“I point to how irrational it is to have any reverence for religion at all. We look at the ancient Greeks with their gods on a mountaintop throwing lightning bolts and say, ‘Those ancient Greeks. They were so silly. So primitive and naive. Not like our religions. We have burning bushes talking to people and guys walking on water. We’re…sophisticated.’”—Paul Provenza - American actor/comedian/filmmaker (The Aristocrats; Everybody Poops.)
I grew up and was raised Mormon. The following is why I am no longer Mormon.
In high school every now and then someone would declare something hidden or wrong with the Mormon church, at one point even a teacher. At the time it irritated me but some of them were disturbing, and I truly did not have answers for the questions. I chalked it up to not being as knowledgeable as I should be in my faith and in a way felt like I had failed those that I spoke with. If I had known the answer (because surely the church is innocent of what they’re saying or there is an understandable explanation for the action), perhaps they would have been more open to the gospel that was the only truth on this earth. There were times I would converse with my parents or other church members I respected about things I had heard. The explanations I received I never questioned, and I’m sure those I spoke with had not when they received the information either.
Satisfied, I would return to those I had heard the rumors from, and with pride, explain why they were sorely mistaken. Sometimes – I’d imagine if they had simply regurgitated something they had heard their parents, etc. say – they too would concede with my conclusions, if however begrudgingly. I would add these answers to my repertoire of subject material and I would consider myself slightly more knowledgeable. But more often than not the answers I received had not been critically examined by myself or those that propagated them. Either they were completely unverifiable, anecdotal, or simply wrong.
Mormon’s had an answer for these situations as well. All my life I had actually been advised against “bible bashing” (pitting bible verses against one another to prove who’s interpretation of things is more correct) because the tone behind such discussions was not conducive to “the Spirit”. While not all of my discussions with others were regarding bible verses (more often with Mormon church history) I regarded the tone in the same light as “bible bashing” and as such did exactly what I had been instructed to do. Bear my testimony that I believe the Mormon church is true and completely ignore the facts they tried to force upon me.
But I couldn’t ignore the things they told me. They were in the back of my mind always; repressed and growing like a tumor. I never went out of my way to confirm them, if anything I grasped at anything and everything that minutely explained them in a positive light. Mostly because in the Mormon church looking for information outside of church sources was considered dangerous. Rightly so as well.
I convinced myself there was something wrong with me. I was not living worthily in the obvious true church. I prayed more for guidance. I read the scriptures daily hoping that enlightenment would come. Everyone around me made it seem so simple. Why was it so much harder for me to live correctly?
Through this time in my life I never told others of my doubts, because I knew the responses. I didn’t like to ask questions for things I already knew the answers. And the answer was that I needed to pray more, live righteously, be patient, and read my scriptures daily.
In the Mormon church each summer there is something called Especially for Youth (EFY). It’s a week of gospel teachings and youth activities all designed to bring the high school age youth in the church closer to God and their faith. I went five times on my parents dime (apparently it was not cheap). Each one was better than the last and I loved every minute of them.
The fourth time I went was in the midst of all the aforementioned details. And I was so desperate to be like everyone else. Everyone I knew made living righteously seem so unbearably easy. And here I was, having doubts in the truthfulness of the church everyone around me robotically loved. Obviously, I was doing something wrong.
The final night at EFY is a testimony meeting. Basically you have a room of 30-50 kids that stand up at a podium and get a few minutes to tell everyone how much they know the church is true. Example: “Hi, I’m <insert name> and I’d like to bear my testimony that I know the church is true”. 99.9% of the time the first sentence remains unchanged. After that sentence they sometime go into some sob story of the revelation they received that showed them the church was true, or about a dead relative they’re going to see again someday, or they try and tell a joke. Some of them cry so hard it becomes unintelligible gibberish but that means they are in tune with the Spirit. So if you’re not crying, there is something wrong with you.
At that point, even though I had said it many times before that I “knew” the church was true, I was tired of saying something I didn’t actually mean, because truthfully, I didn’t “know” that it was true. At that time in my life I was having serious doubts. I stood in front of all them and said, “I do not know this church is true. Everyone says it, and it seems like everyone else knows, but for me right now I don’t. But I believe it’s true. That’s all I can say for now”.
