Social Reconstructions of Faith, Solidarity, and Identity in the Religious Convert
By David Metcalfe
January 30, 2018
All of us have certain beliefs about religion. Even if you do not affiliate with a religion, you likely have a reason for why you choose not to. These beliefs are often very important to people, and are often held very strongly. I do not doubt your religious integrity or sincerity, but I do believe that you have a certain amount of prejudice. In essence, your judgements about certain matters have already been decided, and you might read this article through that lens. What I ask of you is to, just for a moment, remove that lens.
After you read it, you may return to whatever deeply ingrained judgements you have about life. Although, I hope that by reading this you will have reason to reduce those judgements in favor of open mindedness and reason. As this article deals primarily with the social aspects of my conversion to Mormonism, I expect many people to dislike it due to their prejudices against me and my beliefs.
I have divided this into three chapters. Chapter 1 makes a case for why reason is superior to prejudice. Chapter 2 makes a case for how and why I destroyed my social life and religious upbringing. Chapter 3 makes a case for why I have come to adopt new values, and how I am looking to live into them.
As always, I recommend you read the intro, conclusion, and whatever is of interest to you in between.
Chapter 1: Pride and Prejudice vs. Reason and Rationality
Murdering Mockingbirds and The Miscarriage of Justice
Harper Lee’s classic book “To Kill a Mockingbird” sets out the conflict of prejudice and justice by telling the not-all-that fictional story of a black man accused of raping a young woman. The facts of the case are simple: the victim was beaten primarily on the right side of her face, and there were choke marks depicting two hands around her neck.
Tom Robinson, the accused, had damaged his left arm in a cotton gin as a child, thus fully disabling use of his left arm. He has no history of previous violence. Bob Ewing, the victim’s father, on the other hand, has full use of both arms, and is left-handed. More so, he has a history of violence and drunkenness.
The story from Bob Ewing and his daughter seems very peculiar, and even wholly contradictory at times. Tom Robinson’s story makes more sense, and is the only story consistent with the facts of the case.
As Atticus Finch, the defending lawyer, states in his closing argument,
“This case is as simple as black and white…the evil assumption- that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings, that all Negro men are not to be trusted around our women.”
He goes on to close with, “Our courts have their faults, as does any human constitution, but in this country our courts are the great levellers, and in our courts all men are created equal…Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.” (Lee, 1960).
But they did not do their duty. Instead, they rendered a guilty verdict to an innocent man. Not because it was consistent with reason, but because it was consistent with their prejudice against black people. The court system is the one place where justice ought to reign supreme, and we have found that reason is the best means of finding truth and thus accomplishing justice. The right to a fair trial is necessary to sustain the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and property. However, prejudice is the antagonist of reason, and thus, the antagonist of truth and justice. As long as prejudice resides in the hearts of people, fundamental human rights will continue to be violated.
Learning To Hate
This is the most liked tweet of all time, totalling close to 5 million. Normally, social media is full of absolute garbage that makes me concerned for humanity. However, I am very appreciative of this quote and for its rightful place as the most liked of all time. None of these children hate each other for being different. They don’t think less of each other based on the different color of their skin. However, if they are taught to hate one another by flawed ideas in society, they eventually will.
Bertrand Russell once said that, “Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.”
It is not the natural state of humanity to hate one another. Children in Nazi Germany had to be taught to hate Jews. Children in early 20th century Alabama had to be taught to hate black people. And this is a stupid form of hatred, because it is based in prejudice, and not reason. In order for truth and justice to be upheld, we must establish reason as the foremost importance in education and in creating our views of the world.
Now, one of the stupidest things I have heard is that “we all indoctrinate our kids into something.” That is simply not true in any sense. The definition of “indoctrinate” is to teach a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. Indoctrination and critical thought cannot coexist. Therefore, one who teaches their children the ability to think critically (i.e. reason through things they are told), is not indoctrinating them.
I personally refuse to be indoctrinated by anything. In fact, my critical thinking is excessive sometimes. My conversations sometimes go something like this:
Person: The sky is blue
Me: Why do you think that?
Person: Because I’ve seen it
Me: Have you ever seen the sky not blue?
Person: Well, when the sun is setting it’s red, and in the night it’s dark.
Me: So, your statement “the sky is blue” would only be correct on the condition that it was the day. However, since the disclaimer does not exist in your statement, it means the statement is not correct.
Person: Umm…yeah, I guess.
It’s conversations like that, that encourage me to go to law school. I just imagine myself wrecking people during cross examination. I question everything until I find out the truest statement possible. I didn’t invent the technique though, it’s from some crazy guy in Ancient Greece named “Socrates”. It’s a common technique employed in legal proceedings.
And much like Socrates, I believe that hate is the result of ignorance. If Nazis knew that Jews are not inherently evil, but rather people just like them, they would not have hated them. Education by its own merit does not rid one of stupidity and ensuing hatred. People can be taught to be stupid and hateful. However, educating one on the principles of unfiltered reason, and giving them true content to work with, will enable more than a proper education; it will enable proper human beings. Prejudice is the antithesis of reason, and seems only to create a spirit of hate. May it be that reason abounds in the minds of man, so that love may abound in their hearts, and may this love be shown through reverence to the unhindered equality, liberty, and justice of every person.
The Religious Environment
America has long held freedom of thought in education, ever since its beginnings in the late 18th century. We have not always guaranteed equality, as was the unfortunate case for women, blacks, and a variety of other minority groups. Some people go on their soap box and say that America is brainwashing everyone to think a certain way. Those people are idiots who don’t understand what indoctrination even is. Look at the textbooks of children in Nazi Germany, or today, hear what the people in North Korea learn about. That is indoctrination. As long as you are able to raise your hand and question the teacher on any matter in an honest pursuit of truth, or write an essay that disagrees with prevailing ideas, you are not being indoctrinated. The Western world has a fantastic education system and we ought to be thankful for it.
The last place in American society where prejudice reigns supreme, and is not hindered in any major respect, is religion. Millions of children are forcefully indoctrinated from an early age to believe a certain set of principles and not question them. I myself am part of this tyrannical system, and it continues to hinder me to this day. The more indoctrination that occurs in any religious group, the more ignorant and prejudiced the group is. And as mentioned earlier, ignorance and prejudice only breed hatred.
Every young Christian adult I know was indoctrinated into their faith. They all go through this bullshit “discovering it for myself” phase. Now, I don’t mean to say that they do not feel that their spiritual journey is legitimate. I do, however, know of many that are not legitimate, and purposely serve to masquerade a false credibility on the part of their supposed status as a “prodigal son”. But at any rate, I have to ask people who are indoctrinated into Christianity, leave it, and then come back to it as if they found it for themselves: was there any chance you were actually going to believe anything other than what you were raised with?
The fact is, religious indoctrination is a valuable, and at times necessary, way to create and sustain social functioning. There are certain things that are going to happen amongst family and friends: they will die, get married, behave differently, get careers, etc. Religions provide a cultural expression of shared values that all can attain to in a group, and thus achieve solidarity (mutual support within a group). For example, when someone dies, they hold a funeral in which they all believe that the person is going to heaven. The solidarity, and thus consolation, can only be achieved with those who are in agreement. It’s awkward to have an atheist at a funeral where everyone else is Christian. Same goes for marriage rituals, moral judgements, and validity to career aspirations.
Chapter 2: My Social and Religious Deconstruction
Freedom To Lose
I was atheist for quite some time, and it was at the severe cost of social function with my family. I didn’t bother to tell my Christian friends that I was atheist, save for a few, but instead chose to just not see them all that much. In my first year of university, I saw my best friends from high school maybe a couple times. My family reacted so negatively to me, I didn’t want to risk receiving that same social damage from my friends. I remember my Dad yelling at me and saying that I am going to hell for not believing in his religion. Most of my studies originate in personal experience of some kind, and I think my interest in ignorance, prejudice, and hatred is from living with my Dad for so many years, who is a near perfect embodiment of such things.
