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My Dull, Prudish, Naive Atheist Life

July 7, 2011

TeetotalismEven if the spiritual teachings of Mormonism didn’t stick with me, many of the practical teachings from the religion did. With caveats, I suppose.

I’m most likely doing all of it for the wrong reasons…the Word of Wisdom, the Law of Chastity, all of it. Instead of abstaining from tea and coffee and alcohol because it’s what God wants me to do, I have to admit that instead, I do it because I’m not curious as to the tastes of these various beverages. I’m not motivated or interested to engage with any other human beings. And even when I’ve happened upon drinks within these categories, what I’ve discovered is that these things just don’t taste good to me. (As for sexual relations, fortunately, it’s not that..easy?…to just accidentally “happen upon” them.)

Every time I admit that, people insist that I just haven’t had the right kind of drink. (This is especially the case with alcohol…and I have to admit that there is a world of alcoholic beverages, terms and types, that I can’t even BEGIN to scratch. [Although I am really not interested in wading through tens or hundreds of drink choices and combinations in the search of one that I like…especially when there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages that taste good by default.])

And I guess…when it comes to drinking, sex, and other social affairs, I’m just a nerdish prude. And much as Maria Bustillos would like to argue, I don’t think there’s so much honor in prudishness.

Honestly, I’m not a saint. I’m not without vice or sin by LDS standards. But I think I’m ahead of the game at least with respect to many of my LDS peers, which means with respect to many of my non-LDS peers, who don’t hold themselves to Mormon rules and standards, I must be an oddity indeed.

But not an interesting oddity. Instead, a dull one.

Sometimes, I wonder how my life would differ if I weren’t as dull. What if I were zealous and motivated by spiritual experiences that were as real to me (if not realer) as my own two hands? Maybe those experiences would give me purpose and direction that I would genuinely feel was not my own (which I think is far more romantic and exciting than my present understanding that I have to work, every day, to forge my own purpose [and certainly not as disappointing as my sneaking suspicion that at this point in my life, I’m simply not working very hard at forging much of anything].)

I think that’s interesting. I think theism is interesting because of the phenomenal difference it makes in theists. For me, thinking about and talking about and writing about God is not really that consequential, because I can’t quite conceive of God being that big of a deal.

But for those people for whom God is a central reality! For whom he is a constant companion! How different their lives must be! How interesting!

This is probably just “greener grass” talk. After all, such a relationship probably has less-than-glamorous aspects. I mean, I read about people who talk about the demands of their god. The expectations. The challenges. I have enough challenges from day-to-day, mundane sources (all first-world problems, no doubt), but it would probably be not-so-wonderful to have an additional set of challenges and demands from God.

sam harrisWhile I would like to pin my dull life on atheism (if only I could feel as if I had this divine calling?), even this doesn’t really work. I realized that when I saw an article where Sam Harris advocates psilocybin as a rite of passage for human experience. Drugs are also pretty fascinating, and while they sometimes factor quite heavily in religious ceremonies, at the end of the day, they are worldview-neutral. And I have often been just as intrigued by the life and perspective changes that people who have used drugs have as I have by those who have had spiritual experiences. (Although I have been wary: is a chemically induced state of consciousness as “valuable” or “authentic” as an organically induced state of consciousness? Am I creating a false distinction?)

But drugs for ole prudish me? No way.

I don’t have a rigid ideological aversion to drug usage, much like I don’t have a rigid ideological aversion to other Word of Wisdom or Law of Chastity issues — notwithstanding my upbringing in the church…it just seems to me like I wouldn’t know the first thing about finding them, and I don’t particularly feel entirely too motivated to do any sort of research to rectify this ignorance.

…Hmm. I guess that’s something. If there’s one thing my apathetic prudishness has done for me that might be interesting, it has given me a remarkable naivete about the world. Maybe that’s interesting in a quaint sort of way.

Even today…I can conceptualize that people my age are hooking up, doing drugs, etc., I can conceptualize that they were doing these things when we were in high school, and perhaps even in junior high.

But these concepts don’t seem real. In fact, they seem almost as artificial as that of “god.”

Isn’t that absolutely crazy? Every day, I engage with people in a completely different context, or with completely different assumptions, than nearly everyone around me.

