The Meaning of Dreams

Last night I had a dream:

 

I struggled to make it to the rendezvous. Killer robots, desperate raiders and feral mutated animals all converged in thier intent to kill me. 1 as I struggled to survive I got the call to meet my father at the ruined house of one of the 12 LDS apostles in this post apocalyptic wasteland.

I battled my way there and got inside, meeting my dad in the hallway of the mansion. He said,  “follow me.” And I did. We entered an office decorated in red suede leather furniture with a semi-circular shaped couch in the center of the of the room. 

He motioned me to sit, there was was a message coming in. We both sat on the couch. It was a tight sqeeze as if meant for only one person but we made two fit. Then a large cone descended (like the one that covers Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi) and a screen flickered on. 2 I was paralyzed with fear. I was getting called back to church by the top level guys and they were not letting me answer, instead they were speaking only to my father! 

My father, the true believer, the one who I disappointed most when my own faith in the divine plan I’d taught on my mission faltered and collapsed in the face of evidence I’d uncovered. Evidence that I could not deny if I wanted to be honest with myself. It had broken my heart to tell him I just didn’t believe it anymore. Later the only confrontation we had that involved religion blew up in to an argument I’d sooner forget but can’t because it left a scar on my soul that devastated me. 

I didn’t want to go back, I couldn’t! But in my dream I was constrained. I sat there trapped as the screen flickered on and a non descript wrinkly old face formed. “We want him back.” He gestured to me in this teleconference prison. “Will you bring him to us?” He asked my father. 

In my head I was screaming “no!” but my body couldn’t move or speak. I was trapped and realized my fate was in my fathers hands. I trembled in fear because I knew he wanted me in the church more than anything else. My leaving it had broken his heart. But I knew it wasn’t what it claimed to be and once you know that you just can’t sit in the pews week after week pretending. I couldn’t go through the motions of teaching white washed history under the pretense of serving the milk and saving the meat for those who’s weak testimonies couldn’t take it. For me going back meant the hell of lying to others, of selling my integrity for acceptance and friendship. That didn’t work for me. It simply wasn’t good for my mental well being. 

My fear was very real in this dream, I completely expected to be given back to the religion by my father when something amazing happened.  He looked squarely at the leader, and said, “no.” No big speech or fanfare. A quiet but firm “no.” My heart burst with love as the cone retracted and the screen went dark. With tears in my eyes I told my father “thank you” as I reached out and touched his arm. 

Then dream time fast forwarded in that strange way, an irrational jump ahead that still somehow makes sense. We all sat down to a meal of mirelurk eggs and death claw steak in a celebration of life. 3 As my dream faded the last thing I remember is a robotic chair lifting my father up a few inches at the head of the table as he surveyed our family feast and I felt a burst of pride. 

Before discovering the Fridge has as many divine powers as any diety I’d ever known I used to put a lot of value in dreams. I was pretty sure they were communication from people who had died, or divine advice that I needed at particular times in my life.

Guess what? I still think dreams have meaning. Just not quite the same way as I used to. It’s pretty obvious thanks to Fallout 4, Star Wars and the LDS church where the components of this dream came from.  But as I woke up I realized there was something that I have been afraid of for quite a while. My own dad. A man that has been my hero my whole life. The fear that the church meant more to him than I did was very real to me.

In my dream that fear dissolved and was replaced by hope. Hope that I really am important in his eyes and he is still the hero sitting there just a little bit taller than his actual stature.  I was proud because of his courage to love and respect me despite the pressures to do otherwise.

Now I realize this dream is a reflection of me. Of my fears and my hopes. I can’t be 100% sure that dream dad equals real dad. But that’s ok. You see I’m going to live my life as if it does. Because that is the way we change the world around us. The way it becomes what we hope for. In a thousand subtle ways others you deal with in your lives pick up on the way you percieve them. Then that subconscious understanding of reality is woven into thier being too. In this fashion, I believe our dreams really can shape our lives.

I think we can learn about ourselves from our dreams. They are a powerful insight into our deepest fears and innermost hopes. Even without religion we can use them to our benefit. So let’s dwell on the positive ones and keep on dreaming!

  1. The imagery for this dream was obviously provided by fallout 4. a favorite game that came out while I was working in China so I’m just getting around to playing it!
  2. Kudos to the new Star Wars flick for making it into my dream as well. Even if it was a retro effort! 🙂
  3. Still a fallout motif with a dash of thanksgiving thrown in 🙂

Mission Impossible, why so many need to believe

One of my favorite lines in a movie:

Mission Commander Swanbeck: Mr. Hunt, this isn’t mission difficult, it’s mission impossible. “Difficult” should be a walk in the park for you.’