When atheism became not only depressing, but also began to seem less intellectually sound than I had thought, I wanted to investigate religion more seriously. But did I have an equal chance at any religion? Not at all! I had been taught the Bible from day one, and all of my friends and family were Christian. Buddhism and Islam did not have the faintest shot. Even if I were to learn enough to make it a viable view, I would have to completely rebuild my social structure, and I would receive immense persecution from my current social group. And there were all kinds of opportunities available to me if I were to be Christian: jobs, friendships, social affirmation, vacations, etc. Adherence to social norms as dictated by religion can add much to one’s life, so it is enticing.
Converting to a religion is not just an abstract set of beliefs. It is a very personal thing, and affects others very personally. If we were intellectually free to believe whatever we wanted, it would be nice intellectually, but it may have severe social consequences. However, America was built on freedom of religion, and it is absolutely possible for families and social communities to exist without a definite religion for them to all adhere to. The solidarity they might lose from their lack of shared religion can be made up in their shared belief in freedom of religion. Unfortunately, certain religions preach a hateful, exclusivist doctrine that bans all non-adherents to hell in the afterlife. Most notable of these beliefs, in my personal life, is evangelical Christianity. In those belief systems, tolerance is not possible. How could you possibly be tolerant when you think someone is going to eternal fire?
Evil in the Evangelist
Jeff Durbin is an evangelical Christian who literally believes that we should kill women who have abortions (Mann, 2017). That’s just to put it in perspective how crazy he is. Anyway, he also believes that the most hateful thing you can do to someone is not evangelize to them, because then you are allowing them to go to hell. Applying that insanity to any aspect of society would have severe consequences. In fact, that’s what the catholic church believed during a little thing called “The Inquisition” in which they would actually force people to convert under torture, since they believed it was a necessary evil to prevent the eternal torture they would receive for not converting (Miller, 2008).
Basically, evangelical Christianity puts reasonable, good hearted people in an impossible bind. You either abolish people their right to freedom of belief, or abolish their right to humane treatment. Evangelical Christianity is a wonderful religion for a conceptual sadist, but terrible for anyone who has even the least sense of human goodness. Since only about 5% (optimistically) of the world’s population believes in the type of Christianity that evangelicals believe gets you into heaven, they, by default, believe that 95% of the world is going to end up in hell. It’s an awful belief system, and one that has no place in civilized society.
Evangelical Christianity is in many respects the same as the Nazis in their understanding of the afterlife. Instead of Jews, it is non-believers. Evangelical Christianity is the same as early 20th century Alabama racism in their social functioning. They are prejudiced that anyone of any other belief system is inherently wrong, and they feel no need to make an honest investigation into the claims thereof.
Being that I aspire to proper virtue, and wish for everyone to have the freedom to pursue happiness in the way they see fit, I am not able to believe in evangelical Christianity. Now, I could make slight edits to it in order to fit a more palatable view for my conscience; that’s what many of my friends do. And they have to, because they have social systems of their families to adhere to for the sake of their well-being. I, on the other hand, have ushered in a complete deconstruction of my social setting, and thus am essentially free from its tyranny.
How I Destroyed My Social Life
Now, it’s not literally my writing of the articles that did all of the deconstruction, but I feel like they provide good insight into it. The first deconstruction I wrote in this blog was my fourth article called, “The Meaning Of Life Part 2: Beauty In Brokenness: My Journey of Lust, Hatred and Love of the Opposite Sex”. Geez, what a wordy title. Anyway, I talked at length about my family’s problems, and how they mistreated me. Then, I went into how my friends and social community failed me, and how I ended up hating my life. Since I couldn’t find anything of value in the situation I was in, I turned to sex and drugs to solve my problems. However, the story does redeem itself in small ways, as I talk about how certain friends helped me, and how I found a good social community in Colorado.
