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:
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: