Sunday, November 21, 2010


Hello (hopefully) smiling faces! I'm a newby to Outer Blogness and can now be found at the Main Street Plaza! As a taste for what I normally shoot for when I'm not over stressed and writing more (*boring*) personal stuff, here's my latest (and first) contribution to the USU-SHAFT site. If I ever survive this semester, I've got plans for more :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quickie-Church Resignation

So, I just laid out the final version of my semester to-do list and realized that, once again, I've screwed myself into cramming 16 weeks into 2 weeks. Good thing I do my best work under pressure. Still, I wanted to pop over and say hello to the blogosphere since it's given me so much in terms of procrastination.
I've been checking out some great blogs, notably Molly Muses and Pure Mormonism. These are two very thoughtful and intelligent bloggers with very different styles and perspectives.
Anywho, I'm trying to blog a little to calm my nerves so I can focus on my mountain of homework (and for a graduate student, that means something very different than for an undergrad).
I've been thinking a lot lately about resigning from the church and having my name officially removed from their records. It's an issue on which I am very torn and looking for opinions and advice (come on you three followers, I know if I believe hard enough you'll hear me). In my typical fashion, I've broken it into a list (generously speaking) of pros and cons

1. My family will be devastated.
The church is everything to them and, despite our differences and arguments, they ARE my family. I don't want to hurt them.
2. I'm a doubting Thomas, no matter where I go.
I'm an agnostic with the road running solidly both ways. Yes, I lean toward atheism and 99% of the time, I'm sure the church isn't true. I'm angry at its sexism, racism and homophobia and I know logically that the Book of Mormon was never very solid for me. Still, there is that tiny little part of me that felt those things and believed them, that little part that is terrified of the eternal retribution I've supposedly earned for myself. Removing my name changes me in that sense, so I was never baptised, etc. I'm worried that I'll be empty (which is silly and holds to the elitism so often seen amongst members of the church. I was well brainwashed indeed).
3. It's like voting.
Does my one little gesture really make any tiff of difference to LDS, Inc.?

1. It's like voting.
One might not make a difference, but I still feel obligated to do my tiny part in affecting the numbers.
2. Freedom of Association
I don't want my name associated with an organization that so diligently impinges on the rights and free will of others.
3. The Church TM is unethical in plenty more ways than one.
The ethics of my profession prescribe that I not adhere to the practices of unethical organizations. The Church Inc.'s advocation of "Reparative" therapies for LGBT individuals makes them unethical in the eyes of my profession. I'd rather choose the APA any day.
4. I want to send a message
However small, I want the people who see my letter (even if there is only one who reads it) to know that I didn't leave because I was lazy or wanting to sin. I left because what they do is wrong, what they teach is wrong and because they are abandoning and abusing some of their most diligent members. I left because they have created a culture that is both exclusive and harmful in society.

So, tell me what you think. Most of my friends who have left (a small number in itself) report that they don't really feel any different. Is it worth it to send an angry letter to an office building full of elitist white men in expensive, tithing-purchased suits that will never give it a second glance? I really don't know.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brace Yourselves, I'm Pissed.

Not that there are comments on my blog anyway (3 loyal followers, that might mean I'm questioning your existence), but brace yourselves for a personal entry, potentially filled with frustration and mirth.

I get frustrated with school. I get frustrated with people. Hell, I get ridiculously frustrated with the media, politics and media politics. All those things aside, I find that my levels of frustration are well within the normal bounds of average humanity. The one exclusion: The LDS Church.

Currently, I'm so frustrated, preoccupied and brain-dead, that I'm sitting behind my laptop, blogging to a seemingly empty Internet (excluding porn, since that makes up like 90% of the internet) as I watch "Child's Play" for the first time in my life. Despite the questionable acting, generic script and notably outdated effects, I'll admit that I was honestly jumpy and suspended until Chucky fully came to life on camera. Then it became a comedy. God, how I long for the 80s sometimes.

Anyway, I've been reading a bit about Brigham Young, and I have to say he was never a man of whom I was too horribly fond. After reading a sermon from his journal of discourses, I like him even less. In what I believe to be a therapeutic statement, I may even go as far as to call him an asshole.

Also, how does a 3lb. doll have the weight, strength and force to strangle a full grown man with a pair of heavy-duty insulated cables? And where did Chucky pick up that butcher knife? The cop doesn't seem stupid enough to just keep one in his back seat...

But back to my point: I go to read things like that (seriously, get acquainted with Brigham Young's wives and you'll wonder how he got a University named after him) to remind myself why I left the church. The church leaders have a consistent track record for only one thing of which I am aware: planting preconceptions of why people leave the church. One of the most common supposed reasons is rebellion. We leave because being Mormon is too hard. In a way, that's true, but it's not that I got lazy or just wanted to rebel (and yes, my sister genuinely thought for a while that I left just to spite our parents. It's been oodles of fun). I left because I was lied to, because I was tired of ignoring my common sense, tired of defending something that gave me nothing but disappointment and rejection in return. It gets exhausting and lying to yourself about existential things that affect the very fabric of your existence is indeed hard.

Unfortunately, when your entire family is Mormon, LDS inc. is the gift that keeps on-a-givin'. I want to live with my partner, but "it will break [my mother's] heart," because it's against church values. We're already living together anyway, just not formally. But fine; I want to elope because I'm plenty ready to be married to my partner and I want to live with him. BUT, "it will break [my mother's] heart." The place I pay rent for is both uncomfortable and unwelcoming. My roommate informed me that having a roommate is beneath her. But I have to stay in this situation because of the arbitrary values of a bunch of old white men in suites. My parents want me to have an actual wedding with actual people in an actual wedding dress.

I just want to fucking get married. And frankly, I don't want my family there. Whenever we talk about it, there's the comment "Of course we want you to get married in the temple but we're still happy for you. We still want to share that with you." In other words, "Congratulations on your honorable mention." I honestly don't want a wedding. I'm weird, I know, but I've NEVER wanted a big wedding. I've always wanted the minimum, because for me, it's about being married, not getting married.
I'm very private about my relationships, especially intimacy. The level of emotional intimacy I need to trust some one enough to commit to them for the rest of my life is not something I want to make a spectacle out of. It's my private business and I'll share it with my partner, thank you very much. That's just my style. I watched my extended family bitch about my cousin's wedding. Yes, his wife is a little high maintenance, but the elitist, "this is second-rate" attitude was palpable. I don't want any of that "It's not in the temple but it's still nice" bullshit ruining the happiest day of my life. It's a wonderful, damnit, and that's it. No buts about it.

So to summarize, my options that don't "break my [mother's] heart" are: 1. continue paying overpriced rent for a shack where I'm not welcome in order to satisfy the values of a bunch of men who don't know me or deserve my respect, 2. uh... well, I guess there's just the one. Nothing about this is fair.

Oh, did I mention the quote from my dad: "We'd rather you elope to city hall with a JoP and than move in together."
...But if I elope they'll be heartbroken. Because they'll miss my honorable mention wedding.

The old biggots in white suits are still dictating my happiness. Awesome.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A (hopefully) Thoughtful Response to Boyd K. Packer

In the words of Elie Wiesel,

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human
beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality
helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never
the tormented."

So, I will not be silent. You are probably wondering what all the ruckus is about (or probably not). Well, here's a video to get you started. Full talk here, for those of you worried about context.

Frankly, putting it into context doesn't help anything for me. President Packer's words are still as biting and hurtful in the full talk as they are in the segment. I am frustrated and alarmed that he can preach such ignorance from the pulpit, a pulpit with literally millions of listeners. Four things stood out most (hopefully my contempt is minimized for the sake of sound argument).

