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Why do many ex-Mormons leave Christianity altogether?

April 20, 2010

This is the question that Tim asks at LDS & Evangelical Conversations. As an Evangelical Christian, Tim does probably have the prerogative to find out why so many ex-Mormons don’t seem to consider (or don’t seem to pick) some other form of Christianity (perhaps an Evangelical flavor) on their way out.

And to be sure, Tim has written that he thinks some evangelical tactics may be responsible. But now he wants more responses: why does a loss of faith in Mormonism lead to a loss of faith in Jesus?

I had written some comments.

1a. I think it’s because many of the perceived arguments against Mormonism apply against Christianity. I mean, this is something I’ve *cringed* at when Mormons have used it against ex-mormons. “So, you don’t believe in x historically doubtful event in the Book of Mormon but you *do* believe in y historically doubtful event in the Bible? How dare you?!” (I think Seth has stopped doing this, lol) And, to an extent, if historical doubtfulness is the issue, people can generally see that there’s a world of difference between the two, I suppose.

That’s my first thought. Check after the break (or just the link to my comment) for more

1b. Or…something like this…when doubting Mormonism, we might doubt that the church has something unique to provide us that we feel we really need (but were pressured and raised to believe that we need). This carries on to Christianity in many ways. One thing I just DO NOT GET is the “need” to be “saved.” It seems like Christian groups are assigning their only problem (e.g., hell) and then are advertising a solution for it (e.g., Christianity/relationship with Christ). Yet, in disaffecting from the church, what I realized was, I…don’t need that stuff.

2. Next, even though I’ve been glad for your articles like “We Push Them Out…into what?” I don’t think many people read them or implement them. non-LDS Christians are still notoriously unappealing in their approach to Mormons, so when people disaffect from the church, then EVEN IF WE REALIZE, “Hey, they were right on x, y, or z claim about the church,” the next thing that comes to mind is, “But GEEZ. I would never be like one of THEM.” I still frequently go up to bat FOR the church when I hear people saying things about it…

It doesn’t help that many Evangelicals feel that their attitude in evangelizing isn’t all that important (or rather, maybe they feel it is, but they have very different thoughts on what is effective.) So many people use a “tough love ministry” because “this is the truth” and “the truth may be hard to hear, but it can’t be sugarcoated.” OK, whatever. But to someone who does not believe that, all you are doing is alienating them. Many evangelicals seem fine with this too! “Well, I shared the truth with them and Jesus will work through them.”

3. Finally, LDS doctrine in many ways is what we are familiar with. So, even if we can’t buy it any longer, other Christian doctrines don’t necessarily fill the gaps. Ugh, I don’t want to get into a discussion: “Aha! So you guys were following “another Jesus” and this is proof” (protip: that’s the wrong thing to do)…but at some level, you have to realize that Mormonism and…say…Calvinism…are arch rival philosophies when you look at what each places on the idea of “free will.” In many other ways, various traditional Christian ideas seem unpolished or jagged in comparison to what Mormons grew up believing.

4. …Also, it’s kinda tacky to go back dating right after the hugest breakup in your life. I know some people would say, “But you need to get back on the scene EVENTUALLY,” but…this was a REALLY REALLY REALLY big breakup. And the settlement was ugly.

So, those are my thoughts. Anyone else have any? I guess another good question would be to ask…what drew those who went to non-LDS Christianity after leaving Mormonism there? What things enticed them that do not entice many others?

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50 Comments
  1. I think the biggest factor is that atheism is growing faster than many religions, if the Pew surveys are anything to go by, athiesm or agnosticism and ‘I don’t care’ism together are growing faster than any other religion.

    So when you hit a crossroads at the end of your mormon faith, and look for a new belief system, statistically you are more likely to move towards atheism than anything else.

    I think if you go back to the 80’s, people were statistically more likely to choose another faith-based belief system when leaving mormonism.

    I’m going to share a link to your post at the reddit exmormon group, linked through my username.

    • Tara permalink

      Ex – Mormons do not loose their faith in Jesus Christ,they loose it in organized religions.They are all the same ,Damning anyone who doesn’t follow their man made rules they call teachings or the word of God.
      I speak from experience

      • Tara permalink

        By the way Mormon is Christian. the real name is (The church of “Jesus Christ” Of Latter Day Saints) Did u catch the Name Jesus Christ? …..which means Christian

  2. Thanks for another redditing.

    But I don’t know…

    it doesn’t seem that atheism and agnosticism are growing fasting. Rather, “spiritual, but not religious” or “unchurched, but still believing” grows fastest (and I have been wary of people who have [I believe] misinterpreted the data of Pew results to say that all ‘nonreligious’ or ‘unaffiliated’ people count toward the atheist/agnostic bucket.) That being said, atheism/agnosticism is growing.

