Author Archives: zackc
[Note: Originally posted on my own blog but was declared kosher by cinepro so I’ll post it here as well: http://zackc.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/marriages-can-be-founded-in-religion/]
Caveats: I’m not married, not religious. These are just some thoughts. Take them with that grain of salt.
For the past few years I’ve read several message boards and something that’s constantly coming us is people who lose religious faith, and wake up to the realization that they have nothing in common with their spouse. They married when both believed the same thing, and when one changes belief, it fundamentally changes the relationship. The reason is that people believe marriages can be built solely on the issue of shared religion. Which I guess is true as long as they belief the same. Because religion provides social networking opportunities and spiritual fulfillment [for some] and also if two people believe they can get through the tough times because they’re married “in the gospel”.
This all changes though if one of the spouses changes belief. The apostate spouse often wakes up to learn that they have nothing in common with their spouse. They love their spouse, but don’t like their spouse. They aren’t as compatible with their spouse as they might be with some other person. Things go downhill, as both realize they don’t have much in common except that they went to the same church. The change in belief can also lead to changes in political, social, and moral views. Leading to a radical personality change. Leading to either an unhappy marriage [for the kids of course] or divorce.
Some can make it through [as evidenced by some of the people who battle on in difficult marriages, but they sacrificed the chance to search for personal compatability in favor of going with the person they’re going with. Part of this is the issue that young people want to have sex, and marriage is the only place where sex is acceptable. So young horny people marry whomever so they can get it on. But once those passions are fulfilled and children start to arrive, what do they have in common? Often times not enough.
Marriages within religion that lack anything beyond the most basic compatibility issues [hey you’re a woman, I’m a dude, we’re young and we go to that Church, lets get married and get freaky] are like building brick houses without mortar. Sure it’s fairly solid, but there’s no mortar to fill in the cracks. And if you look closely, you realize that the bricks move about and cause friction within the house. Subtle movements, but ever so slowly they shift until they collapse. Why? Because relationships can’t be built on one issue. You need numerous levels of compatability. Both in case of changing opinions, but also fall back positions in case of arguments. You have to have common ground to fall back on. Alright…so you disagree about religion and GOd…but perhaps you like the same books and movies and you like talking to each other and you like to both go dancing etc etc. Find more compatability folks.
Perhaps the three main things that will come to mind when a nevermormon comes across Mormons are Missionaries, polygamy, and temple garments. Missionaries because that’s how the majority of people will run across Mormons, at least explicitly. They might bump into Mormons everyday, but those white shirts and ties and the name badges are literally walking around saying, “MORMON!”. Polygamy because it’s a unique issue in America [which was founded by Christian churchs who abstained from polygamy, and the fact that we never had [large] entrenched aristocracies who practiced such behavior as overt concubineage] where the norm has been bourgeois, that is monogamous relationship practices. And then their is the issue of temple garments.
Of course nevermos don’t call them temple garments, they call them magic underwear or secret underwear or whatever because they are percieved as underwear, not some sacred garment, but instead something in league with the undergarments of nevermormons. Only weirder. When Mormons are brought up in culture their underwear is brought up to smear them as weird people who wear weird stuff and believe weird things. Comedians [such as Bill Maher] make quite a bit of hay out of the issue of Mormon temple garments. It’s an easy thing to go to when you want to dismiss an entire population as weird. [Of course there is plenty in LDS Culture, but this is an easy talking point].
Previously I said that Mormons were a peculiar people, and this is yet another reason this is thought so by nevermormons. Once again the same issue comes up between nevermormon religious culture and LDS religious culture. In nevermormon Christian religious culture only the most pious and spiritual wear clothing marking them out as members of a religion [such as Catholic nuns and priests, or Protestant preachers who wear the white collar]. Once again in LDS culture the religious clothing isn’t a unique thing, it is mainstream. It is not only peculiar or weird, it is expected. It is the status quo. To not wear these garments is weird. This once again marked Mormons as a peculiar people.
