Looking for Clarity in Mixed Messages

Competing communications

Mixed messages occur when we communicate two competing ideas. This results in miscommunication and logical conundrums. It is part of life and can often be attributed to our perception of words and actions.

For example a female often sees sexual advance of a male as a guy just ‘being nice’ while the male experiences a woman who is just being nice as a ‘sexual advance.’ Clearly this leads to confusion between both parties.

There are other cases of mixed messages though, such as where an abuser sends signals of love and hate towards the victim. Keeping them wondering exactly what is needed for love from the person in control. The narcissist creates a double bind in the relationship that is difficult for the victim to recognize and often keeps the victim in the situation far longer than expected. It also happens to the dismay of this on the outside that can readily see the abuse while the victim remains essentially blind to it.

In one case the mixed message is a misunderstanding due to personal bias, while the other is a situation where a level of thought control is exerted by one party over another emotionally attached person. There is another category of mixed message in my opinion. The religious one. I think we find components of both concepts in religious mixed messaging.

Relationships matter, good message

There is definitely a relationship at stake. You are supposed to ‘personally’ know Jesus right? In my discussion with people of differing levels of faith it becomes very clear that how a particular scripture or statement by a trusted leader depends greatly on a person’s point of view.

 

obi wan

 

But there is also messaging via the party in control that is worth consideration in my humble opinion. This sermon on the Fridge was inspired by such a message I recently read by a leader of faithful Mormons. There were some ideas in his talk that I really, really liked. Here are some examples:

 

“This is an important reminder to modern Israel that we should treat one another with respect and kindness and especially those living among us who are not members, because we were once strangers too.”

“If a neighbor, work colleague, or schoolmate is not interested in investigating the gospel, we must always continue to extend the hand of friendship”

“I invite every parent listening today to talk with your children about how they should treat others not of our faith on the school playground and in our neighborhoods. Our children learn best by the example of parents and leaders. Let us be careful regarding what we say about others and how we treat our fellowmen.”

“If we are His disciples, we must practice Christian civility and kindness to all we meet, including those who have chosen to disassociate themselves from the Church.”

 

Personally I found these to be great sentiments and appreciated hearing them taught from the pulpit. They addressed concerns I have as I watched my family ostracized from the community due to no longer believing the the prevailing faith. If I had one regret for following truth that lead to the collapse of my shelf it is the effect it eventually had on my children’s friendships when they came to similar conclusions as I did. It’s hard to see your own child treated differently due to not being of the same faith. So that last quote was very meaningful to me personally.

What is the whole message?

If only I could end it there though. The problem is this isn’t the only part of the message. Here are some other quotes from the same talk:

 

“I raise my warning voice, as Paul did, that there are those “that trouble you”—people that “pervert the gospel of Christ.” I would be shirking my duty if I did not raise my voice to warn you of the challenges we face today.”

“We are saddened when we witness some of the “very elect” deceived as Jesus warned.”

“To me this is a perfect analogy of what happens when stalwart Church members, the “very elect,” those who for all appearances seem to stand tall and erect in the faith, die spiritually.”

“Viewing podcasts and Internet sites that raise questions and doubt without being intellectually honest and that do not adequately and honestly present the Lord’s perspective”

 

To me this is a very mixed message. Love the heathen, be kind and nice and civil, but don’t let them contaminate you with their thinking or doubt. The unbeliever apperently needs to be both respected and pitied as a great tree that lost its roots and died? Taking it a step further old stereo types are reinforced with messages like this:

 

“When someone stops doing these simple but essential things,1 they cut themselves from the well of living water and allow Satan to muddle their thinking. Sin and guilt cloud the mind—leading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a “de-conversion” from the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Non-believers are sinful, bad message

The person that leaves must be sinful to doubt the faith is core to this message. I still have no idea what ‘sin’ I was committing when I realized what I considered spiritual proofs of my own faith were no different than the things Muslims or the FLDS felt or any other religion. Looking at this with brutal honestly I had to consider the reliability of these feelings if they could also cause a teen girl to think it was necessary for her to become polygamous bride to a cult leader like Warren Jeffs.

