It’s inherently difficult discussing religion here

From time to time I talk about matters of faith, belief, religion, fundamentalism, and evangelism here.

I can’t NOT do it. I’m a Sunday School teacher. I’m the Financial Secretary for a congregation of over 200 people. I spend three hours every Sunday and eight hours every Wednesday in religious observances and duties. I am, for want of a better term, a “believer.”

I’m also a science fiction writer, a cartoonist, a father, a humorist, a disc golfer, a new Beetle owner, and any number of other more or less mundane things.

I could talk at length about the technical aspects of a good RH Sidearm, and how I’ve come to rely on that for my putting. Some of you would have an opinion on the matter, and we could probably have quite a profound discussion from which each of our disc-golf games could possibly improve. Others of you would be curious as to the attraction of this game, and might decide to play. Still others would be inclined to announce that disc golf is for losers who can’t afford to play REAL golf. The vast majority of you would skim the post and move on. Some of you might decide to unsubscribe because my opinions on the sport of disc golf, and how it relates to sports in general, are just outright offensive, and there’s no point reading the further ramblings of a person who is obviously stupid.

Hopefully the similarity between Disc Golf and “Mormonism” isn’t lost on you. Hopefully when I talk about my beliefs, when I discuss the little miracles of my own life, when I pop a quick religious-angle opinion on the news of the day, you’ll understand that there is a universe of context missing from what I say, and that none of us have the luxury of assuming its content as we post.

It just turned into “Sunday” here. I need to go to bed so I can be refreshed at Church tomorrow. I really love going to church. I could spend days writing about why, and that’s just part of that “universe of context” that is missing.

And as much as I complain about how little you know about my religious beliefs, it’s safe to say that I know even less about yours. If we really get into it, we’ll be typing all month. So… when I say it’s inherently difficult discussing religion here, I mean it.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, and it’s not a very good excuse, but if we confess it up front, we’re more likely forgive and be forgiven for ignorant trespasses in the future. Thanks for reading, thanks for posting, and thanks for putting up with me.


41 thoughts on “It’s inherently difficult discussing religion here”

  1. Thanks for reading, thanks for posting, and thanks for putting up with me.

    Thank YOU for sharing with us, Howard. Even when some of us sometimes disagree with you.

    And on another and lighter level, thank you for Schlock. 🙂

  2. I have yet to read anything you’ve written about your personal religious faith that says anything other than either “This is what’s going on in my life” or “This is what I do and why I do it, and it works for me.” You’ve never said anything like “…and here’s why it should work for you too,” nor anything like “…and you’re a bad person if you don’t believe what I believe.” That goes a long way with people.

    1. (a hopefully irony-free) Amen to that, brother!

      To those of us who value not only our religious beliefs, but the privacy of those beliefs, you are a great breath of fresh air, Howard.
      Also, your comic is consistently funny, badly drawn, well-written, and all-around entertaining (yes, I enjoy the fact that it’s just line drawings, as was The Far Side, another of my all-time favorites.)

  3. Religion is never an easy thing to talk about. There is simply far too great a chance that toes will be stepped on, and feelings hurt. And yet, for many it is the core of their lives. This sounds like your position.

    If you ever want to write posts about why Sunday is such a wonderful day for you, I say feel free. Some will just skim, or perhaps dislike it, yes. But there will be many others who want to have a good discussion, and others who are glad to know more about you.

    Putting up with you is one of the easier things I’ve ever done. I think I’ll keep doing it.

  4. Personally, I’m happy to see stuff written by someone who, like me, comfortably combines religion and science in his head. Especially since you’re so polite about the matter, Howard. I say write whatever you want, and I’ll happily keep reading it.

  5. I quite appreciate hearing you talk about religion, actually. Primarily, I think, it’s because you approach it as a question of how your faith applies to your actions and your thoughts and your interpretations of what’s going on in the world, not as a question of how others should act or think.

    Also, my grandmother came from a Mormon family. (I’ve never quite been clear on why she wasn’t Mormon as well, but that’s another story.) I’ve visited that part of the family before, but they’re fairly distant (both in location (living in Utah) and relationally)… in any case, whether I personally hold the faith or not, Mormonism is a part of my heritage, and I enjoy your thoughtful writings on the subject.

