Wowzers – I was going through my external hard drive tonight (it’s full of old documents, pictures etc…a real time suck!) and came across this document. I wrote it in early 2001 when Brian and I had recently started dating. Religion was clearly weighing heavily on my mind:
This recent video made by the newly formed Brigham Young University USGA (Understanding Same Gender Attraction) made me mad. And sad. And so, so frustrated.
Posted on mormon.org (apparently they now have a feature where people can post their own “I’m a Mormon” stories)…man, did I get a laugh out of this. (Unfortunately the link has since been removed): Continue Reading
I was interested to read some of the comments to my recent post On a Mission. I thought my approach was very tempered and a good way to open a dialogue. Nothing feels less comfortable to me than never addressing a major issue. I know there are times to address it and ways to approach things respectfully and lightly but never? Never, ever? That just feels wrong. So while I appreciate the idea that I should just leave things alone and the sentiment behind it, that ain’t me. I feel too strongly about this to just sit back and watch someone I care about become a morg. :)
The good news is, I got a great response from my BIL. I didn’t really think he would take it badly but I guess you never really know until you try. I won’t repeat verbatim what he wrote because I feel like that would be bad form but basically he agreed with me that credit should be given to doctors, technology, science etc. but that crediting God is also important because for many, it really is their faith that keeps them going. Fair enough I suppose.
He maintains that he has seen prayer at work (and gave me an example of a woman in his mission who has been trying to get pregnant and only a week after receiving a priesthood blessing, found out she was expecting. Oh, and the missionary correctly predicted it would be a girl) and that it is the greatest outward expression of inner faith. He wasn’t the least bit offended and so I am happy that I have started a discussion at the very least.
It is too easy for myths and stereotypes about atheists to persist when we fail to identify ourselves as such. So, in my reply to his email, I thanked him for his response and told him I thought it was well-considered and respectful (which it was) and that as an atheist, prayer is likely not something we will ever agree on but that there is always value in trying to understand the people you love. Baby steps.
The example of “prayer in action” that he gave me is so typical and so pervasive. To be able to see the example for what it is requires a lot; an acceptance of true coincidence, an understanding of basic statistics and probability, an appreciation for the human brain to create what it wants (“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” – Mark Twain) and the maturity to recognize that a lot of stories, are just down right lies. How do you effectively deconstruct this example in a way someone of faith can grasp where you are coming from? I mean, I know that there is only one way to end a drought (whether it be of the moisture or the baby variety) and so a prediction like that will almost always be true with time. I know that there are only two options for a baby and that predicting it’s a girl is not statistically relevant – not even close. I know that people tend to count the hits and ignore the misses and that it’s just as likely that the missionary told her she was going to get pregnant several times before she actually did, or that the story was revised to be even more faith-promoting with each repetition. I know that by no means does this example prove that prayer works and yet, for some, it does.
I feel lucky to have a strong background in science and I credit that largely for my atheism. I studied neuroscience with some very impressive people with wicked minds and an almost universal lack of belief in God. I learned how to think, deconstruct, spot the faulty assumption or premise and apply the scientific method to the world around me. It is not realistic to think that everyone could (or would want to) have that kind of experience. So, how do you teach basic critical thinking to young people in a way that isn’t threatening?
This could be a whole other post, but I’m a big believer that this should be taught to every student in the world. At least it would be a start.
Will keep you updated on BIL.
This is often a difficult concept for believers to grasp but my atheism is not rooted in a negative outlook or take on life, it is rooted in love and life and optimism. I am not an angry person and I do not have a chip on my shoulder. I am optimistic, pleasant and happy. I am everything a life without God isn’t supposed to look like.
Atheism is an empowering perspective. It makes every person matter and every action count. We are not fighting against destiny or prophecy, we are living lives that can change or affect change at any moment. Most importantly, we are living life now. It is the only opportunity we get and so, I want to make sure I enjoy it as much as possible. Life is not about hedonism but neither it is about nonsensical rules and limitations, about pressure and guilt or sacrifice. Often, believers struggle to see anything but darkness when they look at the atheist viewpoint. I want them to understand that it can be a place of discovery, joy, morality and light.
I love the planet and nature. I am often left awed by what the natural world can produce, by the magic it can weave. I feel love and compassion for my fellow man. We are all on this floating globe of rock together and we are all struggling to find our way. I appreciate every moment of my life because I realize it is both precious and impermanent. I laugh at the funny moments in life and celebrate at every opportunity because I know this is the only chance I get. I want my life to count. I want the world to be a better place for my having been on it. I want to take care of the world I am living in and the people I share it with because it is our responsibility – there is no one else to do it for us.
A worls without God can look dark at first, especially if you are walking away from the glaring neon of many of today’s churches. These churches provide answers, scripts and rules to live your life by. What they do not offer however, is freedom and truth. I can see why they bring comfort to many people and why leaving can be so terrifying. Allow time for your eyes to readjust…there really is light at the end of this tunnel.