 

 

Reading this talk, the mixed messaging of love your neighbor as your equal, but remember how lucky you are to be one of the chosen few was glaringly obvious to me. I think this is  because once I stepped out of the grasp religion had on my thoughts I noticed this conflicting communication is rampant in all faiths.

Bible says don’t kill, then Nephi is told to kill a drunk guy. Thou shalt not lie, but then Joseph Smith lies about his polygamy and orders a printing press destroyed for exposing it. You don’t even have to leave the bible to find mixed messages.  In one verse Jesus says love one another. Then in another he says you need to hate your family to be his disciple. 2 Entire maps of scripture have been put together highlighting the conflicting ideas.

I have determined mixed messages come part and parcel with religious faith. But I doubt most believers consciously realize the mixed messages that are being sent because they have been used to it for years.By now it just seems normal to hear such conflicting concepts reinforced. It’s simply the way religion works if you will. In fact I tend more to that explanation than an overt effort to control the thinking of members. Some find it abusive and cult like. I think it is more mild and unintentional myself.

Seeking clarification

Maybe part of the mixed messaging goes the other way, and like the relationship were one person can’t see things the same way the other can is a failing of not listening… That conclusion I reach because of this last quote that stood out to me.

“It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the Internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.”

Let me see if I can clarify for Elder Ballard that which seems to be so hard for him to understand.

I did turn to the scriptures, and the voices of living prophets. But I kept hearing these mixed messages that frankly put never really get answered in way a that builds faith.

The answers in the new essays, especially if you do your own research following the footnotes, don’t honestly paint a compelling picture. They come off as weak justifications for some pretty awful things. Or they cause massive contradictions about how things that were doctrinal all of a sudden now aren’t. Like how the living prophets of yesterday like Brigham Young where just a product of their racist generation when they prevented Black people from getting the priesthood? Really? If that leader was off his rocker in his time and place why should I believe the current divisive LGBT rhetoric from leaders today?

I did turn to the faithful for answers to my questions. They didn’t have answers. In fact all they had was what you said. Blame to give me for not studying hard enough.

This is NOT a failure of trying

I want you to know I was reading the Book of Mormon daily the night my shelf collapsed, prayerfully looking for these answers that every leader says are there. I have yet to find clear and succinct answers. Only contradictory apologetics that put more spin on the facts than a used car salesman. I did everything asked and more before considering the possibility I was wrong and had put my faith in the wrong place. What have you done? Have you read the CES letter? How is it a director of church education can’t answer anything on the list of those items? How is it so much of what is in there is known to so few members of the faith? Why is the answer always my fault for not trying hard enough no matter how hard I try? Can’t you see how self serving such an answer is? You can use that kind of answer to prove you shouldn’t leave any religion. It’s illogical thinking and rests on circular reasoning that in any situation other than testing your own faith is obviously false.

 

 

Maybe the reason these podcasts and websites you vilify get more attention than the leaders of the church from those that questions is simple. Maybe it’s because these voices that are both somehow evil and to be avoided and yet made by non believers that shouldn’t be avoided but befriended….

Maybe they aren’t sending the mixed messages you have been.

 

 

“I just like to shoot straight, I’m a man of science, “

 

  1. Constant repetition is a well known way to control a persons perception. Is it really any wonder that ceasing to constantly repeat something might change a persons perspective?
  2. Luke 14:26

Chapel of Pain

Beginnings and Ends

We bury her tomorrow. My mother. She had been sick for a while, but after a debilitating month she finally let go.

After the initial shock of her passing, I have to admit I felt only relief and release. Her torment, that she had both suffered and created, was finally over. The fear and apprehension I felt every time I spoke with her, her projection of guilt and shame over my ‘apostasy’, her deep-seated need for comforting lies about her as a mother … and overshadowing it all, her enduring abusive behavior. It all died with her and I finally felt free.

