Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Saturday
Nov092013

When The Night Takes A Deep Breath

I don't use my maiden name on Facebook. Never have. Mostly because I didn't really want to be found by old friends. Not that I don't have fond memories or that I don't love a whole bunch of people from my childhood, it's just that mostly I felt so judged while growing up that once I escaped Utah the liberation was so intoxicating I didn't need any pesky reminders of all the internal torment I felt growing up. Also, I was pissed. For a long time. At a lot of people who didn't know it and will likely never know. People who played a role in making me feel less than. Not worthy. Many of them had good intentions but just as many were so full of judgment it was leaking out of their ears. If I had to choose one word to describe my teen years I'd pick judgment.

Recently, after writing about my bisexuality (check out the comments after that post...yikes!) a high school friend who is also bisexual and married to a woman, asked me where I stand on The Kinsey Scale. The Kinsey Scale? Hadn't heard of it. I checked it out and pegged myself as falling somewhere between two and three. "2.5." I told another friend. "But if point-fives don't count, if pressed I would err toward 3."

Did you catch it? My Freudian slip? She did and immediately pointed it out. I subconsciously considered movement toward homosexuality to be an error. That Mormonism, it runs deep, even when you spend your entire life running from it.

A week or so ago I posted a bunch of photos from junior high and high school on Facebook and tagged several old friends. I've never done that kind of thing, preferring to lie low, as mentioned. And by lying low I mean not announcing myself to Mormon acquaintances from my youth. It's always awkward. You know how I am. Nearly every opinion I have seems to run contrary to those of almost everyone I grew up with so I end up censoring myself out of respect for them...Or do I censor myself out of fear of their judgment? I don't know. Either way, negotiating a friendship with Mormons from my past is always an awkward dance of sorting out where they stand on the spectrum. Are they Ann Coulter fans? Do they think that Bill O'Reilly fella is just the bees knees? Does my tendency to glory in usage of the word 'fuck' bother them? These are things I need to know in order to ascertain just how much Monica to give them in a conversation.

"Oh, your husband is the Bishop of your ward? How wonderful!" 10% Monica can be unleashed here.

"You go to church every week but you want to meet up for coffee?" 25% Monica is acceptable in this case.

"You were against that whole Prop 8 thing that went down?" 50% Monica is okay in this scenario.

You get the idea. It ends up being either completely superficial because everything is kept so light or the dance becomes so draining that it's easier to just take off my tap shoes and go home.

Last night, after a week of getting reacquainted with old friends via Facebook, I was lying in bed thinking about The Kinsey Scale and Mormonism. I wish there was a Kinsey Scale for Mormonism with 1 being totally devout and 6 being recovering Mormons like myself. It would make it all so much easier to communicate. Ah, he's a 4, so he can probably tolerate a couple curse words here. She's a 1 so she's probably going to be horrified by 90% of what comes out of my mouth.

For the longest time I wouldn't friend my favorite aunt on Facebook because she's as devout as they come. I didn't want to offend her but also, if I'm honest with myself, I was embarrassed for her to see me as I am. Embarrassed. I didn't want her to know I like the word 'fuck' or that I think girls are sexy as hell or that Facebook scripture quoters make me itchy as hell and that I'm really excited about Obamacare, website failure notwithstanding.

I finally friended her the other day and right before I put up the post about my bisexuality I noticed that she had updated her status with something about how tired she was of being called intolerant because she doesn't want gay people to have the right to get married. After hesitating, I posted the link anyway with a quote from the article.


And then it hit me as hard as a visitation from the Holy Ghost ever hit any Mormon: I'm not embarrassed about any of it anymore. All that residual Mormon guilt is gone. Finally, at 36, I can say that I'm really fucking proud of the person I have become. What I am embarrassed about: anyone who thinks being a good person is based on whether or not you have sex with the one you love before or after marriage, anyone who thinks it's okay to discriminate against anyone else because their leaders tell them instead of feeling deep down in their guts that something's wrong with that. I'm embarrassed for anyone who denies someone complete equality in the name of God. I'm embarrassed for anyone who judges anyone else based on who they love or who they're attracted to. And don't tell me you're not judging or you love all people you just hate the sin or any of that horseshit. If you think someone else shouldn't have the same rights and freedoms as you do based on who they love then you're judging.