  6. Well, I’ve never had a problem with your description of faith, which is, as far as I’m concerned, a nice, refreshing read. While the differences between your faith and the tattered, battered, stained and barely servicable set of cultural-spiritual memes I call my “faith” are worlds apart, I catch glimpses of familliarity in what you’re saying.

    Actually, this post reminds me of a lot of closings in Malay speeches. Loosely translated, the closings for Malay speeches typically have the speaker asking for forgiveness from the audience for any slights and wrongs that he may have inadvertantly made.

    I’ve always liked that, really.

    1. “If we shadows have offended,
      Think but this, and all is mended,
      That you have but slumber’d here
      While these visions did appear.
      And this weak and idle theme,
      No more yielding but a dream,
      Gentles, do not reprehend:
      if you pardon, we will mend”

      -Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V Scene i.

        1. If there’s not a good time to quote the Bard, then I haven’t found it. Not that I’ve been able to supply quotes for all those occasions, but still.

  7. Ummm… you’re welcome?

    Actually, I have to echo the statement above that says, “Thank YOU” for what you put here. It’s nice that I am able to get your views on the world, religious convictions included, without feeling the least bit insulted or… (and my brain won’t give me the stinkin’ word…)

    I was once involved in a LDR with a very nice Mormon girl who lived in Provo at the time. Visiting her was a culture shock and a half and we determined that the relationship wouldn’t last due to my not being a member of that religious community. However, I can say that I was never treated with any level of contempt or felt the least bit of slight against myself around the people in her life. : ]

    My stated summation of ‘Life the Universe and Everything’ in the religious context is that no man has the whole truth but every man has at least part of it. People can take or leave that and we’ll all find out in the end whether I’m right or wrong. As for you, Mr Taylor, I very much enjoy hearing, and usually agreeing with, your views. : ]

    Whoa… that did get lengthy. O,o

  8. It’s easy to put up with you, because you not only say things like this, you act as if you mean it as well. In fact, I don’t doubt for a second that you do mean it, and that you have given this a lot of thought.

    I have as well, but it shows in different ways. Maybe one day I will be eloquent too.

    Thanks for putting up with us all, and for Schlock, and for this window into your thoughts and life. I truly hope your artist career keeps working well for you, and not at the cost of your shoulders.

  9. Disc golf?

    What is this disc golf you speak of? Is it, I hope, what I might know as miniature golf? I hope it’s not anything very much like REAL golf, because, you know, if it was I’d be forced to ignore what I thought were well informed opinions for the rantings of one of my sworn enemies.

    Especially if you were to reveal you play TENNIS too.

    Unless you’re Happy Gilmore, I can’t trust you golfer types.


  10. Well, if I didn’t want to hear about your faith or your injuries, I guess I could join the Schlocktroops community. But I would really rather read Howard Tayler’s journal. Even though I’m an agnostic, I’m here by choice.


  11. No complaints over here, Howard. I have yet to read anything that I disagree with. Then again, that isn’t tough I’m a LDS East coaster living not too far from the very gorgeous DC temple. I am teaching my son’s class today and my regular calling is on the Enrichment Committee.

    The strange part of my life is that my Jewish husband is on Stake Audio Visual Committee and has more keys to more things in the building than most. . .including my dear Bishop.

  12. I, myself being a different faith, actually enjoy reading your views and thoughts on your beliefs. It is truly refreshing to encounter an eloquent, rational person who has given thought to what they believe and more importantly, WHY they believe as they do.

    And I very much appreciate the way you do not try to force your views on anyone, rather, you simply present them as the way you feel. After all, this is YOUR blog, why not write what you feel and what is important to you?

    Like someone else said, if I didn’t want to read what you write here, I would just belong to Schlocktroops. But, by reading your postings on your thoughts and feelings about religion, etc., here, it helps me to examine my own beliefs, feelings and thoughts.

    So, in summation, Thank You, Sir, for being eloquent, thoughtful, not pushy and for challenging me to self-examination. And definitely thank you for Schlock Mercenary!

  13. Very good post! I agree entirely. Except that golf is for sissies who can’t play disc golf (not that I spend much time at either, but still…)


  14. Its your journal Mr. Taylor, and people need to realize that we are privileged to be able to share your life with you. You are somewhat of a celebrity to us and how many people get the chance to share the lives of someone who also gets to entertain us. You could easily have kept your journal a “Friends Only” kind of thing and we only would have had your open letter.

