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.