Even though what I said was honest, and everyone in the room cried harder than most of the other testimonies said that night, I still felt like an outcast. I felt dirty amongst all these other people who knew the truth through some personal revelation that I had never received. And it’s not like I hadn’t tried, I prayed constantly over the truthfulness of the church. But what everyone else considered “the Spirit” I thought was just me being emotional. All my life people told me I was feeling the Spirit, but I never really felt like I did. I cried right along with the rest of them, but that didn’t seem enough to me to be this “warm embrace of the Spirit like a fire is burning”. My tears felt the same whether I had just watched a Disney movie as they did when I cried in church. So I did something that to this day I’m ashamed of, and fear many people won’t believe. I faked my revelation.
After the testimony meeting, our little group all sat in a little pavilion to read the scriptures together. As the others read, I couldn’t focus on the page in front of me. I just stared at all of them. I couldn’t figure out why I was so different. I didn’t resent them, but I hated myself for not being worthy enough to have the same revelation that seemed to have come to the rest of them so easily. So that night, when we all got back to the dorms I proclaimed that while we were out reading scriptures I had my revelation. I told them all through tears that a voice whispered to me the truthfulness of the church and I felt the warm embrace of the Spirit, etc. I plagiarized my own testimony off of the countless others I had heard.
At last I was not just accepted by them, but part of them. They all cried for me, hugged me, and were all overwhelmed with joy for me. I lied to all of them out of peer pressure. The exact thing I prided myself on being immune to in high school.
By the time the my fifth EFY came about I was reaching the age where the all important Mormon mission was close. I had lived another year in the church with my fake revelation as my crutch, but now it was time to decide if I truly believed in the church enough to ask others to. It was an exceptionally hard time for me in life, because the fake revelation had been a part of me for so long that I almost believed it myself. Everyone expected me to go on a mission because that is simply what you do. The Mormon church likes to think that it’s a voluntary thing, but the way people look at those that don’t go says otherwise.
My fifth EFY was hollow. I didn’t bear my testimony once. I was the only one in my group that didn’t. They looked at me strangely but I didn’t budge. I couldn’t bring myself to lie again. I still had fun during the week but that’s really it. I kind of blanked out during the spiritual sections, and then during the social sections I was lively and loud, so no one really suspected anything wrong with me except for the testimony meeting where I said nothing. EFY ended with me feeling more depressed than enlightened.
In my interviews with the bishop for going on a mission I gave full disclosure of my sins, down to the minute details. At this time, I hadn’t fully decided on if I should go or not so I made sure that if I was going to go, I wanted to be fully worthy of serving on a mission. I did not discuss my doubts because doubting is not a sin, but a symptom of sin. And because of this, it delayed things. The bishop was a patient and good man and helped me in every way he could to help me repent. But because I had never really felt the Spirit (which I did not disclose) I never really felt like I had repented either. And that is part of the repentance process. One question he asked me every time was, “do you feel like you’ve repented?” A couple times I said yes simply out of exhaustion. But I would return again regarding the same sins and the process would start over.
Over time I realized that I simply did not believe. At least not near enough to ask someone else to. There was a part of me that thought if I just went with the flow and served the mission, I would find my testimony there. But I refused that option. The mission is for the spiritual warrior, not someone like me. How could I say with conviction that someone should believe if had doubts myself?
During this time of my life I met a beautiful woman and future wife. With her I felt all of the things that it seemed I was supposed to feel about the church. I felt love. I loved her more than I had ever loved my church. Not once did she say anything negative about my faith, or the struggles I was having with it but at some point in our relationship I replaced my faith with her. Finally in my life there was something I could love and I could feel it love me back. No promises of revelations, warm feelings, whispered answers to prayers, I had something that I knew. Not believed. Knew. And I knew she loved me.
And so I replaced God with her. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t pressure me to be anything I wasn’t. She loved me. And I made a conscious decision, not a heat of the moment emotional mistake, but a conscious decision to make love to her, because that was the best way I knew how to show that I loved her. In doing this, I made myself ineligible to serve a mission. While this was not my intention, I knew full well that it would be a consequence of my decision.
