Breaking Mormon

I often ponder how things like religions and movements start, true or false, the fact that they occur can’t be denied. Personally I tend to see people generally good even when they do bad things. I tend to see the core of reasoning that would explain how they see it. This is my take on the history of the religion I once believed that fits that paradigm.

A young treasure digger wants to marry a cute girl, her dad says no way! Get a real job instead of this hunting for treasure with peep stones.

Now this young man has a penchant for jokes and tall tales(his mom even brags about his story telling abilities) he is good at convincing people of the fact that he can look into a stone and find buried treasure, so good in fact they give him money to do it. He doesn’t find anything though and is fined for fraudulent behavior. Still he likes to tell stories and has a great imagination, and there is that girl.

One day he tells a story of finding a book of gold. The story spreads like wildfire. He realizes that if he could publish a book people would buy it.

His cousin (also a prankster) tells him he knows a guy with a book about ancient america, he said the guy got it from some printing shop and it’s the only copy.The treasure hunter sees an opportunity, if he can get this book and get it published he could be an author and make legitimate money, this gold book story could be a great marketing tool. Then he would have a business that was legitimate. Authors are legitimate right?His cousins friend is a preacher and they decide this gold book should be a bible, a new bible, that would get peoples attention! What sells better than the bible!? They would all be equal partners, treasure digger, preacher and cousin.

It would need a miraculous beginning, a way to make sure people thought it was legitimately a bible. The treasure digger was naturally charming and  could memorize huge long stories so lets have him ‘translate’ it. Then when people saw them doing that it would seem miraculous.

The treasure digger would tell the story of finding the book and that would promote the book. But they needed money, they needed someone to fund the printing. They found a guy, he loved tall tales and amazing stories. Plus he had a farm that could be leveraged. They promised he would make his money back and more if he funded them, and it was for a good cause, this was the work of God after all.

Soon as word got out about this new bible, they started getting challenges from preachers, one time while telling the story of how the book started, treasure digger embellishes a little bit, talks about forgiveness of sins and other things he hears preachers talk about. People hang on his every word as he speaks. People start calling him a prophet of God. This feeds his ego, he gets even better at spinning the tales/scripture off the cuff.

The organization grows, faster than they expected it to. People are eating up the story of the gold bible. It’s not enough though to just sell books, they see there is real money to be made here with all these followers. There is more to this than just a book to sell, it could be a new religion! Preacher, Cousin and Prophet get caught up in all the excitement, they hadn’t expected this to become a religion, although the preacher really wanted that to happen. The preacher was the one with all the new theology that he felt the world should have. The prophet was supposed to be the figurehead, the ‘Moses’ while the preacher was the ‘Aaron’ that did all the talking. They would all  share in the wealth created. Maybe they should start a bank!

Even though the preacher was a great orator and theologian, people looked always to the treasure-digger-turned-prophet. He was the one with the amazing stories. One day he got up and spun some doctrine off the cuff in a meeting. People loved it. He didn’t need his ‘Aaron’ anymore he realized. People looked to him first. It fed his ego.

His ego grew, maybe he was a prophet in reality, maybe this is exactly how Muhammad got his start he thought. He did have grand ideas, he could make this world a better place, and people were listening. He kept doing what he did well, telling everyone the thoughts and stories in his head. The religion grew.

Preacher and Cousin saw the Prophet’s power grow, they told him that if it wasn’t for them he wouldn’t be where he is now. He should remember that!, but he wasn’t listening. Instead he used his power to chastise them, in fact he discovered that he could chastise anyone and so long as they believed it was God speaking through him, people listened. they did what he asked. It was crazy, why would people do that? Maybe he did speak for God. It came natural after all. Wealth was pouring in, he got his wife whom he loved dearly a maid to help around the house. She was cute too.

He loved his wife but man he lusted after that maid, those old bible prophets had lots of wives, makes sense that man should not limit himself to one right? A romp in the hay won’t hurt. Polygamy is born again.

Cousin and Preacher are not happy, they are not near as reckless as this charismatic young charmer become prophet. They were sure this polygamy thing would destroy what they wanted to build. They soon discover that the prophets power is strong, you couldn’t cross him, people believed him. He simply kicked them out for challenging him. They wanted to expose him for the fraud they new he was, but that meant they would be exposed too. Tough place to be in, they retreated and licked their wounds.

Prophet carried on, followers were a plenty now, even after the failed bank and the cries of child molestation all he had to do was move to a new place and ask the followers to go with him. He wouldn’t make the same mistakes this time, don’t take all of your followers money,  don’t kill the golden goose. He would use this power for good, after all he was a prophet, right?

Build a city by the river, homestead the land and sell it to all the new converts, send out missionaries, take the word of God to everyone! Don’t just convert people, commit them by covenant to the cause! Wealth was pouring in, just keep giving the people the revelations they want as expect. He WAS a prophet after all. Build a temple as a focus point, a grand building for all to see. This would make the word spread, more would come. They didn’t need to know about the polygamy, not yet, not until they had covenanted to believe. People weren’t ready to know how liberal God was till they had shed their inhibitions.

The city blossomed, this must be how prophets come to be thought the man now running for president of the United States. God uses people via their natural skills, his was revelation, he just knew what to say that the people needed to hear. Sure there were enemies, people that didn’t like him, ones that couldn’t understand what God wanted for everyone, they didn’t understand that love was meant for all. They were still stuck in a puritan mind set. Eventually they would get it. He just had to press forward.

