Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beyond the Zion Curtain

It's been eighteen months since I last wrote in my blog. I feel this is the final chapter in what is "Atheist Behind the Zion Curtain." It's been a fun ride and who knows maybe I will pick up blogging again, but I feel this stage of my life is complete.

I started out angry. I needed to vent and this was the best way to get my frustration out. Now, yes, there will still be times where Utah politics or the LDS leaders may stir up some emotion, but not in the same way.

In three short days I will be getting married. I met the love of my life six years ago. We've had some crazy years. We've both seen the saddest times of our lives together, but together we've built some of our happiest as well.

Some people ask why did it take so long to get married? (We were engaged for 5 years.) To which I answer no ones path is the same. On some days we even had to pave our own road, but we did it together.

As you know the majority of my life was spent as a member of the LDS Church. Since, my shelf has broken and I have officially, in a legal and very mental way, left the faith.

Nine years ago marriage was something different. It was part of check list to get into heaven. I had to find the right person that would follow the commandments with me. We would live together for eternity..... etc, etc, etc, etc.

Today I am getting married because of a deeper connection I have with my fiancée. I cherish every moment I have with her because this life is all I have. I am living for the now. People tend to think that just because I don't believe in god(s) my life must be full of less love, but I am finding it to be just the opposite.

I am marrying my love because I want to enrich our lives together. I want her to know that out of the seven billion people on this planet I have chosen to share my life with her. I am giving her my time that I have on this planet. I am giving her my love and not to anyone else.

As I stand there on Friday pledging my life to her in marriage I am not doing it because God said I had to. I am not doing it because it is the right thing to do. I am not doing it to have eternal life. I am doing it to give my life to someone who I care more about than anyone else.

I have moved beyond the curtain. I have found pure love.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Any Opposed?

I know I am late to the party on this one, but I wanted to make sure I got all my thoughts right on this one.

For those of you not aware of the situation I will give a brief description of what is going on in Mormonwold, Utah.

Over the weekend there was General Conference where twice a year the Prophets and Apostles give their biannual speeches the Mormon masses. It's a huge deal in SLC as the Conference Center gets packed five different times in two days by 22,000 attendees each session. This is where the Prophets and Apostles are to give their instruction to the common man directly from God. (We won't touch that subject. That's a can of worms for a different blog.) During one of the sessions the Mormons sustain their leaders. They ask who sustains the leaders and ask if any are opposed. This is where it got hairy this time around. Five people stood up raised their right hand in opposition and yelled "opposed" for all to hear.

Now the Mormons act as if this has never happened before, but it has. The last time it happened was back in the 80's and it was also very common when Joseph Smith founded the religion. It's as if they're surprised that someone would actually oppose their beloved leaders. My question is, why ask if any opposed when you're not supposed to oppose the leaders?

Hell, if I would have thought of this I would have done this seven to eight years ago. I understand how the members feel it was irreverent to yell out "opposed," because they ask if any are opposed to just raise their right hand in opposition. The problem with this is that once they see all the hands go up to sustain the leaders they immediately look down to note that it was unanimous while asking if anyone is opposed. This was their way of making sure their voice was heard.

Another argument I have heard is that if they really are opposed they should talk to the bishops and stake presidents. What if they have? What if they weren't being listened to? What if their issues were pushed aside? Why the hell ask if you aren't supposed to oppose the leaders? Why not just ask for a sustaining vote and call it good?

These people are far braver than most. They went into the lion's den and said to its face "something is wrong with you." And why not? They asked  for it. One of the many reasons I left was because concerns are not taken seriously. Every time I had  an issue with doctrine, leadership, or policy I was told to pray and study the scriptures and I would get the answer from God that the leaders are correct without question.

They act as if they are so infallible they can't make a mistake, but they have and will continue to do so. (I wrote about this before in my blog titled, "Speaking as man or maybe as God.") If people have issues with the leaders the leaders need to address the issues, especially when they publicly ask for it.

The leaders claim the church listens to its people. They claim to care about the people of their faith and others, but we have seen time and time again that the only thing they care about is blind obedience. Yes, their PR Campaign says that Mormons can question their faith they just have to keep it between them and their bishop, but what good is that? If you want your religion to stand the test of time you have to listen to your people. You have to listen to the world around you. There has to be compassion. Leading through fear and excommunicating anyone who questions your leaders does not make you strong, it makes you weak.

You preach love and acceptance from the pulpit, but it is love with a condition and not a true, genuine love that should come from what is preached.

Monday, March 2, 2015

10 Years

10 years is a very long time for a 31 year old. It's essentially a third of one's life. So what's with the title and why is 10 years so important today? Let me take you back in time...

10 years ago, to this very day, I was on a plane on my way back to America. I had fulfilled my 2 year mission and I was scared. I had no plan. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I didn't know what I was going to do next. It was on this day that I realized I was lost. I had never been more lost and I don't believe I have been as lost as I was on that day since.

