Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Put your shoulder to the wheel

This post is for all of you gay married LDS out there who are still faithfully committed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is work to do.

Once upon a time, I was an active participant at a little discussion site called Nauvoo.com. The site is owned by Mormon science fiction writer Orson Scott Card and has a little agreement called the Nauvoo Charter by which all participants must abide. Basically, you have to be a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint to participate on the site. In the day, it was a great place, particularly from my still faithful but liberal and unorthodox perspective. The discussions there shaped my evolving religious beliefs and were a nice balance to some of the more critical discussions I got into on other sites.

Nauvoo has changed. They've pretty much run the liberal Mormons out of town. For obvious reasons, I can't participate there anymore. (Turns out I've changed too!) But I still lurk. This discussion recently caught my attention. From my current vantage point, it is a fairly astonishing look at what average Mormons think about homosexuals and homosexuality. If you faithful gays want to change some attitudes (because I think we all agree that some attitudes need a'chagin'), this could be one place to start. And as Latter-day Saints in good standing, you'll be a lot more credible than this ol' ex-bishop apostate homo.

38 comments:

-L- said...

What exactly would you say if you had the chance?

Gay4Good said...

Yes it does look like their new charter is very restrictive, or at least their moderator is very vigilante when it comes keeping out any information or comments they deem to be "in-appropriate."

I added some posts there that the moderator removed very quickly. I sincerely did not think the posts were offensive or violation of the charter. They were merely informational.

What I did was provide information on a study one of the posters mentioned regarding changing sexual orientation. I gave information on what the article was and where to find it and then posted 2 more things.

"Also, I think a helpful counterpoint to the whole "Can gay's change?" debate can be found in this article: "Gay for Good: Can straight guys become happy homosexuals?"

http://www.slate.com/id/106552/

It does a great job of highlighting the presumptions and biases behind the "Gay's can become straight!" argument."

This link to the Slate article was removed. As well as a critique of the short comings of the Spitzer study.

Yet, my very 1st post remains. I've asked the moderator to remove that post as well but they have not done it.

Gay4Good said...

Bottom line is that you are right: The only people who would be able to enter into the dialogue over there would be someone who is gay and LDS and in a marriage with a woman. They may be able to put a more human "face" to the matter.

I don't know what I was thinking...

Gay4Good said...

One last thing: I live in Utah in the Salt Lake valley and I know some gay Mormon writers who have met Orson Scott Card. They have shared with me the fact that he has major issues with homosexuality and is most likely a "closet case" in some respect.

This is an opinion that is clearly supported by many things non-fiction writings (his essay "The Hypocrites of Homosexuality" and ""Homosexual 'Marriage' and Civilization".) and throughout his fiction as well (the most obvious example being his Songmaster novel).

A very insightful critique of the homoertoicism and extreme homophobia in his best known novel "Ender's Game" can be found here:

http://yngve.bravehost.com/specialcolumn02.html

A similar take on Orson Scott Card's homophobia can be found here:

http://www.leftfield.org/Forums/showthread.php?t=4

santorio said...

1. have you read card's 'wurm?' it could well be subtitled, 'the penis that ate cleveland,'
2. how many lds couples do you we who admit to share nothing in common except a testimony [and i assume being straight]? that describes my sister whose marriage failed miserably and my brother who appears to have wonderful marriage, 35 years and counting. same goes for mixed orientation marriages. some will suceed, others won't. i was surprised that so many contributers to the nauvoo chain said go for it. sorry brethren, it takes more than a 'testimony.'

Chris said...

L:

I'll get to what I would say tomorrow, but I found it surprising that with all of the bullshit on that Nauvoo thread about homosexuality, the only thing you voiced any concern over was the Slate article.

-L- said...

The slate article was pretty much the only thing about the thread that really annoyed me. I don't expect you to agree with a lot of the things being said because your worldview is different from the Mormon view that homosexuality is not a intrinsic part of one's identity (and all that follows from that). Having a different worldview seems harmless to me.

Seriously, let me know what you found so offensive.

Chris said...

L:

Is your homosexuality an intrinsic part of your identity?

Chris said...

