Unworthy – a Story Series

The day after I posted the “Unworthy” article was one of the happiest of my life.  I spent all of Friday morning reading people’s comments and replying to them – everyone was saying they understood, or they had gone through the same thing, or “I didn’t know others went through this.” 

As I drove into the Walmart parking lot and a driver almost cut me off, I nodded to them and thought, “We all do it.”  While shopping, I whistled the entire time and genuinely enjoyed thinking about the lives of the people I passed–the little girl who let out a five-second scream as loudly as she could and the father who desperately tried to stop it–and when I drove home I got a hit of euphoria as I hit the gas peddle to get on the freeway.  I was enjoying every moment.

I had been worried about posting the article, worried about how others would respond, worried because of some of my past experiences with writing online, thinking that my inner thoughts would be ridiculed or criticized.  Instead, I was welcomed into the hidden world of the Unworthy and told I belonged, I was asked if others belonged there too, and I felt accepted with all the parts of me I had been afraid of expressing.

Expressing those inner thoughts was therapeutic for myself and for others.

That’s why it wouldn’t be enough for me to just post my own story and move on.  Others sent me their stories in response to mine, and they were potent.

Today, I bring two stories – one from Judy and one from Tony.  If you’d like to submit your own for consideration (whether you’re active LDS or not), please send me an email.

Unworthy – a Story Series:

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Unworthy

I had done it again, and somehow she knew.  Call it mother’s intuition, inspiration, or just luck, but here she was, knocking on my door, four hours in to one of the most depressing moments of my life.

“Jefferson?  Are you there?”

There was no way of hiding it, no way of concealing the tears, not in my voice if I spoke or on my face if I let her in, and I didn’t have the willpower to lie convincingly anyway.  There was only one thing I could do so I answered and she came in and sat next to me and told me she had felt she should come talk to me.

From the second floor to the basement, where she rarely came, she had come out of concern for me, not knowing why.

I didn’t want to talk to her about it – looking at pictures of naked women and getting off to them isn’t exactly on the list of “comfortable mother-son conversations” for any teenage kid.  All I knew is that I felt as dark and low as I ever had before and she was here because she felt like she should be.  Maybe God had sent her to help me through this.

I told her and she hugged me and said words I’m sure were wise but which I don’t remember and I knew she loved me and cared for me and didn’t judge me.

I said I had been trying to stop for so long and I knew it was wrong but I kept doing it anyway and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stop.  And then I said the series of words that ripped through her, words that would define the next decade of my life, words which, I didn’t know at the time, had defined much of hers as well.

“I just didn’t want to feel so bad about myself anymore.”

For all the darkest things of this world, guilt is there to add fuel to the fire of our own self-destruction.

In the LDS Church especially.

The Greatest Guilt-Inducing Doctrines in The World

I’d like for us to do an experiment together, you and I, one entirely accomplished in our imaginations.  I’d like you to imagine a boy (preferably a nephew, son, or grandson – someone you love) – he will be our test subject.  Together, we’re going to place him in a controlled environment where we can manipulate the thoughts, ideals, and dogmas of all the people around him – a Truman Show setting, but for social science instead of entertainment.  Look around the earth for potential dogmas to give to the child–there are so many to choose from.

As the boy grows up, tell him he’s extremely special and important: of all the creatures on earth he’s part of the only species with a soul–he’s a human, a child of God–but that his uniqueness and specialness goes far beyond that common human trait; that of all the people who have ever been born, lived, and loved, he was held back to be born at this particular period of time, exactly when he was, so that he could have the truth and take it to others, and so he could help prepare the way for God to come to earth again.

Tell him he is part of a “chosen generation,” chosen because of how valiant and faithful he was eons ago, before God had even created the world.  This idea will appeal to any child, given our natural desire to hear good things about ourselves, but we’ll want to confirm it with countless speeches, sacred texts, and emotion-filled statements by those he trusts.  Have the adults, those who are in the usual place of respect in any society, tell the boy that he and his peers are better than they were as kids, that this is evidence that God is coming soon and that they’re so proud and excited to see the things he does.  When those ideas give him that familiar warm feeling of righteous pride, tell him God is speaking to him, confirming the truth of what he heard.

