Wednesday, March 16, 2011


So my tbm relative that feels the need to brag about "inspiring" church news recently posted on Facebook that all of the LDS missionaries serving in Japan were safe and accounted for. I had to resist the urge to write a comment on there like, "So glad to hear that! It must have been because they were being watched out for while all the other wicked Japanese people were being swept away and killed all around them." Do people actually believe that God was watching out for a select few missionaries while deciding to kill thousands of others in the area? The thought makes me sick, but I think for some that idea might actually be faith promoting. Do people actually believe that the earthquake and tsunami were the result of wicked behavior by people in that region and that they somehow deserved what they got? Of course, no one who believes this will actually say it out loud (Thank Humanity), but I think the number that feel this way is actually pretty substantial. Makes me wonder why they don't come out and say how they's like the unspoken, but commonly understood, way things are for the believers.

Of course, then you hear about the people that feel that these are definitely the end of days because of all the natural disasters that are occurring with more frequency than ever before. Is that the case, or is it just that we hear about things more because we are more connected via technology than ever before? I think it is more the latter than the former. But, I guess I could still be wrong and Jesus and company will be back from heaven any day now. Which I might be able to get on board with if the same thing hadn't been preached on and off for about 2,000 years now. It's gonna happen any day now, though. Really. For reals this time. Any day. Just wait, you'll see. OK. Well, in the meantime, I'm sending my thoughts and donations to the people of Japan because I don't believe they did ANYTHING to bring this on themselves. And I am not going to be giving any donations to the LDS sponsored relief fund because, frankly, I don't trust those guys with money I give to them. I wonder if they will not disclose what happens with those funds like they they don't disclose what happens with everybody's tithing donations?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Too much pain

I am really in pain folks. It just hurts too much. I feel like I have nowhere to turn. Last night I had a moment to talk to my son about his upcoming ordination to be a deacon. He will not turn 12 until this summer, but I felt I needed to at least talk to him about it. I started out by asking him if he understood where I am at with the church. He said, "Yeah." I said, "So where am I at?" He said, "You don't believe." So I said, "Do you understand that kind of makes it difficult for me to be able to give you the priesthood since I don't believe?" He said, "I guess so." I could tell at this point that he got really sad and didn't want to say any more. Now, he may have thought that this meant he wouldn't be able to receive the priesthood at all (a thought that had not occurred to me until later when I talked to my wife about it and she brought that to my attention.), which may have contributed to his sadness. I tried to convey my unconditional love and support for him and what he wanted, but that I just couldn't perform that ordinance and be able to live with integrity. At one point I asked him if he were in my shoes, would he just do what he wanted me to do and perform the ordinance in spite of where I am at? He said, "Maybe."

At this point I can't help but point out that I may be the worst father in the world and that I am placing a huge burden on a young man that he doesn't really deserve to bear. However, I think that deep down my son is capable of understanding what I am going through (at least I hope anyway). It is so difficult to be where I am at. When I try to think back to when I was his age and what my reaction might have been to the kind of news I was trying to relate, how would I have felt? It would have been awkward, confusing and hard for me, I think. I don't know why I continue to insist on living with integrity anymore. I feel like I am sort of worthless because outside of believing that the church isn't true and that God may or may not exist in any form that we can relate to, I can't offer much. My belief system right now pretty much consists of no belief. My thinking right now is that, if this is the case, and I truly don't have an alternative belief system that can drive and motivate people to do good because of the prospect of a hereafter, what harm is there in tacitly supporting the belief systems of my wife and children to contribute to their happiness? After all, I don't know for sure that they are 100% wrong. I do know that most of it is crap and mostly made up, but I am not 100% sure of this (99.99% sure, but not 100%).

Sometimes I think I am just being selfish. Why can't I just go to church and be the good Mormon father that does everything the church teaches that Mormon fathers should do. I think realizing I could just be a cafeteria Mormon would be helpful and maybe I could just try to focus on my family and the good things that belief in something, even though I can see is messed up, is better than belief in nothing at all. My former beliefs have brought me a lot of good things in life. I wouldn't have my wife and children if I wasn't active in the church as an RM around the time we met. I wouldn't have my current job if I weren't active in church at the time I met my present boss, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy so many friendships with people (that just seemed to come automatically at times) because of my activity in the church through the years.

On the flip side there is that whole living with integrity thing. I am beginning to think that living with integrity is overrated. I really believe that a lot of people get ahead and are able to enjoy fabulous opportunities on this planet because they are able to justify things to some extent. I mean, looking at corporate executives, wall street bankers and politicians, it seems that as long as you perfect the art of speaking out of both sides of your mouth you can really get ahead in this country.

