Friday, August 28, 2009

Radio Lab: Moments

This four-minute film, Moments, was recently featured on the Radio Lab podcast as short #16. I definitely recommend it. I also recommend listening to the rest of the Radio Lab "Shorts" podcast episodes. They are all short, and they are all incredible.

Life as distraction

For as long as I can remember, I've had a gnawing feeling at the back of my consciousness. I've tried to shake it — believe me, I've tried — but it's always there, floating around the back of my head like storm clouds just over the horizon. Sometimes I can ignore it, but never for very long. Although it has been my lifelong companion, I haven't been able to identify this feeling until recently.

Here it is. I've always felt that I am filling my life with busywork to distract myself from the difficult task of figuring out who I am, what my purpose in life is, and what I need to do about it.

I have felt this way not only when doing actual busywork, but also when doing things that are ostensibly worthwhile. I have felt this way while reading classic literature in high school, serving inner-city kids on a college mission trip, improving my skills at chess and Scrabble, playing volleyball on the Lake Michigan beach, fixing computers, and writing blog posts. I've felt this way while studying history and religion, which is ridiculous because I love those two subjects so much that I have often spent all my spare time learning more about them. Maybe love isn't the right word. Maybe it's more like obsession to the point of distraction, which is sort of the point.

Joining the LDS church quelled the feeling of distraction very well, because church-related activities will suck away all your time if you let them. That was one of the things I liked best about it. There's precious little time to discover your true self, when you're losing yourself in the Lord's work. And when I was reading my scriptures, preparing lessons, and attending ward activities, I felt like I was making the world a better place. In some ways, I was. At the same time, much of it was definitely busywork, and none of it was my true calling. Someone else assigned me a plausible life purpose, and I happily followed it. I feel like I've been indulging that avoidance mechanism for my entire life. Mormonism was perhaps the biggest distraction I've ever provided for myself.

I have filled my time with plenty of other distractions, too. Competitive chess and Scrabble, computer programming, amateur astronomy, foreign languages, skepticism, reading, podcasts, and way too much time on Facebook. These are all worthwhile pursuits, and I believe I am a better person because of them. But they're not who I am, and they're not what I ultimately want to do with my life. Unless they are, but I haven't figured that out yet.

I think it's likely that I'm already doing some of the things I ought to be doing with my life, probably not to the extent I ought to be doing them. Or maybe I should be doing something I haven't discovered yet. Who knows? Because I haven't identified my purpose yet, everything feels like a distraction. Of course, even if I find my true calling in life, it's impossible to break free of all distractions without joining a Zen monastery. Hm, maybe I ought to join a Zen monastery. At least I have given this feeling a name, and I will let it inform my life instead of ominously looming over it.

So what's my point? What's my purpose? I don't know, but I want to find out. I am the only person who can determine the right answer to this question. That's assuming the question has an answer, but I suspect it does. Has anyone else felt like this? If so, and if you have found any answers to this question for yourself, how did you find them?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A crappy review of The Reason For God

About 10 months ago, a friend recommended that I read The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. Here is a blog post I made at that time, with my impression after reading the introduction. I'm sad to say that my impression of the book did not improve much after reading it.

I finished the book many months ago, and I've been meaning to write a review ever since, but I've found it difficult to commit myself to spending the time necessary to do it justice. So I've decided to write a crappy review instead. Here's what you'll get:

1. A basic overview of what the book claims to be, and my impression of what it actually is.
2. A summary of the biggest problems that became increasingly frustrating as I read the book.
3. An unedited transcript of my notes, which I hastily scrawled on index cards, natch.

Despite all the negative things I say throughout the review, I would mildly recommend reading the book if you're interested in this kind of thing. At the very least, it did make me think, and I appreciated that. Also, the book seems to be pretty popular, and it may be useful to be familiar with it. On to the review!

1. What the book actually is

The book bills itself as helping skeptics to evaluate their doubts in the same way they evaluate belief. That's fine, and I think this is a noble goal. I am in favor of everyone reevaluating their beliefs, and questioning not only why they believe certain things, but why they doubt as well.

As for me, I know exactly why I doubt: lack of evidence. When the evidence is good enough, I believe. Unfortunately, this book never addresses evidence. It presents many philosophical arguments against some questions that I doubt many atheists would actually care to ask, such as "How can one religion be right and the others wrong?" Um, I don't have a problem with that concept. But I also don't have a problem with the concept that they're all wrong. Although it is logically consistent for one belief to be correct, and many others to be wrong, that does not imply that your particular belief is correct. For that, we would need evidence.

