Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mawage, That Bwessed Awangment...

Okay, it's been a while since I've posted to this blog. That isn't because I've had nothing to say; there are a couple of things I've been meaning to write about. And it certainly isn't because I've, um, fallen back into the fold, so to speak--though I admit the temptation has certainly been there; thirty years of brainwashing is hard to shake off. No, it's just that I've been very busy, and very tired, the latter largely due to the heat wave--I don't take well to heat.

(I suppose revealing that I live somewhere where it's been very hot recently doesn't narrow things down too much, does it?)

Anyway, one of the things I've been meaning to write about is...marriage. As I mentioned in my first post, I'm not married. Much to my mother's dismay, and somewhat to the consternation of some local religious leaders as well--the bishop of my ward asked me last week (rather out of the blue) when I was going to get married.

In the LDS church, people usually marry rather young. Not everyone does--and in fact, I have a sister only a few years younger than I am who's also not married, and my mother isn't happy about that either--, but that's the norm. Mormons are also expected to marry other Mormons, because that way the marriage can take place in the temple and be for eternity. (No "till death do us part" for Mormon couples!) Marriage is given great importance in LDS doctrine; only those who have gone through the "new and everlasting covenant" of eternal temple marriage are eligible for entry in the highest kingdom of the afterlife. (Theoretically, there is some possibility of the marriage being done by proxy after one's death, but that raises enough issues and is unimportant enough to the matter immediately at hand that I won't get into it right now.)

There are several reasons I'm not married, and I don't feel like going into all of them right now. One reason, though, I think honestly has been my religious misgivings. I had been consciously thinking that for the marriage to work out I'd have to find a woman with similar feelings about the church to mine, without, until recently, admitting to myself what those feelings were--like I've said before, I haven't really believed in the church for a long time, if I ever did; I just wasn't letting myself face up to that. So what I was looking for, more or less, even if I wasn't consciously thinking of it in these terms, was (among other things) a Mormon woman who inwardly didn't really believe in the church but who was still going through the motions as if she did...I think it's pretty obvious why that wasn't easy to find. Not that there aren't likely to be such women out there--I've actually been surprised seeing by the comments of my blog how many other people there seem to be in a situation similar to mine--but they're not likely to be easy to find, since they wouldn't be making public their attitudes toward the church any more than I was...

Anyway, like I said, that's not the only reason I'm not married. There are other serious factors, too, that have stood in the way. Nevertheless, I do want to get married. One reason for that used to be because marriage was more or less a tacit requirement for advancement within the church to higher callings. (Officially, there's not really a pattern of "advancement", per se; someone could be called as a stake president (leader over a whole area with several congregations) who's never held any calling before at all, and someone else called could put in exemplary service as a stake president and yet after his release never hold a significant calling again. Unofficially, though, that's not how it works; the higher callings are generally given to people who have served in callings not too far below them--stake presidents have almost always served as bishops (leaders over single congregations) in the past, bishops as counsellors in the bishopric, counsellors in the bishopric as elders' quorum presidents or whatnot...) Yeah, I concede I did have some ambitions to someday rise to a relatively high position in the church hierarchy--though this is another thing I didn't really consciously admit to myself--, and I knew that wasn't going to happen if I didn't get married.

Needless to say, I don't have those ambitions anymore. But the other reason I want to get married still stands--I want kids. Seriously, call it selfish, but I really want kids. So...I still do kind of want to get married someday.

Nevertheless, I'm now very glad I haven't gotten married yet. Why? Well, because if I had gotten married, it probably would have been to another Mormon. That's what Mormons are supposed to do, after all; they're supposed to marry within the church, and if sometimes a Mormon does marry a non-Mormon, well, people make mistakes--though maybe that non-Mormon will yet convert! Now, I think it's pretty clear that if I were married to a nice Mormon current religious deconversion would be a problem. Keeping such an important matter from my wife would be a very different thing than keeping it from other people, and I'd feel even less comfortable doing that; I think I'd feel the need to be honest with her about how I felt. Even if I didn't, though, as I've said before, my disbelief is bound to come out eventually, even if I'm not ready to come out of the religious closet just yet.

And what would happen when my hypothetical nice, Mormon wife found out I didn't really believe in the church? Well, it wouldn't be pretty. A comment to a Pharyngula post last week described just such a situation--and it was not a happy story. (Dang, I've gone about a week and a half without getting time to read Pharyngula, and there are more than fifty new posts? Where the heck does that guy find the time to post so much?) Someone posted a similar story in a comment in this blog; at least his story did have a happy ending, in that he eventually convinced his wife of the falsehood of their religion, but by his account it wasn't an easy or a pleasant process. So, yeah. I'm very glad I did not get married to some nice Mormon girl, and that I'm not now in the situation of trying to explain to my Mormon wife why I don't believe in God and don't think our eternal temple marriage was really anything more than a fancy ceremony in a pretty building of no particular metaphysical consequence.

