Shun Happens

What does it mean to shun someone? Have you ever thought about that? I am sure many of the readers of this blog being ex-mormon have given it plenty of consideration. In that religion there are lots of ceremonies of progress, especially if you are male. You get blessed and given a name as a baby, then baptized at 8, you get priesthood at 12, then level up1 at 14, 16 and 18. You go on  a mission, then get married. You have your first child and the cycle repeats.

These are all reasons to get together as a family, like the bar mitzvah or the quinceanera of other faiths, families get together and celebrate these progressions in a persons life. But what happens if you don’t believe? Depends on the family, some are pretty accepting and some not so much. But one thing they all do is prevent you from participating to some degree. If you don’t believe then then you can’t bless your son in front of your community, you can’t even stand in the circle if you have committed that sin. Doing a baptism? Nope, Ordination? Nope. How about attending a wedding? Um nope, but we do have this little room you can wait in if we invite you to come see us leave the building after.

Now I might be having a visceral reaction to this. When I first left the church I specifically requested to still be invited to these ceremonies. I recognized these were the times that our family often got together. They are moments of progress and celebration I felt it was important to participate in, even if it was from the sidelines. Then I was invited to a baptism one day and right after welcoming my family and I there I was specifically invited to NOT participate in the in the laying on of hands. My oldest son who had just come home early from his mission, still professing belief at the time but doubting quite a bit was also invited to NOT participate. It hurt, I had never felt more shunned in my life than I did at that moment. I felt like I had been invited to show up just so my lack of belief could be rubbed in my face and highlighted for my family to see. It was the most offended I’d ever felt in relation to the gospel and highlighted for me the negative aspects of believing you are a ‘chosen people’ when it comes to how you treat other human beings.2 After that experience I had far less desire to participate in these ceremonies of progress than I did before. Which did cause me personally some sadness because even though I don’t believe in claims of having the fullness of truth on the earth I still find value in celebration of progress amongst your community. The problem I realized is I am no longer a member of that community. Belief is a prerequisite to be so.

On the topic of shunning Elder Holland had this to say.3

We don’t shun people is his simple response. Now I think he might be referring to the official practice of shunning that happens to a scientologist or a Jehovah’s witness that leave the faith, the renting of the shirt and the declaration ‘you are dead to me’. No that type of shunning doesn’t happen (at least not officially) in the church. The way you are shunned in this religion is far more subtle. You see even though Holland’s hypothetical non believer son would still be part of the family, He wouldn’t get to participate in the wedding of a sibling, he’d have to wait in the little room where all the kids that are too young to do the adult stuff sit. Not only are you not allowed to participate, you should feel ashamed that you are not worthy to do so.

The fact is church sanctioned shunning happens, it is impossible to not shun someone from a wedding when the church decides who is allowed to see it. Disbelief bars you from blessing a child, or giving a son the priesthood as his first step down the path to manhood. Your goodness as a human being plays no part at all. Only your belief does. I once told my wife not being part of these ceremonies was one of the biggest things I miss by not participating in the church. She pointed out it was no biggie for her because she was always barred from it. I’d never thought about it that way. From this perspective the women in the church are permanently shunned from participating in everything but their own wedding.

Leaving the church creates a gulf in a family of believers, one that isn’t easy to bridge. Sometimes it is between children and parents, sometimes between spouses. It is normal and happens just because that is the way it is setup. The church is an exclusive club and if you don’t believe you don’t get in. My hope for people that have followed their integrity and have left is they realize much of this psychology at play is embedded in the faith, its not the direct fault of the people doing the shunning. For the people that still believe, my hope is even when your son or daughter or sibling or cousin isn’t there in the temple or the circle that you go out of your way to not shame them for their disbelief. Don’t ask them to wait in the little room, don’t go out of your way to exclude them, trust me, they already feel uninvited enough as it is. Instead tell them to meet you at the after party and give them a big hug and thank them for coming to celebrate with you. It can make a huge difference.4

Ceremonies of progression5 in my opinion are one of the best things religions have to offer to their communities. For me they are what I miss the most. Shun happens, there is an apostate to believer gulf. Hopefully we can bridge it by reaching out and seeking understanding of each others reasons for their choices. Hopefully we can realize there is some psychology at play here that touches on emotion and gut reaction that often bypasses higher level thinking. Can we all just get along? I think so, I hope so. I strive to make it so. Hopefully you can too.