Let’s not stop there.  It’s important that this child really believes what we’ve told him about who he is – the rest of his life hinges on it.  Have an elder in his society give him a special blessing, and tell the boy that the words the man says come directly from God.  Use this moment of trust and openness to tell our boy that he will be a leader, that he will represent God in everything he does, that he will bring many people to baptism and that those people will be grateful forever for what he did, that he will personally participate in the second coming of Jesus Christ and that he must prepare for that event by walking uprightly before the Lord every day of his life . . . .

Evey day of his life.

Teach this boy he can be forgiven when he messes up.  Tell him he can become perfect, but not in this life.  Also tell him his spiritual power depends on his good choices.  Tell him that if he’s slothful in his duties, he will be held accountable for those he might have saved, had he done his duty.

Tell him that miracles are possible, that he can move mountains, baptize many, heal the sick, and whatever else God wills, and that the main thing that holds him back is a lack of faith, righteousness, and from not following the promptings of the spirit.

Give this child people he loves who he especially needs to save – his father, sister, and a few friends will do nicely.  Watch how this affects how hard he pushes himself.

Do this and you will have created me.

19 and ready to save the world!

19 and ready to save the world!

This is about me

You, dear reader, are already having one of many possible reactions to this article.  Some of you are looking for weaknesses, for ways to point out where I’m wrong, and you’ve no doubt already found some.  Since you’re also the only people who can do anything about the reasons I felt unworthy, I need to ask you to stop viewing me as an enemy.  I come to this article with one intention – to portray what became the largest trial of my young-adult life – an unquenchable feeling of unworthiness in spite of my best efforts.  Your experience of LDS doctrine may be different.  This was mine.

Five People

It would have been a strange scene for others to walk in on – me in a dark basement, alone, pedaling on a stationary bike while watching a movie and crying.  I was at the end of Schindler’s List and what I had just seen filled me with fear.

The Alliance had beaten the Nazis and were going to soon arrive in the area where Schindler’s factory was located.  Throughout the war, Schindler had, through flattery and bribes to some of the worst people history has known, purchased a Jewish work-force of over 1100 people, saving them from concentration camps and putting them to work creating pots, pans, and faulty ammunition.  Now his workers were hours away from being fully liberated, but Schindler himself had to flee or face the risk of being charged as a war criminal.

He’s outside the factory, preparing to get into his car, and his workers have gathered around.  One of them, a close friend, brings him a gold ring some of the workers had made for him.  On it was inscribed a message from the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

This message, at this moment, overwhelms Oskar Schindler.  He leans towards his friend and whispers the words that are burning his conscience, “I could have got more out . . . I could have got more.”  He begins sputtering about the things he could have done differently–he could have made more money or wasted less of it–and his friend tries to console him without effect. He looks around him at the things he still has–his car, his suit, his Nazi pin–and tallies up what he could have done if he would have sold them.  “This car.  Why did I keep this car?  Ten people right there!  Ten people.”  He looks at the pin on his lapel and says, “Two people, two people right here.”

Pedaling in my basement, his intense guilt fueled my imagination.  What will it be like, I thought, after this life, when all the people I could have helped see me and know I could have helped them – that for one uncomfortable moment I could have given them the greatest truth this world had, but that I balked, and they had suffered? 

A Cycle of Guilt

I often wonder how our stories affect us.  Our best movies and books usually place extraordinary adventure on ordinary people, showing how the weak overcome the strong, and how the good always win in the end.  I wonder if that fuels some of the dissatisfaction we have with our own lives – whether we’d be more content if all our heroes were more normal. 

And if regular stories, which we know are fictional, affect us, how much more do stories we believe are true affect how we deal with life?  If a boy is reading a story about a righteous man who really believed in God, sacrificed everything for him, and was able to perform miracles, what will the boy think when he is unable to do the same?