And L, I'm actually less concerned about the substance of what many of these people are saying--which, unfortunately, is not all that surprising to me--than the stark absence of empathy and understanding for gay people. Many of the participants in that discussion are dismissive at best and hostile at worst toward gay people and their point of view.

That's what I thought would trouble you and some of the other faithful gays around these parts. I guess I was wrong.

Chris said...

Sorry for the multi-post approach this morning...

Here's an example of something I find offensive:

Gay activists keep using the phrase "Who we are," to harp on the theme that their sexual identity constitutes their humanity.

This is a mischaracterization of what most gay people mean when they say that gay is who they are. Being gay is certainly one part of my identity. It is who I am. Just as Mormon is who those people are. It is dismissive. It is mean spirited. And it seems intentionally obtuse.

Straight people have the luxury of not having to worry about consciously incorporating their sexual orientation into their identity because they live in a straight world. That part of their identity is assumed by all around them. Their sexual identity fits more or less seamlessly with the world around them--a world in which heterosexual coupling is the norm everywhere one looks.

santorio said...

'stark absence of empathy'

simplistic, condescending attitudes are not likely to promote understanding or empathy. common theme here, consider historical church attitudes towards civil rights.

Chris said...

This paragraph...

Any average person with normal mental & emotional functions is capable of controlling their actions. Some people may have stronger inclinations that are harder to overcome--and the longer they act out on them, the more ingrained they are. They become more likely to accept that "God made me this way"--and then to embrace the idea because it absolves them of responsibility to seek change. These tendencies may be truly impossible to shed by relying on the arm of flesh. But to dump them in the "impossible" bin is to deny the power of God & the healing of the Atonement.

...essentially blames the gay person for not being able to overcome his tendencies and attractions.

I shared this discussion with a gay Mormon friend of mine who said that it reinforces "all of the negative things" he ever felt about himself as a gay person.

Chris said...

Last comment for now...

L: Having a different worldview seems harmless to me.

But what if the different worldview is harmful to others? Surely you are not the moral relativist that this comment implies. ;)

I guess this is where we truly part company.

santorio said...

ouch. we need a cyber group hug. we may not all be on the same page, but at least we're reading the same book. what we have in common outweighs our differences

-L- said...

Oh, Chris. Did you just call me a moral relativist? It's go time! :-)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior."

I think this is the position that best describes the practicing Mormon view of the situation. It's precisely because I don't believe in moral relativism that I agree people are fooled into believing they have no control over their lives. Attraction, thoughts, behaviors... they all run into one another and some are culpable and some are not. Sorting it out is tricky. When you say "...essentially blames the gay person for not being able to overcome his tendencies and attractions" I think you are over-interpreting what was written. The blame is being laid on people's choices, not their tendencies. It's a fundamental distinction. I can understand how you'd be upset if you cannot tolerate it in others' views.

Mike Kessler said...

Chris - You should check out the latest from the LDS Church on "same-gender attraction". I link to it and give a response on our blog.
BTW - It was nice to meet Keri at Sunstone. She is a sweetheart. Please let her know that Mike and Buck say hi.

Chris said...

L:

I know you're not a moral relativist. I was being intentionally snide, but you know that.

But I'm not a moral relativist either. Which forces me to the conclusion that the LDS Church is wrong. Plain and simple.

And I'm not overinterpreting anything. The blame from the LDS perspective lies very clearly with the gay person. You can talk about the attraction/action distinction all you want. And it has a certain logic if you want to view homosexuality as some "condition" or affliction akin to alcoholism or obesity. But it's faith-based dogma that damages people, gay and straight. And I won't give it a pass just because someone claims it's what God says. I see no reason to tolerate ignorant intolerance.

But whatever. You don't seem bothered by the naked hostility toward homosexuals that the good people of Nauvoo.com display. I guess the work to do that I see there is not for you after all.

Chris said...

what we have in common outweighs our differences

santorio, I've always wanted to believe that, but there are days when I'm not so sure.

Gay4Good said...

Regarding finding common ground, there's a new book out by university professor Tanya Erzen: "Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement."

Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air is suppossedly going to be interviewing Ms. Erzen soon, along with the leader of the ex-gay group Love in Action.

