Friday, February 9, 2018


When my devout Mormon mother finally confronted me on my disbelief it led to a 3 hour conversation, through most of which she was inconsolable. At the end of the conversation she invited me to attend church with her the next morning. I politely declined.

In a second 3 hour conversation, my mother told me that because I had left the church, she had failed me as a mother.

Some time later, my eight year old niece was to be baptized into the Mormon church. My older sister invited me to the baptism, which I attended. During part of the ceremony, a group of close family and friends gathered around my niece to lay their hands on her head and give her a blessing. Although I was not invited to participate in this blessing for understandable reasons, my mother whispered to me with a motherly twinkle in her eye, "That could be you."

Later that same day, my older sister hosted a luncheon with family and friends. While in line to make a sandwich, a long time family friend confronted my younger sister about her leaving the church. I stood quietly as my sister simply and honestly explained her reasons without drawing too much attention to herself. Flabbergasted, the family friend turned to me and said, "Well, you still go to church, don't you?" I said, "No," and did not elaborate. She replied, "It's okay. We still love you."

Around the following Christmas, my mother got a Nook. She had a hard time setting it up, and asked me to help her. Per her request, the first book I put on the device was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which is about as faith affirming as a book can be without being actual scripture. The second book was the entire Mormon canon.

When my wife and I started dating, her family was concerned that I was not an active believing Mormon. Her father even wrote her an email citing, among other things, my disbelief as a disqualifying attribute for someone looking to date his little girl, for whom he only wants the best.

A couple of years later another niece of mine was to be baptized. This time I declined the invitation, citing my own bachelor party as the reason, which none of my family attended (to be fair, it wasn't much of a party, possibly due to lack of attendance).

At my wedding, while my wife and I were busy posing for pictures next to a cabin in the middle of a lush vineyard on a sunny July morning, my father volunteered himself to offer a prayer over the reception food. I suspect this was his passive aggressive way of shoehorning some religion into our otherwise completely secular outdoor ceremony. Although, I never bothered to ask him directly. (I realize this one sounds fairly innocuous, so let me put it in a different context. Suppose a Christian attended a Jewish Passover celebration, and decided to interrupt the festivities with a prayer to Jesus. It would seem to be in poor taste, no?)

In an attempt to get us to use a Mormon Bishop as our wedding officiant, who would have been compelled by protocol to use his platform as an opportunity to chastise us for not having a real wedding in a Mormon Temple, my in-laws refused to pay the non-denominational minister we used for our secular ceremony (It was totally worth the $150 to not be talked down to at my own wedding).

I have only attended two (that's right, two!) of my seven siblings' wedding ceremonies due to Mormon prohibitions on non-card-carrying Mormons entering their temples.

When the U.S. supreme court legalized gay marriage in 2015, I posted a picture of a notoriously anti-gay Mormon leader with a rainbow overlay on my Facebook wall as a joke. A couple days later, the church leader died, and my post exploded with comments. My father in-law wrote a rather long private email to me defending the church leader, and chastising me for being so insensitive. I wrote a thoughtful response back defending my post, and inviting my father in-law in a discussion about the issue. I never received a response. Later, he admitted to my wife that he didn't even bother to read what I wrote.

About a year ago, while attending a Sunday dinner with my in-laws, without any notice my father in-law decided to turn the TV to a live Mormon holiday broadcast. They were surprised when my wife announced about five minutes into the broadcast that we were leaving.

A few weeks later, my wife and I helped her family with some home renovations. Her mother invited us to stay for dinner, to which she had also invited the sister missionaries.

When my father died last year, part of the funeral preparations involved dressing my father's body in his Mormon Temple clothes, which are normally kept out of view of anyone who does not have a current Temple Recommend, even otherwise active believing Mormons. Traditionally, the dressing occurs the day before the viewing by family or close Mormon friends. I was told about the dressing, but was not invited to participate due to my disbelief. My sister in-law even joked about how distraught some family members would be if I just showed up to help. At the viewing, my older brother thought it unjust and unnecessary for my younger sister and I to have been excluded from the dressing, and he invited us to put the finishing touches on my father before we closed the casket.

Over the holidays, my wife asked her mother if she could borrow some soda for a drink her younger sister had told her to try. Her mother responded, "Is it for alcohol? If it is, I don't think I can give it to you. I don't want to be a part of that."

