So my recent exchange with my mother left me thinking about "just genetics." I really enjoyed reading Sabio's comment regarding "enchanted naturalism." It left me in the mood to watch this recent Symphony of Science video. I wonder if I should ever show it to my mom and chide her for treating a subject like "genetics" (i.e. the history of life, cell structure, complex biology) as if it were utterly insignificant in and of itself.
Recent Conversation with My Mother as I Was Leaving Her House
As a former student at the Y, I had more than a few chuckles when I saw this timely report. :)
|Level of Certainty:||Moderate|
|Degree of Outreach:||Passive (I'm planning on becoming more open in the future, but not now)|
|Present Religious Participation:||Abstaining (rare)|
Categorically Rejecting Religion:
|Degree of Enchantment||Enchanted (Though neutral some of the time)|
|Mystical Perceptions:||Non-Mystical (But I do enjoy playing with rune stones for the mere fun of it.)|
|Theory of Religion:||Religion is just a way to answer questions people ask but don't have answers to. (i.e. worship of sun god because sun brings life, etc.). And humans like to have answers, even if they are bad ones.|
|Non-theistic Leanings||Non-dualist pantheist. I don't believe in magical forces, but I do believe in reality, balance, and that we came out of nature, we are nature, and we fool ourselves by trying to pretend we are not the cosmos itself. (See Alan Watts and Carl Sagan) I like how Dawkins described pantheism as "sexed up atheism."|
|Secular Superstitious or Irrational Habits||Hmm... Nothing stands out too much. I do knock on wood, and feel incredibly uncomfortable if someone opens up an umbrella indoors. And while I do and feel this, I know it's ridiculous, but old habits die hard. I also have a strange affinity toward greek evil eye stones and amulets...|
|View of Reason||I value reason very highly. If I didn't, I'd still be going to church (oh snap).|
|Faith Items||hmm... I'm having a hard time answering this one. Love?|
|Past Belief History||Former Believer|
|Past Orthopraxy History||Former Practitioner (casual)|
|Past Sect History||Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon)|
I couldn't help but shake a thought as I woke up this morning. And though I wish I were dreaming about something way cooler, I had a "vision" you might say, in between waking and dreaming. I had heard before that the church is like a body. And so in my mind, I imagined being inside a body. Kind of a little like when the magic school bus gets shrunk and gets eaten by Arnold.
Anyways, the "body" was personified as the church. And I was a little cell in it. Well, I decided that I didn't like being a cell in it anymore, and stopped doing my assigned function. Then, the white cells started coming after me. They were alarmed that I stopped performing my assigned function, and wanted be back to what I was doing before or gone.
This is a very rough version of my actual dream but pulling the details together has been a little difficult. Anyways, the church really is like a body. And when the members, or cells, stop doing their assigned function, the body goes on alert and sends little white blood cells after them. Maybe I could call these visiting teachers? Anyways, it really reminded me of the fact that as a Mormon, my identity was not as important as the identity of the organization. I'm Mormon first, Hypatia second.
The organism, or the church, comes first within the eyes of the organization. It reminds me a little bit of the documentary I saw called "The Corporation." In that film, it argues that corporations are essentially psychopaths, since legally, they are real "persons" but they care not a whit as to whom they exploit, and what they do to be on top, as long as they are successful.
In a sense, organizations including the LDS church really do become organisms unto themselves. And as any organism takes necessary precautions to prevent itself from getting sick, the church has an inherent system of rooting out the pieces or parts that don't fit or aren't contributing to the well being of the "whole" anymore.
Anywho, ironically enough, I was looking for a quote by someone in the church on LDS.org referring to the church as a body. However, I got distracted by a couple of other articles I discovered here and here. They deal with "nurturing" and "caring" for the less active.
The "lost sheep" and "prodigal son" analogies aside, something very disturbing caught my eye. I noticed this little tidbit on the Caring for Members Who Are Not Very Active article:
Our salvation is dependent upon the salvation of others.
This is why its so hard to leave. This is why people go insane either trying to stay in or in the process of leaving the church. The organism will not have discord. It will not allow for any potential cancerous cells to linger within it. Me not going to church AFFECTS the others within it. It's like I'm a little cancer cell, and either the DNA structure in my nucleus needs to be changed or I need to be cut out of the body. This is the first time I have had the realization that ultimately I need to remove my name from the church. Not because it would help me any, because it would help others in the church not feel so guilty or sick that I don't go...like my visiting teachers.
