It is funny, and sad, to me that all sorts of labels about the kind of person I must be, get applied to me by those inside the church because I am perceived to be a person who is breaking God's rules. These labels are often applied in secret, in the mind of the believer, but every once in a while they bubble to the surface and come out. Because these labels are in the form of metaphors that have been created by the church leaders (and scriptures) that people have been told should be applied to those that seriously question or leave the church, these labels and metaphors are believed to be absolutely true regardless how much the non-believer says it is not so. These metaphors were created and designed to keep people from exploring alternative paths or explanations for things we know about the world around us. These metaphorical labels are supposed to be applied to the ones who break the rules.
For example, the result of these metaphorical labels cause people in the church, who are made aware of where I am at, that read the stuff I write (if any ever do) to think that I am trying to recruit them to worship Satan (or some hidden leader of some cult), or pull them into the mists of darkness since I have let go of the iron rod, or that I am possessed by demons and don't realize it, that I am in chains and enslaved by the darkness, bound by Satan's flaxen cords, or that I am treading water, just about to drown in the depths of despair. None of these is accurate and I cannot relate to any of them. The amazing thing is, no matter how much I tell these people, that say or believe such things, that they are not true, they never believe me and insist that I am wrong no matter how vehemently I deny that what they are describing is true. It is all according to their paradigm that I cannot persuade them to change.
On the contrary, I do not feel the need to worship anything nor do I really (except maybe all of life around me and the wonder of the natural world). I am not in darkness, but basking in the light of objective truth. I am not possessed, but feel more in control of my thoughts and feelings than I have ever been. I do not feel enslaved in the least bit, but am freer than I have ever been to pursue whatever path I desire, without fear that I will somehow become someone's tool...because I am not gullible (not as much as I used to be anyway) and do not fall for things so easily any more. I do not feel like I am treading water, but I feel more aware of my surroundings and circumstances and know that I am in charge of where I stand. I am not in some ocean or imaginary depth of darkness that I am hanging on the edge of just about to fall and drown in the abyss, but I am standing on solid earth and see my actual circumstances based on the real world, not an imaginary hereafter.
No matter how much believers will tell you otherwise, I am sincere in my questions and believe in what I actually KNOW to be true now (on the basis of evidence that can be proven that can stand up to any scrutiny). These include the fact that I am alive. I have situations I encounter on a daily basis that I can identify with because of my senses, and I am aware of them. All indications are that I am an individual being surrounded by other beings like me who also find themselves in a similar situation. I am a being that enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the world around me. I must breath oxygen in order to be able to survive. Oxygen that is produced by the plants I live amongst. I must drink water which is found in abundance only here on this planet (at least that is reachable via present means of travel). I must eat food that can only be obtained from plants or the animals around me.
To the contrary, the only evidence people can offer for the hereafter is that some ancient book(s) say so or because they think they feel it or someone claims they know. Not only that, but the ultimate test of truthfulness of the book(s), that tell us about the hereafter, is encouraged to be determined by a means that cannot be shown to be relied on 100% of the time (i.e. emotional feeling, burning in the bosom or whatever you want to call it).
For example, you may say that you feel that feeling (that you have come to identify for yourself as the evidence of the truth of what you believe to be true) when you hear or read something that stirs this emotion/feeling in you. If one person who has heard or read the exact same thing does not feel the exact same way when reading or hearing that teaching, then there is doubt about either the truthfulness of the thing claimed to be true or doubt in the test being used to determine truth. End of story. If it is not a universal experience, meaning that everyone experiences the same thing every single time the true thing is read or heard, it cannot be a valid test of truth. It can only be according to your personal experience and nothing more. This kind of test is a subjective measurement and cannot be proven to be true in anything other than a subjective circumstance.
An example for this comes to me from Disneyland. I love Disneyland. Disneyland used to have an attraction called "Mission to Mars". Just like Mission to Mars, if I claimed to have built a rocket ship that could take people to the moon and back in a very short time, people may actually have to decide at some point if I was for real. Once people entered my rocket ship they would be introduced to a screen that showed them what is happening outside so they can see how far they are traveling and get their bearings as to where they are on the journey. The people in the rocket ship would feel the force exerted from the launch, and even feel weightless while they think they are in space (something that even the Disney imagineers were not able to accomplish). When the journey is over, people would exit the craft convinced that they have actually traveled to the moon and back in about 5 minutes. It would be quite an astounding thing. The traveler would be amazed at their fortune of having experienced such an incredible journey.
Unfortunately, if you were to ask someone who was standing outside the craft what they saw, they would tell you that you never left the ground. What are we to believe? We should obviously believe that the person actually went to the moon and back, right? Nope, sorry. No matter how strong the conviction of the person who says they went to the moon and how strong their feeling was of belief in the reality of the journey, it simply did not not happen for real. It was all a show made possible because of theatrical and special effects designed to trick the senses into believing the journey actually took place.
So someone comes to me who has been on my rocket ship ride and wants to nominate me for the Nobel prize for science for creating such a marvelous transport vehicle. How should the Nobel committee respond? I think they should only listen to all the people who went on the journey and take their word for it that it was real. They would believe it was real, so we should just accept that the journey actually took place. What if those people who had been on the journey got together and formed a society of fast space travelers? What if they held weekly meetings and got up in these meetings to tell of their experiences and were encouraged to say that they "know" the journey was real (while ignoring anyone who "claims" that they didn't see the rocket ever leave the ground)?
What if everyone was encouraged to include details about how it was so real for them? Others, who had never been on the journey, would be encouraged to come to their meetings if they couldn't yet go on the journey themselves. Newcomers would be told to come and listen about the journey but, until they could experience it first hand, they would just have to settle for relying on the testimony of those who had been on the journey. Eventually, however, newcomers who could not afford to travel to take my amazing rocket ship ride, would be encouraged to bear their testimony since, after all, one can only know the truth of the journey through sharing details of the journey with others. Eventually it all gets out of hand.
Fortunately, we have the ability as humans to deduce (to varying degrees, of course) what is real and what is imaginary or fake. The rocket ship ride is really a fake, but what about things that are not so easy to determine the reality of? What if evidence has been systematically hidden over time or covered up to create an illusion that is declared to be reality. How could we discover what it really is? I guess we would start by looking at what witnesses to the events have to say. Was there anyone standing outside the rocket ship to see if it really left the ground? Are there scientists who have utilized scientific methods and peer review to come to relatively objective conclusions (that are independent of, and objective about, what the rocket ship travelers are claiming)?
What do scholars say about the Egyptian symbols printed in the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham (where actual Egyptian hieroglyphs are shown in the picture itself)? Do they agree with Joseph Smith's interpretation? Why not? Who is to be believed? One man who looked at a rock in his hat to "divine" the truth of all these things or a large group of scholars who have labored many years to be able to piece together the meaning of the Egyptian language based on numerous archaeological digs, papyrus discoveries and thorough diligent research that is constantly being updated and shown to give a more accurate picture of life in Egypt a few thousand years ago? I don't know about you, but I choose to place much more faith and reliance in the findings of credible scientists and researchers and scholars than one man who claimed to be able to see things via a stone in his hat.
How would I be regarded if I got up to announce to the world that my rocket ship was a "real" journey and there was nothing fake about it? What if I charged a $1000 per person to ride because I said the fuel was very expensive for the journey? No matter how much I labored to convince people that my ship was taking them on an actual journey, the fact would remain that it was not. I'm sorry to say to all of my friends who are believers in the complete truthfulness of the LDS church, it is not what they have told you it is. I am a witness of this. Will you listen to what I have to say?