A cycle of guilt begins, one which I experienced hundreds of times in the two short years of my mission:

  1. I believed all things were possible, through faith.  God had prepared people to accept His gospel, and he promised that amazing miracles could happen if we exercised faith – we were the only ones stopping miracles from happening!
  2. I prayed and set goals based on faith, rather than past accomplishments.  I was great at setting goals and planning–a gift from my mother–but these plans relied on a loving God to make up the difference between what I could do and the goals I set.  When my companion and I set goals at the beginning of a six-week transfer, we believed that the goals we set were inspired by God.  “Eight baptisms, even when we don’t have anyone remotely close right now?  Hey, it’s possible.”  We didn’t stop there – we’d set smart action plans, things we could do to be in the right place at the right time, to come in contact with a lot of people, to be prepared to be led to the right people, and to more fully “consecrate” ourselves to the work.
  3. I’d work my ass off.  At the peak of my mission we bought black running shoes so we could “turbo tract” for an hour every day (something my brother had done – running from door to door instead of walking); one day a week we would leave the apartment in the morning and not come back until night, packing a lunch and walking or biking everywhere so we could meet a lot of people; we’d invite a member to every single appointment; we’d do “inspired tracting;” we’d study specific topics; we’d role-play to practice our teaching skills; we’d wake up on time and do our exercise and eat better and not come in until 9:00 even if it meant tracting in the dark and we wouldn’t think about home and we wouldn’t allow contention and we would make p-day a little short because that was the only time that one person could meet but maybe they were prepared.
  4. Eight baptisms wouldn’t come.  Hell, one baptism wouldn’t come.
  5. Then I’d do what every good planner does – analyze the results, learn from my mistakes, and set new goals.

The problem with this cycle is that one key competent was missing – God.  The success of all of these plans was based on the existence and intervention of a loving and all-powerful God, the God who had sent me to earth at this specific time for this specific reason, the God who had guided Ammon, who had guided the Nephite missionaries and converted entire cities of Lamanites, the God who could do anything and wanted to save as many people as possible, the one I read about three times a day in the scriptures.

He clearly wasn’t the problem here.  He could do it.  And that meant the finger could point in only one direction – toward me and my companion.

And there was always something we did in a six-week transfer that we could blame for our failure to accomplish our goals. I never swore, I never masturbated, I never looked at pictures of naked women, I never allowed myself to become really homesick, I never woke up late or came home early or snuck out at night or swam in a pool or anything like that.

Like Schindler, I stood looking at the fruits of my efforts, thinking of the car I could have sold but that I didn’t.

So I’d get up earlier, pray more fervently, knock on more doors, turbo-tract more often, try to burn away feelings of laziness by working harder, harder, harder.

And I never felt like it was enough.  I was never enough.

“The Best . . . “

And that’s why I didn’t know what to think when he said it.  I hoped it was true, to be sure, but I didn’t see how.  Sitting in the chapel at the transfer meeting, looking around at all the other missionaries who were moving to different areas in Illinois, I sized myself up, but I just didn’t see it.

Yeah, I thought, clearly I work harder than him.  Him, yeah.  That Elder is just really awkward, not that that’s any fault of his own, and I’m glad God has given me the talents I have – it’s Him, not me. 

And the next thoughts were never uttered, not even to myself, but were felt nearly every time I was in a meeting with other missionaries.  That Elder is a lot better than me. 

“You are unworthy.”  “You are not good enough.”  “You’re not working hard enough.”  “You aren’t taking every opportunity you can.”  “You don’t have enough urgency.”

“You fall short.”

Those were the fears that punctuated my mission.

They were the obvious conclusions to the results I had been achieving, results that caused my mission president to say the words I didn’t believe on a phone call before transfers, words which didn’t comfort me, but gave me guilt for the temporary pride they gave me, words which made me kick myself for wondering whether he was about to make me an Assistant and then wonder about my motivation and then ask God to not let it happen because I obviously wasn’t ready for it.  Words which didn’t stop me from feeling what I always felt, eventually.

