Journey to Atheism, part VIII

This entry was written on June 10, 2008. I was 28 years old. My mom had died 5 years earlier, in August 2003. This is important because, in retrospect, I have come to realize that I struggled with being a “good” mormon for many, many years, and the main reason I kept up my struggle in the face of all doubt was because I believed in my mom, and in her example of faith.

Part of it was that I wanted to please my mom, but more of it was because my mom was such a good person, with such strong faith in her religion and in god. I love my mom, and I trusted that she knew best. If she believed in god, then any doubts I had were due to my own failings.

Mom and I, 1993

Mom and I, 1993

It was only after her suicide that I started really allowing myself to doubt. Mom had clearly been unable to handle the challenges god had given her, despite the many, many reassurances I had been given throughout my life that, “god gives us nothing we cannot handle.”

If, conversely, my mom’s suicide was somehow part of god’s plan, then that’s a horrible plan that completely and utterly sucks ass. I don’t care if he’s an omniscient being who knows better than I do, there is no explanation in the entire universe that can ever justify how my mom killing herself was some ineffable wisdom on the part of god.

And that led to more questions — What could god achieve through senseless tragedy that could not be achieved through other means? If god was all-powerful, why couldn’t he figure out another way? Why all the senseless pain and death around the world? There were three conclusions here:

  1. God was evil (impossible, the world has too much good in it for god to be evil).
  2. God could not prevent evil (impossible, he is not all-powerful being (or, god) if he cannot prevent evil).
  3. God was neutral.

I’d like to explain something else here. As a mormon, I had been taught not to read “anti” literature, that is, anything that causes me to question my faith. As a result, my journey away from the LDS church, then organized religion, then (ultimately) god was undertaken alone.

Even after I became inactive from the LDS faith, based on my unresolved issues with contradictions in the doctrine I was taught, I did not turn to anti-mormon internet forums, or atheist/ agnostic forums, or anything that would cause me to question the nature of god. I did not, at that time, read the works of Descartes or Pascal or Milton, let alone Hitchens or Dawkins.

I worked through each step to non-theism on my own, following each theological question that occurred to me to what I felt was the logical and moral conclusion. So the following entry is not influenced by outside sources, it’s just how I had personally come to conceive of god by 2008.

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thoughts on god

June 10, 2008

I feel kind of light and bouncy today. It’s neat. I’m just in a good mood. I didn’t even get that much sleep last night.

So, I was talking to John last night, and we got to talking about what we think happens after death, and what God is. I’ve been thinking about it since, and these are my personal thoughts and beliefs.

I don’t often write about them, because I don’t want to insult people, or have anyone think I’m trying to change their views. This is what I believe, what I feel to be true. These are my thoughts, and I recognize that not everyone shares them.

I don’t think there is an afterlife. I think once you’re dead, that’s it. You’re done. I like to think of the possibility of re-incarnation, but since my conception of re-incarnation relies on the actuality of an afterlife, it’s more like a vague desire than a true belief.

There’s a possibility, I’m willing to concede, that there is something more. If there is, I think it has more to do with joining a greater consciousness, something amorphous and unformed, than with actual spiritual entities. Hence, interaction with spirits, angels, ghosts and the like is impossible.

Speaking of greater consciousness, that’s kind of how I think of god. I don’t subscribe, in any way, to the christian god. I mean, he’s exactly like the gods of the Greek and Norse pantheons – human in every aspect, just larger than life. People keep saying this god is infallible and unchangeable, but the bible itself depicts a being who is contradictory and ever-changing.

As well, mere belief in the christian god causes strife. Some of the strife comes from forcibly trying to convert other people; some comes from good christian people who still feel insulted and invalidated if you don’t subscribe to their belief. I think it’s silly to need to validate your belief by trying convert others; that is not a true belief if it cannot sustain itself.

Rather, since I do, absolutely, believe that there’s something bigger and greater out there than just us; I think that god is more than we can even begin comprehend or try to explain. I think that trying to say things like, “It’s God’s will,” or “Because this is what God teaches,” are ridiculous statements. How can a mortal, finite being understand the will or teachings of an immortal, infinite being?

It’s rather futile, given this viewpoint, to try to explain my belief, but I’ll give it a go.

I think that god, for lack of a better word, is also amorphous and unformed. A consciousness of knowledge and creation. Nothing we can really comprehend, but I kind see it in my mind as a massive golden glow that sort of surrounds and encases us, that imbues us with our sense of humanity and basic survival instincts.

What is right and wrong is what is taught to us from childhood – this is evident from how various cultures view right and wrong. If there was some greater meaning to right or wrong, wouldn’t the entirety of humankind subscribe to it? Wouldn’t more of the world’s people be drawn to this greater truth?

So, to me, god is neutral. Not watching over us with love and care, but not against us either. It’s a great neutrality, a source available to us for comfort or knowledge if we so desire. By the same token, if we choose not to draw on this comfort and greater consciousness, than it doesn’t really matter in the long run. We all die, anyway. There will be no lasting repercussions.

I suppose to some, this might sound a stark and unhappy view of life. To me, though, it makes sense, and it’s actually a relief. I can’t really intellectually justify any other view of god, although I respect the beliefs and viewpoints of others.