    If anyone has any problem with what you say then they are easily offended and I hope that they can look past their prejudice to see that no matter what your religion is you are a passionate man about every aspect of your life, which includes your religion. If they have a problem with that then they should stay on the schlock troops journal.

    Just my cent and a half. 🙂

  15. Discussing religion anywhere can be difficult. Here the diversity of the “audience” and, as you mentioned, the lack of shared context makes it more so.

    However, failing to discuss religion would make you someone other than the Howard Tayler we have all (well, mostly) come to love. Although I don’t share your faith or level of religious devotion, I find your views very interesting and often profound. You have never come across as “preachy” or judgmental. You are happy to accept people as they are, even if that’s not what you would choose to be. Unlike so many others, you explain why you believe various things, as well as what those beliefs are.

    All of this, combined with your distinctive style and eloquence, results in a journal that usually entertains, often brings insight and is always worth reading. Please keep it up.

  16. You know, I hate to be a ditto, but I have to agree with the sentiments of the previous posters. I, for one, love a good calm religious discussion.

    New angles on things are always great, but it’s very hard to find someone you can hear about a faith from without attendant ‘and this is why /you/ should, too’ (at varying intensities). And that just makes me bristle, alas. I’ll gather all the data I can to figure it out myself, but don’t try to make your solution my solution.

    This is starting to become a treastise on my own beliefs. Tsk. In any case, Howard, keep posting, and I’ll keep reading.

  17. I could talk at length about the technical aspects of a good RH Sidearm, and how I’ve come to rely on that for my putting.

    I read that on a skim-through, and imagined you using some form of firearm — perhaps a big, hogleg revolver — to do putting in standard golf.

    I’ve always thought that golf could use more artilliary.

    1. Well, yeah, what would really be fun would be a combination of golf and cannons. (I imagine that trying to putt with a cannon would be quite the interesting endeavor, really.)

      And then, once you’ve imagined that, imagine a game between Kevin and Sgt. Schlock.

  18. And as for the rest, well, I can’t help but echo the sentiments of everyone else.

    Also: It’s your journal, and you can do what you want to in it. Personally, I enjoy reading about your faith and how it affects your life, because a: you’re of a faith I do not encounter much, and I always enjoy learning, and b: you’re cool about it.

  19. disc golf

    There’s an interesting course in a public park right near my house. The huge cottonwoods are great comic relief or cataclysmic frustration, depending.

    I just have to ask, when you play are you approached by young people in loose clothing who brazenly ask if you have any papers?

  20. Actually, I, for one, quite enjoy reading about your faith and beliefs, even though I whole-heartedly disagree with them – what with being a very, very hardcore atheist, but that’s neither here nor there.

    There’s just, for me, something incredibly fascinating about organized religions, and how they work. Specifically, I like knowing and understanding the underlying justification that support their dogma: this will make me sound incredibly geeky, but I like knowing things like why Muslims and Jews won’t eat pork, for instance. I was thoroughly interested in your piece, a few months back, dealing with the original reason for LDSs’ allowance of polygamy. Something about better understanding my fellow man, I guess.

    It just shows that just like in sports, politics and literature, even seemingly entirely arbitrary rules have their basis in some pretty down-to-earth, reasonable and solid fact.

    Your matter-of-fact and unapologetic way of speaking about your faith gives us valuable insight into your religion. Thank you for that.

    1. You want to know why Jews can’t eat pork? So do we.

      Unfortunately, God didn’t write the commentaries himself, so we’re left with a whole bunch of rabbis positing theories, and then disagreeing with each other.

      And disagreeing with themselves, actually. That’s the fun part.

      1. Yup. But I still find it interesting. I find it casts a whole new light on what could very well sound just like inane, stupid, misguided gimmicks that Hierarchical Higherups placed on The Worshippers, just for shits and giggles.

        Instead, you find you hear stuff like “Pigs, as well as other animals, eat up the garbage of the earth – therefore we musn’t eat them, for the same reason we should not eat scavengers.”

        That there would be a rationale behind it gives any external observer what I think is important insight. Otherwise, it’s just “Bacon is a sin!”, and that’s silly.

      2. My father, who isn’t Jewish, sums up Jewish law very nicely in two words: “yes, but…”

        My brother, who is well on his way to becoming a Rabbi, is slowly coming to the same realisation.