The opposition didn’t stop though, they started a paper! They listed his wives and exposed his secrets, damn them, didn’t they know he was the prophet? You don’t cross the prophet! destroy the paper and the press that printed it! A word from the prophet and it was so.

Rest of the world isn’t so happy, they want to arrest him for destruction of the press. Their parents and grandparents didn’t fight in the revolution for the constitution of freedom and a new start just to have it become a theocracy again a generation later. A warrant goes out for arrest of the prophet. He dodges on a technicality, Lawyers look at the law declare it is treason so that this guy can be extradited and charged.

He runs again, but followers aren’t happy, they have ran several times before, and he is a prophet right? Won’t God protect him? Even if God won’t, what about the legion he created, the army of God, that would protect him, right? He could do it, he could stand the charges and in the end come out even better than before. Say the right thing, like the prophet always did, turn himself in and then come out ahead. He’d been in this position before and it always turned out ok. He wasn’t just some conman, he had a gift, the followers proved it. He wasn’t crazy, God was on his side.

In jail when the shots started he realized he might have been mistaken. When his brother died in front of him he knew it. No time to think, use the gun, fire back and run. There is the window! He must escape. The shots rang out “oh my god …” he said as he fell to his death.

Epilog

Preacher saw the chance after the death of his partner, he rushed back to take the reigns. No luck though, too many others were vying to control the religion he had helped start so long ago, his baby had a mind of its own now, no longer would it listen to him. The religion scattered, a large group of them ran again to a new place. They were now so different from everyone else they became insular and self sufficient. Crazy from the perspective of the outsiders. The only way to live from the perspective on the inside. The isolation of the new location allowed little influence of the outside world to affect the thinking of those inside. For all his faults, the prophet had been right about one thing, a new religion was born.

 

beggin to be butchered

 

As I say, it never ceases to amaze me how gullible some of our Church members are.
Harold B. Lee“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God”, Ensign, Jan 1973

Nice Things

I want to tell all of you a story. When I was about to propose to my wife, I went old school, I asked her dad for her hand in marriage first. He was good with it, but he warned me. He told me his daughter had expensive tastes and likes nice things. I have to admit this kind of surprised me at the time. I thought about it though, concluding that meant she had class and wasn’t willing to settle for any piece of junk out there. In getting to know her, I had dragonfly jewelrealized she would rather have one item of quality that a pile of junk. Me being the junk pile collector that I am thought we would balance out nicely.  The conversation set me back just a bit, but I remembered Jonny lingo, and to me this girl was worth far more that 10 cows. I plunged ahead determine to woo her to be mine. Ok well continue wooing her to stay with me. 🙂

Now after nearly 23 years of marriage, I look back and I’m amazed at the luck and foresight I had as young kid. I couldn’t have found a better mom for our children, she is bold and brave in ways that I am not. Her desire for quality has taught me to do things right the first time. She is smart, sexy, and determined. I count myself lucky every day when I wake up and see her sleeping next to me. We complement each other in so many ways. I love her so much that I would move heaven and earth to get her whatever she desires.

And yes, it is true that my wife likes nice high quality things, some would say she has expensive tastes. I realized over the years that this explains why our kids are so amazing,  why we have things that last. Why we have things that are high quality in our lives, like a marriage can’t be broken no matter the challenge, a love that endures, an amazing family and home that our kids run to and not from.

I often think of that conversation so many years ago, and deep in my heart of hearts where I wonder if I am good enough. A beacon of light shines and tells me yes, because this woman of class that likes nice things… She picked me.

Truth Doesn’t Fear Doubt

I loved Alma 32. Why? Because it is an experiment! Being a engineer and inventor I am constantly learning new things by experiment and test. This has been that case since I was a child. My mom likes to talk about the time when I was 10 and how I took apart her mix master that didn’t work, she was sure it would never work again after it was in pieces scattered all over the kitchen table. Things were all torn apart, it was a complete mess as I studied each piece figuring out what that part did.

parts mix master

In my life as I grew up I took the same approach to the gospel. I followed Alma’s advice over and over again, I would read the word, study it and pray about it. If I felt tinges of unbelief I pushed those aside and pleaded for a testimony. I got one too. A burning strong testimony that I relied on to serve a mission, to get married in the temple and to follow the brethren. Whenever doubts came along I would push them aside, I would doubt them. Alma warns you of casting out the seed of faith by your disbelief and I surely didn’t want that to happen.

Doubts don’t just disappear on their own though, they have to be resolved or set aside. I think this is where the shelf comes from. The shelf is a metaphor for dealing with unresolved doubts. I have heard it describe as a file folder, or a box. The description is always the same. The thing that bothers you, it goes there. Usually it is a piece of information that doesn’t make sense to you. If you think about it bothers you. If you studied it and gave it more time it would make you doubt more. So you put it aside. You think, someday in the next life I will ask God about this and it will all make sense then. For now you tell yourself I choose to have faith and simply believe. You say, I am sure it will all workout in the end for I believe God is just and will judge accordingly. When you shelve a doubt, you actively choose to have faith in spite of reason or evidence.