    Nevertheless, what I am more put off by is your statistical argument. That more people are becoming atheist (and that more people were choosing some faith-based system in, say, the 80s) says nothing about *why* one way is true now or the other way was true then. Answer the question, “Why do many ex-Mormons leave Christianity/theism?” with “Because they are statistically more likely to do so” is an immensely unsatisfying answer. (Well…why are they statistically more likely to do so?)

  3. Goldarn permalink

    I left Mormonism and moved straight into atheism, and it’s pretty much due to reason 1. The arguments against Mormonism do apply to Christianity. Historical irrelevancies aside (and I believe you are overemphasizing this), both Mormonism and Christianity as a whole have noticed a problem and invented a solution. The real solution is for people to act well/moral/good, not to either (1) feel guilty and give money to a bunch of guys in SLC, or (2) feel “saved” because someone atoned for my sins in an unspecified way. While some Christians do seem to want to emphasize the differences between Mormonism and themselves, from out here, they don’t look all that different.

    If I can be blunt: I don’t feel the need to feel gratitude for an atonement for a sinful nature that God created in me to begin with. It’s all just imagination, and while I am open to other proof, that proof cannot start with “you must want to have faith.”

    In other words, when I applied my standards for disbelieving Mormonism to Christianity, Christianity was just as wanting.

    • samuel permalink

      depending on the reasons why someone leaves mormonism (doctinal/social/too many rules, etc) its not just that those reasons lend themselves to christianity as well, but that a)its not true, or b) it may be true, but they dont want to follow it.

      if its not true, then what part isnt true? if its just mormonism, then the individual will tend to remain “spiritual” but distant from organized religions. if they also conclude that “none of it” is true (ie no savior, no God) then they will be atheist.

      what i do not understand about atheists, or those that espouse the belief that “there IS no god”, who simultaneously state the need to “to be nice/ live a good moral life” is this: if there IS no god, and no heaven and no hell, then why not live for yourself and throw morals to the wind?! if you believe that morality is absolute (ie defined independent of your culture or background –right is the same for everyone, and whats wrong is wrong for everyone) then what ARE these morals? and who “defined” these morals? why is it bad to steal? to kill? to do whatever you need to in order to get ahead in life? generally, religion teaches us these morals and claims that they have been defined and given by a supreme being. if all religion is a false social convention, and there is no supreme being defining morality, then why follow these morals? why deifne your life as “satisfactory” as living a moral life?
      if you think morality is relative, then you ALREADY reject the idea of official morals that apply to everyone. whats wrong for one person might be right for someone else. in this case, i again ask: why would you not (with no fear of going to hell and no hope for heaven) choose to live in accordance to morals that restrict you and keep you from getting ahead in this life? survival of the fittest as it were?

      i propose that those individuals purporting to be atheist and yet define the “solution” and “ideal way of life” as being well/moral/good are, in fact, not atheist, but rather wish to reject religion and religious obligations, but remain superstitious and afraid of “what if IT IS true?”

      • This whole “why be moral” bent seems kinda shocking to me…do theists really believe that they are only moral because of god?

        The reason to be moral is because we live in a community with other people. No man is an island. As a result, things go a lot smoother if we treat people with dignity. It feels BETTER to treat others with respect and dignity. This is not something for which you need a belief in god. This is something empirical, something you can experience for yourself in your day-to-day interactions with people.

        I’d say that religious morals and most times objective morals are inconsistent with how life and society actually works out. It seems apparent that morals change with times and cultures, but that does NOT mean that we have NO conventions and rules on how to deal with other people or how we would like other people to deal with us.

        Basically, Samuel, the question is…is the only reason you are a good person because you think there is a supreme being defining morality? Is that really the case? Do you only act like a good person to escape hell and to try to get into heaven? This is really shocking and scary if true.

        Atheists would say that the reason to be moral is because there are consequences to our actions in *this* life, with people we live and deal with every day. To claim that morality is because of and for a god instead of because of and for people and other living beings on earth seems shockingly amoral and disconnected from reality. And it seems to lead to great injustices and great immorality — e.g., disrespecting people because they do not follow your view of god’s morality, or because they do not follow what you believe the proper religion is, etc.,

        I really can’t go through a history of all brands of secular ethics, but there are *several* theories, so I can’t stress enough that things aren’t monolithic, yet there are SEVERAL ways to explain morality and ethics without referring to arbitrary divine command. It seems rather unusual that so many people aren’t able to intuit such ethics and cannot imagine why people might be ethical without a god who seems to be absent for many.

        I think that your conclusion is premature. I think it is incredibly disappointing that you continue to think that people are moral only because of fear of some kind of hell, instead of being moral because we deal with people every day and morality are rules of every day engagement that help things go smoothly.

