Saturday, June 9, 2012

My Conversion - From Mormonism to Atheism

Last week I published the testimony of the person who authors http://becominglds.blogspot.com/. This LDS blogger has a few other Mormon related blogs, one of which is devoted to the sharing of various people's conversion stories. They ask for more stories so I submitted mine...

Naturally, it never saw the light of day and probably got deleted within moments. But what can you expect from a person who has been reared in a bubble? I don't hold it against them. So, since it will never be published there, it will be published here!

I have told this story before, but it can't hurt to tell it again.

My Conversion - From Mormonism to Atheism

I was born into an active LDS family. I was baptized at the age of 8 and served a mission at the age of 19, as is expected. I never doubted or questioned the church. I never smoked or drank. I tried to convert my friends. I was a true blue Mormon (TBM).

I was married in the temple as all LDS youth are expected to. I knew the scriptures inside and out and had a very deep understanding of LDS doctrine. I was active all my life, accepting any callings that were extended to me. I prayed regularly and read the scriptures. I was the perfect Mormon.

On my mission, I experienced some things that strongly lead me to believe that the missionary program of the church was not inspired. I won't talk much about it except to say that the life of an LDS missionary is structured from the moment they get up until they go to bed. For two years, your life is planned for you and you have absolutely no privacy. This seemed very strange to me as I was always taught that everyone had free will. Also very strange to me was how they expected unquestioning obedience to the mission rules. I had always been taught to follow the spirit, but that was amazingly absent in mission life.

I served my two years and returned home. Within a year I was married as all good returned missionaries should be. We were active and went to church together for many years.

A strange series of events happened almost all at the same time. To call it fate might be pushing it, but who knows?

Event #1: My wife and I were not getting along very well. We had terrible fights and were very unhappy. But every Sunday we would put on our happy faces and go to church pretending that life as a Mormon was wonderful. It wasn't wonderful and I felt like a scumbag for always pretending.

Event #2: I would sit in Elder Quorum week after week and all of us would get grilled over how low our home teaching numbers were. I remember leaving church time and again feeling depressed because of all the guilt and shame they heaped upon us.

Event #3: I had the calling from hell! I was an assistant to the bishop, so everything that needed done, I did it. This calling required that I attend meetings before church, and my duties often required me to stay after church as well. There were Sundays where I was literally at the church before sunrise and wasn't home until after sunset.

Event #4: I remember sitting in Sunday school one day and we were discussing Jesus walking on water. I had never had a doubt in my life, but suddenly I had a very strong feeling that the story I was hearing was just a myth.

Event #5: I was just feeling burnt out! All of my life I had been living the Mormon routine: tithing, home teaching, church meetings, callings, more meetings, etc. There is tremendous pressure to do it all and huge amounts of guilt and shame if you don't. I just needed a break!

Event #6: This event was the most devastating on me. The LDS people are taught that a prophet can see the future and warn people of danger. When the tsunami struck in 2005, killing hundreds of thousands of people, I wondered why Gordon B. Hinckley had not warned the people. I am sure that some of the tsunami victims were LDS and their prophet failed them. This caused me to have a great deal of doubt in Pres. Hinckley.

These 6 events left me feeling frustrated, burnt out, and exhausted! To say Mormon life is demanding is an understatement. I quit church and my callings cold turkey. I originally planned to only be off for a month or two. At the time, I was still a believer, but was just feeling very overwhelmed.

After I had been missing from church for a few weeks, the "concerned" members started stopping in with messages to "give god a chance". My Elders Quorum president even showed up one day with, of all things, a home-teaching pamphlet. I know that they meant well.

I was driving down the freeway one day and I saw a car next to me with a bumper sticker. It was sharing an ex-Mormon website. I wish I could remember what website it was. So I figured that since I was already disgruntled with the church, I might as well have a look to see what those evil and angry anti-Mormons have to say.

I was floored! The more I read, the more I wanted to know. I couldn't find enough. As I read, I slowly came to realize that they were not lies made up by the devil, but evidence being shared by concerned people for those who are trapped in a mind-numbing cult. I sat at my computer screen for several months reading anything I could find.

I was having serious doubts at this point but was still not entirely convinced the church was not true until I read the Book of Abraham controversy. Here was undeniable proof that Joseph Smith was pulling "scripture" out of dark places.

At that moment, my Mormon world shattered. I felt a range of emotions from betrayal to anger, confusion to joy, and excitement to fear. Everything I had ever known to be true was gone, and I was left standing in a heap of rubble that resembled my past life. Naturally, I tried to share my new found knowledge with my wife but that proved to be futile.

For nearly two years I struggled with my lost identity. What do I believe now? The answer came slowly after much more reading and soul searching. I studied the history of religion and the characteristics of a myth and I realized at some point, that Jesus was not real. I came to the conclusion, after thinking the matter through very carefully, that I could not believe in god. The Bible was full of nonsense and many horrible things have been done in the name of god. I realized that religion is just a way to frighten people into submission using fear.

I had a difficult time still. By rejecting god completely, one will go to hell if their conclusion is wrong. The fear of damnation kept me hanging on to faith by a thread. I asked a former LDS member that I knew how to get over the fear of damnation. I was told that when you realize the truth, the fear automatically vanishes. That didn't help right then and there; however, when I finally came to terms with the fact that I did not believe in god, the fear of damnation melted away. Now there is absolutely no fear whatsoever of this angry, jealous, ruthless god.

Since I have abandoned the concept of god, I have never been happier. I have had some pretty harsh "trials" so to speak, but I would rather be godless and homeless than rich and Mormon. Any day! I have never looked back and I now author an ex-Mormon blog where I try to reach out to others who might feel as trapped by religion as I did. It has been very rewarding.

Letting go of god was the most wonderful event I could ever hope to experience. For me, it was more wonderful than the first time I had sex (which actually was very disappointing in my opinion). Now I don't have to wonder if everything I do will be approved by god. I never have to worry if I will make it to the Celestial Kingdom. I can live life and enjoy it without being constantly afraid of offending god. And when I go to the gym, I don't have to be embarrassed being seen in my goofy Mormon prescription underwear.

I let go of god and have never looked back. I am okay with the idea that life has no purpose and that when I die, I'm dead. I have accepted reality and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.

So here is my testimony. I don't know what is true... I just know what isn't. When you are honest with yourself, the only possible conclusion is that god does not exist. I know the Book of Mormon isn't true. I know that Joseph Smith was a con man and a pervert. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a lying fraud and that the LDS church is a cult. There is no father in heaven who loves me. There is no side-kick Jesus. It's all a huge lie.


I say this in the name of truth and honesty, amen.

22 comments:

cara lou said...

I felt a burning in my bosom as I read your testimony. Amen brother!

ljr said...

like most of us

i just wonder who i am

AngryDuck! said...

Reading though this I find myself appreciative of the fact that my parents never really insisted that I 'believe'. I don't think they could ever really figure out what to believe either, so they never really pushed anything other than John 3:16.

The fact that they didn't teach me what 'The Truth' was led me to explore religion in all its myriad forms and in doing so, I soon realised that no religion could ever hope to be 'The Truth'.

The fact that I was never a hardcore believer in any church doctrine made it much easier for me to be an atheist. Not believing is much easier when you already don't believe.

That fact that you were so deep in the belief of a religion and still broke free shows an incredible strength of will, since most people I know would deny their doubts and deny the lack of evidence just on the chance that their religion was correct.

Thank you for sharing your story. I can only hope that it inspires others to start thinking critically about what beliefs they hold.

Doo Dah said...

Thank you for sharing. I am so glad to see you let your critical thinking abilities overpower the brainwashing and indoctrination.

It is a slow process to get all the tendrils of "belief" to detach from the psyche but it is a most wonderful feeling of freedom from the first moments.

I have been an atheist for about 10 years now, it always a growing and learning process of all that I had blocked out for the first portion of my life. I JUST finished a world religion course (having gone back to college now after 20 years out) and it was the most enjoyable class finding out the most absolute ridiculous stories, especially of creation, in each one.

Enjoy your free life and keep speaking out to others. It is a wonderful life when you realize you're living it for you rather than hoping for an unbelievable beyond.

Rilda said...

May each day you live be one of great JOY, no matter what comes your way. To live or die with or without Jesus is a personal decision and I respect you for deciding to choose what you stand for cause if you don't know what that is you will fall for anything.
Peace to you and yours!

Random Thoughts said...

My heart felt so heavy as I read your post. It just aches even now. Mostly with sadness, not because you left the mormon church; that was a good decision, but because I know God and know He is and know He lives and know He is good. I prayed for you just now and will as often as I think of you and will pray you find your way back. I am praying that God will make Himself real to you in a way that you will understand and that He will answer you about the difficulty you find with His Word.

Mormon411 said...

Random Thoughts, so you know god? How so exactly? Do you have face to face conversations with him? For some reason, I highly doubt that. I know you think you "know" all this stuff about god, but in reality, it's a myth. Unless you can truthfully tell me that you have actually seen and spoken with god, then I have no reason to "come back" just because you "know" something that you really don't know.

penniemoney said...

For the longest time, I thought that, when something bad happened in my life, it was because I didn't please god, or that I wasn't worthy. I had terrible guilt and self-loathing. When I realized that I was responsible for my own happiness, and sometimes shit just happens, things got much better. There is no mysterious man in the sky who controls the happenings in my life. I am also fine knowing that when I die, I'll probably just be dead. That comforts me more than thinking of being a perpetual spirit baby maker, while my god (like) husband takes on several wives, for all eternity.

Mormon411 said...

Only someone who has experienced this can truly appreciate it. When the light comes on and you realize that there is no god, it is the most enlightening experience. You truly are free from this tyrant of a god who makes you feel like shit every time you make a mistake. I too am ok with the very real possibility that it's over when I die. In fact, it just makes you appreciate the time you have NOW!

Donny G said...

I walk with God. Raised Catholic, in the 60's. Nuns cracking your knuckles the whole ugly mess. Mid twenties began studying the bible. I came to believe I needed to be baptized for the remission of sins,as an adult by immersion. So I did all that. I came to the cross broken, hopeless, suffering drug induced emotional insanity. I have come along way in my understanding of scripture.
I try not to lose sight of that hopeless surrender when I through myself at the foot of the cross that first day.
I am His. Do I still sin? you bet. I need a daily reminder that I am saved by grace, not by being good enough. I am now a member of the Church of Christ. Someone started a website similar to yours titled ex-church of Christ a place for people that were traumatized by church leaders to rant their. I'm free in Christ, if I want to drink, dance, smoke, chew tobacco or kiss girls that do I will. Anyway good luck, God Bless, oops sorry. Have a nice day.

Mormon411 said...

Well Donny, to each their own.

Something I have never understood is why people think they are saved and then they can turn around and sin all they want? That makes no sense at all and that is the lazy way to heaven. An eternal reward (if there is one) would require a little more than saying three little words: "I accept Jesus".

At least the Mormons believe you actually have to do a little work to get there.

Could you please enlighten me?

drasko said...

I had a similar experience: all my beliefs about god came crashing down around me like so many broken plaster-cast statues. When they were gone, I experienced such an overwhelming sense of freedom and peace, as it were 'smiling down upon me'. I lost my beliefs and found my faith in that vast, open freedom as loving me. If anything deserves to be called 'god' it's that.

Bryce said...

Mormon411 I am also an ex Mormon and now an atheist as well. I'm curious as to how your relationship ended up with your wife. There's a girl I like very much who's Mormon, and we are both in college. I am trying to decide if it's worth the effort of trying to further a relationship with her... She doesn't know I'm an atheist. I'm still trying to figure out how open minded she is. But I think it'll be hard cuz her whole family is Mormon as far as I know and both her older sisters are married to Mormon guys. Also a mormon guy is asking her out. I pretty much don't think it's worth it but I really like her

Mormon411 said...

Hi Bryce,

My marriage has been over for about a year now. Religion was just one of our issues. She has actually already remarried and her husband is a never-mo.

Chances are your lady friend will not be able to accept you as an atheist. You never know... I have found in the dating world, it is best to let them know right up front what your beliefs are, that way it can end before feelings are developed. There are actually quite a few atheist single ladies out there, even in Utah.

