Q&A with A Raging Atheist

Ladies and Jellyspoons, boys and girls, I’m coming out. I’m an Atheist! Yay! I’m not Agnostic, I’m not curious or questioning; I don’t believe in God. Not Islam’s God, Christianity’s God, or New-Age “The Universe Loves You” fabrications. There is not one fiber of my being that believes some higher moral entity exists to govern our behavior towards one another. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want to believe that. I can’t find a single reason to support an argument in favor of divine guidance.

Of course, this joyful announcement may not be news to some of you. I have no shame in my views, nor do I think they make me a pretentious, arrogant bastard (although I am certainly that for other reasons). But I do receive a fairly common string of questions that I want to address, partly because I think I share these views with many fellow Atheists who may not care to articulate them, and partly because I’m lazy and will simply refer future askers of said questions to this blog post.

Doesn’t being an Atheist give life no true meaning?

If you define “true meaning” in the sense that there is no ultimate, existential purpose to human existence, then yes. Because I don’t think a God put us here in order to perform some extraordinary task, and because I don’t think there is any afterlife, that may mean I don’t see life’s “true meaning” the same way you do. Does that mean I believe life has no meaning at all? Absolutely not. I still experience pain, joy, hope, and love exactly the same way that you do. Cooking a mega Christmas dinner for my family and then sitting down to eat and laughing our butts off together brings me joy fit to burst. Having a giant, hairy dog who loves me so much she freaks out every time I come home makes me feel needed and happy. Experiencing the loss of a good friend makes me cry, rage, and hurt. I experience humanity whether there’s a God or not, and that’s meaning enough for me.

Do you believe in anything?

Sure. I believe that humans are fundamentally creatures of tribal existence, with intelligence cultured by millions of years of brutal evolution. I also believe that humans are fundamentally “good” in the sense that they want to be happy and see the people they love happy. We are each motivated by very similar things—the need to feel needed, loved, praised, successful, attractive. Although the extent to which we feel these things varies by person, I haven’t met a single person who didn’t care to be treated kindly. Once you take away threats to someone’s well-being, people are generally pretty willing to be nice to each other. Studies show that altruism breeds altruism—which is why, at my very core, I believe that treating others with humanity is the most important thing we can do in this life.

What happens after we die?

Nothing. We die and (hopefully, unless we were real assholes) our family and friends celebrate our life, and mourn our loss, but we cease to exist as intelligent entities functioning within a living, breathing body of organic matter.

Then why even bother getting up in the morning?

Because I’m hungry, I want to brush my teeth, Lois has to pee, I love my job, and I’m excited for the future.

What gives you hope?

I have to admit that, sometimes, there are things that bring me down. Watching the incessant war in the Middle East and doubting whether it’s ever going to stop—that doesn’t make me feel great. It often seems like humanity is its own worst enemy. Going back to true altruism though, I also think it can be its own greatest hope. When I see groups of people coming together, united under a cause to make life better for people for no reason other than just to be good, I am extremely hopeful. Why must we wait or depend on God to be good? 

Why are we here, then?

Does it matter? We’re here, whether you believe there’s a reason to it or not. I personally believe we’re here because billions of years of complicated evolution brought us to a point where we’re sentient enough to realize we exist. Again, that may not be the existential purpose you’re looking for; but as far as I’m concerned, we’d all be a lot better off if we got past the “whys” and delved deeper into the question of “How can I make positive contributions to the life quality of myself and those around me?”

What if you’re wrong, and there is a God?

I probably get asked this question more often than anything else. For the sake of argument, let’s just pick the god I’m most familiar with—the Christian God of the Bible—and play out a little scenario. If I die and float (or whatever one does when they’re dead) off to the pearly gates and am confronted with Jesus Christ and his rather abusive, neglectful father, I have some serious questions to ask them. 1) If you are going to base my entire eternal existence on my behavior on Earth, why did you create me with a brain that cannot believe in a higher power? 2) Why, being the all-powerful dudes that you are, did you allow such senseless, pointless, needless suffering to occur to the innocent? 3) Why were you such as asshole in the Bible? 4) Why did you permit people to carry out atrocities on each other in your behalf? 5) Why did you make such a painstaking effort to conceal yourself, and demand belief anyway? 6) Why use the process of evolution when you can command the elements at will? 7) Why didn’t you turn my water into wine? I really could have used all the money I spent on booze throughout my life.

All joking aside, though, I think believing in God simply on the off chance that He exists is tantamount to base cowardice. Simply believing in God because you’re afraid of retribution is living a life based only on fear. Step back and observe those around you: Does God really, truly bless only those who believe in him? Of course not—you see happy people, hungry people, hurting people in every walk of life and religious denomination. And if there is a God, which God is it? Your god? My god? The god of the starving child in Detroit, or god who tells parents to mutilate their daughter’s genitals? I haven’t heard of one single higher power on this planet that I believe is worthy of worship by human beings. In most cases, the things the gods we worship command us to do, or do themselves, are so much worse than anything we do to each other of our own volition (I guess this might be misleading, because since I believe humans made God up, we are doing anything they “command” us to do of our own volition). But you know what I mean? What is it about a mean, vindictive, jealous, murderous, racist, homophobic, and inconsistent God that you want to worship? If that means I don’t get to go to heaven, count me out. 

Do you think you can do whatever you want because you’re an Atheist?

Sure, I could do whatever I want. So could you. It doesn’t mean that we will, because whether I’m an Atheist or not, I still have to operate within the restraints of civilization and basic human decency. And if the only thing between you and committing capital murder is your belief in God, I’m a little worried, bro. 

If everyone were Atheist, how would the world have any “morals”?

Let’s just make one thing clear: Morals are not Ethics. I see religious people all the time acting unethically based on their “morals”. So your kid is gay—your morals dictate that his sexual orientation is a sin, so behaving according to your morals, you decry him as a sinner and refuse to allow him to bring his partner into your home. What if your morals dictate that the female sexual drive is fundamentally evil, and those women who experience orgasm will inadvertently stray into sexual sin? Your morals dictate that their genitalia be removed, but ethics say that is the bat-shit-craziest, ugliest, bloodiest, most reprehensible thing you could do to a young girl. Morals are a poor thing to base your decision making process on, because they’re dictated only by what other people believe. Ethics, however, are based on the fundamental principle that we should do good to each other and our behavior should reflect that decision. Morals remain stagnant as part of a religious code—Ethics evolve and become better, higher ways to treat others. I daresay we could use a world without any so-called “morals.”

What about the value of faith?