  4. Chris permalink

    I think it is simply because the church is so generally good at tearing apart all other religions. To first accept mormonism, you have to accept that all other churches are false and/or flawed. When you get farther into it, and study harder, a lot of factual evidence against all other churches gets exposed. So when you go one god/religion further…dropping mormonism….you have already torn down any other possible religious thing to grab onto.

  5. Goldarn,

    I actually believed I was overemphasizing historical issues too (since the historical issues didn’t really bother me at all). that’s why I did add 1b (since I had originally considered writing the comment without anything like it.

    And of course, I generally share your thoughts on the sinful nature -> needs saving. At least with mormonism, the fall is to achieve one commandment (e.g., go forth and multiply) at the expense of another (do not eat of the fruit…). With traditional Christianity, the fall just sounds like God makes broken stuff.

    Chris,

    While I do not deny that the church has an “every church is false” rhetoric, I also think that it doesn’t really do the best job at showing all churches are false…so it seems much more like rhetoric and a presupposition in many cases.

    HOWEVER, I think that the way various religious groups do try to fight each other (I mean, when I was growing up…seeing Catholics and protestants and Mormons go at it) seemed to “tear down” all of the other possibilities for me. (And then, meeting some Muslims who would talk about what they found illogical about Christianity…and then having Christians respond…)

    It seems to me that a lot of people want to tear down other groups instead of showing how their group is not torn. So, as a result, it seems like “mutually assured destruction” religiously.

  6. The statistical argument explains why such a high percentage of exmos are going atheist, I think.

    But what’s driving the statistic? I think an increase in reason, driven by the ability of the internet to expose the fraud behind all religion.

  7. Mormonism teaches that in heaven, you essentially become like God (not to mention loads of sex with many wives, shh ;)

    Compared to that, celibately singing praises for all eternity seems kind of weak.

    • Bree permalink

      thank you very much…I think my husband will be quite happy with one wife(if hes not,he wont be sticking around)I think the sentiment is rampant among most active members. besides polygamy was outlawed years ago(literally)

      • Bree:
        Polygamy is a requirement in heaven according to LDS doctrine. The sentiment is wishful thinking on the part of the women, and the men are mostly lying about it if they say they are not looking forward to the polygamy in heaven. Re-read D&C 132 if you don’t believe me: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/132
        Near the end is the key, and it is not just women who must accept it, as it might lead you to believe. Brigham Young taught on many occasions, that exaltation is impossible without polygamy.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_Latter_Day_Saint_polygamy

        In response to the broader question:
        I was mormon until a few months ago, when my Church History research culminated, and I left the church. After scrutinizing LDS teachings, history and science, and finding out the church was a fraud I decided I had to hold the same standard for any other belief that would replace it. The only other belief that holds up to scrutiny is atheism.

  8. I don’t think the statistical argument explains. Again, I think it *describes*.

    I think an *increase in reason* or *the ability of the internet to expose fraud* are better explanations (especially since they explain the statistics). They may or may not be the right explanation (I for one do not think people are all that rational. There are other kinds of woo that people will have), but I think these are better than saying, “This happens because it is statistically more likely to happen” — which doesn’t really get is very far.

  9. Also, I’m going to preemptively apologize.

    I have a comment system set up where I have to approve the first comment written by a person (then, all other comments are set up). Normally, this is no problem, because I’ll just go and approve the comment.

    However, if I’m not available, then your comment can be still in limbo for a while. Since I’m about to leave for a few hours (and my phone will be on silent), I want to apologize if any new visitors’ comments are stuck waiting for approval for a while.

  10. Robc permalink

    I grew up Mormon and would have to say I became an Atheist because of reason number 1.

    Also Chris, I’m not sure if you grew up mormon but where I grew up the only thing I was told negative besides the ‘1 true church’ thing was when I was a priest and was being taught of the trinity and how ‘wrong’ it was.

  11. Goldarn’s comments are spot on. I would say to your post “All of the Above” along with my own thoughts.

    Evangelicals like Tim need to think hard about their behaviour. When Mormons leave their faith, they are pretty burned out. They have usually been hounded by friends, family, and church authorities pleading, coercing, threatening, begging, shaming, and preaching at them. Coming after a fallen Mormon to try to scoop them up into the Evangelical fold can come across as manipulative and exploitative.

    I had well-meaning but clumsy Evangelical friends come sniffing when my faith was shaken. I became annoyed and frustrated by Mormons trying to wrestle me back into the fold, and I resented Evangelicals who were trying to drag me over to their camp. Everybody was more interested in recruitment than my well-being or answering any of my questions. The problem I have with missionary activity is that it often isn’t done with the best interest of the potential convert at heart. Somebody who has just lost their faith isn’t going to be ready to have another one crammed down their throats.

