I was asked in an email why I left the church. She asked why I was apostate and how I could live with myself and my decision. She continued by asking what made me that way. We had gone to church together when I was younger and she just couldn't understand how someone who was as good as me could be that person. With the accusations of my devoutly Mormon older brother echoing in my mind ("You think you are so much better than me because you were MORMON once but your not. I know more than you will ever know. I know I'm right and I know you are wrong and any time you ever want to debate that let me know because in one hour I can smash everything you ever thought into a pulp. I know exactly how people like you think.) And my other brother telling me "when mom found out you had your records removed and left the church she told everyone and it sounded like she was telling everyone that you had had an abortion or something."
I decided to lay it bare for whoever wants to see it and silence all the questions.
Erik and I were at my brothers house the other night just enjoying ourselves. He has tivo and thus records most of what he watches on TV. I guess the other night some 2 hour special was on PBS about Mormons so he Tivo'd it, hadn't had a chance to watch it and asked if we wanted to watch it with him. We said yes.
My brother was raised Mormon just like me. He went on a Mormon mission, he came back and I believe if my memory serves me correctly it was just a few short months until he decided it was crap and left the church. He had gone to the temple and done all the things he was suppose to do but he still left it. Now he is a proclaimed Buddhist and a vegetarian with two kids and a wife. He has a healthy and happy life.
I struggled for a long time when my brother left the church. I think it was mainly because he did leave the church and I didn't quite know how to react to that. He left right when the stirrings of "unanswerable questions" and my "distaste" really was starting to come together. I was recognizing what was happening to my brother as something that was happening in my own mind and I wasn't sure how to react to it. First, I didn't know why someone who even went on a mission would leave the church... and then I couldn't understand why I, who was just a youth in my early teens, was feeling the same pulse my brother felt stirring in my blood. Did it mean I was a horrible person?
And the sad part is, I tried so hard. I really tried. If someone swore around me I'd sing a hymn to get the horrible word out of my head. I read the book of Mormon daily and had 15 minutes set aside for personal prayer which I did nightly. I kept my mind and my body clean. I did everything in my power to insure that I could feel the spirit and to make sure God really would talk to me the way he did with everyone else during fast and testimony meeting. But it never happened. Ever. I tried so hard, and inevitably every Sunday in Young Women's I would still ask one or two questions in which the answer was "some things aren't revealed to us yet" or "we aren't ready for the answer but the prophet will tell us when we are ready." I chewed on that for a few months, maybe a year and accepted it. Or tried to.
When I went to the next class in Young Women's I was angry. Why couldn't these people who were called to teach me answer the questions I'm asking? Why shouldn't women serve missions? Are we really not as good as men? Why shouldn't someone touch me below the chin, just because you said so? What happened in the Mountain Meadow Massacre? What happens in the temple? Why is God so angry all the time? Isn't spite a purely human emotion? Why are your ethics my ethics?
And I stewed on questions like that and so many more for quite some time. About that time a friend of mine was leaving the church and I watched her struggle for a while not letting her know that I was going through the same thing. The more I saw people like her and my brother leave, the more I realized I deserved to have my questions answered. So I went to church and I listened and still was studying my book of Mormon at this point in time...
I remember one Sunday it hit me like a brick wall. I was sitting in Young Women's and they had just recited the Young Women's message and then began the "join lesson" part where one person gives the amassed Young Women a 15-20, maybe 30 minute lesson. She talked about the prophet and his decisions. I remember where she stood and who was sitting in front of me. I even remember the way the room smelled. I think this was my real "turning point." She read something from the prophet about how women aren't needed in the mission field. They have the hardest job, the job of raising children. The woman's place is in the home, was basically what he was saying. I remember feeling this anger just boil inside of me at that point. I was on the back row so I leaned my chair against the wall, chewed on the inside of my cheek and just stewed.
Who was this man who had never met me, didn't know anything about me and never would know anything about me to tell me what I could, should or will do with my life? Why is his judgement, a strangers judgement so much better than mine? I think it was that moment that I realized I couldn't pretend anymore.
I stopped going to my lessons. I'd sit in the mother's room and read a book instead. I had to go to church. I wasn't an adult yet and my parents said that if I wanted to live in their house I had to go to church. Eventually they found out that I wasn't going to my classes and they hauled me off to their classes with them. I was still angry though and when I started asking the adults questions they couldn't answer I knew something was wrong.
My mother realized very early on that her daughter was going apostate. She called the bishop and demanded that I have weekly meetings with him. Every Sunday after sacrament meeting I went to his office. We would sit across this huge cherry-wood table from each other and debate. At the age of 14 and 15, a mere spec of a girl who only knew that she was angry, I would stump him every time. I will never forget that this man who was the spiritual leader of hundreds of people would never have anything to retort but "even Einstein believed in God." or "Wow, Sarah, you are a tough nut to crack." This spiritual leader, this man people looked up to and spilled their family secrets to couldn't even figure out what to say to an unlearned 14 year old, yet hundreds of people with unquestioning obedience and adoration in their eyes followed him baahing like sheep. At 14 I saw the horrible parody of this, the bitter irony played out before me cemented better than anything else ever could have that I had no place in that religion and never had.