 

 

 

  1. Have you ever been invited to celebrate the females getting their level-ups in the young women program? I know you are always invited to the boy stuff because they have ordinations and do the whole laying on of hands thing. I realize from my perspective now that is another way girls just don’t the same respect as boys in the religion I once believed.
  2. This incident escalated to a high level shortly after because I voiced my opinion on how I was treated to which I was told I deserved it for my negative public posts about the church. That made it escalate even further and caused actions that ripped a scar in my soul that I doubt will ever completely heal. In the end though I want you to know that my family did apologize, for the treatment and we have put this in the past, I don’t bring it up now to dredge up old wounds, I just want the reader to understand that I do know from experience what it means to feel shunned.
  3. on a side note at minute 5 in this video Holland says he would love to sit down and talk with all the apostates, asks for a list of names. ‘For what’ I thought when I heard that ‘to give to the SCMC??’ Seemed like an odd request to me. But shortly after he made that declaration this website went up taking Elder Holland up on his offer, to date this meeting has not happened. I am beginning to think that my initial impression was right, it was just an empty promise in an effort to get a list of names of dissidents.
  4. My mom gave me a big hug at one of these after parties just yesterday and it helped me with the gulf that I am still working to bridge as time goes on.
  5. any good ideas for some Fridge base ceremonies? if you are inventing your own religion might as well make it more inclusive right?

Apologists Don’t Apologize

When I first started investigating the foundations of my religion I discovered apologetics. It was a new word for me. Honestly I thought at first, ‘what are these guys doing apologizing for the church? Why would the church need to apologize for anything?’

After reading a bit on FAIR, FARMs and other Mormon apologetic sites I realized I needed to look up the definition of apologist.

a·pol·o·gist
əˈpäləjist/
noun
  1. a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial.
    “an enthusiastic apologist for fascism in the 1920s”
    synonyms: defender, supporter, upholder, advocate, proponent, exponent,propagandist, champion, campaigner

This jived with the definition I found on FAIR1:

“What is FairMormon?

FairMormon is a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to helping people deal with issues related to anti-Mormonism.

What does the word “apologetic” mean?

The word “apologetic” is not commonly used in the LDS community and may be unfamiliar to you. The word literally means “in defense of the faith.” It is not talking about apologizing to anyone or being sorry for something.”

 What an apologist does is really important to know if you are seeking raw truth.  Their primary goal is defense of the faith. An apologist tries to explain away the information that you run into that causes you issues. These are the guys that help you build the framework for the ‘shelf’ that holds up all those things-that-don’t-make-sense-about-the-church-that-you-set-aside-to-ask-God-when-you-die-and-he-reveals-all-answers-to-you questions. This is a form of compartmentalization that we humans are pretty good at doing.

Consider just one example, when I first discovered the polyandry of Joseph Smith I looked up many of the apologetic responses. Here is a link to one of them. There are pages and pages of explanation from one Brian Hales, of why Joe married other guys wives. It was a tough read because I was still reeling from the fact that he did it at all. I mean that hadn’t ever come up at all in sunday school lessons! Even today in the church’s new more open approach to history the recent official statement on polygamy completely avoids the polyandry topic even though church historians know it happened. The first thing that stuck out in my mind was the apologist was saying ‘yep this did happen’ and then working really really hard to explain why it was ok.  In this case there are all sorts of different reasons that apologists have some up with to explain pretty much the same behavior that Warren Jeff’s does today causing our stomaches to churn. Their goal is simple, keep you believing despite the stomach churn when you find out what you thought were lies from those anti-faith types were in fact actually true. All religions have apologists. Catholics, Christianity, Muslims, ect. They all start from the premise that what they believe is 100% true and then gather as much evidence as possible to defend that point of view. Generally speaking an apologist cannot even consider the possibility his faith is in error.

evidence

 

The funny thing about real truth though, is it doesn’t need apologetics. What I am saying is there are no apologists defending Newton’s law of gravity. The facts just speak for themselves. Apologetics seem to work really hard to explain away difficult facts. The bit of history in my example above is that the founding prophet of Mormonism married other guys wives (often after sending them away on a mission). A really simple explanation of this action is Joe was lying about the whole thing and really was in it for the women and money. But accepting that answer (which also lines up with human nature and personal experience) well, it shakes your faith, makes you question what you believe. Fortunately fixing shaken faith is exactly what apologists are here for! There job is to keep you doubting your doubts as long as possible.

