Sunday, July 3, 2016

As Most Conversations Go

My mother said something to me during a conversation recently. She asked if I was hoping she'd agree with her. I had originally said, I was just wanted to share with her how I feel, and what I think. But thinking about it, I realized she was right. I wanted her to agree with me. I want everyone to agree with me. That's why I keep sharing my thoughts. I am hoping for someone to go, "hey, she's onto something there".

But the more I discuss my thoughts with members of the faith I left, the more I realize its a losing battle. No matter how much evidence I produce, no matter how many reasons I give, no matter how much I just want to slap people across the face and say "WAKE UP!" its never going to happen. Why? Because that's not how it happened for me.

A friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook a gushing status update about getting to serve Jeffrey Holland. Just 5 years ago, I might have gushed right back, thinking she was the luckiest girl on the planet. She got to meet an apostle! No hero worship there..... but reading it now, it just made me sad. And if I'm honest, angry. I hold a lot of contempt for that man.

When my husband was going through his crisis of faith back in 2012/2013, I reached out for help where ever I could find it. I contacted his mission president, a general authority to ask for advice. There wasn't really any given. And then in a moment of insanity, I thought god gave me the impression to ask to meet Elder Holland. After all, he was Nick's favorite, and had recently given a talk about doubting your doubts before your faith. If anyone could bring my husband back from apostasy, it was him.

And I was told he was too busy. I said, if even for a moment, or a phone call, or letter, something to show Nick he was loved and his questions had answers. But no, they were too busy.

Of course they were busy, they were god's chosen apostles. Oh the excuses I made. Oh the lies I told myself. Oh how I fought the evidence with, I just know. Or that's not what my testimony is built on. Or I've felt it. Or I can't deny my Savior.  So. Much. Brainwashing.

Its been insinuated to me several times that I am an ungrateful person because I have spit on what I was taught from youth. That my parents taught me the gospel, and so I am showing contempt for their love by betraying how they taught me to live. Statements like "you were taught this as a child" or "you know what you were taught" or "this is how you were raised" or "you should no better because you were raised better". Had I been taught to hate different races from my childhood, of course I would have cast that teaching aside. It wouldn't have spit on my parents love or legacy to discard a teaching I feel is wrong. Thankfully, my parents never taught me that, but they did teach me about god and jesus christ. And I find those two ideas very harmful.

Its been insinuated to me that I am a bad person because I no longer believe in an afterlife. And it comes with a shock to some people when they find out. "You mean, you believe that when your dad dies, that he isn't going to exist?" Its always something personal, and very disheartening. I say I don't think life has inherent meaning and that I don't think consciousness continues, and that somehow makes me worse of a human being. And the accusations are loaded with guilt, and I feel terrible. I'm not a bad person for thinking life ends at death. Nor am I a pessimist. I'm just living within the reality I can observe, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I don't think there is anything wrong with believing in an afterlife. Its a beautiful idea. My family who died before I lost my faith exist in a kind of limbo for me. Because I believed in heaven when they died, I still think of them there, even though I believe it isn't real. I am worried for those I will lose in the future, and when someone reminds me I don't believe in an afterlife, as sort of a jab or insult, I'm afraid. Afraid of the future, afraid of my feelings, afraid of my reaction. I don't know what it will be. Again, the idea of an afterlife if beautiful, and I can hope for it. But I don't think it is likely.

Believing in life after death is not the same as believing in deity. I would be happy to think consciousness continues after we die, but I'm not happy to think its because of a god, or that a god is in charge. Because I have learned too much of the concept of god to ever be in favor of one. Or to even think one exists. Is it possible a more powerful being exists somewhere out there in this endless universe? Of course. Is it probably that it is a personal god who decides our eternal fate based on his manic whims? Yeah, probably not. As a Mormon, my education about deity was limited to the Mormon view. I didn't learn about the other millions of gods in existence. Over 4 million to be exact. And all of them different, with different laws, different ways to achieve salvation. And most of them in direct conflict with each other. And all of them based on geography. You believe in what the people of your region believe. Sure there are pockets of different religions in other places, but its a small world now, we have technology to travel and communicate ideas. So that is not surprising.

But my conversations about religion always end the same. It ends with frustration, and with the bearing of testimony. Which always comes with pity. Maybe not always intended, but it is pity. Pity that I don't believe, and thats somehow a shame. Pity that I can't understand faith, which I actually do. Pity that I don't care about what I was given, which always makes me feel terrible. And hope that I will return to the fold. Which I will never do.

You know how the conversation ends for me? Sadness that they can't see what I see. Frustration that no matter what I present, they always trump it with faith. Horror that they can reconcile suffering and pain with god's plan. Anger that they think they are better because they have god. Disgust because they think they know more than me. And confusion, because they think the world is out to get them. Mormons have a martyr complex, everything is against them no matter what, and they expect it and welcome it, because it somehow affirms their faith. If you think about it, that was a good plan actually, because every opposition they face will only make their faith stronger. You think I'm wrong?  That only proves I'm right! Or even better, you think God doesn't exist? That only proves Satan exists and he has seduced you! Its such a horrible mentality because it makes communication impossible.

Like I said, you can't argue with someone who has a testimony as their go to trump argument. You can show them how they are wrong, and their response will be "I know the church is true, I've felt God's love, my testimony isn't based on church history, and I know God loves you". Ugh, I hate that last one. "God loves you". I hate hate hate it. Its like, there there you poor child, let me pat you on the head. Its so passive aggressive and such a cop out argument. "God loves you". And very offensive. I've just told you I don't believe in god, given substantial evidence to support my reason, and you still end by saying, don't worry, I know God loves you.

If I could have one conversation with a Mormon friend or family member that ended with, "wow, I never thought about that. Could you tell me more?" I would probably pass out. Its never happened, and I doubt it will. They already know everything, because they don't need to know everything. That attitude disgusts me. It creates complacency and contempt for modern knowledge. They want to keep living in a cave thinking they know more than the rest of the world. And don't ever say you know more than them, it makes them go crazy. Or tell them they aren't understanding you, it shuts them down immediately. I've yet to learn an effective way to communicate my thoughts on religion to the people who matter to me. And I feel like I fail every time because we walk away in disagreement. If I could communicate my ideas better, I don't see how they couldn't agree with me. Its so painfully obvious to me, and to so many others. And its so painful to watch the people I love be taken advantage of because they want to believe, and they do believe, and their hearts are good which makes them easy targets for ecclesiastical charlatans.

My life is not easier for leaving religion. Its not objectively better. In many ways its worse, in many ways I'm happier. But I don't necessarily care about that. I care about truth, and being lied to. If life is hat it is, I have no say in it. I can't alter reality. But I can live with what I understand existence to be, because I'd rather know whats going on than think something that isn't real. Its nice to believe in unicorns, and leprechauns and fairies, but would it really help me?

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