Why I Left the Church

If you were to ask me why I left my religion, I would probably say it was the doctrine, and that would be true.  I can point out all the logical inconsistencies that slowly frustrated my mind, the moments of feeling betrayed and lied to, and the ways the Church asked me to perpetuate their own half-truths or misrepresentations.  But how much do I really understand about the decisions I make each day?  I’ve seen so many people do things and then later think of the reason they did it, and I’ve done so myself, so I don’t fully trust the objectivity of our reflections about ourselves – they seem highly prone to change based on our current world view, self-image, and so on.

Of the six or seven people who have listened to all the doctrinal reasons I left the Church, some were affected, and others didn’t seem bothered at all – subjects which tore at my conscience for months were met with flippant shrugs of shoulders as if they weren’t important.  I left for doctrinal reasons, but I really have no idea why those doctrines troubled me and don’t trouble others.  There was obviously something that prepared me to interact with those doctrines in a different way than I had before – some life experience that made me open.

I think I left the Church to survive.  I think the unworthiness I felt in the Church was too much to handle, and my brain, in an effort of self-preservation, started looking for something that worked.

To put it simply – I left the Church because the Church didn’t work for me.  In fact, the Church was destroying me.

I mean that quite sincerely.

Becoming Evangelical

Slowly, the words of the mid-westerners around me on my mission started to seem more and more right.  I started seeing the beauty of their raw acceptance of grace without any caveats.  Doctrines I had heard mocked since childhood, without understanding what they meant, now started to become clear as I grappled with defeat and guilt.  I saw that when others said, “I am saved and nothing can change that!” they didn’t want an excuse to sin – they were fully admitting that they were always going to fall short of perfection and that there was nothing they could do to change that.

And so I started reading Mormon authors who seemed on the brink of becoming Evangelicals themselves–Robert Millet, Stephen Robinson, and others–and I loved it, for awhile.  But eventually, all the unfortunate doctrines of the Church became a burden to keep reinterpreting.  I couldn’t go through the temple anymore and believe all the things done inside had to be done for every single person before they could enter the highest degree of heaven–all these rites and ordinances and things we had to do in order to have the full saving grace of God in our lives, and then hundreds of things afterwards to live righteously.  The LDS Church just didn’t work within my new worldview of grace.

I became an Evangelical for many other reasons as well, but this was among the most important, and perhaps the fuel for all the others: I connected with their portrayal of Christ as my savior in ways I hadn’t with Mormonism.  Theirs was a Savior without caveat, without a footnote of “Do all you can do,” without the “You will be held accountable for those you might have saved,” without the “You’re the only thing holding back miracles from your life.”  Their’s was one that accepted that life is difficult and at times unbearable, that we will never be able to be everything we want to be, and that God not only knows it, but that he expects it, and that he loves us and accepts us anyway and gives us good things in spite of our failings.

Of course, I’m now an atheist.  I now find my grace and hope in literature, in other human beings, in the knowledge that I’m one of billions who experience many of the same things in this crazy and complex thing we call life, from the first humans to those who will live thousands of years from now, and I feel united by this, and accepted by the common humanity I share.

I still feel guilt and shame.  I still feel like I’m not enough, sometimes.  Two weeks ago I wrote in my journal about how I’m afraid I’m not going to become what I want to become in life.  Sometimes life sucks.  That’s just the way it is.  Now I feel more human, more connected with others, and more humble when I feel that way.  And even though it’s hard, I love it.

Interesting tidbits

  • Schindler’s List closing scene on Youtube: 
  • It’s risky to say “The real reason I left was ___,” because many LDS people often say that about those of us who leave instead of listening to us tell our own stories.  If you’re thinking that, here’s a good article.
  • If you’d like an excellent, balanced (and somewhat liberal-Mormon) explanation of the grace/works debate between Mormons and Evangelicals, I strongly suggest How Wide the Divide.  There are about 45 excellent pages dedicated to it.

