Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

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Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Advocate » Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:30 am

In a recent thread (viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4593, I recounted a major disagreement with DW. I received a lot of great advice there and the storm has passed for now.

One thing DW brought up is she didn't like talking about anything church-related with me because she could feel my negativity. She even mentioned that it was frustrating for her when we would have the missionaries for dinner and I wouldn't say much; she took the reason for that behavior as my disaffection with the church (and she isn't entirely wrong). I don't think most people (in the church or otherwise) would see me as being negative, but obviously it is very difficult for your spouse to not be aware of your true feelings on something.

As an analogy, some 10 to 15 years ago my father-in-law got very interested in politics and started watching a lot of cable news programs (I'm intentionally not mentioning which station or political party, because I think political comments should not be part of NOM). While my wife and I largely agreed with his political viewpoints, we found he wasn't much fun to be around because he was so negative (IMO, politics generally have negative energy). After a few years he stopped watching so much cable news and we found him more enjoyable to be around.

I do think one thing the church gets right is (mostly) not attacking other religions.

I think DW is right that I have some negative energy when it comes to church related things. For example:
- I love Radio Free Mormon's podcasts (I think he is almost always on-point), but each podcast is mostly criticizing things church leaders have said or done
- I read over on the mormondialogue board sometimes, and there is a lot of negative energy there
- On this board many doctrinal discussions end up criticizing words/actions of church leaders (not that I don't agree!)
- My mind is trained to find BS and call it out. For example, we had a high councilor that spoke and said that he and his wife followed the strength of youth pamphlet because it didn't seem right to them that they could do something that their children could not. This set off huge red flags for me as BS because I'm fairly certainly he went and did endowments in the temple, which is contrary to his principle of adults not doing things that kids can't do. Obviously realizing that someone is lying does not generate positive energy.

After the last disagreement, I took a break from the online world of mormonism for a few weeks. It was good. When the church announced the baptism witness change, I hadn't heard about it until DW told me. And I decided I didn't care to read about it. So no negativity there, just ambivalence.

One challenge for me is that I like to fight for the principle of the matter. So even though I don't have a dog in the LGBT fight/issue with the church, I still get riled about it because I can see the unhealthiness of the church's stance. Contrast me with DW, who says she doesn't care about lots of things with the church because they don't affect her.

I'd like to hear comments on how people stay positive / avoid being negative, while still thinking critically about church items. I found that avoiding issues (i.e. not caring) all together is working for at least a few weeks, but I don't like feeling uninformed and I do think a lot of church news/events are interesting. Then there is the scripture that has always resonated with me about being neither hot nor cold and being spit out (Rev 3:16). Thoughts?

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by fetchface » Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:15 am

For me, ambivalence toward the church didn't really kick in until I found a hobby that included a social aspect to it. Now I actually look forward to Saturday morning the way the church teaches that you are supposed to look forward to Sunday, but I go work out with some friends in an Olympic Weightlifting class. I have a blast.

I sometimes talk to the guys there about how ridiculous being Mormon was, then I don't really feel the need to bring it up with my wife hardly at all, and I get some wide-eyed looks when describing my experiences such as my first time in the temple in the initiatory.

I do express my true thoughts in conversations with my wife about church, but I always try to emphasize that my perspective is not the only one, just that I can't settle with those other perspectives because they don't make sense to me.
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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by alas » Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:25 am

1. In general, be happy. Don’t find fault with her or other people. Compliment her and others around you.

2. I found that being positive about the aspects of church that I could support helped spouseman see that I wasn’t just being hateful, but that there were some real problems. If you point out, “the church creates a close community! And I can see why you love that.” Then when you do say something negative, it isn’t as hurtful. She will see that you see both sides. Right now, you are going to have to LOOK for positive things to say.

3. For me, it also helps that we both do have a dog....well a daughter in the fight for LGBT rights. But even without a dog in that fight, you can explain it as just being kind to another human being, that puts a positive spin on it. Instead of “going against the church” you are “trying to do what Christ would do.” You are trying to be kind.

4. So, frame your differences with the church in a positive way. You are not “digging up dirt on the church,” you are looking for the truth of church history. You are not “refusing to sustain the prophet” but you are “questioning if being against gay marriage was a good choice.”

5. Don’t argue. Even if you have to just walk away saying, “I refuse to argue about this.” So, learn to recognize when the discussion goes from positive to negative. And just refuse to go there. her you still have good values. Once spouseman knew I was on NOM, I started bringing up some of the issues, not history or problems with the church, but things like NOMette “is drinking but keeping it secret from her spouse. I don’t think that is going to end well. How can I say that without being offensive?” This kind of discussing other people’s issues helped him see that I was the same person I always was and disapprove of dishonesty between spouses. It helped us bridge between other people’s problems and our own.

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Red Ryder » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:39 pm

We are damned if we say too much.
We are damned if we say too little.

Think of the church as Nicki Minaj.

Do you talk or think about Nikki Minaj and complain to your spouse about what she does, says, or who she eats and sleeps with?

