.
It’s like the difference between what passes for conservatism today and paleoconservatism. Chilton Williamson, Jr. defined paleoconservatism as “the expression of rootedness: a sense of place and of history, a sense of self derived from forebears, kin, and culture—an identity that is both collective and personal.”