September 24, 2009

Protection or Confinement

Since my decision to leave the Church, I have struggled to find a healthy position to take relating to active members. While many have agreed to disagree, and others have vaporized me from existence in their minds, there are still those who choose to make this about something other than religion. I feel that I began with a very defensive stance, but recently I have come to a realization about active members who cannot tolerate intense discussion of the doctrines of the Church; they don't really have any other choice.

There is a large part of me that wants everyone to really examine the Church and deal with the hard truth about Joseph Smith and the controversial history and doctrines. One could say that I crave it. I think this is because I worry that so many millions of people have signed up for something that they do not really understand. So many are born into something that is near impossible to leave. In a very general sense, I feel that so many people in the Church are enslaved: stuck in a position that they might not necessarily want to be in if they knew what it really was. And the most difficult part is that they do not want to know what it really is; many of them want so badly for it to be what they believe it is that it does not and will never matter what it really is. We typically see what we want to see, and changing this habit is very difficult.

In many ways it is like being born in a cage, and your entire life being told that the cage is there for your protection. You are free to leave at any time, but leaving will cause you only pain, death, and ultimately damnation. We each hold the key to this cage at some point. We can choose to lock ourselves in, or let ourselves out. Many people lock the cage and throw the key far out of reach. That way, even if they felt tempted to get out of the cage someday, they are absolutely committed to it. Some step in and out of the cage, never really sure which they prefer. Some step out of the cage and realize that it was not for protection, but confinement.

I find that many members of the Church do not realize or care that they are in a cage. They like the cage and trust that it is there for their protection. They have made the cage comfortable for them; it is all they have ever known, and it truly is what they want. In that case, who am I to unlock it and shove them out for a breath of fresh air?

After slavery was finally abolished in the United States, many former slaves had no idea what to do with themselves. Many had no idea where to go, had no skills to work in anything other than what they had done as slaves. They had never had the responsibility of making their own decisions, so many found that being in charge of their own destiny was overwhelming. I wonder if it is similar religiously. Members are provided with what to believe for their spiritual well-being, and would not know how to provide for themselves if it weren't for their leaders' direction. Their chains and bars are comforting, for they know that it means someone is taking care of them.

But at some point, we all must decide if the chains and bars are there for keeping us safe, or keeping us from leaving and finding something better.

This blog is directed at those who wonder what the cage looks like from the outside. If you stumble onto this site and have no desire to know if the cage is really confining, I invite you to leave. If you truly want to know, I invite open and honest discussion and, most of all, sincere study and soul-searching.


Richard Packham said...

Very good point, Eli. I am reminded of several films that deal with this problem (fearing to leave the "prison"):

"The Truman Show" - a man finds out that he has lived his entire life on a TV set - he has never been free. His entire life has been manipulated and controlled by the show's producers.

"The Shawshank Redemption" - a life-long convict finally is released from prison, and he can't deal with it.

Undoubtedly there are some people who cannot be independent, who must be directed and supervised and controlled. They are those who are institutionalized, or who are trapped in confining religions such as Mormonism.

And I think that we, on the "outside," must finally realize that there are indeed some who cannot deal with freedom and responsibility.

Kathy said...

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, since I have recently "left the cage". I struggle with wanting to tell my friends and family about what I have learned, feeling that they have the right to full disclosure regarding this religion they give so much time and money to. It has been surprising to me that most members simply do not want to know. Even if they aren't happy in the church (which many will not admit once they know my feelings about the church) they still want to believe. It seems that it's too scary for them to think that everything they have believed in their whole life is false, so they turn away from those who threaten their belief system.

It is sad, because now I see the world in a whole new light and it is AMAZING!! It's unfortunate that so many members are too scared to question, so they live their lives unhappy just in case it's true.

I've decided that I will no longer try to tell people about the church who do not want to know, but if they want to know why I have left I will tell them. I don't want to push anyone out of the cage if they want to be there, but there are some poeple who realize they are in a cage and just don't know how to get out. Those are the people I will help.

I. Puerility said...

I continue to follow your blog and have really enjoyed your posts. Especially this one.

You have a great insight on this metamorphosis out of Mormonism.

One day, it will be great to be free of so much of my bitterness so I can have a balanced, mellow tone to my posts like you have here.

Excellent work.