Better yet, watch the clip! 🙂

It came to mind recently as I debated with a very devout believer of the Mormon faith. I still find it cathartic and enlightening to check my reasoning by debating and discussing religion online.  Guess I’m just that angry atheist that can’t leave religion alone.

The true reason behind my efforts though is to wake people up to the broken mode of thinking they have built their life on.  However, it’s a uphill battle as many who’ve walked similar paths can attest to.

house

Religion is the one area of our lives where we can literally make-shit-up, then present it as fact without a shred of evidence whatsoever and then be proud that we have so much faith that we don’t need any evidence to believe it.

In any other part of our lives we simply don’t act that way. Or do we? I suffered a small epiphany this morning on the topic and figured it was worth blasting out into the blogosphere.

At its most basic foundation relgious belief relies on circular logic and reasoning. It because of this debating a believer is so exhausting.  Circles are forever if you want to keep going around them!

For me the transition beyond this circular trap began with a desire to weigh the evidence for my faith with the same tenacity I resevered for things like figuring out what was wrong with my circuit board or solving the reason my motorcycle wouldn’t start. I made the cardinal sin of actually checking out my own belief that my beliefs made sense. That of course lead to the Fridge and this little corner of the internet but that is another story I’ve already told.

What you discover pretty fast actually is your beliefs don’t handle skepticism any better that any other competing religion. They just don’t make sense. And eventually your only choice if you want to still believe is to ‘just have faith’ shelve your doubts and move on.

The other path is a collapse of everything you were so sure you ‘knew’ but if you are honest about it you didn’t know, you just hoped. You hoped that dream you had was real, because it gave you peace. You hoped that sign you saw wasn’t a coincidence because it helped you cope with a loss.

I think this hope is very much part of our human nature and this is where it gets interesting. Because a myopic view of the world around us is also very human. Cognitive sciences have exposed all sorts of biases that we suffer from when trusting our own perceptions.

Could this be a survival trait though? The fact is we don’t equally weigh evidence, and maybe that is a good thing at times.

Consider Ethan Hunt and how he inspires us to greatness by accomplishing the impossible.  Could it be that the illogical irrational core of religion is exactly what appeals to us? After all difficult when compared to impossible really is a walk in the park!  Maybe if we believe completely illogical things that helps us cope with the mundane, it puts ‘difficult’ into a manageable perspective so we don’t give up hope. Often times the person that succeeded just didn’t give up!

Maybe next time you debate a believer and stand flabbergasted at how he or she can’t even seem to grasp how illogical their stance sounds. Consider this, maybe they need it, because without it they will lose hope. Difficult in thier lives will litterally become impossible to deal with.

After all, Fridge knows we are all wired differently. Our brains are similar, but not the same. To some the hope they get from thier faith isn’t at all logical, and that could be exactly the reason they need it. They need to believe the impossible so they can handle the difficult.

Do I have any evidence to back up this observation? Nope, I guess you will just have to take it on faith! 😉

Confidence Man

Just a bit ago, I had someone tell me that people just didn’t con the people back in the 1800s, that is why I shouldn’t be skeptical of Joe Smith when he started a fraudulent bank or charged people for scrying buried treasure that he never found. He certainly wasn’t in it for the money! That got me to thinking…

As is common to many of us now days when we wonder about a bit of history or how things work, I turned to the google machine. This popped up on NPRs website.

How Scams Worked In The 1800s

The article said:

…Arguably, the 1800s were the Golden Age of schemes. The term “confidence man” or “con man” was probably coined midcentury and, according to the New York Times, the Brooklyn Bridge was sold more than once to unsuspecting folks in the 1880s and 1890s… 

“Modes of communication were not so swift,” she says, “so it was easier for itinerant swindlers to move from town to town, practicing the same small cons within a given region without getting caught.”

Reading this sent my post-mormon confirmation bias ringing off the charts! If you have studied even a small amount of Mormon history you know that this group of people moved a lot. Especially when Joe was running the show.

I immediately thought of one often taught situation where Joe, upon arriving in Kirkland walks up to general store owner, Newel K. Whitney, and said:

 “I am Joseph, the Prophet. You’ve prayed me here; now what do you want of me?”

Talk about brash confidence! This story is a faith promoting one of how Joe miraculously knew the name of a store owner and ends up with them giving him and his family a place to stay for the night.

