Friday, January 27, 2012

"If you drop a white glove in the mud...

the mud doesn't get glovey."

I learned this at church when I was about 10 years old, I think.  The lesson was about choosing good friends and was very much of the "be wary of the big scary world" variety.  The idea was that you might choose to socialize with other kids who don't have the same 'standards' as you, thinking that you can be a good example, but really you'll just get all dirty like them.  So, you know, just hang out exclusively with the other Mormon kids who never, ever do anything naughty.  I think that, taken out of the Mormon "we're better than everyone else because we have higher 'standards'" context, the white glove metaphor conveys some pretty good advice.  Everyone should use a little common sense when choosing their friends.  We probably shouldn't choose to hang out with people who often find themselves in dangerous and/or illegal situations, lest we find ourselves innocent but in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The problem with establishing 'values' and 'standards' is that they set up judgmental attitudes.  They go beyond "You should stay out of trouble and that will be easier if you choose friends who aren't always getting into trouble." They imply that you are better and certain choices are better than others.  They put behaviors on levels and they set up thresholds below which behaviors are 'bad'.  This allows even trivial behaviors like drinking coffee or laughing loudly to become 'sinful'.  And of course, institutionalizing standards and telling people that those standards ARE their personal standards (or else) completely precludes free thought and eliminates free will. 

This nifty little wisdom gem has been popping into my brain a lot lately, but not in the context of choosing friends or examining behaviors.  I've been thinking about group think.  And, I've been thinking about the spreading of bad ideas.  Bad ideas become trendy when people just believe everything they read or hear.  A bad idea might start as a whisper - false conclusions based on bad science or fraudulent data published in a small, sub-par science journal - and quickly become an echo chamber - a single public media outlet picking up those false conclusions and publishing them with big flashy headlines then other media outlets following suit (sometimes without even referring to the primary journal source and merely relying on the story published by the first media outlet) and then the public, seemingly hungry for bad, un-collaborated information, eats it up.  The whisper could be Andrew Wakefield quietly publishing data collected irresponsibly (at best) or, fraudulently (at worst) and the roar bouncing around the echo chamber could be a loud-mouthed celebrity saying silly idioms about "mother's intuition" on the Larry King show and suddenly anti-vaccination is trendy and hip among wealthy all-knowing mothers in Marin County, California and other havens for granola parenting.  But, what's the harm? Right

Well, aside from dead innocent children, the harm is that good ideas, with good data backing them up, fall into a puddle of bad ideas that are already widely accepted and just sink.  The mud doesn't get glovey. The problem here is that many people don't question their sources (unless they are providing inconvenient information) and instead choose sources based on what they WANT to hear and not based on credibility or evidence. 

But, let's think about religious indoctrination for a moment.  Who doesn't WANT to believe what the rest of their family believes? I think that's totally understandable.  And, it's so easy to read only what is published by the church and slap a tidy, intimidating, little label, like "anti-Mormon", on anything else (and even on anything published by the church that doesn't match with the whitewashed version of church history taught in Sunday School).  That way, one can keep their white testimony glove from falling into any information that might muddy-up the religion or church.  Well, if testimonies are based on incomplete or bad information, then white testimony gloves are over-rated.  But, if our minds are white gloves, religion is super muddy!

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?


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.


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?


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,

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 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.