Transitioning out of theistic indoctrination can be difficult, especially if you've been raised with the understanding that "anything is possible with the Lord." Supernatural claims are easy to accept when you don't use logic or reasoning. But for someone who actually cares if claims are true or false, logic and reasoning are essential. As a Mormon, hearing claims from church leaders about Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Heavenly Father were typically accepted without hesitation.
Intro: I would love to have the following conversation with my wife. However, we are at a point in our marriage where I do not believe the outcome would be a positive one. I don't think that our communication is strong enough to allow understanding and compassion. I fear that revealing this information to her would turn into immediate resentment and anger on her part. Also, I fear that admitting this will result in her using it against me throughout our marriage as she has done with other things I have been open and honest about. I am open to any suggestions or input regarding how I should bring this up, or even if it's worth it at this point.
Depression as an Atheist Faith Crisis:
I don't think the phrase Faith Crisis fits with my story. My major problem is with the word "crisis." When I hear that word, I think it usually implies some kind of struggle, hardship, or trauma, usually lasting for a long period of time. I can understand how my story could be described as a faith crisis, but I choose not to use that terminology. Instead, I prefer to say that I experienced a faith realization. My issues with faith and believing were not traumatic. Others that I have known, that go through a change in belief or loss of faith, would describe it as a very traumatic experience and a struggle. For me, the moment I no longer accepted the concept of faith, it was a freeing realization. I felt like I was being honest with myself and finally coming to terms with doubts and cognitive dissonance. This realization came a few years after my second bout with major depression.
Warning: In the next 2 entries, I will be discussing details about my struggles with severe depression and suicidal ideology. If you are sensitive to such material, please feel free to skip these posts.
PART 1Depression as a Mormon
I want to begin by explaining that I do not believe that being raised in an LDS environment was the cause or origin of my depression. I think, for the most part, the goal of the church is to provide support and encouragement to those who are suffering. That being said, I now see how certain beliefs that I held as a true believing Mormon attributed to my justification of wanting to commit suicide.
Placing an item on your shelf is a concept that is well known in the exmormon world. Simply put, there is an imaginary shelf (in our minds) where we can put our problems or concerns regarding church teachings, and later on go back and explore them or forget about them entirely. I don't think this is unique to Mormonism, but it tends to be a very common phrase. The wife of former LDS President Spencer W. Kimball, Camilla Kimball, was most likely the first to mention this idea in regards to Mormon theology.
If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.
I first came across the quote above in Richard Dawkins book The God Delusion and I felt an immediate understanding of the importance of morality. Part of the appeal was because this was a concept I struggled with as a missionary for my church. In fact, during my first week in the mission field, I remember praying intensely for better understanding of good and evil and the reasoning behind God creating Satan in the first place. If God is all knowing, wouldn't he know that Satan would be a problem and the cause of terrible strife? Why would God allow evil to exist when he has the power to stop it? Besides, the bible itself states that God is the one who creates evil.
After realizing that I was an atheist, the absurdity of religious belief became very clear. During my research into what an atheist is, I came across a very funny skit that presents a tongue in cheek representation of theism. It was originally written by James Huber and has been used in several different videos since. One of my favorites is found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaFZQBb2srM
I like to imagine a scenario in which I could sit down with my wife one evening after the kids have gone to bed, explain to her that there is something on my mind and something I'd like to share with her. Then she would say "You can tell me anything, you know that. What is it?" Then I would explain my journey out of theism and disbelief in supernatural claims including that of the church to which we belong. Then, maybe she would say something like "Wow, that sounds like quite an internal struggle. But no matter what, we can get through this together. Let's come up with a plan."
"I would like to bear my testimony, I know the church is true"
This is the phrase we, as Mormons, are taught to say over and over. It's how you begin your testimony. There has been some effort within the church to urge people, especially children, to stop using this cliché, but it still pops up every testimony meeting at church.
If you leave the church, you end up being miserable and alone or giving in to self-destructive habits. Everyone knows that.
There is a fundamental belief in LDS doctrine that if you adhere to all the rules and regulations (guidelines and principles of the gospel) that you will be blessed and find true happiness in life. If you don't, you will never know true happiness and be more susceptible to the influences of Satan. In other words, if you have struggles and trials in life, you are probably not doing something that you should be doing. And if you fall away, you only have yourself to blame.
What do you believe and why? I use to define faith as a confidence or a trust in the things you believe in. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, your faith was sufficient to discover if something is true or not. First, you have faith then you gain knowledge. This works great in Mormonism. You can take an unusual or extraordinary claim, tell someone to just have faith that it's true, and if they pray hard enough and believe that they'll receive an answer, an answer is revealed through feelings of joy and comfort. That's how you can know something is true. Your confidence grows with your faith and you learn to trust this pattern more and more because you feel happier and happier.
Growing up in a religious environment, I was influenced to believe that skepticism and atheism were terrible traits. An atheist was explained to be someone who either claimed that they knew there was no God, or a person who went through such a terrible tragedy or trial that they ended up rebelling against God and hating him. Plus, they hate religion and all churches and want the belief in God to disappear. Skepticism was frowned upon as a lack of faith and giving into the temptations of Satan. You just don't question!
The goal of this blog is to express my own journey out of theistic belief with an emphasis on LDS (Latter Day Saints/Mormon) indoctrination. I will not be attacking specific doctrines or church history. Rather, It is my hope that by working through my own thoughts and struggles I can inspire and support those who may be in similar situations and to inform others how this transition can be a difficult one. I plan on exploring topics like faith, morals, the supernatural, depression, and more. Please feel free to comment and discuss as I am open to alternative perspectives and insight. For more info, please visit my about me page.