I always wondered what it is that Ba'alei Teshuvah (BT's) see, that I don't see. What do all those people cutting their pony tails off, and putting on Kipa's for Amnon Yitzchak hear that was so convincing? I'd listen to hours and hours of tapes, read books, and talk to countless people, but all I got was fluff, I remember thinking - "he wouldn't get me with that".
My favorite example is when I asked a close relative who became a BT at 18, what was it that made him leave his home and change his entire life, seemingly giving up a promising future, his answer was - "I watched The Fiddler on the Roof". That's it?! I was shocked! Here's a smart guy, who could have gone to college, and gone on to be anything he wanted. Instead he went to Yeshiva, got married, and became one of the many shlubs just barely making a living, and looking like they just immigrated from 1800's Europe, and all that because he watched a corny movie? (my retort to that was "I watched Big Love, and it didn't make me want to become a Mormon")
Another person I know, was on his way to becoming a Catholic priest, and (the story goes) the night before he was to graduate from seminary and be confirmed as a priest, he climbed out the window, ran to a Yeshiva and never looked back.
I have a little theory going, and I've recently discovered some others agreeing with it. I think the big Ba'al Teshuvah movement (makes me think of "bowel movement", but that's just cruel) of the sixty's and seventy's, was fueled by drugs and the counter culture of the time. People ran off to Ohr Someach in Jerusalem, for the same reason others ran to Ashrams in India, or hippie communes in San Fransisco. It was more about (the illusion of) the Shabbos table, or the tight-nit community, than a "seeing of the light", or a serious debate about belief.
Before they know it, it's thirty years later and they have a family, an entire life built, and whether they still feel the way they did years earlier or not, their stuck. Now they have to justify their actions to themselves and to others, so they bash the "outside world", mock science and lie to themselves. I'm sure some of them are sincere and believe in what they're doing, they've taken the bait hook, line and sinker, but many of them know better, they just don't see a way out.
There have been instances of BT's going back to their old lives, even with entire families, but those stories are and few in between, Why? Because as I can attest, it's not easy to uproot your family and make a huge life altering change like that, especially when the kids are old enough to understand what's going on.
Speaking of BT's, I would like to add my own take on Chabad and their Kiruv work. I have no problem with Mitzvah Tanks, or Tefillin Stations, but in my [humble] opinion, where Chabad went wrong was, first of all they went Rebbe-crazy. Everything is about the Rebbe, the Rebbe this, the Rebbe that, it's all about the Rebbe instead of about God and Judaism, in fact they worship him so much it's hard to distinguish between Meshichistim and Christians.
Secondly, instead of bringing their new recruits up to their level, they lowered their own standards in order to better suit the modern society they are trying to reach out to. The result was, instead of Lubavitch becoming a huge Chassidik group on par with Satmar, or Gur, they separated themselves from the mainstream Chassidim and became their own quasi religion. I've said this before to Lubabs and they get very defensive, but it's true, their standards, in Tznius for example, are not even in the same league as those of mainstream Chassidism. Much like Democrats, who strive to make everybody equally poor - unlike Republicans who want to make every body equally rich - (neither are unsuccessful), they've lowered themselves to the level of the people they were supposed to be raising up. But enough about that.