Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Agency is the greatest gift of God...

Monday night, November 7th, I had the opportunity of attending Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays. It was a reading of 11 different short plays that were done simultaneously in 44 different theatres in America, Canada, and Australia. Before the readings they had a short live feed from New York on Broadway explaining a little about what these were about. Then the plays were read in each city. After the readings they had an open mic discussion with some of the writers in New York where you were able to send your questions to them via Twitter and they would answer them. It was a really neat experience. Most of plays were very comedic and really funny. There were a few, that I will admit, brought me to tears, they were very touching. Which got me thinking why do people fight gay rights so much? Especially the LDS faith I once attended.

All through my life I was taught and preached to about agency. Which according to the faith is the greatest gift of God. Meaning that we are free to choose how we want to live and punished accordingly. We are not forced to do anything we shouldn't because that was Satan's plan. So why do they fight so much to control that which is not what they believe? This is one of the big reasons that pushed me out of the faith. I couldn't stand the hate and fight they had with Prop 8 in California. The leaders of the faith asked members to donate their time and means to help fight Prop 8. Bishops went to homes of faithful members and personally asked them to donate money and waited for them to give them that money.

I couldn't abide by their stance anymore. I couldn't support the hate and this was when I first really stopped going to church. I felt more hate in my heart from the faith than ever before. And so I started asking questions; Why does it have to matter who you can and can't marry? Why is everyone so afraid of something that is different from themselves? Why was there so much hate in a religion that preaches love? I had to leave. The feelings I had were hurtful not only to me, but to others. And to see so many of my "friends" testify of the evils of homosexuality and to see that hate burn in their eyes turned me away. It was truly awful.

I started looking into it. I found more and more scientific evidence proving being a homosexual is not a choice and proving there is nothing unnatural about it. Many other animal species have homosexuality as well. And when you look at it, it is evolution. When you have an over population of a certain animal you will see homosexuality greatly increase. It's a way for mother nature to control populations. With 7 Billion people now on the planet it is not surprising that there are more and more homosexuals than ever before. So why shun them? Why hate them? Aren't they in a way ahead of us in an evolutionary stand point? Aren't they helping us and the planet?

Which brings me back to my original point. I believe everyone should have the right to marry who they love, LGBT or straight. We're all human. We all deserve the same basic rights. No one is better than anyone else. The hate the LDS faith and the Catholic church showed in their fight of Prop 8 is wrong. Jesus taught love everyone so why do they purposefully fight against those that are different?

That is one point that has always plagued my mind. That is one of the big issues I had with the LDS faith. They don't preach love. They don't preach harmony and temperance. And they certainly don't follow what they preach about agency. They are a faith of hate, just like every other religion I have studied. You are taught to think less of those that think different of you. You are taught that they cannot be truly happy without having the LDS gospel in their lives. The LDS faith teaches they are the one and only true church on the face of the planet. That if you are not part of this church in this life or the next you will forever be banned from heaven. That you will never live in the presence of God. I thought God was merciful, kind and forgiving. He/she/it isn't jealous, hateful, and unforgiving.

So I started to reach out. I found my own answers. I fought against them because it isn't about who you hate or you persecute or tear down that gets you to heaven, if there was a heaven (at least at that time I thought heaven may still exist). Heaven is for those that help one another. Treat others with kindness and fairness. Those that lift up one another and not tear them down. Just because someone is different does not mean that you make them feel unworthy and rejected.

So I stand with my friends and everyone else out there who is fighting the oppression. You are not alone. You have me as your ally and I will do all I can to make sure you have the right to marry who you want and to be yourself without receiving harm. You are wonderful and don't ever forget that. Keep fighting because one day we will win.

The tides are changing, slowly, but they are changing...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How am I not myself?

As I discussed in an earlier blog, I spoke as if I was suffocating my inner self. He was begging and pleading to be let out. Me repressing him and building those walls around him was hurting me more than I thought and I had to help him take down those walls within myself.

I was complacent for so long that it just became second nature to continue to pretend to be someone else; to continue to wear the mask. It was easier to pretend to be who I wasn’t just to make my family and friends happy, but it tore me up inside. I was always depressed. I felt lonely and complete emptiness even though I had all the support I needed from them.