But it was very damning to certain people, especially my Dad and ex-girlfriend, and it showed a complete disregard for the social rules of the groups that I was in. It was not “socially appropriate” to share such things on social media, I was told. The feedback I got taught me that my social community in Alberta is basic shit. They were not beneficial to me when I was having severe difficulties, and rather than being concerned at the things I shared about my life, they instead condemned me, or assumed I had mental problems. Moving to a random city in Ontario and living by myself is a huge step up from being around those people. Not to say that I don’t appreciate aspects of the relationships I have with them, but just that there is no community of people with whom I really fit.
The second deconstruction I wrote was called “How Christianity Teaches People To Be A Bunch Of Racist, Sexist, Anti-intellectual Bigots”. I basically just wreck evangelical Christianity and say why I think it all sucks. That was the nail in the coffin in my relationship with Century Meadows Baptist Church. It also separated me from many of the indoctrinated Christians in general, because I offered a rational critique of their belief, which is not allowed in the indoctrination process.
My third deconstruction article was “Why Every Marriage Is A Failure”. The people who had stayed with me up to that point had understood that I meant well, and was supporting their beliefs in an unconventional way. This article wrecked it for many of them. It is, in my opinion, my most avant-garde piece, because it forces one to discern sophistry from authentic argument, and then to gradually question it more and more, until they are left in disarray wondering whether or not I actually hate marriage. It actually serves to question rationality and reason itself, so as to say, “if something were to be proved rationally that is totally disagreeable, would I still believe it?” But yes, I lost a few friends with that one.
Well, I think that this is my fourth deconstruction, as it explains my total rift from adhering to the social constructs of my former life and social community. After deconstruction of one’s social environment, one becomes a “tabula rasa” or blank slate, in many respects. In my new life in Ontario, I do what I want, how I want, free from any former social constructs that once governed my life. Some of my family and friends still attempt to inflict social punishment on me for my deviations from it, but I don’t care, and am willing to cut out those relationships at any time if I deem them too destructive to me. Since my former social life was very religious, specifically to evangelical Christianity, my separation from it also carries major religious identity concepts. In the rest of this article, I will deal with those concepts, and share how I have found increased meaning, purpose, and identity by pursuing my freedom and authenticity in religious and social matters.
Chapter 3: My Social and Religious Construction
If you recall from “To Kill a Mockingbird”, any decision people make is a result of a combination of prejudice and reason. The more prejudice in a decision, the less reason there is, and vice versa. In order for truth and justice to be reached, we must do whatever we can to reduce prejudice to the greatest degree, and thus force us to rely on good reason.
Prejudice is often a result of progeny i.e. the family we are born into. Children are not born believing that black people are inferior to white people. Children are not born believing that you need to believe a certain set of principles to avoid hell. These are things they are indoctrinated into, and if they can be taught into it, they can be taught out of it. The way to teach someone out of prejudice is for them to reject their indoctrination, and apply reason to the things they are taught.
Many people who reject their religious upbringing simply become secular. But, in my opinion, that’s like someone being born into racism rejecting it by saying that races do not exist altogether. You can still acknowledge races without being racist. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because the morality I was taught was not ideal, it does not mean that I should abandon morality altogether. And if I come to understand morality through reason, and there is a worldview that supports such a morality, it is reasonable for me to aspire to that worldview.
5 years ago, when I was atheist and began studying religions more in-depth, I remember thinking that Mormonism was the most coherent religious worldview. It offered a system of good morality, promoted good social function, and had a fair judgement system. However, even entertaining such an idea was worthy of being tossed into hell according to my friends and family, and I figured that since Christianity is good enough, it would not be worth sacrificing socially to attain to a worldview that is only slightly superior.
When I became rid of my social environment, I was free to investigate honestly what I really believe. The evidence in favour of Mormonism is very impressive. If we apply the same criteria to the resurrection of Jesus, or the vision of Paul, to that of the revelation to Joseph Smith, it is proven true equivalently. When people ask me, “why should I believe Mormonism?”, I tell them the evidence like that of a court case. I never draw on personal experience, because I believe that a revelation to one is not revelation to all.
