The biggest question I have had posed since leaving (or taking a break from) the Mormon church is where my values will come from. I find this query to be the most offensive. To infer that values only derive from the Mormon religion is to a) accept a very negative view of humanity (à la Thomas Hobbes) and agree that all men are inherently evil; and b) suggest that only Mormons have a strong-hold on acceptable values.
I do not accept either proposition. While I think religion has a role in society–it has done much good over the centuries–I also believe we fail to recognize the corrupting influence of religion. Recall the many wars (i.e. crusades, 100-year war) fought over religious differences and the horrible acts (i.e. witch burning, slavery) done in the name of religion. To exclude Mormonism from this history is to ignore controversial subjects like blacks and the priesthood, the mountain meadows massacre, and gender inequality.
Ironically enough, at least in how I viewed morals before, I have become more compassionate and less judgmental as I shed the confining coat of religion. I have become a moral relativist (despite Elder Oak’s harsh criticism of this philosophy) as I research and consider others in situations significantly different from mine. Consider the woman in China. Given the harsh laws aiding the one child law (applied to about 35% of the population), can a person logically condemn her choice of abortion? It is what she’s been taught her entire life. She does not have the same regard for human life as a person living in the United States. Her government does not allow that. But does that mean she is someone who has no values? Most likely she is not religious (as religion is also strongly punished) yet I have a hard time believing she doesn’t want her child to learn basic global values: honesty, selflessness, and working hard to make a living.
Not going to church doesn’t mean I will engage in acts of debauchery. It also doesn’t immediately dispel my reverence toward chastity, modesty, and the word of wisdom–though I practice/view them in a markedly different manner that is not misogynistic nor misinformed.
As I consider how I will raise Emily and Andrew, my first goal is to teach them to prize love. They will learn the value–through shared experiences and via my example–of serving the less fortunate and giving any excess they have, monetarily, to people who really need it. Our emphasis will not revolve around money. Instead, I will teach them to give of themselves–their talents and their resources–rather than hoard or seek after riches.
So where are my morals? Inside. I would like to believe that I am fundamentally a good person and that I passed this gene to my children. (Lame science joke. I am such a nerd.) I would also like to believe that all of you are inherently good. You (and I) might forget and/or push aside thoughts of humanity during times of crisis, but when reminded will do anything we can realistically do to help the unfortunate.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do respect religion and people’s views toward spirituality, but my history of hurt as led me on a quest to define my spirituality. I still take the kids to church (just not a Mormon ward at the moment) and appreciate Jesus Christ’s message in the New Testament. Don’t disregard my questions and I won’t disregard your beliefs. Deal?
**On an unrelated note, don’t forget to write about your own parenting beliefs/experiences/philosophy tomorrow (whether in the comments, on Facebook, or in your own post) regarding sleep. The more people participate, the better the experience is. Perhaps we can turn the tide against harsh criticism and remind others that parenting is hard work. Let’s give people leeway for their parenting decisions.