Sunday, December 25, 2011

Apathetic Apostasy?

Andrew wrote a great post discussing an interesting article about "apatheism".  Check it out.  It got me thinking about apathetic atheism for those who've left faith traditions.

I was never apathetic about faith and I'm not apathetic about non-belief.  I think the apathetic theists are those who quip, "You can leave the Church but you can't leave it alone."  They don't understand because they don't really process belief. They're just on tracks.  I get that.  I understand just going with the flow because it's easier to be unquestioning and shallow. Sometimes I envy that.  And, I think many apathetic atheists who were never believers are sort of free from tracks and don't realize it or are comfortable with it.

But, the apathetic atheists who were once believers (or attempted believers) are somewhat a mystery to me.  I've heard of them.  I've even met some former believers who just seem to have walked away without looking back, apparently with no psychological need to process any of it.  How? Are these the ones who really were just lazy or sinning or offended?  Or, can one leave for intellectual reasons, problems with church history, or problems with cultural or social/political issues (in short - because they CARED) and just shed it all like snake skin?

I would love to sit one of these apathetic former-theist-atheists down and ask, but well, they just aren't interested in discussing it. Go figure.  It drives me crazy.  Obviously, I couldn't just shed the skin that had grown dry and far too tight. I naively thought that I could.  I'd just stop going and not worry about explaining it to anyone.  If anyone could get away with that, it would have been me.  There was very little resistance from family, friends, religious leaders, employers, colleagues, educators, or mentors to my leaving the church.  In fact, some who really knew and loved me almost seemed relieved to see me finally let go.  Unlike so many others, I genuinely had nothing to lose.  Also unlike others, I sincerely don't miss any of it anymore. Furthermore, I didn't lose my faith - again, there was nothing to lose - so there was no sense of loss or confusion about who I was or what to do next.  Still, I can't just be apathetic about my former religion or faith/belief generally.  Why? How do people who care and leave for ideological reasons just stop caring once they go with no period of processing?

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I haven't posted for a while. The first reason is, as always, grad school.  The second is that my husband and I are now doing a long-distance thing and I spend a lot of time chatting with him on Skype and driving between Boston and New Jersey (not at the same time).  The third reason is the addition of this guy to my life:

I've been kinda apathetic about anything and everything that isn't him.  Will that shiny new puppy smell ever wear off?  I want my brain back and I want to stop referring to myself as "Momma" in the third person narrative. That is so irritating!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

House of Horrors - Religious Style

I just read this article over at Jezebel.  This brought back some bad memories of a similar event (not Halloween-related) put on for YM/YW when I was a teenager.  I can't recall if it was Stake-wide or more of a ward thing.  I am pretty sure it wasn't hosted for non-members.  I was asked to participate in some similarly gruesome scene.  We had drunk-driving accidents, drug overdoses, abortion deaths, date rapes, suicides, etc...all meant to scare kids off sin.  It was pretty horrible.  It seemed so very un-Mormon-like at the time.  Did anyone of you have the privilege of such an experience in YM/YW? Was my ward/stake a fluke?  I'm wondering if this was a Church-wide "object lesson".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Of the (Mormon) world, but not in it

How many "mainstream" Mormons are there now? Anyone who watched conference know what the current claim is?  I know it's really BIG and impressive.  They always make it sound that way.

It really isn't. Mormonism is really pretty tiny and insignificant in the larger scheme of things.  The fact is that it isn't a Mormon world out there.  I'm in Boston!  I've only met two Mormons here if I don't count those who were sent to my door or fulfilling a calling*.  So, why does it feel so huge(!!!) to me? If Mormonism suddenly ceased to exist, most of the world wouldn't even notice, but there would be a huge hole in my psyche. When I initially left the church, at 20 (21?), I kind of just stopped thinking about it.  I mean, I thought about the immediate effects of leaving and the drama with in-laws, etc.  But, I never really thought about how it had affected me, how it had shaped who I was.  I might even go so far as to say that I, in my na├»vete, thought it hadn't affected me at all, that I had just managed to avoid becoming tainted my it, and I could just be on my way.  Then around 2006 or so, thanks to therapy, I realized that uh-uh, I had some serious issues to explore.  A major reassessment of my values and where they really came from was in order.  Five years on, I'm still exploring.  I doubt that I'll ever stop seeing the effects of Mormonism in me.  So, while I'm no longer in that Mormon world, I'm still of it.  It's part of me, for better and/or worse. It seems somehow crucial that I figure it all out, that I be able to recognize when the Momon-girl in me is surfacing. Maybe it really isn't. 

But, I catch myself falling into old patterns now and then like:
  • Cowering to passive-aggressive behavior when I would like to be confronting it assertively.  And even, regretfully, behaving passive-aggressively myself. 
  • Feeling guilty when I am assertive.  
  • Allowing others to manipulate me with guilt.
  • Black and white thinking.  
  • Feeling guilty because I'm not being the perfect wife, daughter, sister, friend, (new puppy) mother.  I'm not all things to everyone. 
  • Thinking that there is some sort of perfection that can be attained.  Forgetting that, while I can be better, I'll never be perfect in everyone's eyes and least of all in my own.  Better should be enough.   
I'm sure there are many more.  (And, yes, I do recognize that none of these are specific to Mormonism. But, for me...So, I don't want to argue about it.)

*Technically, I actually met one of the two at a grad school interview at UCLA, but I'll count her because I encounter her in a non-church setting because we both ended up coming to the same division at HMS.  I met the other when he was interviewing for a post-doc position in my lab.  I didn't even have to hear him speak and I "knew" he was Mormon, and most likely from Utah or Idaho.  Modar! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Snark is the New Eggplant

So, I can at least go to the Gap...

I'm bruised but you win, Ryan.  I'll put the post of shame back up...against my better judgment.  But, if you call me a dirtbag again, I'm stepping in front of a train.

***hugs***


About the last post...

...I've taken it down, at least for now.  I'm frustrated that it has been misunderstood/misconstrued and someone else has misrepresented me on his blog and in my comments.  Until I calm down and have a chance to read through everything again it's down.  I know that sucks and I'm lame to do that, but there it is.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I (Too) Have Arrived (at Atheism).


A recent post on another blog and an earlier conversation with a friend got me thinking that sometimes we (myself included, I'm not pointing fingers) former-Mormon, now atheists/agnostics can be a bit dismissive of those who didn’t have to reason their way out of religion, religious culture, and/or god-belief before arriving at our atheism.  (Similarly, I have often been guilty of using language that is dismissive of former Mormons who maintain spirituality or god-belief outside of Mormonism. A post for another time.)

But, is reasoning one's way out of religion really so special? Kylie writes,


We did not come to atheism or agnosticism by some random default or lack of thought. We did not just choose to quit thinking about God or the mysteries of the world and declare, "I'm agnostic because that religion stuff just isn't for me". People who have left Mormonism and become atheist or agnostic have almost always done so through lots of study, reading, and critical logical thought...


There are some atheists (like me) who left the church without doing any studying or reading into LDS church history or the history of religion in general.  I have occasionally felt a smidge marginalized in this ex-mo community because I'm a bit late in learning church history and I don't have some story of coming to an agonizing realization that Joseph Smith was a fraud, etc...But, I also didn’t just decide one day “to quit thinking about god or the mysteries of the world” because it “just isn’t for me”.  I simply never believed in God (although I tried). When I left the church, I didn't so much reason my way out of religion and god-belief as it just never "clicked" for me in the first place. Church history was like a cows opinion.  So, I don't really fit in with the "learning-church-history-destroyed-my-faith" crowd and, although I self-proclaim that I have always been an atheist, I don't really fit in with the never-churched crowd either.

I think atheism is a natural state, a non-random default.  Just because I didn't have to rationalize myself out of faith, doesn't mean I didn't arrive at my atheism honestly.  I was born with it just like everyone else.  I may not have had to research my way out of belief in Mormon doctrine specifically, but my intellectual and emotional journey as I separated myself from the culture of Mormonism has been and continues to be as much a struggle as it is for those who had to let go of the LDS doctrines and religion first. I still struggle with things such as learned gender roles and restrictive notions about sexuality, free expression, intellectualism and individuality. (Oh oh, pick me, I'm damaged too!!!)

