Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have you seen this?

Ricky Gervais tells us why he's an atheist.  I think it is worth a read. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sharing, maybe oversharing, and possibly triggering. Also long-winded.

My last post was vague.  This one won't be much more clear.  I've been learning a lot lately and I've gained a lot of insight.  But, I haven't remotely untangled it all yet and I don't feel that I have anything resembling a real grasp on things. If I did, I would share more in hopes that someone else might benefit.

Here is what I know: The messages I received in church and from friends and family who were also raised in the church and in Utah, with all of the cultural crap that includes, have affected me in profound ways.  But, I am not talking about the things that I think.  I never thought the things I was supposed to think.  I never believed the things I was supposed to believe.  I was born a skeptic and questioned, questioned, questioned the mythology and the dogma from early childhood.  So, I think pretty independently and rarely find myself thinking something like, for example, "abortion is murder" or "homosexuality is a sin" (these examples are things I NEVER think but I say rarely because I am sure I occasionally think things that might fit into the same category - absolute truths taught in church).

Rather, the profound and lasting effect the CofJCofLDS had on me was in shaping my behaviors, my interactions with others, my ability to be assertive, and, most importantly, my ability to set boundaries to protect my self (two words in this case).  As a result, I've developed some "self issues".  This isn't the same as self-esteem. I've got plenty of self-esteem.  I'm intelligent, kind, empathetic, ethical, strong, hard-working, diligent, ambitious, and dare I say, funny? I know I have significant resources within me.  But, the way I move through the world isn't consistent with that knowledge.  My behavior and communication are often interpreted by others as resulting from a self-esteem problem.  It's not.  The self issue I have is in knowing that I exist and that I am alive. I don't always know that. I feel empty, dead, non-existent.  I stop experiencing emotion although I am intellectually aware of how I should be feeling in a situation.  Feeling unsure about whether I exist (or whether I am the only person who exists and everyone else is a hollow shell) makes me feel like I am losing my mind.  Literally.  As though I am losing my intellect and grasp on reality.  I start to fear that these are early signs of schizophrenia or some other delusion disorder.  (They aren't in my case.)  I know it sounds weird.  Well, it sounds weird unless you've experienced it. 

I've been in a therapy group exploring these self issues.  It's been hard and scary.  I've picked out things that cause "Aha!" moments when I wonder if or how much the culture of mormonism, and personal deity belief more generally, caused these confusions/delusions.  The boundary issue and denial of the right to the private self are obvious culprits.  Also obvious is that we weren't taught to be assertive.  In fact, we were taught to be passive or passive-aggressive (especially the women?).  Assertiveness was portrayed as negative and even confrontational. But, assertiveness and aggressiveness are very different animals.  Unfortunately, I have a difficult time knowing the difference or seeing the lines between them, so I often attempt to be assertive (And why shouldn't I?  I'm intelligent and capable and deserving.) but overshoot and hit aggressive or undershoot and hit passive-aggressive or passive.  And, as a result, I don't get what I need at work or in relationships most of the time. I feel bullied.  Then I beat myself up because I know people can't meet my needs if I don't communicate them effectively, although sometimes they try. If I had to pick the one personality flaw that hinders me most,  it is this struggle to be assertive.

In the self group, we talk a lot about trauma.  This terrified me at first.  It seemed as though I was learning that having a self issue meant that I MUST have experienced some big trauma in my life. In many cases these traumas are related to abuse, witnessing violence or suicide, or near-death experiences. The doctor who runs the group mentioned that sometimes people block these things or that they may have happened before the age at which children form conscious memories.  I couldn't think of a trauma, which made me fear I had blocked it or had been abused as an infant. I wept for a few days. I considered asking my mom but feared it would scare or devastate her.  Then, I met individually with one of the group leaders who explained that trauma might not be so acute or obvious and I wasn't necessarily blocking anything but that maybe I was looking back to narrowly.  She isn't my regular therapist though and doesn't really know me so she had no ideas.  It had occurred to me that maybe my mother's cancer when I was a young child was my trauma.  It also occurred to me that the mental abuse of my religious upbringing, and subsequently leaving the church, has been a life-long trauma.  But, I didn't know and I felt like I was grasping as straws looking for a trauma that might have caused sense-of-self issues for me.  These ideas just seemed so trivial compared to the physical violence others have experienced.  Yesterday, I had an appointment with my regular therapist.  I was explaining this group and the theory behind it (still unpublished so unfamiliar to the psychological and psychiatric health community). She, unprompted, asked if I thought that my former religion could be my trauma.  It might not be the only trauma I've endured.  But, I KNOW that it was/is a traumatic experience and definitely the most formulative traumatic experience of my life.  It has caused me damage that might be irreparable.

