My name is Ned. I used to be Mormon, now I’m an atheist.
hey ned…first time i have run across your blog although many of the other links you have up here i frequent…i was just wondering why you went from mormon to atheist and not mormon to agnostic? (i suppose some may not see these labels as being all that different)…ive been an agnostic for awhile, but i was wondering im assuming you went from mormon to agnostic to atheist?…maybe not but it seems like it could be a pretty logical sequence…if so what pushed you from agnostic to atheist?…ps…forgive me if you have this posted somewhere else…gracias!
Hi, jgtown. Welcome to my blog. I noticed that you posted over on the Foyer too. Welcome to the DAMU!
This is probably going to be too long, but I wanted to try to answer your question about the progression of my beliefs. If it gets too long, feel free to skip to the end!
You are correct that on my journey from Mormon to Atheist, I had a layover in Agnosticville. Personally, I think losing one’s belief in Mormonism is so traumatic that you really don’t have the time or the inclination to think about the existence of Jesus or God at that time. You have to have one worldview shattered at a time!
After I found I could no longer believe in Mormonism, I started to think about Jesus and God. I had always just believed in Jesus because that’s what we believe. There was never any question. However, once I started applying the same standards to Christianity that I had applied to Mormonism, I ran into some problems. And I started asking some questions very similar to the ones I had asked about Mormonism.
Why would God command ancient Israelites to slaughter women and children? Why would God have such confusion over what way to worship him? Why would God have a Middle-Eastern and then European religion but just ignore billions in China and India?
Some people have found satisfying answers to these questions for themselves, and I don’t begrudge them their faith. If it inspires them to help starving people in Africa or India or America then I think it’s a very good thing indeed. It doesn’t necessarily make it a *true* thing, but it can still be a positive influence.
Part of the problem is that Mormonism is such a literal faith. We believe that actual metal plates existed. We believe that hundreds of thousands of Nephites and Lamanites were descendants of Jews and were slaughtered in massive battles (featuring steel swords, armor, and horses). Unfortunately for Mormonism, these are testable claims that haven’t turned out to be true. How could Joseph know that scientific discoveries would eventually outstrip his increasingly fantastical claims?
Fortunately for Christianity, it makes far fewer testable claims: a virgin birth, a man resurrected from the dead, and a few lepers healed. All this happened two thousand years ago, so good luck calling any witnesses. The only records we have were made long after the events took place and they all contradict each other. It’s clear that there’s no divine editor at work here.
I guess I finally decided that I couldn’t believe in a God that would make everything so confusing for people who wanted to follow him. I coudn’t believe that God would start all these awful religions that seemed to do nothing but hurt people. I was left with two choices: a God that didn’t start any religions and watched passively as they all killed each other in His name, or that there was no God, and that the desire to believe in God is the same as our desire to believe in the supernatural. Our lives are very short on this planet, and we’d like to believe that death is not the end, we’d like to believe that all the bad people who get ahead are going to suffer after they die and all the good people who suffered unfairly will get justice in a future life. Unfortunately, I don’t see any evidence that this is the case.
What there is evidence of is that our planet slowly cooled and gave rise to life that eventually evolved into what we see around us today, including an animal so smart that it can discover its own origins and dissect its own DNA while at the same time disbelieving what he finds.
Anyhoo, enough about me. Where are you on your journey, jgtown? I am fascinated where Mormons end up after they stop believing. There are a lot of atheists and agnostics in our internet community, but I wonder if that is really representative of people who leave Mormonism.
Aww shucks, Wry. You are too nice. If MSP is having a slow day, then of course you are welcome to publish it!
On a side note, aren’t you glad I finally figured out how to put the recent comments widget on my blog? It’s sad that it only takes one mouse-click to do it and it still took me 2 months to find it. Brilliant! But it really is the best feature ever.
Personally I find this paragraph most interesting:
“You are correct that on my journey from Mormon to Atheist, I had a layover in Agnosticville. Personally, I think losing one’s belief in Mormonism is so traumatic that you really don’t have the time or the inclination to think about the existence of Jesus or God at that time. You have to have one worldview shattered at a time!”
It makes me wonder whether I will eventually change from agnostic to atheist. Its interesting to think about.
I’d be interested in knowing where you end up too, Craig. From what I’ve seen of ex-Mormons on the internet, a fair number do end up in Atheistown, though it’s hardly a random sample.
I don’t think some strains of Atheism and your brand of Christianity are actually that far apart in practice. Treating all people with respect and equality and all that jazz. The only difference of opinion is whether there’s a bonus round.
I like your explanation Ned. Most of the time I feel like I’m on the train to Atheistown, and that it’s the inevitable destination once you get on the train that leaves Mormonville. Once you’ve gone through the misery of putting the LDS faith under a microscope, it’s hard not to look at some other stuff through that same lens. Very few things are beautiful that close up. Right now I’m doing my damndest to stick my fingers in my ears and sing “la la la” and ignore the calls to get back on the train.
(Sorry for beating your metaphor to death – I really liked it.)
I really don’t have any kind of answer as to why I still believe in God, why I believe in the “bonus round” as you so colourfully, and amusingly put it.
Is it out of fear? Out of a need not to change too quickly, as you said? Or is it because there is something real, even though it may be intangible and inexplicable, that leads me to believe, in my own agnostic way?
You sure have a way of making me think though.
And its a great metaphor.
Interesting questions, Craig. It’s hard for me to parse my beliefs in the intangible (as I suspect it is for a lot of people). As for beliefs regarding tapirs and alpacas pulling chariots… well, that’s a lot easier, isn’t it?