"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Teacher Appreciation Day

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Teacher Appreciation Day

In addition to this photo of flowers my son's classmates helped gather (from backyard gardens for the most part) for their teachers today, I want to offer up-front-and-center this recent commentary by OvenMitt. Thank you for visiting, and for some powerful teaching.

To Anonymous Poison,
My spouse is a former Laestadian; I was raised to be an atheist. I have a vivid memory from elementary school (in the 1950s) of my teacher chiding me in front of the class for saying things that implied that religion is essentially a scam to provide income and power to its leaders (I'm still shocked that she didn't pull me aside to make this correction.) I was loyal to science and reason and way more than skeptical of religion and faith: I was (in my own mild way) disdainful.

This remained my point of view for decades. Nevertheless, I got over it.

It is impossible to give too much credit to science and reason for the benefits that they bring to us in the well-fed first world, we who benefit the most from them.

Science and reason are a benefit wherever they appear, whether among stock brokers in Manhattan or shepherds in Mongolia. But, with that said, it is important to recall that science and reason are tools: they are the finger pointing at the moon. They are not the moon itself. Moreover, they have a critical and in some respects disabling limitation: they can be applied only to experience that can be shared and verified. That is where their power lies.

They work in a kind of marketplace or crossroads between people, but no one actually lives at that address, by which I mean to say that our root experience of personally being alive and our experiences of love, courage, generosity, compassion (and all their opposites) are essentially out of reach of science and reason.

If we think of our own experience of being-in-the-world as a kind of full portrait, the descriptions provided by science and reason remain stick figures. Or, one might look at it this way: A wiring diagram for a radio is not the same as listening to music.

As for factualness, for the most part, the stories provided by religion about how things work are all false. Completely inaccurate. Also, religious stories, too, are not the moon but merely the finger pointing at the moon. But the moon they point at is not some consensual reality that can be verified in public but the felt experience of our own individual lives. That is where their power lies.

Despite the annoying insistence of various kinds of fundamentalists to the contrary, the factual truth of religious stories is quite irrelevant to their value. I can't emphasize too strongly that, from my point of view, it makes no difference whatsoever whether they are factually true or not. None.

The stories offered by religion are false but have value; they can inspire great deeds and great works. One thinks of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he is only the most obvious example of a person whose profound faith was the foundation of a world-changing character. But, though religion may inspire some, it is clearly also not indispensable: one thinks of Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet atomic physicist and human rights dissident, who had great personal courage and commitment to human dignity and had no faith. The history of the Soviet Union is proof that an (ostensible) commitment to the rule of science and reason is no bulwark against inhumanity.

In a church basement, I remember seeing this verse from Micah posted on the wall for the Sunday school children: "...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

This is valid, with the proviso that it doesn't make any difference what the subject of "require" is ("those who love you" or "your own dignity" would be fine) and it's OK to delete the last three words. If it is true that, although religion can inspire, it can be misused (and it is true), it is also true that science and reason, though they can inspire, can also be misused.

Clearly, religion and science both inspire and are misused constantly. When I hear people being contemptuous of religion or being contemptuous of science, I think that (for the most part) this is simply a symptom of fear and that this fear arose out of (sometimes) terrible personal suffering. So I always want people to step out of the fortress of disdain, which is such an isolating and ineffectual fortress. To do so is what it means in the verse where it says "walk humbly."

But I also understand that no one can make people step outside that circle. I myself was inside it for decades. For most of my life.

But I got over it.

Anyway, I want to wish Anonymous Poison the best of luck and happiness.


  1. OvenMitt is a gifted writer and philosopher, IMHO.

    Anonymous Poison sounds like he could be my brother...I wish I had the guts to ask him.

    --Stranger in a Strange Land

  2. Anonymous Poison5/08/2008 08:03:00 AM

    I began writing what was going to be a lengthy retort to this post.

    But then after some consideration I changed my mind. I think the pivotal factor in this decision was:

    "I can't emphasize too strongly that, from my point of view, it makes no difference whatsoever whether they are factually true or not. None."

    If the distinction between truth and fiction makes no difference to you, what's the point of discussing it?

    If you choose to focus on the wading pool of good religion has accomplished instead of the ocean of evil it has perpetrated, and still does regularly, knock yourself out.

    I recall in my other comment posts using the word "delusion" several times.

    "A fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact"

    Seems sadly appropriate.


  3. I am loving this exchange between Anonymous-Poison and OvenMitt. I would like to add one little comment: If you, A-P, see the good that religion has accomplished as a "wading pool" compared to an "ocean" of evil, I think your experiences with religion must have been exceptionally bad. Even in the OALC, I see a lot of good (even tho', especially here, we necessarily focus on the bad, as that has seemed the more relevant experience). Hmm. Time for some thoughts about forgiveness, I would say. 'speace to you also. Many Trails Home

  4. Anonymous Poison5/08/2008 05:38:00 PM


    You type pretty well for wearing oven mitts :-) I'm afraid I can't put as much effort into a reply, since arthritis and keyboards don't get along so well these days.

    Do you believe in God? The one outlined in the admittedly ficticious bible? If your answer is "yes" can you elaborate on why, other than reading ancient fiction?

    I ask because this was the premise of my original comment here, why someone would reject tootism but still accept religion of another flavor.


    Yes I would consider my experience with religion to be bad. I think the world's experience with religion has been bad.

    I can't agree with you about seeing a lot of good in the OALC. I was raised to hate anybody and anything that wasn't like us. Spousal abuse and child abuse were OK though.

    I left Hockinson as soon as I was able, moving many miles away, and since I was shunned anyway I never bothered to return.

    I found out that the only parts of my religious upbringing that were positive, such as a sense of family and cameraderie and community and a helping hand when one is needed, can all be found "out in the world" without the baggage of poisonous superstition.

    Bad experiences on my part or not, my frustration doesn't lie with the people I grew up with. Forgiveness came a long time ago. I'm not bitter about my own religious experiences so much as I'm exasperated how much of the world still buys into this crap and uses it justify nearly anything they want to do. All of the killing and torture and oppression in the name of "god" makes me sick.

    Particularly since I, as well as a lot of intelligent and educated people,(neither intelligence or education is something I consider myself to possess in abundance) don't believe that there is a "god".

  5. LLLreader here: To Oven Mitt, thank you for your contribution--so well said. Can you give us a clue about your choice of names?
    Love it----but ???????

  6. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, to all you mothers out there in blog-land. I'm working, myself, but will anticipate "Happy Mother's Day" calls from my kids. Despite all the wonderful things life has brought, being a mother is by far the greatest joy. Have a glorious Sabbath. Many Trails Home

  7. Boy, things have been dead on this blog lately. So I'd like to throw a question out to you, Free. What is "Joining the Fight Against Global Poverty" all about? Despite the fact that I am also allocated to the "liberal Democrat" pot, I have big problems with movements such as "End Hunger" and "Eliminate Poverty." We will never do either. Even as Jesus said, "The poor will always be with you."
    As for hunger, the "Green Revolution" was a terrible bust. We increased the global food production almost magically, and population growth mushroomed to absorb it all and more, so there are now if anything more hungry people than ever. Also more impoverished people. This is not to say that we should not be compassionate and help where and how we can, but to even suggest that elimination of poverty and hunger is a reasonable goal to me is misleading and irrational.
    Thus endeth my political commentary for the day! Many Trails

  8. Ummmm...Trails, I agree with you...now you can pick yourself up off the floor...

    I did see some evidence of success with the Green Revolution, when I was in India in the late 1980s. While Bombay (Mumbai now) was a city of 8 to 10 million, of whom the government officially acknowledged 50% were homeless -- and the real number was closer to 80% -- they did seem to have food, although not a rich diet by any means. That was the only bright spot I saw.

    That experience was a real eye opener. I had been told what to expect, and while I believed what I had been told, I found I could not comprehend until I saw it with my own eyes. (I admit, I am a doubting Thomas in some ways and need to thrust my hand into the wound as well.)

    When an Indian is homeless, he/she probably has a loincloth the size of a towel wrapped around the waist, and maybe a small rug under his/her arm which is rolled out at night wherever they are to be their home. They might -- but not always -- have a pair of rubber flip flops for shoes. They have no sanitary facilities, no job, no roof over their head, no medical care, no education. Imagine going to work in the morning driving about five miles and seeing 50 people squatting on the side of the road doing their toilet because there are snakes out in the grass so they don't dare go there.

    India is a country of a few extremely wealthy people and a bajillion extremely poor people. I've been asked why the poor don't rise up and take the wealth and share it -- to which I say well, then everyone would have five more rupees, but that's only about 12 cents, so then what? I've been asked why people don't just leave -- to which I ask to go where -- Bangladesh or Pakistan? They ain't welcome there especially, but neither are they welcome anywhere else. They have no money to buy transportation or food or lodging for a journey anyway. A few make it to places like Singapore and the Arab states, where they basically work as indentured servants or slaves, but even that is an improvement. They are willing to work hard, but with no education at all -- zero, zilch, nada -- what should they do?

    I then look to the west, where everyone has the opportunity for an education (spare me the insult of "I cannot afford it"), homes, abundant food, two cars in the driveway -- and then they bitch about why they don't have enough and say things like they are living for the moment, and they want it all.

    The problems of poverty and hunger have always been with us and always will be -- in spite of glib comments about the audacity of hope -- the "solution" with no possible plan of getting there.

    That ought to fire things up around here...

  9. "They are willing to work hard, but with no education at all -- zero, zilch, nada -- what should they do?"

    They could stop breeding like bunnies, for a start.

    As for the conditions you note when looking to the west, that's a result of the evolved condition of mankind to reach for what's beyond his grasp. On the upside, that's what has given us things like the medicine and machinery which has allowed us to...... breed like bunnies.

    Now imagine the audacity of this hope...

    What if the 85% of people in the U.S. who self identify as 'christians' learned to behave like...... wait for it ......


    Instead of pretending for a few hours a week. How much cash could be freed up to do such jesus-like things as feeding the hungry if you forget about your rampant consumerism? India could be carpet bombed with condoms.

  10. Oh, someone asked where "OvenMitt" came from. I wanted to pick a moniker that was absolutely meaningless. I guess I was in the kitchen.

  11. Anon 11:23, you cracked me up with the comment about carpet bombing with condoms. What a visual!

    I agree that the population growth in India as well as other similar places is a partial cause of the problems they face. However, if we delve even further on the "why" tree, we can say that unharnessed population growth is due to poor education. Remember, the vast majority of these folks have never spent even one day in a classroom. They do not know how to read a newspaper. If they could, they have never been taught that everyting from unbridled sex to littering are bad -- or why they are. So we could again ask "why" as in why are the people not educated. Well, there is no recognition of the need for education (remember that they are trying to do one thing and that is somehow stay alive until tomorrow.) So "why" is there no recognition? Because their time is consumed with survival. Why? Because conditions are so bad and they have so little they might well die for want of life's essential needs. Why? And you see it goes on and on, and even spirals into itself. It ain't easy, and to say the problem will be solved by them stopping breeding like rabbits is addressing a symptom, not the cause.

    Oven Mitt, that was an interesting perspective to read. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Anonymous Poison5/16/2008 04:28:00 PM


    Your reply to my question was, as your posts always seem to be, a thoughtfully considered and very well written novella.

    It also, however, completely evaded the question.

    Chicago is in fact a verifiable entity. It can been seen and felt and studied. I've been there numerous times. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but that's not important.

    So your comparison of god to Chicago, while perhaps an interesting intellectual experiment, gets us no closer to anything resembling truth or fact.

    How can we possibly have a discussion regarding "What is the grandofrolicum like" if there is no evidence of the grandofrolicum other than some ancient scribbles on a cave wall or the words of primitive superstitious herders written on a goatskin?

    More importantly, why would we want to?

    The only answer could be because believing in the grandofrolicum somehow makes us feel better. Because not believing in the grandofrolicum would upset our delicate view of the universe. Because the belief in either the black and white dogma or wispy meaningless feel goodedness (!!) of the grandofrolicum in some way validates our prejudices and hatreds and fears and hopes and dreams.

    The one line in your post which might actually come close to addressing the question I asked was:

    "But I do think god can be encountered."

    Would you care to elaborate on that for me? How would one encounter god? Have you encountered god? How would an atheist or a rational scientist go about encountering god?

    Or is having a deeply seated belief in the grandofrolicum a prerequisite for experiencing the grandofrolicum?


  13. I've been following this conversation for awhile, but didn't really want to jump in until now. I really liked Oven Mitt's post, but didn't really feel drawn to post until I read Anonymous Poison's question:

    How would one encounter god? Have you encountered god? How would an atheist or a rational scientist go about encountering god?

    Or is having a deeply seated belief in the grandofrolicum a prerequisite for experiencing the grandofrolicum?

    This question resonated for me because after I left Laestadianism I was an atheist for a time, until a spiritual experience caused me to reconnect with Christianity (although this time in a left-leaning way. :)

    So from my own experience I'd say that one can experience the Divine without necessary believing beforehand. It's complicated though, because if I hadn't been raised with some kind of faith, would I interpret the experience I had in a different way?

    More to the point of Anonymous Poison's question, however, I have recently been involved with a Christian form of meditation called "Centering Prayer." In this meditation one selects a "sacred word" which can be anything that symbolizes your intention of trying to connect with God. Then, sitting comfortably and quietly with one's eyes closed, gently introduce the sacred words. When thoughts come, gently return to the sacred word. The goal isn't to not have thoughts, but to not focus on them. Each time focus seems to drift to thoughts, gently return to the sacred word.

    Since nothing about this practice requires belief in God, I think it would be an interesting experiment for Anonymous Poison to try. Try doing this for 20 minutes each day, for a few days and see if you experience anything during the prayer period or outside of it that might be an experience of the Divine.

    Of course, you might find nothing at all happens. But my broader point is that religions have developed practices that are meant to cultivate experiences of the Divine. Some of these practices require more "pre-existing" belief than others.

    I wish you well on your journey of inquiry, wherever it may take you.

  14. Anonymous Poison5/17/2008 09:22:00 AM


    Can I convince you to elaborate on what **you** experience with your meditation, particularly "experience of the Divine"

    Are you using the word Divine to refer to god?

    I believe that when one meditates it's easy to read whatever you may wish into the state of altered reality achieved. A sort of auto-hypnosis, if you will.

    I used to meditate for many hours a week, as part of a martial arts program. My reality was altered, but I didn't find it to be the old man behind the curtain.

    If you want to find "the Divine" peeking around every corner and hiding under every stone, that is what you will find. The human mind is kinda funny that way.

    But is anything of the sort REALLY there? This is the question I've been asking since I found this blog. I would say no. It seems people here would say yes. What I'm trying to understand is why.

    I wish all of you here well also. I realize at times I may sound a little bitter or angry, but please understand this is more a deficiency of writing style. My wife says I'm about as blunt as a basketball.

    Guilty as charged.

  15. Some interesting Laestadian links I found on Youtube:

    Appears to be part of a Finnish film:


    A short clip of some summer services in Finland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZqMKMOs5hg&feature=related


    Singing songs by the campfire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR0C4Qftr6c

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRgD1yUuOM8 (I have no idea what this is, but my guess its a humorous bit about the mix of Laestadiansim with modern society)

  16. How would one encounter God?

    I look at the miracle of a newborn baby.

    Or I look up close at a flower.

    Sometimes I look at my dog and the wonderful creature he is.

    Or feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

    In the card store the day before Father's Day, when a total stranger gave me a hug after learning my Dad had died, and I wouldn't be buying him a Father's Day card.

    A visit to a nursing home. Especially watching a young 20-something nurse's aide play trivia with a dozen or so wheelchair bound old people.

    Listening to my favorite gospel singer use her God-given talent.

    When a little kid jumps up on my lap, turns around and smiles.

    Looking out at the ocean.

    Finding seashells on the beach.

    A vivid dream.

    I can think of a million ways I encounter God.

  17. Anonymous Poison, I respect your intelligence and thoughtfulness. I have been trying to formulate some non-trivial response to your last post. I suspect there is no way to answer your challenge definitively. I can only come up with analogies and indirect "evidence" (as did the last anon). I would not say there is anything WRONG with your position, only that to sit rigidly in that place would (in my opinion) lead to an impoverished life. But then I suspect you are neither rigid nor impoverished.

    Here are some analogies: I suspect you believe there is no such thing as UFOs as it has never been proven. What would it do to your belief system if you actually saw one? What would it do to your belief system if you were blinded by an apparently non-earthly light "on the road to Damascus?" If you had the experience of complete union with a flower, say? We currently are limited in our means to communicate these things but that does not negate our experiences. I stand firmly on the "reality" of mine. Many Trails Home

  18. MTH,

    Thanks for the positive assessment of my intellectual octane.

    You'll understand that I consider analogies and indirect "evidence" to be wishful thinking. If someone chooses to find god in the taste of freshly baked cookies, that would be a personal choice that escapes my comprehension.

    Regarding the concept of rigidity, that is an adjective I consider more appropriate for religious folks than myself. Take your question regarding UFOs, for example. My position on that topic would be that there is insufficient information to make a reasonable decision. While I've often made the mental note that it seems much more likely to see a UFO if you WANT to see a UFO, I also find it inconceivable, considering the unbelievable size and range of conditions found in the universe, that we are the only intelligent life form to evolve.

    So whether UFOs have been proven or not, a logical and reasonable person must concede the possibility of their existence.

    A more interesting, and perhaps entirely pertinent, question would be what would it do to your belief system if a group of aliens from the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy made the 70,000 light-year trip to earth and it turns out that they are in fact..... atheists? A scenario which, by the way, I consider infinitely more probable and reasonable than the Book of Revelation.

    I'm not an atheist because I particularly want to be, I'm an atheist because that's what my intellectual honesty demands from me.

    I think flowers are real pretty. But I can't use them to justify my participation in the collective human hallucination of "god(s)".

    So while you're standing firmly on the "reality" of your experiences, you may wish to ask yourself if your firm stance is a little ... rigid.

    Best wishes....

  19. A. Poison: Oh, that's funny. I suppose we all have our rigidities. I mean, who wants to be a jellyfish? And what is reality, anyway? I don't frankly care - my rigidities do not extend to that. I did, however, find your assessment of human belief in god(s) a "hallucination" to be a bit offensive. The term is, shall we say, a tad judgmental and derogatory. Nevertheless, I have no issue with your conclusion that aliens would define themselves (or you would define them) to be atheists. Actually, I would expect them to be. Our definitions of god are purely cultural. But I would expect them to believe in the existence of non-physical "intelligences." So what do you make of that? Many Trails Home

  20. MTH,

    While I did not intend to be either offensive or derogatory, I did intend to be honest.

    I found interesting your statement that "Our definitions of god are purely cultural." Isn't that the point I've been trying to make?

    So what is the point of believing and teaching and force feeding a god that is merely a construct of the collective imagination?

    Historically the purpose of belief was to capitalize on fear to achieve and consolidate power, justifying any imaginable action in the name of god. So in modern western culture, where we're in the final stages of wrestling the power away from religion, what is the purpose of belief?

    Having belief in an imaginary universal omnipotent architect might in fact make people somehow feel better. Feeling better doesn't make it any less imaginary.

    Incidentally, I don't necessarily disbelieve in "non-physical intelligences". Making the leap from that to "god" is, again, nothing more than wishful thinking.

  21. So, A. Poison, I find it very interesting that you do not necessarily disbelieve in non-physical intelligences -- which if I interpret the double negative doublespeak that you are open to the possibility of their existence. Yet you have no data and evidence of that possibility.

    Earlier, you stated " So whether UFOs have been proven or not, a logical and reasonable person must concede the possibility of their existence." You make that statement just as bravely sans data and evidence.

    It baffles me that someone such as you -- obviously a good thinker -- can say that you are open to these things without evidence, yet scoff at those who believe in God in what you believe to be a similar lack of evidence. Now while I do not doubt the existence of extraterrestrial life myself, I do believe in God, and I think there is plenty of evidence to support that belief.

    No, I have never seen a blinding light myself, nor have I been knocked off -- or on -- my umm...whatever...but I believe that the wonderous things I have seen in creation were not developed without an intelligent plan. I believe that when we see hope and love in the eyes of a child, it is not a fluke of evolution. When I pray and really do feel the presence of God in my mind and soul, I believe it is real and not just a figment of my wanting imagination. When I see the ultimate goodness of man -- and yes, I believe the majority of people are indeed good -- then I believe there is a force that is guiding that behavior, a force that is innate, that is utterly essential, that is powerful and omnipotent and wonderful -- and to me that is evidence of God.

    I have a book of evidence -- some of it anecdotal and some it pretty well grounded against things for which there is scientific evidence -- the Bible. I believe that the Bible is a divinely inspired collection of books. I have experienced for myself as well as witnessed in others what seemed vague and mysterious become clear over time, and from that I believe that God reveals understanding of not only the Bible but also other things on a schedule that is "his" and noone else's. To an impatient scientist who believes they have some mysterious right to discover everything on their schedule, that's hard to accept. As a logical thinker, I find myself chafing at the bit often, wondering why I have to wait to understand, and in looking back, wishing I had known earlier to keep me from being such a burden.

    Now you can argue as you have done eloquently already along the lines of the mind imagining and realizing what it desires to be true. However, I see no more validity or evidence in that argument than you apparently see in mine.

    And finally, as Blaise Pascal said, "God is, or he is not." Reason and logical thought fail in attempting this analysis, but which way do you want to wager -- risking nothing with the chance to gain everything, or wagering everything with no chance of winning anything.

  22. cvow,

    You say "I do believe in God, and I think there is plenty of evidence to support that belief."

    Plenty of evidence? Love in the eyes of a child is evidence of god? How about the tangy zip of Miracle Whip?

    Would you care to share which parts of the bible are "pretty well grounded against things for which there is scientific evidence"?

    "but which way do you want to wager -- risking nothing with the chance to gain everything, or wagering everything with no chance of winning anything"

    Just in case, huh?

  23. There are some good writers and thoughtful thinkers on this site.

    Ovenmitt's question of "What is God like?" is a good one, because there are so many different answers to this question. If we define God as the sum total of the love, beauty, loyalty, and everything else wonderful and sublime in this life, then I can say I believe in God. If, on the other hand, we define God as an old man sitting on top of the clouds and sending lightening bolts to strike down sin, then I don't.

    For myself, I really have a hard time getting emotionally invested in the question anymore, because it doesn't have a burning relevance to me. I can enjoy the beauty of nature without ascribing a God to is as Essence or as Creator.

    As far as poverty goes, I think we can agree that Finland was not long ago a poor country with starving people. That's why many of our ancestors moved to America. But their war on poverty seems to have been successful. Why can't other wars on poverty be likewise?

    In those Youtube videos, I was surprised to see the men in suits and ties. That was vain and worldly in my old church. A tie was a man's necklace; and a necklace represented the scar around Jesus' neck when the Romans' whip curled around to leave a bloody welt.

  24. Dear AP,
    In my Chicago story, one of the points I wanted to make was that the description is not the same as the thing described. You are right, of course, that inscriptions in caves or on goat skins cannot prove the existence of god. Similarly, a motel brochure or encyclopedia article can suggest the probable existence of Chicago but can be proof only of the existence of printing presses, ink, and paper.

    You say in your post: "How can we possibly have a discussion ... if there is no evidence ...? More importantly, why would we want to? The only answer could be because believing ... somehow makes us feel better."