At that point in my life I couldn't even fathom a life without religion in it in some way, shape or form. My whole life had been dictated around this thing. Every Sunday you are cut off. God doesn't care if you fight with your siblings but he's pissed if you go see a movie with friends. It was about this time that someone from school gave me a copy of the Satanic Bible to read. I took it home. I was so scared of it at first. I refused to touch it. I hid it in my night stand. I was pissed the day I started reading it. The more I read the more I realized how much of life I was missing.
There were so many other viewpoints out there that I didn't even know existed. Why were the philosophers always shunned? Why is intellect bad? I pealed open book after book and engrossed myself in religion after religion trying to understand as much as I could about any of them. Some of them I spent years studying, others just a few months. Every time I thought I had found one I liked I realized that I had those damn unanswerable questions still. Philosophically, when I was in college I realized that I wasn't ready to pledge my life or my eternal salvation to a religion or creed that couldn't answer the questions posed to it. "You'll learn it when you are ready" wasn't good enough to me. Obviously if I'm asking the question I'm ready to hear the answer.
I didn't understand for a long time that you didn't have to be religious to study religion. I didn't get that you weren't a bad person if your religion was not being part of any religion. Depending on the month and year you asked me I was a self proclaimed member of so many different religions. Then I got sick of playing that game so I was spiritual but not religious. Then I realized that since I don't fully agree with any of the religions I've studied maybe I was part of all of them so you'd ask if I was Catholic and I'd say "yes." You'd ask if I was Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Dravidian, Masonic, Pagan, Wiccan, Druid, Chaos etc and I'd say "yes" to any of them.
I said that because I didn't know how to answer. The more I studied the more I came to the conclusion that most mystics are playing 365 days of Halloween, Christians, Jews and Muslims are worshiping, and part of religions that simply make my skin crawl with their disgusting contradictions and thoughtless fellowship. Hindu's and Buddhists are interesting to me, I admittedly have much more tolerance to Eastern thought, but even those two religions are the same shit but a slightly different smell. So when someone asked what religion I was, I didn't want to say "oh they are all crap, but interesting crap." Saying I wasn't religious didn't even enter my mind. Especially not here in Utah where you are either Mormon, or your Christian.
So of course my search for that one religion I wouldn't be ashamed to say I was part of came full circle. I found the American Atheists, Rational Response Squad and the like. I took Political Science in college and realized how important it was that religion stayed out of education. I watched the news and read the stories and saw in my world around me what happens when people try to impose their personal moral choices on the heads of strangers. I saw all this and realized that being non religious was a deep sense of pride for me. It was something I always was, but was afraid of saying it. Saying I was an Atheist and have been for quite some time was almost akin to a homosexual coming out of the closet. I didn't have any announcements, or parties or anything like that. I just didn't hide was I was, or rather wasn't, anymore.
Finally all my learning's, realizations and so forth came together. I realized that the questions that couldn't be answered in church couldn't be answered because there was no answer for them. I realized that the religions that keep secrets from it's worshipers weren't worth the steam off my piss. I realized that any religion that God was a little too much like humans. I realized that the word "believe" really bothers me. I realized that I was a skeptic and that there is nothing wrong with that. I realized that questions aren't bad and learning isn't something to be shunned.
The most important thing I realized, however, was that I have always known all that and that realization, that knowledge that I always had hidden deep within me wasn't something to be ashamed of. When I learned that there were other people who were just like me out there I felt less alone than I think I ever have during any searching I have ever done.
So I watched this movie about Mormon's with my brother and Erik the other night. Boyd K. Packer, I believe is his name, stated something along the lines that agents of the devil are feminists, homosexuals and intellectuals, at that moment when I was listening to the Mormon incarnation of Jerry Falwell speak I knew with this conviction deep in my soul that I had never made such a good decision as to have my records removed from that church. I had never made such a good decision as to declare myself an intellectual and I had never been so proud to be an agent of Satan.
One of the first things said in that movie was that a good Mormon should never question their superiors in the church, even if they know that they are questioning them with good cause.
I have never been that person. I never will be that person. And bile rose in my stomach, pure disgust ate at me as I realized that Mormons all over the world were listening to this man telling them never to question and that intellectuals were doomed, horrible people, agents of Satan. They were eating his words as a starving man would eat poisoned food. Disgust, pure revulsion.
So I asked God what religion was the right one, just like Joseph Smith did when he was 14. Only I asked him when I was 8 and didn't stop until I was 15. I never got an answer and I am deeply proud of that.
Prayer: How to do nothing and feel like your doing something.