MoF Musings.

My posts have been a little sparse and fluffy for the past week or two (I feel like I’m describing someone’s hair loss). This is a break in my consistent posting for the past few months, and I feel that I owe you all an explanation. First of all, life is crazy; one of my programmers quit last week (so I have to pick up or redistribute his work until we can find someone to replace him), and we’re in the middle of an office move. The semester is heating up, and I’ve got research papers to write and hundreds of pages to read. Once again, I am grateful for Miko’s presence here! And I still owe you all the art + religion post–I haven’t forgotten, and thanks to the several of you who sent in submissions.

Anyhow, if it was just the increased work and school loads, I think I’d still be on top of my blog posts. During two months of¬† consistent daily blogging, my readership has steadily declined. Because I write for an audience (rather than for my own sake), this is a bit discouraging. Writing these posts eats up a lot of time.

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks thinking about the purpose of Mind on Fire in its current iteration, and this steady drop in hits. First of all, I think that the decline represents the flight of my LDS readers.¬† Mormons have always made up the bulk of my visitors, and I’m no longer invested in Mormonism. I’ve stopped reading and participating in all but a few LDS blogs (the individual and feminist sites listed in my sidebar). I think I’ll stay involved as a feminist critic and as a scholar of Mormonism, but I can no longer relate to the struggles of so many of my LDS friends when I don’t share their fundamental beliefs. I no longer self-identify as a Mormon. I feel saddened as I write this, like I’m saying goodbye to an old friend, or moving from the neighborhood I grew up in.

That said, I write primarily for the community that manifests itself here in the comments, and you all are quite a mix of skeptics, believers and skeptical-believers and believing-skeptics. Some of you are Mormon, but I think you’re still interested in the topics of discussion even if I don’t touch on LDS subject matter.

So what of my involvement in Mind on Fire from here on out? (I’m only blogging about my blogging–Miko is a free agent, and has her own mysterious schemes…)

I still identify as a post-Christian. There’s enough work done by existential and even atheistic Christian theologians to allow me to twist some meaning out of Christian symbolism. I continue to be fascinated by the quest for the historical Jesus, and plan to read and write more about Ehrman (I’ll write up my chapter later this week) and other scholars.

I will continue to provide a forum for dialog between atheists and believers. I want to help both groups to move past shallow stereotypes¬† and to realize that there is value in subjective, spiritual experience and in critical thinking about religion. That said, I’ll still have a lot to say about the negative aspects organized religion. I’ll also try to work in my study of ritual on occasion. I’ll continue to post my Wednesday challenge as a way of helping us all to increase compassion, awareness and a sense of connection, no matter what our individual approaches may be.

I plan to spend this year seriously considering my commitment to Quakerism. I haven’t applied for membership yet, though I’m encouraged as I meet more and more non-theistic Quakers. I would like to explore my Quaker values (simplicity, peace, integrity, compassion, equality) in depth and consider my place as an spiritual atheist in the Society of Friends. I’ll probably continue to write political posts (especially on non-violence and feminism) from a ‘Quakerly’ perspective.

I don’t have the time to devote to my OC pilgrimage. It is now officially on hiatus, though I plan to write about my experiences at various places of worship as they come about. I may experiment a bit with religious journalism. I have some interviews in mind. I also want to review a bunch of SoCal religious bookstores (from Fuller Theological Seminary to The Bodhi Tree on Melrose to Trinity Broadcasting Network’s cheese shop).

Finally, I’m on my way to reading a hundred books this year, and I’d like to write a short review for each title. I’m only a few books behind in reading, but I’m over a dozen behind in reviews. Expect an eclectic mix of fantasy (without elves and hobbits), science fiction, religious studies, and popular religion and science.

Whew! Thanks for bearing with me.¬† Writing this post was cathartic, and helped to give me a better sense of direction and purpose for this site. I’ll spend more time writing and less time worrying about my site stats. Thanks to all of you who continue to read and contribute. I’m committed to providing you all with another year of blogging goodness.


  1. John, I love the idea of providing a forum for understanding between believers and athiests. I think we’re a lot more similar than most people realize and breaking down stereotypes and connecting seems like a worthy and valuable work.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where Mind on Fire goes over the coming year! πŸ™‚

  2. John, I wouldn’t worry too much about falling readership numbers, since you’re consciously stepping away from one of your readership bases. As you enter other communities, I think you’ll probably attract different readers.

  3. My observation of personal blogs is the more popular they are, the less enjoyable they become to read because of the increase in obnoxious comments.

    I can relate to what you say about feeling a bit sad and like leaving a neighborhood. This weekend it occured to me that stake conf was going on sometime this month and how much I looked forward to the Saturday night sessions of it. It’s been nearly a year and a half now. My visits there have been few and getting further apart. I went through the whole grieving process as it wasn’t just losing a church – not like when I left the church of my youth – it was great big concepts about god that had been core beliefs of my whole life. There was a lot of grief and everything that goes with it. Sorrow, (a little) denial, anger, acceptance. And the whole culture thing, that’s huge.

    I don’t regret it as I’m sure you don’t either. I love the freedom I have now and fondness for the good times.

  4. :-p I’m trying to make is sos youse guys don’t notice John being gone, but most of my posts languish in draftsville until I polish them to the point where I can put them up. Others simply languish in my brain…I’m with nee: while I like some of the super-popular blogs (dooce, for example), I don’t even bother reading comments on them. What I like about MoF is that it’s more than just a blog, it’s a forum.