That isn't so easy to accept or move past.  I can't imagine what positive I can ever find in that.  Therapy is long (maybe life-long), time-consuming, painful, expensive, and absolutely necessary. I'm not going to be able to sue the Church to cover the expenses or get closure. My brain is likely never going to function at the capacity it might have had I been raised without religion.  I am likely to be haunted by an existential crisis forever.  I will likely experience emptiness and numbness off and on for life.  All I can hope to do is learn how to recognize when I am drifting into, and snap myself out of that state more quickly and more effectively.  How can I possibly benefit from a lack of normal sense-of-self?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still Shocked

I am learning more and more everyday about how much the CofJCofLDS totally FUCKED me up as a kid.  It still shocks me just how bad it was/is.  The number of ways I am a hot mess as a result of that upbringing is ever-growing. Will it ever stop?  Does anyone feel like they have figured out ALL of ways they are screwed up?  I don't think I can keep finding new reasons forever.  I'm already pretty bitter.   

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Being Alone

I was reading this book, by Austin Dacey today and I was inspired by this section:

"The belief in a personal deity - a being with whom the believer can have a personal relationship - is a denial of the private self.  If there is such a being, then it knows us better than we know ourselves, and we are not alone (even when we might prefer to be.)"

So, are we then free to decide what is best for us or obligated to defer to the will of the deity? Are our thoughts our own or are they controlled? A deity inclined to be always with us - always monitoring our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, couldn't possibly be above controlling those thoughts and emotions, could it?

I had a mini panic attack when I read the words "we are not alone." As an introvert, the thought of having insufficient time and privacy to sit with my thoughts and think about what I think literally makes my palms sweat. When I was a member, the concept that my every behavior, thought and feeling was observed, recorded, and judged (see Book of Life) offended me - not because I had a guilty conscience - but because it made me feel violated.  Apparently the thought still makes me feel violated. But, immediately after I had an indignant rant to myself about the "right" I believe I have to observe and interact with nature and the universe as I please and privately (thank-you-very-much), I thought, "I shouldn't want to be alone.  Being alone is the great human fear.  I should want to take peace in the thought that there may be a loving deity ALWAYS with me." Fortunately, I was able to quickly talk myself out of this reasoning because I really believe that it should be up to me to decide when I want to be alone with my thoughts and emotions and when and with whom to share them.  If there were a deity, I'd prefer one who waited to be invited into my head.  Why should it be black-and-white - all alone in this scary, bleak world or constantly watched and critiqued? (The obvious answer, we all know too well, is that teaching someone that God is watching them is a great way to control people right down to causing them to CENSOR THEIR OWN THOUGHTS and doubts.)

It annoys me that thoughts like the one in blue above even pop into my head to begin with.  I hate that I still, after 10 years away from the Church, censor or confront myself in this way - that I replace my own thoughts with fallacies, learned too well in my youth, meant to keep me in the Church and believing that it is what I want or what I need to feel peace and joy.  What a waste of time and mental energy to have to think/talk myself back out of those fallacies!  What better use might I find for those precious wasted moments?  What reflections do I miss out on when my normal stream of consciousness is so abruptly and rudely interrupted by these programmed thoughts I've been taught?  It just makes me so darn mad (fucking bat-shit angry!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Positive Psychology

I just got out of group therapy.  Today's topic was Positive Psychology.  "Think yourself happy" and all that.  A few weeks ago, I would have told you that optimists are just delusional and that happiness is an illusion.  I was in a bad place.  But now, I want to bear my testimony of Positive Psychology.  I know that it is true.  I know that you can find temporary happiness (or at least a lightening of depression) just by thinking about the shit* that makes you happy or HAS made you happy in the past and the small positive things that happen during your day. (Today I was running late for an appointment but I was spared a scolding because the other person was just a hair later. Rock on!!!)

So....I was thinking that in this spirit, maybe we could all think of some positive consequences of time we spent in the Church and/or from the struggle getting out.  I'll start:

  1. If I hadn't been raised in and then pushed back against the Church, I don't think I would know myself nearly as well as I do.
  2. Being raised in the Church made me the feminist I am today.
  3. I recognize fake and forced happiness and how this is different from the real happiness that comes with being authentic to oneself and others. 
  4. I have had the opportunity to see that my mother and other members of my extended family aren't fixated on my religious/non-religious status and love me despite my angry atheistic leanings.  I am extremely grateful for this.  I know that many of you (including my own husband) haven't had the same luck. 
  5. It kept me out of trouble? Maybe.  I was a pretty good kid anyway and I don't remember being overly obsessed with the rules.
  6. I recognize the difference between being good for goodness sake and following my own innate humanistic conscience and not because I've been burdened with guilt or striving toward some eternal reward.
So, what do you say?  Can you help me see more positive consequences of having been a member?  Also, feel free to chime in if you were a member of other faiths/traditions.

*Sorry. I say "shit" when I mean "stuff" because I have 20 years clean of not swearing that I mean to get back by swearing A LOT until I am 40.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The (Imaginary/Fucking) War on Christmas...or why I am sick of the whiny Christian majority playing the martyr. Poor Babies.

