Thursday, February 3, 2011

Why do you need to talk about it?

Recently I’ve been asked by several people the following question:

            “Why can’t you just have your opinion and leave it at that? Why do you need to be so vocal and public about it?”

Okay that’s two questions, noted.

So why is it important? I’ve had a long time to think about that. It has been a point of deep contention for a long time and I’ve had to really examine my motivations on this. In all the time I’ve spent thinking about it I’m not sure I really know the answer but here’s what I’ve come up with so far. It’s layered…

Firstly,  It’s a HUGE part of who I am, my world view and my self-identity. I don’t know very many people (one) in my local sphere who see’s things even close to the way I do. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE else are strong, active members of their church. This blog is a way to engage in conversation on this topic with a broader base of people. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not affirmation that I’m after. I’m not here seeking out like-minds, specifically. I welcome the counter points but I don’t necessarily want them from people I have to live with, and work with, everyday. It can make things… tense. So I want to share my thoughts here and seek feedback and discussion and constructive debate. I know that it would make some people more comfortable if I wouldn’t but I won’t censor who I am anymore, for anyone. Trying to only makes things much, much worse. I know. I tried. So that’s a personal reason to write, but what about all the other outspoken anti-dogmatists? If  I had a strong vibrant local community to share these ideas with would I stop writing? No.

Which brings me to layer number 2. It’s an important thing to talk about. I think there are very real threats to not only our quality of life but our very survival embedded in dogmatic faith. I’m not just talking about terrorism, and violent “extremists.” Climate change, stem cell research, women’s heath, women’s empowerment, true charity (not church expansions), good education – these are all topics that have very real, very urgent consequences. They are also topics where dogmatic, faith-based assertions and prophets (religious or secular) distort the discussion and hinder, even retard, progress. How can we hope to develop the next generation of biologists who might find the cure for cancer if the majority of science teachers don’t agree with, or avoid teaching the foundational theory of evolution? (1) How can we affect the drastic social changes we need to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change if the end of the world is something most Americans look forward to with words like “rapture”?(2)

Let me take a quick moment here to indulge a small amount of disgruntlement. I find it a little insulting that I am asked to justify why I should speak out against religion. How do Christian’s justify sharing their “good news”? It’s something that makes them happy and they want to share it. (Same for me, folks!) Christians think that there is nothing wrong with proselytizing, in part because they see it as a service to the individuals they are witnessing to and frankly to all of humanity. Again, I feel the same way BUT I don’t knock on anyone’s door. I don’t street preach. I just make my disorganized thoughts available for the poor saps unlucky enough to stumble across them here.   

Thirdly, I think that there many people who are like I was for a long time - experiencing cognitive dissonance and all the self-doubt and self-loathing that comes with it. Worse, there are those who are fully conscious that they don’t believe but feel trapped in their religious closet by social, family, and political pressures. I hope that when more people speak out about their disbelief, the more these people will feel comfortable being open about what they really think and feel and the less they will have to live with that internal contradiction.
Finally, I think the truth should be explored, as Bertrand Russell said, with vigor. I think that this requires us to be fearless and dedicated to free inquiry. I think that religion turns off more minds then it turns on. I think that you, whoever you are, whatever you believe, would agree that knowing the truth is more important than believing a falsehood, even if that falsehood can be comforting sometimes. You eventually tell your kids that Santa isn’t real, why? It’s because it’s the truth. It’s because they shouldn’t grow up thinking that they can ask Santa (pray?) for something and count on their good manners earning it for them. If you find this comparison insulting to your faith it isn’t meant to be. It’s just meant to make the point that knowing the truth is important. 

You may not think that I have the truth, but you shouldn’t question my desire to explore it, openly and publicly or my desire to encourage those that are interested in doing the same.  