Those who have studied and reasoned their way out of Mormonism initially, and god-belief generally, can be quite proud about it.  And they should be. It’s a huge accomplishment, very courageous, and typically requires great sacrifices to go from being a “true-believer” to being a "truth-seeker".   But, shouldn’t those who never believed in god, because the religion we were raised with never quite seeped in, also take some pride in that?  Our critical thinking skills prevented us from believing in the first place. And, is it fair for those of us who withstood or rejected our religious upbringings to discount or minimize the atheism of those who were (fortunate enough to be) spared religious indoctrination?***  

I sort of half-relate to what Kylie wrote. I think there is something to be said for the experience of reasoning one's way out of religion.  (Because I'm culturally a Mormon through-and-through, allow me a cheesy metaphor/object lesson.)  It's a bit like the intricate process by which a chick hatches from it's shell (except that critical thinking doesn't lose usefulness like the egg tooth.)  There is value in the long struggle and I think most of us cherish that experience for the ways in which we grew.  However, as I said above, I think atheism IS the default and we're taught to believe and what to believe and how to ignore doubts.  If no one were taught to believe we wouldn't HAVE to think about the problems with faith and suppressing doubt.  I think plenty of people who have never believed think about God and religion as a means of explaining the unknown, in the quest to understand why and how the believer believes.  They come at it from a different perspective but their atheism is rarely reflective of a "lack of thought". 


I was recently having a chat, over a spirited game of Bananagrams and some greasy chinese food, with a close friend who is endlessly curious about Mormonism and loves our little Mormon-isms. (Like "white and delightsome", "sweet spirit" and "when the prophet speaks, the thinking's been done."  I try to throw these in sometimes to see if she catches on.)  She seemed to be under the impression that most former Mormons are like me - always doubters/skeptics - who just finally have had enough of "faking it till you make it".  I was explaining that most of the ex-mo's I encounter express that they were once "true-believing Mormons" until they learned something too uncomfortable to be ignored.  Like me, she had a very difficult time trying to understand that. She's enamoured with the Book of Mormon musical and she asked if it was, "Like turn if off?" I explained that we actually call it "putting it on the shelf" (as though we are going to come back to it).  I told her that most believing Mormons really don't know nearly as much as she does about the problems with church history because the church does a phenomenal job of shielding members from those problems.  I also explained correlation and "milk before meat". I told her that we Mormon's have been well-trained in putting things on the shelf and that we are able to let things that don't make sense go because we'll understand them in the next life, when we receive all "light and knowledge." Those little un-truisms we all use sarcastically now, were pretty powerful stuff.  Recognizing the circular logic in all of that and breaking free of it is neither easy nor painless.  The church makes it easy to believe by making it SOOOO much harder to question.

I don't think any of us intend to discount the critical thinking skills of those who were raised atheists.  But, because of our struggle we can sometimes sound as if we think we are somehow better at it because of the trial-by-fire.  We fly that flag.  There isn't anything wrong with that.  But, from the perspective of someone who is in-between and didn't quite make the full journey from true-believer, the language we use can feel a bit dismissive of the un-churched and/or never-believers. I realize that on these blogs we are largely speaking amongst ourselves, but in conversations that occasionally spill over to facebook and other atheist groups we belong to, we should probably be careful about that.  I've frequently felt a bit of a sting when interacting with those who have always been atheists (and have always known and embraced it).  The tone toward the religious can be less than empathetic.  I've noted that in those forums former-believers sometimes get defensive when it is implied that religious belief is stupid or childish or irrational.  "Hey! We used to be those people!"  I think that those of us who fought the great fight are often guilty of reverse dismissal because "they were JUST raised atheistically, THEY didn't earn it".

***I don't think this was Kylie's did this in her post, nor do think she intended . She was relating an encounter with a specific agnostic whose critical thinking skills are a bit lacking and she uses this example to illustrate that not all atheists wear critical thinking caps.  But, the way she framed, combined with my earlier conversation, struck this chord with me. It stung a little.



Friday, September 16, 2011

Married Young, Missing You, and Ex-Mormon Meetings

I married young.  I was VERY young by societal standards.  I was even VERY young by my own standards - even AT THE TIME.  But, by LDS standards, I might have been garnering some pity if I hadn't found myself I a worthy returned missionary man.  I was practically a spinster at (nearly) 21 years of age! My husband, had he served one, would have been returned from a mission for 2 whole years.  People would likely have been starting to worry for him as well - perhaps questioning his testimony or sexuality or worthiness.

I was thinking yesterday about my year in hell at BYU.  Several of my friends and one roommate married during the summer following that year.  I remember the prevailing fantasy thought among the girls women around me was that marriage would certainly be bliss and that marrying an "older man" would make them feel so safe.  He would be so mature and would surely be able to take care of them. Then, I thought about my husband and our early marriage.  He was (almost) two years older than me - 23 and 21. We were of a pretty comparable age difference between a freshly returned missionary (21) and a BYU freshman (19).  But, we each had two years on that fairly typical LDS/BYU pair.  And let me tell you, those two years made a HUGE difference in our maturity levels ***please read sarcasm***.  The reality was that my "older" husband was barely capable of taking care of himself.  He certainly wasn't remotely prepared to support a young wife (and perhaps a baby).  Fortunately, we were both in the safety net of college life and loans and I had found my new religion - birth control.  My how naive the typical young LDS newlyweds are!  It's a wonder to me that they don't all ***hyperbole*** end up miserable, in desperate need of a divorce, and shackled to a life of poverty.  Somehow some of them make it (usually by taking on a mountain of debt while he goes to law/business/med school and she stays home to care for the growing family). 

I often feel that I missed out a bit by marrying young.  We each still had a lot of growing up to do.  We were both still trying to get to know ourselves.  If I were single, I would have had the freedom to sleep around explore my sexuality interests.  Maybe my path would have been completely different.  Please don't get me wrong, I am happy and I love my husband.  Overall, I think we've been able to grow up together nicely.  Maybe growing up together was even beneficial. I can't know.  But, our first DECADE of marriage was certainly difficult, often a battle of personalities and wills.  While my Hubster has been very supportive of my ambitions and (especially!) of my desire to put of having children until we have both completed our PhD's are are reasonably financially stable, he hasn't been particularly emotionally stable.  That may be in part because of his personality and upbringing (he wasn't raised nearly the supportive and accepting manner that I was), but the fact that we were both still trying to grow up, and become and understand our adult selves, definitely contributed.  It was sort of each of us for ourselves.  We could have been more supportive of each other had we not both been struggling to keep our heads above water.  But, isn't what ones 20's are supposed to be all about? Growing pains and self-discovery?

Perhaps young LDS couples don't have that problem since their personalities and goals and lifestyles are already decided for them?

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On another note, I just want to say, I miss you all.  I miss writing here and I miss reading your blogs.  I miss thinking about Mormonism (sick, I know).  But, I had a good committee meeting in April and I finally see the light at the end of this grad school tunnel.  My experiments are working (!!!) and I should be able to wrap up completely within the next school year (I'm walking - either across a commencement stage or out of Harvard - by June).  So, I've been busy, but in a really good way.  I have no idea what is next for me, career wise, but it MUST be something that leaves me more time to stew over my LDS upbringing have fun and remember the normal human being I used to be (and raise a puppy and perhaps a baby or two).

___________________________________

On another another note. Are any of you going to the Exmormon Conference this year?  I really wanted to go, but it's not to be more me this year.  I want to go when I can take a week or so off and spend the extra days with my brother in Park City. That would help make the airfare more justifiable and will also keep me in my brother's good graces.  I think he would be terribly hurt if I came to Utah and didn't spend a bunch of time with him.  I know there are other meetings, some regional, through all of the exmo boards and communities, but I don't know where/when they are or how well attended they are.  I would like to go to Sunstone one of these years (anyone go to that) but I would be more interested in going to a meeting or conference that is really for ex-mormons, than the mixed bag of ex-mormons, former mormons, new order mormons, cafeteria mormons, faithful mormons, and downright fundamentalist/fully orthodox mormons that is Sunstone.  I really want to meet my peers in person.  So, if any of you plan to attend any retreats/meetings/conferences, please keep me in the loop.

