The Casualties of Judgement

My father said something very profound to me a couple of years ago after we had been discussing some of the issues with Mormonism.  It resonated with me and explained a facet of Mormonism that has always troubled me.

He said, “All most people really want in this life is the right to live life as they see fit and to not be judged for it.”

judgement

Mormonism is a belief system which requires the subjugation of self, our hopes and dreams, even our very lives, into a strict, narrow, conforming and confining path, controlled through a host of written and unwritten rules.

A couple of the more psychologically damaging teachings of Mormonism are “Avoid the very appearance of evil,” and the temple admonition to avoid “…every other unholy and impure practice.”  The real difficulty with these admonitions is they are undefined.  It grants to all Mormons the right to pick and choose among their own prejudices and apply those as “evil or impure.”  When you combine these teachings with the idea that Mormonism is “the only true and living Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today,” you have a recipe for an environment filled with judgement, condemnation, and disgust for people who don’t see the world in the same way.

Humans are social animals.  What others think of us does matter, particularly in communities with rigid social mores. If one doesn’t “toe the line” doors are closed, people are gossiped about, children are disowned, and relationships are destroyed.

This is, of course, the center of our difficulties between believer and apostate.  Judgement and resentment go hand-in-hand and the combination is corrosive to our most important relationships. Where I think both “believers” and “apostates” are making a mistake is in the ground in where we choose to fight our battles.

Tactically speaking, it has been a time honored position in warfare to hold the high ground. The person in that position has a definite advantage because gravity is on their side. Sieges have always been long and costly and resulted in great destruction.

Citadel

Believers argue from the “high ground” position of “faith and God” where no negotiation can happen because in their beliefs their position is “RIGHT.”  It is the ground where condemnation, judgement, and disgust shut down communications.  Communications are of the sort, “my way or the highway.”  This is usually where the casualties start piling up.

The trick is, I think, in shifting the ground from “high moral position” to the ground of “relationship.”  This can often be accomplished by asking this question.

“You may be right, but is being right so important to you that you would rather destroy the relationship between us in the name of being right?” 

Bad_Friends_quotes__02

Most believers aren’t focusing on the relationship, they’re focusing on the “rightness” of their position.  Becoming cognizant of the destruction of the relationship is pretty much like getting hit in the face with a bucket of ice water.

On the other side, the apostate holds the high ground of “Science and Reason” and we get so caught up in the battle we lose track of the casualties in relationships, too.  Eventually both sides seem to accept the casualties as a “necessary part of the battle.”

It really is sad.  But there is an antidote.  It is called “unconditional love and acceptance.”  It doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and permit people to walk on you, it only means that you will continue to love and accept people for who they are, not for what they believe. The cool thing is it can be extended unilaterally.  Sometimes, we have to experience it before we can share it.

In my own life, judgement and condemnation toward me by my (ex) wife eventually ended my marriage.  She couldn’t accept me for who I am.  I never pointed out to her the damage she was doing to our relationship.  Instead, I gave of myself until nothing was left, trying to be what she wanted.  Would things have been different if I had explained?  I guess I will never know.

Abstraction and Power

The ability of the human mind to engage in abstraction is an amazing and powerful tool. In a way, it has enabled us as a species to progress far beyond that of the other species on this planet. What is abstraction, you ask? It is merely the ability to let one thing represent something else. To give a brief example, let’s use language as an example. The word “home” is an example of an abstracted idea. When someone says “home” we immediately think of the place that we live when we are not working or going to school or even out somewhere playing. It is where we have the bed that we sleep in, a kitchen where we make our meals, a place where we take care of our hygiene. All of these concepts are included in the word “home.” It is a concept rather than a thing.

All language is an abstraction. We use words to represent things. Those words can then be combined together, to create an even higher level of abstraction. It is a way of compressing knowledge and communicating it efficiently. If we meet someone with a different language and we need to communicate, the first thing we do is point at an item of which we both recognize and use sounds to represent that thing. This becomes the first layer of abstraction. Within the abstraction of home we also have the concept of “kitchen”, within the concept of “kitchen” we have things like dishes, sinks, stove, and cupboards. At the highest level of abstraction, the word “home” contains all of these concepts.

As valuable as the ability to use abstraction is, there is also a downside. We sacrifice details for speed in communication. Many times, the details can create huge misunderstandings between people when communicating with others. Nowhere is this more evident than when people come together to argue about religion.

One of the important and less understood facets of abstraction in language is the fact that there is often emotional content wrapped up in it. Let’s make the definition of God a little less abstract by listing a few common attributes that are relatively well accepted across multiple belief systems. Here are a few:

Omnipotent
Omniscient
Omnipresent
In charge of everything
Can give life – can take life
Is above us in every way
Knows the future and the past
Creator of everything including the universe.
Everything is controlled by “His will.”

The emotional content hidden within these attributes is that God is above us in every way, intelligence, power, and knowledge. Not only do the concepts present superiority, but they also imply that it is God’s right to do with us as God pleases. There is awe, fear, subjugation, authority and other concepts included within the abstraction of “God.”

We don’t just abstract in language. We also abstract in other very important areas. We view people as “representatives” for functions. We view a man wearing a police uniform as an abstraction for the power of the law. In a similar manner, we view our ecclesiastical leaders as representatives of the power of God. In so doing we automatically grant that person (or persons) respect in accordance with our concept of God. In this way we are subtly programmed to accord an unearned authority based on our religious tenets.

