Living is easy with eyes closed September 10, 2010Posted by Ezra Resnick in Reason, Religion.
There is something tragically poetic about the latest Haredi self-imposed restriction: men veiling their own eyes when traveling, so as not to see forbidden sights. Surely there is no better physical symbol for the mindset with which such people face the world. They refuse to allow their beliefs to be modulated by input from reality; they obsessively shut out any external influence that might ignite doubt or independent thought; nothing is allowed to penetrate the walls of dogma they have constructed. Sadly, it is indeed possible for a person to shut himself off from reality and put himself beyond the reach of rationality. It’s undeniably true that if you insist on never looking at any evidence and never considering any alternative viewpoints, then you will never need to change your mind. The logical consequences of this attitude, however, are quite obvious to anyone with eyes in his head: people who walk around with their eyes closed will end up walking off a cliff.
As for the rest of us, it is not enough that we politely decline to hold their hands on the way down. A person has the right to put out his own eyes if he chooses, but he should not be encouraged to do so nor respected for it if he does. And yet, like a man who murders his parents and then asks for leniency on account of being an orphan, these willfully blind people continuously demand special privileges and dispensations to accommodate their delusions. Moreover, they ceaselessly strive to push blinkers onto the eyes of others. (A recent case in point: forcing all the citizens of Israel into early darkness by ending daylight saving time many weeks before the rest of the world, because of religious considerations.) Appeasement and indulgence will not help us here; the flame of the Enlightenment will surely be put out if we leave it undefended in the growing darkness. We must shine the light of reason as bright as we can, make no concessions to self-imposed disabilities, and do whatever we can to protect members of the next generation from growing up blindfolded.