Monday, April 25, 2011

Mormons and Beauty Pageants

I've always loved this clip from the movie Miss Congeniality of adorable Miss Rhode Island when asked to describe her perfect date:

So I shared it on Facebook this morning, and received the unexpected comment, "She looks like a Mormon."

No, no, no. For one thing, she's showing way too much skin for a Mormon. A Mormon in a beauty pageant would look something more like this:
Yes, that's me on the right. Once upon a time, I was a small town beauty queen, something for which I feel a mixture of both pride and shame.

Here I am riding in the parade with my attendants, wearing the world's most unsexy dress.

Elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist.

Yes, this is how I dressed as I presided over fair festivities. I think they came to regret crowning me.


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Comment Highlights, 4/22/2011

From Secular Dentist on Good god, I was an arrogant little $#@!:
Very interesting Leah.  It shows how we, as children, (as you very well noted) are the product of our environment; but it also shows how we grow as humans and adapt our views when we have a more open mind towards the world we live in. 
This is something that lacks with many religions, they want to push their views, and convert and proselytize without realizing that the beauty of this world is that we all hold different beliefs and traditions.  It should be our sense of humanity what sustains us as a society, not religion.
From Catherine P. on Video of my SRLS Talk:
How ironic the gentleman at the end... he spoke exactly as I would expect a true bluer to speak. An apostle speaks for the Lord, EXCEPT when he says something wrong. Well duh! I'm glad he spoke up and his ignorant (and I meant that in the true definition of the word) remarks were a real live example of the member mindset. Rather a fitting way to show the contrast of how far you have come.

And I have to include my reply to Catherine:
Yeah, one of the death knells in my testimony was the whole claim about how priesthood leaders speak for the Lord, speak for the Lord, speak for the Lord UNTIL they make a mistake. And then we're supposed to forgive them because they're just human. How the hell are supposed to know the difference?! And they say pray about it and let the Spirit guide you, but then if the Spirit tells you something that conflicts with Church authorities, you've been deceived. AAAAUUUGGHHH!
And from Andrew on Why still use the word "God"?
I'm actually kind of glad the 'New Atheists' are (very slowly) getting away from their fixation on the 'god' word and instead starting to contribute something more meaningful... like actually trying to produce new information.
The real demon is the idea of authority -- ideas like inerrancy and unchanging, permanent truths.
The problem isn't having a god. The word isn't necessarily anthropomorphic and has lots of deep roots. Reality was very different in the ancient past. We've since changed how we see the world but we haven't necessarily updated all the old software, in a sense.
The real problem is thinking your god gives you the power of authority. 



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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weekly KtB: "Jesus in Space"

Killing the Buddha contributing editor Mary Valle tells the laugh-out-loud adventure of her quest to unravel the mystery: Why do the Mormons have Jesus in front of a space backdrop?

My favorite part: When Religion Dispatches correspondent Joanna Brooks divulges the clue: "Google Kolob." And don't miss the Osmonds making the Plan of Salvation rock!

I have one criticism though. Psst, Mary, the movie you're referring to is called Saturday's Warrior, not Saturday's Child.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TED Talk Tuesday: Kavita Ramdas: Radical women, embracing tradition

Especially timely, given recent discussion about Feminist Mormon Housewives. Can women work within oppressive cultures and actually use traditions to their advantage? Kavita Ramdas sees them doing it around the world. I appreciated her perspective that women don't have to be like Westerners to be feminists and this quote was insightful: "Feminism, unlike almost every other social movement, is not a struggle against a distinct oppressor... It's against a deeply held set of beliefs and assumptions that we women far too often hold ourselves."

Though I don't think it's our fault that we women tend to have these beliefs (culture and upbringing play a major role), I do think responsibility for changing these beliefs starts with us.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jane Goodall on The Daily Show

Since I mentioned her as planting one of my seeds of belief in a post yesterday, and since I also love Jon Stewart, I had to share this clip of Jane Goodall's appearance on The Daily Show.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Three Seeds of Belief

Last week I shared a very brief overview of how I went from Mormonism to atheism. There was a period of seeking in between there, a period that has recommenced. Along the way, I've encountered sparks of recognition, moments that make me say, Yeah, that feels true.

