Thursday, August 26, 2010
Agnostic, Atheist, Atheism, Godless - my way and my life
(This post is my number one hit, probably from Google, I always recommend catching up with my current views and statements, so please go to my newer posts. If you were looking for me then you found me!)
As a member of the LDS church I was full of one of my favorite terms: cognitive dissonance. The more I research cognitive dissonance and the more I talk to fellow non-religious people, the more I feel that cognitive dissonance is one of the major ways a person leaves a faith.
Cognitive dissonance is the tension one feels when they follow or hold contradictory beliefs or attitudes and arises from that inconsistency with themselves. Obviously a lot of things cause this, and people can try to go further into religion to get rid of this feeling/experience, but I find this to be a crucial point for postmos and non-religious people. I often hear something like this: "When I heard such-n-such, I was like 'huh, that doesn't seem right.'" Or, "I just didn't feel right when I was thinking this way but acting in another way that the church told me to do."
This may be one of the reasons why I cannot be an agnostic. The wishy-washy-ness of agnosticism does not sit well with me. However, agnosticism is purely reasonable and logical to me, but does not appeal emotionally. I do NOT know for sure whether there is no God, or gods. I don't think anyone knows. But I can tell you that all of the self-confessed atheists I've talked to face to face have admitted a level of agnosticism to their atheism. But I hear all the time from theists that they KNOW their particular god exists. And also that their god will be sending me to hell.
When I was an agnostic, floating, I was definitely not very happy. I was torn over my faith issues, wasn't sure if there was god that was not impressed by my lack of faith, or whether there was no god and I had been duped for most of life and had wasted two years on a mission (which most of it was a waste, but I still hold my mission to some worth and am grateful for the experience). Truly, my agnosticism has always been with me, and sometimes I even had a good level of atheism in my life. But the second half of my mission was what really set me down the path to atheism. But that is a tale for another time.
Being miserable in agnosticism also only seems to strengthen the case for god, you start thinking, huh maybe it is true cause I feel horrible. I was like this for over a year, going back and forth. Then I decided that I would 'test' atheism, prove it in my mind if it's true or not. I researched it, I read books, I began contemplating my morals without a dictatorial god over me. Less then a year ago I woke up one day and truly felt I had taken the step over, I was an atheist. There were no gods, the Church was false, miracles were lies or figments, prayer was nearly pointless, people the world over were caught in a phenomenon that has no rational basis.
And suddenly I was free.
The cognitive dissonance went away, I no longer mentally punched myself for lacking faith, I had a clear standing that I could define myself with (not too clear though, lol). In a matter of days I went from being nearly clinical depression to being the happiest I've been in years. And I still am. Sure, I feel lonely sometimes, I like having girlfriends, but my happiness is not dependent on that. Also, I was surprised by how free I felt. I was 'surprised by joy' you could say.
The LDS church teaches to learn things for yourself and has the mask of seeming open-minded. But they always have answers for everything, and a narrow view of the world and how to act and even think. I guess that is one of the things that makes a cult. I had never realized how tightly compacted my mind was. Even with doubts I still was stuck in the paradigm of Mormonism. But when I broke free, suddenly the world had mystery, suddenly the expanse of the horizon went ten-fold, suddenly I could think for myself, reason for myself, and enjoy the process.
I may write about these things in more detail later, but I wish to exonerate myself from any possible misunderstanding:
After leaving the church (at least in mind and practice) I am happier than I have ever been, and I feel so much more freedom then I thought possible. The grass can be, and is greener on the other side. For anyone who reads this that may struggle with some of the same things I did, realize that leaving religion or god does not equal being miserable. The process may be hard, and should considering what it means, but the 'result' is great. It's a large door, with many unique paths leading to it, with many people arriving by these different paths, and the room beyond is goes endlessly into the horizon.
And the horizon does not have a sunrise, but a galaxy rise, 400 billion suns. (to quote A Glorious Dawn)
And that (or those) is another reason of why I am an atheist.