For many years after this I become apathetic to religion. I didn’t have the courage to declare outright what my beliefs at that point really were. I refused to talk about religion at all. I avoided it at all costs, even in my own mind. I hated all religion, but I was never brave enough to actually research into what I actually believed. I still remembered all the rumors from my youth about the Mormons but couldn’t bring myself to research them. I wasn’t Mormon, I wasn’t atheist, or even agnostic. I simply didn’t care.
A few months ago I was given a book by a friend called The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan. The book goes into detail about the scientific method, about critical thinking, and about superstitions. While religion itself is not directly tackled in the book, it is heavily implied and the topics skirt on religion constantly. Much of the book actually deals in UFO sightings or pseudoscience, but then at times would discuss witchcraft, faith healings, and things of that nature.
The book opened my eyes in a way I simply cannot accurately express. I realized that I had been foolish to think there were some things I shouldn’t look into. Including supposedly “Anti-Mormon” literature (which I would like to say that much of it is confirmable through Mormon sources), discussions of religions from a scientific standpoint, etc. Why is it that there is ANYTHING that should not be asked? Every single thing anyone tells you should supported by evidence. And if it is true, that it should stand on its own. The single most accurate determinate that something is NOT true is when it is considered wrong to question it. And my entire life I had been told to stay away from other than Mormon sources for information, to believe in alternate explanations for scientific findings that negated doctrine, and to never consider that the church is not true.
And so I finally got the courage to do just that. To research, from a completely unbiased stance what I had been told all my life. I will not go into details about what I found because many people that are religious are very happy in their ignorance, and my intentions are not to rob them of that. And not only did I find that Mormons are almost without a doubt wrong, but that there is no proof that any god exists at all. So I became Atheist.
And it does not make me happier. But I don’t think a requirement of truth is that it make anyone happy. Sometime what is true is cold, heartless, and cares nothing for the individual.
But since this is all that there is, it makes me respect life far more. It allows me to make my own decisions on what morality is. It removes any prejudices and allows open discussion of how a human should be treated.
And I never feel like I have to end a discussion and bear a testimony that I’m right and you’re wrong, and that I don’t have to prove it. Because I can prove it now. My beliefs stand on their own, completely independent of me. Critical thinking and skeptical inquiry does not change based on my worthiness, or my testimony. I don’t need to wait for a revelation, I can simply research what is known about any subject. And I never have to feel guilty for doing it.
I read one of your previous posts that was tagged under Air Force. I'm current just in the DEP . I haven't even been to basic yet but you had mentioned that you were a contractor, and that's the job I'm crossing my fingers for...but I was wondering if you could tell me how deployment works for contractors?
Well to begin, I’m in contracting, not a contractor. Not to be obnoxious but the difference between the two is significant. A contractor works for the Government or provides supplies to the Government according to a contractual obligation. Contracting is who hires them or purchases the supply from the contractor.
Anywho… you’re in the right state of mind to want the job. I personally love it (although I would be doing you a disservice to say everyone does) and when and if you decide to leave the military to do contracting as a civilian off the training and experience you will get in the military… you make some bank. Starting wages I’ve seen, even for those with no experience and only a Bachelor’s degree (which you certainly have time and encouragement to obtain while in the military), is $70k a year. Minimum. With experience and time far more than that. Its a six figure job without having to go six figures into student debt.
As far as deployment, after you become certified - which takes a little over a year - you deploy every six months. For six months. Half of the year will be spent at your base, and the other half in the middle east somewhere. Or Korea if things keep getting shitty over there. But the deployments look beautiful on a resume. Also, if you’re single, you’ll love it. In my case, being married and with two kids, it makes it hard on the family. No family, its great.
Oh and there is a $90,000 reenlistment bonus. Nuf said.
The following definition of Atheism was given to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d (MD, 1963), to remove reverential Bible reading and oral unison recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the public schools:
"Your petitioners are Atheists, and they define their lifestyle as follows. An Atheist loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist accepts that heaven is something for which we should work now - here on earth - for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist accepts that he can get no help through prayer, but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and to enjoy it. An Atheist accepts that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help lead to a life of fulfillment.
He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.
He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.
He believes that we are our brother’s keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”
Me: In your bid information you submitted an hourly rate of $XX.XX; however, in the solicitation quotes were requested per a monthly flat rate. Please calculate your hourly rate over the estimated XX hours per week for a monthly flat rate.