If you are really good at ignoring your doubts, instead choosing to just believe you can almost completely forget about them until one day you will be reading something and they will come pouring back. The more things you put on your shelf the more work it takes to flood your mind with conference talks and scriptures and church approved messages to keep the doubt at bay. Ignorance truly is bliss. These days my advice to those who want to keep their religion because it makes them happy is the same as the brethren, ‘don’t look behind the curtain’. Don’t let that driving need to know the truth cause you to investigate. The shelf is far easier to keep up the less things are on it.

There are some people out there though, not just in the religion I come from, but in other religions as well. People that feel like truth, not just complacency is a goal of its own. They often feel like a lone voice, if they speak up they get smacked down because their words are contradictory to the group they come from. The reason for this blog is for those out there that have tried to resolve their doubts rather than simply ignore them. Its for those that have looked for answers from their religious leaders and the only advice they have been given is to:

‘doubt your doubts before you doubt your belief’ – Max Lucado 2003

The more recent advice from Elder Uchtdorf changes the word belief to faith but the message is the same, it is an invitation to set your doubts aside and have faith in spite of them. It is advice to put those doubts on a shelf. Instead of digging for the truth he is telling you to have faith that it will all workout and one day in the future all those doubts will just melt away. To many that have left their faith this advice rings hollow for one reason. That is exactly what they did for a long time. I doubted my doubts over and over again for years. I put them on a shelf, I buried them away and ignored them.

The advice from believers that keeps hitting this board in their testimonies is to just have faith, to choose belief instead of tossing out the ‘good seed’ that Alma talks about. We have done that. I wish I could help those that wonder at the likes of us that don’t believe anymore, I wish they could understand the advice they are giving is advice we have followed already. Facing the loss of your religion is not an easy thing at all. In fact I think for most it is extremely difficult. Please understand this.

We didn’t want to stop believing.

In most cases we fought for our beliefs tooth and nail. We doubted out doubts by spending tremendous amounts of time and resources looking for the elusive bit of truth that would make it all fit together. We looked tireless for the evidence that seemed just around the corner. We followed Alma’s advice over and over until one day we had an epiphany. If you look closely at the experiment detailed by Alma, there is only one possible outcome to the experiment. You can’t have a negative result because then you are wrong. Could you imagine any scientist taking this approach to research? Would you go to a doctor that was so sure of himself that he would tell you to not get a second opinion?

The deck is stacked in Alma’s experiment, the dice are loaded. Its rigged. Realizing that allows you to consider the evidence you have used for your testimony in a new light. Reason dawns on you like a sunrise when you realize that Truth is Truth, no matter what you or anyone else believes. Truth lives outside of the realm of opinion and squarely in the realm of fact. If belief has no effect on reality, then neither does doubt. Truth simply is.

I don’t know how to explain how strongly this epiphany hit me. It was as if I could step back and simply observe the world in all its splendor and beauty. All at once  I felt completely free to think for myself, there wasn’t this nagging voice in my head telling me I needed to impose another persons view of reality on the universe to each detail according to a belief system given to me by another. I got to be me for the first time. I thought for myself completely. There wasn’t a corner of my mind anymore where someone else did the thinking and evaluation of reality. It was as if light poured forth from darkness and the whole world seemed new again.

Wonder is the end result of getting past the fear of not knowing. For the one thing that keeps you most firmly entrenched and willing to not realize that Alma’s experiment is rigged, is just fear. It is that fear of the unknown, the fear of not knowing that makes us so willing to believe things in spite of the evidence. Beyond that though is wonder, amazement and discovery of how things really work. There is joy in knowing that new information can change your mind on any topic. You don’t have to shelf things that don’t make sense because it is different that the paradigm you were given to view the world around you. You can simply change the paradigm. Once the shelf goes away true freedom of thought enlightens your being.

Reality doesn’t need believers to be true. It is simply true, testable checkable, verifiable by believers and non-believers alike. Is there still wonder? Yes! Can you still exercise faith in the face of unknown? Yes! The only difference is you don’t have to set aside reason and stop thinking and learning just to keep believing. Truth doesn’t fear doubt. It has no need to because doubt can’t make it untrue.

Oh yeah and the mix master I tore apart on the dining room table? After examining each part, looking for what looked broken, what didn’t make sense and fixing that. I put it all back together and voila! It worked. The Fridge blesses those that try to learn for themselves, especially when it comes to small appliance repair. 🙂

***
“If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have mixmasterit examined, their foundation must be very weak.”

– George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses vol. 14, pg. 216

Gravity, a Religious Debate

Fred
Hey Joe, guess what? I just got done reading Newton’s laws of motion and I learned something new!

Joe
What??!! You know that is a book of lies! Do you want to corrupt your mind and lose your soul?horseshoe-magnet

Fred
You know I love to learn, one day I was playing with a magnet at work and even though it sticks to metal things, it just wouldn’t stick to my hand, that didn’t make sense to me that the magnetic force is really what the rest of the world calls the gravity force like I had been taught. Plus one of my friends suggested reading a book on gravity, he said I might learn something. I know it was wrong but I just couldn’t explain the magnet not sticking to my hand like it does to the elder’s. I wanted to know more.

Joe
Oh no! Touching magnets is a sin! I am very sorry for you Fred, I fear you are losing the ability to see the truth because you touched a magnet. Only the church elders are allowed to use the power of magnets, you must be ordained to use that power or it is corrupted and of the devil. I can see that you are getting corrupted now.