Journey to Atheism, part VII

This entry didn’t start out as a musing on the nature of god or belief or anything. If anything, it’s just an example of how thoroughly my doubts were permeating my consciousness — even casual, fun writing found itself turning toward belief and religion.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the LDS faith, let me provide this background on doctrine. The LDS faith does not have religious colleges or schools to train their clergy in accepted, official doctrine. In fact, the LDS church does not have trained clergy at all, or paid clergy. All LDS doctrine is disseminated and taught by untrained, volunteer clergy.

Because of this, the “official” doctrine can often differ in the details, even if the overarching scope of it is agreed upon. With that in mind, I was taught the following:

  • We lived in the pre-existence as spiritual beings. Our station in our earthly life depends our actions in the pre-existence during the heavenly battle when Satan and his 1/3 host of angels rebelled against God’s plan.
  • This earthly life is a test. After we die, we will pass on to one of the 3 Kingdoms of Heaven or Outer Darkness. These are described thusly:
  • Telestial Kingdom, or the lowest of the three heavens. I was often told that Joseph Smith had once said the Telestial Kingdom was possessed of such glorious beauty that any man on earth would kill himself to enjoy the wonders therein. The telestial kingdom included those who had not received the gospel of Christ or the testimony of Jesus, as well as liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers, and other sins that didn’t qualify one for Outer Darkness.
  • Terrestial Kingdom, or the second degree of heaven. The inhabitants of this kingdom include those who lived good and moral lives, but were blinded by the craftiness of men and thus rejected the fulness of the gospel. They receive the presence of the Son (Jesus), but not the Father (god).
  • Celestial Kingdom, or the third degree of heaven. The inhabitants here were good, moral, temple-worthy, tithe-paying mormons who had accepted the gospel and lived by its precepts in their earthly life. These guys would sit at the right hand of god and eventually become gods and goddesses in their own right. Although I didn’t learn this until after leaving the church, apparently there are 3 degrees of glory within the Celestial Kingdom, and one must attain the highest degree of Celestial glory in order to move onto godhood.
  • Outer Darkness, where the so-called sons of perdition reside. These are people who had first accepted, then rejected the fulness of the gospel, as well as murderers. I was not taught that it was a lake of fire and brimstone; I was taught that it is a cold void and the inhabitants therein are forever separated from god’s love and presence.

I was also taught that if I attained one of the lower kingdoms, I would lose all memory of my earthly life and self, including my family relationships and friendships. If I met with a family member as a telestial or terrestial being, I would greet them as a dear and beloved friend, but I would not know why I greeted them as such.

Naturally, I asked what would happen if I attained the celestial kingdom but, say, my brother attained a lower kingdom — would I know him? Would he know me? The answer I was given was that yes, I would know him, but he would not know me.

Now, while all mormons will agree on the doctrine that the kingdoms Telestial, Terrestial, and Celestial exist, and that Outer Darkness is where the Sons of Perdition reside, not all mormons will believe the specific details I was taught. Many mormons will even claim I had it all wrong, and that I either misunderstood, or that whoever taught me was mistaken.

This is due to the lack of a trained clergy that is fully in agreement on what official LDS doctrine is. I suspect this flaw of the LDS church — the disagreements on what constitutes “official doctrine” will become more pronounced during the election season. Anyway, I digress. This is the entry that sparked that little doctrinal lesson.

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wouldn’t it be awesome?

April 16, 2008

Okay. So we’ve all acknowledged before now that I am, indeed, a geek. Now that that’s on the table, wouldn’t it be awesome if magic was real? God, I wish I had magic. Now, my desire for magic is a perfect example of why humans should never, never have magic. I would not use it for good and the betterment of mankind, blah blah blah. Nope.

I would do things like fix my house in a jiffy. Silencio people who bother me. Or feed them truth-speaking serums, so they walk around spilling all their deepest, most embarrassing secrets to everybody. I would spy on people from afar, and use my magically-enhanced thoughts and/or voice to tell them to do things. Not force them, because that would just be wrong, but suggest. And if you’re hearing a big, booming voice from out of the sky, it’s going to be freaky-funny anyway.

Oooh! Skip my classes and view them from home — with magic! Because magic is cooler than technology. I would come up with spells to make people I don’t like smell bad — or better, to imbue their surroundings with a constant scent that permeates the room and never leaves. Bwah ha ha! Yeah. I would be the ultimate petty evil.

I would marshal an army of cats, who would follow my every command. My army of cats would do things like scratch the doors of those who had offended me, and dig up their flower beds. They would gather in droves on the lawn and have catfights at 3 am. They would walk, dusty-pawed, across the windshield of my enemy’s cars. When my enemy opened the door to attempt to shoo off the cats, or to go about their daily life, the cats would follow the commands I had given them and rub against my enemies ankles, en masse. This would either trip them or trigger a massive allergic reaction. I don’t know, but it would be evil in a petty sort of way.

My special brand of magic would be a mixture of every fantasy book I’ve ever read, with some of my own imaginings thrown in. You’d hear me saying things like, “Obtain that palantir, First Cat! Accio!” I would make up spells to turn peoples hair different colors without them realizing it. I would whisper, “Accio underwear,” when I visited my husband at work. I’m not even going to go into what I would do with magic and sex and all the fun we could have there.

In the religion I grew up in, when I was about 7 or 8, one of my Sunday School teachers said something to the effect of, “If you’re very righteous and very good, when you die and go to heaven, you’ll get your own world to become a God of.”

I got really, really excited, and was all set to give this a shot — until the next class. That’s when she said that we would still have to follow the natural laws of the universe. No magic. No dragons. No flying horses, or armies of cats or talking dogs, or anything cool. What’s the point of that? Nothing fun. How are you even a god if you can’t make up your own rules?