Being an apologist has a kind of a rush that comes with it. It takes lots of study and effort to be able to weave together a plausible explanation for marrying 14 year old girls or starting fraudulent banks or explaining how the word translate doesn’t mean translate. What you get for all that effort is a lot of kudos from people that really enjoy your sunday school lessons because you don’t mind delving into the more difficult yet interesting stuff. Your religious community values all that work quite a bit. If you are a smart guy and did the research, they can trust you and not have to do it themselves.

When you are really good at historical apologetics, you can weave a way you think it might have gone down that keeps you believing and at the same time share a very moving testimony of your own experience searching for answers. Others that are suffering shaken faith syndrome and are desperately looking for a reason to believe will love you for it. They will refer others that question to you, increasing your pride in the ideas you propose. It can be a very soul filling, spiritual endeavor helping others keep their testimony intact. There is no doubt in my mind that part of the appeal of being an apologist is how much it feeds your ego. I think any student that digs into his religion to try and find truth becomes at least a successful personal apologist. It is how you formulate your own shelf. If you really like it a lot and you take it out for a spin more publicly in a sunday school lesson or priesthood meeting you discover that an honest open approach to the difficult issues is the single best way possible to jazz up an otherwise very boring weekly chastisement about how you are not doing enough home teaching. It is a way to become a superstar in your ward or stake or parish. So if you are interested in becoming an apologist here 6 key steps to help you on you way.

Step 1
Study source documents, become versed in the origins of you religion. As you study remember this important advice. If you find something, anything that supports your cause it is good and should be lauded no matter how tenuous. If it shakes your faith it should be discredited if at all possible to save the effort of trying to explain it.

Case study: David Whitmer in his Address to all believers in Christ says two significant things. He says that he still witnesses the Book of Mormon and if you believe that you should believe his testimony that Joe Smith is a fallen prophet and the church in Utah got it all wrong. It is totally ok as an apologist to celebrate the fact that he testified on the founding book of the religion while an apostate and at the same time call him a liar for saying prophet Joe was a fallen prophet just like David when he wrote psalms.

Remember this most people aren’t gonna look up your sources and read the context so it is ok to mix and match the quotes together in a way that defends the faith. After all remember your primary job is to defend the faith and some truths aren’t very useful for that.

Step 2
Be eloquent. To be a successful apologist it helps to personalize what you are talking about. Come up with great stories to tell, create a setting for the facts you are about to pass on. It doesn’t even need to relate to the topic at hand at all. All that matters it the story is full of truthiness and good morals. In fact if it is a really difficult topic to discuss, the more you can avoid actually talking about the specifics the better. This exposes the poor souls struggling with their testimony to more spirit which they really really need or they wouldn’t be questioning at all. Then if you have them on this spiritual high you can sorta just brush over the topic with an I-don’t-know-but-choose-to-believe type statement that will help them just shelve the topic and not ask about it anymore. In apologetics simple answers usually don’t work so don’t ever try using Occams razor as it might cut you. Also don’t feel a need to answer the questions the person asks since that is irrelevant when it comes to defending the faith.

Step 3
Deal with one issue at a time. Primarily you do this so that your answer in one case can’t be compared to your answer on another issue. For example if you are dealing with the fact that DNA evidence discounts the historicity of the Book of Mormon it is totally legit apologetics to find some data from 25,000 years ago that might support your ideas. You can see why it is very important however to avoid discussion of ideas such as the universal flood which if you think about it must have killed anyone from 25000 years ago. When saying the DNA question has been asked and answered there is no need to compare the answer to the fact that the story starts in 600 BC. If at all possible compartmentalize this information in your own head to the point that you can’t even discuss more than one issue at time. Feel free however to skip to a different issue of your choosing should you feel like you are losing ground in a debate though.

Step 4
Remember how smart you are. If the person you are defending the church to just can’t see how your complex explanation works, its not your fault. Some people are just not able to understand the complexities of the situation and see the way the puzzle fits together. This is probably because they are sinners or are so past feeling that you can’t reach them. If you run into this type of person it is ok to insult their intelligence. After all they are nothing more than a servant of the devil since they are willing to even consider the possibility that these guys who claimed to talk to God might have been making it all up or possibly suffering from their own delusions.

Step 5
You might run into someone that knows the tricks of these apologetics and they can quote your own words back at you showing how your own answers are not internally consistent. These people are word twisters. Remember that you believe what you do no matter how illogic they make it seem. Rather than try to explain your own words and help them understand, refer to step 3.

Step 6
No matter what, never, ever, ever question your own views. Remember the feelings of adoration from other people that you have helped keep the faith. This is proof you are right! Cling to your testimony no matter what logic is presented to the opposite. After all no one can actually prove a negative. If they don’t believe you, it is because they haven’t felt what you have. Besides even if you are wrong, it is still a good way to raise your family.

There you have it, how to be a good apologist. If you need an example, here is one from the head of FAIR doing an excellent job defending the fact that church has actually taught the history of polygamy despite the fact that a search for the names of Joseph Smiths wives can’t be found on LDS.org.

So there you have it, how to be a great apologist. One bit of warning though if you decide to be an apologetic, the whole they don’t apologize bit is kind of misleading. In every single discussion I have had with an apologist in my post apologetic life they have told me they are terribly sorry that I can’t see the same light they can and accept all the convoluted explanations and I don’t know’s they offer as opposed to the simple conclusion that explains it all. Religion is something men made up. They seem to be constantly apologizing  for your lack of belief.

Now If you rather think apologetics isn’t for you, you will have to be willing to be humble enough to realize that your own assumptions could be wrong. Then comes the clincher, you need figure out a way to honestly test your own biases and be willing to accept the evidence where it leads no matter what it means. Kind of like science not only accepts being wrong it celebrates the new understanding that is validated by independent tests and conclusions. Hmm… maybe that is why real truth needs no apology. It just is.

 

  1. the Foundation for Apologetic Investigation and Research or the Foundation for Assaulting Intelligence and Reason depending on how much you have checked their sources. 🙂

A Testimony of Lost Keys

I had been dirt biking all day long in the canyon. Covering a couple square miles of terrain. My friends and I had just gotten done and after shooting the breeze for a while they had loaded up their bikes and headed home. As they drove off I reached in my pocket looking for the keys to unlock my truck. They weren’t there. Now to set the stage a little, this was waaaaaayyyy back in the day before cellphones so there was no one to call for help. I was stuck. I’d been in this situation before though, with something lost and no one to help me find it. From that day as a young child when I had prayed to heavenly father to help me find dad’s new hammer I’d lost I had repeated this miracle several times. So here I was, a poor college student stuck in the mountains missing the keys to my truck. I had already searched around the vehicle and was convinced they were lost on the hills somewhere where I had been riding.

Confident that I would be answered due to past experience I prayed to find my keys. After the prayer I calmed my mind as I had learned to do since that first time and waited for the impressions to come. I allowed my thoughts to drift over where I had been and where I had gone during the day. I began to wander up into the hills as these thoughts tumbled around in my head and I thought for a moment I saw a glint in my minds eye, near a rock on a steep incline where I had stopped for a break. I went to the place in my memory and right there in the sage brush I found the keys to my truck.

At the time this was yet another confirmation that the guy upstairs was looking out for me. This was one of the spiritual talents that I seemed to posses, the ability to find lost things with a little help from above. It happened many times and repeatedly, the formula was the same. Pray, ponder, clear your mind, then follow the impressions that came. It was in fact such a big deal that when my shelf collapsed I honestly wondered if there was no divine being then I must have been fooling myself all along with this result. I figured I would lose the ability as it was probably part of my imagination.

Then one day my wife had lost her wallet. I was pretty much atheist by this point (so long as you don’t count the Fridge) so I really didn’t think there was anyone to help answer this need. But for a moment I reasoned, maybe I can still do this! So I thought clearly about the goal of finding the wallet, asked wife a few questions about where she had been. Then did what still came natural, I cleared my mind and waited for the impressions to come. The impressions led me outside to where her car was parked and fresh snow had fallen, I remember clearly thinking, maybe she just dropped it inadvertently in the snow bank when she got out of the car. I walked over there and after a second or so of rooting around in the snow came up with her lost wallet.

