You guys, I just had an epiphany and I wanted to share it with people I haven’t met on the Internet.
Until about five minutes ago, the first Sunday of April and October were weekends to be dreaded. I hate General Conference with the white hot fury of 1,000 suns. And that’s weird, because you’d think a heathen like me would love skipping out on sacrament meeting guilt-free.
It’s no secret amongst church members and family members that I’m a non-believer. I’m not a militant attacker of the Mormon faith or anything, but because I haven’t officiated in any of my kids’ key Mormon faith milestones it’s abundantly clear to everyone that I’m an awful heathen. Everyone’s been civil to me, but family gatherings and church encounters are always kind of terse.
It gets especially awkward during conference, because I get together with my in-laws to watch the Sunday sessions. All the while I know it’s just a matter of time before a general authority makes some snide remark about atheists, secular humanists, or people who don’t make the habit of regularly and publicly stating their belief in magic.
This past weekend was especially bad. Mormon Apostle Quentin L. Cook dedicated his entire talk to disparaging secularists, M. Russell Ballard attributed all of society’s ills to the rise of secularism, and Russell M. Nelson made a really weird crack about evolution and science.
And of course, I felt targeted. I didn’t understand why they felt they needed to make those kinds of comments about people like me. After all, I’m not a horrible guy. I’m a family man at heart. I do everything I can to spend time with my kids and beautiful wife. I volunteer in my community. I donate time and money to worthwhile causes. When I mess up, I try to do better next time. I really don’t think my disbelief in God or religion is leading me to break down society. I think society is great!
So it really hurts my feelings when I hear these remarks, and even more when I see my family nodding in assent when these types of remarks are made.
But about five minutes ago I realized that these comments aren’t being made to hurt my feelings – they’re made to reassure millions of believers around the world who are terrified of the change happening the world over. Civil wars, terror attacks, economic disparity – the world is horrifying. And they need the church to reassure them that everything will be OK in the end.
I always seem to forget that – some people need religion to tell them that things will be alright. Sometimes the possibility that everything won’t be OK is too much to bear.
I’m different from your standard believer in that I am comfortable with random chance. I’m not saying that I’m in any way emotionally or intellectually superior to church-goers, I’m just “built differently.”
And that’s the core of the issue – church, general conference, the whole ball of wax, isn’t meant to attack people built like me – it’s meant to reassure believers.
Just watch the video of Quentin Cook’s address. Look how he beams down at the audience while describing the virtues of the believer. He’s not trying to make me feel bad about myself – he wants believers to feel GREAT about themselves. And good for him. He’s doing a tremendous service for the people who need him most.
And this conference was a great reminder that I don’t need the church anymore, and more importantly, they don’t need me.
And that’s just fine. In fact, it made me feel wonderful to remember that. I’m happy to be a global Mormon boogeyman for a few minutes so long as it will delay the breakdown of society.