Thanks Mike for creating another forum to give our authentic selves expression.
If you've been hanging around the DAMU awhile, like me, and frequent places like PostMormon.org then you probably know me as Kori (or Koriwhore).
The reason I chose the name Koriwhore is because over the years since my awakening, I've come to appreciate the character of "Korihor" in the Book of Mormon, who's the only reasonable character in all of Mormonism, and is modeled after one of my heroes, Thomas Paine, (the author of "Common Sense" and "The Age of Reason") who was the inspiration for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin when they collaborated on the Declaration of Independence.
Korihor also seems a lot like another one of my heroes from Mormon history, William Law, who apparently had the only set of balls in Nauvoo in the 1840's.
I added the "whore" to Korihor because #1 its funny and #2 I had to compromise my integrity (whore myself out) somewhat in order to maintain my relationship with my LDS loved ones, for a while, which reminds me that I'm no better than anybody else who is forced to make the same difficult, courageous, choice, in the interest of preserving their relationships with the ones they love.
Personally I'm a BIG believer in the concept that relationships are far more important than religion, any religion.
I've been officially out of the Mormon church since 9-11-02, exactly a year after my faith was shattered by the events of 9-11, which convinced me that the god I believed in prior to 9-11, the loving interventionist great white gawd / "Father in Heaven" of Mormonism, didn't really exist.
If he had, he would have intervened to prevent the senseless death of 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.
I had one question after 9-11, "Where was god?"
I went to listen to the man I considered to be the prophet of god at the time, Gordon B. Hinkley and he had nothing meaningful to say, at all.
I told this to a former missionary companion of mine who wanted all the details of my departure. He said, "Well, what did you expect him to say in response to 9-11?"
How about something, anything, meaningful? How about anything to put this in perspective? How about, we're not alone. God is in charge. God knows why this happened, even though we may not understand the ways of God.
But no, nothing. He was completely devoid of anything meaningful to say after 9-11. When I turned to him or to god, I felt like I was looking into an abyss.
The real confirmation for me was the General Conference following 9-11, where GBH just seemed morally ambivalent about the war against those who carried out 9-11. What kind of a prophet is morally ambivalent? Where's the righteous indignation? Where's the fire and brimstone, the doomsday predictions, the call to repentance like you'd expect from a real prophet? Instead he expressed his disappointment in the direction the youth were headed in and his response was to demand that women limit their earings to one per ear and men should have no earings and neither should have tatoos.
"OMG! Here 3,000 innocent people have just been senselessly killed by religious fanatics and God's biggest concern is fashion accessories?"
That just seemed like the most trivial and superficial thing a prophet could have said in light of the state of humanity.
To me it became apparent in light of the events of 9-11 that religion was used to dehumanize others in order to justify inhumanity and self preservation. What I witnessed on 9-11 was the most barbaric kind of tribalism and religion was a major part of the inhumanity. I had to seriously question my religious beliefs after 9-11 as a former Muslim and convert to Mormonism. I rejected religion after 9-11.
I felt like Ellie Weisel in "Night" when he witnessed the execution of an angelic child during the holocaust and believed that he'd just witnessed the execution of god.
For the first time in my life Nihilism seemed more tenable than my previous world view.
Fortunately for me that hopeless state of dark, hopeless despair didn't last long.
From the smoldering ashes of 9-11 heroes started emerging.
Common men and women who knew full well that there was a good chance they'd be sacrificing their lives as they went into the smoldering ruins of ground zero. Undeterred, they went in anyways, simply because they loved their fellow men and women.
They cared more about rescuing their fallen comrades than they did about preserving their own lives. That was one of the most beautiful and ironic moments I've ever witnessed.
I recognized that bravery and courage. It was the same kind of humanity I'd seen on the faces of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, knowing full well there was a good chance they wouldn't survive, but that their sacrifice was worth securing freedom from tyranny.
I realized after 9-11 that we were alone in this world to solve the problems we'd created, which was a little terrifying at first. For the first time in my life I had this overwhelming feeling that there was no God who was going to intervene on our behalf.
If we were going to overcome the worst aspects of ourselves, it was up to us to do so, individually and collectively. We each had a choice to make, am I going to be governed by the worst aspects of myself, fear, hatred and dogma that leads to the kind of inhumanity of 9-11, the holocaust and MMM or am I going to be governed by the best aspects of my self, compassion, love, conscience, respect, responsibility and common human decency?