Fred
I know that’s how we were raised, but I have to tell you I believe our teachers were wrong. I am losing faith in the magnites. I don’t think I can be one anymore.

Joe
See!! Proof that you shouldn’t have touched a magnet and read that anti-magnite book! Doubting your faith is the first sign of corruption! The elders tell us so and it is in their books.

Fred
But Joe, it isn’t anti-magnite, it is just a science book, really I am the same person, in fact I am sure I understand the world even better now than I used too.

Joe
I am so sad that you have lost the faith, I know that ‘gravity’ is a lie I know because I feel it deep in my soul that it is magnetism that holds us to the earth, our leaders preach this to us, they are holy and can hold magnets! How can you turn your backs on these men and the truth they preach?

Fred
Joe, I am trying to tell you that what scientists call gravity is real, it is the mass of the earth that draws us here not some big magnet at the center of the planet like we were taught.

Joe
I know without a doubt the center magnet exists, and your ‘so called’ scientists even say so too, they say there is a magnetic field I’ve seen it on the news. I mean how do you think a compass works? I am sure some day they will see the truth, science eventually catches up with us you know. Remember when scientists confirmed that like magnets repel? We were taught that when we were kids! Our elders did know and that is enough for me to trust them on this.

Fred
I know, I know what we were taught, but I’ve studied church history, our founder he had a best friend James and his friend worked in the lab of Nicolas Tesla. Do you know who he is?

Joe
I have heard the name mentioned by anti-magnites, I don’t need to study history like you, I just know in my heart it is true and I am happy to be a magnite, there is no changing that! I fear all you want to do is destroy my beliefs. You are so anti now, what happened to you? Have you been handling magnets long? I know you don’t want to follow the rules of magnites anymore because the rules are hard to keep, but we will all be stuck together in the great magnet after this life if we follow the rules, the gifts are great of magnets I know this to be true.

Fred
I know the rules Joe, and I know that you are taught that I am now a lost soul. I just want you to know you’ve been mislead. I had know I idea that I was, but when I studied I found out that I was and I did experiments to see if I was wrong or right.

Joe
I love experiments too, I didn’t them just like the book of magnite said too and it has left me with a knowledge that it is right. you are wrong to get any other answer because the book said so. ‘If you don’t see the success of this, then is the magnet bad? No! it isn’t ,the magnet is good but was cast out because you didn’t believe.’ See Fred, you have to believe to know it is true.

Fred
Exactly! Now you understand my point, if you don’t keep telling yourself every day that the church of magnites is true then your belief will quickly collapse.

Joe
Stop changing my words! that’s not what I said. You are a good debater I will give you that. The leaders have always said the devil is cunning and smart, No not that I am implying that you are the devil now, just saying you seem different to me.

Fred
Of course I am different, knowledge brings change. If could just get you to pick up a magnet and experiment for yourself you will realize that the law of gravity is real.

Joe
I will never do that, I am sorry for you Fred, you have lost the light and I don’t want to risk losing it too. I know that will happen because our leaders have warned us time and time again that there are many lies out there. They say once we let doubt in our faith will fail and we will lose the light of magnetism. I hope you still believe in magnite ore though. I know that is real and true. That has been around for thousands of years and magnets come from there.

Fred
I agree magnets come from magnite ore but I don’t hold it to be holy and of God anymore, it just doesn’t make sense to me now.

Joe
What?? You are much further gone than I realized. We are getting nowhere with this debate. It causes me great discomfort to talk about these things and I know that discomfort is of the devil, it is better that we just stop discussing.I want to bear you my witness though I know it is magnetism that holds us to the earth, not gravity, I am sure gravity is not real, a week doesn’t go by when this witness is not reinforced by hearing it from my other magnite friends. There is no such thing as gravity, of this I am sure. Amen. Now please I have things that need to be done. I need to go now.

***

<They part, weeks go by. They bump into each other.>

Joe
Where have you been Fred? You don’t visit anymore.

Fred
Life’s busy you know. Lots to do. Besides you don’t really like me talking about gravity so I have been spending more time with other gravity researchers up on campus. I love the new knowledge I am getting!

Joe
Still with the gravity?

Fred
Yeah, today I learned there was this scientist that came along after Newton named Einstein, he rewrote the laws of gravity so that they were more accurate.

Joe
See! Like I keep saying science changes, eventually they will prove magnets hold us to the earth not gravity. Just like we’ve been taught.

Fred
Ok I get the smugness in that response, I used to think I knew something the world didn’t too. It made me feel special. But I am telling you this would all be proven by a simple honest experiment. If we are really full of some magical bits of magnetic material and that is what holds us to the ground it can bet tested!

Joe
Spiritual things can’t be tested Fred, that’s why they are spiritual! If we know everything, then we couldn’t have faith and God needs us to have faith.

Fred
But this can be tested, if you have magnet stuff in you then a magnet should stick to you right? See, <Fred sticks a magnet on and off his palm and it doesn’t stick!>

Joe
Please do not blaspheme like that, you know I believe in my religion that handling a magnet is only for those ordained to do so. It is offensive to me when you do that.

Fred
Ok sorry, but can you explain why it doesn’t stick?

Joe
No, no I can’t, that is a mystery that God left us. You know its because we need mysteries to over come so we can have faith in him no matter what. I am going to do that, you will never persuade me that gravity is the force you say it is.