I guess I’ll settle for writing — at least there’s a magic there.

Journey to Atheism, Part VI

I wrote this entry as John and I approached our 9th wedding anniversary. One ongoing source of tension in our relationship with each other was our respective roles within our birth families. Each of us felt the other simply “didn’t understand” our respective birth family dynamics. On top of that, each of us were struggling with reconciling our adult identities with the identities projected on us by our birth families.

We were able to resolve the first bit through marriage counseling, to a large extent, but the second bit — our identities within our birth families — is even now an ongoing issue for both of us. I doubt this is uncommon. I can’t speak for John’s struggle, but in my own family I felt helpless and unvoiced by what I saw as their tendency to dismiss my views as invalid due to an inherent rebelliousness. In other words, I thought my family saw me as a “born contrarian,” and were dismissing my questions and lifestyle choices as just another rebellious phase undergone solely to ruffle feathers.

Except starring me, not James Dean.

Except starring me, not James Dean.

It seemed they still saw me as a feckless teenager, not a wife of 9 years, mother to an 8 year old, a part-time employed college student and community volunteer, and a full-time housewife.

Reality.

Reality.

This mattered to my religious questioning, because I believed, to no small extent, that I would be taken seriously as an adult if I just toed the line and rejoined the LDS fold. This was extremely frustrating to me, because I didn’t think my religious belief or lack thereof should have any bearing on my perceived maturity.

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writers block: what is your role in your family

April 10, 2008, 10:05

What is my role in my family? Hmmm. This is a hard question. I would say I don’t have one, but I think I might be cried down at that, simply because everyone has to have some sort of a role. My older two siblings are the popular, friendly, extroverted ones. My middle brother is the teasing, goofy one. My little sister is quirky and unique. I don’t know. I think I’m the bookish one.

On another level, there are the usual familial roles — peacemaker, rebel, leader, etc. I don’t think I fit into any of those, either. I’ve always been on the outside, looking in. I feel as though I’ve never quite fit, as far as my family goes. I love them, but I don’t always understand them, and I don’t think they understand me.

I was talking to my little sister the other day about the motorcycle course I was going to take. She laughed when I told her about it, and I said, “What, you know I’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle.”

She replied, “Yeah, I guess I just thought you’d grow up at some point.” That surprised me, and hurt me a little. I also had an epiphany. My family thinks my personality, who I am, is just a phase. They think that all of this; this lifestyle and these choices that they so vehemently disapprove of, will pass. That I will eventually see the error of my ways and become a good mormon.

In a way, this makes me very sad, but at the same time, it’s a weight off my shoulders. It makes me sad, because I realize that they are never going to understand me, or truly accept that I don’t think the same way as them. I don’t agree with them in certain issues, and I like different things. I’m not rebelling, or trying to act out or anything like that. I’m just living my life the way I enjoy it and the way I see fit to live it.

It makes me sad because they see me as inherently flawed, and that I must change. That I, as I am, am simply not good enough. I must be different.On the other hand, it takes a weight off my shoulders, because I see no reason to keep trying to make them understand. I see no reason to continue with the explanations and whatnot.

If it pleases my family to think of my personality, my very being, as a phase . . . then so be it. I can’t change the way other people think or perceive me. I don’t want to change myself — I like who I am. I like myself. I think I’m a good person, with many good qualities. I know I need improvement in some areas, but I think that is the nature of mankind — to constantly seek improvement over our inherently selfish nature.

Journey to Atheism, Part V (.2)

This is just an interesting side note in my journey to non-belief. I used to go to a motorcycling forum in 2008 (PNW Riders), until I could no longer stomach the unchecked sexism. Not to say everyone, or even the majority, were rudely sexist — it’s just that of those posters who were obviously and insulting objectifyingly sexist, they were also a prolific and obvious presence that overwhelmed the larger and more respectful majority.

Anyway, at one point, I got into a religious debate on this forum, in their off-topic section. I don’t recall exactly what we were arguing, but I do recall my reaction to the debate, because I immortalized it in a livejournal post, reproduced here for you.

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How Rude!

February 8, 2008, 22:02

There’s this internet forum I go to occasionally. To be honest, I signed up on it for two reasons. One, my husband is signed up on it and spends and inordinate amount of time there, so I was curious. Two, occasionally several members of the forum meet in person at restaurants or other group gathering. My husband took me to a few of those gatherings, and I met several members of the forum who I quite like. Some of them kept telling me I needed to sign onto the forum, so I did.

The thing is, now I remember why I don’t sign up for internet forums. People are really intolerant. It’s really quite disturbing. The most important precept in my life is tolerance. Honestly, I don’t care how the fuck anybody else lives their life – if they aren’t hurting me or mine, I don’t care about their lifestyle choices. I am sick and tired of running up against intolerant people everywhere, though.

I’m not referring to religious people who try and convert you, either. That’s annoying in and of itself, but what is up with agnostics and atheists who are just plain rude to the religiously minded? Is not believing or doubting the existence of God a free pass to ignoring basic social niceties? What has happened to treating your fellow man with respect and politeness? It seems like everywhere I go – whether it be the internet, the mall, or a restaurant – people are simply downright rude anymore.

* * *

I find this particularly amusing, given that I have become “that atheist,” the one who is considered to be rude. I have found, being on this side of the fence, that it doesn’t always matter if I am actually rude — often, the mere statement — or knowledge/ context — of my atheism is enough for someone to consider me lacking in social niceties or being “rude.”

