Dr. Ferguson Saw Your Brain Being Religious

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Dr. Ferguson Saw Your Brain Being Religious



Dr. Michael Ferguson is a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University. His work centers on the intersections of culture and brain. Active research includes cognitive neuroscientific investigations of intelligence and religiosity—two major themes of cultural studies.

Michael currently teaches the undergraduate course Gender and Sexual Minorities at Cornell. He previously co-instructed a graduate course on functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging at the University of Utah, where he completed his doctoral degree in bioengineering.

Michael is a popular public speaker with an engaging enthusiasm for asking “the hard questions” with rational methods. He and his husband, John Seth Anderson, were the first same-sex couple legally married by the state of Utah, and are outspoken advocates for LGBTQ+ communities and causes.

“The expectation primes the experience. What you are anticipating actually constructs your reality”

“If you’re expecting that your religion is going to help you lead a more prosperous, fulfilling, happy existence – your religion might then actually help you lead a more prosperous, fulfilling, happy existence.”

– Dr. Michael Ferguson, PhD

michaelfergusonphd.com

https://www.facebook.com/religiousbrainproject

https://www.facebook.com/michaeladamferguson
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A Mormon Family that Drinks Together, Stays Together

I was born of goodly Mormon parents. Sometimes, it takes getting drunk around them to realize just how good they are.

When I call myself the “Crossdressing Mormon Anarchist”, I’m only partially kidding around.  Like any Jew who carries the card but only attends Synagogue during Yom Kippur, Mormonism is my heritage. It’s basically an ethnicity. They are my people. My parents, and grandparents on both sides of my family all served missions for the LDS Church. My great great grandfather is a famous Mormon pioneer; he was one of Brigham Young’s hit men. The foundational stories of my parent’s lives as individuals, and as a couple, are rooted in The Church. Mormonism runs thick in our blood, which means that as far as orthodoxy is concerned, things like alcohol, should never run in our blood.

One of the main tenets of Mormonism is the idea that via Temple marriage,  families can be together forever – after death, in heaven. As a kid, that failed to make sense to me in several ways, but the foremost reason was that I really didn’t like my family that much. I regarded them as bunk mates assigned by the drill sergeant of life circumstance – and as soon as bootcamp ended, I’d leave and probably not give them a second thought. The Mormon Church attempting to incentivize righteous living with the reward of an eternal family felt like my mom trying to bribe me to clean my room by promising that she’d take me to have a root canal as a reward.

As adults, it was no secret that my brother and sister had left Mormonism by the wayside. My mother used to call me her “last hope” for having a kid that would carry on a legacy of “righteousness”.  Many years ago, my own falling away became known to the family. This was ushered in one Christmas night as we were wrapping up a family party. My parents went home, my daughters returned to their mother’s house, leaving just the three of us kids together. Wine emerged from Camille’s cupboard. Glasses were poured, glasses were raised and we partook of the goodness of the grape together for the first time. Something shifted in a way that’s difficult to account for – it may suffice to say that we found ourselves three grown adults with things in common that only we could have. It’s like some kind of pretense disappeared and left us honest. I found new friendship in my brother and sister. From that day forward, I’ve enjoyed their companionship in a way that starts to give ironic legitimacy to the promises of the church.

You need to know right now that my mom prays for me every night. And Camille. And Mikey… not just that we’ll be happy and safe, but a particular kind of happy & safe: In my Mom’s experience, Orthodoxy in the church is akin to getting enough vitamin C. I’ll say this – that absolutely IS her experience, it is her reality. The Church, the community of people that are the church – have been really good to my parents, and they’ve been good to it. I would never want it to go away, for their sake… it defines and supports their lives –  but that’s another story for another day. My sweet mother prays for us with the energy of a good mom whose sole desire is that her offspring thrive – thrive in the only way she knows how. She means really, really well. I seriously adore my Mother.  Every week that Camille, Mike, and I do not engage with The Church, I imagine she must feel like a failure. How can she not? Her purpose in life is defined in terms of dedication to The Church.

I have dedicated my life to authenticity. There are many rewards that come from living authentically (again, another story for another day). One of the dark prices I pay for living authentically is the knowledge that I regularly disappoint my mother, break her heart, even.

During a recent trip with the whole family to visit Camille, her husband and her awesome little boys in Mesa:

Mike and I decided to let everyone take a rest. We took over the kitchen to prepare a feast for our family. In preparation, we hit the grocery store.

One of the things I love about shopping outside of Utah is the experience of being treated like a true grown up.  The Kroger store was just like my beloved Smith’s at home, but had a very large isle of wine and liquor that echoed the candy isle in any Utah grocery store (we don’t drink our feelings away, but we eat them away like a motherfucker. Diabetes is our religion’s disease of choice).  IT WAS GLORIOUS. Mike bought thin sliced pork chops, whiskey, and a 30 rack of beer. I stocked up on  garlic, tomatoes, onions, basil, pasta, bread, and wine.


