Sunday, April 17, 2011

Diverging wills

Read this. After you return from the bathroom having puked your guts out, come back here. I'll wait for you.

. . .

Feel better? Good. Let me ask you something.

Do any of you unbelievers feel anything remotely like the "once-believer" described in this apparently anonymous article? Are any of you consumed with self-loathing? Seeking out increasingly dangerous indulgences to satisfy your insatiable primal urges? Do you dread the evil denouement you know is coming, and wish you could command the rocks and mountains to fall upon you to hide you from God's judgment?

Yeah, me neither.

I am a mediator by nature. It is a fundamental part of my personality that I try to reconcile people who have differences. I try to help people find compromises. I try to help people heal their broken relationships. I value dialogue and listening, and I try to encourage people to see things from another person's point of view. To me, the cultivation of empathy is one of the most important things we can try to do as members of the human family.

What irks me about this article is that it attempts to do the exact opposite. To encourage faithful members to remain in the fold, it caricatures unbelievers as vile, degenerate sinners who are forever miserable. Its intent is to polarize, not to reconcile, except in the rare case where reconciliation means falling back into line under the church's direction. If you're not with us, you must be against us. And furthermore, you must be a bad person. Articles like this actually make it more difficult for me to have relationships with true believers, because they read this tripe and think it somehow reflects who I really am. The article actively impedes dialogue. In fact, that seems to be its main goal.

For the record, the "once-believer" described in this ridiculous article could not be a less accurate description of me. I am not miserable. I am not seeking out ever-increasing levels of indulgence. I do not fear judgment. In fact, I am more at peace with myself and my existence in the world than I have ever been. I am beginning to realize that I am capable of incredible things, and I feel like I have some idea of how to use my talents to make the world a better place.

I wish the LDS church would stop using its official outlets to publish divisive rhetoric. The message of "happy us versus miserable them" is reinforced every six months at General Conference, as well as every so often in the church's other publications like the Church News and the Ensign. Please guys, just knock it off. And yes, my admonition applies equally to unbelievers who claim that all believers are repressed and secretly miserable, though my experience tends to indicate that unbelievers are generally more accepting of a less black-and-white mentality. As in many other areas of life, neither extreme is the truth.

There is more than one way to be happy in the world. There are believers who are very happy with their beliefs, and there are unbelievers who are equally happy with theirs. We should be working together for the common good and understanding. Sadly, this kind of article makes me think that's not what the church is truly interested in. And that's a shame.


Anonymous said...

We are kindred spirits. I share every thought you put out so plainly. Thank you.

Kyle said...

Articles like this make me feel the constant need to defend myself against the angry, bitter, apostate stereotype. It gets tiring.

Leah said...

Black-and-white thinking I think may be one of the deepest damages of my experience with Mormonism. I struggle with it constantly. We're told the Church is either all good and true, or all evil and false and numerous other with-us-or-against-us false dichotomies. Life is so much more complicated than that.

Trip said...

"Are any of you consumed with self-loathing? Seeking out increasingly dangerous indulgences to satisfy your insatiable primal urges? Do you dread the evil denouement you know is coming, and wish you could command the rocks and mountains to fall upon you to hide you from God's judgment?"

Well, you know, I *would*, but who has the time?

Macha said...

If your aim is to keep people in the religion, you're not going to tell them, "you should be Mormon ... but you'd probably be just as happy not being Mormon."

Still, really got my blood boiling. Argh.

Sabayon said...

Hmmm, I think by "once-beleiver" they mean "heroine addict". Those are basically the same thing right?

What struck me about this article is not just the divisive caricature of apostates, which you so astutely call out, but also how little it wants the faithful to expect from their God. "The first is a non-believer whose despondency turns him toward conversion — not the conversion of Paul who saw a light and heard a voice — rather the quiet conversion of finding kinship with God". Well why the hell shouldn't one expect the conversion of Paul, what makes Paul so special or you so unworthy? Paul was in the middle of an attempted genocide of early Christians, yet God supposedly felt him deserving of grace, but a doubting reader of this article is not allowed to expect such things for themselves.
The amazing thing is how quickly this article manages to diminish everyone.

Ann said...

Very, very well said. Bravo.

Saganist said...

Thanks, everyone! Sabayon, you make a very good point. Trip, you made me laugh out loud!

Michelle said...

"The second is a once believer who stopped recognizing, appreciating the spirit.....The ability to recognize the spirit, and willingness to follow are lost in the flash fires of the flesh. So also is that precious commodity, freedom."

What I hate most about articles like these is that they delegitimize anyone's conversion from Mormonism to a more authentic life. The caricature of the unhappy,spiritually dead apostate gets old fast. Thanks for sharing.

Burk said...

I couldn't even make it through four paragraphs of the link. It was like reading in a different language. I was trying to figure out what the writer could possibly be going for when I realized that it was written without any semblance of logic.

After I made it known to my immediate family that I no longer considered myself "in the fold" they watched me very closely to see how long it would take before I became an alcoholic, addict, or rapist. This was years ago and I don't think any of them have yet considered that it may not be about "indulging the flesh".

GumbyandPokey said...

"Faith attunes this recognition and upon constant obedience to it, increases and opens the door to further such personal revelation."

Brainwashing! I had been feeling like being at church, reading scriptures, etc. wearing me down. I tried an experiment where I only went to church once a month for a while (beginning of January of this year). During that time, I did feel a lot of guilt for not "doing what was right," but it was also what helped me wake up from the brainwashing. I began describing it as such. When we sat our kids down to talk to the older ones about some of the troubling history of the church, my oldest aptly said, "I feel like I've been brainwashed my whole life!"

I can't speak for how I'd be feeling now had I continued to read conference talks, read scripture, go to church, go to the temple, read the Ensign, but I do know that it feels like the whole world is opening up to me now that I don't do those things. What we currently know about the universe AND life on earth is so much more exciting to me than anything I've ever heard from prophets or read in scripture.

I can't imagine my morality changing much. I no longer believe morality comes from the churches anyway. It comes from society.

Cindi (moonflower)