Putting God in a Box

The more time I spent discussing religion with the faithful, the more I see the box they put their particular God in.

I blame it on our human decency for the most part, with a dash of reason tossed into the mix. Let me explain.

Some people look at evolution and say, yep that happened. But still somewhere along the way God tweaked things just so and we’d all turn out like we did. You know, in his image and all.

Still others declare no! Evolution is bunk! The earth is 6000 years old and all that evolution science is baloney! Often times these two types of people even go to the same church.

But if you keep exploring enough you will find the edges of the box each person has put their God in. Somewhere you will find that the miraculous answer ‘God did it’ just isn’t the case. They will tell you without reservation what God really meant by very specific words in ancient texts rather than explain it in a miraculous way.

Because you see, the miracle would offend either that believers sense of decency, or their sense of reason and logic. So they box God in. They limit his power over their morality and reason.

It’s a good think too, because when you look around, the people that let their God run amuck with very few limits are the ones we call extremists. They start wars and kill doctors in the name of their God. Rather that impose personal morality on scripture by declaring that passage should not be taken literally… they take it literally.

I think we Fridgidarian’s should promote boxing God in with sound moral judgment and reason. So next time you hear your friend substitute their own moral values in place of scripture or prophetic decree. I say give them a high five for at least in this one instance, of thinking for themselves.


P.S. Do you think it is just coincidence that your Fridge comes in a box? Well now you know! ūüôā

 

Angry Mormon Atheists Must Hate God

So recently I have been debating more than a few theists, Why? Because duh… I must be angry!1

I mean this Mormon religion must have not only pissed me off at the LDS church, clearly it caused me to hate God now as well. Why am I told I hate God? Because I just don’t believe in him. (Apparently the Fridge doesn’t count)

So I did a little research, and it seemed to me articles on this topic are far more common among the religious bloggers. They feel a need to explain why so few Mormons land in a different religion and simply embrace non-belief as the correct title for their religious views.

Given that lack of information available to others for my point of view. I figured I’d pen some of the reasons that led me to consider a Fridge God every bit as valid as say Jehovah, Zeus or Allah.

fool

1. Critical thinking is hard to turn off.
If you were a devout LDS person, like most post mormon atheists I know, you had to figure out how you were fooled into believing you knew it was ‘The-one-true-church-on-the-face-of-the-earth-in-the-name-of-jesus-christ-amen.’¬†This required critical thinking, it also required understanding of the cognitive failings us humans have and exactly how you could be caught in such an illusion. Ask any post mormon, and 90% plus can tell you what confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance are and how they affected their beliefs.

2. Revaluation of all your presumptions is normal.
When you realized that you were mistaken about something you were so sure about you naturally question the foundation of all things you take for granted. Fact is, culturally in the US where most of these post Mormons come from there is a major presumption that God is real. Particular the Christian version of God. When you hold up the same lens of critical evaluation to these presumptions they¬†just don’t hold up.

3. If you were a devout Mormon you already believed in the apostasy of other religions.
You could see how other people could be tricked by their desires to believe. You just hadn’t ever applied it to yourself.

4. As an LDS faithful you were encouraged to seek learning.
Knowledge is essential to progression in the LDS faith. This leads to taking all scientific things off the shelf that your religion caused you to place there to keep believing. Many of these elements were biblically orient, creation, flood, evolution, age of the earth and so on. They directly conflicted with scientific knowledge as a faithful LDS. But you set them aside as ‘some day we will understand it all and how it all makes sense...’¬†Being untethered from a faith it allows you to examine others and see them full of all the same faults.

And apparently to the faithful (especially the non-LDS Christian ones) all this adds up to ‘hating god‘. But that makes so little sense. Did God fool me into believing in Mormonism? Thus making me ‘hate him’? Clearly not if you believe God only tells you the truth at all times.