Anywho, this is also the reason why family is so upset over us leaving the church. Because my actions affect their salvation. After all, they won't have their child with them in the celestial kingdom. It is so dangerous to put one's happiness outside oneself and one's own actions, but that is exactly what the church does. It encourages members to see another's actions as affecting their own happiness. (i.e. "If you're children break their covenants then you won't get to be sealed to them in the after life.")
What a recipe for disaster.
I don't believe in the judeo christian concept of god. I don't know that I even believe in god as is understood by most. But if I did, I certainly would not believe in one that would lead its followers to coercion and manipulation by punishing the one for the "sins" of the other.
The longer I'm out of the church, the more I realize how crazy it all is to me. I can't believe I ate up this bullshit when I was a teen. I get so angry with myself. I remember people I talked to or things I said in the name of "Christ" and I cringe. I was just a little cell then. A little cell of the organization. Doing what it was told. Regurgitating what it was told to regurgitate.
I was such a fool.
My daughter has really been enjoying They Might Be Giants' "Here Comes Science" album on youtube. She's been watching them over and over and gets mad if we turn it off... Here is one she (and her mommy) really likes. I figure this helps balance out the stuff she hears on Sunday. ha.
If you enjoyed that, I might also recommend, Meet the Elements, and The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma, and I am a Paleontologist.
My husband's latest post reminded me of a wonderful speech I read recently by children's author Natalie Babbitt. I really recommend you read the whole thing in context. It is titled We're All Mad Here and the author compares Alice and Wonderland to the "reasonable" society in which we are a part:
The fundamental reason why Alice in Wonderland was my favorite book was that it confirmed my long-held suspicion – long held even by fourth grade – that grown-ups, and the world they have created, are mad. For the most part, they operate on systems that have no basis in rationality. Children are rational, but their elders are not, and can’t explain anything. (As in the question “Why do I have to do that?” to which the answer is “Because I said so.”) Is it possible to reason irrationally? Certainly. The grown-up characters in Alice reason irrationally at a great rate all through the book. There is only one rational character in the Alice stories, and that character is Alice herself.
Babbitt shares stories from her childhood which further supports these points. After all, how many times do we remember or do we ourselves partake in the irrationality? Even when we see the blatant idiosyncrasies and hypocrisies in our actions?
To the best of my recollection, my awareness of irrationality began when I was four. It began small, but it began memorable. My sister, who is two years older than I am, was at school, and I was alone in the kitchen, sitting on some kind of a highchair, where I’d been told firmly by my mother to stay until I finished my lunch. I’d been there for quite a while, because there were canned pears for dessert, and I was putting off the necessity of dealing with them. I didn’t like canned pears. Still don’t. Canned pears, unlike fresh ones, have strings in them. My mother knew I didn’t like them, but served them to me anyway. Her plea, in such situations, was that I think of the starving Armenians. But since I didn’t know who the Armenians were, or why they were starving, my patience was short. On this particular day, it finally ran out. I climbed down from my highchair and threw my pears in the sink. And then I went down the hall towards the front door, passing my mother who was headed in the other direction. I was stopped with my hand on the door knob by my mother’s voice from the kitchen. She called to me and said, “Whose pears are these in the sink?”
Now, at the age of four, I was probably not familiar with the word “irrational.” Nevertheless, I clearly recall being puzzled by this question from my mother.
Anyways, the author makes some brilliant points about how mad we all really are. How societies are held together by nothing really, and how children are really a hundred times more rational then adults.
What it all seems to come down to is that we humans have a very slim grip on the definition of what’s rational. The societies we have created here, and everywhere else around the world, are messy, unjust and dangerous. But each society believes those adjectives are descriptive only of all the other societies, while it itself is fair and square, tidy, and safe. We’d get along with each other a lot better if we could admit that we are all pretty much alike regardless of what society we belong to, but that seems to go against the grain.
What I liked about this is how easily it could be applied to religion. In Mormonism, all other religions are the "messy" ones. But the LDS church is the only "true one." And yet how many religions think the same of others? Other religions are "dangerous," but one's own is the "safe" and "fair" one.
Another part of her speech that I really enjoyed reading was about how despite all of our contradictions and hypocrisies, people still find meaning and beauty. They choose to create, build, love even in the midst of waves of potential disillusionment.
