The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Dangerous thought

with 40 comments

From the moment I decided I could no longer believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all through my questioning and ultimate rejection of all types of religions and gods, the most exciting and satisfying discovery that I made was that I could think for myself. For most of my life I had been content to accept that other people knew more about most things than I did and I would bow to the opinion of the “experts” or, in the case of religion, to those who claimed to be “inspired”.

All that started to change one day in 1995 when Gordon B Hinkley, recently ordained prophet and president of the Mormon church, visited our city as part of a short tour of the British Isles. As we very rarely got to see the prophet “in the flesh” over here, it was a wonderful treat and I was as excited as anyone. I couldn’t wait to hear what God’s representative on earth, as I believed, would have to say to us. I was expecting revelation, prophecy and a powerful spiritual experience. What I, and the other faithful, actually received was a series of reminiscences about the old guy’s missionary experiences some 60 or more years before, a tetchy complaint about the quality of the Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip supper that he had just consumed and, finally, the usual mantra of “pray, pay and obey”. The only time he looked and sounded the least authoritative was when he suddenly glared at the audience and told us to “cease backbiting”. I hadn’t noticed that we had a particular problem with backbiting, but as the man speaking to us claimed to have a hotline to God, I supposed that he knew our weaknesses better than I did.

As the meeting ended and President Hinckley made his exit from the building, I felt a tangible sense of anticlimax. This was not what I had expected from a prophet of God. The next week at church one of the women announced that she had copied down the prophet’s words in shorthand and transcribed it into typed copies, which other members happily clamoured for. I couldn’t bring myself to take one – it would only remind me of my disappointment. This was the first time I can remember ever having a rebellious thought in the whole of my church life thus far and, although I could never have anticipated it then, I had taken the first tentative step on the road to free thought.

Although I put my dissatisfaction to the back of my mind and carried on as a good little Mormon, the feeling never quite went away and, looking back, I can see now that it started to colour my attitude towards the church in subtle ways. Once I had had the temerity to find the prophet wanting, it would be easier to slip off the rose-tinted glasses that I had always worn to view the church and begin to see the reality behind the hype.

Fast forward 3 years to June 1998 and the dedication of the Preston Temple. Another huge spiritual event in the life of English Latter-day Saints. Again there was a great sense of anticipation. Everyone had taken the day off work especially to attend the dedication service. People had fasted, prayed and prepared themselves for a spiritual manifestation of divine approval. Unfortunately, the reality was much more mundane – a long coach journey, crowds of people that meant our group was initially herded into seats in the adjoining chapel rather than the temple itself (although just as the ceremony was starting some extra seats were found in one of the rooms of the temple and we were able to actually get inside the building). As we settled ourselves excitedly in our chairs, a video link to the celestial room allowed us to view the prophet and his counsellor, Thomas S Monson, as they gave their preparatory talks. The spirit that I had eagerly been awaiting seemed conspicuously absent as I listened to words that should have inspired, but didn’t. Only when the whole congregation stood to sing “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning” and the Hosanna Shout rang out inside the building, did a feeling of spiritual power descend upon the proceedings. However, the ceremony ended shortly after and I shuffled my way out into the daylight again, an ordinary mortal untouched by the hand of God.

This second big disappointment had me seriously worried and, naturally, I concluded that I was somehow to blame. Religion is good at convincing people that all their blessings come from God, but negative experiences are always their fault. I guiltily reflected that I had been less than conscientious about fasting on the first Sunday of each month as the church required. My prayers were not as fervent as they might be and I sometimes neglected to read the scriptures on a daily basis. The absence of a spiritual experience, both at the visit of President Hinckley and at the temple dedication could only mean one thing – I wasn’t worthy.

But try as I might to humble myself under this shameful knowledge, it was no longer the motivator it had once been. For some reason, much as I wanted to do better, I couldn’t seem to improve. In fact, I became somewhat more lethargic about prayer and scripture study and began fasting for less and less time on the appointed day, until I was only missing out one meal instead of two. Eventually I stopped fasting altogether. What had been easy for so many years started to become a burden. Oh, I continued to faithfully pay my tithing, keep the Word of Wisdom (the church’s health code) and work hard at my calling as a teacher in Relief Society, the women’s organisation. But the daily spiritual rituals were harder to maintain. I would have periods of rededication to them, but these rarely lasted longer than a few weeks at a time. What I realise now, but would never have accepted then, was that the church wasn’t fullfilling me as it had once done.

