Thursday, August 15, 2013

Reactions to My Recent Deconversion

Besides the Internet and my husband, I've only told 2 people about my change in religious beliefs.  Well, not really a change, but a cementing of what I do believe and what I don't believe.  I was kind of hurt and surprised by their reactions, but I probably shouldn't have been.
   In Mormondom, it's assumed that if you go "inactive" (buzzword for not showing up at church), it's for one of two reasons.  You were either pettily offended by someone, or you want to sin.  I'm not making this up, either.  Those are the answers given in the Sunday school manuals.  And for the longest time, I believed them.  I mean, if the Gospel is true, those are pretty much the only reasons that make sense.
   When I started consciously realising what I believe and don't believe, I noticed that my reasons for not wanting to attend church didn't quite fit.  I wasn't offended, I was bored and over-guilted.  I didn't want to "sin", but I wanted to make choices for my own reasons, rather than because I've been told a certain way was right.
   Obviously, with only those 2 reasons being acceptable, it's very easy to look down on the person leaving.  It kind of boils down to "You have all of the truth of God.  Why isn't that enough?  Why are you letting your pride and natural man get in the way of the Gospel?!"  So it was very difficult for me to find the courage to tell people.  I only have 3 friends, besides my husband and my mom, and all 3 of them are LDS.
   The first person I've told has known me almost 10 years.  Since we were both in the single's ward (which is a unit specifically for single adults 18-30).  She had been my rock; she was always so strong in the church.  Whereas I had flirted with inactivity since I was 14, she served in high positions-as high as women can, at least.  I had been discussing with her some of the difficulties I was experiencing at church for a long time.  Sometimes it seemed that our conversations were "bitch sessions" where we would just rag on and question everything.  It really helps sometimes...Anyway, she called me, talking about some of the issues she's struggling with, and somehow it popped out.  Just a random "I've taken off my garments (serious sin) and no longer identify as Mormon." in the middle of a conversation about boys.  Silence for a good 2 minutes.  I don't do well in silence, so I asked "Well, what do you think?"  She hesitated again, and said:
   "I think that you've been hurt, and been lead to believe things that aren't doctrine.  I think you should try harder to listen to the Spirit. Besides, where else would you look for religion?"  I have the unfortunate habit of answering every question I'm asked honestly, so I said "We're looking into Wicca."
   I'm sure you can imagine how well the conversation went after that.  The part that makes me saddest is that she hasn't returned a text or a call since then, and it's been weeks.
   The other person that I've told is my best friend.  She lives in Utah, and has grown up LDS.  I told her pretty much the same thing I had told my other friend; I expected the same reaction.  I didn't get that.  Her first response was: "I hope you don't go out drinking and partying; I'd have to kick your butt."  Anyone that knows me knows I haven't touched alcohol, ever.  Not because Joseph Smith said it was wrong, but because my dad was an abusive alcoholic, and addiction lines are crazy on both sides of the family.  I know what my tendencies are, and I know that once I started drinking, I wouldn't stop.  She knows this.  Yet, still, her reaction was basically "Why do you want to sin?"
   The next question she asked was, "What did your husband think?"  This is a good question!  I told her that he agreed with me and came to the same conclusion independently, and it was only after I declared I was done with church that he told me what he'd been feeling.  Her answer to this?  "Oh.  So he's out, too?"
   That answer weirded me out, and I couldn't figure out why until recently.  That was something that I said when I was 8, in reference to a neighbour leaving my made up "science club" (basically dumpster diving and rescuing random bits of crap to study).  The neighbour and his brother were hanging out with the girls a few apartments down, and I felt betrayed that they were leaving my club.  But I was 8.  
   I can understand that my friends would be confused and maybe hurt at my choice.  But it's MY choice. And I wish they could listen to my reasons instead of freaking out.  Since I'm in a rational mood, I can understand why they can't react unemotionally.  They are scared.  Scared I might be right; scared that their gospel foundation isn't true.  Probably also scared that I'll change and pull them into the big, bad world.  I understand that.  Parts of me are scared that I've been wrong and God is going to smite me into hell for questioning.
  If that's true, I frankly don't care.  Why should I spend my life being afraid?  Afraid of hell, afraid of being separated from my husband, afraid of being labeled an outcast?  I just want to enjoy my life making my own decisions.  And accepting my consequences.  I just want to be free of the gilded cage I grew up in.  I want to question, and find adequate answers.  There are so many things that I want, that I don't feel Mormonism can give me at this time.  Do I feel guilty?  A bit.  Am I terrified of telling my mom?  Hell, yes.
   Where do I go from here?  I don't really know.  I'm still finding my way.  I just wish my choices didn't have to hurt most of the only friends I have.  But at the end of the day, I've got to live with my thoughts.  And I refuse to be penned in again.