I saw this on a Mormon Mommy Bore Blog and now I am pissed. Basically, it says,  "Oh hey, wouldn't it be great to behave like very un-Christian little assholes and gum up the works of the ACLU by sending them a shit-load of Christmas spam mail?  You know, to punish them for stealing our "right" to force our irrational beliefs and holiday celebrations on the sum total of society and representing 'the atheists' in the legal War on ChristmasTM?"

I don't believe that there IS a War on Christmas.  (I would love to know what you all think about it.) What I think IS happening is that non-believers and/or members of non-Christian faiths are sick of seeing our government and government-funded agencies/organizations/schools submit to the will of the Christian majority who think they are special and deserve special treatment.  They already have voting power. AND they are already placated/wooed with Christmas songs playing in every goddamn store in the country from November 1st until January 1st. When was the last time you heard I Have a Little Dreidel playing in the mall?  Do they really NEED nativity scenes on government property my tax dollars build and maintain? Are nativity scenes in their own yards and on church property not enough?  Do they really NEED their children to celebrate a religious holiday at school?  Do they really NEED conifers strung with lights and cheesy decorations to be called "Christmas" trees? Is "Holiday" tree, which could be pretty all-inclusive for the faithful and the non-faithful alike, really a huge concession or sacrifice? It's not like Christians invented the whole lights-on-trees idea so why do they think they have a "right" to lay claim on it now?  Martyrs, martyrs, martyrs.  Poor, poor babies.

I think it would be "clever" (by clever, I mean childish but fun) if we flooded this blog post with comments explaining why religious traditions don't need to be flaunted all over the public sphere and why it isn't a "right" to have a nativity in front of capital buildings and courthouses. Remember, "Just don't be rude or crude."  This woman and her readers need an education. 

I'm (kind of) sorry to be scattered and ranty.  I think I'm back!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Because we said so, that's why.

From this New Era article:

Why do we call ourselves the only true church?

The Lord has declared that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). This restored Church is true because it is the Savior’s Church; He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And it is a living church because of the workings and gifts of the Holy Ghost. How blessed we are to live at a time when the priesthood is upon the earth and we can receive the Holy Ghost. -Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

***So, we call ourselves the only true church because we've declared ourselves the only true church in this scripture specific to our (only true) church and we can know that this scripture is true because it is given specifically to the only true church? 

Do they think teenagers are stupid?  Are LDS teenagers incapable of recognizing circular reasoning? Or, just too distracted by and enamored with their self-declared leaders to listen to/read carefully the answers to simple, reasonable, and worthwhile questions? 
From the same article:

Why don’t I get answers to my prayers?
With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow. - Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

***Does it though?  Really? In at least one case I know of, God's silence caused faith to diminish and nagging doubts of Gods existence to grow. In addition, it resulted in the defiant and willful use of critical thinking skills against the warnings of my (self-declared) (only true) church leaders.  I have to wonder, if God knows that this will be the consequence of God ignoring prayers (because he knows us all quite intimately) why would he withhold communication? Is it part of his plan that some of us will lose faith and leave the (only true) church? Does he set some of us up to fail? That would be a really dick move, would it not? 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I've been missing around here for almost a month.  I've been missing from the comments sections of other blogs as well.  There have been some things and stuff going on and the long-story-made-short is that those things and that stuff were of higher priority than ranting blogging about my former religion.  At first, I really tried to find the time to at least keep up on new posts from all of the great ex-Mormon blogs.  But, at some point I was too busy and too emotionally and physically exhausted to even do that.  I've really missed reading your blogs and I hope to get caught up on your posts quickly.

Despite my absence, my average daily traffic hasn't really decreased that much.  I appreciate everyone who still clicked over to see if I had posted.  I'm sorry that I hadn't.

That said, I am slowly finding my legs again and I intend to get back to my bitter, former-Mormon, ranting-and-raving self soon (but also gradually).  I will start by reading and commenting on other blogs. Then, I'll get inspired and start writing here again.  

I have missed this blogging community! For reals. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Some Boyd K. Packer gems on Church history

Emphasis mine.

"There is a temptation for the writer or teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful."

"Some things are to be taught selectively and some things are to be given only to those who are worthy."

On LDS historians: "One who chooses to follow the tenets of his profession, regardless of how they may injure the Church or destroy the faith of those not ready for 'advanced history', is himself in spiritual jeopardy. If that one is a member of the Church, he has broken his covenants and will be held accountable."

