This is the first in a series of posts where I will discuss some of my thoughts on leaving religion.
About this time last year I was spending a lot of time on Netflix. My subject of interest? The Amish. Why? I could relate to the people leaving.
I was feeling very alone. Very ashamed. Very confused. For several months I had been wrestling with questions. Some that I had in my youth, some I had run into as an adult, as a wife, as a mother, as a woman in this country. No one had answers for me. None of the people I trusted to know. They had excuses, they had platitudes, they had no idea. But it's okay, they told me, God will reveal all things to us after this life.
It wasn't enough. The god I had been taught exists said he wouldn't keep things from anyone. He'd reveal the truths to the penitent, to the humble, to those truly seeking. Never before in my life had I been caught in such a vice. I found myself on my knees every night. I had an ongoing dialog with a god I couldn't see, from sunup till sundown, cooking dinner, taking a shower, watching Glee. It never ceased. But it was very one-sided. I never felt anything that I didn't create myself. I had no visions, or ah-hah moments. No feelings of peace or satisfaction. Just confusion and betrayal. I was doing everything right. Fasting, praying, studying. Asking my parents, my bishop, my home teachers, I even wrote a letter to the First Presidency. No one could help me.
Fueled by a desire to prove my husband wrong, I found myself researching these difficult questions on my own. But the more I researched, the more I began to see, I was wrong. And I never thought I was. I never opened up myself the possibility. I decided it was time to start looking for the answers to the questions I had been afraid to ask.
And this was the thing that got me thinking. If god loves me so much, why did he let me marry a man who would fall away? Which led to, what is agency? As taught in the LDS church, agency is the gift to act of your own free will. To make choices. But, god knows everything. The Bible and the Book of Mormon are clear, god is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He sees all, he knows all, he is over all. He has a hand in every event, he has a plan for every individual, and nothing goes against his plan. Trials are the refiners fire. God doesn't give us what we can't handle. God knows us and knows what we will do.
So, what is this agency? How can any person presume to think they are in control of their own destiny when god knew all along what they would do? And this god, knowing what we would do, created the rules that would ultimately put us in heaven or hell. His hand in all things guides us to our ultimate demise or exaltation. Wait, what?!
The moment this dawned on me, I remember feeling sick. Heavy, like a huge weight had just fallen on top of my head. It was too much. God was responsible for everything. God was responsible for people going to hell. God allowed murder and rape, god sanctioned murder and rape. It's in the Bible! Agency meant god valued a person's right to assault a child over that child. But it also meant that god allowed that child to suffer, and put that person who assaulted them in hell. Even though he knew it would happen, did nothing to prevent it, and made the rules that would ultimately decide the eternal fate of both parties.
How can we believe in such a cruel deity? Who stands by and watches violence, deceit, war, starvation and abuse? We use tag lines like "god doesn't give us more than we can handle" and "god is in charge of our destiny". So god gives little boys rape? And god gives rapists their victims? Clearly, they both needed it. But some things you can't come back from, or repent from, and for those things, you end up in eternal damnation.
It is wrong! The god the majority of Christianity believes in is immoral, he is unethical, and he is a pervert. He sees everything? Then he is the biggest porn addict in the universe! And what's worse, he does nothing to stop it. And he thrives on it. People who are succeeding don't need god. So he relishes in failure, in defeat, in pain, in anguish, in abuse. And his favorite thing to reinforce: it is your fault. This is on you. You need to change. You need to repent. He makes the sins, and he makes the way to repent from those sins. Hmm.
Once this settled, I was able to examine other things. Like how god views women. Or other races. Which is inferior. How god commanded murder, and genocide. How he essentially committed statutory rape of an under age, unmarried minor in a patriarchal society who's practice was to stone unmarried women with child. He killed countless Egyptians to make a point to one man. He commanded his chosen people to kill every man woman, child, infant and animal (whilst the virgins could be acceptable spoils of conquest). He allowed the torment Job to teach Satan a lesson. Anyone ever wonder about Job's wife? Or his kids? Did they have any say in what happened? It sounds to me like the lesson of agency was lost in that story. Or Esther? They were commanded not to marry outside of the covenant, and yet she was told by god she was supposed to. Abraham, after years of wanting, finally had a child. God commanded him to kill him and then said, oh, just kidding! What a traumatic experience for father and son! Just to teach him a lesson? God killed every living thing on the planet in a flood! God told Nephi in the Book of Mormon to murder a defenseless drunken man lying in the street so he could steal a book. People! Wake up! This is the god you believe in! The one you pray to to find the right pair of shoes or to help pass your math test. This is the god you believe will heal your cancer, or turn your child back to the light. This is the same god who, according to scripture, has murdered, toyed with, and damned regular people like you and me.
This is just one thing that I was finally able to think of and come to terms with: the Christian god is not good. When I realized that, I felt like a part of me had died. I felt so lost and alone, like all those hours spent praying were the wasted hours of a crazy person talking to an imaginary friend. If you could call such a god a friend. A being who healed the Christian doctor who was infected with ebola, but not the child he was caring for. Who's prayer was answered? And why? And why is that right?
There is so much more than this, but this was the starting point for me. Maybe it can be for you too.
Make no mistake, losing religion isn't easy. Leaving it is even harder, especially when it is so close to the ones you love. Which is why I identified with the Amish so well, leaving Mormonism. It's devastating. It's sad. It's heartbreaking. Often times, people like me are painted in a poor light. With associations of "she wanted to sin, she is proud, she is a know-it-all, she hates god for some reason". No, that's not it at all. I simply started thinking about some of these issues and found that as I did, logical things became clear. And I even wondered how I couldn't see it before. Do not make the mistake of labeling those who have left the faith as "sinners" or "offended" or "lazy". If anything it is more difficult not to believe.