The next time we were at the in-law's home they invited us to attend a fireside (a special church service at night), in which my wife's teenage brother would be speaking. My wife asked if I was interested in attending. I flatly said, "No." My mother in-law was visibly disappointed.

I have tried to maintain healthy boundaries with believing family and friends, while ensuring mutual respect, at times less successfully, I admit. But it seems to be one sided. Imagine if my in-laws had asked us for a loaf of bread, and I responded, "Will it be used for the sacrament? If so, I don't want to give it to you, because I don't want to be a part of that." Imagine if we had invited my in-laws to dinner, to which we had also invited friends who were very vocal about leaving the church, and afterwards we decided to watch the most recent episode of the Atheist Experience.

Imagine I had told my mother that I did not want to put religious books on her Nook because I didn't support what they said, and I didn't want to enable her delusion. Imagine someone told me they had recently started going to church and I responded, "It's okay. I love you anyway." Imagine if a child of mine joined a church, any church, and I told them that because they believe in unsubstantiated nonsense I have failed them as a parent. Imagine I had responded to my mother after she tried to guilt trip me back into church activity at my niece's baptism, "Ya know, Mom, because you're a woman in the the church, that can never be you."

Imagine I had told my believing Mormon friends and family that they were not invited to my wedding because they did not believe the same thing as me. Imagine I stood up at a Mormon wedding reception (because I would not be allowed to attend the wedding ceremony) and started explaining how the Book of Mormon is historically and scientifically anachronistic. Imagine I told my believing family they could not dress my body at my funeral because they believe in fairy tales.

All things considered, I feel like I have been pretty goddamn cordial.


Christopher Hitchens addressing similar nonsense:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


The other day I was asked to help move some furniture at work. No big deal. While moving the furniture, one of the administrators of the company (with whom I have only spoken two or three times in the nine months I have worked under him) asked me to assist him with a couch in a separate room. Alone, he asked me how my family has been doing lately. Assuming he was just making small talk, I said, "We're doing alright." His next question, however, was about as far away from small talk as humanly possible. He asked, "So, how did your dad die?"

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "What an insensitive thing to just ask someone you barely know." What you need to keep in mind, however, is that the only reason you are thinking this is because you are probably a fairly normal person with a healthy, respectful view of interpersonal boundaries. The kind of boundaries which allow you to be comfortable with letting sleeping dogs lie, or at the very least, not stirring the pot unnecessarily. This, among other things, is precisely why you will never fully understand Mormons. 

You see, Mormons have a knack for intrusion. They literally think they are doing you a favor by prying into your life. Sure, you've seen the young men (and women?) in shirts and ties going around your neighborhood, knocking on doors so they can tell you that your whole worldview is false and they are there to set you straight with all their 18 years of experience and intensive study into Mormonism exclusively. But their propensity for intrusion reaches far beyond that most arrogant of propositions.

They don't think twice about asking someone about a dark time in their life, or a personal tragedy, because, and this is important, they view every bad thing in life as a tribute to god's plan for you. When they ask you about your recently deceased loved one, what they really mean is to invite you to express your gratitude to god for allowing you to taste the bitter so you can appreciate the sweet. They fully expect you to say, "He's in a better place," "God needed another angel," and "I take comfort in the fact that we will be joined together again in heaven (as long as I don't masturbate too much)." Really, this is for your own good, you see, as such spiritual check ups can keep someone from asking too many questions. 

This mentality spills over into their daily lives as well. Mormons have what they call Home Teachers and Visiting Teachers, which are men and women who meet with other members of the same congregation to give a prepared spiritual lesson and help them with things in their personal lives as needed. Sounds good on the surface, like many aspects of Mormonism. But the primary purpose of these teachers is, again, to perform another spiritual check up. To Mormons, the "Straight and Narrow" is more literal than metaphorical.

They also have a Fast and Testimony Meeting once a month prior to which they refrain from eating for 24 hours and gather together to share their personal testimonies about the church, which inevitably turns into a 200 person group therapy session. The purpose of these meetings is to volunteer yourself to a public self check in. It's as mind-numbing as it sounds. Seriously, even as a believer, I hated Fast and Testimony Meeting with the fury of a thousand suppressed libidos.