Much love,
Amy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hello, Gander. It's me, Goose.

I'm feeling a bit introspective and guilty today.  Probably because it's gloomy and cold out.  I'm all irritated and frustrated by a comment left on my last post and even more so by my response to it.  Dave* commented,
I would be in the same situation as you IF I never had certain powerful spiritual experiences. I would have written off the demands of being a Mormon if I had never felt the spirit so strongly at certain times in my life. 10% tithe? Fast offering? Hometeaching? Sunday morning meetings at 7 am? Volunteer work in the ward? No way if I had never felt the spirit testify to me that this church is true. So I can appreciate how you have come to where you are in life.

If I had to pick the number barrier to experiencing the spirit in a powerful way it would have to be humility. At times when I've been arrogant in my life I never felt the spirit. It was only when I humbled myself before God that he allowed me to feel the spirit strongly.

I wish I had the spirit to inspire me more often. I want to feel and experience on a daily basis what I felt during the times that I've felt the spirit strongly, but this requires continual humility before God and it is not something I am good at right now. The result? Angst. Sometimes I ask myself, "I know He is there, but why isn't He talking to me now." In that way we are kind of the same.

Best wishes. 
My response was not very nice and I'm not proud of it.  I wrote in part,
Thanks Dave! It's so generous to wish me well even though you clearly think I'm arrogant.

No, really. I know you mean well. But, diagnosing my problem as a lack of humility (having never met me), is...not so nice. Also, kind of arrogant. Your belief couldn't possible be irrational so, there MUST be something wrong with me. 
I'm like this.
Really, it doesn't matter whether I think his belief is rational or not.  Dave and I are both guilty of re-framing each others experiences.  I'm not sure if this practice is human nature or unique to Mormon culture.

Dave expresses a couple of the most common Mormon responses to apostasy (or becoming inactive, leaving the church, etc...).  First, there is the acknowledgement that membership in the church demands a lot - it's time-consuming and expensive.  He mentions tithing, meetings, home teaching and more.  I'm not sure why he addresses this issue.  But, I suspect that it's because Mormons are so well-indoctrinated to believe that one of the three major reasons people leave the church is because they just don't want to do the work.  I didn't mention anything in the post about how demanding church membership is or being particularly bothered by it, and yet he admits that he would be in the exact same situation had he not had some spiritual experiences.

Dave then says that when he hasn't been feeling the spirit, he attributes that to arrogance.  Here he's going right to one of the other reasons the Church gives for people leaving. People leave because they are proud (or offended or some other variety of arrogance).  Now, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was genuinely trying to be helpful by implying that since his past experience was a lack of humility, perhaps that is my problem as well.  But, it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying essentially, "Your problem is that you are just too arrogant to be open to hearing the spirit."  Incidentally, that's probably true of me now.  I don't believe in "the spirit" so, I'm not looking to ascribe my emotions to it's promptings. But, that wasn't true of me when I actually went through my non-faith crisis, described in the post.  I was at an absolute low emotionally, and with my self-esteem.  I wanted to believe in God, and I wanted to hear the spirit.  I realize that in my post I describe sort of giving God an ultimatum (kind of arrogant), and I was, but I was also pleading for Him to make Himself known to me (pretty humbly).  I was fluctuating pretty rapidly, but I wasn't totally prideful, just desperate.  Perhaps I didn't make that clear enough.   

I sort of feel like Dave's response to MY experience is defensive.  And, I'm just not sure that I understand WHY people in the Church get so defensive when former members relate that our experiences with it were different.  I describe my younger, active years in terms of never receiving any confirmation that God exists.  He just wasn't speaking to me in the way that others have experienced Him.  So, Dave apparently feels a need to provide an explanation, a possible reason that I wasn't receiving comfort or confirmation - maybe I just wasn't humble enough (but that's okay, he can totally relate).  Could be, I suppose.  Maybe I wasn't righteous enough.  I don't think either of those are accurate in my case, but Dave couldn't possibly know that.  And that's sort of my point.  It wasn't Dave's experience.  It was mine.  His experience was different and it's fine that he shared it.  But his last thought is what makes me feel like he is redefining my experience or my conclusions about my experience in order to make it fit into HIS worldview.
The result? Angst. Sometimes I ask myself, "I know He is there, but why isn't He talking to me now." In that way we are kind of the same.
That's like the exact opposite of the point of my post.  I never knew He was there.  I wasn't concerning myself with why He wasn't talking to me, in terms of trying to determine why I wasn't worthy of His communication, because I had concluded that if He wasn't talking to me, it was because He doesn't exist, because I knew what Dave cannot, which is that I was sincerely doing my very best to live in accordance with the Gospel and had been for a very long time. I describe being at the end of my rope and telling God that I just couldn't justify continuing to speak to Him if He wasn't speaking back, even in a moment of desperate need.  Dave and I are NOT even kind of the same in that way.

But, my response was equally defensive and I also resorted to re-framing his experience, implying that perhaps his belief is irrational.  I also have just now in this post admitted that I suspect his response is informed by the generally accepted explanation for apostasy in the Church and not from his own thought processes. That was not kind.  Dave, if you read this, I apologize.  I shouldn't have implied that what you experience or feel is something other than what you interpret it to be.

So, here's where audience participation is desired.
Stay in formation.
WHY do we need other people to either share our experiences or, barring that, to re-frame and reinterpret their experiences to fit with our own?  I spend a lot of time trying to understand why some people interpret their experiences as spiritual while I would interpret their experiences as confirmation bias.  I don't know why I can't just accept that we see things differently and leave it at that.  I would like to be charitable in that way.  I would like others to be charitable towards me in that way.  



*Not to call anyone out but...you could look at the comment and figure it out anyway.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Faith Crisis?

Someone recently asked me when I had experienced my crisis of faith.  My answer was about a dark period in my very early 20's.  But, I've been thinking about it further, and I am not sure if I ever had a crisis of faith.  I never had that confirmation of the spirit that people talk about.  I never really felt God's presence in my life.  I never experienced anything I considered to be miraculous.  I never had any emotional warm fuzzy feelings surrounding a "spiritual experience" (at least not any that I didn't attribute to hormonal fluctuations.) I tried to have faith.  I wanted to believe in God and I threw myself whole-heartedly into the gain-a-testimony-infinite-loop-trap. I followed (almost) all of the rules. I magnified more callings that a young woman should ever have. But, the testimony never came.  So, during the very dark period when I was 20-ish, I gave God sort of an ultimatum.  The deal was that I had done everything I could think of to get a confirmation of His existence with no luck.  And, I found myself at a point in my life when I really needed His guidance and comfort.  So, I told Him that if He was there, I needed to know it and that I felt I had held up my part of the bargain. So, if He couldn't be counted on to comfort me in my darkest hour, I was going to stop trying to believe and just embrace atheism.  That's what I did.

But, is that a faith crisis if my problem was that I never really had faith?  I had hope, so maybe it was an hope crisis?  Perhaps an existential crisis? I have tended to think of it in more positive terms, as an awakening or more appropriately, as self-realization/self-acceptance and embracement of the finite nature of my existence.  I only started to think maybe it was a "crisis" after I had heard almost everyone else describe their experiences in that way. Thoughts?

What I do know was that, when I finally gave myself permission to stop searching and trying to believe something for which there is no evidence, I felt that warm, peaceful feeling.  I don't attribute that to anything other than whatever tangled mess of biochemical signaling that occurs in our brains when we experience the emotion we call relief.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It's not (just) me. It's (also) you.


I’m sick of the oft asked/answered question, “How can one leave the Church without destroying relationships/hurting people?”  The repetition isn’t my problem.  I just don’t understand why the onus to preserve relationships and avoid hurting feelings is always on the person leaving the church.  Are there things we can do?  Sure.  We can avoid equating religious faith and superstition.  We can avoid using a condescending tone.  We can refrain from swearing/drinking/smoking in the presence of people who might be offended by it.  In essence, we can display understanding and empathy for their feelings because we’ve been on their side of the member/non-member or active/inactive fence.  But that is far easier said than done when we're being judged and accused of un-apologetically hurting those we love.