Fred
Gravity is just one of 4 forces that scientist have discovered, there is the electromagnetic force, it obeys some of the rules we were taught! Then there is the weak nuclear force and there strong nuclear force and also gravity. It’s the weakest of all the forces.

Joe
Oh my Fred you are way out there now! Magnetism is the force that binds universe together, thus saith the Leader. I am so sorry that you are lost now. It makes me sad, I am going to pray for you every night that you might know the law of gravity the world teaches simply isn’t true. I hope some day you will stop trying to tear down my beliefs and come back to the fold.

Fred
But Joe what if your beliefs are wrong? Wouldn’t you want to know? I mean the church makes you give them so much money and time and what if it was all a deception on their part to get your time and money?

Joe
I give my money freely, it is not a deception, I know that magnite is a true religion, more than another other on the planet and if my leaders say the law of gravity is a lie, then I am going to believe them. I cannot deny the way I feel. Besides even if I am wrong, it’s a good way to live my life.

Fred
I know the feelings you are talking about, I had them too. Remember? You used to tell me how happy you were when I bore witness that magnetism sticks us to the earth not gravity. I’m just saying that I realized that these feelings could be wrong, I mean that is why there are other religions besides magnites right? We were even taught that when we were given our magic bracelets.

Joe
Please don’t call them magic, they are sacred not magic. That offends me.

Fred (rolls eyes)
Ok sacred, I guess I felt they had powers of protection like we were taught when we got them. seems kind of magic to me. but sorry to offend. I know that the leaders don’t talk much about these magical properties these days. But they used to.

Joe
They are sacred, nothing more, leaders don’t tell us they were magical, go look at the website.

Fred
Are you telling me you don’t know they used to say they were magical? Our leaders said that all the time 100 years ago, they are changing the story now because of PR reasons. Besides when we were kids we were taught how the bracelets would heal us and protect us, isn’t that magical? Surely you remember begin taught that.

Joe
You are wrong, you are reading anti magnite material again. They are just lies. Surely the protect us, but it is just a metaphor, they aren’t magical.

Fred
But here it is in our own history books you can see for yourself.

Joe
Ok, well there are all sorts of reasons that is in there. Our leaders aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, they are human, or maybe it was recored wrong or whatever, I just know you can’t shake my witness no matter what!

Fred
So if the leaders can be mistaken, how do you know they are right now?

Joe
Because when the Leader speaks the thinking is done.

Fred
Ok so leaders can be mistaken, but when they speak you should no longer need to think about it?

Joe
Exactly.

Fred
And this makes sense to you?

Joe
I know it makes me happy and besides if I am wrong isn’t this a good way to live my life? doesn’t the church do lots of good things? Doesn’t it teach good morals? The Leader is a nice guy!

Fred
Well it does some good stuff, but I have to say learning the law of gravity hasn’t stopped me from being a good person. I know when I started studying it that I was worried I would turn into an evil person, I know that is what the scriptures teach, that gravity believers are evil. Do you think I am evil Joe?

Joe
No, I do not think you are evil.

Fred
But you say you believe the scriptures are the word of God? Right?

Joe
Yes.

Fred
And you believe the word of God to be true right?

Joe
Yes.

Fred
Here is this scripture it says gravity believers are evil, I am a gravity believer therefor you must think I am evil right?

Joe
That is not for me to judge.

Fred
Wow it seems like you have a hard time believing that I am an evil person, maybe its because you know me and can’t handle that the scriptures condemn me to hell for not believing it is magnets that keep people on the earth.

<Silence stretches out.>

Fred
I can prove it to you, you know, that I am right on this thing.

Joe
“Pride is about who is right, humility is about what is right” thus saith the Leader.

Fred
So are you now insinuating I am prideful?

Joe
I didn’t say that, just making a statement.

Fred
You should study passive aggressive behavior, this a perfect example of it.

Joe
Fred why can you just leave me alone, I am happy in my beliefs, you can have yours and we can still be friends ok? It bothers me that you spout these lies of yours on your Facebook page though. I am just going to say that your actions drive people away, that is all. But your actions are you choice you can choose the right path or the wrong one. Me I will choose the right one because that is how I was taught and raised. Besides you don’t see me out there telling the gravity believers they are wrong do you?

Fred
I guess I know something to be true that I didn’t before and I like telling people about it, its who I am. But to your last point, the church sends out missionaries to convert people into magnites because it is the only true force, isn’t that telling the others that they are wrong?

Joe
Its not the same and you know it. You were a missionary, all you did was tell them about the greater truth.

Fred
I was a missionary and the scriptures say all the other creeds are wrong, to me that is no different than how I am pointing out errors now and trying to expose truth.

Joe
I know that the church is true, that magnetism is real and that gravity is false. you can’t change that about me.

Fred
But the fact that I believe in gravity now and that I don’t see magnetism as something holy anymore, that means we can’t be the friends we once were, don’t you see that? It seems to me that the church only wants you to have close friends that believe the same way you do.

Joe
We can still be close friends.

Fred
Not as close as we once were. I can’t participate in the ceremonies I once did because I think gravity is real and I am not going to pretend I don’t think that. I can’t see your kids get married now because you are required to be a believer to see that, what I am saying is that the church excludes people when they don’t believe what they want them to. It drives people apart that might otherwise be very close friends.