2. The many problems with the book

Reading this book made me increasingly frustrated for many reasons.

First, despite the book's billing, the author approaches every question from the point of view of a believer justifying his belief, not the point of view of a skeptic looking for evidence. This leads to a lot of begging the question, e.g. "Our existence is evidence of God's existence." No, in fact that's not evidence. That's just assuming the thing you are trying to prove.

Second, he often falls prey to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. He dodges legitimate concerns about Christianity by claiming that people who believe X, Y, Z are not true Christians. For example, those who support violence, injustice, a literal hell of fire and brimstone, etc. Just because you don't believe something as a Christian doesn't mean it's not a real consequence of believing in Christianity for many Christians. Yes, true Christians.

Third, and most importantly, he is a philosopher, not a scientist, and the book reflects this. The entire book is about philosophy and never addresses evidence. That was probably the most frustrating thing to me. I expected something very different.

Oh yeah, and chapter 9 ends with a quip about how anyone who disagrees with him is dishonest and lacks integrity. That didn't thrill me either. I do question my beliefs, and I do question my doubts. I question everything, and I try to base my beliefs on evidence. In doing so, I reach a different conclusion from Timothy Keller, but I don't believe he is dishonest or lacks integrity.

3. The unabridged brain dump

Enjoy this. I would like to hope that my frustration was not in vain. I apologize for the rough nature of the notes, but I just can't bring myself to go back through the book again to make them more coherent.

I make no claims of being unbiased; as I recall, I tended to take notes mostly on the things I disagreed with. Also, if you are offended by colorful language, be sure to skip the notes from chapter 8. If you enjoy colorful language, be sure to skip directly to the notes from chapter 8.

Ch 2: Suffering
- Our sense of justice is evidence of God
- Therefore, Jesus suffered and died for our sins because the Bible says so
- Suffering is a good thing because it will make the glory and joy of heaven that much greater

Ch 3: Christianity is a straitjacket
- He sure likes to attack straw men. "All truth is a power play"? Please.
- Christianity is more like African supernaturalism than secularism is.
- This guy is in love with C.S. Lewis.
- This chapter was mostly a waste. This is not an issue that I have any problems with.

Ch 4: Religion breeds injustice
- "No True Christian" would be a fanatic
- Secularism has started just as much violence as religion (???)
- The Crusades were caused by values outside Xianity, therefore we should more fully embrace true Christian values
- Christianity is the only belief system that could perceive the injustice of slavery & segregation, b/c MLK was a Christian
- Let's pick and choose lots of good Christian examples of charity, shall we?
- Those who support injustice are not "true Christians". Ta da!

Ch 5: God sends people to Hell
- This guy is in love with C.S. Lewis.
- Someone should tell Christians about Keller's idea of Hell. I don't think they've heard of it.
- If everyone chooses Heaven or Hell for themselves, where does Christ come in?
- Evidence? None.

- I don't want "proof", just some evidence that shows how God's existence is the most likely explanation, or at least more likely than the null hypothesis. Is that too much to ask?
- You CAN study the sun best by looking directly at it.
- Saying that our existence supports the argument for God's existence is BEGGING THE QUESTION.

Ch 8: Clues of God
- Who caused God? And why don't you mention this objection? You only like accusation of self-insufficiency against skeptical logic? Does the existence of God imply the existence of infinite gods?
- Welcome mat: BTQ again. We exist and have evolved to adapt to the universe, not the universe to us. This is a misunderstanding of evolution.
- The regularity of nature is an argument for God ... why exactly?
- The Clue of Beauty: it is the nature of an illusion that you don't know it is an illusion. (or find it hard to believe) The existence of beauty implies the existence of God ... why exactly?
- Interesting that the lack of evidence is transformed into "clues"
- Holy flying fuck, he really actually went there. He's trying to claim that reason is a product of evolution and therefore we can't trust it. Give me a fucking break. What about EVIDENCE!? Evolution is not philosophy, it is science! "We can't know anything, therefore this might even be a dream world, therefore God exists." Huh?

