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Archive for November 2007

A Year and A Day

It’s been a year and a day since I first came out to my wife about my doubts surrounding God and Mormonism. Lacey has some thoughts in retrospect.

For my part, I am grateful for her continuing love. I don’t want anything to come between us. I’ve come to realize that there are some things that you can’t change. Even if my disbelief would have broken up our marriage, I couldn’t have changed it. I might have managed to dissemble, but my heart wouldn’t have been in it. I am grateful that I didn’t have to live a deception in order to preserve our marriage.

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Lithium for Jesus

For me, Jesus symbolizes two widely disparate ideas: profound, selfless love and soul-crushing shame and fear. The compassionate, endearing side of Jesus gets a lot of press, so please excuse me if I don’t mention that part of the story. I want to mention why I have a few problems with the idea that Jesus is kinder, gentler son of cranky ol’ Jehovah of genocidal fame.

First, Jesus symbolizes hell for me. No one mentions Hell in the Hebrew Bible, at least not in the sense of endless torment for the wicked. Prior to the arrival of Jesus, the Bible is actually pretty vague about the state of the dead. The word translated as hell in the Old Testament (שאול or sheol) is also often translated as grave. For the ancient Hebrews, Hell and the grave were synonymously defined as the place of all the dead, not just the wicked dead.

Between the Old and New Testaments as the Greeks were spreading their culture throughout the ancient world, it seems that some part of the Jewish culture adopted the idea of a place of torment for the sinful dead. Jesus introduced the idea of hellfire into Abrahamic religion. (e.g. Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:45,47; Luke 16:19–31)

I doubt that we can truly blame a single man named Yeshua of Nazareth for introducing this idea into Jewish culture, but he is emblematic for me of the adoption of the idea of hellfire because his followers made Hell the nightmare it is today: an eternal punishment for sins committed during the finite span of mortal life—a punishment out of all proportion to the crime.

And then there’s Satan and his minions. Though Christianity didn’t create the idea of malevolent unseen spirits, it did nothing to quell its spread. Christianity in my life taught me to fear the temptations of legions of demons.

Jesus also introduced the idea of thought crime. He was the first totalitarian. He declared that simple bodily appetites and emotions were sinful. (Matthew 5:22,28) Jesus could have been the leader of Eastasia punishing people for crimethink. I waged war on myself in Jesus’ name. He taught me to hate myself because I couldn’t control the stray thoughts and desires that crossed my mind. I spent my years as a Christian trying (but never quite succeeding) to feel Jesus’ love. At the same time I lived in fear and shame because of his cruel teachings and the doctrines of many of his followers. He has never apologized for the unnecessary pain he put me through.

In short, I’m much happier now that I’ve diagnosed Jesus as having bipolar disorder. Now if he’d only take his meds.

[bipolar jesus]

[This post was inspired by Eddie Lee's recent comment.]

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Sunday School for Atheists

I realize that community is important. Mormonism has always provided me and my family a ready-made community—a quirky, somewhat dysfunctional community, but no human community is flawless after all. Leaving Mormonism has meant leaving that community behind (in spirit at least since I attend Sunday services to support my family).

A recent Time article, Sunday School for Atheists, highlights the growing trend of atheistic parents banding together to support each other in teaching and living their values. The most consistently held values among the diverse atheist population seem to be free and critical thinking. Parents find it challenging to cultivate these values in the midst of a culture that instead values faith in traditional ideas at the expense of personal exploration and determination. This would probably be a non-issue in a largely non-religious culture.

As a parent, I worry that community (or the lack thereof) might be the determining factor in my children’s choices regarding their belief systems. Human beings are social animals. Going it alone is difficult for most. People like to fit in to a group, if possible. Thinking like your peers is a good way to fit in, so stray thoughts and doubts may be subconsciously pruned when they seem too aberrant from cultural norms. I don’t want that for my girls, but I do want them to have a community.

So I’m in the market for a community that supports human development without restricting free thought, exploration, and expression of what it means to be human. I intend to visit the local Unitarian Universalist congregation after New Years when my family’s LDS ward will presumably change its meeting schedule. The UU congregation seems like a good place to start my search.

In the meantime, I like what I heard in these videos that I found through their website (from the UU FAQ website). The first is a bit cheesy, but it gives me a flavor.

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My Sould Delighteth in Plainness

[Sometimes I spend so much time on a blog comment that it starts to resemble a blog post in size. That's what happened when I commented on a post at Main Street Plaza about the website What Women Know which is a response to Julie Beck's controversial speech Mothers Who Know. Did I lose anyone?]

In true Relief Society fashion, these women are calling an ultra-polite bullshit on the trite attitudes many LDS people hold. I’ll translate the politeness for you:

Fathers as well as mothers, men as well as women, are called to nurture.

If a father notices his child bearing the burden of a “dirty” diaper, he damn well better do something about it.

Individuals and relationships flourish when we are able to share not only our strengths but also our mutual imperfections and needs.

Get it through your skulls that June Cleaver and Martha Stewart aren’t real people. They are just characters on bland television shows.

Cleanliness depends upon access to resources and has more to do with priorities than purity of heart.

We’re too busy living our lives to care that there are dirty dishes in the sink and semi-naked children eating off the floor when the visiting teachers come over for a surprise visit.

Housework is something that grownups do and that children learn by example and instruction.

Being born female isn’t a sentence of lifelong domestic slavery, so you better get off your butt and do some dishes.

We reverence the responsibility to choose how, when, and whether we become parents.

Until the Brethren or the Relief Society start paying our bills or providing free, high-quality child care, they better back off with the baby-making talk.

Effective parenting is a learned behavior, and, as parents, we learn and grow with each child.

No one is perfect from the day the baby drops, and we won’t accept your guilt trip when our child decides to leave this church and its meddlesome culture.

The choice to have children does not rule out other avenues of influence and power.

Make with the priesthood for women already.

When it comes to employment, most women prefer the luxury of choice to the limitations of necessity.

Stop firing pregnant or divorced CES employees.

We work because we want to; because we need to; and because we have no other choice.

Having a lot of money doesn’t buy happiness, but having some money certainly does. If that means that a woman needs to work to support the baker’s dozen of buns that have left her oven because you told her to multiply and replenish the earth, then a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.

We distrust separate-but-equal rhetoric; anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not. Partnership is illusory without equal decision-making power.

Were you sleeping during history class? Separate is inherently unequal.

We have discovered that healthy relationships are equitable relationships.

No, I will not follow the law of my husband.

We claim the life-affirming powers of spirit and wisdom, and reject the glorification of violence in all its forms.

Has anyone noticed that the scriptures are replete with the glorification of violence? (e.g. headless corpses gasping their last breaths, severed arms, prophets cursing children to be torn apart by bears, stoning disobedient children, the wholesale slaughter of every man, woman, and child (born and unborn) on Earth,…) I plan to skip over the stupid parts of the scriptures during FHE.

Our roles as mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, and friends are just a few of the many parts we will play in the course of our lives.

Stop try to make me a one-dimensional character.

This seems to be an iron-fisted manifesto for Mormon women in a velvet glove of diplomacy.

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One Little Voicemail

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