Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coming Out Atheist

Andrew over at Irresistible (Dis)Grace took me down memory lane with his post Growing up as an atheist Mormon.  I started to write a comment to his post but ended up writing this post instead. 

Along with coming out about BDSM and then later homosexually, I also had to come out again about my atheism.  Strange thing was that it was harder to do.  I had repressed it longer.

I recall a time when I was probably around 7 or 8 and started pondering the meaning of life.  I remember it was nearing the time that I was to get baptized.   I was always doing a lot of thinking. One summer afternoon I had an epiphany as such that whatever it was I was supposed to believe in was all crap.  Unfortunately, at that age I didn't know any better and dismissed that thought.  I had long discovered in my youth that it was NOT OK to have dissenting opinions about beliefs in the nature of God as I was continually made aware.

The rest of the story was just as Andrew said.  Basically trying to understand why none of it was engaging or appealing.  To me it was all pretty silly.  And there was always that nagging feeling in me that I was always disregarding what I felt to be right.  But fear compelled me to set it aside for social acceptance and try harder to understand why they "felt the spirit" and I didn't.   What was this "burning in the bosom"?   What was that?   Ironically, I never felt that feeling until I actually started taking that path of authenticity which led me right out of the church.  And now I understand what that feeling really is for me.  It's a real physical sensation and is always associated with deep emotional healing.  Ironic in that most of the time that "burning in the bosom", that healing, comes to me through the very things the church spends it's time and money on to demonize and condemn.

It's interesting to me that the church can be a healing place for some but complete anathema for others.  A part of me resents the church for manipulating people like that.  But then a part of me sees that many church members, such as my mom, seem to know where the truth stops and the dogma starts.   Still, I would love for her and everyone else to be truly free of such nonsense but then, in the end, it's her truth.  Who is to say I have any say over her truth or anyone else's for that matter.   Just like no one else has any say over mine.  

4 comments :

  1. What you say in your last paragraph is REALLY what keeps me interested in talking to thoughtful believers. It is just fascinating to me that the church can be a healing place, a place of spiritual, emotional, social, and even intellectual nourishment for some...while for others, it is a bane. We see it as a great harm, as a great danger, but what I can't shake is that there are many people for whom the church is exactly what the doctor ordered.

    Going backwards from last paragraph to previous ones...I agree...while I still don't know if it is anything near the "burning in the bosom" that members speak of in such great terms, I can say that as soon as I stopped trying to "force" church approved beliefs, everything just started *making sense*. So, ironically, it was the church's teachings which helped me see past the church. I actually wrote about this on Main Street Plaza ( http://latterdaymainstreet.com/?p=662 )...strolling down memory lane is so good!

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  2. Thanks for your post and the link.

    I am not sure what I am anymore, and I don't worry about it. After I left the church, it was a relief to not have to testify to knowing that unknowable things to be true anymore.

    I identified as atheist for a period of time, but I plain don't know.

    I started going to MCC a few years back to listen to the Christmas music and decided to stick around. What I did miss about the LDS church was the sense of community and belonging. What I don't miss is having to conform.

    No one at MCC seems to care what I believe or don't believe, so that works for me, because my beliefs are always changing in ways that make sense to me...

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  3. Wow. Someone who felt the things I did growing up. I was never convinced inside, right up through my mission and beyond. And if I expressed my doubts to a leader, they were dismissed or I was handed something to read. I say that not in a bitter manner because almost without exception the "help" was well-intentioned and loving. It just was simplistic and certainly didn't actually help.

    I wish I was brave enough to leave. Bad decisions on my part made me unwelcome and uncomfortable, which helped me face the reality of how I felt. But it is so nice and such a relief not to have to say I "know" something is true when nothing could be further from the truth.

    I am now agnostic. I think the existence or non-existence of God is simply unanswerable. I'm not anti-Mormon. I don't think the Mormon mythology is any more incredible than any other. It's just more modern and so harder for people to accept. Many mock Joseph Smith's "vision" but are perfectly willing to accept Moses' parting of the Red Sea and the burning bush story.

    Thanks for helping me feel a little less alone in the world.

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  4. As a former Catholic, now atheist but Buddhist (which to me is a philosophy or way to live life but not a religion) I understand much of what you say. Being an atheist makes us part of a smaller minority than being gay does.

    For many, including some of my family members, they want to be told right and wrong, a rigid explanation of all that they should or should not do. They can't seem to handle the grey areas of life, just want black or white, good or bad. Life isn't that straightforward, but people want it to be. I've never understood that either.

    I just found your blog today and enjoyed reading it.

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