Losing Faith, Finding Hope

Faith transitions can be rough. Especially if your faith was a thing that you clung to in times of need. I remember one of my very first spiritual experiences. I was a young kid, I had lost my dad’s brand new hammer after working on my treehouse with it. Dad was going to be home soon and would be furious, I was scared. My mom pointed out that Heavenly Father would know were the hammer was and I should ask him. I still remember praying fervently for some help, I was pretty scared. I got up and thought to myself, I need to clear my mind and let impressions flow now if this is gonna work. I did my best to clear my thoughts, then my mind wandered back over the events of the day and boom! I knew exactly where it was and I walked right to it.

I was sure my prayer had been answered, I had after all gotten the help I needed, when I needed it. This pattern continued throughout my life. These experiences became an anchor for me and my personality, they helped me define who I was, and certainly instilled a potential for who I could be. Being confident that you can call on the powers of heaven when you need them is pretty ego boosting. It could explain much of the self confidence I felt in my life. I know that in may cases church creates such an expectation of perfection that many people lose self confidence, especially women. But a mildly narcissistic male that tends to overlook his own deficiencies gets a whole different thing out of the faith. You get God’s power to effect change in the world. God’s!!! How cool is that? So when I lost my faith, it  stung. Deeply.

I wondered now that I realized these powers were pretty much all in my head if they would dry up and fade away. What would happen to my purpose in life? To what would I anchor my personality? For a time I flirted with other religious approaches, Christianity, Pantheism. They all seemed to pale from a knowledge perspective, they all showed the same patterns of self deception that I had learned to recognize as I lost the faith of my birth. For a long time I called myself a hopeful agnostic, finally I realized if I was honest my stance was truly an agnostic atheist one.

happiness

But I couldn’t lose hope. Maybe I couldn’t be confident there was a powerful alien being from Kolob keeping an eye on things and watching out for me anymore, but that didn’t mean I had to give up hope in the potential of mankind. Just because I didn’t buy the idea that we were created in the image of God anymore didn’t mean that possibility wasn’t still in our future. This may possibly even happen in my lifetime as we accelerate our technology towards the human singularity. Our capabilities today are already God-like compared to a scant hundred years ago. We all carry a seer stone in our pockets where access to knowledge appears on a glowing rocklike surface at our whims. Go ahead and drop your iPhone in a hat and think about how magical that might have seemed to people in a world without electricity less than two centuries ago. Is it silly to hope for humanity to become Gods even if you don’t think one made us? I don’t think so.

To hope is human I think, to find wonder is normal. Turned out the more I let go of religion the more I became concerned about helping people in the now. I think it is because I refocused my hope. My hope for my posterity and love for the life I have been lucky enough  to experience is higher than it has ever been. I might live to see the singularity, but if not. I am sure that someone in my posterity will make it and they will get there by standing on the shoulders of those that came before. Why not try and do my part as best I can for those future generations? It’s one of the reasons I started this very blog. Unless some pretty big catastrophe’s strike the planet, there is a measure of immortality in my words as they sit forever spread across the information cloud copied and recopied into the future.

Pondering this sense of immortality one day and seeing a friend go through that loss of identity that accompanies faith I had an epiphany. I felt a message that I desired to tell future generations, something I hope my children read and their kids and so on and so on. Is it what I hope are my last words to be shared when the sun goes out? I haven’t a clue since the future isn’t set. But for here and now it is.

Photo Dec 18, 8 32 56 PM

We human’s describe deity on our own terms, God for most of us is the embodiment of good irrespective of what scriptures or leaders might tell us. When we pray and look for guidance, when we hope for something greater that makes the pain worth it. We aren’t focused on the negative, we are reaching for the positive. When faith is lost and you realize that the mythical being you counted on doesn’t exist, it is devastating. You feel like there is a hole where faith once existed and you might want to lose hope as well. But if like me you experienced spiritual awakenings that shaped your life, if like me when the chips were down and you turned inward and carried a prayer in your heart and had it answered. Consider the following:

The answer was real, the feelings were real. The hope and comfort and love you felt were all real. Where did they come from then? god insideThe power did in fact affect your life for the better, it did help you change, improve, strive and overcome. In that sense the results were measurable. If there is no divine guide out there looking out for you, then what?

