Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Losing my Religion

I have thought about my journey many times over the past few months. I have been trying to figure out where or how to start telling my story of loss. Many people say that people don't really ever truly believe in religion. They are tied to the traditions, pressured by the testimonies of their families and ofttimes their duality just gets the best of them.

I would hate to admit that I was ever gullible enough to ever believe in the pure crap the Mormon religion piles on you, but I am afraid to say I must admit I was.

It didn't help that the grandparents that I lived with until I was 12 were Mormon. It didn't help that all my cousins growing up were Mormon. All 52 of them, some through marriage. My 7 Aunts and 7 Uncles on my mothers side were Mormon and both my parents were Mormon.

It didn't help that I went to church almost every Sunday until I was 20. I went to Seminary every weekday from 6am- 6:50am, from my Freshman year in high school until Senior year. I went to Mutual every Wednesday night for a few hours. Went to Saturday morning service projects for a few hours each week, went to Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School for 3 hours every Sunday and Firesides Sunday nights for up to 3 hours.

In college I traded Seminary and Mutual for Tuesday and Thursday night classes at the LDS Institute of Religion. By which they just mean their religion.

I was a devout Mormon all through high school. I believed. I testified. I passed out Books of Mormon to my unsuspecting friends and fellow band members. I mocked people for not being righteous and I lectured my friends on their potty mouths. I was a pain.

How could I not believe? To hear the same thing over and over as fact. To hear adults testify to their truth. To be told that anything other than what the church writes about the church is Anti-Mormon Propaganda. It was difficult to be a doubter when surrounded by family, friends and leaders who were there at a moments notice to tell you that the devil was making you doubt.

But even with all that 'support', with all the indoctrination and peer pressure, my cognitive dissonance won out in the end.

My doubting began when my high school boyfriend broke my heart. I hadn't kept morally clean while dating him over the course of a year and a half. When he dumped me the summer after our first year at college, I was shattered. I dropped weight and chopped off my hair.

I went into the bishop to repent of my sins. He couldn't see me at church, so he asked that I come to his home. He was cold and preoccupied, even though I had made an appointment. He told me that I could never see my ex-boyfriend again, that I couldn't take the sacrament and that he needed to speak with me every Sunday for at least 3 months.

I called his clerk that week and set an appointment for the following Sunday. Sunday came, I skipped partaking of the sacrament and headed to the bishops office after the meetings and classes were done. He told me that he couldn't meet with me that Sunday, and that he would see me the following Sunday. So I went to the clerk and made another appointment.

The next Sunday came. I didn't partake of the sacrament and waited after church to talk with the bishop. I was doing really well on my path to forgiveness. I had started dating a Mormon guy and he was prepping to leave on his Mission to Galveston, Tx. I was reading my scriptures and praying daily. I even started writing poetry to deal with my pain and guilt. I was disappointed when the bishop blew me off again.

After 4 Sundays of being ignored by the bishop, I started sinning again. Not as bad as before, but still sinning. I didn't feel that my progress was being supported the way the bishop told me it would be. The 5th Sunday of not partaking of the sacrament, my mother noticed. When the bread and water (body and blood) are being passed, the chapel is silent. My mother took that opportunity to loudly whisper "You're not a virgin anymore are you?" after her face had contorted in disgust when she noticed I hadn't taken the bread. I just stared blankly at her. I was 19, felt it was none of her business, and I had no clue how to handle her. So I kept staring blankly. She stood up, grabbed her purse and scriptures and left. Yup, she left me and my brothers at church with no ride home.

It didn't surprise me. She had kicked me out of the house for being 5 minutes late for curfew. Then 5 days later asked me to move back in because my younger brothers missed me. When I had turned to her for comfort when my boyfriend of 18 months dumped me, she said, "Well, now you can date a nice Mormon boy.", then went to bed. No hug or comfort. And now she was punishing my brothers for my personal decision.

Walking home from church that Sunday, I started to realize how much perfection was expected in Mormonism. God made us with imperfections, why would He punish us for them? He made us with the ability to rationalize and think, why would He punish us for using said abilities? By the time my brothers and I got home, my testimony was shattered. My mother never comforted me or supported me through trials, pain and tribulations. Her love felt conditional. The bishop, who was supposed to be there to mind God's flock had totally ignored me for over a 1/3 of my repentance process. My mother and father were divorced at the time, so my father was absent and distant.

How could a God that loved His creations, His children, be absent as well? I felt ashamed for doubting God's love. But that walk home, with only my own reasoning in my head started a snowball that would continue to roll until 10 years later, when I walked away from Mormonism, then finally Theism altogether.

I attended church from that point on with my closest friend. We went to a singles ward. We stayed for sacrament meeting (which I never partook of the bread and water), then left to break the Sabbath by eating at a local restaurant called Islands. It became our tradition. It was honestly the only reason why I went to church for the next year, to hang out with her, talking about life and sharing some of the best hamburgers around.

Then my mother kicked me out for being an evil spirit and bad influence on my brothers and I moved to Georgia.
(The picture is my mother and I outside church one random Sunday in the mid-late 80's.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year's Resolution

I normally don't make New Year's Resolutions. Mainly because I like to be a woman of my word, and I never keep them. It just gives me more reason to be disappointed in myself for no real reason.

But this year, I am making a few lifestyle changes. I am eating healthier and I am hoping to eventually get to the point of cutting out all white flour and sugar.

I am more aware of my community and hoping to volunteer more. As an Atheist it's sometimes tough get involved. So I have made myself a list of websites that offer some volunteer opportunities. I couldn't help but share.

One day each year the non-religious participate in the National Secular Service Day.

Please also remember that one pint of blood can save up to three lives. You can also donate platelets...

And it doesn't hurt at all to get on the National Marrow Registry. If you can't register, you can always donate financially.

I donated blood for the first time as an Atheist, and joined the National Bone Marrow Registry as an Atheist.

I know I have become a better person because of my Atheism. I love my country, my fellow human beings and my family so much more.

What could be better than a Sunday morning spent in the service of your fellow man?