Salon.com recently reviewed the book and stated:

"Erzen wasn't interested in collecting fodder for political battles, though, and that's what makes 'Straight to Jesus' so enlightening. As an ethnographer, she made every effort to listen to and understand everyone at New Hope Ministry, whether or not she agreed with their beliefs (and it's fairly clear that most of the time she didn't). That's practically unheard of in most popular discussions of charged issues like homosexuality -- and rare in scholarly discussions, either. Nowadays, everyone's convinced that they already know everything the other side has to say and that actually having to listen to it would constitute an insupportable demand on their own patience. Everyone thinks their side of the argument never gets any exposure, yet rabid, ranting opinion of all varieties howls at us everywhere we turn."

The full book review can be found here:

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2006/07/11/erzen/

(To read the full review you have to watch a minute long commercial.)

-L- said...

You can talk about the attraction/action distinction all you want. And it has a certain logic if you want to view homosexuality as some "condition" or affliction akin to alcoholism or obesity. But it's faith-based dogma that damages people, gay and straight. And I won't give it a pass just because someone claims it's what God says. I see no reason to tolerate ignorant intolerance.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. It's not about "wanting" to believe something or "claiming" it's what God said or being "ignorant". It's just plainly about seeing things differently. You have no right to say they have "naked hostility" for their views when yours is just as dogmatic and just as centered in faith. To call them (me?) intolerant is not useful in the least.

To the extent LDS people expect everyone to fall in line with their view of morality and personal identity, I charge them with the same advice I give you: tolerate others' points of view. I just saw the discussion in Nauvoo as centering on gays in the church, and that's a different ballgame.

Chris said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Save your tsks, L.

It's not about "wanting" to believe something or "claiming" it's what God said or being "ignorant". It's just plainly about seeing things differently.

Oh, come on. It's about seeing things differently because Dallin H. Oaks said so. And on what authority?

You have no right to say they have "naked hostility" for their views when yours is just as dogmatic and just as centered in faith.

Actually, I have every right to say it. But that's not really the point. So, tell me, what's my dogma? What's my faith?

To call them (me?) intolerant is not useful in the least.

L, you call people on the other side "intolerant" all the time. How useful is it when you do it?

To the extent LDS people expect everyone to fall in line with their view of morality and personal identity, I charge them with the same advice I give you: tolerate others' points of view.

And that little thread over on Nauvoo is full of tolerance, right?

I just saw the discussion in Nauvoo as centering on gays in the church, and that's a different ballgame.

Then we weren't reading the same thread, because the discussion may have started with gays in the church, but then it devolved very quickly into criticism of the "gay community" and the "gay agenda" and all of that identity nonsense that the so-called gays are always talking about.

Troll said...

'it is a fairly astonishing look at what average Mormons think about homosexuals and homosexuality'

What on EARTH makes you say these are 'average' Mormons? If the moderation is as strict as you say it is, than it is simply a look at what the moderator thinks of homosexuals and homosexuality.

santorio said...

mark twain: what gets us into trouble is not what we don't know. it's what we know for sure that just ain't so.

dallin oakes is setting up a strawman. he wants everything gay to be a 'thought, feeling, or behavior.'
these are within the domain of free will, meaning that i can change my homosexuality. if i don't change, i am obviously weak, ignorant or sinful. this goes much further than the alernative church view that accepts gays but just says to remain celibate, the same advise given to my unmarried niece whom i assume has unfilled sexual yearnings.
elder oakes, it just ain't so.

Dave Walter said...

But it's faith-based dogma that damages people, gay and straight. And I won't give it a pass just because someone claims it's what God says. I see no reason to tolerate ignorant intolerance.

Amen! And it is about intolerance, not about "differing views." Just as the Nazis didn't just have "differing views" about Jews (not to menion homosexuals).

-L- said...

I apologize for the tsks. While I love them, they don't do much for a civil tone, do they? [goodbye, sweet tsks]

I wasn't struck with the flagrant hatred you seem to find in the discussion, hence my request for your personal response. The example you provided and your response seems as intolerant as theirs, and the irony of someone's intolerance in inaccurately calling someone else intolerant always strikes me. Anyway, I think we both can and should point out intolerance where it exists, and you are certainly correct that I waste no time in doing so.