I have felt for the last couple of years that I really didn't want to go to church because I was standing for some ideal. It was the principle of integrity that I clung to. I also excused my lack of attendance by saying that it was because church just infuriated me and caused me to be someone that took out rage on my family. Now I feel like there is potential for me to not be so angry if I go to church, but I just don't know how long this will last. Part of me wonders how long it will take for me to become enraged and that maybe the reason I have been able to let go of some of the anger is because I haven't been going to church. I wonder if it would be possible for me to ever get over it and just focus on the things that I can find that are praiseworthy.

I don't know if I can ever get to a point where I am able to pray or actually perform ordinances at church, but at least I would be there to support my family. So, I don't think it solves the problem of me feeling like I am letting down my son in his desires to ordain him, however, at least he would see me there and coming to church to offer some stability in his life. Would I be a total hypocrite if I went to church on Sunday, but secretly didn't believe any of it? What will my children think of me when I tell them that I never really believed but I decided to go to church anyway? Do I want them to have an example of someone living contrary to their beliefs to please others? This is what I have kind of been also hanging my hat on as far as a reason for not going to church. I want to show my children that I have integrity regardless of how meaningless it may seem. I want them to be true to themselves regardless of how much others tell them to be someone else. Can I teach that while not living it myself?

Maybe I am just blowing much of this out of proportion right now and the lessons I think I am teaching are just not that important if they drive family members away from me. Maybe the pain I am causing my wife and children is far outweighed by any future potential for them to realize that I had integrity and lived according to my beliefs, regardless of how shallow they may seem. Can I still teach my children to be true to themselves while pretending to be active in church for their sake? I wish I had more answers. I really need some advice. Unfortunately, my desire for advice is balanced by the understanding that where ever I turn for advice, that is the advice I will get. If I ask believing (and some not believing) members of the church what I should do, the answer will be clear that I should go to church. If I ask the postmo community, I suspect that the answer will be to stick to my guns.

I already did receive some advice on this question from an old friend from high school. She is agnostic and pretty much said, "Would it be so difficult to sacrifice for your family to go to church?" She said she has gone to church for friends (for special occasions) and granted there is much time spent rolling the eyes and trying to stave off the boredom, but, since it was important to that person, it was important to her. Maybe I just need to focus on that. I so wish I were not in this position, but here I am. Any thoughts would be most appreciated.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Self Talk

I have so many thoughts right now. I am hoping that by attempting to write about them it will help to order my mind somewhat. Right now I am really struggling with the fact that belief in God is so polarizing. I am very sad that civil discourse between those that believe with those that don't is so difficult to find, let alone engage in. My wife and I have resorted to simply not talking about so many things because of the resulting "debates" and "arguments" that seemed to invariably occur anytime one of us brings up something religious. I know I win the debate each time, but it seems like I usually fail to convince anyone of anything (that and my wife doesn't like to debate, apparently). This makes me really sad. I have a very hard time being sympathetic to her views and she doesn't want to go where my searching has lead me, so we are at an impasse.

For this reason, sometimes I just hate the church and what it has done. While I want to blame the church for my present difficulties, I also hate to admit that if I had not gone against the teachings of the church and read "forbidden" "anti" Mormon things, I may not be in the situation I am in. However, I cannot accept that line of thinking because what really started me down this path was not because I was going quickly to forbidden "anti" literature. What started me on this path was studying and pondering the content of the the Book of Abraham! I was literally trying to understand my beliefs better and feel like I got the short end of the stick because of it. I now see that Joseph Smith left a lot of clues to be able to discover the extent of his deception. The problem is, the only way to find them is to begin to look critically at church history and doctrine. Many cannot even get to that point. Where there is no ability to be critical of a doctrine, or set of beliefs, there is no possibility of ever being able to deny it's truthfulness. The problem is the church teaches that truthfulness is most important while ignoring the fact that it is not being truthful with its members in presenting its history.

The other thing I have been thinking about (as a result of listening to a motivational seminar by Brian Tracy on a recent road trip) lately is the power of our self talk. We all have internal dialogue that takes place all the time. The power contained in our self dialogue is pretty immense and can affect our lives dramatically over time. While I want to look more into this to learn more about it, I understand that what we hear and say contributes to the responses we receive from our subconscious and the quality of the self talk that takes place all the time within us. This self talk usually consists of our conscious mind asking questions and our subconscious mind providing answers based on what we are asking. Therefore, the quality (and content) of our questions (or self talk) are what contributes to the response of our subconscious. The focus of our subconscious mind ultimately becomes our reality. Of course, Brian Tracy says this inner dialogue can be manipulated by saying positive things about ourselves to ourselves over and over. The more emotion we attach to these messages, the more powerful and convincing they become to affect change in our lives. The ability to change our inner dialogue is a difficult process and can take some time to actually accomplish, but doing so can really create change in our lives.