Athough the big events stand out in my mind as key moments at the start of my cognitive dissonance, I think it was the church’s tireless insistence on only providing gospel “milk” rather than “meat” that began to really tell on me and sap my enthusiasm. There was a big emphasis on “the basics”, as they were called – faith, prayer, scripture reading, keeping the commandments, following the prophet. Week after week the talks and lessons that we heard at church were variations on the same old themes and, quite frankly, for someone who had been a long-time member it was simply tedious. I began to long for an in-depth discussion, some revolutionary ideas, a radical programme to regain lost spirituality, but none of these ever materialised.

In my mind and to all outward appearances I was still a true-believing Mormon, but I was finding it harder and harder to get excited about what I was hearing at church. There were welcome oases in the desert of blandness – occasional talks or lessons that would temporarily fire me with enthusiasm and determination to increase my faith and obedience – but these were few and far between. By denying me the chance to explore, examine and discuss issues of real depth, the church was gradually squandering my love and commitment.

However, a calling to be Gospel Doctrine teacher reignited my enthusiasm somewhat. I set aside the predictable church-produced lesson manuals and sought to make my lessons more thought-provoking and scripture-based. Now that I was in charge of my own class, I could instigate some in-depth discussions and get people thinking. In my determination to make the most of this opportunity, I redoubled my efforts to really study the scriptures and search out their meaning for our lives.

My lessons were well received, and everything was fine until we began the annual course of study that included the Doctrine & Covenants and church history. I was making use of the internet to search out information about the early church to bring my lessons alive, when I started to notice some striking differences between a few important teachings of early church leaders such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and those that were being promulgated by the current hierarchy. Doctrines that had once been claimed to come directly from God, and to exist everlastingly, had either been watered down or even discarded entirely over the years. To me, this couldn’t be right. Either the truth was always the truth, or either the early or later leaders had made mistakes, while claiming to be inspired.

Once I accepted that somebody, somewhere, was tinkering with God’s revelations for the sake of convenience or popularity, I realised that a fatal flaw had occurred in my testimony of the church’s truthfulness. After much study of early church scriptures and writings I decided that the former prophets had simply been more “in tune” with God’s will, had manifested more impressive spiritual experiences and generally sounded more confident in their assertions of revelation than those of recent years. Because of my mounting questions about the discrepancies in scriptures and teachings, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable listening to talks and lessons at church. A couple of times I tentatively raised potential problems in Sunday classes, which, in my heightened state of awareness seemed almost glaring in their inconsistency, only to be “slapped down” by pompous members secure in their complacency. I realised that I didn’t belong at church any more.

Once I had made the decision not to return to church, a huge feeling of relief engulfed me. For the past few months I had been attempting to keep a lid on thoughts and feelings that were becoming more and more insistent. At last I was free to give them full reign, examine them properly without anxiety or guilt and stand by the conclusions that I drew from them. I relished the chance to free my thoughts from the channels in which they had been confined for so many years. It was an amazing feeling – and it still is.

As I allowed myself to think about and consider things that had been almost taboo as an obedient Mormon, I began to understand why the church was so determined that members shouldn’t stray from the party line. It became clear that freethinking will always be a danger to any organisation that relies upon obedience as a mechanism for controlling its members. Once someone begins to think for themself there is a real potential for dissent. Because the controlling organisation requires unquestioning loyalty and submission to authority to maintain its power base, new ideas, alternative views, open debate and discussion cannot be countenanced. In fact, as far as the LDS church is concerned, safety lies not in merely discouraging these things, but in continually reinforcing the belief that such actions are in complete opposition to God’s will. Query the church’s version of its history? Question the words of the Lord’s mouthpiece here on earth? Point out contradictions in scripture? All totally unthinkable.

Dissent from orthodoxy must be condemned in the strongest terms and perhaps the most derogatory epithet of all is the most telling – intellectual! This term in some religious circles has become almost synonymous with “trouble maker” or even “apostate”. While secularists might be flattered by such a label, believers shun it like the plague. To be labelled an intellectual in a church context is almost to be considered a disgrace to your religion. At the very least you can expect to be treated with suspicion; more likely you will be firmly called to repentance and warned of the dire consequences – particularly in the life to come – of your misguided actions. If you refuse to admit the folly of your ways, you face becoming a virtual pariah among your formerly friendly fellow-believers.

This may well be part of the reason why the freedom to think my own thoughts, unregulated by people who imagined they had some divine mandate to impose their thinking upon me, tasted so good when I finally threw off the shackles of religion. It was the first and, so far, the sweetest fruit of my unbelief and has made the long and difficult journey that I have subsequently undertaken all the more challenging and fascinating.