Your "faith" is in the inviolable nature of homosexuality. Your dogma is that there's nothing wrong with gay sex. It's a fine view, one that can never be empirically demonstrated and one that many people feel is wrong. Good, nice people filled with love and motivated by many things other than fear and hatred.

-L- said...

Santorio, I find your use of straw man a little amusing as I think you've mischaracterized Oaks. The emphasis is on culpability for sexual behavior. If there's no culpability for behavior, where does that leave our society?

Thanks, by the way, for trying to keep the tone light. Something I fail at, apparently.

-L- said...

Oh, Dave Walter, if you weren't so mean spirited I would laugh. Did you just compare Mormons to nazis? Because we like to round up our gays and put them in gas chambers?

Chris said...

L:

Dave Walter uses an extreme example to make his point. But, as santorio points out, from the orthodox LDS perspective, homosexuals and homosexuality don't exist. Elder Oaks, ever the good lawyer, is attempting to argue gay people out of existence. There are no gay people, only latently heterosexual people with the same-sex attraction condition. I think santorio has characterized Elder Oaks's position quite right, actually.

Chris said...

L:

The example you provided and your response seems as intolerant as theirs, and the irony of someone's intolerance in inaccurately calling someone else intolerant always strikes me.

Please provide an example of any unwarranted intolerance on my part. I am intolerant of views that I think are themselves intolerant. So are you. We both freely admit it. But I don't want to be unjustifiably intolerant. So show me how I have been unfair.

Your "faith" is in the inviolable nature of homosexuality.

A faith which seems to align with the reality of most gay people's experience more closely with the view that it is something other than inviolable.

Perhaps we are both biased toward self justification here. But I think even you would have to admit that the vast majority of gay people who have tried to change their orientation have failed. The LDS Church and other anti-gay conservative religions can look the other way all they wants, but they can't change the reality of the experience of gay people.

Your dogma is that there's nothing wrong with gay sex.

I don't think I'm particularly dogmatic about anything, including gay sex. I do, however, believe that sex, hetero or homo, in and of itself is morally neutral. Questions of morality arise from how we engage in and use sex.

It's a fine view, one that can never be empirically demonstrated and one that many people feel is wrong.

And why do they feel it is wrong? Tradition and unjustifiable appeals to faith and religious authority.

Good, nice people filled with love and motivated by many things other than fear and hatred.

Sure. Like ignorance and irrational and unjustifiable religious beliefs.

-L- said...

You are intolerant by describing beliefs that are different than your own as irrational and ignorant. It is obnoxious to insult anyone who reaches a different conclusion from the data than you do yourself.

Whatever your views on the morality of sex, you do have views that are based on your experience and beliefs and despite your appeal to authority and experience, they are no more supported objectively than are those of Mormons by their experiences and beliefs.

You repeatedly attribute Mormon views to negative attributes. This is, perhaps, the kind of intolerance I find inappopriate. When Mormons criticize all gays as being motivated by negative attributes, you cry foul, but turn around and do the same thing. There are examples of Mormons who should be more tolerant. There are examples of gays who should be more tolerant. Calling names and throwing out labels doesn't do too much to foster healing dialog.

Perhaps there were places in that thread that were inappropriate, and I certainly recognize in myself a propensity to overlook them. That's how I was raised, and it's a demon I battle along with the others. But there are certainly others in this comment discussion who could do with a careful look at themselves. Do you honestly think it is more intolerant for Mormons to believe gay sex is wrong than it is for DW to compare them to Nazis? I mean, take a deep breath, take a step back, and look at the conversation going on there. Do you see the futility of lining up and screaming "intolerant" at each other? That's why I sort of think it is valid to be tolerant of intolerance sometimes, but I'm not at all sure when.

Mike Kessler said...

-l-, it's probably as difficult for you to comprehend that homosexuality and heterosexuality are on equal footing as valid, normal states as it is for me to comprehend the idea of me, a gay man, marrying a woman. (No offense intended, Chris -- I haven't finished my point yet.)

I did not grow up in an LDS family and I'm not LDS now, though, as I'm sure you know, my husband Buckley is. My family is large and very close, across several generations, through cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Most of my family is, of course, heterosexual, but I have quite a few gay aunts, uncles, and cousins, and a lesbian sister. In my family, this is and always has been accepted as normal.