I suppose truth might not always be faith-promoting or useful for keeping the members in line and in the dark. But still:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Anger, Symantics, and Criticism of Religion (specifically Mormonism)

Anger. Good? Bad? Maybe I feel guilty about being angry only because I was told that "angry apostates" are bad and one should never converse with them. Alternatively or additionally, maybe it's because society tells us that religious belief is not to be questioned or insulted.  It is "sacred" and therefore above reproach. (Uhhh, it isn't sacred to me.  It's sick.)  To criticize someones religion is to personally insult them. Criticizing a religion is somehow a bigoted, hateful, prejudicial, discriminatory, and "persecuting" exercise.  It can't be a simple form of healthy skepticism, trusting ones intellect, relying on reason and logic, or trusting ones own conscience when it differs from scripture or the word of a self-declared string of "prophets". I mean, it's one thing to question religion personally and privately, but one simply cannot be permitted to share their discoveries or interpretations with others in hopes of helping a friend or family member, or curious and searching stranger, to see the light. So, a blog critical of ones former religion is labeled as "anti-Mormon" when in fact it is merely an examination of how significant time spent in the LDS Church has affected or still affects us after leaving said church. It isn't "anti-Mormon" it is just ex- or former-Mormon in nature.  At worst, most of the blogs I have read are anti-LDS church, anti-LDS policies, anti-unhealthy LDS social behaviors, or anti-LDS gospel and "revelation." I have rarely seen a blog directly critical of Mormons as a group or individual Mormons (other than those anointed uber-leaders who are clearly representatives of the church).

Am I angry?  Hell yeah! But, I am sick of feeling guilty about it and being labeled as anti-Mormon or an angry apostate. I am merely a critical, disapproving "apostate" who happens to be quite angry about some things.  I have plenty of really good reasons to be angry at the LDS Church.  But, the LDS Church isn't just its people.  It is an organization, an entity, a business.  Can one be bigoted and hateful for being critical, not of a group of people or individuals within that group, but of an organization or business and its mandates, methods and policies? Are you a bigot because you criticize a Church for being bigoted and repressive?

I hate Walmart.  I hate shopping there because it is not a pleasant place to shop and I prefer its best competition (Target) for its greater cleanliness and stock of better items.  Even when Target is more expensive, I still prefer to pay a bit more in order to have a shopping experience that doesn't creep me out.  But mostly, I hate the Walmart business model.  I hate that they don't treat their employees well or support their right to unionize. I don't want to give a company with a disgraceful business model my money so that it can stay in business. Does that make me bigoted, hateful, prejudicial, or spiteful?  I don't think so.

I don't hate Mormons. (Other than a few I went to high school with, but that wasn't because they were Mormon, it was because they were bitchy or assholey and I would have hated them if they were atheists as well). I don't disregard Mormon opinions, beliefs or values.  I don't oppose the right of Mormons to be heard in the market of ideas. Everyone has equal right to explain their point of view. I just hate Mormonism as a way of life and system of shared beliefs and values that I find reprehensible.  I hate the LDS church as an entity and business because it is discriminatory and preaches hate from the pulpit and spends members tithes (or interest on accounts that contain those funds) to build multi-billion dollar malls and resorts without asking the members to vote on it.  I hate it because although it is part of one of its Articles of Faith and a temple recommend question, the LDS Church is not "honest in its dealings with its fellow man" and instead behaves poorly and then does its best to cover it up, then deny it, then attempt to put a positive spin on it.

I guess I am angry and former-Mormon (which I think is more honest and fair than labeling those who leave as "apostates" in order to impart the negative connotations of the word and stir up caution and fear). But I don't think these are logical reasons to discount my point-of-view or refuse to even hear or acknowledge it. 

Side note: Can anyone think of another group better than Mormons at playing the martyr?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fake it 'till you make it

I feel like faking it until you make it is a trap.

To gain a testimony, you are supposed to read the scriptures then pray with a broken heart and a contrite spirit about whether the gospel is true (and a bunch of other more specific stuff about HF, Jesus, and JS and the restored church- see link).  Then, you will be given a testimony through some confirmation from a still small voice.  But, if you don't get that confirmation then you aren't sufficiently broken-hearted or contrite or you haven't read the scriptures enough or prayed enough.  SOMETHING is wrong with you.  It's not that god doesn't exist or that he doesn't love you.  You must not be truly ready to receive the spirit into your heart.  So, then what?  Well, you fake it 'till you make it, of course.  You keep reading the scriptures, and praying, and trying to be more humble and modest, and most importantly, paying a full tithe.

Well, that shit could go on in an infinite loop.  And all the while your self esteem is getting squelched, guilt is eating you alive and your desperation to hear that still small voice or feel the burning in your busom is increasing. Maybe, the desperation reaches a threshold.  That threshold is when you either say, "Hey, I really honestly gave that my best shot (and my youth) and you know what? I don't think any of that crap is true and I am sick of feeling bad about myself" and walk (or run) away. OR, you finally are so mentally and emotionally exhausted, broken and desperate, that you convince yourself that some minuscule warm, fuzzy feeling was your confirmation - Hallelujah! 

Now, some lucky souls are so willing to believe whatever they are spoon-fed (hey, it's easier than thinking, right?) that they pretty much get that confirmation after their first round of scripture study and prayer and they never question it again.  Others go through the loop infinitely, faking it all along.  Some number eventually reach their individual threshold and experience one of those two outcomes.  But, the point is, the faking-it-'till-you-make-it-potentially-infinite-loop traps a lot of people in the church indefinitely and it keeps the rest in (playing and paying along) far longer than it should.

