When I was around twelve years old, I made a rare trip to the emergency room. At the end of a boy scout service project, a few of us had been attempting to skip stones across the creek whose banks we'd just spent a few hours protecting against erosion. One of the other boys had misjudged the right moment to release his stone, so instead of glancing off the surface of the water, it careened off the back of my skull.
A few minutes later, my parents had me in the ER.
As a matter of coincidence, the doctor who sewed me up happened to live a few doors down from us. I rode the school bus with his son. Although I'd never seen him before, my dad recognized him and I knew the last name. I remember feeling better when I learned that my doctor was also my neighbor. Despite the fact that I didn't actually know the man, I felt that I was in trustworthy and capable hands simply because he lived in my neighborhood and I knew his son.
I was a kid. I was scared. Anything remotely familiar to me was a comfort.
As it turned out, my injury wasn't that severe anyway. I think I only got three or four stitches. I don't know that I learned anything from that experience at the time, but in retrospect, I think it illustrates an important point: What brings comfort may not necessarily have any practical value.
The fact that my doctor was also my neighbor had no effect on whether or not he was capable of fixing the gash on my head. If he'd been a complete stranger, he would have had the exact same chance of being a bad doctor. Similarly, a religion that makes you feel better because facing a world without it is uncomfortable has no effect on whether or not that religion is true. As I considered leaving Mormonism, staying because it was a less daunting thing to face crossed my mind many times. But just because staying in the church would be comfortable didn't mean it had any practical value. And as terrifying as it was to confront the possibilities that my life could have no inherent purpose and that I could be completely gone when I die, ignoring those possibilities in favor of the warm-fuzzy lie I'd been raised on wouldn't make them any less possible. By staying in the church, I'd be lying to myself and limiting my development as a person. But at least I wouldn't have to leave my comfort zone.
Garnering the courage to leave that comfort zone and search for something that does have practical value was one of the most difficult and proudest moments of my life.
Although it's pretty damn difficult not to resent being taught to trust the comforting lie.