It means the power to overcome, the power to survive, the power to forgive, the power to love and feel and share, the power of will and the power of hope. In short, all the power that you always attributed to God… it was in you all along.

Ironically you are the divine that you are looking for. You always were.

 

Jesus Was a Rebel

The bible is an interesting document. It is full of contradictions, nearly 500 of them. In church you never talk about them all that much except for the once in a while when a teacher goes off the bland correlated path and enters interesting territory that isn’t the basic you are evil and need to repent stuff. Maybe this is why people laugh at the dumbest jokes in church. It does get pretty boring hearing over and over how evil you are and how you’re in dire need of repentance. A little humor or some lesser known historical facts go a long way in spicing up the incessant repetition that is part of the religion I was born into. I think that is one reason I was loved as a sunday school teacher. Being willing to dig a little deeper to encourage personal thought and investment of your own intelligence rather than doing things just because you were told to was a common theme of my lessons. People that knew me then probably shake their head now and say it was only a matter of time…It makes sense to them that I would rebel and leave. You know, because I thought too much. Funny because years ago I got no end of praise as to how interesting, thoughtful and inspiring my lessons were at the time. Ah those were the days, but back to the topic.

The Bible, it is loaded with contradictions. From my current apostate perspective I think this might be key to its appeal to so many people. Think about it, if there is a pet doctrine that you want to justify, search out the bible you will find it in there. Need a reason to hate mom and dad? Yep that is in the bible. Need a reason to be kind to others, got you covered. need a reason to justify murder, you can find it in right there in black and white.  This is not only the case with the Bible, it is such with the Quran and the Book of Mormon too. In fact all the greatest religious books are somewhat bi-polar when it comes to right and wrong.

This is really super useful for the religious. It makes it so they can always find a passage to support their position, and since being religious requires the ability to block out any bit of information that runs counter to your personal bias it seems like the passage is just what you needed. Case in point:

As the world of Mormonism was recently rocked this last couple of weeks by some pending excommunications from the club. Pro Mormon bloggers took up the torch in support of booting them out.

One is this guy. He states in his opening line that:

Too many people are neglecting what is in the scriptures and trying to“customize Christ”. You can’t do that…seriously.”

And then he goes on to customize Christ to his own Mormon brand of Christianity. Seriously? Doesn’t he realize there are hundreds of churches that read the same bible he does and they walk away with entirely different takes, even on the very same passages he quotes in support of his position?

I read this blog where they author says “Kate was not in a position to receive revelation for the whole church” as one of the reasons the excommunication was justified. Well duh! She can never be in that position as a woman! Kind of the point isn’t it? Come on ladies think about it when you justify the patriarchy ruling over you!

Who rules over you
Over and over again I read blogs from believers saying that people must submit to the men that are called of God and just trust their version of what God says to do. This is no big surprise because that is what they are taught to do 1 by the religion. The same guys they tell us are human and make mistakes. Because you know they were wrong about that whole black priesthood thing.

These guys are fallible seems to be the message, but not right now. Not on this thing. 2 How in the world do you know they are right now when they were so very wrong back then? Are you so sure that you think booting out a person for only asking them to think about it is the right thing to do?

Then I saw this commentary that used Jesus to declare that intolerance was a really good thing. After comparing the son of god to a purple dinosaur he said something about Jesus that I totally agree with.

He condemned. He denounced. He caused trouble. He disrupted the established order.”

You see you can use the bible to preach love, but you can also use it to condemn. Ironically you can pick and choose from the verses in such a way you can customize the scriptures into your own personal doctrine. I don’t think this would be possible without all the convoluted contradictions in there. Is it likely that the reason scriptures make an emotional impact on the reader is because they are so convoluted that you can match them up to just about any personal doctrine you fancy? I think so. In that vein let me customize christ to make a point.

Jesus was a rebel, he spoke out against the status quo, he disrupted the established order. He even made a woman an apostle. Jesus rebel At the time he lived very few people followed him. The established order went so far as to kill him for his rebelliousness. But a few people listened, and in time the world changed.

When I see Kate Kelly condemned for her actions by the established order, when I see a small but dedicated group support her in her efforts, I see history repeating itself. We love rebels that stand up to the rulers that tell us how to think and boldly declare they are mistaken. But usually not in mass, at least not until after the revolution happens. This is why rebels often become martyrs to their cause.3

The masses of the established order ALWAYS vilify the rebel at the beginning. This is why my FB feed is over run with comments of believers pointing out all the reasons that Kate deserves what she gets. Think about it. Would Jesus have been up on that cross unless the masses of jews though he deserved what he got? Now maybe Kate won’t make quite the impact Jesus did some 2000 years later, but we can only know for sure if we wait 2000 years.

You might see a heretic, I see a Martin Luther. You see an apostate, I see a rebel. Who is right? Well the full story hasn’t played out yet so we don’t know. My money is on history repeating itself. Jesus was a rebel. So is Kate. This means the status quo they upset by being heretics will eventually change.

Just you wait and see.

  1. In this talk this submission of your will to a higher power uses the example of the BoM that you should even be willing to kill if God said so, of course only the leaders can tell you that. This is so obviously wrong in hindsight that looking back I am still amazed that I could make the same exact justification and think it completely logical without for a minute realizing in inconsistency of it all. Such is the power of zeal
  2. Can anyone show me a way to tell if the current leader is really inspired this time vs just telling us his opinion before 50 years have passed and we can look at it historically?
  3. Kate Kelly is a martyr if you think about it from the churches perspective. By revoking her temple blessings she suffers spiritual death in the life to come. She believes the church is true and according to the doctrine of the church she just spiritually died for her cause. Greater love hath no man… or woman…

Loyalty and Revolution, This is Gospel

We are born to be loyal. It is in our DNA, its even in the DNA of our closest primate relatives. It is why you can always find a Ford lover to argue with a Chevy advocate. There will be an Apple fan ready to take on all those PC users. Marriage is fundamentally a declaration and promise of loyalty to another human being. Likewise joining a religion often comes with an entrance ceremony that at a minimum implies loyalty if not outright covenanting it.

Also in our DNA is a natural hatred to those that are disloyal. We don’t just feel a little anger toward the flip flopper, often we literally hate them. When a person that for a long time agreed with you suddenly seems to take a different approach that you don’t think is right. It makes you feel anger. It is an interesting question, why would we feel anger toward a person that just simply changed their mind, especially when we are also at the same time declaring every person has a right to freely think what they will?

Well I think it comes back to loyalty. Loyalty is something that helped our own tribe survive the invasion of other tribes. In days long past you outright declared an oath of fealty to your kinsman. Why would this be a good thing? Because of reciprocity. It makes you sleep better at night when you trust your kinsman on watch has your back. Loyalty is tied in deeply with trust. Trust is one of those things that makes us moral beings. It is part of what bonds us socially. Along with a sense of fairness and altruism, trust and loyalty are key to keeping a group together. Ironically or not, these are also not human only traits, here is a Ted talk on it if you like to study that type of thing. Dogs are some of most loyal species on the planet. They are bred for it. Likewise these morals of loyalty and trust are part of our DNA, we are born with a moral center.