I think the reason the term ‘hate’ is used is really simple. God is us. The voice of god you hear is you, and it always has been. Deep down subconsciously we all know this. Even as we profess otherwise. Think about it for a minute. If you dismiss the idea of God and saw you don’t believe he’s real. It’s like you are telling the believer you don’t think they are real. That would feel pretty hateful to them. Now take it a step further. If you were fooled by your own feelings into thinking a particular religion was true only to later find out it was false. You might be mad at yourself. And to the believer yourself is subconsciously ‘God’. If they put themselves in your shoes they would hate themselves for being fooled. Which when it hits their conscious awareness becomes ‘hating God’.

I personally would like to settle this for once and all. LDS people gone atheist don’t hate God. They don’t hate the easter bunny either. For a while we might be a tad upset with ourselves for being bamboozled, but it passes. ¬†Once you realize how you were fooled, the way each of us psychologically creates our own personal deity becomes crystal clear.

If you lost your religion the way I did. By realizing they are all man made and figuring out how you fell for it. This is what leads to atheism. It’s not hate, but knowledge that does it. A better understanding of humanity, history and psychology leads to a coherent picture of religion and its effects on the world and people around you.

From that vantage point, it all looks made up. None of the typical Gods described by the vast majority of religions make any sort of sense, not even remotely when you analyze it. Then after some more study of the words agnostic and atheism you finally realize exactly what describes you best now that you aren’t constantly redefining words to make your ideology make sense.

 

Fridgism = Atheism, just with more jokes and a less cynical outlook on the value of faith and belief and how the mythologies of the world at large. At least thats how my personal truth fits it all together! ūüôā

 

  1. This is sarcasm for those of you that are deficient in that blessing of the Fridge ūüėČ

Where We Went

Where will you go? The question posed to LDS faithful this last general conference that has caught fire as a meme among the not so faithful. Last time I saw this type of response in the post Mormon world was the doubt your doubts quip¬†that put this obscure blog on the map which I’m sure played no small part in it getting a¬†Brodie Award.

A couple of years ago I would have listened to conference with bated breath and pounded out a response the next day to such blatant misinformation in the particular talk that spouted this idea.

But that’s just not the case anymore, and I think that’s relevant. Because I did go away. I left the faith. Sure it was hard not to look back for a long time. But it is getting easier and easier every day. 1


Turns out that a life without even a belief in God suits me. I feel free to use my own mind. I don’t need to check my conclusions against ‘revealed truth’ to make sure it fits because there is no such thing. All there is are human’s proposing human concepts, some of them right and some wrong.

These days I don’t even listen to conference, I blog less on the things wrong with the faith and more on how we can become better people. I still keep touch with my fellow Post-Mormon peeps though. You¬†can’t just hang up a 5th generation Mormon hat, especially when you are the only heathen in your family not wearing it.

So perusing a few reddit posts in that effort led to this thought from the Fridge. I think Elder Ballard is asking the wrong question to the wrong people. I honestly think his reasons for leaving the church are all he understands. Let me explain.

We know for a fact that these men live in an isolated mecca far from the average person. They are¬†briefed¬†on what is happening in the world by self proclaimed ‘yes men.’¬†Guys who call themselves¬†‘church broke’¬†2 due to¬†their¬†subservient nature.

Ponderizing this while reading TBM FB comments about the Zelph on the Shelf post¬†I had an epiphany. These leaders don’t talk to apostates that have never returned to the fold!

I think they have only heard from people that left and returned,¬†which is a very small subset of those that leave. Bear with me on this. Because I have also known people that quit attending church and then returned. And guess what….

Those guys do leave for the reasons stated by church leaders!

  • They feel offended by someone, run away, resolve it and come back.
  • They sin and feel guilty about it for years, not worthy of being in church. But one day they make a choice to return¬†to welcoming, open arms.
  • They just aren’t good with the high levels of commitment the church requires and slack away at it until one day they stop being inactive and go back to the fold.
  • The never really understood the faith nor gained a testimony to begin with, but now they have one and returned.
  • They think they were deceived by lies but now feel they know the truth and have returned.