Sure I had an idea (the same one every other RM has): come home from my mission, spend some time with family and friends, find a job, look at starting college, find a woman to marry in the temple, and have kids. But why? I was struggling with my belief, or lack thereof for a better perspective. It was in high school that I came to a realization that the faith was a lie, but due to familial and social pressure I trudged on through the muck.

I was a 21 year old who missed out on things young adults did for the last two years. I spent two years spreading an idea I didn't believe myself. I was told my mission would be the best two years of my life. While some of it was, a lot of it was the worst two years of my life. I was miserable. I wanted to come home, but only to get away from the smothering environment of a Mormon mission. My whole life I was told The Gospel will make you happy, but it never did. I was told a mission will make you happy, but it didn't in the sense my family and church leaders said it would.

I was depressed, to my family I was a success, to myself I was a liar. I kept thinking to myself, where should I go from here? What do I do? The only thing I could think to do was put the mask back on that was sliding off. I couldn't imagine just walking away from the faith just like that after coming home from a mission. So that's exactly what I did.

10 years ago I put my mask back on and trudged forward thinking maybe one day The Gospel would make me happy...

Now come back to the present. I have left the LDS Faith. My journey has been laid out over my previous 32 blog posts. I am happier than I have ever been. I have an amazing fiancee and the best dog anyone could ever ask for. What would the 21 year old me say about who I am today? I know what he would have said, "I wish I was as strong now as I will be in 10 years," but then I would reply to my 21 year old self with, "you are, you just don't know it yet. The journey you forged was what made us as strong as we are today."

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's ok to discriminate as long as it's for Jesus.

I just finished the LDS press conference that was released this morning and I have a few things to ask. First of all, how is it ok to discriminate against someone who happens to differ from your religious beliefs? Do you, Marriott, Holland, Oaks, and Christofferson, really want to open up that can of worms?

How would you feel if you could not live somewhere because of your beliefs? How would it feel to be turned down for a wedding cake because someone didn't like you for who you are? What I really would like to know is this really what Jesus would do?

You claim to be guided by God and Jesus and preach love and acceptance, but then you spout this vile filth while hiding behind the wall of religious freedom. You are forgetting a few things about the past and the scripture of your own faith.

Let's take a look at D&C 134:9 - We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

You are using your majority influence to discriminate against others. This is not taking away your right to practice religion how you wish.

Holland, you, mentioned that it should be ok for a Catholic pharmacist to not sell certain drugs because it is against his beliefs and he should not fear retaliation. This would not be the case if it was you who was being discriminated against. You better believe people would boycott that pharmacy. You can't serve the public and not expect to reap the consequences.

Sure the CEO of a large company had to give up his position for speaking out against LGBT rights, he represents the company. If I were to do the same thing as a representative of the company I work for I should expect to lose my position as well. Because it would, in the end, hurt the company and there would be a loss of profit.

When you open up to the public you serve all. If I were to open a business in Utah how long do you think it  would last if I refused business to anyone wearing garments? How many Mormons would lash out at me and boycott and bully my business?

This is a two way street and this kind of talk is taking a bulldozer down the wrong side. You want compromise, but only if you get your way.

It's sad to see a church named after Jesus taking the love and respect out of their teachings in the name of religious freedom. Giving a group of people rights that should be afforded to all people is not taking away yours. You can still preach what you want from the pulpit, but you will lose followers.You will see retaliation. You should expect people to speak out against your beliefs as long as they don't carry the message of love.

Just remember, contradiction is not persecution. You want the two way street of equality and freedom of speech? Then put the bulldozers away. Embrace difference. Learn to love those who are different and maybe you will learn something that has since been lost from the teachings of Jesus. Remember to be the Good Samaritan, to lift up the down trodden, and above all love thy neighbor.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

God Loves Gays

The Facebook page simply known as 'God' is trying to get a billboard here in Utah that reads "God Loves Gays." He was shot down by both major advertising companies in the state, Yesco and Reagan, because the billboard is deemed to be too controversial.

While I agree it is a controversial billboard for my state. I believe it needs to go up.

The two companies have stated that, "they don't want to offend clients," and "their signs are on leased property and they don't want to offend any of their landlords."

This shows how bad Utah is when it comes to anything that is contrary to the teachings of the Mormon faith. 

This is not the first time I have seen something like this pop up in my home state. There have been similar fights with atheist groups putting up billboards about lack of faith, but they were eventually able to find a location for a billboard.

I have a few friends who support Yesco and Reagan in their decision and when I asked why not support love and acceptance, the friends went silent.

The bible teaches love to all men. To love your enemy. So why do so many who claim to live by the precepts of the Gospel of Jesus fight so much to destroy 'love?'

Why are so many looked down upon for living their lives differently when the bible teaches otherwise?  

Acts 10:28 Never think of anyone as impure.

This is a group of people who are human. They are not beneath anyone. In our Declaration of Independence it states, "All men are created equal." Not all 'straight' men, nor all 'white' men, nor all 'rich' men, but 'ALL MEN.' 

