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)


  1. " to live with not just simply different worldviews but diametrically opposed ones."

    "Opposite" and its synonyms such as "diametrically opposed" are overused in general and inappropriate here.

    It's much better than the word that most would use-"conflicting". Obviously worldviews can at most suggest actions which would conflict.

    Yet in a way that would capture the truth better because "conflicting" does not unreasonably promote or demean any worldview the way "diametrically opposed" does.

    There are non-ontological reductionists and ontological reductionists.
    Non-ontological reductionists can believe that only mental things are not reducible or something else.
    If they believe that mental things are not reducible, they can believe in gods or not.
    If they believe in gods, they can believe in the one postulated by Mormonism or not.

    Not only is there an exponentially increasing number of options the more that branches, I left out countless steps.

    Is it fair to say Mormonism is the opposite of your agnostic atheism? Then what is its relationship to Devil worship that accepts its truth and chooses the opposing team, or normative relativism, or open individualism?

    The worldviews of you and your wife differ the way all people's differ and also as legal paper currency differs. The differences are many more than if you were the same denomination, yet being identical was never an option in the first place.

    Most likely everyone's moral system is irrational and ultimately inconsistent without some tweaks. Under the harshest light, my worldview is probably incoherent, never mind how it squares up against anyone else's.

    Under a reasonable standard, my worldview is self consistent. Yours probably is too, your wife's may be, and they probably contrast sharply with each other.

    The realm of actions is another matter entirely. Somehow the Mormon, agnostic atheist, Devil worshiper, normative relativist, and open individualists all pay money for groceries. The actions derivative from their diverse beliefs are not just compatible, but almost identical!

    This is due to the particular content of each belief system and specific situation being negotiated. No sweeping general rule applies, the future depends on the very specific content of everyone's beliefs and circumstances they are put in. Because of this, you have a lot of control. You are not consigned to live some trope in which you are the atheist and she the zealot; you have influence on which beliefs will be relevant since you significantly control what conflict situations arise and indirect influence on your and your wife's beliefs.

    P.S. Lose graciously.

  2. Brian, I support what you are trying to do. I think too many people blindly follow their faith without ever really examining it. I see it as a crutch that gives people rules to live by and can offer hope; however if you don't feel like you need that crutch then remove the bindings and stand on your own two feet. Question, challenge, grow, and become the person you want to be.

  3. @ Brian: thank you, that's a great point. I do misuse that term often when trying to emphasize how conflicted two things inherently are. In this case there is, as you point out, controls we can place on how often those conflicts are addressed. I would say however that is moreva matter of what we decide to acknowledge / or address of what we will be aware of regardless. (Sorry if thatvis poorly articulated, I'm sleepy)

    I agree that there are MANY areas of life that our different worldviews allow congruence in, but the Mormon observations (mental, emotional and physical) are so comprehensive it is harder to avoid the conflict than it would be in a some less pervasive faiths.

    P.S. i intend to, i think.

  4. Sure wish I had proof-read that. Thumb-typing makes this even harder.

    I meant to say, in that first paragraph, that i agree with you but that there are some unavoidable conflicts that are inherent to these different worldview at least our individual versions of them. We can decide to address them or not but they will be there, either way and more to the point we will be aware of them. We try to focus on the points of unity though.

  5. Brian,

    Holy journey Batman! There's no doubt that this is tough. That may be the biggest understatement ever. I wish both of you all the luck and kindness in the world. I've been through a similar struggle a few times -- nothing like what you are going through.

    I've been an atheist since I was a in high school. (Well... agnostic in high school - atheist in college.) Haven't wavered since. I respect all of the thoughts that people have posted here so far - I do disagree on many points.

    Anything you post here is appropriate. I get the feeling you've been told quite enough that your thoughts and beliefs are inappropriate. It took me a long time to muster the courage to say that I am an atheist... but saying it was one of the best things I ever did. Now I tell anyone who asks. I was just asked this morning. He said "are you an atheist?" and I said "yes" he replied "I think you guys believe in god more than anyone." -- Sigh. The thing is... religion changes the way we make decisions. Our decisions should be based on facts.

    I'll skip the semantics and concentrate on the message.

    I agree with religious people more than I disagree. There are 200+ currently worshiped gods in this world. If your somewhere in the christian continuum... we agree that at least 199 of those aren't real. I just take one step further and think that any specific god is also a construct of the natural processes of the brain. (You'll notice I don't cap god... as it refers to an idea and NOT one proper noun. I've been getting marked down for this for years.)

    It's possible - and I think certain in your case - to be on the opposite side while still operating with care and respect. Morality and kindness don't come from god or religion... they comes from simple survivability. Those that work together thrive and populate. Remember all the atheist wars... wait... perhaps those were "holy" wars.

    If there were a god he would be ashamed that he is between and not binding people together. The simple truth is, there isn't one... there are 200+. I don't believe in any of them. That means that at the very least... the vast majority of the world is spending their days worshiping something that is false. I "worship" the world around us. Nothing is more fantastic, amazing, and stunning. I don't need to fabricate to be inspired every day. It's more beauty than I can take at times... The complexity of evolution and its simple beauty is the finest work of art that exists.

    That same beauty exists in your children, your wonderful wife, and the family that you have made. However all of this works out the example you are setting is a great one for everyone. Truth, honesty, and thought are the best gifts that you can pass on. You, my friend, are one of the kindest, smartest, and most amazing people I've ever met. This post only reaffirms that fact.

  6. I hope you are not throwing out the baby with the bathwater - the bathwater being the self-proclaimed people of God, the baby being God Himself.

    God is no longer looking for a people because all humanity is His, bought and paid for through the blood of Jesus Christ. What He is looking for is persons...who will walk with Him.