Yet now as the funeral approaches, I’m experiencing a growing sense of dread. In part because of the platitudes I expect to hear about my mother, ‘the angel’. In part because of the mormon service my family is planning. And in part because it will be held in the LDS chapel where I suffered so much as a child.

Dark clouds of trouble hanging o'er us - an LDS chapel overshadowed with foreboding clouds
Look, see yonder… dark clouds of foreboding

Buildings and Tearing Down

Attending her funeral in that chapel won’t be easy. Some may see it as a house of peace, but for me it was a house of pain. So many conflicts. So much torment. So many memories. It may seem strange to think how strongly they still affect on me 30 years later, but I suppose that’s why they call them formative years. It was traumatic at the time and it remains difficult to process today, especially at the thought of going back.

I have vivid memories of that chapel. So much of who I am was formed there during the bubbling cauldron of my adolescence.

That was where my father forced me to get baptized when I turned 8. I told him that I didn’t believe and didn’t want to make that commitment, but he said my testimony would come after my act of faith and he set the date. When it was over, I couldn’t stop crying from the font to the confirmation. Because I had just made lifelong covenants to a church I didn’t believe in, and I took that seriously.

So you see, that chapel was where I learned to doubt myself, where I learned that those who can’t feel a testimony of mormon truth must be blinded by sin or pride. And that if I couldn’t believe, then I must be sinful … my thoughts and feelings unreliable. And if so, I was better off trusting my leaders instead of myself, even when it didn’t make any sense.

That chapel was where I learned that only mormon kids were worthy of being friends with. That I was to live in the world, but not of the world. And to avoid the world, the people in it and their beliefs at all costs, associating only with mormons whenever possible … because mormons were safe and the world was dangerous.

– But ironically, that was where I was bullied and beat up by the ‘moral and worthy’ mormon boys at church. I was so excited to learn how to camp and earn merit badges with the scouts, but they only wanted to play sports on scouting night. I was asthmatic and didn’t know how to play, so they used me as a tackle dummy and laughed when I lay on the ground and couldn’t breathe. And when I tried to quit, I got in trouble for not being a team player.

– Where the bishop interrogated me in detail about my worthiness. And publicly humiliated me by not letting me pass the sacrament. Why? Because touching myself was the only way to get rid of my morning erections so I could get dressed for school. I tried everything … wearing tight clothes to bed, tying it off with rubber bands or string, self-inflicted pain, icy cold showers, scalding hot water … but nothing worked. The only way to get dressed was to ‘commit a sin’. I felt so horrible about myself that I even tried to follow the Bible’s advice and ‘cut off the hand that offended me’. But the attempt was so painful I couldn’t go through with it, leaving me feeling even more guilty about my lack of resolve as I cleaned up the bloody mess and painfully tried to heal. At church, the other boys laughed and joked about touching themselves, and obviously never told the bishop. I saw them rewarded for lying about something normal, while I was punished and shamed for being honest.

– Where I was forced to attend Youth Conference, where we were lectured about the evils of science, the lies of the world, the temptations of movies and music, and the sins of desire and sexual attraction. They taught us never to touch or fantasize about the opposite sex. And that god would judge us for eternity over every thought and feeling that crossed our adolescent minds.

– Where I was forced to attend church dances, even though looking at girls with desire was apparently a sin next to murder. And touching them with desire would lead to my damnation. But I found out the hard way that declining to attend dances (even with the pure intent of avoiding sin) was also wrong, and would get me in trouble with my parents and church leaders. I guess the only thing worse than touching a girl is acting like you don’t want to touch girls.

– Where I was taught about the blessings of eternal sex in the celestial kingdom. I remember the married man standing in front of the class, telling us all that sex was worth the wait and how he wanted to stay worthy and enjoy it in heaven forever. Which was in stark contrast to his declarations of the evils of masturbation, sex and fantasy from just a few moments before. I was literally being taught that even though sex was good and I should want it, that any desire for it would lead to my damnation.

