In spite of my various attempts to clarify my motives, people continue to ask why I have chosen to be so noisy and public as I exited the LDS Church. Most of these questions (and the occasional accusation that I’m insincere, or an attention whore) come from people who seem to be deeply connected to and invested in Mormonism. I’m realizing more and more that they’re not going to get it. And I’m ok with this.
I’m assuming that most of these folks are secure in their convictions of Mormonism and their place in it. I suspect that these people will not change their views much by reading anything on this site. It is my hope that maybe one or two will discover, perhaps against their expectations, that some ex-mormons and apostates aren’t quite as vitriolic and maybe a bit more thoughtful than they suspected. But maybe it will confirm their worst fears of us. I’m ok with that, too. They have the institution at their back, and the culture reinforces their views. I’m no threat to them.
But there are a contingent of people reading this, or who will come across this and other posts, and find that my account of my journey out of Mormonism and my excommunication resonate with them. 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. I know this because I once felt similarly isolated, and I’ve encountered many people over the years who feel the same way. This is one reason why the Church tries to limit the public voicing of doubts (I should note that this is not a pre-requisite of a faith organization–some, like the UU and liberal Quaker churches, welcome it) and warns against attending symposia–to keep people who struggle this way separate from each other. It’s one reason why I set up the Open Thread post: I want questioners and skeptics who are beginning to encounter serious doubts or those who feel trapped in religious institutions to realize that they are not alone, isolated, or aberrant. If you feel this way, I hope you’ll go check out the sites in the comments there. You are part of a large community. You may find more stories that resonate powerfully with you. If you’re like me and Jana, you might even find that some online conversations will grow into important and lasting friendships. If you don’t already have one, maybe you’ll start a blog of your own and reach out to another set of lonely and struggling souls.
But if you’re coming from the faith-promoting perspective, I don’t expect you to agree, sympathize or understand with anything of this. But that’s the point–I’m not writing with you in mind (though you’re always welcome here if you can stomach the subject matter and remain respectful of the individuals who comment here). You already have a strong community. I’m not reaching out to you. But thanks for stopping by, anyway.
I’ve been listening to this recently and it’s kept me going as law school ties me up in its basement, feeding me only bread and water, and negotiating a ransom exchange with my
family husband. I keep getting the feeling that the majority of my family would like me to settle down and start having children, rather than dicking around with this law school rigamarole. My parents seem entirely nonplussed by it and most of my sisters are just baffled by the fact that I might want it. So I feel like it’s an uphill battle, not just in the classroom, but on the couches of my family and in conversations with them.
Enter this song. I remember hearing this as a kid and identifying with the need to “get out” of something, of being trapped in an insular community (in this case, not a “town” but a religion, a family, and a path of life that included marriage and children and nothing else).
To spend my life here
Is more than I can do
I know somewhere down the road
My dreams will come true
And so they are.
If I stay here forever,
What will I have to show?
But if I make it over?
Well, then everyone will know!
I’m catching up on local news (read: blogs) while my cousin is in town (trying not to be too antisocial by spending all my free time blogging) and enjoyed particularly this most recent post at Daylight Atheism: No Holy Ground, a rational look at the conflict in the so-called “Holy Land” and how it is in fact not ironic but completely predictable that the “Holy Land” is the source of so much strife.
In other posts over there, I found this awesome quote:
[B]y divorcing salvation from good deeds or even the intent to do good deeds, evangelical Christians have made getting to Heaven an entirely arbitrary reward. In essence, they believe that there’s a secret password to heaven – one that’s hidden among thousands of indistinguishable alternatives – and the only thing that matters about your time on Earth is whether you can discover it. Raising a family, falling in love, showing compassion to your fellow humans, creating beauty, working to advance the knowledge or the common good of humanity – all these activities […] are meaningless and merit nothing. Finding the hidden password is the only thing that matters, and if you fail to find it, you’re consigned to eternal torment.
which you can read in context here, in a discussion about the irrationality of evangelical belief.
said the friend sitting next to me at Christmas Eve dinner, with a vague look of disgust on her face, like I’d just admitted to enjoying self-flagellation. I was in the company of a number of people who had escaped Western religion (all some form of Christianity) and landed firmly in Eastern religion (all some form of Buddhism). With three beautiful dogs wandering about, Deva, Metta, and Gaia, this was a decidedly religious environment. And yet, there was no prayer before dinner, no implicit religion anywhere. There were buddha heads, mala, and yes, even crosses hung on the walls and displayed on shelves. But this was a place I felt at ease enough to say something atheistic enough to “out” me.
