Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It is official; I am an Ex-Mormon.

Well, it is now official; I am an Ex-Mormon. Blondie called me to let me know that we received our letters today. We received four letters, one for each member of our family.

So how do I feel about this? I would say that I have mixed feelings right now. I am happy and yet I have a feeling of loss and remorse. I am sure that I am not the only that has felt this way. So what do I do now? The future is wide open, I am still finding my way through life and I will keep discovering what works best for me.

In a future post, I will post my letter.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Walking though the art museum

I’m walking though The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts and there is so much to see. I start with the Asian art collection. So many influences of Buddhism and Taoism here. I enjoy looking at the intricate artwork, so detailed. Entire rooms have been recreated inside the museum depicting the lifestyle of these ancient Asian people. I try to envision what life was like for these people. Were they overly religious and expecting conformity from all members? With so many religious influenced art and sculptures on display, it looks like rigid religious expectations were definitely a part of this culture. Was there anyone that questioned or decided that the religious culture was not for them?

I move into the Egyptian display and see various wooden sarcophaguses on display showing the burial practices of the Egyptians. Inside the sarcophagus is Egyptian artwork. I see images with very similar imagery to the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. Did Abraham get buried in this sarcophagus? I remind myself that the imagery used here is for burial purposes that Egyptians used and really had nothing at all to do with Abraham. How funny.

I walk into an area with various ceremonial masks. I’m not sure if this is American Indian or Pacific Islander, I guess I forgot to look. There is an amazing wooden mask with so many colors and designs that is mesmerizing to look at. I have my camera and try to take a good picture of it. Damn this reflective glass that has encased this mask! No matter what angle I try, there is always a reflection or some other person showing up in my picture. Photography is fun and yet frustrating at the same time.

On the upper level are displays of modern art. I enjoy walking through here and seeing various displays, but I can’t stop thinking about the Asian displays. I found those sculptures so intriguing, but I also ask myself, “How the hell did they get a full sized car up on the 3rd floor?” Beyond the modern art, I find more renaissance type art from the 1600’s. So many portraits of affluent people. Did they really dress and look like this? The clothes they are wearing almost look like clown clothes. So interesting to see what they were like and some of them are just not attractive people. Maybe we have evolved into better looking people compared to back then, just a thought.

Then I walk into the Christian art, ugh. As I look around, I see the same types of paintings about Christ that I have seen so many times before. Mary holding her blessed son, angels flying over head. One painting shows God in the clouds sending the baby Christ down to Mary as if he is throwing a strike over home plate. I also chuckle when I seen a painting of Christ clearing the vendors out of the temple with his whip; one of the women is walking through the scene with her son has her boobs exposed. I’m pretty sure that is how it happened, women running through the temple topless. Or maybe artists just like painting boobs. As I look around, I find that is a common theme in many of the paintings. Yeah, boobs are nice to look at, just no other way around it.

As I walk out of the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts, I realize that I found the art displays quite enjoyable. I only wish Blondie could have been with me. She would have dug the Asian art, too.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My love for Bowie

I want to share why I chose to use the name Bowie for my online persona, there is a reason. Essentially, I consider David Bowie to be one of the greatest performers of all time. He does not perform so much anymore in recent years, but during his heyday, he was the shit! I need to give credit to my brother for introducing me to Bowie back in the 80’s when we were teens.

David Bowie has reinvented himself so many times and you may think that since I first heard him in the 80’s that I would like his 80’s music such as Let’s Dance the best, but you would be wrong. My favorite incarnation of David Bowie is the work the produced in the 70’s. Ziggy Stardust was a mind blower for the type of character and music he produced, but I really like the music that he released in the mid 70’s as the Thin White Duke. If you look at the picture of him that I use as my avatar, it is of the Thin White Duke.

I watched the VH1 100 Greatest Artists of all Time and David Bowie was rated as #12. This is a list that was created from polling the rock and artists themselves. One reason why I love Bowie so much is because of his absolute talent in writing and performing his music.