After these experiences and many more, I grew to hate that building and the faith it represented. To hate the lies my church leaders taught me, the no-win situations they put me in, and the physical and emotional abuse they both inflicted on me and forced me to endure within its walls.

And now my family wants to celebrate my abusive mother’s life in that house of lies and pain.

The moon casts eerie light on the ruins of a chapel on the plains.
The paths of my memory lead to the crumbling walls of a broken childhood.

Out of the Frying Pan

The closer I get to the funeral, the less I want to go. I don’t even want to get on the plane, much less step foot in that building. I feel sick, paralyzed. My wife had to buy the plane tickets, and I’ve been so upset I had to call in sick every day this week.

Some mormons would say my negative feelings prove that ‘apostates’ are filled with the spirit of the devil … or that a sinner has innate intolerance for the holy ghost … or that an ungrateful son will always be selfish toward his mother. But no, this is what happens after 27 years of abuse at the hands of a church.

To dismiss me as an ungrateful, angry apostate is to ignore the 20 years that I devoted to the LDS church after my baptism. Submitting myself to the mormon faith I had no testimony of. Believing that my thoughts must be wrong because everyone I loved and trusted told me so. Studying, fasting, praying … hoping for a long-awaited testimony with each act of faith. But receiving nothing in return but emotional and religious abuse, a near death experience from arsenic poisoning on my mission, and years of subsequent nerve pain that the LDS church covered up, blamed on imaginary sins, and threatened me to keep secret.

So when I say it will be difficult for me to sit through my mother’s funeral in that chapel, I’m not talking about a little boredom or discomfort.

I’m talking about going to dinner with your rapist and having to pick up the check. Or holding your child’s birthday party in your pedophile uncle’s back yard and having to smile and introduce him to all the kids. Or openly crossing enemy lines after escaping a POW camp where you were tortured and almost killed.

To go to my mother’s funeral, I will have to walk back into the house of pain where I suffered decades of emotional and religious abuse that I’ve worked so hard to leave behind.

Right through the front door. Tomorrow. 

I’m scared. 

Truth must be a disease 

So I just read this article. It’s a commentary on the efforts of spiritual inoculation of the LDS faith by the wife of Brian Hales, a more prominent church apologist that has even been touched by the Fridge in a small way causing him to comment on one of the posts here. (One can only hope that this small touch might lead him to opening the door and seeing the light!)

The gist of her post (other than a soft sell of her book) seems to be an effort to explain in a faith promoting way (also know as apologetic) the current efforts of the church to inoculate its members by carefully revealing disturbing facts of its history.

The timing of this reading must have been a sign from the Fridge, because at this point thanks to the bite of a rabid bat I’m intimately familiar with the medical process of inoculation.

It’s basically works like this; you give your body a weaker, not as powerful form of the virus you want to protect against. Your body encountering that form then gets a little time to build up its disease fighting armory with weapons specifically designed to counter the attack of said virus. Later when the bad stuff is encountered again your immune system is firing on all cylinders and doesn’t give the disease a corner to sit in thus wiping it out before it can do any damage.

This process of inoculation can even work post infection in some cases if you are quick enough. One such case being the bite of a rabid animal. A fact I’m personally very happy with so as to not go the way of old yeller at this point in my life.

The way the LDS faith is exposing some of the disturbing facts of church history with things like these essays weakening the impact by not telling every difficult issue, and coming up with plausible explanations for the ones that are revealed makes inoculation an apt analogy. The faith destroying virus is most definitely weakened by this approach and when the faithful later  encounters an apostate that says, ’14 year old brides too me just seems wrong!’ The believer can say, ‘yeah I know she was nearly 15, it bothers me too a little, but God is mysterious so I just shelve it and have faith!’  Does inoculation work? Absolutely, on this point I agree with the article.

But for a moment ask yourself what are we being inoculated against? That’s really simple, it’s the truth.

Let me explain… on second thought, even better would be to let another church apologist, Richard Bushman explain:

“I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained.”

It turns the way things all went down in the churches past weren’t actually the way you were taught they did in Sunday school. The dominant narrative pushed in all those lesson manuals just wasn’t factual.

