Friday, February 11, 2011

Reassessing my path and stance

I have been thinking about this primary song today.
“I believe in being honest,
I believe in being true,
That honesty should start with me,
In all I say in all do.”
There is more to the song but this is the part that I remember. This was one of those childhood lessons that I took to heart. I have always tried very hard to be an honest person. I value integrity. Putting those words down, saying that I value honesty, sounds a little bit funny and a bit hypocritical in a way. I think of all the years I spent in the closet lying to myself and hiding from the world and that does not look honest. I am not calling myself or people in the closet liars. That is really not what I mean. I think we deal with things as we can and some things just have to be put off.

Just because I was not lying to myself on purpose per se does not mean that the great efforts to hold that closet door closed did not have consequences. That kind of dishonesty and the consequences spawned by it are intense. I have not really talked a lot about those consequences in my life specifically but have alluded to them. I have learned to identify that the first consequence that comes from being dishonest with myself tends to be feelings of sadness, depression and withdrawal from the world around me. On the other side of that, honesty with myself leads to greater happiness, purpose and more of a connection to the world.

This last year has been a pretty happy year. I have worked hard to be more honest with myself. I have been more honest with myself this last year than I have ever been before. The last few weeks though I have felt myself slipping a little bit. I have felt myself not being honest with myself and I have begun to retreat.

Some who read the blog regularly have managed to read between the lines and have noticed this change in tone and have emailed me or left comments. I have appreciated that.  You guys are wonderful. I love this little online community that we have going here.

Over the last few days I have begun to confront the areas where I am lying to myself and it all has to do with belief (shocking right?!). I am not comfortable as an agnostic. I have been trying to let go of God. I am not entirely sure why. Perhaps I have wanted to shed my belief in God because it simplifies so many things in the world if there is no god. Every time I come close to feeling like I really no longer believe I think back on the spiritual experiences I have had throughout my life and I pull back from the edge.

I have read several articles and watched several reports and movies about the research being conducted trying to explain spiritual experiences. The research is interesting and yet I do not feel like it truly or fully explains some of the spiritual things I have felt over the years. In some ways I think if evolution has created a species that needs to believe in or is inclined to believe in God why should I fight it?

I did not ever really believe in the Mormon god. I had a hard time reconciling aspects of the church the god that my spiritual encounters seemed to reveal to me. Yet despite this disconnect I still felt that God was tied to the church. As I let go of the church I simultaneously let go of God or thought I had to let go of God. 

When I left the church I still believed in god. I actually prayed for a few months leading up to my resignation from the church. My bishop is a good guy but he found it a bit amusing that I prayed about my resignation. I told the bishop when I met with him that I knew whose hands I was entrusting my life too as I made the decision to leave. I find myself thinking back on those months a year ago and stand by my decision to resign. I don’t believe in the church, a literal belief is no longer possible for me, or at the least an orthodox belief is no longer possible, however, I am starting to think that I was wrong in feeling that resigning meant forsaking all things Mormon. In fact in light of recent inner struggles I am starting to think some things need to be re-embraced.

I want to thank Bravone, J G-W, Trevor, Steven Fehr, and Trev (who commented on my blog but I don’t think has a blog of his own). Their posts, comments, emails and interviews over the last few days have come together in very meaningful ways for me. 


  1. Thanks for pointing me to Trevor's blog... I found his audio post on attending Church strangely moving... And thanks for this post too.

  2. You are welcome. The audio post that I linked on Trevor's blog really sums up a lot of my thinking two years ago. He reminds me of where I was at right before I really left though I think he is making different choices than I did.

  3. Kiley, have you heard about James Fowler's Stages of Faith?

    I heard about them a couple of years ago. Seems that most members (LDS and others) hardly ever make it past the 2nd or 3rd stage. What most of us "exmos" often times experience is going beyond --the conflict/anger, evaluation or possibly bargaining and then the acceptance of just what it means to have faith--some of them do this by returning to their religion of origin and some are just happy being outsiders. Take a look and see if anything resonates. Good luck on your quest, isn't if funny how this quest never seems to end?

  4. I had half listened to a podcast on them way back at the beginning of last year. I was not really in place to take them in at that point. I should look into them again.

    I am kind of starting to hate how this quest does not seem to end... Miguel I love you! ((Hugs)) Next time I come to Utah I will get over my social anxiety and call you!!!

  5. Is it odd that seeing people talk about me makes me feel special! Kiley your awesome and I hope one day to meet you!

  6. @Trevor - I hope special in a good way! I think you are pretty great too. You live in Oregon right? My sister lives about 30 minutes southwest of Portland. I may be visiting her this summer. Which could also mean seeing you if you are around.

  7. Special in anyway it means! lol. Uh yeah totally! We could conviene a Boys Night Out (BNO) just for you!

    What city does she live in?

  8. I have learned to identify that the first consequence that comes from being dishonest with myself tends to be feelings of sadness, depression and withdrawal from the world around me. On the other side of that, honesty with myself leads to greater happiness, purpose and more of a connection to the world.

    I completely agree with this!

    And you know what, this idea is one of the ideas that has led me to realize that I don't choose what I believe. Because when I "try" to force myself to believe one way or another -- and it's not authentic, then I can feel the effects.

    So I find your struggles in trying to "let go of God" (especially in order to "simplify" so many things) really tragic. Because for me, if I could tell anyone anything, it wouldn't be to tell them to believe anything specific other than what makes sense to their experience. If that includes a higher power, so be it. If not, then so be it.

    As you have started to realize, one of the things that must happen is to cut away false dichotomies. For example, it's not EITHER the church OR no god. The church doesn't have a monopoly there.

