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Working from first principles.
I try to keep my life fairly logical. It's a logic that treats emotions and beliefs as real things, mind, so to a certain flavor of STEM-lord sort it doesn't qualify, but honestly human beings feel emotions and hold beliefs, and pretending otherwise is, well... illogical.

My religious beliefs are constructed according to that logic, from a few foundational concepts. At their most basic, there are three.

1. There is a God.
2. God created this universe.
3. God communicates to humans through visions and spiritual experiences.

I can't prove them. My only evidence for them are said spiritual experiences, and that gets a bit recursive. I recognize that I may be wrong. But I prefer to believe these things are correct. And if they are, several things immediately follow.

If God created this universe, one can learn about God by studying it. One learns about any artist by studying their work. That is a first order source of truth in my book, as it is fairly direct. Therefore the things discovered by the sciences (hard and soft) are first order truths. (With, of course, the understanding that any good scientist has about potential error and re-examining these truths in light of continual discovery.)

If God communicated to humans, then whatever God tells me personally is also a first order truth. So my own spiritual revelations can be trusted above other, less direct sources, and are equal to anything known by science, at least in regards to my personal life.

Of course God has communicated to other humans, some of which wrote those things down. Given differences in circumstances, the difficulty in understanding other people, the passage of time, the intervention of translators, etc. these are second order, not first order sources, but still have meaning. So scripture is a source of truth also.

And God can still speak to religious leaders today, giving them inspiration for their congregations. There's some inherent uncertainty here: are these people honest and can they be trusted? But they are also a second order source of truth, and especially useful when they have clear, concise clarifications of scripture that fit with the first order sources. As I was raised Mormon, the LDS church in particular is who I look to for that clarification.

Third order truth is what can be derived from thinking logically about the above, but tends to be what I practically act on in my everyday life.

For example, say I have a question about alcohol. Is it good, or evil? Should I personally drink any?

First order sources say that alcohol causes harm (studies on drunk driving, drunken abuse, liver damage, other health problems) but also that it has some good sides (studies on wine and health, social drinking studies, history of alcohol persisting through pretty much all human history) Personal spiritual experiences say nothing one way or the other, God isn't that talkative, and hasn't said anything to me about this one. Inconclusive, leaning towards "evil".

Second order sources: scriptures talk a lot about wine, there's some condemnation of drunkenness, some condemnation of strong drink, but also positive things about beer, and Jesus made wine, and included it in his sacrament, so it probably can't be "evil" outright. Inspired church leadership says that members of the church shouldn't drink. Okay then, very simple: situation may be complicated, but answer is easy, don't drink!

Here's another question: What about homosexuality? Good? Evil? What to do about my own bisexual urges? How to treat other gay people?

First order science: Homosexuality is natural. But this is value neutral, natural things can still be morally bad. (Rape is a natural behavior, for example.) First order communication from God: God has told me, on this one, that the joy of homosexual couples getting married is pleasing and acceptable. Homosexuality must be good, then.

Second order scripture: Not much there, one condemnation in the old testament, but Jesus said the old law was done away, and also said that love is more important. Second order church leaders, though, say that homosexual sex is a sin. Difficult! But love is still more important.

Conclusion: Might be sinful to act on my own urges (first order source says married gay couples okay, but second order sources suggest me doing anything gay outside of marriage is probably still a sin.) Most important factor in interacting with others is love, sin doesn't matter.

Woo. Everything's fine, right?

Then that second order source of church leadership says something new: Gay marriage specifically is a sin. A special, extra-grievous sin that may actually be worse than things like murder, abuse, rape, etc.

Suddenly! Does not compute! First order source tells me gay marriage is good! Second order source says it's evil! Second order source must be wrong. But second order source is claiming to have direct inspiration from God, to be acting in God's name. This cannot be true. Second order source must be lying. A source that is known to be lying must be discarded as a source of truth. Church leadership's word, interpretation, clarification, inspiration, etc. all now must be discarded.

And suddenly the whole structure comes apart. The alcohol example above is just one of the thousands of tiny things where a key bit of the logic of my belief was supplied by the modern clarification of church leadership. Now I have to ask, should I drink? And, well... first order sources are overall neutral, second order sources indicate Jesus thought wine was fine. Guess I can drink if I want to!

Everything has changed, and now I have to rebuild my entire belief system from the ground up. It is a seriously daunting task. I could, of course, look for some other second order source to provide a belief system for me, but once bitten, twice shy, as they say. I'm reluctant to trust a religious authority figure now. How do I know they're for real? How do I know that whatever clarification they offer is worth using? I don't. Until I get another first order revelation telling me so (which may never happen) I have no basis to trust anyone.

So here I am, building some kind of personal little religion on my own. I'm having to go back to just those first three things and start all over again. I currently have no idea what I believe about a lot of stuff. It's a weird, unsteady, standing-on-quicksand kind of feeling.

But I'll take it over letting myself be misled by leaders who put bigotry and obsession with sin ahead of love any day.

This entry was originally posted at http://bladespark.dreamwidth.org/1494178.html.

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*hugs* I know i'ts hard, but you are doing what so so so many refuse to do.I live in a dark part of the US (the bible belt) and it's... painful how many people simply parrot and never think. Never consider. Simply listen and reiterate.

You are so strong. So very strong.

I wish you all the strength in the world. You're doing the right thing. Religion is between you and God. No one else needs to be involved. And so much about modern religion has not just one man between you and god, but tens, hundreds, thousands of men with a hand between you and god. Push them away. Be strong.

In my way, I"ll light a candle for your strength tonight. The solstice was the other day. Every day will become brighter from here out.

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