Thursday, April 12, 2007

BYOT: Spiritual Autobiography (part 1)

I am starting a program called "Building Your Own Theology" to help me think through and articulate my new beliefs. When I was Mormon, I was given all the answers to life's major questions. I was given my values and ethics, my ultimate reality, my place in human history and my community, and my meaning and purpose in life. Now that I no longer believe in Mormonism or god for that matter, I find myself in the situation of having to figure out what I believe about all of the above. I have the advantage of having my wife with me in unbelief and a child that is not, yet old enough to speak.

My wife and I many months ago did decide to become member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; over half of our congregation is atheist/agnostic like us. In a lot of ways it is like atheist church. We have all the benefits of church: community, identity, mentors, service opportunities, weekly reminders of our shared values, pooling efforts for social change, opportunities to feel transcendence, awe, elevation, peace, joy, and opportunities to work on developing attributes like patience, forgiveness, wisdom, hope, compassion, altruism, global awareness, etc. But, without all the crappy parts of religion: dogma, obedience, inequity, superstitious beliefs, uncritical thinking, etc.

I am currently working through a UU workbook that is entitled, “Building Your Own Theology”. I will be putting my answers to the assignments in the workbook on this blog over the coming weeks. The first assignment is to write my spiritual autobiography. But, to get me started there are a few short exercises.

1) Time Line: I draw a horizontal line. On the right I make a dot and right the date of my birth; on the left I make a dot and write a reasonable estimate of the date I expect to die. And then a third date labeled with today's date. I am 31 now, and if I average my grandparents ages at death, it comes to 67. I might expect to live a little longer than that due to medical advances and my healthier lifestyle, so let's put it at 70. My mom died very young at 45 and her only brother around 45 as well. She was obese and he smoke and drank. So, my death could be as soon as that. How do I feel about this timeline? I am completely comfortable dying at any time. My only real concern is the financial and emotional well-being of my wife and son.

2) Life Functions in Space: I identify the places in which significant things happened to me.
*Macon Coliseum Hospital (Macon, GA) - where I was born
*My childhood home (Macon, GA) - where I grew up, learned the Mormon gospel, had Family Home Evening, learned how to love my family, got in trouble, prayed, found out my Mom died, grew up too fast, where I came home from the temple and later from my mission
*My ward building (Macon, GA) - where I gained some identity and respect as a good Mormon, where I attended early morning seminary
*My elementary school, middle school, and high school - where I developed a reputation for being smart, where I good into my first fight, where I became heart-broken at the strife between my classmates and also with my favorite teacher.
*BYU - where I first found peers I could relate to, where I first had really meaningful relationships with girlfriends, where I learned a lot about myself through feedback from roommates, where I first failed to accomplish all that I set out to do, where I learned some really fascinating things in my studies.
*MTC (Provo, UT) - I was both a missionary here and I taught here, here I reached the epitomy of my gospel understanding, I learned a lot about measuring up according to the church's standards
*Canada Halifax Mission - I learned what was off-putting and unapproachable about me. I worked hard. I did not know how to motivate elders who were not committed to the work.
*Kansas - where I met my wife, where I came to really understand psychology, where I have struggled to get my research done, where I served in my highest calling as a counselor in the Bishopric, and where I learned the LDS Church was not what it claims to be, and where I had my son
*Provo Temple - where I plead with god for a wife
*Nauvoo Temple - where I was married
*Adam-ondi-Ahman, Rock Canyon in Provo, and Ocmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon - where I had a lot of powerful talks with God (at least that is what I thought at the time).

There are more exercises, but I will post them later.

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