IslaSkye

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Written by islaskye

October 13, 2007 at 8:37 am

40 Responses

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  1. I’m curious. Were you born in the church or a convert?

    LDS Anarchist

    October 13, 2007 at 10:05 am

  2. Convert – I joined as a teenager. And left 27 years later.

    islaskye

    October 13, 2007 at 5:09 pm

  3. I’m a convert, too, of 27 years, also. (But I haven’t left, yet.) I’m still curious, though. What made you join the church in the first place? I hope you don’t mind me asking. Your post covers the reasons why you’ve finally left, but not the reasons why you joined in the first place. I wonder, were the reasons why you left related to the reasons why you joined, or were they unrelated. To explain myself better, let’s say the church represents an alphabet (A-Z) and maybe you joined for reasons A, B, and C, and then just assumed that D-Z were true, too. Did you leave because you found that A, B and C were wrong, or because of some other “letter(s)” (D-Z) of the church alphabet were wrong and then just assumed that the entire alphabet (A-Z) is wrong? I hope I’m explaining myself sufficiently…

    LDS Anarchist

    October 14, 2007 at 1:52 am

  4. Basically, I joined the church because I believed it was true. Or to be more exact, it all made sense to me. For some reason, everything the missionaries taught was very familiar to me and it just felt right. That’s the only way I can describe it. In other words, I joined for emotional reasons. Looking back, I’m sure I can also find psychological reasons for why the gospel appealed to me so much, but at the time, I just “knew” it was true, almost right from the start. I threw myself wholeheartedly into church activity, soaked up everything that was taught in sacrament meetings and Sunday school and avidly devoured the Book of Mormon. I was definitely one of those elusive, so called “golden converts”.

    Throughout most of my membership, I saw the church and the gospel as synonymous. Because the gospel was true, so was the church. By the time I left, the two things had become separated for me. I still loved the gospel, but had come to believe that the vehicle for preaching the gospel – the church – was flawed. Removing myself from the influence of the church as an organisation was the best thing I ever did, but it took far longer for me to understand, and eventually accept, that Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God and, in consequence of that, the gospel that he created and taught held no credibility either. It was far harder to give up the gospel than to give up the church.

    islaskye

    October 14, 2007 at 8:20 am

  5. I, too, separate the gospel from the church. One last question, if you will indulge me. Did you ever during those 27 years have any manifestations of the Spirit? Like personal revelations, visions, dreams, angelic visitations, prophecy, any of the gifts mentioned in the scriptures, etc.? Anything spiritually manifested that ever confirmed the belief or faith that you had? It sounds like, based on what you wrote, that you never had any of those type of faith-confirming experiences. But I may be wrong. 27 years is a lot of time to explain in 18 paragraphs. Maybe you just left those experiences out of your narrative. If you had those experiences, do you think they were just manifestations of self-hypnosis, etc.?

    LDS Anarchist

    October 14, 2007 at 9:44 am

  6. ***It sounds like, based on what you wrote, that you never had any of those type of faith-confirming experiences. But I may be wrong. 27 years is a lot of time to explain in 18 paragraphs. Maybe you just left those experiences out of your narrative.***

    As I see it, Dangerous Thought is about Isla’s “exciting and satisfying discovery” that she could think for herself and realising that she could be her own master, more than it being a narrative covering all of the whys and wherefores of the path that eventually led her to reject the Church altogether.

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    October 14, 2007 at 12:12 pm

  7. Yes, I certainly had my fair share of what might be termed “spiritual experiences” while I was active in the church. I regularly “felt the Spirit” and always had a very strong testimony. That’s why I felt so confused when events I expected to be spiritual highlights, such as Pres Hinckley’s visit and the temple dedication, just fell flat for me.

    Today, I would put “manifestationsof the Spirit” down to a combination of magical thinking, wishful thinking, imagination, expectation and the power of suggestion. Although very powerful at the time, I am certain that each of my experiences had a logical (and often psychological) explanation. I wouldn’t wish to speak for others, but I suspect that all so-called spiritual experiences have a natural, rather than supernatural, basis.

    Actually, this might be a good topic for a blog entry – thanks for the idea!

    islaskye

    October 15, 2007 at 6:50 am

  8. Wow – what an interesting post. The LDS church has always been a curiosity to me. Even though I have worked with and mingled with Mormons, I have never really talked to them about their religion other than to ask about caffeine, and why it is okay in chocolate and Dr. Pepper but not in coffee. (Never got a good answer from that one.)