I adore the process of drinking, conversing, and cooking with, and for, people I care about.  Mikey and I spread out and started chopping, cutting, simmering and searing a spread of ciabatta with balsamic vinegar & olive oil; marinara from scratch over penne; seasoned & breaded pork chops . We took our time. Meal prep included a first course of cold beers, followed by whiskey. As dinner neared completion, I opened the wine and had a couple of glasses.  Four drinks just while cooking? Hell yes. We come from Viking stock and can handle our liquor. Let’s pour a fifth as we dish up and consider it an apéritif, shall we? Cheers!

I paused and took inventory:

Beers: 2

whiskey shots: 1

glasses of wine: 2

crusty looks / lectures from parents: 0

There were my parents – enjoying time with us, loving us, without conditions – IN the conditions of us kids flagrantly behaving in ways that offend some of their deepest sensibilities, hopes, and dreams. This was a defining characteristic of Christ – he was criticized for breaking bread with sinners. Each week, my parents partake of bread and water (used to wine in the early days of the church, but any liquid will suffice for symbolism) that has been blessed in the following way:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

They were, in the most literal, and possibly painfully personal sense, about to break bread with sinners. Not a single lecture nor word nor gesture nor any hint of disapproval. Just love. We had a wonderful dinner, told stories, and truly enjoyed one another’s company in a way that exceeded every lofty and empty idea of “family time” from my cold hearted childhood.  I raised my glass of wine to my lips and partook of my own personal sacrament of gratitude and witness that my parents were, in that very moment, not just claiming Christianity, but DOING Christianity. This is what it looks like to take up the name of Christ and always remember Him, and this is what it’s like to have His spirit.

Mom, Dad, you’ll probably never read this, but if you do, I hope you can see that the quality of your character has not been lost on me for a second. I’m profoundly grateful. Not everyone has been blessed like I have with parents as exceptional as you. To everyone else  – this is it. This is what it looks like. This is how it’s done.

much love –

Paul Duane

 

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Peter Breinholt: The artist is more important than ever

Singer / songwriter Peter Breinholt is a local legend. He seems to be as popular today as he ever was 20 years ago. When many musicians would relegate to “has been” status, Breinholt is anxiously chomping at the bit to create his greatest work yet, along with keeping up a busy performance schedule.  This is how it’s done, kids.

“The artist has a critical role in the world. Who else is talking about the things the artist talks about: compassion, love, forgiveness… who else is doing that right now? You’re not getting that on the news. The artist is more important now than ever”

“If you’re an honest writer I think who you are is going to come through.”

PeterBreinholt.com

https://www.youtube.com/user/peterbreinholt

https://www.facebook.com/PeterBreinholtMusic

https://twitter.com/peterbreinholt

 

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When Mormons Doubt: Jon Ogden

Have you ever had one of those awkward conversations with someone who grew up the same way you did… but… YOU’VE changed?  Maybe they are still in the same mode of thinking and living, but you’ve shifted in some way. It could be politics, religion, sexuality, career, school related… whatever. We’ve all been there.  Author Jon Ogden wrote a great book called “When Mormons Doubt: A Way to Save Relationships and Seek a Quality of Life”. It’s a great book about how to navigate those critical conversations while preserving those important relationships. Order your copy of it today by clicking on the book cover below:

when-momons-doubt-john-ogden-cover

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I went to church

Hey guys, I went to church yesterday.
…. and last week
…. alone
…. and I met with my bishop.
It’s been 10 years since I’ve done any of that.

Normally, this kind of thing is nobody’s business.
I cannot believe how difficult it has been for me to write this.
For the past ten years, I have been an outspoken critic of the church. (Which church? All of them. Organized religion is inherently corrupt. I just happen to grow up as a Mormon). I have talked SO much shit on the LDS Church, I have “helped” so many people let go of their faith in it…
…. that I feel like the only way I can look myself in the mirror as an honest man, is to put this out there.

Here’s the short of it:
I feel this sense of being on the edge of something great in my life. (You glass empty people will call it a “glass ceiling”). I’ve had several messengers come to me and instruct me that the secrets to advancing in life are to be found in my shadow self.

Psychologist Carl Jung’s taught the idea that the things that irritate us in other people, are simply reminders and reflections of parts of ourselves that we have not become comfortable with – ie, your “shadow”. That’s where you tuck away the things you want to ignore.

It means, the things in life that keep bothering me, are the things I’m afraid to let myself feel.

It means that there’s a lie happening inside of me somewhere. Lies are tied to truths. Like the story line of any good video game, the more valuable the level-up item, the harder it is to get.

It means I’m insanely interested in finding this truth that’s hiding in the cobwebs of my shadow.

It means that I have realized that the church has been a MASSIVE mirror in my life. I’m completely uninterested in arguments about whether this or that church is “true”. That’s the wrong question to be asking, anyway.

It means that my view of “church” has changed a lot.
It means I’ve allowed the church, it’s leaders, and members, to be imperfect humans, and to stop expecting miracles from them.
The LDS Church is such a mess these days, and it’s getting worse, and it will become even worse yet. I’m there despite their moronic political moves, devastating policies and ludicrous public image.
NOPE.

It means I’m there to figure out why it kept me angry for ten years.