9 comments:

  1. I just wanted to say I think you're being very brave. It take courage to really examine religious beliefs of any kind and a special kind of courage to take a leap into the unknown looking for answers. Bravo!

    Consider from your first friend's perspective, if she's a true believer then you've told her that she will never see you in heaven because you won't make it there. That's a bit more than being scared that their gospel foundation isn't true. It's possible time will heal that friendship, but it's also probable it will not.

    As to your 'best' friend, it sounds as if the relationship will eventually be fine, she's just processing.

    If you're interested in reading about other people's experiences with this type of revelation, Google the topic "coming out of the broom closet" and consider adding "to my mormon/evangelical family." If you want any links vetted for accuracy/believability, feel free to email me (full disclosure I'm a Pagan Community Organizer in Maryland and have identified as pagan for 13 years).

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  2. Thanks! The Google search is really helpful. It's nice to not feel alone. There's not a huge Pagan community here, and even less that used to be LDS.
    And I hope things with the friends get better. Though you're probably right about the first one. Sigh.

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  3. "Besides, where else would you look for religion?" I'm not a psychologist, but I think this statement captures the core of humanity's addiction to religion, that it's a coping mechanism. It's like she can't even imagine a life where the answers aren't all neatly wrapped up with a bow.

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  4. I'm not sure if it's about the answers. I think she genuinely thinks all of the truths in the universe can be found in Mormonism, and can't grasp that that might not be wholly accurate.
    Which is, I guess, kind of a coping mechanism. Hmmm. And the point goes to you.

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  5. It is a terrifying and difficult transition when you leave such a dogmatic faith community. I lost all of my friends when I left conservative evangelical Christianity. Sorry I cannot allay your fears on that front. I did it quietly, humbly and without stirring anything up, and I still got flack and silence.

    I now attend a Unitarian church with my wife and daughter. It's a good place to be because they don't require an adherence to any ideology or doctrines. There are pagan/Wiccan oriented celebrations, which makes my world interesting. I call myself an agnostic follower of Jesus. It's what makes sense to me. But, I also study Sufi Islam and the teachings of the Buddha. They help me follow Jesus more truly. You have to do what makes sense to you, and it is good to find a supportive community in which to do it. If you're not finding much in the way of a Wiccan community, I'd encourage you to seek out a Unitarian Univetsalist community, assuming there is one where you are. Not everyone will share or understand your path, but they'll love you and support you for it, not in spite of it.

    It gets better over time. Decide on the life you want to live and do it. There are costs, but the reward is soon much greater than the cost. May your new path be fully blessed. Namaste.

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  6. Forgive the typos. I pounded this out on my smartphone.

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  7. Thanks. Really. I found a Unitarian church nearby, and their website sounds...well, kind of what I'm looking for. I'm glad to hear that it gets better. I'm hoping it's like a diet, where the first little bit is hell, and it gets easier.
    And I didn't notice any typos. I was overwhelmed with how perfectly I needed to hear what you told me. :)

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  8. So glad to be of encouragement. If my strife, difficulty and suffering has not just made me better, but also helped another, it validates the experience and completes the circle.

    We called ahead and met with ministry staff before we went to get a feel for what to expect and to help them understand where we were coming from. It was a very helpful first step.

    Also, give yourself and the community time. It took us about 9 months to make connections and start feeling rooted in the church. Whatever community you join, UU or not, give it time. If you're not quite ready to jump in, serve and get involved, it will take longer. That's okay. It's okay to be lonely, angry, stifled, frustrated and confused. You need to dwell there to process, find your bearings and heal. It's incredibly uncomfortable, but you'll get there. The mere fact you're here exploring it and thinking coherently about it is evidence of that. Hang in there. I mean, hey, you just made a new friend today ;)

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  9. Thanks! I emailed them, so I guess we'll see.

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