Joe
It is your choice to not believe, no one is forcing you.

Fred
So you are saying its my fault that I don’t get to participate because I chose to believe in gravity?

Joe
Yes, isn’t that obvious? The Leader says everyone is free to choose right from wrong. You have to choose right to be blessed.

Fred
I don’t think you realize that once you learn something you can’t unlearn it. What we believe is a sum of our experiences our intellect and our reasons. Are you saying that we can believe the moon is made of green cheese if we want to?

Joe
Yes, but that would be silly.People believe some crazy things though, you can believe anything you want if you try hard enough.

Fred
Ok then if we can believe anything if we try hard enough, how do we know what is true?

Joe
Good question, I think it depends on how you feel. you can’t know spiritual things by any other reasoning than your feelings.

Fred
But gravity isn’t a spiritual thing!! Neither is magnetism! They are physical properties they can be measured and tested!

Joe
See how you are getting annoyed and angry? That is proof that I am right and you are wrong our leaders have always told us about how apostates get angry and bitter. Seems to me you can’t leave the church alone. To me that is proof that it is true, surely there is a part of you that still believes, I hope someday you will have faith in it and return to the fold.

Fred
, Ok it is frustrating going in circles I’ll admit that.

Joe
I am a magnite, I believe in magnetism and I know it is true and I am right on this thing. Gravity is a bunch of made up lies, that is just how it is, I may not be a scientist or as well read as you on these things but I don’t need to to know what I know. I know because it comes from inside me and that is that.

Fred
Have you ever heard of confirmation bias?

Joe
No what is that?

Fred
It is a human trait, we tend to see confirmation of the things in the world that we want to see. If we believe in global warming all the things we see in the news reinforce that belief, if we believe there is no such thing as global warming then we notice when it gets cold and don’t see other data. Confirmation bias ensures we see what we want to see. It’s the same reason you notice other people that drive the same model of car you just bought.

Joe
Are you a liberal tree hugger now too?

Fred
See you are doing it now, all you took from that sentence was the thing about global warming because you were predisposed about it and saw it connect to your belief in me being a lost soul now.

Joe
Maybe you are having confirmation bias about gravity because you like to waterski on sundays. See I can play this logic game too!

Fred
Wow good point. Confirmation bias happens to everyone, that is why we invented the scientific method. It helps eliminate that bias. You need to have your tests ran by independent labs and checked by others that don’t have the same bias as you.

Joe
But spiritual claims can’t be tested like that. How do you test feelings?

Fred
I agree you can’t test feelings but there are things that can be checked, for example if the religion says I am full of magnetic particles and that sticks me to the earth then it makes sense that I should be able to stick a magnet to me. That is a conclusion of a spiritual thing that can be tested.

Joe
Look when I drop this ball, you call it ‘gravity’ I call it magnetism can’t we just agree the ball drops and go our separate ways?

Fred
Yeah we can, but please don’t be upset when I spend my time with others that are studying gravity because learning this new thing is important to me. I know you see it as an evil pursuit. I however do not, I hope one day you will dare experiment with a magnet and discover there are things that you have done a certain way your whole life just because someone told you to. The world is a much more amazing place when you realize, there are other forces at work. Scary to be sure and maybe not as predictable as you wanted it to be but very, very amazing.

Joe
I know gravity is a false force and only magnetism is true. All the winds and storms and philosophies of men can rail against it and I will never change my belief. I choose what I want to believe and you will never make that choice for me.

Fred
On that final point we are in agreement.

Joe
I knew you would see it my way.

What Do You Believe Now?

The journey of questioning everything you believe is an interesting one. If you ever take it, I love is my religionsuggest making a list, it helps you see what you really believe and it is very therapeutic. Particularly if you are truly honest with yourself about the things you find questionable or not. Once you ‘go public’ with your disbelief you are often derided for losing the faith. People on the inside generally think that losing faith means losing a sense of direction or even losing hope.

If you start finding yourself agnostic, atheist  or believing in silly things like the divinity of the Fridge, they are preconditioned to believe you have lost all your values in life. To the believer without an afterlife filled with blessings for being good or horrors for being evil there is no incentive for being a good. It confuses them to no end that you would disagree and claim there is.

I first put together the list below in response to a serious question from my parents, “what do you believe now?” they asked. As I pondered it I felt I not only needed to express what I believed and valued, but also I needed to point out the things I no longer believed. The reason was my loss of faith really had nothing to do with the values I held dear (which are values I still see in the religion of my birth as well as many others.) The reason was more to do with the doctrines and beliefs I felt I had to assert as true(but could not) to continue to call myself Mormon.

There are good things in every religion, but good things don’t equal truth. All Religions start as a rebellion and end as an orthodoxy. In the rebellion stage they offer open doors to differences of opinion and thought.  Once they begin to solidify ‘doctrines’ are formed that you have to believe to consider the religion true in your heart. Problem is as time passes this enshrines current thinking in a way that makes it difficult to challenge down the road when a better way is learned by humanity. It gives authority too much power in how you are supposed to think.  While giving us a community based moral compass and a clear hope to strive for, religion also damns us and prevents us from growing or thinking outside the status quo.

I believe however that there is power in mythology, if you disagree, then the force is not with you young padawan and you wouldn’t get the humor in the preceding reference. There is power in a goal and an ideal to strive for. People that are otherwise selfish and looking our for their own interests will gladly die for something they believe in. That is power. In short the power of religion is the power of its myth. If only we could disconnect it from the abuses it brings when we take it too literally. This is my hope.

