Faith of my Father, part 2
This is a continuation of an earlier entry in a series.
My dad was always concerned for me. He only let me learn certain things later on, but he was worried about my beliefs. I had never been a “true” believer, but when I was growing up, it didn’t necessarily feel worth it to say I didn’t believe, so I never did. It seemed better to go with a status quo of following along with what everyone else was saying and doing.
And I thought: I should be allowed to slide! Other kids in the ward were doing all sorts of stuff to wipe out their temple and priesthood worthinesses, but I was golden. So, if I didn’t have a testimony but I lived properly, while these other guys with testimonies lived terribly…who came out ahead? (It’s almost as if belief has no impact on one’s actions…)
My father had been talking to the Bishop about me, but he never made any fuss to me before my first year at school, because he thought my doubts were premature. Just teenage rebellion. (My parents and I see strangely differently on teenage rebellion — when I announced to them that they could not make me do anything, I actually began to acquiesce to their requests more…As long as I feel independent, I have no problem with independently following.)
Proving Straw-ex-mormon theory to a T, I used college as a way to take a sabbatical from church. I was tired of everyday church politics from my old ward. Furthermore, I didn’t have a ride to my actual ward, and the bishop of the ward I was going to (my school has two student wards) wasn’t too keen on my attending the wrong ward. Third, even though I was impressed by the robustness of my wrong ward (I guess having mostly prospective elders or RMs running a student ward makes things more enlightened than a military family ward), I was turned off by this new bizarro Mormon culture rite of passage — all of a sudden, all the meetings were about starting families. Preferably before graduation. I was fond of the times when dating was still forbidden to us, but now adults were engineering young women and young men together with the hopes that some spontaneous chemical reaction would occur. It seems jello and 90s music is the perfect date catalyst. (And I thought early marriage culture was just for Utah!)
Anyway…for all of these reasons, I did not go. And you know what? It was awesome. It seems you can live a good life without the standard seminary answer rituals. And you don’t become a hedonist gremlin.
I was reading more blogs and more ideas, more about the church and more of the scriptures. Going into school, I felt uncomfortable with my knowledge of the scripture…I still do, but I wanted to work on it, so I did. My problem was that it wasn’t really helping me like my father or the church would have liked. Of course, it was helping me…to decide to leave. I wanted to make the decision informed, instead of just emotionally (or with lack of spiritual emotion).
I got into a philosophy class…and here was another place where my account and my father’s accounts will disagree. I know that I had figured things before any formal philosophy class, but my father will insist that I was deceived by liberal, godless philosophy (it’s funny because my father claims to be liberal, but then his religion gets in the way). My father insists that to be learned is good…if you hearken unto the counsels of God, which I might add is a classically clever LDS scripture: the church can claim to be a friend of education while being adversarial with intellectualism. What’s even funnier is that I go to one of the most conservative schools in the country (it’s no BYU, but you couldn’t find these shirts at BYU:
(Ok…so maybe I should mention that my school has equal-opportunity walking-political-ad abuse)
So, after that year ended and I went back home…I thought I could slowly introduce the news to mom and dad. But I had not anticipated how my dad would feel.
It would be one thing for him to disagree, but he actually felt that atheism wasn’t even a legitimate position. He thought it was just college experimentation. No reasonable person who was honest with what he saw of the world could ever be atheist for long! He would see something that could not be coincidental and that would justify his faith. in *some* supernatural thing.