To me first time through this seemed amazing, partly I am sure because of the way it was presented. But if you stop to think about it. Is it really that hard to find out the name of a store owner in a new town? Especially of the only general store in town? Probably not. Most people prayed for help and stuff those days too, not too much a stretch to guess that part either. But such is the way of magic tricks and conmen. They make it seem amazing when the trick is so simple that if you discover it you are ashamed you were so easily fooled.

I was a mormon very much like the dad in the south park episode relating the story of his religion. Blissfully proud of that miraculous way Joe made up for the pages that went missing!!

These days I’m much more the dumbfounded Stan wondering how in the world people believe this stuff!

But isn’t that the way it goes when you are bamboozled? The mark is always happy to be taken. It is the sign of a good con.

For a bit I did my best to counter my own bias as I googled around the church history I was learning. My old beliefs definitely popped up to defend themselves by pointing out that Joseph had started a religion before the fraudulent bank1 while he ran from town to town. I mean were there really that many religions started in the 1800s?

Turns out there were, it was called The Second Great Awakening because there were so many of them:

“The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements designed to remedy the evils of society before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”

Mormonism wasn’t particularly unique in its goals for the time nor even the most successful one. Prophetess Ellen White and the Seventh Day Adventists claim some 18 million followers and started about the same time. So much for that stone cut without hands eh?

So con man or prophet? I guess that is the question every LDS person faces sooner or later about Joseph Smith.2 One thing is for sure, there is a lot more to the story than is taught in Sunday School. If you don’t believe me, try putting together some timelines of the events on your own. It is very enlightening. But am I gonna convince you you might have been fooled? Not likely, especially if you adamantly don’t want to know. But I do feel it is my duty to at least voice a warning.

One last note from wikipedia:

Confidence tricks exploit typical human characteristics such as greeddishonestyvanityopportunismlustcompassioncredulityirresponsibilitydesperation, and naïvety. As such, there is no consistent profile of a confidence trick victim; the common factor is simply that the victim relies on the good faith of the con artist. Victims of investment scams tend to show an incautious level of greed and gullibility, and many con artists target the elderly, but even alert and educated people may be taken in by other forms of a confidence trick.

A confidence man gains your confidence, a confidence man projects his confidence in the same investment he is asking you to commit to. It leverages social connections, it leverages your fears and your greed.

Are you afraid of dying? Would you want to have the power of a God? If the answer is yes to both these questions. Please ask yourself once more…

Are you still confident that Mormonism is a religion not a con? Are you smart smart smart smart smart, or dum dum dum dum dum? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Google Kirkland Safety Society to do some of your own learning’, you will be glad you did, um well, or maybe not.
  2. For the record I think Joe started believing his own con. People that learn the tricks of psychics and cold reading often report how easy it is to get trapped in the idea they have those powers. If thousands of people start calling you a prophet, do you think it might go to your head a bit? Even if it had just started as a way to make a living?

Mourning with France and 100 Other Nations

While I mourn with France today, I have been reminded that I selectively express my mourning for grievous events in Western civilization. I tend to be more emotionally affected by tragedies in Western cultures.

This does nothing to lessen the tragedy of Paris. However, it does help me put into perspective the magnitude. 122 people is a lot of people. But it is small compared to tragedies we see unfold before us in so many non-Western countries. In the last week, how many thousands have been slaughtered by those devoted to religious or other ideologies? In the last week, how many millions (billions?) of women and children have endured a living hell of suppression created by devotion to religious and other ideologies?

My wife and I watched the movie Timbuktu two nights ago. It tells the story of Timbuktu and the surrounding area under the power of religious extremists. That film and my wife’s statement to me last night are powerful reminders to me that while I need to continue to fight oppression and bigotry at home, I need to listen more closely to the stories that come from far away, both geographically and culturally.

The prematurely ended lives, stunted lives, and damaged souls as a result of ideological devotion are everywhere.

I have been thinking locally (speaking culturally) and acting locally. I need to remember to think globally and act globally where I can while I continue to act locally.

I know both major and minor holocausts of ideology are currently occurring in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, North Korea, Russia, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and I’m sure a few countries whose mention in the news have not perked my ears. And how much of that has ideologically-driven U.S. foreign policy contributed to?

I also know that people are living their own “personal holocausts” of ideology all across the globe, including the U.S. because people are so devoted to ideology.

In the U.S., the continued effects of racism are so much more apparent now that so many have given themselves permission to eschew compassion in the name of ideology. Pay gaps are large, opportunity is clearly unequal, illegal immigrants are being demonized, voting rights are being restricted, and racist statements are being made by serious candidates for President, for crying out loud.

In the U.S., oppression of women appears to be getting worse. The gender pay gap is horrendous, access to reproductive healthcare is being restricted, and representation in leadership positions is atrocious. And that same permission to to eschew kindness in the name of ideology has both a good portion of the populace and serious presidential candidates making sexist statements and getting away with it.