    Your post recalls similar experiences to my own deconversion from Christianity, and your discussion in the comments remind me of how convinced I had become that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I had discovered that the speaking in tongues came easily when I was in a large group, but if I tried to invoke it on my own I felt nothing. I had come to the conclusion that it had more to do with group dynamics than actual contact with God.

    I also had similar experiences with church leaders with feet of clay, and the undeserved reverence afforded them.

    Thanks for sharing this, and thanks for submitting it to the Carnival of the Godless.

    Mike

    Mike Haubrich, FCD

    October 28, 2007 at 10:59 am

  9. Great deconversion story!!!

    I’d like to include you in the ex-Mormon blog network “Outer Blogness” if you don’t mind… 😀

    C. L. Hanson

    October 28, 2007 at 5:35 pm

  10. Thanks for your comments, Mike. I’m glad you could relate to some of the experiences I mentioned. I expect there are common themes running through most deconversions.

    islaskye

    October 28, 2007 at 8:55 pm

  11. Hi C.L. Please feel free to include this blog in your network.

    By the way, that’s not the whole of my deconversion story, but I expect I’ll get round to writing more about it in the future.

    islaskye

    October 28, 2007 at 8:57 pm

  12. Nice partial deconversion story, Islaskye. I don’t have any experience with Mormonism, but a an ex-Catholic, there are similarities. I was never that much invested in my religion but the process of figuring out that the emperor had no clothes is similar.

    Since I use the same WordPress theme, I have to say I like what you’ve done to it. I’ll be back.

    Spanish Inquisitor

    October 28, 2007 at 10:43 pm

  13. Very interesting. As a genuine 100% honest to whatever atheist, I have never understood why people would be religious in the first place. Stories like this gives me some insight in the process.

    Keep up the good work!

    dorfl

    November 2, 2007 at 7:57 am

  14. Inquisitor

    I have heard Mormons argue that there are only 2 Christian religions that could possibly be “true” – either theirs, or Catholicism. Why? Because Mormons claim a restoration of Christ’s original priesthood authority and Catholics claim an unbroken continuation of it. Protestants make no such claims and therefore can be dismissed as being unauthentic.

    According to this thinking, Mormons and Catholics have more in common than you would imagine. However, Mormons argue that theirs is in fact the only “true” church because a “falling away from the truth” or Great Apostasy allegedly occurred following the death of the original Twelve Apostles, meaning that the Catholic church lost the priesthood authority and never regained it. On the other hand, the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, received the restored priesthood authority in the 19th century and it has remained in the church ever since. So Catholics lost it and Mormons got it back. God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t he? 😉

    Dorfl

    Having been a believer for a good part of my life, I perhaps find it easier than someone who has never believed to see the attraction of religion. And there definitely are attractions – certainty, comfort, community. Unfortunately they are mainly based on wishful thinking.

    islaskye

    November 4, 2007 at 4:17 pm

  15. I’m no atheist, nor will I ever be, but I noticed something. I’ve seen several of these de-conversion stories, and there’s a pattern. The last one I read was about a Jehovah’s witness who deconverted, this one’s about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Apparently, off-shoots of Christianity cause more “de-conversions” than regular Christianity itself.
    The reason I am a Christian is that it not only makes sense, but it makes more sense than anything else, let alone atheism (no offense).

    When you say, “threw off the shackles of religion,” you meant, “threw off the shackles of my previous religion.”

    I disagree with those who turn from one religion and reject every other religion altogether, but it is your life, not mine.

    Twelve

    November 4, 2007 at 10:13 pm

  16. It would be very interesting to here in what way think religion in general “makes sense”. (You don’t have to write it here of you want to, it may not be the right place). I’m trying to understand religious people, and it seems to me that “certainty, comfort, community” lacks something as an explanation for something as big.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 5, 2007 at 9:15 am

  17. Twelve

    I like your “live and let live” attitude.

    I’m not sure that offshoots of Christianity, as you call them, account for a disproportionate amount of deconversions, as there are plenty of internet sites dedicated solely to the deconversion stories of plain old Christians. However, I will say that deconversion is usually quite a lengthy process, at least it was for me. It took me about 2 years to fully dispense with my belief in Mormonism, but at that point I still very much believed in God and Jesus Christ and the bible. However, questioning (and ultimately rejecting) my LDS religion made it easier for me to then set about questioning (and ultimately rejecting) Christianity. That probably took me another year or so, and once the Christian god had been debunked in my mind, there was no foundation for a belief in any other god, so it was a natural progression to then embrace atheism.

