Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekly Confession: Unholier Than Thou

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned. As with many of my sins, this one boils down to pride, and also as with many of my sins, I've only come to recognize this in myself because it bothers me so much in others.

There are a few blogs in Outer Blogness (the ex-Mormon blogosphere) that I follow regularly and a few I check in on now and then. The ones I enjoy more and thus follow regularly don't identify themselves so much by their ex-Mormonness and lack the bitter and condescending tone that so many ex-Mormon bloggers take toward Mormondom. I don't tend to think of myself as ex-Mormon so much as a guy who used to be Mormon, and I tend to gravitate toward people of like minds. In even the least bitter and condescending of these blogs, though--including my own, I'm realizing--the occasional post sneaks in wherein the author sets up the brainwashed, backwards-thinking Mormon straw man in order to make him or herself look oh-so-enlightened in comparison. "Thank Humanism I don't buy into those ridiculous beliefs anymore."

Everyone, of course, is going to find his or her own convictions and value system to be the best, the most logical, but I think there's a problem when we (I) become so convinced by our (my) own way of thinking that we (I) discard other ways of thinking as nonsense. If Mormonism or Buddhism or Catholicism were nonsense, then you would not find as many intelligent people believing them as you do. Rather than dismissing belief systems that don't make sense to us, we'd do better to try to understand why people adhere to them. You'd think those of us who used to be believers ourselves would have an easier time of understanding those who still are, but I think the reality is just the opposite--we see our own path leading away from belief as a logical progression, and thus can't help seeing believers as being somewhere behind us on that path. The problem is that we're (a) projecting our own life's experience onto another person it may not apply to and (b) assuming we're at some kind of destination point where we can objectively look back and see the world through an unfiltered lens.

If this sounds more like the same soapbox I'm always on than some new revelation, that's because it is. For all my talk about respecting people who are different from me, it's all too often little more than lip service. As one example, in a post a few weeks ago I made a passing comment about how bigotry is the reason same-sex marriage has been made illegal in so many states, as if that were an accepted fact. Now, I do believe that in most cases people are opposed to same-sex marriage because of ignorant bigotry, but the way I phrased it didn't acknowledge the many people who base their opposition to same-sex marriage in reasons that--though I disagree with them--are not bigotry. It's easier for me to point a finger at the bigoted straw man than to acknowledge the complexity of the real world, and doing so served my rhetorical purpose at the time, but it's not fair to the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage but aren't bigots, which I imagine describes some of the people who read this blog. I apologize for being so condescending.

I don't mean to blow my sin out of proportion. Despite my shortcomings, I believe that I, just like my ex-Mormon, Mormon, and completely-unrelated-t0-Mormondom co-bloggers, am making a sincere effort. But I also think it's valuable for us to recognize where our efforts fall short, in order to do better.

As penitence I will do my best to treat everyone and their beliefs with respect, and to recognize and apologize for any lapses that I'll surely make. I'd invite you to point out instances where I don't show enough respect for others' beliefs, but only if you promise to do so very gently and kindly; Blogger knows I don't handle criticism well.

I am sorry for this and many other sins of my past and present life.


Anonymous said...

you are forgiven, son; go and sin no more

JB said...

I have to admit, I know this is a fun/joking thing, but the whole confession/penitence thing makes me the teeniest bit uncomfortable. It's probably just that I'm a hedonist and see very few reasons to apologize. Though, in practice, I'm told I do a LOT of unnecessary apologizing. . .

Anyway, I totally do this and I think everybody does, if not often, at least from time to time. I agree with you that it's so much easier to see when somebody offends you and pretty hard to see yourself (and by that I mean myself) doing the same thing.

Eleanor's Papa said...

Go ahead and keep sinning.

Yes, it's nice to be respectful of folks and their beliefs -- fortunately you're not _making_ anyone perform or join a same-sex marriage -- but I have yet to hear an argument against marriage equality that is not rooted in bigotry. Heterosexism assumes that different-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. That's bigotry, however nicely phrased, and to indulge it can only internalize homophobia in yourself.

Rebecca said...

Yay! Another person who used to be Mormon! Okay...

#1) I hope I never did that on my blog (I totally did. I TOTALLY did).

#2) Although I am inclined to believe I am more enlightened and further ahead on the One True Path of Life than those silly religious people, the fact is that some of the most enlightened and intelligent (MUCH more so than I) people I know are religious. I am totally at square one. It is nice here.

#3) I'm going to have to pretty much agree with eleanor's papa - opposition to same-sex marriage is always rooted in bigotry. I was thinking about it, and a few people I know who are opposed to gay marriage are not people who are tolerant of any sort of bigotry. How, then, can they be opposed? Their opposition, as far as I can tell, is rooted in ignorance. They do not understand, so they follow people who they think DO understand - people who they believe get instructions from God. The people who tell them what to believe in this issue hold bigoted views on gay marriage. Some of them may be nice guys, and their ideas may just be relics of a bygone era, but they are bigoted ideas.

I believe that, because these friends/family are intelligent, enlightened, and tolerant people, they will eventually come to understand better and leave those views behind. And in this particular way, I DO think I am further along than they are, but not because I am better or more anything - I just took a shorter route to get here.

Mr. Fob said...

Thanks for the thoughts, all. I'm still figuring out where I stand in all this, so it's helpful to hear other perspectives.

And I don't think you ever committed any worse offenses than I have, Rebecca.

J G-W said...

I like this confession!

I think this is entering into The Way... Understanding that there is a Truth that transcends our partisan truths. Understanding that the Truth is Us, it is a living breathing thing we enter into relationship with, not something we know intellectually. One of the first steps toward that grand relationship with Truth is to give up wanting to argue with others or prove our rightness, just to be, to open ourselves up.

C. L. Hanson said...

I agree and disagree.

I'm 100% with you about taking people's beliefs seriously instead of assuming that people who believe differently are stupid and/or brainwashed. However we do a huge disservice to our Christian friends when we buy into the lie that Christianity requires homophobia.

I know plenty of good Christians who don't feel that their religion requires them to pass laws preventing gay people from having rights. Saying you can't be a Christian without being a homophobe is an insult to Christians -- and I am completely serious when I say this, it isn't some sort of rhetorical game. The right-wingers the ones playing rhetoical games when they try to paint speaking out against bigotry as being just some sort of bigotry against Christians -- it is nothing of the sort. The only thing we have to hate is hate itself.

Mr. Fob said...

Hi Chanson! Thanks for that point. I agree that it's a disservice to Christians to say that Christianity requires homophobia/bigotry. I also know many Christians who are not bigots or homophobes; in fact, I'm married to one. I suppose I'm just trying to give those who are opposed to same-sex marriage the benefit of the doubt--not the ones who have come to that opposition blindly without even knowing a single gay person but those who have genuinely thought it out. Perhaps, though, I'm being too generous and really it does all come down to bigotry, no matter how you frame it. (And by the way, yours is one of the blogs I was thinking of that is respectful of Mormons and other Christians.)

John, I think you're a great example of getting beyond partisan "truths" and not trying to prove you're right.

C. L. Hanson said...


BTW, even if you don't actively identify as ex-Mormon, you tecnically qualify, so I'm adding you to my "Outer Blogness" list. ;^)

Mr. Fob said...

I'm happy to be included. And you just made two-comment minimum to be an Honorary Fob, so I'm adding you there.