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Kirby: How much pain does your faith cause?

Published July 12, 2014 11:54 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Here's another important gospel question. I'll direct it at Mormons because there are so many of us around here, but it works just as well for people of other "only one way" faiths.

Come to think of it, the question also applies to anyone who believes something with such certainty that reason is occasionally ordered to shut up and sit in the back.

First, some groundwork. How much does your unshakable faith comfort you in moments of genuine pain and uncertainty about eternity? A lot? Some? Only a little? Not a bit?

Now the question. Is your religious faith ever a major factor in causing that pain? Is there a time when what you believe isn't a comfort and, in fact, actually makes things worse?

For example, suppose a son — let's call him Buddy — you raised to be a devout Latter-day Saint, a superstar kid through Primary, Boy Scouts, a mission, etc., suddenly announces that he's an atheist? And he's not kidding.

Not only is Buddy now an atheist, so is his new wife. Furthermore, all of your grandchildren from them will be reared as atheists.

I'm not picking on atheists here. I'm just using them to make a point. I could have used Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Democrats and anything else that puts a loved one crossways to your core beliefs.

I'm also not singling out sons. The person in question could be your father, your spouse, a sister, a daughter, a best friend or anyone else you hope to see in heaven when you get there.

In every other regard, Buddy is still the same kid you raised. He's happy, smart, loving and even respectful of your beliefs.

Does your faith make you feel better about him, or is your belief in your theology a constant source of worry and sorrow for you now?

Hey, Buddy's not following the plan. He's going to hell (or wherever true believers like you don't go). There, he'll either sulk forever that he's no longer welcome at eternal family reunions, or every morning his entrails will be torn out again and used to floss Satan's teeth. Anyway, it will be bad.

But let's not worry about forever. Let's stick with right now. Do you believe you're so right about Buddy's new godless situation that it detracts from a healthy and loving relationship in the here and now?

Every time you look at Buddy now does your unshakable faith automatically remind you that he's doomed, that this theological rift is so important that mostly you just feel sorry for him and sorrier for yourself?

Maybe you've decided to grudgingly accept this "lesser" Buddy for who he is now out of the goodness of your heart; that if you can't love him the way your faith mandates, you can at least tolerantly pity him in a Christ-like way.

If so, consider the very real possibility that you're an idiot. First for letting theology get in the way of love, and second for believing in a plan/god/spirit that would condemn Buddy for being a wonderful human being but unfortunately not a believer.

Another note: This also applies to nonbelievers who so firmly suppose they're smarter than believers that they can't relate to their loved ones anymore either.

Religion (faith, gospel, church or whatever you choose to call it) isn't just divisive because we exclude and sometimes even kill one another over it. It's also great at silently torturing loving relationships to death.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.