Monday, January 30, 2012

Sometimes you forget about all the jacked-up stuff

So I just picked up "The Passion of Raptor Jesus and the Road to Mormon Apostasy" in the Amazon Kindle Store, and it's got me remembering all the weird crap that happens in the church.
This book, by the way, is really great.  It's hilarious and so incredibly accurate, at least about the experience of being a boy growing up active in the church.  However, if you can't handle some intense blasphemy and swearing, maybe you'd better steer clear.


Anyway, it's totally true!  The invasive interviews about masturbation and all possible sexual violations... I remember being interviewed for my mission and a member of the stake presidency raking me over the coals over and over.  There was very little he didn't think to ask me about, and he commented that I'd clearly had a problem.  I had a problem?  Who didn't have a problem?!  I hadn't even jerked off in months and months, maybe even years at that point!  Sure, I was interested in the boobs of my female classmates, but hell, I had only kissed one girl, and her only like twice!  A "problem?"
That interview was specifically engineered to make me feel  like a lustful piece of crap, and I even knew it at the time.

And that interview was not an isolated sort of incident.  I spent my entire teenage experience knowing for a fact that I was going to hell because I could never go more than a few months without masturbating, even after I promised god through a whole straight hour of self-flagellating prayer never to do it again.  Every time I took the sacrament, I reminded myself that I was "drinking damnation to my soul."  I hated thinking about the Atonement because every time I screwed something up it was like I was personally tasering Jesus in the face, and since I was surely damned anyway his sacrifice was completely wasted.  I confessed over and over, but it never seemed to help.  I developed exercise regimens to stave off my horniness (hornocity?), I reported to my parents, I withheld things I liked when I screwed up, but it was all for naught.
Okay, and let's get something straight.  I never fooled around even a little with a girl.  This was not even my decision until maybe my junior, probably my senior year of high school.  I was a huge nerd and didn't know diddly about talking to the opposite sex.  But in my senior year I had one opportunity where I was quite confident that I could get laid, and I very deliberately went home despite being horny, lonely, and depressed.

Once in middle school I experienced attraction to another guy.  I admired him, but also he turned me on a little.  I worried for years that I was gay, and what would I do?  Maybe I turned myself gay by being such a pervert and fiddling with myself.  I never felt that sort of thing again, but I was very, very worried for a long time.  I can't imagine what it must be like to grow up in the church and actually feel that way consistently.  To you out there actually coping with those circumstance: you have my everlasting admiration.

Damn, I didn't mean for this to turn into my confessions, but man, it's amazing to think about this stuff now.  I spent my youth telling myself that I was a disgrace, a sinner, inadequate despite my most earnest and desperate efforts.

You'd think with such self-punishment, I must have been pretty damn sure the church was true, right?
Hell, no.  I had points in High School where I decided (temporarily) that the church must not be true.
Get this:  I had the opportunity to attend a temple open house as a teen.  What do I remember?  I remember looking into the endowment room and wondering what the little reddish LED banks in the ceiling were for.  I know now that they are for transmitting audio to the little translation-headphone setups, but at the time my first guess was some kind of hypnosis for brainwashing.  I had some serious repressed doubts about the church even then.

I assumed most of my youth that I would end up being a worthless apostate, starting with a failure to go on a mission.  Hell, I didn't want to go on a mission, I don't like being pushy, and I didn't have a testimony.
That's right, I never bore my testimony, even at EFY and Youth Conference when they whipped us up into a mucous-dripping frenzy with heart-wrenching videos about the Atonement.  I remember one year I was the only one in the whole room who didn't.  The counselors kept kind of not looking at me and asking if anyone else would like to take the opportunity...?

Once, in mutual, they had us write our testimonies in the inside covers of a bunch of copies of the Book of Mormon for the missionaries to distribute before we went caroling or something.  I stared at that inside cover until they were starting to load vehicles 15 minutes later, and then quietly slipped the book back into the unsigned pile, ashamed.  I didn't have a testimony, what was I supposed to write?

Even on my mission I had serious doubts.  In my first area, while we road our bikes from rejection to rejection I tried to justify the church to myself in vain.  Ultimately I classified these disheartening inner dialogues as "idle doubts" and decided that they were sinful, so I should avoid them.  Not thinking helped some, but I still wondered why, if our message was so great, did no one want to hear about it?  Why didn't we find the "prepared" no matter how hard we tried?
And throughout my mission, I came to understand that the "challenge" in Moroni was just a formality, and no one would ever actually feel anything even if they did read and pray.  Not that surprising, considering the fact that I never did, I guess.  Still, never did an investigator have a good experience with that.

Once, I had a painful flash of self-awareness when one of our long-term investigators admitted to us that she had joined two "cults" in the past, and that was why her husband didn't like us.  Were we a cult?  I was depressed for days.  I saw us for what we were: pushy, sneaky, even a little brainwashed.  No, I don't think the church is some psychotic organization with a secret slave trade, but you have got to admit that the training for missionaries is pretty dogmatic.  We were taught to basically shout down alternative opinions.

I never much liked the temple.  Chanting freaks me out, so I really disliked the prayer circle with its mumbling in a circle followed by the unsettling repetition by the group of everything one guys said.  Also, it's really freaking boring after the first time.  And, damn this is shallow, but I hated those stupid mushroom hats.
Do people actually enjoy that stuff, or do they just convince themselves that they must, otherwise why would they keep going?

I wonder occasionally if I'll go straight to hell on the off chance that it was all true.  After all, I was endowed.  Now I can't even remember my "new name"... I guess if I ever do have to get past those angels I'll just say "Dennis" and then ask real quick where the angel's from, what's it like there?

