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The atheist hiding within the Mormon

May 28, 2009

I’ve been reading some really good articles today, and it just makes me feel so warm and fuzzy. First is Kullervo’s article at Songs from the Wood entitled “I Have Always Been A Pagan.” And the second is a comment from Jonathan Blake at Green Oasis entitled “Mormon Me vs. The Infidel.”

I wonder how I can do these topics justice, but realize I probably can’t. I’m not good at writing warm and fuzzy stuff.

I guess this kind of mood came about earlier. I was having an email conversation with JTJ, who has commented here a bit and also has been around Mormon Matters and other places, and he had asked me when I doubted and what caused it.

And I must admit…my story of apostasy and doubt isn’t very exciting.

I didn’t have any one event or another that sent my faith hurtling to the ground, because in a way, I have always doubted…and I have never really (that cross-out will make sense later) believed. (So, there is that stereotype of ex-mormons as people who have “never had a testimony.” While I am sure this is a baseless stereotype for most, I will admit…I never had that fire and couldn’t pretend to lie and say I did. [Geez, I bet this is going to come back to bite me…]).

So it is just so serendipitous that both Jonathan and Kullervo would have posts that seem to pay homage to my experiences. For me, like with Kullervo, I had a process where I had to fit into my own skin. I knew I was different, on the outside, but I felt pressure to try to repress that and internalize Mormonism. (So, if anything, I didn’t believe, but I subconsciously granted concessions to the church that kept me in line with the LDS worldview.) Eventually though, I realized I couldn’t keep fighting myself. I had been saying in so many ways, “I don’t really believe in God” and “I don’t really identify with this spirituality,” and those reallys were holding me back. When I would say, “I don’t really believe,” the really would act as a linguistic dampener.

But one day, I was able to drop the ‘really’s. It wasn’t that I didn’t really believe in God. “I don’t believe in God.” When “don’t” and “believe” got so close together, that set off the chain reactions.

How to explain it? I don’t know if I’m just projecting my own feelings onto Kullervo’s story, but I feel like I can empathize with what he must have felt to realize he was always a Pagan. Paganism was the glove that had never been tried on, yet was crafted specifically for that hand. And for me, atheism has been like that, but only after I had the integrity to say it. I do not believe. I am an atheist. From there, I have been able to confront some of the subconscious LDS subroutines I had been faithfully following.

The reason this seems so important to me is not the conclusion. After all, my “conclusion” was different from Kullervo’s, and ours is certainly different from someone else’s. My atheism and Kullervo’s paganism are not the point. Rather, it is the process that is the triumph…the process of discovering oneself and learning to work with oneself rather than against. In the end, I don’t care too much about what a person believes…rather, I’d ask a question: does whatever you believe fit you or are you trying to “break” yourself into a belief system?

If you are Mormon and it fits you, great. If you are atheist and it fits you, great. If you are anything and it fits you, great. I only lament for the great number of people who persevere and toil, fighting against themselves, because instead of being aware of themselves, they annihilate themselves for some ideology that is larger than themselves that they have been led to believe should taken primacy over themselves. (Disclaimer, being aware of your belief “fit” doesn’t mean you stop growing and do whatever [seriously guys, remind me to write an article fully addressing that BCC post I just linked] — we still have infinite opportunities to grow. The thing is we need to become acutely aware which ones we value out of this infinity.)


From → Uncategorized

  1. Andrew, I’m assembling a small number of posts like this (i.e. personal story) for part of a MM post next week. Mind if I link to this one?

  2. I don’t mind; go right ahead and link this.

  3. Nicely written, Andrew.

  4. I like how you put it: “the glove that had never been tried on, yet was crafted specifically for that hand.” That’s how it felt when I decided to own my disbelief. To mix metaphors, I finally felt at home.

  5. “Rather, it is the process that is the triumph…the process of discovering oneself and learning to work with oneself rather than against.”

    Amen. I recently stopped having the war (between my true beliefs about mormonism versus and what I was raised to believe about mormonism) in my head. And I feel enlightened more than ever. That said, only the war within myself is over, I still have to make reconciliation between my true thoughts on mormonism and my TBM family, who would be sad to know the real me. It hurts me to know they will be sad, because, now, I am extremely happy with myself. The years I fought my true beliefs I was so depressed; I honestly don’t know how some people can fight forever. And though now I feel like I’m whole and ready to pursue my journey, there will be family close to me who will think I’m somehow “broken” because of the path I’m taking. But I need to be at peace with myself, first and foremost. Others can choose to accept me for who I am, or not, and I just need to accept that reality. It’s really that simple.

  6. Kirsch permalink

    Thank you for your post. I have been trying so hard for years to be “okay” with certain aspects of the Mormon church. It came to a point where I finally got tired of feeling “bad” for what I actually believed. I too had (and still do, occasionally) a hard time taking the “really” out of my statements. I do not believe in God. I do not believe in the LDS faith… and best of all, I’m at peace with that. I don’t feel bad for feeling different and I don’t believe that those whose beliefs are different then mine, are wrong. I think that we all need to find what fits into our hearts. The biggest struggle I have now is telling my family. Unfortunately my parents cannot distinguish their love for me and their love for the gospel. If our views are not in alignment spiritually they [my parents] have practically no way to connect with me. It breaks my heart and is the major reason I struggle with completely segregating myself from the LDS church.

  7. the family/friend aspect is one of the ones that I unfortunately don’t have a good answer for. All I can say is that I’ve been fortunate to have family who is ok with it, friends who are ok with it, and the people who aren’t ok with it…not too big of losses.

    I wish there were only some way that people could show, “Hey, I’m the same person I always have been…I just don’t believe; I’m not going to start tainting the water…” and then members could see, “well, this guy is still a good guy. Even if I don’t agree with him…I can see that his actions are good…and I know him to be a good person with or without the church.”

  8. “If our views are not in alignment spiritually they [my parents] have practically no way to connect with me.”

    Kirsch, that really stinks. I hope that that will change over time, as you both find new ways to connect.

  9. kirsching permalink

    (formally Kirsch)
    One of the hardest parts is living in Utah. It seems that in this state you are either mormon or anti mormon. It’s unfortunate because I don’t identify with either side. Both sides are extreme and leave no room for acceptance. Andrew, I totally understand what you mean. Why can’t friends, family, etc see me for who I am and not what religion (or lack thereof) I belong to? It breaks my heart… I’m not angry, like most who leave, I’m sad.

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