Thursday, June 7, 2007

Answers to Mormons

For almost a month now we have been meeting with Mormons, and have had the opportunity to question them on their faith. The time came when they asked us about ours. I can't speak for Bjorn, but here are my answers.

Q: Are you actively looking for God in your life?
A:I am always open to the idea of finding God. There was a time in my life when I considered myself Christian. It was when I was in confirmation, and started asking questions, and not receiving answers to these questions that my faith started to stray. Upon entering college I took a course that forced me to look historically at Christianity, and my rationality kicked in. At first it felt empty to not have this outlook. Honestly things would be a lot easier to think there was a God to take care of my family and I after death. However I can't let transcendental temptation, or the belief in God to make up for fear of no afterlife, be my motivation. When, or if I chose to devote my faith to anything, I don't want it to be out of fear. I want it to be genuine.

Q: Do Bjorn and I pray together?
A: No. We have attempted to pray separately, and have achieved the same sense of nothingness. To us it is like talking to ourselves. In the movie "The Ruling Class", the main character, played by Peter O Toole, believes he is Jesus. When asked why he thinks so, he replies "When I pray it feels as if I'm talking to myself". When we pray, now and in the past nothing is felt. Maybe we are incapable of feeling or believing. I'm trying. I'm not intentionally keeping myself hard of heart. The sense of contentment simply has yet to come from this spiritual exercise.

Q: What would it take to believe in Mormonism?
A: Honestly a lot. But for me it would take a lot to believe in any religion. I've always said watching an amputated limb grow back by the grace of God, in front of my eyes would do the trick. Or seeing the rapture. That would loosen my neck real quick.

In short, the point that Bjorn and I want to get across is that we did not chose to be atheist. However, it is the only thing that makes sense to us.


JKC said...

I find it really interesting that you describe atheism as not a choice for you. Most religious people that I know, likewise, describe their faith as some sort of compulsion, that they feel compelled by God, by the Spirit, the Bible, logic, their conscience, or something else. For them, faith is more like a passive acceptance of truth than anything else. It's interesting to me that you describe atheism in similar terms. Am I correct in making this comparison?

Personally, though, the compulsion model doesn't work for me. I am not a Mormon because I feel that God compelled me, through some overwhelming force, to be a Mormon. I believe and participate in my faith because I choose to. There are really good reasons to believe, and there are really good reasons not to. Neither side compells me; they balance out. In the end, I make the choice because I would rather live in a world with the kind of moral universe that my faith provides.

I don't mean to suggest that I don't think God intervenes in our lives. I believe he does, and I've felt his hand in mine. I have prayed for answers and gotten them. But I can also explain spiritual experiences in naturalistic terms. Nothing is beyond question. I guess, for me, faith cannot be a passive acceptance of truth. It has to be an active, exertive, daily practice. It has to be constantly re-examined and re-evalutated in light of what I learn about myself and the world. Ultimately, I find this kind of faith, personally, to be far more satisfying.

I also don't mean to suggest that your beliefs are somehow unsatisfying. That's a personal question. I guess I'm just expressing bewilderment at the fact that so many religious people describe faith as compelled, because for me, it just doesn't work.

Bjorn said...

You certainly have a strong lack of ignorance. I do appreciate people who know why they believe what they believe. I can also appreciate people who don't shy away from describing spiritual experience in naturalistic terms, and don't feel that that explaination lessens the impact.