They also meet with their local church leaders with some regularity to pronounce themselves worthy and relatively sin-free (again, as long as they don't masturbate too much), thus allowing themselves entrance into their super secret multi-million dollar mini-mansions, which is where the most important religious rituals are performed, without which, Mormons believe, one cannot enter into the highest echelons of heaven (which raises the question of whether or not it is moral for Mormons to withhold these rituals from others on the basis of paying membership fees in full, or for drinking coffee, or for any other reason, really). These interviews, much like an audit in the Church of Scientology, can be the most intrusive of all. The Bishop or Stake President will ask personal questions, not just about difficult situations you might be going through, but also about your sex life, your diet (as it pertains to Mormon prohibitions), and how much do you super duper love Joseph Smith and his snowballing church.

And in all of these self-exposing situations which allow others to pry into your life, Mormons are fully expected to bolster their collective faith in the church, without question and without apology.

In other words, Mormons don't think twice about asking another person, even one they don't know very well, about a difficult situation they might be going through. They don't understand that some people don't share their lack of personal boundaries. And they especially don't understand that not every normal looking person in Utah without piercings or tattoos or the perpetual smell of cigarette smoke is Mormon. 

I really need to move out of Utah...

Thursday, April 20, 2017


[This post may be Not Safe For Work]

During my transition out of Mormonism I always knew that if I ever decided to vocalize my opposition to the church some of my believing friends and family would be upset by it. I suspected that some might even sever ties with me entirely. I wasn't wrong. What I didn't expect, however, was for people who agree with my position, that the Mormon church is nonsense and is in many ways harmful, would also sever ties with me. This is that kind of story.

Before I get into the specifics of my falling out with "John," I should give some background into our relationship. In 2008, about a year after I graduated from Mormon-run Brigham Young University, I stop going to church. I don't tell anyone. I simply move to an area where no one knows me and slip into obscurity.

A year later, a friend I knew at BYU asks me to join his band. Excited, I audition and get the part. After a few practice sessions I decide I should probably let this friend know that I haven't been to church for over a year and probably will not go back. As I prepare myself mentally for this conversation--a dreaded moment for many new atheists--my friend pulls me aside and tells me how much he appreciates me joining the band. He adds that he was nervous because no one else in the band is active in the church and now he and I can support each other. Really, he is beaming. I don't have the heart to tell him the truth. So, I lie.

The lie is easy at first. After all, I had been going through the motions for years. What harm could it do to lie a little longer if it helps a friend?

A few months go by and John joins the band. John had left Mormonism several years prior and is a full fledged ex-Mormon. He parties hard with no regrets. I envy his open disbelief, and although I have no real interest in alcohol or pot, I also envy John's free-spirited lifestyle. Like my other friend, John has no idea I am a closeted atheist.

Sure, there are many times I could come clean, but for the first year or so in the band, whenever someone confronts me on Mormonism, or why I am in a "party band" if I don't drink, other members of the band defend me: "Oh, Matt? Ya, he's Mormon. He doesn't drink." And I just sit there, letting others lie for me. This, of course, makes lying easier.

Eventually, my Mormon friend leaves the band. After a period of intermittent participation, John also leaves, but on poor terms, severing ties with everyone in the group. The details aren't necessary to this story, but I will say I understand why John felt the need to do this, and I still support his decision to cut me off at this time. I would have done the same.

With my Mormon friend out of the band, I am able to test the waters a little bit. I make a few subtle comments critical of Mormonism here and there. No one seems to really notice at first, but over time people pick up on my disbelief, and ever-so gradually, I open up to my band-mates.

In 2012 my Mormon friend joins us for a reunion show. During rehearsal, one of the other band members casually mentions that I no longer believe in Mormonism. My friend's jaw drops to the floor. Later, we talk it out. He seems to be more surprised than anything. He saw me as Matt, the super chill Mormon so comfortable and firm in his beliefs that he can be a part of a hard-hitting party band for years and never slip up and go off the deep end. In truth, I was just never that interested in drinking and partying. I enjoyed the music.

Around this time, John reaches out to me on Facebook and we are on surprisingly good terms.

