Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Funny: John Safran takes atheists proselytizing door to door

Find out what happens when a couple of atheists don white shirts and ties and name tags and knock on doors in Salt Lake City.


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Am a Child of God... Unless I'm gay

A friend shared this note on Facebook today that really drove home the emotional impact this political and religious issue has on a gay individual. Isaac Higham describes how the conflict of being gay and Mormon drove him to attempt suicide. Unfortunately, his case is not isolated, and many others succeed in their suicide attempts. His essay brought tears to my eyes and is well worth reading in its entirety. An excerpt:
When I was a little boy, my beautiful mother would take me in her arms and together we would sing the words of the LDS primary song:

I am a Child of God
And he has sent me here
Has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.

There was no qualifier of “unless I grow up to be gay.” 
When the stripping of legal status and protections from gay relationships is celebrated like a Super Bowl victory, what does the gay person feel? When a state senator tells gay adolescents they shouldn’t come together to talk about their struggles in accepting their sexuality, what message does that send? When a bishop stands at the pulpit and preaches that loving committed gay relationships will destroy their family and asks for time and money to ‘defeat’ them, what unimaginable fear shakes the soul of the gay child in the pews?
When will we learn that this is not a game?... This is a fight for life! 
Well said, Isaac. Keep fighting the good fight.


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TED Talk Tuesday: Dan Gilbert asks, Why are we happy?

Would you believe that lottery winners and paraplegics are statistically about equally happy? If we live in a constantly changing universe and so much is beyond our control, how do we find happiness? We synthesize it.


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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adventures in Taoism, and how come we're always surprised by change?

Lately I've been poking around in various religions and pulling out anything I like, and I've found a lot to like in Taoism. It fits with a lot of my own ideas about embracing life in the present, living in harmony with nature and seeking balance in our lives. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility. Very simple, and I much prefer principles over rules. With a few good principles, you can make your own rules and adjust them as needed to specific situations. (By the way Feminist Mormon Housewives had an awesome post yesterday critiquing and questioning the validity of the endless rules within Mormonism. Comment #16 was especially good.)

This very basic overview describes Tao as "the first cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life." That reminded me of John's comment on this post: "To me spirituality is what I call the yet-to-be-explained driving force of the universe or the force that moves us when we're alive and leaves us when we're dead." 

The explanation of the Yin Yang symbol I found particularly interesting:
"It represents the balance of opposites in the universe. When they are equally present, all is calm. When one is outweighed by the other, there is confusion and disarray." 1...The two swirling shapes inside the symbol give the impression of change -- the only constant factor in the universe. 
 That got me thinking: If change is the only constant in the universe, why are we continually surprised by it? For example, when someone dies or there's a natural disaster or your favorite restaurant goes out of business? Why is it human nature to expect constancy?

Or, is it only unpleasant changes that cause us to cry foul at the universe? Have you ever known anyone to get upset over an unexpected job opportunity or a new romance?

In my experience, the happiest people seem to be those who recognize that there's very little that we actually control. They are able to bend with whatever life brings them and appreciate whatever goodness and joy is in their lives in the present moment, recognizing its evanescence. Buddhism has a similar concept: When we recognize that the glass is already broken, then every moment that it's still intact becomes precious. I see this in my children, who are constantly changing. My little one is starting to use language and real words, and while his fledgling speech is so adorable, I'm a little sad that his baby gibberish is disappearing.

Accepting change as inevitable helps us deal with pain too. When I find myself going through something painful, it helps to remind myself, This won't last forever. No matter how bad it gets, it always gets better eventually.

There's much, much more to Taoism, and I may write more as I get further into it. If I've piqued your interest, A Personal Tao was a fun website to explore.


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Funny: When Harry Met Sally: The Horror Remix

I felt like watching a movie last night, so I browsed through Netflix (and is it just me or does almost all their Watch Instantly selection consist of B movies?). My eye fell on When Harry Met Sally.  I was a good Mormon girl when I was growing up and didn't watch R-rated movies, so it wasn't until last night that I ever saw it. Did this really get an R rating just for a few F words and the fake orgasm scene?