    Even if the evangelical’s efforts at conversion are careful and appropriate, I think most Ex-Mormons steer clear of Evangelical Christianity because it’s too similar to Mormonism. Active Mormons give 112% of their time and energy to the church, and betrayal is one of the biggest common feelings in those who become disillusioned with it. For my own part, I continue to feel intense scepticism toward any organisation that claims to have Absolute Truth(TM) and expects its members to invest the level of energy, enthusiasm, and evangelism that Mormonism does. Mormons aren’t just required to have faith; they’re expected to have knowledge of the truth of it all. (One could argue that faith has a very marginalised role in LDS doctrine and practice.) Evangelical churches can expect a similar level of commitment. Doctrinally there are great differences, but behaviourally they can seem much the same.

    Evangelism *is* something that creates “mutually assured destruction.” If your faith is really right, people will be drawn to it in their own time if you set a good example and share quietly and when it is appropriate. Nobody should act like a pushy salesperson to get others to sign on to their religion.

    • I agree with your comments. Many times, “countercult” ministries seem exploitative to struggling or exiting Mormons. ESPECIALLY when some of my evangelical friends heard that I was not a believer, they said, “See, we told you…now join us.”

      But what was going through my mind was, “You guys were jerks. Why would I want to be like you?” I agree with the sentiment: in a period like that, people didn’t want me for *me*. They wanted me for *their cause*.

      • And maybe to help back up my claim, there’s an interesting graphic from the Pew Forum’s research on Mormons. Mormons are at the absolute far end of the spectrum when it comes to the intensity and frequency of religious practice. Evangelical Christians aren’t far behind. (image at http://pewforum.org/newassets/images/reports/Mormons/mormons18.gif )

        If Mormons are the most intensely religious people in America, small wonder those who leave are so jaded.

        • No, I guess I can see what you’re saying. even though I can see a depth of Catholic tradition for those who are serious, I also can admit that I know a lot of “Easter Catholics” or “Christmas Catholics’

          • Vajra permalink

            I don’t know if the terms “Easter Catholics” and “Christmas Catholics” are meant to be pejorative, descriptive, or oppositional to “depth of Catholic tradition”. One could argue, as I do, that those individuals who attend Mass on those high holy days do so because of the depth of the tradition. They attend because their tradition still has meaning, even though the minutiae may have been discarded or ignored. Further, they may attend because their loved ones attend, and so, despite their rejection of the Magisterium, have incorporated the foundational words, “love one another, as I have loved you”. This is what they believe and all they need to believe. So when you see people with ashes on their foreheads, who otherwise never darken the door of a church, you see people who are saying, “I’m Catholic, whether or not I believe in the bs”.

  12. nathankennard permalink

    Sometimes, christian ideologies whither under the same scrutiny which rendered mormonism untenable. For me, cessation of god belief coincided with rejection of mormon beliefs. The commenters to this discussion make interesting points.

    It would be interesting to quantify more particulars about various exmormons. Is their mormon belief determinitive of a future post-mormon belief set (or non-belief set as seems to be the question)? Does it matter to the exmormon? Does it matter to their family or society?

    • I tend to think that it’s not so determinitive. However, I can’t help but think that there is a certain trauma from leaving Mormonism that does lead to a different set of post-mormon outcomes than does leaving, say, one Evangelical church.

      As Molly pointed out, “scepticism toward any organization with Absolute Truth (TM) claims” seems to be one commonality.

      I’m not quite sure about your other two questions though…What do you mean, “does it matter to the exmormon or to their family or society”? What is it.

      If “it” is Mormon upbringing and the ex-mormon identity, then I think it is CRITICAL to many ex-Mormons. That’s one of the biggest distinctions I see…people who leave other communities don’t keep the name. I don’t see “ex-Baptists,” because that part of their history vanishes from their narrative after they leave.

      However, Mormonism is a HUGE part of my identity, even now. It is part of my narrative.

      I think society and family don’t get it. (That’s why I think there is the popular phrase, “Can leave the church, but can’t leave it alone.” what people don’t understand is that it would probably be more unhealthy to see someone who *did* just leave it alone. They may be bottling something up and letting it fester.)

  13. I question whether a large percentage of former Mormons actually become atheists. I think former Mormons on the internet (just like current Mormons on the internet) are likely to be self-selected outliers to a large extent.

    But given that some former Mormons do become atheists, I think 1a is probably the biggest reason. Rational arguments may work well against Mormonism, but they certainly work at least equally well against the rest of Christianity, and especially against fundamentalist branches. Evangelical Christianity tends to take a fairly black-and-white view about many things, and this tends not to stand up very well against rational scrutiny. OTOH, Roman Catholicism and the old mainstream Protestant churches may be more flexible, but they may lack appeal for many ex-Mormons because they don’t offer the power of immersion in an all-encompassing lifestyle the way Mormonism and (to some extent) Evangelical Christianity do.

