Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gray Matter

I have spent most of my morning perusing the Mormon and Ex-Mormon Blogshpere. I started at Main Street Plaza and and followed the links located in Sunday in outer blogness.

I had significant thoughts about everything I read and wanted to comment, I did not comment because my thoughts were way to complex for my writing skill level. ugh.......

This post lead to my train of thought. So, an L.D.S. woman is trying to cope with her husband disillusion with the church. The husband is an otherwise good guy, his only fault it seems or at least the fault being discussed is that the has come to the conclusion that the whole L.D.S. thing is a sham and can no longer tolerate participating.

Well, maybe it is a sham or maybe it isn't. I am not going to try proving or disproving that. What I am most interested in is, is the social climate that lends to members leaving the church and their spouses hoping and praying that they may return to the truth.

Truth it seems is a black and white issue, there is no in between and there does not seem to be any room for having faith in the myth. Honestly, many have a hard time with myths, Mormons are not excluded from the shift from symbolic thinking to realist thinking. From my experience in Mormonism I guess that most Mormons don't consider any of the Biblical stories, NT stories, Book of Mormon or the Joseph Smiths vision as Myth or Metaphor. If it didn't happen then how can you faith. It is this mindset that makes it easy to leave the church. If the Church is not meeting your needs all you have to do is stop believing that Joseph Smith was visited by God and the entire Church becomes irrelevant.

Leaving at that point is easy if one does not have emotional ties, marriage is full of those. I have not run into many former Mormons who would willingly give up their families over a philosophical split. Though, I imagine it must be awkward to try to pursue ones religious convictions with the knowledge that your spouse might think your mind as been clouded by Satan, the love one has must overrule any awkwardness.

How about a little gray area?
Is is impossible for a doubting member to conclude that the "restored church" is really just metaphor, or the for the TBM spouse to conclude that there are other valid paths and "my spouse is no longer on my path and that's ok" Or is there no room for a faithful member to have doubt?
I can't help thinking, that if the Church were more accepting of divergent views and a certain amount of dissent, many of the people who have left the church might have stayed.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Why I'm not an Atheist.

Here I am going to try to explain something that I don't completely understand, that is explain a philosophy, which I have very little to no formal language or training; all I have is direct experience. Direct as in actual physical experience not some kind of...Idea stew....like beef stew: chunks of ideas in a thick broth, with diced carrots and onions.
I do have snippets of philosophy of Religion, and Eastern Philosophy, these have only given me a way to think about what I experience and are not to be confused with actual experience.

When I was a young Mormon, I had this very concrete idea of what and who God is. I don't doubt that that idea was fed by Mormon teachings, God is this very old man who sits on a throne making edicts and sending angels to earth. He sits up there making spirit children, he as a very large book with names in it and a series of boxes with all right acts and sin listed there for checking off and scoring on judgment day; as I got older God became much more complex. The big accounting book went away, but suddenly God did not just include as his chosen, Mormons who were married in the Temple but anyone who was good. ( Like Scrooge at the end of "A Christmas Carol")

God became even more complex as I learned  the theory of evolution in school; not so hard that one. I assumed it was part of Gods plan, he is powerful enough, why the heck not. Dinosaurs, no problem, everything was put on earth for some reason; humans evolved from a Chimp like common ancestor; like I said God is powerful. 

Then, I found out about other religions, religions that did not have "the God" (the God I like to call the God of Abraham.) they have other Gods, one religion could have several. To me this seemed wrong, but as I looked at these other Religions I realized that they had truth, they taught their members to do good also. So, my God expanded to include these other religions. This is the  way it worked in my head:  God had these messages he sent down to humanity, then humanity interpreted these messages in the ways that made sense to them. It's a little like the Mormon teachings on revelation; even more like telephone.

At some point, I got into Hinduism; the idea of Brahman and all the different archetypes, or human manifestations of Brahman. Krishna, Shiva, Kali etc. (correct me if I'm wrong) And I started reading about the Tao, etc. So then the idea of God became one of, simply put, a force rather than a being. (more like the Force).  Not only do I find this idea to be much more logical than the idea of a guy sitting on a throne deciding who gets to go to heaven and who doesn't but I have no problem believing that such a force exists. The only evidence I need is the movements of my hands, my sons beating heart, the tree outside my window, Glenn Beck, the fungus under my toenail. etc.

In reality the argument over god or no god, is sort of irrelevant I mean even if I decide I believe or don't I still have to take out the trash, I still have to eat and have a job. 

Besides, I sometimes like to think that myths might be true, that is a part of my mind I don't want to kill off.

Plus, I really can't stand labels...those are for tombstones. 

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Charlies game.

We were taking a rather long trip, the almost four year old and I, when out of boredom he came up with this game: "daddy, what is one plus one"
Me: "two"
Him: "daddy, what is x plus x"
Me: "2x"
Him:"daddy, what is zebra plus zebra plus zebra"
Me: "3zebra"
This went on for several minutes, each time using different animals, people, numbers and objects. For every answer I gave him he let out a shriek and a giggle as if it was the silliest thing he had heard of.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wrath of god

Lately I have been experiencing the joy of trying to figure out how to properly raise a 13 year old boy.

Let me rephrase that, trying to take care of my 13 yo, discipline even, in an effective manner. Number one son , Has been no stranger to trouble recently. (nothing really serious) but enough for me to wish I could whisk him off to a Zen monastery for a year or two, so I don't have to be a disciplinarian.