For my cinematic snack, I paired sauvignon blanc with a tuna fish sandwich. In celebration of growing up and making my own choices, I'm sharing the horror remix. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mormon Erotica


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TED Talk Tuesday: Alain de Botton: A kinder gentler philosophy of success

Since I've been making confessions lately, here's another one: I just graduated with a degree in music, but I'm really not that good, certainly not good enough to be a professional musician. I don't say that to be modest, but to be honest. At one time, I had hoped to be a professional opera singer, but I did not make nearly the kind of progress during my undergraduate years that I had hoped to, and that is a huge disappointment to me.

In today's talk, Alain de Botton discusses how the answer to the question "What do you do?" has come to determine our status,  and how the idea of meritocracy influences people to be harder on themselves than they should. We're led to believe that anyone with a good idea and enough ambition can become Bill Gates, that those that are at the top are there because they deserve it, but that coin also has a dark side: that those at the bottom deserve their fate just as much. And while talent and hard work are essential to success, a lot of haphazardness plays into where we end up in life too.

So why didn't my career as an opera singer materialize? First of all, I grew up in a podunk town that could not have competed with yogurt when it comes to culture, in a ridiculously large family of very humble means with parents who were so concerned with making sure I ended up in the right place in the afterlife that they didn't bother preparing me for this life. I never had an opportunity to take voice lessons until I was 22 years old, and then I made a lot of progress during that first year.

Then I got pregnant.

I was married but this was not planned. At the time, I did not feel I had any choice but to have the baby. If you're a regular reader or know me in real life, you know that I adore the child who was the result of this pregnancy, but I can't help but wonder how my life might be different if I could have waited even just a couple of more years. Many mothers say of their children, "I wouldn't trade them for anything!" As much as I love my children, I cannot in full honesty put myself in that category. And though now I can't imagine not having my particular children, logically, there are equally wonderful children who are not here because they are.

Both my babies were c-sections, which wreaks havoc on the muscles used for singing. Both times my voice was adversely affected by hormonal changes during breastfeeding, so there were physical interruptions. And then once you're a mother, your whole life is Interruption. Good luck finding time to practice! Can't do it when they're asleep because they'll wake up. Can't do it when they're awake because they constantly need stuff.

Am I making excuses? Maybe, but I think anyone who has small children will recognize the legitimacy of my difficulties.

I am now attempting to enter the job market in a down economy, after having been out of the workforce for nearly eight years as a student and/or at-home mother. While I had once aspired to be an Artist, I now have the very mundane goal of Making a Living. But this talk was comforting in pointing out that having lost does not make one a Loser, and that we that the right to define for ourselves what constitutes success.

I did the best I could under the circumstances I was dealt, and while I have not ended up where I thought I would, I'm a hell of a lot closer to where I want to be. And that is no small accomplishment.


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I call myself a whore

I recently invited readers to introduce themselves and share how they found my blog. Several said that the blog's provocative title was what first caught their attention. So I thought I'd share how I settled on the name.

It's a phrase from the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 14: 10 "Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." 

LDS scholars have given various interpretations. Most agree that the "whore of all the earth" is equivalent to the "whore of Babylon" mentioned in the Bible. Bruce R. McConkie once gave his interpretation that the Church of the Devil was referring to the Catholic Church, though I think later recanted under pressure from the First Presidency (citation needed; I'm not 100% sure that's accurate, but I'm too lazy to look it up right now, and dammit, Jim, I'm a blogger, not a journalist).

