I stumbled upon a great post this morning about the social imprint of monogamy and the unachievable ideal prevalent in society of finding your “one and only” when you marry. The post in question was titled How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person. It is clever and insightful about the ways in which many of us enter marriage without really understanding it, and about how marriage can never meet up with the fantasies we entertain about it in our minds.
Unfortunately, in trying to explain where we go from there, the author fails to continue to use the critical thinking that got him that far in the discussion. Or, perhaps more accurately and more fairly, in listing some alternatives to the problem of what to do when we find ourselves in a marriage that doesn’t meet our admittedly unrealistic expectations, he is either blind to or conveniently dismissive altogether of one of the most practical solutions to this problem: that of polyamory.
I was minding my own business when without having had any other recent conversation even remotely related to the topic, I received the following text from my mother. “Where do feelings of love come from if there is no God?”
On the surface, this is a very simple question, and one that has a very interesting answer. But as I thought about how I would answer it, I realized what it was she was really asking. She wasn’t interested in discussing evolutionary biology. She wasn’t interested in discussing brain chemistry. This wasn’t a question she wanted answered. This was, in her mind, proof of God. After all, since God is love, it only follows that the undeniable existence of love proves the existence of God.
I was talking with a Mormon I had met only that day. This was late December of last year, and my mother had asked me to meet with him because he was fairly knowledgeable about some of the problems with early Mormon church history and she was hoping that he’d be able to address some of my concerns about the veracity of the truth claims of the church. After all, she reasoned, if he knew some of the same facts that I did, but he still believed in the church, maybe I could find a way to return to faith as well.
We talked for quite some time; about three hours if I recall correctly. At one point I stated that I had started the wrong way round: I had tried first to determine if Mormonism was true when it would have been an easier process if I had instead asked if there was even a god. I explained that I had considered myself agnostic, but was beginning to identify more and more with the atheist label. When he heard that, he responded, “Wow. You have more faith than I do.” His point was, I think, that it would be just as difficult for me to disprove god’s existence as it would be for him to prove it, and that when anyone settled on the question of god’s existence, they were adopting a position where they take their desire for the result as the premise from which they begin their arguments. I remembered that in the preceding months I had also been frustrated with this idea of the fruitlessness of trying to prove or disprove god. Until I realized that it didn’t matter to me that it couldn’t be proved either way; at some point I finally understood that I simply couldn’t be bothered with the question.
I recently read a post on Deborah Mitchell’s great blog Kids Without Religion that discussed god as the enabler in a relationship with an addictive partner. In talking about how a politician named Mark Sanford took his recent win in the polls–despite having been involved in scandal after scandal that should have proven to the public that he was unfit for office–as a sign from god that he had been saved from his repeated sins, she wrote:
How convenient. His god forgives him. Again. And again. Like many folks, Sanford’s an addict and his god, the enabler. That’s the reality. Sanford knows that he’ll be forgiven as many times as he needs it. And God doesn’t even exact a punishment. Instead, he rewards him. “Saves” him, whatever the heck that means. How does Sanford know that he’s been saved? Did God tattoo a stamp on his derriere ‘SAVED!”? Or does he just know he’s saved because he’s won the race and he’s in his happy place? (The answer is the latter.)
She goes on to talk about the importance of taking responsibility for our own actions and not just continuing to harm others, trusting that in the end god will make everything right again. It’s a really great point and a good read as well. What really caught my eye, though, was slightly off-topic from her main points. The idea of finding signs from god in unlikely places kind of intrigued me, and I wanted to discuss that a little bit. As a Mormon, I knew the feeling of looking for god’s approval in signs similar to Sanford’s electoral victory.
I had an interesting conversation with my daughter a few days ago. I had asked her if anything fun was going on in her life recently. She didn’t need much impetus. She has a lively sense of humor and loves to share things that seem funny or whimsical to her. She told me the story of how she had recently lost a tooth. She told me she was slightly worried that it wasn’t a baby tooth, because she hadn’t noticed it getting loose. Instead, she noticed a small pain in her mouth, and when she explored the source, her tooth came out in her fingers.