    Also, why should the ex-Mormon believe any other church? Who has the authority to say what to believe? The Pope? One of several Patriarchs? Some preacher on TV? Evangelicals will say the Bible, but whose interpretation of the Bible? And why the Bible? Why not the Qu’ran? Why not the Tripitaka? The ex-Mormon, ironically, is in the same position Joseph Smith was in the First Vision story: who’s right, who’s wrong, how can I know, are they all mistaken? And there’s no special reason — other than cultural tradition — to choose Christianity at the end of all this.

    Also, after looking at that post and comments (I know, I should have done that before writing my own comment), I generally agree with Seth.

    • I agree that there is certainly a bias in the kinds of exmormons who write on the internet, and who blog, and whatnot…however, even though there is probably a different bias for Pew Forums, when they find that of those who are raised Mormon and leave (which is about 30%), half of that number goes to another group and half of that number becomes “none.”

      Now, I have written extensively that “none” or “unaffiliated” cannot and should not be taken to mean “atheist/agnostic,” but still…

      It’s interesting what you mention though…one would think that if one begins to doubt the Mormon story, then one might doubt, say…the apostasy. And then the Catholic church (or Orthodox church, whose ideas on “theosis” are often very popularly adopted [or maladapted] to fit LDS ideas on exaltation) should seem like reasonable options.

      And I don’t think that Catholicism is too lax, like much of mainline protestantism. There is a rich total life (albeit, very different from the kind that Mormons would grow up in).

      But I guess you have a point that beyond that, there’s not much reason, all things equal, to choose Christianity at the end of this.

      • It’s interesting what you mention though…one would think that if one begins to doubt the Mormon story, then one might doubt, say…the apostasy. And then the Catholic church … should seem like reasonable options.

        Back in the day, the LDS church actually used to publish a missionary tract or pamphlet featuring a Catholic (a priest, I think) who made that argument, i.e., either the “restored” church is true or the “original” church is true, and the poor Protestants don’t have a leg to stand on. I guess that was OK as far as it went, but of course it begged the questions of whether Jesus is really God and if there’s a God in the first place.

        And I don’t think that Catholicism is too lax, like much of mainline protestantism. There is a rich total life…

        Well, there can be. I wouldn’t use the word “lax” anyway, and you can be very devout as a Catholic, going to Mass every day and so on. Or you can even become a monk or a nun, which is much more restrictive than being a Mormon. But that sort of thing isn’t required. OTOH, Mormonism tells you — or at least strongly advises you — on who you can date/marry, what you can drink, what movies you can watch, even what underwear you can wear…. That level of involvement — of intrusiveness some would say — is uncommon in modern Christianity.

  14. Goldarn permalink

    I had another thought—in my experience, people who are excommunicated and leave Mormonism seem to join other Christian faiths, where people who leave Mormonism on their own seem more likely to become atheists or non-religious-but-spiritual. This is anecdotal evidence only, but I’m wondering if that holds true for anyone else.

    • True for me, and for most of the disaffected Mormon underground people that I know. In fact, I’m trying to think of one Formon friend that I have who is now attending a Christian church. I’m coming up blank.

    • I guess that, unlike Molly, I don’t personally (like, offline) know many people who have been excommunicated, or who have left on their own…so I don’t know about a trend.

      And since I generally stay away from ex-Mormon Christian blogs, I don’t know much about if more of them relatively speaking were excommunicated.

  15. exmo permalink

    When I left mormonism, I was angry at the people who spend their lives deceiving others. I stopped believing, but stuck around for a while to make things easier on my parents. The people I trusted most resorted to the most base tactics of subversion to win me back.

    I started from scratch with my morals and sought the truth through trial and error (much to my embarrassment).

    I have since explored many religions, but I see them for what they are: unnecessary and often parasitic. Ultimately, I never went back to a religion, because I enjoy being free from coercive environments, and my perception of a just god.

    None of the supposed christians I know would be interested in a church entirely dedicated to improving the community. Some of them like their paid bands and choirs. Their leaders justify skimming off of the top of donations. These people wouldn’t be interested in the amount of bootstrapping truly necessary for an honest church.

    Some christian churches I’ve seen are the facade of a military group interested in penetrating foreign markets and politics through foreign aid. Their sermons involve well done videos (commercials) to recruit missionaries. The targeted countries are usually in middle america or other areas of US interest. The preacher smiles like a cat that just ate the canary. Many supporting techs and coordinators look fresh out of the military.