The common element? The people in these five categories all came back. If the only people you ever talk to about their experience in the church are people that go to church. You are missing out on a huge group of people that have left.  (well over two-thirds of convert baptisms!)

If your filter to the what is happening to the religion you guide is coming only from church-broke-yes-men and repentant faithful you will miss a huge part of the story. If you want to know what is happening and why tithing income and attendance numbers are falling across the board you are asking the wrong people ‘where will you go?’

You should be asking people that haven’t returned ‘where they went?’ Because they have gone lots and lots of places, some to nature, some to peaceful Sundays at home. Some went to coffee shops and some to other less judgmental faiths. Even a few went to their Fridge, opened the door and saw the light.

And the light said. “What do all these people have in common that have NOT returned to the fold?” They didn’t leave for any of the reasons above. They dug deep into the origins and realized this simple fact. The church isn’t true. They don’t believe it because of the overwhelming evidence that says its not anymore likely to be the one and only truth than every other faith Mormons themselves say only got it part right.

That’s why it’s a losing battle for the LDS faith in the long run. Like Zeus of a few thousand years ago. Elohim is doomed to be a quirky alien myth cooked up by¬†an 18th century conman to sell a book. Not tomorrow or likely even centuries from now though, more like Millenia. 3 Religions have inertia and are gonna be around plenty long since our human appetite for emotional and spiritual experience isn’t dissipating anytime soon.

But if you really want to know what’s bleeding the church right now, don’t ask the faithful followers ‘where will you go?’ Ask the 34,0004 subscribers to exmormon reddit ‘where they went?’

 

 

  1. Of course the believer will tell you it’s my dulling spiritual senses that lead me to not care anymore. Funny how no matter what I do it proves them right isn’t it? If you can’t leave it alone, they are right because the prophets said so. ¬†If you don’t care a whit about it. They are right because prophets said you are ‘past feeling’. Religion NEVER allows a test that could prove it wrong. ¬†I think there might be a lesson in there somewhere:)
  2. Broke has the same meaning as when a horse is broken to be docile, ridden and guided by its master.
  3. See Jesus myth for comparison
  4. Seriously every time I look this number ticks up. Less than a month ago it was under 30k, if this were a religion it would be kicking ass in growth numbers right now! It reminds me of this clip.

We All Bleed The Same, Love vs Hate

Acceptance strikes a cord

Last night I had a chance to hear this song in person:

Acceptance… The message struck me at my core. It is exactly what I feel deep inside. It connects with me. I felt lucky to be there and experience it live. I also suffered many levels of irony which is how the Fridge touches me and inspires these posts.¬†ūüėČ

Levels of irony

The first level was the fact I wasn’t quite in my own skin at this event. I couldn’t be entirely myself, I couldn’t openly declare my lack of faith. Fear of the results of doing so kept me from taking that leap. I was me… just not entirely me if that makes any sense. Living in the Morridor of Utah, you take notice how people that aren’t of the main religion are treated. You see what opportunities are lost to those that would openly counter the faith’s views.

Irony hit me again as I did a little research on Alex Boye and found out like me he also has a Mormon background. Yeah I know you are wondering what rock I have been living under the last decade right? I’m sure I’d heard this, but not having him on my playlist till now I wasn’t sure if he was a member or not.