So how and when did I realize it wasn’t worth it? How did I build up the courage to help the real me tear down the prison I had kept him in for so long? I was lost. I thought I had no one to go to. Even though my real friends were all around me rooting for me to find true happiness. I just didn’t know how to reach out to them. I was on one side of a chasm and they were on the other and there was no bridge. No visible way to cross to the other side.

I almost gave up. I almost continued to wear the mask and then one day I watched the movie I ♥ Huckabees. It opened my eyes. It explained so many questions I had about me and how to change. I connected with Jude Law’s character like he was me. He did things to keep people happy. He told stories to keep people happy. He did what he thought others wanted him to do rather than being himself. Then close to the end of the movie the line “How am I not myself?” was repeated over and over again. It was showing him he was wearing a mask. He was holding his own inner self hostage, just as I was. It hit me harder than anything else I have ever felt before. I knew I had to change things if I wanted to be happy; if I wanted to fill the void I constantly felt; to rid myself of the emptiness I felt in my life every day.

So I took steps. I started slowly. I moved to a new student ward and then never went; that way I wouldn’t be harassed by a bishop that already knew me. At first I felt guilty. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. I had gone to church for so long it felt awkward, as if I was cheating, but then I heard me from the inside tell me this was right. The small window in his prison that was opened allowed him to breathe. He wasn’t completely bottled up anymore. He could finally communicate with me. He gave me encouragement. He loved the feel of the fresh air on his face. The putrescence of the hole he was in was slowly going away and he would never let me put him in there alone again.

With each step forward another brick was removed. More fresh air was let in. He gained strength. I gained strength. Each week my emptiness was slowly disappearing. My depression was going away, but that is when my family and “friends” noticed my changes. They thought I was harming myself, that I was doing irreparable damage to my soul. So they tried to “fix and save” me. For a time I went back here and there. I went back because I was scared of losing the connections I had with them. So again the bricks went up. I was slowly building the prison again. I was torturing the me inside again, but this time he fought back. He wouldn’t allow me to suffocate him again. He knew what was best for me, but what was I supposed to do? I had little, if any support. Where could I turn? Who would help me?

I felt alone again. I almost went back. And then I met the one person who gave me more support than I could have ever asked for. He was there for me. He saw me through my darkest times. He listened to me. He helped me be strong. He gave me the support I needed. He helped me build the bridge to the other side of the chasm. He was there when I needed to cry to let out the rage I felt inside. He saved me and did more for me than he will ever know. His name is Josh. I consider him my “other” (a term from the movie I ♥ Huckabees). He was there through it all. He helped me dismantle.

I owe a lot of my happiness and completeness to him. He helped me see there was another way, that I did not have to destroy myself to make others happy. I could be myself and I did not have to wear the mask anymore. I no longer had to carry on the facade. I was able to fight back. With every step I took backward I was able to take two steps forward. He pushed me forward when I was about to give up. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it was worth it. The biggest obstacles always come with the greatest and most fulfilling rewards. My rewards were my happiness, my completeness, and the world’s greatest friend.

And so started my journey to be myself. I gained confidence. I was able to stand up to my “friends” and family. I eventually let them know my real stance on faith and church and god. I had more strength than ever. I still battle them to this day. I lost some fights and lost many “friends,” but I never lost the war. I still have to defend my happiness to them, but my inner self is completely free. He no longer hides behind the walls I built around him. There are no longer two Jons. He is me and we are now one.

I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t feel more complete. Every day is fulfilling. Every day I am reminded how being me is what gets me up in the morning. I am no longer getting up to make other people happy. I am getting up to make ME happy.

Thank you Josh...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Prayer of the faithful

Being a Mormon one of the things we were taught was you can always receive answers through prayer, but how does that work? We were always taught to question, to look for answers, and the way to receive those answers came through prayer. We were taught to never look for answers outside the faith, because you can always find your answer with prayer and the teachings of the prophets. But what is that answer and how do we know it is real? We were told it was a burning in your bosom. A warm tingly feeling that starts in your chest a carries to your entire body and the feeling of pure happiness and joy in your heart and mind.