Ch 8 cont.
- Just because our emotions are the result of chemical reactions doesn't mean they are not REAL.
- A secular person doesn't say "Maybe the Big Bang caused itself." She ought to say, "we don't know what caused the Big Bang but we're trying to find out."
- He assumes too much.

Ch 9: Knowledge of God
- "Everyone knows there is a God" is not a radical thesis, it's an arrogant one. What about everyone who lived before the concept of monotheism was even developed?
- Perhaps no values are objectively better than others, since we are the measure of our own values. But subjectively we each believe our own values ARE better, so we fight to give them influence. This is not a contradiction.
- What is the basis for human rights? I am. And so are you. Not our beliefs, but our persons. We must act in a way that would be fair to us if we were in the minority. Appealing to God doesn't provide a solution any more than appealing to the sun. We believe in human rights because we are humans.
- "There is no God" may lead to the conclusion that napalming babies is culturally relative. I don't know. Just because I have an opinion doesn't mean that opinion is objective, even if I feel it is. It is the nature of subjectivity to feel objective. There are cultures that have practiced human sacrifice. it is a culturally relative morality. This is true and consistent. And subjectively, it is wrong. Sez me.
- Living with dignity despite the nonexistence of gods is not a lack of integrity. In what universe does that make sense? There may be no objective meaning of life, but we are here. Now. And we create our own.
- This chapter ends with a real stinker. Anyone who disagrees with him is dishonest and lacks integrity. Whatever.

Ch 10: The problem of sin
- Not everyone has to live for something. I believe I live for many things. I don't need cosmic significance, just to make the world a better place.
- Why is God the one thing that can bring fulfillment? Why couldn't it be my imaginary friend Marvin?

Ch 11: Religion and the gospel
- This chapter is pretty much right on, even though there's a fair amount of "true Scotsman" logic happening.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Persecution pop quiz!

Pop quiz! Test your knowledge of persecution! In which of these situations are you being persecuted?

1. Other people are granted the right to marry even though you object to their marriages on religious grounds.

2. Wal-Mart stays open on Sunday even though you do not shop on Sunday for religious reasons.

3. Someone expresses skepticism at your religious beliefs, and asks you straightforward but difficult questions that you can't answer.

4. Public schools teach scientific facts about natural history instead of teaching the creation myth of your religion.

5. Someone pays for a bus advertisement or billboard promoting a religious point of view that contradicts your own.

6. You are denied the right to marry because other people object to your marriage on religious grounds.

7. Because of your religion, you are forced to fight against armed combatants and wild beasts for the amusement of others.

8. Most of your family is killed and your village is burned to the ground by a neighboring tribe whose religion tells them that God is on their side.

9. You are tarred and feathered and run out of town because you claim God told you to marry other men's wives, and you follow through on it.

Time's up! How did you do? If you answered that you are being persecuted in all of these situations, you're not alone! But you're wrong. The correct answers are #6, #7, and #8. You might be able to make a case for #9, but I tend to think that if you're doing that sort of thing, you have to expect a little heat to come your way. In all the other cases, no one is taking away your freedoms, your rights, or anything else you are entitled to. This is not persecution. This is part of living in a secular society that protects individual liberty.

Incidentally, if you are being persecuted (or, to use the vernacular synonym, criticized), it is not necessarily an indicator that your ideas are true. If being criticized were an indicator of truth, then some of the most correct people in the world would be Nazis, Scientologists, George W. Bush, opponents of vaccination, and people who use the center turn lane for merging into traffic. Hell, if antipathy polls are any indication, atheism must be the most correct philosophy on earth, and we know that can't be right. By itself, criticism or persecution is not necessarily evidence of anything at all. Think carefully before you claim you're being persecuted, and think extra carefully before you claim persecution as evidence of truth.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Notes from the Richard Dutcher talk

I attended a talk by Richard Dutcher this past Sunday at a local Unitarian church. It was totally worth it. I took copious notes, which I have synthesized below. Be warned, it's long! But for those of you who aren't interested in reading all the details, here's a 64-word synopsis of the main message I took away. This may not have been the message Richard intended to convey, but it's what struck me most powerfully.

The search for truth will necessarily lead you down paths you never could have expected. In this search, a real artist must be willing to open the doors that he is afraid to open. In doing so, he will discover more about himself and about ultimate reality than he could have thought possible. It is a difficult journey, but the only journey worth making.