Contractor: Well lets see, $XX.XX per hour multiplied by XX hours a week…times four weeks a month… its $YYYY.YY.
Me: I’m afraid the math is more complicated than that. Please evaluate my calculation and confirm it and it will be sufficient to note the file for your bid information. If there are errors also let me know so we can reach an accurate price.
Your hourly: $XX.XX
Hours per week: XX
Weeks per year: 52.14285714 (365 divided by 7 days a week)
Your yearly rate from this: $XXXXX.XX
Divide by twelve months puts your monthly rate at $XXXX.XX
I understand this may be asinine, but from a contractual standpoint its important that your bid information be accurate.
Contractor: Well you kinda lost me at the 52 point whatever, but the hourly times the XX hours per week times 52 weeks in a year (from what I learned in school), divided by twelve months is $ZZZZ.ZZ.
Me: Tell you what… you’re not getting the contract.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive. If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves. If children live with ridicule, they learn to…
Regarding the "sharing": touché.
Regarding the "facetiously using 'Jesus' in place of my customer": Even if you had put a disclaimer at the top of the post saying that you were substituting your customer for God, it would still be offensive most people, including myself. Statistically only 16% (roughly) of the world's populous is secular/nonreligious/agnostic/atheist. Wikipedia says 2.3% of the world is strictly atheist, but we have no way of knowing if that's factual. Suffice it to say that they are in the minority and thus have a high probability of offending the majority.
At any rate, my point was, I try not to, and I think rarely, put my faith and beliefs out there for people to read. And as I said in that post, for all I know I could be wrong. And if I offended an atheist or agnostic person with any of my posts, I have yet to hear from them. All I ask is that you not mock the basis of my religion for the sake of humor, at least not anywhere I can see or hear it. And I won't parade Him around in front of you.
I will no longer depict Faith in a humorous light. I can agree to that and I can understand (though I don’t truly agree) the offense. However, I will still post blogs/posts/blah blah things about religion or atheism in general in as polite a manner as I can. These are things that I find interesting just as Camilla posts things about Paris a ton. I’m going through a sort of identity crisis and trying to shape my ideas. Writing about them helps to organize my thoughts and despite some of the animosity I’ve received I enjoy debating them because of how they make me think through my ideas on life.
To summarize: I will not mock religion. I may detail what I believe which at times may contain blurbs about why I think religion is wrong. If you don’t like to hear about these kind of things, you may “unfollow” me and I will not be offended.
Apparently my last post here has offended a few people by my depiction of people of faith. While this was not unexpected, it was more passionate than anticipated. Please allow me to clarify:
1. I do not hate people of faith. Yes, I do believe that religion is just an overly complex superstition; however, I hold no animosity towards those that rely on faith. I just think they’re wrong. They think I’m wrong. The end. Perhaps that’s a blunt way of saying it, but nothing about it is innately disrespectful.
2. I do not believe all people of faith are zombie minions. But you know the type of people I’m referring to. And those are the only people I was referring to. People who think they wield more authority than others, those that pity or hate those that rely on reason, or those that organize Qur’an burnings. And yes, I think these people are annoying at best, and morally reprehensible at worst.
I do realize that some of my phrasings were irreverent and exaggerated; however, this was for my own (and possibly the reader’s) entertainment. Yes, I’d even concede that it was offensive if read by those of faith, but to be frank, they were not my target audience (not even to say I truly have one). It was all meant in jest and sadly my humor is just that irreverent. Even while I was quite religious my humor was more or less the same, just more censored. I’ve lost my filter I suppose.
One individual in particular was shocked by my post being that my wife is devoutly Catholic. I’d like it known she loved my post and found it quite entertaining. I suppose it all depends on what your sense of humor permits. Mine (and apparently hers) permits pretty much everything. What can I say, I watch American Dad and Family Guy.