1. You're not born with your gayness
What he said: "Some suppose that they were pre-set and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?"
Why it hurts: If not God, who do we credit for bringing homosexuality into the world? This is truly a step backwards because it reinforces the old-school idea that it is the fault of the individual or his/her parents. Some one did something horribly wrong that resulted in this person being gay. God didn't do it, you did it to yourself. The problem is that we don't know what we did or when we did it.
Why it is wrong: It is the norm for same-sex attraction to emerge around the onset of puberty, when everyone else is starting to feel opposite-sex attractions. What could a child (A CHILD!) have done to be labeled "impure and unnatural," and punished with loneliness for the rest of his/her natural life? This kind of logic tells us that we are inherently flawed but we cannot understand why. It is the equivalent of putting a 6-year-old in time-out for 24/7 and not giving him any idea why he got there. All he knows is that he is a bad boy.
And, of course, the scientific evidence that sexual orientation is largely genetic is ever-mounting. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Holy Grail: a lecture from a BYU professor of biology on the biological evidence for homosexuality.

2. Your gayness can be cured
What he said: "You can if you will, break the habits and conquer the addiction and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the church...'Wo unto them who call evil good and good evil...'"
Why it hurts: Imagine a person who has spent his entire life as a devout mormon. He's struggled since childhood with an attraction to males, but he never acted on it. He breaks down and tells his family when he is 19. They send him to repairative therapy, telling him he can be "fixed." What is wrong with him? He is a gentle, compassionate person who is trying to be honest with his family and himself. Hearing from your family and from the church leaders you trust that you, a well-adjusted, decent human being who strives every day to be Christ-like, need to be repaired.
Why it is wrong: Repairative therapy does not work. Here are the APA's definitions and explanations on their website. Here's a report from their task force. This isn't even the anecdotal evidence that people seem to love so much. I can point you to at least 3 people (just off the top of my head) who have been through repairative therapy. Not only are they still full of gayness, but they concluded "therapy" emotionally and psychologically beaten and scarred. Not everyone in the LGBT community has the "luxury" of being bisexual. At least I have some hope of pleasing these old white men in suits because I can marry a member of the opposite sex and be perfectly happy. That's the difference though, I can be happy. I get to choose my partner because I love him, not because I have to. The only paths LGT individuals have that are "Packer-friendly" are 1) to suppress their sexual orientation and fake a happy marriage to some one they are not attracted to or 2) spend their life celibate. The first is a clear violation of the church's principles of honesty and integrity, while the second is a violation of the laws of nature. Humans are intensely social animals and to spend life without sex, one of our most intensely social experiences is unhealthy. Even more unhealthy is to spend our lives alone. We need to be cuddled, to hold hands. In developing children, touch causes the brain to release the adrenocorticotropic hormone, needed for growth of brain and body. Without it we whither away. Do not ask the most social beings on earth to spend their entire lives alone. A just God would not ask that of only some of his children, nor would a compassionate God ask it of any.

3. Voting for your gayness is stupid and futile
What he said: "[T]here are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality. As if a vote could somehow alter the designs of God's laws of nature. A law against nature would be impossible to enforce. For instance, what good would the law against--vote against the law of gravity do?"
Why it hurts: First off, do I even need to address how ludicrous and insultingly unworkable his comparison to voting against gravity really is? Because I will if I need to. Packer is saying that same-sex marriage is completely immoral. Let me rephrase that: two people who love each other, committing to be love and support each other for the rest of their lives, through good times and bad, is immoral. Two people finding love, comfort, acceptance and understanding in one another amidst a title wave of intolerance is immoral.
Why it is wrong: He is passing judgement. Judgement upon something he does not understand. He is also reiterating the age-old argument that homosexuality is unnatural and against the laws of nature. Please refer to the above "Holy Grail" link for my response to that. There is also the notion that such a "law against nature would be impossible to enforce." In his words, "not so." If it's legal for gay people to get married, gay people are going to get married, the world will keep spinning and the Mets will still suck. It's that simple.
4. If your gayness wins, we all lose
What he said: "History demonstrates over and over again that moral standards cannot be changed by battle and cannot be changed by ballot. To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as sure as night follows day."
Why it hurts: I'll admit, this one is more ludicrous than than its predecessor, so much so that it is hardly as painful as a pinch on the arm from a 2-year-old.
Why it is wrong: Conversely, this section has me stumped for where to begin. First off, history is full of civilizations that thought they were doing what was ok. There was a lot of conquering going on and history is written by the victors. That's really all there is to it. If we conquer our enemies, odds are that we're going to brag about how "righteous" we were and how "wicked" they were. But the truth is, history as we know it can be pretty biased and the Founding Fathers were actually dicks sometimes. Slightly visceral reaction, right? Well, there might be the same reaction if I say the Israelites conquered Canaan and justified their war with religion. It's ok, it's the same with Islam and Catholicism. My point is, "History demonstrates" is a highly inadequate platform for an argument. We can certainly learn from events in history, but the only thing history seems to really "demonstrate" is that people try to justify everything with religion.
I would also like to add a mention of the Church's old stance against blacks. Brigham Young said: 1) "We knew that the children of Ham (African Americans) were to be the "servant of servants," and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them" (JoD, vol. 2, p. 172).
2) "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so" (JoD, vol. 10, p. 110)

Elder Packer, a brave president issued the Emmancipation Proclaimation and freed the slaves, and after a long and courageous struggle, Black Americans have achieved the equality they deserved all along. Though you have before, I dare you to support Young's statement now. I dare you.

This law of which he speaks can be changed by a ballot and someday it will. I have faith (yes, faith!) in the rising generation of Americans. I cling to hope that they will outgrow the trivial and intolerant lessons of their predecessors, just as those predecessors came forward from the racism and intolerance of their own parents and grandparents. Intellectualism is my religion and more of my peers are seeking it. The time for these old bigoted lessons in sheep's clothing is limited.

I believe in progress. I believe in people.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Case for Freedom FROM Religion

If anyone has any suggestions for a direction to take this sucker, message or comment. I'm afraid I have too much going on in my head to keep anything organized. It helps if I have specific topics to keep everything from getting too caddywampus.

Suppose we'll start here:
Glenn Beck. Fuck you.

No, but in all seriousness, Glenn Beck stands as an awe-inspiring reminder of the dangers of free speech. He is the voice of the ignorant and small-minded. Granted, he has moments that make me want to shake his hand, and others that make me want to roll his head.

I'm ashamed to say that I abandoned my principles today (as an atheist I'm not supposed to have any anyway) and sat down to watch Glenn Beck. I contributed to his viewership and I am so, so sorry.
Amidst some bunk and planted definitions from his very Aryan audience, the topic of today's episode dealt with why Freedom of Religion doesn't mean Freedom from Religion.

Here's a fun activity: go to this website, hit ctrl + f, and type in the word "religion." 3 matches right? 2 of them are in titles on the page. Now type the word "God." No matches? Interesting. Here is the part of the Constitution that mentions religion, the 1st amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances"
Right there, that's it. Those 44 words comprise the American obsessions of freedom of religion, speech and the press. What Beck and so many of his followers are calling for is a religious government, a Christian government. Not a theocracy, but a Christian government. The only way I can understand that is that they want to declare Christianity the official religion in the U.S. Never mind the impracticality and total lack of hope for making members of each denomination agree on policy, let's look at the legality and principle.

1. The establishment of a national religion means that only the religious will have a voice. It negates the existence and opinions of the non religious. Keep that in mind when you recall that over 90% of practicing physicians and roughly 70% of psychologists are not affiliated with a particular religion.
2. In a rather redundant statement, the establishment of a "religious government" discounts the opinions, beliefs and thoughts of the people who are not religious. Again, keep the doctors and scientists in mind. You know, the people who brought you little conveniences like modern medicine? What Beck is calling for is tyranny of the majority.

3. Justice is blind. TRUE justice is blind. It does not know race, sexual orientation, national origin, biological sex, gender-identity, etc. It knows ACTIONS and it judges them with complete objectivity. The justice for which Beck and his cronies are calling is fake justice, it is tyranny of the majority. They claim that they are being oppressed by the non-religious minority, but the reality is that the majority opinion is not always right. Large numbers of people are not always a source for good ideas. That last reference had 4 million members at one point. But, seriously. I'm really not struggling for examples.