For me, this kind of recognition feels more like being reminded of something I already knew, having that knowledge brought to the level of conscious thought. My most recent experience of this was while reading Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O'Donohue. One reviewer dismisses it as "Vague New-Age Schlock." I tend to agree more with the reviewer who called it "like milk and honey for the soul." When I read it, something inside me said, "I've been parched, and this is what I wanted."

I value and respect what can be learned and proven in a lab, but I don't see any reason to set aside other ways of learning. There are people who have the opinion, "If you can't prove it in a lab, it isn't real/doesn't count." I'm more of the opinion, "If you can't prove it in a lab, you shouldn't presume it has implications for the world at large, and quite possibly not for anyone other than yourself."

So, after a time of honestly thinking that there really was not any god, I've reopened myself up to the possibility that there could be. Dismiss me as irrational if you wish. I'm fine with that. If you've met me or read much of my writing, you can deduce that I'm a fairly lucid person.  Here are a three sparks of recognition that are seeds that make me say, Yeah, maybe.

First seed, something Jennifer Fulwiler wrote. A friend posted a link to Fulwiler's blog on Facebook shortly after I had started this blog as a staunch, anti-religious atheist. She was raised as an atheist, and happily so, as she describes it, and ended up converting to Catholicism in her 20s. When I read that, I thought, What?! A lifelong atheist who became a Catholic? That's possible?! And I confess, I hated her blog when I first came across it. I glanced through her Most Popular sidebar, and my reaction at the time was, What's wrong with this woman?! And I'm not saying I agree with her on everything these days, but I've come to like a lot of her ideas, and especially to feel that spark of recognition in what she writes about God.

Her post "Suppressing the Soul" really resonated with me. She writes about visiting a cathedral in Mexico City while on vacation with her family as a teenager and being struck with awe at the place.
As with other times in my life I’d experienced great awe and wonder, something seemed horribly amiss. I had to consciously remind myself not to get too wrapped up in these feelings I was experiencing since, after all, they were nothing more than chemical reactions in my brain. I kept wanting to place more meaning on them than that, but would admonish myself not to be silly. Any sort of beauty or importance I ascribed to places like this were a product only of some neurons firing in my head, and nothing more.
My soul was crying out to be heard, but I suppressed it every time. “Where’s the proof?” I’d think. “Science has not shown that there is something mysterious about this cathedral or something other than evolved chemical reactions driving my feelings of love for my family,” I’d insist, blowing it all off as wishful superstitious thinking.
She writes that one of the things that kept her going when she wanted to give up on her spiritual journey was "the relief that hit me like a waterfall when I finally acknowledged my soul."

I can't say I believe in the soul in anything other than a metaphorical sense, and yet I recognize what she's saying. I've had those same awestruck moments, and I can believe that we evolved to feel those things (though I'm puzzled as to what the evolutionarily advantageous explanation would be) and that it's all neurons and chemicals, but I also think there's something more to it than that. I can't tell you why other than that it feels like that should be true.

Which brings me to the second seed. A poem by Mary Oliver entitled "Terns." Follow this link to read the full poem (it's also found in her New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2). My favorite lines are "Not through the weaponry of reason" and "What else could beauty be for?"

Third seed. A quote from Jane Goodall. Love this woman. In the introduction to her memoir Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey she writes about visiting the cathedral of Notre Dame, shortly after she lost her husband to cancer and was going through a crisis of faith herself. The sound of an organ playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor filled the space:
That moment, a suddenly captured moment of eternity, was perhaps the closest I have ever come to experiencing ecstasy, the ecstasy of the mystic. How could I believe it was the chance gyrations of bits of primeval dust that had led up to that moment in time--the cathedral soaring to the sky; the collective inspiration and faith of those who caused it to be built; the advent of Bach himself; the brain, his brain, that translated truth into music; and the mind that could as mine did then, comprehend the whole inexorable progress of evolution? Since I cannot believe that this was the result of chance, I had to admit anti-chance. And so I must believe in a guiding power in the universe--in other words, I must believe in God. 