So – well – I think I grew up questioning the contradictions, as we all do, but finally admiring the way we human beings always manage, however clumsily, to build a footing out of not much, and then dance on it. Because we do dance on it, here and everywhere else in the world, regardless of science, religion, and politics. And we dance pretty well, thank you very much. It’s mad to dance on such a footing, because collapse is always imminent, but we do it anyway. There’s a lot to be learned from that. Somehow, in spite of everything, we manage to build. We have always managed to build, even right after we’ve managed to destroy.
In a way, I feel as though I was Alice when I went to church. Every time I would ask a question or seek an explanation. I would receive an answer similar to one Alice might hear from the mad hatter. And the way people in the church took these quite contradictory and irrational arguments as valid explanations confused me to no end. And as Babbitt illustrates, there are "irrationally reasonable" parts in Alice:
“And their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie, and they lived at the bottom of a well.”
“What did they live on?” said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
“They lived on treacle,” said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two.
“They couldn’t have done that, you know,” Alice gently remarked. “They’d have been ill.”
“So they were,” said the Dormouse. “Very ill.”
Alice tried a little to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary way of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much: so she went on: “But why did they live at the bottom of a well?”
The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, “It was a treacle well. And so these three little sisters – they were learning to draw, you know.”
“What did they draw?” said Alice.
“Treacle,” said the Dormouse, without considering at all, this time.
“But I don’t understand,” said Alice. “Where did they draw the treacle from?”
“You can draw water out of a water-well,” said the Hatter; “so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well – eh, stupid?”
“But they were in the well,” Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.
“Of course they were,” said the Dormouse: “Well in.”
But although it became plain to see the madness in a church environment, it has become more plain for me to see the madness in the culture I live in. The very structure of my society has some very fundamentally f&$cked up ways of living and seeing the world. This rabid consumerism which literally destroys lives coupled with religion and so called "morals" confuses me to no end.
And like my husband, and like Alice at the end of Lewis Carroll's popular work, I just want to wake up, and get out of wonderland.
It's just been an amazing ride.
I feel like I've hit a huge learning curve. I'm not trying to say I know anything, or if anything that makes sense to me is ultimate reality or anything. I just look back, to where I was, 6 months ago, a year ago, two years ago, and I feel like I've learned so much. Meaning, I feel like I've learned that I don't know very much at all.
I've had this surge of desire to learn. To know. Who I am. What the universe is. What society is. What it is to be human. What it is to be a part of everything. And at the same time I realize that I am no different than an animal, a rock, a chair.
I've fallen back in love with Buddhist/Zen thought lately. In a way, my leanings towards pantheism are another way of expressing certain feelings I have that are also related to zen teachings. It doesn't matter what I call it really, but when I can sit, and remove my "self" from inhibiting my perceptions, and feel "connected." When I can sit and feel my breathing, and feel the air around my skin, I feel ... wow. I can't even begin to describe it. I feel REAL.
I will say however that although pantheism strikes a deep chord in me, I would like to say I am a non-dualist. Even in my early college days as I learned about the platonic world view versus the Aristotelian world view, I definitely sympathized with Aristotle's points about reality. Sorry Plato, you're a great guy, but you lost me at forms.
At the same time, things have been more difficult for me on a school front. Some of the classes I am taking are driving me insane. I am currently taking Library and Information Science courses. It really is a sort of fake masters degree. But this management class I am taking just feels like it's all "fake" knowledge. Charts about change cycles, reading about how library directors nowadays are no longer scholars but unappreciated corporate CEOs just makes me sad inside. I want to learn real things. I want to learn real science. Not pseudoscience. I want to read real literature. Not this trash that is called a textbook in my class.
Going through the readings and the assignments is almost physically painful for me. I feel like I have to numb myself to do it. It's hard to explain. I complete the homework. I make the A. But the whole time, I feel as though what I have "learned" is useless and not even real. To complete my assignments in a way that would be pleasing to my teachers, I just have to mindlessly spew bull shit.
I will say though, I've been introduced to a lot of different readings as of late. After reading much of Carl Sagan's the Varieties of Scientific Experience, I feel as though I had a lot of material to stew over. But now I've been introduced to Alan Watts. And my cousin gave me Being and Nothingness by Sartre, and my friend gave me the Blind Watchmaker by Dawkins for my birthday.
It's thrilling to have friends and even a cousin who know this side of me. Most of my extended family still doesn't have a clue about my departure with the mormon faith, so it's so refreshing to have honest conversations with friends. In some ways, I feel closer to some people than I've ever felt before. Being able to be honest and talk about REAL things is so thrilling.