Saturday, July 22, 2006

Religion and getting along...

This blog is currently passing through the constellation of talking about Mormonism. So for those of you who are bored of Mormonism, I'll ask you to kindly bear with me until it passes. ;-)

I want to make it clear, however, that this is not a proselyting blog. I'm not shy about stating my conclusions and beliefs, but I'm not here to tell you that you need to agree with me.

Well, that's not quite accurate...

There's one idea I am promoting, which is that people of different belief systems should try to understand each other and get along. Since we all have to live together in this lovable, mixed-up world, why not live and let live? So I warn you in advance that I'll be trying to convince you of that philosophy. ;-)

You may have noticed that I'm also actively working to build up and encourage a network of exmormon blogs, which I like to call "Outer Blogness." You might think that this is inconsistent with my insistence that this isn't a proselyting blog since some (not many, but a couple) blogs on the list are written with the express purpose of challenging Mormons' faith in hopes that they will leave Mormonism.

My excuse is that I feel that in order to understand people, it's valuable to look at things from all different perspectives, including perspectives different from your own. That's one of the reasons why I've included some of my favorite LDS blogs in my sidebar as well.

The LDS blogs are kind of fun -- I find a lot of their conversations intriguing. And it's not as though the day you conclude Mormonism isn't all it's cracked up to be you suddenly no longer have anything in common with your LDS friends or anyone else in that familiar culture.

Of course I have to watch my step over on that side of blog space. Here on the exmo blogs, I figure I can post whatever the hell I please as a comment (you guys have maybe picked up on this), but over there, I'm a little like the wicked witch of the West (or East?) -- outside of my realm I have to be careful that nobody drops a house on me. ;-)

I'm actually kind of curious as to what Mormons think of this blog. I'm pretty sure I have a few LDS readers although they hardly ever comment. Of course the worst offenders in terms of not commenting are the Estonians! Ever since I posted here about wanting to go to Estonia and then write a book about my hilarious adventures there, I periodically get visits from IP addresses in Estonia, clicking through blog searches on the word "Estonia." I've gotten quite a number of them, but they never comment! So I have no idea what they think of my amusing plan to hang out with them and visit and, y'know, stay at their house and everything.

Hey you, Estonian reading this! Yes, I mean you! Please leave a comment! Thank you.

Anyway, back to "Outer Blogness": I like grouping people who have followed all different paths after leaving Mormonism because there are so many different possibilities, and it's clear that those who have chosen one path often understand followers of other paths as little if not less than they understand the Mormons. So there's some work to be done even within this motley little blog network.

As an example, in the comments of this post, "Fie to Kolob" offers a dismissive theory for why so many exmos are atheists. (Remember that Fie is the guy whose attitude towards Mormons was -- to my taste -- a little too close for comfort with the Mormon "love the sinner, hate the sin", attitude towards homosexuals, and he responded by assuring me that the way to show love for Mormons and homosexuals alike is to break them of their foolish misguidedness and save them for Jesus.)

Similarly, every now and then I hear the lament of how tragic it is that all of these nonreligious exmos were raised Mormon because the fact that this bad religion (Mormonism) is the only religion they know has prejudiced them against good religions! Personally I find this claim to fall at about the same point on the respectful-vs-insulting scale as the LDS claim that I just want the church to be false so I can have lots of sex and booze.

Fortunately, all of these misunderstandings can be easily cleared up by the miracle of the Internet. Around here, you're never more than a click away from quite a lot of nonreligious exmos, so if there's any confusion about why they left organized religion completely, you can just ask them directly.

From my perspective, once you have the idea to turn the eye of scrutiny on religion, no organized religion can stand up to it. For myself, I can't see saying "Joseph Smith meeting an angel? Impossible!!! But Jesus walking on water? That totally happened."

However, I know that many people see the evidence for Jesus' supernatural claims to be very different from the evidence for Joseph Smith's, and I recognize that there is evidence in support of this position. Also, many people of faith believe that God has confirmed to them that Jesus was truly divine and Joseph Smith was a fraud, and I really can't judge that claim because I'm not in on anyone else's conversations with God.

And remember that Christian and atheist/agnostic are not the only choices out there!!! The Freeway Overpass contains some beautiful insights about Wicca and other spiritual paths.

So I'm not going to be sitting any of you down on my virtual psychiatrist's couch to explain what's wrong with you that makes you not agree with me. ;-)

As far as I'm concerned, we've all looked at the evidence and came to different conclusions. And that's okay. You can't expect to agree with everyone or even completely agree with anyone 100% on all points. And that's why I think it's important to try to live together in peace and harmony.