She told me how she had given the tooth to her mother, but that her mother had lost it. “It’s okay, though,” she told me. “Mom gave me a dollar for it anyway.” Then she got a serious look on her face as she asked her next question. “Dad, what do you think Mom does with the teeth?” I wasn’t quite sure how honest I was supposed to be, so I asked if normally the tooth fairy doesn’t take them away. “Dad!” she said, her eyes lighting up with the pride of being among those in the know. “I already know about the tooth fairy!”
A week or two ago as I was driving home I was perplexed to see an American flag flying at half mast. I don’t know why I do this, but I tend to segregate different parts of my life. You know. I have this life at work that doesn’t really intersect with the life I have at my apartment, which is completely separate from the life I have when I visit Girlfriend. The trip home from work is disconnected from all of them, so I saw the flag, and it puzzled me for a few moments until I realized that it had been lowered in memory of the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
Perhaps it was this moment of confusion that did it, but I started to wonder what made the three deaths in Boston “worth more” than the thousands of deaths that happen around the world every day. Not to belittle the tragedy of that bombing. But is it any less a tragedy when anyone loses a loved one? Should any flag ever be raised all the way to the top of the flag pole?
I received today a copy of the judgment that was entered into court in my divorce proceedings. I don’t really know if there is anything else that still needs to happen before the divorce is considered final, but since the paperwork says the judgment was entered a few days ago, I think that makes it official. I’m divorced.
I went into the human resources office at my workplace and asked to speak with the benefits coordinator. With the divorce final, I have an official qualifying life event that allows me to review the benefits I’ve selected for the year and make any changes that are appropriate. Our company’s benefits coordinator quickly and professionally provided me with the information and instructions I needed, but also gave me something I hadn’t expected: compassion. Instead of being strictly business, the benefits coordinator asked me how I was doing and talked with me for about half an hour about the things I was going through.
For some reason the theory of evolution seems to raise the hackles of some fundamentalist Christian groups. Other Christians accept the theory of evolution and still find room for God in their worldview. I certainly don’t want to speak for either group, but perhaps the side that each group comes down on is directly correlated to how strictly they interpret the Bible. Because if you literally believe that God formed Adam from the dust of the Earth on the sixth day of Creation, and Eve maybe in the late afternoon from one of Adam’s ribs, then it’s probably got to be nigh impossible to also believe that humankind evolved. And if humans didn’t evolve, then the whole theory has to be wrong.
The human brain does a pretty good job with cognitive dissonance. But two ways the human race came into being? It’s too much, and it would force a person to reject something. Hm. What to choose. Reject God? Nah. Too drastic. Reject Christianity? Nah. Too scary. Reject the literal interpretation of the Bible? Nah. Too chaotic. Reject evolution? There you go. And science itself is responsible for providing the weasel words to make it all possible: it’s only a theory.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. It’s not really my fault, though. I’ve stumbled across a few blogs written by atheists and–purely out of curiosity, I swear–I’ve read a few of their posts. Most of the points they made were, to be honest, right on the mark. The ensuing discussions in the comment sections, however, made me want to pull my hair out. I decided I’d write a little about my perspective on it, but found myself up against almost insurmountable problems.
I’m relatively new to atheism. I’ve only stopped believing in God within about the past twelve months. Because of that, I still have a fairly fresh memory of my previous absolute certainty of God’s existence and His glorious nature. At the same time, though, I feel so stupid for having believed it. Was I really that gullible? So I understand that people who feel compelled to defend God are acting out of complete sincerity and are doing so only because they are deluded and don’t know the truth. Which, in turn, is exactly what they think about those of us who no longer buy the story. And the comments on the blogs kept revolving around this central issue: “I’ve got the truth and you completely refuse to see it.” The rebuttal to which, of course, was: “No, I‘ve got the truth and you completely refuse to see it.” Is there no way to find common ground? Is there no approach to this issue that works for both sides? And then I realized: the atheists have got it wrong.
Happy birthday! 183 years ago today Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in New York. Starting with just six members, the church has grown over the past 183 years and now claims a membership of over 13 million.
Today, you can’t blame them for wanting to celebrate. Nor could you blame them for wanting to celebrate after their own style: by prayer. And what better way to celebrate than, for the first time in 183 years, finally allowing a woman to pray in General Conference.