Personally I was born and raised a Chevy guy. That was the truck to have. I owned several over my lifetime. Then one day I test drove a big white Ford. Here some 10 years later I’m still driving that truck. Having a good experience with it had affected my loyalty to the brand I was raised with. Why is that? Is it because it was that much better of a product? Probably not, the differences aren’t all that big. More likely my loyalty ties to the fact I invested in it. It was the most expensive truck I had ever bought. You see loyalty goes hand in hand with investment. This is why all those frequent flyer programs and credit card points systems work. Think about it, if a credit company in the long run didn’t make more money with all their cash back incentives, would they keep doing it? There is a psychology of loyalty and investment at work. You keep doing what you have invested in. Why? Because you are vested in it. Kind of circular isn’t it.1 Because loyalty goes with investment, we can become loyal to any cause we sacrifice for.

Our loyalty bonds us to a group or brand. It helps us overlook little deficiencies, like the door locks not working on my truck anymore. I see those as not such a big deal, but the Chevy loyalist would readily point it out as a flaw typical of all Fords. Our loyalty to our own group makes us advocates of that society. Is it good to be loyal? Is there ever a time when you should be disloyal? I think the answer to both is yes. It is loyalty that binds us together, when we bond as a group and are loyal to that group’s ideology we effect change in the world. Because significant change doesn’t happen until a single voice becomes many and that takes loyalty.

On the other hand there are times we should upset the status quo. We wouldn’t advocate a wife being loyal to a husband that is abusing her would we? What if she was sure he had good intentions and felt like was a good provider other than the bruises n’ all. She might even feel like she should remain loyal to him and be angry at you for telling her not to. When we have misplaced our loyalty, it is ok to change. When the whole system is corrupt being disloyal is the only way to fix it. Do you think Jesus was being loyal to his jewish roots when he challenged the religious powers of his time? He was a rebel, a traitor to the religious leaders, called them hypocrites and tried to point out a better more moral way. What happened to him for his rebellious actions? They kicked him out of the group. In fact kicked him clean out of humanity by killing him. Why? Because he was disloyal to his tribe.

This week some news broke in the tribe I was once loyal too. Some of the activists have just been told they have to tow the party line or leave, voluntarily or forcibly so. Their sin? Trying to make the group more accepting of people that think differently than the guys in charge. Not believing the guys at the top speak for God on these subjects was what they did wrong. The irony is the same organization that gave the them the boot declares its leaders are human and make mistakes. A reasonable person has to ask. Couldn’t the stance on Gays and Women be just as mistaken as the whole blacks denied priesthood and all that polygamy stuff? It’s not the same you say? Then why was this guy kicked out for not towing the line with blacks and the priesthood ban?

The June three’s reason for getting the boot is simple, they were disloyal to the tribe. In a comment thread I was reading earlier today, several people mentioned that they had pretty much gotten over their own emotions that followed their discovery of deception and subsequent loss of faith, but then this story broke and it caused them anger toward the religion that they hadn’t felt in a long time. This has to do with loyalty as well. Even after you leave a group you don’t ever expunge its effects entirely, your roots are there, they are your kin. Even though you don’t believe anymore, deep down you hope the religion you once were part of will shed the negative aspects that it has enshrined into orthodoxy. You want the best for for your kin that you left behind, because you still feel loyal to them. Think about that, you are no longer loyal to the organization, but you are loyal to the people in the organization. This kind of loyalty fosters revolution.

Rebel

Getting kicked out of the group hurts and it makes you feel bad, no longer being part of the tribe is heartbreaking as Miss Chill so beautifully pointed out. But it isn’t quite as bad if there are others that see things the way you do, it helps you get over the loss when you find a different group to be loyal to. When the church booted the September six for not towing the party line it made a few ripples amongst the average believers, but it was 1993, social media didn’t exist. This time it is different, this time you can find a new tribe quickly, you can reach across the planet and find a soul in Sweden that feels the same way you do about being lied to.