A good example of cooperating to increase mutual understanding is Gunner's "Carnival of the Veil" (latest installment here). This carnival leans a little bit towards the religious end of the exmo spectrum, but Gunner -- with his characteristic wit and wisdom -- is careful to link not only to examples of exmos who have found fulfillment and happiness in their new religion but also to exmos who have found fulfillment and happiness in having no religion as well.

So happy Sunday to everyone, whatever your plans for the day may be!!! :D

28 comments:

Grime World said...

intresting just stay in gods hands

check my blog

SAM-I-am said...

You're preaching to the choir with me. My father joined the church when he married my stepmother, and subsequently left it. I haven't heard his story directly, but I've heard from family that the shock of discovering the hypocrisy of some Utah Mormons was the catalyst. His anger continued unabated until my younger sister, who had all sorts of severe social problems at school, found a genuine, welcoming social group at church. At that point my father started seeing the Mormon church as just another Christian religion -- kind of silly, too demanding of time and resources, but with a lot of benefits for his family members. He's still a nonbeliever, but at least he's nice to the ward leaders and supportive of my mom and sister in their activity.

I really liked the South Park episode, "All About the Mormons." I thought it was sympathetic, written by someone who clearly knew a lot of Mormons (if they weren't raised one themselves) and liked them. The closing response from the new Mormon kid is spot-on:

"Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up, but I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice, and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You got a lot of growing up to do, buddy."

I actually read an article on this episode in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture (who would have guessed it even existed?) which quotes Emile Durkheim,

"When one undertakes to explain a social phenomenon, the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfills must be investigated separately."

The author of the article goes on to explain,

"That is, explaining the fanciful origins of a social fact like the late modern Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—even if those nineteenth-century origins are found to be entirely fabricated or drawn from distinctly questionable sources—does nothing to diminish the cultural force those facts carry for Latter-Day Saints today. Temples, wards, churches, bookstores, and Family Home Evenings exist as instantiations of meaningful Mormon community."

Live and let live. I don't think they're any worse than most other Christian religions, they just have the misfortune of getting started too recently to obscure their origins.

Rebecca said...

Chanson, I think your aims are admirable. Too bad I'm trying to draw everyone to SATANISM with MY blog! HAHAHAHAHA (that's an evil laugh, in case you can't tell)!!!

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks Grime, that's very... um... interesting...

Hey Sam-I-Am!!!

That South Park episode was great!!!

I think claims that Mormonism is an evil cult are a bit exaggerated, as I explained here: Cults vs. cult-like behavior. Basically Mormonism had the misfortune of being a young enough religion that the information age hit before the paper trail got cold...

Hey Rebecca!!!

That's an admirable goal too. In fact that was my second choice when I was trying to pick a theme for this blog, but I finally decided to go with the whole "live and let live" thing. Good luck to you though!!! ;-)

NFlanders said...

I tend to swing back and forth between "Mormonism can be a positive social network if you don't take it too seriously" and "this religion really screws people up."

I think you can still respect people and be respectful of (most of) their beliefs, even if you feel their religion is a mostly negative influence.

C.L. Hanson said...

That's very true Ned.

I think that even if you are making an effort to be respectful, it's impossible to completely avoid having an opinion (likely negative...) of some parts of belief systems you don't agree with.

But I still think friendship and disagreement can coexist. :D

Rachel said...

While I agree with you on many points - to be the devil's advocate, I think there are some belief systems that I'm not interested in agreeing to disagree or even trying to see their point.

Take an extreme belief system like the klan for example.

I guess what I'm saying is, live and let live works for me 95% of the time. The line is difficult to draw. For me, I think it's when the belief systems advocate harm to other humans or other groups of humans.

Stephen said...

once you have the idea to turn the eye of scrutiny on religion, no organized religion can stand up to it

I've seen a lot of people pass through that stage.

I could have sworn I'd seen your writing style before, especially with the kids and the French language bits.

Anyway, you asked for comments from an active LDS visitor, so here is one.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Rachel!!!

That's an important point to keep in mind, that there are certain beliefs that are not worthy of respect. Using one's beliefs as and excuse or motivation to harm/oppress others not worthy of respect.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Stephen!!!

You know, you've posted comments here at least twice before, so maybe that's why my writing looks familiar?

You're one of only three active Mormons who have posted comments here (as far as I can tell -- sometimes it's not obvious if a commenter is LDS or not).

Anyway, thanks for your perspective on this issue. :D

Mike said...

another active Mormon here. Just so you know there are a few of us.

I blog at a group blog that includes a mix of somewhat to quite active mormons and one non-mormon who is interested in mormons. I like the setup, though none of us have really been blogging lately.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Mike!!!

Thanks for commenting. :D

That's cool. Which one is it? The "Unofficial Manifesto" or the "Blogward Cultural Hall"?

