Sunday, January 4, 2009

Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going after this life is over?

As a Mormon missionary (in the mid '80s), some of the leading questions we would use to get people interested in our message were: Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going after this life is over? We knew we had the answers in the Mormon Gospel as we knew it and our purpose was to educate those poor souls who were "missing the boat" by not having the true answers to those questions. In the summer of 2000, after having finally left behind the fundamentalist Mormon theology that had been my life for decades, I found myself considering these same questions.

I want to clarify that the theology and belief system I had grown to understand, accept, believe , and live was not the same as the present day mainstream Mormon church. I believed in and lived the fundamental theology of the Mormon church as taught and lived by it's leaders in the early to mid 1800s. It was an extreme, radical, dooms-day theology. In contrast, the vast majority of present day Mormons do not have the same extreme beliefs and theology as the founders and originators of that church. The present day Mormon church is pretty much a social group of people who for the most part are good, kind, honest, upstanding, and beneficial members of society. They are for the most part unaware of the radical beginnings of their religion, and the leaders of the church today have white-washed it's history, locking away documents and records in an attempt to blend with modern society as just another "normal" religion.

So, in the summer of 2000, I came to the determination that if God were really the being described in the theology that I had put my whole being into, then I didn't want to be affiliated with him at all. I would rather suffer an eternity burning in hell than to support a belief system that held pretty much the whole human race in contempt, favoring only those special few who had the correct blood-line and lineage, and who "truly" received, embraced and lived his gospel as presented by direct revelation to his servant, The Prophet.

Having a wife and children, we physically moved out of that area and myopic existence into The Real World... a place I hadn't been in for pretty much my whole life. (I was brought into the mainstream Mormon theology when I was 5-years old, sometime around 1970, and had learned about and eventually embraced the fundamentalist beliefs in the mid to late '80s). Being out in the real world as a free and independent thinker was a paradigm shift for me. Step one was to take care of the immediate needs of me and my family.... get a job, any job, find an affordable place to live, and provide the food, clothing, and shelter that we needed to survive.

I had put religion and theology on a very distant back shelf. I held a what-if type of belief that there may be a supreme being, but hoped that he or she was a loving, accepting, kind being / entity / force that could see the good and struggles in everyone and welcome them for their goodness in life and struggles of mortality. I decided that I was willing to risk burning in hell for all eternity if I was wrong and offered myself "as much time as it takes" to get on my feet and get the needs of myself and my family all squared away, while just enjoying and living in a world full of wonder!

When 9-11 occurred, having come from a radical fundamentalist background myself, I recognized the drive that inspired suicide terrorists and realized that they were just as convinced and convicted in their theological beliefs as I had been, and that if there truly were a supreme being out there that cared about what we do in our lives and to each other, then it wasn't providing ANY check-and-balance in any kind of a discernible form for humanity to identify it's true will. I eventually came away from that event believing that there is no supreme being or entity out there that cares what we do on this planet one-way or another. I became, for want of a better term, a non-theist.

My life for the next few years was one of just getting by in the world with my family. We started off life relying on public welfare assistance to meet our needs, and with much work and determination eventually worked our way off the public dole and into a life of barely making it by from paycheck to paycheck.

During this timeframe, my self-identity was unclear to me. I lived, presented, acted as the male that I had grown up as. I still had the feeling that I should have been born a girl, and I felt envious of the girls and women I saw all around me, but none of this made any sense to me. So much of my time, energy, and effort went into just getting by that I didn't have any time to explore these feelings or better understand them.

I would still see, occasionally, a segment about a trans individual from things like Jerry Springer or something and feel like I just don't identify with those people. They were always shown in a very negative light, as crazy, psycho, unstable, violent, seflish, deceptive, etc. I didn't feel that way at all in myself. To my knowledge every story, clip, or segment I saw about a trans person showed them as being attracted to the same gender as they were born with and so I still thought that they were just homosexuals trying to validate their attraction within a hetero-normative society.

I knew that I wasn't homosexual; my attraction was 100% to women. I knew that I wasn't "psycho," unstable, violent, selfish, or deceptive. I just couldn't relate to any of the examples I saw in the media. I felt that I was unique and that I was doomed to live life stuck in the wrong body. There was nothing that could be done about it, so might as well learn to live with it and move on.

So eventually, starting from that point of my life, I came to my present beliefs and answers to those "burning" questions:

Where do we come from? We're just part of the animal life on this planet... we have no "eternal soul" and so our life is just the time we have here, nothing more.

Why are we here? We're here because we exist here. No greater purpose other than life iteslf.

Where are we going after this life is over? Once we die, that's it. Since there is no eternal soul, there is nothing more. All our works while in this life will have influenced the direction of the world and society in whatever small ways that it can, such as progeny and helping to make someone's day brighter or better that we may meet on the street, but from an "after life" or eternal perspective, once we die, then the curtain closes and there is nothing more.

To those of you who believe in an after-life or eternal life, this thought may be depressing, but to me it is full of wonder and enlightenment. Rather than trying to figure out the whims and 'rules' of an unknowable, unverifiable being... I know where I stand in life. If the human race and this world are to become a better place for all, it's not by the hand on an invisible god.... it's from the influence and hand of each and every individual living on the planet at any given time. The responsibility for the survival and quality of life for mankind isn't in god working in Mysterious Ways, it's in our hands to succeed or fail, and I can make decisions throughout my life that can help move life and society forward into a brighter future.

And the story continues! I hope to keep at this on a more timely and consistent basis, but alas, as a procrastinator, I can make no promises!