Of course you're welcome to "barge in". I'd be a hypocrite to say otherwise since that's exactly what I did.
I have to respect and agree with almost everything you said. Given enough time I might be more forgiving of religious ideas. Experience tends to mellow one out. Those who live long, happy lives, don't worry too much about things.
I suspect my response to Brian will be quite different, although you claim to have similar beliefs.
> The major change in my attitude in this respect
> is when I got over the enormous burden I
> carried from my religious youth that was the
> result of the belief that most of the people I
> loved, and most of the people on earth, and,
> heaven forbid, maybe even myself, were destined
> to unimaginable perpetual agony for doing not
> much that I considered very wrong or bad.
> When that burden was lifted, I have felt the
> refreshing freedom to speculate that god is
> finite, error prone, mystified, and incomplete
> without feeling that I am going to be struck by
> a lightning bolt. (I also realize how fortunate
> I am that I live in a time and place where I
> won't get burned at the stake by pious church
> officials for such views, god's wrath
Thanks for the personal history. I also fell out of belief in a religious background, Mormonism. Some Christians like to say Mormonism is a cult, not a real Christian religion because Mormons have beliefs about God and Christ that differ in significant ways from their own and perhaps the original saints. I don't see the use in arguing this point with you.
I've been surprised at the number of testimonies I've read about ex-Mormons who then join some Christian or nonChristian religion. I went the atheist route and emailed some of them to better understand why they chose another route.
People are different. Not everyone is willing to question almost their entire worldview when they leave the Mormon Church. The Mormon church might be false, but God and Jesus are still there for them, so they think.
A notable confusing example for me were the Tanners, a husband/wife pair of ex-Mormons who do a great job of publicizing apparently true historical details that are antagonistic to the Mormon Church. I emailed them asking them why they could be so convinced that Joseph Smith and others lied and exaggerated things only a hundred or so years ago, but didn't seriously think the same could be true about the Christian originators thousands of years ago? Her response was that the situations were different. The Book of Mormon cities did not refer to any known North or South American ancient city, it was all a fabrication. At least the Bible referred to cities that really existed, like Jerusalem. I thought, so what? The Earth, Israel, North and South America really existed didn't they, and that's what the Book of Mormon is supposed to be about. Would anyone have believed the Bible if they didn't refer to real cities? The New Testament also talks about cities that didn't exist like Nazareth. Just because you use a few place names that are known to exist doesn't mean your story is anymore true than if you use made up cities, it just makes it harder to disprove your story.
I suspect two of the reasons the Tanners aren't well-motivated to search too deeply into the origins of Christianity like they've done with the Mormon history is because it would be much harder to do and their financial supporters are Christian groups who don't like the Mormons. If the Tanners were to become atheists, would there be enough atheists to support the work they've enjoyed doing the last decades?
I was somewhat prepared to become an atheist if I ever left the Mormon church because I convinced myself at an early age that no other religion could stand up to Mormonism. I'm not sure that statement is true any longer, but it made a difference in how my beliefs developed when I lost faith in Mormonism.
I'm embarrassed when I realize that I might still be a questioning Mormon today if my marriage had succeeded or if I had quickly remarried successfully. That time of reflection was essential to developing my new views on God and religion. I would like to think I'm smarter than that, but I'm apparently not and the large investment you put in the Church makes it hard to throw it all away.