As to the garments themselves, I think this is one of the main reasons that the LDS Church is called a cult by some. It’s not that they believe weird stuff, Christianity is full of weird stuff [see talking snakes, people turning into pillars of salt, etc etc etc etc etc etc…] but its the fact that LDS rules and regulations penetrate into facets of life that most people hold deeply private. In a sense nevermos think, “alright belief what you want, but why are you all wearing the same underwear?” and the ideas of comformity lead to thinking that this is a cult, because of the focus on comformity, even when you can’t see that comformity. Underwear is supposed to be something that is well, under, and to make it a public issue strikes of intrusion and just general peculiar/weird behavior. Heck the fact that people look for “garment lines” or that you can see them easily [if you know what to look for] makes the garment issue a public issue, once again leading to the issue of making private things public, which reinforces the weirdness of it all. As long as these garments are worn by Mormons, the LDS people will be a peculiar people.
I’ve been watching what I’d call an “exmormon movement” happening on the Internet for the last few years, and just wanted to jot down my thoughts and opinions as to what is going on and why it’s happening.
In my opinion the transition from Mormon to Exmormon is one of moving rapidly from one absolute position to a position opposite to the position held when Mormon. Here are a few examples: group think to passionate individuality, theist to atheist, teetotaler to alcohol consumer etc. What I want to focus on the most though is the issue of moving from group thinking toward individual thinking. It appears to me that exmormons are passionate about defending their individual space and rights and newly found code of ethics because of offenses to their individuality suffered as Mormons [such as having to wear white shirts to LDS services or temple garments]. What I want to focus on is the issue of individuality and how it effects exmormons as they leave the LDS Church.
A swing can be noticed from group think to passionate individualism. Mormonism [I think most would agree] is a culture which strives for conformity [see temple garments if you think otherwise]. What I’ve noticed about exmormons is that they are passionate about expressing their individuality. This phenomenon [particularly on the Internet] can best be seen by the splintering exmormon movement. For every exmormon you can just about find a unique set of beliefs and each will define themselves differently. Exmormon, Antimormon, New Order Mormon, Cafeteria Mormon, Post Mormon, etc etc etc. Groups of people who have something in common, leaving the Mormon church, but who upon leaving find themselves disagreeing with exmormons about how to proceed after leaving the Church. Exmormons find themselves out and about, untethered to any moral system and thus go about finding something new or creating a new life view.
Mormon culture is best marked by conformity and following the status quo, and in my opinion exmormons first and foremost want to break out of following Mormon cultural mores and rules. For example look at how many exmormons [on large boards such as Recovery from Mormonism] revel in alcohol consumption [to the point of weekly threads celebrating the fact.] I think this behavior is as much about offending things they formerly held sacred [perhaps in an attempt to break out of the group think they had previously participated in] as much as it is about knocking back a few cold ones.
Beyond that look at exmormon activity on the Internet. It is all about staking out individual space and protecting turf. Take a look at message boards alone. Boards for debate, boards for recovery from Mormonism, boards for post mormons, boards for new order mormons who want to find some new way within the Church. And the exmormons who appear on these boards argue with each other over how to define the newly ex-church members, how to treat the church, etc etc etc. Members who are passionately anti everything Mormon. People who want to build bridges. People who want to convert Mormons. People who want to rant about Mormons. People who want to talk about everything except Mormonism, but with people who are exmormons. On and on and on and on. Once again splintering off from each other as they split themselves away from the Mormon Church. Not everyone is unique, and people will find people like themselves who hold roughly the same believes and feelings toward the Mormon church.
Just a thought~
Edit from feedback: I think exmormons want to protect and stake out their individuality doubly because mormons refuse to recognize their individuality. Mormons are more likely to lump exmormons together simply as people who want to attack the church [or people who left the Church in order to sin]. They don’t want to recognize that exmormons are not a homogenous group who think and feel the same but are individuals who leave the church for different reasons and define themselves differently from other exmormons. Thus exmormons are doubly moved to stake out their little patch of individuality due to the stigma they feel as exmormons from mormons
What you would call “Chapel Mormons”, religious believers who only know the Church history and dogma they’re taught in Church are significiantly different from the Internet Mormons, people who have learned to be quite a bit more liberal and outside the box thinking about Church dogma. Not that they disagree with Church dogma or believes, just that they are better at twisting existing evidence to fit the dogma.
