Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Exmormon musings during a visit to church

When I watched several LDS members at a church social interact it kind of made me realize that they were all engaged in the suspension of disbelief; like an audience watching actors in the theater. They were all acting and engaging their imaginations and suspending doubt to keep the whole belief-system going: golden plates, magic rocks, good ol’ polygamy (etc), all unbelievable from an outsider's perspective. So what drives them?

I have come to realize that heck life is tough; life is darn right cruel and indifferent to your needs and desires. Not all of us have the mental muscle and strength and skill to overcome this and rise to heights of excellence. We have to make meaning and see the balance in life. Some of us fall down a lot and like a kid looking for sympathy when he scratches his knee, dogmatic religions are the ultimate buffer, for it cradles you in it's arms and tells you everything is going to be OK. Some people prefer the warmth of the barn to the cold of the forest. Some of us prefer the church corral to the borderless wild.

The church is a safety net, where others living the myth start to live in an alternate universe built on imagination and wishful thinking. They live in a bubble where happy shiny people are trustworthy and nice as long as you live in the same bubble with them and reinforce each other’s fantasies; the bubble is a shield from the "big bad scary world." It is a coping system, comforting like a mother’s breast to a child or a father’s strong arm, an engineered security system. I get a return glimpse of that feeling whenever I return to the Mormon Church after a long absence; a sort of regression to childhood dependence, the feeling of a puppy snuggled into the belly of it's mother before it has matured. The feeling is homey and familiar, yet I know it is manufactured by the mythology, music, ritual, and groupthink. I know it is like the movie The Matrix and it's not real. I also know that while the red pill is at first bitter sweet, you get used to reality. You adapt to the desert of the real and learn to find your way in the woods of uncertainty and bask in the glow of freedom after leaving the corral.

It makes sense to me why even highly intelligent people live in the bubble and why I don’t think less of them when they do, since it is part of human nature to seek comfort and security, especially for one’s children. So this is not to put it down, but to say I understand why so many use it, heck most who live it downright need it.

All in all I actually enjoyed the get together at the Mormon Church, the warm atmosphere, sense of familiarity, the shiny happy people and the friendliness of everyone was a pleasant experience. The experience did make me honestly miss the social environment of a church, any church or social group like it, for we are social animals (mammals to be exact) and whether we get that at a church or a secular group, or from our own family at baseball games and PTA meetings, it is important.

At the same time it actually reminded me how free I am beyond the mental shackles of LDS "put downs." I didn’t realize before just how positive my self-image has become since leaving Mormonism behind. For example, I no longer believe that my natural body is an enemy to God as Mormons believe. There are no demons lifting my penis up when I become aroused. I am a normal ethical human being with natural instincts and a good character. So they can keep the syringe full of dogma they wish to inject you with that poisons one’s self-esteem with self-doubt and self-deprecation; as they curse you with the Mormon meme-machine and name-calling (deeming you unworthy, un-elect, un-endowed) and then offering you the placebo pill of conformity and constant repeating of your "testimony" as the cure to the mental malady they infected you with through indoctrination. I’m not sick from lack of metaphysical absolutism so they can keep their placebo cure when I have reason, science, and self respect as a human being full of integrity.

I don't believe in a God that favors blind obedience and relying on feelings over facts and reason. If there is a deity it must be pleased with those of us who choose to use our brains rather than act like people from the book 1984, since he/she/it allowed our species to develop the intelligent brains we have.

I didn’t realize how free I’ve been after being emancipated from the burden of trying to believe in unjustifiable dogmatic assertions and how much I both sympathize with and pity the credulous; and in the same vein I envy them for the fantasias utopia they build for themselves by shutting down their brain and turning up the volume of their inner child and operating solely on emotion and sentimentality; then again, I worry that those who do decide to think outside the bubble of Mormonism will suffer mental conflict, and those who shut down their brain miss out on so many new and wonderful forms of knowledge. It is difficult to grow up and become mature but the rewards are plentiful.