 

So with that, here is what I believe in, call them my personal values:

  • I still believe in doing the right thing in the face of opposition, I call that integrity and courage.
  • I still believe in getting back up after being knocked down.
  • I believe in honesty.
  • I believe in tolerance (probably more so now that I did before).
  • I believe in forgiveness.
  • I believe in kindness.
  • I believe in charity.
  • I believe in family.
  • I believe in unconditional love.
  • I believe in inspiration.
  • I believe in research. (in the past I called it seeking)
  • I believe in faith. (I can already hear paradigms grinding gears trying to shift around that assertion)
  • I believe in reason.
  • I believe the dinosaurs existed
  • I believe in logic.
  • I believe in feelings (and I realize that everyone has a right to how they feel, no one can define what goes on inside another person, you can only ask and try to understand)
  • I believe in humor. (now including loud laughter!)
  • I believe in the golden rule. I think the world would be better with people following just one commandment, ‘be nice.’
  • I believe in open and honest debate (this is a change in my way of thinking from before)
  • I believe in effort and persistence.
  • I believe that what we call holy writ and many other books have great ideas and concepts that are good ways to live, I just do not accept them as infallible and historically accurate.
  • I believe that mythology has its place in our lives and can help many people deal with tough times and handle loss and pain.
  • I believe that there have been many ‘Christ’ type myths over the millennia that humanity has looked toward for guidance.
  • I believe in truth.
  • I believe in friends.
  • I believe in being open and honest about why you feel the way you do with others.
  • I believe that you shouldn’t avoid the issue where you conflict with a person you love. You should face it and work it out. Doing otherwise will only breed resentment and distance you from that person.
  • I believe the scientific process is a valid way to progress in knowledge and truth and is far more reliable than any other method the human race has tried.
  • I believe you should do the best you can with the time you have on this world to find joy and help others do the same.
  • I believe that we as the human race can become something transcendental someday. I hope to live long enough to take part in it. If not, well I hope I did my part so that future generations have that chance.
  • I believe being a decent person has it’s own merits wether there is a reward in next life for doing so or not.
  • I believe that anyway you slice it, grand creator or not, we are very lucky to be here right now. So enjoy it, do right by it, and don’t blow it.
  • I believe that atheists can be just as moral as any religious person I know.
  • I believe in hopes and dreams and in the pursuit of them.

 

Here are some things I used to believe but no longer do:

  • I no longer believe that motherhood = priesthood, I believe that motherhood=fatherhood
  • I no longer believe that blacks were less valiant in the preexistence, and thus were denied the priesthood.
  • I no longer believe that lying to cover up the polygamy and polyandry of Joseph Smith was somehow ok and I just didn’t understand it.
  • I no longer believe that God is an all knowing all loving father that is willing to condemn the majority of his children to an eternity without him, simply because they picked the wrong religion.
  • I no longer believe that following the brethren absolves you of personal responsibility for your choices.
  • I no longer believe that the only chance God will give me to see my family again in the next life is to be LDS.
  • I no longer believe that spiritual confirmation is an absolute indicator of truth.
  • I no longer believe in blind faith being a good thing.
  • I no longer believe that God would hide things from us as some sort of test of our ability to ignore facts and have faith.
  • I no longer believe that Joseph Smith was a real prophet.
  • I no longer believe that a person that doesn’t believe in God is a korrihor, of the devil, or is causing the nation to become evil.
  • I no longer believe that gay people are choosing their orientation (doctrine I was raised with) or as the church says now the might be born that way but shouldn’t act on it after which they are typically compared to a murderer or pedophile or turtle lover. I do not accept that as a reasonable comparison.
  • I no longer believe that my mind cannot be changed in the face of new evidence
  • I no longer believe eating tiramisu might be a questionable sin
  • I no longer believe that a tapir is a horse
  • I no longer believe that all contention is of the devil
  • I no longer believe that the earth is only 6000 years old.
  • I no longer believe that when the prophet speaks the thinking is done.
  • I no longer believe that God cursed the American Indians with a dark skin
  • I no longer believe that a significant portion of tithing is used to help other people.
  • I no longer believe that paying tithing is ‘fire insurance’ to protect be from being burned in the last days.
  • I no longer believe that is it ok for an untrained male to have private sexually oriented interviews with my pre-teen and teen age children.
  • I no longer believe in zelph

 

When I read back over that list I feel if I were to ask believers and ex-believers alike to make a list of what they believe and what they do not, that we’d all pretty much agree on the first half of this list of values. Only the second half would vary. LDS people would understand many of the references in my second part and depending on how strictly they believe or not would adjust the list accordingly. An ex-catholic or post-muslim would have his own second list of things that would sound downright weird to anyone else not having experienced their religion.

My point is this, all these religions, all these myths have some common ground. Generally speaking that part is the ‘good stuff’ that makes us feel it is right. The things we have to put on a shelf and try to forget about on the other hand, those are the negatives of that particular ideology. I often say that people are good despite thier religion rather that because of it. These are typically the buffet members, you know the ones that take all the good stuff they like and simply don’t believe the rest. Nope they aren’t the zealous ones, they are the moderates that some of the more fanatical gossip about. Orthodoxy demands compliance and fanaticism though. Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t? Wouldn’t it be great if there could be a community, a myth to ‘believe’ in but not take so seriously that it becomes an orthodoxy that we use to judge others?  I think so.

