After returning home from serving a two year LDS mission, I felt completely converted to my religion and to God. I didn’t come home with hundreds of spiritual experiences that steeled my faith. There was not one significant moment where I woke up and knew I believed it all completely. Instead, a gradual feeling of comfort and peace replaced any doubt that I previously let lose. Strangely, this feeling only manifested after my return, not during the experience. Several times while I was out doing the work (ugh, I hate that phrase), I felt the opposite-confusion, homesickness, frustration, full of doubt and questions. Not to say the experience was a bad one in any way. There were horrible times and there were wonderful ones. I have said this in the past, but I have never regretted going on that mission. It taught me many things that have helped guide me into my adult life.
Again, when I returned home, I believed it. Hook. Line. Yep.
One year into my marriage, that all fell apart.
I can’t point to any one thing, any one thought or doctrine, no specific person or place, that shattered that calm belief. I know it had a great deal to do with no longer being afraid and in the absence of fear, the questions I constantly pushed aside or chided myself for wanting to ask, bubbled up unchecked and there were not good enough answers to quell them. One thing that I have never really talked about with anyone but my wife is that during that time, I didn’t just quit, throwing away my entire life and faith without fighting for it. I prayed, I really did. I prayed I would be able to get through this crisis, find that calmness again. I didn’t.
After my decision to no longer practice my faith (or any for that matter), I had conversation after conversation with people from all sorts of spiritual paths. Some of these people just wanted to understand and hear my story. Some wanted to commend me on finally waking up and seeing the truth about God and religion. Others wanted to convince me of my mistake. A few (and these are the ones I really remember) wanted to condemn me, feel sorry for me, criticize every choice I made.
A theme emerged. There are those in the world who believe something with all their souls. They have faith in things that don’t make rational sense. They believe in something beyond what can be seen, something that often has little or no tangible evidence, believe it passionately. It brings them happiness. There are also people who don’t need that at all. They are equally happy. Both sides contain individuals believing the others are full if it.
Another theme-Regardless of claims to the contrary, most people try to convince you of the validity of their position at the expense of yours. Of those, most don’t do it out of a sense of love. Labeling any belief system as foolish while ignoring the ridiculousness of your own is the ultimate hypocrisy.
Too many people have called me broken. I’m not.
I don’t hold animosity towards any of those people. I have surely unintentionally offended enough people in my life to ever hold that sort of grudge.
I have my own set of beliefs that work for me. My experience has led me to determine there are few, if any things in this existence that are universally true (I can hear the wheels churning and churning). For each person(s) who proposes an absolute truth, another (insert millions) believe the opposite. If there is an exception, an instance where something is not always and ever true, it cannot be absolute. That said, I would never tell any one they had to agree with me. I have reached a point where I am more than able to allow people to believe what they want, regardless of my agreeing with them. As long as your beliefs do not lead to actions that directly affect mine, they are yours and you are welcome to them. I try my best to return the same.
Most importantly, nothing I believe is unshakable. I accept it when I am wrong, learn from it, change and grow. Too many things in my life have ebbed and flowed for me to place any permanent stock in any one idea. This doesn’t make me weak. I still have convictions. I just refuse to cling to them when the facts tell me a different story.
When ideas dissolve into debates about right and wrong, emotion often takes over. No ideology is perfect or contains all goodness or all evil. It is arrogance to believe otherwise.
Finally, I am always open to discussion, debate, questions. I do require one thing-be open to what I have to say. I have no time for one sided conversations. I refuse to participate. If you want to debate, be willing to debate. Check your emotions and ego at the door and have a seat at the table. I am sure you have something to offer me that I will not have thought of.