I feel like I was totally dooped.  I recognized the circular nature of the gain-a-testimony-prescription quite early, maybe at 7 or 8 years of age, and I STILL WENT THROUGH THE LOOP for another 13 years or so.  WHY?  Would I tolerate such a loop in my science?  Say someone said "Perform this experiment and if you don't get the desired results, you suck. Keep trying until you get the results I want you to get," Would I do so?  Hell no!  That's not good science.  You form a hypothesis and you test it and you accept that your hypothesis is usually wrong, but if you are lucky, the data lead you in a more interesting direction.  Then you start again with a different hypothesis.  But if you don't get the result you expect or hope for (or must get if you are ever going to get the fuck out of grad school) after, like, 3 trials or so, you do something different.  Maybe you give up completely on that experiment, but at the VERY LEAST, you change a variable. "The definition of madness, is doing the same thing and expecting a different result."

I pretty much live my whole life by the scientific method. So, why did I stick with the testimony loop?  Well, because people like to please each other, especially others we love or whose love sustains us.  We want to believe what those beloved people tell us, to believe what they believe.  We want to fit in to our communities.  When the people we love most in the world seem to affirm that the gain-a-testimony loop is the way to go, we'll probably go that way.  We fake it until we make it, or until it breaks us.

Here's to being broken and breaking free! Here's to the scientific method!  Here's to the application of reason to our lives!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Virgin Lips Club

At BYU, I had a boyfriend, from Orem, who proudly belonged to something called The Virgin Lips Club.  I nearly shot 2% milk out of my nose when this Guy and a couple of his friends were discussing this with my roommate in my kitchen before Guy and I had started dating.  Coming from California, I'd never met a boy who was proud to have made it through high school without kissing a girl.  On our first date, I got clarification that he actually intended to wait until he was engaged to kiss a girl. En-fucking-gaged!  This is extreme even for BYU guys, no?  I thought this was utter nonsense and took it as a personal challenge.  Some time later I sort of sneak-attack kissed him then apologized profusely (with fingers crossed behind my back).  He adopted a never-look-back attitude about the whole thing and left the club without honor but with full gusto!   Six months later, we were in our respective bishop's offices trying to...ummm...clear up a few things* so that Guy could go on a mission.  Whoops!

Did any of you belong to the Virgin Lips Club? 

*Post-edit: None of those things were significant enough to keep the boyfriend from going on his mission on schedule and my bishop only asked me to skip the sacrament for one week.  I think he was kinda confused as to why I felt the need to bring it to his attention.  It seemed a little overkill to me too but the boyfriend was freaking out, pretty much as one might expect from a boy who felt that he needed to save his first kiss for the girl he was going to marry. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Formerly" Sweet Spirit

"She's a sweet spirit" or "She has a sweet spirit" is usually something an RM says about the girl he's known for all of 4 weeks when he believes he's received "personal revelation" that he should marry her.  Alternatively, this may be something said about just about any nice, single Mormon girl by just about any other Mormon.

I think "Sweet Spirit" is just code for a girl/young woman who is submissive, malleable, perpetually and impossibly agreeable, and really spiritual.  Am I right? Well, those are the connotations it has for me. It wasn't exactly something I aspired to.  But, I was "accused" of having a sweet spirit on more than one occasion.  (I put up with a lot of shit when I was younger.)

A few months ago, I got into it with someone, let's call her Jen.  During the argument (which took place on FB of course), she said "you used to be so sweet."  Hot-doggity if you want to piss me off, accuse me of being formerly sweet.  It's a double insult! It implies I was sweet at one point, which is not something I ever desired to be, AND it further implies that I'm now...well...what?  Bitchy? Assertive? Opinionated?  Apt to argue with you or tell you when I think you're wrong or just being an asshat?  I don't know.  In the case of Jen, I know exactly why she'd had the impression that I was sweet at one point.  I was terrified of her and most of her family and I didn't feel like I was "allowed" to speak up to them.  Or, perhaps more accurately, I didn't feel like it was my responsibility to stand up to them.  So, I let a lot of things slide - like gossip, misogyny, lies, back-handed "compliments" to name a few.  But, at some point, I got FED UP and I started calling them out when I disagreed with them or when I felt they had wronged or insulted me.  So, now I'm not sweet in their eyes and I prefer it that way.

"Sweet" seems so hard to define when applied to a girl/woman.  After all, we females are not literally made of sugar, spice, and everything nice. And, no one has ever licked me before declaring me sweet.  Certainly, no one has ever licked my spirit before declaring me to have a sweet one.  It's weird, this term of endearment/disparagement.

If you have another take on the term "Sweet Spirit" or if it has other or different connotations for you, I'd love to hear all about it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You have to have kids

No. No you don't.  And it's quite possible that maybe you shouldn't.  You aren't a horrible person if you don't want to.  People, this is my mantra!  I have to tell myself these things all the time.  Because, while I REALLY love exactly three of the world's children, most of the kids out there drive me bananas.  I am not a patient person, and I am what some psychologists would call "hypersensitive."  I do not like loud noise, crowds, bright lights, strong smells, or being touched very much.  I can be very affectionate when I want to be but, when I am not feeling it, you can't touch this.  I am also pretty far on the introvert extreme.  I likes me some alone time and I get all sorts of batty if I don't have LOTS of time (and blissful golden silence) for introspection.  It's not my impression that parents get a lot of privacy.