    It wasn’t a case of me “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” by leaving one religion and automatically rejecting all others. The process was much more gradual and thoughtful than that.

    islaskye

    November 5, 2007 at 8:35 pm

  18. Mr Dorfl

    You’re right, there is a lot more to religion than my throwaway comment would suggest. I’ll have a go at thinking about what my religion meant to me and get back to you with a more thorough explanation.

    Meanwhile, other people may want to answer your question too, from their perspectives.

    islaskye

    November 5, 2007 at 8:39 pm

  19. I am aware that there are de-converted Christians, but it seems that there are more de-converted Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

    I’m glad to hear that you weren’t one of the many who simply rejected it all at once, islaskye. Still, I’d be interested to hear why God is “debunked in your mind.”

    ____________
    Mr. Dorfl,

    I’d be glad to explain why Christianity makes sense to me. As for religion, in general, I only follow one religion, and the others don’t make sense. When I say “religion,” I include everything, even atheism. Although I can’t really just explain everything right away, all at once, I can answer any questions you have about Christianity. This can take a ton of explaining, and I don’t know where to start, so if you have a problem with a certain area of Christianity, I can probably answer. I’m no Bible scholar, so I might not be able to answer everything.

    Twelve

    November 5, 2007 at 10:18 pm

  20. Twelve: You say, ‘When I say “religion,” I include everything, even atheism’, and that shows that you understand me just as little as I understand you. I am truly unreligious. If atheism, according to you, is a religion, then you will have to make up a new word for what I am. 🙂

    I have tons of problems with christianity, but that’s not what I’m after. I know christianity makes absolutely no sense and is self-contradictory, and I’m sure you will be able to find excuses and rationalisations. That’s not the issue. The issue is why you are religious at all, not why you choose christianity. And as such, I also have no questions about christianity. You say you are not a scholar, and neither am I, but my fascination with pretty much everything and history in particular means I know more about christianity than most christians. But that hasn’t changed my opinion about it.

    islakey: Thanks.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 5, 2007 at 10:59 pm

  21. Dorfl,

    I pretty much consider religion to be a person’s view of life, concerning the bigger, most meaningful questions, such as “how did life originate,” and questions to that effect.

    As for your question, “why are you religious at all,” I have an answer. One reason is that I was raised a pastor’s child. I question my religion, always have, and being the pastor’s kid, I would ask him about it, and I would get an explanation. After a while, I just looked for the answers to whatever questions arose myself, and I still do, though sometimes I still have to ask.
    I have never found a contradiction, but there are parts in the Bible that appear to make no sense until I think about them for a while, and fail to come up with an answer until the answer hits me the next day inexplicably, and without reason (as most thoughts do).

    (most atheists do know more about Christianity than some/most Christians. That, or they just appear to, as atheists pretty much rule the internet.)

    Twelve

    November 6, 2007 at 11:38 pm

  22. It’s an interesting question, but it’s not meaningful. I’d like to know how life originated. But it’s not any more meaningful than “how did writing originate” or “how did farming originate” or “how does earthquakes originate”. It has originated, and teh excat mechanichs and events are interesting, but not deeply meaningful in any way.

    So basically, you are religious out of habit. That’s interesting.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 7, 2007 at 1:10 pm

  23. Twelve,

    ***I’ve seen several of these de-conversion stories, and there’s a pattern. The last one I read was about a Jehovah’s witness who deconverted, this one’s about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Apparently, off-shoots of Christianity cause more “de-conversions” than regular Christianity itself.***

    It’s very telling that you’re able to see a “pattern” and come to a conclusion after only reading “several” deconversion stories. If you found yourself eating nuts one day, say macadamia nuts and peanuts, and noticed that a work colleague was eating the same nuts, would you conclude that people eat more macadamia nuts and peanuts than other kinds of nuts? Or would that be nuts?

    To be perfectly honest, it sounds like you don’t like the idea of more people leaving “regular Christianity” than other types of Christianity.

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    November 7, 2007 at 6:55 pm

  24. Dorfl,

    I’m not so much religious out of habit as I am Christian out of reason, considering how much I question my own religion on a daily basis. Had I not been born in the Christian family I did, I would probably be an atheist.

    _________________________________________
    Curmudgeon,

    I apologize for the word “several,” it’s a word I tend to use a lot lately.
    What I was trying to get at was that most of what I’ve seen of de-conversion stories don’t start off with a Christian who is very sure of his/her beliefs. Instead, it might start off with Mormonism, a Jehovah’s witness, and other things that may be a bit similar to Christianity, but really aren’t the same. It’s just a pattern I’ve noticed. I may be wrong, but it’s worth the consideration.