My great-grandmother and her third son, my great-uncle Max, were very close and owned and ran an apartment building together. Uncle Max's five brothers and sisters knew that Uncle Max was gay since he told them in the 1920's. The only regret anyone in our family had was that Uncle Max never had a man to share his life with, and it made them a bit sad that he spent most of his life alone. My cousins, my sister and I have always been welcomed along with our partners as equals at all family functions. My husband and I were honored at my niece's bat mitzvah six years ago as guiding influences in her life, and so was my younger sister and her partner. Another sister named her first child after me. Michael is now 13, and that sister has asked Buckley and I to share an aliyah -- to be called to the Torah, a great honor given to close family members at bar and bat mitzvahs and other occasions.

In my family, being gay is on equal footing with being straight, and one is as likely or as necessary to be cured as the other. Yes, there have been women I have loved (and, Chris, I fully understand how you love Keri still), and there is one woman I even considered marrying, except I knew before I was 18 that I was gay and I didn't want to put her through turmoil because I loved her deeply, and still do, but not romantically or sexually. She and I are still close and she and her husband have a wonderful family. She is as grateful as I am that we never married.

But I don't comprehend how you can think that being gay is not a normal state of love for those who are gay. I will accept that that is how you believe, but for the life of me, I can't figure out how anyone could think that all humans are supposed to be clones of each other in our feelings and beliefs.

Chris said...

Mike, thanks for your posts. I'm glad you got meet Keri at Sunstone. She spoke very highly of both you and Buckley.

L:

You are intolerant by describing beliefs that are different than your own as irrational and ignorant. It is obnoxious to insult anyone who reaches a different conclusion from the data than you do yourself.

I'm sorry, how is it that the prevailing mainstream LDS view on homosexuality is based in anything other than religious doctrine? Data? What data informs the LDS view?

The LDS view of homosexuality is rooted in religious belief, which is irrational. Now, to be sure, all of us have irrational beliefs. Religious beliefs generally are irrational in that they defy reason. That's fine. I have some irrational religious beliefs. The problem is when those religious beliefs start to do others harm. And I believe that LDS beliefs about homosexuality are harmful.

Whatever your views on the morality of sex, you do have views that are based on your experience and beliefs and despite your appeal to authority and experience, they are no more supported objectively than are those of Mormons by their experiences and beliefs.

I know you're the medical doctor and all, but I think you're just plain wrong here. The preponderence of the evidence on homosexuality is that it is practically, if not entirely, immutable. My beliefs about homosexuality are more supported ojectively than those of the Mormon Church and other conservative religions.

You repeatedly attribute Mormon views to negative attributes. This is, perhaps, the kind of intolerance I find inappopriate. When Mormons criticize all gays as being motivated by negative attributes, you cry foul, but turn around and do the same thing.

Actually, I've never done that--I've never criticized all Mormons, though I do often criticize the collective Mormon community or the istitutional church. I know many, many, many Mormons who do not hold to the views that I find so objectionable in the Nauvoo thread. I know many, many, many Mormons who hold to the orthodox view of homosexuality but who nevertheless show compassion and empathy for homosexuals. I saw none of that in the Nauvoo thread.

Calling names and throwing out labels doesn't do too much to foster healing dialog.

You're right. But I don't think I was calling names. I was describing what I saw: intolerance, ignorance and mean spiritedness.

Do you honestly think it is more intolerant for Mormons to believe gay sex is wrong than it is for DW to compare them to Nazis?

No, I don't think it is more intolerant. And I'll call DW out now and say that the Nazi example is both over the top and unhelpful. I believe there is a maxim of some sort in cyberspace about the longer a discussion goes on the more likely that an unwarranted comparison to Hitler/Nazis will emerge and ruin the discussion. I don't think Mormons are Nazis. I don't think Mormon attitudes toward gays are of the same charater as Nazi attitudes toward Jews.

But I do think the LDS Church, institutionally, is openly (though generally politely) hostile to the gay community. The Church's desire to eliminate the words gay, lesbian and homosexual from the discourse is the most obvious sign. The Church not only doesn't want us to be gay, it doesn't want us to have any power to describe ourselves. It's oppressive.