Chapel Mormons probably don’t know about the complex debates going on concerning controversial issues, or only know about it in the most fleeting way. Mormon Apologists on the other hand know the issues and have developed ways of thinking to get around any compelling arguments, including avoiding the argument [“shifting the goal posts” or distorting the argument to make it easier to debunk [“setting up a strawman”].
In some ways I have to admire the apologists for their McGuyver-like ability to take any set of Church history, dogma, or opinions, no matter how bizarre or damning, and make it into something respectable. That’s the whole point of apologetics in my opinion. To take weird and bizarre ways of thinking and mainstream them, purify them, make them respectable, or failing that to make them unimportant and completely separated from the Church.
Issues such as polygamy, which really can’t be defended in modern society, are just an issue that has to be made unimportant and divorced from Church business, due to it’s nature as a volatile and “hot button” issue. The purpose of apologetics is to defend the defensible and divorce the indefensible. The difference between a good apologist and a bad apologist, or more precisely a smart apologist and a foolish apologist is learning that defending the defensible is easier than trying to divorce the indefensible.
The reason this is so is that the indefensible practices are difficult, almost impossible to divorce, when they are core issues in Mormon history and Mormon theology. You can’t just divorce a hot button issue such as polygamy when it was practiced by the Church founders, practiced significantly by the Church for generations [and might have continued on if not for the Church’s attempt to gain political legitimacy via making Utah a US State], and is something to be practiced in the Mormon afterlife and is still practiced by “Mormon” sects such as the FLDS. For these reasons the polygamy issue is probably impossible to divorce [short of an LDS Prophet decree to total divorce from polygamy in this life and the next.
So the smart apologists take on issues that are defensible, issues that are possible while foolish apologists continue to defend the indefensible issues. Sadly it seems that most issues are considered defensible by most LDS apologists while people looking from the outside would consider most issues indefensible [especially issues of sexuality, counseling of members by unqualified people, polygamy, issues of money for starters.] But that’s the state of Mormon apologists in my opinion.
A Nevermos take on Missions
I’ll try to be polite, but the idea of going off to serve two years, without constant contact with family, paying for it yourself, is well to a nevermormon, crazy. It’s bizarre, weird behavior. And it’s one of the things that is fairly unique to Mormon culture.
It’s unique in several ways from an outsiders perspective. For one thing in nevermormon society the people who go off on missions are the most zealous and faithful members of religions. They’re almost surreal in their perspective because they’re sooo into their religion. In LDS culture the mission isn’t some bizarre thing that weirdos do. It very mainstream. In fact I would argue that it is a right of passage for men into LDS adulthood. This is what Mormons cannot understand about perception of Mormons by nevermormons. Odd behavior for nevermormons is mainstream and perfectly normal in Mormon culture. For this reason nevermormons will continue to see Mormons as a peculiar people.
Another way that the mission unique is that it is not an closed experience of a Mormon’s life. It is something that many people seem to build the whole front end of their lives around, and something that serves as a capstone on the LDS youth cycle, along with marriage and going to the Temple. I don’t include the baptism [which appears to be defacto mandatory at age 8] because it seems a formality squarely grounded in childhood. Sure it’s important, but is not a clear severing of the LDS youth away from the family such as marriage or the mission is. The mission is both a psychological and clearly physical separation period in which the men are taught self reliance and become the founding members of new family groups.
Furthermore, the mission is something that Mormon culture uses to judge men after they return, once again showing that the missionary experience beyond the mission, for once an LDS man has been a missionary, he will remain a missionary for life. It is a badge of honor for missionaries, and the lack of that badge is a permanent demerit within Mormon culture, much as people without college degrees might be looked down upon in American society. It works both good and bad. Having it is a plus, but not having it is a negative, as opposed to a neutral position. This positive/negative behavior which can lead to alot of passion over what nevermormons would consider voluntary behavior [religious missions] once again marks Mormons out as a peculiar people.