4. Plain and simple, the establishment of a national religion is a direct violation of the first amendment. To declare Christianity the primary religion of the United States would require the passage of a law, which Congress is to make none of respecting the establishment of religion and the free practice thereof.

Because I'm a bit of a nerd, I was researching Joseph Goebbels earlier today and some interesting parallels struck me. I'm certainly not suggesting that the government has a branch devoted to propaganda (a triumph for the first amendment), but it is ridiculous to say that propaganda does not still exist. To say that any news media is "fair and balanced" is a silly notion. Everyone wants to sell issues of their paper, everyone wants viewers and everyone has sponsors. To varying extents, you have to say what they tell you to say and show what the people want to see. Even if that's not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

While I think extreme patriotism can be dangerous, I am proud of my heritage as an American and I am limitlessly thankful for the priceless rights outlined for me in my country's constitution. My problem is that people like Glenn Beck threaten those great rights.

I'm certainly no purveyor of apocalyptic, doomsday ideology; on the contrary, I think America's best years could very realistically lie before us. That is why I hesitate to make this comparison, but I think it is vitally important to learn from the mistakes of the past and if we cannot learn from WWII Germany, then history has all been in vain.

Anti-semitism was a growing ideology in Germany, especially during the depression that followed WWI. People typically dismiss anti-semitism as "bigoted" but I believe this does not dismiss it from warranting examination. It is the same breed of sentiment that oppressed blacks in the U.S. for so many years, the same mentality that fuels hate crimes across the globe. It is even akin to the ideology that fuels radical Muslim groups. It is a hatred for a particular group of people for reasons beyond known experience and fact. It is hatred because of difference in race, religion and/or lifestyle. Yes, Western "lifestyle" is fuel for extremist hatred, so don't think I'm just sitting here pushing the so-called "gay agenda." It is time we learned from the hate of our predecessors.

There is also the very prevalent argument that America was founded on "Christian values" and as a "Christian nation." The latter is something I have already addressed, but the former is something I find both ignorant and offensive. My values are no different than the average Christian: charity, hope, compassion. Faith is not one of my values because there are too many ways in which it is dangerous and misplaced. I see it as a form of submission to an unseen, inconsistent force.

To the religious right: we are not attacking you. We are not asking you to practice your faith in secret or to abandon your values. We are asking you to allow us the same courtesies you have. We are asking for equality. For Justice to be blind, she must not be religious.
Stop teaching religion in tax-dollar funded schools. Set us on equal ground. You can still pray there, but don't ask us to. You can still trust in God, but don't ask us to.

Stop telling the LGBT community they can't get married. They are not hurting you or trying to destroy your marriage. All they want is the same legal right you have. Nothing special. The catharsis of coming out is a costly one for so many people. Let them have a little peace and a white pickett fence with the consenting person of their choosing.
If all goes well, my next entry should address the idea of the "persecution complex." We'll see when it happens, school has been absorbing my life.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Between Heaven and Hell

I know what you're thinking, empty blogging space, "You said you'd go chronologically and cover your journey out of the LDS church!" Well...I'll get there...eventually. Right now I have something interesting that occurred the other day. And don't worry, it's religion-related; I'm not going to bore you with my less-than-exciting life of cleaning animal poop in a pet store day in and day out while Godzilla breathes fire down my neck between cigarettes. Sorry, I kind of hate my job and can't wait for school to start.

Anyway, I found that I am a child in limbo and it is highly possible that I will remain their until the end of my days. I was an insider, the overwhelming majority of my extended (and obviously immediate) family remains "on the inside," and my adult life and most of its favored people remain on the outside. I am caught in between.

I recently accompanied my partner to his parents' house where some of his father's cousins were visiting. One of them asked my partner what it was like to grow up out here and his response included the phrase "it's very Mormon out here." Well...that is a simple fact. It's Utah. There are a lot of Mormons. Mormons will tell you there are a lot of Mormons. Most of his friends growing up were not LDS and he knew people who wanted nothing to do with him when they found out he was not a member. Sadly, this is a common experience and my partner is certainly NOT the first person to communicate it.

What was odd was that I found myself wanting to defend the people, maybe because I am finally learning to separate my immediate family from my Mormon stereotype. I'm not proud to admit that I ever placed it upon them, but hey, things have been kind of rough. Anyway, my family are not Utah Mormons and that is something that I, unfortunately, say with great pride. All I could say to this inquiring man, who I will probably never see again was, "It's not supposed to be like that. Southern Mormons are so different than the ones out here. It's not supposed to be like that." And this is true. It isn't.

So here is my question: How is it supposed to be? One of the phrases I struggled with most as I left the church was "By their fruits ye shall know them." I saw the fruits of a large concentration of LDS members and they savored strongly of bitterness. In the region of the church headquarters, the city of its best-known university, and the two states with its highest concentration of faithful members, I saw a culture that even my still-devout family did not care for. To utilize the metaphor of the olive tree, it seemed to me that the tree had become wild. This idea was further cemented when I watched the church's actions in support of Proposition 8.

My quandary is this: who are the true mormons; the ones in the South who are loving and accepting, or the ones out here who are members of an exclusive club? Yes, it may be evident that the Southern mormons follow more closely the teachings and actions of Christ, but who are the Mormons? What are they really about anymore?


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We Were the Victims of Ourselves, Maybe the Children of a Lesser God

My original plan was to tackle this thing chronologically, but I've decided the following post has its place and that place is right here. Also, I must ask forgiveness for utilizing a popular song lyric as the title, it just seemed so fitting.

In a recent post on this quite interesting website, a friend of mine mentioned that most mormons seem to believe that people exit the church because they were offended.

"And you know what, I was offended. I was (and am) offended that the LDS Church would have me worship a god who perpetrated the above mass murder [refer to 3Nephi, 8 & 9]. And not just any god, but Christ--the prince of peace. On the cross, Christ (according to Luke's gospel) plead with the Father to forgive his killers. Are
we to honestly believe that this same Christ, just moments later, would burn, bury and drown 16 cities and their inhabitants? "
This comment, combined with my recent first viewing of this disturbing documentary has spurred me into writing this post.

It took a surprising amount of energy to keep myself from becoming truly angry and bitter when I left the church. In fairness, I must admit that I was not wholly successful, but have nevertheless made my finest effort in maintaining civility and understanding, offering respect where it is given in return. But I digress. The point is this: I'm angry.

Leaving a religion like Mormonism is rather difficult because you have all these glorious promises (being w/ your spouse for eternity, etc.) that suddenly disappear. Most would argue that they disappear because the one to receive them has rejected them. Not so. I'm afraid I must convey a bit of personal information in order to make my point. I've mentioned previously that I am bisexual, and I mean that in the true sense of the term. I haven't gotten curious after a series of negative experiences with the opposite sex and it's not that I'm just open to trying anything. For me, the experience of attraction to either sex is identical and has been since the onset of puberty.

Like any good closeted conservative christian, I spent my entire adolescence fighting and repressing it, an experience that I believe to be psychologically and emotionally debillitating. The religious explanation was that in the pre-existence (a concept fairly unique to mormons), I was a particularly strong spirit and was "blessed" with the challenge of overcoming this temptation that not everyone would have to face. I was born with it and had to accept that I would die with it. My mission was to find an obedient and loyal returned missionary to marry in the temple. After a number of what I believe to be valiant efforts, I encountered a particularly difficult experience in which I was forced to face my own repressed sexuality. When I told my boyfriend at the time just what I was (though I had no intentions to act on my inclinations toward females) he rather lost his cool. After 24 hours of silence and a phone call to his mother, he declared that he still loved me and could accept me. How noble, I know.

