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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saying sayonara

There has been quite a bit of hoo-ha lately in the Bloggernacle (that is the Mormon blogosphere, if you were not aware) with regard to the question of why young people are leaving the church. This has grown out of a larger discussion of why young people in general are leaving Christianity behind--Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic discusses the phenomenon here. As all nine of my regular blog readers probably know, I used to be LDS or, more commonly, Mormon. When I left the church I didn't tell most of my friends up front--it came out over time, in my words and actions and opinions and sudden queries of, "Hey, want to go see (insert R-rated movie title)?" In retrospect, this was sort of unfair (especially to you, Dr She Bloggo), and I feel like giving a more complete explanation for my admittedly-abrupt shift from Molly to ExMo, especially since I have been reading the various reactions to the issue of "the nones" with interest. I mentioned this briefly awhile back, but it deserves more time, because it continues to shape who I am, for better or worse.

I am inclined to agree for the most part with Kiley's assessment at We Were Going To Be Queens. I was extremely invested in the LDS church while I was a part of it--I gave talks, held callings, read my scriptures every day, prayed, sang hymns, camped, visit-taught, attended church every Sunday. However, as things changed in my life, it became clear to me that everything I had been doing and everything I had thought I was believing in since age five was a veneer. When the tipping point finally appeared, the ease with which the LDS way of life fell away leads me to conclude that I belong in both the group that never had belief to begin with and the group that lost its belief. In some ways this is the hardest middle ground I can conceive of.

So what WAS that tipping point??

In a word, and that word said with Bill Nye flair, SCIENCE! I know that there are many scientists who reconcile faith with their work, and there are many religious folk who are skeptics and even atheists (a topic which I will return to in another post, fairly soon), but for me and Mormonism it was too much. It was biological anthropology, to be exact--evolutionary theory. I sat in that class and one day managed to see past the awesome hotness of my professor and concentrate on what he was saying, what was on the screen behind his awesomely hot head, what was in front of me in the textbook. And there it was: the Spirit. Honest to Pete, what I felt like right then, what was happening in my brain and my chest, was what I'd been told for fifteen years would happen when the Holy Spirit descended on me.

Obviously I had never felt that. But I was feeling it then. Beautiful, clear evolutionary theory! Nothing had ever made more sense, felt more right. I registered for that class without even thinking that it could damage my faith, and I left that class completely without faith. My faith, I see now, was never particularly strong to begin with, but everyone thought it was because I was such a good LDS girl, and I thought that it needed to be and I was doing something wrong. Many, many sad nights spent crying to God for repentance for perceived transgressions, and hearing and feeling nothing. Many times being told to pray harder, you'll get the right answer!

(To date, by the way, the closest things to "spiritual experiences" that I have had have been that anthropology class, the reading of various books, and a couple of heavy metal concerts. Which probably means I should start worshiping Satan.)

That afternoon after class, I broke down to my dear boyfriend about how I didn't think I could be LDS anymore. I was scared at the time mostly of what I would tell my mother, which I guess says a lot about what my testimony had been previously--I wasn't fearing for my soul, I just didn't want to hurt my mom. Well, I had to. She's still hurt about it, but if AP Lit taught me nothing else, it's that humans can't live for other people for very long before their souls begin to die (o hai Kate Chopin. Leaving a religion is better than drowning yourself, right?). And after that conversation, I felt...light. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Furthermore, I discovered that the things I'd been trying not to think for many years, that feminists weren't really man-hating baby-eaters, that scientific theories weren't concocted by Satanists, that saying "fuck" now and then (or a lot) is more fun than anything else, that gay people ARE PEOPLE TOO: all those things were part of what made me ME. All those things are part of my ethical code. I got them from somewhere, and it was not the church, and when the church's scales fell away, those things remained and grew and developed. I remained and grew and developed.

Me. Hello, self. It was nice to meet you. We are doing wonderful things together and we will continue to. I have a different spirituality now and I attend no church, and I may attend one in the future or I may not, but I am an honest human. The LDS church may be the road to happy for some, but many roads lead that way and currently I like the one I am on.


Donna Banta said...

Congratulations on finding your freedom. Many people come to the tipping point, but don't tip. Instead they remain unhappy in the system, and as you alluded, the longer they stay, the more they invest. So, kudos!

Diana said...

Thanks. I am glad to have been able to do it. Someone I interact with on a message board has indicated that she is not really satisfied with the church but cannot ever see herself leaving. It is weird and sort of stupid-sounding, but before I left the church it never occurred to me that people would stay despite not believing the doctrine. New Order Mormons and the like were a definite eye-opener.

Dr. She-Bloggo said...

D'y'know, for as much as I knew how religious you were when we were younger, I never really thought of you as such. There was a disconnect in my brain between who I knew you to be and what religion you practiced. I guess that's some solid proof about the church being a veneer.

And PS, I don't think your method of letting people know you left the church was particularly unfair. I don't recall much from that time, though. Fuzzy memory!


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