In the U.S., oppression of LGBTQ people is considered OK by so many people on ideological grounds. The permission people have given themselves to be brutal in this arena is just astounding.

And though it makes none of the U.S. problems any less damaging, it is so much worse elsewhere in the world. Can we evolve as a species to accept that oppression and violence in the name of ideology is wrong? Maybe it will take rejection of ideology altogether.

I’m trying to do my part. I reject ideology. I don’t care how much my personal positions agree with a religion, political platform, personal following, or group, I refuse to label myself as a member. I am a non-member of any ideological group. I reserve the right to judge whether my positions need adjustment with new information without regard to what any group says I should believe. I claim and I own that responsibility.

Will you join me?

More Problems with Polygamy and Children of Homosexuals

Joseph Smith once said:

“Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive…”1

Of course these days gay peoples kids don’t seem to get the same liberal considerations that the prophet Joe was talking about when he penned the above words in a letter to Nancy Rigdon in his effort to convince her to be his plural wife after she refused. I have seen a part of this same letter quoted by believers in the wake of this policy to restrict children from joining the church.

“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.”

Continuing to Nancy in an effort to explain why polygamy is a good thing and not at all as bad as she thinks it is. Joseph wrote:

“…even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.”

This to me is where it gets interesting in regards to the latest policy this church Joseph founded has taken towards gay marriage.2   The main theme in the wake of this exposure of internal bigotry towards people that are attracted the same sex is that the limits placed on children are for the good of the kids. To protect them and all. Even in the latest clarification they have doubled down on this excuse. The reason I call it an excuse is because the only other children that are treated that way are the kids of polygamists. Specifically those apostate polygamists that are awful because they are following the teachings of the original prophet of the church.3 It’s like they are saying:

‘We need to protect those kids from conflicts about religious beliefs, not from atheists or Jehovah’s witnesses, or ever even scientologists. That isn’t enough of a conflict, but polygamy and gay marriage that is pretty bad and requires kids to condemn the lifestyles of their own parents before they are good enough for the LDS faith.’

Don’t take my word for it, look at the policy yourself. 
To me that screams excuse. Especially when the kids are required to disavow their parents gay lifestyle to even be considered for admission into God’s only church. Maybe they really believe in this idea that is it for the kids. Who knows, maybe God did come talk to these guys about the gays just like he told Joe to marry Nancy even though she didn’t want it. I’m sure that kids in general don’t want to disavow their parents love and happiness right? I guess in a way it is like the problem with polygamy that to this day plagues the LDS faith.

You see the fact that no leader ever, ever mentions is they never really stopped believing in polygamy. Not from an eternal perspective anyway. Listen to Elder Oaks describe the relationship he has with his second wife. (And yes, he did get sealed to his first wife in the temple as well.)

Two wives? Eternally? Yep polygamy even if it is not ok while you are alive in the LDS faith is totally ok after you die. Hopefully this brings some perspective to the excuse about protecting the children from gay parents being a parallel to protecting them from polygamous parents. It never was about the polygamy. It is only about the apostate religion that still practices it… um when all the wives are alive as the same time that is. Does this make any sense at all? Is this a big crisis for the current leadership? Yeah it is. Fortunately Dallin has advice for them too.

Does all this dancing around making excuses make sense to you? Is this really how illogical and confusing God’s one true church is? Personally I don’t think so.
And if you are one of the believers that had your shelf seriously rocked by this whole situation. Maybe, just maybe you are beginning to suspect that too.

The real question if you believe that children should not be held accountable for their own choices by a just and loving father in heaven is this. What are you going to do about it? Quietly submit and let the bigotry fester? Or are you going to speak up and take action?

It was interesting for me listing to this talk from Elder Oaks from a totally different perspective than I used to have. He proclaims it is all about timing. I kept thinking about the timing of blacks getting the priesthood and how the entire equal rights moment happened in the LDS faith some twenty years after the fact. Twenty years after rest of the world realized discriminating against people based on the color of their skin was NOT a good thing the leaders of the LDS faith had a revelation to end this demeaning practice. 4 Timing in hindsight it is obvious isn’t it? Too bad there aren’t people that can tell us the future in situations like this right?

Either way I did find a part of the talk in which I agreed 100% with Elder Oaks.

The most important thing in our lives is to do the right thing. Personally I think the golden rule is a good way to figure out what the right thing is. Don’t you?