That's Richard Dutcher looking sophisticated and me looking goofy. Here are my notes from the talk. Everything in boldface is a direct quote; everything else is my own words.

Richard started out by asking whether anyone had ever had the experience of preparing a talk, only to discover two minutes beforehand that you don't actually like it. This happened to him, so he delivered page one of the "old talk" (that part wasn't so bad, in his opinion) and then decided to wing it.

In an email to an LDS friend, Richard encouraged him to attend this talk, saying, This historic speech will rock the very foundation of civilization and will be known as the turning point in the evolution of human spirituality. But apparently the friend had to babysit in primary instead.

The first movie Richard ever saw was The Cowboys, starring John Wayne, at age 7 or so. The reason he didn't see any movies before then was because he was raised Pentecostal and it wasn't allowed. TV was okay for some reason. When his mother married his stepfather, a Mormon, he discovered that Mormons were allowed to watch movies. A great benefit! He fell in love with movies and watched everything he possibly could.

An embarrassing moment, trying to get in to see The Exorcist while underage. The cashier asked, "Do you have ID?" Richard responded that he had forgotten it. The cashier grabbed his wallet, which Richard had set down, and Richard said, "Oh, there's one!" One of the most embarrassing things he's ever said.

The Holy Ghost was far better behaved in the Mormon church than in the Pentecostal church. Also, the story of Joseph Smith's martyrdom was the coolest story ever. They took him to jail, then they shot him, then he fell out a window, then they shot him some more. What a story!

Deciding whether to go on a mission, Richard really wanted to head to Hollywood instead. No one could convince him otherwise. Then he saw Return of the Jedi. He had a change of heart and decided that going on a mission was the right thing to do. It's all George Lucas's fault. (Incidentally, this reminded me of my own experience when I saw God's Army, which I mentioned to Richard later. I guess I can say it's all Richard Dutcher's fault I joined the LDS church.)

He almost made it two whole years on a mission in Mexico without seeing a movie. But he couldn't hold out, and went to see Splash. It was like giving a bowl of soup to a man who hasn't eaten for a week. He thought it was an outstanding movie that should be nominated for every award in the book. He convinced his companion to go see Police Academy after that, but 30 minutes into it, the companion was convinced Satan was in the theater, so they had to leave. If I ever meet Satan, I'm going to ask him how it ended.

After the mission, Richard went to Hollywood and spent some time writing vampire stories and other stuff that didn't make it big. His first movie Girl Crazy was where he learned filmmaking, and it took five years of his life, but the movie itself had no lasting importance. He wanted to make movies that would tell his story, say something important, something to be proud of.

When someone once asked a famous writer, "What do you think about X?" the writer responded, "I don't know, I haven't written about it yet." They all say "write what you know" but what we know is boring to us. So we avoid it, but we can't get by just writing vampire stories. Richard realized that no one had made a movie about what it's like to be a Mormon missionary, and that was his story.

He wrote about ten revisions of God's Army, and found himself weeping at times because it opened up thoughts and feelings that he didn't realize were unprocessed. His wife reviewed it and said, "It's good, but there's not enough of you in it." Finally, he decided to make the story his own and no one else's. I don't care if President Hinckley likes this movie.

At Q&A sessions, everyone always asked, "What does the church think about the movie?" He never knew how to respond until once he said, I don't know... you're the church; what do you think? Elder Haight's wife was in the audience and applauded his answer. So that was how he answered that question from then on.

He thought for sure he would get in trouble for the scene in which a missionary is reading "anti-Mormon" stuff and says, "What if they all know it's a lie? Damn them to hell!" But no one made a peep about that scene. They were all upset at the scene where a missionary is on the toilet. Apparently missionaries do not go to the bathroom. But I was a missionary, and I knew different!

Suddenly Richard was being compared to Ozu, Tarkovsky, Bresson; and he had never heard of them. He started exploring Tarkovsky's idea that film is its own language. It's not theater, not music, not photography. What is its nature? It's perhaps the medium where you can come closest to seeing the soul of the filmmaker. He doesn't particularly like Tarantino movies, because those movies show no soul.

He carries around a piece of paper with about 30 good ideas for stories that fascinate him. Subjects that interest him but he hasn't figured out yet. I probably shouldn't tell you guys this, but he is currently working on a project dealing with the prostitution problem in 1908 in Salt Lake City. Murders, how the culture responded to the problem, etc. Fascinating stuff.