CAN we leave the Church without ruffling any feathers?  Is that possible?  Of course it isn’t.  There are going to be friends/family/ward members who are going to be sad if not angry, offended, scared, disdainful, shocked.  We can handle it in the best possible manner (whatever that is) but some people are going to experience negative emotion as a result of our disassociation with the Church no matter what.  Remember, we are no longer going to be with them in the Celestial Kingdom for eternity.  We’ve given up our birthright. We’re the ones who have changed.     

But, is it too much to expect that our loved ones show us some compassion, sympathy, understanding? Is it too much to expect them to take a peek over the fence, ask questions rather than make assumptions, validate our reasons and feelings, and attempt to understand our points of view?  I think we let them off the hook too easily.  Since when is intolerance acceptable?  Since when is it okay to be self-righteous, judgmental or closed-minded?  Relationships are two-person gigs.  People are allowed to change and grow.  Sometimes relationships survive change and sometimes they don’t.  If we’ve been respectful, kind, tolerant and patient then we have done our part and certainly shouldn’t be beating ourselves up for hurting people who have chosen to be hurt and have stubbornly refused to allow healing in the relationship.  

A relationship isn't based on sharing all of the same goals, beliefs, interests, and values.  A relationship is based on enjoying the common ground while also accepting that sometimes we play at different parks with different playmates who share others of our interests.

What do you think?  Can we start asking our family and friends to hear us out, trust us (because we're not saying we have intellectual reasons when in reality we just wanted to sin), and then be mature enough to accept our viewpoints even if they still don't share them?  Can we start asking each other how we can do OUR part to preserve our relationships AS WELL AS what is reasonable to expect from our loved ones in return?  Can we stop accepting that love is conditional upon  absolute conformity?

In the interest of full disclosure, I've had this very easy by comparison to many, many others.  I have had very supportive and accepting friends and family.  So, I could be totally off base here.  Maybe my inability to understand why it might be too much to expect reciprocation of compassion stems from my experiences exclusively with people who have accepted and loved me despite my lifestyle/worldview differences.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Will This Be On The Test?

In my (so very many) years of education and as a teaching assistant, the question most frequently asked regardless of the course subject was "Will this be on the test?"  This question nearly made my head explode.  Why should it even matter?  Are we not in school to learn? Should we not just want to know? Or, is it really all about the grades?  Well, to many students, it IS just about the grades.  But, ask me how many times I heard a professor say, "No, I'm just running my mouth up here for my own amusement." Not once. 

This sort of reminds me of the oft-given answer to "difficult" questions one might ask about church history or doctrine. "It's not pertinent to your salvation."  Well, fuck me, but I'm the 'A' student sitting in the front of the classroom frantically writing notes then spending hours studying and trying to make connections and understand concepts.  Are we supposed to be worrying only about our salvation, or are we supposed to be preparing to be gods/goddesses ourselves? Does Heavenly Father waste His time?  Or, are we meant to actually understand all of the given knowledge pertinent to eternity?  I'm adding this to the list of mixed messages the Church is so keen on giving.  Seek knowledge and drink your milk.

"We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him." Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 2:8.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Would I Follow the Prophet?

I was never really the type to pray for personal revelation.  I didn’t feel a need for guidance and approval about every little decision.  I just sort of did what felt authentic for me, figuring that Heavenly Father would expect that I would use my mind, free agency, conscience and nudgings of the Holy Ghost, to navigate my way through life.  Why would He have given those blessings to me if he didn’t expect me to use them? I expected that if Heavenly Father disapproved, He would let me know.  Sometimes what initially felt authentic, didn’t quite feel ‘right’ and then I would hit my knees and ask if I was wrong.  Maybe this was a flawed approach.  I’ll never know.   It seemed to work for me most of the time. But, I ultimately became disaffected with His Church and lost faith (or the desire to have faith) in His existence so maybe it wasn’t working for me at all.

My approach troubled me in one way though.  It was not uncommon that choices and decisions that felt authentic and right for me didn’t align with the words of the General Authorities.  In those instances, I wondered if I should have been asking permission to proceed at every little step.  I mean, if Heavenly Father didn’t expect us to conform, in all cases, to the guidance of the Prophet, why did the Prophet always speak in such absolute terms?  Why did the Prophet speak in ways that seemed so all-inclusive/exclusive?  Why was I hearing, “If you are a women, this is what is expected…and if you are a man, this is expected…?”  Was The Plan of Salvation individualized or prescribed in bulk by gender?  (And why was it always by gender?) If the Prophet’s words were to be headed, for he could not lead me astray, then what purpose did personal revelation serve?  And, should I be actively asking for personal revelation, bugging Heavenly Father with every nitpicky detail, before proceeding? You see this circling line of thought.  You probably recognize it personally.

Sometimes, I wonder if - in a parallel universe in which I didn’t leave the Church - I would ever have arrived at the correct conclusion.  I am not sure I know what conclusion others had arrived at, if they had arrived at all.  I suspect that the more legalistic, literalistic, and dogmatic types follow the Prophet above all.  Perhaps, they never get personal revelation that contradicts the Prophet.  Maybe when personal revelation contradicts the Prophet, you aren’t doing it right (FAIL).  

If I were forced, I would guess that I would have gone with my gut first, personal revelation second, and if I happened to align with the Prophet’s prescription here and there, that would be good.  But, in that case, I have to admit, I would really just have been doing what I ultimately wanted and needed all along. 

***le sigh***

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

(Not So) Breaking News – Or “Don’t You Dare Forget…


…that you are still the world’s worst* daughter-in-law.  And, although it's not possible, you are worse than worst* because now there is a new perfect* daughter-in-law to whom we can compare you.  SHE calls.  Just to chat."

*Post posting edit: This post (as with most others) is LITERALLY littered with hyperbole and sarcasm.  FYI.

Their son, my husband, did something unthinkable*.  He married a woman who is the exact* polar opposite* of his mother (and 3 of his sisters). She's Mormon. I'm anti-Mormonism.  She's conservative politically.  I'm liberal politically.  She's traditional.  I find most traditions to be antiquated, offensive, and stifling.  She had 7 kids and stayed (stays) home to take care of them.  I might have two kids. I will also have a career. She defers* to her husband/priesthood leader.  I'm a loud feminist.  She is obsessed* with having everything* appear perfect. I am obsessed* with being correctly understood and being authentic, true to myself.  I don't think people faking perfection are healthy and the over-emphasis on being/appearing perfect doesn't exactly promote honesty in others. In fact, it puts pressure on others to hide differences and also appear perfect.  (I don't believe that any* Mormon genuinely knows any* other Mormon. Do you?)

We're different, she and I.  And, you know* that she is doing it all* right because she is (at least on the surface) totally* in-line with the teachings of The One True Church, Inc.  I am in the wrong. Always*.  I would be thrilled* if I could just be different and have that be okay.  But, she has God on her side and so it will never* occur to her that different isn't necessarily bad and that what works for her might not be universally right.  Afterall, God has only one plan - conformity. 
 
What can I say? I am what I am. (Exodus 3:14) I like what I am. I am happy (or at least content) with my life. I'm not changing.  I'm stubborn like that.



















*Phew. Did I miss any? I beg you to correct me in the comments if I did.  I take criticism really*, really* well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Worst Callings

I would love to see a bunch of you post about your worst calling experiences.  Mine came shortly after I became engaged.  I hear this calling is popular to give to newly-weds but there must not have been any in our ward at the time because I got it when I was engaged.  Would you like to guess?

Yep, I was called to the nursery.  I think that many a bishop thinks this calling will make young newly-married and about-to-be-married women want to have babies.  I also think most bishops have no idea what it is like to spend an hour trapped in a tiny room somewhere with 10+ toddlers.

