Today I wanted to share a collection of thoughts I’ve had regarding religion in over the last two years or so since I experienced a crushing crisis of faith. Said crisis was centered around sudden admissions by the church leadership that had been denied for years as lies told by men influenced by Satan to steal my faith. Well, then they admit that the accusations are fact and I begin to question everything.
To be candid, I am a recovering Mormon. It hurts my wife when I explain it this way. She is a beautiful person inside and out who feels quite betrayed by my abandonment of the faith. While I try to support her in her devotion to it–I know how compelled one can feel within the paradigm of mormonism–I feel more and more frustrated with the organization and expectations of the religion.
Really, this is a random collection of thoughts I’ve had and written in the notes section of my smart phone. I’ll present the individual idea and then any commentary on it that I may feel inclined to share. These are random–mostly for me to have repository of them for my own use–and as I cut and pasted them from my notes, they ended up in reverse order with the most recent thoughts first.
It’s not racism if it’s the natural order of things. And if it’s ordained by God, it’s the natural order.
If you read my previous post
, you’ll know where this came from. Obviously, I don’t agree with the idea but was attempting to capture the way of thinking of many religious people including myself not that long ago.
Those who pine for heaven and preach of hell are the ones who create hell on earth for those who cry foul and abandon the ranks of the heaven-seekers.
Yeah, this is the sucky feeling I experience much of the time in my most meaningful relationships. “It’s the loss of the holy ghost, that’s what you’re feeling.” Or, “It’s all your choice to feel that way.” Actually, I’m quite content with my new world view. It’s not as frightening and hopeless as I was warned it would be by my former thought leaders. Hell-development is all pretty external, though, I choose to stay in the situation for other reasons.
No wonder the myths of religion have endured so long. We indoctrinate our children, tell them what to say, and when they repeat it back we act amazed at their spirituality and revelatory capacity.
Favorite children’s hymn sung by tens of thousands of children each Sunday, “I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Have them singing this and identifying with it as soon as they are capable of speech and you can brainwash easily.
Then have them listen to the words you should say when you “testify” and teach them the correct answers to questions. To me it is so funny that we do this and then act so emotionally touched and inspired when they repeat back the words that we’ve told them to say! Not only that: we then praise them as examples of how we all should be. “It’s so amazing to hear children preaching the truth, isn’t it brothers and sisters? How could I possibly follow that up?” THEY SAID WHAT YOU TOLD THEM TO SAY IN ALL YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOL AND FAMILY SCRIPTURE LESSONS! Now they feel validated and get a serotonin shot from your praise of their repetition of what they have only heard. Positively reinforcing conformity! That, my friends, may be the difference between indoctrination to brainwashing.
If God is truly unchanging and all knowing and, by the decree of a prophet he can have all disciples fall in line, his policies should be the apogee of progression and goodness. They should not wait on culture to catch up before he decrees equality for race, gender, or nationality. To suggest that he would not prohibit racism because the people were not ready for equality it is to say that either His morals evolve with people or that the devotion of his disciples is in question. But if you can get people to refrain from coffee, tea, alcohol, extramarital sex, and Sunday commercialism by a simple decree from their prophet, God ought to be able to induce those disciples to accept human beings as equal regardless of the color of their skin. With a true prophet and faithful disciples, a truly just and all-loving God should, through his disciples, lead the charge toward equality in every facet of cultural discourse.
Really, need I say more? A perfectly just God that expects perfect obedience and can get people to leave their families and cross 1200 miles by handcart or fly an airplane into a building, killing thousands, doesn’t need to dumb down his commandments due to societal pressure.
The flip side of this attitude is the arrogant observation about dietary codes, “Oh, see! God gave us these commandments before men knew smoking was bad for you.” Then why can’t he or she declare an end to racism among his people and get them to obey despite man not knowing that a darker skin doesn’t mean an inferior person.
It is an interesting dichotomy that those who praise the founding of America and its secular constitution, and who claim the rights guaranteed in the founding documents, feel justified in denying them to others. They do this without apology seeming to feel it is their right as a numerical or vocal majority with the sanction of their God behind them. It should come as no surprise that these are the same people who most yearn for a theocracy with absolute control over their lives.