However, when people ask me, “why do you believe it?”, then I am free to draw upon personal experience. There are a few very interesting concepts in the Book of Mormon to receive personal revelation to the truth of its claims. In the introduction it states,
“We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
There are several things that need to happen for one to be assured that the Book of Mormon is true through individual revelation. You must feel an overwhelming sense of peace, joy, and even a literal “burning in your bosom” i.e. a physical sensation in your heart that urges you to want to accept Jesus as your personal savior.
It didn’t work at all the first time I tried it, but that’s because I had not yet read it much at all. I spent a month studying through its teachings, and reading through the concepts expressed by experts in it. I also did not hold back at all on reading through the critics of the Book of Mormon. I read through tons of stuff from RZIM, ex-mormon.org, and various critics deemed to be the best in their field of study. Every time there was a criticism that made me think the Book of Mormon was not true, I would feel led to read certain articles, and was shocked to see the amazing explanations for why it was true. I got to the point where my heart desired it, and my mind fulfilled that desire. It’s as the great thinker Blaise Pascal said about presenting the Christian faith,
“Make good men wish it were true, and show them that it is.”
I prayed earnestly to God to tell me whether the Book of Mormon was true, and just as the Book of Mormon said, I received an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy. Later, when I met with some Mormons and they told me about the plan of salvation, I literally felt a burning sensation in my chest, urging me to accept it. Now, I don’t expect anyone to believe it because of my own experience. In fact, I don’t even expect anyone to believe that my own experience is true. That is merely my personal testimony to it, and I recommend anyone who doubts it to try it for themselves. If it doesn’t work for you, then by all means, you should not feel obliged to believe it.
There were two times in my life when I felt authentic solidarity in a group of people: my first two years of Century Meadows young adults group in Alberta, and my time at Axis in Colorado. Both times, I was doing a dance to appease people, and when I stopped doing the dance, and said what I truly believe, I lost solidarity. At Century Meadows young adults, I appreciated their good virtue, and their desire to learn and discuss big ideas. I liked the people enough to show up to their weekly meetings, and I learned a lot during that time.
However, the leader of it, who essentially made the group what it was, was often disparaged at the whim of prejudiced idiots who refused to allow even the entertaining of any ideas that strayed from indoctrination. Many of the people left for various reasons, and the ones who remained were hostile to my style of thinking, and didn’t appreciate my thoughts on much of anything. I continued attending anyway, but solidarity became essentially absent.
I am very appreciative of the people at Axis. I still have good relationships with many people there, and I hope some of them will be permanent throughout my life. In fact, I plan on visiting Colorado Springs again soon just to see them. The fall out with them was not so much relational as it was just a few idiots who didn’t appreciate my intellectual ability and tried to restrict me. No one there is a bad person. It’s just an organization that I didn’t fit with. But the end result was a loss of solidarity.
I have taken immense amounts of time to establish my values and how I think people ought to live. I am very impressed with the American revolutionaries’ sense of justice, and how they established a nation essentially from scratch based on incredibly intelligent ideas on morality as applied to a state. Establishing fundamental rights to each person is just fantastic. As I have read through history and philosophy, I become more and more deeply ingrained in the idea that humans have fundamental rights to life, liberty, and property which must be upheld by others, and the state may use force to uphold them. But that also in the preservation of such things, the state nor any person should use force to infringe upon such rights of any individual.
That is the ethics I gain from political philosophy. Then, as I go further, I understand that in order for each person to have innate value, they must have an innate value giver, transcendent of social constructs. This is the concept of God, and I am enamored with the idea of God creating us in his image, and sending his Son to die for us.
The ethics espoused in the Book of Mormon adhere to every good quality that I have come to find independent of it. I was shocked that the Book of Mormon and subsequent scriptures attest to the values of equality, liberty, and justice. The end of Alma 1 describes an ideal society,
“They were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely…
And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore, they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.” Alma 1:26-30
They affirm equality and altruism very strongly without discrimination, and it is evident in the lives of Mormons to this day. In the Articles of Faith, it says,
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
Unlike evangelical Christians, they allow everyone the right to freedom of belief. Mormon theology allows for tolerance, because they believe that everyone has an equal chance to go to heaven, and it is by their agency that they decide where to go, and we ought to respect the agency of every person. Mormonism, in my opinion, is the most livable system of ethics I have ever witnessed. If everyone in the world was Mormon, the world would be an amazing place.
