Monday, August 9, 2010

On Losing Faith

Reina wrote a post recently on her experience with losing faith in God, in which she described her faith as being ripped from her. Mr. Curie described it as something that suddenly disappeared, as if in a cloud of smoke.

My loss of belief was much more a process than it was a sudden event of ripping or evaporation. It wasn't as though one day my faith was there, and the next day it was gone. Obedience to the cultural and doctrinal rules and expectations of Mormonism actually caused me a great deal of pain. Trying to fit myself, round peg that I am, into the square hole of Mormonism got increasingly more difficult the further along in the Plan (TM) that I progressed.

Some of the things were small and seemingly insignificant. For instance, a fair amount of my money was spent on new clothes. When I was baptized, I was informed that my "Sunday best" of slacks and a blouse was inappropriate for church. I didn't own any dresses, and bought 2 over Christmas break. Likewise, when I spent a summer at BYU, I had to replace my entire wardrobe before I could step foot on their hallowed ground.

Other insignificant things, too, were changed. My language underwent an overhaul. Saying "Oh my god" had to be replaced with "Oh my heck." Hell and damnation were only acceptable when reading the scriptures aloud.

Some things. . . were not so insignificant. My idea of marriage morphed with my baptism - it wasn't a nice ornament to life, it was a necessity, and it had to be with a man. Furthermore, I learned that not one of my personal accomplishments mattered, so long as I didn't have a husband or children. I started hiding my professional accomplishments for fear of, yet again, being asked if I understood the Proclamation on the Family. Attending ward parties for the men who graduated from dental/law/business/graduate school, while no one noticed my own graduation with my PhD. Those things stung. Alot.

But it was hardest after my marriage, when the pressure was on to have kids! Have more kids! When are you quitting your job! Why are you still working, if you can afford to stay home?

Perhaps this would not have stung for someone made of stronger stuff than me. But my spirit was weak and my self-esteem too raw to continue where I clearly was second-class.

For me, my loss of faith was an extraction process, such as when a dentist removes a caried tooth. The pain of the tooth is unbearable, but you put up with is as long as possible. The pain of having it removed is even worse. But once it is gone, and you are free from the pain, how wonderful! The tooth was doing more harm than good, yet I still find myself searching for it, surprised when I find a gaping hole. I hang on to the roots, to a belief in God in absense of Mormonism, even when the x-rays insist that it is all gone.


Kiley said...

Well, I would say that my loss of faith was not an instantaneous thing. Like you have described it had been a moment here, a thought there. That being said there have been certain moments that have been more monumental if that makes sense.

I really like your tooth analogy. It is pretty much exactly like that!!! :)

Donna said...

The scriptures say that to have Faith, is not to have a perfect knowledge, yet in the church, struggling and questioning is seen as evil, ie lack of obedience. Leaving the church, set me free.

"Doubt and faith are twin offspring of genuine spirituality. True spirituality is a free mind that practices irony and compassion. Without doubt, faith hardens into arrogance. Without doubt, we cannot doubt ourselves, our assumptions, aspirations, expectations and predispositions. Without self-doubt, we cannot question our righteousness;we cannot repent;we cannot forgive. Without doubt, we cannot tolerate the unfamiliar. Without doubt, we cannot criticize the power structures that serve us and afflict others.

Perhaps faith is to give God the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps doubt is to restrain the narcissism of certainty. For me, the bread of doubt is as sacred as the water of faith. Together they form a Eucharist of hope, a wellspring of charity-a love that is neither partial nor sentimental, but simply the heart's desire that God's love falls like rain in equal measure upon the just and the unjust, that no one claim a blessing one would withhold from another or impose a burden one would not bear oneself."

-Paul Toscano from "The Sacrament Of Doubt"