Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Questions atheists can't truly answer... Ok I'll bite.

Some Questions Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY Answer! Which leads to some interesting conclusions…

from here

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?
 In the very unsettling process of leaving the religion I was raised in and the subsequent sadness I set out to learn logical fallacies, biases and the method to determining truth not based on feelings. It lead me to skepticism and I applied it to all religions the same way I did to my own.
2.       What happens when we die?
I can hope that a lot of things happen but the only credible evidence there is, is that the matter that is "us" becomes some other part of nature.  
3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!
I would hope "they" or him or her would judge me based on my actions and not my beliefs. Infinite reward or punishment for finite actions is illogical. If that is how the afterlife works it is not worth my mental energy and I will do what I do anyway and enjoy the time I have.

 “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?
 The same place you do. Most religious folks I know do not consult their sacred text for every moral decision. Morality to me is a combination of treating others the way I want to be treated. Avoiding harm to others and myself and animals and nature. And asking myself if what I do is something EVERYONE else did, would this world be better or worse off?
5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Even if there is a god you can do what you want. Believers and non believers murder and rape. Fair secular justice is all we can aim for. Christian believers think those people are worthy of forgiveness solely for believing in Jesus.
 6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?
 It has meaning because I give it meaning. I feel meaning and love and accomplishment and enjoy the experiences therein.
7.       Where did the universe come from?
 We don't know. But believing god only moves that back one square. Where does god come from?
We learn more about the Big Bang and the Cosmos everyday. I am open to learning more about all of that. Religion? not so much.
8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?
Bias, delusion, groupthink, confusion, motivated reasoning, false memories, etc. This does not further the religious person's cause because for every person who has had a personal experience justifying their belief there is probably someone else who also had an experience that directly contradicts that. Mormonism (modern prophet) Islam (no prophets after Mohammad) Can not both be true. But both sides have miracles as their claim.

"Miracles are culturally accepted false beliefs."
9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?
Not relevant to the issue.

Dawkins is an expert on evolutionary biology. I learned a lot from the "Selfish Gene"
Hitchens - profound speaker especially in debate format.

Harris- fascinating information from his perspective on neurology. His book "Free Will" made me a more compassionate person.
10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

We have evolved to patternistic thinking. We look for patterns even when they don't exist, our existential fears are comforted by the notion of a god so we look for notions of a deity to self soothe. Culturally we have also done this to solidify the group. It is pervasive and we indoctrinate our children to it before they even question. Its hard to go against that, so many don't even try, even though I would hazard to guess most harbor doubts.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Strengthen home and family?

A ranty post with all the feels today.

This is a perfect storm of emotions. The final crack of the whip  is still sounding through the air on the excommunication of Kate Kelly from Ordain Women. I listened to this podcast this morning and while I did not have a visceral reaction to her excommunication other than "how very very stupid of the church to do that" I was overcome with emotion listening to others describe the emotional violent nature of the church to women and questioners.

Then I am entangled in my own career/motherhood/'what the hell am I anymore' angst. I started last fall making personal goals to return to work and Occupational Therapy specifically. That led to continuing education, shadowing hours and crossing my t's and dotting my i's. I was done with national certification and Texas had received everything needed to process my state license. I reached out through networking for job prospects and got a JOB!! I was floored. Things were looking up. They were so excited for me to start I was calling the OT board daily and on Monday of last week a slightly confused but kind gentleman gave me my license number over the phone. I was so excited!! And set to start working.

Two days later someone else called to take my license away.

In Texas you can only procure a license one of two ways by endorsement (meaning you are currently licensed in another state) or by having recently taken the examination. The person who gave me my number over the phone was not supposed to have done that. I am back to square one it seems. I have passed on the job for now. I have also spent several days sulking. Which hasn't made for a fun summer for the kids.

I think its made all these frustrations bubble to the surface that I usually keep tamped down with moderate success. So I need to talk again ...

YES AGAIN about the emotions I've been working through leaving religion behind.

Many people who come in contact with the sticky problems of truth claims in the church decide to stay for reasons besides the traditional testimony reasons. The community, the culture, avoidance of ruined relationships, etc. I get that, I do. But the one I don't get anymore even though for a brief time period I said it myself: "I'm staying for the sake of my children"

I want to sit and chat (sincerely) with every church member staying for their kids.  I'm not bullshitting at all I'd talk to them all if I could.

The church is preparing kids for a world that doesn't exist really. Girls will grow up with no limitations anywhere besides the church for having a vagina instead of a penis. Personal Progress that seems more about preparing them for "home and family" than higher education and upward mobility in the world is not really preparation.

No one with friends and colleagues that are LGBT and can get to know them can continue to respect the church's position. Each time in history where the church meets up to social causes the church has been wrong and takes far too long to come around.

So here I sit.