    Twelve

    November 8, 2007 at 12:19 am

  25. Twelve,

    You really have no need to apologise, as I wasn’t offended by your use of the word “several” at all. I was just taking issue with your conclusion, that it can be reached so quickly. That’s all.

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    November 8, 2007 at 7:04 am

  26. “I’m not so much religious out of habit as I am Christian out of reason,”

    Saying that you are christian out of reason sounds like you can prove that christianiy is right, which you clearly are aware of that you can’t, since you also say this:

    “Had I not been born in the Christian family I did, I would probably be an atheist.”

    What you do is that you use your ability to reason to make up reasons for not becoming an atheist. That is not “by reason”, but “by rationalization”, rather. Or rather “rationalized habit”.

    That said it might very well be the reasonable choice for you, Perhaps your parents would react very negatively if you stopped believing. Unless you are in an opressive sect, it is definitely not worth breaking with your family over an issue like this.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 8, 2007 at 7:46 am

  27. Mr. Dorfl,

    When I say “Had I not been born in the Christian family I did, I would probably be an atheist,” I am basing that off of my nature and the nature of my mind. I am stubborn, and it is difficult to change my mind unless I am willing to change my mind if I am proven wrong, and the family I was raised in taught me to keep an open mind, and if I had been raised in a different family, I probably wouldn’t have learned to keep an open mind, knowing my nature. On top of that, if I was born in a non-Christian family, I would probably be an atheist, and if you put the two together (closed mind + non-Christian family), you will end up with a closed-minded atheist. I hope that helped you understand what I was trying to say.

    Twelve

    November 8, 2007 at 9:46 pm

  28. It seems to me that all you are doing is using different wordings to say the same thing: You are christian out of birth and habit. I don’t really think you rewording that one more time is going to make much more difference. It’s quite clear that you are christian because you were born in a christian family, and you use your considerable reasoning powers in the aim to stay that way. And that does answer my question.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 9, 2007 at 9:37 am

  29. Dorfl,

    So we agree that I am a Christian because I was raised that way and later questioned my religion but, with reasoning, stayed a Christian?
    I’m just trying to clarify things.

    Twelve

    November 9, 2007 at 11:36 pm

  30. Well, you see, since you say that of you wuld have been raised an atheist, you woul dnot today be christian, it’s using a slightly unusual definition of “reasoning”. Because normally, reasoning is not subjective. That is, no matter who does it should come to the same conclusion.

    You can call it reasoning, if you explicitly include subjectivity in the premise of the logic. I.e. if you say “Should Twelve be a christian” as opposed to “Should people in general be christian” or “is christianity correct”. But that then also excludes the question if you would have been christian if you were born in an atheist family, since that is not the same “Twelve” as the question is about.

    so I wouldn’t call it reasoning. I would call it rationalisation. I.e, you use logic to find arguments that support the foregone conclusion. We all do that, most of the time.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 10, 2007 at 10:57 am

  31. Mr Dorfl

    I’ve finally got the chance to answer your question about why I was once religious. What did religion do for me?

    Well, for one thing, it gave me answers to some of life’s more perplexing questions. They may not have been correct answers, but they satisfied me at the time. Questions like where did I come from, why am I living at this particular time, what is the purpose of my life and what is the best way to live, what will happen to me when I die and is there someone watching over me?

    Religion gave me comfort by reassuring me that I was a child of God, a supreme being who had everything in his control and who was deeply interested in me as a person. The particular religion that I joined also held beliefs about the eternal nature of the family, which appealed to me as I was very close to my family. It also taught of a pre-earth life, which gave me the perspective of an eternal past as well as an everlasting future.

    I believed that God heard and answered my prayers, that he knew everything I was experiencing and could empathise with me and send me the help I needed. I believed that every incident and situation in life had a purpose which he had carefully designed to allow me to learn and grow in precisely the way that was right for me as an individual.

    (You see, once you believe in a supreme being, you can imbue him (or her) with any characteristics and qualities that you wish. You can write your own answers and give them divine authority in your mind.)

    I developed a “magical” mindset by which I viewed everything that occurred, so it was easy to believe that I was receiving spiritual guidance, witnessing personal miracles and attaining a deep understanding of life’s “mysteries”.

    I was totally convinced that I was right in my beliefs and, although I acknowledged that people might have different views to me, I never considered that they might have a more valid point than mine. Such certainty was another important source of comfort and, unfortunately, complacency.