I find no value in accepting something to be true simply because somebody else told you it was. I think there might be value in having “faith” in humanity, if that’s how you want to put it; but that’s based on the fact that we have observed others doing good, not because of some ethereal concept of human goodness. Failing to ask questions—of everything—is not a virtue. Making enormous, critical life decisions based on what you think God might want you rather than what practicality and circumstances and personal desires indicate you should do—that’s not a virtue. Faith, or blind belief, is not a virtue, it’s a vice, and we’d all be better off without it.

Didn’t Hitler, Mao, and Jeffrey Dahmer do awful things because they were atheist?

There are people in this world who do not care whether those around them suffer. There are people who relish the power to make life difficult for others, who crave the ability to cleanse the world of what they consider lesser human existence. That isn’t atheist—that’s just an ugly part of humanity that, unfortunately, seems to exist across the board. We see it in religious folks and nonreligious folks alike. The Inquisitions were based around doing exactly what Hitler did. The constant wars in the Middle East are pushed onward by religious zealots on all sides. Catholic priests are constantly called into the limelight for preying on little boys. The propensity to do ugly things to other humans has nothing to do with one’s beliefs—it has everything to do with one’s character, and the belief in God doesn’t seem to improve character one bit.

Doesn’t something have to exist in order not to believe in it? Why is God any different?

This is the dumbest fucking question I’ve ever heard, and I’m surprised by how often I hear it. The utter lack of logic evidenced by such a proposition scarcely deserves to be dignified by a response; but for the sake of this post, I’ll just say this. You don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy. That doesn’t mean a little green pixie with a tiny waist and giant boobs is hiding quarters under children’s pillows in exchange for a rootless molar–just so you can have the luxury to not believe in her.

Why do atheists hate religion?

Because we see it cause so much damage. Even if most religious people are fundamentally good, religion gives people an excuse to behave in ways they normally would not. If God didn’t say being gay was bad, would we ever disown our LGBT children? If God didn’t say a woman’s virtue is encased in her virginity, would strong, independent women be valued higher and would slut shaming stop? If God didn’t say men were the head of the household, would we see less spousal abuse? If God didn’t tell the Sunnis that the Shiites were wrong, would we have factional wars in Yemen and Syria? Religion spearheads much of the ugly behavior we see in the world today, and for non-participants, it is sad and frustrating. 

What about programs like Alcoholic Anonymous that make people better through religion?

I won’t deny that we humans seem genetically preprogrammed to believe in a higher power. The simple fact that we alone look up into the heavens with a blazing curiosity to understand the powers in the firmament is remarkable. It is hardly surprising that we invented superstitious ways to explain the incredible things we saw. Interestingly, those who have less control over their lives tend to rely on superstition the most. Even in baseball, where superstition is a fundamental part of the sport’s history, it is the players who have the least control over the game—namely, the pitchers—that exercise the most rigorous superstitious rituals. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that make users acknowledge a higher power that can usher in relief and assistance to the struggle of addiction certainly have their place. I take no issue with the fact that simply believing in a higher power can assist those whose lives seem to have lost control to substance abuse. Certainly I would prefer to see that higher power be relationships with loved ones rather than God, but who am I to dictate what makes other people stronger? If they’re not using it as a weapon against anyone, power to them.

What about studies that show religious people live longer?

Correlation does not equal causation. What scientists are finding now is that religions encourage people to unite in groups with a strong foundation in community and common purpose. Humans are social creatures, and we are happier when surrounded by those who love and support us. That is what makes people live longer—not the religion itself. I have watched several people struggle through issues of enormous implication, like death, cancer, and divorce. When these people have family and friends who join together in supporting the sufferer, the entire community is buoyed up and strengthened. Religion acts as a core unifier, not as a magical life-extenze. 

What about the new age spiritualism? Is that better than religion?

I guess, in a sense, I would much rather see people engaged in “spirituality” than religion. Those I’ve seen who consider themselves spiritual are typically in the pursuit of personal enlightenment, and do so because they want themselves and those around them to be happy. That being said, I think the “Law of Attraction” (which is a theory, not a law, and a flimsy one at that), and “Universal Guidance” are absolutely ridiculous and have no ground in reality. The universe doesn’t “love” you, because the universe is not a sentient whole capable of loving anything. Love is a concept that exists for humans because it makes us behave in ways that are beneficial to ourselves and each other. It’s a measurable force that exhibits itself in chemical reactions in the brain, and then causes us to carry out behaviors that reinforce good relationships. The universe is not human, and is not subject to our lovey-dovey wishes. The fact that positive thinking can make us happier is no Secret—but it doesn’t give us whatever we want. If it could, we’d all be manifesting ourselves into millionaires driving Maseratis. And the constant invocation of “Quantum Physics” to support the arguments for the Law of Attraction is the biggest psuedo-science bogus alive and well today. The average layman has so little knowledge of the quantum physics that they can’t distinguish the difference between quack science and genuine physics, but any reputable physicist will tell you that the Law of Attraction is utter nonsense. My biggest issue with this new-age Spiritualism is that it comes from a very self-serving point of view, and seems to blame those who have less simply because they haven’t tried hard enough to attract it to themselves. But that is a whole blog post unto itself (coming soon).

I’ve covered as many of these as I can think of; I’m sure there will be more added later. If you’re curious about any of these answers, or feel like they have been explain fully, or even just have a question of your own, I welcome comments and suggestions. May the force be with you. Always. 

Stop Praying for Boston

Out of the thousands of Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, and Twitter twats that have been circulating non-stop in the wake of the awful Boston bombing, the majority seem to be focused on prayer. “Pray for Boston,” “My prayers and thoughts are with Boston,” and #PrayforBoston are on every cellphone and computer screen around the country.

Apparently, people find this to be a show of solidarity and support. After all, something terrible has happened–what else can we do but pray for God’s help?

But as good and kind as it may seem, this social media prayer phenomenon really bothers me. And believe it or not, it’s not because I’m an angry atheist or think all people who pray are stupid. Prayer seems to have a wonderfully calming effect on everyone who performs it–so much so that, despite the fact that prayer literally changes nothing about our circumstances except our outlook, it makes us feel so much better that we just keep doing it. When I was religious, prayer was always my instinctive go-to. When I lost something, I’d pray; and then, whether I found it or not, I felt as if the outcome was the “right” thing.

But what if it wasn’t “right”? What if I prayed for something I badly needed, like finding the key to my car, after I had dropped it in the dumpster outside? What if that key was permanently lost, and as a result, I was out a hundred bucks and my car for a week? And what if, prayer notwithstanding, shit like losing keys just happens?

