Thursday, June 27, 2013

Equal is Equal.

I have this cheesy (read fantastic) idea, Kyle and I should do blog battles, some way some how blog the convos that we have back and forth. I may be partial, but I think our dinner discussions and chats that we somehow manage to have over the roar of six kids are pretty damn interesting. Kyle brings the brilliance and I bring the emotion. Last night's discussion that continued when he got a chance to call me at lunch morphed into him writing this blog post, without further ado... 

(PS. I said every good blog post needs a pic, he firmly requested a baby squirrel.) 

A guest blog from Kyle:

I do not often post my thoughts publicly; preferring, instead, to share them in more personal conversations with those close to me. The recent rulings by the Supreme Court and the ensuing uproar have spurred me to depart from that behavior.

Up until maybe two years ago, I identified as Republican. Then I realized that the Republican Party as an organization no longer believed or practiced the ideals that I believe in: limited government, fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, adherence to the Constitution, and freedom of the people to name a few. Instead, Republican politicians proclaim these values to get elected and then abandon them once they are in office (massive expansion of govt, massive debt, out of control departments and programs, bills that are voted on without anyone even READING). To be fair, I think the same situation exists for the Democrats as well – espousing principles of helping the poor and needy, equality for all, fairness, etc… - then legislating nothing but more govt and power for themselves. I still tend to vote Republican but identify as Conservative or Libertarian.

So it has been with mounting disgust and embarrassment that I have read the comments on various news sites from ‘Republicans’ / ‘Conservatives’ regarding the gay marriage decisions. These comments run from ‘homosexuality is a sin’ to ‘gays will burn in hell’ to ‘why do they have to do that in public’ to ‘they just want to shove this down our throats’. The amount of hatred and vitriol is barely kept in check by many of these people and I have yet to see any of them approach the issue with a rational defense of their position based on the law, the Constitution, or anything other than their personal beliefs. I am embarrassed that these comments are coming from the same people who would identify as the same political philosophy I do.

Putting the vitriolic nature of these comments aside and looking at them based on their (lack of) merits:
The arguments based on the Bible (ie: it is a sin / abomination):
            - First of all, religion should not dictate laws. ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ To my knowledge, this is the only mention of religion within the Constitution or its Amendments. Nowhere does it state that laws should be established based on the beliefs of a particular religion. Frankly, that would be really bad because…
            - Which religion should we base our laws on? Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Mormon, Lutheran, Presbyterian… What about Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist... This is exactly what the section of the Constitution above is designed to prevent – any religion, no matter how prevalent in the current society, from becoming the law of the land.
            - Which Bible? The wiki on Bible editions shows 96 different versions classified as ‘complete translations’. 96!!! I knew there were a lot but seriously? How can any person definitively state their version is the absolute undeniable word of God when there are so many different variations? And to not only say that your version is correct but to then use that to condemn a person based on it? I am sorry but that is not what I think Jesus would do. I was going to break down the few (3) actual scriptures I have seen quoted but that seems irrelevant at this point. Judge not lest ye be judged.

As for the arguments based on society/culture (for lack of a better classification) (ie: ‘Why do they have to be in public like that?’ and ‘Eww, can you believe they actually expect us to be okay with them calling it marriage’). While it was slightly before my time, these arguments sound remarkably similar to those made by the ‘moral authority’ during a different issue. Let’s change them just slightly and see what we think: ‘Why do they have to be in the same public places as us?’ and ‘Eww, can you believe they actually expect us to be okay with them eating in the same restaurants as us?’ Too much? Maybe, but society wouldn’t condone those statements today so why do we condone similar ones just because it is a different classification of people? Equal is Equal.