On Tumblr there is an option to automatically post all blog entries to your corresponding Facebook profile wall. While I had opted for this feature long ago, at the time of my previous posting I had forgotten entirely that I had done so, and inadvertently made a meaningless and more or less private (being that those that follow this blog only two are consistent) rant a very public, and political, rallying beacon of distaste and shame. When I had realized that it had posted to my Facebook wall, rather than scramble to redact and censor my ramblings, I declared a “what the hell” and left it there. It wasn’t there to thrust my unpopular thoughts in the face(book) of hundreds. Actually I don’t have quite that many friends.
Regardless of any of the aforementioned details, I make no apology for the things I said. Its my blog, and I posted it to my page, not yours. I understand that Facebook makes everything a public announcement, but I didn’t actually intend it to be posted there. However, if you took offense, I would like to offer some advice:
1. Its not always about you.
2. Its a joke. If you think its morally wrong to joke about things like that, than stand up and leave the theater.
3. If you live your life and what you think by what the reactions of others will be, have been, or can be, you’re living a half-life. Speak your mind, but you can’t expect everyone to agree with you. And its become abundantly clear that most do not. Do not forsake who you are for the public good.
4. I love you (you know who you are). Nothing will ever change that. But I can not continue to live as I have. I can understand your distaste and shame, but without arrogance I’m a wonderful husband, father, and person. To this date I have never illegally abused any substance, made love to only one woman, and I’ve provided for my family better than most would have given the circumstances. This is not a childish rebellion, it is a choice to leave the umbrella and enjoy rain along with the rain puddles.
I hope this clears the ground of broken glass, but something tells me I’ve only just dropped the vase.
I’m a contract specialist. No I do not build things. I make other people build things. With money.
Actually I don’t even have the trust or authority to sign contracts, I’m the equivalent of a paralegal to an attorney. The paralegal does all the work, and then the attorney signs it. Well, I draft the contract, format clauses, provisions, wage determinations, solicit for proposals/quotes, etc. So much etc. you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. But anyways after I do all this, the contracting officer signs it, and I do whatever the next step is before I need his signature.
I do all of this for the United States Air Force. Its an interesting (well probably not, but I’m going to explain this to you anyways) triangle relationship. A squadron on base gives me a purchase request. On this form, it shows who they are, what they want, and how much money from their annual budget they’re willing to throw at the problem until it goes away or gets them their new toy. Oh and their account number. So now I have their money.
They’re called the customer. My job is to get what they want for as cheap as possible without pissing anyone off (the list of possible pissys is extensive, but include public opinion; i.e. I should purchase from a small business when possible).
Once that form is in my hands, they have very little say as to who gets to provide the commodity, service, or construction. This is where I’m allowed, obligated, and encouraged to piss someone off.
Currently I’m soliciting for a religious Jesus zombie minion position. Yes, the Air Force has churches on their bases for the Jesus-y zombie people and they need people to contain the Jesus zombie people. And guess what customer typically thinks they have more power than me? Jesus. And I get to tell Jesus to hang the omnipotence out to dry.
Submitted with the purchase request:
Jesus gets to interview all bidders.
No, you don’t Jesus. That would be subjective selection, and Government contracting is an objective science (i.e. I’m not going to let taxpayer money go to someone you think is the holiest, its going to the holy-enough that says they’ll do it cheap and can pass background check).
Jesus gets to make the final decision in selection of the Jesus zombie.
No, you don’t Jesus. I get to. All you get to do is tell me they’re capable or not capable of being your minion. And you better believe (have faith) that I’m going to ask for some pretty serious evidence (unlike your zombies) as to why someone might not be capable. Being black is not a reason. Being female is not a reason. Hell, being gay is not a reason. I don’t care if when this person dies you send them straight to the boiler room under your shitter, right now you just sit down and deal.
Jesus gets to review bid information.
Sure Jesus, but I hope you don’t mind that I blacked out all price information. Pray for the answer.
If you really want them to do this, pay them in love. Taxpayers get to keep their money, and don’t you have infinite love anyways? I’m sure you could share. And if they’re a good little zombie minion, they’d love to work for love. Until they get hungry, or thirsty, or want to sleep in a bed, or clothing, or medicine.
Honestly, you’re probably getting the person you want anyways so shush. They’re peppy, exciting, Aryan, and void of thought. Enjoy.
This is a work of fiction. All references to people, places, things, God, Jesus, you, etc. are purely randomly coincidental and not real. This is the save my ass clause.