I don't buy for one second that "when they are your kids, it's different."  I know several people who genuinely do not cope well with the stresses of parenthood.   These people get really aggravated and completely lose their emotional shit in front of their kids on a regular basis.  I don't think that can be good for the kids.  It certainly isn't demonstrating healthy ways of dealing with stress. Do these people love their kids?  Of course.  Do they regret having them?  Sometimes.  Might they be happier in their day-to-day lives without kids? Almost certainly.  Should they have considered more carefully their own personalities and tendencies and ability to parent calmly before having kids?  Damn-straight.  I for one am really glad I've had other reasons to put off having kids as long as I have because I've had a lot of time to think about it, and get to know myself, and I'm just not so sure that I wouldn't be one of those people going ape-shit-banana-wonkers in front of my kids.  At the very least, I know that I would need to work on some things, have some coping mechanisms and some serious support in place before I could decide to have kids.  And, I know that it wouldn't be in the best interests of my hypothetical children to have motherhood be my full-time gig.  (That whole SAHM thing is a myth for another time.) 

I know it's not JUST the LDS upbringing (and my mom) that makes me feel pressure to have kids.  In fact, just yesterday, a very well-meaning person who knows me, ermmmm, not so well, kinda recommended to me that I should have kids to "glue" my marriage together.  If kids were to be the only "glue" holding my marriage together, I wouldn't want that marriage anyway.  Am I right?  My point is, I get the pressure from other places in society as well, admittedly. 

But, it made me wonder how many LDS marriages really are only glued together by children?  It might just be the LDS people I know, but I see a lot of young, LDS people getting married way too soon, in the temple, and getting divorced very quickly (often meeting, dating, getting engaged, getting married, and getting divorced all in the span of one year).  And, I am wondering if the pulpit-pressure to start families immediately rather than postponing until incredibly selfish things - like getting educations and establishing financial security - are completed, is the Church's way of trying to keep the divorce rate lower than the national average.  Get em' sealed and overburdened with responsibility while they are very young and naive, and you've pretty much trapped them in the church.  Especially if you can get them reliant on church welfare to support their young families for a few years.

Now, I want to touch briefly on the loudest message I heard in YWs and for the brief time that I tolerated Relief Society.  From The Family: A Proclamation To The World
"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

I was told no less than once each Sunday and often during mid-week activities that I was innately nurturing.  Not always, but occasionally, in those exact words.  The message was that women were put on this earth to bear children, and are divinely destined for motherhood, and all are therefore endowed with some deeply spiritually nurturing nature and maternal instinct.  This message caused me more inner turmoil than anything else I heard in Church because I never felt that nurturing instinct until I was about 26 and long out of religion.  Before then, I had never wanted to me a mother at all.  If the most critical and divine purpose for my existence was to be a mother, then why, I wondered, had my Heavenly Father neglected to install the most important software on my OS.  I felt defective and hurt and angry.  It seemed like too cruel a test. One more reason I doubted an infallible, loving God's existence.   

People who know me well might call me out on that last paragraph and say that I was always nurturing.  But, I didn't feel it.  Babies especially made me extremely anxious until my first nephew was born.   As I mentioned earlier, I am really only comfortable with a few kids who all happen to have about 25% DNA content in common with me. While I recognize that I do have some innate nurturing tendencies, I attribute those solely to biological, genetic, and evolutionary adaptation to ensure survival of the species.  So there.

In contrast to the message that motherhood was the most sacred and divine of Gods gifts to women, there is this troubling part of scripture (probably my least favorite).  

Genesis 3:3-6 KJV (emphasis mine)
3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The punishment for this disobedient desire for knowledge and wisdom can be found in verse 16.

16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

To me, this reads that marriage and motherhood (and childbirth) are God's punishment, meant to make women sorrowful, not a sacred gift.

Lest you think I mean to crap all over parenthood let me say, I am sure that parenthood is beautiful and amazing and deeply "spiritual" in some ways.  I think this can be true even if, like all forms of love, it is primarily a hormonally-derived attachment to ones children that creates these human emotions around it.  And to me, that is not less miraculous.  But, then as a scientist, I don't find science and nature cold or empty.  Rather,  I find it extremely inspiring.  I just don't think parenthood is for everyone and I think it is detrimental to individuals and families for the church to push marriage and parenthood (especially on people who are very young) who might not be ready or of the right disposition.  It might not be for me.  And, I am okay with that now.  Not so much when I was told it WAS for me non-stop.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leaving the church can only lead to sorrow.

