Loud Laughter

In the LDS temple a person takes on covenants. These are promises between you and God, things you promise and presumably will be rewarded for if you hold to that promise. The main ceremony in the temple is called the endowment. It comes after what are known as initiatories.

In the intiatories you receive blessings and anointings to become Gods and Goddesses, if you are super awesome you later on get a second anointing (also known as having your calling and election made sure) where you are made Gods and Goddesses. It is a ceremony that that involves females in priesthood ordinances. (making it even more unique) but this post isn’t about that.

This one is about the endowment, the ceremony that all temple going LDS members are familiar with. To many the first time through the temple is a bit unnerving, you don’t expect anything that goes on there because it is all kept secret from you before going in. You are even given a chance to bailout before they tell you what is going on. But seriously who is gonna walk out in front of all your relatives and people you look up to in there watching you go through this?

I personally went pre 1990, before they removed the penalties of death from the oaths. I still remember how freaky those were and how surprised I was that these ordinances decreed by God himself to his prophets had changed when I got back from my mission. But even more than that there was this one covenant that always worried me. A promise to avoid loud laughter. Seriously you promise to do that. Right between the promise to not say anything bad about church leaders and the promise to avoid light mindedness.

This one really worried me. Because I am a natural goof I suppose, I love to laugh loud and enjoy my life. My whole family does. Poking fun, having a great sense of humor. It was a major survival skill for me. Sometimes I’d be full on belly laughing and just cut it off to avoid it. After a while I decided God must have meant only laughing about church stuff or making fun of that. So I figured normal laughing as ok, even if it was ‘loud’. I like most believers rationalized my own behavior by liberally applying my own interpretation to the cognitive dissonance created by these conflicting beliefs.

These days I am pretty light minded all the time. Don’t worry about much about all this speaking evil of the church and its leaders either. I figure if I am wrong about this religion and it really is the one-‘n-only-right-one, then I am pretty well screwed in the next life. And you know what? To me that is ok. Because of one reason. I am not afraid. I am not going to go quietly into the night pretending to be someone I am not because of a threat of eternal damnation. This being that I was taught loved me as a father seems to think that love requires me to kneel in front of him and not think for myself. As a father who deeply loves my own children, the very last thing I would have them do is kneel and worship me. I would never tell my kids to stop thinking and reasoning for themselves. Because that is not love. Demanding obedience and threatening punishment is not love. It is oppression. It is not kindness, it is fear mongering.

A leader that uses threats to control is not a person worth following. And that is ultimately what most religions teach, do or be damned. A father that beats his children when he screw’s up is not a perfect being and not worthy of unquestioning obedience. So if I’m wrong and the Mormon God whom I covenanted with in the temple is real. And because of my apostasy I am prevented  from living with my family in the next life or condemned to outer darkness on judgement day. So be it. I will gladly face him and laugh out loud. Because fear no longer controls me.

fall or fly

 

Banana-pologist

When you spend way too much time on the internet studying the case both for and against religion like I do, sooner or later you are gonna run into this video.

There you have it. The banana is proof of God. Case closed right?

It is so simple and straight forward that I really like it, I have personally found similar evidence that the Fridge must love me because the ice created by it seems to put my drink at the perfect temperature for a hot summer day.

But sarcasm aside, lets think about the banana proof for a minute. He talks about how it so perfectly fits his hand right? It is so perfect that this banana is the “atheist nightmare!” Well I got news for you buddy. Things that fit in my hand perfectly don’t produce nightmares 🙂

Joking aside though. Really? This is your proof? Did you know that banana have a long history of genetic modification that yep, we humans did to make them just right for us? Heck, even a little bit of research uncovers the fact that the banana today is a replacement for the one we really liked that went completely extinct!

Bananas are a genetic clone, that means they all have have same DNA. So the type of banana that ‘fits perfectly in his hand today’ might get completely wiped out by disease tomorrow. Then we will have to root around and find a new version of the atheist nightmare.