I LOVE MY KIDS to freaking bits. They are hands down the best thing I got from being a Mormon woman. I was sort of self righteous about my open womb for Jesus on this very blog (I leave that up for humility's sake)
But now I am struggling to return to work. The license department tsk-tsking me that I didn't maintain my license. Saying "I prayed about it and felt I shouldn't" doesn't mean shit to them.
We gave over $70,000 to the church yet we have no retirement and STILL will be paying our own student loans when our children start college.
With six kids, our groceries rival our mortgage and our kids are only going to camp this year because of generous donations from the freethought community. Activities/extracurricular things for six are not really an option. I am floored by what our gas costs will be to go see family in a week - why? BECAUSE WE HAVE TO DRIVE A BUS.

The church prepared me for what I feel like now is a untenable situation that is not conducive to mental well being.

I filled two grocery carts to the brim today, I couldn't be overly concerned with organic or even healthy because it was more like "how can we make this money work for 3 meals a day for 8". Ella daydreamed outloud about being a lawyer and I thought to myself a few years ago I would have made some statement about balancing that with motherhood and today thought SCREW THAT.

instead said "that is an absolutely valid plan Ella." There is nothing stopping you.

I'm not raising my kids under any organization that thinks they know what god wants you to do and that depends on your genitalia.

My path is a bit set for me now, we will figure it out. I'll keep making phone calls and making the decisions that get me to a career of some type. I have skills man, and damn it people like me.
We will have a happy loud home with bologna sandwiches instead of organic smoothies. I'm so grateful that Kyle works so hard for his family. Others have it much harder than us.

We will do great. But my girls won't be doing personal progress that indoctrinates them into what it means to be a "daughter of heavenly father" They will get to make their own goals. I'm not doing that for them. And I'm sure as hell not letting a church do it for them either.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Book of Mormon

Still an admitted podcast addict here, the line up changes over time and I move with the topics that interest me. I have slowly moved away from Mormon podcasts. Except when this one came across my field of view the idea made me laugh. An non-believer completely unfamiliar with the LDS church is reading the Book of Mormon, cover to cover stopping to add his impressions along the way.

So many cling to it (I did) giving it merit that if read with any degree of critical thinking is not really merited. At its core the Book of Mormon is racist. Native Americans are dark because of a curse.

Ancient Isrealites came across the ocean and had epic battles of thousands to millions of  people with steel swords. Oh and horses, and elephants.... I don't know that it can be held up at all without severe cherry picking.

With some twitter exchanges with David and a few emails later, I was interviewed.

I think I deserve a cookie for condensing my 'story' into under 2 minutes.

My Book of Mormon Podcast, Episode 16 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Benjamin at this moment.

Benjamin (or fine.. Ben) at this moment has all grades above an 85, he is well liked by his teachers and I am complemented often on what a good kid he is. Next year: HIGH SCHOOL!! He got his very own computer for his birthday and tomorrow morning he reports to his very first job. Here you can start working at 14.
I can't believe how fast this is going. We are so proud of him. He wrote this acrostic for his leadership class and his teacher sent me an email saying how impressed he was by it:

E ... Embrace Challenges with the strength and courage of a bull.
A... Accept punishments and accusations with firm responsibility.
G... "Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul." Henry Ward Beecher
L... Lie if you want to be lied to, if not speak with truth and honesty.
E...Every elder you see has gone through what you have so treat them with respect.

L...Learning to stand and tolerate insults is like learning to act as an adult.
E...Everyone can sacrifice time or money but only when you give something you love does it count.
A..."As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." John F. Kennedy
D... Drawing up the composure to not attack someone or do anything foolish is the ultimate tool.
E...Empathy is not about forgiving someone but understanding them.
R...Realizing when you have done something wrong and stood by your mistake is integrity.
S...Serving someone is not loyalty, but believing and staying by them is.
H...Having a good attitude is the key to having a good life.
I...I would stand and persevere anything for family and good friends.
P...Preparation is the key to success.

What does Eagle Leadership mean to me? To me eagle leadership means to be yourself while being the best you can be to get people to appreciate you and live a good life.

-Benjamin, May 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Life in Words, Part Twelve: Gender roles

My mom's story continues, this is one of my favorite stories of my Me-maw lighting her brother on fire, The memoirs began here, last installment here

when Janie was born, so was her chore list

The relationship between my grandmother and her mother had a very  profound impact on her interactions with her daughters.  My grandmother’s birth was seen as the birth of household help for Lizzie.  That is not to say that she did not love her daughter, but in the early part of the 1900s, gender roles were very strictly defined.  If Lizzie had had only sons, she would have had many beds to make and meals to cook.  Sons would not have been seen as a help for their mother unless it was doing physical labor such as bringing in wood, or carrying heavy burdens.  They would not cook and they would not have made beds, washed clothes, or ironed.  It just was not done.  But when Janie was born, so was her chore list. 