    Believing? In my post I nowhere affirm the importance of belief; I mention belief. What is belief? It is a framework on which we are willing to act. I believe my paychecks are delivered to my account at the credit union through direct deposit; I don't need to know how this is done. I have faith in the arrangement. I entered into this arrangement without understanding how it is done. Why? Because someone, a community of people, assured me that I could have confidence in the arrangement. Banking at the credit union seemed to make them happy. It has worked for me.
    I could have confidence in the direct deposit system based on a written description or just based on experience. It provides a place to get my money and it also provides a certain peace of mind compared with handling paper. I can't remember any but the most rudimentary information from the written sources about direct deposit; my faith is based on experience. But the exact opposite is quite possible: a person could understand the system in great depth and have no faith in it.

    When I set out to write about "my belief in god," I meant to affirm that it is possible (in fact, in no way unusual) to experience the divine but that, in my opinion, no particular description of "god" can possibly be definitive or even more than merely suggestive. To experience the divine (or "god") the key thing is to be open. That can happen in the absence of doctrine or belief. An acquaintance with a description of the divine (scripture) can be helpful but is not necessarily helpful.

    So I believe in the encyclopedia; I believe the encyclopedia exists. Ah, but do I believe in "what it says"? What it says about anything is subject to interpretation, and what it says about anything is profoundly different from that thing itself. So, I find the encyclopedia interesting, even fascinating, but not essential.

    Now, AP, I can tell you are an enthusiast for science, for reliance on consensual values over the values uniquely available through personal experience. You are welcome to be good at science and you are, of course, not the only one. I imagine that you are good at the exercise of logic.

    But these talents are in some ways like being good at badminton.

    You are like a member of a badminton squad who has come across some old friends on their way to a bowling alley. You say to them, "How can you possibly go inside that stuffy, noisy bowling alley on a sunny day and try to fling those awful heavy balls around? Why would anyone want to? I can't understand why you don't want to get some real exercise in the fresh air."

    It gets down to a question of courtesy; your old friends might welcome a discussion of the merits of the two sports, but they are not likely to welcome your disdain.

  25. OvenMitt,

    Once again your gift for analogy shines, even if I perhaps don't find it particularly illuminating towards understanding what you believe. So I'll skip responding to the bulk of your remarks and reply to the portion you write about me.

    Yes, I'm an enthusiast for science. You might even call me a ..... scientist.

    I don't understand exactly what you mean by "reliance on consensual values over the values uniquely available through personal experience" ... I don't understand or I don't agree, I'm not sure which.

    If by "consensual values" you are referring to my penchant for unbiased scientific information, you have a point. Scientists don't theorize about evolution because they hate jesus, they do so because with the information available at hand the evidence is overwhelming that Earth is over 4 billion years old and that all life on this planet evolved from single celled organisms. True science has no agenda other truth and knowledge and I value that greatly.

    On the other hand are the values uniquely available through personal experience. I understand the merit of these as well but I also understand the subjective nature of personal experience.

    So it gets down to a question of courtesy and disdain. The title of this blog is:

    LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Life as a Former Laestadian

    Well, I'm a Former Laestadian and I've learned to live free.

    My original question when arriving here was why anybody would want to jump from the cast iron frying pan into the non-stick teflon pot.

    I ask why anyone who is willing to answer believes in god. What kind of answers do I get?? Because the bible says so, because I can feel him, because puppy dogs are cute and babies smile.

    And you feel disdain when I call this self-delusion?

    Religion is Poison. Belief in "god" is at best a pointless waste of that stuff between your ears. At worst it's an excuse for prejudice and hate and ignorance and murder and lot of other things our species could learn to live without.

    Do you feel disdain for my opinions on the topic? Is your disdain superior to mine?

  26. A. Poison, Just because our definitions of god are cultural does not mean, to me, that god therefore does not exist. (I knew you would jump on "just in case" and I personally see no need to and, in fact, think of it as somewhat dishonest.) But to honesty vs civility: Supposing I thought (and maybe do) that you appear to be an "arrogant intellectual," what value is there in actually saying that? Just so, "hallucination" and "self-delusion" are emotionally-loaded terms. You say that our points of view are "beyond your comprehension:" I doubt it. I think you are just too stubborn to consider any but your own.
    As for your throne of "intellectual honesty:" I think it is over-valued. A loving heart is much lighter and more likely to experience joy.
    'speace (and joy) to you. Many Trails Home

  27. I've hesitated to jump into the fray because (a) it is hard to be understood, (b) I wish we could talk about belief like we talk about love, with considerable respect for the fact that none of us really know what the heck the other is talking about, and (c) I often don't know what the heck I am talking about.

    Story: my friend (a widow of three years) recently fell in love at the age of 49. She has never felt this way before, she says. Rapturous, earthshaking, stop the presses, soul-satisfying, head over heels, death do us part, body and soul Love.

    Is she delusional? Is she irrational? Is she menopausal? Maybe. But I wouldn't consider questioning her claims. It's personal. More power to her!

    But let it be said that my friend is not Mormonistic about this. She does not go door to door urging those who are single or unpartnered or unhappily married or just quite contentedly married to fall in blow-the-rafters-off love. Nor is she Laestadian, expecting others to love in a specifically Finnish tradition, with code words and pulla.

    In fact, she is rather Unitarian: she may tell you why she is smiling, but she doesn't mind if you don't share her enthusiasm for a certain middle-aged potbellied gentleman, or for her kind of insanity at all.

    I appreciate that.

    Perhaps when one is truly free, one feels no need to "believe" or not believe and is not invested in what others think or say about belief. Perhaps one then requires no affirmation of personal experiences (or lack thereof) nor is inclined to judge others' or feel the need for adulation or disdain. Provided (and this is a big one) nobody is getting hurt.

    Seems to me that jumping from the Laestadian frying pan of dualism to the "nonstick Teflon" of rationalist dualism is not really freedom.