Later, another attendee told a story about a different dinner to which an atheist was inadvertently invited. One who waxed lyrical about the evils of religion and the stupidity of the people engaged in it. He was quieted with a “Yes, fundamentalism of all kinds is horrible,” and a glass of alcohol. This may or may not have been aimed at me, but was accompanied by shock that anyone could presume to know for sure what is or is not.
It is true, however, that my particular brand of atheism is less anti-Divine and more anti-Religion. As far as I am concerned, religion is objectively fucked up. But I believe that there is in all beings something special. Something worthy of awe, respect, love, acknowledgment, and equality. As a feminist, I can believe nothing else. I strive toward treating everyone with a namaste attitude. I feel filled with a sense of wonder when I walk in the forest, talk with good friends, or meditate. There is something out there, which name I give “the Divine”, that I cannot deny. Nor do I wish to.
And so I call myself an atheist to distinguish myself from any religionist who might make you uncomfortable by trying to convert you (or even just by talking too much about it). And while I have a great deal of respect for the hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool, fundamentalist atheists, I also don’t consider myself one of them. DH calls himself a “humanist”, though I’m not certain how he defines this, in order to avoid the atheism label (although he is the only person I’ve ever met who grew up completely outside of any religious influence).
I’m a dualist, a pantheist, a pagan, a feminist (in the religious sense, though not a Dianic), a meditator, a yogini, a post-Christian, an ex-Catholic, a Jino (Jew in name only); a pray-er to Bastet, Au-Set, Gaia, & Luna; a talker-with-animal-spirits and to trees; a student of Fire, a daughter of Earth, a foe of Water, a student of Wind; and an atheist. I meditate, I cook, I swim, I do yoga, I ski. I pray to the deities that strike me at the time, be they Mary or Skadi, Ra or Thor. I pray to the animals whose flesh I consume. I cast spells to help and to harm. And I reject the effect of prayer (whether as meditation, as supplication, or as spell) on anyone or anything other than the one who prays. I’ve seen and touched things that cannot be explained and which I cannot deny. But having no desire to foist them upon you, or to congregate with others in an effort to gain favor with a being who we cannot hope to affect, I reject the labels of religion. I refuse to allow anyone’s religion into my government and hope for a secular society, where all practice whatever they believe in their homes; whether that means meditation or family dinners.
“Yes,” I should have said, “I really am an atheist. But that makes me just like you.”
For a few weeks when I first stopped being able to find time to blog, I kept windows open in Safari to the point that it was neigh on impossible to shut down my computer, for fear of losing all the wonderful and amazing links I was going to share! But then I got into the Zen of it and decided that blogging is impermanent and that you all would survive even if you didn’t read that screed I found about Palin or the funny-but-true pic I found about the Constitution. So I let them go.
But I’m back *fanfare* and to celebrate, I have three links to share:
The first is this “Coming Out as an Atheist” survey. It essentially compares atheism (and the social/familial stigmas attached to it) to homosexuality and asks, if applicable to you, which was harder to come out as. (My guess? Homosexual, but who knows.) It’s not the kind of survey where you get results (“Congratulations! You’re a Libertarian!”), but the kind of survey that’s part of a study. So I encourage people who are out-atheists, on-the-fence non-believers, and religion-doubters to go take it (sorry to all you actual religionists, I don’t think there are a lot of options for you).
The second link is for religion geeks (or geeky religionists): If Programming Languages were Religions.
Finally, for peaceniks, today is the Winter Solstice and someone has organized a minute of silence, followed by bell-ringing for peace at noon today. Not a bad way to remain present as the season ramps up in crazy.
That is all.
Professionals who treated patients with mental illness were once called alienists. Although the word itself has become obsolete, as a society mental and emotional disorders are still treated as something strange, alien, other. We are healthy and normal, but they are sick and crazy.
A few months ago, I joined the quiet mass of aliens living in this world. I was diagnosed with a moderate depressive disorder. I had long suspected this, but Jana’s illness and work stress exacerbated things to the point where I felt I had to cross the line and seek professional help.
