1. I am very grateful for this community. It has helped me feel less isolated, helped me meet wonderful and intelligent people, and is a place I love to come and discuss our ideas.

  2. I’m grateful for blogs like yours. They are thoughtful and comforting and reinforce my very new and still in-need-of-strengthening conviction that we who have left the church are not evil. πŸ™‚


  3. GKB


    As I have said, my visits here were not going to be long. I sense that the conversation I wanted…needed to have has taken place. I will drop by occasionally so see how everone is. I may even comment once and a while. But for the most part, I am moving on.

    Good luck on your spiritual journey.


  4. The community on this blog has been a lifeline to me now for 2 1/2 years. I identify with it even if I am a less-active member.

    But I have to say that respectful commenters like GKB do enrich the discussion. Thoughtful disagreement forces us to examine our own reasoning and prevents the dialogue from becoming the equivalent of a secular “testimony meeting.”

  5. I’ve been feeling so lonely and self-pitying since I moved out of Utah and into the relative boondocks of NorCal where I don’t know anybody and don’t seem to fit in since I don’t grow my own pot or wear buckskin leggings that I tanned myself from an animal I killed with my homemade bow & arrow. MoF is one of those few places where I feel like I still have a friend. This place is for me, and whether you like it or not I’m stickin’.

  6. Michael Galli

    Well-written, great details, insightful to your thought process in this blog. I hope this continues your spiritual development to its fullest extent. As a cradle-Catholic, I find your story extremely thought-provoking, especially as I am going through a renewal of my faith. Perhaps I will write more on that topic in my own forum.

    Welcome to Northern California! I was born and raised here, and I still find it funny how people talk about NorCal being pot-growing, hippie-loving, animal skin wearing boondocks. Of course, I live in Davis, where many people are pot-smoking and hippie-loving. But there is a place for everybody, it may just be hard to find.

  7. Thanks for the welcome, Michael! To be more specific, I live in Mendocino County (which may be ’nuff said?). And indeed almost everyone I have met so far grows pot for a second income, and some grow it for a first income. It’s certainly a tiny niche area, but hey, I’m from the Southwest originally, so this is, ah…different! And it’s not that I don’t love pot and hippies. πŸ˜€ I just feel surprisingly conventional all of a sudden, though I’ve never thought of myself that way, and I’m not sure where I fit in just yet. Utah taught me that there is a community for everyone once you reach out, but it took me six years to come around to that in Utah, so I’m a little concerned for myself.

  8. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for Mind on Fire and sites like this. I’m really grateful that I’ve had the chance to comment here from time to time. When I don’t, it’s just out of shyness, I promise. Your example has helped me so much as I learned to stand up for my beliefs.

  9. Chandelle~ I understand how you feel, since I recently moved from a lifetime in Montana to begin a new life in Texas. I’ve got a few friends here I met through blogging and online fora I visit, but basically I’m home most of the time being a part-time SAHM and an artist and it makes it hard to find friends. Isolated is a good word for it.

    I really am enjoying the discussions on this blog. I wish GKB would stay (and I hate when posters ask other posters “why are you even here?”–that gravels me and suppresses discussion right when it’s getting good).

  10. John

    GKB, just so you know, I didn’t have you in mind as I wrote this, but more some of the drive-by comments. This post also is meant to respond to people who are questioning the value of even having a public discussion between someone like you and someone like me. I see particular value in it, and I know that you see benefits coming from it. Among other things, you break some of the stereotypes into which I and others might otherwise be tempted to insert solid church members.

  11. rs


    i live in southern humboldt county so i understand the culture you’re living in VERY well.

    there are some wonderful people in this neck of the woods and i hope you come to love norcal. get involved…volunteer….best way to find your community.


    i enjoy your blog and jana’s. i’m active in the church though some people may question my faithfulness since i married outside the church this past year. just wanted to let you know that not all church members are afraid of your thinking and appreciate your diversity of thought and courage to find truth.

    quick story…about 4 years ago i was working with a man in his 60s that was ex’d in the early 80s. he lived in so cal as well. he was ex’d because of a booklet he produced that discussed early doctrines of the church. he continued to attend church for a good year after he was ex’d until one day the bishop told him he was making people uncomfortable and suggested that he shouldn’t attend church anymore. so sad. too bad people couldn’t have been more welcoming. i know in the short year that i worked with this man i learned a great deal and have great love and respect for him. i hope the people from your old ward will be kinder to you than what my friend experienced.

  12. Ah, the memories in that photograph πŸ™‚ This has been an important community for me as well. I have good friends here in Idaho. But most of them have never been Mormon and find it hard to relate on that level. I keep coming back here and to some of the commenters’ blogs because they are my good friends, and they can relate to these parts of my history.

  13. I’m indebted to John Dehlin for asking, “Do you know the Remys?” I was going through my own struggle to extricate myself at that time a few years back. My life is definitely enriched by John, xJane, and the community here. (xJane, I feel for you at times like this. You must feel like a spectator to the most bizarre show on earth. Did life in Catholicism seem normal by comparison? lol)

    My personal spiritual journey has many twists and turns. I appreciate the church now in a way I didn’t before – perhaps because my relationship with it is on my terms now. I went to a fireside last night with general RS prez Julie Beck. It was a Q&A format which was surprising. Nonetheless I’m under no illusions wherein I expect great change in how the church body as a whole operates or in how I’ve come to operate spiritually.

