Tal Bachman has left the Mormons! Kind of makes the usual screwed-by-the-record-company story pale by comparison, doesn't it? Bachman plays this afternoon at 3 at the Nest on the NAIT campus - a solo "story and song" gig to promote his new CD, Staring Down the Sun.
Maybe he'll talk about religion. Maybe not. He did in a recent phone interview. Bachman says he'd devoted his entire life to Mormonism (he's 34 years old and has seven children, if that's proof enough) - but not any more.
The talented Son of Randy reveals that he did intensive research, reading every book about Mormonism he could get his hands on, talking to every church defender he could find -and discovered to his horror that certain so-called "facts" surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its founder Joseph Smith Jr. were, shall we say, "made up." Fabricated, bogus, cut from whole cloth!
This is completely unlike the idea of there being an omnipotent creator who demands unquestioned devotion and who sent His only son to Earth to be tortured and horribly killed to atone for all the sins of humanity, of course. Just so we're clear.
Believing the "myth" part of religion isn't always necessary to enjoy the benefits of same, is it? Christians are generally pretty nice people. Some are even skeptical of the Bible's "supernatural" elements - but hey, it's a good story. Allegory, fable and mystery have their value.
Mormons are different, Bachman says.
"In the Mormon church, Joseph Smith's claims are not regarded as allegorical. They're regarded as literal representations of historical fact. The church's claim to legitimacy is rooted in the premise that these events literally happened. That is the situation the church has put itself in."
Bachman, who was well on his way to becoming a church leader before his unpleasant epiphany about a year ago, says he never set out to refute the religion that had formed his entire life.
What happened was that the more he studied Mormonism, the less he believed in its claims. Distraught and confused, he finally went to his stake president - who oversees several congregations - only to be told, as Bachman says, " 'Yeah, a lot of these things didn't happen the way that they say they did.' And he even went on to say that the president of the church had essentially conceded that in a private meeting he attended about 15 years ago. I was in a total stupor.
"He actually made a pitch to continue on: 'Keep it quiet and as long as you're willing to work within the church and enjoy the spiritual experience, the camaraderie and the support, and allow it to help make you a better man, why not stay in?'
"I thought about it for a few days, but as the days passed I thought about what the church was and all it had done, good and bad - bad that I hadn't even recognized before - and I just realized there's no way I can stay in this thing and put my children in this environment where they're being taught stuff that isn't true. I can't stomach it. It makes me ill. It's like I'm facilitating a conscious fraud."
An atheist might ask: How could you not know it's a fraud? The very idea of God is a fantasy invented by human beings uncomfortable with death.
Bachman counters, "Let's just suppose that in 50 years or something scientists actually are able to prove there was some sort of intelligent designer. Then the truth becomes obvious. You could ask the same question in the future: How could you ever believe otherwise?"
Take that, atheists.
Besides, "There are parts of the myth that are so attractive and so beautiful, really: that your family will be together for all eternity, etc. There are ideas and hopes included within Mormonism that give you every incentive to try to stay faithful and not doubt. If you leave the church, if you're a Mormon, that means you will never see your loved ones after you die."
Also, if you leave the church for whatever reason, the only possible cause is that Satan got to you. That's what some Mormons are now saying about the Son of Randy Bachman, that the evil lure of being a rock 'n' roll star finally took its toll. Baloney, he says. The closest he ever got to Satan was standing next to Britney Spears at the American Music Awards. Says Tal, "It's not my fault Joseph Smith was a charismatic religious genius. I didn't make up any stories about how aboriginal peoples are lost Israelites. Joseph Smith did. The fact that we all know aboriginals are descended from Asiatics and therefore The Book of Mormon cannot possibly be what it claims isn't my fault!"
For the record, Tal Bachman still believes in God. And while once troubled by his personal paradigm shift, "I'm pretty glad I know. I actually feel that anyone who doesn't want to know doesn't really deserve to know."
Anyway, his next album should be interesting. He laughs, "I have plenty of material."
Good thing he wasn't into Scientology.