I’m still trying to deprogram decades of conditioning here. I consider myself a person with a fantastic imagination and wells of empathy and yet I still struggle to accept marginalized and demonized groups. Funny, considering my religious heritage is one of being marginalized. When I was fully invested in the ideology, this was one thing I did struggle with. I felt that as a historically oppressed and shunned group like Mormons, we would have had a lot more acceptance and understanding to offer. But, once we became mainstream we had to join the aristocracy of oppressive theocrats.
Listen to a religious zealot recount the harrowing experience of their fore bearers then watch them listen with indifference to the sufferings of Jews under the third reich, refugees in Rawanda, and other oppressed and tormented groups. As they feign remorse you can rest assured that they will return to their tribal concerns and escapist entertainments easily and with no more thought or concern.
This is pretty harsh but I’ve seen it too often, even in myself. Silly but good example: When I was an undergrad, my roommates and I, all Mormons, were watching “Whose Line Is It Anyway” one afternoon. Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Amish–you name it–were on the butt-end of the jokes that episode. And we all laughed at their expense. But, when the Mormon joke was dropped, I laughed alone as my roommates looked on aghast and disgusted. One stood up and left the room saying he’d never watch this show again. We had all just laughed at jokes about other religions….did I miss something?
Our problems and feelings are the only real ones. If you’re a Mormon, then their pioneers had the worst trials of anyone. (I have several direct ancestors who crossed the American plains by handcart and wagon). I think this cultural bias is part of religion. No one has been oppressed like us! That only leads to other problems: terrorism, race wars, discrimination, you name it.
We feel only for those with whom we can identify. Childhood indoctrination that creates differences in their minds among various groups–prophetically declared and sanctioned differences including mandates to exterminate or marginalize the distasteful–are at the core of this problem whether explicitly declared or explicitly denied though regularly demonstrated. Trust only those who show concern for the oppressed and marginalized in word AND deed.
Platitudes…I’m so sick of them.
Speaking of stem cell research, abortion, genetic engineering: the only people who were playing God in this are those people who claim to speak for him. Or to know his mind and will.
I think I understand feminism a little better than I used to. I’m trying to clean my mind to make full acceptance of LGBT individuals instinctive. Yoda got it right with Luke when he said, “You have to unlearn what you have learned.” I have learned a significant distrust for those who claim to speak for God.
The Bible and the Koran should stand on their own accord. The fact that they require so much apologetic rhetorical gymnastics to try and explain them to me is a huge condemnation against them being holy books revealed to us by a condescending, merciful God.
Listen to just about anything from Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, or Sam Harris. What universally recognizable and understandable answer to a question can be settled by an appeal to “scripture” of any creed? If God made us then he made us to see the world very differently. A totally ecumenical theology is the only one that makes sense.
For Mormons in particular, we are taught that every good emotion or inspirational feeling is a testament to God and Jesus. Any pop song, movie, or book that inspires us MUST be testifying to Jesus. We look for the analogy, straining to make a connection until we make it conform to this paradigm. And when it comes from a source that had obvious non-Christian intentions and message we say, “oh look at how wise God is! He is so powerful he can make the worst message testify of him!”
This was the only seeking I really enjoyed during my time. Trying to make understanding out of convoluted, contradictory, and nonsensical claims. I thought that if I made a connection it was the Holy Spirit revealing a truth to me. Turns out, I’m just clever and revelation is really just the shit that results from intellectualism passing through the theological digestive system.
Matthew 25: Seems like Jesus was speaking of a genuine, moral action having nothing to do with the benefactor thinking about God in any way but simply on the good of those who would benefit from the action.
At the judgement they won’t be asked, “did you accept Jesus and the church?”
God will look at the individual’s life and show them the good they did or did not do and a truly good person will speak honestly and say that they saw a person in need and helped them NOT because God expected it or that they thought they were serving God by helping others.
I’m finding that truly decent acts of service or simply the idea of morality is far more noble when it is done for the goodness of itself rather than from a fear of eternal punishment or hope of reward. That includes “blessings” in the here and now. If there was a wise rabbi named Jesus, I think that is what he may have been trying to teach here, assuming he actually said the words at all.