Normally when Richard makes a movie, he loves to see a packed house. After the premiere of Falling, though, there was something so intensely personal about it that he had a strong impulse to go up to the projection room, take the film away and never show it to anyone again. It's like baring your soul for the world to see. If people don't like his other movies, that's no problem. But if they don't like this movie, they don't like me.

My notes get much more fragmented at this point. I think this is when the Q&A period began. The first question was about how Mormonism has shaped his storytelling, and Richard said that just after he finished up his talk, he realized he hadn't really touched on his journey through Mormonism at all!

No other art form besides film has such an ability to express a human soul. Art can transcend the specifics that normally prevent communication. Barriers of time and place. One person two hundred years ago in Africa can speak directly to someone right here, right now.

There's no arriving. When I made God's Army, I thought I had arrived. And I was so wrong.

Directors he would recommend: Andrei Tarkovsky, Yasujiro Ozu, Ingmar Bergman, Robert Bresson, John Cassavetes.

I don't say I lost my faith. I say I lost my belief.

These virtues that religions coopt don't belong to them. They belong to humanity. Things like love, kindness, honesty, etc. They were not invented by religion and they are not exclusive to religion.

His spiritual journey has taught him to have humility about his own beliefs. He is no longer adamant that his own point of view is the correct one. I was so very wrong and so very sure.

It is very difficult to change one's beliefs, and it took a long time to deal with it. Who did this to me? Or did I do it to myself? He had a transcendent experience looking up at the Lincoln Memorial.

About whether the Joseph Smith story is on the list of ideas for stories he still wants to tell: Yes, I have to tell it. That's unfinished business. But you won't know about it until it's done. Someone interjected, "Which version?" Richard responded, "My version."

Why do Mormons struggle with creating good movies? Richard suspects that Mormons struggle because a real artist is searching for truth, and that will necessarily lead them out of Mormonism. There are some doors that dare not be opened. But as an artist, you need to go through those doors.

He told a Buddhist parable he recently read, about a man who was journeying through a forest and came to a wide river. He constructed a boat, which allowed him to cross safely. Once he reached the other side, he was faced with a choice. He was grateful for the boat because it had helped him on his journey. Should he therefore pick up the boat and carry it with him on his back? Or could he instead simply express his gratitude and move on? For Richard, Mormonism is like the boat. It helped him when he needed it, and he is grateful. But he has said goodbye and moved on.

I think this might be where I raised my hand and asked my own question. I started by saying that God's Army was my Return of the Jedi, and that it helped me decide that I should join the LDS church. I quickly followed up with, "But don't feel bad about that!" and everyone laughed. I asked Richard whether it has been difficult to deal with friends and family who are still believers, and how he deals with it. Then I quickly sat down, because although I don't normally get nervous when speaking, even in front of large groups of people, I realized that for some reason I was starting to shake violently.

I didn't hear much of Richard's answer, because I was too busy thinking about how weird it was that I was so nervous. But I think he said that it's not too much of a problem dealing with LDS friends because most of them don't want to talk to him at all. I think he said he tends not to talk religion with them, and if they want to know more about what he thinks about that, they can read about it in the paper.

Films with plenty of spirituality: Blue Angel, The Bicycle Thief, It's a Wonderful Life, To Live by Ozu. Trying to think of a modern example. The best he could come up with was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

I wish someone would ask me a question like, "How does it feel to kill a person on-screen?" What about when the death is implied, off-screen? How does it feel? This is a very important kind of question to ask.

Richard thinks that when people see Evil Angel, they may think it contradicts what he's saying in this talk, but it doesn't. In filmmaking, one is always trying to come to greater understanding; what you are continually creating is yourself. Experiment! If there are brushes in your box that you "shouldn't use", then you should definitely use them! You will learn. Either you will learn why you shouldn't have used them and will never use them again, or you will learn that the people who told you not to use them were full of crap. Either way, you have learned something valuable.

So that's the synopsis. I apologize for the disjointedness of it. It's the best I could do in an entirely different style at great expense and at the last minute. Oh yeah, and after I left, I realized that although I went up and shook Richard Dutcher's hand after the talk was done, I never properly introduced myself. Richard, if you ever read this, my name is Mike. It was nice to meet you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Richard Dutcher at the Summer Forum 2009 at First Unitarian church

This coming Sunday, August 9, Richard Dutcher will be speaking at the Summer Forum 2009 at First Unitarian church. That's the awesome-looking church up by the University of Utah, near the corner of 1300 East and 500 South. The talk begins at 10:00am and will last about an hour and a half. Anyone interested in going? I'm definitely planning to be there.