By the way, I had a reader write to me and comment that the Church of the Devil sounds like the name of a theme park. Now what would that be like? I had some friends brainstorm with me and we decided that the main thoroughfare would be called Good Intentions Way. There would be rides like the Downward Spiral or a waterslide called Satan's Slippery Slope. There would be fonts filled with vodka instead of holy water. Another suggestion was a walk-through ride (like Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Disneyland) called the Stairway to Heaven, and at the top is a gift shop. Maybe it's an Adult gift shop? And it should definitely be located next to Orlando's Holy Land Experience. Call your travel agent today!

But anyway, how I settled on the phrase as the name for my blog goes back to an old journal. I took a creative writing course during the Fall of 2009, and for my non-fiction piece I decided to write about my journey out of Mormonism. (This became my de-conversion story The Rise and Fall of a Testimony; I got an A.  :-)  To recall and recreate the experiences that led up to me leaving the Church, I went back to my old journals. At the time I met my husband Ray, we were both faithful, believing Mormons and both planning on serving missions. (Also, both dating other people, but that's a different story.) We met in Provo, Utah, through some mutual friends, also members of the Church. One of these friends thought I was a Bad Influence on Ray, and that I was Satan's means of distracting him and stopping him from going on a mission.
Sunday, December 2. 2001
      Today was a good day. Church was good. C_____ taught the Relief Society lesson on Temple Worthiness and it really made me think. Unfortunately, I haven't spent much time at her house lately because that usually entails seeing N_____ who seems to think I'm the whore of all the earth since I started liking Ray. So I avoid him as much as possible.
Let me tell you a little about N______. He was the most self-righteous and uptight boy I've ever known. He would not go see Disney's G-rated The Princess Diaries because in one of the previews, the girl was wearing a strapless dress. He and Ray were roommates for a while and N______ would get up at 4:00 in the morning to pray and read scriptures, because the earlier you rise, the holier you are, or something. (Ray reports that an acquaintance once told him, "N____, I don't think even God gets up that early," to which he took great offense.) He, too, was preparing for a mission, also dating C_____'s 16-year-old daughter, but they never kissed or spent any time alone together to prevent sinning. N______ pegged me as Trouble, a stumbling block that would lead Ray astray. (In retrospect, it seems interesting that no one fretted on how Ray might be an evil influence on me. Women apparently are responsible for the morality of both sexes.)

Long story short, we did end up fornicating, which prevented each other from going on missions. We did lead each other out of the Church, first by force because of our "sin," then by choice after a brief return. (It's all in the de-con story.) And I have thanked Ray many times for leading me into a life of sin and coffee.

Oh, N______ married C______'s daughter within a few months of his return from his mission (they were "Promised" to each other) and they had a baby ten months later. If there is any kind of merciful God up there, He really dropped the ball on that one.


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Funny: Sassy Gay Friend: Eve

"No way!"  "Jahweh!"


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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pest Control

I'm tired of spammers, so I'm switching on comment moderation until further notice.

Those of you who read regularly know that I have no problem with readers expressing dissenting points of view, but it needs to be an actual original comment, not the same copy-and-paste diatribe. And also, it should at least remotely relate to the original post, or someone else's comment, or something that appears somewhere on this blog.

Also, while I have nothing against consensually produced pornography, I'd prefer that you not post links to it on my blog.

Comment policy may be modified whenever I feel the sweet promptings of the Holy Spirit.

That is all.


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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Children are people too! Or, why some people should not be allowed to breed

I was sitting in the bleachers (why are they called bleachers?) watching my son's swimming lesson when my attention was captured by a family sitting behind me.

"Skyler*! Quit it! You're not in swimming lessons! You'll do swimming lessons when you're older."

I turned around to see a woman scolding a toddler who had the audacity to be climbing down the bleachers. Hmm, I thought. Well, maybe in some way she's trying to placate him with future fulfillment since he obviously wants to get in the pool but can't right now, though he does not appear old enough to have the cognitive abilities to understand what she's saying, much less comprehend getting to swim a few years from now.