  9. @Trevor - To be honest I can't remember what the town she actually lives in is called... She does all of her shopping in McMinville (sp?) which is about 15 minutes away from where she lives.

    @Andrew - That is an interesting take on things. I agree with you that we don't choose what believe either, at least to a point. This belief in God of mine for example... It makes sense that there is no god. The world the way it is, how it was formed, the conditions that exist make sense and can more or less be explained. IT is pretty logical that there is no god. YET I still believe in one form or another. You said something in the podcast that I may be taking out context right now, but my belief in god is based on no logical evidence at all. It IS based on subjective personal experience and it is somehow enough to override logic...

    I do think that we can influence our own beliefs through study and careful analysis... I believed in the church and don't anymore. I believed in Santa Clause and don't anymore. In these cases evidence to the contrary did resolve those beliefs.

  10. Yeah, I focus on the subjective, and I think that is a good interpretation to have.

    I think people are so caught up in objectivity that they don't realize that really, there is one thing that every photo and every video will have in common, which most people won't even notice: the lens. The lens will define and distort how we interface with the data.

    But I don't think that subjectivity goes AGAINST logic. Rather, I think that subjectivity becomes a PART of logic. After all, all logic is is a method of appropriately moving from premises to conclusions. But can't one premise be, "My subjective experiences are meaningful to me"?

    Some people will say that subjective experiences just aren't good enough. But then again, they are just working under a different premise. They don't have a monopoly on logic.

    Careful analysis, then, isn't logic "overriding" experiences. Because evidence (whether internal or external) must be *personally* compelling, either way.

  11. I love the camera lens explanation. (I was a photography major once upon a time...) I am not sure that it is a perfect comparison though. Different filters and lenses may enhance or bring out different aspects of the scene they are shooting. Lenses and filters are not adding characteristics that were not already there though. Subjectivity allows us to add thing to "reality" that were never there before...

    Maybe "subjectivity" is more like photoshop than the lenses and filters.

    "My subjective experiences are meaningful to me?"

    I am starting to agree with this question and may have to write a longer response to it.

  12. Kiley,

    I do not think subjectivity allows us to add things to the "reality" that were never there before.

    If I had to improve upon my analogy, consider if the camera itself had some kind of dust or something inside it that caused it to malfunction or create artifacts. Then, these things would make their way into the photo as well. Are these things not a part of reality? Well, the camera is part of reality, just like the lens is, just like whatever you're shooting is.

    And, as you suggest, there's always photoshop ;)

    So, I think the next thing to point out is...we have a lens, yes, but our brains (which is our post-processing, our dark room, our automatic touchups) are known to be faulty in certain ways. (Have you ever seen the website: "You Are Not So Smart"?)

    I guess it's a copout, but subjectivity cannot allow us to add things to reality that weren't there before...because every part of "subjectivity" as an objective component -- your brain, your senses, etc.,

    "My subjective experiences are meaningful to me?"

    I am starting to agree with this question and may have to write a longer response to it.

    I'll be looking forward to it!

  13. That is a very interesting way to look at it. Yes, the camera is absolutely real and of course the photos it took would be different from other cameras. Hmmmm.

    This is sort of messing with my head a little bit. Things can be real just because they are real to the a specific person, or better for a specific person and the lenses and artifacts that are unique to them.

    I think I have started to realize that you can't view the world sans lenses. You can't stare directly at reality. There is a certain amount of subjectivity that we have to accept.

  14. Really maybe not just accept subjectivity but in some ways maybe it should be embraced?

  15. I'd go as far as to say that the dichotomy between "subjectivity" and "objectivity" is a false one.

    Really, when we think of "objectivity" we are thinking of something like SHARED subjectivity. What exists that we both can look at and have a similar understanding of? In other words, if you have different cameras all pointed at the same spot, then regardless of the differences in lenses and camera bodies, there will be some thing shared in them. Maybe that's what we normally call "objective"?

    I'll say one final thing, switching to a different metaphor. This kinda relates to whether subjective experiences come from the brain and are purely internal or if they can come from the outside.

    So, think of a radio station. The radio station broadcast across some range in so many directions, but it cannot be recognized unless you have proper equipment (a radio) tuned a certain way (to a certain frequency).

    So, if there is a radio that is picking up some signal, it might APPEAR that the signal is coming from inside the radio...We can look inside the radio and see how the mechanics work inside the radio. But to people who know about electromagnetics, the real story is that the signal doesn't come from *inside*. Rather, the signal comes from outside and it is the properly tuned specialized equipment that picks it up.

    So, what if we applied this to spiritual equipment. Modern scientific understanding does not see the "radio waves" and it can't trace to a radio station, so it currently says, "Spiritual experiences come from inside the brain." But what if the brain is simply a radio that, when properly tuned, receives radio waves from outside?

    It can go either way. We just don't know enough. Both are logically *valid* explanations -- we just don't know which of them is the actual explanation.

  16. That makes sense. I had never thought of objectivity as being joint-subjectivity, but it really does make sense. It would also back up why we seek out people or gravitate towards people that have similar lenses to us. More in common in...

    I am not sure why but I thought you were agnostic or atheist. What are your views? I suppose that understanding spirituality really does not require a belief in God either though. That may be a false dichotomy as well...

  17. I am an agnostic atheist (if that makes any sense).

    Basically, in the radio station vs. all-from-inside-head analogy, it makes more sense to me to think about the latter. I just have to recognize that the former IS a valid possibility. I don't think I understand spirituality that much, except in an academic sense. I definitely don't understand it from a feeling/experience point of view, because I don't have those experiences.


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