The argument for religion based on this video can pretty easily be summed up in the song made for the last banana-castrophy.

 

 

 

On Worthiness and Respect

Often when I point out the problems with believing in religion, particularly in the more specific cases like killing because ‘God said so’ or coercing young teens into marriage under penalty of eternal damnation should they refuse. Without fail the believer starts demanding I respect their faith.

I want to examine this. First lets talk about what they really honestly believe. In the LDS faith from which I originally hail.1 They have a doctrine known as the plan of salvation. It pretty much lays out the fundamental beliefs of the Mormons in terms of how things are gonna go down.

Here is a picture:

Some of the cool ideas of this plan is that we are fundamentally immortal beings. Which is a comforting thought when faced with the reality of death and difficulties experienced in our lives. In general the Mormon’s don’t have the typical ‘Hell’ of other christian faiths. Let me explain. All those kingdoms on the right side of the pictures are called degrees of glory. The Hell of the bible, where weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth go on is actually that non-kingdom at the bottom of the diagram called outer darkness. Mormons are generally proud of this ‘inclusiveness’ in the after life for all God’s creations. You see pretty much everyone is guaranteed to make it at least to the Telestial Kingdom, immortality is a free gift to everyone thanks to Jesus.2 Eternal life (living with God in the CK) on the other hand requires you to specifically follow the Mormon teachings and be part of the Mormon church.

To end up in outer darkness, you have to know without a doubt that the LDS church is the one true one. You must have personal undeniable revelation to that fact and then become an apostate and fight against it. Being a person that had some pretty incredible spiritual experiences that I now think were cognitive faults of my own brain, I could possibly fall into that category. That is if I am wrong and the faith I have left is in fact God’s approved one. But if I am not like Satan and the 1/3 of souls sent there and this plan is legit. I am likely headed for the TK or the TrK (Telestial or Terrestrial Kingdom). You see the CK is the top tier. To get there, you have to accept a mortal baptism via correct authority which is only in the LDS church. To be in the top of the top, you need to also be temple married in the LDS faith sealing your family together for all eternity. It is a pretty grand vision of family being forever connected in this life and the next… You get it all, essentially you get to be a God and hang out with Gods. Just so long as you are worthy.

You see to be worthy of going to the temple, you have to believe in the church. You must pay tithing, you have to believe JS was really a prophet, (even when he told 14 year old girls they needed to marry him) You must assert a testimony of belief in the whole restoration story the church presents you to get this ultimate blessing. You must undergo a temple worthiness interview with your church leaders where you clearly assert these things to be even allowed in the the temple and thus the top of the CK. But if just don’t buy the LDS is the one true church story and you think Joseph Smith was a con man but you are still a good person you will get the TrK. If you basically sucked it up here on the earth, killing, committing adultery, drinking coffee and generally sinning without repentance, then the TK is where you go. It should be noted that the TK is generally believed to be like the earth is today minus all the bad stuff. So pretty nice place actually.

Now a really important thing to understand is that if you don’t make it to the CK. You don’t have any family in the next life. In fact if you are not sealed in the temple, then the family relationships you have here do not persist after death. This is the great incentive to be worthy of the best blessings God has to offer. All good Mormons strive for the CK. That is what they mean when they say families are forever. 3

I keep bringing up the word worthy in this post because that is very much the general fundamental belief of an LDS person. You need to be worthy to make it to the CK. This leads a person that embraces this belief system to look at non-mormons or non-believers as not worthy. Now if you might be thinking (as most non-mormons do) ‘that is pretty pretentious!’ Well it is, but it is so engrained in the faith that the believers don’t realize how pretentious it is at all. It’s just the way the world works to them. If fact, even once I could no longer believe it was the one-true-restored-plan-authorized-by-Heavenly-Father. For quite a while I didn’t realize how pretentious and judgmental that belief was.

