Monday, October 10, 2011

Atheist Agnostic Believer

Chuck Borough has produced a great podcast over at Mormon Expression.  I agree with just about everything the man said, and have repeatedly reflected that my own status as a Mormon is best described with the adjectives atheist (since I doubt the existence of a personal deity), agnostic (since I don't know for a fact), and believer (since I believe in community, including family and friends and the values that sustain these relationships).

Contrary to what someone prominent implied recently in a large gathering of LDS, I am not some kind of fascist who wants to force others to deny God so that we can all go on a wild crime spree together.  Borough's Santa Claus analogy is perfect.  When I realized that the jolly old gent was not a real person residing on the North Pole, I did not suddenly lose all respect for Christmas: I still like gathering with family and friends, singing, sharing food, and even exchanging gifts (though I am sometimes embarrassed that my offerings are a little meager).  Christmas is still Christmas for me, even if I don't anticipate flying reindeer on my roof come Christmas Eve.  Just so, Mormonism did not lose all its meaning for me when I realized that I have serious doubts about the existence of a personal God and the moral authority of those who represent him (whether gods incarnate like Christ or inspired prophets like Joseph Smith).  I still believe in the importance of being a moral person.  I believe in community, including the community of believers.  Unfortunately, they seem not to believe in me.  Judging from Elder Christofferson's recent talk, LDS church leaders think I am a fascist, a nihilist, and (to sum it up) a pretty rotten excuse for a human being.  While I can sort of understand where they are coming from, having spent a little time in that place myself, I cannot accept their caricature of me.  It is wrong, and I resent it.  If anybody asks, then yes, it offends me.  But I can be offended safely: I am not going to drop my morals and lash out at them violently (as Nehor did to Gideon).  Instead I am going to reach out and ask them to realize that many of us "atheists" are people too, that we love our families, that we read scripture, that we believe in and desire many of the same good things that they do.

Sometimes I probably speak too harshly against religion.  That is just the pain of my subjective personal betrayal speaking.  It is not objective reality.  Many religious people are absolutely fine.  Their faith nourishes them in what I would call (in my saner moments) a perfectly fulfilled human life.  But the same is also true of many "secular" people, i.e. people whose religion certain sects (not just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) fear and seek to denigrate.  Why deny this?  Why pretend that happy and fulfilled atheists don't exist?  Why make us all out to be Satan?  Why drive a wedge between us and our believing friends and family?  Are you really willing to make a man an offender for a word?  Do you think the fate of the universe really hangs on accepting a certain narrow construction of reality, a construction that has no room for doubts about things which are (to be frank) easy to doubt?  Why would a loving God do that?  I wouldn't do it.  I refuse to write all believers off as fanatic members of the Inquisition: I know too many who aren't that way at all, and I am not committed to a worldview that makes it necessary for me to deny their reality to have mine.

Anyway, back to work I go.  Thanks for listening to the rant, Internet world.

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