Why I Don’t Believe

To be clear: It’s not that I believe there is no god, I just don’t believe there is a god. I don’t know if it can be known, and I don’t care. To the question, “God?,” there are three possible answers: “yes,” “no,” and “I don’t know.” I do not respond with any of these answers. I just don’t answer the question.

This is a longer post than I like writing. I’m sorry. The length is necessary in order to be sufficiently clear and precise.

Earlier in my life, I believed there was no god, which is not the same thing as no belief, which is where I am now. Before that, I believed that there was a god–a very specific God. This God comes from the Mormon theology and tradition. I also believed that my interpretation of what God was like was superior to most everyone else’s, as is typical of believers. I was right, and they were wrong, and I knew something that can’t be known. This is the basis, structure, and fundamental inauthenticity of all religion and belief.

How I went from believing in God, to believing there is no god, is interesting, unorthodox, difficult to explain and difficult to understand. I find that most people don’t get it when I explain it; maybe I’ll need to re-write this later. Please be considerate in your response. I’m not interested in formulating a belief in God or in not-god, or in whether or not it can be known. I have given quite enough fucks and need give no more.

Being gay [1] and Mormon, I faced a kind of crisis, since Mormonism isn’t really compatible with people who are gay. There are hacks that allow it to work, at least for a while, but I was strongly committed to doing the Right Thing (TM) and wanted to make damn sure I knew what that was. I did not trust what I was being taught. Trust has to be earned.

In the Mormon tradition, a single source of information is not enough. Truth is established in more than one witness. The most important are the scriptures, the words of living prophets, and personal revelation. (In recent years, some leaders have tried to remove personal revelation from the equation, replacing it with blind obedience. These men are stupid and evil.) The Mormon canon is further divided: there is the Bible, which is mostly complete, but has some problems; the Book of Mormon, which is less complete but has many fewer problems; and the Doctrine and Covenants, which consists of the writings of men who are dead now, but who lived more recently than about 1800 CE. I realize this may seem irrelevant, but it will come into play here soon.

All of my free time was taken up with this question: what should I do with myself, as someone who is gay and had a very strong personal testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the Mormon tradition, according to my understanding of it? This question was my life from about 2001 – 2006. What I learned in that time was that there were no reliable sources on which I could depend for an honest answer. I found lots of data points, and none of them could be trusted. The Bible has vanishingly little to say on the subject. The rest of the Mormon canon has literally nothing. The words of modern Church authorities could not be trusted, since they stood on their own, and reflected popular opinions of the day. More frighteningly, the men who had originally put together the Church’s position on “homosexuality” in the 1950’s and 1960’s, said pretty clearly that what they created was not revelation from God, since there was no need to bother God with questions whose answers we already knew. (Knew? From where? And what happened to the attitude of church founder Joseph Smith, who asked every question he could think of, and challenged every assumption he could find? But I digress.)

So I made a friend, who was extremely knowledgeable in ancient documents that didn’t make it into the Canon. After about 2 years digging through all of that, we were certain of just one thing: there were no answers to be had, anywhere. There was precedent for allowing gay unions, and precedent for denying them. There was precedent for giving gay people elevated status in society, and there was precedent for burning them at the stake. And none of it could be trusted.

Something important happened while I was too focused on my studies to notice what I was learning. I gained a razor-sharp focus on the kind of man God wanted me to be. Even more, my image of the kind of man I wanted to be, changed to match what God wanted for me. God’s Big Ideas came into focus, and the distractions and minutia melted away.

The first commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. If you love God, you keep His commandments, and you feed his sheep. The first commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. On these hang all the law and the prophets. And when you look at it that way, life gets very simple.

Skip forward to September of 2007. An amazing thing happened to me, or I happened to it; whatever. I did The Landmark Forum, and got A LOT of stuff straight in my life: I renewed a lot of friendships that I had spoiled, cured my eating disorder, tripled my income, bought a new pickup truck that works (still have it), and created a new future for myself. And I realized, after a while, a paradox. You see, results come from actions, and actions come from being. If the result I’m after is to be the kind of man I think God wants me to be, I must ensure that the actions I take are consistent with that outcome, so I must ensure that who I am being is some way that will produce those actions. I looked at religion and religious people, and could not see a way to be religious and fulfill my eternal destiny. In fact, the only way I could see myself becoming the kind of person that God and I wanted me to be . . .

. . . was to become an atheist. To live for now; like there is no God, no afterlife, and no meaning. Like this is it. This is it.

This . . . this is IT!

You get ONE life, just one, and if you wanted more than one, you picked the wrong religion.

It’s a paradox, and I fought it for a while, and then I got used to it. This paradox is safe to ignore. As it turns out, being an atheist wasn’t hard. I always liked hard sciences and it was easy to accept logic, reason, and science to explain what I could, and not worry about questions I couldn’t answer. Instead of worrying about what I believed, I could focus on who I was being, and what actions I took, and what I got as a result.

One thought on “Why I Don’t Believe

  1. […] mind, because knowing requires that the mind not be clear. It’s a paradox. Unlike paradoxes I’ve spoken of before, this one isn’t just safe to ignore: it’s worth actively investigating, paying […]

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