I’ve thought for a long time about how I can describe my religion. The earliest versions where characterized by what it isn’t. I’m not really a Mormon. I’m not really a Christian. I’m not really agnostic. I’m not really gnostic.
As I’ve learned more, I’ve come to realize something a bit deeper: naming things is hard. Ironically, I am intimately aware of this in another context. In programming, we have a saying that goes “The two hardest problems in Computer Science are cache invalidation and naming things”.
There’s an amusing version of this that says “the two hardest problems in Computer Science are cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors“.
“[E]ven the simplest of names is well beyond our reach. Remember, I am not speaking of the small names we use every day. The calling names like ‘tree’ and ‘fire’ and ‘stone.’ I am talking about something else entirely.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a river stone, smooth and dark. “Describe the precise shape of this. Tell me of the weight and pressure that forged it from sand and sediment. Tell me how the light reflects from it. Tell me how the world pulls at the mass of it, how the wind cups it as it moves through the air. Tell me how the traces of its iron will feel the calling of a loden-stone. All of these things and a hundred thousand more make up the name of this stone. This single, simple stone. Can you see how complex even this simple thing is? If you studied it for a long month, perhaps you would come to know it well enough to glimpse the outward edges of its name. Perhaps. This is the problem namers face. We must understand things that are beyond our understanding. How can it be done?” Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear (pg 116-117).
How can I name something that is ever-changing? How can I describe something as complex as the foundation of my soul? Words utterly fail me. And so, I have no thing by which I can call my beliefs.
So, I will attempt to crudely describe it, in the hopes that you can glimpse the shape of it.
I believe in the infinite potential of man. I believe that the sum total of all the things we know could fit on the head of a pin, with room for a million angels to dance next to it. I see so many around me that claim to “have a fulness”, yet how could anyone make such an audacious claim? Mathematically, our existence must be made up of at least 10 dimensions, yet for all our science and understanding, we can only perceive things that happen in 3 of those 10. We have 7 dimensions that surround us and are in us and are of us that we cannot even begin to see. There could 2 entirely distinct realities all folded up next to us, each with its own three dimensions, and there would still be a whole dimension left over, and no one would know.
And yet, I believe that it is our responsibility to learn all that we can. I believe that the fundamental characteristic of divinity is knowledge. I believe that Joseph Smith chose the word “intelligence” for a reason, as he was trying to describe the eternities. It is intelligence and knowledge that make us divine, and it is its lack that damns us.
I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (Abraham 3:19)
… this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God… (John 17:3)
A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge… (Joseph Smith, TPJS (pg 217)
My religion is education. My religion is science. My religion is to learn as much as I possibly can. I welcome knowledge from wherever it comes, because my goal is to become like God, who knows everything.
I utterly reject the idea that some knowledge is inherently evil, or useless, or of no worth. I also reject the idea that some knowledge is more interesting than other knowledge. I freely admit that I personally value certain kinds of information over other kinds, but that is because I am a fallible human being who cannot understand the true scope of everything.
If I believe in the potential apotheosis of mankind, then I must believe that I will eventually learn everything required to construct a universe, from string theory to orbital mechanics to chemistry to mathematics to psychology, biology, sociology, and beyond. I must know it all, because I must be “more intelligent than they all”.
I see our path to the divine as an intensely personal one. My salvation will come to me because of my choices, and mine alone. No church can save me. No man can save me. No one can carry me to God. I must find the path and I must walk it alone.
Mainstream Christianity (including the LDS Church) would have you believe that they can carry you to God. And why wouldn’t they teach that? If you believe that, then that teaching makes them persistently valuable and continuously relevant; it is in their interests that you believe they will always be important. They see themselves as the vehicles by which salvation is delivered.
I cannot accept this view. It relies on an exclusive view of knowledge (“Only this, but not that”). But I believe that our path to God must be an inclusive path, and it is a lonely path; a path where we must wander in darkness alone, relying solely upon our timid and feeble connection to God to lead us through the things that would distract us.
Along the way, God may send us messengers. He (and I use the pronoun loosely and out of convenience) has always sent messengers to point the way. But the messengers are never meant to be followed. They come to deliver a message, and it is the message we must follow. Not the messenger.
I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it. (Morpheus, The Matrix)
This is all God has ever done. He has only ever shown us the path, but He leaves the choice to follow it up to us.
This is the role of a church and organized religion. It is meant to be a guidepost along the path to God. It is meant to be a messenger to show us the way to go, and then having chosen that way, it become irrelevant to us.
The only way to find the path is to learn as much as I can, because it is by learning that I can recognize and see the path.
This is my religion: to find my path to God, and to follow it wherever it goes.