As for me, to live in the land of Oz I would have to literally check my brain at the door of the church. Once you’ve peered behind the curtain to see it's only men running the Mormon Show, reality becomes a part of you that can’t be ignored without a load of denial and intellectual dishonesty. As I like to say, Ignorance isn’t bliss but slavery to denial. Over time the bitter facts of reality, like seeds give rise to the sweet nectar of reason and discovery; as the endorsement of the scientific method and the advancement of knowledge shared by all has the capacity to unite humanity. The bliss of discovery becomes contagious as we walk into the Mystery of Being with courage and integrity, conquering new frontiers with the scientific spirit of Einstein.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Gay Rights and the Mormon Church

Up until recently the LDS church encouraged gays to marry and withhold their same-sex attraction from their spouse. This has led to damaged relationships and broken LDS families. As a heterosexual male I think gays should not be told to have relationships with heterosexuals in order to go to the Mormon heaven. That is horrible and unethical causing harm to both homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I always ask Mormons who have a sister or daughter if they would want a guy who is attracted to the same sex to date their sister or daughter; knowing he could one day “come out of the closet” and pursue a different lifestyle after their sister or daughter is invested in the marriage and kids are involved? The answer is always the same, “no,” and yet these same Mormons are more than willing to say gay men should marry other people’s sisters and daughters regardless of their sexual urges because their god said so.

Why can’t LDS folks who oppose gay rights see that if gays were allowed to marry that not only could it possibly cause there to be less promiscuity in the gay community (as marriage in the U.S. is a monogamous institution) and thus there would be less spreading of STDs -- which would also indirectly affect the heterosexual community -- but it would also allow gays to feel more socially accepted and normal; thus possibly cause some gay people to be less likely to pretend to be straight and date and marry straight men and women in order to fit in and feel accepted, when they’d prefer to be with their same gender.

In this video, former LDS prophet, Mr. Hinkley says "these people" (gays and lesbians) have a "problem," what problem? The Mormon Church used to teach that being gay was a choice with no biological basis. But after finally realizing (or acknowledging) that there are biological explanations they changed their minds, like the following from Psychology Today :

"A [new] study points to a possible biological basis for gaydar. When gay and straight men and women sniff the underarm odors of others—unsullied by deodorants or perfumes—gay men strongly prefer the smell of other gay men, according to researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Lesbians, as well as straight men and women, find the scents of gay men least appealing" (Psychology Today Magazine, Nov/Dec 2005).

After years of encouraging gays and lesbians to marry since their being gay was said to be a choice that can be overcome by "faith" and "prayer." Now the LDS church's position on the issue of homosexuality is that gays "have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control" (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1998, 71), and the chuch now says in the October 2007, Ensign: "Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. ... attempts [to do so] have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes." Yet, in the video Hinkley is ready to fix their alleged "problem," at the same time admitting he is not an expert on the subject. One wonders if Hinkley would have wished to also fix the so-called problem of homosexuality in the animal kingdom that is quite common and widespread:



In the February 5, 2007 issue of Time magazine, pg. 54, in the article In defense of Rams who love Rams, we learn that "male sheep exhibit homosexuality at least as often as humans: roughly 8% of rams turn out to have sex exclusively with other rams" and "gay rams have different brain structures from heterosexual ones." Why didn't Hinkley spend his time condemning non-human homosexuality as well? Why not call it a problem? Why isn't the Mormon Church trying to help those animals with same-sex attraction? Usually most humble and sane people aren't so outspoken about that which they know next to nothing about.

Let's get this straight (no pun intended), according to the Mormon Church today, gays are gay by way of natural inclinations given them, I presume, by the Mormon deity. They are not to feel pressured anymore (like they used to in the LDS church) to marry and act heterosexual. So how exactly does the church plan on "fixing" their problem if the Mormon gods made gays with inclinations that run so deep? When the highest rates of teen suicide are among gay males shouldn't a group of elderly white men in Mormon leadership roles in Utah, claimnig to be the mouthpiece of god, be just a little more humble and reserved about trying to fix their "problem" when they are not experts and their own teachings in the Ensign imply gays are made that way! Where is their sense of compassion, how many more people will be emotionally damaged or take their lives in Utah and elsewhere over rigid dogmas manufactured by nonexperts claiming to know the mind of God!

The alternative Mormon leaders offer to being true to your nature if you're gay is to ignore your nature, and be celibate your whole life. This coming from a religion whose founder, Joseph Smtih, had over thirty wives some being teenagers and other men's wives! It amazes me how an organization like the LDS church, with such a huge track record of being wrong over and over again on issues like this, can speak so confidently about this doctrine of bigotry.

The Mormon Church used to preach that blacks were inferior spirits in the pre-existence (in a spirit world before earth life) and that is why they were born with a cursed dark skin and were ineligible to receive the priesthood, or marry in one of the LDS temples until 1978.

The LDS church used to teach that polygamy is a moral practice until the government threatened them and suddenly a “revelation” was recieved ordering the stopping of the practice, but the doctrine has remained the same (see LDS scripture called The Doctrine and Covenants section 132).

