I need to vent and let out my story about quitting or thinking of it. I've told a couple friends who are members about it. While respectful, they didn't agree with my arguments about the SGI being a cult and immediately told me not to join the temple. Not that I would since the temple has extreme tendencies too.
Reason why I quit was because of the Ikeda worship going on with members. Every time I would ask a question, I'd get a parrot response about how they connected to his heart, yadda yadda. I was uncomfortable at how many times I heard these answers that were not honestly answering any questions I had regarding the organization. I constantly mentioned how I didn't connect with Mr. Ikeda and one of my friends, SGI staff and chapter leader, tells me that I'm more similar to Ikeda than I think and how I'm seeking my connection with him. Huh?
I also remember FNCC last year. I was uncomfortable with all the insane cheering and pom-poms but what made me snap was when they sang "Youth With a Noble Vow" seven times in a row to send to Japan. While I escaped, I heard it and remembered cringing. I also shared the experience and YouTube of the song to some friends who were older members and they even found the song creepy with the Soviet national anthem style music. Of course, they tell me that the youth were being enthusiastic and that's their way of doing kosen-rufu.
The other thing I really hated was how pushy members got about getting people to do events and activities. A recent example this year, there was a YWD activity happening and I told fellow members I wanted to work that day. Instead of acknowledging me, they told me they'll chant for me to come and that I should trade my hours to make this event. My sponsor, bless his heart, told me to prioritize work. I ended up going to work that day and felt good. Of course, my sponsor then adds in how I should ask them how the meeting went, show concern, etc.
All this cumulated to me chanting about the situation, the hypocrisy of how humble Mr. Ikeda supposedly is while ignoring how the members deify him and letting them get away with naming everything after him. Of course, my older friends think the deifying is wrong and tell me the attitude is cult-like but the SGI is not a cult and how I need to help change the organization by writing to higher leaders. Now, I would've agreed with that in the past but talking to one of the high-ups, it led to deaf ears or a casual answer despite them saying they agreed. This was a couple years back.
I won't comment on the encouragement too much. To me, he says one thing that's seemingly profound but does another. His whole mentor and disciple spiel is disturbing. So is the prayer at the center to make oneness of mentor and disciple our primary mission. So is SGI Hong Kong's thing of chanting for his happiness over your own.
Anyway, a couple days ago, as I chanted, I realized quitting was the right thing to do. I rolled up my SGI gohonzon and printed a new one. I think it's a Shutei one made near Nichiren's death. I felt a lot better chanting to that and felt a stronger connection to it.
I still chant every day and do gongyo. While I don't believe everything Nichiren says, I do like the practice itself. I'm still trying to find NShu and independents I can chant with. I'm still going to share NMRK and study the Lotus Sutra. Still looking for people in Chicago to meet with though unfortunately, the NShu temple in Chicago has no one to run it.
I don't dare to officially quit yet but at least I got some of it out of my system.
Just wanted to say thanks for all the honest stories in this thread with people's experiences. I feel much better knowing I'm not alone.
I also want to mention these are only some of the instances I've mentioned. There have been several more.