Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Friday, August 25, 2006

Breaking the Silence

Okay, it's been far too long since I've made a post here. This isn't for lack of anything I wanted to write about; on the contrary, there are several things I'd been wanting to make posts about. I just haven't had the time. I just started a new job last week, and had to do a lot to prepare for that, and before that there was a convention I went to earlier this month, and, well, my free time has been at pretty close to zero.

As far as the basic topics this blog was meant to be about in the first place, nothing significant has really changed. I certainly haven't gone back on my rejection of religion; as much as I've been tempted--it would certainly be much easier, from a social perspective at least, to just go back to telling myself I believed in God, and being a good faithful Mormon--it's just too intellectually dishonest for me to pretend to myself I believe in something I don't have any reason to believe in. (Though I'm still pretending to others that I believe in it, for the I've said before, I don't expect that situation to persist indefinitely, but I can't quite bring myself to go public with my atheism just yet.)

Actually, I take that back...there is one significant thing, I guess, that has changed. A few weeks ago...let's see, I guess it was three weeks ago today, to be exact (wow, it's really been way too long since I've made a post here!)...I actually admitted to someone for the first time--and I mean admitted in person, not anonymously like here on the blog--that I didn't believe in God, that I was going through the motions of Mormonism but I didn't really believe in the doctrine. It wasn't to a member of the church, or to anyone from whom anyone in the church is ever likely to hear about it, but it's still the first time I ever told anyone about it.

The person in question was a friend whose mother-in-law had recently converted to Mormonism, and she was asking me for advice on how I should handle the situation if her mother-in-law tried to proselytize her and her husband. I thought it a little strange at the time that she'd be asking me for this advice in the first place, since as far as she knew I was a faithful Mormon (I had been, or had been convincing myself I was, when we first met), and it seemed odd she'd expect someone to give her advice about how to avoid attempts to convert her to his own faith. If she'd asked me about these questions six months ago, while I still considered myself a faithful member of the church, I'm not sure how I would have reacted--I'd probably have told her I didn't feel comfortable trying to give advice on a matter contrary to the goals of my church, or something like that. Still, though, since by this time I in fact was not a faithful Mormon, I had no trouble talking to her about the subject. But I kind of felt I needed to explain why I had no trouble talking to her about the subject, which is why I told her about my unbelief.

It was actually pretty easy to talk about, once I started. It wasn't really a hard admission to make. Then again, I was talking to a fellow unbeliever. (She'd been raised Catholic, but I'm pretty sure she had no religious convictions herself.) Actually telling the church members about it, or just stopping my church attendance--which would certainly result in some people from the church asking me why I wasn't coming, and trying to get me to return, and would have to result in the subject coming up eventually...that, I'm still not quite ready for. Still, though, telling someone about my unbelief was a step I hadn't taken before, and I think it's a step in the right direction, even if it's still a long ways till the end of the road.

Anyway. When I started this blog, I was uncertain that I'd find enough to write about. I thought there wasn't that much I'd want to say specifically on the subject of my religious deconversion, and that I'd quickly run out of things to write. That hasn't proved to be the case--I've had lots of things I wanted to write about; I just haven't had the time to write them. But anyway, I think the worst is over now as far as my hectic schedule this month, and hopefully I'll have time to post more often from now on. I don't think I'm going to make too much effort to post this weekend--I've still got lots of things I need to catch up on--but I think starting Monday, I'm going to try to make a post every day next week. After that week...well, we'll see what happens, but at any rate I'm going to try not to let this long go by without a post again.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mawage, That Bwessed Awangment...

Okay, it's been a while since I've posted to this blog. That isn't because I've had nothing to say; there are a couple of things I've been meaning to write about. And it certainly isn't because I've, um, fallen back into the fold, so to speak--though I admit the temptation has certainly been there; thirty years of brainwashing is hard to shake off. No, it's just that I've been very busy, and very tired, the latter largely due to the heat wave--I don't take well to heat.

(I suppose revealing that I live somewhere where it's been very hot recently doesn't narrow things down too much, does it?)

Anyway, one of the things I've been meaning to write about is...marriage. As I mentioned in my first post, I'm not married. Much to my mother's dismay, and somewhat to the consternation of some local religious leaders as well--the bishop of my ward asked me last week (rather out of the blue) when I was going to get married.