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

CL.. from a continuing conversation from another blog... LOL

I do not think of myself as religious (I don't attend church and do not care for organized religion), but I do think of myself as spiritual. I have also dabbled in spiritual systems like shamanism. I don't care for Wicca.

I have had too many experiences where I came close to death and then came back through the prayers of others... my husband in particular the last time. So I cannot be an atheist (I did try being an agnostic for awhile)...

So yes, I may sound confused, but I suspect that there is a "force... god... or something out there." And, for some reason, it/she/he cares about what I can contribute. And if it sounds grandiose, then realize that I am a LEO.

OH.. and my vote is against Mormonism.

Just one of many said...

Religion is a toughy because it is such a passion based ideology. It is hard for one to remain neutral on something that occupies so much of one's heart, mind and in the case of the Morg TIME and MONEY!!
I think it is best if we concentrate on what we have in common outside of religion...in the end does it matter if we are Hindu, Baptist, Sikki, or a worshipper of Saint Sealy Mattress on Sunday? The latter is my new religion!!!

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Cynthia!!!

That's cool. There are a lot of people out there who feel as you do. It's nice that you're interested in participating in a dialog with people of all different ideologies.

Hey Joom!!!

True, it's essentially impossible to remain neutral.

Although there seem to be a certain number of "apatheists" out there (don't care if God exists). For the rest of us, you're rigth that focusing on other common interests is a good way to diffuse or sidestep unproductive conflicts over religion.

Mike said...

Well, both officially. Blogward Cultural Hall was really headed up by JL of celibate in the city and it has been almost abandoned. We may pick it up in the future, but not anytime soon.

The main blog is Unofficial Manifesto (UoM)
We no longer post at the blogger page, we've moved onto a seperate server and use wordpress.
http://www.unofficialmanifesto.com/

We started with 4 of us, and now we have added a few more but none of us blog much right now. I think that since most of the bloggers at UoM are grad students it will pick up again when the school year does.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Mike!!!

Looks like a cool blog!!! You've got some interesting topics of discussion, and I see some familiar names among the commenters (small world that LDS-interest blog space... ;-) ).

I'd like to add you to my sidebar, however I'm not sure whether to list you as "Bloggernacle" or "Other LDS-interest" -- I sense that that's a bit of a touchy question of late... ;-)

Holly said...

c l hanson--you say some really thoughtful, remarkable and admirable things.

I like:

And it's not as though the day you conclude Mormonism isn't all it's cracked up to be you suddenly no longer have anything in common with your LDS friends or anyone else in that familiar culture.

this is something I continually try to explain to my family and others, who sometimes insist that since I am no longer believing or active, I have no write to discuss the church. To which I say, HOGWASH. I met plenty of really great people on my mission. Should I cease to care about them, simply because I no longer believe what I preached then, that membership in the Mormon church is necessary to salvation? Do I lose the right to talk to or about those people, or my experiences as a missionary?

I posted something yesterday on Pioneer Day, which I liked a lot as a child. Do I lose the right to value my ancestors who crossed the plains, simply because I was willing to take myself away from the intermountain West and the religion planted there?

You also wrote,

As far as I'm concerned, we've all looked at the evidence and came to different conclusions. And that's okay. You can't expect to agree with everyone or even completely agree with anyone 100% on all points. And that's why I think it's important to try to live together in peace and harmony.

I agree with your final point. The problem, of course, is that most Mormons DON'T agree with you, which is why I once wrote something about a high councilman declaring the 11th article of faith no longer relevant. Don't try to live in harmony with everyone else, the church teaches, convert them! Make them just like us! As for those of us who've left, well, we looked at the evidence, and got it wrong! We're choosing to cut ourselves off from the truth, and we'll pay for it with our eternal souls! It gets a bit irksome dealing with that kind of self-righteous dismissiveness.

nflanders wrote,

I tend to swing back and forth between "Mormonism can be a positive social network if you don't take it too seriously" and "this religion really screws people up."

I tend to hold both opinions at the same time. Even screwed up people need and can form positive social networks.

Mormonism gave me a lot that I truly value, but I paid a lot to get those things. It offered me opportunities to develop in some ways and stunted me in others. It set examples I admire and examples I deplore. The job since leaving is to let go of what was crap (the doctrine, for instance) and to embrace what wasn't (like an interest in journal writing and an emphasis on self-reliance, or having some extra water and such in your basement, just 'cause you never know when it will come in handy).

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Holly!!!

Great points!!!

I feel the same way about valuing my Mormon cultural heritage, pioneer ancestors, etc. My brother is in essentially the same boat, and he and his partner have ended up doing a lot of serious research in conjunction with the John Whitmer Historical Association.