She would seethe with anger

  She often told of cooking when she had to stand on a stool to do so.  That act of standing on the stool at the stove was seen differently by me and my grandmother.  She saw it as a child being forced to do something before she had the maturity to do it.  She often told of making beds.  And it was NOT the bed making we know today of slipping on a fitted sheet, then snapping open a flat sheet so it could float down to cover the bed.  It was anything but a happy activity.  The mattresses were made of feathers and any depression upon the bed meant that the making of it had to be restarted.  Janie would complain about fighting to make the beds in the time frame her mother expected – no, demanded.  The only problem with this time frame was that it occurred when her brothers, or “the boys” as she called them, were out hunting.  They would then come home from the hunt, or from their morning masculine chores, and do what came naturally – they flopped down on their beds.  The feather beds.  The beds that their slim sister had fought to make perfect enough to avoid her mother’s wrath.  She would seethe with anger.  

blazingly clear

This went on for a few years until the time came when the man courting her, my future grandfather, heard her complaints about bed making.  He merely thought of a way to possibly  change the behavior of her brothers, by suggesting she take a cigarette paper, slipping it between a brother’s toes, and setting fire to it.  Sounds good in theory and would probably even work in practice.  If the brother in question, Audrey, weren’t such a sound sleeper.   So my grandmother, being a young 15 year old who had never been out of 20 mile radius, and in the absence of her suitor, made a decision without thinking it through to its inevitable consequences.  She took newspapers, wrapped them around her brother’s foot, tied them on, and then set the match to her innovation.  Yes, it woke him up.  His screams also woke the other brothers up.    While it made for a funny story years later, he ended up in a hospital, which was indicative of a serious injury in the 1920s.   Later, I chose to believe that it wasn’t as serious as it was described because as is the case in most stories passed down through the generations, the acts become bigger, the results more astounding, and the aftereffects more unsettling.  But there were no permanent injuries that I am aware of and yes, my grandmother’s true feelings about bedmaking became blazingly clear!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Thanks Joseph Smith, Jr.

We could do it
If anyone could, It would be us
I'd navigate my doubts
And we would be an anomaly

Then you said,  "This."
"This, I won't talk about with you"
That moment told me more than ALL the books
It was a vast library in one statement

If tables were turned
I would have read every book for you
Faced every question you asked,  "This"
"This I will talk about with you"

You never yelled, never got mad
You put it in a compartment and ignored
Being ignored hurts more
Solitary amongst the noise

It faded away, talking waned to typing
typing became mere texts
You still can't talk
And I can no longer be ignored

Water moved under the bridge
A sea of change in droplets
The new question now was - What hurts more?
Watching it rot? or Watching it burn?

If you would only talk to me
What scares you more-
That I might be hateful?
Or that I might be logical?

The erosion of friendship painted a mural
A game of percentages
Day to day casual of the 75 percent yet never
Authenticity for the whole

I went all in
And called the bluff
Talk to me or I've had enough
Again I heard that I had heard before

"This, I won't talk about with you"
Out of self preservation
I toe tagged the friendship

Had I killed it or only admitted defeat?
Put out on the table
What could not be said

Can the devout walk with those who doubt?
Can the apostate and the believer
See eye to eye?
They can only try.

But us?
We could not talk about it. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Where in the world is Janie...

Oh blogging.... I can't give you up but I often let you down. My mom's story sits there looking at me. I wait for her next installment. She is quite a writer isn't she? I've had to assure people in my life that no she is not making it up. Those are real people, they are/were characters but very very real. I love how her words have brought the stories back to the surface and brought them to life. This past Sunday watching Cosmos -- The part where the ode to the written word of humans is highlighted I thought of my mom's story and was immensely grateful to her for putting it down for me and future family members to read.

So this is my "one year post" Yes its about religion so for those who are sensitive to that topic you can tune out now.

I can't believe I don't have a specific date for the 'last Sunday' we attended church. It was such a long time coming that when we actually stopped it was a non-event in a way. I have a few snapshots in my mind. Like the phone call about a ride to scouts. And me saying "We won't be doing that anymore."

Like for this week/month?

"No like ... ever."

A few last things related to callings dropped off and a few final emails. And then that was about it. The living room and bishop's office sit-downs had already occurred.

In honor of this post, I even looked up my very first email to friends from the nebulous beginning of my questioning:

So I am having a crisis of faith apparently and I think Kyle doesn't know what to say to me anymore - so I have been praying about it and I keep thinking I need to talk about it. Because 1) you are smarter and more learned in the scriptures than I am and 2) I don't think my mumblings would negatively affect your faith.

I've tried to kind of quell my own mumblings but my thoughts get circular on the subject and its frustrating. Then I thought I'd bring it up one day in person - but that may be awkward.  So anyway - its so cliche too - A LDS woman struggling with the topic of polygamy - but I am struggling whether it is cliche or not.