Now, that’s not to say that Mormon indoctrination does not take place. However, indoctrination is consistent with evangelical Christian theology, but not with Mormon theology. Basically, evangelical Christianity is all about the result, and is void of the process. Basically, if the result of your life is that you have accepted Jesus, you will go to heaven, and if not, you will go to hell. Mormon theology, on the other hand, values individual agency, and says that it is the choice of each individual what they want to believe, and if they do not accept Jesus in this life, they will get a chance in the next.
And it is by this tolerance and acceptance of individual agency that makes them awesome for a guy like me, who questions everything. I regularly tell Mormons that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, and Brigham Young was racist. I tell them that the Book of Mormon has contradictions, and that the trinity is the only viable way to understand the relationship of the three divine personages. They are totally fine with it, and are always happy to discuss any matter with me. At the end, they remain confident, and say, “well, David, you have your agency, and you are free to do with it as you please.” There is no compulsion towards me believing a certain way like there is in evangelical Christianity.
These underlying fundamentals serve to provide a really positive community atmosphere. I always enjoy spending time with Mormons, and they appreciate me and the thoughts I have. I am finding increased solidarity in these people, and because it is based on a definite foundation, it is unlikely to change. While the leader of the Century Meadows young adults group had good values, he can be removed easily, but if there is a solid scriptural foundation for these good values, they will remain consistent. Thus far, I have found all Mormon teachers to be very tolerant, educated, understanding, and full of positive values.
I can see myself potentially thriving socially in a Mormon church setting, as has already been the case thus far.
During my literature review before writing this article, I was surprised to find an article which contradicted a belief I had. I had thought that religious converts who converted based on a change in belief, rather than for another reason, like a marriage or various social reasons, would be more devout. However, a 2010 study published in Sociological Focus by Robert Carrothers, called “Identity Consequences of Religious Changing Effects of Motivation for Change on Identity Outcomes” suggested that converts of either type could be equally devout. What mattered most was not actually belief or community, but identity (Carrothers, 2010).
Another study from The international journal for the psychology of religion found a similar idea, that basically self-concept is a primary motivator for keeping or changing religions (Hayward, et al, 2012). I think identity is central to much of what we believe and how it shapes our life. For example, I believe that chocolate tastes good, but it doesn’t really affect the decisions I make in my daily life. However, for the character “Willy Wonka” it’s literally his life, and the fact that chocolate tastes good is foundational to everything he does. If, all of a sudden, it was discovered that chocolate causes cancer, it would not have a significant effect on my life. “Willy Wonka”, on the other hand, would be devastated. It appears as though when we choose to identify with a certain thing, it becomes way more important.
For the people in Maycomb county in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, I don’t think it was really their belief that black people are inferior that guided their prejudice. I think it is their identity. They consider themselves to be white people, as opposed to black people, and there are strong ideas about what it means to be a white person in their culture.
I think the same goes for religious prejudice. When one identifies as evangelical Christian, they have certain ideas of what that means. Unfortunately, just like being a white person in Maycomb county, there is a concept of superiority they have over others. They believe that they have absolute truth, and all beliefs, and people, who stray from it are wrong. They have this absurd idea that their particular denomination is correct and all others incorrect, and that being wrong deserves a severe penalty. They are more than willing to socially ostracize those that they disagree with, and will not allow others to believe anything different, no matter how sincere they are.
Being that majority of my friends are full of religious prejudice, they are quick to condemn my beliefs without honestly considering them or being tolerant of me as a person. It is unfortunate, and I do not stand for it. People who message me things like, “you are going to hell for your stupid beliefs” are prejudiced idiots who deserve no place or influence in my social sphere. I am quick to chop off the diseased branches of my social tree.