  16. Chris P permalink

    I am an ex-mormon atheist (by choice). When I was LDS, I always said to myself and others that (for me) it was either Mormonism or atheism. Nothing else appealed to me. And then when I learned more about reason, logic, biases, flawed thinking, fallacies, history of religion, etc…. the choice became obvious.

    Also, my reliance on secular self-help websites (nickpagan.com) helped me leave religion altogether. I basically found ways to solve my personal problems without a god. I no longer needed prayer, church, or a concept of a god.

  17. Peter permalink

    I sort of agree with the last person.

    I am an active Mormon who used to be protestant many years ago. For many people, once they understand Mormonism, then no other church comes close to reality. To me, if the Mormon church is not the true church, then the true church does not exist.

  18. I’ve been trying to get at this question too.

    I once suggested (on RfM) that Mormon converts tend to go for other Christian religions, while people born into Mormon families tend to become atheists.

    I think maybe the LDS church might be ‘poisoning the well’ for other religions (I certainly wasn’t afraid to examine the flaws of other religions), though other RfMers didn’t think so, saying that Mormons flaws are the same as other churches’ flaws.

    I think we could profitably examine the mode of exit. I’ve identified four major inroads (or outroads) that people take when leaving the Mormons:

    1. Questioning the existence of god
    2. Questioning the prophetic mantle of Joseph Smith
    3. Questioning the scriptures
    4. Personal factors: Didn’t like the meetings or the people

    Just about all the deconversion stories I’ve heard start with one of these. I started with 1, and had to deal with 2 as a consequence. Lots of my friends however, start with 2 and never get around to 1.

    I think that if your deconversion starts with 1 or 3, you’re on track for atheism. If you start with 2 or 4, you’ll probably join another church. I bet we could build a predictive model.

  19. Carson N permalink

    Mine went down just like Daniel’s. I started with #1 (questioning the existence of God). I came to realize that I had no good reasons whatsoever to believe that God exists. After that I soon moved to #2. The idea of exploring another religion never even entered my mind.

    It was interesting because I was in the middle of reading Rough Stone Rolling when it happened. At first the stuff I read in RSR was a little painful to learn about. I tried to reconcile the events I was reading about with my testimony. Then after I stopped believing in God, suddenly RSR was a breeze. There was no more pain and cognitive dissonance, just an amused raise of the eyebrow and shake of the head.

    I do want to say that even though Rick’s comment above was a little facetious, I think he has a good point. The vision of the afterlife eternities (or at least an interpretation of it) that Mormonism has is far superior to any other religion I’ve heard of. According to Mormonism, we are all gods in embryo, and the idea of slowly realizing this growth of intellect, power, and glory throughout the thousands, millions, and perhaps even billions of years in the future up until we finally are ready to create our own worlds and universes is frankly the most awesome fairy tale I’ve ever believed in and could ever hope to believe in.

  20. Why does a loss of faith in Mormonism lead to a loss of faith in Jesus?

    Maybe it’s got something to do with an awakening of self-confidence, ie in terms of a process that begins with placing confidence in others, and ends with placing confidence in oneself.

    masterymistery at cosmic rapture

  21. For me it started with questioning and then rejecting the authority of the Mormon hierarchy. Once I had decided that they didn’t speak for god, I slowly realised that I never had felt that personal connection with god. Any “relationship” I had had with god was through others. Praying always had felt empty and pointless, so once I decided that those men didn’t speak for god, it was a short journey to deciding there wasn’t any such thing as god in the first place.

    I never really felt like I was a spiritual person, and while I did like the idea that god/jesus were all-loving, that doctrine was at direct odds with my experience as a gay man who was told he could never have sex or be in a relationship because everything he was was wrong. The pain of that experience made me not really able to believe in a loving god.

    Consequently, my years of enthusiasm in Mormonism concentrated on learning all the “facts” about the church, church history, scriptures, etc., and ignoring the emotional and spiritual element that was supposed to be present.

    I suppose I was always predisposed to be a rationalist, and once I broke free of the brainwashing/indoctrination there was no reason to pursue any other religious sect. Perhaps if I had been raised in a less authoritarian and strict religion I’d not have questioned to the point where I rejected the entire concept of the supernatural. However, the degree to which a person, in order to escape Mormonism, is forced to fight against near-overwhelming pressures to conform and obey and the deeply ingrained taboo against questioning authority does, I think, contribute to an increased tendency for Ex-Mormons to violently shy away from other types of authoritarianism and social, mental, emotional and control. It certainly did for me. Evangelical Christianity and other orthodox/fundamentalist religions are too similar to Mormonism, too restrictive, too controlling, too suppressive, and too irrational to seem enticing to a person who has just rejected those notions.