For instance, as an active mormon, if I had posted a link to a feminist LDS blog or a story about the LDS church and Prop 8, or something about the church (whether positive or negative) from the Salt Lake Tribune, other mormons would have honestly assessed and probably engaged me in discussion regarding the links.

As an avowed atheist who had rejected the LDS church, any religiously-themed links I post are immediately suspect as either anti-mormon or anti-religion. I have actually been asked why I still follow church news if I think it’s all fake, as though my cultural heritage was wiped out at the same moment I realized I did not believe in the church. It’s all context.

Journey to Atheism, Part V

I wrote the entry copied below on the day after my 28th birthday. Growing up, I had been something of a “daddy’s girl.” I’d loved spending time with my dad, discussing philosophy and law and history. I admired his intelligence and adored his sense of humor. He’s a supportive, peaceful man, and he modeled the virtues of kindness, understanding, patience, and empathy to me. When I measure the value of a man, I measure those traits.

Dad and Mom, circa 2001

Dad and Mom, circa 2001

At this specific point in time, there was some upheaval going on in the lives of both my dad and I. Dad remarried after mom’s death. I often felt his new wife was indiscreet in her conversation with me– she treated me too much like a gal-pal, and didn’t seem to recognize the inherent need for circumspection around her husband’s daughter regarding intimate matters. So that was causing tension, obviously.

In the last week of November 2007, John was in a motorcycle accident and placed on temporary disability leave. A week later, in the first week of December 2007, a massive storm hit our state. Power lines were going down, flooding was everywhere, and it was generally just a massive suckfest.

I went to work at the college library that morning, only to find my co-workers standing in a worried clump as they listened to the radio. My supervisor advised me to hurry home and prepare for evacuation. As I drove home, the eerie wail of the city’s emergency siren began crying through the streets. I had only heard something like that in movies about the London Blitz, and the lonely sound echoing through the deserted and rain-swept streets made me shiver.

At home, John prepared us for evacuation. Our puppy, Sirius, and Kidling were packed up in the car, and John sent us off. He would be driving the Jeep up. We went first to my brother’s house, where we stayed a night or so, but it was crowded and Sirius was twitchy and terrified by their larger, full-grown dogs. So we talked to dad and his wife, but they were leery about Sirius and said we would either have to get rid of him or find someone else to take care of him. We ended up staying with the dog-friendly family of a friend of mine for a week or so.

With Christmas rapidly approaching they needed the guest rooms for their children, though, so I spoke to dad, trying to come up with a solution– keeping Sirius outside, in the garage, or in the green-room. I even offered to keep Sirius in our car. Each suggestion was shot down. Meanwhile, I was looking for a pet boarding place, but apparently we were not the only displaced family in the area to need emergency boarding for our pet. Every place I called was filled up. Finally, I found a place that would board him, but it would cost us $175/ week, which was pretty tight for us considering the motorcycle accident and natural disaster combined.

I asked dad for help with the boarding fees, and was told that wasn’t a possibility, either. We stayed with them for about a week and a half, total. His wife was, understandably, stressed by the influx of unexpected visitors, and it shortly became clear that she felt we were ruining her holiday. (That’s not inference, but a direct quote: “You’re ruining the holidays.”)

So in the last week or so of December, we moved back to the house in Centralia, which was now devoid of heating, interior walls, insulation and a kitchen. I swallowed my pride and went to the LDS church for aid, but was told they could not help us, because they needed to focus on active members. Later, two mormons from a ward back in Lacey did in fact come by for a day, having been told of our situation by my brother in law. They helped clean out some of the flood damaged items, although they also (curiously) tried to empty and move our hot water tank, and they also damaged some undamaged walls and doors. And they ripped out our telephone line.

I don’t know why they did any of that, but I do know they thought they were helping, and were not trying to be malicious.

I was feeling lost and abandoned by both my church and my dad, and I blamed myself. I thought it was because I was going inactive and questioning the nature of god. I thought I was losing his love because I had disappointed him, and this scared me. Recall, as you read this, that this was written in 2008. Now it is 2012, and I feel my dad and I have overcome these issues to rebuild our formerly close relationship. He has, since 2008, told me many times that he is proud of the person I’ve become– even after I told him I am an atheist and I have resigned from the church.

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i miss you

January 27, 2008, 16:04

I always feel a little sad around my dad anymore. When I was younger, we shared a camaraderie which I thought nothing could ever break. Time and the inevitable onset of my adulthood would, of course, only serve to bring us closer together. After all, we are similar. Thoughtful, intelligent, given to reading and debate.

This was not the course of events, however.

Instead, I drifted from the Church, and all unknowing, severed my easy relationship with my dad. Conversations with him dance around the unspoken questions now. “Where did I go wrong?” his eyes ask. “Why can’t you love me regardless?” my folded arms and tucked chin respond. Occasionally, one or the other of us will break. He’ll ask, “Didn’t we have Family Prayer? Family Home Evenings? Didn’t we attend church every week? Why don’t you believe?”

I’ll ask, “Do I press my beliefs on you? Do I require you to live in a manner you don’t agree with?” Stymied, we retreat to our corners, both of us unwilling to abandon our personal beliefs – me, with my absolute, unwavering belief in free will and free choice, in doing no harm to others but living my life as I see fit; and he, a faithful and righteous Mormon who is unswerving in his faith.