I believe this to some extent, but I hate to think that my beliefs changed because I asked different questions and focused on different things! I know people who know the same things that I choose to label as deal breakers in my belief in the church, yet they still believe in spite of the knowledge they have of the problems. They just choose not to label them as deal breakers, I guess. Then again, the ability to see these issues as problems can really be affected by our self talk when responding to the issues in our mind. I believe the ability to isolate and minimize the issues to prevent acknowledging the big picture is a direct result of internal dialogue that is constantly minimizing the issues or their larger implications. I also think some people use the implications of religion not being accurate as a quick reason to simply avoid going anywhere near there automatically. People say, "I don't like where this is going, so I am just not going to allow myself to go there."

I know that my self talk did change gradually as I made conscious decisions in regard to various aspects of my set of religious beliefs, but it took time because each part had to be analyzed and addressed on a case by case basis. However, sometimes I wonder (if this idea of being able to affect our self talk with what we say and hear is really true) what would happen if I went back to church for my family so I could make them happy when they go to church. I worry that maybe my self talk would change, because of what I heard, so that I wasn't so opposed to what the church asks and I would eventually get to a point where I could ignore all my issues. Would I eventually get to a point where I could participate in church without any reservations? I honestly think my self talk would drive me crazy pointing out all the inconsistencies, deception and troubling aspects and this would lead to anger and frustration that I end up taking out on my family. Right now, not going to church seems to keep the peace, so that is where I am at.

I know a couple of people pretty well who participate fully in church (out of consideration for their family) that say they don't believe. One has a temple recommend but tells me (in private conversation) its all a bunch of crap, but pays minimal tithing and just figures that since people want to believe, he is not detracting from that and allowing them to do so. Keeping peace in the family is the primary reason this person says is why they keep going to church. I worry that this response for me would lead to too much cognitive distress and anger. It is certainly less peaceful for my family when I go to church because I have been so angry afterwards, it makes for not very happy times at home on Sunday afternoons/evenings. I wonder if this response of mine could ever change. Is it just a matter of my focus right now? Since I am focused on the problems, have I made them out to be bigger or more serious than they actually are?

The other person close to me does not believe and does not have a temple recommend or pay tithing, but goes to church and tries to point out difficult issues whenever they come up in lessons. I have heard from others, in the ward they attend, that people think that this person's attendance at church tends to distract from lessons because they insist on pointing out the problems whenever they come up. I have a hard time with this because I think if I am going to church, it means that I am sort of giving up my right to dissent. Church is a place for believers to go to be strengthened in their belief. I don't think it is a place for non believers to go and try to tell the believers why they are messed up in their beliefs.

This idea of trying to correct the church from within, I think, is like swimming upstream. It is always going to be difficult and the reality is the group is not going see the opposite view of things because the church has many systems setup to keep people focused on ignoring or always putting the problems out of their mind. I think that no matter how many things you show believers to cast doubt on their beliefs, they will always find a way to gloss over or minimize or completely ignore the issues being brought up. I guess this is simply a matter of their focus. I just wonder if it is so simple a thing that if you just focus on one thing that you want to be true, that people can successfully ignore real challenges to their beliefs if they do that. I guess it is happening all over the world, so I have to assume it is that simple. So, why do I not feel like if I just changed my focus that I could go back to believing in the church and be able to participate without being angry? Is this just what I want? I want to be respected enough to have my assertions challenged and to be shown why I am wrong. I don't want people to blindly follow what I say. I want to build from a foundation of integrity and let integrity guide me when setting up a belief system for myself.

I think I also take for granted that I have faced the fear that goes along with questioning beliefs about God and the hereafter. These are extremely difficult things to challenge because there is so much fear (which I think is built up quite a bit by religion, however) surrounding an acknowledgement that beliefs in God may not be true. I also wonder if many people are simply not capable of facing this fear, of things not being the way they want, and therefore they are truly not capable of ever focusing on other possibilities. Facing fear, I think, is extremely difficult, but I think it is worth the effort. I can say that I feel so much better for having begun to address my fear of the non-existance of God and an afterlife. It has made my life all the more rich and meaningful. I appreciate my life so much more. I am more inspired by nature than I ever was before. I am also a little more cynical on some things, too, but I think this is OK. I am a realist. I live in the present and I focus on reality and I think I come away more inspired and more motivated to learn and take advantage of my time here on this planet than I ever was while believing that I had an eternal afterlife to be able to catch up in my understanding of things.

However, I know lots of people, who have not faced the fear, will find that statement extremely difficult to believe. How can I show them those things are true if they never want to go there? I guess by being an example of integrity and moving forward with a focus on the here and now instead of the hereafter. I think I struggle with wanting to help others understand what I think I know. I really want others to see what I see. The hardest thing for me to accept is that there are those (probably many, actually) that will never get to where I am at. I guess I just need to keep telling myself that and maybe one day I will accept it?