        And people wonder why Jews make such good lawyers and businessmen…

        1. Rabbi Hillel was once asked to teach the Torah [in an amount of time equal to that which he could spend] while standing on one foot. He said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it.” (Babylonian Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a.)

          I sometimes imagine he should have said, “That is the whole Torah, the rest is merely precedent awaiting a ruling.” But then, I actually do plan on pursuing a law degree, and not a rabbinical degree (unlike my brothers), so I think I am biased.

          1. Interestingly enough, I heard the same question posed to the Dali Lama with regards to Buddhism. His response was quite similar (forgive me if I misquote for now), “If you cannot help, then avoid hurt. The rest is commentary.”

  21. You don’t say anything in a way that sets off our memetic allergies.

    I didn’t make my art, literature and labors of love into a career. I decided to do it after hours, give it away without a business model, and work a cubicle job. As a result it is not inherently difficult to discuss religion on my livejournal or just about anywhere else. I never have to worry about losing customers and income. Yeah, I tone it down when I’m in a situation where I’m “representing” Penguicon. Other than that, the gloves can come off and I call a spade a spade. This freedom is very important to me, because there’s nothing more important than issues centering around religion. If I were in a business, I’d have to market myself.

    Take Orson Scott Card for a case study. It’s a shame that he has to choose between whether to be an SF author or a religious newspaper editorialist. But whether it’s fair or not, he has to choose what his public platform is going to be; the guy who’s going to fascinate us with literature about another world far away, or the guy who we’re going to percieve as knocking down our bedroom doors with jackboots in this present world.

    Comedians have it easier, because the Dennis Miller/Bill Maher/George Carlin set have audiences who are mostly already sympathetic to their views. But it’s tough to be in a business like SF with customers who see themselves as socially progressive (and make reading choices based on that) while describing himself to his customers as socially retrogressive. Clearly Card has made the decision to call a spade a spade (as he sees it) and stand by what he believes about the destiny of his nation. I respect that, but it doesn’t change why I make my entertainment choices, so I’ll make him pay the price right in the wallet. Not as a punishment, but the inevitable result of how he markets himself to me. Religion is directly connected to how we see ourselves; disc golf is not.

    1. By the same standard, I should stop reading (or at least buying books from) George R.R. Martin because of the extraordinarily venomous attack he gave post-election on all things right-wing (including anyone “fascist” enough to vote for Bush). To me, this seems ludicrous: why would I deprive myself of the best epic fantasy series of our generation, simply because I believe the writer’s a bigoted moron? Assuming that his bigotry does not show in his writing (it hasn’t yet in Song of Ice and Fire; nor has Card, to my knowledge, been demonizing homosexuals in his novels), who cares?

      Then again, as a political conservative, perhaps my reading options are rather limited if I choose to only read authors whose political beliefs exactly align with my own. I’ll settle for not having an opposing ideology (or any ideology, really) forced down my throat.

  22. I’m only a casual reader, and utterly not elequent or a good speller…

    But I too find it refreshing to hear about on occassion the religious side of people’s lives. No need to ‘hide it under a bushel’ I say.
    But then again I was a BYU student, and lived in the UT valley culture for many years and understand most of the context. Frankly though it’s interesting to hear how anyone’s belief’s affect their art, life etc.

  23. Howard, until I met my father-in-law, I can honestly say that I have never met a boring Mormon. In all actuality, you fit the stereotype that has, in my experience, come to typify “your kind”.

    Busy, very family oriented, very devout (in an extremely non-pushy way), and last but not least, possessing a wickedly twisted sense of humor.

    Thank you for being you.
    Thank you for sharing Schlock with all of us
    Thank you for even hinting that their might be a dead tree collection in my future.

  24. Coming late to this party, all I really can do is echo what most everyone else has said. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your religion and religious practices and beliefs, Howard, and I’ve been startled to find that by thinking about what you’ve said, I’ve come to some interesting and important insights about my own beliefs. Startling, that is, because I didn’t expect to find any common ground between myself and any devoutly religious person. You (and Sandra too) have opened my eyes a little wider, and I appreciate that. So keep talking, about whatever you feel like talking about. (Except golf. I hate golf. You darn golf-lovers ought to go back where you came from… wait, golf came from Scotland, right? I love Scotland! Okay, you can stay.)

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