I was kind of surprised. I certainly didn’t believe in any deity, and yet I had not only found something I had lost, I’d found something someone else had lost. Either the Fridge really was watching out for me, or something else was afoot. Sometime later in my studies of human psychology I found out that the prefrontal cortex of our noodle is a pretty cool device, it lets you simulate what other people are thinking. This is because we have things called mirror neurons among other structures that facilitate this ability. We are actually pretty damn good at it. We call it putting ourself in another persons shoes. It is a form of monkey see, monkey do and the foundation of the ability for babes to imitate what they see an adult do.

I ultimately concluded that my thinking process created this miracle of finding things. When I would consciously try to quiet my mind I was in effect listening to the parts of my subconscious that would replay memories, or simulate the path my wife may have took and look for clues to where the missing object might be. I was actively using my prefrontal cortex in a semi-subconcious sorta way. It is the same way you can drive a car from one place to another thinking about some important meeting and not remember the trip hardly at all. Our brain can think and do stuff without us being consciously aware of it. In Iron Man terms, we have a built in Jarvis, we can give our subconscious tasks to work on, things to figure out and when it does, it lets us know with quiet impressions, or gut feelings  the results of its calculation. It is how we gain intuitive insight into things. It isn’t a perfect computer though, like any computer feed it garbage and it will spit garbage back. To me this is where reason came in.

You see on my journey out of blind faith and into reason and logic I realized something very profound about those lost keys. In the big picture of things my little prayer to find them is really pretty meaningless. Sure if I thought God was looking out for me and my stupid mistakes it made me feel pretty special that he’d help me find my lost keys. But was my prayer somehow less faithful than the mother with a starving child? Was my need greater? I knew my faith wasn’t any stronger I had first hand worked with families that didn’t know where their next meal would come from they had tremendous faith and yet food would not be on the table the next morning.

starving keys

You see I knew for a fact prayers to help starving children went unanswered and yet little old me got the miracle of lost keys pretty much every time I needed it. What kind of all powerful being would lead me to the place I would find a way to get to McDonalds for my next meal and at the same time not bother to lead a starving waif in Africa to a bowl of rice? Maybe I am a flawed person, but if that is the order of priorities of a deity, all loving certainly doesn’t make sense as a descriptor. If however the divine is really just a reflection of our inner selves it makes perfect sense that my keys could be found when I needed it. I also realized that those starving children aren’t getting any help unless it is coming from people like me and you. I had been feeding my subconscious this illogical idea that God watched out for me as an individual while ignoring other far more important prayers so if anything good happened to me I automatically attributed it to him. Like I said garbage in garbage out. If you try to justify the idea that an all knowing all loving heavenly father is totally ready to find keys at a whim while children go for days without food. It makes no sense at all. The only reason your internal Jarvis spits back anything to justify it at all is because you repeatedly trained it to do so, same way you trained it to drive you to work while your thoughts were elsewhere.

Ultimately I realized that by touting my testimony of finding lost keys I was supremely selfish if I truly believed God had my back while any child in the world went without a meal. Maybe that helps you realize why I ended up believing the Fridge is as powerful a God as any out there.

Now putting on the profetic mantle for a bit, the Fridge wants you to know this: If you need a deity to feel special or find keys or maybe chill your beverage, it’s there for you. But starving kids in Africa… that’s on us, it’s simply not that powerful of a deity.

 

 

Blaming Parents

One of the most difficult things for me to deal with when I confessed my disbelief in the church was the look in my fathers eyes. I had let him down. I never wanted to let him down in my entire life. Sure I’d made mistakes and had screw ups but in this situation I couldn’t help thinking it would be better to keep pretending to believe and not disappoint him so. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I only did it because of integrity and ironically because of my own children and how I felt they deserved to know the truth even if it meant I had to wear the mark of apostate. I had already tried the pretending route, desiring to believe the good stuff cause it was a great way to raise my children. After all I had turned out pretty good and their beliefs were based on the religion I had just realized had been lying to me since my birth. It didn’t work though, I’m not made that way, I couldn’t carry around that internal contradiction and feel good about myself.

