Thursday, July 30, 2009

Out of the closet

In my first post I indicated that I posted my religious beliefs as agnostic on my Facebook page. I changed that about two months ago and last week I put my first link to my blog on my Facebook page. Most folks who know me know that I am not a religious man. Many also know that I have strong opinions and that I am not afraid to speak my mind. Most are still a little uncomfortable with the idea that I am an atheist.

This is not new information for this blog but I did find my oldest daughter Jessica's response kind of interesting. She said something like 'why do you have cause trouble.' Jessica has some difficulty with the fact that we do not fit into the traditional LDS (Mormon) mold in our little LDS neighborhood. During the recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat the cast (most) met to have a pre-show prayer. Jessica, was asked to join and she opted out. For her there was and admitted awkwardness. She feels like we don't fit in and that further exasperated by the conversations about the LDS faith, garments and when it is appropriate to not wear them, issues of morality that she does not agree with, and the idea that she wants to fit in but doesn't.

So this simple display of my atheism was troubling to my daughter because she is struggling with much doubt and still exploring what the world holds for her. She also finds that she runs up against folks who profess to "know" and she does not find any solace in their "knowing" because it does not ring true for her. Having a father who is an open atheist is like having parents who are hippies in a yuppie neighborhood. I think she finds the prospect of people knowing a little uncomfortable because she is already on the outside looking in.

My proclamation of atheism is not about knowledge but about doubt. What I do know is that religion has not given me any comfort. There are too many unanswered questions and too many folks who with arrogance fail to answer the questions but tell me I need to have faith.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 helpful? dangerous?

A recent Salt Lake Tribune article discussed a website that was designed to help those who are having questions about their faith in the LDS (Mormon) Church reconcile the church’s short comings and misrepresentation and to encourage them to stay anyway ( I have reviewed some of the content on this website and think it is a sad statement about our addiction to religion whether the facts support the claims or not.

On the above website I found a link to this video clip which discusses the discrepancies between what is taught as church doctrine and history and what the fact of the record reveals. It is designed to help faithful members understand why folks leave and then to encourage them to help their friends and neighbors to stay and accept the fact that although there are huge problems with the official doctrinal history they can choose to accept the portions of it that resonate with them personally and ignore the portions that do not. If that does not work it encourages them to stay active for the association with good people and opportunity of service. I watched the entire 57 minutes of the video and found nothing new but I did find it disturbing that, at the end of the day, the reason for membership is now “association” and not the truth. The one point that I found fascinating was the idea that if you leave because this church has problems; you have to consider what church does not and then you should choose the lesser of the two evils.

As someone who struggled through a crisis of faith and moved on, I find the strategy of staying for association unhealthy and potentially emotionally dangerous. First, there is the constant exposure to the idea that you will not reach your spiritual potential. There is nothing in the official doctrine that supports an a la carte approach the religion. Either the prophet, and all of his predecessors, were infallible and the mouth piece of God or they were not. If the latter is true then the church is not. If the prior is true, then you must follow the doctrine as it has been outlined historically or risk judgment in the last days.

In the video and the website there is an acknowledgement, that once someone decides to leave the Mormon Church, they face ostracism from family, friends and neighbors who already know and love them for the content of their character but are threatened by their crisis of faith. I had a recent discussion with a devout member of the LDS Church who acknowledged they shun information and people who are potentially threatening to their testimony. As an open atheist and a former Mormon in a tight-knit Mormon community I found this ostracism to be a factor. We have had our children come home crying because they were not allowed to play with children in the neighborhood. There is also the pervasive cliquish mentality that tends to make non-believers feel inadequate. So what is the push to keep these folks in the religion if there are doctrinal doubts for both the producers of the video and the administrators of the website? What is the motivation to encourage the doubters to avoid websites like or Both the video and the website claim to not endorse the apologist sites like FARMS and FAIR but both make reference to these organizations and the links to the sites. There is no link to or Why would you ask someone to stay with an abuser or encourage them to drink poison after adding sugar to make it sweeter. Both and have empathy and understanding for the stress that comes with first finding that your faith is not true and then realizing you may loose your family and neighbors over it.

For me this brings the larger question regarding religion. If you doubt the divinity and infallibility of the prophets then why is it so hard to acknowledge that religion is man made? What is the drunkenness that drives us to attend church, any church, and then obscures our ability to ask questions and demand answers that actually answer the questions? The most frustrating pro-argument for me is the response “this is what I believe”. What is your basis for belief? A feeling is not proof. I have found that most Mormons, Christians, and other religious folks do not understand the context in which their religions were formed. Religion was not given to us by God it was created by man. We find ourselves at odds with an established religion and we create another to suit us. And thus, we are creating another religion when we become a la carte Mormons.