His mentality was frankly, not much different from my own, so his overreaction was exactly what I expected. Still, I felt slightly indignant that he should be so burdened by this very personal ordeal of mine. It seemed a bit too noble for him to declare he could still love me when he knew nothing of my personal experience and even used it as a method of abuse. In a way, I owe him for the pain because it woke me up. All he really did was emphasize what the church had told me all along: I was only worth the time if I rejected and ignored that part of myself. Still I fought it and after the relationship ended, I found myself praying about it, long after I thought I'd come to peace with the issue. "Heavenly Father," I said, "If it is your will, I will carry this burden for the rest of my life. If it means I must spend my life alone, I will do so if it is your plan for me." I was completely submissive and can honestly say that I had never said a more faithful prayer in my life. My answer was a very clear "No, you have proven yourself. This is no longer your burden to bear and I release you from it." What a powerful experience that was for me. I rose from my knees as the tears streamed from my face. Two weeks later, I discovered what a magnificent lie it had been; my attraction to women was no less than my attraction to men. My promise of freedom was only a reinstallation of the chains, after a decade of already-tested faith and unceasingly vigilant and damaging repression. My sexuality was no longer a struggle when I let go of God. Only then did I understand I was worth loving exactly as I was and am. It was neither pride, nor self-love. It was simply self-acceptance, one of the most potentially saving events in the human psychological experience.

So, why exactly am I angry? Most faithful mormons who hear this experience respond immediately with "Well maybe you misinterpreted it." Why thank you, I didn't even think of that a 479th time. Of course I considered that, but how do you misinterpret something that is as clear to you as the morning sun? I should also add that I questioned it at the time of the prayer and was given a firm "Yes." on my interpretation. "Well, we don't understand everything in this life." How is that a good enough answer when the contrary makes perfect sense? I was insulted to find everyone, my bishop, my friends and my own family, questioning me after a lifetime of being called a "spiritual rock." In the moment that something contradictory arose, I was the variable, because a lying God is not possible. God lied blatantly to my face, people. It wasn't a priesthood blessing that didn't come to pass, it wasn't a feeling, it was a promise, in words, made directly to me.

I'm angry because I was told that any part of myself that contradicted the teachings of the church was something less. RMs were typically frightened of a woman whose ultimate goal was s a PhD in Psychology and who dared to argue against ill-formed arguments and rationalization. When I disagreed with the church on Proposition 8, I learned I could be considered for having my temple recommend revoked. I wasn't considered because I didn't live in California and because the practice was too controversial to become widespread. Nevertheless, I became the metaphorical racist grandma that everyone hopes will fall asleep at the family reunion. I was expected to be silent for thinking that people who didn't share my religious beliefs should still share my rights. My politics were based on my desire for others to practice their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in peace, just as I wanted to mine; separation of church and state in order to protect the religious and agnostics/atheists alike. I was frowned upon and that struck me as fundamentally wrong.

I was often told that I thought too much or too deeply, simply because I needed a reason for everything. I needed to understand the deepest "hows" and "whys," but when I came to a contradiction, I was simply "thinking too much." Many of my questions went unanswered and some people that I asked became uneasy around me. I'm angry because I was lied to and because I lied to myself. What a genuine crime to tell a curious child she is thinking too much!

In contrast, it seems impossible, even to those who know me best, that I might be on to something, that I could think for myself. My mother often responds in anger, "I blame [aforementioned boyfriend] for this. I know you say you got here by yourself, but I think he had so much to do with it and put things into your head." In a sense she is correct, but not the one she intends. Another comment I receive is "I blame that stupid major of yours. Sorry, I know you love it, but I blame it for this." How nonsensical! This is probably a reiteration, but I have a bachelor's degree in psychology and am focused primarily on research into disabilities/disorders and their physiological bases (again b/c of my desire for tangible evidence). These comments of outrage do not make sense to me. The people who encouraged me (and I thank them) to go to college, are condemning something that encourages thought and evidence, simply because it contradicts the religion in which I was raised. Whether I am truly of high intelligence remains to be seen, but that is what I was so often told growing up. Why now, when I am finally beginning to trust myself and that intelligence, am I pegged as a mindless zombie, easily swayed by boys and professors? Suddenly the overthinker was incapable of thinking for herself at all!

Most of all, I am angry because of the time I lost. I spent far too much of my life being soothed by the notion that it would all get better when I died and went to be with God. I could have had greater appreciation for the present and what it was trying to teach me. For too long did I expect the second coming of Christ, eliminating the necessity of worry over the welfare of our planet. I thought I was humble, when in reality I was far too proud. It is not possible to be humble with respect to others when they themselves are "nons" and you belong to the "only true church upon the earth."

Along with lost time, I am angry for the joy I missed. I have one life. I am small and insignificant in the grand scheme of the cosmos. At the same time, I finally understand what a miracle is. For life to evolve the way it has and to a level of intelligence such as ours is surely a rarity in the universe. As Carl Sagan said, "Every cell is a triumph of natural selection and we're made of trillions of cells." Surely that is a beautiful thought. I am the result of aeons of evolution and millenia of cognitive adaptation. To me, that is so much more awe-inspiring than anything I was raised believing, especially doctrines that are such a source of hate and disagreement. How I wish I could have known that so long ago, rather than suffering under the self-loathing and guilt that my religion so readily reinforced.

What matters is that I know it now. I am angry and I was offended, but I am also joyous to have a grasp of my own capabilities and to finally give credit to my own intelligence and the awesome intelligence of my species. I can finally have a relationship with some one I find wholly appealing (agnostic argument style has always been kind of sexy to me...) and I can finally love myself and feel loved by some one else for everything that I am. Everything from my sexuality to my intelligence, to my tomboyish quirks can be not only acceptable, but beautiful. It is incredibly freeing to say "I believe/know this," knowing that you got there on your own, even against the odds. And that what you believe has tangible, measurable evidence behind it! I do not know everything, but I feel that I am finally free to attempt to. It is in my personality and written into my very DNA.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Prologue: Questioning should not require a disclaimer

Well, I said I was going to give a little chronicle of my journey out of mormonism and I suppose the time has come. I may have to make this a widget on the page or something because I'd like what I'm about to say to be kept in mind throughout this little journey we're going to take together (anyone? anyone? no? ok.)

If you click only one of the links I've connected, make it this one. (there's a chance you'll see it again later)
Anyway, for anyone who might happen across my little jumble of text and ill-focused conundrum that I so generously title a "blog," there are some things I want you to know. My beliefs have changed radically since my childhood and I tend to address things in terms of experience. I'm hoping I can keep a reasonable balance between narrative and argument. Also, as much as I hate to, I may over share at times. If I do, it is only to make a point because, frankly, people who over share for no reason at all really annoy me (especially on the Internet). Third, the Internet is not my favorite medium. I don't like exposing such intimate things to the open air. However, I've chosen this medium because it is the simplest way to publish, but still edit and amend, and because it allows me the level of anonymity that I prefer.

Finally, and probably most important, what I write will not always be agreeable and may even seem disrespectful. At one point, I am very certain that it will sound blatantly racist. This is the most crucial thing you must understand: I was fully immersed in a religion with an edited history and with controversies, many of them older than a century. When the answer "I'll ask God when I die" is not satisfactory, a person searches under rocks for conclusions and understanding. The result is sometimes unpleasant and illogical, but if it eases our anxiety and rationalizes our conflicts, we accept it. I will do my best to provide solid references, but understand that I am communicating the doctrine as I learned it. I spent 18 years as an intensely faithful and devout Mormon. I did everything I could to believe the doctrine and agree with it, but some pieces of the puzzle cannot be forced together.

For any Mormon readers out there, understand two things:
1. I do not hate Mormons and I am not serving Satan in hopes of leading you astray. I am telling my story and explaining things as I understand them. All I ask of other people is that they open their eyes to the world beyond the one that raised them. If they can do so and still follow the church leaders, I have no quarrel at all. If you can tell me logically why you believe what you do, I am glad to hear it and admit a stalemate of ideas.
2. I did not leave the church because I was offended. I did not leave the church because I wanted to sin. When I left, I was doing everything members are expected to do: attending church, paying tithing, reading (not looking at words in) my scriptures daily, praying daily and attending the temple. I was dutiful and intentional, meeting with my bishop about my questions and doubts. My entire family is LDS; I did not leave because it was easier than being a member. I did not crawl around the truthfulness of it. (feel free to skip to 8 min). I faced and questioned it. It was (and remains) one of the hardest things I have ever done. My relationship with my family was damaged, I lost friends and felt ostracized from an entire culture.
I had a visiting teacher who still came to see me, giving me guitar lessons when I became uncomfortable with the relief society messages. I am very thankful to people like her, who reach out to the person and not the "church member."