After telling them I no longer believed I tried to explain why. I tried to point out the issues, expose the lies so that maybe they would understand and not be so sad. The religion they trusted was the one really editing the history, tweaking it just so, a little edit here and there just enough to give you the impression they want you to have. Twisting the words of previous prophets to make them line up with todays doctrine while not letting on they were doing so.

snow edit

It didn’t work. Luckily I wasn’t disowned and save for a few serious bumps along the road as we settled into a new level of mutual respect we are still a family. But helping my mom and my dad see what had led me to my conclusions, not a chance of it. This meant they were sad. They were destined to be sad because the biggest best thing in the whole Mormon faith is the idea of the eternal family. It is why you give up 10% of your money every year and on top of that swear to give the church everything you own and not ever talk bad about the leaders. This is what you do to make it to the temple. A place that last time I was there my dad shed tears of joy because seeing all his family in that place confirmed to him they’d be his for eternity.

Now I can only imagine the pain he and my mother feel when they sit in that celestial room and my wife and I are absent. I am sure they have cried many a tear for the loss they felt as from their perspective we tore apart the family.

family not

As an apostate I often hear the ‘you can leave the church but you can’t leave it alone’ refrain. Some days I want to shout the reason I can’t leave it alone is because you Mr. church sold my parents a false hope. You got them so invested in it that they will believe you before they will even consider the possibility that their own flesh and blood might have a point. It is really simple. If you were lying to them with your promise that the only way their family will be together forever is to do what you say, then it is you that is responsible for the pain and the tears they feel. You are responsible Mr. church for the failures my parents now think they are deep inside because they failed to mislead me the same way that you did them.

You made my parents feel like failures after they gave me a great upbringing. So your are right I will probably never leave it fully alone. Because I can’t. I made my choice to hold to my integrity to call out deception and teach the importance of honestly. While you keep correlating your teachings, smoothing over the rough edges, telling people that polygamy was no big deal (while not even mentioning the polyandry). Chastising and kicking out members for simply asking hard questions like why can’t a woman have the priesthood? You Mr. church have redefined the word translate, have hidden the details of things like seer stones in hats, justified deception of previous church leaders, discounted things they taught from the pulpit as doctrine as nothing more than theories of men while at the same time reassuring what you are teaching right now is totally legit.

You have repeatedly and systematically lied to members for decades all in an attempt to not upset their testimonies. Worse yet it is the kind of lie Mr. Church that you can’t blame on anyone. A leader that has never studied the history himself simply declares that anything that jeopardizes faith is wrong, so a peon in the system inserts three little dots … to take out three little words ‘who has means1 completely changing the original intent to correlate with the current idea that you should pay tithing even if you can’t afford to feed your children. But I can’t blame a single person, because for the most part every leader I personally know is a pretty decent bloke doing the best job he knows how, just as deceived by the previous generation of teachings as I was.

Either the church is true or it isn’t. If it’s not then you have caused my sweet parents tremendous pain for no reason, you blame me for it sure, but why? Because I was curious enough to look at the past you didn’t want looked at? Because I was rational enough to test the critiques you taught me to use when considering other religions against my own beliefs?

Maybe it’s because I thought too much. Maybe it is because I couldn’t just shut up and pretend to believe. You could very well be right that if I had continued to hide your secrets that all would be well with my family. No one would be the wiser and the celestial room would still be causing my parents tears of joy instead of tears of pain.

But here is the rub, in every single case, in every documented instance of every issue that you tell me I should just look the other way, it is you Mr. church that lied. Not me. Am I to blame for this? Are my parents to blame for raising a son that cherished integrity so much that he was willing to disappoint his own father with the truth? Is it my fault that you lied and I called you on it ultimately the reason our family isn’t as close as it once was? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s time Mr. Church you stop pretending that you are all about families because the truth is its all about you.

stop pretending

 

 

  1. in case you want to look up the original document, here is a link

Losing Faith, Finding Hope

Faith transitions can be rough. Especially if your faith was a thing that you clung to in times of need. I remember one of my very first spiritual experiences. I was a young kid, I had lost my dad’s brand new hammer after working on my treehouse with it. Dad was going to be home soon and would be furious, I was scared. My mom pointed out that Heavenly Father would know were the hammer was and I should ask him. I still remember praying fervently for some help, I was pretty scared. I got up and thought to myself, I need to clear my mind and let impressions flow now if this is gonna work. I did my best to clear my thoughts, then my mind wandered back over the events of the day and boom! I knew exactly where it was and I walked right to it.