Related Post: Jane Goodall on the Daily Show


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Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Revelation from R.E.M.

In early 2005, about eight months after I was re-baptized (see timeline), I began to seriously question the veracity of the Church for the first time. Excommunication hurt like hell, but that wasn't what destroyed my testimony. Many times during the two and a half years between excommunication and re-baptism, I had tried to bury my testimony, and convince myself that it wasn't true after all, so I could be at peace about turning my back and walking away. But I had "felt the Spirit," which I believed was confirmation from God about the truth of the Church.

Going back after being gone for a while was my first chance to look at my religion from an objective standpoint. I'd always had certain unanswered questions, but I'd always swept these under the "feeling the Spirit" rug. And when there are only a few discrepancies, you can do that, but it was getting to be an avalanche and I couldn't ignore it anymore. I tried writing as a way to reason it all out and make it make sense, but it just wasn't adding up. I remember the mixture of relief and horror as I began to consider that the worldview that I'd based my life on up to that point was an invention. But there's a whole society built around this, complex social structures. Volumes written about the theology and doctrine. How can it all just be made up?

I remember driving around Mesa, Arizona, where we lived at the time, playing the tape (yes, I own it on tape, which tells you a little about how long I've had it) of R.E.M.'s album "Fables of the Reconstruction." The world as I knew it was crashing down around me. This album was the soundtrack for my de-conversion, played it over and over whenever I was out driving. The song "Maps and Legends" stands out. The verses are mumbly and unintelligible, as is Michael Stipe's way, but the chorus: "Maybe these maps and legends have been misunderstood." An affirmation that it was okay to let these things go.

Still gets me.

Related post: The Rise and Fall of a Testimony


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Good god, I was an arrogant little $#@!

Going through a box of old stuff, I found a talk I gave in Primary when I was 10 years old on "The Artichles of Faith":

It is so disturbing how certain and smug I was about my church's superiority and how focused I was on converting anyone who would listen. At that age, I can only say I was a product of my environment.

Related Post: I hope you Have ben teeching the trooth.


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Comment of the Week, 4/15/2011

My favorite comment this week was from Cognitive Dissenter on Sunday's post An Accidental Atheist. She said:
Growing up I was taught that "atheist" was a dirty word used to describe really evil people. My, how things have changed. Although I often take issue with the use of labels, technically I suppose I am a "soft atheist." As a practical matter I believe the only honest answer is "I don't know." What a burden was lifted from my shoulders when I reached that level of self-honestly. If that makes me an atheist, whatever. I guess that's why it now seems a tad offensive when those guys wearing the white shirts and ties show up on the front porch. They don't know either ... but they have convinced themselves otherwise.


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why still use the word "God"?

I love blog comments, and I love it even more when I get a comment that warrants more than just a quick reply. I got such a comment yesterday from Bret "Ginx" Alan. He wrote:
I advise against flimsy definitions of gods. I've heard arguments made by very intelligent people who want to redefine what gods are for one reason or another (Einstein comes to mind). The problem is... the universe isn't a god, nor are the basic underlying princples which govern the universe gods. The only thing which are gods are gods, and gods have a pretty clear definition in every religion (usually human-like, sometimes living in the sky or underground... that sort of thing). For all that you're changing the definition of gods, you might as well worship faeries and say "Well, they aren't those fairy tale faeries that flutter around gardens with wands."

I sometimes joke that my god is Truth and my religion is Justice, but I don't really see it as this. I merely use this as a metaphor to explain my philosophy. Maybe it's the English tutor in me, but I really can't stand it when people conflate words to be things they aren't. I know language is a living and changing construct, but are there no other words besides "god" for ideals or principles?

God just screams anthropomorphic being, and not only in Western culture. I assume you don't believe in such a thing. You believe in a more abstract view of what "gods" are. Except... as long as the word "god" is used, there will always be some kind of connection to the old. If I formed a new club, I wouldn't call it "The Nazis" and use the swastika as my symbol, then spend most of my time defending my use of it, claiming I'm going to redefine it.

