Truth Is Concrete but We Are Fools

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).

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11 thoughts on “Truth Is Concrete but We Are Fools

  1. Interesting thoughts Jeff, although I don’t agree with everything you have said- I respect what you have shared! To me God is truth, constant, & unchanging. God is merciful & will not condemn anyone who has not had the opportunity to know & find the truth. God is fair, He loves us all, & welcomes all His children with open arms. Sure do love you Jefferson, & appreciate the person that you are!

    • Thanks Amy – and thanks for reading! Honestly I don’t even agree with everything I said . . . haha. I’m still tightening up my definition of truth, and there are a lot more thoughts I have on it – so saying it all in a CLEAR and complete way is difficult. If I were reading this post . . . I’d have about 5 things to say about how its incomplete. Ha!

  2. It has taken me awhile to get here, JKC, my son and friend. Your definition of truth is a good one. I am touched that we each find the other to be/have been instrumental in our individual searches for truth. I “love being your mom” now just as much as I did when you were a wild-child, deeply thoughtful 9-year-old. 🙂

    A thought I hope you will address in your next blogs is this: If two people look at the very same “pillar of truth” while standing only 5′ from it, and yet choose different conclusions about what is written there, what is it that is truly being revealed?

  3. I’m venturing out into the world of online post-Mormons (whatever it is we’re supposed to be called, I’m not really sure yet) and found you. I’m also a former Mormon and now an atheist (though I often say agnostic because I don’t feel like I can comfortably say anything is definite when it comes to something as huge as God).

    I think the hardest thing about trying to talk about a decision like the one you and I have made with people who haven’t made it is perspective. We understand what it’s like to be full, believing members. But they can’t understand what it’s like to be us. If they did, they wouldn’t be members.

    It’s tricky to navigate these issues of respect and tolerance when our approach to truth is so different. I’ve found recently that I have trouble being tolerant of people who are “partial” believers and stay in the church despite their doctrinal disagreements. Because for me it was a simple step to leave. It wasn’t simple to do, but it was simple logic. I’m working on it, though, and that’s one reason I’ve started my Twitter account and I’m trying to find other people at all levels of belief to talk to.

    Thanks for your blog, the more we hear each other’s stories the more we understand.

    • Jessica – thanks for reading, and I’m glad you found my blog. It definitely helps to hear each others stories, and I would be interested to hear yours 🙂

      Perspective is huge. The main thing with my family and friends is that they saw me when I was faithful, the testimony I had and the zeal I taught with . . . and just don’t know how I could possibly be atheist now. That’s why I started this blog with a journal entry and some self-disclosure – to help other readers understand that I was a strong believer and the decision I made wasn’t made lightly – it was difficult and important – and I hope by giving that perspective others will open up to understand why.

      (p.s., I called myself agnostic for about 6 months, but eventually realized that regardless of my title I lived my life as if there was no god . . . so I might as well admit I was atheist (that was my logic anyways). It was more of a realization than a decision . . . and it just means you DON’T believe in god, not that you need to prove he isn’t there. Atheism has a really negative connotation though . . .)

      Also – where did you hear about the blog?

      • Your Mom posted it on Facebook in the Mormon Stories group. 🙂

        The Agnostic/Atheist thing is so weird with its definitions. I, too, act under Atheist assumptions. I feel like I fall under both in a way, but as my husband is a militant Atheist I feel more like an Agnostic when he’s around.

        I was also a very devoted member in my day. While I’m not the only one of my siblings who’s not active, I was the first to openly leave the church which was really confusing to my parents. They hadn’t seen it coming and I’d always been the MOST faithful, so it felt like I was really throwing them a curveball. I envy you not having as big a reveal to your parents. It’s taken several years for me to feel comfortable with it, but I still feel a lot of guilt knowing how they feel about me.

        I haven’t yet been public about my story. In part because some of my journey happened while I was at BYU and I have this weird paranoia that they’d try to take back my diploma or something. (That’s probably baseless, but still.) Still, I feel like those of us who not only left the church but left for no church at all are a small group. For me it felt like the obvious option once I’d lost my faith, I spent only a few days thinking about other possibilities. So it’s nice to see I’m not the only one.

    • Jessica, I don’t know you but I just wanted to comment on one of your statements:

      “We understand what it’s like to be full, believing members. But they can’t understand what it’s like to be us. If they did, they wouldn’t be members.”

      You do have the benefit of comparing being fully active vs. being an atheist. But you can’t say that I don’t know what it’s like to be you, but you know what it’s like to be me. You say that if I had your perspective, I wouldn’t be a member. Well, if you had my perspective, you wouldn’t have left.

  4. Also, Jefferson, I’ve had a ton of questions and really admired your openness and candidness (real word?). I’ve hesitated from commenting too much on your stuff for fear of turning discussion into debate (as a result of my own emotions, not yours). But I’ve finally gotten around to reading the bulk of your posts and I have a ton of questions and want to take you up on your open ears (I promise I won’t judge or insult – and if something comes off that way – it’s unintentional. Just let me know, and I’ll clarify). I must admit I’m not as well read as you and I would agree that it is a general weakness among LDS people. We can often use modern-day revelation as an excuse not to dig deep into what we have. If our conversations ever get deeper than my knowledge, I am committed to reading/studying until I can once again be educated in discussion.

    I love this post because from my perspective – God is truth and has all truth, but we don’t. Even if all claims of the LDS church are true – that it is God’s true church and have the full gospel – we don’t have full truth… at least not yet. This life is for us to live on faith, and learn how to take the moss off the pillar. God is real, or he’s not. As much as I believe that He is, I can’t logically prove it. I don’t plan on leaving the church anytime soon, but I think it would only benefit me to engage in intellectual conversation with you. Sorry for the disorganized comment and rambling – thanks for the post.

    • Hermansen! Good to hear from you, how have you been? I’m glad you found the blog and have found it open and inviting enough to be able to comment and ask your questions. I’d be happy to answer any q’s you have, you can comment publicly (preferred so others can benefit from the conversation too) or email me if you don’t want to worry about other people responding (I’ll send you the address via facebook so I don’t have to put it up publicly).

      Also, just stay tuned, because although its moving slowly I’ll be posting articles over the next couple of months which may answer a lot of your questions. I haven’t actually gone into the specifics of why I left yet, and I’ll be starting that this week. Talk to you soon!

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