I struggle with this one because I struggle with depression.  I think that most ex-mormons I've encountered will freely claim that they are happier out of the church than they ever were in it.  I too make that claim, even when I am in the midst of a deep depression.  But, I would imagine that it sounds disingenuous to my friends and family who see that I've been prone to bouts of depression since I left the church.  I fear that my depression may serve to strengthen the testimonies of LDS friends and family who think that this teaching about leaving the church bringing certain grief is confirmed by my experience.  Add to this the tendency of members to hide all things imperfect, to deny doubt and unhappiness and portray the picture of harmony and peace and joy.  So, the member perspective is that everyone in the church is happy and every family is loving and everyone who leaves is miserable and I am the misery poster child.

But, let us step back a bit.  I started struggling with chronic clinical depression late in my teens/early twenties.  I also left the church in my early twenties.  But, correlation does not equal causation.   Late teens and twenties are a very common age-of-onset for such depression.  Many people who had happy, healthy childhoods struggle with depression later when they are in these challenging phases in life, figuring out who they are, what they believe, what they want and trying to build the lives and futures that suit them.  It's not easy being a young adult.  Doubly so when you are coming to the realization that you've lost your faith, or as in my case, finally just accepting that you never had it to begin with, and now you have to completely rebuild your conception of the world and how you are going to move through it.  Mormonism is all-consuming with rules about everything from how you dress, how you eat, how you wear your hair, how you dance, entertainment you should and shouldn't enjoy, how you get married, and how/when to have sex and children. Just when all of the things I was told my whole life to shoot for (my prescribed goals: temple marriage, motherhood, selfless service to family and church and utter religious devotion) were meant to be happening for me, they suddenly become part of a big lie.  One that I could no longer tolerate.  I had to accept that the prescribed life I had struggled to accept was never going to make me happy.  So, yeah, that all added to my anxiety and depression.

I also wonder if intellect is a contributing factor.  I'm a firm believer in the old addage "ignorance is bliss".  It requires a significant amount of intellectual fortitude to question everything you've ever been taught (kudos to all of us).  So, I wonder if many of us who leave come to do so only because we are "burdened" with enough intellect and natural skepticism to question, read beyond the sanctioned materials, and consider evidence and other hypotheses with truly open minds.  Those eternal optimists who accept everything they are told are destined (pardon the term) to be happier, right? The people who stay are the happy, unquestioning ones and the ones who leave are the skeptics and cynics?

Please understand me.  I struggle with depression.  I believe that in my case, my depression is tightly linked with my intellectual, inquisitive, introverted nature.  I THINK constantly.  I struggle every moment to make sense of the world around me.  And it is a STRUGGLE.  It would be much easier to accept what I'm spoon fed and move on.  But, I couldn't even if I wanted to because my brain simply won't allow it.  It is mentally and emotionally exhausting to question everything.  But, I don't have a choice in the matter.  I can't control the questions and they won't be ignored.  I am also a firm believer in the phrase "nagging doubt".  The same intellectual, inquisitive, introverted, contemplative nature that makes me prone to depression led me out of the "bondage" (I believe that, too) of a prescribed Mormon life.  I couldn't be happier for that and I wouldn't change for anything.  Leaving the church was the greatest gift I have ever given to myself.  It was the freedom to be who I am, rather than accept what I was told about myself, the freedom to accept and embrace my shortcomings and flaws, and the permission to pursue my own path. That is true happiness, even if it does lead me through occasional periods of "darkness", for I always emerge stronger and with a better understanding of myself, what I want, and where I am going.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

and I'm a Mormon

I posted this about a week ago on my private blog.  I think it appropriate to post it here as well.

I just came across this article in the Huffington Post (which I generally hate, but this article spoke to me) about the LDS Church's new "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign, which I refer to as the "I'm a fringe Mormon who elicits scowls of disapproval and is the subject of endless judgmental gossip in my ward and while I may participate in a really cool sport ( I surf!!!) and generally seem pretty mainstream, I believe some really wonky stuff" campaign.

I think Holly Wenker gets it exactly right. I don't think this ad campaign is going to change the public perception of the LDS church.  Perhaps people will see these ads and think, "Oh hey, Mormons appear to be pretty normal sorts of people" and for the most part, they would be generally correct and they have probably also experienced this with any Mormons they happen to have met in the meat world.  But, that doesn't change the fact that Mormons belong to and, if they are "good" members, financially support, an organization that has a long history of campaigning to limit the rights of women, racial minorities, and the LGBT community - not just by ostracizing them within the church, but also by funneling money and support (illegally) into the political system in order to deny equality to non-members as well. I don't think the right-thinking general public is going to forget that.