The Death of an Atheist

Have you ever woken up from a dream–an intense dream–and had the emotions of that dream carry over into consciousness long after you awoke?  Last night that happened to me.  As I lay in bed, depressed, I had one overwhelming thought:  in all likelihood I will be completely forgotten within four generations.  This thought wasn’t depressing.  It was just a realization, a cool-headed analysis of the reality of the passing of time.  I was feeling depressed, but for a different reason.  But now I’m getting ahead of myself – let me go back to the beginning . . .

Death

I had a dream the other night, and in the dream my sister Emily had died.  I was notified, by telephone or in person, I don’t remember.  Have you ever sought to dwell on a negative thought just so you could bring up a specific emotion in yourself?  Like when you want to feel angry so you think about someone bullying your little brother, or when you want to really feel pain so you look at pictures of friends you haven’t seen in years?  Well that’s what I did in this dream.  I visualized my sister as the sweet kid and strong adult I knew she was, saw the relationship we had, and the one we never had because of distance, being too busy, or just because of apathy.  I felt the pang of regret for not having become closer to her when I had the chance.  It seems my dreaming brain wasn’t yet satisfied with the depth of my remorse, so it conjured up something greater – after dwelling on my sister for a while I also realized I was the only one still alive in my immediate family.  Of all the depressing dreams I’ve had in my life I’ve never been the only survivor left in my family.  I felt alone without them.  My gene pool, the people I grew up with from infant to adult, the only people on earth I have any real connection with beyond mere friendship, the people who could steal from me, or ignore me, or just have such a different personality from me but who I would love anyway–my family–was completely gone.  I was in a room, maybe a waiting room or a funeral parlor, and there were people all around me, but they were strangers, not my family, not my blood, and I didn’t care about them.  I was alone.

Awake now, sitting in my bed, drinking a glass of water, I realized I need to make some changes.  Because all I have is this life.  You see, when I die – hopefully as an old man while peacefully sleeping, or maybe while I’m on a mountain doing what I enjoy with those I love – I’ll be gone.  There won’t be a judgment; a cloud where I’ll eternally play harp music or a hell where I’ll eternally burn.  There won’t even just be blackness.  I will be dead – unable to perceive even the absence of light and conclude that I’m lonely.  Unable to feel, observe, think, regret, hope, or DO anything.  I will never exist again.  It’s not a happy thought, but it’s a realistic thought, and I have no reason to seriously believe any other philosophy.

This is important to me, because there will be no second chance to make something happen if I fail to do it now.  No procrastination.  No thinking, “Well, I loved Emily, and we didn’t have as good of a relationship as we could have, but we’ll have the chance for that when I pass away.”  To believe so is to rob yourself of the truth, and to rob yourself of the chance to create truly amazing relationships now.  If I want to have real meaning in my life I have to do it now.  Right now.

Purpose

Alone in my dream, with other people around me but none of my family, no one who had any reason to remember me, I realized that by all realistic expectations I will be completely forgotten within four generations, and mostly forgotten by three.  Think about it for a second – what do you know about your great great grandparents?  I know very little about my great grandfathers and almost nothing about my great-greats, even though I’m named after one of them.  I’m sure they did some good things, and certainly their decisions still silently impact my life today, but I don’t know their humor, their accomplishments, or their stories.

Your mom undoubtedly told you you’re special, most moms do, but I grew up in a religion that taught me I’m something even more than special.  You see, I was chosen before the world was even created to be born in this difficult time, given the truth, the simple and enlightening truth, to take to others lost in the gray confusion created by Satan and years of sin.  I was sent on a mission to convert others to the teachings that would literally save them from everything bad in this world and the next.  I was sent to change the world . . . or at least a good chunk of it.  I was told I’d live forever, and that death was just another beginning.

