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


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


  1. I'd never hard this song before, but it gave me shivers listening to it just now. I've been through a lot of questioning about organizing religion. I do still believe in God, but one thing I gave up on was any kind of proselytizing. How on earth do I know I have all the answers, or any of them at all? I pretty much take it as a given that I've misinterpreted at least something in the beliefs I've arrived at. I'm going to have to get a copy of this song. Thanks for the video!

  2. They got so much wrong and made up all the rest. Maybe there is not ONE thing to get wrong -- maybe, instead, it is about getting everything right. That is a huge task and thus a sense of humor is needed. But the cheap shot is to make it all about ONE -- and since that ain't real, you've got to make up a story to carry your laziness.

  3. Sabio, I grew up with so much black and white thinking, being told
    constantly that the Church was either all good or all bad. And I knew there
    was some good, so I performed all sorts of mental looped-y-loops to justify
    the bad.

    Turning off that all or nothing thinking is something I still struggle with,
    realizing that nothing is either all good or all bad. Life is complicated.
    Thinking about writing a post about this.

  4. Elizabeth, I grew up being told we had all the answers. Even when I
    concluded that there was no God almost two years ago, then I thought I had
    all the answers about there being no answers. The last year or so has been
    about realizing how much there is that I never knew that I never knew. I've
    been told that's the beginning of wisdom, so I'm crossing my fingers.


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism