I don’t really know where I’m headed. After Mormonism, what?
Because I was raised as a Mormon and spent my entire life trying to follow its teachings, my world felt like it crumbled when I realized it wasn’t true. Although it began as a question only about the veracity of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, I feel now like I have to question just about everything that I had previously accepted only on faith, including the very existence of God.
It’s a slow process. My first concerns were more immediate. How do I deal with the fact that Mormonism isn’t true? How do I continue to live my life? What do I want my standards to be? Can I even have standards outside of Mormonism?
From there it shifted onto my family. My wife still believes that it’s true. She wants our children to believe it’s true. That means that they have to believe that their father is way out in left field. They have to believe that I am the one having a problem, not that there are problems with the church. That’s a little bit painful, but it’s a compromise that is important for my wife, so I allow it.
When I discovered Mormon Stories, my first impulse was to go look at other people who were in a marriage where one partner still believed the church and the other didn’t. Those stories that also included children were even more important to me. I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts like this one about rearing children in a mixed-faith home.
It’s only been more recently that I began really thinking about what my next step is after Mormonism. What do I believe about the world? About God? About the usefulness of morality? About rules and standards of conduct for happy living? About happiness itself, and how best to attain it? About purpose in life? Really crazy stuff that I never had to ask myself before, because Mormonism claims to have all the answers. Now that I know they don’t, where do I go? How do I approach life? My first inclination was toward agnosticism, since, as I understand it, it means you don’t think there’s a meaningful way to prove or disprove the existence of God. I thought I would probably end up agnostic.
I first discovered a series of Mormon Stories podcasts about how human psychology plays into the way we accept religion, which was a fascinating discussion about how impressionable and easily misled we are about the things we accept into our life. I should point out that just because I think we are easily misled doesn’t mean that I think there are people trying to mislead us. I have never had the impression that anyone who is in a leadership position in the Mormon church has been purposefully trying to mislead me. I believe that they were just like me, honestly trying to do their best with the way they were taught and the way they understood the world. I believe that a person can say something that is not true, but still be telling the truth if they honestly believe it.
But I was stunned to realize how vulnerable we are as human beings. How little we can trust about the way that we interpret things. How easily we can lie to ourselves. Then I listened to another Mormon Stories podcast series about two people who transitioned into atheism after they had left Mormonism. What I heard really made a lot of sense to me. I still don’t understand all of the fine lines between different types of atheism, but it really makes sense that the simplest answer might be the most correct. I still need to do a lot more research, but I find myself drawn toward some sort of atheism.
My wife told me that since I have lost my bearings, I will just grab at the first thing that seems to offer some way to explain the world. I’m not opposed to believing that. I find it entirely possible that I could just be grabbing at anything that seems reasonable. But I’ve got to start somewhere. If I’m most likely to be influenced more by the first thing that I see, where should I look first?