I would say, though, that it is difficult for me to identify with Mormons. I think that is a process that occurs somewhat gradually. I think it goes faith, solidarity, and then identity. Basically, you need to believe certain aspects of the shared social group in order to succeed in it, and then over time you will come to identify with it. And, though I shouldn’t care what others think, it does scare me sometimes to think about all of the social rejection I face for believing the things that I do. Not just about religion, but about all sorts of matters. However, I have learned that one cannot find truth through doing what is popular or convenient, and I have to be faithful to truth so far as I can attain to it as my number one goal.
I think it is important for people to recognize the vastness of the world and the fact that there are so many belief systems and so many cultures. If you live in Alberta, and all of your friends are evangelical Christian, it is easy to think that is simply the obvious way things are done. Everyone else is an “outsider”. However, if you live in Utah, and all of your friends are Mormon, you will think the exact same way, just towards a slightly different group of people. Or if you live in Iran, and all of your friends are Muslim, etc., etc.
I think we all need to put our prejudices aside and learn to love people regardless of what beliefs or identity they have. Promoting your own belief system as superior to others is a totally fine thing to do. After all, if you didn’t think it was superior, you wouldn’t believe it. However, we need to be very careful not to infringe on the rights of individuals to have freedom of conscience in all areas of life, especially religion. I enjoy promoting my views on politics, religion, sexuality, etc. but I do not want to force anyone to believe in anything. I value agency very much, and if someone wants to believe that God is a magical unicorn in Arizona, I defend their right to do so, although I will not tell them they are correct.
I think it is certainly possible for us to believe differently and still respect one another. That is the original “American dream” of the Founding Fathers, that every American would be able to believe as they see fit, and we would be able to peacefully co-exist. Religions that do not allow for peaceful coexistence can still exist, but need to be limited in their ability to practice. Freedom is tolerated up to the point that it limits the freedom of others. I think it is important for the state to limit evangelical Christianity if it should act on its more extreme exclusivist beliefs. Mormonism is under the same standard from the state, but will not have such problems if it is followed correctly, because it is very explicit in saying that we are to peacefully coexist with others despite our different beliefs, and its theology is consistent with that idea.
I wish we lived in a society that lived up to the ideals set for it by the Constitution. Indoctrination of children and people by flawed societal structures continues to foster ignorance, and thus prejudice. Through prejudice, reason is abandoned, and injustice takes place. It is only by the removal of prejudice, and the increased application of reason, that we are able to achieve truth and operate justly according to that truth.
In my own life, I have been subject to prejudice of many kinds in my pursuits of truth. As I have deconstructed the social structures around me, I have become freer to pursue reason and make decisions for my life that I think are best. In my refusal to adhere to prevailing ideas in my social groups, people become agitated and look to socially ostracize me. However, I have found a group of people who do not ostracize me for my type of thinking.
My faith in Mormonism continues to develop independently of solidarity and identity, yet all three seem to be moving in the same direction. I look forward to continuing to discover Mormon beliefs, find community with the people, and eventually come to a solid identity in it. I do not look forward to the hatred I will receive from my friends and family for doing so, but truth cannot yield to the demands of an angry few.
I hope that everyone can find it in their minds to be reasonable, and always open to new ideas, in their hearts to lead with love, and leave malice aside, and for their souls to pursue truth, and in doing so, find love, joy and peace to be shared with others.
Carrothers, R. (2010). Identity consequences of religious changing effects of motivation for change on identity outcomes. Sociological Focus. 43(2), 150-162. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/socabs/docview/906851598/8CDF57255D2B416FPQ/16?accountid=14474
Hayward, R. D., Maselko, J., & Meador, K. G. (2012). Recollections of Childhood Religious Identity and Behavior as a Function of Adult Religiousness. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 22(1), 79–88. http://doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2012.635064
Lee, H. (1960). To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper Perennial Classics.
Mann, T. (2017). ‘Hipster’ says he wants to execute women who have abortions. Metro. Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2017/02/27/hipster-says-he-wants-to-execute-women-who-have-abortions-6475717/
Miller, V. (2008). Where is the Church? Globalization and catholicity. Theological Studies. 69(2). Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/004056390806900210