    There is another way. For me, it is to have as few beliefs as possible, and to hold them lightly, willing to let go. It is assuming that "I" am not simply my thoughts or ideas or emotions or experiences or synaptic soup of inconsistencies. It is valuing the reality of my unverifiable, unrepeatable, ineffable experiences and their mystery. It is challenging the filters that keep me from experiencing time deeply, as more than a linear phenomenon. It is being open to union with "other" and with the whole. Call that God if you wish.

    I don't mind if none of this seems rational. Or if you think it puts me square in a handbasket to Hades.

    It works for me.

  28. Trails, we could debate Pascal's thinking ad nauseum (as lots of people have already done). I don't ascribe to the just in case thinking myself in this regard because I do have a pretty strong (most days)faith and belief. However, I don't follow the dishonesty logic in buying insurance when you have nothing else to fall back on. Of course, if the dirt nap is all that someone chooses to look forward to, what the heck, if it works for them, so be it.

    I found it interesting that AP didn't respond to my observations that he believed in some things with no evidence and yet scoffed at others who believed in things for which he saw no evidence.

    On another topic, Free, I liked your explanation! You know I'm too fussy and old fashioned and conservative to go down that path myself -- as the traditional religion path works well for me -- but I also appreciate and respect your path. I actually do find freedom in the comfort of traditionalism! I also think that we don't understand each other very well as hard as we try and want to -- but when we find something that works for us, then that's the right thing to do!

    At any rate, I find the discussions here to be enlightening and interesting!

  29. Free, I thoroughly enjoyed your commentary.
    cvow, I really didn't think "just in case" was your primary motivation but I did know A Poison would jump on that. And I guess as long as one admits to oneself that one is "buying insurance" (and "God" knows anyway), well, I guess that's not dishonest, is it? I guess I was yet again buying into the Laestadian belief system: if we are "buying insurance," that implies doubt and doubt spells automatic doom. Whew, spare me. Good chatting with you, cvow. Many Trails Home

  30. MTH,

    If you feel that I'm an "arrogant intellectual", the value in saying so is honesty. What would make you consider me arrogant? Because I reject a belief system and I'm willing to debate and discuss? Should I consider you arrogant for rejecting my belief system?

    Perhaps you're too stubborn to admit that intellectual honesty and a joyful loving heart are not mutually exclusive.

    In any event, 'speace to you too.


    I wouldn't call your friend delusional. Unless her potbellied friend is imaginary. Or omnipotent.

    Perhaps when one is truly free, they close their eyes, place their hands over their ears and hum loudly? Seems to me jumping into that 14 quart slow cooker is not really freedom either.


    If you "don't follow the dishonesty logic in buying insurance when you have nothing else to fall back on"

    why did you say

    "but which way do you want to wager -- risking nothing with the chance to gain everything, or wagering everything with no chance of winning anything."


    As for your interest in my lack of response to your point, I believe you're referring to my opinion on the probability that other various and sundry forms of life have evolved in this vast universe. While it's true there is no "proof" for this, a rational mind must concede the possibility. Not so much a belief system. Not really a fabricated system of fairy tales leading to war and murder and torture and oppression and hate and shunning and hypocrisy and ......

    As for scoffing at others who believe things for which I see no evidence, is it really that "I" don't "see" any evidence?

    I've asked repeatedly to see the evidence, and I hear about puppies and flowers and the mystery that is Chicago.

    Do I scoff? Not particularly. Do I shake my head with a little bit of sadness? Yeah.

  31. AP, if that isn't scoffing, you have reinvented the term. You are indeed a sad man.

    You miss the point of my metaphor (and of others). Romantic love like belief in the divine is not subject to scientific proof. D'oh.

    You set up a straw god (biblical old fart in the sky) and demand "evidence" for belief in that god. You have put all your stock in one kind of knowledge and ridicule those who disagree. Does it make you feel . . . superior? How quaintly Laestadian.

    Those are the traits of an ideologue, and of the most butt-tiring type, whose close-mindedness cannot admit the variety of experience, his own intellectual limitations, and the value of humility. Or respect.

    I swim in those waters, occasionally. Guess it takes one to know one.

    Here's that link again to real scientists and actual intellectuals debating this very thing. Of course, the half that wallow in 14-gallon crockpots, you may wish to ignore.

  32. AP, I have noticed that you seem to exclusively identify religions with "war, murder, torture, hate, oppression," etc. It is true that humans have done horrific things to other humans in the name of religion. They probably would have done them anyway, with or without religion, and probably religion per se has next to nothing to do with the viciousness of man. Humans have also performed acts of great love, sacrifice, compassion, integrity, etc etc, also in the name of religion. Our institutions reflect our limitations, as well as our potential for greatness. At this point in my life, I prefer to look for the nuggets of gold and prefer to observe the narrow-mindedness of individuals and institutions with something closer to compassion - a major shift for someone steeped in the Laestadian reflex to judge and condemn, would you not agree?
    And no, I do not think that intellectual honesty and a joyful heart are mutually exclusive. I do wish you a joyful heart. MTH

  33. Free,

    Sad man? Did you mean that as a pejorative?

    I wouldn't say I missed the point of your metaphor. Perhaps you missed the point of my response to it. Comparing romantic love to belief in the divine makes as much sense as comparing the coffee cup I'm sipping from right now to the Easter Bunny.

    I've noted that responses to me consist primarily of metaphor. Interesting.

    I didn't set up a straw god, that was accomplished a few millennia before I was around. I ask for evidence for "any" god, not just the biblical fart. I don't see the value of believing something just because I *want* to believe it. I don't see the value of believing something patently ridiculous because it makes me feel better. I've asked why people believe, and the answers have been.... metaphorical at best.

    I don't feel superior, as much as you may wish me to. I don't find anything remotely Laestadian about my attitude. Growing up as an ignorant Finn, questioning the cultural status quo was of course forbidden. If you find terms such as "delusion" to be a form of ridicule, I offer my apologies.

    When you wrote:

    "Debate is encouraged. Personal attacks are not. Tell the truth, play fair, have fun."

    Did you not really mean the part about debate being encouraged and telling the truth???

    You find me a butt-tiring, close-minded, disrespectful, intellectually limited ideologue because I disagree with status quo around here and speak truthfully about it?

