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Mormon Me vs. The Infidel

[This is a comment that I made at Songs from the Wood that I think worth preserving for posterity.]

I almost want to say something similar, that I have never believed in God. I suspect that to say “I was always an atheist” is too reductive though.

For me, it feels more accurate to say that an unbelieving part of me has always struggled against the Mormon part of me. I always doubted, and as you say, never fully internalized all Mormon beliefs. The Mormon part tried to strangle the nonbeliever, but could never fully succeed. During the decades that the Mormon held sway, the infidel stealthily gathered strength. There came a day when the infidel rose up and sucker punched the Mormon, and the struggle ended.

I have peace of mind now because two parts of me no longer battle for supremacy. The Mormon believer no longer exists in any meaningful way inside me.

Looking back, I am tempted to project my single-mindedness backward in time and claim that the single-minded infidel was the authentic me. I hesitate because I suspect that I had an authentic experience as a Mormon, that many people who call themselves Mormon are having the same kind of experience.

By some particular definition of the word, I was Mormon for a while.

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Five Things

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.—Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Before I get down to the usual business, I want to respond to this idea because I’ve heard it several times in various places. I feel and express gratitude all the time. Since losing my belief in God, I haven’t been at a loss for people to thank.

I’m thankful to my parents for giving me life (and to their parents who gave them life, and so on).

I’m grateful for my wife who threw her lot in with me and risked her life to bear and raise children with me.

I’m grateful for all the innovators in science, technology, and the arts who have made my modern life of relative health, comfort, and ease possible.

I’m grateful for the groundskeepers who provide the uplifting environs where I work.

Even when I can’t find a person to thank for something (e.g. the warming light of the sun or the naked fact of our existence), I don’t miss being able to thank someone. I feel grateful—and incredibly fortunate—just the same.

This sense of gratitude without someone to thank may represent an improvement: I no longer suffer the temptation to imagine that I deserve the good things I enjoy by being faithful to God. And if I don’t deserve what I have, then all the more reason to share it with those who deserve it just as much as I.

With all due respect to Mr. Rossetti, he should have avoided offering witticisms about something that he apparently lacks experience of.

Oh, and by my count, that’s five things plus one.

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Obama’s Non-believing Childhood

In his speech at the national prayer breakfast, President Obama said:

I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I’ve ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done.

I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck—no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose—His purpose.

Raised by non-religious parents, Mr. Obama came later in life to follow a God of compassionate service. I want to take this chance to point out that freethinking parents can do well by their children. I appreciate that Obama was able to separate religiosity and spirituality.

While I doubt that I will ever again follow any god, even as benevolent as Mr. Obama’s seems to be, I too want to work together to better the situation of all those who share this world with me.

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You have been unsubscribed from ‘meridian_magazine’

Judging from my own experience, it regrettably looks like the amount of free time in a person’s life (Tf ) seems to follow the following equation.

I can only hope for a discontinuity at t = tretirement (or maybe t = tunemployment).

I took the rather momentous step today of unsubscribing from Meridian Magazine. OK, so maybe it’s not so momentous given that I disagree with almost everything they publish (with an exception here and there), but it represents something larger.

Do I want my life to be about being an ex-Mormon?

I don’t think so. For the next month, I’m going to abstain from all extraneous things Mormon (or ex-Mormon or atheist) and return and report.

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Here’s another way to look at my infidelity (in the religious sense of the word): of all the things in my collected experience, I feel no need to label anything God and worship it in the traditional way; nothing that I know about compels me to worship it as God.

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