Naturally, my frustration with him (and myself) has led me to reflect on how I was at that age, and I can't remember in great detail. What I do remember is that church was very important to me, especially my position in the Preisthood. (at thirteen I must have been a Deacon?) I was intent on not doing anything to jeopardize my duties (listening to rather aggressive music was my only vice back then) I also, deeply believed that God saw everything so, I was pretty straight.

The way I learned morality and the way I am currently doling it out to my son are both quite different, the differences are enough that I am having difficulty with it. My parents had God to back up their actions, they never abused their position, but I knew that if I did not obey that God would have the last word. In my house the kids get time outs, or stuff taken away but we are the final authority. This becomes an issue when they start to see that even we can't really enforce everything. My son figured that out when he was grounded a couple of weeks ago; yes he could walk away from me and " no I won't chase you down and force you to stay."
His punishment depended on his agreement to see it through, which depends on him caring about how we see him and him admitting that he did something which is unacceptable.

This is where I think religion looks useful. When you go to church as a kid, you get taught not just a set of beliefs and practices but you get a whole community that tries to live those beliefs and practices. Kids are not just getting morality from their parents but from a larger community. My son is not part of a group of people who are trying to clarify some set of rules.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Ooouch Charlie bit me...that really hurts Charlie"

Number two son and I took a bike ride the other day to the Saturday market. As we left the market, after looking at ripe tomatoes, buying a pint of cherries, NTS started screaming. As several people looked on I stopped and rushed to the bike trailer as he yelled ouch ouch.

"Whats wrong" I asked, "are you okay?"

"Ouch ouch, Charlie bit me" he replied, in his best English accent.

I sighed after I got back on my bike and said, rather loudly, " you are fine"

I rode home through town with him still screaming, over and over "Charlie bit me, Charlie bit me, that really hurts Charlie."

And I just ignored him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I was sitting on the porch swing with the two younger ones enjoying burrito's and the sunny weather when an older couple, wearing their Sunday best approached us. It should have been obvious to me what their intent was as they walked down my driveway with Bibles in hand.

I could have asked them to state their business and go, or "let us enjoy our afternoon snack and respectfully keep your religious views to yourselves." I am a sucker for conversations about religion, especially with people who are not relativists but see god and the Bible as infallible and absolute.

"Do you read the Bible?" I was asked. "Well I have looked at it. I am a Zen Buddhist and the Bible is not a text we use" I replied. This comment was to be a, not so subtle, hint to them that maybe they should not waste their time with me.

To their credit they stayed on message and I forgot mine.

"Are you afraid of the end of the world?"

When I was eight years old I would have answered yes. I also would have answered yes when I was seventeen. Now, this question only perplexed me, how can I answer this? I was dumbstruck. Before I could answer, I was informed that God would protect us and we had nothing to fear, but we had to believe in god in order to escape fear, oh yes and we must read the Bible.

I finally replied that I was not concerned about the worlds end. And that the only things I was concerned about were finishing my burrito and studying for finals. And that fear, other than its practical uses, was not a factor in my "spiritual" (I still don't really know what that word means) life. In other words if I were to embrace Christianity it would not be out of fear of being excluded from heaven or going to hell.

After they left, this idea of fear lingered with me and has left me with questions. I was left wondering if fear does factor into my reasons to continue with Zen.

So, what am I afraid of? Well, looking dumb is way up there, (see this post.) I want to look smart and appear mature. (see this post) I want be the one dispensing answers to all others quandaries regardless of how little I actually know. ( I am positive that this quirk is quite annoying to those closest to me) I am afraid of Karma, I am not sure how I feel about this teaching, I have not fully embraced it nor have I been able to embrace the idea that there is no way of knowing what happens after death. The biggest fear I have though is of going through life without having lived it, I am not sure that even Zen can cure this one but it keeps me practicing.

Zen also has done little to assure me that concrete answers exist for anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zen and the Art of Escape.

When your 13 year old son comes home from school in the middle of the day, you want it to be for a good reason. When he stops you while you are busy trimming a hedge and you are having one of those pleasant mornings with your youngest child, you want whatever caused him to leave school to be merely due to an over reaction. When you respond to him and he falls into your arms and starts to sob, you want to find the person who caused this and demand to know why? why would you cause this harmless child to have to limp home and sob on his fathers shoulder.

You want to defend him, cure him, ease whatever pain it is which has caused him to tremble. You want to find who is responsible and make things right; you want to show him that you have control, like you did when he was a toddler and he skinned his knee. When you find that your son is the cause of his pain you, naturally, want to know who pushed him to do what he did. You want that other child punished, you want the school to do something to keep your kid out of trouble.

You want the other kids parent to call you up and yell at you, while you stay calm...just to show who the better person is. You want to tell him, that "my son was just defending himself" and if his kid had any self-control or respect for others he would not be bleeding. You don't want your son to be the responsible one. (the other parent never calls)

When your child comes home in the middle of the day, interrupts your day, starts sobbing in your arms- you give him a glass of water, you hold him, tell him you love him--you want to be upset---you want it to be simple. When he tells you it was his fault. You want him to see what he did, you want him to apologize, you want him to see how he can change.
, you want things to be normal... you want him to go back to school and have all the other kids like him. You want to blame someone; his mother, his not having many friends during elementary school, his lack of freedom,----you want it to be about him and not you.

You want your day back.