In my last post – which fell stillborn from the wordpress – I articulated my position as a Darwinian Anti-intellectualist. Briefly – and somewhat differently – I rejected the practice of construing all beliefs as if they were automatically answers to some question or another, the premises or conclusions to some argument. The two stalking horses in this project of mine have come to be Socrates and Descartes with their respective question/answer dialectic and methodological skepticism. In this post I will roughly follow Aladair MacIntyre in framing my own de-conversion from Mormonism in terms of a (mistaken) Cartesian framework. (more…)
Editor Note: This guest post was submitted by one of our oldest friends here at New Cool Thang, Jeffrey Gilliam.
For the past few months, I have been struggling with some issues which are very close and dear to my heart. Put bluntly, my faith has been called into question. I find myself overwhelmed with suspicion and doubt, unable to trust so many of the values and beliefs which have become almost second nature to me. I also bear a peculiar mix of pity and resentment for those who have led me astray. While I have concluded that many of the pursuits which I have dedicated myself to most passionately have largely been a waste of time, my feelings are not entirely negative. I do recognize that I will forever treasure the experiences and relationships I have cultivated within the fold from which I now wish to distance myself. More than anything, however, I now face the unknown future with an optimism unlike anything I’ve experienced before, an optimism born of knowing that I am making the right choice.
For those few bloggers who have been interacting with me for the better part of a decade now, this song should sound somewhat familiar to you. You see, this is not the first time that I have abandoned my faith. Roughly 6 years ago, I stunned my friends, family and (at the time) wife by announcing that I no longer believed in God and would no longer continue as a believing Mormon. Various considerations which I will lump together under the banner of “Liberal Science” had persuaded me that the religion of my upbringing was not true and, therefore, must be rejected. (more…)
Which of these scriptures resonates more with you (and why)?
And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual (Mosiah 2:14)
In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
My 40th birthday is coming up this Tuesday. These birthdays that end with a zero are landmarks so I figured I should post something. (Plus I realized I haven’t written very many posts here this year.)
I was 34 when I started this blog. That doesn’t seem all that long ago but in some important ways I am a different person now than I was then. That is the beauty and danger of digging into metaphysics and philosophy I think; when you tinker with the very core of your beliefs you are adjusting the lens through which you see the universe. Making changes to the lens through which you see the universe (sometimes called shifting paradigms) is interesting in that it may not have immediate and obvious consequences but it will inevitably have massive long term implications.
I’m reminded of this famous quote attributed to Henry David Thoreau:
For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.
About three years ago I was listening to a Sunstone Symposium recording (a “Pillars of my Faith” talk) given by John Kesler where he talked about his conversion to the gospel after being an atheist for quite a while. He also mentioned that later in his life as a member of the church he started meditating with a Zen Buddhist which led him to feel incredible love and connection with God, which has also allowed him to occasionally hear God’s voice. He also described the experience as training one’s thoughts and gaining self mastery. As a result, I was intrigued with the concept of meditation as a spiritual practice and decided to look into it some more.
I found out that meditation is a part (or has been a part) of the spiritual practice of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. for thousands of years. I started paying attention to the use of the word meditation in the correlated materials and the word is often used in conjunction with prayer, scripture study, and fasting as a means to feeling God’s presence and experiencing personal revelation. However, the context that I believe most Mormons use the word is often synonymous with the concept of pondering, or thinking deeply about something; rather than as a systematic mental exercise. The spiritual practice of meditation in other traditions seems to be somewhat different than what I think Mormons do (though it may still be parallel in some regards).
I’ll bet that really chaps the hides of critics and enemies of Mormonism. For some reason that makes me happy (and I don’t even live in Utah).
Jacob’s recent post came to mind today in sacrament meeting. With Thanksgiving coming up this week we had a few excellent talks on gratitude. I was struck by how closely the stories of gratitude matched with the idea of synthetic happiness described by Dan Gilbert here. Further, it is striking that this so-called “synthetic happiness” — the state of happiness we can attain when we make peace with not getting what we want — is a form of happiness that is just as real as the “natural happiness” we feel when we do get what we want.
The interesting thing is in all the stories told today the specific method used to arrive at this real form of happiness was to consciously count one’s blessings. In other words, it seems from the stories that more grateful people are more happy people. And if Dan Gilbert is to be believed, the kind of happiness we can arrive at after not getting what we want is just as “happy” as the kind of happiness we arrive at after getting what we want.
So count your many blessings folks. Name them one by one. According to Lehi the purpose of life is to have joy, and being grateful may be the most sure-fire way to be joyful.
This talk by Dan Gilbert is one of my all-time favorite TEDTalks, I must have listened to it a half-dozen times. I can’t help but think of my mom who has as one of her principal catch phrases, “I like to keep my options open.”
Anyone else see this article today? Apparently the current happiest states in the union are Utah, Hawaii, and Wyoming.
Here is a quote:
Looking for happiness â€” it’s family-friendly communities for some, tropical paradise or the rugged West for others. A survey of Americans’ well-being, conducted by Gallup in partnership with Healthways and America’s Health Insurance Plans, gives high marks to Utah, which boasts lots of outdoor recreation for its youthful population.
Speaking of outdoor recreation, the islands of Hawaii took second place and Wyoming was third in the poll that rated such variables as mental, physical and economic health.
But fun outdoors obviously wasn’t the only criteria â€” “wild, wonderful” West Virginia was ranked last among the states.
And the bluegrass state of Kentucky was 49th, with Mississippi 48th on the list.
The anti-Mormon crowd, or at least the anti-Utah crowd might be in mourning today because of this study… Seems like some folks just can’t do enough crowing about that old “Utah has the highest anti-depressant usage in the country” report that has gotten so much play in recent years. (Of course maybe the anti-depressant companies can use both reports to show how good their products work…)
Anyhow, the upshot is Utah has the happiest Americans around right now according to this report.
There has been all sorts of talk about happiness lately in the ‘nacle. (See here, here, and here.) I think these happiness discussions dovetail nicely into my recent posts and comments about the Garden of Eden story being allegorical. Since I promised I would flesh this idea out better, I figured I could start that process by looking at how an allegorical Fall of Adam and Eve could or should affect our expectations for happiness in this life. (more…)
It seems that most of us spend a lot of time whining over the bad things in life. I know I have done my share of wishing for a new day when I will be a college graduate, or I can quit this crappy job, or have a baby, or have the baby sleep through the night. The list could go on for quite some time. It’s a hard urge to fight, yet fight we must because “men are that they might have joy.” (more…)