I've come a long way in the last year or two.  I don't hate the church or its members.  I don't get angry like I used to.  Still, I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be able to entirely stop feeling quite hurt by the church and all it put me through.  Maybe I'm playing victim and wallowing in self-pity, I don't know.  Sometimes I wish I could convey to my younger brothers that screw the church, they are good boys.  If they don't want to go on missions, don't let the church bully them into it.  But I know it would have no effect except to push my family away.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Choosing Views

My political views are in a state of constant flux.  My many conservative friends and family would call me liberal, maybe even radical in a couple of areas.  Then again, my most liberal friends might not approve of "liberal" as a moniker for me.  After all, I am fiscally moderate and actually approve of the medical and pharmaceutical fields' work.  Hell, I'm actually kind of a libertarian in certain economic and individual rights issues.

Generally, I guess I side with the scientific community.  So yeah, I'm all about evolution, but I don't set much store by alternative medicine.

I guess I'm some kind of pragmatic materialist.

I'm not patriotic per se... I care very much about the welfare of US citizens and the goings on in this country, but I don't think the USA is the infallible beacon of all that is good that some others think.  I don't like the USA's extensive military presence and activity in the world.  Does that make my un-American?
I guess I don't care too much about being "American" or "un-American."  I'm mostly concerned with the happiness and suffering of people in general, not Americans in particular.

I guess it's a tricky question... is it moral for me to value those who happen to live close to me more than those who don't?  (Here I use "close" not exclusively in reference to distance.  Cultural experience and roots count, too)
On one hand, this assumption seems utterly immoral to me.  Why should other people be more important just because they happen to be more similar or at least close to me?
On the other, the world is too big to try to help every single person.  So I guess we should start at home?
I can't tell.  Hrmph.  Moral ambiguity is so tricky all the time.

Ah well, when I try to nail down my own political stances, I either have to laugh at the absurdity of it all or get really frustrated, so I'm practicing laughing.  Dead children... ba hahahahahahaaaa!

I've actually formulated the ideal political solution.  It's a version of democracy where people vote on basic moral statements, not policy.  Awesome, no?!
See, you just poll the entire population on what they value, getting a large base of simple moral statements that can be rationally extended into moral statements about potential policy.  Then, you enact the combination of policies that results in the highest overall moral satisfaction score!
What shall I call it?  Ethical... Ethos... Etho-rational democracy?  Or maybe Logo-moral self-representation...
And yes, I know it couldn't work  just like that.  Maybe I'll post on it later.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The GOP's Political Circus

I'm usually amused by the election process, but this set of Republican Primaries has been a show I won't soon forget.  The spotlight keeps shifting from ring to ring, highlighting the front-runner of the week while he or she does his or her song and dance, then moving on once we get bored of the act.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you'll give me your attention please, I'm proud to introduce to you our performers!

-Michelle "Fact-Check" Bachmann, the very same who brought you her serial-killer lineage returns to astound you with her absurd linking of vaccines and autism!

-Rick "Almost-There" Perry, an accomplished Texas clown bringing you all the hilarious charm of Larry, Curly, and.... what was that other one?

-Mitt "Why-Won't-They-Love-Me" Romney may actually say smart things once in a while, but that won't stop voters from despising the star of the children's book "A Mormon Fires a Who!"

-Rick "Sensitivity" Santorum, a delightfully frothy mixture of ignorant ethnocentrism and offensive analogies, you'll love this underdog who loses even when he wins!

-Ron "Won't-Leave" Paul, the batty old libertarian who won't go home no matter how much the GOP tries to hint that no matter what place he wins, he's overstayed his welcome!

-Newt "Rage-Potato" Gingrich, a fun, lumpy bag of infidelity and spite, this firecracker will wow your with his whining, awe you with his audacity, and astound you with his asshole comments about minorities!

And while you watch those acts, don't forget to glance at the darkened ring in the corner to pretend to see Herman "999-Harassment-Cases" Cain and John "Who-Am-I" Huntsman!

Seriously, this would be really funny as a comic strip or Sandler-Style late-night comedy, but as reality it is beyond hilarious.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Healing Process

It has been months and months since I last successfully posted.  I have written a few drafts that will probably never see the light of day.  I think what I really needed was some time to step back and let some of the hurt I felt at losing my faith really start to heal over.

For the most part, I'm not angry anymore.  The only times I'm even irked are in Sunday School (I just can stand listening to logical fallacies stated as if they were sound reason for an hour at a time) and occasionally when I see friends inadvertently hurt by elements of church culture (which I admit is a problem with specific people, not the actual theology or organization of the church proper).

I have begun to admit to more people my lack of belief more than ever before, and I feel like I don't have to be very defensive about it.  I mean, I don't tell everyone I see, but I find that most folks are quite accepting when I explain myself.

I still try to keep my mind open to the possibility that I've missed something.  Maybe the LDS church is true after all?  I still doubt it as much as ever, but I don't want to miss truth regardless of its potential effect on my ego.

My most recent experiment with prayer involved a 6-sided die: I would pray, carefully explaining that in my pride I was having difficulty getting answers and maybe instead of waiting I should come up with a suggestion like the brother of Jared, so I asked if God couldn't help me predict the outcome of a die roll with statistical significance.  I'd pray before each roll and conducted a large number of trials, but ultimately the results were very bland indeed: I successfully predicted the roll just barely under 1/6 of the time.
Blasphemous?  I don't know, but I thought if I had an idea I might as well give it a shot.  Can't be any more blasphemous than myself of a year ago shaking my fist at the sky and daring God in filthy language to strike me down to hell immediately.

Was with my family for Christmas, it was really great.  Had only one major religious discussion with my parents, and it went very smoothly, considering.  I think their hopes for my swift reconversion are a little higher than is justified, but they are very accepting of me.