In 2015 I post a picture on Facebook openly satirizing a leader of the Mormon church and my feed explodes. After weeks of damage control, I start a private Facebook group to offer--and receive--support from other people in similar positions. I invite John to this group. In return, John invites me to a similar private group of his own.

At first, John is thrilled to find out that I have left the church. He participates in the group almost as much I do, posting memes eviscerating religion, such as the following:

In 2016, I attend a get-together with some old friends from BYU and I discover that a guy I used to know well is currently struggling with a mixed-faith marriage. I add him to our private support group and I post the following on my Facebook page:

To which, John responds:

I have become tired of keeping quiet. I have become tired of friends and family not knowing where I stand with the church. I have become pent up rage, destroyer of worldviews. I start posting articles and satirical memes multiple times a day. Despite my rage induced posting, I never really change my purpose in being outspoken: to reach those who are trapped going through the motions of belief, as I did for so many years.

On 8/9/16 I post a link in our support group to an upcoming mass resignation from the Mormon church at a local park, and John responds:

On 8/29/16, seemingly on the level, John posts the following:

Later that same day I post a follow up to the mass resignation. John responds:

John leaves the group. I notice that we are no longer Facebook friends. Concerned, I reach out to him and he lashes out:

After my last comment, I send John a friend request, which he ignores, makes his final comments and disables his Facebook profile. A few weeks later he reactivates his profile, but he has blocked me, removed me from his private group, and I am unable to message him.

I don't know where I went wrong. I don't how fix it. I am still unsure why he is so upset with me. It seems to have come from out of left field.

I want to point out his own hypocrisy in spending years pressuring me to abandon my beliefs and principles, to join him in drinking and smoking. I want to know if he really thinks my Facebook posts are on the same level as him repeatedly telling me to my face that my beliefs are stupid. I want him to explain to me, if he can, how sitting quietly in the corner after his comments, watching him party while I stay in the closet of atheism for the sake of a friend, makes me "holier than thou." I want to know how he can post two memes making fun of religion in my private support group--in which he has been an active participant for a year--and then, hours later, piss on my group and on me personally for posting about an event meant to build solidarity.

I don't know if I will ever get the chance to throw it all in his face.

I don't know if I really want to.

Seriously, what good would come from it?

On a positive note, after some cooling off, I posted the following in the support group and received some wonderful responses:

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Matt and Corinne are joined by special guest Aaron Fox as they discuss religion in government, changing hearts and minds on Facebook, the app "Atheos" and raising children in a secular home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Matt and Corinne discuss presidential candidate Evan McMullin (who?), a peaceful protest against the women's World Championship in chess, bigots shaking hands with karma, Christians sending children straight to heaven, the Mormon church attempting to score points with gays, and Donald Trump vs Lucille Bluth.

Monday, October 24, 2016


The following video of Mormon Apostle Elder D. Todd Christofferson (there's a lofty self-made title for you) was shared on my Facebook feed:

It's great that Mormon church leaders are trying to use more inclusive language, as they do in this video. I have a few issues, though...

First, actions speak louder than words. The church talks a good game, but it doesn't have the best track record among gays, blacks and women. 

Second, Mr. Christofferson mentions that a segment of the population that leaves the church does so because they don't feel accepted or welcome in the church. I am sure such people do exist, but in my experience, feelings of alienation come as a result of deeper issues and doubts--not because Mormons aren't "friendly" enough. John Dehlin has studied this and his work shows that "being offended" or "not having a friend" in church are among the least common reasons people leave Mormonism. 

Third, the idea that Mormons welcome diversity is tenuous and conditional. What they really mean is that they welcome all to adopt their culture and religion. This is demonstrated by their massive missionary efforts, through which they send tens of thousands of young adults (most of whom are straight out of high school) with the sole purpose of convincing everyone on earth that their world view is incomplete and flawed and that Mormonism is infinitely better. A large part of culture is derived from the predominant religions in the region. Which means that even though some people who have joined Mormonism have been able to assimilate some aspects of their culture (i.e. Polynesians), the roots of their culture of origin must be gutted and abandoned before they can truly accept Mormonism ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me"). 

When I hear Mormon leaders talk about diversity, what I really hear is a fleeting hope that enough non-white people will join the church so that they can be taken seriously as a major world religion. An ambitious task for a religion boasting less than 1% of the global population.

Monday, September 26, 2016