Probably not, but you can notice her outfit is cool or her latest album has a nice song with smooth rhythms, and ghetto rhymes? Who knows, you may find you like some of it on the surface but you aren’t going to travel on the groupie tour bus chasing after her trying to get some of that blown up booty?

Be aware of the church but don’t be a groupie!

Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Anon70 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:29 pm

For me, as long as I take a balanced approach my DH can take my criticisms more in stride. And there are things I can be supportive or complimentary about (good people, kind service). But when I was unfailingly critical he got more defensive and more frustrated with me. Now he’s actually more willing to also (gently) criticize because he doesn’t see me as always looking for an opportunity to scream BITFD!!

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by stuck » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:15 pm

My wife has noticed a difference if I've been listening to Mormon Stories or not. And I have often done it without her knowledge. When I admitted to doing it she was upset but I told her it wasn't to disrespect her but it helped me feel happier about my situation. I think because when we go to church we have to listen to everything positive about the church even if we disagree with it. But during the week, we can listen to other things that we agree with which is often opposite to those things we hear at church. Perhaps it's good to try to stay positive about the church when we are around our spouses when we feel like that is okay. But if it is something we disagree with, then voicing our opinion I think is good. Listening to things that we agree with I think helps our sanity as unbelievers. I guess it comes down to each person's situation, but I think it's good to stand up for what we believe is true if it doesn't cause us too much pain.

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Keewon » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:39 pm

Stuck wrote:When I admitted to doing it she was upset but I told her it wasn't to disrespect her but it helped me feel happier about my situation.
For me, it was never about positivity or negativity, or respect or disrespect, but just wanting to know the plain truth because truth matters. And even then it wasn't (to the best my self-knowledge) because I chose think that way, but because my mind wouldn't work the other way. If I could have chosen, I very well might have chosen to remain ignorant. It was that painful and lonely.

I succeeded in explaining that to DW, who in turn respected it in me. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. :)

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by moksha » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:23 am

While I have been in transition in my beliefs a number of times throughout my life, I have never been bereft of belief. There have always been nuggets of wisdom that I have stored. Hold on to what is genuine for you, whatever that might be.

Have you ever read the Desiderata? Not much to argue about there and it can lend itself to a positive outlook on life.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by hmb » Mon Oct 14, 2019 5:53 am

Red Ryder wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:39 pm

Be aware of the church but don’t be a groupie!
Be in the church, not of the church... :D

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Corsair » Mon Oct 14, 2019 2:30 pm

This is a very relevant problem to me. I still attend as a non-believer and I have not made my skepticism widely known. I simply find that certain parts of the church do allow me to stay positive. Basic Sermon on the Mount teachings from Jesus are great. Service, kindness, prayer, scripture reading, marriage relations, and basic humanist ideas are the kinds of things I can get behind. I find that I can stay positive with 80% of what I usually hear at church.

It's doctrines like temple worship, Word of Wisdom, and exclusivity of authority is where it comes apart for me. Most of fast and testimony meeting is problematic. Pushing proselyting missions is annoying. Modern prophets are a serious problem. I admit that missionary service is not the worst thing for youth. Certainly there is some amount of resilience that unintentionally gets put in place, but the abuses are all too well known.

I simply have to ignore a lot of what gets presented. I'm there to support my wife and that goal helps me ignore most of the foolishness. It's not perfect, but I don't pay tithing, don't follow Sabbath restrictions, and bend the Word of Wisdom in some limited ways. Limiting the effects of Mormon culture on my life truly helps.

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Re: Staying Positive While Being a Non-Believer

Post by Linked » Mon Oct 14, 2019 4:36 pm

Something I'm coming to understand is that my negativity toward the church is warranted, even if it is unhelpful and unwanted by DW.

My DW thinks I'm a very negative person, especially about church. Because I was often negative at church, even as a waning believer, I bought into that as well. It turns out I'm negative about things I disagree with, and I am quite positive about stuff I agree with. I have legitimate beef with what the church is, what it does to me and to others, and with what is done at church every Sunday. When I am confronted with it at church I notice the thing that bothers me and I mention it, which makes me negative. It would be nice if DW would judge the church based on what I say instead of me, but that's not how this works.

On the flip side, I took DW to a Bush concert last summer and she had plenty of negative things to say. It made for an awful concert experience for both of us. It would have been way more fun with people who liked the music and didn't have issues with the crowd that was there and a few f-words from the band. Now I am more selective in what I take DW to, and I don't take her to those concerts, I go with friends who like them instead. Unfortunately ceasing church attendance has more emotional baggage tied to it than not going to a concert.

My point is that there are probably a plethora of legitimate reasons for you being negative toward the church. That doesn't necessarily make you a negative person. One solution would be to avoid church stuff so you don't have real problems thrown in your face all the time, but that causes it's own issues. Hopefully recognizing that you have legitimate issues with the church can help make it easier to make it a choice whether or not to mention them to DW, knowing that mentioning it could hurt your relationship and probably not help the issue. By recognizing that you are right you validate yourself, and won't feel as much need to get validation from her (I'm projecting here...).
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

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