P.S. I don’t think I’m that dull. I have lots of interests. But as I go over my interests, what really excites me, I realize that most people would tune out. They don’t care. And it’s reciprocal; I doubtlessly tune out at the things other people would tell me.

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  1. My experience is similar. Although I’m no longer an evangelical, I’m still fairly “virtuous”. I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol, smoking has no appeal for me, I’m pretty committed to obeying the drug laws no matter how dumb they may be, and I feel really uncomfortable at risque parties or night clubs. Plus I’m still so embedded in religious social circles that there’s little opportunity or pressure for vice, anyway.

    • hehe, unfortunately, I can’t hide behind religious scholarship and whatnot.

      Accountants drink like fish.

  2. Fascinating in an understated sort of way. I used to be the same, even when I shed my Mormon cocoon and became a crazy butterfly. Then one night while I was out with some friends (and I used to hate going out) I decided ‘why not?’ when offered a drink, a sip can’t hurt, which was followed by a year of extreme binge drinking. It’s funny were life takes us. I would categorize myself as a nerdish prude at heart (something that I was quite proud of by the way), but after a few misadventures I can never fully live up to the label now. It seems no matter what I think I am, I somehow stumble onto some as yet unexplored part of my psyche. This has lead me to believe that it’s true what Whitman said: “[We] are large. [We all] contain multitudes.” Keep up the good work, this blog is greatness.

    • “a sip can’t hurt, which was followed by a year of extreme binge drinking.”

      wow, I can’t help but feel that there’s a bit left out in between here.

  3. Matt permalink

    I have had an experience similar to your own. Nothing within the church, My family wasn’t very religious, honestly i think it was mostly because my mother just didn’t have the time. Raising her three teenage boys didn’t leave a whole lot of time for anything other than chasing our asses around and making sure we were home at some point during the day. I mean to speak directly to the dull, after i quite drinking i had my own spout of supreme dullness. Nothing was interesting, i more or less went to work and came home to stare at a computer, and play games i didn’t really want to play, but basically did because it killed time. Only to turn around and do exactly the same thing again and again.

    I suppose the advice i’m trying to give if any at all, is that it takes just going out and doing stuff. No matter what it is. Trying new things, if a buddy offers you a new and exciting beverage at the bar, cool, drink the little guy down, if you don’t like it, oh well! But your trying new things, eventually you’ll find something that you don’t mind drinking at the pub, and may over time grow a fondness for. But to say that your dull without the effort of trying to be interesting shouldn’t be acceptable even to yourself. As my late grandfather told me “The biggest crime you can commit is being boring” I took it to heart. All I’m saying is take risks, don’t say no so often, take opportunities as they come to pass, you’ll find something you love to do, and everything will start to be a lot less boring and dull, and consequently, so shall you.

    • Matt, thanks for commenting.

      I guess my issue is in addition to a lot of the things I talked about, I am EXTREMELY risk averse. Uncertainty shuts me down emotionally. It’s really quite terrible.

  4. Chris permalink

    Soon after I left the Church, I applied for a new job. During the interview they mentioned that they have “beer fridays.” I had never even tasted beer before. So I went to the store to buy my first beer ever and to try it.

    One sip was all I could handle.

    Since then I’ve tried a variety of beers, none of which I like. I feel weird going to the store and walking past all of the “grown-up” drinks to get my Root Beer. But that’s what I like. My favorite is Jackson Hole Soda Root Beer. Oh yeah that’s the stuff.

    At work everybody drinks. I tried to fake it as long as I could but I eventually stopped drinking beers with them. They don’t really care. One time we even went to a bar and I ordered a water. The first time I was ever in a bar. And I get a water. Maybe my co-workers are just nice but nobody seemed to even notice.

    Meh. At least I don’t feel guilty about hanging out with drinkers. I just joke about it if anyone asks.

    • Yeah, whenever I’ve been in such a situation, I’ve not felt weird at all for getting something nonalcoholic. My thoughts are: if I’m paying (or even if I’m not), I’m not going to get something that tastes bad. Most people will try to recommend something that they insist tastes good, but oftentimes, that is not the case.

  5. I’ve personally found that “sinful” things and the “sinful” vibe don’t have to go together.

    I enjoy sexuality best when it has the same cheerful, accepting feel as “family-friendly” entertainment. If anything, I think it’s more family-friendly than violence and hurtfulness, which are taken for granted in such fare.

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