Set up an environment of high expectation and perpetual sinning where everyone is made to believe they are constantly failing. Make them thus dependent on forgiveness by their deity. Create so many rules and commandments and conditions of covenants that no one, though commanded on pain of eternal suffering to be perfect, could ever be so. Make them dependent emotionally on feeling forgiven.
How much time did I spend worrying about my regular accountability interviews with my bishop? Yes, beginning as a 12 year old I sat in a room, alone, with a 40 or 50 or 60 year old man every six months as he asked me if I drank beer or used drugs, viewed pornography, or masturbated. (All these among a long list of expectations.) All-in-all, I was a pretty good kid even from a Mormon standpoint. But I felt guilty for even having a thought cross my mind.
I was expected to answer honestly and if I didn’t I could expect months of guilt as I heard how bad these things were and how they canker one’s soul. Once a year I was asked to account for the ten percent tithing I was expected to pay. Each week we took the sacrament–communion–and were constantly taught how we needed to have confessed our sins and repented before we could take it. Believe me, you were frowned on if you didn’t take the sacrament. Tainted, unclean. Maybe on your way to getting clean, but unclean nonetheless.
God creates race wars. He struck Cain’s seed with a black skin to mark their difference from the “chosen” people. He marked the Lamanites with dark skin that would become white and delightsome if they returned to the fold of God. If dark skin is natural and should not be looked down upon, why did God cause it? He didn’t because he doesn’t exist.
These days, leaders and apologists expend a lot of effort talking about race equality and using the excuse that “we’ve made mistakes in the past” or “social pressures influenced policy.” Again, is God all-knowing? How can he demand death for a man who collects sticks on the sabbath but not that we treat each other as fellow travelers to the grave? If you want to find the source of inequality–race, gender, sexual orientation–and the discriminatory and often violent behavior that results therefrom, read the “holy books” from a historical and social mindset. You’ve got to turn off that part of your brain and heart that thinks their divine, if you can. When you start feeling disgusted, you’ll be left with several paradigms to consider. The most logical are that either God is the source of the problem (he’s certainly not unchanging), or that the books were written by tribalistic, misogynistic men.
If atheists are correct, then all they blame god for is really the fault of men. Can humanism and philosophy really improve us? Only when we get god out of the discussion. His history is one of creating racism, promoting sexism, commanding genocide, and excusing them all.
We blame God, but he is simply the creation of men. So, men are the problem. This is the same argument that apologists give–whether Muslim or Christian. “God is perfect, and men are imperfectly implementing his doctrines.” Same argument, different angle.
Those pious zealots who relate to others through a rosy lens of humble, ethical and moral superiority derived from years of positive self talk–external and internal–are oblivious to their own misery.
I remember the moment I had this thought. I was hearing LDS General Conference in the background when on of their apostles started patting himself and the rest of the church on the back for all the good they do in disaster relief.
$1.2 billion given in humanitarian aid from 1985 to 2010.
In 2012 finished building a $2 billion shopping mall in Salt Lake City.
Estimated that the LDS church, Mormons, give 0.7% of their tax free revenue to charity; the Methodist church gives 29%.
Go ahead an pat yourselves on the back Mormons. Encourage yourselves. Tell yourselves that you’re great. Again, I was once one of you and it took awakening to reality to realize how miserable I was. Like a man born deaf getting to hear after surgery. He wasn’t unhappy or miserable before hearing, but he’d never go back to being deaf. And, to go back, would then be misery.
I feel like we scrape for meaning out of the confusion that we experience in the church. And we think we have some understanding but all we really have is a band aid on a gaping wound.
This hearkens back to the comment earlier that I tried so hard to make connections between logic, science, reality, and the odd fairy-tale-within-horror-story-without party line of the church.
Religions and ideologies need defined separations with others that give them a sense of something to fight for. This is true in politics, social, and religious organization. Hate crimes, propaganda, fake racial divides rise out of this enmity. This comes from focussing on differences rather than similarities and with it comes zeal and fervor to drive growth of our cause. How can we derive such zeal from universal acceptance without conditions or requirements?