I guess my actual question is... why is there such a lack of creativity among the spiritually non-religious who actually want religion, but lack one which represents them? By now, there has got to be enough people and the means (via the internet) to organize such a thing. I say this not because I want in or that I'm annoyed by what you're doing (I'm not, not that it should matter to you what I think), but because I think the religious landscape has become too homogenous for it's own good. Diversity is an important hallmark of a healthy society.
Great questions! A few thoughts.

I can't speak for all non-religious/semi-religious/non-literal theistic types. I have a couple of my own reasons for continuing to use the word "God."

First, I think it's too powerful of a word to let fundamentalists have a monopoly on it. There are many fundamentalists who can tell that something's foul in their religion but don't want to leave God behind. I think it's important for there to be a viable middle way between completely non-religious atheism and religious fundamentalism. Given the choice between the two, I'd unquestionably choose atheism, but I am among those for whom that just doesn't feel like a whole way to live.

Second, I'm not entirely sure I'm actually redefining anything as much as I'm coming to a fuller and more accurate understanding of something I've believed in all along. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, but most Hindus understand their various gods as representations of an Ultimate Reality, a Reality we have to attach faces and images to in order to try to understand it. When trying to explain or understand something complex, you start with something concrete and simple. Think of the drawings of atoms or cells in fourth grade science textbooks versus college textbooks.

The God I'm exploring is not an ideal or a principle. I honestly think there is Something and that the mythologies and rituals that have evolved in the world's religions are gateways to understanding that Something. A friend of mine put this beautifully recently: Religion is a bridge, not a destination. People get caught up in the bridge and think that's It; they stay on the bridge instead of crossing it to where it's intended to get you. I think the anthropomorphic images are something we've attached to something much bigger and more complex, something we can't yet fully define.

The most common flimsy-ish definition of God that I've heard is that God is Love. It seems to me that in many ways, love in its myriad manifestations (self-love, romantic love, parent-child love, friendship) is as complicated and mysterious as, say, string theory. Science has yet to unlock certain other mysteries, such as how exactly life began, and what is the nature of consciousness. I'm certainly not in favor of a "GodDidIt, case closed" approach to these questions, but in the end, I won't be surprised if science reveals answers about our day-to-day living that are similar to what our religions have told us.

Religions are as imperfect as anything else that is evolved. I had experiences of holiness and sacredness within the context of a religion as flawed as Mormonism. I think I was mistaken about the images and meanings to which I attributed these experiences, but I don't think I was mistaken about the holiness. I'm aware that those experiences probably have a lot to do with some sort of chemical reaction in my brain and body, but then I want to know, Why did we evolve to have and crave those experiences? Religious practice for me was a way to cultivate and harness those experiences as a means to more effective living and loving. That's what I'm seeking to regain.

As to why we non-literal types don't make our own religion, to some extent, that's what the Unitarian Universalists are doing. For me, they're not quite what I'm looking for because I prefer something not quite so generic. One time when I visited them, they sang the familiar Christian hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth," except the word "Lord" in the chorus had been changed to "Source of all, to thee we raise/ this our hymn of grateful praise." And then everyone is free to insert whatever they want in place of Source, whether it's an anthropomorphic god, or a higher self, or a mother goddess, or the universe. I love that kind of open-mindedness, but for me, something more specific feels more potent. I also think this Something that I'm seeking to engage with and understand has too many facets for any one god(dess) to be an adequate representation. One day I might want Jesus. Another day Artemis will be closer to what I'm looking for. Other times, I need look no further than the spark of the God that is within me, as Emerson describes it. I like to think of the religions of the world as a grand buffet with all sorts of choices available, but no obligation to take everything.

Starting my own religion is actually something that has crossed my mind. I don't know if I ever will, but I like to think that in some small way, my blog is a part of gathering like-minded people who want a middle way. Andrew at God Will Be God writes a lot in the same vein as I do. I'm grateful for him and others like him that I've met since I started blogging.

So I guess to sum up, I don't throw out the word "God" despite its anthropomorphic connotations because I think anthropomorphic gods are effective though imperfect bridges to something bigger.

Related Posts: Defining Spirituality
                       "Why do you still like religion when you don't believe in it?"


