Sunday, January 08, 2006

where i stand: on being a religious agnostic

re•li•gious
adj.
1. having or showing belief in and reverence for god or a deity.
2. of, concerned with, or teaching religion: a religious text.

ag•nos•tic
n.
1.
a. one who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a god.
b. one who is skeptical about the existence of god but does not profess true atheism.

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this post comes with a risk of alienating myself in church and extinguishing what little dating potential i had left in happy valley. some of you knew where i stood. some of you may be wondering. some of you may have had no clue. some of you have worried. some of you could frankly not give a damn.


i used to have a faith that was unshakable. blessings, ordinations, and setting aparts commented on this faith. i served a mission in hawaii and shared my faith and testimony on a daily basis. i knew god lived. i knew joseph smith was a prophet. i knew. i knew. i knew.

seven months ago i proclaimed myself an atheist and decided i would never again set foot inside a church. i was done with god. i was done with religion. i was done with everything. i declared it a permanent decision and considered the case closed.

what happened? what led up to this? to be honest, i’m not entirely sure. it wasn’t a single thing, but rather a conglomeration of many that just seemed to be too big of a burden to overcome. the seemingly unprophetic role of president gordon b. hinckley during 9/11 and the iraq fiasco. racism and sexism in the church. aspects of the book of mormon. anti-intellectualism in the church. metaphysics and the rejection of miracles. the problem of evil. space-time. religion as an opiate. the christian right. the lack of condemnation of the inequalities of the world. an overly byu-ish student ward that i hated going to. the list goes on…

individually, i could handle these. i had an answer and response to each one. together they were just too much. i gave up. occam’s razor. the principle of parsimony. one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything. choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one

the ensuing months after my declaration of atheism were the worst months of my life. i was constantly depressed. it seemed all meaning from my life had been stripped away. it sucked. i hated life and the world around me.


a few months ago i decided to step back into a chapel. for some reason i actually enjoyed it. i found it fun and engaging. the talks and lessons were still boring, simplistic and way off the mark of where they should be, but nonetheless i didn’t hate it. i could speak without being instantly ostracized as some wacko. i haven’t missed a meeting since.

over the past few months i have regained a love of the scriptures, joseph smith, church meetings, student wards, and religion in general. i found a way that they could truly have some valid meaning in my life. they seem more applicable and meaningful than they ever did before. real motivations for daily living. they are even more true than they ever were before.

though i now consider myself quite religious, i am agnostic. i don’t believe that god actually exists. i don’t believe that he does not exist. i just don’t know. the scriptures are true for me, but that doesn’t mean that they come from god. it doesn’t mean that they don’t. i disagree with them in many ways, but i still see them as very applicable in my life. the book of mormon is a masterpiece in almost every sense. it is a powerful piece of liberation literature that strikes harshly at the gross inequalities of the world. unfortunately most mormons who believe in the book, have no idea what they believe in. they embrace the book, but not one of its primary messages.

though i find sacraments and rites (such as the sacrament, temple, etc) fascinating and an important part of communal worship, i don’t participate because without belief i don’t think it’s appropriate to initiate myself into that aspect of the community. i don’t pray. i don’t pay tithing because i can’t support a lot of the actions the institutional church will use it towards. besides an occasional coffee, i’m ‘temple worthy’.

jesus was an amazing person. son of god? i don’t know. i do know that he knew how to love and was a prime example of how we should live. if i can only manage to be half the person he was, i’d be one hell of a man (no pun intended).

all around me in this world i see pain and suffering. i see gross inequalities and injustices. i also see good in this world and potential for even more good. i see religion(s) as a powerful way to make wonderful changes in this world, if people would be only willing to shake off the chains of prejudice, pride, and piety that act as opiate on them, and begin truly believing their religion.

all i hope to do is what i can. i’m small. i’m insignificant. i’m nothing. but i can still act. i still have the ability to create a little change. to bless the lives of other small and insignificant people like me. to alleviate a small portion of pain and suffering in the world. if there is a god, i’m sure that is what (s)he really wants.

i don’t know what the future holds. maybe some day i will truly believe again, maybe not. for now all i can do is embrace what i have, find some meaning in it, and try to do some good.


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(post script) please do not comment this with your testimonies or criticisms of religion. any other thoughts, questions and comments are appreciated.