 

***

“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.”  -Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Seeking Peace Feelings Matter

Everyone has a right to their feelings. That is a statement that has been ringing in my ears of late. One reason is because I am often accused along the lines of  ‘you can’t seem to find peace else why would you write the things you do?’  Another reason is because I think the right to feel is fundamental to the resolution of conflict in our lives. It took me a long time to understand the depth of the statement. Everyone has a right to their feelings. This means that we must accept the fact that people’s feelings are the result of their interpretation of the actions or situation they are in.

You simply cannot tell a person how they should feel. 

Going deeper, this right to feeling means that all feelings are legitimate emotions. Those that we call negative emotions, anger and fear for example are just as valid as the positive ones like love and joy. We humans feel these emotions, it’s part of the software in our operating system.

So what does this have to do with seeking peace? Quite a bit actually. Another human condition that often occurs is called conflict. It happens all the time because we are all different and we all look at things differently. Conflict is inevitable. There are going to be times you disagree. At work, in a marriage, in virtually any aspect of your life conflict is sure to occur. Early in my life I learned to deal with conflict in what I would now call a non-productive way. If there was any conflict that resulted in an increase in passion, I felt I had to avoid it. Let me pontificate.

First a little background, I married an awesome woman, but she is in many ways my complete opposite. There are many things I love that she tolerates or even hates and vice versa. There are things that I do that annoy her too. Clearly conflict between us was inevitable. Passionate, anger filled conflict was bound to occur sooner or later. For a long, long time I tried to deal with it very passively, I tried to just let it go if I were upset and move on. I counseled her to do the same. This lead to a relationship over many years that was one of the stronger personality constantly submitting to the weaker and levels of growing resentment. In the long run we found this wasn’t working,

even though we both wanted it to work.

It just seemed like there was this background angst in our relationship that just wouldn’t go away. We loved each other, but there were things that each of us did that just bugged us both time after time. I personally finally broke down and realized maybe a little professional help was in order. My wife was first to the conclusion, it took me a while to accept that fact.

In counseling the idea that everyone has a right to their feelings was the first lesson we learned. When we started putting this into practice, it changed the way we approached conflict.

You start with the phrasing. When you are upset and trying to say why, you don’t blame the person. For example if you feel like you are not respected, you don’t say, “you disrespect me!” Instead, you say, “this ‘____’  that you did makes me feel disrespected.” If you think about it the second version is the more true statement. Simply because you are feeling like that person doesn’t respect you and it is because of a particular action. The first communication puts the person immediately on the defensive, while the second allows for the consideration of feelings no matter what the cause.

Now consider you are the person receiving the criticism, if you look at that statement and allow that person to feel the way they feel no matter what, three things happen.

  • First, you realize that ultimately how they feel is something you cannot change that is their prerogative not yours.
  • Second, simply by stating the reason for the feeling, this gives you a chance to understand where that person is coming from.
  • Ultimately, you realize that you can modify your behavior or explain your actions and that gives the other person a chance for a new interpretation.

Following this advice may or may not affect how the other person feels, but that isn’t the point. The point is simply that the communication occurs. I have found that this technique angry catcan happen at the top of your lungs and it still works, the room can be flooded with anger and emotion and it still allows conflict resolution. It works far, far better than avoiding the emotion.

Here’s why I think that happens. All emotions are valid so to constantly stamp out the anger or frustration just postpones the problem till later. We humans are often as emotionally driven as we are logically driven. We need to accept that, not reject it. There aren’t good or bad emotions, just good or bad actions. If a person is angry at you, it doesn’t matter if you think they have a right to be angry or not. That is ultimately a moot point. This means it is totally unproductive to challenge that persons right to ‘feel’ the way they do! What is productive is understanding why a person feels the way they do. This means it is better to ask why these feelings occur. If you both are able to ask why the feelings exist and both of you can reply honestly about the source of your emotion, then there is a chance for understanding.
Over the years I have discovered that you don’t even have to agree with each others reasons for feeling how they do, you just need to be honest about them. Hiding your reasons or avoiding the issue only breeds resentment.I used to believe that that emotional conflict with fear and anger was something evil and to be avoided. I realize now that isn’t the case. Emotions are part of us, all of us. Conflict will happen, it is inevitable. avoiding it as a solution to the problem doesn’t bring you together. It drives you apart. I personally know for a fact learning this concept saved my marriage. We are as different as two people could ever be, and yet, our love is as deep as it can get. I still annoy her, and she still does things that bug me. The difference is now we accept those facts because we understand each other (even joking about it often). There is no mumbling when the others back is turned. There is no buried resentment that I sometimes observe in couples that have hung together even longer than we have. Our understanding is founded in (sometimes brutal) honesty and the right to feel. If there were one legacy I could leave on this planet it would be this.
-Trust the ones you care about enough to be honest about where your feelings come from. Then remember that we each have rights to our feelings. 
Abiding by this will allow you to discuss the problem not run from it. Love will flourish in spite of differences. Remember always that feelings matter and you will then find the peace you seek!

End note
I count it as a personal bonus that I got to put an appropriate picture of angry cat in a post! You can’t be an internet success without paying homage to the cat!