I believed this at one point. I searched for answers, I prayed, but never received an answer. Why was that when I asked God with real intent, a sincere heart, having faith in Jesus Christ believing in the promise from the prophets and God, that I never received an answer? There was a time when I believed and I prayed for reconfirmation in my belief. I followed these steps, but I felt nothing, I felt completely emptiness, complete loneliness. I felt like there could not be anything out there.

So I went to the leaders of my local ward. The only answer I was given was maybe I wasn't ready for the answer. That God would give me the answer at the time I needed it, but if I'm asking to know if God exists and the church is true wouldn't right then be a good time to get an answer? Wouldn't God want me to know that he/she/it exists? Wouldn't God want me to believe in the one true church? I asked these questions, but again it came back that: a) I wasn't ready for the answer or: b) I didn't pray with real intent or a sincere enough heart. So I went back and followed the steps to get my prayers answered. I read from the Book of Mormon, I read the Bible. I pondered what they meant and I prayed. I kept praying and praying and praying and still no answer. Still the complete emptiness and loneliness. I felt nothing inside. I mean literally nothing, no emotions whatsoever. I did not feel happiness, anger, sadness, love; the only way I can describe it is if you could feel the color black. As if there was absolutely nothing in my heart and mind as if I was in a complete stupor, a vegetable lying on my bed.

I kept asking why was that? How long do I have to wait to receive an answer and then I fell upon the Book of Enos in the Book or Mormon. It's about a man who was in a similar situation as me. He was doubting his faith and decided to pray to God all night and he received an answer. I decided maybe I wasn't fervent enough in my prayers. So I decided to try what Enos did. I prayed like I never prayed before. I pleaded, I begged, I cried for an answer, but again I felt nothing but pure nothingness. It was if God was mocking me. As if God enjoyed watching me continue to plead and look for answers when in fact there was no God. How could God answer my prayers when God did not exist? Or maybe I was praying to the wrong God. Maybe I didn't receive an answer because my method was wrong, but it couldn't be. I found the same thing in the Bible. I found the same method. So if I was asking the right questions, but looking for the wrong answers wouldn't God answer me either way? Wouldn't God reach out in my time of sorrow, emptiness and loneliness to fill the hole in my body that was continuously growing larger and larger every time I didn't receive an answer?

If God was real he/she/it would have reached out to me, but God did not. I was left with complete loneliness that my believe in God had created. The belief of religion and God was only creating more sorrow and pain in my life, but I kept searching. I kept looking for answers. Then came the only thing that made sense to me that this loving God I was taught about my entire life either did not exist or did not care and I had to find the answer.

And so I took another step closer to Atheism....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Little bit of history

For starters, my name is Jon. I was raised Mormon. I lived in Utah my whole life and I still live in Utah. I served a full two year mission in Southern France. I did everything I was supposed to. I did everything in my life that was supposed to make me feel full and happy, but it was all a facade to appease my family.

A little over 2 years ago I came to a realization, that the one thing that was supposed to bring ultimate joy and happiness was bringing depression and loneliness. The harder I tried to follow the teachings of the faith the further I fell away from my real self; the me inside that was trying to escape. He kept trying to break down the walls I had created to keep him inside. And then one day it hit me (another blog to come), I had to help him tear down the walls. I had to take off the mask. I had to be who I was inside. It was killing me from the inside and the me inside was trying to escape from the pain and torment I was unleashing upon him. So I gave in. I stopped fighting. I stopped pretending and from that day forth I have never felt more free.

Each day is a new day. Each day I can smile and really mean it. I am allowed to show my emotions, I no longer have to pretend about who I really am! Yes, it was rough at first, but with every step backward I was able to take two steps forward. I was confronted by "concerned" family and friends. I was asked questions about why I had denied the God that I had once believed in. I remember one such friend, at the time, that asked, "what happened? Why do you no longer believe in God? Why have you given up on the faith of hope and happiness? Are you gay? Do you have an illegitimate child? Do you have an STD and you are too afraid to you confront your bishop?"