Now a couple of years later one of my sons was judged not worthy by a bishop who was counseling his girlfriend to break up with him because he would never be worthy to take her to the temple (since he is no longer Mormon). Thinking about that I realized for the first time just how pretentious this belief is. It is so bad I have found that most Mormons themselves won’t admit they believe it when pressed. Thing is, in church, at home with family and people that believe the same this language of worthiness vs unworthiness is used all the time. But try this, ask an LDS person if they think a muslim or atheist is worthy of marrying their daughter and watch them dance around that word. You see they have been taught their whole lives what makes a person worthy. And it starts with being a believer in the LDS faith first and foremost. Instead of an honest answer based on the churches teachings you will get all sorts of talk about common goals and same desires stuff instead of a straight forward answer. As a friend of mine known as the Croc says. The doctrine they believe in is so bad they won’t even admit they believe in it.

So why all this discourse on worthiness? It’s simple, you see I have some family and friends that completely believe that I am not worthy of God’s highest gifts.4 They believe that my boys are not worthy of the love and affection of girlfriends that are LDS. They fundamentally are 100% sure the LDS church is true and that means by extension anyone not Mormon is not worthy in their eyes. So when I am told that I need to be more respectful of their religion and faith, I’m sorry but I just don’t see it that way. You see in their eyes, unless I am Mormon like them I am not worthy of being a member of their family in the eternities. That is what 100% belief in the LDS plan of salvation means wether you like it or not. To say otherwise is dishonest.

So If I am not worthy to be your family or your friend for all eternity, maybe you should think about how you would feel were I to believe the same thing about you… Would you be all fine and dandy with me thinking that? Would you still want to hang out with me with that understanding hanging forever in the background between us? Maybe if you my dear believing friend or family member think about what you really believe, you might begin to understand why getting asked to a baby blessing, or a family baptism or any other church related event that your life revolves around isn’t the spiritual wonderland to us that is to you. Because if you are honest with yourself you really believe we’re not worthy of your presence in the next life. Now tell me again why you think I need to respect that belief?

 

 

 

  1. Variations of this exclusivity demanded by religions are in all the abrahamic faiths, in some ways LDS is more inclusive, and since I know that one well it is my example. The examination if very applicable to most religions when you get down the doctrinal basics. The only religion I know of that is truly inclusive is that of the Fridge 🙂
  2. This is essentially equivalent to the doctrine of Grace in other Christian faiths. In Sunday School I often taught the TK would be exactly what the Christians expected, wonderful place to live with Jesus in charge. Only the LDS ended up in the CK where Elohim (Jesus’s dad) took charge personally.
  3. The fine print to this claim requires you be a temple going, temple wed Mormon, otherwise no soup for you!
  4. Some family and friends don’t believe it whole heartedly and have told me in private that they aren’t really 100% sure, they often go to church for other reasons that I did not. (I personally was deeply in the 100% sure category.) Is in any wonder that I feel closer to those individuals than the ones that make sure I am aware of how strongly the believe they are right about their faith?

Word Twisting and Wet Paint

I remember general conference the first year after realizing my religion wasn’t true. It was the birth of the famous doubt your doubts meme by Elder Ucthdorf. You remember it right?


In fact it was a blog post inspired by this meme that was the first Fridge article to go viral. These days I don’t listen or watch conference anymore. Admittedly I get the highlight reel from the online community that is more interested in it. I think it is part of the healing process though to watch those first few times after you leave to make sure you haven’t missed anything in your reasoning. Recently a friend that just left in the last few months commented on how much watching conference triggered a meltdown for her. It’s true, once you have left and you watch the way members are manipulated with new eyes, it is really hard to deal with. You feel the emotional appeal at the same time you see the manipulating words and ideas being fed via hypnotic cadence right into the minds of people you love and care about.