I knew what choice I had to make. Not only for my own good, but for the good of my children and of future generations and civilization and the evolution of mankind.
In the interest of survival, I had to reject anything barbaric, tribal and unkind.
Years later, recently in fact, I found this, message from the Dali Lama in response to 9-11
"Today the human soul asks the question: What can I do to preserve the beauty and the wonder of our world and to eliminate the anger and hatred-and the disparity that inevitably causes it - in that part of the world which I touch? Please seek to answer that question today, with all the magnificence that is You.
What can you do TODAY...this very moment? A central teaching in most spiritual traditions is: What you wish to experience, provide for another. Look to see, now, what it is you wish to experience - in your own life, and in the world. Then see if there is another for whom you may be the source of that.
If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe. If you wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, help another to better understand. If you wish to heal your own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another.
Those others are waiting for you now. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance at this hour. Most of all, they are looking to you for love. My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."
That works for me. That's the kind of thing I would expect a real prophet to say, but this guy doesn't even claim to be a prophet, but a simple Buddhist monk.
Like the Dali Lama, my religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.
Now I can answer that question for myself and for my children, "Where was God on 9-11?"
God was in the hearts of those who responded out of love for their fellow man. God is love. Love is divine. We're all kindred people. We're in this together. This is the only world we've got and its not up to God to save us, it's up to us, each one of us individually.
It's like Carl Sagan said
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known. "
and like Einstein said,
"A human being is part of a whole called by us "Universe", a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison to us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."
Carl Sagan, again, "A religion that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."
And Christopher Hitchens, "Consider for just a moment what it means to be the first generation to receive the images we've received from the Hubble Space Telescope and to unravel the human genetic code. The awe, wonder and meaning you derive from considering the implication of those two things for just a moment in time, will prove more profoundly powerful than what you could derive from a lifetime of considering the simplistic fairy tale myths of religion." from his lecture on "The Moral Necessity of Atheism"
That works for me.
It's like Einstein's friend, Max Planck said, after Einstein's General Theory of Relativity was proven by an astronomy experiment 17 years after he developed the theory, "You have never doubted what the result would be, but it is beneficial, nonetheless, if now this fact is indubitably established for others as well. The intimate union between the beautiful, the true and the real has again been proven."
This for me is a much more tenable and useful world view than the one I inherited and hopefully it will serve me and my children and future generations well as a guide for their lives, how to interact with their fellow men and respect themselves, life, and the lives of their fellow men and other life forms and the source of life, nature, in all its forms.
If not, then hopefully they will at least free their minds from the mental slavery of dogmatism in the free thought tradition of great men like Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, Aurelius, Lao Tzu, Copernicus, Darwin, Paine, Jefferson, Lincoln, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Einstein, Sagan, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchins.
Although I consider myself more of an Epicurean than an atheist, I tend to identify with the natural world view currently being described by guys like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris far more than any theist (supernatural) superstitions world view I've been exposed to, although I'm not as convinced as those three that religion is as evil as they claim it is.
But I do agree with them that religion, like all other forms of tribalism, does far more harm than good because it actually inhibits progress and the evolution of mankind by conserving the anachronistic traditions we inherited, long past their usefulness.
Mormon racism, homophobia and misogyny make a great case in point.
They do far more to dehumanize others than they do to accomplish the kindness Christ commanded.
Any kind of elitist, patriarchal, caste system, like Mormonism, violates Christ's main commandment to us, to love our fellow man as ourselves.
We're all kin, kindred people, the same kind, genial spirits, genius, 99.9% genetically identical, yet somehow we still manage to blow that .1% that makes us superficially different, completely out of proportion and wage war over it, over and over again, endlessly and we're running out of time for devoting our precious resources to destroying ourselves and our planet instead of progressing, nurturing and healing the true source of our sustenance, nature and our living, breathing planet.
If we, individually and collectively, simply remember what the Dali Lama claims humanity has forgotten, that, "We are all one." we can realize the authentic Utopian dream, here, now, in real life, realizing our authentic connection to each other and to the larger universe/nature/cosmos.