I was prescribed Venlafaxine from day one. I’ve always hated the idea of artificially transforming my personality, but I was desperate enough in this case to play along. Ironically, the meds seemed to have the effect of bringing out the best me, banishing the moodiness and irritability that had characterized me lately, and that seem so foreign to the authentic cheery John. (Granted, I own some of my pessimism and fatalism.)
I know it’s not wise to announce to the world that I have a mental disorder. Current and future employers may read this and consider me a risk. Maybe I’m crossing TMI boundaries. But like many of my posts, I weigh this against the principles of openness and transparency. Mental health issues are complicated by our aversion to talking about them. I know a number of suffering people who could use therapy and probably meds, but who are unlikely to ever cross that threshold. Speaking up is the one thing I can do to improve the situation. Maybe those of us who struggle with our mental and emotional health will then feel a little less alien.
Clarification: I’m not suicidal (and haven’t been since high school). I’m lucky to have an extremely supportive family and work environment, a broad social network and a strong sense of self-awareness. I seem to be reacting well to the meds, and my shrink and I are working on getting me off the drugs, through therapy, exercise, meditation (and possible dream therapy, which I may write more about later). I don’t think my depression is related directly to religion in any way–it preceded my conversion to Mormonism, was perhaps alleviated a bit when I first converted, and then worsened during my mission (which fed my unhealthy propensity towards perfectionism) and after I began questioning (and feeling guilty about doubting).
Obama’s first YouTube-Side Chat. I’d love to get the audio in podcast, since I have more time to listen than to watch. I’m so glad that he’s doing this (I’ve been saying for some time that the Fireside Chats need to be brought back, to increase trust and transparency; in this case, also to increase hope). I don’t think that this first one was very substantive (certainly he can’t really have done anything yet), but I do think it’s important as a gesture. via.
Education and Religion.
Two stories of interest, each proving the importance of the other.
In the first, an English Catholic bishop blames educated members of the Church for sowing dissent among the rest. He clearly has a low opinion of his own faith, that it is so easily thwarted; or a low opinion of his faithful, that the best of them are uneducated boobs.
[Third story, more of an aside: Letter to the Red States outlining the differences in the voting public for Obama and for McCain (as well as some others. Not sure where this started, I got it in an email. If someone would like to track down the true author, I'll link to that instead).]
The second, a horrifying story in which the Taliban agrees with the Catholic bishop above: education is a threat. Education of women an even greater threat, one that they are actively discouraging by acts of violence and terrorism against the women who teach, the girls who wish to be taught, and the parents and family members of both.
Education is a threat to faith. One Catholic bishop and a bunch of terrified Afghan men agree: only unthinking members of society will stay in their place and allow the power to maintain their stranglehold upon truth and freedom.
On a lighter note, a quick reference guide for religions, the Big Religion Chart. From Aladura to Zoroastrianism, it breaks down religions by name, origins & history, number of adherents, god(s) and view of the universe, human situation & life’s purpose, the afterlife, practices, and texts. It also provides helpful links to learn more. Christianity gets one entry, a fact which should sober all those people lobbying to enforce their world view upon the rest of the country (although outliers like Jehovah’s witnesses, Mormons, and Unitarians, who are only arguably Christian do get their own entries). I know I’ve got some additional research to do (after finals!, I have to remind myself) to learn more about religions I’ve never heard of as well as to see where I fit.
Final quick hit: Another (do we need another?) Argument for the ERA.
So, we’ve got these posters up all over campus for an “event” tonight called “AFTERdark” and it’s pissing me off because I think this is a microcosm of the general bait-and-switch of religion.
The campus event of the year
the compelling drama of
“a top 10 influencer of the century”
-New Man Magazine
Island Records recording artist
It’s got photos of the two guys (actually looks like it was made on a Mac…) and some dark clouds & whatnot in the background. There are also students walking around with T-shirts that say “AFTERdark, [date/location/time]” along with our school mascot and the website on the back
A student came into our classroom one morning to write it on the board, so I asked her what it was.
“Oh, it’s just an event.”
“What kind of event?”
“Well, there’s a concert.”
“Is that it?”
“No, there’s also a reenactment.”
“A reenactment?” vague images of SCA come to mind, “What kind of reenactment?”
“Oh, like a play.”
“…What kind of play?”
“I think it’s about the Passion,” as she scurried away.