I mean, take a deep breath, take a step back, and look at the conversation going on there. Do you see the futility of lining up and screaming "intolerant" at each other? That's why I sort of think it is valid to be tolerant of intolerance sometimes, but I'm not at all sure when.

But I'm not telling the people of Nauvoo that they are intolerant. I'm talking to you and the other gay men who read my blog. To the extent that you share the intolerant views of Nauvoo or refuse to condemn them, my paintbrush may hit you a few times.

mark said...

One of the differences that I see between the gay man who is trying to live as a faithful Mormon, and the straight man who is trying to live as a faithful Mormon, is this:

if the straight man is single, he is to not have sexual relations with anyone, and is to control his feelings of sexual attraction. His feelings of sexual attraction are, however, considered intrinsically good. He is encouraged to date women, to feel attractions for women, and to engage in a certain amount of emotional and physical intimacy with women (without proper bounds) in order that he will in due course find a woman with whom he will enter into an eternal covenanted relationship in which the feelings of attraction will be able to find their full flowering and expression.

If the straight man is married, he is to control his feelings of attraction toward women other than his wife. But toward his wife, he can fully express his sexuality in all of its aspects.

And, it would seem, if he is faithful to his covenants, in the eternities he will be able to have multiple wives with whom he will, forever, be able to engage in the fullest expression of his sexuality.

Turning now to the gay man who is single (this is me)...he is, like the single straight man, expected to not have sexual relations with anyone, and is to control his feelings of sexual attraction. However, his feelings of attraction are intrinsically bad. They are not to be encouraged in any way. He is not encouraged to be attracted to men, to date men, to have that certain degree of physical and emotional intimacy required as part of the courtship process. For him, there can be no courtship process, at least none with respect of anyone to whom he is attracted.

The single gay man is, however, encouraged to date etc. women, to whom he is not attracted sexually, IF he has his same sex attractions under control. since eternal marriage is the duty of every faithful LDS man who holds the priesthood.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth for the moment.

Dave Walter said...

No, I don't think it is more intolerant. And I'll call DW out now and say that the Nazi example is both over the top and unhelpful.

Sorry for the inflammatory remark on your blog, Chris. It was made out of frustration that this discussion is even occurring.

Prejudice in the name of God is the worst kind. It shouldn't be considered worthy of debate.

Chris said...

Thanks, Dave. I agree that this is a frustrating conversation to have.

greenfrog said...

For obvious reasons, I can't participate there anymore. (Turns out I've changed too!) But I still lurk.

Why?

I just reviewed the thread you linked. After reading your intro, I was expecting worse than I found. Mind you, I'm not saying I agree with it -- I don't. I think that the comments posted there are no more substantive than run-of-the-mill hallway gossip and chat, and no more right. But frankly, there's harsher and better-reasoned stuff from in the LDS bloggernacle on relatively mainstream sites -- T&S, M*, etc.

I don't participate at (or even surf much to) nauvoo.com any more. I no longer qualify to participate there based on the belief criteria. Sometimes I suppose I'd like to, just to shake things up, but I won't do so in violation of the site's rules.

Chris said...

greenfrog:

But frankly, there's harsher and better-reasoned stuff from in the LDS bloggernacle on relatively mainstream sites -- T&S, M*, etc.

I don't disagree. But on those sites, the harsher, better reasoned stuff is challenged. Nauvoo.com is an echo chamber--and that's why I find it more insidious. These decidedly unprogressive and uncharitable views of homosexuals stand without anyone calling them the crap that they are.

greenfrog said...

Nauvoo.com is an echo chamber--and that's why I find it more insidious.

Yes, but that same characteristic makes it less significant -- both to those who participate there and to those who don't. It becomes hallway gossip more than serious engagement on serious topics.

When I realized it had devolved from a reasonable (if strongly biased) discussion forum to a chat room run by a heavy handed moderator, I had to look elsewhere to find a place to engage seriously on spiritual issues.

I know it's a bit off-topic for this blog thread, but in recent years I've become convinced that perhaps the most important truth of Joseph's account of the First Vision was that creeds interfere with our ability to connect to the divine -- even when the creed is generated by entirely well-meaning people.

Krishnamurti's line comes to mind:

Truth is a pathless land.