Love each other, stop the hate

I felt the next level of irony when I watched the video above the next morning. In it there are some really awesome concepts, loving not hating, and a clear message that he includes the LGBT community in that concept. It kind of made me wonder just how much of the LDS history and the current stance of the church he is aware of. A little more research turned up this video where Alex describes why he believes in the Mormon faith. The following bit of his talk stood out to me:

“being a member for me started out … a lot less about the facts, a lot less about what was in the scriptures, a lot less about what certain things meant, and certain books and the content. It was about the fact there were principles in it that could…keep my family name above board so to speak”

Cherry picking is ok

I have found I get along best with the faithful that don’t take every scripture to heart, that only care about the good stuff in the holy book. Good people have always cherry picked the best parts of the religion as a point of focus in my opinion. Often I discover that they don’t ever dig really deep in the history or the ‘facts’ as Alex puts it. I get that and have no issue with it. From the believing perspective they have a tool to improve their lives. From my point of view I see a person that would be good, kind and just even without a religion to follow. To me their faith is like dumbo’s feather, a talisman of zero actual merit and yet somehow containing the power to focus works, beliefs and efforts on good things.

This concept has often been a topic of Fridgy goodness and is close to my heart. I think that’s why his song resonated deeply with¬†me. In the past I would have called it a spiritual witness as I sat there pondering why I feared being openly apostate amongst my fellow men. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel accepted when scriptures decry the non-believer as the anti-christ. Like¬†in the case of Korihor¬†worthy of imprisonment without cause eventually leading to his death by trampling of those that pity him.

The final irony

Alex’s video implies the importance of accepting gay people that in my believing days I thought were damaging families with their desire to marry the one that they loved. Something that today I see as their right to be protected. I simply can’t imagine a loving father who would deny them that right in this life or the next. ¬†I just don’t believe a decent God would inspire¬†policies excluding¬†LGBT people. Not when he is the one making them that way!

For me the final irony struck as I pontificated on this post. It’s how this very religion that is loved so dearly by such a prominent member not that long ago would have denied him and his wife the right to an eternal life. Why? Well for the same reason that they deny those who are LGBT the same right today. Because God said so:

‚ÄúShall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so‚ÄĚ -Brigham Young

 
I hope that one day I will have more courage to be myself, especially my apostate self amongst family, coworkers and friends. We need people like Alex to inspire us to accept each other. People like Jane Manning who buck the status quo, and instead pressing forward, leading against divisive dogma that seems to insidiously insert itself into our politics and faith at every turn.

Calling attention to something wrong isn’t hate

I truly believe in love not hate. I feel lots of love towards Mormons, they are still my people even though I no longer believe. It is part of my history that becoming LDS meant following a different path than all the rest. If only I could help those that feel like I’m hating on the church as I leave it realize isn’t the case at all. To me, I am loving the underdog that is getting the short end of the stick. Kind of like how past LDS people like Dr Lowery Nelson were speaking up and saying this is wrong. We are better than this.¬†

Love wins

Just look at it this way. If being black and preventing your marriage to a white person so many years ago was just a prophetic screw up. Isn’t is possible that here and now the same mistake is going on right before our eyes? Could not questioning these revelations now rather than decades later prevent some of these LGBT teen suicides?¬†This is a faith that dictates a persons worth. I think is it reasonable to doubt if that faith leads to death. Please accept that. I honestly don’t mind if you know the facts and still believe. I really don’t, it is fine by me. My only desire in exposing them is to give everyone the opportunity to know and chose with full disclosure.

Because, well because I never got that chance and somewhere out there someone is hurting, believing they aren’t good enough for the celestial kingdom and considering drastic measures. I think they have the right to consider all the facts before believing in a father in heaven that would make them Gay and then deny them being with the person they love.

I desire you know one thing though. Believer or not gay or straight, we shall sup together and care for one another. I believe that truth needs no religion to make it worth doing. Or the words that pricked my heart last night:

 

I’m so glad that we are different

Nobody can be like you

To thy own self be true

Just be yourself

Don’t be afraid

Just come as you are

love each other, stop the hate

 

 

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 ‚Äúthat trouble you‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒpeople that ‚Äúpervert the gospel of Christ.‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúvery elect‚ÄĚ deceived as Jesus warned.”

“To me this is a perfect analogy of what happens when stalwart Church members, the ‚Äúvery elect,‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚ÄĒleading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a ‚Äúde-conversion‚ÄĚ 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.

РWhere 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.

РWhere 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.¬†