In the world but not of it…at what cost?
I find it funny…I do not believe in the divinity of the church. I do not believe in God. I have written an article at Mormon Matters suggesting alternative ways to believe where the comments quickly evolved into a discussion about what atheism does and does not entail (protip: atheism is mere. It is merely lack of belief in gods…as such, it alone is not a worldview or belief system. More on that later.) And people like my father or people from church or people elsewhere have feared for me, suggesting that if I continue these paths, then surely I am asking for trouble. If not in the near future, then for eternity. But some suggest that I will bring ruination to my temporal life.
I am increasingly interested in ideas like moral error theory and amoralism, nihilism and existentialism, ideas and philosophies that might scare and shock normal people because they thrash cultural normativity even more than atheism does. And yet…contrary to all expectations, I’m doing surprisingly well.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, because I don’t think I’m that great a guy, but perhaps I’m just pointing out the obvious — just because one is atheist doesn’t mean one is immoral, etc., But, really, I’m having to come to grips with a realization that I am just really, really different.
I was hearing a story about some people who I know, but somewhat peripherally. The person telling me this story told me about their newfound explorations in all kinds of sexual and drug- or alcohol- related exploits. The story hit kinda close, because I didn’t realize that people who were so young (these people just graduated high school this year) or who were so close to me (these people might be considered on one step removed from my circle, if my immediate family or immediate friends are my circle) were doing those kinds of things.
Now, Andrew S. Don’t be so naive. Lots of people have flings and sex. Lots of people don’t care about casual sex. Lots of people drink or smoke. Lots of people party. And even more, people do this in high school. Or even middle school. If you have a will (which comes quite early these days), you will have a way.
But I was just so sheltered from it all. I always thought, “Well, those are people I don’t really associate with.” And even when I heard about people two or three steps away from my circle, I wouldn’t really understand the complexities of it.
Now, it’s beginning to hit home though. This stuff happens, and many people do it. Even people who are close to me. In fact, what is more frightening still is that the people in my circle are probably just as guilty, but I simply am unaware of it!
My mom wonders all the time if I’m doing ‘bad’ stuff (but then again, I don’t think she regards a lot of that stuff anywhere near as bad as my dad or as any devout Mormon should, because she recognizes the naturalness of it…but then again, she and my dad are converts…so they weren’t sheltered from that growing up.) I couldn’t and can’t even pretend to say that I am. I have a running joke going that I don’t believe peer pressure exists, because I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen the DARE-esque situation of someone pressuring me to smoke weed or drink against my will. Heck, I’ve never been to a situation that actually had weed, and wouldn’t know where to look even if I wanted to. Even of people who drink, I see rather sensible people who don’t cross any lines and certainly don’t become crazy.
So, recently, I’ve had to wonder how it was that I’ve been so sheltered and naive…and I think it’s just another sign of the pervasiveness of Mormonism as a culture. Even as I move away from the church theologically and ideologically, practically, I’m still a better Mormon than many members. And actually, that defeats my hypothesis — I can’t be this way just because of Mormon upbringing, because I know many members of my ward who are unworthy to do anything precisely because they have engaged in these discretions. So the church can’t perfectly produce certain kinds of citizens.
So I don’t think this is necessarily sign of the truth of Mormonism…but rather, it’s an interesting look on its social impact, especially on me.
But I also have to think that there are other factors to account. While I could be inclined to think that I’m just personally this prude(nt) virtue superstar and that’s who I am, I’m not even going to suggest that. But rather, I do think that various parts of my personality do seem to create a person who is inclined to appear or give the impression of virtue. As an introvert to the point of schizoid personality disorder, I simply do not put myself out into the situations where partying and drinking and sex would be a problem, and furthermore, even if these things would be available, I wouldn’t be interested and I wouldn’t be convinced by peer pressure because my personality (and its defects) make me immune to these social factors. So if I do have virtuous blemishes, at least they aren’t the highly visible, highly social ones that most people especially like to discuss.
I just wonder…this being so different…which seems to cover the “in the world but not of it” concept rather well (better than certain believers I know, at least)…I wonder what cost it is to me?