Sunday, January 11, 2009

My quick de-conversion story

An old friend recently emailed me... not really asking why I left the church, but perhaps implying the question. Since I've never really included the story on here, I thought I'd copy what I wrote in my email back.

I have no problem sharing why I left the church. I'll try to make it really short, and then if you want to know more, you can ask. As you know, I studied history at USU. I love learning about history and doing research about people. My senior year in college, I ran across some things taught by Brigham Young that I didn't agree with. I went to the USU library and checked out all of the books by/about Young that I could get my hands on. The more I read about him, the more I disliked him, and came to believe that he was a false prophet. Because of that, I decided to read more about Joseph Smith, too, and was shocked to learn about his money-digging and early practice of polygamy (about 10-11 years before his revelation in D&C). So, after some research, I started to think that Smith was lying, too.

I still believed in a god, of course. When I started doubting Smith, I did research comparing the Bible to the BoM. I found a lot of contradictions between the two, and because of my loss of faith in Smith, I believed the Bible over the BoM. I stopped going to church and then eventually had my name removed from the records. I started going to a non-denominational Christian church instead. This was about November of 2003.

In June 2004 my best friend (a Mormon) died. A Christian friend of mine, upon hearing of his death, reminded me that my friend would be going to hell since he was a Mormon (and not a "Christian"). Obviously, that made me really angry. My friend was a wonderful person who tried so hard to do everything right. How could a loving god just send him to hell?

After reading a biography of Gandhi, I was again confronted with the thought that an otherwise wonderful, decent human being was going to hell, just because he didn't believe in god "the right way." I decided to stop going to church altogether, even though I didn't lose my faith in god. I had decided that religion was made up, since they were all basically saying the same thing -- "I'm right and everyone else is wrong." But, I was still spiritual. This was probably around August 2004.

By that January, I had become very skeptical about even the idea of a god. It didn't make sense to me anymore. I called myself an agnostic for a few months, but kind of felt like that was a "cop-out." I'd say I considered myself an atheist by mid-2005.

I know that probably seems simplified and like I didn't really put any thought into what decisions I was making. To the contrary, it was a torturous couple of years. The thought of being wrong almost scared me back many times. I was constantly confronted with the knowledge that I could no longer believe in the faith of my family, my childhood, my ancestors. It tore me apart. I would have dreams, constantly, that friends of mine had died and come back to tell me that I really did have to be Mormon to get into heaven. I had a lot of demons to contend with, as my brain could no longer accept the teachings of any church, but the feelings that had been instilled in me since birth tried to pull me back, to go against what I considered rational, simply out of fear of what I couldn't know.

Many people ask me if I just had too much trouble following the commandments, if it was just easier to fall away than to feel guilty as a sinner. Not at all. I was a VERY good Mormon girl. I broke it off with a guy I was seeing in college because I felt like he wanted to kiss too much. I was the Sunday School teacher in my singles ward. I had taken the mission prep class the semester before with the intention off going on a mission once I graduated (on a side note, some of the things I learned in that class started steering me away from the church, even back then, but that's a different story).

In fact, the first time I went to get ice cream on a Sunday made me feel REALLY guilty!

It's been a long time, now, and my lack of faith no longer haunts me. In fact, I don't have any of those old demons of guilt and confusion to deal with anymore. I'm quite happy and content with myself -- EXACTLY how I am. Do I know if there is a god? No, but the evidence I see points me towards "NO." Do I know what will happen after I die? Well, besides making my loved ones sad, no. But, that's okay. I'm fine with not knowing. For all I know, NOTHING happens. I'm just dead. Nothing wrong with that -- it won't matter to me at that point, since I'll be nothing. I don't worry about that kind of stuff, anymore. I just live, and enjoy living. I'm good for goodness' sake, not for any other reason. I'm okay with that.


GreenishBlue said...

Fascinating story. I'm always interested to hear the journies of other people who left the LDS church. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

Though I left the church at a relatively early age, a dear friend of mine who was quite devout had a similar experience. She was going to be doing a home teaching session on Joseph Smith, so she hopped online to do research on him. She had a meltdown and didn't sleep for two days. She world was so shaken by what she had learned. So sad.

down side up & right side in said...

Wow this is an intense story. Thank you for sharing. I've had a similar experience, except my family is 'Christian.' Being around them over the holidays is difficult because they take any experience they can and turn it into a moral for me ("well, you will find a job if God points it in your direction I suppose") or, about the baby ("here, Maddie, fold your hands and we will pray for your milk!"). It's grueling sometimes, and I have found that though it is very, very difficult for me to admit to myself and to diverge from feeling emotional about, there appears to be no 'God'--except love, and that I do believe in.

Big Dave said...

Good lord, I thought for some reason that i was alone in this! All those people who said they would stick by you through anything apparently weren't referring to atheism when they said that :) Thank you for doing this as it helps me (and im sure many others) who are making the jump from mormonism to a healthy outlook!

Eric said...

I know how hard that this thing has been for you. It is a tragic life experience, much like the death of a close friend or family member. I applaud you for coming out and explaining your situation. Fuck Mormons!! And all of the harm they caused you.

K.B. said...

I'm curious why people who leave the church always go to the polar opposite end of the spectrum and want to take everyone with them. I suppose misery loves that's understandable. What I cannot even fathom is how one would ever think there is no Father in Heaven. Whether you're LDS or not, if you can look at the beauty in nature or hold your new born baby in your arms and not believe there is a loving, generous Creator, you really have learned nothing.

Michelle said...

OK. Luckily, I suppose, I'm not miserable.

Caspur said...

Opposite of miserable. Thanks for sharing. When I finally came to the understanding that the hardest part of athiesm was dealing with the disappointment of family, I could not deny it. The "Church", most religions teach, whoever will not sacrifice family for "His" name is not worthy. Well to me my God is truth. I love the saying "To thine own self be true."
Well life for me is more peaceful, less stress. As I have explained to my wife, and it reassures her, I am not claiming athiesm to get away from moral obligations.
I have rambled, I appreciate your story. I do love Penn Jilletts thoughts about god.

Michelle said...

Thanks for stopping by, Caspur!

kuri said...

Whether you're LDS or not, if you can look at the beauty of presents under a tree and not believe there is a loving, generous Santa Claus, you really have learned nothing.

Michelle said...

Boom, roasted!


The Lyoness said...

I am right there with you - for some reason, people seem to think that you HAVE to know if there is a God or not. Why? Either way, you're going to try to be the best person you can possibly be, help out your fellow men as much as possible, and whether there is a God or not doesn't matter in the slightest until you are dead.

And by that point, it's too late to do anything about it anyway because if there is a God, he/she/it is going to love you for being a good person, and if there is no God, then you're dead and you don't care.

I really don't see why people are so hung up on this. But then again, I spent an entire YEAR studying out the question of whether there is a God or not, so it's taken me quite a bit of time to get to where I'm at, LOL! So perhaps I shouldn't sound so blasé about it, because I definitely wasn't always this way. ;-)


Equality said...

Love your blog and totally relate to your story. Aye, aye, my fellow Pastafarian!

Sara said...

Thank you for your story, I have been struggling to fully come to terms with the idea that Joseph Smith MADE IT ALL UP and every little helps. Every day it gets a bit easier!

Michelle said...

Welcome, Equality and Sara!

Before you know it, you'll be amazed that you ever believed it all. Congrats on your progress!!