It only got worse. Sitting with the mom and toddler was another little boy who appeared to be the same age, a little girl a year or two older, and a man. Then horror of horrors, the first little boy pushed a train he was playing with off the edge of one bleacher and onto the platform below. "Skyler! You drop that again, you're gonna go sit in the van with Dad!" An older boy nearby picked up the train and handed it back. "Say thank you," the mom prompted. "Say thank you!"

Good God, can that child even talk?

On and on: "Don't stand up! Don't drop that! Sit still!"

Do you people realize that you're at a swimming pool and not a monastery? And have you noticed what age your children are? I think your standards of decorum might be a tad extreme.

My son finished his lesson and came over to the bleachers. I was toweling him off when the dad said to the little girl, "Tammy! Take off your sandals the right way! Can you listen to me for a change?"

There's a right and wrong way to take off sandals?

I was relieved to get out of there. My judgment as a passing stranger sitting next to these people for about fifteen minutes is that these parents are unhappy people themselves, but I have to wonder, would they talk to co-workers or other adults this way? Even adults they didn't like?

They enrolled one of their children in swimming lessons, so it seems that they're at least trying to do something right, yet where do they get the idea that there's no need to treat their children with some basic human respect? Are they afraid of losing their position as the Authority of the Household if the children are viewed as full human beings and given any autonomy?

If this is how they talk to their children in public, how do they talk to them at home? Do I have an obligation as someone witnessing powerless individuals essentially being bullied? And by the people who are supposed to nurture and protect them? I felt sick for those kids. I certainly wanted to intervene, but didn't know what to say or do.

Swimming lessons go on for another week and a half.

*Names were changed


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So who are you guys?

PZ Myers did it, so I thought I'd try too.

In the comments below, tell me who you are, what your background is and what you do. How did you come to this blog, how long have you been reading, what do you think about it, and how could it be improved?
Looking forward to your answers!


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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

TED Talk Tuesday: Laura Trice suggest we all say thank you

Short and sweet talk today. I love Laura Trice's perspective about not only being more generous in our gratitude, but also about being proactive and assertive about the gratitude and praise that we need from others. Acknowledging our needs to others can make us feel vulnerable, but this kind of honesty also opens us to deeper and more authentic connections and love with those around us. "We talk about world peace," she says. "I think it starts household by household." And I agree.

Thank you to all of you who read, comment or write to me. Though I have not met most of you in "real life," many of you have become friends, and I thank you for sharing yourselves with me, allowing me to share myself with you, and being my companions on this journey of life.


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Monday, July 5, 2010

Carl Sagan: A Universe Not Made For Us


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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moderates versus Fundamentalists, and a confession

My life is heading in a new direction. I think my blog will too.

I'm not sure what that direction will be, still feeling my way through.

I'm bored with the whole anti-religion thing. I've gone through some very destructive experiences in the name of religion and it was good for me to let myself be angry about that for a while, but I feel like I'm done with that now. And I'm no longer convinced that religious moderates are aiding and abetting fundamentalists. The new atheists say that moderates are complicit in extremism because their belief lends credibility to fundamentalists, but the culture of fundamentalism that I'm familiar with doesn't give any credence to anything other than fundamentalism.

For example, I know Mormons who think that other Mormons who dare to drink Coke or use birth control or vote democrat are losing their grasp on the Iron Rod and are in danger of being swallowed by the Mists of Darkness (1 Nephi 8). Among other Christians, fundamentalists disavow those who cohabitate before marriage or who support same sex marriage, or who don't take the Genesis creation story literally, and on and on.

I have a confession to make: I've been going to church.

I've found a congregation that I like, friendly but not overbearing. I don't believe in any of it literally and have no intentions of ever officially joining, but I like the rituals and the symbolism. There are bits of the service that make me grimace and think, Okay, now I really don't believe that, but I no longer feel obligated to believe everything an authority doles out, and there's enough that resonates with me to justify my attendance. I feel a peaceful and loving spirit there, and it is good for my soul to take part in that.

So I go.


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