Hi, I’m Paul Duane. I was born and raised in Utah, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During high school, I served in lots of youth church leadership positions, including the Logan High Seminary Council. I have a famous Mormon Pioneer ancestor. All of my grandparents are return missionaries and have been temple workers. Both of my parents are returned missionaries. I, too, served a full time Mission. I served in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Mission, and I loved it. I still look back on those times fondly, though with a few * regrets. I married my 7th grade crush when I got home from my mission. We were married for 7 years. Mireesa is a very good woman… I think I was not much more mature than I was in 7th grade when we got married, and I was therefore a weak foundation for a marriage. After 7 years and 2 kids, we parted ways. During all of those years, I had a deep conviction of Mormonism.
I studied psychology at Utah State University, with an emphasis in Behavior Analysis. During that time I came to understand the social conditioning and other psychological mechanisms involved in the human experience of faith. The foundation of my belief in the LDS church was severely fractured. I had no complaints with the church – my questions were much more broad – about the human condition in general. It was during this time that I realized that the human mind is incapable of ascertaining information about the big questions: How did we get here? What happens after death? Is there a God? There are very well documented and very well understood mechanisms that create those “convictions” in humans. Want the short story? Go to Las Vegas. Just watch people gamble. That’s all you really need to know, to understand how homo sapiens develops “religious” tendencies. There may be a God, but we humans are incapable of sizing up that God. I am 100% confident that we aren’t even asking the right questions. We don’t even know how to conceive of those questions, let alone ask them. We are a drop of water, trying to comprehend the ocean.
I am not a fan of dogmatism. I mean, I get it – I get why people become swept up by all manner of dogma, because I’m very fascinated by answers to the unanswerable questions, too. I hate that part of me, to be honest. But it still exists. I just try to keep it in the corner with a dunce cap on. Dogmatism, religiosity, fandom… these are all terms for the same psychological process. Extremely fervent mormons are not that different from ape-shit crazy Green Bay Packers fans. Both are terrible with their pronouns:
“We won the game last night!”
no…. YOU didn’t win anything. You ate Cheetos on your sofa. THEY won a game.
“We now have missionaries in China!”
no… a huge multi-national non-profit corporation has sent some 19 year old boys to China. YOU ate green Jello salad at a ward picnic.
For reasons I will elaborate on more in the future, human beings tend to crave the experience of attaching themselves to something larger than them, individually. I theorize that it makes the human feel more immortal to merge one’s ego (and pronouns) with something that has been around long before they existed, and will be around long after they are gone. Perhaps in some small way, this is related to our fear of death, and appeals to our fantasy of immortality in some small, diluted way. I digress. What I’m really trying to say here is that I’ve done the math, and I really don’t like dogma. I think pronoun impaired sports fans are TOTAL idiots, and overly evangelical church goers fall under the same umbrella.
Anyway, I let go of religion in all it’s forms (except for the band RUSH. I still pray to them at night). Political, existential, sexual, familial, cultural, nationalistic dogma… all of it. Gone. I am now at peace. The kind of peace that everyone talks about in testimony meetings, yet nobody seems to embody, as they become visibly emotionally disturbed and start sobbing at a very predictable moment. That’s odd. All I can do is smile and laugh with delight
I’m not a robot, I went through the very human experience of grieving, as these changes happened in my life. One of the stages of grief is anger. I had a handfull of weeks in my life where I really hated the church. Venomous, vile hatred. I spent lots of hours reading on anti-mormon websites. Ex Mormon articles clogged my broswer. I learned a lot during those few weeks:
- The church is WAAAAAAY more fucked up than I ever realized. Had I known any of this stuff when I was 18, I never would have gone on a mission. I was blissfully ignorant. The founding documents are faulty, the founding leaders shady in character, and the founding philosophical assertions don’t jive. I followed my heart in letting go of faith, and then my mind followed.
- It has been said that if a person leaves the church, they can never leave it alone. I think this is true 93% of the time. Why? Because people are dogmatic morons, for the most part. They NEED something bigger than themselves in their life, whether they are working for or against it… it gives them a sense of meaning. It’s that lucky 7% that are able to just LET GO and truly move on with life on their own terms.
#2 is so true. I know that some of you will accuse me of being guilty of this, and at times, you are right. But most of you who would make that assertion are doing so solely based on Facebook interactions. It may behoove you to realize that Facebook portrays about 3% of my actual life. Most of the greatness that is my life, never makes it onto Facebook.
When people pose the question, “Why did you leave the church”, I balk. I think that is a divisive paradigm. In some ways, I am more “mormon” than I’ve ever been. And of course, in some ways, not. I really don’t like it when people try to put other people in a box, based on some ideology. Can’t we just BE, rather than define ourselves in pro/ anti types of terms? I’m not black, I’m not white… I am both, and everything in between. So are you, if you will just shut up long enough to realize it.
The only thing I can really say about my affiliation to mormonism is this: I’m totally against those that are totally against the church. They have not “left” the church. Sure, they have stormed out of the chapel, but they have set up camp on the front lawn of the church grounds and refuse to leave. The full time, vehement critics of the church are just a bit more stupid than the blindly obedient that inhabit Farmington, Utah.
Just shut up.
Just leave them alone.
Me thinks thou dost protest too much, sometimes.
Anti-anti-mormon. That’s me.
* I’ll be writing more about those regrets at some point. Here’s the short version: I wish I would have spent more time loving the people as Jesus would have, rather than trying to intellectually convince them that my path was the one they needed to follow. I’m also a little bit bummed out that I missed out on the most sexually explosive years of my life (19-21). For the uninitiated, sexual celibacy, including a ban on masturbation, is a very strict tenet of serving as a Mormon Missionary.