Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Very Insensitive Question

Me on my baptism day

One of the most insensitive questions you can ask an exMormon atheist is this:

"Did you ever believe?"

followed by the close second:

"Did someone offend you and cause you to leave the faith?"

Now, I understand these questions aren't necessarily asked in malice, but when a person is ignorant of why most atheist's do not count themselves among the faithful, the questions come across as very mean.

The first question assumes the atheist never was a person of faith. Some people never do have faith in the traditional sense; they are not brought up religious. But certainly, this question is not typically addressed to those kinds of atheists. It is normally asked to someone who has consciously chosen to leave religion.

I believe church-goers resort to this question out of anger, sadness or misunderstanding. They can't really comprehend why someone would chose not to believe, and therefore they must not have been very faithful to begin with.  This makes the believer feel better about their faith, thinking the atheist may have only made a half-assed attempt to find god. And of course, with such a poor effort, was ultimately seduced by the devil.

The second question assumes that belief is based on comfort. And if someone finds themselves uncomfortable, offended, or mistreated by believers, they will toss their faith aside like an upset child. This is probably more offensive than the previous question because it assumes that the atheist didn't reason their way out of religion, but was a brat about it. Like leaving the playground because someone wouldn't let you use the swings. Again, I think this question is asked because people can't really comprehend a world in which god doesn't exist. And therefore, a person must leave religion because they were offended by the imperfect members.

In my case, both of these questions have been followed up on occasion with encouragement to find god on my own, and not rely on others to bolster up my faith.

Personally, as an exMormon woman, these questions are incredibly offensive to me. I may have always had questions about my religion, but I was 100% a believer. I loved the idea of an eternal family. I wanted to become a God in the hereafter. I loved to read the stories of the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed very much going to church, singing in sacrament meeting, organizing activities for mutual and participating in roadshows. It was fun to get cookies and have chats with my visiting teachers. I loved teaching primary children. Sunday was an excuse to dress up and feel special. I absolutely loved preparing and giving talks. I was never, not once, offended. I may have felt uncomfortable once or twice during an off-color talk or testimony. Every ward had its weirdies.

I felt peace praying. I may not have ever gotten "answers" per se, and I realize now my peace probably came from being able to take a moment to relax and meditate, but I thought I felt the spirit. I got the typical warm fuzzy feelings during "spiritual" moments. And my experiences in the temple, at first, were wonderful. 

No, my path out of theism did not stem from a lack of belief or trivial offense.

There were some big things that influenced me, and they included:

-Discovering the dark parts of LDS church history.
-Realizing human agency and godly omniscience were not compatible
-Realizing the role of women in the LDS church is misogynistic
-Reading about ethics and philosophy, including how feelings cannot indicate truth
-Understanding modern science at time contradicts many of religion's claims
-Understanding homosexuality is natural and not a sin
-Discovering the LDS church is a cult

These are the things that led me away from religion.  It was thinking, and reflection, and study that caused me to lose my faith, not being offended. Some may counter that perhaps my faith never really was strong enough, and when the rain and winds beat upon my house the sandy foundation crumbled. If that truly is the case, then I look at that as a good fortune, because it took me two years instead of five to reason my way out. 

How can an omniscient, omnipotent god possibly exist? How can a personal god exist, one that loves each person and answers individual prayers? This is impossible, and the philosophy of the problem of evil addresses it in great detail. An all powerful, all knowing god cannot coexist with wars, starvation, poverty, abuse, sadness, and for lack of a better word, evil. Some may say, but god has given us our agency, and therefore cannot interfere. This is an oxymoron,  because an all knowing god would know already what we are going to do in our lives, and therefore the concept of agency cannot possibly exist. There is no free choice if there exists an all knowing being who ultimately decides our eternal fate. And as an all powerful being, he can refute any law he wishes, particularly if he is the so-called author of the universe. 

Do I absolutely say a god cannot exist? No, I have no proof one does not exist somewhere, but I certainly claim that a personal loving god does not exist. 

When my husband began questioning the church after a course in philosophy at BYU, I began to study more in depth the history of the church to which I belonged. I of course kept it secret from everyone around me, because I feared retribution. I continued to live my covenants. But as I started my investigation, it was clear that it was going to be a messy one. First, I read official essays from  the church, which led me to church apologists. Which led me to discovering Joseph Smith never translated the gold plates, that he has wives as young as 14, and that he was murdered for destroying a printing press that printed an article about his nasty polygamist habits.

I discovered the Book of Mormon was essentially written by three other men in the tradition of author Solomon Spaulding. And that the Book of Abraham wasn't translated from papyri. I came to terms with the fact that LDS women are treated chauvinistically, and that temple ceremonies are misogynistic. I cried the last time I did a temple ceremony, because listening to the words, I realized Mormon women are actually eternally second class baby makers.

President Hinckley declared a counterfeit "artifact" a real relic from the Nephites. There was numerous anthropologic expeditions to find remnants of the Lamanites, and all were futile. Genetic evidence did not support Book of Mormon claims that Native American's are Nephites and Lamanites from the Middle East. The story of the creation and Adam and Eve is impossible, because the earth is more than 6000 years old and modern humans evolved, they were not poofed out of dust. There is genetic and geologic and anthropologic evidence to support this. There is no evidence for anything in the poorly written Book of Mormon. 

So when I discovered my beloved religion was false, and my personal god was impossible, I was devastated. I was hurt. I felt betrayed. I tried for an entire year to reason how it was still possible, but I simply couldn't. Reality and religion did not mesh. They didn't not work together. It was like desperately trying to prove there were fairies in my backyard. It was like trying to convince myself there was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

I was an adult living in a child's fantasy. And every time I said I felt it was true, I realized my feelings could not make anything true. I could feel like it was raining when the sun shined, but it never meant it was raining.

With my eyes opened, and the Mormon rosy glasses removed, I began to see more of the atrocities of religion. And how angry members are to "apostates". And how controlling the leadership is, telling members not to use google and sever ties with those who have left. The concept of tithing the poor for the construction of mega malls and temples as well as the unfair treatment of gays in particular sealed the deal for me in removing my name from the Mormon church records. I wanted absolutely no ties to an organization that worked so tirelessly to harm innocent people based on their sexual orientation. And that was so successful in convincing women they were responsible for men's sexuality and inherently submissive in nature to men, deferring to their husband eternally before god. It all seems wrong, it all felt wrong, and ultimately I realized how much harm it had done to me, and it pains me to see it harm the people I love.

These are the reasons I left religion. These are the reasons I am an atheist.

So please, before you assume someone was offended or never truly believed, take a moment to consider that they simply have discovered god does not exist, and that it was difficult for them. Do not dismiss their experience to make yours seem more authentic.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to have found your blog. I have traveled an extremely similar path. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and words.


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