I want to share some of his amazing performances.





I couldn't get the embedded code for this video, but click the link. It is worth it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQFuNHCMF2Y&ob=av2n

Well, I hope you enjoyed the perfection and musicial genius of David Bowie. There are so many other songs, but then this post would be never ending.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Interesting Religious Maps of the United States

I wanted to share some interesting maps and charts from the book Sociology 13th Edition by John J. Macionis. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, this book has a great review of religions around the world. I found these maps very interesting since it shows various religious concentrations throughout the country.

Take a look at this map first. This shows where most religions congregate in the country. The purple is more than 75%, the tan is 50% to 75%, the light blue is 35% to 50%, and the darker blue is less than 35%.



See any interesting results? The Midwest down to the south is a pretty religious area. Texas looks to be very religious. Check out the east and west coasts. There are some very low religious areas here. Gotta love Washington and Oregon, hardly any religion at all. I think the most obvious is Utah. It is the most religious state in the entire country.

Now take a look at the next map. The colors here break out the actual different religious sects, which happen to all be Christian. Red is Baptist, Light blue is Catholic, Tan is Non-denominational Christian, Dark blue is Latter-Day Saint, Brown is Lutheran, and Green is Methodist.



I find this map fascinating. First of all, there are maybe two tiny spots for Methodist. Lots of light blue scattered around for Catholics. New England, southern California, and southern Texas are very Catholic. I guess North Dakota and Minnesota love their Lutherans up there. Of course, we have the Bible belt completely covered by the Baptists. I cannot tell you how many Baptists churches I have seen in those areas, too many to count!

Once again, let us look at Utah. The entire state is dark blue and the dark blue has seeped into Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Arizona. Doesn't this just enforce the idea that the Mormon Church is a Utah church? They want to say that they are a worldwide religion, but look; they do not have hardly any numbers outside of Utah. I would be curious to see what a worldwide map would look like. Various insignificant specks of dark blue scattered about?

This final chart shows percentages of religions in the United States. Latter-Day Saint does not even show up, it is probably in the 19.4% of All others or no denomination. I wonder if the 16.5% of No religious preference includes atheists and agnostics.



Here is the source for all maps and charts.
Macionis, John J. 2010. Sociology 13th Edition. Page 503. Publisher: Pearson.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed these maps as much as I did. I find it very telling that the Mormon Church is so concentrated into one area of the United States while the rest of the country and world dismisses it as almost inconsequential.

A nice CALM Sunday

Today, we had a fun picnic in Farmington, Utah hosted by John Larsen. The name of the picnic was CALM (Community After Leaving Mormonism). Blondie and I had a very enjoyable visit with everyone there. We brought our kids and many of the other families brought their children, too.

We spent most of our time sitting, visiting with others about their experiences in the church and why they are leaving it. Everyone certainly has a story to tell, everything from not receiving answers to prayers, opposition to Proposition 8, or finding church history repulsive. I was fascinated with meeting people and hearing what they had to say.

There was a sad commonality among many of the stories; everyone had difficulties with acceptance from friends and family. I find the breakdown of family relationships so frustrating. Why does this church have to create such a stereotype and cause such a strain on family relationships? This is just another reason why I find religion in general so damaging. Instead of building up family relationships, religions (especially the Mormon Church) tear down family relationships when a family member does not believe. I heard someone at the picnic say about her dad that he had told her, “I don’t want any empty chairs.” He was referring to the afterlife and having missing family members because they were not obedient to the covenant. Just another way to pile on pressure and guilt to family members that might be doubting.