    Being part of a group of believers also brought with it a sense of community, comradeship and a shared identity. It was us against the world. We had the knowledge that would set our poor ignorant brothers and sisters free and bring them eternal happiness. Interestingly, when I rejected my religion I discovered what I had secretly suspected but never wanted to admit – that without our mutual belief system, I had little in common with many of my church friends. Often religion throws you together with people who you wouldn’t otherwise wish to spend your time with.

    The type of religion that I was a part of was rightly described as “a way of life”. Almost every decision was already made for me – what and what not to eat and drink, what to wear, who to associate with, suitable leisure pursuits, how to spend my Sundays and much of my other free time, what to do with 10% of my income, whose instruction to follow and whose to ignore, what my priorities should be, even who I should and should not date and marry. I think a lot of people like the security that such a comprehensive belief system brings.

    I hope this gives you a flavour of why religion appealed to me and kept me in its thrall for such a long time. I’m sure there are more reasons that I could add to the list, but these are just the things that immediately came to mind when I sat down and thought about it.

    islaskye

    November 11, 2007 at 6:04 pm

  32. That’s very interesting, thanks.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 12, 2007 at 8:29 am

  33. Twelve,

    ***…I am a Christian because I was raised that way and later questioned my religion but, with reasoning, stayed a Christian?***

    So, specifically speaking, what were the conclusions that you drew from your reasoning that convinced you to remain a Christian? What was it that you discovered through reasoning that reinforced your Christian belief?

    And have you ever thought that, if you had been raised by Muslim parents, you could very well be making the same statement about Islam? So isn’t it probable that you’re simply a product of your upbringing and entrenched in the mythology espoused by your family and culture?

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    November 12, 2007 at 10:14 pm

  34. What I’ve been trying to say is that my upbringing has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Christian. It helped, and had I been raised in a different family, I’d probably be an atheist. This, assuming I know my own nature, and I do. I am stubborn, and atheism almost makes sense, whereas other religions don’t, therefore, I’d probably be an atheist, because atheism is the easy way out, in my opinion, no offense. You really can’t speak for me, seeing as I know myself better than anyone else, excluding the omnipotent, time-less being that is constantly watching my every move, past, present, and future (it sounds a bit creepy when I say it like that).:)

    Have a nice day.
    God bless.

    -Twelve

    Twelve

    November 21, 2007 at 2:45 am

  35. I’m sorry, Twelve, you are continually contraditicing yourself.

    “What I’ve been trying to say is that my upbringing has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Christian.”

    OK, maybe that’s what you have been tring to say. But what you ARE saying is the complete opposite, namely that it is the upbringing that is the one and only cause:

    “It helped, and had I been raised in a different family, I’d probably be an atheist.”

    So, it’s the upbringing.

    “This, assuming I know my own nature, and I do. I am stubborn, and atheism almost makes sense, whereas other religions don’t, therefore, I’d probably be an atheist”

    So, it’s the upbringing.

    “because atheism is the easy way out, in my opinion, no offense.”

    Well, I won’t take it as an offense, because I know many people seem to think that you have a duty to try and believe in God. I don’t understand that duty. I think, honestly, the easy way out for you is to continue to believe in God, and that’s why you do it. Possibly because being an atheist would raise a lot of personal conflicts for you. You know that Atheism, as you say, make a lot of sense, and you think “oh how easy it would be if I could just be an Atheist, then I wouldn’t have to make up all these rationalizations to continue to believe in something I don’t really believe in”.

    I saw a great TV series called “The Atheism Tapes” where Jonathan Miller had long discussions about atheism and religion with several philosophers. And i Think it was Daniel Dennet who said “People in the west generally do not believe in God. They belive in beliving in God.” He explained that people who say they believe in God believe it is Good to believe in God, and that they belive that you need religion for society to stay moral. But very rarely do you see anybody putting their life on the line for God. They don’t actually belive.

    I think you are one of these. You believe in belief. But I think that deep down, you don’t actually believe in God. You are just good at making up excuses for believing. And I would like to point out here, that I’m in no way sure you are wrong. It may very well be that society needs religion to keep many of it’s citizens moral. Maybe we do need religion, even though it’s false.

    “it sounds a bit creepy when I say it like that”

    It is, because an all-powerful and all-knowing God has to be a seriously evil one. Which is creepy. But that’s another discussion.

