Well, tomorrow we’re going on a big road trip and I’ll be gone for a week and a half. I know, I know, get out the tissues right? I’m sure you’ll all miss my posts greatly…
Seriously though, I wanted to leave a sort of open post so that you all can use the opportunity to share ideas and debate and whatever else. Do you have critiques of my site? Are there posts that you’d like to see? Pages that you’d like to see? I have lists of ideas, and believe me, I’ll be bringing a notebook along with me to pen ideas as they come to me, but if there are things that people would like to read and debate about I’d be pleased as punch to be accommodating.
Religion is a tricky topic, and I find myself tempted to always slip back into the postmodernist mode of “well, we can’t really know anything about it can we? I mean, aren’t all opinions on the topic really as good as any others?” The great revelation that I’ve had in the past several months is that there really is a Reality out there, I mean, there really is, and that frankly some religions are better at reflecting that Reality than others.
Let me share the moment with you that I realized that I am no longer a Mormon. I was about doing my ordinary tasks, I remember it was evening time, and it suddenly just hit me. It was very sudden and surprising, I just said to myself “I believe in God”. This probably seems trite to you, I mean, as a Mormon didn’t I believe in God? Here’s something that may be surprising to you: no, I didn’t really believe in God as a Mormon. I wanted to believe in God, I hoped it was true, sometimes I came closer to belief than other times, but at the core, if you got to the deepest layer of my being you’d find there a deep skepticism. Really it was my fundamental skepticism that allowed me to be a Mormon because I figured I didn’t know, and could never know even if I wanted to, the ultimate structure of Reality, so why not engage in whatever religion I wanted to? Life was short, I said, might as well make the most of it, and if I think religious engagement enhances my life, why not? Since I can’t know truth anyway, might as well. So yes, I was surprised when I realized that I really do believe that God exists, at the core of my being. I knew this because I acted as if the proposition “God exists” were true, that is, my automatic reaction to the good things in my life was to thank God. More than this, I knew that I believe GOD exists, not heavenly father. I’ve covered the significance of this distinction elsewhere (see: “Why does anything exist?”) so I won’t retread that ground this time, but when I knew I believed that the truly infinite and eternal God existed, that I was no longer a Mormon. That was it.
Let me share some further reflections on my story. As a Mormon I got engaged in lots of apologetics. I loved defending Mormonism. I went online to do it, I did it in real life with the missionaries, I did it participating with on campus events, and from an academic standpoint I gave lectures on it and did research papers on it. I had a great time. But, learning what I needed to learn to do all these things lead me to a few conclusions that I held as a faithful, active Mormon including: the Book of Mormon is only true in a non literal sense, that is, maybe Joseph Smith were inspired by God, but the Book of Mormon isn’t what it claims to be; Joseph wasn’t really visited by Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, Moroni and the rest, but, that’s okay, what he said was true in some kind of loose, spiritual sense, not literal; the Book of Abraham was definitely not what it claimed to be; and so on. Now it would seem to some of you that these conclusions would be enough to sever my ties with Mormonism, but consider what I said about my state of mind earlier- I didn’t think I could ever really believe in an absolute truth, so I might as well go with what seemed attractive or fun and for me, Mormonism was those things.
I believe that it is a gift from God that I am able to truly, and really, believe that He exists, I mean, really, whether I want Him to or not, whether I think about Him or not. And, that means there is a Truth out there that matters, whether I like it or not. The kind of belief I have now is so stable… it’s always there! When I was a Mormon I went through periods of more or less belief in the system, I’d have these experiences which would increase my belief (not even sure what my belief was in exactly, even then) only to have severe doubts the very next day. It was always fluctuating. One day I’d be completely agnostic, the next I’d have moderate faith, and I figured that was as good as it could get. But now, I believe in God every day. How is this possible?? I believe God has given me the gift of faith, but has also illuminated my mind, so that even when I don’t ‘feel like it’ I still believe rationally. This is why I advocate a whole person approach to religion: body, mind and spirit. All of these must be in harmony together if we are to worship God with our whole person. I could not embrace God with everything that I have in Mormonism, it just didn’t make sense, my mind revolted no matter how many times I felt the electricity running through me from a blessing or weightlessness or warmth come over me. It could not engage my mind no matter how interesting I thought it was because in my heart of hearts I knew Joseph was a big fat liar.