I now realize the only reason I’m here is because my parents had sex and the biological processes worked the way they’re supposed to.  No grand purpose, no all-powerful being guiding my decisions, no big impact on the world I’m destined to accomplish.  By all probable expectations I will have been born, lived, and died without causing even a minute difference to the world, or at least not a recognizable one.  Undoubtedly one of you is saying to yourself, “Well, everything we do has an impact and we can never comprehend how much we changed those around us.”   You’re absolutely right.  But go climb a mountain and look out over a valley.  Open up an atlas and look at the world.  Look at the largest cities, and marvel at the size of them, the sheer number of people who are living right now.  Marvel at how small you are.  Realize billions have come and gone, affecting only those in their immediate vicinity and were forgotten with everyone else.

The fact is within four generations no one will remember my name.  Unless of course I’m one of the few – if I write something truly great, star in some groundbreaking movie, or accomplish some great political reform that has my name attached to it.  But even then the futility of it all makes that quest hollow.  Self-aggrandizement solely for the purpose of having your name memorized by future generations is an altogether unfulfilling purpose to live for.  I won’t care if I’m remembered – I’ll be dead!

And that simple realization helps me gain real meaning in the life I live today.

Life

This moment–right now–laughing with friends, helping a stranger, learning everything I can, hanging out with family, struggling on the climbing wall–ENJOYING every moment I can in the fullest sense of the word–that’s what life is about!  ENJOYING my family.  ENJOYING each of my friends; their unique humor; their unique outlook.  Taking joy from helping the one, from caring about someone enough to listen to them, to teach a child something that will help, to give them confidence so they’ll believe in themselves.  These are the little things that make life great.  Being remembered, my name being engraved on some wall, written in some text book, or repeated by my descendants, is of little importance to me.  What pride is there to be had when I’m a corpse?  None of that is important.  It doesn’t matter if the stranger I help remembers me, or if the kid I teach praises me – all that matters is that I did something to make his life a little brighter, a little lighter, a little happier.

The fact is – all I have is this life.  These moments, written down in the book of my life – individual, fleeting experiences I have while the pages turn more and more quickly – is all I can guarantee.  So I LIVE.  I LIVE each day; each moment I can.  I revel in the weaknesses that make me ME, laugh at my inability to overcome them, and put one foot in front of the other and try again.  I appreciate each person around me, doing my best to not see them as society does–as a consumer, a product, a beauty or a beast–but as complex individuals with their own great stories.  I become honest with myself, and open my heart up for others around me so they can actually see the real me, and I hope they’ll do the same.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.  It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” 
Macbeth, act V, scene v

A tale told by an idiot . . . signifying nothing.  This thought does not depress me – rather it motivates me to learn to really live a full life.  I will not be “an idiot, full of sound and fury,” thinking so highly of myself while I live and then being forgotten – my life having meant nothing.  Rather, I know I’ll be forgotten, and try to live my life according to what brings me and those around me the most joy.  The truth is I have no purpose given to me from outside myself.  No God telling me I’m important.  No teacher giving me false hopes and delusions of grandeur.  The purpose of my life is solely up to me to create and to enjoy.  And I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it!
**********
What do you think?
This is part of a series–Death, Life, and Atheism–where I’ll be compiling some of the best literature and poetry about death and atheism, along with some thoughts of my own.

“Who is it?!” – Nov. 4th, 2006

LDS Mission Journal

“WHO IS IT?!?”

“The missionaries!”

“WHO?!?  Speak louder!”

“The MISSIONARIES!”

He must have had the TV on loudly or something . . . apparently he couldn’t hear what we said and jumped to a logical and understandable question . . .

“A BITCH?!?!” 

“No!  The MISSIONARIES!”  

Finally he got up from whatever he was doing and opened the door.

“Hi, we’re the missionaries.”  

“Oh . . . well we don’t want that,” and he shut the door.

Six Months of Blogging . . . Plenty More To Come

image courtesy of Genista

“Hey.  Hey you.  Ya, I’m talking to you.  I just wanted to take a break from eating my acorn here to say thanks for coming by.”

Acorn, Dexter marathons . . . same difference, right?

Well . . . I started this blog six months ago exactly – to the T, on the dot, crossing my i’s . . . err . . . something like that.