Since I'm not from Utah I don't have many memories of Pioneer Day, but I have one as I mentioned on JLO's Pioneer Day post.

I think you're right that Mormons traditionally don't respect non-Mormons (and especially not ex-Mormons). I'm just trying to use the "golden rule" to help encourage those that are respectful of the differently-believing. :D

And I have to say that I completely agree with this statement:

Mormonism gave me a lot that I truly value, but I paid a lot to get those things. It offered me opportunities to develop in some ways and stunted me in others. It set examples I admire and examples I deplore. The job since leaving is to let go of what was crap (the doctrine, for instance) and to embrace what wasn't (like an interest in journal writing and an emphasis on self-reliance, or having some extra water and such in your basement, just 'cause you never know when it will come in handy).

Very well put!!!

Matt Elggren said...

C.L.,

I totally agree with your point about mutual respect between faiths. Unfortunately, I think, the more certain one is about one's faith and the more a faith promotes certainty the less likely one is to respect the faiths (including atheism) of others.

I'm some kind of active Mormon by necessity but not by belief...and I've always enjoyed reading your blog. FWIW. You are proof that not all exmormons are depraved and dishonest and wicked as TBMs like to suggest when building the "fear of leaving" wall. Folks like me who are considering life beyond the Mormon world-view need lots of very good examples to assuage a life-time of indoctrination and socialization against leaving. You are a very good one.

I really enjoy the comments you leave around the so-called Bloggernacle and want to respond to the one you left on Purim here if you don't mind. You wrote:

"I think it would be useful to have an established community of believe-what-you-want-let's-just-get-along blogs that is distinct from the faith-promoting blogs."

You know, as evidenced by the post that DMI Dave threw-up, there is this strong aversion among faith promoters to anyone who stands in the no-mans-land between TBM and other. It's no wonder that these folks tend to dig the "you're either with us or your with the terrorists" rhetoric of GWB. They truly live in a siege mentality with all others as the enemy and interlopers like me as worse than the enemy...as suspected spies, and enemy sympathizers, and wolves in sheep’s clothing, etc. It's no wonder that these same TBMs tend to fault the Lebanese in the same way for not taking sides. For these TBMs, everything is "the war in heaven". Scares the hell out of me, actually.

I am one that would be very interested in promoting this "believe what you want" kind of community. I'm with you. Where's the volunteer line?

C.L. Hanson said...

Thanks Matt!!!

I was really worried that I was doing nothing but pissing people off by agreeing with Dave here.

To be honest though, I think truth in advertising is an important part of a respectful dialog, and I would be happy to see a range of categories to allow people to stick with the comfort zone where they are at the moment.

As far as sign up is concerned, blogspace is basically anarchy. I've already listed Purim as being in neutral territory -- maybe others will follow suit. :D

Matt Elggren said...

C.L., here's to the end of witch-hunting and house-throwing. :)

John Dehlin has a post up on Mormon Stories asking about creating an LDSelect/MA style blog aggregator but for a broad Mormon community...

I'd really like to see Outer-blogness and some of the lower kingdoms unite to put those who dwell in the great and spacious celestial kingdom on the hill on notice that they do not in fact encompass all that is good.

John said...

I like this "Outer-blogness" term!

I just discovered this blog, and am really enjoying it. I'm a Mormon who I think just crossed over into the ex- category--I'm hard to pin down.:) I'd been turned off by the haters out there (though I can certainly understand the anger and sense of betrayal), but you definitely give Ex-Mos a good name. My goal has been to make the transition while minimizing the scarring. You make that look very possible.

I kept a blog as a deconverting but relatively active Mo for the past five years. Maybe it's moved from the bloggernacle to the outer blogness now.

Oh, and a hearty "amen!" to people of different belief systems understanding and getting along. It's become one of my main life-themes.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Matt!!!

That is so cool!!!

It's really interesting reading the discussions over on the Bloggernacle to see how many people take for granted the idea that all DAMU/exmo blogs are mean and angry.

I can give you plenty of examples of blogs by nice ex-Mormons who occasionally post about their LDS heritage.

I hope this new portal will include "cultural Mormon" non-believers as well.

Hey John!!!

I'm glad you like my blog!!! I'll add you to my "Outer Blogness" links.

Mike said...

I think that UoM would probably fall into the Bloggernacle pretty solidly- but we're one of the much smaller blogs.
I think that we're still in the process of figuring out how we're doing links at UoM, but I'll talk to Arwyn and see about having you added.

I really like both John's blog and his wifes blog.

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Mike!!!

Okay, I've added you. :D

athens said...

New reader here who is an ExMo. :)

C.L. Hanson said...

Nice to meet you, athens!!!

The more the merrier!!! :D