I felt betrayed and hurt. This person, my friend, my confidant who knew just about every secret I had; thought I had to have a better reason than, "I don't believe in God." That there had to be something else that was pushing me away from the one and only true church. After that we drifted further and further apart till I no longer kept in contact with him. Each one of my friends who were so ingrained in their faith, lost me as a friend. Each one has a similar story about how they wanted to "help me." How they thought they could bring me back and save my soul.

Which brings me to my next point.... Why did I leave the church? Other than the never ending guilt and sorrow, what was it about the faith that made me feel so defiant in my belief in God?

For me I taught and baptized people in this faith in France (only when I felt like it. My mission was more of a vacation and those that have seen my photos can attest to this statement). I professed to believe in God. I taught people of a loving, caring God when in all reality I never really believed. I went because it was either go on a mission or get kicked out of the house. I think most 19 year olds would pick 2 years in Southern France over living on the streets, even if you have to pretend you believe in something you really don't. And I wasn't wrong believing this. I would guess at least 1 in 5 missionaries in my mission were on their mission for the same reason I was, because they did not want to bring shame to themselves and their family. The guilt was a stronger driving force than our own happiness.

As I was on my mission and studied more of the Gospel than I ever have before it hit me more and more why I did not believe. There were so many contradictions in the teachings of God. I couldn't believe in a God of love who was so racist, sexist, angry, jealous, abusive, prideful, etc... God was everything he told us not to be. God was the biggest hypocrite ever imagined. And the more I studied the more repulsed I became of this God, but I continued to hide my true beliefs of how I saw God. So I started studying more. I said, "ok, there are billions of people with a belief in some form of a God. Are any of the Gods real?"

The more I studied other religions, the more I realized it was the same God with just a different name, a different body, a different form. He/She/It became more of a pacifier for adults who could not explain what they thought to be the unexplainable. For me it became a pacifier for laziness and stupidity. So instead of turning to religion for my answers and to a God who did not listen to my prayers (another blog to come), I started to turn to science and agnosticism. I didn't fully give up the believe in God I just had no proof. I also had no proof that God did not exist so agnosticism set in.

The more I delved into science, our understanding of the universe, life, how we began, and that our planet is not 6000 years old; I became more and more doubtful as to who this thing God is or if it even existed. And so began my journey into Atheism....

To Be Continued....

Stranger among family

Over the last few months the preferential treatment from my parents to certain "righteous" siblings has gotten even worse. I, more so than ever, feel alienated from my parents and siblings. They treat me as sub-human, almost like an animal at times, but yet will do anything for my siblings that are doing exactly what my parents want them to do religiously.

Today was one of such days where I was treated more like a stranger on the street rather than a son. A problem arose and my parents were unwilling to assist, until the very end; when they finally gave in. It took over an hour of nigh on begging to get their help. It's as if my simple request was me wanting to sacrifice their only son to appease my heathen Gods.

But it doesn't stop there my parents also judge me on how I am running my life. That's because I am not following the career paths they want me to and to them I am ruining my life. My parents have told me I am wasting my talents. That I should be more useful and stop chasing my dreams of being in the culinary trade. Their exact words were, "you are throwing away your life and wasting the brain that God gave you. You should be doing something that will benefit mankind and help others rather than throw it away by wanting to open a bakery."

My sister and I joke that my parents would support me if I were to become a chemist or engineer to help build weapons or biological warfare. That through my gifts I could be saving the world from terrorists. My parents go on and on about how the war is great because it will bring democracy to these countries and these wars are needed to bring the Gospel to those that do not have it and that we can enrich their lives. Isn't making people happy through my great cooking enough? Doesn't that brighten the lives and days of those that I share my true talents with?

I'm tired of how my beliefs "harm" the "righteous" side of my family. How I can no longer be a beneficial member of the family because I no longer believe in God. I am baffled as to how a religion that claims to be so family oriented and how my family claims to be so family oriented can cast aside a son, a brother, an uncle; just because he does not believe in God. I now realize I can no longer count on my parents for help. I consider many of my friends as family. I have more friends I can rely on than those in my family. Thank you to all my good friends who are always there. Through thick and thin, through sadness, anger, and happiness. To you, I hope I can be the same support when you need it; as you have been for me.