Does it need to be said again? One look at the comments after my bisexual post on Yahoo hands you that answer on a silver platter. Yes. Again and again and again until there is no need to ever say it again.

Just let it go. Step back from that tree you've had your nose pressed against for your entire life and see the forest. Look at it! It's fucking glorious. Lush pine trees, spruces, hemlocks, maple trees, birch trees. Can you see those birds singing?

So many different kinds of trees and all of them are beautiful, all of them made by your god or his god or her god or the big bang or a mad scientist who looks like Bob Ross the painter guy on PBS.

Go outside, take a deep breath with the night, look up at the stars in the sky, open your arms wide and let in all of that love because that's all it is. That's all we're talking about here: the right to love and be loved and to celebrate that love by exchanging vows and receiving the same rights and benefits as others who love and are loved.

Reader Comments (35)

Wow! That's not exactly what I said, now is it? I did not say, " I don't WANT gay people to marry." I said I happen to believe in someone bigger than myself, and I believe HE doesn't want gay people to marry.
That same someone who made the glorious forest, the "lush pine trees, spruces, hemlocks, maple trees, birch trees. The same one who made the birds singing, and yes, I hear them! HE has created everything, and I happen to believe he also gave us rules to govern ourselves by. We are not just here for a "free-for-all". There is a purpose to us being here. I happen to believe, as much as you believe otherwise, that certain actions are forbidden by him. It is my responsibility to act in accordance to my beliefs or I am not being true to myself.
So without getting ugly or mean, who is really intolerant of whom? I totally accept you views. I totally am fine with you being bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual, asexual, or whatever. So why can't you, and others be tolerant of me being God-fearing (that does not mean afraid, by the way) and obedient?
My nose is not pressed against a tree. And, for the record. I am totally 100% me ALL THE TIME! I have no problem telling people who I am. I don't give 50% to this friend, or 25% to that friend. They either take me as I am, or not at all. And it didn't take me 36 years to figure it out!
Love you and accept you. Can I ask for the same from you?

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Kay

It's rare that I disagree with anything you post, and to be honest this is not even close to being one of those occasions. Every single word here sums things up exactly as they are, and exactly as they should be. Hopefully one day soon 'as they are' will get a little bit closer to 'as they should be', but in the meantime we need people like you that are not afraid to rail against the bigots and fight for what's right :-)

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdamien

Well done, Monica.

You know, it's funny... I'm not Mormon. I was never baptized into the church. But I grew up in Utah and still live here, and many of my family and friends are Mormon, and I struggle with exactly the same shit you talk about here. Guilt that I'm not the way "they" think I ought to be, habitual self-censorship and modulating my personality depending on who I'm around, learned and ingrained after a lifetime of being self-conscious of my minority status in this place... and Facebook seems to amplify all of that. Do I post this joke and show how dirty a mind I really have? Do I "like" this liberal political meme because I know so-and-so and such-and-such are both Tea Partiers and it might offend them? When those same people post their Fox News drivel on the assumption that it's unassailable truth, do I publicly disagree with it ? (Answer: no, of course not... because for some reason, I restrain myself and tell myself I've got the better manners, when the truth is, I just shy away from having the fight with these people.)

(Interesting sidenote on that attitude about "unassailable truth": a couple of sci-fi writers I follow have been writing lately about Orson Scott Card, trying to figure out why somebody who seems like such a nice guy one-one-one can spew virulent bigotry in his op-ed writing and act as if he's certain everyone agrees with him except a very tiny, mutant minority... the answer, of course, is that he's a fucking Mormon from Provo! It's part of the culture, and anybody who grew up as an outsider in this state knows that! I"ve sooooo wanted to post that out in public, but I don't, because I know it'd show up in the newsfeeds of a number of friends who very likely agree with Card. So I end up feeling like a hypocrite for not voicing my opinion, because I don't want to hurt people that for whatever reason, I don't wish to alienate, even as I disagree with everything they stand for.)