Laura even admits to in her article, she just doesn’t come right out and say it wasn’t true like Bushman did:

“But such veneration can quickly turn into confusion if one encounters strident voices that challenge the traditional account through the use of accurate, but previously unknown, details.”

If a person learns a new fact (that is accurate) and that contradicts previous understanding, this makes the previous knowledge false. It really is that simple.

So is the next thing that happens to the believer according to the post is as follows:

“At that point, fear and feelings of betrayal may emerge as religious convictions are re-examined. In extreme cases, the mind becomes jumbled; long-established beliefs battle against this new influx of information.

Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance.”

Look up cognitive dissonance, it always occurs when we discover what we thought was true… well isn’t. When our deeply held convictions run into facts that would make them false it’s fundamentally upsetting. This is why often when people experiencing cognitive dissonance will react with a fight or flight reflex. It’s an emotional reaction, not a logical one.

Cognitive dissonance occurs when facts contradict our beliefs. It happens when truth comes in, smacks us up the side of the head, and forces us to consider what we felt deep inside was true really is quite possibly complete fiction. It’s a common topic on the Fridge this dissonance thing. In fact it is crucial to understanding how you could have been bamboozled for so long.

There are several ways to resolve the feeling of cognitive dissonance; after lots of Googling you will realize they are all some variation of these three suggestions:

  1. Rationalize current beliefs and minimize importance of new information by reframing it.
  2. Ignore or avoid the new information, dismiss it as irrelevant or simply false.
  3. Accept the new information even if it means changing actions or beliefs

Now Mrs. Hales would have you believe that leaving the church is an easy shortcut to resolving the cognitive dissonance of discovering things like Joseph Smith marrying 14 year old girls and other men’s wives, things like how he started a fraudulent bank, or the multiple stories he told of the first vision that wasn’t even written down till 12 years after the fact or even a core teaching till 1856… Maybe your dissonance came from discovering the real translation of the papyri of the Book of Abraham isn’t remotely at all like the stuff Joseph Smith purported to translate. You might be upset by the discovery that the Book of Mormon is full of anachronisms belaying its validity as a history of American Indians. Your dissonance might come from things like the way blacks were treated by people claiming to know the mind of God and you have a really hard time thinking a loving father in heaven is racist or the opposition conclusion that his prophets did in fact lead the church astray on that one. You might bristle discovering before getting Martin Harris to fund the BoM that Joe previously made a living as a ‘glass looker’ a job that today we’d call ‘con man.’ These are only a few of the “accurate but previously unknown details” You might have run into that you need to be inoculated against.

If you look carefully she suggests a way to resolve the dissonance. It’s in her words,“all in the delivery.” In other words her solution is reframing the information in a way that doesn’t bug you anymore. If it is really difficult the suggestion you can glean is to just call it unanswerable and set the whole question aside (on a metaphorical shelf if you will) and just have faith. These are apparently the hard thing to do being items 1 and 2 on the list above while walking away and dealing with the loss of belief is presumably pretty easy according to her.

Personally for me walking away turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done and continues to create conflict in my life. This is because apostates are framed as angry and broken by the faith they reject. It would have been far, far easier socially to just keep on towing the line and staying the course. In fact, here are 5 reasons you will wish you never left the church, please make absolutely sure integrity and truth is worth it to you before you go looking for it is all I can say. While I was able to keep my integrity social relationships that have anything related to the religion have suffered. In some cases irreparably. So on this point I completely disagree with the idea that leaving the faith is the easy way to resolve your dissonance. Maybe and example commonly found in psychology articles on the topic is worth looking at.

A person has been a smoker for 20 years. He finds out that there are real scientific studies that smoking is bad for his health, in fact that it will even lead to early death. This is new information to him is disconcerting because he loves smoking, it makes him feel good and calms his nerves. Which is the easiest path? Is it to say that smoking keeps him skinny and that being fat shortens his life too? Or is it harder to change your belief and give up the tobacco and follow where the evidence leads?