    Where that will take me in the future, I don’t know. But I do know I have a great appreciation for the community here and I’m glad I found my way to it at a time my life when I’d begun to let go of a lot of judgment. I’m sure there are some blogs I commented on 5 or 6 years ago that I’d cringe to see now what I wrote then.

  14. Violet

    “The LDS institutional and cultural messages are a source of dissonance and anxiety for them. They’ll find comfort and companionship in my opinions and experiences and of similar ones voiced by other commenters.”

    This is exactly why I keep coming back here and to Jana’s blog as well. I came for the first time over a year ago, through the exponent blog. So even though I don’t comment very often (I think this my first comment here). I for one do appreciate your openness and creating a community for people like me.

  15. I think there a many people who don’t understand blog communities and how they function–who keep landing on your blog and don’t understand that your audience is not mainstream LDS. Sigh…

  16. I like being a part of this community because it reminds me that there are people who think carefully about their faith choices and who challenge what is being handed to them and make it work for them in a functional happy life. I love that there are people here like John who have values and morals that are not based on God, bc I feel like it restores my faith in humanity. I think that one of the most important things I have learned through MOF is that there are people of all different belief or non-belief systems who are not dogmatic and who are open to listening to and really hearing those with different opinions- again something that gives me faith in the human spirit.

  17. Rainey

    It always surprises me when people are incredulous that agnostics and atheists can have a value system that’s not based on a concept of god.

    It’s as simple as the Golden Rule and as concrete as the world that exists around us. Every day we have dealings with our fellow man — those who are dear to us and those who are strangers. Our own feelings and experiences give us important information about what others’ needs and reactions are likely to be as well as the probably consequences for being cruel, dishonest or dismissive. What’s missing in that? My kids who were raised without the specter of god got it by the time they were 8 or 9.

    But, beyond that, beyond the needs and consequences attached to others, as individuals we need a sense of security and a positive assessment of our own worth. What builds both is the bank account of our ethical dealings in the world. Every time we forego an expression of selfishness we build our own sense of ourselves as decent people AND our assurance that other people are interested in the same fair and civil commerce and their own self-worth. Every time we do something fine we make a world that provides us with security and satisfaction. And it’s my personal belief that we create a psychic state that attracts the same. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten my purse or my wallet and gotten them back by extraordinary circumstances.

    It isn’t complicated. It doesn’t depend on some future reward or intimidation. And the consequences are immediate and real.
    If anyone is unclear about this I recommend the Francis Ford Coppola film The Conversation where you’ll see the converse — that people who violate decency become entrapped in their own misdoings.

  18. I hope that my comment didn’t imply that I thought that people without God couldn’t have a moral or value system… I definitely don’t think that at all, I just like the fact that sometimes that has been a topic that has been addressed here.

  19. I just come here because you write posts that remind me that there are still people in the world who are not completely insane. I also like that you can write about difficult subjects in a calm and unvengeful way. (I’m not saying anger’s never called for. I just enjoy the general calm despite that.)

  20. Michael Galli

    Thank you for your clear & personal explanation of atheist / agnostic belief. As a Catholic, I have never heard some one define it as clearly as you have for yourself. My hope is that others like you who have a personal belief, which is not based on a Deist faith, still have a faith in a natural law to follow the Golden Rule.

    I agree that people want a feeling of security in society and for many it comes from having a common world view. For added validity, some people turn to their churches for this security, others to government. I know this may be an oversimplification, but this is just my observation and humble opinion, as I have gone through similar experiences of looking for the “self-worth” factor in my existence.

    And thank you to all who have made comments, keeping the comments civil and respectful. And thank you, John, for hosting this forum.

  21. @Michael

    I’m an atheist as well, and for me, it’s less that I believe in “the Golden Rule” and more that I believe that all people deserve humane, equal treatment, regardless of any other consideration. To me, the Golden Rule is self-serving and based on the same concept as revenge.

    I base my morality on the fact that as social animals, we’re all in this together, and we need each other to survive and prosper.

    Also, it has nothing to do with faith.

  22. John

    Michael, thanks for the thanks! (and for participating civilly yourself!)

    Michael and Craig: I sometimes say that my personal value system is based on my fundamental postulate that life is precious, and that human life is especially so. Most of my value system flows in what appears to me to be a relatively logical manner from this moral axiom.

    While I haven’t built a rational foundation under this cornerstone of my value system, I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to call it “faith.” Or if I did assign the term to this belief/value, then it seems like the usage of the word would be qualitatively different from all of the meaning assumed in, say, claiming faith in, say, a Trinitarian God or universal karma.

  23. “Or if I did assign the term to this belief/value, then it seems like the usage of the word would be qualitatively different from all of the meaning assumed in, say, claiming faith in, say, a Trinitarian God or universal karma.”

    Indeed. Exactly.

