“But it’s still just a story.”

I found this article on Facebook a few days ago and it really resonates with me. Especially after I read something Les’s jackass of a brother wrote after he decided to stir up an abortion debate on Facebook,

“I believe those who choose to abort their offspring will be rewarded in perfect harmony with His infinite justice and His infinite mercy.”

Now, normally I avoid his posts, they are hidden from my feed and I don’t go to his page (because posts like this aren’t an uncommon occurrence and I have no desire to subject myself to them) but Les was posting a lot on this particular thread, having good debates with some people and irrational, emotional debates with others, and I read through it a few times. Then I got to the end and saw this sentence and remembered why I don’t read his posts. It literally contradicts itself in the span of seven words, mercy and justice are contradictory terms. If a person (or supernatural being) is infinitely just, by definition that rules out mercy. By the same token, if one is merciful, infinitely or not, one cannot be just. (Dan Barker explains this very well.)

I tried to wrap my mind around this contradiction, but because I don’t have a concept of faith and I’m not very good at the cognitive dissonance that is so prevalent in religion, and Mormonism in particular, I couldn’t. Then, a few days later, I read this article and it made sense to me. It’s all just a story, and not a very good one at that, so it doesn’t have to make sense.

I’ve written about my views on religion before on my old blog, so I went back and took some stuff from that post to give this some context.

I grew up in a completely non-religious household. As a child I was completely unaware of the idea of a god. My father, while he has very little formal education, has always had a very keen interest in science. We would occasionally go to church as a way to pass time, or with friends, but it was never presented as fact. As a child in that situation, I always assumed it was something like story-time for grownups. It seemed very similar to the story-time hours I spent at the library.

When I was in middle school I became extremely interested in mythology. Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Norse and any others I could get my hands on. I spent hours at the library studying different myths and legends and ancient cultures. I decided then that I wanted to be an archaeologist or anthropologist when I grew up (I actually started college as an anthropology major). I was aware of Christianity but I didn’t fully understand the impact it had. I remember sitting at the library reading about the time-spans different deities were worshiped in Greece and having the realization that the old myths and legends were once serious religions, the same way Christianity was a serious religion in the modern day. That set me on a track of thinking of religion the same way I thought of the mythology I had been studying. But I never studied Christianity because I found polytheism much more interesting.

I’ve never really moved past the point of seeing religion as just stories that people tell. In all of the studying I have done it literally never occurred to me that religious people took their beliefs seriously. Obviously I know there were religious nutjobs out there who protest everything and think the earth is only 6,000 years old, but I always assumed those were just the crazies.

It wasn’t until I met and sort of got to know Les’s family that I realized the regular, everyday people out there think the stuff from the Bible (or, in their case, the Book of Mormon) is real.

I sort of understand spiritualism to a certain extent, the idea that there is something out there bigger than you that you don’t quite comprehend. But the idea of a magical man living in the sky who created you and loves you but only if you follow certain rules, who is interested in the intimate details of the lives every person on earth and who has a plan, but you can get him to change the plan if you pray to him – I never truly understood that people actually thought that was real.

It goes back to that idea of church as story-time, I enjoyed story-time at the library as a child, but I never thought the stories were real, they were just stories. And reading someone else’s thoughts on this issue in similar words, I realize that there is no need to see it as anything else. For years I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand the perspective of Les’s family so that I could understand them better and maybe get to know them better. But I realize now that I am never going to see things from their perspective, the only thing I can do is see it from my perspective, it’s never going to be rational and it’s never going to make sense. But I can at least understand that they’re going to change the story to fit, however and whenever they want.

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