Friday, August 27, 2010

What I Believe

A commenter suggested a few posts ago that my hesitance to send in my resignation letter might have something to do with a (however minute) belief in the supposed truth of the church.

It might have--okay, it did--at first. But that hesitance to stop going to church was born out of fear that it might be true. And I've never believed in doing things out of fear--dates way back to when I attended my dad's assembly of god church. They loved striking fear into you. It was a good motivator. The end, they say, justified the means. So I stopped going.

Part of what drew me to the LDS church was the lack of fear-inducement. At least I didn't see any then, and I still believe it's not nearly as bad as I've seen or experienced.

I have said a few times why I hesitate, but I'll say it again: I don't like letting go of comfortable, familiar things. I don't like disappointing people who I love and who have been nothing but good to me. This is not the same demand for independence as what joining was. If anything, I have been resistant for this level of independence. If I leave the church, I'll lose its best people. So far so good, but I have lost one that matters. And that in the beginning of my disaffection.

I set a standard for myself in my first year of membership. I was a "golden convert." My patriarchal blessing said my family would chill out and, I thought, maybe join. It said I would bring many people into the church. I had told my best friend and my roomie that I never saw myself leaving. I was committed. I belonged. People thought I was a member before I joined. I would trust in god. He knew better. I believed that much.

But ultimately I joined the church because i "knew" it was true. I had read the Book of Mormon before joining. I had prayed. I had even been to the temple, gone to church, etc. I had a friend who met with me at a pizza joint semi-regularly to talk with me about the gospel (he was a recent RM in my English 1A class and /swoon! i had a crush--but i was determined to not join because of him. and i'm proud to say i didn't)

It's hard to just decide one day that it's all bunk after hearing time and time again that it's not and even preaching that certain things are not of or are against god. Knee-length skirts/shorts. Coffee. Caffeine (Eric and I switched positions on this a few times). Tea. Keeping the Sabbath "holy."

I was a pain in the ass for my family on many of these points. I freely admit that. After all, I was right, even if it seemed wrong or weird or nonsensical. God's ways are mysterious.

See, I had decided the summer before I met Squeaky that I needed to find a church and also began reading the Bible again--from the beginning. I would read certain passages and think "Gah, that's just wrong..."

and then,

"But if it's what God says, then who am I to argue?"

It was a measure of my maturity, I thought. I was 18.

So that gives you an idea of my mental mindset. If it's right, it's right and who the hell am I to question? I know nothing!

Throw in Squeaky and you have some serious evidence that I should consider this church. So I did.

Once I had my experiences and various so-called confirmations of the LDS church, I allowed everything else to fall into place. I didn't get the coffee/tea thing, but whatever, I thought. Doesn't matter. And besides, Joe Smith was right about tobacco before they knew it was bad (right?), so maybe there is something about coffee and tea that science doesn't yet realize is really really bad for you.

That deep-seated belief--the fact--that we don't know everything today is the main reason I consider myself agnostic.

The more I realized I knew nothing the more I realized we know nothing. I learned that those in positions of "divinely appointed authority" were just as messed up in their thinking as anyone. Anyone under direct guidance of a good, loving, fair god would never condone slavery (Brigham Young), would never say such awful things about the African-American race, suggest the Native Americans needed to be white, say gay people needed to marry straight or have electroshock therapy and later soften it to "just be celibate."

A loving god would demand equality of his people and never stray from that, no matter what society at large thought at the time.

A benevolent god period would never change his mind to suit the whims of his people if the following is to be believed (and it is, I hear it so often in the LDS church at least): "Same yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever" right?

I don't just see this thread in the LDS church. I see it in all Christian churches.

I still pray sometimes when I'm especially scared. I don't know who I'm praying to, but I do. I do it out of hope that there is someone there watching out for me. I am thankful when bad things don't happen to me or my own. It feels incredibly selfish ("thanks for saving my kid instead of those other kids"), but I do pray.

It might be waning, but I have a hope in a god. I have a hope in the afterlife and in seeing my family. If there is a god, I have a hope he/she/it will know my heart and judge me based on that. I do not believe that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whatever hell is.

If there is a god and he/she/it is willing to toss me aside because I'm not good enough, I don't want shit to do with god anyway. Nobody needs to be told they're not good enough, especially when they spend their lives doing nothing but trying to be good.

That said, if there is nothing but this, I am even more thankful for what I do have. I realize I have to embrace it now because one day I won't have it. They won't have me. If there's nothing after this life, it won't matter anyway. I'll be gone. Eventually my husband and kids will be gone. Such is the way of things.

(I don't know how to tell my kids this, though. I don't want them to be scared.)

I think of it like this: I don't remember jack from before I was born. I figure death will be the same kind of nothingness.

Yet sometimes I can't help but feel eternal. I don't know if it's because I just am or because I've been taught all my life that I am.

I don't believe. I don't have a "sure knowledge." We can't know everything. I'm not entirely convinced we can know anything. My agnosticism may turn into atheism. It may remain. I may become a theist or whatever. I don't know.

But anyway, if I have any hope or faith--if that hope or faith isn't in god--it's in that everything will work out.

This lack of belief gives me motivation to make the most of this life. To chase my dreams. To be more. To love my family more. To make a legacy. To have faith in myself. Things I never felt motivated to do or be as a believer. I was told time and again that god loved me, but it didn't really feel like it. I was put in a box. And as a parent (remember, we're told God is our Father and loves us as one), I've no plans to micromanage my kids or to place conditions on my love for them. No plans to ever let them think they're unworthy of me. That's not love. That's tyranny.

This life is a gift. It doesn't matter from what or whom, it just is.

I'll let the rest figure itself out.


  1. I stayed for a long time after I stopped fully believing specifically because of fear. I love my family so much - how could I take ANY risk of being separated from them? But I eventually reached the same conclusion as you: I cannot live by fear.

    It's simply irrelevant to me whether or not my spirit will continue on. I just try to live well regardless. I tell my children that we'll become compost when we die - we'll return to the earth and our composted self will become something new. This doesn't seem to scare my children. I just recently heard them debating about what new thing their bodies will make when they die - butterflies or tomatillos, oak trees or crickets. I think this is a healthy - and factual - approach that is still, to my mind, a hopeful way of thinking about death.

  2. Lisa, I could just hug you. Suffice it to say, I have had way too much fear in my life. I realized that faith is not "moving forward in spite of fear," but that (for me) faith was moving forward with absolute confidence that things would be alright and not even necessarily "in the end." I have moved on to see that even if my faith is lacking, hope is a real power in life. It is what allows me to breath some days. There is simply way too much relevancy here and much much more to say but not here.


  3. I love your blog. You articulate very well some of the tougher things that people struggle with.

  4. Like Kiley said, you articulate your views very well.

    I am part Lakota. My mother called God The Great Mystery as did her People. I sometimes call Him that myself - for what He is up to most of the time is a mystery to me.

    My urban fantasy centers on the friendship of my MC, an agnostic, and his best friend, a vampire priest. Hurricane Katrina gives them physical and spiritual struggles.

    I am in your corner, rooting you on. You must think your lifeview through, for only you will feel life's pains, heartbreaks, and sorrows.

    My email is in my profile should you need someone to whom to vent. Roland