    Mr Dorfl

    November 22, 2007 at 7:30 am

  36. Twelve,

    ***What I’ve been trying to say is that my upbringing has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Christian. It helped,…***

    Your acknowledgment that your upbringing “helped” make you a Christian completely invalidates you’re “my upbringing has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Christian” remark. The rearing that you received during childhood is far from nothing, as it obviously fitted you to follow closely the pattern of your parents’ religiosity.

    ***…and had I been raised in a different family, I’d probably be an atheist.***

    The implication being that you’re a Christian now because you were raised by Christian parents. How that can qualify as “nothing” is beyond me.

    ***This, assuming I know my own nature, and I do. I am stubborn,…***

    Please explain to me, as best as you can, the part that stubbornness plays in turning somebody into an atheist, ‘cos you’re definitely implying that it does, indeed, have a part to play.

    ***…and atheism almost makes sense, whereas other religions don’t, therefore, I’d probably be an atheist, because atheism is the easy way out, in my opinion, no offense.***

    No offence taken. But I would like to know how atheism is easier than theism.

    ***You really can’t speak for me, seeing as I know myself better than anyone else,…

    I’m not speaking for you (and neither is Mr Dorfl, as a matter of fact). I’m reading your words and it’s they that are doing all of the talking. If you feel that you’re being misunderstood, then you only have yourself to blame. I’m beginning to think that you might actually be 12, as that would certainly account for a few things.

    ***…excluding the omnipotent, time-less being that is constantly watching my every move, past, present, and future (it sounds a bit creepy when I say it like that).***

    Way to go in putting the idea that you worship in such an unfavourable light.

    By the way, I’m still interested in reading your answer to the question that I put to you in my other reply which was about what you discovered through reasoning that reinforced your Christian belief.

    Curmudgeonly Yours

    November 22, 2007 at 7:10 pm

  37. My upbringing is why I started being a Christian, but my family raised me to keep my mind open. My father would explain everything, every question I had, by looking at both sides of the argument. I now follow the same example, and thus, I have an open mind.
    That said, I am not a Christian simply because I was born in a Christian family. My upbringing taught me how to keep my mind open, and how to look at a situation. Had I been in a different Christian family, I might not have learned how to do so, and might have turned atheist, because I’m not one to believe something without reason. Yes, my upbringing is why I am a Christian, but not in the manner one would tend to believe. Being in a Christian family has nothing to do with it.
    I hope that explained it. I apologize, I often make everything more complicated than it should be.

    Twelve

    November 28, 2007 at 12:35 am

  38. Ah, so you claim that keeping an open mind means people would become christian, while having a closed mind makes you atheist.

    This may be correct of you define “open” as “unquestioning” and “closed” as “critical and questioning”. Religious people often do. I’ve met many new agers who go “oooh, but you have to have an open mind… crystal therapy *could* work, don’t be so closed….”

    I’m not closed. My mind is open to the possibilty that it works. But it’s also open to the possibility that it doesn’t work, and as far as I can see, it doens’t work.

    And it’s like that with gods. My mind is open to the possibility that some sort of gods exist. But it’s also open to the possibility that they don’t. And so far, I can see absolutely no indication that they exist. So I’ll keep assuming they don’t, just as I do with pixies, fairies, santa Claus, the sound stage they faked the moon-landings on and Harry Potter, all of who *could* exist, but probably doens’t.

    So, you see, atheists mind are not closed. They are just sceptical.

    dorfl

    November 28, 2007 at 7:34 am

  39. 37 years for me. 12 years now of free thought. I was invited by Thomas S Monson to his office in SLC and had some personal time with him. My father has been his friend all his church life, and held some fairly senior positons in the Church in the UK (Stake President, Cllr on Mission Presidency and 3 full time missions)

    What can I say. I was brain washed…now I’m not.

    et

    March 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

  40. Hi, It was interesting for me to read your thoughts and experiences. I was google searching specifically to find any record of the happenings of the rededication of the England Preston temple which took place when I was fairly young. As a youngster I seem to have not noticed the things which you did and I came away feeling surprisingly uplifted. My recollection is mainly of waiting in line in front of the temple. (I can’t recall if it was to enter the temple to view or just standing in orderly fashion) Nothing too exciting there I know.. 😉 But then one person in the line bagan to sing ‘We thank thee Oh God for a Prophet’ and the singing continued along the line until everyone was singing and then I could see why.. The prophet had come out from the temple and was walking near.

    I’m reckoning that the fish and chips wasn’t his thing lol.. maybe he thought they had been over-hiped? I’d love me some British fish and chips now! 🙂

    cyclingcopenhagen

    June 25, 2013 at 7:44 am


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