I'd like to rephrase the last paragraph of my last post. I said that I was looking "anywhere BUT the realm of organized religion for attributes I wanted..." what I meant was that I was finding it everywhere except in organized religion. It is still true that I wasn't looking for what good is to be had from religion. But I think it's more clear for me to say that I didn't find good because I was to busy pointing out the bad.
Anyway, picking up where I left off.
I didn't realize that, although my goal was that of purging my personality of poisonous qualities, I was actually incubating a very viral and pernicious attribute that was slowly taking me over. I was festering ill-will toward the church and its members. This really began to thrive in me when the whole Prop. 8 debate started.
I got really, really fired up about it. I made the dramatic comparison to the early saints of the church, themselves being victims of oppression through legislative action. I took it on myself to enlighten my friends to the injustice that was being perpetrated by the church. not just friends, but anyone who would listen.
By now, I really was seeing people as willfully mindless, blind followers. Not just members of the LDS church, but everyone. Everyone who affiliated themselves with a political party, even if there were certain policies with which they didn't agree, they were allowing someone to make their choices for them. Any member of an organized religion was choosing not to consider and ponder their beliefs, but instead allowing someone else to feed those beliefs to them as if it was all mixed nuts or some package deal.
Then someone pointed out to me how much angst I had. When before I had parted ways with the church on the note that it was "nice, but not for me...", now all my energy was focused on cutting down the church and its members.
It wasn't that I saw how hypocritical I had been that shocked me. It was the fact that I had been unconscious of the total and complete change of attitude I had had. On top of that, I wasn't investing my energy into becoming better as a person. I was just slandering those around me, cutting them down so I could stand taller than they--at least in my mind.
This is the first of those three enlightening, self-realizations; overcoming delusion. I think that your delusion itself being a cause of enlightenment requires a very extreme level of delusion, otherwise I'm sure I would have been able to flick away the notion of being delusional, by justifying it. But this wasn't some crumb of insight. At the risk of sounding trite, it hit me like a ton of bricks--no, it hit me like a steam roller. the realization was slow, painful and complete. I began to retort, but as I did, the realization began to sink in. By the time I had made my defense it didn't really interest me what the response would be. I was already becoming aware of my self-deception, and I wasn't interested in convincing anyone else of my pure intentions, because I had become disillusioned myself. I felt like a collector of fine art, who had just had my most prized piece appraised, only to realize it was a phony; even if it was convincing to others, it was still worthless junk.
Realizing that what I had been so eager to peddle to others was junk hurt all the more. I felt as if I had been spreading poison in bottles labeled "Truth" Serum. The things I had said may have made people feel good, as they had for me. But in all reality, my secret solution, that could "cure aches and pains" was, however unintentionally malicious, on the same level as morphine, or heroin. It DID relieve my feelings of not being able to relate to others who claimed to have personal relationships with god, or having had prayers answered, or spiritual confirmations of truths. I was an outsider as far as I could see. This Balm of Gilead was nowhere to be found. I found a counterfeit. This cheap poison, thoughts--albeit sometimes unconscious--of superiority toward others, in the beginning seems harmless enough, but as one continues to justify themselves by shopping for the faults of others, the dose becomes larger; the interval more frequent Eventually, subtly, it becomes the primary focus of the user/abuser.
*All this may sound self-deprecating to you now. But there is a very real parallel here. And this allegory is really the only way to emphasize how misguided my intentions proved to be. Heroin was actually invented for pharmaceutical purposes, a replacement for morphine, actually. Its side effects were realized after its users were hopelessly dependent on it.*
I had an opportunity to do a lot of introspective, reflective thinking. And the more I contemplated my behavior toward the church, I realized that I had been unfairly labeling them as "sheeple" who only did as those around them, with no real thought.
I realized that I had assumed that I was right and they were wrong. This was based on my experience, but totally disregarded theirs.
Upon returning home (I had been on a 4-day road trip) I began reading a book I got for my birthday. The subject of the book is relationships and self-awareness. I had been reading it off and on since I got it, and up until the last 3rd of it, I thought it was simply a useful tool for interpersonal relationships, and being objective. It was Christmas break, and I ended up reading the last 3rd of the book in about 3 days, which was more reading than I had done all semester, homework included. I finished Bonds That Make Us Free eager to implement its theory with everyone I came in contact with. It gave me an incredible feeling of love for everyone, even people I had already decided to be annoyed by. I was seeing people as people, whereas before I had held everyone to an unreasonable standard just so I could see them as falling short of my expectations. This is more of that attitude of cutting others down to build myself up. One of the first thoughts that I had had while finishing the book was that I hadn't given the LDS church the benefit of the doubt. Also, realizing the skewed perspective I had had all my life up to that point made me feel that I should "try again" for the umpteenth time. But I was pretty resistant to this idea at first. After all, in all the times that I had tried the church again, it was never the people that were the deal breaker, it was that I didn't feel any spiritual nourishment from attending church, the fact that I resented members for tearful testimonies was just an inconsequential fact.
After I finished Bond that Make us Free I also found myself athirst for other insightful, introspective books. I was over at my brothers house for dinner when I saw a book by C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed. I realized that this book may have some good qualities that I had previously discredited based simply on the fact that I resented the Narnia books for seeming to have a hard time recognizing the divide between theatrical fiction and religion. I thought they were very overtly contrived parallels to Christianity, and I resented the "shameless" use of Deus ex Machina, because it seemed an insult. The idea that the characters had to rely so heavily upon Aslan said to me that Christians would rather have a hero than rise to challenge and save themselves.
Then I realized, this was an opportunity to try out my new insight! I was being unfair, assuming the worst, labeling, even judging a book by its cover. I wanted to give C.S. Lewis a chance. The subtitle of the book read "a masterpiece of rediscovered faith which has comforted thousands" seemed like it reading it would count as a good enough effort to reconsider my position of non-christian beliefs.
Thanks for reading. More later.