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I missed church because I got caught up in Killing the Buddha

I freaking love this website! This last Sunday morning, my boys were with their dad. I had a quiet morning to myself, having a little coffee, eating my steel cut oats and writing up a quick blog post, catching up on other people's blogs. Hopped over to Killing the Buddha, and the rest of the day was history.

They describe themselves in their Manifesto as "God for the godless," a place "for people who somehow want to be religious, who want to know what it means to know the divine, but for good reasons are not and do not." Hallelujah!

Anyway, I love them so much, I think I'm gonna share an article every week (or try to anyway).

"Faithful Apostasy" by Daniel Silliman hit the nail on so many things that have been in my head recently. It's a criticism of a study done by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola of "Preachers Who Are Not Believers." I'm tempted to just copy and paste the whole article because I think it's so great, but I don't think that would be very Golden Rule-ish of me, so please head on over to KtB for the full article. It's worth your time.

In a nutshell, Silliman chastises Dennett and LaScola for dismissing the nuance in the way the participants in their study believe, and instead, just claiming that they just don't actually believe at all. He calls out the narrowness of the study's spectrum of what it's possible to believe about God and the arrogance of claiming to know what another person believes better than the person him/herself. A few excerpts:
[They] quote Karen Armstrong’s statement that, “God is not a being at all.” But instead of understanding that to mean God is more than a being among beings, or that God is Being itself, they take it as a veiled declaration of atheism. They react as if Armstrong is trying to disguise her true unbelief behind tricky language.
Dennett and LaScola are mono(a)theists: they claim to know exactly what God is and they call it hooey. For them God is ridiculous, and they insist on their simple definitions even if that means dismissing the accounts of more reasonable beliefs offered by those who hold them.
Even if all the theists are really mugs playing a mad game of absurdism and obscurantism, rationally engaging with them requires responding to the most sophisticated among them. Rejecting a mischaracterized God that isn’t worth taking seriously isn’t much of a feat.

I grew up with a very narrow, and frankly absurd, definition of what God was. I've rejected that definition, but I've come across many more ideas of what God could be, and I'm not done exploring that.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TED Talk Tuesday: John Lloyd inventories the invisible

I've actually featured this video before, but felt it was relevant to what's been on my mind lately. My favorite line: "I refuse to be drawn on the question of whether God exists until someone properly defines the terms."

"TED Talk Tuesday" is back by semi-popular demand!  ;-)  Enjoy!


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Sunday, April 10, 2011

An Accidental Atheist

The first time I said I was an atheist, it was an accident, really.

In August of 2009, my then-husband and I drove out to Washington state with our two little boys. To pass the time, my husband had bought an audiobook, The God Delusion. To provide a bit of context, here's a brief outline of my religious life up to that point:

Birth -- 2002:  Faithful Mormon

2002: Excommunicated for fornication (married the man I fornicated with)

2003: First attempt at returning to the Church
Lasted a few months, but in the end just didn't feel right
Tried a few unimpressive Protestant churches
Pregnancy with first child makes questions about God feel more urgent

2004:  Complications at birth and scary-as-hell emergency c-section that I take as a sign from God that he wants me to return to the One True Church. So I do with new determination to be humble and make it work, for the sake of my child. Cognitive dissonance increases to intolerable levels.

2005:  I leave the LDS Church for good, more or less set all religion aside for a while. 

2006 -- 2009:  Still have nagging feelings that there's gotta be something more to life than just what meets the eye. Dabble in a few more Protestant churches, discover ideas about the sacred feminine and feminist spirituality, really get into yoga and meditation during second pregnancy (2007-2008), become disenchanted with organized religion, determined to forge my own path, a lot of dabbling, no real consistency, nothing fully satisfying, a persistent unease and yearning for an unnameable Something.

"I've heard about this book, been wanting to read it for a while," my husband said. All my spiritual exploring and dabbling over the previous few years had been done solo. My husband completely lost all interest in any religion or spirituality when we left the Church. He started listening on headphones before I did and was enthusiastic. "I think you'd actually really like this," he said. 