American Indians have long been thought of as Jews with cursed dark skin. There was even a Mormon system set up to take in American Indian children and raise them LDS in order to undo the curse of dark skin and change them into white, fair, and delightsome Mormons (see my essay here). Then the DNA evidence came out and now the church is changing their doctrine on the American Inidans from declaring all of them Israelites to we don't know where the Lamanties (Jews cursed by god with dark skin) went; they just disappeared apparently.

Now, after once accusing gays of making an immoral choice to be gay, and even subjecting them to electro shock therapy in the past at BYU, the LDS church is finally listening to the experts and admitting it is not a mere choice, but still insists it is immoral to practice homosexuality.

Over the years thousands of families have been destroyed because of the church pressuring homosexual members of the LDS church to marry someone of the opposite sex, telling them if they pretended to be heterosexual their natural instincts would disappear over time. Now the church realizes that has resulted in, as they put it, "broken hearts and broken homes." So their solution now is for homosexual members of the church to deny their inclinations and be celibate or risk ecclesiastical punishment and banishment from the community. They are saying, "The Mormon god may have made you gay but he hates homosexual practices nonetheless," go figure. This is ironic since the Mormon Church has long criticized the Catholic Church's promotion of celibacy as an unnatural state of being. You would think that the Mormon leadership would be sympathetic to an alternative lifestyle like homosexuality since their ancestors were discriminated against for practicing polygamy, but as usual in Mormonism, dogma usually trumps empathy.

Apparently, just like the government outlawing polygamy led to a policy change, the failure of American Inidans to change their skin color after becoming Mormon and the civil rights movement influencing a revelation to give blacks the priesthood, enough families were destroyed before the leaders of the church changed their tune once again. If this is not proof that Mormonism is man-made I don't know what else could possibly pass for better evidence than this.

The Mormon leader's latest answer to the gay question then? They are simply saying to gay members of the church, "Ok, fine, we were wrong, you didn’t choose to be gay, and we (being seers and revelators) don’t know why you are that way, but don’t be that way anyway. We have to say our god loves you otherwise we look like total ignorant bigots and hate mongers, but we have to retain our high and mighty morality based on hetersexual prejudice, so we must say our god hates the inclinations he gave you. So don’t marry a member of the opposite sex if you don’t think you can be happy, but don’t fall in love with a member of the same sex either, happiness is not an option for you, so just be celibate or you’ll not make it to Mormon heaven." But hey, wait, isn’t that the punishment for those who reject Mormonism in D&C 132: 15-20, eternal celibacy for the damned? So by telling gays to be celibate isn't the Mormon Church telling gays to live the punishment of those who don't make it into the highest heaven?

Update: After writing the above, in 2008 the Mormon Church encouraged its membership to spend millions of dollars to take away gay people's right to marry. Up to 40% (some say more) of the money that went to the yes on 8 campaign came from the members of the Mormon Church as directed by Mormon leadership. See mormonsstoleourrights.com. This website explains how the Mormon Church funded a campaign of lies in order to scare people to vote yes on prop 8.

In the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants Mormons claimed that plural marriage was not being practiced by the church and such a practice was wrong. This was official LDS scripture at a time when in fact the LDS church was practicing polygamy in secret. Point is that the Mormon Church has a history of liying to the American public. The Mormon Church not only denied blacks the position of leadership in their church and banned them from their temple endowment rooms, Mormon leaders preached against interracial marriage, and opposed the civil rights movement! Then McConkie comes out after 1978 and says everything the Mormon leaders said was wrong, that new light has come to them. You would think that an organization with such a racist discriminatory past would be careful about who they discriminate against now! But not when bigotry and dogma governs your thinking process.

How do we know that soon "new light" won't one day come to the Mormon leaders like it did in 1978 and they might change their minds about gays like they did with blacks and interracial marriage? If so, why should the Mormon be discriminatory now? Or maybe the church will soon be fighting to take away the rights of couples to marry who are not of the same religion? Maybe one day the Mormon Church will take literally and promote 2 Corinthians 6: 14-17 and interpret that as forbidding atheists, deists, and agnostics (and any other nonreligious person) from marrying a theist! After all, it makes as much sense as trying to forbid gays from marrying.

Satan Made me Do It, Done Made me Think

In the future I will be writing about some of the positive aspects of Mormonism. Today I am going to talk about this video clip of an LDS le...