One thing that I suspect is still not quite getting through at the highest levels the church is the time for hiding the past is past. Being exclusive is not going to help the cause of bringing people to the gospel because ultimately the gospel is inside each one of us. Ultimately we have to square what we feel is fair and right inside with the declarations of the leaders of the group we belong to. By telling people like this to fall in line or else, you are forcing the choice. There are many that were remaining loyal, seeing the good things in the religion and still looking past the the ‘broken door’ locks of the brand they love. This action makes it a requirement to look at what they believe they have to decide if the religion they hold dear is inline with their own gospel of fairness, their own opinion of equity and right and wrong. This action says, it isn’t ok for you to be different, just like the guy that was cast out for thinking black people should have the priesthood you must do as we say to be part of the club. It says you must think like the leaders tell you to. Even if the leaders might be wrong. If you don’t, your only choice is to rebel.

A religion that excises the people that try to change it for the better shoots itself in the foot. By making examples of people they show that dissidence is not allowed, they create martyrs to the cause of justice and fairness that is innate in our humanity. Expulsion from society is one of that greatest punishments we enact on any human being. It is a significant threat. Here is the rub though, the threat of expulsion only works if you have no where to turn to. This act will hurt the church membership more than any other excommunication they have done till now for one simple reason. The people that don’t like it don’t have to fear being alone. Thanks to the hyper-social world we live in today there is a place to go, there is a gospel for the fallen ones.

“This Is Gospel”

This is gospel for the fallen ones
Locked away in permanent slumber
Assembling their philosophies
From pieces of broken memories Oh, this is my beating heart, this is my beating heart
The gnashing teeth and criminal tongues conspire against the odds
But they haven’t seen the best of us yet, If you love me let me go
If you love me let me go
‘Cause these words are knives and often leave scars
The fear of falling apart
And truth be told, I never was yours
The fear, the fear of falling apart Oh, this is my beating heart, this is my beating heart
This is gospel for the vagabonds,
Ne’er-do-wells and insufferable bastards
Confessing their apostasies
Led away by imperfect impostors Oh, this is my beating heart, this is my beating heartDon’t try to sleep through the end of the world
And bury me alive
‘Cause I won’t give up without a fightIf you love me let me go
If you love me let me go
‘Cause these words are knives and often leave scars
The fear of falling apart
And truth be told, I never was yours
The fear, the fear of falling apartOh, the fear of falling apart
Oh, the fear, the fear of falling apart(Oh, this is my beating heart, this is my beating heart)
The fear of falling apart2
  1. It seems to me that the very nature of our thinking is circular, consider how recursive and circular this sentence is. ‘I think about thinking about thinking about……’ and yet we can grasp this. Because our brains are wired in loops. maybe even our consciousness depends on this loopy wiring! Is it really any wonder that we can get so easily trapped in circular reasoning?
  2. Brendon Urie understands what it means to be branded an apostate, he was once Mormon as well, maybe that is why this song speaks to deeply to me.

Seven Steps to an Authentic Life.

 

1. Be honest, brutally so, fear of truth leads to fear of opinion, fear of opinion leads to submitting your desires to others demands.

 

2. Number 1 applies to yourself first and foremost, be honest with yourself. Don’t be afraid of your own thoughts even if you fear the consequences.

 

3. Realize people change, this includes you. That which you value now may not be what you valued then. It’s ok to experience change in your life, it’s called progress.

 

4. Direct your life the way you want it to go. You might make mistakes. You might screw up, that’s part of growth. Learn from them and move on.

 

5. Don’t fear a second, third or even fourth try. Just because you have been burned once doesn’t mean it will happen again. If you have a goal in mind take another shot from a slightly different direction.

 

6. Treasure authentic friends. They are the ones you can be yourself around the ones that appreciate the authentic you.

 

7. Being authentic means you don’t pretend to be something you are not, if you are sad you accept it, if you are happy you rejoice in it. You stop pretending and start being. You take credit for your failures and your successes. When you do that you take charge of your life and set the direction you want it to go.

hamster strength