If you are a TBM reading this, to get the idea of what I am talking about google recovery videos from other high pressure religions, like Scientology and Jehovah witnesses. Look at the people that escape places like the FLDS and listen to how they feel about the people they love that are still trapped and unwilling to question their leadership. It is heart breaking and super hard to process for them. General conference for the Mormon church triggers much the same feelings in those that have left it. It is no doubt (pun intended) an emotional time for all. Parents of kids like myself who have fallen away are reminded how their hearts are broken by the child that no longer believes. Fear of losing them for eternity is rekindled to stem the tide of further lost tithe payers. So why people like my mother are saddened, people like myself are angered because to us it was a false premise to believe in in the first place, so all that fear they put into the ones you love is just pointless abuse from the non believer perspective.

But it’s not that simple. I think that most church leaders really do believe apostates are lost souls and the LDS church is the one-true-church-on-the-face-of-the-whole-earth. I get the argument that these guys must wonder what is up when they become an apostle and the don’t see Jesus face to face. But we humans are amazing in our ability to create a foundation for what we believe in. Even up to the point of hearing voices and seeing things. Things like cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias will make it seem to them that they are SURE, even 100% positive they are right, no matter what. Case in point. Take a look at the doubt your doubt meme. It’s actually not that original. Max Lucado said it almost the same way first in your average christian sense.

And that is the rub isn’t it? If the typical Christian followed Max’s identical advice, they would have no reason to doubt their Christianity and convert to Mormonism… This is the problem with thought stopping quotes like these they make anything true. Even the Fridge. But I have a bigger question on mind. Why the word twisting and assimilating of things other people say? Is it intentional? I kind of think so. Here’s why. It happened again this conference.

I saw this and thought, man that is familiar… Where have I seen it before? I searched my image history for the blog and it turned right up…. last post! (Yeah my memory isn’t what it used to be, please forgive)


Now I honestly doubt LDS leaders are watching my little blog. It is simply not that significant by any reasonable comparison. This meme celebrating the skepticism of George Carlin toward religion has been floating around for a long time. No, this twisting of words done by leaders (that as an apostate I have been repeatedly accused of) is a natural human reaction to cognitive dissonance. By reframing the problem the believer is able to shelve it just a little longer.


The funny thing about this particular meme twist, is that it is not even remotely similar from a evidentiary standpoint. Carlin is pointing out that we have ZERO proof of the invisible man we call God. The kind of evidence that is repeatable and testable. You know, that sciency stuff. The good Elder trades the idea of God out for trillions of stars in this meme twist. Seriously? You know we have telescopes and can count them right? Heck via the naked eye at night you realize there are so many they are almost uncountable don’t you? BTW you are way, way off. Latest estimates as mentioned here are closer to a septillion. To put that in perspective this is a trillion in comparsion:

1,000,000,000,000 = trillion
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = septillion

That is more that a trillion TIMES a trillion. It’s a big and yes virtually an un-comprehensible number. I think that is what the good Elder latched onto actually. There are more stars out there than he can comprehend, That makes the meme feel similar to him and that confirms his bias that it is a good analogy. I dare bet he felt really good coming up with it.

The idea of all those stars being incomprehensible though is the point of doubt. He should doubt that number! He should look up the studies and the evidence from astronomers that have corroborated independently on how many stars there are and how every time we build a better telescope we see even more of them. This is not a premise you are expected to take on faith. Heck, lay on your back one night and start counting and estimating. Do a little fact checking for heavens sake!! (again pun intended :))


You see no astronomer expects you to take their word for it, they aren’t telling you to trust your feelings and shelve your doubts when it comes to the number of stars out there. They WELCOME test and validation of their work!! They do not warn people away from doing their own research from un-authorized sources!!

This analogy falls flat as a pancake when it comes to evidence and proof. I know given your own bias it felt good to say. just like for many members it will feel good to hear. I know because as a local leader I often said similar feel good things to those in my Sunday school class when they had doubts. They were usually happy to hear them and they praised me for my instruction. But as a student of science I knew this was not a fair comparison. I needed to learn to be honest with me, no matter how much I had to lose or how much it would hurt to see my faith fail and my mom’s heart broken.

Because when it comes to the number of stars claimed to be out there? Yeah, you can and should touch the paint. 

honest man