I listened to bits and pieces of it throughout the trip and found I liked and agreed with most of what Dawkins had to say. When he described pantheism as a reverence for nature, the belief that God is all of nature and the universe, I thought, Yeah, that's exactly what I believe. (Not sure where I'd say my beliefs are these days, but that was a good description of where I was at the time.) Then he said that pantheism was merely sexed up atheism. So I figured I was at least leaning more toward the atheist side of things. (Though I now have a problem with lumping pantheists in with atheists. As a friend pointed out, "No one made Dawkins the Grand Pope of pantheism. Let the pantheists speak for themselves.")

When we got home, I listened to the rest of the book. So much of what he said resonated with conclusions I had already drawn myself: the danger of taking things too literally, basing policy and science on religious beliefs; denying evolution; the abusive nature of teaching kids to be afraid of God; the intrusiveness of imposing religious beliefs into other people's lives; the way atheists and non-religious people have been looked down upon, feared and marginalized. I could see clearly that not believing in God was a perfectly legitimate conclusion to come to and did not make one a demon.

I was listening to the book while washing dishes a few days after returning from our trip. The doorbell rang. I opened the door to a smiling man in a white shirt and tie. I would have thought he was a Mormon missionary except he was alone. "Good morning, ma'am! We're out in the neighborhood sharing a verse from the Bible with folks today."

"Oh, no thank you," I said.

"Oh, okay. Can I ask why?"

"We're atheists." He literally jumped off my front step. I couldn't help chuckling as I shut the door.

But I was troubled. The words out of my mouth were a surprise. I had not planned to say them.

And I winced a little to hear it.


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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Did you guys like "TED Talk Tuesday"?

Successful blogging is a lot of trial and error. A lot of this blog is solely for my personal benefit, but I do try to offer something valuable for readers as well, and balance between doin' what I want and considering what my readers want. I'm still working on getting back into a blogging rhythm after being offline for several months.

I'm considering bringing back TED Talk Tuesday. For newer readers, every Tuesday, I'd feature a video from TED that I found interesting along with a little commentary about it. Sometimes they were really popular and generated some good discussion, sometimes not.

You want 'em back? Would you rather just go over to TED and pick out your own videos to watch? Yea? Nay? Don't care?


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Feminists or not? Who has the right to take a label?

This post was inspired by Amy's post on whether the Feminist Mormon Housewives are really feminists, and then Cognitive Dissenter's post asserting that they most certainly are not.

I haven't stopped over there much recently, but I do find the blog interesting, even though sometimes reading can be like watching a train about the bear down on the car, and you're hoping the car is going to move out of the way before the train hits, but then it doesn't. They seem to be women who recognize the value of feminism and then try so hard to make it fit into an organization that doesn't even pretend to be anything but patriarchal. I feel like they're fighting a losing a battle, but part of me is still rooting for them. Because the LDS Church is not going to go away and I think it will be because of women like them that it will eventually (like in a century or two) evolve into something more equitable. I'm not going to be a part of it anymore, thank goodness, but other girls are still going to be born into that organization and I can only hope that they'll grow up with a little more mental breathing room than I had.

So many of the posts over there delineate everything that's harmful toward women and girls (and humans in general) about the Church, but then still conclude that, "Well, but since the Church is after all true, what can we do about it?" I can sympathize. The stronghold the Church can have over a person's psyche really is like an abusive relationship. Intellectual dissent can be grounds for excommunication, which is essentially being cut off from the presence of God in this life and eternal salvation in the next, being denied the privilege of being with your family in the eternities. For a woman who believes in those doctrines and who loves her husband and children, that's a completely understandable motivation to toe the line, in my view. 

Amy asks very legitimately, why spend so much energy countering the messages your daughters hear at church? Why not just not expose them to those messages anyway? I feel the same way. So many of the complain-y articles over there make me ask, "Well, why don't you leave? You can clearly see flaws in church culture and how the doctrine supports these flaws. How can you retain a testimony?" It truly baffles me, but for whatever reason, most of them are staying, and I really wish them luck for the sake of upcoming generations of girls born into the Church. The Church has changed a lot since its founding. It's always behind the curve when it comes to positive change (Blacks didn't get the priesthood till 1978? Hello?!), but it does change and will continue to do so. 