For thousands of years, religious leaders have utilized this unearned authority to subjugate others, enrich themselves, and control multitudes of people. Our politicians wrap themselves in God, Country, and Patriotism to garner the votes influenced by the power embodied within these conceptual abstractions.

Perhaps this explains the fear in America of the Atheist movement. If God is viewed as a “mythology” the unearned power held by ecclesiastical leaders evaporates. Politicians who wrap themselves in God become viewed as “delusional.” It becomes an enormous shift in power. No longer can anyone claim that “My way is the right way, because God told me so.” Instead ideas, propositions, and efforts become examined under the light of a multitude of contrasting viewpoints and decisions arrived at through compromise.

It is this reason, why I stand against religion in all its forms. It is the subtle programming, the nuances hidden within the abstractions, the unearned power and its misuse. Relegating God to the dustbin of “mythology” accomplishes some useful things.

  • First, it frees us from the dominion of those who would use God to control us.
  • Second, it removes the “unquestionable source” from the equation, and everything can be challenged.
  • Third, it frees us from fear based psychology based in “what happens after we die?”
  • Fourth, we no longer can use God as an excuse to invade and attack those whose beliefs differ from our own. We can then look for and examine the motives of those who would use God as the excuse for war.
  • Fifth, and in my opinion the most important reason of all, it permits us to take responsibility for our own actions instead of using God as a scapegoat.

The things that happen to us are a result of the decisions of others combined with random chance and how our own decisions interact. It isn’t “God’s will”. When we make mistakes, “Satan” didn’t tempt us, we made a choice or acted on instinct. We get to take responsibility for our own actions and we get to learn the lessons of those actions. We also learn that we can ONLY be responsible for our own actions. We are not responsible for the actions or the feelings of others. When someone takes offense or feels hurt by our actions, they are responsible for their own feelings.

It is important to remember that virtually every statement made in “God’s name” is a manipulative effort by one with unearned authority in an attempt to control behavior. In short; power.

Expectations

I woke up this morning with the word “expectations” running around in my head.  I’m not really sure why, but I figured it was time to put (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper and see if this speaks to anyone else.

As a child, I became aware of certain days each year that held significance in my life.  With the usual childish view of “the world revolves around me,” those days were of course, my birthday and Christmas.  During my childhood years and into my early teens, I developed certain “expectations” (see there’s that word again) surrounding these days. I would build them up in my mind for weeks prior to the actual event and the next thing I knew BAM it was over and I felt completely let down.  I’d often be awake most of the night before, imagining the events of the next day.

Then came one of my birthdays early in my teenage years where I had my most disappointing day ever.  Everyone forgot it.  I felt pretty devastated.  It was, in retrospect a rather illuminating experience.  I vowed that from that day forward I would do my best to simply forget my birthday.  If I did remember, I just assumed that everyone was going to forget and if they did – well, it was no big deal.  It was, after all, just another day.

Something rather strange happened.  In losing my expectations, I discovered that when things did happen on these (no longer) special days, they turned into delightful days.

I submit that it was my “expectations” which were the problem.

Mormonism is a belief system which creates “expectations.”  You are “expected” to live in a certain way, you are “expected” to do certain things, and you are taught to “expect” certain blessings for living up to these “expectations.”

Let me give you an idea of what I mean.  As a returned missionary marriage came with certain…well – expectations. First and foremost was the idea that I would, above all else live to a certain standard.  This standard included perfect church attendance, obedience to church rules, service, paying a full tithe, have a big family, provide for that family, maintain strict fidelity to my spouse, be the sole wage earner so that my wife could be a stay-at-home-mom, and attend the temple regularly.  I was expected to be the priesthood “authority” in my home.  My children would be baptized, confirmed, taught to be obedient (again, to the church), encouraged to serve missions and continue the Mormon circle of life.

The blessings are also something that is to be “expected,” right?  As it states in the D&C 130:20-21 –
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

From the Mormon paradigm, these expectations seem to be…not only normal, but “right”… even “promised.”

Over the years, I discovered that these expectations also came with an enormous load of guilt, judgment, and condemnation.  Perfection wasn’t a goal, it was a necessity. Minor infractions were viewed as major sins. The necessity of perfection ruled in our lives. After all, “I God, cannot look upon sin with the LEAST degree of allowance.” D&C 1:31 and Alma 45:16

This is, in my humble opinion, what has given rise to the pharisaical culture of Mormonism.  I think it also the source of deep depression which seems to be so prevalent among the Saints.  As social animals, humans seem to be especially sensitive to the power of “expectation.”  Likely, it is occurs from the basic need for acceptance.

Mormonism teaches us some very egregious doctrines that enable “expectation” as a weapon against us.  In addition to the scriptures listed above, Mormonism also teaches that “The natural man is an enemy to God.”  The one thing that is consistent throughout these teachings is the basic idea that God has rejected us, and we must “earn” our way back into his presence.  Even in Christianity, one has to earn their way by “accepting Christ” at the very least.  Mormonism seems to take that considerably further with the idea that Christ’s sacrifice only offset’s Adam’s transgression (“By Adam, death came into the world, through Christ came the resurrection and eternal lives”) but “exaltation” requires us earning our way into the Celestial Kingdom.  This “rejection” by God becomes the foundational premise of which we must accept in order for religion to exert control over us.

To state this another way, expectations are a form of “conditional love.”  Love which is “conditional” isn’t love, it is the expression of manipulative power.