I cannot reconcile myself to a faith that I do not and think maybe I have never truly believed in. I see no point in forcing myself in a small box that does not exemplify my beliefs, my thoughts, or my morals. Personally, I feel that it would be an insult to the religion and to my father for me to mouth the words, all unbelieving, and to pantomime the actions, all uncaring. I played that act for many years, until the falsity of it stank around me and fouled on my tongue.

My father, however, sees only the rejection of my upbringing. He sees me turning my back on all that I was. He does not see me driving my car through city streets on lazy summer afternoons, singing, “Book of Mormon Stories,” or “Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree” to my son.

So upset by the larger sight of my empty space at church, he doesn’t recognize the olive branch I have extended by allowing my son to go whenever they wish to take him. The Church has expanded and filled his vision, until it is all that our family ever was.

I remember other things, like birthday cakes and Japanese Gardens; family vacations and sunrises at the Grand Canyon. I remember camping trips and swimming pools, bike rides and car trips. I remember bedtime stories and Norwegian myths, the Little Match Girl and tears in my father’s beard. I remember thousands of moments, small and large, that make up my childhood. Thousands more than what I spent in prayer.

Now, however, I feel as though I’m re-enacting a play. Ironically enough, Fiddler on the Roof is a play that my father introduced to me and taught me to love. I am the Havilah to my father’s Tevye, and I stand here in a plowfield asking him to look at me, just look at me.

But there is no other hand.

Journey to Atheism, Part IV

In November of 2007, the running theme in our life was that other than some mild disagreements with our extended family, the world was peaceful. There was no turmoil or trauma to upset me, and I was considering all these questions of religious belief, faith, and god in the context of a peaceful, happy existence wherein my family was re-united.

One thing that did weigh on my mind and bother me was my mom. Her death affected me more than I can ever describe. She was, in my opinion, the best mom a girl could ask for. She was quirky and humorous, devoted to her family, available when we needed her, and very supportive and affectionate.

April 2001 She was already ill in this picture; caught in the throes of a manic phase. Soon after, she would descend into the depression that gripped her until her death in 2003.

April 2001 She was already ill in this picture; caught in the throes of a manic phase. Soon after, she would descend into the depression that gripped her until her death in 2003.

Anyway, mom had been a great mom, but she was dead by her own hand, and this bothered me (to say the least). When I was younger, mom had often explained her struggle with bipolar to me by saying, “God gives us nothing we cannot handle.” Her faith in God was perfect, enviable, and baffling; and yet she had killed herself. It was really, really difficult for me to reconcile this.

Additionally, after her death, I had suffered from numerous terrifying nightmares in which my zombie mom returned from the grave to beg for answers — why had we abandoned her, why had we forgotten her, why had we let dad remarry. That type of thing. Meanwhile, my dad, his new wife, some ladies from the ward, and even my sisters (occasionally) were reporting these heart-warming, faith-building dreams in which my mom conveyed messages of peace, joy, and happiness.

This seriously bothered me, because it seemed to me that if mom was visiting any of us with messages of afterlife reassurance and peace and joy, she should probably check in on the daughter who had struggled with her faith regularly since 1994. Instead, I was getting horrifying nightmares while people who never knew mom (dad’s new wife, for example) were getting peaceful reassurances. This left three possibilities:

  1. God knew my doubts and was preventing mom from reassuring me as a test of my faith. If this is the case, god was a dick to test my faith in a time of grief. Plus, I have more faith in mom than that. She would have, at the very least, tossed a message for me to one of the people she was allowed to visit.
  2. God did not know my doubts, and therefore could not know to send mom to reassure me. In that case, god’s not really all-knowing, is he?
  3. They were just dreams, with no supernatural element to them whatsoever. This was the most logical answer.

I didn’t normally think of dreams as prophetic or ghostly visitations; this unusual thinking was due to the juxtaposition of my zombie nightmares to their angelic reassurances. Normally, I consider dreams to be spasms of our subconscious, a hodgepodge of thoughts and experiences and imagination all thrown in a pot and stirred to boiling. Using that definition and the personalities in question, it seemed clear why each of us dreamed what we did.

So in November of 2007, although I had resolved the zombie/ angel dream juxtaposition, I still had not resolved the question of the afterlife. Suicide is, technically, murder. Technically, mom should not get into the Celestial Kingdom, no matter how much people reassured me by saying that “God knew her struggle,” and “God was with her every step of the way.”

Was he with her when she killed herself? Does that count as “handling” God’s struggle? Was my mom’s suicide part of god’s ineffable plan, or was it against god’s will? When I died, would I see my mother again, or was she lost to me forever? Telling me “god’s way are not ours,” and “god works in mysterious ways,” was no help and no answer.

No-one had an answer, they just had platitudes or would advise me to, “have faith,” or that, “all would become clear.” I also found no answers or reassurance in the scriptures or bible, no matter how I studied. In the absence of answers from spiritual leaders and religious books, I set to trying to puzzle out a logical answer regarding the afterlife. Below is one musing I had on the question.

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Reincarnation and stuffs.

November 18, 2007

So, I’ve thought a lot about this. I talked to Step a little about it, but she doesn’t quite understand what I’m saying, so I must not be expressing myself clearly. I believe in reincarnation. The reason I’m talking about this today is because it’s one of the “writer’s block questions” on the main page:

If reincarnation were inevitable, what would you come back as in your next life?

I think that’s a ridiculous question. I don’t know. A cat. Because I like cats. A dog, because I don’t like dogs, and that would be ironic. A human, because, uh, duh – that makes sense?

