This is some what of a continuation of my story of leaving the Mormon Church.
There has been a lot of talk in the media about Mormonism lately. Partly because of various politicians and their increasingly public views on the matter. But also because of sites like this which have been spreading around social media like an empty collection plate--or tithing envelope! (By the way, to my knowledge, this site is run by an active member of the Mormon Church). One of the more interesting things on this site is a new survey which asked people why they left the Mormon Church (see left).
Now, before I get in to my own reasons, I would like to point out that when I was growing up church leaders (and family members) said time and time again that the main reasons why someone would leave the Church is because they were offended by someone or because they couldn't give up their favorite "sin." Since these reasons are at the very bottom of the list, they are not only not my reasons (every time you use a double negative, god kills a kitten...), but they apparently aren't anyone else's reasons either. This misconception seems to be one of the reasons this survey and site were undertaken.
For me, several of these could describe why I left. I guess, if I were to choose a primary reason I would go with "re-evaluating what it means to know," with "losing faith in god" as a close second. I don't get hung up quite so much on opposing views of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon or Church history, as these things are largely a matter of opinion and both sides seem to have their share of covering up and spin. To those who accuse the Mormon Church of being a cult I would say: the beginnings of any religion will appear cult-ish--especially to outsiders. So, really, its a non-argument.
I do take issue with a few things in the Book of Mormon, like anachronisms (things being out of place, i.e. horses in America, steel, compasses, conflicting geography, etc.); as well as the claim that the Book of Mormon was originally said to be a record of the Native Americans, and the fact that this claim has been so thoroughly debunked through genetic research that it was (quietly) removed from the introduction of the Book of Mormon just a few years ago (I still have my 1981 edition to verify the change; originally, the passage read "[the Lamanites] are the prinicpal ancestors of the American Indians" but now reads "[the Lamanites] are among the ancestors of the American Indians" which is much softer language, but still not supported by any actual science). But these things are not necessarily nails in the coffin as outlined in this video (again, made by an active Mormon):
Getting back to my reasons for leaving the church, I said that I "re-evaluated what it means to know." In other words, "why is faith a virtue?" The more I have thought about this, the less convinced I am that gut feelings are a reliable source of knowledge. They may have a place when all other options are exhausted (similar to the "god of the gaps" argument, or taking a multiple choice test), but even then it is no better than an educated guess (and that's being more generous than some would put it).
And then to say that your faith gives you "knowledge" (which you can hear in any "fast and testimony" meeting of the Church) is just mind-boggling to me. Faith is not knowledge. It is the opposite of knowledge. It is an assertion of beliefs that you have no evidence for. If you had evidence then you wouldn't call it faith. I'm sorry, but faith seems to be little more than socially acceptable credulity.
There is a path to knowledge which includes logic, reason and evidence. If you don't have those things then you can not assert that something is true (even with those things, it is still up for debate--this is called peer-reviewed science). If you don't have those things then all you can do is say you don't know; and if you say you don't know if there is a god, then guess what--YOU'RE AN ATHEIST by definition.
One of my new favorite things to do is watch a public access show called "The Atheist Experience" based out of Austin, Texas (in the heart of Bible country, I might add). It is a great show for believers and non-believers alike, where a panel discusses religion and answers callers' questions from an atheistic perspective. This is probably the best thing to come from Texas since the oil tycoon (probably). Here is a clip where they discuss some of the things I mentioned concerning knowledge versus belief. The ending is especially telling... ;P
OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I do not hold any ill-will toward any one who chooses to stay in the Mormon Church. If faith is enough for you, then more power to you. For me, it is not. As some would say, "I don't hate you--I just think you're wrong."