I lasted two weeks.  That's it. The first week was pretty bad.  But the second week was just like a barn yard fiasco.  Literally.  The other couple who were also called to work in the nursery were much older.  They had several sons close to my age.  He was a former single adult ward bishop, and one of those loud-mouthed know-it-all's that make Sunday School nearly intolerable.  (She later left him.  I hear she found some hot younger man.  Good for her.)  By profession, he was a veterinarian. (My dog's vet, in fact). They lived out in the sticks on some property and they had a bunch of animals.  I will never understand what possessed them to bring all of those animals to nursery.  Shall I list them in food chain order? Well, okay, they don't all fall on one food chain.
  • Mouse 
  • Gerbil
  • 2 Parakeets 
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Fish in bowl
  • Rabbit
  • Cat
  • 2 Dogs
  • Turtle
  • Iguana
  • Tarantula
  • Frog
  • Sheep
  • Goat
Kinda like this:

 + a few reptiles and farm animals












     And about 10 of these.
















    Fortunately, all of the animals and children got along peacefully.  It was just like the Garden of Eden. Except that it was nothing like the Garden of Eden. So, I spent the hour trying to keep toddlers from killing animals, animals from killing toddlers, animals from killing/eating animals and basically dealing with a bunch of different types of shit and mucus.  Then, I walked straight into the bishop's office and said there was no way I was ever going back.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Some Things Never Change

    "At BYU to be a smart girl...is a difficult thing because they don't encourage that, or at least they didn't back in the early 1970's." - Margaret Merrill Toscano from this podcast.

    That was certainly the same experience I had at BYU some 30 years later.  Only, I would go further and say that to be a smart girl was discouraged, which is pretty sad when I consider the average GPA of admitted Freshman the year I started.  ALL of the girls there were "smart girls".  Some were more ambitious about academics and careers than others.  But, all had significant intellectual capabilities and potential.  I have serious problems with a "university" that discourages or fails to encourage intellectual growth and achievement in fully half of the student body.  I also have doubts that one can get a true education* at a university so lacking in diversity of thought, where tenured faculty are regularly fired for expressing points of view (no matter how well-researched and considered) that differ from the official church party line.  I believe it is impossible to be a truly tenured professor at BYU under those circumstances.  BYU stifles growth and intellect in students and faculty alike.  I will be quite disheartened if "smart girls", the other half of the student body, and the faculty are having the same experiences in 2030. 

    *I consider a true education to be one in which all new ideas, points of view, and history are presented openly and discussed freely, without threat of discipline for students or professors.  I am not contending that one cannot obtain a valid degree in a particular field of study at BYU.  Rather, I contend that the real point of a college education is not to learn WHAT to think, but to learn HOW to think. If a BYU student manages to learn how to think critically at BYU, it is only through fault (damn intellectuals) of their own.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Late morning - MBTA Red Line - Harvard Square to Kendall Square

    LDS missionary: How are you doing today?
    Long-haired hippy guy (LHHG): I was good until you asked.
    Missionary: Oh, really?  Well, what was good about your morning?
    LHHG: ***stunned*** Ummm.  My coffee was good.
    Missionary: Oh, well, would you be interested in a copy of the Book of Mormon?
    LHHG: ***moves to the opposite end of the train***
    Me: ***Laughs.  Feels sorry for LHHG.  Feels more sorry for missionary. Laughs at self for feeling sorry for missionary.  Tries not to appear Mormon, friendly, or blonde/red-headed lest I set off their modar. Wishes her skirt was shorter or neckline lower.  Avoids eye-contact with missionaries.***

    END SCENE

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    In which puppy doesn't get a temple recommend and Amy doesn't get work done

    1 Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

    2 Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?

    3 Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?

    4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?




     











    Naughty puppy.

    Is Amy procrastinating when she should be writing a progress report for her fellowship?
    Yes, yes she is. 

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    In which I become extremely wealthy...

    I'm clearly not the first to stumble on this market.  But, it seems to me that I can write Christian apologetics books and make a fortune. All I have to do is just make up all sorts of bullshit and as long as that bullshit supports the beliefs they already have, Christians will buy my book by the truckload and I won't even have to do any research.  I probably wouldn't even have to re-read the Bible (I'm pretty rusty, and mine is pretty dusty).  If I validate their beliefs they won't bother checking my "sources" or thinking about the book critically. They will completely miss my logical fallacies.  I could kick that crap out in a weekend. And many of the authors who write those books seem to be doing just that. You flat out cannot write a well-researched, well-thought out book every two months.

    Also, I wish my Christian friends didn't make such lame debaters. It's all just straw-men. Seriously, my friend just said this: "We're supposed to believe that microbes wash up on land and eventually walk away shaped like humans?"  Throw me a meatier bone! ANY other logical fallacy will do. I just got out of a self-defense class and I am looking for a fight!

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Resignation Letter

    If you ask, you shall receive.  Someone requested that I post my resignation letter and so I did.  If you'd like to read it or want an example, just click on the tab above. I followed the recommended template for the most part. I just added the last two paragraphs.

    Helpful information on the process can be found at these sites:

    http://www.mormonresignation.com/ 
    Recovery from Mormonism
    Life After Mormonism

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    On Feeling Alone and On Having Options

    I've written before about being alone.  Previously, I wrote about how belief in a personal deity means one is never alone. I wrote about how much that terrified me - the thought of never being alone, of never being unknown, of no privacy and no boundaries.

    I have a strange relationship with this word alone. I'm an introvert.  I'm content alone.  In fact, I love being alone.  I must be alone.  I get irritable when I don't get to be alone.  But, I also get extremely lonely at times.  I guess I love aloneness and suffer from loneliness. I’m rambling.  I apologize.  Pardon me.  Humor me if you will while I work through this one.  I’ve been thinking again about the Church and alone.

    "You can leave the Church, but you can't leave it alone." Is this a threat? Like, "You can leave but we'll never really let you go."  Is it meant to convey something like, "You'll be back." Is it a complaint? "You've left the Church, but you insist on bad-mouthing it." Or is it a command? "You've left the Church, now just leave it alone!"

    "You've left the Church, but it won't leave you alone." That's been my experience.  I want to get to the point where I can go days without thinking about the Church, the Faith, the Gospel. But, I know I never will.  It haunts me like so many generations.  My grandmothers thought that the great sacrifices they were making were for me - so that I would have the Fullness of Truth - when they pioneered to Utah.  I suppose they were. Making great sacrifices, that is.  They thought the Gospel was for my benefit.  And here I am. Ungrateful.  I don’t believe that the Church, the Gospel, that they sacrificed for has been good for me.  I’ve discarded it.  I resent it.  I’m angry.  I can’t leave it alone.  And leaving it makes me feel guilty.

    And here I am. Grateful. I am here and I know that would not be the case had my foremothers not sacrificed and moved, married and made babies in Utah.

    And here I am, pioneering in my own way for my daughters and granddaughters - undoing what the Church has done - finding my own Truth.  I am willfully abandoning the model of womanhood the Church and the Gospel has dictated to me. In doing so I am abandoning the models of my mother and grandmother, women I love like there are no words to describe, women I admire.  But, I need to be – no, I just am - something other than that model of womanhood. Not more, not less. Just other.  You know? I need my daughters to know that there are other options. I need them to grow unburdened with the guilt of wanting something other.  I need my daughters to know that it is not selfish to forge one’s own path, to pioneer in one’s own way.  No.  I need for my daughters to grow up in such a way that it never even occurs to them that choosing one’s own life path would be selfish.  I don’t want them to see other options. I want them only to see options.

    But, I feel alone.  I don’t know how to be other.  Unlike my mother, and hers, I don’t have a model to follow.  I don’t know how to pioneer this model-free path.  Is it ironic that I am lonely for a model for pioneering a model-less path?  Will I be setting my daughters up for the same loneliness? Or, will they appreciate the aloneness of having nothing but options and pioneering of their own to do?

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    God thinks like you. And like me. And like everyone else.

    So, yeah, God basically has Multiple Personality Disorder.  At least that is what this research indicates.

    Explains some things, doesn't it? I know you are not surprised by these results.  Neither am I.  I've long known that God is created in man's own image. 

