In my post yesterday, I mentioned in passing that it was easy and practical for me to stop attending synagogue. It was also, for a host of reasons, necessary. But I've decided to go back to shul on a weekly basis. Now, by coincidence, I live next to my old rabbi and about a block from my old synagogue...but despite the synagogue rabbi inviting me back, I don't feel I fit in there anymore. I'm going to go to Young Israel instead, which is...erm, a bit further away. I've had some good experiences there.
It's not that I've come back to being frummer than Rabbi Farber, I'm still OTD. But Meetup groups just didn't do it for me, Unitarianism is too touchy-feely for me, and I don't really feel like congratulating myself every week at a humanist meeting. In a 21st century world which emphasizes personal responsibility and the American mythological narrative of "liberty" so much, I think the secular world has failed to create enough communitarian structures to positively reinforce those of us who can't go it alone. We have failed to back up our ideals in moral philosophy with any sense of a communal framework that takes itself as seriously as Orthodoxy takes itself. That's not to say Orthodoxy is perfect in this regard; when I was still frum, a rosh mechina screamed at me in public on two occasions that I could shut up about anything outside of gemara/tosafos or get out, and that was really where I lost my sense of community. And I don't mean to belittle the accomplishments of liberalism....they have been many, e.g. abolitionism, suffrage, civil rights, the welfare state, LGBT rights, jobs, etc. Still, while we secular skeptics take legitimate potshots at ideologies and ideologues, I don't think we've created the raw emotional connection to a purposeful community that Orthodoxy has. And even if I don't agree with the purpose, I need the community.
(Some theists and even atheists will argue that secular people can't have objective purpose. This is a discussion for another post down the pike.)