Before seeing these comments and, frankly, before actually writing my own thoughts down, I never would have called myself a ‘supporter of gay rights’. But I can find absolutely no justification in the opposite argument and the attempts by those in that camp to justify their position only make their position weaker. For those of you that know me and my recent departure from faith, you may be thinking my opinions are based on that change. You would be wrong. Even when I was a self-proclaimed Christian (LDS), I had trouble supporting the opposition to gay marriage. Basically, I asked myself this question: ‘How does the marriage of two men or two women cheapen or in any way negatively affect my own marriage?’ The only honest answer I had was ‘It does not’. So how could I possibly stand for denying the same recognition of love that I have enjoyed for many years with my wife from any of my fellow human beings?

(p.s. I do have a major issue with the WAY in which the court handled Prop8 but that could be an entire book on its own)

- Kyle.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Satan, the most confusing part of the plan.


There are a few premises to the idea of the adversary that have made me scratch my head....

IF the reason we are here is to receive a body AND...

Be tested. Then there needs to be equilibrium in the force - a side or nature we are fighting against. In the plan of salvation when Lucifer's plan of forced communistic behavior is rejected the war ensues and his followers are cast out and they tempt us to this day. They want our bodies and want to win more souls away from God.

This is the battle between good and evil that we are here to be tested within...

SO if Satan wants to destroy God's plan. And he puts the balance in the testing arena... The BEST thing he could do would be to .....


Don't show up. Go over to a universe far, far away and take a nap for a LOT of years.  THAT would actually mess God up.

But Satan is motivated enough to play along and be in the minds of 7 billion people ALL the time. (with the help of his motivated minions.  Day in and Day out even at night... tempting us. Hard working fellow.

Then as I heard one teenager put it at the UU meeting one day. If Satan will punish all the bad guys? How does that not make him a good guy?

And, call me callous but I don't even understand the need for a sacrifice. Why exactly could God not just forgive??

What I see now are the merits of comfort when you externalize your own nature.

Praise God for the good and blame Satan for the bad.

Nooooo you didn't just have the urge to punch that person in the face, It was Satan tempting you.

It also answers the awful awful emotions we have when people do TERRIBLE things, like torture babies. We don't want to think that is something a human brain could be capable of, even a damaged one. We find solace in the eternal damnation of the worst of humankind. And reward for the good of others.

These thoughts were in my head when this week, the "historic" broadcast let us know that the LDS church will be equipping missionaries with ipads (some of them) and having some of them spend more time in meetinghouses on the internet sharing the message instead of bothering people door to door. I suspect it is getting difficult to find things for these missionaries to do.

big sigh...

Know what I see now? 70,000 young people who could ROCK THIS WORLD in major humanitarian efforts. Build more wells, deliver more mosquito nets, call up habitat for humanity and say "want about 5000 hard workers full time?" Ask my sister who works at a homeless shelter what could be done with the money about to be spent on ipads.
Call orphanages or schools in impoverished areas and say we will be there tuesday with paint cans and pencils and paper. Start funneling food to the starving right. now. instead of storing it for ourselves?

 Worldwide, there are 50 million deaths annually, and 5 million (10%) of those death are due to childhood malnutrition. And while only 10% of malnourished child die; the remaining 90% suffer lifelong cognitive and physical defects that significantly and severely reduce their earning potential as adults, leading to a cycle in which their reduced future earnings lead to their own children being malnourished as well. We estimate 80,000 active LDS children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and about 900 die from malnutrition every year. A similar number of active LDS children are unable to attend elementary school secondary to lack of funding. from here

We are so caught up in peoples eternal salvation we completely overlook their current suffering.
IF there is a Satan, (no I don't think there is) he is probably beyond happy to see prophets, seers and revelators justify a mall with church funds and see young men and women spend more time inside on the internet. IS religion the haze letting us abandon others?

In defense of the church, I think this is great:

A more eloquent synopsis here. 

** And no, I don't expect perfection from every organization, we could (and should) all do more, but I don't see many other organizations proclaiming to be the ONE, the TRUE church, with direct revelation through a modern prophet.

by their fruits?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Maiya ... EIGHT... WHAT??

Maiya do you want to buy a dress for your portraits? "NO I want baskeball and hip-hop style."
Well ok then: 

Maiya Reed is EIGHT YEARS OLD...
eight years ago this friday, she joined us earthside with Dad, Grandma and Aunt Beth enraptured in my contractions and her appearance finally. We brought her home two days later in our minivan while Ben and Ella argued vehemently about how they would dress her for halloween.

She has been the light of our lives, giving a creative perspective all the rest of us seem to lack.
We love you Maiya. You are as unique as your name.

Maiya, My Summer Solstice baby,

an interview:

Favorite Color: The Rainbow Colors, I don't really have a favorite
What do you want to be when you grow up? An Artist
Favorite food: Skittles
Favorite subject: Recess, Art
What do you think about before you go to sleep? Mrs. Rupert my teacher.
Where do you want to live when you grow up? By the beach or an artist place.
Favorite movie: Timothy Green
Favorite song or singer: Taylor Swift and The Avett Brothers and When my time comes by Dawes
Favorite Drink: EGG NOG!!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Apostasy and goodbyes.

*** I don't like goodbyes. Oh that is so cliche. Is there a person who likes goodbyes? I can't think of one. I've said goodbye lately to something very big.

So here I am. I'm open about it on facebook (the part of the internet we love to hate). I've been more open to a very select few. And I wrote the most recent personal essay about religion. Now for more specifics:

I have left.
I am no longer Mormon.
Next step is having my name removed, which I will do.
We are going to the UU church, mainly for our children to have a support system.
We identify as agnostic atheist.

For myself, both terms fit, Agnosticism address knowledge.
     Do I KNOW there is a god? No I do not.
           Do I KNOW there is not a god? No I do not.
Agnostic: one who lacks knowledge.

Theism addresses belief.
       I do not have any therefore I am an atheist.
           If I believed there was NO god. I would be an antitheist. I am not that.

Some days I'm apatheist. Just don't overtly care. But other days I'm borderline obsessed with learning more about science, philosophy, basis for morality, and other venues of thought I never before explored while spending time in religion. I have learned SO much and am really loving the journey of exploration at this stage. I could bend your ear about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have a nerdy crush on him.

So I am an agnostic/atheist post-mormon, soon to be exmormon. whew, wipes forehead... that's a lot of labels. But just one more... If you are wondering about morals, that gives me one more label:

As a philosophy, Humanism contains the following tenets:
  • Beliefs need to be tested instead of being accepted solely on faith.
  • Reason, evidence, and the scientific method are the best methods of finding solutions to problems and answers to questions.
  • Fulfillment, growth, and creativity are emphasized for both the individual and mankind in general.
  • A constant search for objective truth, with an understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our perceptions of it, and that scientific ideas should constantly change to better describe the real world.
  • An emphasis on making this life the best it can be for everyone, since humanists (especially those who include the word "secular") tend to believe that this life is the only one a person gets.
  • A search for a good system of individual, social, and political ethics.
  • An ultimate goal of building a better world for ourselves and our descendents by working together.

And since I don't relate to humanism from a religion, that makes me a Secular Humanist.

cue dark scary music...

The people I thought bad things about a few years ago "secular humanists and ungodly atheists"

I am now one of them.

And it is ok.

So there it is, If time ever works out like I'd like (It doesn't) I'll be exploring these thoughts much further. But what I keep thinking about a lot lately is that apostasy doesn't really make for an easy goodbye.

If we had moved out of the ward, or if the ward had split there would have been that appropriate time to say goodbye.

Pats on the back.
"Hope to see you around"
"lets do a playdate"
"Good luck with the new job" 
Maybe even a testimony if the time fit to say 'good bye' and 'thank you' to friends. We won't get that opportunity. Friends was the last tiny thread keeping me there. I really even thought I'd want Nola blessed at church. Then I just couldn't and we didn't and there was absolutely no pomp and circumstance to what our last Sunday was. I can't pinpoint the date on a calendar. Maybe that makes goodbye easier. If we had said "THIS WILL BE OUR LAST SUNDAY" There might have been undue sadness.

We just didn't go one Sunday, And didn't go back. The kids already knew there was a lack of belief and we were detoxing what they were taught each Sunday. The lack of belief was handled first. I do feel sad that they didn't get to hug primary teachers and say goodbye. But no matter how I daydream about it I can't see how that would have gone down.

So, Goodbye friends - We are still here, we still try to be good people. I'd still like to hang out and our kids are still good kids. Sorry that there was no easy way to give you a hug and say I'll miss seeing you on Sundays.  


*** this post sat in the unpublished nether-space of the internet for a looooong, loooooong time, me being too stubborn, embarrassed, fearful, worried to hit "Publish" then this post hit the cyberwaves today and gave me courage and chutzpah. It is such a good post I have with permission posted it here - the rest can be found at one of the best blogs I have come across in a long time: Rational Faiths, Three brothers and guest bloggers hammer out some of the idiosyncrasies of Mormonism.

How to guide for dealing with those in a faith crisis: 
  1. You must love them.   This may sound like a “no-brainer”, but the majority of people that are in the middle of a faith crisis are afraid of losing friends and family if they discuss with them their doubts and concerns.
  2. You must love them.   Didn’t I say that already?  Ya, I did.  You get the idea now.  This cannot be the superficial, smiling in the hallway at church, kind of thing.  It must be a real love.   If you don’t possess that, your friends and family will see right through you.
  3. Do not assume that they have been sinning or want to sin and are just looking for excuses to leave the Church. 
  4. You must realize that doubt is not a sin.
  5. Do not assume that the reason for their doubts is because they’ve stopped reading the scriptures and praying. They most likely have been doing those things for a long time and are still wrestling with doubts.
  6. You must realize that there is a good chance they will leave the Church.  That is a tough one, but it is a reality.  
  7. Realize that for some, either because of  the need to maintain their own healthy mental well being, or for reasons of integrity, it is better for them to leave the Church. 
  8. If your friend or family member leaves the Church, you must honor that decision. 
  9. If this is your spouse, do not threaten to leave them.  Family is more important.
  10. Understand that most Mormons that leave the Church either become agnostic or atheist.
  11. Do not accuse them of reading “anti-Mormon” literature (although this may be true).   People have left the Church after reading a scholarly history, such as Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.
  12. Understand that if your friend or family member leaves the Church, they will still be morally good people. 
  13. They must understand that if they leave the Church, you will still love them and not think less of them. 
  14. Do not say something idiotic like, “The Devil has deceived you.”  Your roll is not to call them to repentance or to preach to them.  If you do this, they will probably stop talking to you.
  15. Shut up and listen.   Within Mormonism, we often think we have the answers to everything – when we don’t.   Many times our friends and family aren’t looking for answers to questions, they are just looking for someone that will listen to them.
  16. You must validate their concerns.   Just because you have not experienced what they are experiencing, doesn’t make their story any less valid.
  17. Realize that if they have gotten up the courage to talk to you, that they have spent months, if not years, thinking and worrying.
  18. If they do want answers to questions, only answer them if you have a plausible answer.  Don’t make crap up.
  19. Understand that your family member or friend has been “trying to make it work” for a long time and has probably been in a lot of pain while trying to work things out.
  20. If they do want answers to questions, realize that they have been thinking, reading, and studying about this harder and for a longer period of time than you have.  If you want to help you need to study and read A LOT before you start spilling out crappy answers.
  21. If you are reading and studying more in an attempt to help, the reading must be outside the correlated dribble that we get in our Sunday School classes and the “white-washed” dribble Deseret Book produces. 
  22. Realize that they are going to be hurt and angry and are going to say things that might offend you.
  23. Realize that a crisis won’t be averted through just one or two discussions with you.  Be patient.  It could take months or even years for the person to go through this transition and they probably won’t be the same afterward.  Most either end up with a more mature, nuanced faith, or leave the Church.
  24. Be discrete.  They have told you about their doubts and concerns in confidence.   
  25.  Realize that all of these suggestions can be difficult to do. Do not take this on unless you are committed to all of the above.