To be fair, throughout this whole conversation, she was attempting to scurry, getting closer and closer to the door with each exchange. Perhaps she had thirteen more classrooms to write in before class started, I don’t know what her hurry was, but I definitely felt like I was getting the run around.
So I went to the website, since I was curious. It also doesn’t give much information (except that it’s “One night. One campus. One movement.” and some general testimonials: “best night of my life!” “changed my life”). So I Googled it and got this article from more than a year ago, “AFTERdark Deceives Students to Preach Gospel”. So, AFTERdark consists of a random up-and-coming artist and an evangelical speech by some other random dude. But that information is hard to get.
During our weekly announcements, a classmate stood in front of the class and invited everyone to it: “There’s a concert, it’ll be awesome, hope to see you there!” We didn’t really get a chance to ask him questions, so I didn’t then. But the next day, I saw someone with a shirt on. So I asked her:
“Hey, do you know what that is,” I said, gesturing toward the shirt.
She looked down, then made eye contact and said, “Yeah.”
We looked at each other for a moment. “…what is it?”
“Well, it’s a event.” I had had this conversation.
“Okay, what kind of event?”
“There’s a concert…”
“So it’s a concert.”
“Not just a concert.”
“Oh. Okay, what else is it?”
“…there’s a speaker.”
“Oh, cool—what’s he speak about?”
“Oh, stuff that’s relevant.”
“Like politics? Is it a rally?”
“No. Like the Gospel.”
“Oh! Okay, cool, thank you.”
“Yeah, no problem.” She looked at me shiftily.
“You know,” I said, keeping her a few more moments, “it’s really hard to get that information.”
“Oh?” She looked shiftier and laughed nervously, “it’s not supposed to be.”
Then she scampered off.
Now I have a mission: shanghai everyone with an AFTERdark shirt and get them to admit that it’s an evangelical preach-fest. I also have a tactic: the naïve idiot.
Employee in the cafeteria:
“Hey, do you know what AFTERdark is?”
“Well…it’s in Alumni Park!”
“Right, but what is it?”
“It’s a concert, Jon McLaughlin is this record-signed artist who’s really cool.”
“Oh, what kind of music does he play?”
“Just…music. Pop. Nothing Christian.”
“My fiancee thinks he’s hot.”
“hehe, cool. So it’s just a concert?” I resisted the urge to assume or imply genders about his fiancee.
“No…you know, I really don’t know a lot about it. Some students asked me to wear the shirt. But I’m going to it!”
“Oh, okay. It’s just hard to find information about it.”
“Huh. I wonder why that is…”
Me, too, dude. Me, too.
Look, I go to a(n ambiguously) Christian school. I get that. I understand that they probably reserve the right to prosthelytize to their students. But I do expect them to be honest about it. “AFTERdark: concert and prosthelytization. Free cookies!” People will go, you don’t have to deceive them! Trust me, free food on a college campus plus anything = attendance. Homeland security plus In-N-Out = attendance. Prop 8 with Mormons plus ToGos = attendance. Torture and bloodletting plus pizza = attendance! The deceit makes me feel like they think they’re doing something shady by trying to get us to come to Jesus. The deceit turns it into something shady. I’m really uncomfortable with this religious bait-and-switch and feel that it’s endemic of the whole religious “thing”. They don’t want my soul to come honestly to a belief in a higher power that makes me want to be good, love my neighbor, and hate gays. They want to trick me into it.
California, post Supreme Court decision (that discrimination based on gender is discrimination), now uses marriage licenses that ask for the names of “Party A” and “Party B” to the marriage. As someone who still doesn’t feel like the word “wife” applies to her, I think this is pretty awesome. It is, however, causing waves.
I understand where the desire to take this stand comes from (being against gay marriage), however, is it really so bad to use gender-neutral language? Did “Bride” or “Groom” come first before and why? Doesn’t this provide people who are not in the men-are-better-than-women or the women-should-be-treated-with-more-respect-than-men camps with more freedom? Once again, how does this affect your [heteronormative] marriage/relationship/wedding?
This is one of my all time favorite songs. Depeche Mode (the peach, with ice cream?) wrote a haunting offer to stand in for a missing element:
Your own, personal, Jesus. A Jesus you don’t have to share with the rest of humanity.
Someone who cares A wonderful indictment against an indifferent Jesus.
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