Well, I might have lots of problems, and maybe one of them is bigger than this one, but for now this feels like my biggest problem.
It is this: I am still holding out for a Testimony of the True Church.
I have already concluded at least for the meantime that I believe the Mormon church is not at all what it claims to be, and thus is not, at least in the way it claims, “The True Church.” So that’s not what I’m talking about.
This is hard to articulate, and I expect that I will miscommunicate it terribly.
I have this mental block. I can tell myself all I want that it doesn’t matter what church you go to, as long as it brings you closer to Christ. I even believe it most of the time, intellectually. It makes sense to me, in light of the way I understand Christianity and the teachings laid out in the Bible. I can accept it into my schema. In fact, it actualy makes a lot more sense to me than any kind of denominational claim to exclusive Truth.
On days when I am feeling less Christian, I can apply the same reasoning to religion in general. What Jeff Lilly and Malaclypse the Younger say about it seem completely reasonable to me: that all religions are “true,” and that it is simply important that you commit to a belief system in which you grow and draw closer to God (however you choose to personify him/her/it).
The idea that one religion, much less one denomination of one religion, has a singular claim to absolute truth seems immeasurably unlikely, if not naïvely arrogant. I just don’t buy it. No religion seems universal enough to be universal, and those few that do are generally not very credible anyway.
So my course should be obvious. Depending on whether I decide for Christ or not, I should pick a denomination or religion that rings true to me, that meets my needs and seems closest to the truth as I understand it, and go with it.
So why can I not do that? I have several good candidates in mind (Episcopalianism/Anglicanism, Quakerism, and emerging Evangelicalism are all comfortable and appealing in different ways, and if I wasn’t going to be Christian, I’ve got Asatru, Druidry, and perhaps Buddhism after a longer more serious look); why don’t I just pick one?
I feel like I have a mental block, a stubborn thing laying around in my brain that I can’t get rid of. It’s like a little goblin in my head that insists on Absolute Truth. It won’t let me pick a good religion; it will only let me pick The True Religion. I try to tell this stubborn mental block that there is no True Religion, but this stubborn mental block doesn’t seem to care.
Even worse, this stubborn mental block will only be convinced of Absolute Truth when it is presented with some kind of Incontrovertible Mystical Experience. And it can’t be logically flawed, either. I try to tell the mental block that logically airtight Incontrovertible Mystical Experiences are not only really hard to come by, but in the end they aren’t as good a foundation for religious belief as deliberate faith and commitment are anyway. But the mental block does not seem to care what I say or think. It stubbornly insists on only accepting a church that is proven Absolutely True by Incontrovertible Mystical Experience, with no logical flaws. End of discussion.
Do you see my conundrum? What am I supposed to do? I have a standard for religion that is completely unrealistic, and one that not only guarantees that virtually all churches will fail, but that probably won’t result in a lasting commitment anyway.
Why is the mental block there? Why won’t it go away? It clearly smacks of Mormonism, which is no surprise since I have been a dedicated Mormon for most of my 28 years. But what does it mean? Am I simply so conditioned by Mormon-logic that I am more or less ruined spiritually, since Mormon-logic ensures that no other church could ever possibly pass its rigged and biased “test” for authenticity? Or does it mean that something in my soul, deep down, knows that Mormonism is true, and will thus never really be satisfied until I come back? But the problem with that is, now Mormonism even fails the mental block’s test, since my mystical proof is not at all incontrovertible, and I feel like Mormonism is completely full of holes, a veritable theological/philosophical swiss cheese.
When I was still an active member but my brother Racticas was in the process of leaving the Church, I supported him on the grounds that since Mormonism is absolutely and exclusively true, he would not find spiritual fulfillment anywhere else and so he would eventually come back. Is that what this is? Am I proving my own hypothesis? Or is spiritual fulfillment waiting for me somewhere (or even everywhere), as soon as I’m willing to take a leap of faith and plunge in instead of perpetually wetting my toes in the shallows of religious commitment?
Or is it merely a case of “once burned, twice shy?” After years of Mormonism followed by the life-changing crash of walking away from it, maybe I’m just too timid to easily pick a new religion and start again. Is my mental block really a Mormon-flavored manifestation of a very reasonable fear of religious commitment?
In any case, what do I do? I know I have no reason to rush things, but the more I think about religion, the more frustrated I get, and I’m afraid that if I don’t pick something and stick with it, I’m eventually going to throw my hands up in frustration and walk away a “committed” agnostic. And I don’t want that.