New Religious Beginnings

Some of my friends and family know, and others suspect, that I am either no longer active in the LDS Church or that I am at the very least not as stalwart as I should be. The time has come that I want to publicly clarify my position, and elaborate somewhat on how I have come to this position. There are several motivations for posting this publicly, which I will discuss in a moment. I know this is a bit long, but I want to touch on a lot of things. I’m sure I’ll elaborate further on important points later.

First to be clear, I absolutely reject many fundamental doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I no longer wish to affiliate with it and want to make it clear that I in no way endorse it.

I expect this will come as a shock to a lot of people that know me. This position has probably been more longstanding than most would expect. I came to this determination concretely well over a year ago after the culmination of several years of intense thought and introspection.

Becoming True to Myself

I was initially simply dissatisfied with myself and aspects of my life. I gradually came to realize that I actually hated parts of myself, that my perspectives were often inconsistent and irrational, and that many of my beliefs were paradoxical and in conflict both with each other and with what I truly valued. I literally spent years mentally sorting it all out and reconfiguring how I thought about things and how I viewed the world in order to address these fundamental problems. I had to reevaluate many of my most fundamental beliefs. I had to discover and remove many significant subconscious mental boundaries that inhibited me socially, intellectually, and spiritually. I had to consciously reconfigure many aspects of how I thought and how I viewed the world. Ultimately, I had to figure out who I was, who I really wanted to be, and what I truly valued.

I am now, most simply and accurately, an agnostic: I do not believe that anyone can know whether there is or is not a god. That said, I don’t think that it is likely that there is a god and if there is a god, I find it very implausible that such a being would be anything like what is taught in Mormonism or Christianity.

I don’t expect anyone to easily understand how I have come to these conclusions. As I said, it has been a very long and involved process. I will probably write about more of my experience later, though I’m still uncertain how much will appear here. I do want to be clear, though, that I am as confident and comfortable with my current perspectives and decisions as I have been with any in my life.

At the very core of my being I am at peace with my beliefs. This is something I never experienced in the Mormon church. There were times when I was not aware of the significant paradoxes in my belief structure and times when I gave little thought to the figurative shelf that was sagging under the weight of so many topics that I hoped to understand in the next life. But it was only after I realized that I honestly did not believe in the church that I discovered the much more thorough inner peace that I have now. In my personal experience, the idea that people cannot be happy outside of the church is utterly false.

Furthermore, I do not believe that religion is required (or even all that helpful) for people to live good lives, be good people, and have integrity, morals, etc. In fact, I believe that the fear of God and/or the hope of reward (in the form of blessings either here or in the next life) by God is a very poor reason to motivate values and behaviors. For me, defining my integrity and morals based on what I truly value (rather than what I am supposed to value) is far more powerful. I used to believe that my integrity and values had their foundation in the church; upon closer introspection, the church was simply a red herring (though not harmless, since it actually inhibited the full realization of values I feel are very important).

Why I’m Posting This

As I mentioned, there are several motivations for posting this. First and foremost, I need to be true to myself. I want to be honest with who I am and what I believe. I think the beliefs I’m mentioning here reflect a pretty fundamental shift in my perspective on virtually every topic. I don’t want to have to pretend like I view the world differently than I actually do.

Second, I know there are a lot of people that struggle with believing in the church. The culture in the church prevents honest discussion of serious doubts about the church. Those that don’t believe or are uncertain are often mentally and spiritually isolated and can easily feel totally alone. I know because I have been there. Compounding this, the social ramifications of not believing in the church are extremely significant. If you are in that situation to any degree, you’re not nearly as alone as you think. I wish people simply had the freedom to be honest about what they are thinking. At least I can make it more likely that people will feel they can be honest with me.

Third, it is common in the church for people to lean on others’ testimonies at various times. Knowing that other people that I admired and thought highly of had strong testimonies of the church strengthened my testimony at times. The problem is, you don’t know when those people have serious doubts because they often keep serious doubts to themselves. I don’t want to be that person for anyone else. I know some people consider me to be quite intelligent. Regardless of whether that’s accurate or not, I don’t want anyone to rely on my supposed strong testimony in the church, particularly if that is reinforced by my supposed intelligence. Honestly, I would prefer that people recognize that there are people like me that leave the church because they honestly don’t believe it and intellectually reject it.

And fourth, the culture of the church and—more importantly—the church itself is, frankly, very judgmental. Members of the church often have no idea the negative impact they have on those that are not (for whatever reason) fully-believing, active members of the church. Whether members realize this impact or not, those that are impacted by it do recognize it and feel it. I no longer want people to assume that I am a member of the church and therefore also assume that the stereotypical judgmental poison taints my opinion of them. In reality, I am very open-minded and accepting of people. Ironically, I believe far more strongly in the worth of people now than I ever did while believing in the church. Once again, I want people to be honest with me and to know that I will absolutely accept whoever they are and want to be. My acceptance is not remotely conditional on what God supposedly accepts.

Strengthening Friendships

I am sorry that some of this may seem a little harsh. In the future, it’s likely that I will talk and blog more openly about religious topics. I hope people don’t feel attacked. My intent is not to attack anyone. As I said, I disagree with many fundamentals of the church; however, I adamantly respect others’ beliefs and values. If someone honestly believes in the church and is happy with that belief, then I respect that. I respect their right to believe it and to talk about what they believe—especially since religious perspectives are such a significant part of who we are. I expect the same in return and also want to be able to talk about what I think and believe. Honesty and openness is the foundation of any meaningful friendship.

As I said, this will likely come as a shock to many that read this. It will probably also make many people feel sad, disappointed, and possibly angry. I’m sure I will lose some friends over this, though I hope not many. Rather, I hope my friendships become stronger from being open, honest, and genuine. I also don’t want anyone to feel awkward or afraid of bringing up the church because I’ll disagree. Like I said, I really respect others’ beliefs. I am also fine with talking pretty openly about my religious views with most anyone, so you don’t need to be afraid to ask if you want.

You are welcome to leave comments here or email me if you prefer. I do ask that comments remain respectful to others regardless of religious orientation.