This is clearly a facetious example–the Boston bombings are much more serious than losing keys. But the principle stands; praying only makes whatever happens seem better, even if it’s actually not. After witnessing the violence and destruction on the news, sitting on your ass and posting about how you’re going to pray doesn’t do a damn thing except make you feel better and then make whatever the resulting outcome is seem “right”.

Oh, and it conveniently lets everyone else know what a righteous ass-soul you are.

Not to fight with a weapon I consider tantamount to holy sword made of poo, but in the Bible Jesus condemns the Pharisees for praying in public (perhaps this Jesus guy was smarter than I give him credit for). And I quote:

“Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

Not to be too punny, but Jesus hits the nail right on the head. O ye who post over and over about how thou art praying for this family or that tragedy–good job. Now everybody knows you’re a good person, and we’ll all “like” your status and give you spiritual high-fives.

But if the purpose of real prayer is to bring personal comfort, doesn’t it seem like it would be much better carried out alone, minus the incessant social media postings, where you can really pour your heart out to God and receive the comfort it gives you? Yes. And there’s nothing wrong about that.

Here’s where the problem with the mass prayer phenomenon comes in, though. Praying for the suffering of others you don’t know makes you feel good–but it doesn’t do anything else. At. All. This fascinating study discusses a very carefully conducted experiment about prayer. Essentially, 1800 patients undergoing heart surgery were placed in three different groups: Those who were being prayed for and knew it, those who were being prayed for and didn’t know it, and those who weren’t being prayed for at all. Those who weren’t being prayed for, and those who were being prayed for and didn’t know it, recovered at the same pace. But those who were being prayed for and did know it had more complications and recovered slower than the other two groups.

Some have suggested that spiritual matters like prayer transcend that of scientific studies’ capabilities. Why, though? If God has the power to alter matter in the universe and use prayer to affect real, tangible things like bombs and broken bodies, why shouldn’t the “power” of prayer be measurable? Why would He put the physical evidence of His power beyond our reach? It doesn’t make sense that a God who wanted his children to believe in him/her/it would do such a thing, or, as some people suggest, maliciously try to confuse us by deliberately thwarting such studies.

Still, all this considered, prayer couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? Except maybe it could. Because, since all posting about praying on Facebook does is make you feel like a good person, it enables you to literally sit on your ass (or knees) and do nothing while bad things happen around you.

Because, as the study above shows, people who pray remotely for others they don’t know have absolutely no effect on the prayees’ health or well-being. In reality, if you were sincerely interested in making life better for the disadvantaged, there is literally no end to the good you could do if you just got off your duffer and did it.

The worst has already happened in Boston. Your prayers, after the fact, won’t take back time and change that explosion, or bring that eight year old boy home, or stop the suffering of those who lost legs. And while the bombing in Boston is awful, and close to home, in reality the world is full of much, much worse things every day.

Boston
For example.

So, rather than type your prayers out for the world to see, why not do something better–something more noble and something that will actually make a difference. You don’t have to have money, or resources, or even a ton of time to do something that will make somebody’s life easier than praying will.

And perhaps it’s just my arrogant anti-religious sentiment, but the irony of the whole “Pray for Boston” situation is that the evidence seems to show this attack was religiously motivated to begin with by fundamentalist Islamists.

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But religious or not, you can’t argue too hard against the fact that this world would be a hell of a lot more like heaven if we all started praying less and doing more. 

And on that happy note, I’m going to go rescue a kitten from a tree.

In which I discuss the Grand Lux in full and unremitting detail.

As you may or may not know (or care), I recently quit my first job in Chicago after only two and a half months of being there. “Why,” you may ask. “Why are you such a wimpy bitch, Liz?”

It’s a fair question. From the outside, the Grand Lux Cafe on Michigan Avenue looks like the epitome of all things Chicago: big, shiny, diverse, delicious, murderous. Well, maybe not the last, but still–how could a restaurant that serves portions big enough for three very hungry adults be a bad place?

Wo betide you to judge a book by its cover. I did the same thing, and may my soul rest in peace. The Grand Lux is far from the classy business-oriented atmosphere it wants or appears to be.

And out from the darkness came a weeping, a wailing, a gnashing of gold grill-covered teeth.
And out from the darkness came a weeping, a wailing, a gnashing of gold grill-covered teeth.

Yes, let’s discuss the appearance. Fact: The Grand Lux in Chicago cost over $17 million dollars to build. Why? Because every goddamn surface in that building is solid marble. Floors, tables, walls; even the hearts of the managers are made of that horridly cold rock. At first you may think, “What a fancy place; they must be dedicated to quality and excellence!” In reality, the outrageous expense and appearance of the building matches the general truth of the chain: with over 250 items on the menu, more sugary drinks than Alcoholic Barbie’s Princess Emporium, servings big enough to feed a family in Ethiopia, and a seething mass of 100+ underpaid employees, the place is just plain tacky. It’s nothing more than an “upscale” Cheesecake Factory, owned by the same company (but don’t tell anyone that, even if they ask).

So who does this restaurant attract? Well, during the day, when the sun streams in pleasantly through the vast windows, the primarily tourist and business crowd is fairly tolerable. Not always the best tippers, but that’s to be expected on Michigan Avenue. The pace isn’t terribly busy, and things tend to run pretty much according to plan. Michael Buble and Bing Crosby serenade you softly over the speakers as you eat your lunch-sized salad and gratuitous bread and butter, and a child’s laughter floats serendipitously on wave after wave of the mouth-watering scent emanating from the kitchen.

But when the night hits–and the music changes to Aaliyah and Justin Timberlake, blasting to compete with the noise level of the 400 some-odd guests–the clientele completely changes too. And since I didn’t cause it, create it, or do anything except serve and observe, I’ll merely describe it like it was. Judge me as you will.

The evening crowd at the Grand Lux, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, is comprised mostly of ghetto south-side Chicagoans. They are rude, demanding, and impossible to placate. Tip average is typically between 5-10%; “please” and “thank you” are virtually nonexistent; and nearly every conversation between the servers centers around this table or that table who just stiffed them, or shouted at them, or ordered everything special and sent it all back. Servers aren’t politely requested to get things–they are commanded about by the guests. “You can get me a caramel apple martini,” or “Give me a straw,” or “I need lemons,” is the common vernacular.

And the management totally facilitates this behavior. Guests will order something special–

And here are the three sauces with the Beignets--sadness, misery, and warm tear creme fraiche.
And here are the three sauces with your Beignets–sadness, misery, and warm tear creme fraiche.

like Chicken Parmesan with marinara but no tomatoes, or a blended drink which is not made blended; and when they eat or drink a third of it, just “don’t like it,” and request to speak to a manager, the manager immediately comps the item and the guest walks out without paying for dinner. Meanwhile, the servers get shitty tips, shitty tables, and sweat their asses off running around on marble floors–all for a grand total of $4.95 an hour, plus tips and an impending hip replacement.