I'm rambling, and I apologize for that, but your post obviously stirred something up for me. I guess my point (if I actually have one) is that you're not alone in feeling like you feel, because this state and the church that dominates it, has that toxic effect on a lot of people, whether or not you're even a member of that church...

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJason Bennioin

You know what I love most about this here post? Is you loving yourself! Not having to defend yourself and all that jazz - just saying this is who I am, and I am proud of it. And so you should be. You're an amazing person on many levels - who is a wonderful writer, great mom and you pay it forward in life. I'm proud of you and we haven't even met. This post, it really made me smile. Yay you.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercrummymummy

Sometimes ya make sacrifices and hold your tongue, sometimes the greater value is in not. Maturity and wisdom means being able to balance your judgments on both directions and their subsequent consequences.

Glad you are feeling empowered, Monica, and good about your choices. Dont get so hard on yourself, or on others for that matter. We are all dealing with personal shits, whether Mormon Utah or something else.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

In response to Aunt Kay's comment:
It sure sounds a bit like you're taking the easy way out, by saying "no, it's not ME who doesn't want gay people to marry! it's HIM, GOD!".
You are essentially trying to make what *you* want (i.e. deny gay folks their rights) unassailable, by claiming this is what *God* wants. And poor God, he sure can't contradict that! What's he going to do, issue a press release to distance himself from what you claim he wants?

Mutual acceptance between us secular folks and the "God-fearing" folks routinely breaks down when the tenets of your faith step on other people's rights.
For that reason, with all due respect, I personally can not grant you (this is a generalized "you" btw) the acceptance you desire. I am happy for everyone to live by their own chosen set of rules, but only up to the point where it starts interfering with other people's rights.

For religious folks to have their place in this world, they need to step back and realize that whatever they choose to believe in, may be the absolute truth to them... however, it is NOT to the rest of the world.
To some people, religious texts are pure fiction. Or just a text, vaguely historical, originating in the story of a teacher... which was then distorted and interpreted, loaded with rules, written by people with a certain, often political or financial, agenda.

And you are seriously expecting that in the modern world - based on these pieces of text, people are denied important rights in their lives?

To me (I'm a sociologist by education), institutionalized religion is a mechanism to ensure control and compliance (i.e. force a certain kind of behaviour into place, often loaded with threats of being expelled from the community or go to "hell" for non-compliance).
In addition, institutionalized religion is a place that fulfills the human need for orientation, and provides the ease a prefabricated, absolute set of rules. Thus, it eliminates the need to live with the ambiguity and complexity of a world without "clear answers". I recognize the psychological and social function this has for many people, but it's an entirely individual choice.

To any secular person, religion is entirely relative - there is no verifiable truth, there is no absolute right or wrong. Your religion is not truer than Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, Wicca, any other niche of Christianity, you name it.

You are asking for acceptance for your personal chosen set of rules - a random one among many.
However, as they infringe on other people's secular rights, I can not indulge you, and I value the need to defend the secular rights of others, *over* any right you construe from your religious text.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

And over my little rant (hey, it just needed out...) I forgot to say, Monica: very well put, and I am so very happy for you - for where you're at. It must have been SO hard to shake off that kind of indoctrination.
I'll be 40 next year, and my childhood/teenhood demons (not related to religion, but similarly deeply ingrained) still raise their ugly little heads sometimes.

