Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Bishop's letter

I got my letter from the Bishop confirming my request to have my name removed from the records of the church (my excommunication) is being processed. I was surprised to find it was a little difficult to read. Not because it was mean spirited in anyway. This Bishop is a man of admirable character. I have heard hard stories about spiteful and angry separations. Thankfully that is not how mine was at all.

I don’t think it was the consequences the letter warned of that made it difficult to read. I don’t believe in them anymore, but I still had a twinge of fear, and a sense of finality, and severity. It gave me a moment’s pause. As sure as I am and as clearly as I can see that I have made the right decision why should I still hesitate? How can there can still be that voice saying, “what if”?
I took a moment to indulge that voice. I thought about it and it didn’t take me long to determine exactly “what if”.

“If God exists, I hope he’s got a good excuse.” – Woody Allen.

I cannot endorse the cruel and vain God of the bible or the remade version of the modern apologetic. I refuse to support the discriminatory and ignorant doctrines that hinder social and scientific progress. I cannot accept an all loving being that wouldn’t do more to stop the horrors done in His name.

If I am wrong, and there is a God I will face him with the same defiance I feel now.  

I don’t think the pause I felt as I read the Bishops letter was a concern for my soul; it was concern for my situation. I don’t think that it was about leaving the faith, as much as it was leaving the church and its social group and support structure. There are good people, good friends that I will have a harder time maintaining friendships with. I hope this proves an unfounded concern but it seems to be the tendency. Mostly I think I feared the change – looking back at the charred ruins of a bridge I will never cross again.
Once I had indulged that fear, felt that last tie cut. I experienced something else: relief and freedom. I felt invigorated and inspired to make this life (the only one I’m going to get) extraordinary. There is real suffering in this world and I intend to do something about it - unshackled by ancient superstitions and religious obligations on my resources.
A personal note: For all of you that have been good friends to my wife during this time, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Going Public: Introducing myself and providing some exposition

My name is Brian Wallace. I converted to the LDS faith (Mormon) in September of 1998. I was 22 years old. I had been in the Navy for 2 years and was just finishing up Power School in the Nuclear Power Program. I was baptized on the 28th and I proposed to the close friend that had been so instrumental in my conversion on the same day. We got married in March of the following year and sealed in the Mt. Timpanogos Temple the following October. We now have three bright, beautiful, healthy, and happy children. The oldest is a girl (10) next, another girl (just turned 8 – this is a significant birthday to those who are familiar with Mormon doctrine) and the youngest is a boy (6). I separated from the Navy in September of 05 and went back to school, finishing my EE in three years – yes, ouch. Thankfully I have a great job in the field and have ever since I graduated.

In Nov 08 I started to have some serious doubts about the truthfulness of the doctrines of the Church. I think the doubts were there for a long time, but I was managing to ignore them pretty well until Prop's 8 and 102 came along. I disagreed with the arguments the church was making so strongly and disagreed that they were making them from the pulpit, in Church and in General Conference. I had to accept that I thought the prophet was wrong – dead wrong, and that started a ball rolling for me that, in no time flat, brought down the house of cards that was my faith. For a while, I didn't talk to my wife about my doubts because I thought that I might still overcome them and see my way back to "the truth". If I am honest I think I have to acknowledge the possibility that I simply didn't want to go into that fight without a LOT of ammo. I truly don't know. I let her in on my 'secret' sometime in early 2009. From the beginning it has been horrible for her. It threatened everything that she has worked so hard for. Namely a happy, eternal family sealed in the Temple and blessed by the presence of a strong priesthood holder.

I talked with my Bishop who is a great guy and who tried to help me and didn't condescend or attack my doubts. I continued to talk with him and with my father in law about my questions and doubts while maintaining an active presence in the Church. I did this for many months but it quickly became clear that this wasn't going to work for me; in fact it seemed to increase my agitation with the church's teachings. I felt like such a hypocrite. What I needed was to be done. Not only did I know it wasn't true. I also knew it wasn't good. I didn't want to support it anymore. I requested to be released, then worked for a couple months longer until I was finally released in March of 2010. I haven't been back to Church since, except for events that my kids were participating in – to show support for them. I haven't paid tithing since then but I considered my income shared with my wife so she continued to pay tithing on half of what we make.

I am not only no longer a Mormon, I am no longer a theist. I am an Atheist-Agnostic, or a soft Atheist. If you don't spend time in reading or thinking about these terms you may have a misconception about what these mean. I have learned, from the few conversations I have had on the subject that most people do. I doubt that there is a God of any kind, but I do not attempt to state that with any language of absolutes. I do however strongly contend that the God of the Abrahamic Faiths does not exist, nor does any of the other Gods (dogmatic divine characterizations of organized religions) I have thus far been introduced to. I do not consider faith a virtue and value free-thought and skepticism, physical evidence and reasoned logic. I have read ferociously the works of Russell, Hitchens, Harris, Armstrong and others. I have re-read the Bible (a truly eye opening experience many believers surprisingly have never had) and the Book of Mormon and I have started to monitor some great Youtube channels that produce some really great videos discussing these topics.

This is the point in my life where I am starting this Blog. My wife and I are still working out what this means for us, for our kids, how to live with not just simply different worldviews but diametrically opposed ones. I had a blog for a time where I worked out my thoughts about my loss of faith, and I kept it anonymous because open, public dissension and criticism of the Church mandates ex-communication. I was fine with that but not ready for what it might mean for my wife. I don't want to hide it anymore, and really I haven't been locally for a while. I want to be open about my thoughts and feelings on the subjects of faith, reason, and the political and spiritual climates I see. I will be requesting my name removed from the records of the Church and I will share my thoughts with all that care to listen (so talk to myself, really). I don't have many voices of support in my sphere, but I am grateful to them. I am also grateful for the feedback I get from those that don't support my worldview. It is feedback and perspective I am after here, so please comment, constructively, critically, neither - I don't care. Please tell me all the places I've got it wrong and the occasional ones where I might have got it right. I also have the small hope that my thoughts may help others.

I intend to post around every week or so but I imagine that I will be pretty inconsistent. I am grateful for your time, attention and feedback. I will try not to waste it with poor writing (I tend to ramble, I know).

Thank you.

Brian (Henceforth GA)