I think that covers everything. I've sat in silence long enough. I will admit that I'm weary of having doctrine pushed in my face and then having my opinions marked as "irreverent," "disrespectful" or even "satanic." One of the greatest gifts my ancestors gave me is free speech, so let's get started.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Snowy June. I should find a metaphor for that. Or a rockband.

Hello again, my empty space of absent readers. If there's any hope of me ever shutting up before August, we'd best find me a job.

Anywhoozle, I said I'd talk about finding morality without religion, so here goes:

I operate on what I've affectionately labeled "The Empathy Principle."

Mirror Neurons
A new and stunning area of research in neuroscience deals with cells called mirror neurons. Primarily, it is believed that these cells are responsible for action learning, as well as language acquisition. These neurons are essentially the "monkey see, monkey do" of the brain. Sort of (too much of the brain's adaptive mechanisms are devoted to learning that such a function can be attributed to a single type of cell found only in certain regions of the brain).

Anyway, in neuroimaging studies, they've found that these neurons not only activate during learning processes, but when we experience and witness emotions. In one study, people who were determined "more empathetic" (via self-report questionnaire) showed greater activation of mirror neurons when they witnessed emotions. It is possible that these strange little neurons are at least partially responsible for empathy. I see some one crying, my mirror neurons activate and I feel a slice of their pain without knowing what made them cry. I feel empathy and want to stop their pain, which I am feeling too. On the other end of the spectrum, ever wondered why they say laughter is contagious? Thank your mirror neurons and enjoy the experience; laughter is a healthy activity for the body.

Interestingly, mirror neurons also play a part in sociopathy (or rather, they were never cast at all). Further, many researchers believe mirror neurons to be another piece to the puzzle that is autism. (This is not to say autism and sociopathy have any link at all, only a common factor with very different implications and results). There you have it: a run-down of mirror neurons, unfit for wikipedia.

Sociopathy is a relatively rare phenomenon that is often rather poorly understood. Ironically, this strange phenomenon was also one of the things that lead me to my current moral understanding.

Picture yourself as an empathetic being, sometimes wracked with guilt. Now imagine that sensation has an off-switch. This is the core of sociopathy. In terms of mirror neurons, the theory is that sociopaths simply bypass them. They utilize the language-related areas without using the emotion. The misconception arises when people like Ted Bundy hit the scene. Why do you think he was possibly the greatest liar that has ever lived? Speech with literally no emotion. After Ted Bundy gained popularity for savagely killing over thirty women, people got the wrong idea that sociopaths are violent, uncontrollable deviants.

The fact is, they have an exceptional level of control. Ted Bundy and others like him are red herrings because they had total control in social situations, but an insatiable need to kill. In the more garden-variety sociopaths, this is not the case. A true sociopath understands social rules and adheres to them at will, but is not constrained by guilt or active remorse. The reality is that sociopaths comprise an estimated 1% of the population and make exceptional C.E.O.s because of their unrivaled abilities in "climbing the ladder." I'd wager there's an unusual number of sociopaths sitting on Wall Street.

The Empathy Principle
So how does all of this relate to morality? For me, it IS morality. Initially, I saw no difference between a life without religion and a life as a willful sociopath. I think it is this way for many people because religion is their basis for morality. The fact is, I looked at the research behind sociopathy and knew there had to be something more, something that made it worth it to be one of the other 99%. I saw in myself that I was still something more, even without religion. I still felt the pain of others and my desire to go on a killing spree was still at absolute zero. There is something that makes me moral and I believe it starts with the mirror neurons. I adopted the Buddhist code of "do no harm" and set to work figuring out why I should have morals if I don't even believe in good and evil.

I do not harm others because I do not wish to be harmed. Who would have thought this ramble would come down to that obnoxious Golden Rule they teach you in elementary school? It's true though, I got to that annoying "treat others the way you want to be treated" line by pure accident.

I understand the physical pain of being hit, so I don't hit people unless I have to defend myself.
I value my life and the people in it, so I assume others do as well. Good reason not to kill people.

This system makes sense to me, and rather than suggesting we all live by a uniform code of action, it is only a uniform code of principle. This is because it introduces what is essentially a system of weights and measures. Here's a bad example:
If I'm being mugged, yes it will (hopefully) hurt him if I punch my mugger. In this case, my need to get out of the situation and be safe again far outweighs the pain he will feel when I attempt to break his nose.

My morality simply adheres to Newton's third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Whatever action my mugger takes to get me into that situation initiates a reaction strong enough to get me out of that situation (or if I throw a weak punch, a reaction that will sue him for my medical bills).

The "Empathy Principle" is my balance of emotion and reason, my belief that there can be, not just peace, but happiness in a reason-filled world. It just passivity; I believe it can also trigger action. I see pain and do what I can to end it, helping me to become more charitable, more earnest and more friendly. For me, the Empathy Principle is a greater good than my ethical religious code because it literally makes us all equal and it is internal. It is a morality that comes from within, meaning I am choosing to be a better person. I am choosing to help others, rather than being told that I should.

Edit: I wanted to add something that I find to be unfortunately reminiscent of what Bill Maher has to say (Maher is one of those people who I consider to be "a necessary asshole"). The idea that there can be no morality without religion is fundamentally flawed because it behaves as an admission that one is moral because of a system of punishments and rewards. How is being "good" (a rather arbitrary term, in my opinion) in order to enter Heaven so much better than being "good" for innate or empathetic reasons. I propose that "morality" without religion is truly moral (pardon the redundancy, but I need it to make a point). The system of reward and punishment which religion advocates is no different than a behavior lab in which I trained a rat. Being "good" so you'll go to Heaven is hardly different than pressing a lever in order to receive food. It is my belief that this religionless morality allows for a moral person, not simply a moral life.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What's goin' on in the world today?

Goodness me, I hate unpacking more than I hate mushrooms slathered in mayonnaise and cabbage. So, here I am, blogging.
It's been interesting so far: broken water heater, broken shower head, the university that sent me an acceptance letter can't find my application. Ah, yes, what a lovely day indeed.

There's also this weird business of being cut off. It's both liberating and terrifying and I have to say, it sometimes treads the fine line of disownership. Emotionally, anyway. But, it's the Internet and I don't need to get into that stuff today.

I spent far too much of my day yesterday investigating some material on my former religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, affectionately known as the Mormons. I don't wish to go offending, of course, but I found a great deal of the material quite interesting. My queries resulted in an idea for a series of blogs, essentially addressing my relationship with the church, as well as my views and reasons for leaving. I'm not trying to offend anyone, this goes against my nature. I'm just doing what I do, which is simply writing to write. I'm opening my brain to the airwaves (so to speak) and wondering what literary samples may unfold. There's also the fact that this is not really something I have covered before. Before I start into anything, let me say this: I do not wish to be labeled an "anti-mormon." This term is far too black-and-white and suggests some relationship of villain and victim. Far beit from me to try and pick on a major religion and multi-million dollar corporation. (not that I'm a bailout package, either *ba-zing!*)

No, I do not consider myself "anti-mormon," such a title is absurd, especially because I am one of only a handful of people in my extended family who does not participate in the church. As for atheists in my family, I believe I have a cousin-in-law who would back me up and that's it. Oh, and my parents each have 6 siblings. Yes, it gets lonely. As for immediate family, I am easily the only one to wander off on my own. Also a bit lonely at times.

Now, to start, I'd like to begin with the generalities. Let's start with organized religion. Generally, I am not a fan. Buddhism is probably the only one I really find appealing and this is because people seek it out if they wish to convert. In order to become a Buddhist, you must first have what is known in English as "The Thought of Enlightenment." Then you seek out the Dharma, or doctrine. Should the urge strike you after learning the basics, you can take the Bodhisattva vow. But, I digress. All I'm really saying is that proselytizing isn't really their style and I like that. They support the idea of free will and of people finding the truth in their own time. I also think several other religions have borrowed teachings and ideals from Buddhism, which is why they are probably one of the only religions to which I will profess liking what they think.