Specifically about Joseph Smith.

And it all really boils down to the fact that my whole life I did not know he had what? 30 wives - to this day I still don't know details - and its very precarious to try to research it online - you know what kind of stuff is online - which I have avoided. 
but through what I feel were honest sources (not anti) I did find more. And it was unsettling. Mainly this point - that he hid the marriage ( to a girl who was only 17) from Emma and quote :
Book of Mormon witness, Oliver Cowdery, felt the relationship was something other than a marriage.  He referred to it as “A dirty, nasty, filthy affair...”
those words keep echoing in my mind, 
So I tried to let it go and turn to the scriptures only and choked spiritually on section 132 like I have before.

I feel like I could overcome the topic if it didn't seem hidden by the church. How many members today if asked would only know Emma asJoseph's wife - do these other women not deserve recognition - they bore him children... If it was my daughter I would not want her swept under the rug.

I feel like I can't move away from this and when "Joseph Smith" is said in church I ache. I mean if a man did that in the ward right now he'd be ostracized.

on a similar vein - Men being able to be sealed after the death of their wife and women not being able to. I can't. get. over. it.

anyway. I am going to pray more and fast.

I am sorry - feel free to think I am crazy and tell me to take it up with the bishop. 

 Almost like the pain of childbirth, I can't really remember the pain I felt then. I know it was real and deep and agonizing. But I have none of that anymore.
In fact I've come very close to not writing this "anniversary" post at all. But I'm going to do it anyway... what's that they say about an unexamined life...

Questioning in earnest Jan of 2011, Open disaffection August 2012, Left sometime February 2013, Resignation (Names removed) June 2013

So where am I now? where are we as a family?


To answer the oft asked question... so what do you believe now? I took that question seriously when posed to me and I started really diving into what it was that excited me. I have found such a renewed interest in science, specifically scientific skepticism. Found the old copy of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Dove headfirst into some great science podcasts and discovered to my delight there is a vast network of modern skeptics that work to promote the beauty of science and the benefit of critical thinking.

In the social adrift state after leaving the church my natural inclination was to turn to the many crunchy mom groups and natural birth community groups. I have found dear friends in those circles.

Sadly though, I noticed the trend emerge that many things were still dogma based. A set of "rules" that were incontrovertibly true to many in these circles. Science denial often trumps when certain topics come up (vaccines, homeopathy, diet extremism, etc.) I felt I had in a sense jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

One night at dinner with a very cool friend who felt somewhat abandoned by a birth network she was a part of for political reasons she said "I thought one day instead of making myself fit in a place, I'll make my own damn place."

Brilliance!  I was a person with a foot in two worlds. A new found skeptic thirsting for science but still the babywearing extended breastfeeder who had two babies born out of the hospital. So I worked to find my own place to fit. And I started the Crunchy Skeptics group on facebook. It has helped me come in contact with some absolutely marvelous people. I've made wonderful new friends and have some fantastic people as admins. Several scientists, doctors, nurses, journalists, midwives, birth professionals, and more offer support and advice in the group. We chew articles up and debate the real data. We know logical fallacies and point them out readily. I have found the convos there to be unparalleled to most online groups. I know its *just* facebook but its really been a fantastic way for me to focus my time and effort doing what I love: chatting.

Us as a family:

We are now attending Fellowship of Freethought (meets once a month). Always interesting topics and the kids learn some great things about science or the natural world in their classes.
We are hoping to send the oldest three to Camp Quest this summer and Kyle and I will be volunteers.
We are all super excited to be watching the remake of the Cosmos series. This fuels my Neil deGrasse Tyson fangirling which makes everyone only roll their eyes a little bit more at me.
We are going camping with new friends again this weekend.
Wow... Sundays actually spent relaxing. FOR. THE. WIN.

Over the past couple of years I have felt some of the most difficult pain ever. Only rivaled by the pain of losing my father and brother, and it even encompassed that pain as well. I am so glad to be on the other side of it. I think of people like my husband, my mother, my sister, my mother in law, my older children, a few friends who have just listened to me over and over and over again through all of this. For new friends that I never would have met if not for my path of great change. I am a better person for having such open minded people in my life.

I have also lost many friends. And I am close to the point of forgiveness now. At first I felt rejected, then I rejected the relationships myself. It just is what it is. Its almost like a color. I like the color of those friendships very much, I just don't know quite how to incorporate them into the decor of my life now. I hope some day I/we will figure that out.

I was asked the other day if you could go back and not know what you know about the church would you?

At first I would have said yes.

Now? not only no. but hell no.

My life is richer for all the things I've learned.

PS. In other news, Kyle's hair has gotten a lot longer and his vas deferens shorter ;)