  5. Parker


    “I‚Δτll spend more time writing and less time worrying about my site stats.”

    Good–I think that is the zen of things. Besides you have to write, and this is a good place to put some of it, and the rest of us can listen in, and comment along and along.

    By the way, will I see you at Sunstone? Maybe I should ask, will I see me at Sunstone? Sometimes, like you, I think I am tired of those issues. Yet, it is amazing to me how my thinking seems to make a curve through Mormondon, no matter where I start, and where I think I am going.

    So, please keep us informed, those of us who wish to know where you and Jana are journeying.


  6. SunflowerP

    I”m so glad you’re not responding to the reduction in hits by backing off! I discovered MoF only about a week ago, via a comment you posted to GetReligion – while not quite an atheist myself, I find the nontheistic approach to religion frequently relevant to my personal path, and deeply interesting.

    I was expecting to lurk and read for a while longer before commenting, but it’s clear that a bit of encouragement from your “new readership” won’t come amiss. So – hello!


  7. For what it’s worth, I think what you’re doing here is very important, John. Certainly it has become a daily stop for me, even if I don’t always comment (don’t want to wear out my welcome πŸ™‚ ). As a still-on-the-books but no longer self-identifying Mormon myself, I find a lot here to feed my intellect in ways that no other blog or website quite manages. I quite admire and respect the committment you have to this blog, and I understand all too well how real life can get in the way. I’m not quite sure how you do it all.

    Which brings me to your reading goal…100 books in a year? I did that once, but I wasn’t working and wasn’t going to school most of that year. My goal this year is a book a week; I’m three behind right now.

  8. John

    Thank you, all of you, for your encouragement. Like I mentioned, you’re the audience I have in mind when I write.

    Nee & Miko: I agree that the bigger a blog gets, the more difficult it is to have a meaningful discussion. Perhaps the current size is about right. πŸ™‚ I haven’t been good at working on cross blogging conversations as well (need to get that trackback function working).

    Parker, you always step in when you are most needed. I will be at Sunstone this year. It would be good to see you there (or anywhere, for that matter). I may be applying to a grad school in your parts, by the way. Maybe we’ll be neighbors in a couple of years?

    Sunflower, thank you for joining us and for delurking. Welcome! I hope you’ll share your journey and insights with us as time passes.

    Elaine, your comments have been particularly perceptive, and have given me a lot of food for thought over the past couple of months. You have definitely not worn out your welcome! I’m cheating a bit with hundred books business–my grad program requires me to read a lot, and I’m including those titles in my count.

  9. Sorry to hear that you won’t be doing any more pilgrimages! I understand completely though. I’m going to have a second baby on the way soon (a couple of weeks away we think!), and my web and graphic design side business is really booming. I’m trying hard to keep up with consistent posts on my own site, and am failing.

    I was hoping to compare notes with your Charismatic church visit to my own. πŸ™‚ Oh well, I’m sure someday you may get around to it.

    Regarding blog community sizes, it seems like a small size for a blog is the best – like 7-15 regulars. That size makes for a great discussion group in real life or virtually. Any more than that things get harder and harder to manage and as a visitor, you feel like your individual comment doesn’t matter or is even ever read by the main poster or the other members of the community.

  10. I understand where you are coming from. Though I remain a rather unique devout Mormon, I am rarely blogging about things that one would consider exclusively Mormon. These days education, journal writing, and my transition back to school are things that occupy my small spot on the web. I also am using You Tube to share music that I consider spiritual with others. Strange, but I am moved by Interpol and the Arcade Fire these days.

  11. Chili Pepper

    I just wanted to comment and let you know that I enjoy your site. It’s often a breath of fresh air, and I especially think it is a great host for open-minded thinking in the context of religion and spirituality. So thank you for your efforts to continue to make this site what it is, even though I might not regularly respond. πŸ™‚

  12. John,

    A few thoughts which have mostly to do with me but I suspect there could be some overlap between us:

    Much of the concern you express here seems to be coming from an un-Zen-like frame of mind. From what I know of you, but mostly from what I know of myself, this is a dead give-away for why you’re not totally committed to posting.

    For example, reading 100 books is great; particularly if they mix in your mind and create novel output. Writing posts about each individual book is perhaps not something that gets you up in the morning. Similarly, writing for an audience is one thing–particularly if the audience is the Universe–but writing for page hits? Very un-Zen-like. I know these things are sufficient to motivate some beings, but John, I think you’re motivated by Zen. The concerns that you expressed have Buddha hiding behind them.

    But perhaps it goes a little further. My impression of you is that the Universe put gangsta in you. Two rhymes come to mind:

    1. Bodhisattva Vow – you know you’re speaking in the voice the Universe gave you when it becomes a meditation. And people may not like some of the things they hear, but they will generally recognize and be drawn to a voice that is true to itself.

    2. Damn, It Feels Good to be a Gangsta – if you say “damn straight” on this one, if you care not for TPS Reports, and fax machines, … then these are Buddha to you.

    Ultimately what I’m suggesting here is that, if the Universe in any way put the gangsta in you (and I think it’s obvious that it did), you might try getting your gangsta ass back in the game by capping Buddha in the head.

  13. Kathy Q.

    And I’m still reading too. Which is not to say you need to keep writing, just that I supposed I am what is called a lurker, reading sometimes, appreciating, thinking, but having nothing to add just yet. How Quakerly, really. Hmm.

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