Indoctrination overwhelms the ability to think critically—I have already hit on this, so I'm not sure I need to say more. Many mid-life crises are the result of philosophical problems. If you understand your own philosophical views, if you take great care to form them, if you understand that it is all right to change them when it no longer seems true to you, or when concrete evidence seems to suggest otherwise, you are free to change your beliefs. If you understand that you needn't be emotionally attached to your beliefs, then you are free to change them. Do you have any idea how freeing that is? (I'm assuming not.)
Redirecting thoughts from the HERE and NOW to the LATER—This encourages people to do good things NOW for the LATER rewards. (This, in studies, has never worked as a sufficient reward system. People are more inclined to be good when the rewards come immediately—we all know that.) This brings up the argument for ethics without god. It brings the focus off of MORALITY, which is normally grounded firmly in a specific dogma, and brings focus to the ETHICS, the actual actions. Why should you not lie? Because you will not be trusted by others, and may eventually be scorned by the community. Why not kill? Because you are violating another's right to life. Why not covet? Because it encourages materialism and emotional dependence on things. It also makes you jealous of your neighbour, which can taint/alter your relationship with them NOW, on earth. Why not rape someone? Because it inflicts harm on another person, and we are empathic creatures who don't like to see suffering by nature (it has nothing to do with god). There are practical, relevant reasons for many of our 'morals'--we do not need to rely on a god to give us ethical guidelines. Most of these are self-evident truths, and obvious inalienable rights that needn't be god-given to make sense, or to encourage members of a community to adhere to.
Giving up your hard-earned money for a dubious product--Why are you buying this religion, and what are you REALLY receiving in return?!
Encourages people to transform their ideas of god into god, and accepts no other experiences with the Divine as real spiritual experiences—rather, it makes them into Satan's tricks, essentially telling pious folk that their dogma is of the devil (which, honestly, is just rude—your dogma is just as ridiculous).
Encourages a lack of respect for those who disagree with you—Because they are simply wrong. And all too often, if you cannot respect their beliefs, you cannot respect them, even though so many Christians make noise about loving the sinner, not the sin, and respecting others beliefs. No. Because, for most, the belief is LITERALLY an internalised part of them, it is them. Because of this, it is very hard for a religious person to separate another from their beliefs. At base, this should never be an argument for the respect of others' beliefs, many of which you don't respect, anyway, but it should be an argument for respecting someone's right to their own beliefs, and respecting the person without their beliefs entering the picture at all. This is why I said at the start that I do not respect your beliefs. This has nothing to do with respecting you as a person.
Shifts the blame from the individual to spirits, and excuses people because they will be judged 'later'--This one is fairly frustrating. This is how people get away with things. Instead of realising that it is your own, human nature prodding you to have sex, you think it is the devil tempting you. Instead of realising all of humanity's inherent polarity, the so-called 'bad', 'worldly' side is somehow evil, making us half-evil, at least. And this puts, in many situations, blame on spirits instead of the individual's self-control. Not so much in Mormonism, but the Catholics and evangelicals do lots of emotionally-damaging exorcisms on children because of this premise. At base, 'hate the sin, not the sinner' removes a person from their deeds, instead of forcing the person to own their deeds.
Encourages members of a specific sect to proselytise (using up THEIR time and money) with taught salespersons techniques, instructed on the proper scare tactics, handing people a set of beliefs without the asterisked statement at bottom reading: Caveat emptor.--I have nearly always held that door-to-door sales tactics are quite rude and intrusive. If I want to buy something, I will go to you. I cannot respect any religion that will proselytise so invasively.
Controls adherents using fear/scare tactics. i.e.: If your children don't repent and stay in the church, they will not be with you in the Celestial kingdom. Don't you want to be with them forever?--This is, frankly, emotional manipulation. I don't know how you can't see that. You were a missionary yourself, surely you are aware of how the MTC teaches its salespeople. This is why mothers with the 'empty nest' syndrome are most likely to convert. They want the assurance that they'll again be part of their children's lives. This also attempts to scare people into doing the right thing, rather than providing good explanations as to why some rule ought to be followed. It doesn't matter that it makes no sense to give your money up freely and draw yourself deeper into debt. Simply put, it is essential for your salvation. If you don't, you'll go to hell. This is, naturally, NOT truth, it is merely a scare tactic to encourage blind obedience!
Encourages disunity and disharmony in almost every part of life. (Man vs Man, Man vs God, Man vs Self, Man vs Society, etc...)--It creates an us-them ideology that influences a member's everyday life quite negatively. It encourages bigotry, racism, sexism/misogyny and an exclusionary mindset. How is that in any way good for society?
That sex (for most sects) is inherently bad because it is enjoyable—I was addicted to porn. As a result, I very strongly disagree with this. Sex is a natural part of being human. You want to know why Utah is so addicted to pornography? Do you want to know why I was addicted to pornography? No, I'm sure you don't, but I'll tell you, because this is a serious problem in all of America. The reason people (youth especially) find themselves addicted to porn is because they are allowed no satisfactory sexual outlet. This is also why there are so many rapists. The reason for pornography addiction is suppression. What is the cure? Many, many will tell you the real cure is not god, but sexual satisfaction with or without a partner. These people, successfully cured, often state that they still enjoy porn on occasion, but normally watch it with their partners, not in secret, not in fear, in shame, in suppression, in self-hate. Regardless of how they enjoy it, and even though they may be supporting a terrible industry, they are no longer addicted, and that makes all the difference. When people think they need to commit suicide because of their sex drives/preferences, we have a serious problem in our society!
There are, of course, also a few pros to organised religion, so I must give them time as well. The biggest of these is a sense of community, the feeling that you are around those different to you, but also connected, since you all share a basic belief. This is something that unorganised spiritual folk and atheists have never yet managed to do. There is no sense of community here, because these people tend to think that organisation is equal to religion, which it is not. Community is essential for human life. If you are kicked out, evolutionarily speaking, you tended to die, and your genes were not passed on. With organised religion, you've always got neighbours participating in a give-and-take that benefits the entire community. This is one good thing to come from religion. Another pro (which is also a con, as I have already stated) is that an individual's thinking has been done for them. Authoritarian dogma is set down, keeping people from having to experience the pain and confusion of having to ask themselves the difficult questions. This is good for the individual, perhaps (though even that is debatable), but terrible for society. Did you know that the Romans had almost built the steam engine? Science had gotten pretty far. But then, Christianity entered the scene, and everyone was thrust into the dark ages. During these times, there was almost no scientific or political progress to speak of. People lived in fear and silence.
I'm sure there are other pros to religion, too, like knowing how to act in every situation, without having to judge whether that action is truly right or wrong, or bringing people together over food, when they are the most satisfied and most willing to be fed spiritually. It's also brought us lovely religious art. However, there are simply too many cons for me to support organised religion in any way. I prefer to think for myself. I prefer to love women over men. I prefer to take my life into my own hands. I prefer to be free of the shame, the fear, the indoctrination, the bigotry, the stress, the loss of funds, the never-ending expectations.
I prefer to be happy as me.
I will not go to Hell for my 'rebellion against God', despite your worries. Accept Hell as a human archetype. Accept it as a made-up story created to scare children and adults into being 'good'. Accept that god was a great story, but that his time has passed. Accept that there are many, many ways to be spiritual outside of 'religion', and that there is no one way, that we each experience 'god' in our own, personal way.
Allow yourself to believe that, and you will be much less concerned for my salvation and/or happiness.
This has been a very long email. But I expect this will be the only one of its kind.
The problem child,
The ever-uncertain, curious one,
In concern and…well, love, I suppose,
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