  22. W D permalink

    There are some LDS that go to other forms of Christianity but 99% of the time it’s because they’re not active in the LDS Church, have not been in a very long time, or are very recent converts to the LDS Church that left after a brief try. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any LDS that are active leaving to another church.

    I think it’s because there’s glaring phoniness in other churches…. while LDS might deal with hypocrisy, we are very much a non pretensious and non showy people… we can just look other people in the eyes, hear the tones of their voices when they start to get “spiritual” and when we can see they’re putting on airs, immediately we don’t want anything to do with it. That’s my issue. Everything in other Christian churches seems part performance like the pulpit is a theater and the stage is, well, a stage.

    Also, it’s like a full-out Christian becoming a Jew. You can’t go from believing in more to believing in part or less. You can lose faith altogether because you don’t feel strong enough. But for me it’s either the LDS Church is true, or there isn’t really any reason or purpose behind anything. I’ve just had experiences for most of my life as an evangelical Christian, and then six years as LDS, and at a crossroads. Joining another denomination would be a type of self-deception or denial I’m not willing to go to, and I think it’s pretty rare. But giving up because it’s too hard… I could see that…

  23. Somehow, I doubt the ex-Mormon Christians I know would take kindly to the suggestion that they were were all inactive, new members, etc., Of course, I tend not to get that crowd over here too much.

    However, I find it interesting what you say in the third paragraph (despite some disagreements with the particulars). I don’t think a full-out Christian would immediately revert to Judaism, but I don’t think it’s because “you can’t go from believing in more to believing in part or less.” Rather, I think it’s because Christianity doesn’t provide a sufficient foundation in Judaism. After all, Christianity “fulfilled” Judaism, and the early Christians who gained control made sure to distance themselves from Judaism (e.g., early dispute
    s with Judaizing sects as written about by Paul). So, Christianity isn’t simply “Judaism Plus” and there is no reason for ex-Christians to default to Judaism. Christianity is a different religion that just happened to grow out of Judaism.

    But this is a curious argument for Mormonism. After all, Mormonism isn’t a new religion…right? Rather, it claims to be a restoration. So, theoretically, if a Mormon ceases to believe in restorationist claims, then there are many options — for example, if one disbelieves in a great apostasy, then one could become Catholic or Orthodox. Or if one believed in an apostasy, but didn’t believe in the need for direct restoration, then one could become any sort of protestant.

    I guess the problem is that you only allow for a very narrow reason why someone would leave the LDS church. You don’t seem to account that someone could disbelieve its claims. Rather, you say that it must be because a person didn’t “feel strong enough” or that they gave up “because it’s too hard.”

  24. Joe permalink

    I grew up in a strong Mormon family. My older brothers and sister all went on missions and married in the temple. I served a mission in Italy.

    Growing up, we attended some other Christian faiths as an exchange to get some relatives to attend our church. I found the foreign churches creepy. They were dancing, singing, faith healing and passing out from the spirit. Gack. To this day I’m creeped out when I see a bunch of people waving their arms slowing in the air to the music. It’s the most painful part of American Idol.

    After leaving the church, our oldest son fell in among Christians. We started going to his church so that he could attend the Christian school where is friends attended. Each week the preacher would go on and on about how they were the chosen people. Over a period of months, there was only one sermon that I found in any way uplifting. Why would I want to go to that?

    Finally after realizing that the Mormon churches beliefs were illogical and couldn’t stand up to reason, how could I really believe in the other churches?

    I still believe in the things that Christ taught as far as the golden rule and being honest and open with your fellow men. I don’t know if he even existed but the teaching stands on its own. Organized religion? Bleh.

  25. I’m born again, was Mormon. Gave my letter of resignation June 2010, 3 weeks ago. I read the New Testament and didn’t feel the need for much more after that. I like to hear what ex Mormons think of Christian groups because it is enlightening and may help me not be obnoxious in my excitement with the new freedom I feel. Husband is Mormon and is turned off by what he calls “born agains”. Very ironic turn of events!

  26. nathankennard permalink

    popular blog – congrats Andrew

    Forgive me if this has already been addressed, “… about atheists, or those that espouse the belief that “there IS no god”, …”. I suspect most people who either use the label ‘atheist’ or allow it to be applied to them lack the certainty described in this expression. This pairing of the certainty of non-existence of a god and the label ‘atheist’ is created, not by the word, but by a human need to fit people into convenient belief categories. This particular pairing seems especially common among god-believers.

  27. I agree, nathan. In fact, I have a few other posts about that (too lazy to go through them).

    I’ve also pondered that using this definition is strategic for theists (and some self-proclaimed agnostics)…it’s easier to attack a strawman of someone who is “certain” that “there is no god” than it is to counter someone who is not convinced that there is a god.