It means everything that Maynard James Keenan of Tool said when he wrote “46 and 2”

“My shadow’s shedding skin and I’ve been picking scabs again.
I’m down digging through my old muscles
Looking for a clue.

I’ve been crawling on my belly
Clearing out what could’ve been.
I’ve been wallowing in my own confused
And insecure delusions
For a piece to cross me over
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I’ve been hiding in

My shadow –
Change is coming through my shadow.
My shadow’s shedding skin
I’ve been picking my scabs again.

I’ve been crawling on my belly
Clearing out what could’ve been.
I’ve been wallowing in my own chaotic
And insecure delusions.

I wanna feel the change consume me,
Feel the outside turning in.
I wanna feel the metamorphosis and
Cleansing I’ve endured within

My shadow
Change is coming.
Now is my time.
Listen to my muscle memory.
Contemplate what I’ve been clinging to.
Forty-six and two ahead of me.

I choose to live and to
Grow, take and give and to
Move, learn and love and to
Cry, kill and die and to
Be paranoid and to
Lie, hate and fear and to
Do what it takes to move through.

I choose to live and to
Lie, kill and give and to
Die, learn and love and to
Do what it takes to step through.

See my shadow changing,
Stretching up and over me.
Soften this old armor.
Hoping I can clear the way
By stepping through my shadow,
Coming out the other side.
Step into the shadow.
Forty six and two are just ahead of me.”

Here is the song for any who are interested

https://youtu.be/Tja6_h4lT6A

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Self Portrait; 2012. Sitting in the church I grew up in. Logan 2nd Ward

My beliefs haven’t changed. I believe in a Divine Source. We can have a personal connection to it. All humans come pre-wired with an equal opportunity to have powerful connections to the Divine. God doesn’t pick favorites. I believe that our purpose in life is to become more masterful creators. Jesus was a super cool guy who truly understood what it’s all about and taught it better than anyone ever has. Ben Franklin was inspired when he said that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
I’m ordained as a Dudeist Priest in the Church Of The Latter-day Dude, too.
RUSH is the greatest band of all time.
Anyway, spiritually speaking, that’s about all I’ve got.

So… what am I doing at church?
….long, boring, sleepy, church?
I’m stepping through my shadow.

 

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An insiders view of the Mormon Political Machine

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Justin Anderson is a self styled citizen lobbyist and political strategist. He comes on the show to tell the story of working as a political adviser  to the upper echelons of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Justin shares with us some jaw dropping perspectives on what happens when The Mormon Church grapples with issues such as LGBT rights, gay marriage, and medicinal marijuana.

I have UTMOST respect for Justin for being willing to speak the truth, and to do it from a place of love – FOR THE TRUTH.

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ADDENDUM

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Since this interview was published, many of you have asked “What happened to Justin?”  I asked Justin to answer that question for you. Here is his answer:

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Hey Paul,

It’s been about six months since you invited me to sit on your show to discuss my interactions with church leaders and officials. The day I went on your show changed my life forever.

The weeks following the show I was left to evaluate my relationship with God and the Church. I was committed to stay and to work through my faith crisis. I was committed to do everything it took to “remain in the fold.”

During the weeks following the show I had to request the assistance of an attorney. Ecclesiastical leaders of mine showed hostility towards me in emails and voicemails. The Church asked that I delete all my emails from their Correlation Dept and other depts to remove all proof of discussions. I wasn’t expecting an apology, Elder Oaks made it clear that the Church does not apologize. I wasn’t expecting an apology but I was expecting any threats either, I was wrong on the latter.

The hostility that I encountered by my ward leaders added to my anxiety that already existed. Trying to find room for myself, and others with beliefs like my own, I was left with no choice but to resign through the means of an attorney. It was denied when I asked to remove my records directly to my bishop, and after further hostility, I had to move forward with an attorney.

For the past few months I’ve been faced with difficult emotions. I’m still processing my faith crisis which I’ve been struggling with for over a year. I’m trying to figure out if I’ll ever participate in another religion. Im trying to figure out what my life has in store for me. In fact, I sometimes refer to Mormons as “we” as if I’m still in the Church. A part of my heart will always remain Mormon, and I welcome and cherish that. “Do what is right and let the consequence follow” is one of the many Mormon phrases and beliefs that I will always hold close to my heart.

Closing that chapter of my life has been painful, but I welcome the new chapter with hope and excitement.

Your friend,

Justin

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Reverend Christopher won’t tell you what to believe

pdrevchris20150527_151130

Community minister Reverend Christopher Scuderi doesn’t do the Sunday thing – but he’s at your spiritual service in every other regard.

Rev Christopher is available for service anywhere that planes fly and cars drive. You can reach him here:

Universal Heart Ministry

UniversalHeartMinistry.com

801 577 0542

universalheartministry@gmail.com

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Tinfoil Hat Tuesday: Moral Dilemmas abound

On today’s show, we discuss the moral dilemma that Jake Garn presented to Paul Duane while at Crown Burger prior to the show. We also spend some time weighing in on John Dehlin’s excommunication.

 

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