  24. Rainey

    To me, the Golden Rule is self-serving and based on the same concept as revenge.

    Appreciate your point of view, Craig. And I suppose I can see how that could be true. But, like most of life, I think it’s a matter of how you use the tool.

    In my case, I guess I see how my own experiences and feelings enable me to be empathetic. Then the business of applying humane, equal treatment with that tool has to be my objective. And, when it is, I build that sense of security in being able to rely on other people’s empathy.

    It’s true it’s based on the individual but in the context of the individual’s place in the community. I suppose we’ve all told our kids they were important human beings and that everyone else is too. In that sense I think we all need a positive sense of ourselves to ensure our effectiveness in seeing other people positively and with specific demands on us as well.

    Like everything else, it comes down to the individual’s commitment and choices and everything can be framed positively or distorted and there are no end of rationalizations for the distortions, huh? ;>

    One example that’s always struck me profoundly is the case of solitary confinement as a correctional technique. Today it’s used as the last case, most punitive and retaliatory measure. But it was the go to method in early American Quaker Pennsylvania. Their concept of it was that when person transgressed they had gone off the rails for some reason that they needed to adjust. They thought that a brief constructive period of reflection — best accomplished without distractions in a solitary environment — would help the person identify the error and assess the means to get back on track. This strikes me as much more humane but that sense of it has gotten lost in generations of focusing on controlling behavior… Field and focus.

  25. I want to be clear, I don’t think that treating others like you want them to treat you is in ANY way a bad thing. I just realised it might have sounded as if I were bad-mouthing it.

    What I meant is that I don’t base my morality on the basis of reciprocity, but on a belief that all beings deserve ethical treatment, (regardless of how I am treated).

    Indeed, if more people followed the golden rule, this would be a far better society. I just think that, for me, there is something idea to base my morality on. That’s all I meant.

  26. Rainey

    Fair enough and I was looking for a familiar rather than an exhaustive one when I chose the Golden Rule. Even so, I think a key part of it is “treat others as you wish to be treated not as you have been treated.

    Even saying this, everyone doesn’t have the same needs. It isn’t a complete analogy. Just a familiar and available one.

    In the end, it comes down to our sincerity and ability to exercise a conscience of our highest intention rather than one of rationalization or convenience.

    But I don’t think we disagree in kind — only degree and coloration perhaps.

  27. Rainey

    But I don’t think we disagree in kind β€” only degree and coloration perhaps.

    Adding, maybe we don’t agree about how we arrive at our ethical system but I bet we both agree that we don’t have difficulty framing one we can rely on without basing it on a god-centered cosmology.

  28. Yeah. The “virtue” of god-based morality systems makes no sense to me.

    So, you’re good because you want a reward and don’t want to be punished. And that’s better than being good all by yourself because that’s just the right thing to do… how again?

  29. After I stopped going to church, I was at my LDS sister’s house one day. She had heard all my reasons for leaving the church, and we had had many discussions about it. She told me she wanted to continue to take her three young daughters to church so they could learn morals. She said, “Just today, it was awesome when Taylor went to help Brianne reach the hose outside when she couldn’t reach. She said, ‘I’m helping you, Brianne, because that’s what Jesus would want me to do.’ I just don’t want to risk my children not learning morals like they do when they go to church. It’s just so good for them.”

    But is it really moral to help your sister just because some unseen guy you’ve heard and read about would want you to, or because he might be watching? Is it moral to help others because you might be hoping your god will reward you someday? Or is it more moral to help your sister simply because you know she needs your help? Which is really the more “moral” choice? I posed this question to my sister and she didn’t have a response. But I could tell she thought about it.

  30. ‘I base my morality on the fact that as social animals, we’re all in this together, and we need each other to survive and prosper. ‘

    How is this not reciprocity-based? (Not saying that’s wrong either. I think the recognition of mutual need is a powerful and reality-based moral motivator.)

    What I like about the ‘golden rule’ is that it’s about being treated as you feel is fair. It’s not ‘treat others as they (actually) treat you’ but ‘treat others as you wish they would treat you’. It’s so proactive because the person following the rule is treating the other person fairly (in accordance with one of the easiest ways to judge fairness – what you would consider fair if it were you) before any consideration of how they themselves have been treated. It invites fair behaviour from others but is not reliant on it.

  31. Pagans are known for ways of terror? This is truly news to me as all the pagans I know are ridiculously mellow.

    (Sorry, John. Couldn’t resist poking a bit of fun at what’s clearly a spammer who admittedly made me bust out laughing.)

  32. John

    Thanks, wren. Duly marked as spam. This one was sophisticated enough to get through my overburdened filtering system (i.e., my brain). πŸ˜›

  33. lama21

    oh, i see now, mr. john – you left your mormo church.

    well, as long as you got your wife & childrens beside ya – and i think she’s a great woman because look at you and this ‘rockin’ awesome’ blog (my grandkids’ words) – you are gonna be just fine, son, just fine.

    i think that’s what religion is trying to do for us – honor our life partners. period.

    everything is bullshit.

    trust an old man who’s been there.

    well, gotta help the mrs. with dinner – she’s massaging my weak shoulder to stand up and help her.

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