There are a few free dating websites. In my experience, they work just as well as the paid ones.

http://www.okcupid.com/
http://mingle2.com/
http://www.pof.com/

Sign up and do a search in your area for atheist girls. You should find quite a few. Happy hunting!

Bryce said...

Mormon411, thanks! I have to admit I pretty much already knew that it wasn't worth the trouble but I was also in a little denial cuz I just liked her "SO much" lol. I have already decided to move on, thanks for your advice!

senigami said...

Thanks for the blog, it was a good read. I don't know if any of the readers have any advice.

I'm an atheist, and an active Mormon. I know that sounds odd but for the moment it is easier considering I have 3 and 6 year old daughters that I can't risk loosing in a divorce, (which would surly happen if I 'came out' with my 'beliefs') So for now I continue to go to church but now I get to observe that is going on around me in a different light. It really is a different experience going to church as an atheist.

I've been an atheist for about a year now although the 'seed' was planted much further back. I've been on a mission, married in the temple and all that. I have to admit that it is hard. I'm afraid to say anything to anyone because of my kids. In fact this is the first time I have posted anything anywhere about it. I just have to tell someone. Being an atheist really does make a difference in my attitude towards other people. I find that I am more tolerant and forgiving then when I was a believer. I don't think that the leaders (like the Prophet) are complete liers, I am sure that they are so far into their beliefs that they really do honestly feel like they are doing what is best. I don't blame them for that. Didn't we all try our best on Missions and callings as well?

On the same vein of thought I don't mind so much pretending to believe since in the long run it really doesn't matter, and it means having better relationships with those around me. Maybe I am wrong with this attitude, I don’t know. I'm still at the confusing stage since a lot of this is really new. I do try to point out things to others (like my wife) about things that don't make sense, without trying to 'convert' her to my way of thinking. I'm trying to let everyone find their own way to the truth since coming through that barrier is pretty hard. Once things come crashing down it is confusing as you try to pick up the right pieces. I read in a scientific article that the human brain is pre-wired to want to believe in something. Perhaps that is why smart people still wear 'lucky' hats and other rituals while watching a sports game.

What I would really like is advice from others who have been at the stage I am in and advice on how to cope with it and make it through. Thanks in advance.

Mormon411 said...

Senigami,

You might want to check out exmormon.org. They have forums where you can go and discuss your non-belief with others who are/were in your position. My readership isn't really enough to get a good discussion going. You will talk to wonderful, compassionate people there.

Personally, I could never go to church and pretend to believe. I'm not saying you're wrong for doing it because everyone needs to do what they feel is best. But I just couldn't.

The very sad part about Mormonism is that any love and acceptance is so conditional based upon your conformity. I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus taught. I know you love your daughters and it's an unfortunate predicament you are in. But if your wife only loves you as long as you are a conformin' Mormon, did she ever love you at all?

Matthew Michelle Caldwell said...

Love your honesty! I can relate to EVERYTHING (except I was a convert).

Mormon411 said...

MMC,

Welcome to M411. I'd love to hear your exit story if you have ever written it down.

Pauswa said...

I disagree that life has no purpose. It has whatever purpose you give it. I am a non-believer as well. I feel like my purpose in life is to appreciate all the beauty in the universe and try leave the world a better place than when I came into it. It's very simple. Life is precious because it's the only one we've got.

Pauswa said...

I disagree that life has no purpose. It has whatever purpose you give it. I am a non-believer as well. I feel like my purpose in life is to appreciate all the beauty in the universe and try leave the world a better place than when I came into it. It's very simple. Life is precious because it's the only one we've got.

Moncerrad said...

God is not there to punish, he's there to give lessons. just because you can't see him it doesn't mean hes not there. Good for you for leaving a religion that you described as very controlling but I do not agree with the complete forsaking of god. I guess its difficult to believe in an all powerful being that allows horrible things to happen on earth but that's why god gave us freewill.

but who knows, perhaps when I die I will rot underground and that'll be the end of it. religion might have been created to control others with fear but to others it gives hope and maintains them postive.
Ah religion is such a complicated and delicate subject but only if you let it be. Believe what you choose