Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My Ex-Mormon Manifesto

I think one of the only things that I truly miss about believing in Mormonism is the sense that everything about existence has been carefully planned and been ascribed meaning by our loving creator.

I didn't know it at the time, but as a member of the church, I was miserable.  I had few friends.  I felt suffocated by my schoolwork and my mounting commitments to the church.  I loathed my own inability to measure up to church standards and despised the hypocrisy of my appearing to measure up.  I was told that the church makes me happy, so despite the miseries of my daily life, I kind of assumed that my peers were more miserable.

But beyond that, I believed that all my suffering had a purpose and was part of a lifelong crescendo to the ultimate payoff.  My afflictions would be but a small moment and all I needed to do was put my head down, suffer well, and do my best to keep the faith--and someday all of it would be worth it.

I miss that sometimes.

Now, as a decidedly indifferent agnostic, I don't have any assurances--false or otherwise--that any of my torturous experiences has any value.  There is no inherent meaning to my suffering.  This is the kind of thing people used to talk about in testimony meetings:  life without the gospel is depressing.  The reasoning made sense to me at the time, but now it reeks of a willful refusal to confront an uncomfortable possibility.

As nice as it would be to have a hope for a glorious eternal recompense for life's varied displeasures, I think it's better not to have it.  On a purely conceptual, philosophical level, life may indeed be more depressing without the gospel.  But in daily practice, I've traded an irrational self-loathing due to failure to meet an unattainable standard for a rational self-motivation due to not measuring up to my own more reasonable goals.

What I want from life is to be significant.  I've always wanted that--I think most people do.  I want to make a positive impact on the world.  I want to write the next great American novel.  I want to make people think and make countless griping high school seniors write papers about me.  I want my life to have significance long after it's over.

Stripped of my belief that my life has intrinsic meaning, I feel much more motivated to achieve those things.  Believing this life is literally all I have may be depressing, but I think it makes me more likely to leave a positive mark on the world.

And I think that's a good thing.

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