One last thing... Kay, since you are saying "And it didn't take me 36 years to figure it out!", I am claiming that any devout follower of a religion has not really figured out much for him-/herself at all, but like I said above: chosen to internalize a pre-fabricated set of rules, imposed by a perceived authority. How would you be even able tell what is genuinely your self, and what is a result of lifelong indoctrination?
Monica's path of walking away from what has been force-fed to her throughout childhood and teen years, and living without that simple right/wrong dichotomy of religious life, is a whole different game of self discovery. It just is THAT much harder when the options are limitless and not ready-made and handed to you. It's a whole different sport.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

i try hard to insulate myself from the hateful people of the world. reading the comments on your mulan article makes me want to throw up.

i'm an atheist, im unitarian universalist which is **VERY** welcoming to glbtq folk. i'm pretty sure i'm 110 percent heterosexual but in another life i could see myself as a gay man (im a woman).

not sure why people feel love is immoral. i'm pretty that act of telling others who they should love is the most immoral of them all.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrach

That is wonderful! It definitely takes time to be comfortable with who you are but you should never let others affect you. Congrats on just being you!

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

Hi Aunt Kay,

Couple things.

First, I love you.

The difference between you not wanting gay people to get married and deferring to a god that doesn't want gay people to get married seems negligible, but I apologize if you feel misquoted. It wasn't my intention at all. I was just trying to say that it has always felt scary or embarrassing for me to share my true feelings with so many people I care about who I also know disagree with and/or disapprove of the way I think and feel, especially when, living among 99.9% Mormons for most of my life, I have been among the minority with those thoughts and feelings.

Being gay doesn't equal free-for-all. Plenty of heterosexual people have that market cornered.

It is your responsibility to act in accordance to your beliefs and I totally respect your views but I can never tolerate anyone denying someone else the same rights as they themselves have spent a lifetime enjoying. It doesn't mean I'm not accepting of your god-fearing views, it means that I support your views in so far as they don't hurt others just trying to live their lives. Regardless, my views of your stance on gay marriage don't affect your unalienable rights as a citizen of this planet whereas your views do just that to millions of people. Your beliefs lead you to vote in a way that will support the continued discrimination against gay people just as the religious beliefs of others in the past led them to vote in ways that denied African Americans or women equal rights. It is something I am unable to accept but I don't think being intolerant of discrimination makes me an intolerant person.

I'm glad you're 100% you all the time and I commend the fact that it didn't take you 36 years to figure that out. But life doesn't work that way for many of us, especially when brought up in an environment surrounded by people who tell them what to think, how to think, even when we feel deep inside that something is wrong with that way of being. It can be unbelievably debilitating and confusing and can lead to shame and embarrassment about our life choices which can take many years of untangling.

Thank you for reading, thank you for the comment and again, I'm sorry if you felt misquoted or attacked in any way. It certainly wasn't my intention.

I love you,

Monica

November 9, 2013 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

Well put Monica. It didn't seem to me to come across as attacking anyone, rather just you explaining how these things have always made you feel and how you no longer feel the need to disguise your own feelings for anyone anymore...which I think is very empowering.

It would seem that your Aunt's defensiveness of her own behaviours comes from a place of not really understanding where you were coming from, and with lack of understanding there will always be defence and inevitably judgement. Those of us who do not understand ourselves will always take self expression as an attack on them personally or on their belief system...because blind faith is the only understanding they know and the only understanding they have of themselves.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

Well said Monica! That is precisely why I also don't use my maiden name on FB. I've changed SO much since HS and I know my views on life will bring judgement from all of my former friends, so I just don't "friend" them. I wish I was at the same point in my life where I could be 100% "Anjanette" with everyone in my and I am so happy for you and your lack of fear! Hopefully I can get there one day!

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnjie Behunin

Alexandra? Ummm . . .you rocked it. I'm going to copy and save your response. I may need to use it someday. It was amazing.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBLM

As always, love you post and especially love your follow up comment. Thank you for being you... and for sharing your quest to continue to "find" you. Wonderful.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Yep, Alexandra, that is maybe the single best internet comment I've ever read. Thank you for articulating so perfectly how I feel and think on this issue. Excellent.