In the LDS church, people usually marry rather young. Not everyone does--and in fact, I have a sister only a few years younger than I am who's also not married, and my mother isn't happy about that either--, but that's the norm. Mormons are also expected to marry other Mormons, because that way the marriage can take place in the temple and be for eternity. (No "till death do us part" for Mormon couples!) Marriage is given great importance in LDS doctrine; only those who have gone through the "new and everlasting covenant" of eternal temple marriage are eligible for entry in the highest kingdom of the afterlife. (Theoretically, there is some possibility of the marriage being done by proxy after one's death, but that raises enough issues and is unimportant enough to the matter immediately at hand that I won't get into it right now.)

There are several reasons I'm not married, and I don't feel like going into all of them right now. One reason, though, I think honestly has been my religious misgivings. I had been consciously thinking that for the marriage to work out I'd have to find a woman with similar feelings about the church to mine, without, until recently, admitting to myself what those feelings were--like I've said before, I haven't really believed in the church for a long time, if I ever did; I just wasn't letting myself face up to that. So what I was looking for, more or less, even if I wasn't consciously thinking of it in these terms, was (among other things) a Mormon woman who inwardly didn't really believe in the church but who was still going through the motions as if she did...I think it's pretty obvious why that wasn't easy to find. Not that there aren't likely to be such women out there--I've actually been surprised seeing by the comments of my blog how many other people there seem to be in a situation similar to mine--but they're not likely to be easy to find, since they wouldn't be making public their attitudes toward the church any more than I was...

Anyway, like I said, that's not the only reason I'm not married. There are other serious factors, too, that have stood in the way. Nevertheless, I do want to get married. One reason for that used to be because marriage was more or less a tacit requirement for advancement within the church to higher callings. (Officially, there's not really a pattern of "advancement", per se; someone could be called as a stake president (leader over a whole area with several congregations) who's never held any calling before at all, and someone else called could put in exemplary service as a stake president and yet after his release never hold a significant calling again. Unofficially, though, that's not how it works; the higher callings are generally given to people who have served in callings not too far below them--stake presidents have almost always served as bishops (leaders over single congregations) in the past, bishops as counsellors in the bishopric, counsellors in the bishopric as elders' quorum presidents or whatnot...) Yeah, I concede I did have some ambitions to someday rise to a relatively high position in the church hierarchy--though this is another thing I didn't really consciously admit to myself--, and I knew that wasn't going to happen if I didn't get married.

Needless to say, I don't have those ambitions anymore. But the other reason I want to get married still stands--I want kids. Seriously, call it selfish, but I really want kids. So...I still do kind of want to get married someday.

Nevertheless, I'm now very glad I haven't gotten married yet. Why? Well, because if I had gotten married, it probably would have been to another Mormon. That's what Mormons are supposed to do, after all; they're supposed to marry within the church, and if sometimes a Mormon does marry a non-Mormon, well, people make mistakes--though maybe that non-Mormon will yet convert! Now, I think it's pretty clear that if I were married to a nice Mormon current religious deconversion would be a problem. Keeping such an important matter from my wife would be a very different thing than keeping it from other people, and I'd feel even less comfortable doing that; I think I'd feel the need to be honest with her about how I felt. Even if I didn't, though, as I've said before, my disbelief is bound to come out eventually, even if I'm not ready to come out of the religious closet just yet.

And what would happen when my hypothetical nice, Mormon wife found out I didn't really believe in the church? Well, it wouldn't be pretty. A comment to a Pharyngula post last week described just such a situation--and it was not a happy story. (Dang, I've gone about a week and a half without getting time to read Pharyngula, and there are more than fifty new posts? Where the heck does that guy find the time to post so much?) Someone posted a similar story in a comment in this blog; at least his story did have a happy ending, in that he eventually convinced his wife of the falsehood of their religion, but by his account it wasn't an easy or a pleasant process. So, yeah. I'm very glad I did not get married to some nice Mormon girl, and that I'm not now in the situation of trying to explain to my Mormon wife why I don't believe in God and don't think our eternal temple marriage was really anything more than a fancy ceremony in a pretty building of no particular metaphysical consequence.

As I said, I still do want to get married, but when (and if) I do, I know now it's not going to be to a Mormon girl. I know that--if I haven't already come out publically by then with my atheism--my mother and my religious leaders are going to give me grief about marrying outside the church, but it can't be any worse than the haranguing about getting married that they're already giving me.