I didn’t leave the church because it was difficult. I left because I found out it isn’t true.
Truth . . . paradoxically everyone has their own definition. Here’s mine:
Truth is the way things really are. It does not depend on me; my perception of it doesn’t validate or invalidate it. It was there – a pillar – for eons before me, and it will be there for eons after. Before gravity was understood it was already in force: pulling all things inward. Before galaxies were imagined they were present; we were part of one in ignorance. With each new piece of knowledge we are only discovering something that was already there.
But that discovery is seen through shaded glass. Who I am, the way I think, is the result of every action taken by me and around me since I was born. I was trained to see things in a certain way. As an American raised in the 90’s I carry a certain set of glasses with me everywhere I go which are very different from a monk of the 1400’s. Truth remains the same, but no one sees it clearly; the pillar is covered with moss, its real shape obscured. The truth seeker’s attempt is to lessen, to the greatest extent possible, the effects of prejudice, while humbly recognizing their inability to fully do so.
If you say there is an afterlife and I say there isn’t, one of us or both of us is wrong. Yet seeing things in black and white has been the cause of more division, war, and barbed words than anything else in history. One person, thinking their position better than yours, uses it as a bludgeon to prove your idiocy and their worth, taking advantage of every logical misstep, until you grow cold and distant or worse. The waters are muddy. Truth unclear. Relationships strained.
So enters the relativist who says, “Well, God is true to me.” In the face of conflict and confusion they reach for tolerance and clarity by saying all truths can be coexistent. They’ve only confused the definition of a simple concept.
Because truth is essential and falsehood prevalent, and judgements are a part of our day to day life. The man who claims he’s been sent by god and I need to give him all my fortune doesn’t need to be taken seriously, respected, and given the holy shawl of truth just because we don’t want to commit to the idea that he’s wrong. The woman who makes excuses for her children and continually bails them out when they run out of money is doing more damage by believing them than she would by doubting. The fraudster who presents a fake check and a compelling story doesn’t deserve to be believed just because he’s clever. Marxism vs capitalism, republican vs democrat, to go to war or to ignore the conflict, creationism vs evolution . . . there are consequences to blending truth and falsehood; granting everyone who speaks with the accolade of “truth” is foolish.
There is another way to be respectful and tolerant while maintaining the allegiance to truth as something solid and pure. It is through the recognition of your own bias, and the admission that you could be wrong, and that you most likely are, to some degree, on every topic. While truth stands as a pillar 5 feet away, our understanding of that pillar will change over time. Hopefully our view of it will improve and truth will be understood with more and more clarity and the positions we hold now will be seen as obsolete and unbalanced. Therefore we are all wrong, about almost everything, but can only do the best we can with the evidence we have available to us now. This enables us to sift out the truth from the falsehood and progress to better government, better relationships, and better thinking.
I say this to complete the framework for this blog – even though my father is gay, I loved him, and believed I had a mission to save him from suffering, that strain did not cause me to leave the LDS church. I didn’t leave because my beliefs were emotionally difficult. Since truth doesn’t depend on what I want, it doesn’t matter if it is hard. If the evangelicals are right and everyone who doesn’t accept Christ (even children in some far away tribe with zero chance to know of him) will actually suffer in hell for eternity then it doesn’t matter how unjust I feel that belief is: if it is true, it is true, and that’s that. That was my mindset – others in my family have left because they were sensitive and couldn’t believe harsh doctrines about loved ones, and I think that’s a completely valid reason to change belief as well, but that wasn’t my motivation.
The impact of the relationship with my father was a more open mind. I couldn’t accept the generic answers the church gave because they didn’t make sense. Why would my father choose immorality and carnality flippantly and leave behind everything he had built? It was obviously a very difficult choice for him . . . and I needed to understand why he would go through that pain. This also, however, wasn’t the only thing that caused me to look at doctrines in depth which most people just passed over and accepted. It may not have even been the primary influence in opening my mind. I was raised by a woman who loved and respected other people and taught me to see things from their point of view, and there were many other aspects of my childhood that caused me to look more closely.
My search for truth, for awhile, led me to greater faith in the LDS church, but over time led to me conclude that the LDS church is false. (And later Christianity and Theism in general, but lets take this one step at a time :P).