Leon Festinger (1957) proposed cognitive dissonance theory, which states that a powerful motive to maintain cognitive consistency can give rise to irrational and sometimes maladaptive behavior. [From simplypsychology.org]
Twenty–eight years ago, when I was studying in the Atlanta Kollel, I had a conversation with one of the rabbis. I discussed with him about the halakha concerning sacrifices, and how a Noahide was permitted to build an alter anywhere and offer a korban olah. The rabbi was flabbergasted. He explained that, even though he understood the halakha about the Noahide law, he told me that he simply could not wrap his mind around the concept of building an alter and offering sacrifices since it has been forbidden by Jewish halakha since the destruction of the Temple. This was the beginning to my understanding that there was a difference between Noahide law and Jewish law—sometimes a vast difference—and many of the differences in halakha between the two were beyond the rabbi’s understanding.
This was also an example of cognitive dissonance. All Noahides have been through a bout of cognitive dissonance. The first bout for most was when the Noahide first heard of the Seven Laws, a concept which clashed with whatever belief system the Noahide held. Not only for Noahides, but many Jews experience it when first learning of the Seven Laws.
To give another example, here is a Stone Crab. Stone crab claws are a favorite dish in Florida. However, you cannot harvest the crabs; the law in Florida says when you catch one, you can break off the claw but you must return the crab to the water so it can live and grow another claw. For the Noahide, this seems like a blatant violation of the law of the Limb of the Living, not to mention that crabs are non-kosher. But the crab is a sheretz, a crawling creature, as well as a sea-creature (which is considered dead the moment it is removed from the water.) Animals classified as sheretz do not fall under the prohibition of the Limb of the Living. It is also permissible for Noahides to eat crabs, since the kosher laws are not part of the Seven. This means that, halakhically speaking, it is not a violation of the Seven Laws to eat Stone Crab claws when they are harvested in the manner described above.
Where the rabbis are concerned, the incapability to deal with this cognitive dissonance has posed an even greater problem; it has influenced the development of Noahide halakha. The commandment of idolatry, which I have stated many times before, is no doubt the best example. Simply put, the non-Jew does not have the positive commandment to believe in God. The Noahide is only prohibited from worshiping any other god except Hashem. This means that an atheist can be considered an observant Noahide, halakhically speaking.
Although there are some rabbis who understand the halakha about the Noahide not having a positive commandment to believe in God, their cognitive dissonance has prevented them from teaching Noahide law correctly. The inability for the rabbis to grasp the inclusive nature of Noahide law is why their teachings are only directed to a small part of the Noahide demographic, namely ex-Christians.
Since ex-Christian Noahides are the vast majority of Noahides in the USA, this presents a problem. Noahides view rabbis (correctly) as the repositories of Torah wisdom and law. What they do not understand is that the rabbis are essentially clueless about what the Noahide law is all about. This is apparent from their continuing focus on the (Jewish) religious elements of the Torah in lieu of Noahide halakha.
So the question is: how much cognitive dissonance is too much to overcome? Many of these ex-Christians feel like they’ve done their job rejecting the tenets of Christian theology. Whether or not they are able to unshackle themselves from the tenets of Judaism remains to be seen.