Here are some youtube folks saying why THEY are outspoken, I agree with almost don't agree with everything here but some of it makes this point much better than I can…


Laci Green. Ex-Mormon, smart cookie and sex-educator.  (Warning - small bit of language)
FSAthe1st  - not one of my favorites but this video makes the point well (warning - f-bomb right in the beginning)

Bionicdance: Makes some interesting points if you can get past the voice (warning - language)

These are longer:
Two by Sam Harris, the first is the first of a series of five that shows the whole of the talk I posted an excerpt of on my FB page. The second is not really to the point of this post but an interesting introduction to the foundation of his new book.

Richard Dawkins on militant atheism, I would like it a lot more if there was less ridicule. The points are still sound.

A little about my motivation: These are not even extremists. Fundamentalist, yes but not extremists.


  1. I get so sick of hearing that people are supposed to just walk away from mormonism and never look back. It's not possible. After discovering what a crock it all was, we have a lot to work through and a lot of de-programming to do. Then we get angry and we feel bad for people who are still brainwashed mormons and do not know the truths that we know. There is just so much more to it than "just walk away and don't look back or talk about it." And there's this whole thing called freedom of speech, which mormons do not believe in.

  2. Thanks so much for commenting. The deprogramming bit was especially on target.

    I do want to be clear about one thing though. No one in the church leadership ever tried to infringe my free speech or even discouraged me from having this blog.

    I know that not everyone has as 'positive' a separation with the church as I did but I really have to say I respect all the leadership in my ward and my stake. Not only for how they handled my resignation, but my exploration up to the resignation.

    I have many issues with the church and even issues with some of the people in the church but not anyone here. Almost everyone here has been really good to me and to my family even after I stopped going to church. I think some people aren't sure how to handle it, or me, but that's not unexpected and I don't take offense.

  3. I've enjoyed what I've read here, but it was your response to the comment above that's compelled me to comment as well.

    I admire your ability to not white-wash or black-wash the community from which you came. It is a liberating but painful process to wake up from a faith you no longer believe. As you wrote (if not in this post, another one) we only have one life and I agree, we should live it with as much integrity as we can, even if we pay dearly for our (dis)beliefs.

    I'd love to see a future post on what you do believe in now. So many agnostics and atheists only focus on the beliefs they've rejected. Even without churches, all people have world-views and beliefs, even scientists. What do you still hold true?

    It sounds like this road has been difficult on your partner. I'm not Mormon, but surrounded by them so I imagine it is a much bigger deal in that community for someone to leave. I can't even imagine what it would be like in the context of a marriage. I remember an old Franciscan priest (who I think was secretly a very holy agnostic) once told me that everyone complicates Jesus' message to love one another---because that's the really hard thing. Instead churches were created, and people argue (and even kill!) over whether he was really God, whether his mother was a virgin, whether we should be circumcised or drink or whatever. ANYTHING to distract us from the one direct lesson--to love the people in our lives.

    Since I left the church of my ancestors, which was incredibly painful, that has been my religion---am I loving my neighbor, my children, my spouse as best I can? I know atheists and agnostics who are like fundamentalist/zealots in their nonfaith---allowing no room for other points of view.

    Sorry for hijacking your blog in this long comment, but your writing got me thinking. I hope you are able to stay true to your world-view as well as to your family. It is a challenging road you've chose.

  4. Thank you for your comment. I think that I would find myself with much less to worry about if most people's faith ran along the lines yours seems to.

    You asked a direct question.I hesitate to address your question “What do you believe in?” because the word is ‘believe’ can mean so many things. I will try. If you are asking what things I hold to be true, that list is exhaustive. It would include everything from apples to zebras, gravity to good intentions. If you are asking what I put my trust and hope in, it would be a shorter list. I would say the ingenuity and compassion of humanity.

    If that doesn't answer your question, let me know I will give it another shot.

  5. That does answer my question, quite well.

    "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty." -Anne Lamott
    I've known more than a few "religious" people who were quite certain but had very little faith.
    "what I put my trust and hope in"--that's an excellent definition, and I'll borrow it in the future.
    If you are trusting in compassion, then I have great hope for you and your family in your journey.