But reincarnation. I do believe in that, yet I believe in God, too. How do I reconcile this? It’s pretty easy. See, I believe that God put us on this earth to learn. But it seems to me that a loving, kind God (which is the God I believe in) wouldn’t put us in a pass/fail course, to use a classroom analogy. That’s not loving or kind. So we get a course with tests, so to speak. Thus, reincarnation.

We have a few lives to learn in. A few tests, so to speak, from which we can take some knowledge with us to the next life. Call it intuition, call it common sense, call it what you will. Some people just seem to get along in life better than others, like they just get it. As if they’ve been around the block before, or got a better set of instructions. Either Someone’s not playing fair and gave out handy cheat books to a select few, or that person is a few “tests” ahead in the course.

If you’re not getting what I’m saying, I don’t think that reincarnation is infinite and unending. I think it’s finite. I think it runs a course. There is an ending where we go to an afterlife, be it heaven or outer darkness or hell or whatever it is. It’s simply that I don’t feel that one life is enough to teach us all that we’re supposed to learn on this earth, so we get a few.

Being mortal, I have no idea of how many we get, or even if they all take place on this earth. Maybe a couple lives take place on Aibjkawa, over on the other side of the galaxy; I don’t know. (I made that up, by the way. It is not a real place, to the best of my knowledge.) This is just my theory, but it seems sound to me. Besides, what is any religious belief but a hypothesis?

Journey to atheism, Part III

This next part was written after John and I had been back together for a few months. Our marriage and relationship were going well, and the biggest struggle I was having with my personal faith had to do with my family.

Family Picture, 1984 (I'm in the pink dress.)

Family Picture, 1984 (I’m in the pink dress.)

The separation had made me realize how lucky I really was. While we were separated, my family had supported my decision, but they did not allow one negative word about John to be said in their presence. I can’t even say they were supporting him out of personal friendship or fondness — John and my family have very different personalities, and that causes enough friction that while both parties are respectful to each other, I don’t think either party would refer to the other as “friend”.

That said, John in particular appreciated how respectful and kind my family had been about him while we were separated, and he appreciated that even though we were separated and planning on a divorce, my family had looked out for his relationship with Kidling by preventing me from speaking ill of John or his kin in front of Kidling, or (indeed) discouraging me from speaking ill of him, ever.

My family’s view was that no matter their personal disagreements with John, that didn’t change the fact that he was a good parent. So any time I started slipping into insulting language about John or his family, my dad and sisters would advise me not to do that and change the subject.

This experience of being supported, yet gently remonstrated when I was unnecessarily selfish or petty made me realize how lucky I really am in my birth family. As I found myself questioning my faith, I felt torn between wanting to make my family happy and proud of me by being a good mormon girl. or doing what I felt was the ethical, honest thing and being honest that my questions and curiosity had led me toward such serious religious doubts that I could no longer say with any certainty that god existed, let alone that the LDS church was true.

I was also afraid that if I did leave the church completely, I would no longer be as close with my family. At that time, I was already inactive, though I still thought of all the religions, the LDS church was the “most correct,” and believed if I ever attended a church again, I would choose the LDS church.

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Blah blah blah and so on and so forth

October 27, 2007, 13:45

Every church I’ve ever heard of claims that they bring families closer together, and that’s true — to a point. That point is to the extent that the families participate in said church.

For instance, I have a friend who is Catholic. He has six siblings (seven kids total). I’m also friends with his mom. She’s cool. Kinda kooky, but cool. However, I did not realize there were seven children until one evening when I was talking with them, and I’ve known them for a good 6 years! He’s a typical guy who just talks about work and electronics, and strangely enough, his mother only ever referred to her children that were active in their religion.

He told me that she loves and talks to all her children; she just doesn’t really remember to include the non-active (Catholics call them something different, I forget what) children in day to day activities and discussions.

It’s always like that, I tell you what. As the inactive child in an LDS family, every time I try to schedule something with my family, the church always comes first. Look, I get that religion is important. And I try to respect it, I really do. But if my schedule only allows me to come up on a certain day and that day happens to be a Sunday or a Wednesday or whatever — I want to spend it with my family, not at church or Relief Society. That’s my viewpoint.

And to have a family member say, “I’m sorry, you can’t come over then, we’ll be at church,” or, “Can you come over a few hours later? Church ends at —” is also kind of insulting, because it gives no regard to our schedule.

It’s one day. Is God really not going to forgive you for one day spent with your family? Especially when the whole point of religions is to bring families and souls closer to God? It’s all so silly.

Journey to Atheism, part II

This livejournal musing on the nature of god/ religion/ etc. comes from February 2007. At this point, John and I were no longer separated and were once again living together.

Hawaii, 2007 (8 months after reconciliation)

Hawaii, 2007 (8 months after reconciliation)

During our re-dating phase, we’d spent a lot of time talking about our religious, social, and political beliefs, which was an eye-opener to both of us. For some reason, I thought my husband was a priesthood-holding TBM conservative Republican (possibly because he kind of was when we got married). He thought, apparently, the same thing about me — and neither of us had confided our growing differences in political and religious views out of fear of alienating each other (ironically).

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So here we are, having suffered through an unhappy 6 month separation and now back together and working on our communication, and we realize we’re both socially liberal Democrats. John also indicated he no longer believed in the LDS church, but demurred from discussing his beliefs in too much depth with me.