    But, you know what I just realized?  This means the religious can no longer hide behind these tired old arguments:
    • "I'm not homophobic.  The bible says it's a sin."
    • "I'm not sexist.  God thinks women should submit to men.  Patriarchy is the divinely dictated order of things." (Psshhh more like divinely dick-tated. Am I right?) 
    • "I'm not a prude.  God is the one who is hymen-obsessed and requires that we wait to have sex until we are married and that we rush to put our garments back on post-coitus. I'm sure it is for our own good."
    • "I'm not racist.  God is the one who cursed Cain and Ham and all of their descendants with dark skin. Some of the Prophets have said white people were more righteous in the pre-existence. The Book of Mormon describes the cursing of the unrighteous with dark skin. I can't help it if God thinks that my skin is delightsome."
    • "I'm just lying for the Lord. Sometimes the truth isn't very useful."
    To the religious: Science has seen behind the curtain and isn't impressed by your wizard.  We know it's just you back there with a microphone speaking in a deep voice.

    Post Edit:
    And so you know...God is not an old dude with a white beard. She is a natural blonde but likes to dye her hair red on occasion. Sometimes She shaves Her legs and sometimes She doesn't.  Deal with it.  God doesn't care about your underwear but forbids you to wear socks during sex.  God has a caffeine habit.  God wears Her Converse even when She knows it's raining outside and that this will mean Her feet will be wet all day. God has two piercings. In each ear.  God likes men to wear eyeliner.  God forbids short-sleeved dress shirts and ugly ties.  God is sarcastic.  God thinks you should leave your neighbors alone.  Stop with the missionaries. God thinks having multiple kingdoms makes the whole judging thing too complicated but multiple orgasms was a brilliant idea. She stands behind that one.  God doesn't really care so much about being worshiped or Her name being used in vain but if you say anything about the size of Her ass, it's fire and brimstone for you. Patriarchy? You mean like men in charge? Hahahahaha, I think milk just came out of Her nose. What a completely terrible idea.  God works through evolution and thinks your prayers are silly and annoying.  The Universe wants to kill you.  God thinks all skin is beautiful.  God is fine with nudity. God doesn't need you to make oaths or weird signs to hang out with Her after you die.  In fact, She doesn't even think an afterlife is worthwhile.  She scrapped that.  So, make the most of your time here.  And join the dark side.  They have cupcakes.  Also, the Smashing Pumpkins totally blew.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Shaking in my (tall, black, leather, four inch-heeled, fuck-me) boots

    From:     Rhonda Relief Society* <rrsociety@gmail.com> 
    Subject:     Contact with LDS Church
    Date:     August 7, 2009 8:26:27 AM EDT
    To:     myemailaddress@University.edu

    Hi Amy,

    It has probably been a few months since you last received an email from the 1st Ward Relief Society, due to our slower summer, vacation filled months. I hope your summer is going well.

    I'm grateful that you allow us to send you (via email) invites to these activities, but we definitely do not want to be a burden and end up in your spam box. I'm certain that there are reasons why you and your husband have not been attending church services (or perhaps you have and I just haven't met you yet). In either case, I would like to ask you (and your family) what your desire level of contact with the church is. Would you be comfortable with home and visiting teachers, newsletters, telephone calls, receiving weekly ward and RS email announcements, or no contact at all. This last option is quite extreme resulting in either a personal, telephone or mail contact from and with Bishop Oooohhh Intimidating Priesthood Authority**.

    Please prayerfully consider what you would like and what you would like us to do, and I hope to hear back from you within the next few days.

    Thanks for your time and understanding.

    Best,
    Rho*
    _________________________________________________

    This was an email from some woman, maybe the RS President, in the local ward.  I had never attended there.  My thoughts were:
    • "How did they get my email address?" After I searched through my emails I remembered that I had sent an email in response to one of these "invites" informing them that they had been sending the emails to my husband's email address and that I was never going to attend a RS event. We assume that they got his address through the online student directory where he was a student, which can only be accessed by students and faculty and is specifically NOT supposed to be used for non-academic purposes.
    • "I am sure she sincerely hopes that a stranger's summer is going well. Stupid niceties."
    • "Are you grateful?  Really? Why?"
    • "When did I give permission or state that I would 'allow' you to send these emails?  And how could I have prevented it?"
    • "You TOTALLY want to be a burden and you TOTALLY ended up in my spam box."
    • "You are certain that there are reasons I am not attending?  Yeah, no shit.  I don't do anything without some sort of reason. I am certain that you just threw in this sentence so that you could passively-aggressively imply that my reasons are invalid."
    • "Perhaps you just haven't met me?  You have some doubt about whether I am or am not attending at yet you are willing to send this accusatory email?  Would it not be worth finding out if I attend before sending this?"
    • "Is my desire(d) level of contact with the church not implied by my complete absence from it?  If I wanted contact, I would show up occasionally or respond to my home teachers.  I might even give my phone number to someone."
    • "Wait. Whoa. Has there been some sort of paradigm shift in the church since I left?  Have gender roles been eliminated?  Do I actually get to speak not just for myself but also for my family and the priesthood holder in my home? Can I be trusted to determine what is best for me? Is my husband's authority over me and my submission to his decisions no longer required?"
    • "No contact at all. I definitely choose no contact at all."
    • "Oh, that last 'option' is 'quite extreme'?"
    • "Are you threatening me?  If I don't show up or submit to allowing others to harass me I will be forced to submit to harassment by the Bishop? And how will that be enforced? How can I be made to meet with, open the door for, answer calls from, or read correspondence from the Bishop? Bwaaahahahahahah!  You actually think that the church has some authority over me!  That I would recognize or tolerate that authority! Silly woman."
    • "If I believed in prayer would you need to ask me to please prayerfully consider what I want? Wouldn't I have already prayed about my relationship to the church?  Has it occurred to you that perhaps I no longer attend because I don't believe in a god to whom I could pray?"
    • "Oh Honey!  Believe me when I say that you do NOT want to hear back from me.  I don't respond calmly to veiled threats, passive-aggressive insults, or faked concern. I've got nothing nice to say to you and I am hoping that my non-response is understood as the response that it is intended to be."
    • "I don't 'understand' you or the motivation behind this email at all."
    • "Shit.  Fuck. Damn.  Am I about to be excommunicated? Is this email intended to elicit a response that can be used as evidence so that I can be convicted of apostasy? Am I paranoid?  Has the church been notified about the negative things I say on my blog. Why is this email sent now, eight years after I stopped attending? Very minimal effort has been made to have contact with me previously but I haven't been threatened with Bishop confrontation before."  
    I didn't respond to the email.  I was tempted to tell this woman exactly what I thought of her tactics but I held myself back.  I never heard from her or the Bishop or anyone else for that matter.  This email was the last straw for me.  I knew I was never going back but I wasn't sure resigning was really necessary.  This email made it clear to me that the attempts to visiting/home teach me, drop-in visits from the missionaries, emails, letters, and phone calls would never stop until I insisted that they MUST.
      *Name changed to protect the passive aggressive bitchy stranger innocent.
      **Name changed to protect the Self-Important Local Patriarch innocent.

      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

      I haven't told my mom.

      I've been wrestling with the decision to tell or not tell my mom that I have resigned from the church.  I put off resigning because I was worried about hurting her.  Last year, I could take it no more so I resigned. My husband chose to announce his resignation to his parents.  They took the news surprisingly calmly.  I expected a major freak-out.  Instead, they reacted with less concern and emotion than when we told them we wouldn't be getting sealed in the temple. (Have I told you that story?  If not, I really should so remind me sometime.)  That said, they are extremely judgmental of his lifestyle.  I guess they have learned to keep it to themselves.  That's progress, right?

      I couldn't bring myself to tell my mom.  We have sort of an unspoken agreement about this sort of uncomfortable discussion.  I don't tell her something she doesn't want to hear.  I will if she asks.  Since she doesn't want to know, she doesn't ask.  She has never asked me any questions about the years of complete inactivity and she certainly hasn't asked if I have resigned.  I haven't confessed outright to my atheism.  She knows that I'm a liberal and a feminist.  Maybe she figures she knows why I stopped attending.  But, she suggested a few days ago that I should go back to church as a means of making friends when I move later this year.  I told her it was never going to happen.  You see what I mean about our unspoken agreement?  She pushed the issue, I answered.