November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

I would love to ask those who are religious, have a god, believe the words in the bible are from god....to pretend for a minute:

what if you didn't believe in any of these things? what if your brain rejects fairy tales of any kinds. i know this might be a tough exercise....but start with say....the santa claus fairy tale and think of the process you went through to reject the santa fairy tale in your mind and replace santa with god in your mind.

now working on the assumption you don't know a god, don't know what the bible is even about...you are living a happy life, hoping and helping others are doing the same. you wish no harm on anyone (though, murderers that need to be taken out of general society).

imagine this: your own son or daughter are gay. you just adore your child and want them to be happy in life just like you are. now you find out they are in a homosexual relationship. they are happy, productive people, they give to charities, feed the homeless, adopt stray dogs and cats, build ramps for disabled veterans...

how would you feel? remember.....you are not a religious person, you don't "know" a god, you think the bible is just a book.....

what would you want for your child?? happiness? or would you be ok with them not being with the the love of their life because your neighbor thinks gay people are less than a whole person?

NOW.....would you be ok if your neighbor's book that says gays should be shipped off to an island to never be seen again. would you be ok with this because it's your neighbors sacred book?

what if your neighbors book says once girls turn 40 they should be put to death? would you bring your daughter over to your neighbors house on her 40th birthday to meet her fate?

do you think someone else's book should dictate your life?

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrach

Wonderful post Monica. I've been reading your blog for a couple of weeks; started with your Mulan is bi-sexual post. I would say I'm a 6 on both the Kinsey scale and your 'new Mormon Kinsey scale'. I think that makes me a 66. Only one more 6 to go before I am a 666 bwaaahaahaa.

Keep on writing your true feelings be 100% you. For every friend that is 'disgusted' with you or has 'judgement' about you there is likely an old friend or acquaintance that will love you and want to be connected to you and possibly relates to you in some way. I am 54 and I am finding that several, not all, of my old friends and family from my Mormon days are willing to live and let live. They have lived life and experienced so many things and they seem to have developed some empathy along the way.

They still post their scripture and general conference quotes but, for the most part they have stopped with the gay rhetoric (maybe out of respect for me, I don't know). But when it does creep into the conversation I just ignore the craziness that I was once upon a time very much a part of.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJust Jill

I am curious how you reached your decision about being bisexual. You appear to be in a monogamous relationship and are currently pregnant with your third child. Sometimes it is easy to define yourself when you don't actually how to participate. I hope it isn't to stir interest. Do you think you would still define yours as bisexual if you had actively sexually pursued having sex with women? Or do you think that your religious upbringing kept you from sexually experimenting and defining what you want. Your announcement of defining yourself bisexual does not seem completely thought out but your need to define yourself and renounce the confinement of your upbringing seems paramount.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCurious

2 cents on a Sundee? Anyone who has a personal relationship with the One and Only Jesus Christ outside of any religious organization WANTS to be in it and finds complete satisfaction and freedom from religious bondage, No fairytale. It is a spiritual thing which is like dying to oneself only you are really coming to life. It's a very cool personal thing, Anything else I have tried pales in comparison. Sure we all want to be free...but I can't tell you that doing anything you ever wanted to do in life is truly being free. Living according to a set of standards is not a bad thing really but many who grew up in religious oppression without a personal relationship never really experience true freedom and love of God. Once you get it It, it's a good thing. I am not to be judging others, but simply loving others as God loves me. Not pounding them over the head with words they can't or don't want to hear but geez...sometimes when you have a great thing, a favorite thing, you just wanna share it. Like...the Nutribullet. I say that there is a way and a truth and a life and his name is Jesus and we are told NOT to judge others who don't believe in ANYTHING or who think this whole thing is a fairytale. Just love and leave the REST to God. Sure sounds like a fairytale, huh? That's okay. Love y'all out there in the real world.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

@Curious - I have always known I am bisexual. How do you know you're straight? Or gay? You just KNOW. I have always been attracted to women. Have had sex with women. Granted I didn't fully explore that side of myself because I was too embarrassed to just go ask a woman for a date or whatever, and I also ended up falling in love with and choosing to marry a man. But marrying a man doesn't negate the fact that I am still very attracted to women. If I had never met Serge I assume that, at this point in my life, I would be dating men and women, whomever I happened to be interested in getting to know better.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

Monica, you are quite simply fucking awesome! Thank you.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter3

@gina - no, it actually does not sound like a fairytale. It sounds like you got yourself a big fat dose of what Karl Marx so fittingly called the "opium of the people" - religion.