    That's not one of those personal attacks which you discourage, is it?

    I didn't need the link to the debate between "real" scientists and "actual" intellectuals again. I read it the first time.

    I can probably guess which wallowers you choose to ignore.


    As discussed previously, I don't agree with your point. I mentioned religion has produced a drop of good in an ocean of evil. Plenty of evil without religion also.

    I do agree your outlook represents a major shift from Laestadianism. That's not a bad thing at all.

    My heart is joyful, although it might not seem so in the course of our discussions. Sensitive spots being poked and whatnot.

    I wish the same for you.

  34. AP, you said yourself you were sad, see above. I just added the "man" part. (Without evidence! Leap of faith, that.)

    Please note how deftly I avoided a personal attack by merely suggesting that you share characteristics of butt-tiring ideologues. But I apologize if that stung.

    Do you really think there is a "status quo" here? You have heard from an atheist, a Buddhist, a Catholic, an Episcopalian, an agnostic, a Quaker, et al. Until you define your terms, this won't be much of a debate.

    Oh, and try to refrain from reductio ad absurdum potshots (puppies, etc.) -- it makes you seem more interested in ridicule than exploration.

    I enjoy a lively debate and don't intend to shut you down, just open your mind a bit.

    Did you look up dualism?

  35. Free,

    No need to apologize. I was simply suggesting that you share characteristics with hypocrites, there were no stinging sensations involved.

    Yes, there is something of a status quo here. For evidence, see the numerous replies to my remarks and see if you can detect a trend.

    I don't consider the puppy (and etc.) remarks to be in the reductio ad absurdum vein. On Saturday, May 17 at 8:55 p.m. Anonymous can be found to say:

    "How would one encounter God?

    I look at the miracle of a newborn baby.

    Or I look up close at a flower.

    Sometimes I look at my dog and the wonderful creature he is.

    Or feel the warmth of the sun on my face."

    I would apologize for my potshots stinging, but that wouldn't be very honest of me. If referencing remarks such as quoted above makes me seem interested in ridicule, perhaps we should explore if some of things people have said here ridicule themselves.

    You can shut me down if you like. On the other hand you could try to convince me that *I* am the one who needs to open my mind. I didn't reject the tribal superstition of my childhood because my mind is *closed*. How about you?

    With what smug arrogance would you think that I needed to look up dualism? Are you suggesting that since I don't subscribe to your belief system that I have a deficient I.Q. or just a substandard vocabulary? Or were you perhaps taking the opportunity to demonstrate your preference for argumentum ad hominem?

  36. "Ignorant Finn".


  37. AP, what branch of Laestadianism is in your background? Maybe you already said. Just curious. MTH

  38. MTH,

    Old Apostolic Lutheran Church of Brush Prairie, Washington.

    How about you?

  39. Cvow, as we have disagreed on so much over the years, your appreciation and respect is welcome and reciprocated. I am enjoying this discussion a great deal. It is helping me clarify some things and question others, including my thin-skinned reactions to AP. Those of you who have been around here for awhile will remember how snippy I get about politics. Old habits.

    AP, I also fled the BG OALC, and you would be surprised to know how much I agree with you, not only about our collective need to transcend tribal superstitions (Bertrand Russell is a hero) -- but about own my personal hypocrisy and arrogance. Guilty as charged, to my regret.

    We may not agree about their importance, though. The older I get, the less invested I am in understanding why people are irrational (I assume we all are to some degree). I don't think there is any need to persuade my parents out of Laestadianism, or my 7-year old out of her belief in fairies, myself out of my inconsistent mysticism, or you out of your strict rationalism.

    While I'd like to say there are more things in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Shakespeare beat me to it.

    In any case, it seems the surest path to peace (in families and beyond) is in emphasizing our common humanity, and seeking out reciprocal relationships with those who are different. Arguments about religion will always polarize and entrench. Relationships can break down barriers that logic can't touch.

    When straight people love their gay relatives, when Christians befriend Muslims, when blacks marry whites, when Laestadians embrace their heathen kin and vice versa, those behaviors then begin to effect philosophies.

    I've been lucky to love many good people of many faiths and of none, of different races and origins. In this I've transcended the tribalism of every preceding generation in my family. My children will do even better.

    MLK said the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. Let's bend it faster, friends.

  40. Free,

    Nice post. I concur with most of what you write.

    "Arguments about religion will always polarize and entrench."

    Another of the reasons religion needs to go away. That, and it's human fabricated nonsense.

    "Relationships can break down barriers that logic can't touch."

    Logic (and the pursuit of truth) can break down barriers that relationships can't touch.

    Toivotan teille rauhaa, ystäväni.

  41. AP, I am from OALC of Calumet, MI. I have LOTS of relatives in the BP congregation, from both sides of the family. If I say too much, I might as well just sign my name . . . it is tempting (to say to much, I mean).
    Your Finn is a whole lot better than mine. About all I can say is "kuuma koira" (and I am not even sure I spelled that right). MTH

  42. Not sure if this is the right place to start a conversation or ask questions. This is probably a new twist on things for you~ I'm a *worldy* that is interested in the OALC.
    We have befriended a couple families in the area here from the OALC. For reasons, maybe for the sense of belonging or old fashioned community, I find myself oddly drawn. We already have a large family we have been asked by people if we are OAL, we drive the bunner van, haha, my girls and I wear skirts, buns, and no makeup, etc. But, that's just us and what we think looks nice. My grandparents are from Norway, so I guess me and my toe head children look the part, so maybe (?????) that's why the few we've met have been so friendly initially?????
    Anyways, we were invited to one of the said families house for dinner last week and we had a grand day. We really did have such a blast, and there were others there from the church too. Even my *heathen* hubby had a great time with the guys. They treated us like best friends....
    So, I am probably already annoying you by this point, and your thought is to run as fast as I can in the other direction, right?
    I was raised in a Bible believing Church, my children, dh, and I are saved, born again, Jesus lovin' Christians. I find so much mediocricy (spelled wrong I know) and lukewarmness in our church today that I have been searching for something more. I am tired of being made fun of in instances for choosing to allow God to bless us with our big family. I know that there are some in the Church that respect our decision, and rejoice in it with us, but I guess I'm looking for that teaching in that area and others, that our whole core is about Christ and following with ALL of our hearts, not just making Sunday morning fit into it, you know what I mean? I'm weary of people not practicing what they preach, or what they hear preached. Am I totally naive to think that the OALC may have something more to offer???? The families that we have been around genuinely love, share, promote clean living, etc...and I feel that I have more in common with them then the ones at my church.
    To the ones here who have left the OALC, was it because of your own particular families or was it the church as a whole that scarred you?
    We were totally on board to give their church a try when another friend from the OALC here commented that she was just so glad to be in the true church. That made me step back a bit. I was like~ wait, maybe I h ave conveyed to you that I am searching with all my question asking, but not for one moment do I believe that my family and I are not already SAVED~ or my Dad, who is over in Africa right this very moment helping build a medical clinic with the CHRISTIAN disaster relief group he serves in. So, I guess another big question I have for you is this~ why does the OALC teach (and do they universally teach) that the OALC is the one true church? The other friend said that her preacher told them that there were others saved outside of their church but that it was rare. My other friend who made the above comment said that she just can't imagine being in any other church and being saved.
    I love these ladies and their families, they are very, very dear women with some of the biggest hearts. From all that I read here, I wonder if we were just blessed with meeting the nicest ones or what?????????? Is it possible to glean the good from this church without it being destructive, does that make sense? My husband is in the mindset that we don't need a *church building* but will go along with what I need in that respect. He is quite confident in his salvation without a building. I have went to church alone with the kids for many years off and on.
    just a searching soul, please be kind.....
    WAWAB (Worldy already wearing a bun)

  43. WAWAB,

    I understand the desire for a close-knit community that rejects many of the status markers of mainstream society, but I would encourage you to tread very carefully before becoming part of the OALC. When you dig deeper, past the outward image of simplicity and family, you will probably find your current misgivings to be well-grounded. Look into the theology much more. If the OALC near you is like the one of my experience, you will have to be prepared to "repent" in order to join, essentially saying that your entire faith-life up to now has been a lie that you must put away in order to take up a new OALC faith.

    The OALC is not the only branch of the Laestadian family of faiths. Perhaps you would be more comfortable in some congregations of the group known as the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (ALC). This group draws from the same heritage as the OALC but is less tightly wedded to the doctrine of exclusivism. The group varies from congregation to congregation, varying from essentially OALC to essentially Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod (LCMS), so if you choose this option, keep your eyes wide open.

    Best wishes.

  44. LLLreader here: ilmarinen gave you some good advice. I believe that simplicity in dress is a good thing and you say you choose it because you are comfortable with that look. However, in the OALC you are expected to do the bun thing, and it's a serious matter if you don't. It seems like a small issue, but it actually says a lot about the church. The belief is that the OALC is the one true church--all others are dead faith. If anyone tells you different, it's just not the truth. I'm sure there are many within the church that question the accuracy of that belief, but that's what the members are supposed to believe. I left because I didn't believe it, based on what the Bible told me. Some of the people I love most in the world are members--some of the most wonderful, loving relatives I could ever want believe that they are saved because they are members. Wanting to belong to a group is an understandable desire. All the kids, the good food, the laughter, the lack of alcohol being served at get-togethers--all contribute to a warmth and cosiness that that I just love. I want you to have that too, and maybe you can with these friends. Who knows, maybe you are just the kind of person these families need to know. Maybe there would be a exchange of understanding that will bless everyone. I do know that when a relative tells me they pray that I will come back, they are doing it out of sincere worry about my salvation. I love them for that, but I consider those prayers misguided. I don't have to drive over to the OALC to find the Lord, He is here with me. Bless you, Friend, on your journey.

  45. MTH,

    Anna periksi houkutukselle ja sanoa, mitä haluat sanoa.

  46. Do we all understand Finnish?

    Sady, no.

    So don't be a paja poika (or bad girl, as the case may be).

    Furnish a translation, however rough or sanitized, with your foreign phrases.

    It's the civilized thing to do.

  47. Anna periksi houkutukselle ja sanoa, mitä haluat sanoa. =
    Give into temptation and say what you want to say. ???

    My Finnish isn't great either. Am I close?

    Anon in MN

  48. LLLreader here: Toivotan teille rauhaa ystavani==I wish you peace My Friend (from a previous post by AP.

  49. Free,

    Forgive my uncivilized remarks. The two translations provided are correct.

  50. Well, I didn't get the first part, but I did get the "say what you want to say" part. Nevertheless, I will resist temptation (had lots of training in that!)
    The OALC being what it is, I would not be the least surprised if AP and I were related, or at the very least, relatives of relatives. So I will try especially hard to be kind . . . as well as honest! MTH

  51. MTH,

    It's not *that* hard to be kind to me, is it?

  52. So, AP, do you want honesty or kindness? I suppose the best answer is "sometimes." I tend to be a bit acerbic myself. MTH

  53. MTH,

    Absolute honesty at all times would be my preference, please.

    Can we polemicize about god and religion some more?

  54. AP, first of all, who can guarantee "absolute" honesty anyway? Do you not agree that there is always some element of relativity? I think, though, that because of our Laestadian background, my extoots sibs and I have developed a passion for authenticity, acute radar for BS, and the "courage of our (own) convictions." Or perhaps it is just a family trait.
    Re god and religion: aren't you getting a tad bored? I can't get fired up about that anymore. Perhaps you can add some fuel? Not that I feel like switching to politics, mind you. I don't find politics so much boring as exasperating and perhaps a waste of time. MTH

  55. I cracked up today as I was reading my new Finnish American Reporter, and Jim Kurtti started his article with a tale that if you have one Finn, he will build a sauna. If you have two Finns, they will start a co-op. If you have three Finns, one of them will go off and start his own group.

    Fractious bunch, ain't we, and hard to figure out.