      So far, I have adopted the same approach to my resignation.  I'll tell her if she asks but I am not going to tell her because I don't want her to perceive that as me throwing it in her face.  I am not sure if there is any reason she needs to know.  Does she need to know?  But, I've been sort of living with the fear that she will find out from someone else, if she hasn't already.  I don't want her to feel like I kept something from her.  I believe in being honest with my parents.  I always have.  Is it dishonest to keep something from her because it can only hurt her?  Is that lying by omission? Am I obligated to share everything about myself, my life, and my decisions with everyone in my life? I don't know.  I also believe in being authentic.  I don't want to hide major aspects of myself from friends and family.  I want my mom to know because I want her to understand me.  I know she will love and accept me no matter what so I don't stand to lose anything.  But would it be fair to tell her because I want her to know?

      What do you think? Should I tell her?

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      Parental Priorities

      I've placed two polls to the right side.  I've had a long-standing curiosity about how LDS parents prioritize their kids' secular vs. religious educations.  I also want to know about approval.  Are children hoping to gain approval from their LDS parents better off being letter-of-the-law Mormon kids, being super-spiritual/religious Mormon kids, or focusing on their studies and extracurricular activities and staying out of trouble? I would really appreciate as many responses as possible.  In addition, and as always, comments are welcomed so please elaborate in a comment if you'd like.

      So, let me tell you why I am curious.  Growing up, my parents always told me that I HAD to go to college.  According to them this wasn't a choice and because I valued my own secular education, I never questioned that.  Furthermore, my parents never said anything to me that might reinforce the pressure to get married, have babies, and be a SAHM that I got at church. In fact, I believe that the message from my parents was that I should get as much education as I could/as I wanted/as I needed so that I would have all options open to me as an adult.  I was very studious of my own will so they didn't need to enforce good grades but I am sure that they would have if my grades had slipped much.  They were very supportive of my desires to be a good student and learn outside of school or participate in extracurricular activities and even supported my choices when I felt that my church responsibilities were interfering with my participation in other things.  When I became an adult, I started college at BYU.  But, I realized very quickly that the religious aspect of education there was overshadowing my secular education, and preventing me from seeing other perspectives of the world, far more that I was comfortable accepting.  When after a year I decided to leave BYU and transfer to one of the University of California schools, my parents were supportive and non-judgmental and were clearly more concerned about my thoughts and feelings about my education than whether there would be a significant religious component to my education or if I would be able to meet an upstanding RM to marry.  I know that my parents felt a certain amount of (righteous) pride in having a child at BYU but when that was no longer to be the case, they never let on to me or anyone else that they were even a little disappointed (if they were).  In addition, they were extremely proud of my accomplishments at UCLA. (They may not realize it, but there were certainly more accomplishments at UCLA than there would have been at BYU just by virtue of my having many more opportunities there.)

      When I decided to leave the church, there was very little, if any, commentary on that choice from my parents. I had been skeptical since childhood and asked a lot of questions that ended with "really?", so they weren't terribly surprised.  I have never felt that my parents loved me any less or were any less proud of me after I stopped attending church.

      I thought all of that was just normal parenting and love.  However, my husband had a very different situation with his parents. I don't want to speak for him so I won't elaborate too much but just share my perspective on it.  As far as I can tell, there was little if any attention paid to his education.  In high school, he wasn't a stellar student - he skipped a lot of class and got bad grades and hid report cards, etc, - and was never in much trouble for it.  It is important to note that my Hubster is exceptionally intelligent and LOVES learning.  So, his bad grades and class-skipping were not the result of him struggling academically or being a bad kid.  He just wasn't sufficiently supported or expected to live up to his potential.  I think his lack-luster academic performance was primarily the consequence of some depression and social anxiety that was either not fully appreciated or not adequately treated (or both). They did take him to a psychiatrist once but when the first medication he was given didn't help after a month at the first dose he was prescribed, they allowed him to stop taking it and they never insisted on or even suggested a follow-up appointment to ask if something different could be done.  As far as church goes, I can say that I have never known anyone more concerned about keeping up appearances at church than my in-laws.    My impression is that my MIL and FIL saw their kids more as accessories -  to help them portray the perfect, large, Mormon family - than as children they were responsible for raising into healthy, functioning members of society.

      I will share one example.  When my husband was in his first year of grad school at MIT (mere months after attending a college graduation in which their son was on stage receiving honors and awards at least 3 times as frequently as the next most-accomplished graduate) his parents decided they needed to have a serious "heart-to-heart" with their son.  If I recall they did this in person when he was home to attend his sister's wedding.  That talk essentially consisted of his parents expressing how disappointed and concerned they were with the "direction his life was taking."  He was a self-sufficient, intelligent, accomplished, responsible, law-abiding, upstanding citizen with very bright future - the kind of adult child any REASONABLE parent would gush over.  But, he wasn't attending church. For shame.  He was proudly pursuing education while neglecting his eternal salvation.  As you can probably imagine, we were pissed!  His parents did serious and lasting damage to their relationship with their oldest child that day.  They must have known this would be the case, but decided it was worth it to make sure that he knew they did not approve of his choices.  It may also be worth noting that his parents gush over their kids who make bad life decisions but are otherwise at least pretending to be good, uber-churchy Mormons.

      It's this difference in the way my husband and I were raised in the church that intrigues me.  Were our upbringings on the extreme poles of a spectrum? Do LDS parents who emphasized the religious education and activity of their children also more or less equally emphasize academics and other talents of skills? Is the extreme emphasis on religion over academics the norm among LDS parents and my upbringing was an anomaly? The polls I've designed are in no way going to be comprehensive or statistically significant. I am obviously polling primarily people who have left the church and may be quite disenfranchised with the church and/or their parents and not sampling many people who were raised in the church who have stayed with it.  But, I'd like to at least get an idea of the perspectives of current and former Mormons who participate in outer-blogness.

      Thursday, February 10, 2011

      These Are a Few of My Favorite "Sins"


      Baring my shoulders and more than one piercing
      Cute, sexy skivvies and open–mouth kissing
      These are a few of my favorite "sins".

      Drinking espresso or tea with two sugars
      Ciders, malt-beverages (lambics! and lagers!)
      Hot drinks and strong drinks that give me the spins
      These are a few of my favorite "sins"

      Being pro-choice and anti-scrapbooking
      Neglecting housework and family home evening
      Earning degrees while putting off children
      These are a few of my favorite "sins"

      Erotica
      Heavy petting
      Sex before marriage
      I always remember my favorite "sins"
      And I wish that I had cleavage
      _________________________________
      So, Reader, what are your favorite "sins" ?

      Sunday, January 23, 2011

      Labels, Authenticity and Avoiding the Appearance of Evil

      Many members live in a isolated social bubble that allows them to believe that apostates are sinning/prideful/offended.  The bubble allows them to believe that it is the first sip that leads inevitably to alcoholism and that atheists are morally bankrupt - having nothing upon which to base their morality.  We have all had the opportunity to see firsthand that these things are not true.  While we may abhor the Church and we may find many church doctrines and policies to be bigoted, deceitful, and so on, we know that it is unfair to ascribe these characteristics to "Mormons" as a group of people. After all, we all have friends and family, people we love and respect, who are tolerant and honest.

      For this reason, it is good to be authentic*. It is good to be "out".  I am a firm believer that people need to know that their loved ones are atheist, or gay, or liberal, or democrat, or apostate, or... "different" in whatever way they are different. It's harder to apply labels and their negative connotations to entire groups of people when you love someone who self-identifies as (whatever) and you know they aren't evil and don't do horrible things and, in fact, live moral/ethical lives.

      It is also important to remember that when one decides to self-identify as (something), one should represent that label carefully.  If we want our TBM families and friends to know that atheists DO have moral codes based upon their own consciences and humanistic concern for the well-being of others, we need to be kind, compassionate, trustworthy, (Christlike?) people.  If we want them to know that many "apostates" (sorry, I hate it too) leave the church for reasons that aren't sin or pride, we need to vocalize our real reasons.  We need to share and educate.  Just as hate and bigotry are learned, so is tolerance. 