So, far, no church has the past that makes me think it’s possible. Especially in a church that excommunicates members that advocate for more tolerance of marginalized groups. “What make you think God is tolerant?” Reminds me of a favorite quote of Christopher Hitchens that “God creates us ill and commands us, on pain of eternal torture, to be well.” Of course, you say, no one is created gay! Have you ever asked them how they feel? Or do you only take your information from your clergy?
I feel like going to a Mormon church is like going to a support group for people with a compelling need to be martyrs.
We loved feeling like we were persecuted, for so were Jesus and the apostles of old. So was Joseph Smith. If we are being persecuted, it must mean we are doing something right! God’s people are a peculiar people.
Seriously, I began to feel that if I wasn’t persecuted, something was wrong with me. The primary song, “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” includes suffering like him. If you’re not suffering, how can you be like Jesus? I know this is a reductionist and sarcastic way of looking at it, but I heard plenty of “encouraging” Sunday school lessons where we were told that persecution is part of true discipleship. See Acts when two apostles are beaten and then, as they walk away, they “rejoice that they were worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
When you have given another person power to make decisions for you, to determine what your weaknesses and sins may be, you are consenting to those weaknesses. You are conditioning yourself to be subject to weaknesses, giving them power over you because another person told you that you would be addicted to something, overpowered by something, or could never measure up.
The age-old dilemma: don’t think about pink elephants. Yup, you just did. Now, countless lessons about how you are weak and need Jesus and don’t think about pornography. Created sick and commanded to be well. The whole life of a child is to be raised thinking they are and will always be perpetually inadequate without mystical help from a barbaric human sacrifice that only needed to happen because God said so. This is a rabbit hole I’m not sure I’m ready to dive into any further.
Some cultures don’t notice nudity. Much like spicy food, the children were raised to be accustomed to exposure without shock. Does exposure to nudity or violence guarantee titulation or impure thoughts? Do we pass on to our children those attitudes to which we are conditioned because we gave another person power to tell us how to feel?
I don’t think women should walk around topless. I don’t think we need to pretend that suggestive advertising is the problem. They wouldn’t advertise lingerie they way they do if we weren’t culturally programmed to get a thrill out of it. I wonder if Victoria’s Secret would even be able to stay in business in some areas?
Most people you speak with on either side of the same sex marriage argument will support the notion that there are far more important components to a relationship than sex. But then ask a person–who will argue this point and complain that there is too much emphasis of sex in relationships–what they think about same sex marriage if they are opposed, and their first point and usually their only point, is that it’s unnatural. Why? What is unnatural? Only the sexual part of the relationship seems contrary to nature. But isn’t that what the person just argued was a peripheral component to a mature and healthy relationship?
I’m a budding supporter of the LGBT movement. I still can’t comprehend attraction to another man, but there are a lot of things I can’t comprehend that I don’t attempt to deny to others. This argument is probably not original thought I don’t remember hearing it elsewhere.
Those who aren’t confused are either arrogant or haven’t questioned the status quo. It’s easy to sound sure of yourself when you swallow the dogma without taking a moment to taste it first.
Some people will never listen to a critic of their own religion though they celebrate critiques of other religions. It’s much the same attitude of the near syncopic bliss one feels when hearing of miracles or dreams or whatever that support the beliefs they already have only to disregard remarkably similar experiences many have had within their own, different faith.
I believe that sins and struggles are often clandestine affairs that need open, public admissions and assistance.
I was always told to only confess “sins” to my parents or bishop. This just makes people feel alone and discouraged. They think they are the only one with the struggle. They think they’ll be judged for admitting “weakness.” I think we’d see a lot happier people if they weren’t so afraid of “falling short” in the eyes of others. You aren’t celebrating or condoning bad behavior by talking about it openly and getting help from the herd. (I know, bad metaphor)
Is religion is a placebo that only works as much as you think it does?
You’ll have to answer this yourself. A person can see a miracle anywhere if they want to. They can ascribe God’s hand to any occurrence. You can make your faith answer any question if you’re willing to surrender your intellectual faculties.
Why should death separate us from God if a spiritual form without body was able to dwell with him before mortal birth?
This is unique to Mormonism, perhaps. We lived with God as spirits before birth where our spirit entered a physical body. This body enables us to become like God and, without it, we would not be able to live with him……how in the hell did we live with him in the first place, before birth, if we were only lowly spirits?
