At the very good advice of a fellow Rav poster (thank you Gwlana!) I have ordered Marcus Borg's book, Reading the Bible for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but not Literally in hopes of finding some more understanding of various understandings of the Bible. As a student, I wonder - do we only take the Bible so literally because we are not properly educated and can distinctively separate faith and fact? One study regarding religion and education stated, "But across religious groups or denominations, church attendance declines with education" (Glaeser and Sacerdote, 2002). The forty page study reviews the connection between education, social skills, and religion citing Episcopalians as the "most educated" denomination and Baptists as the "least educated". The authors observe that, "many Christian ideas explicitly downplay the value of secular success, and as a result people who come from higher belief denominations invest less in secular education" (Glaeser and Sacredote, 1002).
When I think back to my various church experiences - it is within the LDS church that education is stressed. From Enrichment Activities meant to further educate the women of the Church in various ways, to Institute which educates in the official and applicable theology of the Church, to finally the consistent encouragement to receive a higher education (meaning college). If those who are more educated are less likely to be involved in religion, specifically Christian religions, why would this one particular church encourage their members to have a "house of learning" ( Doctrine and Covenants, 109:8) ?
I know that a few of you probably think I am a "fence sitter" - never making a decision if I want to be LDS, a Protestant, or something else altogether. To be perfectly honest, I see no logical reason to believe in Christianity. There is no proof behind the flawed system, there is little unity in the believers, and the application varies from one extreme of openly homosexual leaders to homosexual members being excommunicated (to borrow from LDS language but not point towards them) from their churches. The whole system is frustrating and honestly, I would be perfectly happy to walk away from the whole thing. However, to be an atheist - really and truly, one cannot believe in God. And I do. I do believe in God, even if I do not believe in everything else everyone is preaching.
It's an age old question that probably everyone who really considers their faith and where it leads them in life, considers. Where would God have me and honestly, can I stomach it when I would much rather be a spiritual hobo than connected to all the whining bloggers about Obama? It's a question that Joseph Smith asked and we know what Jesus said:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.” (Joseph Smith History, 1:19)
Currently I am working on a paper regarding historical Christianity, which I believe has over the years become exactly what Jesus says above, having a form of godliness yet who deny the real power of God. I want to do an in depth study of historical Christianity for my essay and see if this changes my stance at all. Finally, I feel quite honestly embarrassed that I left the LDS church only to a year later was ready to return. While I feel that the journey has certainly grown me in many ways, I also feel that I lost quite a bit in the journey as well. I am not going to embark on a new journey without sufficient cause and am quite content to remain where I am until I have come to a well thought out, logical, conclusion.
I believe that the LDS church is the ONE and TRUE church (still leaving room for other Christians of course within the body of believers) but I want to explore this belief before I truly commit to it.