In this perspective, religion provides a surrogate happiness, but not true happiness based on your material circumstances (in the sense of "real-world", not to be understood as "materialistic"), such as satisfying relationships with fellow humans, including a feeling of being unconditionally loved for your genuine self, also factors such as job satisfaction, absence of illness, poverty etc.

There are basic psychological mechanisms of surrogacy and projection at play - "Jesus" is essentially a surrogate warm embrace of unconditional love and acceptance. Why do you think so many people suddenly "find" religion in a time of psychological need - loss, grief, illness etc.?

The relief and happiness that this "relationship with Jesus" is giving you, are good for you and make you happy. Religion fulfills an important function to you, and you perceive this as "real", and that's all that matters. It doesn't matter whether these feelings of happiness are based on projection or on something "real". Whatever works for you - that's also big in psychotherapeutic approaches. There is no right or wrong, it just is important to find something that works for you.

Just remember it needs to remain a personal choice of spiritual practice and belief, just as for someone else it could be meditation, it could be seeking a connection with nature, it could be any other religion...
but, since we are long past the Age of Enlightenment, it should never again be used as a template for society.
The fact that you say "The One And Only Jesus Christ" lets me doubt a little that you are capable of accepting your choice as an equal and random one amongst many.
And trying to "sell" someone religion, infringes a bit more on other people's sense of self and autonomy than wanting to convince them of a cool kitchen gadget...

And of course: we all live by sets of rules. We need rules and orientation, each of us individually as well as we as a society in order to peacefully live together. It just gets dangerous, i.e. opens the doors to manipulation and abuse of power, when rules are demanded to be internalized without being questioned and criticized.

@BLM, Lindsay - thank you! Makes me happy to know you share this view I tried to put in words...

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

Just to be sure...I don't mean to offend anyone by this comment... I just like to say what I believe

I kind of agree Aunt Kay, I believe in God. I do have a religion and I am a church going gal.. And I do believe my God is a Loving God. For the record He really Loves Gay people. He does not hate Gay People or any People in general. He only hates sin.. That's the only thing He hates at all. And all of us is a sinner. I am a sinner and I know God hates the sins that I have committed, so many many times (I ever wondered if He can even tolerate my Sins)but I know also that He doesn't hate ME when I commit those sins. For I have not yet fathom the Grace that my God has for all us, it's unfathomable actually. So I love and do respect any Gay people, I am a friend to them... I actually do have so many gay friends. And I am happy if they are happy, if they want to marry, they can marry, if that's what makes them happy. BUT to be honest I don't like them to marry, I don't like same sex marriage. It is not what God designs us to do...But I don't judge them if they want to... I don't say they will go to hell or burn in hell, because truthfully no one knows who goes to hell or heaven.Even God the Son doesn't know, it's only God the Father who knows. And it is not God design that people go to hell.. not at all.

You know there are two surprises in heaven when we get there when Jesus comes to take us all there,, First there are people we expect to be saved that are not there, and second there are people whom we expect not to be saved are there... so those who think that Gay people goes to hell.. might be surprised that heaven is full of them.. we really doesn't know it's all up to God.
All in all, we really can't judge anyone by their sex orientation or sex preference...

What I know and believe is that God loves us all! no matter what, who or whatever...

(by the way I am not a Mormon)

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterimadylle

@Aunt Kay, I implore you to watch "For The Bible Tells Me So". God-fearing theologians discuss the issue.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGreenInOC

Aunt Kay: Thanks for being brave enough to respond publicly. Your thoughts reflect the common stance in church culture. The other comments here are correct though. Unreligious people do not seek to take away your rights in any way. However, your beliefs do impact others and don't allow them equal privileges. That is the difference. We celebrate your ability to believe as you wish as long as you don't harm others. And this is harmful.