 

  1.  Official History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.134-136, See also “The Letter of the Prophet, Joseph Smith to Miss Nancy Rigdon,” Joseph Smith Collection, LDS archives
  2. What do you think Joseph would have done about the whole gay thing? My bet is he would have rolled with it and brought it into the faith were he the one at the helm today. It is his nature to absorb the common themes of the day and make them part of the faith.
  3. Yeah I know its confusing, but what are ya gonna do right? Just believe and don’t ask any questions, do as you are told and all will be fine!
  4. Technically the church took till 2013 to actually say that the racist teachings of past church leaders was nothing more than their own bigotry shining through.

A Plea to Family and Friends for Compassion

This post is specifically for friends and family who are Mormon. To start out, I want you to feel comfortable reading this post. I am not criticizing the church in this post. I am asking you to think about a principle of Mormonism.

There is a well-known Book of Mormon scripture that describes what Mormons promise to do when they get baptized. It indicates that people become qualified for baptism by desiring “to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.

When I was Mormon, I found this to be one of the most beautiful passages of scripture. I loved it and I tried to live it. It helped me survive the aftereffects of abuse I suffered as a child, cease to be the abusive person I was raised to be, and to become an advocate for victims of abuse.

The new policy bars children of members who have ever lived in a same-sex relationship from being baptized until they are 18, have moved out of their parents’ home, and disavowed same-sex cohabitation and same-sex marriage.

This has understandably traumatized many people. Yet I have seen so many people deny that this new policy is hurtful in any way.  I have seen incredible burdens placed on those in same-sex relationships. I have seen incredible burdens placed on their parents, siblings, children, and friends. I have seen excruciating mourning on the part of gay people, their family, and their friends over this new policy. I have seen desperate pleas for comfort from the church and from members of the church.

To be fair, I have seen a few examples of kind and loving responses where church members have picked up the burdens to share them with those who are so weighed down, where church members have mourned with those in mourning, and where church members have comforted those in need of comfort. But from my vantage as an observer of the posts on social media, comments on news coverage, and commentary by church members, this is the exception, not the rule.

Richard L. Lyons, center, the father of the late Mya Lyons becomes emotional at his daughter's funeral at the Monument of Faith Church on Saturday, July 19, 2008. Mya Lyons, 8 (or 9), was found stabbed to death in an alley at the end of the 8400 block of Gilbert Court Monday, July 14, 2008, in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Chicago Tribune photo by Milbert O. Brown ..OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, CHICAGO OUT.. 00296140A MYA

I have been bewildered that this has not been the rule. I have to ask what happened to bearing each others’ burdens? What happened to mourning with those who mourn? What happened to comforting those in need of comfort? Is not this the essence of standing as a witness of God, particularly in a time of incredible pain? Even if you feel that defending the policy is standing as a witness of God, does that mean that it is OK to deny the grief and mourning of others by denying that the policy legitimately causes pain and suffering?

Even if you still personally agree with the policy is it asking too much to see it from the perspective of those who are so terribly hurt by this new policy? Is it too much to try to step into their shoes? Is it too much to bear each others’ burdens, to understand that people are in terrible pain, to forgo defending the policy that is so hurtful to them when you are in conversation with them?

Is it so important to defend this new policy that you can’t mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort without also hurting them further by defending the policy?

Though I no longer count myself a believer, I can’t help but put myself back into my old believing mindset in which it is difficult to go against the authority of church leaders and hope that I would have been a representative of Christ, to stand as a witness of his unfailing love and care for others. I particularly hope I would have done so in this time in which people are in so much pain, in which the burdens are so heavy, the mourning so excruciating, and the need for comfort so obvious.

One reason I hope that this would be the case is that I knew that church leaders had made terrible mistakes that God could not possibly have sanctioned, such as denying full membership to black people for over 150 years, the institution of polygamy, and the treatment of women. I know I was on the fringes of Mormonism for believing this, but you no longer have to be on the fringes to believe it. At a minimum, the church has disavowed its past racism and disavowed even its past prophets who supported the racist policy. It has stated publicly in general that its leaders have made terrible mistakes consistent with the culture of those leaders’ times.

You don’t have to stop believing to believe that this new policy is a terrible mistake. The church has given you permission through its admission that church leaders have made terrible mistakes.

You don’t even have to stop standing as a witness of God if you believe that this new policy is correct. You could simply acknowledge that based on past leaders’ mistakes that it might be mistaken, even if you personally don’t think it is.

That might make it easier to take that first step toward Christlike behavior of sharing the burdens of those whose burdens are too heavy right now, of mourning with those whose mourning is unbearable right now, of comforting those in desperate need of comfort.

I’m asking my Mormon friends and family to please consider this.