Yesterday, Blondie and I listened to some of John Larsen’s podcasts and one of them was about a Jehovah’s Witness making his way out of that church. Hearing about the way that his family and friends are shunning him now is just heartbreaking. Blondie and I discussed about how we think we might have it bad with our family relationships, but it could be worse trying to come out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Another observation I noticed while visiting at the picnic was whether people have sent in their official resignation letter or not. On our way home, I realized that Blondie and I were the only ones out of everyone that we visited with that had actually sent in our resignation letter. Sending in the letter is such a personal choice and for some people it works and others it does not. For Blondie and me, we wanted that separation that allows us to feel like we are completely free of an organization that we no longer support or believe in. I was very interested in hearing others say that it was not important to them or that they felt like they could not send the letter because it would hurt their family too much. I can certainly understand this since I was very hesitant to send in my letter in fear of how my family would react.

All in all, this was a fun Sunday activity. How great is it to visit and hang out with cool ex-mo friends. These people are some of the coolest and nicest people I have met. Everybody has a story to tell and they are all at various points in their journey out of the church. I also enjoy the idea of losing toxic Mormon friends on Facebook and gaining cool friends that can relate to me with my journey in life.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is the Mormon Church a sect or a cult?

Lately, I have had some conversations about whether the Mormon Church should be considered a cult or a church / sect. I have always been uncomfortable with calling the Mormon Church a cult. It just feels weird to me. Yes, the church does have some strange views and expectations of its members, but there are other churches that are similar. Every church a cult, every cult a church?

I had the opportunity to look at a brand new Sociology book by John J. Macionis. It is simply titled Sociology 13th Edition. I found this book very interesting with the various topics that it covers and of course, it covers religion. I appreciated the fact that it covered all religions in a very non-biased way. I found a section that defines sects / cults and I am going to reproduce that section here.

Sect

. . . The sect, a type of religious organization that stands apart from the larger society. Sect members have rigid religious convictions and deny the beliefs of others. Compared to churches, which try to appeal to everyone (the term catholic also means "universal"), a sect forms an exclusive group. To members of a sect, religion is not just one aspect of life but a firm plan for living. In extreme cases, members of a sect withdraw completely from society in order to practice their religion without interference. The Amish community is one example of a North American sect that isolates itself. Because our culture generally considers religious tolerance a virtue, members of sects are sometimes accused of being narrow-minded in insisting that they alone follow the true religion (Kraybill, 1994; P.W. Williams, 2002).

. . . To sustain their membership, many sects actively recruit, or proselytize, new members. Sects highly value the experience of conversion, a personal transformation or religious rebirth. For example, members of Jehovah's Witnesses go door to door to share their faith with others in the hope of attracting new members.

Cult

A cult is a religious organization that is largely outside a society's cultural traditions. Most sects spin off from conventional religious organizations. However, a cult typically forms around a highly charismatic leader who offers a compelling message about a new and very different way of life. As many as 5000 cults exist in the United States (Marquand & Wood, 1997).

Because some cult principles or practices are unconventional, the popular view is that they are deviant or even evil. The suicides of thirty-nine members of California's Heaven Gate cult in 1997 - people who claimed that dying was a doorway to a higher existence, perhaps in the company of aliens from outer space - confirmed the negative image the public holds of most cults. In short, calling any religious community a "cult" amounts to dismissing its members as crazy (Shupe, 1995; Gleick, 1997).

This charge is unfair because there is nothing basically wrong with this kind of religious organization. Many longstanding religions - Christianity, Islam, and Judaism included - began as cults. Of course, few cults exist for very long. One reason is that they are even more at odds with the larger society than sects. Many cults demand that members not only accept their doctrine but also adopt a radically new lifestyle. This is why people sometimes accuse cults of brainwashing their members, although research suggests that most people who join cults experience no psychological harm (Kilbourne, 1983; P.W. Williams, 2002).
Macionis, John J. 2010. Sociology 13th Edition. Publisher: Pearson.

So, what do you think? Is the Mormon Church a sect or a cult? I tend to lean more toward a sect. The church has many strict expectations and views itself as "the one and only true church on the face of the earth," but categorizing the church as a cult seems a bit extreme to me. Is Joseph Smith charismatic enough to be considered a cult leader? Should members of the Mormon Church be considered crazy? If the Jehovah's Witnesses are not considered a cult, then certainly the Mormon Church is not a cult either.