      I was just reading the post The Heretic wrote on her response to 8: The Mormon Proposition. My response was perhaps a little different. Before I saw the movie, I knew that the church had been involved, that it didn't seem right to me and that it all made me mad. I can't say that the extent of the Church's involvement was a surprise to me, although I learned a lot of things from the film.  I certainly didn't expect better behavior of Church leadership.  I'm not sure that I was even surprised at how willing so many members were to get behind the proposition.  What did surprise me was how viscerally angry and disgusted I was with the members.  All of them.  I know that there were a considerable number of members who were not comfortable with the involvement or stance of the church leadership and the campaigning going on in their chapels.  Unfortunately, few made any sort of decrial in their wards or among their LDS friends and family.  Fewer still spoke out to the media.  Most sat by quietly - angry but unwilling or unable to voice their disapproval.  I was disappointed to put it mildly. What happened to having the courage of ones convictions and standing up for what is right? I know it's harsh for me to feel that way.  I know that most of those people had much to lose if they had spoken up.  The anger didn't last that long.  But, it did light a fire under me.

      I'd been meaning to resign from the church for a few years.  Mostly, I just wanted to get off the harassment lists.  I couldn't seem to get around to it. I kept telling myself I'd definitely do it before I had a child so as to avoid them getting all mixed up in it.  After Prop 8, I realized there was a reason FAR more important to resign my membership.  I didn't condone that organization.  I loathed it. I didn't want to carry that label "Mormon" and all of its baggage around with me anymore because it wasn't something I was proud of to be sure.  I wanted to avoid the appearance of evil. 

      I resigned my membership in the CofJCofLDS in 2010.  Resignation was my coming out. It was an important part of representing my ex-Mormon, atheist, and humanist labels.  I'm not a Mormon because I don't believe in god, because the evidence against the claims and character of the church's founder is compelling, and because I honestly think that the CofJCofLDS is a detriment to humanity and I cannot condone its repression of any of my fellow humans. Resignation was also my way of reclaiming my authentic self so that those who love me will see that I am still a good, conscience-guided, compassionate person.

      *There are plenty of other reasons it is good to be authentic or course.  It just feels better to project oneself as one truly is.

      Monday, January 17, 2011

      Confession

      Alright, so I have to make a confession.  You might question whether I am really even an ex-Mormon after this one.  I am!  I swear! But, I haven't seen Johnny Lingo.

      How is that possible?  I don't know.  Where did you all see it? Was it something they showed in YM/YW? Did anyone else manage to completely miss it?

      Should I see it now just so I finally know what the hell you are all talking about? I have some vague notion that someone is bartering 8 (or is it 6? 7?) cows either to get a wife or is demanding that she come with 8 cows because she's hideous or something.  Will it make me mad?  It sounds like it will make me mad.  Having heard about the movie but never having seen it, I don't really understand what the message is supposed to be.

      Tuesday, January 11, 2011

      The Squelching of Passion

      I didn't believe much that I learned at church. Book of Mormon stories that my teacher told to me...like the ones graphically and hilariously described by Cognitive Dissenter here were clearly not possibly factual and anyone who took anything in that book, or any of the other Sacred Works, literally, seemed silly and juvenile.  I mean, really. Really? I still don’t believe anyone really, truly believes those things.

      So, scriptural stories of miraculous adventures, visions of angels, and the stone-facilitated translation of golden plates were the sorts of things I didn’t believe. 

      These are the things I wanted to believe:
      • That my family would be together forever if we happened to exist, in some form, following this life.
      • That although misguided and willfully delusional, my fellow church members were good and honest, loving people.
      • That there was some wisdom to be found in the transparently false scripture stories, simple metaphors, and trite “real-life stories” of blessings bestowed upon the faithful that made up the lessons I heard in church each week.
      • That even if it was all a hoax or the result of a few caught-up individuals believing the rantings of a crazy person proclaiming himself to be a prophet (and then passing these rantings as fact to their children for many generations), adherence to the plain and simple lifestyle (as dictated from the podium and socially enforced on the members by the members) would result in stability and security and loving family and ergo, happiness. 
      • That I could find intellectual stimulation, passion, romance, excitement, and adventure within the confines of that lifestyle. 
      These are the things that I knew:
        • That I had a loving family in this life.
        • That my family members were good, honest, loving and tolerant people.
        • That I wanted stability, security, loving family AND intellectual satisfaction, passion, romance, excitement, adventure and happiness. Just, you know, “It All.”
        These are the problems with the Church’s prescription for happiness and a life well-lived (please add at will in a comment):
        • The preoccupation with the eternal family precludes the fullest enjoyment of family in this life, which is the only one we know we get for sure.
        • The preoccupation with the eternal family makes members unable to accept or tolerate family members who don't share belief in LDS doctrine. This can strain or destroy otherwise healthy and happy relationships.
        • The LDS lifestyle, with all of the callings and duties, leaves little time for the enjoyment of family. Hence the need for ONE (and only ONE) designated night reserved for family.  Although honestly, is Family Home Evening - complete with a boring lesson, scripture study, maybe a game, and dessert – really the best way to build meaningful relationships and enjoy our families?
        • The “wisdom” found in LDS teachings would have one believe that strict, unquestioning observance of every rule is the path to peace and happiness.
        • Preoccupation with the rules distracts people from developing the characteristics of genuine goodness – like honesty, love, tolerance, charity, integrity, and loyalty – and can delude members who manage to follow each and every rule into believing they are exemplary people.  These rules aren’t the ones given by Jesus, which actually do describe how to be a genuinely good person. (I’m no Christian but Jesus is at least reported to have said some pretty great things.)
        • Preoccupation with who is and who isn’t breaking the rules prevents members from seeing the more substantial strengths in each other and in their family members. This scrutiny results in the fear - of scorn and retribution - that tends to keep people in line which is good for the church of course.  But, it is completely lacking in compassion and doesn't help people to build meaningful friendships.
        • Shared  trivial rule-following does not result in the same level of camaraderie which can develop following compassionately shared experiences and struggles.
        • Tithing away 10% of the family income does not promote security or stability.
        • Parents barely have time to be parents, let alone companions, lovers, or partner’s in crime (or deviant sexual sins like ***gasp*** oral sex). Parents who lack sufficient time to be passionate, loving couples do not promote stable home life nor do they model loving, equal marriages to their children.
        • The prescribed lifestyle devalues intellect (particularly in women).
        • Blind faith and obedience are held as virtues, while doubt and personal study are a sure sign of a sinning individual seeking to justify their sins.
        • Women and Young Women are encouraged constantly to develop their talents, but it is implicitly conveyed that the only values women have that are worth developing are those which would help them to be good wives, mothers and homemakers, or to magnify church callings.  (Do you happen to rock at science but not so much at cooking, sewing, or playing hymns on piano? Too bad - get back in your proper sphere.  "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." And you all must aspire to motherhood.)  
        • The LDS lifestyle is tedious, monotonous, and just plain boring. It leaves little to no remaining time to pursue interests and broaden horizons.   The church would have one believe that this monotony is good for people.  In reality, it just drains ones inner resources and thereby squelches the individuality, energy, and natural human curiosity that enable people to live spontaneous, passionate, adventurous, curious, brave and joyful lives.
          And these, dear true believing Mormons, are the reasons I never found peace within the church, the reasons I left, the reasons I will never return, and the reasons that I just can’t “leave the church alone.”  I want others to see the church for the dehumanizing force that it is so that they may find courage to reclaim freedom and pursue lives well lived.

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          Please remember to vote for the 2010 Brodie Awards! There are a lot of really great blogs and posts nominated.  Competition is tight! One of my posts was nominated (thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever you are!) for Best Philosophical/Religious Discussion.  I was shocked and humbled that my post was included among the others in the category.  I am now highly motivated to keep writing, write more often, and write more better (wink) in the coming year!  

          Happy New Year and much love!