The end of your response seems very prideful. It's nice that you were so certain of yourself and able to be authentic for your whole life. But we all have different strengths and weaknesses, plus different situations and social pressures. Being an ex-Mormon in Utah is extremely hard, and we put on a mask with friends and family because we love them and want to have harmonious relationships. Many Utah Mormons are not very tolerant of close frequent contact with people who don't mesh with their values. Being authentic would cause these views to come up in conversations, and then the people we love would start distancing themselves from us. So who can blame us for wearing a mask to maintain the relationships we value? But that causes internal anguish, and takes a long time to realize that doing so is toxic. Do you think your upbringing presented similar problems? If you were a devout Mormon in the Utah bubble, I doubt you had the same pressures. Which is why it's important to silence your pride and seek to understand others rather than judge.

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTyson W

Wow, it sounds like Aunt Kay has taken for granted the ease of which it is to live in the majority, where the majority can freely express views shared by the rest of the majority. Where it is "easy to be me" 100% of the time.

It must be a pretty charmed life to never have to truly consider the struggles of other people who don't feel part of the majority.

Whatever attempt at fairness and reason is attempted in Kay's comment is pretty much crushed by "And it didn't take me 36 years to figure it out!"

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGail at Large

@Alexandra, "True religion is caring for orphans and widows" said Jesus of Nazareth. He was not about happy happy happy. I am not always happy nor am I looking for euphoric happiness. Peace is what I have and not that kind of peace that the world gives. Peace about whatever comes. I have seen sorrow this year, losing my father and others, and been in some serious pain due to a serious car accident last year, I was not saved from suffering or injury, however I was spared paralysis and enjoy my family and friends. I see a whole lot of misery in a sick sad world. I am not saying that others can not enjoy peace, happiness and whatever, BUT the thing the world can never have without Jesus is forgiveness for sin. He was about Love. Forgiveness for the things that we have done. things we regret deeply. Jesus bore it all for us. Take Him or leave Him but you must decide. There is NO forcing anything, no religious acts or fancy ceremonies or traditions required. Only a heart ready to receive Love and forgiveness. If you get happiness out of that, great. Thanks for your comment. :)

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

@gina, I didn't say seeking religion is only about happy happy happy. I also said it's a mechanism that provides consolation, relief from sorrow, a clear set of rules - and thus orientation etc. Religion provides a whole laundry list of social and psychological functions.

I respect the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, despite being atheist I value his teachings. But I see a lot of those routinely twisted and disrespected by religious folks. I firmly believe Jesus would be ashamed for anyone who, in his name, stands in the way of giving gay people equal rights or who would dare attack and shame women heading into an abortion clinic.

But you DO step on my atheist toes when you claim I can't have forgiveness for my sins because I don't do Jesus. If you choose to call your mistakes and transgressions "sins"... that is your choice.

I do not SIN. I make mistakes. And you have no right to tell me that I "sin", because sinning is a concept that does NOT EXIST outside the mind game called religion. I have a conscience, which has to live with and deal with my mistakes... and which pushes me to grow and learn from my mistakes and be a better person. I judge my actions based on my own set of ethics and moral values. Not some pre-chewed, rigid set of rules that a church presents me on a silver platter.

See, in my book, it is what you would call a "sin" to blindly accept someone else's teachings - as it happens in a church, where you are asked to hang your own convictions and conscience by the door and have it replaced by an implant. It's temptingly easy, I understand that, and it spares you much of the ambiguity and conflict that an atheist is dealing with... but it also denies you a chance to grow.

When you are telling me that I can't have forgiveness without Jesus... well, what do you expect I respond? Sorry, but this dead guy Jesus, what with his decomposed brain and all, is in no position to give you any kind of absolution of deny you or me forgiveness. You are bending and twisting that beautiful mind of yours and wasting all its capacity to reason, just to internalize and regurgitate a ready-made spiritual meal that gives you comfort.