Other than that, I find organized religion (parts of Buddhism included) to be inherently flawed. Because I live in a primarly Judeochristian society (dominantly christian and, more specifically mormon) I am addressing these things from such a standpoint. While I may have some opinions about Islam or Hinduism or Taosim or whatever, I can't say I know enough about them individually to have a valid opinion. For that reason, consider them excluded from the diatribe that should follow.

The inherent flaw that I see in the bulk of organized religion is its assumption that people can all follow one path and adhere to one code. Do I agree that all people should adhere to the conduct of being good neighbors and not killing or stealing? Generally yes. But of course there are situations where even these do not apply completely. Case and point: a home break-in and the Heinz Dilemma respectively.

The fact is that people differ with widely differing experiences. Universality is a flawed assumption because each situation is unique in one or multiple ways.

But N.D., you may ask, if you're an atheist, how can you say morals exist, let alone that we should adhere to them? Don't worry, that's the subject for the next post.

For now, I've gotta unpack like a crazy person, but I'll be back. Fear not!
Hasta Luego!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hello, Hello again, sha boom be doo be do!

Hello, blogosphere, I've missed you too. What a week it has been.

For those of you who read my blog regularly (Anyone? Anyone? No? Ok.) I've been off discovering the world and how much it sucks. Seriously, life is fricking expensive. I paid $4 to do a load of laundry today. UNO load...o. And I've probably purchased twice my weight in shelf-liner. Eesh. I mean, I've been in the world, but not THE REAL world, you know? I lived on campus for three solid years and that doesn't really count. Especially at the university I attended; they totally baby their residents. I would know, considering the fact that I was a glorified babysitter for two of those three solid years. Time well spent and money well lost...*sob*

I suppose it's all worth it though. It's so nice to roam around naked and NOT have residents knocking on my door. Instead, it's my awkward building manager. He's a nice guy, I just find it funny that when I went to ask him about my elderly water heater, he greeted me in his boxers, dachsunds trailing at his heels. These are the little moments I live for. I think it's the underfed writer in me. I make mental documents of the manager in his boxers, the farting white-collar on the airplane, or the hispanic man who snorts REALLY loudly as he passes behind me in the cleanser isle at the supermarket.

My building is an interesting place, one that I get to spend a lot of time observing, given my joblessness. The people across the hall keep to themselves, but seem to like throwing parties. I can hear them right now. The apartment below me is empty and is also where I'll be taking showers until the shower head is operational (the water heater took a full week, so here's hoping...) The woman next to me has a brown pointer dog of some kind and she has very large paws (the dog, not the woman). Let's see, who else? Across the hall and to the right is a man who smokes a cigarette nearly every hour. That's probably my biggest complaint with my building. It's a non-smoking building but people smoke right under my living room window. Being allergic to cigarettes (as well as dust and the things you use to clean dust...) this is really annoying. Plus, I hate the smell. He seems like a fairly nice guy, just VERY awkward.

There's also the man who lives downstairs, below the apartment across the hall from mine. He appears to be a recluse who lives alone and even has his own mail slot (damnit, I forgot to ask the super for the mail key. Note to self: ask the super for the mail key). The rest of us have mail boxes. I've met a couple of the people on the third floor in passing and they seem to be the most friendly (although the lady with the pointer was quite friendly as well, or maybe it's just that I have a bias for dog owners).

Incidentally, I'm working on getting a dog, probably harder than getting a job. Not good. I need to fix that. I figure I can't get a dog until I get a job, so it all works out in the end. I found a pit bull mix that I'm looking at adopting though, just because she's only a puppy and already very well trained and well-suited for an apartment. Plus, I think it would be hilarious to see a skinny little white girl walking around a city with a pit bull. They're usually owned by big burly guys who are covered in gang graffiti. That's how I role, baby.

I can't say it's been unexciting, but I don't know that "thrilling" is very fitting either. I put on the funny hat and walked across the stage, receiving the empty pig skin while shaking the hands of people I've never met. I moved myself and all my crap 86 1/2 miles to a new, much larger city (ok, my family actually did the majority of the moving since I was stuck working and graduating). I do miss some people in the old town though. It seems like it was kind of lonely until my last semester, during which I made a few really good friends. One of them graduated with me and she said something profound as I lifted the cover of my pig skin: "That's was $10,000 looks like. Instructions on how to get your degree."

Well, that's about all I have. These should get a little less personal soon. I've just had a lot going on and not enough time to develop any ill-informed and outlandish opinions on current events. (although I did just watch Avatar. Maybe I'll find something to say about that)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Alright, kiddos, I wanted to do one last blog update before I move off to Never Never Land, and not the ranch (too soon?)

This may be a rather drunken entry, despite the fact that I don't drink. Sleep deprivation does strange things to slow the brain, that is for certain. I had all this stuff I wanted to blog about and all these witty comments, but my brain is now screaming in protest.

Remind me to blog about sexuality, I actually had a lot to say on the topic (DUN DUN DUNNNN!)

Anyway, it's been a week from Hell, but it's almost over. Despite the hellishness, it's actually been one of the single greatest weeks of my college career. I hate my job, wasn't able to get a single hour at the job that actually pays me and I don't have an ounce of good customer service left in my entire body.

Still, the week has been fantastic. I've lost sleep to homework, but also to all-nighter chats, which I absolutely adore. I made a new bestie right as I'm moving away, go figure. I'm really thankful though because what they say is true: good friends are incredibly hard to come by. (My dirty mind is overactive these days)

In news that I find hilarious, my partner has confessed a celebrity crush on Miley Cyrus. Let this fact be broadcasted throughout time and space across the vast emptiness of the internet! I managed to salvage a poster of Miley Cyrus from one of my residents and she looks 14 in the picture. I figured it will ease my partner's pain in feeling slightly like a pedophile for finding her attractive. I personally am not a fan. Except for that damn Party in the USA video. It's a blatant statement of "I'm not owned by Disney anymore," and the sex appeal is glaring, but God help me, it's a hot video. Eww, now I feel like a pedophile. Yucky...As that disgusting poster glares down at me from the wall...

In pertinent news about my life (I know I said I'd avoid this, but I'm just sa durn excited!) I'm headed out tomorrow. I'm moving on to a bigger and better ballgame. I'll spend my summer in a cardboard box, begging for money, after which I'll start my Master's. The University has very generously decided to fund me and waive my tuition and I could not be more grateful or more excited. I'll be living on $15,000 per year, which is almost double what I'm making now. Anyone who says the recession is over deserves a wallop in the face. Welcome to America, folks.

Just to end on a positive note (because there is much about which I am happy and a great deal for which I am truly thankful), I have wonderful people in my life. They inspire and save me and love me in every realm of my ridiculous, spaztic personality. Without them, there would be little of me to speak of. Thanks guys. (even though only one of you knows about my blog...)

Friday, April 30, 2010

What? Nobody invited the Tea Baggers?

(In response to the title, Chelsea Handler was accused of making a sex tape, so they've got it covered.)

Gracious me, what a busy time it's been in the world. Oklahoma OK'd (ha!) doctors lying to patients, Arizona revamped and re-legalized the Jim Crow laws, and candidates for British Parliament have stumbled onto their asses. I guess that's what the Brits get for thinking they can make their politics as asinine as their American counterparts. The right to over expensive and overinflated politics will remain ours yet, ye poms! (I'm told "pom" is inoffensive and the equivalent of "yank" so think before shooting the messenger, should the inclination strike you)

I have to say I'm rather ashamed of the Okies for spitting in the face of medical ethics. Well, it's really more of a kick in the crotch, followed by a harsh elbow to the top of the head and then a shot of tobacco-laden saliva while Ethics are writhing on the ground in anguish. But I digress. Apparently, two things have happened:

1. A woman considering an abortion is now required to have an ultrasound first. This law is great because it increases the wait time between conception and abortion and we all know we want that nervous system as developed as possible! Geeze, kids, that's what partial birth abortion is for.
2. A physician has no obligation to inform his pregnant patient of the status of her child. In lay men's terms, if your child has a genetic disease that can be diagnosed during prenatal development, your physician can lie to you and say everything is hunky-dory. When the child is born and you discover you've been had, you can't sue. Even though common sense dictates that lying is legitimate grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.