I know I was addicted to the faith, I loved the spiritual connection I felt at church, the social interaction and topics to discuss with my peers. I also loved a lot of the doctrine as well and some days I miss the sense of purpose it gave me. I still at times really, really wish it were all true. But as they say if wishes were fishes we’d all be eating sushi all the time. Facts just simply aren’t changed by a wish. Truth just is.

Like I said at the beginning getting vaccinated is an apt analogy, these facts that bother you, these truths are so disturbing that your faith will crumble like a brain succumbing to a virus. They are what requires spiritual inoculation. Because a full dose of the truth is well… like a disease… it gets in your head and is sure to make you doubt and doubting is something only the spiritually sick ever do. So if you don’t want to be sick, you’d better go read the essays right now and get your dose of the truth vaccine!

 

Inspiration or Insanity?

Where is the line between inspiration and insanity? When do we cross it? Faith claims to inspire, but what if losing your sanity comes with it?


A story I ran into during my crisis of faith happened right here in the valley where I live. A guy heard the voice of God. He was told to sacrifice his son much like Abraham and Isaac of the bible. He obeyed.

Unfortunately for his kid no angel showed up to stop him. He pled not guilty by reason of insanity.

But was he actually insane?

Something I think about particularly when debating religious believers of all faiths. It strikes me that the most devout always have a hint (or much more) of being a little nuts about them.

But I think you have to be a little crazy to think taking a knife to your kids throat is an honorable thing to do no matter who commands it.

Crazy comes part and parcel with religion. It has to. It is fundamental to buying into some of the most sadistic ideas that are foundational to the belief system.

And once you go nuts…. What’s gonna bring you back?

A plea bargain?

If I Meet God

One question that every atheist has gotten when an a-athiest (think about the double negative!) discovers their disbelief goes something like this.

What if you’re wrong? What will you say to God when you die and are judged?

It’s almost as if the theist thinks the person that renounced his faith never thought about this question. But nothing could be further from the truth. I know I spent a ton of time thinking about this ramification. It is comfortable after all to just keep on towing the line and acting like you believe, just in case there really is a God ready to judge you when you die. It is a supposition essentially born out of fear. It is the last bastion you hit when you are desperate to cling to your belief. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to what is in essence Pascal’s wager on the afterlife.


As Homer astutely points out, Pascal’s wager is actually pretty absurd if you step back for a moment and consider all the possible deities that might be judging you in the after life. Allah after all isn’t all that pleased with Christians. Jesus is gonna cast any that don’t believe in him into a fiery pit to eternally burn. Even Mormons in their effort to let everyone win besides the outer darkness folks still end up banning you from having an eternal family unless you are totally Mormon.

And that is just two religions that account for 75% of the planet and a relative small 0.2% that I mention only because I was personally in that category. There are literally hundreds of religions and God’s actively worshiped on earth today. and thousands that have come and gone in the past. (Anyone worship Zeus anymore?)


The person asserting pascals wager as a defense is making an assumption. They are assuming they picked the right religion. Which most of the time just happens to be the one they were raised in. This is pretty normal because religions lay claim to knowing the absolute truth. Sometimes they call other faiths abominations and sometimes more moderately they just say those other guys didn’t get it quite right. But the end result is belief that their particular faith has some secret sauce that others don’t. 1

This gives the believer a sense of purpose, which is a very attractive proposition. Who doesn’t want feel important after all? Of course you are required to practice humility even though you are one of the special elect. So that keeps you from realizing your own haughtiness most times. In that sense religion feeds a very human imperative. The desire to be needed.


So there is reason to realize the ‘what if your wrong’ question is pretty silly at the outset. But when you are questioning your own beliefs it is far more personal. I did put myself in the shoes of being wrong, not about any other religion that I had no faith in, but being wrong about the one I personally was losing faith in.

What if I left the only true faith when it was already in my grasp? Scriptures condemn the person in my situation. In the best case you don’t have freedom to be with your family at your will and worst case you get stuck in outer darkness for the rest of eternity. 2 Either way if I was wrong and the Mormons were right. I’d be facing judgement one day and I wondered what I would say if I met God. (The Mormon one, not Zeus or Allah. I wasn’t ever scared of those guys condemning me before so I honestly didn’t think much about them.)

If I’m wrong and I end up before the judgment bar pleading my case, my question for God will be simply why? Why did he make things like eye worms that burrow into kids eyes blinding them as they eat their way out? Why did he allow little girls to be raped and murdered ignoring their prayers while helping some other person find their car keys? Why did he give me this ability to think and to reason and to question and then tell me to shut off my brain and just believe?3 Because for the life of me. (pun intended) I can’t think of a remotely reasonable answer to those questions. Sure the default position is protecting peoples free agency and all that jazz. But that excuse falls really flat if you actually think much about it. I mean should this doctor not infringe on an eyeworms free agency?

It really is that obviously dumb to consider when you think about it. There is so much needless pain and suffering in the world that God must have created for the religion I believed in to be true. Why let tsunamis wipe out tens of thousands of people in painful drownings? Does a wave need free agency? Why did he make a world that is so full of pain and remorse when it was totally in his power to minimize it? That is what I’d ask him sitting there on this throne on judgment day. Because when I am honest and when I face down my fear of condemnation there just isn’t a good answer to this question. Sure it can be sort of treated like a test of a father where sometimes he lets a kid fall on his bike and skin his knee to learn a bit about life. But, skinned knee = a painful childhood cancer death? Really? Is there any decent parent you know that would not try to save their child from a painful terminal illness so they could have that experience? I don’t know any.

So what does it mean when your earthly father has more compassion than the one in heaven? I discovered that if God didn’t want me there because I wasn’t willing to bow and tell him how awesome he was, it didn’t bother me. Because I realized ultimately he was the one responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world and that is not a reason to love someone. It is human nature to do so though. Battered women often profess love for their abusers. I realized the only reason I had honestly felt a need to worship this guy was actually fear, sure I called it love but that was a cop out. Like a battered woman in a failed marriage I was very afraid to go it alone so I talked myself into it being ok. It was after this honest assessment that I decided to not be afraid.

It is amazing what happens when you decide you are not afraid. I am honestly not afraid of meeting my maker anymore. If he exists, I have some tough questions before he banishes me to whatever hell the theist imagines for a person that mocks God like I do. Because it is patently obvious he could have done a lot better job if he wanted to.4

And who knows. Maybe this life really is a test. Maybe the Fridge is God and when we are all up there he will congratulate all the Atheists for seeing through the bullshit and having the courage to face their fears and examine their own evidence for flaws. He might commend us for seeking truth at the expense of eternal reward and the courage it took to do so. If that turns out to be real instead of the afterlife you are thinking about. I promise you this. I won’t laugh at you for being fooled by all those other non-Fridge faiths and I’ll do my damnedest to get you into heaven too!5

athiest

  1. Random thought, religions are like burgers. Everyone wants it their way, but they don’t all like the same secret sauce. 🙂 Food analogies prove the Fridge is true yet again!
  2. After all, my experience with belief went all the way to hearing audible voices which I later decided was my own brain doing its damnedest to keep me believing in spite of a shelf full of contradictions. So if that was really the Holy Ghost, I definitely denied that fact. Before I considered that possibility I would and did testify knowing the church was true as sure as I knew the sun shined. Denying that experience comes with heavy consequences. Look up the scriptures, it’s a sin worse than murder.
  3. You are even expected to shelve your own moral imperatives and feelings when it comes to things like murder and child sacrifice just because God says to. Is that really reasonable?
  4. If my tiny human brain can see all the ways he could have done it, imagine what his infinite brain could have come up with! Just a thought for any believers reading this and thinking they are just too dumb to understand God’s ways.
  5. OK, I might giggle a little bit like when you see your best friend turf it, but you give him a hand up and you both laugh about it later over a cold one from the Fridge. 🙂

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