  28. Nice article, I have known many many mormons who have left the church. Not one of them became a christian.

  29. Aaron permalink

    I am an ex-Mormon and I admit the last point is the most valid one on the list. It took two years to fully get out of Mormonism and it felt like the equivalent of a really bad divorce. Do I really want to jump on the religion band wagon right now? Not really! Now, I do believe in God and I am a spiritual person. I also love philosophy and elements of mysticism and this is more than sufficient for the present time. I do not want to get stuck in a community that says I have to believe in A, B, and C with unquestioning conviction or else I am a heretic or an apostate. Now, the greatest damage that Evangelical Christians have done at keeping ex-Mormons away from their brand of religion is calling us a cult. When you have a bunch of Bible thumping Christians shouting at me, “CULT!!! CULT!!! CULT!!!!!” for the last 7 years, I have no desire to ever want to be in any way associated or affiliated with them. I don’t care how much you try to water down your definition of cult, the word automatically spurs up visions of people drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aide. Believe me, Evangelical Christians are very good at demonizing themselves. They don’t need the Mormon prophet’s help… they are doing a pretty good job themselves.

  30. Aaron,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I absolutely agree with you on the point of the damage Evangelicals do by labeling Mormons a cult. (Of course, I think that was my second point in the article.)

  31. susette permalink

    What if, the truth about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going has been fragmented, and therefore, lost its integral full narration, long ago? And that IT (THE TRUTH) has to be reassembled, by rummaging through every religion, history, science, politics, everything, in order to piece together, very much as a puzzle, or in the same way an investigator would go about solving a very complex and cold case? What if, you are all wrong, and all right, simultaneously? The problem seems to me that your expectations need readjusting — expecting any entity, organized or not, to “serve” this search, to you, on a platter, rather than to realize that each religion has only fragments of the truth, and a lot of crap besides, and that the spiritual maturation of a soul entails a robust search for the truth without “the parent” showing you one of several adulterated ways, is, sorry, absurd, for any spiritually mature soul.

    When people here say that humans act ethically because that it the easier way of being able to live well together — that is ridiculous! There are many more instances where it is easier to act unethically, and still seemingly “get along together”.

    When others on here say that they need God to tell them what is ethical and moral, and that if we did not have religion, this would be difficult — that too, is even more ridiculous. The reason we do not need religion to tell us so, is because WE HAVE GOD INSIDE OF US (We are not god, we are say a tinny fragment of GOD – I do not think it useful to go into it now, but I have to be completely truthful in the way I express what I am thinking, and therefore say, that each of us is a tinny projection of GOD’S MIND — I can go more into that if anyone shows any interest).

    Most atheists I have known (friends and former lovers) were/are disaffected followers of one religion or another. I am not saying that the majority of atheists fall into this category. What I see in these people, is a petulance of a child who thought they would have something handed to them, only to find that they had to do for themselves, and then instead, rather chose to throw it ALL away.

    By the way, I am not Mormon, I do not go to any church (i have OUTGROWN-ED the NEED of any intermediary between myself and GOD) — but I KNOW THAT GOD EXISTS (you get there through meditation, contemplation, solitude, revelation (where you end up tapping in to the cosmic unconsciousness for information), increase of consciousness — which allows you to perceive other reality states, and so forth. But you will have to give up LOOKING FOR DADDY, SALVATION, VALIDATION, COMFORT, SECURITY, PHYSICAL PROOF, and several other besides.

    Thank you for reading this if you do, and if you feel offended, let that be more grist for the mill.

  32. Susette,

    Sorry, I didn’t see your comment for a while. I wanted to respond to a few points:

    When people here say that humans act ethically because that it the easier way of being able to live well together — that is ridiculous! There are many more instances where it is easier to act unethically, and still seemingly “get along together”.

    You missed a critical distinction. People here said that “humans act ethically because that is the easier way of being able to live well together.”

    That is absolutely true.

    It may be easier to act unethically in many situations, but that is not conducive to being able to live well together. It might be satisficing (we manage to pull off living together, but not all that well), but it is not optimal.

    Most atheists I have known (friends and former lovers) were/are disaffected followers of one religion or another. I am not saying that the majority of atheists fall into this category. What I see in these people, is a petulance of a child who thought they would have something handed to them, only to find that they had to do for themselves, and then instead, rather chose to throw it ALL away.

    however, it seems that by default, the atheist who chooses to “throw it all away” is by necessity “doing for themselves”.

    So, it seems your thesis is that we have to construct the puzzle not only out of the pieces of one religion, but out of the pieces of multiple religions, philosophy, politics, etc.,

    …but who’s to say we have to construct the same puzzle? Why not get a canvas and paint instead?

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