Thursday, April 20, 2017

MY CAUTIONARY TALE

[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

ANGRY ANGRY ATHEISTS

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.

http://skepticsquaredpodcast.blogspot.com/2016/12/e41-angry-angry-atheists.html

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

MITTENS JR

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.

http://skepticsquaredpodcast.blogspot.com/2016/10/e40-mittens-jr.html

Monday, October 24, 2016

TERMS AND CONDITIONS MAY APPLY

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

Monday, August 29, 2016

CRAZY GOD SANDWICH

Matt and Corinne discuss an anti-gay bakery's "gift" to LGBT groups in Oregon, a mass resignation among Norwegian Catholics, a Pew Research survey on why people leave religion, Burkini's in France, crazy people killing for god, self-medicating depression with the Bible, and Carl's Jr. offending Mormons with soft-core commercials.

http://skepticsquaredpodcast.blogspot.com/2016/08/e38-crazy-god-sandwich.html

Monday, August 15, 2016

MORMON RUMSPRINGA

Matt and Corinne share their recent experience at both a Mormon Mass Resignation and a missionary-led tour of a Mormon historical site. They also discuss a Mormon trolling Penthouse, a prophecy about church growth in Russia, expectations for returned missionaries, Mormons getting married young, and a faithful Mormon's perspective on apostates. 

http://skepticsquaredpodcast.blogspot.com/2016/08/e37-mormon-rumspringa.html