I had the impression he was agnostic, but I wasn’t really sure, at that point, how I felt about it. I still believed in god. It didn’t really matter to me if John was atheist, agnostic, or religious — I just appreciated that he wasn’t pushing his views on me. He’d listen and be my sounding board, but he didn’t try to influence my opinions (other than occasionally arguing devil’s advocate for the religious side). So here’s where I was, internally:

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Is God Humble or Egotistical?

February 20, 2007

I’ve never taken theology. I haven’t even finished college. I can’t claim to be a student, much less a scholar of religion. That said, I think God must be either extremely egotistical, or exceptionally humble. I say this because the kind of egotism that requires that billions of people worship you on an hourly basis is just . . . um. Yeah. Remarkable would be an understatement.

I mean, as far as I see it, most people believe that you must show an active worship of God. I’m not talking about just Christlike actions, I’m talking about “preaching the word” and attending church, etc. etc. So, either God will die without all this attention (which doesn’t seem all-powerful to me), or he doesn’t even care what’s going on with his image down here. Or he doesn’t realize. I don’t know.

I’m thinking that it’s a mortal thing. I mean, we’re desperate to make our mark, to leave a memory, a proof that we existed. So we see God (as an extension of ourselves) as wanting or needing that same thing. Seems to me that our actions – how we treat people, the respect and kindness we show – would be more important than all the words in the world.

Tangential to that would be the question about professionally religious people. Are they inherently humble or inherently egotistical? To claim you know the mind of God, an all-powerful, omniscient presence seems to me egotism in the extreme. To be able to speak for Him on earth, to claim you know His will. (I use “He” in an objective sense. I don’t even begin to argue the gender of God. That’s a useless argument. It only matters to the war of the sexes; the nature of God does not change being male or female. Besides, like we’ll be able to settle the argument down here. ‘Hey, God! Show me your Johnson!’ Right.)

Anyway. Back to professional religious people. On the other hand, maybe they are humble. Maybe they recognize their own ignorance, and are only trying to guide others along the best path they perceive. Or maybe I’m generalizing, and there’s six of one and half a dozen of another.

Journey to Atheism, part 1

Okay, so I’ve decided to start transferring the specific livejournal entries that deal with my loss of faith. This entry was written in December of 2006. John and I had been separated since late summer, and had recently started meeting and going on little family dates — outings at the park and whatnot. I was in a transitional phase in my life, and more certain and sure of myself as a mother and a wife.

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At that time, I still believed in God. Jesus I wasn’t so convinced on — I thought he was probably a wise man and a prophet, but I did not believe he was born of a virgin and I seriously doubted he was the actual son of god. I had been raised mormon, and by 2006 I had (temporarily) resolved my concerns about the inaccuracies in the LDS faith by saying that although I did not believe the LDS church had the fulness of the gospel, I did think of all the religions currently on earth, they were the most accurate.

Of course, now I realize that being the most accurate religion is a bit like saying I think Harry Potter was a better wizard than Gandalf. It doesn’t really matter, because we’re arguing a fictional point. Anyway, without further ado:

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The Nature of God

December 14, 2006

I am consistently fascinated and appalled at mankind’s constant presumption. How those who, by the simple expedient of being raised ‘Christian’, or ‘accepting God’ then presume to know His mind. How could a mortal ever comprehend the eternal nature of God?

In the Old Testament, we see a God of fire and punishment. In the New, we are told of his love and forgiveness. It has been theorized that the wicked nature of man provoked the fire and punishment, but I wonder. Has the nature of mankind changed so dramatically that we no longer require cities to be laid to Heavenly fire and sword? Or is it merely that, since man is based on God, our capacity for growth and change is reflected in Him? Interesting questions.

I love listening to people who take the Bible literally. It’s so interesting to hear their arguments. They tell me we cannot understand the mind of God when I question the nature of the Trilogy, but in the next breath, they insist that the world was created in a span of seven earthly days and that homosexuality is evil. The Bible says so.

I ask, how do we know the length of a Heavenly day? Perhaps a Heavenly hour spans earthly centuries, a Heavenly day earthly millennia. Perhaps God works by natural laws, and the theory of evolution is not, in fact, a mockery of God’s work. By that reasoning, God’s fingerprints are clearly visible in every scientific precept. Atoms and genetic strands are the voice of God, if we could but understand. One wonders, however, if we are meant to understand. If the mysteries we are here to unravel are less to do with God’s creations and more to do with emotional and spiritual growth.

It seems, to me at least, that homosexuality cannot be a sin. I say this because of the negative feelings directed toward it, not just in recent years but also throughout most of history. In the face of such overriding disapproval, alienation from friends and family, it seems that only someone who is self-destructive and possibly insane would voluntarily choose such a lifestyle. If homosexuality were a choice, it would have died out long ago because of the intense negativity connected with it. So it stands to reason that there is some genetic cause for it. Therefore, as man is created by God and in his image, it also stands to reason that God knows and understands homosexuality, having created it.

It is argued against because the Bible said, “Go forth and multiply,” as well as that a “man shall not lie with a man.” Interesting, and with valid arguments against it. If one were so inclined (and I am), one could also point out that the Bible is not just a religious book, but also a historical and political book. The words brought down to us, given to us in our modern tongue, are only a part of those originally recorded.

Men have edited them, throughout centuries. Men with political agendas, men who have built kingdoms and waged wars based on what they interpreted. I have been told that those men were inspired of God, that they acted as hands of God, writing exactly what he desired. I find that interesting. Does God not have His own (literary) voice?