As I said, I still do want to get married, but when (and if) I do, I know now it's not going to be to a Mormon girl. I know that--if I haven't already come out publically by then with my atheism--my mother and my religious leaders are going to give me grief about marrying outside the church, but it can't be any worse than the haranguing about getting married that they're already giving me.


At 8/18/2006 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I hope you don't mind a comment.

You know, at some point, you'll have to stop living your life just doing what's expected of you, or you'll end up spending the rest of your life playing a role and making nobody really happy.

I have a lot of sympathy, clearly you're not happy with the way acting the good believer is limiting you life.

I'm about your age, and over the last few years have given up trying to play the role of "who I should be to please my family". It's not easy, I love my family and don't like to make them unhappy, but it's liberating. I'm married to another non-believer, and I really can't recommend marrying someone religious to make your family happy. I wouldn't have been able to go through with a ceremony I didn't believe in either, though my family would have been much happier.

You know, other people who have doubts, including some you might have a romantic interest in, probably don't share that with you because they are afraid of the same things you are. I'm sure you have a lot to lose by stopping your church attendance and the like, but you do have something to possibly gain.

At 8/19/2006 10:35 PM, Blogger radar said...

I must be a strange fellow. Married very happily. Believer in God and glad to be. I find my faith challenging intellectually and fulfilling and alive. My children love me and I love them and they are doing well. Not one of us is perfect.

It seems as if you are not looking for something but rather running away from something. This is not an accomplishment, it is a retreat. I hope you do find something to hope for and aspire to but in the meantime there is no particular honor in retreat. We all lose, but winners get up and try again until they in some way succeed. I hope this can happen in your case.

At 8/21/2006 3:02 AM, Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Hang in there - and keep running.

Sometimes it's not easy to tell what you're running to, when what you're running from is so big and so threatening and when it's all over the place. All you can do for a while is run. It's when you're clear of the present danger - to your very self - that you can stop and take stock and find out where you want to go.

When that moment comes - and it will come - a lot will become clearer than it is now. That's when you'll figure out where you want to go. Right now, what's important is that you know where you want to get out of.

At 8/23/2006 9:10 AM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Ridger is right, running away is ok for a while (and it sounds like you are still solidly in the running away stage), but you need to choose a direction eventually.

I'm an atheist and I married a religious woman. Even though I love her a lot and we have stuff in common, the religion aspect hangs over your head all the time. Much better to avoid that situation.

At 8/24/2006 4:39 AM, Blogger Lifewish said...

Hey, when's the next installment going to be? Your audience awaits, maestro :)

At 8/25/2006 1:23 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

carolyn -- No I certainly don't mind a comment, and thanks for your feedback and advice. Most of what you say I've already considered, and for the most part I think you're right...but that doesn't make actually following through with it any easier.

At 8/25/2006 1:35 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

I must be a strange fellow. Married very happily. Believer in God and glad to be.

Why does that make you "a strange fellow"? When did I say that believers couldn't be happily married? What does anything in your first paragraph have to do with anything in my post? You seem to be attacking a particularly obscure straw man.

It seems as if you are not looking for something but rather running away from something.

Who said I was looking for anything? I've found what I'm looking for, thanks. I was running from something for most of my life--running from the fact that my religious beliefs had no basis in reality, that the only reason I was staying faithful to the church was because I was brought up in it and it would be awkward to leave. Now...I guess, since I haven't come public with my unbelief and stopped attending church, I'm still running from that to some degree, but I'm guessing that's not what you meant.

This isn't the first time I've seen this vague accusation of "running from something" (though you're the first one to use it in this blog). Unless you give some evidence to justify it (and you didn't), it's a perfectly meaningless phrase, only intended to belittle the point of view of the person you're leveling it at. Hm, I think I've got a suggestion for Bronze Dog for a new "Doggerel" post.

(Actually, it seems to me that it's the religious, by and large, who are "running from something". It's not necessarily easy to accept the fact that humans are just a natural phenomenon, that we don't have some benevolent being looking out for us, that we're on our own. Much easier to think that our lives are being guided by a good and omnipotent God, that even if we suffer in this life, we'll be rewarded in the hereafter. It's easier to believe that, but that doesn't make it true.)

I hope you do find something to hope for and aspire to but in the meantime there is no particular honor in retreat.

Who's retreating? Facing up to the lack of basis of my former religious beliefs isn't a retreat. Just the opposite. And who says I don't have something to hope for and aspire to? I have plenty of hopes and aspirations, believe me. Maybe too many, if anything; I don't know how I'm ever going to find time to do all I want to accomplish. I certainly have no shortage of things to hope for and aspire to; it just happens that an eternity in heaven singing praise to God doesn't happen to be one of them.

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