I was sure my prayer had been answered, I had after all gotten the help I needed, when I needed it. This pattern continued throughout my life. These experiences became an anchor for me and my personality, they helped me define who I was, and certainly instilled a potential for who I could be. Being confident that you can call on the powers of heaven when you need them is pretty ego boosting. It could explain much of the self confidence I felt in my life. I know that in may cases church creates such an expectation of perfection that many people lose self confidence, especially women. But a mildly narcissistic male that tends to overlook his own deficiencies gets a whole different thing out of the faith. You get God’s power to effect change in the world. God’s!!! How cool is that? So when I lost my faith, it  stung. Deeply.

I wondered now that I realized these powers were pretty much all in my head if they would dry up and fade away. What would happen to my purpose in life? To what would I anchor my personality? For a time I flirted with other religious approaches, Christianity, Pantheism. They all seemed to pale from a knowledge perspective, they all showed the same patterns of self deception that I had learned to recognize as I lost the faith of my birth. For a long time I called myself a hopeful agnostic, finally I realized if I was honest my stance was truly an agnostic atheist one.

happiness

But I couldn’t lose hope. Maybe I couldn’t be confident there was a powerful alien being from Kolob keeping an eye on things and watching out for me anymore, but that didn’t mean I had to give up hope in the potential of mankind. Just because I didn’t buy the idea that we were created in the image of God anymore didn’t mean that possibility wasn’t still in our future. This may possibly even happen in my lifetime as we accelerate our technology towards the human singularity. Our capabilities today are already God-like compared to a scant hundred years ago. We all carry a seer stone in our pockets where access to knowledge appears on a glowing rocklike surface at our whims. Go ahead and drop your iPhone in a hat and think about how magical that might have seemed to people in a world without electricity less than two centuries ago. Is it silly to hope for humanity to become Gods even if you don’t think one made us? I don’t think so.

To hope is human I think, to find wonder is normal. Turned out the more I let go of religion the more I became concerned about helping people in the now. I think it is because I refocused my hope. My hope for my posterity and love for the life I have been lucky enough  to experience is higher than it has ever been. I might live to see the singularity, but if not. I am sure that someone in my posterity will make it and they will get there by standing on the shoulders of those that came before. Why not try and do my part as best I can for those future generations? It’s one of the reasons I started this very blog. Unless some pretty big catastrophe’s strike the planet, there is a measure of immortality in my words as they sit forever spread across the information cloud copied and recopied into the future.

Pondering this sense of immortality one day and seeing a friend go through that loss of identity that accompanies faith I had an epiphany. I felt a message that I desired to tell future generations, something I hope my children read and their kids and so on and so on. Is it what I hope are my last words to be shared when the sun goes out? I haven’t a clue since the future isn’t set. But for here and now it is.

Photo Dec 18, 8 32 56 PM

We human’s describe deity on our own terms, God for most of us is the embodiment of good irrespective of what scriptures or leaders might tell us. When we pray and look for guidance, when we hope for something greater that makes the pain worth it. We aren’t focused on the negative, we are reaching for the positive. When faith is lost and you realize that the mythical being you counted on doesn’t exist, it is devastating. You feel like there is a hole where faith once existed and you might want to lose hope as well. But if like me you experienced spiritual awakenings that shaped your life, if like me when the chips were down and you turned inward and carried a prayer in your heart and had it answered. Consider the following:

The answer was real, the feelings were real. The hope and comfort and love you felt were all real. Where did they come from then? god insideThe power did in fact affect your life for the better, it did help you change, improve, strive and overcome. In that sense the results were measurable. If there is no divine guide out there looking out for you, then what?

It means the power to overcome, the power to survive, the power to forgive, the power to love and feel and share, the power of will and the power of hope. In short, all the power that you always attributed to God… it was in you all along.

Ironically you are the divine that you are looking for. You always were.