Saturday, November 17, 2012


Troy: "Let me ask your a question. People have been clowning me about this jacket since I got here. If I take it off to make them happy, that just makes me weak, right?"
Jeff: "Listen, it doesn't matter. You lose the jacket to please them, you keep it to piss them off--either way, it's for them. That's what's weak."
Troy: "Whoa... You just wrinkled my brain, man."
--excerpt from "Community"

When I moved to Utah some 10 years ago, everyone I knew here was Mormon. A large part of this was due to me attending BYU (a Mormon university), where practically everyone is Mormon. Even the handful of non-Mormon students at BYU have to attend certain religious classes where they mostly learn about Mormonism and many become members. This is not surprising, though, since it seems unlikely that anyone not at least mildly interested in joining the Church would attend BYU.

As I gradually stopped going to church, I found that there are quite a few non- and ex-Mormons in Utah--even in Provo (where BYU is located). Sadly, many of them are disgruntled, disaffected and alienated the closer you get to BYU.

I have even noticed a trend among them that they will often go to great lengths to wear their non-Mormon-ness on their shoulder and intentionally do things just because a Mormon would not do it. Things like drinking alcohol and coffee, smoking cigarettes, using illicit drugs, getting tattoos, piercings and "unique" haircuts, growing facial hair, talking like a sailor and sexual promiscuity are sure-fire ways to make people doubt you are a Mormon.

While I don't really have a problem with people doing these things on moral grounds (as many religious people would argue), I see no reason to engage in such activities just to prove to passersby that I don't pay tithing or wear funny underwear.

Unlike many people around me who have also left Mormonism, I do not feel compelled in the least to change my lifestyle. In fact, I haven't used religion as a reason to not drink or smoke since I graduated from high school. There are much more convincing arguments against these sorts of activities which have nothing to do with religion or morality--like, say, health.

Because of the fact that in many ways I still live the "Mormon lifestyle", people often think I am Mormon. I don't really have a problem with this confusion, although, some people seem to think I should. Being associated with Mormons, even accidentally, is insulting to some people. Personally, I see it as an opportunity to challenge social norms and show that religion has nothing to do with being healthy, clean, sober and the sort of person you wouldn't mind bringing home to your parents.

For me, one of the best aspects of being an atheist is the ability to make decisions on my own, rather than taking the word of authority figures with self-appointed credentials. I believe people should live their lives the best way they know how, however bland and typical and ordinary it may be. If you find yourself doing things just to prove that you are not religious or part of a particular group, you are allowing other people to determine how you live your life. Make your own decisions--you will be much happier this way.

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