But are they "real" feminists? Amy says not, on the grounds that they're not "doing" feminism, but merely "bitching" feminism. The other commenters on her post definitely had interesting things to say. Cognitive Dissenter says definitely not. You must go over and check out her post because the accompanying comic was perfect. I'm torn. I feel like they're doing as much as they can in their circumstance, which is being under emotional blackmail if they step too far out of line. Bitching on a blog is about as far as they can go if they want to retain their membership, and therefore salvation.

Let's appeal to the entry on feminism:
the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rightsof women equal to those of men.
sometimes initial capital letter an organized movementfor the attainment of such rights for women.
So belief in equality for women and/or an organized movement to attain that equality. How are we defining "equality"? I think all of the FMHers would say that they believe in equality for women, and indeed, the party line among even the highest ranking male priesthood authorities is that men and women are equal. But the equality they offer looks a hell of a lot like the "separate but equal" bullshit of the pre-Civil Rights American South. The women are designated their domain from which they are not to stray. Noticing this when I came back to the Church after being away for two years was one of the factors that led me to question:
I realized that the bishop or one of his councilors would often sit in on the women's Relief Society meeting, checking in and presiding, but knew that it would be unheard of for the Relief Society president to visit the men's Elder's Quorum meeting. Women were only allowed to preside over other women or children.
The priesthood always has the final say on interpreting doctrine or issuing judgments. So you can't preside or make any decisions of consequence unless you have a penis. And when only the people with penises have a say in whether something is equal, that doesn't strike me as equal.

I think the FMHers have flawed ideas about what constitutes equality, which I think are founded on flawed premises, but I don't presume to know better than they do what their path to happiness in this life should be. 

CD points out that taking a Women's Studies course at BYU doesn't make you a feminists. Incidentally, taking a women's studies course was one of the lynchpins in sealing the fate of my "testimony." It was six months after being re-baptized and trying desperately to fit myself back into this mold that I hadn't even realized was confining me. All my life, I'd been taught that feminists were evil, bitter, spiteful, men-hating women who spit on stay-at-home moms and have abortions for fun. Taking that class was like coming up for oxygen after having my head held under the ocean by some very heavy hands. Everything I learned in that class seemed so much more compassionate and sensible than anything I heard at church, not just about women, but about homosexuals and other marginalized groups as well. This was all stuff I had wanted to think and believe all along but was continually told I shouldn't. Ever since learning what feminism was about from feminists themselves, I've been proud to call myself a feminist.

And Mormonism in its current state, completely incompatible with feminism.


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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mortality, age and luck

It's odd how random memories sometimes pop up for no apparent reason. Today I remembered an elderly neighbor that I used to go visit when I was 8 or 9 years old. It wasn't out of charity; I liked her. I don't think she was just indulging me either. She'd invite me in and we'd sit and talk for at least a couple hours every visit. I can't even remember what about. I just remember it was a mutual interchange that flowed effortlessly. I've rarely known conversations like that, even in my adult life.

I think we gave each other some mutual validation. I was a lost-in-the-crowd middle child, she an occupationless--and therefore invisible--widow.

The elderly are marginalized in our culture. We quarantine them in retirement communities and nursing homes. Our discomfort at being reminded of age, decay and our own inevitable demises makes us unwilling to associate with those who have gained wisdom through experience, to our own detriment. We get impatient when we're stuck behind old people in traffic. I don't they drive slow because they're bad drivers. I think they drive slow because they know--on a level that the young cannot--that few things in life warrant hurrying.

I was at the library a few months ago. The local senior center is in the same building. In the restroom, I heard two old women conversing in their stalls. "My friend Arlene just found out she has cancer in three different places. And she is the sweetest person you will ever meet." As though sweetness ought to be an inoculation against mortality. Later I watched all the senior citizens climbing into their van, stooped and straining at the effort of an activity that I take for granted. But instead of pitying them, I realized, If I am lucky, someday that will be me. If I am lucky, someday I will be old.

My friend from childhood is no doubt long since dead, and I can't remember her name.


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