more of nothing

My sweet lover has reassured me several times that he will be fine if I decide to stop attending church. Somehow, his kindness and acceptance of my disaffection really contributes to my continuing attendance. He has just been called as the first counselor in the Elder’s quorum presidency, but he spoke to me before accepting the call. He said he would refuse if it meant keeping me happy. Of course I told him to accept, as long as he thought it was the right thing to do, because who am I to say what’s right for him, when he’s so gracious about not telling me what’s right for me?

I love it that he has his beliefs, and that he doesn’t try to tell others they need to believe the same way, nor does he even seem to believe that there’s one right way to believe. One of my main problems with the church, indeed with religion in general, is that each group claims to have the right way, yet each is slightly different from the next. They all claim to have visitations and/or feelings from God, but each has a different view or understanding of that God. They each need to convert others to their way, they each grow up believing what their parents told them, they each try to weed out any differing viewpoints, to crush any dissent.

From where I’m sitting right now, it sure seems like humans are hard-wired to believe and trust their relatives and their community, and that over time, they have created belief systems to explain phenomena that they don’t understand, and to give purpose to their rules. You may not tell your children tales of monsters, or threaten corporal punishment if they don’t obey you, but you probably know someone who does, or whose parents did it to them. Bill Cosby tells the (possibly fictional) story of his parents leaving him in a crib and warning that if he tried to escape, the venomous snakes on his bedroom floor would bite him. Some people still tell their kids that if they are ill-behaved, they will get no Christmas presents from Santa Claus.

This type of manipulation has been going on for centuries, and whether the original tellers of the tales actually believe them is beside the point. The younger generation believes them, and perpetuates them. How am I supposed to know which stories are true, which punishments and rewards are actually waiting for me? I’m well aware that there’s no jolly fat man waiting to hear how I behaved this year before deciding what treasures to deposit under a dead tree in my living room this winter. I don’t even remember ever believing that, though my 6 year old does, despite my proclamations otherwise. He also believes that Superman is married to my cousin, and that there are sharks in Utah Lake and dragons with lairs in Provo. He will argue those points, no matter what brand of logic I use to dissuade him.  Why should he not also believe that he needs Jesus to get him into heaven?

And if we really do need Jesus, why is it so important to believe something for which we have no proof? Does God expect us to show our allegiance through our blindness? Does he expect us to quash our logical minds, to really use different methods of thinking when making sense of nature or science that when contemplating our place in the universal scheme? Why should those things be different, separate? Why can’t we teach our children to be kind and good for the sake of being kind and good? Why do we need an eternal punishment to hang over their heads? Why do we need to teach them to disrespect other cultures, to disregard other belief systems, even to protect themselves against ever being turned to believe a different way than we do? This makes me very uncomfortable, but thinking about how I used to be makes me almost ill. I did my share of thinking anyone who didn’t believe like I did was ignorant or stupid, like they just hadn’t seen the light yet. I went across the world to preach to people that what they believed wasn’t good enough, wouldn’t get them into heaven. I judged people inwardly when they did things that manifested their lack of belief in the “only true” belief system.

I feel broken. I feel like my blinders have been broken. The world seems different to me, and I don’t know how to navigate it, especially since I’m the only one that got broken. Everyone else is still behaving like they did before, but I no longer understand their signals, or their motives. I’m cowering in the corner, terrified that the person offering the plate of food is really going to deliver poison.

p.s. When he was set apart in the EQ presidency, the men in the circle all took turns shaking my husband’s hand and congratulating him. I was disgusted. Even as I was giving them the benefit of the doubt, assuming they weren’t thinking about it in terms “moving up in the world,” I knew they weren’t thinking at all about the implication of those words.

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~ by woundedhart on June 3, 2008.

4 Responses to “more of nothing”

  1. hang in there, friend. Let me just say that life without blinders is a bit scary, but it will open you up to pathways that you never would have seen otherwise. I suspect that your journey will be an amazing one…
    🙂

  2. Sounds like you are at the beginning of a spiritual journey –> if you find the fear and broken feeling moving from weeks into months, you might want to find some “helpers” on your journey (all “heroes” have them, forces that step in to help us when we lose our way — but sometimes we have to go out looking for them).

    And if you are a person who finds comfort in reading about the spiritual journeys of others, let me know — I’m such a person, so I have quite a bookshelf of titles I could recommend.

  3. Feeling broken may be the first step to being fixed. I have long since given up on trying to fit some preconceived mold. Instead, I live a life which focus on peace to me and peace for others. To me that is the true light of Christ. Also, I find peace in many different places. I have read a number of books on “positive energy” or some variation thereof. I find that it is the basics of what Christ taught without the religion — if that makes sense.

  4. I just stumbled upon this post, so I hope that you don’t mind that I comment–I realize this is a highly personal situation. You are not the only one is broken. I feel exactly like you do. I am 72 inches, six feet (female). In many ways I feel like trying to not be Mormon is like trying to not be tall. I look back on my past self with only shame. In high school I was so “modest” that spaghetti straps = godless whore. How many opportunities for friendship have I missed because of my pious judgments? I mostly wonder why I didn’t realize how nothing made any sense long before now? I obviously don’t have ANY answers, but you should know it’s not just you.

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