Why is the change within that leads you to believe the gospel more powerful or more important than the change that occurs within an individual to lead them out of and away from the church/religion?
Swooning Mormons listen enraptured the first Sunday of each month, hoping to hear someone tell about the amazing experience that led them to leave a previous belief system and adopt Mormonism. Yet they easily discredit someone who leaves the church or joins another one–whether Mormon or not–as people deceived or just not quite there yet. They don’t care that the person chose a different religion for the same reasons and due to the same type and extent of experience that they had in Mormonism. I think this is true of all faiths. Tribalism. Fascism to some.
Mormons have tried to overcame this conundrum by teaching that all churches have truth but only we have it all. So any faith is leading them closer to Mormonism. It’s just a continuum of faith.
We each have an innate desire to be about some journey that we feel has profound meaning. We each pine to feel of great importance to the happenings of this world. For those who believe in God, this journey is determined for them already. Others choose this for themselves in accordance with what they feel will help them meet whatever standard they have set.
I heard a great historian/lecturer, J. Rufus Fears, talk about universal values and that freedom is not a universal value. According to him, the culture and history of China and Russia make them more prone to authoritarian government because they value security over freedom. I’ve already mentioned the strange dichotomy of the classic, American Christian mind that wants no government one telling them what to do but can’t wait for the divine government of God. You think that will be great? Read the Old Testament and see what a jealous God with absolute control is willing to do to people–to children who laugh at the prophet; to a woman who looks back on the home she just abandoned at God’s command; to a man gathering sticks on the sabbath. (This list is a minuscule representation of theocratic horror) Or the ever-loving, forgiving line in the New Testament, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” At least the Old Testament seems to reserve punishment for mortality only and not for the soul throughout eternity. But, hey, Jesus came to show us how to love unconditionally.
Nietzsche discusses Christianity, one of the major topics in his work, at length in the context of the problem of nihilism in his notebooks, in a chapter entitled “European Nihilism”. Here he states that the Christian moral doctrine provides people with intrinsic value, belief in God (which justifies the evil in the world) and a basis for objective knowledge. In this sense, in constructing a world where objective knowledge is possible, Christianity is an antidote against a primal form of nihilism, against the despair of meaninglessness. However, it is exactly the element of truthfulness in Christian doctrine that is its undoing: in its drive towards truth, Christianity eventually finds itself to be a construct, which leads to its own dissolution. It is therefore that Nietzsche states that we have outgrown Christianity “not because we lived too far from it, rather because we lived too close”. As such, the self-dissolution of Christianity constitutes yet another form of nihilism. Because Christianity was an interpretation that posited itself as the interpretation, Nietzsche states that this dissolution leads beyond skepticism to a distrust of all meaning.
A final thought from Nietzsche. Basically a summary by someone else with quotations from Nietzsche himself. I did outgrow Christianity because I got too close. I was one of the devout, bible-thumping-types. I said clean words, asked forgiveness daily, and spent two years at my own and my parents expense as a missionary. I still think on that time fondly. But the more I’ve distanced myself from belief, the more amazing life has become. I see things more clearly, and I have great hope for this life rather than a yearning for the next.
Of course, I immediately went out and raped, robbed, got drunk, and murdered people. OF COURSE I DIDN’T. And I feel I am a man of greater integrity now than I ever was as a believer. I think the more people examine and dive into faith the more it will fail you as you realize the contradictions and coverups of this culturally endorsed snake-oil business. I have also found, as I’ve welcomed myself into the post-Mormon community, that most of the people I’ve encountered have been those truly devout. They were committed believers whose integrity could no longer sustain their faith when new admissions–from the church itself and its apologists–revealed the deceit on which church built its earliest foundations. We’ve also found that of those who remain devout, the majority either know of these admissions but haven’t read them or don’t even know they exist.
I’ve also been lucky to find friends from high school and college who have gone through the same experiences that I have. Yes, we are jaded. Yes, we have every right to be. Over 30 years of my life was devoted to a lie. Yes, the people and the principle are largely good. But they are founded on white-washed history and cherry-picked doctrines. Being too close to religion became too much.