I’m not saying I expected God to write the book Himself, but one does wonder why, if all these men were divinely inspired of Him, they each have a distinctive writing style, with no common voice. I have been told that, though these men were divinely inspired of God, they were still men, with disparate personalities. Which brings us back to the nature of man.

As they were still men, mortal and fallible, is it not conceivable that they spun their own interpretations and preconceptions on the inspiration they were given? It is not possible that their own prejudices and political leanings were given voice? Is it not possible that we have been learning not just God’s will (to forgive and love our brethren), but also the will of some human scribe, whose name has been lost to memory, though his ideas live on in the guise of the prophets whose words they were supposed to be recording?

As I walk through life, I try to remember several basic, immutable precepts. First, no man should judge another; we do not have a complete understanding. Second, “As you have done it unto the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.” In other words; “My mom says if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” The same goes for actions as words.

absence

The next 2 weeks I won’t really have any time to update here. John’s got the next week off, so we’ve got some stuff planned around that. Plus it’s conference week at Kidlings school (so half-days), as well as the parent-teacher conference and the 4th grade play. Oh, then the week after is spring break for Kidling, so he’ll be home all day.
I can tell you now who’ll be begging for his attention.

I realized something when John and I were choosing the parent-teacher conference date — John has managed to be available for every single parent teacher conference Kidling has had, despite working full time and commuting an hour or more a day for a bit there. That’s pretty brilliant. I remember after Kidling was born, John would juggle his schedule and do whatever he could to make every doctor’s appointment, too.

Anyway, point is, I won’t really have any “me time” to write or anything. So instead, I’m going to start moving a few of my Livejournal entries over here. I started my Livejournal blog back in 2006, right after John and I separated. I just kind of wrote about whatever, like I do here. Actually, kind of funny — I transferred my whole blog “identity” and everything over here in an attempt to edit myself. I was going to have livejournal be my “private” blog and this be my “public” blog, but I realized pretty damn quickly that I can’t think of anything to write if I’m constantly trying to hide my more controversial opinions and views.
So, without further ado, here’s my first livejournal entry:
My reaction to and analyzation of Fanfiction
09-30-2006

I like to read.  I always have.  When I don’t have any books available, I go online and look for short, free, net-published fics.  It’s amusing and interesting and occasionally thought-provoking.  My only real issue with net-published fics is the appalling amount of angst-driven teenagers hashing out their personal issues in a fictional setting.  Christ, those kids annoy me.  Usually because they have no talent or subtlety whatsoever.  I don’t know what higher power told them that knowing big words means knowing how to write, but they were wrong.  There’s this thing called flow, and it’s often interrupted when you bog down the story with interminable details.  Like what, exactly, the protagonist is wearing.  And how he’s sitting.  And millions of other things that could be used, in brief description.  Instead, these aspiring writers describe these small, unimportant details in long, page-consuming sentences and paragraphs.


I think the problem here is that many teenagers are having problems with self-identification.  They tend to separate people into categories, and judge them by clothing and known interests.  I’m not talking about the normal peer-groups, such as preppy, goth, stoner, etc.  I’m talking about what these kids feel – even if subconsciously – about their peers.  Are they unique, interesting?  Are they crowd-followers, willing to go along with the fashion in order not to be noticed?  Are they supposedly ‘normal’, but with deep wells of unappreciated, hidden depths?  From what I remember of those not-so-long ago years, as well as what I can glean from the substandard writing, most teens feel they themselves are in the third category, and separate everyone else into the first two.
This is their mistake, and their curse.  Even the most under-appreciated kid, with the most hidden-depths, needs to realize that the grand design of life is not a personal attack.  Everyone is so worried about their own presentation, their own hidden depths that they may or may not want plumbed, that whatever they’re doing or saying is only a defense mechanism.  Understand this: when you consider yourself and possibly your group of friends the only unique, misunderstood people, you’re being incredibly unfair.  Maybe you think that you’re presenting an accurate representation of yourself to the world.  Maybe you are.  Much more likely, you’re hiding behind some mask or persona, letting most people only see bits and pieces of you.  And if you can do that, why can’t everyone else?  Why can’t those seemingly drone-like crowd-followers, those vicious tormentors who laugh at you in the halls be hiding bits and pieces of themselves?  Why must they be only what they present, while you have hidden depths and strong emotions?
I’m not so incredibly out of touch that I don’t realize that there are some who are unnecessarily cruel, vicious, and petty.  There are some who seem to (and perhaps do, to an extent) enjoy that cruelty.  I also am still young enough that I realize that all those methods of dealing with them that guidance counselors, teachers, and parents recommend don’t necessarily work.  When you’ve been ostracized, there’s not much you can do to correct it.  Befriending the ‘enemy’ isn’t usually an option.  Ignoring them works occasionally, but sometimes random pettiness still strikes.  The main defense available is more a salve to your pride than anything – to mock them behind their backs.  The thing is, it won’t matter in five, ten years.  As much as it seems to matter now, it won’t.  When high school and all those angst-ridden years have passed, life goes on.  In fact, high school is a small bleep in the scheme of things.  It’s a loud bleep, a bleep that will probably have echoing repercussions over the whole of your life if you don’t deal with the issues brought up during those years, but a bleep it is.  Get over yourselves and understand that while you are special and unique and interesting – guess what?  So are they.
Also, do everyone a favor and take some creative writing courses.  If you’re going to continue plaguing the net with your problems, at least learn to do it well.