15 comments:

  1. Why did you step back into a church?

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  2. The Silent Observer1/09/2006 10:58 AM

    A very interesting journey. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Funny that we simpletons at provopulse could see where your road was leading. Maybe the gospel really is just that - simple. At least the part that we need to make it home. Maybe there aren't that many things we need to REALLY believe in. Just a few that, if we follow them everyday, will cause us to be so clean and pure that we personally could never be a part of inequality, injustice, etc. even
    if the culture around us does seem to be a part of it. Maybe if that happens we will love the individuals who make up that culture so much that we will have absolute respect for the stage in the process of spiritual growth they are in RIGHT NOW, knowing if they keep up what they are doing they can't stay that way too long.
    Maybe that would be a positive use of our social conscience. To defend the rights of our brothers and sisters to be immature in some ways, and so stripped of pride ourselves to recognize we shouldn't look down at them because in some ways we are, too. and so full of faith in the living God that we know he can get them and us where we need to be and that he knows better than anyone where that is...

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  4. anonymous #1 - i think me stepping back into a church was part boredom, part an attempt to restructure my religious life, and part nietzsche (i'm not kidding about the last one).


    anonymous #2 - why hide in anonymity? i don't think the path i took necessarily leads another to the same end. i'm glad i took it. sure there were rough parts, but i wouldn't have it any other way. your comment is too full of assumptions and vague notions that completely miss the mark. here are some very brief thoughts on your comment: the gospel can be simple - love your neighbor, according to jesus that is what you REALLY need to believe in; what does it mean to be "so clean and so pure"?; being happy and content with inequalities in the world is wrong - marx's opiate; what does a loving god care about more - individual spiritual growth consisting of faith and rituals, or clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, etc?; many of your points seem to neglect agency.

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  5. What a mess.

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  6. anon #3 - explain. if this is some sort of insult, don't be a coward and hide behind anonymity.

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  7. The Silent Observer1/11/2006 7:31 PM

    If you knew what my moniker on ProvoPulse was, you would s*** a brick.

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  8. thank you. I've had a lot of thoughts after reading what you've written but i think I just want to say: thank you for posting this.

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  9. love your music.

    I'm surprised that you haven't read more Eastern philosophy - I can't get enough of Buddhist psychology.

    Carl Jung incorporated eastern thought with Freudian concepts; I think you'd love him, too.

    w. james said that what type a religion someone follows is a matter of temperament, not capital 'T' truth. I think he was right, and I don't think your inner state matches your outer concepts. Existential Mormon life is merely American life: a means to an end, not the end itself.

    I admire your strength.

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  10. The Silent Observer1/11/2006 9:36 PM

    Anonymous #4 --what happened to your blog? It seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.

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  11. "If you knew what my moniker on ProvoPulse was, you would s*** a brick."

    Give it up, Mason; we all know it's you, retard.

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  12. The Silent Observer1/12/2006 12:54 PM

    Nope, not Mason. Care to venture another guess?

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  13. Dear Loyd, This is a good post. I liked to hear about your exploration. I think the reason some people might take offense by your post was NOT in your ideals or your bleifs. It was not in your road toward where you are now and where you're going. It was what you said of THEM. It's your (I hate to say this to you) narrow-minded and perhaps judgemental attitude toward their beliefs and their faith. Maybe you're not narrow minded about the faith of those around you, but that's how it sounded here. Simply put you will NEVER know exactly what other people believe, feel, or think. You never can. Given that fact stating the pitfalls of others beliefs will always make them angry.

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  14. maggie, thanks. i'm guessing you are referring to my knee-jerk reaction to one of the anonymous quotes on here. i always need a swift kick in the nuts every now and then. and you are one of the few persons i'll ever really appreciate it from. i'm not the best at phrasing things and they usually come off much more aggressively than they should. i just have a hard time when i see apathy (even in myself) on issues that i feel should be taken on passionately.

    silent observer, i'm maybe guessing provojoe.

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  15. The Silent Observer1/13/2006 4:45 PM

    Nope; not provojoe either. I'm not a significant player on ProvoPulse or anything, but I tend to be a bit more outspoken there because my views are more in line with those of the people that run it.

    The silence of Anonymous #4 in regards to my question is deafening, though. It leads me to believe that my arguments were powerful him to handle, and rather than admit defeat, he performed hari-kari to preserve his honor.

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