Well done, Oklahoma. Well done indeed. You who are ahead of so many states when it comes to special education, have shot yourselves in the foot. Specifically, you've shot yourselves in the ankle with a 12-gage shot gun, taking the entire foot clean off.

Here's a scenario: A loving and liberal woman is pregnant with a child who has trisomy-21, affectionately known as down syndrome. She and her husband are so excited about having a happy, completely developmentally healthy bouncing baby boy. Because she's liberal and the doctor is afraid she'll abort, he doesn't tell them. Boom! The water breaks and after 23.5 hours of exhausting labor and passing a 7lb 2oz. human being through her body, the mother discovers her child has down syndrome. Should she have aborted? I personally would say no, so let's suppose that's what she says (heh heh, --oh, sorry). She and her husband still lover their child, but don't know a blessed thing about raising a child with down syndrome. They haven't had time to prepare so the adjustment is much harder and potentially impairs the baby's development further. A completely innocent fault of the parents that COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED BY THE DOCTOR.

Now this is pretty much a straw man on a slippery slope, so let's put it into an actual argument: Parents have the right to know about their children. If information regarding a child under 18 is available, who are the very first people who hear about it? Parents. Why is this any different. How does it feel, Oklahoma? Like you've been in labor for 48hrs, only to give birth to an iguana? I hope so. I call you my brotheren, Oklahoma. Damn it, first the Sooners become glorified lawn aerators and now this? What's next, we bring back the old racism?

Oh, wait...

Thanks Arizona. Thank you for being this month's "Biggest Dick in the Union."
If you're ill-informed, meet the ill-conceived and ill-educated. That's a lot of illness... Thank goodness we just got Obamacare.

Seriously though, here's the gist:
If you look kinda like an illegal immigrant, a cop is obligated to pull you over, stop you on the street, or interrupt paying you under the table to paint his house and demand you show your paperwork. That's right, my even remotely Hispanic-looking friends, the Gestapo has arrived to ask you for your papers, so you'd better be carrying them at all times. Obama and I have to carry our birth certificates everywhere we go, it seems only fair.

Oh, and citizens can sue if they feel the law is not being enforced strictly enough. Arizona? I'd like to introduce you to your residents, who have just spilled McDonald's coffee in their laps.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, a new species: Neanderthalensis Americanis.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go complain about the Mexicans taking all our jobs while I await the arrival of my welfare check, for which I quit my job at the furniture store.

Monday, April 19, 2010

15 Years

I'm not a particularly religious person and I think I've made that clear. Still, I catch myself thinking "I hope there's a Hell so Timothy McVeigh can burn in it."

I know that's unforgiving and, dare I say it, unChristian of me, but what do you say of a man who killed 168 people with no remorse. Of the families who lost victims, he said "You're not the first parent to lose a child. You're not the first grandparent to lose a grandchild. Get over it."

Sometimes, forgiveness just doesn't seem possible. And I don't want the generic drivel everyone tries to administer "It's not for you to judge. Be the bigger person and forgive." If you'd experienced it, I doubt you'd say that. I'm not saying we should hate McVeigh, I'm not an advocate of hate. I'm also not saying we should feel obligated to forgive. Sometimes there just isn't room for it. More importantly, we should not forget.

It would be an insult to the lost 168 to forget. May their rest be peaceful and may those they left behind find solace in what time they had with beating hearts.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Joker: More Reality Than Nightmare

I've been meaning to write this for a while. I would love to sit down with the creaters of the Dark Knight and see how they arrived at the character they created.

Alright, let's get this out of the way: Heath Ledger is one incredible bad ass of an actor. His reinvention of the Joker gave us the best villain that Hollywood has seen since Hannibal Lecter (who isn't technically a villain anyway). The film itself is a well-written examination of human nature that gushes with dark irony.

For many, it is a favorite because of its action and suspense. For me, it is a favorite because of its bold venture into the farthest and darkest corners of humanity. It goes beyond the scope of good and evil and is so steeped in the greatest pains of reality that I exited the theater chilled and unnerved.

What chilled me most was the level of research that seems to have gone into recreating the Joker. He is, in the truest sense of the term, a psychopath, illustrating sociopathy in its most severe form. The unsettling reality of the film is that the Joker has existed.

1. "It's not about money, it's about sending a message. Everything burns." -- "You know the thing about chaos? It's fair."
Enter: Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. He was an antisocial anarchist, labeled a domestic terrorist. His basic goal was to disrupt order and, more importantly, instill fear. He was also a genius, believed to have an IQ around 167, more than four standard deviations above the norm. He became a professor of mathematics at UC Berekely when he was only 25. He built bombs from scratch and made them impossible to trace. He was cunning, meticulous and conniving. His manifesto makes for an interesting and ironic read.

2. "Some men just want to watch the world burn."
Enter: Dennis Rader gave himself the media name of "B.T.K," which stands for "Bind. Torture. Kill." It's fairly self-explanatory. Taking 10 victims, he terrorized the state of Kansas by sending letters to the media and mocking police. "How many do I have to kill to get a name in the paper or some national attention?" He delighted in the headlines, sending police puzzles revealing his identity and dolls bound in rope and gagged to resemble his victims. When he was not killing or reenacting his crimes, Rader was a middle-aged husband and father who was active in his church. It took 30 years for police to arrest him. When asked about his crimes, he shows a characteristic lack of emotion, speaking of his killing methods as he would a simple task at work. This is a psychopath.

3. "Do I really look like a guy with a plan? I'm like a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it, you know? I just do things."
Enter: Theodore Robert "Ted" Bundy, perhaps the most famous serial killer in American history. A charming, intelligent, maniacal schemer, Bundy was known for his charisma and cunning as a serial killer. Faking some kind of disability, he would lure women to his car, asking for help carrying something. When he opened the passenger door, he pushed them into the space where a seat should have been. He was known to engage in rape and necrophelia. His victim count is estimated to be betwee 30 and 100 with the typical estimate settling on 35. He escaped police custody twice and, rather than going into hiding, he took more lives, unable to restrain himself. Bundy was executed in 1989.

(The following was the most difficult one for me)
4. "Do you want to know why I use a knife? You see, guns are too quick. You can't savor all the little...emotions."
This particular remark from the Joker bears a nauseating resemblance to a statment from a man by the name of Tommy Lynn Sells:

"There's something about the blade, making a slice on the--seeing it peirce open...seeing the gap and watching to sensation of it all. Maybe I became addicted to that. I don't like guns. They're dangerous."

Sells has been definitively convicted of 2 murders, is the chief suspect for 4 others and claims he lost count of his victims when the number passed 70. He ran away from home at 14 and committed his first murder two years later. He was a drifter, hopping on and off trains and earning the nickname "The Cross Country Killer." His methods varied, though as illustrated above, his preferred method was with a knife. He was indiscriminate with his victims, sometimes killing a man, a woman or an entire family. He did not develop a pattern, which is part of the reason he was so difficult to apprehend. His own words illustrate him well: "The people don't matter, it's the crime. It's the sensation of the blood. The rush itself is the high." Sells is currently on death row in Texas. His execution date is currently undetermined.

These men are the Joker's reality. There are many more. I opted not to mention Timothy McVeigh, partially because he was motivated by twisted ideology and partially because my personal history causes the very mention of his name to incite a visceral reaction. Still, I think he manages to illustrate my point. Even as he faced lethal injections, he considered himself the victor because "The score was 168 to 1."