Of course I grant everyone the freedom to do with their minds as their please. Strangle it with religion, poison it with drugs, I don't care.

However... when I read things like imadylle's comment - sorry, but that is one heck of a fat Jesus-hairball! - these things certainly make me reconsider part of my live-and-let-live stance, and make me want to start denying religious folks some rights of their own.
Why should it be legal for people who live in a bubble of religious delusion to indoctrinate their innocent kids, and harm them psychologically for life? Their minds are too precious too waste, too limitless in their potential to be closed off and sealed at an early age based on a pretense their parents are living. They should be kept safe from the psychological damage of this indoctrination, and safe from the shame and judgement they experience, if they decide to eventually free themselves from this belief system. Yeah, freedom of religion, for adults of course... but where is the freedom for the child if t has been systematically molded into a certain direction from the day it was born?

How is this child being endowed with the reasoning capability and critical thinking skills needed, to live that freedom of choice for itself? Monica has described her own suffering because of it. I have a friend who has been struggling with the same since breaking free from the choking her family and former church have done to her. She's broken things off with institutionalized religion over 20 years ago, still scarred from the rift this has created between her and her family, still feeling less-than. I don't think parents should be allowed to do that to a child. It makes me want to start campaigning for people to have to be consenting adults to drink that Jesus juice.

Ugh, apologies for the long and wordy comment, again. It's a topic that I routinely get my knickers in a twist about. ;-)

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

guys: you should all listen to the thinking atheist on youtube. he's an an ex-christian talk show host now an atheist talk show host. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKGj9sSVJyU <----this is his show on mormons.

November 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrach

Amen!

November 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndee

Wow...what a fantastic discussion! Monica, thank you for saying out loud that things that I often have going through my head...and bravo for being proud of the awesome woman you are! Late 30's rock for self-awareness, I think. And Alexandra - thank you, as well, for articulating your thoughts so eloquently. I'm definitely keeping this post marked so I can read it/forward it on when needed!

And I have a question for the religious folks - I'm truly curious : What if you're a devout Christian but also a child beater or molester? Or a murderer? And you continually sin in horrible ways, yet ask for forgiveness? Are you then forgiven in the eyes of God and granted that same access to heaven as that child that you molested? I really want to know, because honestly, I can't get my head around the whole "forgiven for my sins" thing. Some very heinous crimes happen in the name of religion (or are perpetrated by the very devout) and I'd really like to know - how does God handle this? Maybe if God didn't forgive them, they wouldn't go on committing horrible acts??

November 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

Wow. Just discovered you. You are SO good at mocking, deriding, and hating the things you SO OBVIOUSLY don't truly know or understand--which is a trait which you also disdain in others (but not yourself). I don't consider you tossed (I do not believe in such), and I don't consider you unvalued (a foreign concept to the Savior and any true adherent). And I hear a childhood anger that I would give the world to heal. You may just simply be lost for a while, but already redeemed. . . . .by the best blood ever spilt in this world.

November 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter(Slightly) Amused

You are my hero!!!

Love your courage and candor!!

Thanks for giving me inspiration to continue writing my thoughts and feelings, even though
with every stroke of the keys I worry about being judged from friends and family.

Bravo Monica! Keep up the great work!

November 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCoopspeace

Alexandra, I'm sorry to gush again over you, but I can't help it! You put into words what I feel but cannot express when I'm sitting across the table from my devout Mormon friends (of course I only reveal small parts of how I feel. The shame of it is too much to bear when living in UT). I feel just as your friend who broke away and it's devastating me that if I am honest and reveal my truth, I will loose relationships. It's all so heartbreaking. Thank you (and Monica!) for speaking so clearly, honestly and profoundly. I appreciate it.

November 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBLM

I get my knickers in a twist and my undies in a bunch, it's quite okay to make mistakes i just ate one for lunch. Peace Alexadra.

November 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

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