Richard Dutcher is a talented filmmaker who basically started the "Mormon cinema" genre with his film God's Army in 2000. Interestingly, that film played a fairly significant role in my decision to join the LDS church as a 22-year old convert. That's a story for another time; I plan to post more about my complicated religious journey fairly soon. But I vividly remember sitting in the theater with my wife and her family, thinking, "You know this is true. You know this is true." That was the closest thing I ever got to an answer to Moroni's promise. Apparently it was good enough for me at the time.

Anyway, Dutcher has since left the LDS church, as he stated in an open letter published in 2007. It seems that many of the questions he raised in his films led him to unexpected answers, and "a spiritual path which may ultimately prove incompatible with Mormon orthodoxy". Because his talk on Sunday is entitled "A Spiritual Journey Through Film", he will probably be talking about his experiences of the past several years, and I'm very interested to hear what he has to say. I would guess he's traveling along a similar path to many others who have left or are leaving the LDS church. Which is to say, he must have been offended and left because he wanted to sin. Right? Right?

If you're interested in attending, post a comment, or send me a private note, or just show up. Try to find me if you like. I'll be the one wearing clothes. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Skipping church... again

My wife enjoys going to church each week, so I usually go as well, because I love her and want to support her. Also, one adult trying to wrangle three kids aged 6 and under, keeping them quiet for a 75-minute sacrament meeting, qualifies as one of the worst babysitting jobs in the world. I don't want to leave my wife alone to face that cruel task, so I usually go to church.

Lately, though, I've been finding my church experience, especially the first two hours (Elders Quorum and Sunday school), to be more annoying than it's worth. So I've been skipping the first two hours more and more often. At this very moment, in fact, Elders Quorum is being dismissed and Sunday school is about to begin. I am sitting at my desk in the basement of my house. All is quiet. Out the window, I can see clouds, sky, and grass. I am content.

Whenever I attend church, I find myself disagreeing with almost everything that is said. That is pretty amazing in itself, as I am not a particularly disagreeable person. Since it would be somewhat impolite to vocally express disagreement with everything that is said every week, I usually scribble my thoughts furiously on index cards so that my head doesn't explode. I don't mind being in a setting where I disagree with those around me, but I've started to decide that I'm not going to put myself through it week after week without a damn good reason. Masochism has its limits.

I would probably find more to agree with if every week weren't a Joseph Smith lovefest. Last week's Elder's Quorum lesson boiled down to "Be like Joseph Smith. He was awesome." But what if you have good reasons to think he was not so wonderful? There are also plenty of admonitions about how important it is to sit through the temple movie for the jillionth time, and to visit your list of assigned neighbors each month and pretend to care about them while taking notes on their religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Of course, that's not exactly how it's phrased, but that's the gist.

I know people of various belief levels who go to church and just tune most of it out, and I don't understand how they do it. If I'm in a situation like that, especially a situation that looks and acts like an actual discussion, as Sunday school does, I can't help paying attention and trying to contribute. It's very frustrating to feel that my contributions would not be welcome, and that's how I feel whenever I go to church. I don't learn anything new. I can't contribute. I'm not challenged in any way except via frustration. I feel like an outsider.

So I attend church less and less. Somehow this feels like a failing, not because other people expect me to attend church, but because I have expected it of myself basically forever. However, the reason I expected myself to attend church as a believer was because I wanted to be challenged and enlightened as often as possible. In fact, this desire has not changed. But the sad fact is that church no longer fulfills this need in my life, so I need to move on. Not just physically but emotionally as well. And that's okay.

I will still be attending church for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but I'm going to try to improve at tuning it out. I know why I'm there, and it's not for anyone but my family. I shouldn't continue to behave as if it's for me.

I know there are plenty of unbelievers of various persuasions reading this blog. Do any of you still go to church? If so, what kind of church do you attend, and why do you go? How do you deal with it? Do you tune out, pay attention, speak up, start discussions, or what? I'd love to hear any of your coping mechanisms, and maybe try them myself.