I am glad to live in a time where love and acceptance is growing. That our perception of what is evil is evolving. I will always do my part to fight for what is right and what is needed. I will not condone that which harms another. I will fight against those that preach hate. I will fight for anyone's right to believe what they will and worship how they wish, but the moment you use your faith to fight against the rights of another I will rise up against you and the hate.

Our country and many others were founded on freedom; not freedom to oppress. Until the day comes that everyone has the same rights to marry, to love, and to live I will fight.

I wake up every day hoping for this to no longer be an issue, but there are still too many people who have fear in their hearts. My wish is for one day love to conquer fear. Love is stronger than fear and if I can change just one person with love, how many more people can be changed by that one person? How many lives will be affected by that one embrace?

Monday, August 18, 2014

The night sky

Last night I had my very first opportunity of viewing the Milky Way in the night sky. To say the least, it was awe inspiring. There really are no words to adequately describe it. I went out to the West Desert in Utah to the Knolls Recreation Area. I went out before the moon came up. I found a dark quiet spot. Turned off my car and the lights, stepped outside, and just looked up. I saw something that pictures cannot do justice.

I could have taken a picture, but it would not have been the same. It was amazing. Within the first 5 minutes I saw at least 3 shooting stars, another star that seemed to move smoothly through the sky, which I am sure was a satellite, and the vast band of the Milky Way from one horizon to the other.

It was surreal. It really is something indescribable. You go out there and the only thing you hear is the wind in your ears and all you see is the glow in the sky. It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the light of the stars and as they did I saw more stars. It opened up my eyes and wondered what it was like to those in the past that looked up.

It gave me a new meaning to things such as "Starry Night" by van Gogh. It was if I was staring into his painting. Seeing all the detail in the sky that he saw. Something that we often take for granted in our modern world. After seeing this spectacle I understand why the ancients revered the sky.

Just 15 minutes of being immersed in the light of the stars opened up a flood of thoughts that have never come to mind before. I wish I had the ability to talk to Galileo and Copernicus and see their sky. To learn from their knowledge and then come back to modern times and speak with Asimov, Sagan, and Tyson and get their take and perspective on our universe.

We yearn to know what is out there, and why not? The innumerable stars and galaxies that we have discovered and those that we have yet to discover give us an insight of where we came from. Because as Carl Sagan once said, "We are made of star-stuff."

Yes, our existence here on earth is but a blip in time. We are here, but for a short and almost seemingly meaningless existence, but when I think about this quote and really see the stars and the galaxies as close as possible to how the ancients would have, I do not see myself as insignificant. I am made of something bigger. Something that gives the world wonder.

I can use what I have been created from to give life to those around me and be a beacon to my fellow man as a star is to our world, our civilizations, and our minds. As I look up to the stars I can say, "I am made of star-stuff and I will be that 'star' to those around me."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What is a soul? What is god?

Just this morning I finished the book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. It is very god centric and speaks a lot about souls. I know this will be a very different approach on the topic, but I hope I can be clear enough so that you can understand my interpretation on things while still considering myself an atheist.

I wrote a blog awhile ago called "Assholes and Atheists" and I really think this is a continuation of that blog. It comes from a very different place brought on by thoughts I had while reading this book over the last few days.

"The Alchemist" is a quick read and is only about 167 pages. It really made me think a lot more than most other books I have read. Without giving away too much of the story it is one person's journey to tune himself with God and The Soul of the Earth.

To me god and a soul are very different things. I don't believe there is a god, but I can still read these types of books and take my own atheistic perception on the subject.

To me god may be science or nature or evolution. It is something that follows a precise path and gives us humans something to study and be in awe of. God is something not fully explained. We don't know everything there is to know about this world. At times God was in the wind or sun or the ocean. He/she then evolved into Zeus, Ra, or Odin; and later to Jehovah, Allah, or Yahweh. Just as we learn more and more about the world we evolve our perception of God(s).

Why does everything have to be so black and white? God or no god? Now again, I don't believe in an almighty being that rules over the universe and watches us to make sure we do good and worship him/her, but there are rules of nature and physics that are to be followed and watch over this universe. The further we delve into science and the more our knowledge and understanding grows of the universe we come closer to what I believe is a perception of god and rules and laws.

The same can be said for a soul. So many books and ideas go in the eternity of a soul, but what is a soul? Does it have to be ghostly image of me that lives in the heavens or the stars for eternity? Can it not be my conscience, my logic, or my example for others?

Because the true legacy that lives on is how others perceive us from our actions and words. Who is to say that some of my actions have not come from Ramses, William Wallace, or Mark Twain?

We each live in this universe for a relatively short time. We each touch others lives in our own ways for good or for worse. Each person then perceives us in their own way and learns and grows from that. They may take part of our "soul" with them and change others in the same way we changed them. And in this way we become eternal.