Well, at least the servers get to keep their tips, right? Wrong. Because the servers tip out their help–the bussers, bartenders, and food runners–in the sum of about 5% of their sales. Yup, that’s right. Their sales. So what happens when you get stiffed on a $100 check? You have the opportunity to pay the other staff members’ wages out of your tips from other tables, so the restaurant can justify paying them 4.95 an hour, too. Righteous.

In all fairness, the servers assistants do their share. They work hard, and don’t get paid enough either. But you’d hardly know you’re tipping them out for service–because when a manager is violently waving his arms back and forth while you’re at a table, mouthing at you to get in the kitchen and run food, you wonder what, exactly, you’re tipping out a food runner for. And when the bartender makes five strawberry lemonades, and you’re tipping them out 1.25% of your total sales (Read: $15 on a Saturday night, just to the bartender), you again wonder if your life has any purpose.

And here is your arugula flatbread, your trans-fatty pickles, and your honey scrotum-cheese salad. Fuck you.
And here we have your basil flatbread, your trans-fatty pickles, and your honey scrotum-cheese salad. Fuck you.

“Why, oh why, don’t the managers do something?” you might wonder. As did I, friend. As did I. But the managers make salary. The managers stay in the kitchen. The managers sit in the office and do managery things (how often did I see the GM lift a plate? Once). The managers visit discontent tables for thirty seconds, tell them how sorry they are, and then walk off and tell the server what they could have done better to make the angry, rude, bitchy table any less angry, rude, and bitchy. And it’s not that the life of a manager at the Lux is easy–it’s hectic, stressful, and (who knows?) probably underpaid as well. But the managers aren’t the ones dealing with the bad behavior of the guests every single second of every single shift. And it wasn’t until one manager got in an altercation with a party that was so bad she got spit on by a guest that they finally cracked down on kicking out people who swore at the servers.

Yeah. They spit on a manager and threatened to kick her ass. That is the kind of clientele the Grand Lux attracts on weekends, and that is 75% of why I left. I don’t care what your skin color, nation of origin, sexual orientation, or goddamn food preferences are. When that kind of behavior predominates any facility, I’m making like a baby and heading out.

And so are the rest of the servers. There are excellent waiters and waitresses who have been there for years; they’re hightailing it out ASAP as well. The turnover rate is enormous–only half of the people who started with me still work there–and if it weren’t for the mind-blowingly high volume of consumers that come to the restaurant, I think the Lux would be facing serious financial difficulties (as it is, they’re begging servers to be conservative with salad dressings and cutting down on that oh-so-premium beverage, water).

And really, when a busy Saturday night rings in $50,000 in sales, just enough trained servers stick

Classy.
This table really liked me.

around to keep the place from collapsing (many of whom don’t have the sheer balls (or stupidity) to walk out like I did), and the managers catch the majority of dash-n-diners before they leave the restaurant, hey–it’s all gravy.

But for this girl, who comes with a strong side of attitude, a dollop of pride, and a topping of just-don’t-give-a-fuck, the Grand Lux was more like a Grand Luxation of the soul. I walked right out of that Food&Wine forsaken restaurant, with no other job offer and only a handful of interviews, and haven’t spent one moment regretting it.

I did meet some fantastic people there, though, and it was a very eye-opening experience regarding the race relations in Chicago (which this Utah greenie had never before beheld). Admittedly, if you stay for nine hours on a Saturday night, you can make 150 bucks. Some of the managers were pretty cool, and I had some fantastic tables.  And, ermageeeerd, is that Blueberry Buckle and Braised Pot Roast good.

I start at my new job tomorrow. I just got hired at Lady Gregory’s in Andersonville–a really cool place with a great beer and whiskey list, and a fantastic clientele mostly comprised of older gay men. During my interview, when I was asked why I left the Lux so quickly, I smiled benignly and said, “The commute was simply too far, you see.” One of those funny facts about life–it’s hard to get a good job when you shit all over your ex-employer’s metaphorical forehead during an interview. But, for the sake of good storytelling and also because I love me some good, hardy gossip, I had to post the true story on here for the wise and wary to read.

May I be so bold as to suggest you seek employment elsewhere.

On going to my first opera…

Howdy to you Lizard lovers, young and old! Here follows a blow-by-exceedingly boring blow-account of my first Chicago opera attendance, including every bit of butt-scratching and nose-picking I witnessed and/or participated in.

Just kidding, it was actually really exciting and I won’t tell you everything, but I will tell you about the highlights, lowlights, and medium-to-medium-low-lights that I witnessed last night.

Thanks to an invitation from my two favorite gay uncles, Dave and Eddie, I was able to get in on their sweet season tickets to the Chicago Lyric Opera. Eddie (who is a flight attendant) had a trip on Tuesday, the night of the big event–Tennesee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” So I got to be the lady of honor, and hang on the arm of the one and only Dave Chaput all evening! (We even held hands… everyone thought I was his hot girlfriend… I mean, have you SEEN the man? Rockin’ 50!!)

We took a brief break from arm wrestling to smile for onlookers.
We took a brief break from arm wrestling to smile for onlookers.

So, first we went to dinner at Townhouse Wine Bar, and enjoyed a delectable bottle of Irony Pinot… SO yummy! Along with other tasty yum-yums and lucious goodies to prepare our bellies for the music to come (if only we had known). The building that housed the restaurant was a really excellent modern something-or-other design that Dave told me all about, and which, being the architectural dunderhead that I am, I promptly forgot. But it was awesome.

Afterward, we proceeded to the opera house and began to cough violently at the smell of mothballs and old newspaper emanating from the throngs of octogenarians present that evening. Seriously… weeknights must be running a 25+progeny special, cause these folks were the exact opposite of all things young and springy.

Beating our way through moldy handbags and army-crawling under several walkers, we finally made it to our seats in the third tier, upon which Dave promptly announced to the usher than his “nose was already bleeding.” I was too enchanted with the entire process to care about where we were sitting. Every silly princess dream of my youth promptly erupted from repression the moment we stepped inside the building. The opera hall was fantastic–huge, arching, gold– but the pictures I took of it really don’t do it justice, so I simply recommend Google imaging it or just taking my word for it–it was AWESOME.

And then began the music. At first, I thought “There is no way the entire opera can sound this luxating.” Not even Renee Fleming’s incredible voice could change the fact that nearly every chord was about train-wreckingly dissonant as a chord can get. It was tough to listen to. Which, considering the context of the play–hot, sultry, uncomfortable–was totally appropriate.

As did the intermission, during which we took pictures, and Dave told me to get my feet off the seats in front of me.
The intermission, during which we took pictures, and Dave told me to get my feet off the seats in front of me.

But, after the opera, I don’t think the story could have accurately been told any other way. Desire is just a rough story, and the music was correspondingly difficult. Plus, if I hadn’t been invited to go along, I have to admit that this probably isn’t the opera I would have picked–so what a cool exposure I had the opportunity to receive, and you really just can’t go wrong with Renee Fleming in the house. Her last few words (which Dave couldn’t resist whispering about thirty seconds before she said them): “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”–were followed by a hauntingly beautiful bit of singing, and all I could think was “Hot damn, I wish I could control my voice like that.”

After wildly sprinting for about 3 seconds to get ahead of Methuselah & Co., Dave and I excited the opera house and drove around. We looked at some really neat-o condos downtown, scoffed at the cheap-ass shops like Prada and Jimmy Choo, and sped down Lakeshore Drive with caviar flying out of our laughing mouths, through the open windows, and out into the starry dark night….

'It sure is nice to be rich,' she thought, as she desperately drank a six dollar bottle of wine and vaguely wondered how to pay next month's rent.
‘It sure is nice to be rich,’ she thought, as she desperately drank a six dollar bottle of wine and vaguely wondered how to pay next month’s rent.

Actually, it was really fucking cold, so if you do go see the opera, may I recommend that you do not wear a thin dress with no tights in March.

THE END

Oh, look, it's me again.
Oh, look, it’s me again.

Letter to USU Leaders: Raise the Bar on Statesman Standards

Dear President Albrecht, Vice President Morales, and EIC Steve,

I’m writing this letter to you as a concerned former student, previous writer for the Statesman, and, to Steve, as a friend and peer.

The “Common Sense” column by Richard Winters published in the Statesman made a blatant, shameless, and totally unethical attack on the morality of homosexuality. I, my fellow graduates, and many current students are embarrassed and appalled that our university allowed such an article to be published in its official newspaper.

Of course, Mr. Winters is entitled to his opinions. He is entirely free to believe that LGBT people “get what [they] deserve” when lava destroys their city. But there are several hundred gay students on campus who undoubtedly read this article and felt, yet again, that the level of intolerance they encounter on a daily basis is never going to cease.

Whether you believe that homosexuality is right or wrong, as school leaders and student advocates, you certainly understand how difficult it is to be gay in Utah. The sheer statistics of the predominance of Mormonism mean that gay students cannot escape peers who think they are living a substandard lifestyle—and believe me, it shows.

USU has made great strides in making campus a more tolerant place. The LGBT office in the Access and Diversity center, along with Allies training, enables all students and teachers to be more aware and tolerant of LGBT students’ needs. Richard Winters just took a huge step backwards from that—and he used an official school platform to do it.

Furthermore, Winters makes no bones about the fact that “women’s rights” about “their own bodies” are vague ideas he considers completely illegitimate. He lies about feminism, he lies about Rome and Pompeii, and he lies about pornography. His article is not simply expressing his opinion about morality—it is making condescending, dishonest, and wholly inappropriate commentary on gays and women, and his accusations about my complete lack of virtue are borderline libelous.

I understand that this might sound a little hypocritical coming from me; after all, my columns were certainly not the most popular. But, after having spent some time living in a city outside of Utah where people do not think I “spew debauchery and filth,” it looks terrible when a supposedly progressive college setting publishes material like Winters’ last tirade.

I ask you to please consider raising the bar for the kind of material the Statesman publishes. I love many things about USU and my experience there, but I do not want to claim any pride over a newspaper that publishes content like Mr. Winters’ column.

Warm regards,

Liz Emery

 

If you feel so moved, I strongly suggest you share your thoughts on the subject with USU leadership as well. Stan Albrecht and James Morales can be contacted with any concerns at stan.abrecht@usu.edu and james.morales@usu.edu, respectively. The Statesman’s email address is statesman@aggiemail.usu.edu.

Wives, Lies, and Ugly Ties: Modern Mormon Complicity in FLDS Polygamy

Late last night, because I couldn’t sleep, I purchased “Prophet’s Prey” by Sam Brower and downloaded it on my Kindle reader. Rather than slowly nodding off as planned, I was immediately so immersed in the horrific story Brower told that I stayed up reading well after my eyes itched painfully with tiredness.

After Brower, a private investigator, was contacted by a family who tried to leave a secretive compound on the border of Southern Utah, he became fascinated with the criminal history of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Initially, he had misgivings; after all, these stories he heard were almost too tragic to be true. However, during the course of over seven years, Brower uncovered evidence that allowed him to spearhead the prosecution of the FLDS Prophet, Warren Jeffs, and begin Jeffs’ accusation and conviction on counts of child abuse, rape, financial fraud, and innumerable other crimes.

Brower does not shy away from calling Jeffs and his cohorts what they are–perverted old men with insatiable appetites for booze, power, money, and sex with underage girls and boys. He is, as he should be, completely biased against Jeffs and leaves no room for other interpretation on that count.

However, Brower can’t help sliding in edgewise a defense of the modern Mormon Church, of which he is a member. He, parroting Church authorities, completely eschews the practice of polygamy as a fringe behavior practiced only by the FLDS and a handful of early Mormon leaders. He believes the FLDS has full responsibility for the crimes they commit in southern Utah.

Which, in literal practice, they do. Nobody made Warren Jeffs, who was the principal of his own private polygamist “academy”, secret little boys away and brutally gang rape them in “sacred” priesthood initiation rites. Nobody forced him and his cohorts to take girls as young as 12 years old to wife, and rape them as well. Nobody held a literal gun to the head of the mothers and fathers who abandoned their young sons on the side of the desert I-15 highway so all the girls could be reserved for the old men (earning the ditched male teens the name of “Lost Boys”).

But to restrict the issue only to FLDS behavior doesn’t tell the whole story. You’ve got to do a little digging to find the rest. The Mormon Church, despite their voracious attempts to distance themselves from the FLDS, are undeniably and ever so intimately complicit in the damnable behavior in southern Utah, which continues to this day.

Gordon B. Hinckley, a much-beloved LDS prophet who passed away only a few years ago, strongly  stated that “this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church.” All modern Church members will hasten to agree. If you use the search term “polygamy” on Mormon.org, nothing comes up except profiles  of smiling teens with pithy little statements like, “I love pizza. I’m a Mormon.” They completely ignore the issue whenever possible because the inevitably ensuing conversation is not pleasant or comfortable or easily explained.

Because what Hinckley won’t say is that the Mormon book of scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, is exactly what FLDS polygamists use to back up their belief in the righteousness of polygamy–and that it is still in the modern Mormon canon. Not only is it in the canon, but the scripture itself insists that polygamy is a “new and everlasting covenant”–not something that can be easily broken by the sundry demands of the US government, as when then-prophet Wilford Woodruff revealed God’s sudden change of heart that Mormons stop practicing–and that “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter to [God’s] glory.”

And not only will the Church try to cover up their modern involvement with polygamy–they have also attempted to completely rewrite their past to avoid the uncomfortable discussion. Meet with missionaries for the first time, and they won’t talk about polygamy. Fresh-faced 18 year-old boys out preaching the immutability of Mormonism probably won’t even know that Joseph Smith had upwards of forty five wives; and if confronted with that fact, they frequently will react with outraged denial.

But the facts are these: Joseph Smith had at least 33 wives; historian Fawn Brodie documents as many as 48 in her biography of Smith, titled No Man Knows My History.  Subsequent prophets and apostles, including Brigham Young, practiced polygamy and encouraged others to do the same. Polygamy, the everlasting covenant, was only officially halted in 1890, when God conveniently changed his mind pursuant to the United States government threatening to seize Church property and throw leadership in jail. But Mormon leadership sent offshoots of polygamists to Canada, southern Utah, Arizona, and Mexico to continue the divine practice.

Modern Mormon lore loves to evoke sympathy from current members and converts by telling the story of Joseph Smith’s mythical tarring and feathering–the tale is often told as proof that Satan was working hard to halt the work of the Lord from taking place. According to the current version, the poor, innocent prophet was dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night and tortured by an angry mob for no reason except that he was trying to do God’s will. The story is printed in illustrated storybooks that are given to young Mormons, and is often used as a parable in adult church sessions.

What the Church won’t tell you is the most important part of the story–that this angry mob was comprised of the fathers , husbands, and brothers of the young women that Joseph Smith was claiming God told him to marry, and then often consummating that “marriage” with sex. There were also members in the mob whose wives had left their husbands, hoodwinked by Smith’s charm and convincing preaching, and were spiritually wedded to him as well. The mob arrived at Smith’s house originally intending to castrate him for what they–correctly–believed where the sexual sins he committed against their loved ones. However, the doctor who was to perform the castration got cold feet, and the insatiable mob did indeed end up tarring and feathering Smith–a judgment he was probably lucky to get away with, considering the take-justice-into-your-own-hands fervor of the time. The persecution that the early Mormon faith faced had less to do with Satan’s hold on the hearts of men than the bizarre practices that members held dear; and so it was that they were chased out of every state until they found refuge in Utah.

The continued perpetuity of this fictional account of events is evidence that the Mormon Church is anything but prepared to be honest about its polygamist roots. Any attempts made by non-members, or even current members, to expose Smith’s extensive wife-taking, or criticism of Church history in general, is met with the cry of “You are an anti-Mormon!” and immediately written off as Satan having gotten hold of the hard hearts of men to try to stop the work of the Lord. Mormons are instructed to never even look at “anti-Mormon literature” (which, when published by organizations run by Evangelical Christians, is admittedly pretty stupid and unbelievable). However, this means that most Mormons have no idea of the true nature of their Church’s polygamist roots.

But the true crux of Mormon complicity in FLDS polygamy comes not from mainstream Mormonism’s history. It comes from its future. This is where any denial truly becomes nothing but (pardon my French) steaming, stinking bullshit. Because any member who is even mildly familiar with Church doctrine believes that the divine commandment of polygamy will be reinstated when the heathen gentiles are ready for it–probably beginning during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and then for the rest of eternity. God will inflict His will on the entire world, and the Mormon Church leaves no doubt that part of that sacred will is to practice polygamy.

How can modern Mormons decry FLDS polygamy, and then usher in its renewed dispensation hand-in-hand with God’s impending return? How can they today, right here, right now, continue to allow men to be spiritually “sealed” forever to more than one woman, but only allow women to be sealed to one man–and then deny that they practice polygamy? Why, when receiving their temple rituals, must the woman give her husband her “spiritual name” so that, once past the veil of death, he may call her name and locate her and other wives–but he mustn’t give her his? I know these little details sound bizarre, but bear with me here. These seemingly little details are screaming signs pointing to the fact that modern Mormonism is not only entirely hypocritical in condemning FLDS polygamy. They are still very much entrenched in it themselves.

Seems pretty unequivocal, doesn’t it? Despite the fact that Mormons claim they have nothing to do with the FLDS, they actually have everything to do with it–they began the practice, and they continue to preach its eventual restoration. And, because the Mormon Church has such a strong foothold in Utah’s financial, political, and legal department, the ability to take action against the abuse in southern Utah is entirely within their reach. Ask yourself why they aren’t doing anything.

Never has the LDS Church admitted to or apologized for their liabilities–and I doubt they ever will. However, to continue to insist that they have nothing to do with this “breakaway” FLDS sect is simply dishonest, and their continued reluctance to take responsibility allows the enormous entity that is modern Mormonism, with massive power to do good, to simply turn their head the other way. Is the Mormon Church really interested in the welfare of children? Do they truly believe that they use their finances for good in the world? Then let them take a close look at the environment that they fostered by their own doctrine; let them pay for the lawyers, the investigators, and any other means possible to prosecute the men who are sexually abusing young children; let them admit responsibility for the revelation of polygamy, and for the belief that someday it will again be reinstated; let them actually do something good for once, and better the lives of the people who they, albeit long ago, helped ruin. Let them take responsibility. Let them, for once, be Christlike.

Refreshing Assumptions

One of the first things I’m invariably asked when people find out I’m from Utah is, “How are the Mormons?”

I admit, it’s delightful to regale them with tales of the strange culture. Even people who are somewhat familiar with the Mormons are shocked to hear about the extremely stoic lifestyles that members willingly pursue.

“No coffee?” “No sex?” “No sleeveless shirts?” “No booze?!”

Nope. And then I am assaulted with exclamations of the bizarreness of it all, followed by shaking heads and “I just don’t get it.”

Non-LDS Utahns, the out-of-state vindication is fabulous. Sometimes, despite the fact that you know you’re swimming in a sea of insanity, Utah can seriously wear you down. It’s frustrating to be in a small minority, and to be regarded with condescension by people who just know you aren’t happy. I’ve often thought that I was happier while I was in the Church–not because I loved the lifestyle, but because I had innumerable friends and family.

Outside of Utah, though, I’m not crazy. I’m not extremely biased, or liberal, or weird. Relative to my peers in Chicago, I’m very clean cut and middle-of-the-road opinion-wise.

And when I meet people, I don’t have to immediately assume that they’re LDS–I can assume exactly the opposite. I haven’t met a Mormon yet! And everyone here who knows Mormons loves them, because they aren’t harrowed up in the conservative culture Utah fosters so well.

I’m really looking forward to a long, pleasant separation from the Mormon Church, and hoping that the distance will help me knock the chip off my shoulder I developed while in Utah. Out here, I’m surrounded by pleasant people who are nice simply because they are–not because eternal damnation awaits them if they are not. Nobody’s trying to recruit me. Nobody thinks I’m miserable. Nobody cares what I believe.

If you’re a young and non-LDS individual (especially ex-Mo) stuck in Utah, do yourself the biggest favor of your life: Get Out Now. Allow yourself to be in the norm. Stop having to always assume the worst, and refresh yourself in the outside world. And come hang out with me in Chicago!!

You can be just like me!
You can be just like me!

Pantsed: The Diseased Schlong of the Mormon Patriarchy Reveals Itself (again)

It is a sad truth that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a litany of sexual discrimination against women. From the Church’s inceptions, Joseph Smith Jr. (and many others) engaged in sexual relationships with multiple women, many of whom were underage, against the consent of his wife Emma. Women have never been able to hold the Priesthood, the magical Mormon man-power, and there was a even a brief ban instated against women saying prayers in local congregations, the offending principle being that it allowed women to preside over men.

That’s all old-hat, however. There are new issues bubbling to the surface of Mormon women’s troubles. Recently, a tough group of gals got together and made a Facebook page encouraging women to wear pants to church on Sunday. Big deal, right? Well, any LDS woman who’s attempted to wear even an excellent pair of suit pants to church knows that a slew of gossiping and judgment is sure to follow. Sunday means best dress; doesn’t it follow that women, acting in their divinely-bestowed feminine role, must wear a modest dress or skirt?

In all fairness, it’s been a long time since the Church said that wearing pants to Sunday service was acceptable. In the seventies, and again in response to the pants-wearing revolution, the LDS’s official stance has said pants for women are okay. However, as any honest Mormon woman knows, in practice this just isn’t true.

Interestingly, though, it isn’t just the pants that these Facebooking women were addressing. Despite the fact that they seem to be devoutly practicing members of the faith, they recognized that the pants served as a metonym for a much bigger issue: LDS women may not breach the age-old gender roles that have been rigidly preserved through generations of patriarchal organization.

In the year 2012, when more women are graduating college than men, LDS women still may not offer the opening or closing praying in General Conference meetings. Why? To do so would be to preside over an official Church meeting, a responsibility reserved for Priesthood holders. They may not hold certain Church positions where the Priesthood is not even required–such as Sunday School President–just because that’s the way it is. It goes both ways, too; men are not allowed to direct the children’s Primary Program.

And the women are most definitely not allowed to hold the Priesthood, the mystical power bestowed upon Joseph Smith Jr. by John the Baptist (who had just happened to stop by for tea). The Priesthood is believed by Mormons to be the literal power of God, and while twelve year old boys can hold it, the wisest women would be left without it.

The most commonly cited justification for this is that God gave men the Priesthood because they needed help to become more perfect. Women, however, have the sacred ability to give birth to children, and they don’t need divine inspiration to be wonderful.

This argument doesn’t hold much water when viewed in the context of evolution; with very few exceptions, every female insect, mammal, bird, and dinosaur had the Mormon woman’s divine gift of life-giving. Don’t get me wrong–the ability to have babies is an incredible thing indeed. But since it’s been going on as long as sentient life has existed, and since the Priesthood has only been extended to Mormon men during the last 250 years (and only the last forty of those have included Blacks), there can be no doubt that Priesthood isn’t exactly the verisimilitude of God letting men catch up with women.

The reactions of many Mormons, particularly men, to the Wear Pants to Church page were astoundingly revealing. Many men simply asserted there is no sexism in the Mormon Church. Others, however, turned ugly.

Tony said, “This is a prime example of wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is deceit at its prime and nothing you can say can change what I have seen in these hundreds of posts. Too many people are confused what this is….what it is, is blasphemy.”

Bret said, “FAIR WARNING: The SAME ‘SPIRIT’ that tells you to wear PANTS to church in OPEN REBELLION against the encouragement of God’s appointed leaders will NEXT tell you to STOP going to church…then FIGHT AGAINST the church!”

John said, “LMAO! Geez! haha…what the hell is WRONG with women in our society these days? If you’re going to wear pants, they might as well get penis implants too, to make them even MORE masculine.”

Taylor said, “PENIS ENVY!”

Yes, there is no problem with sexism in the Church. I actually considered suffering through spontaneous combustion due to entering a Mormon chapel on the Wear Pants to Church day, just to see what the results were. Although I ultimately could not bring myself to attend, the Facebook event had over 2,000 attendees–an impressive number when outspoken Mormon feminists are regularly disfellowshipped or excommunicated.

Maybe the Church will take a leaf out of its own book and change its doctrine, again, to suit the times. Maybe it won’t–after all, holding a conference with a General Authority is notoriously difficult, and the Church is anything but a democratic society. But as an ex-member, and a former observer and sometimes victim of the damage that the overly patriarchal set up of the Church can create, I commend these women for taking a giant leap for LDS womankind in the spirit of equality.

You can visit the Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/events/144815455666087/

Modesty: The Spiritual Thought Crime Squad

The tenth commandment, in both the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, states that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thy neighbor’s ass, thy neighbor’s wife’s ass, and etc. This seems like a fairly innocuous command until you accidentally peer across the street and see a new Corvette in the driveway, and then–BAM–you’ve busted up the Decalogue and made a sinner of yourself.

In a real-life scenario, nobody but you would ever know that you had wanted that car, or a few minutes alone with the new intern at work; our internal monologue flows so easily that without even paying attention to it, we covet things right and left on a daily basis. Wanting more encourages competition and hard work, principles strong cultures thrive upon.

However, in a religious scenario, the Big Guy upstairs is not only monitoring your every thought, but keeping a tally and punishing you for them as well. It doesn’t really matter that thinking about something doesn’t affect anybody else, no less harm them. The critical thing with the tenth commandment is that your thought can definitely bring you dangerously close to hellfire.

And that is where the concept of religious modesty comes in–the idea that it is a woman’s duty to cover essential parts of her body so that man doesn’t even have the chance to commit lusty thought crimes against God.

The idea that keeping one’s thoughts under control is noble in essence, since any kind of desperate, secretive wanting can fester into obsession, and God knows we have enough Buffalo Bills in the world. However, the idea of modesty falls under scrutiny because it is the women–who are typically not known for lusting after the neighbor’s wife–and not the men who are responsible for not only their own behavior, but that of the opposite sex as well.

The principle behind traditional Islamic burqas is the perfect example of this. Certain interpretations of Islamic text leads us to understand that women don’t have to wear their face covering in front of blind, gay, or asexual men. A statement by Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid on Islam QA states that, “…the woman’s face must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body…”

The complete and utter nonsense of this concept is infuriating. That religion is continually allowed and encouraged to suppress a woman’s physical self-expression to prevent thought crimes against the Divine is totally ridiculous in the twenty first century, especially in developed countries. Unfortunately, Islam is not alone. Other uber conservative religions, such as the Mormon Church, maintain similar principles: the young women must not wear immodest clothing because it tempts the young men to have lustful feelings.

I read a story of a young Mormon woman, who, as she met with her bishop for the first time at twelve years old, was told by this man of God to bring her legs together under her skirt to the bishop wouldn’t be tempted to look at her privates.

There are numerous cases of men, high in authority, who have made statements something along the lines of, “If you dress appropriately, you are putting yourself less at risk of sexual assault.” Is this true? Probably. But it doesn’t in any way justify the fact that the perpetrators are men, making the decision to commit a heinous sexual crime, and the bottom line is that it just doesn’t matter what the woman is wearing. It’s not her job to protect herself, her thoughts, and her physical safety, and maintain an appearance suitable to religious standards so that the men can be spiritually safe, too.

But it is our job to try to put a stop to this spiritual double standard. France finally took a stand by instituting a ban against burqa face coverings in public; despite some social protests and several tragic violent acts against women who still choose to wear them, it is far better to take a stand against countries and cultures where the social pressure to wear a burqa creates much more violent responses towards women who don’t obey.

Although there are some women who are uncomfortable without wearing their head cover, it is finally an instance where people have said no to tolerance of religious bigotry. It is far too easy to allow the oppression of women and chalk it up to respecting religious rights; and it’s high time a government took a stand against it.

And it is a step in the right direction; it’s just fucking amazing it was the French who dunnit.

I’m an Ex-Mormon: Why leaving the Church is so difficult

Several weeks ago, I received a text from an acquaintance asking me if I wanted to hang out. Because this individual had never previously expressed any interest in me, I was surprised–but responded, “Sure.” As it turned out, he was asking if I wanted to attend an LDS fireside.

 

Shortly before that, I attended a Stake Conference in Provo for a friend. One speaker announced a serious problem: In the whole of Utah County, there are several thousand Utahns who are not LDS. “Bring them to the fold,” he said. “That is far too many.”

Throughout my time writing as a columnist for the Statesman, I have been asked these questions more times than I can count: You’re angry, aren’t you? Do you hate the LDS Church? You have a serious bone to pick with the Mormons, don’t you?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

These are difficult questions, with difficult answers; explaining what it’s like to be an ex-Mormon is complicated and fraught with emotional hang-ups. Explaining how something that makes you happy also makes me miserable is almost impossible; even more difficult is reassuring you that I know that the Mormon Church is not true, as equally as you know it is. I’m going to try anyway.

One of the primary reasons being an ex-Mormon is difficult is illustrated in the first example I gave: somebody who has zero interest in my personality is inviting me to Church functions. Because a fundamental part of the Mormon doctrine is the recruiting of non-members, this is a fairly common occurrence. But if all you can see in me is the potential for bringing a lost individual salvation, it cheapens our relationship and demeans your intentions–and any ex-Mormon can tell you how it feels to be ignored except for spiritual invitations.

We’d actually prefer to be let alone completely. But, as the second example illustrates, that doesn’t happen because the Mormon Church is everywhere. There is absolutely no getting away from it here. Pictures of caucasian Jesus hang in every window. Missionaries are sent by neighbors who have never taken the trouble to meet me.  My friend group, my dating pool, and my entire college experience is marginalized because I am not Mormon. The constant exposure is incredibly frustrating.

This is compounded upon by another common experience many ex-Mormons share: ostracization from family and friends. Often, in sacrament meeting, stories are told in which individuals overcome extreme familial hardships when joining the Mormon Church, and just can’t understand why their families don’t accept the transition. These individuals are made out as martyrs, who are unjustly punished for making a decision that brings them happiness.

Unfortunately, the pendulum doesn’t swing the other way. Although ex-Mormons hear from many of our Mormon friends that they still love us, we want to ask them: Then why don’t we talk anymore? Why can’t you empathize? Ex-Mormons don’t get invited to family reunions, life-long church-going friends abruptly lose contact, and false rumors spread like wildfire–will you pretend there isn’t a correlation?

Often, the rude behavior of Church members is brushed off with the mantra of, “The members may not be perfect, but the doctrine is.” Au contraire, my friends. The doctrine tells parents their gay son is living a sinful, intolerable lifestyle. The doctrine tells youth only to associate with those who hold the same “standards” as they do. The doctrine allowed racism to continue so far past the Civil Rights movement, and the extreme sexism to continue today.

No, the length between the Civil Rights movement and our reluctant acceptance of human rights has nothing to do with the fact that everyone in the General Authority Quorums are wealthy, racist, white men. Why would you think that?
No, the length between the Civil Rights movement and our reluctant acceptance of human rights has nothing to do with the fact that everyone in the General Authority Quorums are wealthy, racist, white men. Why would you think that?

Is that doctrine perfect to you? Because it seems only perfectly hateful to me.

Sometimes, ex-Mormons are told to leave Utah if we hate it so much. But if my church history isn’t much mistaken, it was the Mormon themselves not long ago that were systematically purged from entire states because they believed differently. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, I am leaving. But that won’t change the fact that I do have issues with the Mormon Church. I think it is a force most often not for good, and it does make me very angry to watch it wrong the people I love. I think the sexism, racism, and homophobia is intolerable and you’re damn right I have a bone to pick with anyone who promotes that kind of behavior.

Unfortunately, though, my time with USU has come to an end and so does my angry, bone-picking column writing. I would like to express gratitude to my editor for his patience, and my supporting readers who have encouraged me onward when I’ve wanted to flush my laptop down the toilet. If you’d like to follow me in the future, you can find my writing at lizeverything.com, but in the meantime–don’t psuedo-swear, harass porn users, or get married; but do cross-dress, tip your server, and keep those damn fraternity boys in check.