These are the ill of the world, the incredible truth of one of the most raw movies of the decade. The Joker's theatrics are the only thing keeping him one tiny step further into fiction than the real psychopaths who inspired him.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love, Marriage and the Baby Carriage

I heard an interesting story from a classmate today (we'll call her Sue):
Last Christmas, Sue's younger brothers opened their presents with great delight. One received an X-Box 360, the other received innumerable games for the aforementioned system. Sue opened hers to find baby clothes. Sue is not pregnant. Sue is not married. Sue is not engaged. Sue is not considering getting engaged. See where I'm going with this?

I've mentioned that I work for Housing (I think I have) and I currently have a resident who is 18 and pregnant. This is actually her second pregnancy.

My brother (so I call him) has a friend who is 19 and pregnant for the third time. She lives with her grandmother and has been using hallucinagins regularly until the discovery of the pregnancy (we are currently trying to determine whether or not she is still using so we can figure out if we need to throw her ass into rehab).

People: babies are cute. The smell good and make cute faces and funny noises. They are fun and difficult to raise. They are insanely expensive and they poop a lot. Most of all: they require A LOT of attention.

disclamer: there are plenty of great young moms out there.

Children are a priveledge and a choice, NOT an obligation. The same is true of marriage.
Friends, enemies and moderately bored acquaintences of the world: stop treating these things so lightly! Women, I know you want grandchildren, but think of their welfare and the welfare of your own children. Why not be patient for just a bit longer and let things happen in their own time?

I cannot even count how many people I know who have said "I love you" to some one after 2 weeks or a month (I'm a guilty party myself, but boy, did I learn) and then end the relationship at 6 months or less when they discover who the person truly is.

Let things happen! Don't force them in the moment! It's ok to just be and let others do the same. Date for a while, fall in love for real. Be married for a while, figure each other out so you can have more fun when you're prepared to be parents. I garuntee that if you take a year or two to get to know each other, your first year of marriage will be easier than it would have otherwise. Cross my heart and hope to die.

Wanna hear something crazy? When we get a crush on some one, the brain begins to resemble that of some one with OCD. We, quite literally and clinically, obsess. Ever notice how many relationships end at the 5-6 month mark? It's because the OCD starts to wear off. Mr./Ms. Perfect isn't so perfect anymore and some of the things s/he does begin to drive us crazy. We start fighting. The question is, can I live with those things driving me crazy? How much do they matter in the long-run? How many people out there are MARRIED before this critical six month mark? Plenty. Trust me, I live in Utah. I'm surrounded. How much harder and stressful do you think that makes their first year of marriage. Marriage is already stressful enough (or so I'm told) but add the question of "Can I really be with this person? They're starting to make me nuts." Think of how much more weight that question carries when it's followed by "I'm married to this person. I'm stuck. Shit." Answer that question first. Then start thinking love, marriage and a baby carriage.

*Steps down from soapbox*


Monday, April 5, 2010

My Atheism and You: A Practical Guide

Two posts in one day, you must be a glutton for punishment...

I actually just wanted to take a moment to explain something about myself. I'm an atheist in the sense that pilots are endowed with the gift of flight. It's not a 24/7 thing and it's not an instinct in the way it is for a (insert your favorite gracefully-flying bird species here). If birds were atheists, I'd probably be a kiwi, whatever that means.

No, what I'm trying to say is I walk like a duck, quack like a duck and look like a duck, but I don't fly like one. I'm not a functional atheist. I was raised quite devoutly religious (non-Utah Mormon, ironically enough) so I understand quite well what it is to believe in God and to have a personal relationship with him and with Jesus Christ. That being said, I choose not to believe because of an overwhelming combination of personal experience and need for logical argument and tangible proof.

I am not saying this to spark debate or to say that I am right, I am saying it because it needs to be said. I am a skinny little barely-post-teen who doesn't believe in God and is terrified of discussing that lack of belief with religious people. I am not militant. I am not belligerent. I am not hostile (At least, I try not to be. it's a weird culture I live in, even my Mormon friends think so).

I am posting this because I only want people to think twice when they hear the word "atheist." I am not claiming to be a victim, only that the stigma exists. I know it does. It is even in my own head and it is the reason I often hesitate to claim myself as an atheist. I freely do so now because seriously, this is a blog. Everything is easier when you can do it hiding behind the Internet.

For some reason, many people pair the word "atheist" with "satanism" or "evil," when neither is the case. The former goes against the very definition of atheism, while the latter is as much of an assumption as all gays=effeminate or all conservatives=southern racist ultra-religious wingnuts. Geeze, where's a Vin Diagram when I need one?

I know some effeminate gays and I know some southern racist religious fanatics who can't let it go that they lost the Civil War. I also know some closeted gays who are in the military (you'd never catch their secret with a gaydar) and I know some level-headed conservatives. My father would be one of those level-headed conservative folk. Need another example? I'll point you in the direction of some very peace-loving, law-abiding and woman-respecting Muslims.

I know some kind, generous, soft-hearted atheists. I also know some that are so obnoxious about their lack of belief I can't stand to speak with them more often than once every 2-3 weeks. There are as many variations in stereotyped groups as there are stereotypable patterns.

Disagreement and stereotyping are two completely different things, but I think the two get paired together far too often. I like disagreement when it is not accompanied by the stereotypes and is simply open discussion. I don't like disagreement with a motive. Don't talk religion if you want to convert me, I don't have any intention of trying to strip you of your religion. I want to know why you believe what you believe and what it is founded on. What makes you tick? You can ask the same questions and we'll get along just fine.

Want to know more, ask. Otherwise, be warned that my atheist stance will pop up in my blog, but I have no intention of ranting about how stupid I think religion is. I have better things to do and that seems a bit hypocritical to rant idiotically about how idiotic something is.

You should also be warned, I swear sometimes and make inappropriate statements. It's part of being a writer, you figure out what tools work and when to use them.

Is that all out of the way now? Super.


p.s. Please don't keep caged birds. It makes them living oxymorons.

A Bit More Intro (bored reading? I'm bored writing)

Like any good optimist, I keep a mental catalog of reasons my life sucks. Beneath these reasons are sub-lists, so here is a snippet of my catalog (we're working on implementing the Dewey Decimal System for better organization):

Reason #92 -Distance Relationship
a. commuting
b. gas money
c. untraceable personality changes
d. no on-call booty
e. limited spontaneity

Etcetera, etcetera. Now that I've whined, let me clarify that I am joking (mostly) because at the end of every day, it's worth the money, the commuting and the limits. Even more, it's a testament to the individuals involved when one changes so radically (having only hope that it will be ok) and the other says "I fell in love with your personality, but I'm more attracted to you now than I was when we met." That is one of the most liberating feelings in the human existence, topped only by realizing you are who you are, regardless of what the people around you want. At the end of the day, the optimist in me hopes that everyone is sleeping next to some one who loves them for the big things and in spite of the things that just don't matter.

That's enough mush, good God. The Neanderthal in me requires that I write mushy junk while the feminist begins a tirade.

Speaking of tirades, what is the best medium for releasing such unbridled, unjustified anger? Why a public one, of course! And while we're at it, let's make it a popular one, like FaceBook!
Kids, don't rant on facebook. My mom'll see it and she won't be happy.

Hopefully the quality and content of the blog will improve over time. I'm still working on making things a bit more interesting and a bit less personal (because my personal life just isn't that interesting). Blogs seem to exist for purposes of vanity, more than anything else, but who really wants to hear that I'm a bankrupt soon-to-be college graduate with a useless degree, living as an atheist in Utah?

I guess the problem is that somewhere out there, I have an alter ego that is a screenwriter who has perfected the craft I'm still practicing (and if you say it's Diablo Cody, I swear I'll find you and smack you). I have this really annoying habit of narrating my own life and sometimes looking at it through an outsider's perspective. The result is that I think life is even more comedic than it is interesting and I want to find a way to cast my lens over others' view of the world. See? Vanity.

Anyway, I'll probably be writing about whatever the hell I desire in the moment, but as I get used to this I hope it'll get more intentional and more, well, readable.