I agree with what others in the ex-mormon and mormon blogosphere have stated as well, when they say that this campaign feels disingenuous.  It is truly a slap in the face to those members (or former members) who have forgone their dreams and ambitions in order to "follow the prophet", that the Church is now attempting to improve it's public image by using the very members who opted to ignore the (constant) chastising and calls for conformity coming from the highest pulpits in favor of individuality.  I think the most offensive (to me personally) "I'm a Mormon" ads I've seen feature the women who, despite having young children and a husband who could provide for their families, have chosen careers which keep them frequently away from their families.  I appreciate these women thinking for themselves and pursuing their ambitions. I don't judge them for these choices in the least and I am sure that with the help of their husbands, family and other caregivers they are providing for the needs of their children while they are away from the home. But, I find it dishonest for the Church to advertise using these women who have gone VERY DIRECTLY against the teachings of the prophets of the church and representing them as if they are typical members and not on the (much scorned and maligned) fringe of Mormon culture. (I was asked some time ago when/where women had been actively discouraged from pursuing careers by the church leadership and where/when members had been told that women are meant to stay home and men are meant to provide. That last link is to a talk given by E.T. Benson that was constantly sited in YWs lessons I received growing up. The other is to the Proclamation on the Family and I quote: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.")

On the I'm a Mormon website, one can search for profiles about Mormon's who "share your personal experience".  Well, I did a little experiment.  I entered my gender, my age group, my ethnicity and for keyword, I first tried "immunology" (my chosen field).  No hits.  Then, I deleted the keyword and entered nothing.  As you can imagine this returned hundreds of hits (I am a white woman in my late-20's/early-30's, after all.) Then, I typed "PhD" into the keyword slot.  I got exactly seven results.  Five actually hold or are pursuing PhD's (the other two mentioned their husband's PhD pursuits).  Three of the five who hold or are pursuing PhD's were married (the other two were hopeful).  So, while Mormon's may be normal, average, or even super cool surfer people, there clearly aren't many sharing my experience.  I don't expect to ever meet an active Mormon woman who is my age, pursuing or holding a PhD, married for 5+ years, and child-free by choice (gasp) because such a woman would be exceedingly rare.  But I am absolutely certain that if I do, she won't tell me how welcome and loved she feels at church and how supported she feels in her lifestyle choices by her priesthood leaders.   Advertising to the rest of society with this message that Mormon's are diverse and accepting, and not at all focused on conformity or prone to defining roles in absolute terms, is misleading because while these things might be true of individual members, they aren't the truths of the doctrines of the LDS church as an entity.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Women get married for love. Men get married for sex.

Again, I heard this gem from a bishop.  I've since heard that people often hear this message at church earlier in life than I did, usually in their teens and frequently from YW/YM leaders but also from other teenagers.  But, I had never heard this until I was sitting in my bishop's office with my fiance, when we were there to ask him to marry us in a civil ceremony (we were pretty much out of the church by then but decided to have a bishop officiate to partially appease the 'rents).  I was stunned.  I couldn't believe that he was saying something like that to me at all but to be telling me, after I had just gotten engaged, that essentially, my fiance was just going to marry me so I would put out (and in front of my fiance) seemed incredibly insensitive.  He also essentially disclosed that he wouldn't have married his wife except that he really wanted to have sex with her.  I think his point wasn't that his wife wasn't worth marrying or that he didn't really love her, but just that men generally would prefer to be single.

While I was a bit miffed and shocked it didn't really bother me because I knew it wasn't true in my case since my now husband and I were already having sex. (You don't have to marry this one!)  In fact, it shouldn't have taken any power of discernment for the bishop to know that.  If he'd been paying attention at all, he would have smelled it on us. We went to that meeting right after ditching out on church to go fool around!

Haha!  I win.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back rubs lead to front rubs

This was a bit of wisdom conveyed by a bishop in one of the special youth firesides my favorite bishop ever used to hold in his home about twice a month.  I loved those firesides.  I loved that ward.  I had a lot of really close friends there and we were ALL really tight.  Literally, there were no enemies in that ward.  I think those firesides were the reason we were all so tight.  We'd pile into the bishops living room and sit on couches or pillows and we'd all cuddle (appropriately of course).  It was warm and friendly.  Sometimes we shared testimonies.  Sometimes the bishop gave lessons, usually on virtue, purity, chastity, and worthiness.  That particular bishop was really serious about keeping the youth chaste. 

It was ironic that we were all cuddled up warm-like when he told us not to be too touchy-feely with members of the opposite sex.  I'm not sure why this "back rubs lead to front rubs" saying stuck with me.  But, it REALLY did.  Probably because it was funny, and I'm into silly stuff like that.

As it turns out, back rubs do not ALWAYS lead to front rubs (but when they do...yippee!) as the old Bish told us.  I don't think I really believed it at the time, either.  I suppose that perhaps most teenage boys are hoping that when a girl lets ya rub their back, that they'll let you feel 'em up too.  But, I wouldn't know, having never had the teenage boy experience.  Heck, maybe most teenage girls hope a guy will do the old flipperoo and give a little boob grope too.  But, I didn't.  And I gave and received plenty of back rubs as a young woman. 


Yet ANOTHER blog...

...because I spend an awful lot of time bitching about the LDS church, the mormons, and the stupid, stupid shit I was told in church on my other blogs and I think some of that bitching deserves its very own space.
...because I think it might be good for me to have a public venting space where I can connect with other ex-mormons.