When I realized -- or, finally admitted to myself -- that Mormonism isn't true, all of religion fell apart for me. And it's really hard for me to understand when people finally leave the LDS church and then go join some other church. What a waste. Truthfully, I'd rather hang out with still-Mormon peeps than with people who've left Mormonism and joined some other church. I almost feel like they're hopeless. Although, maybe for some, joining another religion is part of their path to the truth. Hey, that's exactly what we told ourselves about people in other churches on my mission!
It was a realization that the Spirit was a product of my own neural processes. That was the absolute last supernatural thing I was hanging onto that I had no explanation for, which allowed me to remain in my calling in the bishopric and say I still believed in God. I feverishly searched for an explanation for what it was. Since I knew everything else to be false by that point it didn't really make sense that it was actually a supernatural feeling, but in the classic God of the Gaps scenario, I didn't want to let it go until I could explain it.
"Religion Explained", by Pascal Boyer, a leading cognitive anthropologist, and the writings of Bob McCue helped me figure it all out. Now I have no doubts about my atheism, and I am happy!
The moment I realized I could never again be a theist was when I read enough to see that way more than enough scientific evidence had been found to show beyond any reasonable doubt that we were not created, but came about through Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection.
The moment that gave me the courage to read about evolution, was when I realized that none of my prayers had ever been answered, the "Holy Ghost" had never inspired me, and I could not see where any of my leaders had ever had inspiration on my behalf. I realized that the "Fruits" of Mormonism in my life were mostly negative.
The moments that let me to that (by their fruits ye shall know them) moment were many, but the final straw was when the general authorities sent me a letter telling me that my ex-wife had been granted a temple divorce from me, and it contained nothing to help me in that traumatic hour.
It all started when I learned I could say 'no' to them.
A bishopric member asked me to prepare a talk for the following Sunday, something that always gave me horrible anxiety, but was, nevertheless, a requirement (in the church "will you..." is code for "you will..."). On this Sunday, as I was instructed to prepare a talk for the following week, a new idea came to my mind- the idea that I could say 'no'.
And I did.
There was an immediate clash of emotion within me. The requisite guilt associated with rejecting the will of the lord clashed with the exhilaration of being free to decide for myself. It was like a huge weight was taken off my shoulders. It gave me a new perspective, and in the coming weeks I re-evaluated my place in the church and as a religious person in general. I learned that I could take charge of my own life without feeling the need to validate my decisions with some imaginary, all knowing friend. I realized I could be happy with myself and that I didn't need to suffer all of the guilt I'd beaten myself up with over my personal worthiness and my inability to live a sinless life.
It took me a while to consider myself to be an atheist. It wasn't until I read 'God is Not Great' by Christopher Hitchins, a great book that I recommend to everyone, and it helped me to see past the demonization of atheism that had kept me from adopting that title. Now, as I take those first few steps into a big, new world, learning to love myself as I am, to be a moral person because I choose to be, and not because it's what a mythological creature jealously demands of me; to be an example of a person who can lead a complete and happy life without leaning on an imaginary friend for a crutch. I'm excited at the prospect that there is life after the fraud that is Mormonism! Standing now on the outside looking in, I'm amazed and baffled and appalled that I allowed my devotion to that cause to rob me of so much life and joy for so many years, and I lament the experiences I missed because of it.
While I'm putting off the scandal that will be caused by using the word 'atheist' in front of my still-very-Mormon family, I'm able, so far, to tell them I'm just not religious. They don't think of me as an atheist. Some day, though, when the time is right, I'll tell them of the mighty wrestle I had before god, the change of heart that brought true peace and joy to my heart, and the source of my happiness and my rebirth as a new man. I'll tell them I'm an atheist. I'll tell them I realized that imaginary friends are for children and psyche patients, that religion is a stage in our species' adolescence that will eventually be outgrown and left to the history books, where the 20-20 vision on hindsight will reveal it for the foolishness that it is...
runRobrun, I like your story. I'm waiting 'till I get a few $s ahead to buy God is Not Great. I've read The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. I'm in the process of reading 2 more of his, and have several books by other people on my list to buy.
I put-off telling my very mormon family that I was Atheist until my dad died, so as to not cause him more pain, but then I did it. Even though my mom is still alive, and I didn't want to cause her pain either, I told them because I couldn't stand the constant talk about something I knew to be false and damaging, and I hated being dishonest in agreeing with them by being silent. Also, my sister was constantly bugging me about coming to visit, but would talk about mormonism a lot when I did. My mom once in a while would say "Come back to church, you know you should." Not often, but combined with everything else, my stress was getting way too harmful to me.
I guess I'm a coward, but instead of telling them in person, I sent them a 10 page letter, explaining everything. I knew if I told them in person, there would be crying, arguments and "bearing of testimonies". My stress level just wasn't up to it.
I haven't seen all the repercussions from it yet, but so far, my stress has gone down a lot because of doing it.
One of my two sisters sent me two e-mails repeating the typical mormon-indoctrinated points that I've heard a thousand times, thinking it would affect me. I answered all her points with logic, reason, and evidence, but, as I expected, she didn't appear to be impressed with any of my responses. However, I'm sure they will be in the back of her mind, and someday, when something bothers her about the church, they will surface, and help her along the way to seeing the truth. The same for the rest of my family.
My other sister also replied via e-mail, but didn't say much about the church. One of my three brothers hasn't yet talked to me about it, although he has come to visit me briefly, and talked on the phone a couple of times. He was always the one I liked best because he liked to talk about science. Not as much as I do, but quite a bit. He's more reasonable and logical than the others, and also doesn't bug me about religion. When I was questioning mormonism, I would often ask him his opinion. He wouldn't preach or tell me what to do, but just talk about it, saying what he had heard some people say on the topic. I think he realizes that's a lot more productive than preaching.
My other brother actually quit mormonism many years ago, but it sounds like he still believes in a god and a lot of the bible, but I think he's got a fair chance of becoming an Atheist before he dies.
My third brother killed himself many years ago, and I blame the mormon church, at least partially. He was like me in a lot of ways. He couldn't stand himself for his imperfections, and he couldn't stand others for their imperfections. I'm slowly getting over those things since I left the church.
I have now been writing for over an hour. Let's see if I can put it in a summary for this post:
Why I left and will never go back:
Mormonism and its members suppressed me as an individual, discouraged the development of my intellect, sought to chain me to the traditional housewife role, fed my brain stories and philosophical stuctures which could not stand up to reason, seeks to deny simple human rights to the GLBT community, supports women remaining with abusive men, often turns a blind eye to the abuse of women, protects and supports misogynist ideals, gave my charitable money to programs that violate the rights of minors (Clear Creek), is in general oppressive, lacking of life and love for all (in-spite of what they say). When I realized that the feeling I got which I had been told was the spirit was not a feeling monopolized by the LDS church after reading other spiritual materials I realized at that moment that last shred which had held me to them had been a lie.
Why I can't believe in all that other stuff:
I got into new-agey stuff with my ex-husband (someone raised mormon like me) stuff for a while, even was a level two certified reiki practitioner and training massage therapist. My Mormon husband at the time was the same thing and would claim I was projecting angry-energy at him and use that for his excuse for beating me. Sure I was angry at him, he was beating me, forcing sex on me when I didn't want it and keeping me up late arguing with me so I didn't get any rest. Also, when I finally decided that Mormonism was crap and saw all the problems that it caused, I looked around at the other religions and realized they had a lot of the same beliefs and gender-systems as the Mormons which caused a lot of the same problems.
Also my mother and my step dad are crazy - and for a while seemed like they were creating their own religion. My step dad believes that my baby-half brother is going to be a prophet - he has told me this in person. My mother seemed to have supported this. (They claimed to be born-again christian at the time.) When I lived with them after I left my ex, he and my mother kept trying to persuade my youngest sister to move back in with them from my dad's place. They wanted us to move to the Arizona desert to escape the coming apocalypse when the time came. Luckily, they were not financially able to do this and have since converted to Messianic Judaism which my older brother introduced them to. This fits with my step-father's belief (obsession) that he and my mother (and her children) are really descendants of Sephardic Jews and allows him to hang onto his belief in Jesus. His conversion hasn't stopped him from being hateful or predjudiced against organizations and movements such as the women's movement, and the GLBT rights movement which he has forever labeled as evil and projects of Satan.
Watching how my step-father has used religion to justify his hate of others really made me wary of christian, or psudo-christian ideologies, and religion in general.
I am the most tolerant of Buddhism, even if I don't want to join it.