My Mum is hard core LDS and of all the family (3 boys 1 girl) I was the favoured son from a religious view point. My defection to the atheist side has hit her hard since I was the one who married in the temple, served a mission, was the wards Elder's Qurum President etc. We've never really talked face to face but she's been using the usual long distance stealth tactics (Christmas presents of church quotes, church dvds, Mormon ABC type books for the smallest and inviting the kids to church activities while having covert one on one 'What shall we do?' discussions with my wife.) Last night we abrubtly crashed into an intense discussion.
I was visiting her to invite her over for a new year's eve party and one of my - also unbelieving - brothers was sitting with us in the front room. I was discussing with him how encryption algorithms work and drifted into an idea that there is no such thing as time only the dimensin above us moving through our dimension (agreed an odd jump from MD5 hashing to dimensional folding ) but then Mum piped up and I'll try and paraphrase some of the key points in the conversation.
"You've not got any answers to what's beyond the unknowable"
"The statement that's it's 'unknowable' would also include your spiritual worldview which also cannot make any statements about the unknowable"
"That's not what I meant"
"Can you tell me what is unknowable?"
"What's beyond the edge of the universe?"
"Do you know about the physics of the speed of light and how it relates to the finite limits of mass acceleration and ergo our ability to reach any edge of the universe?"
"No but why are you putting your trust in men?"
"I'm putting my trust in the physical world and a wonderful way of examining that world called the scientific method"
"But you know that the spirit has testified of Jesus and your spirit has felt the truth."
"I know that I once privileged belief over experience which is the same relationship all religions use and allow people to fly aeroplanes into buildings because they believe it is god's will"
"But you've felt the spirit!"
"I absolutely felt an emotional and physical response to many church based situations but since I can still feel those responses and I no longer associate them to the church suggests they aren't a good indicator of truth or supernatural direction."
"I don't have a way with words like you, you must be very careful since you've got a great responsibility to those you talk to. You are leading people away from god, think of your children."
"I do feel a need to encourage and empower people to ask questions of cherished supernatural beliefs and I know that my children will be taught rational and skeptical thinking which will help them to make better informed descisions about life altering worldviews. I do not feel that I have the responsibility to tell people which god to believe in."
"But you need to pray again"
"Prayer doesn't actuall alter anything. Prayer has never regrown an arm or anything practical"
"I've had prayers answered and miracles have happened"
"Have you ever know anyone have an arm regrow?"
"No but with faith anything is possible"
"If you look at the statistics prayer does not lead to an increase in miraculous events or better recovery rates and deep down you must acknowledge that."
"I know what I feel deep in my heart and nothing you can say will change how I feel, I don't think this conversion is very profitable."
"Do you know that you are using a classic tactic used to avoid confronting uncomfortable examination of a faith based view? If you were a JW or a Muslim you would be saying exactly the same to a disbelieving son. One of the problems with religious thinking is that it makes it very difficult to question whether its actually correct becasue you are taught to avoid asking challenging questions, to avoid reading material which is critical of it and to walk away whenever you feel uncomfortable in a discussion."
"You've just mentioned oneof the reasons you lost the spirit, you read anti material. "
"I read lots of information from all sorts of sources, pro , negative and less biased sources. The truth shouldn't be affected by what someone says about it, it should be able to withstand all critiques otherwise it isn't true. Did you know the one thing that shocked me about our church when I finally decided to investigate it? Not one principle is actually objectively true, not one story or doctrine is based in unvarnished or un-obscured truth. Even the morals of the church are horrendous. I would never accept that taking your child up a mountain to stab them was a noble or heroic act of righteousness and yet as a believing member I somehow convinced myself that it was. Voices in your head are a dangerous sign of mental instability not a method for divine instruction."
"By their fruits ye shall know them, the church leaders are incredible men."
"Please read the actual history of Brigham Young, you will be very surprised."
"You need to put away your anti material and come back to church."
"that would not be honest and would disregard the two years of searching I've alraedy done."
"But you haven't given god a proper chance"
"I gave the church and god over 30 years of total dedication and committment, when I decided to find out whether the lack of evidence for my faith was my fault or god's I opened my heart many times and prayed very fervently but after 2 years I had made up my mind based upon my knowledge and experience of a silent heaven."
"People have told me that you stopped reading your scriptures and that you didn't try very hard"
"So you'd rather accept a third hand account over me telling you to your face. I have no need to lie since this was the hardest choice I have ever had to make, unwinding my mental sense of who I was and my place in the world and facing finally the very sobering reality that if I all I had believed from being a child was wrong that I would then need to do something physical and real about it."
"I think you need to have more respect for my beliefs"
"I won't respect them by accepting and living by them but I'm more than happy to respect your freedom to spend your life in any way you so wish be it Mormonism or some other faith like Islamic fundamentalism."
..at this point we agreed to leave.
One really positive point though was that having gone home expecting Mum to be in floods of tears and spending the night in prayer (plus a very awkward next visit) she phoned me about 45 minutes later quite composed to apologise for doubting my experiences and for not supporting me during a very hard time in my life. Kudos to her. Bridge not yet totally burnt but we'll see what today's birthday present drop will bring.