Tuesday, September 29, 2015


"Religion provides the solace for the turmoil that it creates."
--Byron Danelius

A few weeks ago I had an unexpected conversation with a Mormon coworker about Mormonism. By piecing together things which I had said over the few days prior, she suspected that I was no longer Mormon. So, in a characteristic boldness, she asked if I was LDS. This led to an extensive conversation about Mormon culture--in particular, the all-too-common alienation of non-Mormons--and doubts, and research, and family pressures to believe and go on a mission. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

One of the reasons I hesitate to engage in these conversations is because many people do not take them very well. My disbelief in unsubstantiated faith claims has changed the nature of my relationships with several family members and friends. Most of the people around me trumpet their beliefs without a second thought. Mormons breed a culture of conformity which causes those who question or doubt to wonder if something is wrong with them.

After all, when everyone you know tells you that praying to god about the veracity of the Book of Mormon--the keystone of Mormonism, upon which the religion rises or falls--should bring about a specific feeling in your gut, what does it mean when that does not happen? Furthermore, what does it mean when that does not happen for the better part of a decade? The church will say "try again, and keep trying until it happens." This faux-scientific test seems to have only one acceptable outcome, according to the church. The outcome which favors their purse.

Because of these pressures to experience the same warm fuzzies as everyone else, Mormons feel as if these experiences, and by extension Mormonism generally, are inexorably tied to their identity. Their beliefs define them. This results in a knee-jerk defensiveness when an attack on Mormonism occurs. The attack is not just against an idea or an organization, but against the person. They often have difficulty differentiating between their beliefs and themselves.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when my coworker so candidly discussed difficult topics with me. She is a believer. I have no reason to assume that our conversation has given her cause to doubt. More than anything, she genuinely wanted to understand my experience. How refreshing.

I recently reconnected with an old friend through Reddit. We grew up in the same Mormon congregation and over the years have independently drifted way from the church. His faith crisis is relatively new, despite accumulating doubts for several years, and is still considered active in the church. Through our conversations, I have become aware of other mutual acquaintances who have either left the church, or who are beginning their own faith crisis. I have also become aware that despite my avoidance of outing myself as a non-believer, many people have noticed my disaffection with religion.

Naturally, this has caused me to think ("A most dangerous pastime." "I know."). Perhaps there are more people in my situation than I had supposed. Perhaps there are those who would benefit from a genuine conversation with someone who has gone through a similar experience. I recall feeling lonely when I first acknowledged my doubts. One of the first and most noticeable things about leaving a religion is the lack of a social group. This is why so many people who leave Mormonism have flocked to ex-Mormon support groups and meet-ups.

Personally, I haven't done much with the ex-Mormon community. I haven't felt a particularly strong need for it, although, at times I have thought about it. But my recent discussions with my coworker and my old friend have wet my appetite for similar discussions. I guess what I am getting at is that it may be time for me to be more vocal about my views on religion.

Then again, that sounds like a whole thing, and I'm not really into doing things and stuff. 

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