Anyway, I want to thank you all for reading.

There are many types of readers here . . . and I’m glad for all of you.

Most of you are silent visitors, and I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve seen and come back often.  Some of you come here because of curiosity; you look around for a minute or two, maybe longer if you liked an article.

Others of you are here to get your weekly frown in, giving sighs of ridicule while reading and talking about it later with friends or family in a “what a twerp” kind of way.  I really hope you’ve had more “hmmm . . .” moments than frustrated sighs and I hope I can open the conversation with you a little more.

Some of you are here because you relate; reading others’ thoughts helps you define your own experience.  Others of you are here because you want to understand why I left and why I oppose religious belief today.

Whatever brings you here to read, thanks for coming by.  There are so many things to do each day, so many people and companies asking for your attention, seeking your belief, time, or money.  I hope I’ve used your time well and that every time you’ve clicked away from my blog you’ve taken a little more knowledge, a little more understanding, and maybe a little more empathy for the “other side” of this issue, whichever side you come from.

Six months . . .

In our six months together there have been 28 posts, 331 comments, and 10,776 views.  Nine of you have shared your own stories and that has become the best part of the blog, I think.  Friends I hadn’t heard from in years have sent me messages, some calling me to repentance, others giving their critiques (which are always welcome), but most saying “thanks” or that they understand.  Some who are struggling with doubt or family problems have messaged me and we’ve made new relationships (or deepened old ones) in the solidarity that comes from common experience.

In writing I find ways to express myself, to develop my thoughts slowly and make sure I mean what I’m saying (though often I’ll still revise later).  Writing gives me a way to remember past thoughts and experiences and leave them engraved somewhere where others can find them.  I’m happy with how this blog has gone and am looking forward to the next step.

The next step

Well, we’ve focused on Mormonism for long enough, I think.  As the title of this blog suggests, this is about my accidental and unwanted step into atheism, from devoted disciple to active skeptic.  I’m brimming with ideas and topics I want to discuss about atheism and have a lot of material ready – it’s time to move to the topic of atheism, at least momentarily.  There is so much to write about though . . . so much I want to think about and put on paper.

Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Transition – my religious experiences after leaving the LDS Church, the search for another religion, the problems I found, apathy, a long break, agnosticism, and finally, atheism.
  • A series of articles about what death means to me as an atheist and former believer and how that view affects the way I live my life.
  • A discussion about bitterness in ex-Mormons, a new Story Series by those who are bitter, and a look into why I probably won’t stop talking about religion for the rest of my life.

Would you like this blog to take a different direction?  Are there any topics you’d like to hear about or to discuss as a group?  I can’t guarantee I can cover them – this blog is a place to tell my story, after all, and some subjects weren’t important to me or I may not know much about them – but I’d love to hear your request and see if I can fulfill it.

What parts of the blog have been your favorite?  Your least favorite?  Post your comment below or send me a personal message.  Also, go check out my philanthropy blog!  I’m traveling to Nicaragua in November, I interview local philanthropists and write about their programs, and I discuss common problems in philanthropy.

Thanks again for coming by!  If you like what we’re doing here please tell your friends or anyone else you think could benefit.  Until next time!

-Jefferson

(props to Genista for the awesome squirrel pic, and props to the squirrel for being so ridiculously attention-grabbing)

ps – here’s a note from an old friend (an active and believing Mormon):

I came across your blog tonight and have really enjoyed reading it. Who knew that the kid who would lurk below in the pool and bite down hard on peoples’ limbs for no reason was capable of such emotion and eloquence.:-)

I think most active Mormons fail to fully understand the emotional struggle that those who leave the church experience. I appreciate that your blog highlights these complex emotional issues. I think most members have many of the same struggles that you have had, but the culture of the church is such that any doubting is seen as weakness. More openness would be a lot healthier for members psychologically. I think the sugarcoating of history does more alienating than ‘protecting’ or whatever justification is given for it.  It gives the appearance of a ‘whited sepulcher’ to those already struggling with the history or tenets of the faith.