October 15, 2020, the Day I Became an Atheist

Wait. Are you saying that as a Mormon, you were denied knowing the basic facts about your own religion? If true, that blows my mind.

Not surprising-I doubt many people know a lot of basic facts about their own religion. Most sermons aren’t history lessons.

I was under the impression Joseph Smith was a huge deal. Like one rung below Jesus.

Of course, but obviously the Mormons don’t see him as the charlatan that history tells us he was, they see him as a prophet who passed on genuine revelation from god.

Basically. Although Mormons will quibble about what constitutes “basic facts.” As @Two_Many_Cats2 writes, JW teaches that the world was created with Adam and Eve, so they are not going to teach that science overwhelmingly shows that’s impossible.

It’s the same for Mormonism. They teach that the Book of Mormon is a true account of ancient people living in the Americas who came from Israel and became the Indians, riding horses, growing wheat and had gold and silver money based of the value of barley, all of which has been conclusively proven to not have happened.

Likewise, there are the foundational stories which establish Smith’s position as a great prophet (early Mormon leaders placed him close to Jesus in terms of overall importance) but from historical records the overwhelming evidence is that the stories were created years later in response to challenges to Smith’s leadership and did not occur as were told. For example, the famous First Vision account of the boy Joseph Smith meeting God and Jesus was not created until 15 to 20 years later and is contradicted by Smith’s earlier accounts as well as historical records.

I do know of Mormons who go on to become fundamentalist Christians, rejecting the parts of Mormonism which Smith made up, but still completely accepting the fantastical parts of whatever the new religion is. That’s the exception, though. Once you’ve seen that the emperor has no clothes, it’s too much work to pretend other naked people aren’t fully dressed, either.

You’d think a fairly obvious principle when making shit up would be to set your fairy tales far enough in the past that there aren’t reliable historical sources or direct evidence to contradict them.

When Smith made up the Book of Mormon in the late 1820s in rural upstate New York, writing about events two thousand years prior seemed impossible to fact check but what amazing me is that religious faith trumps reason even among the highly educated Mormon scientists, engineers, professors and other technical professionals who I know, grew up with or are related to.

My Stanford-educated scientist friend from high school, “Bob”, to give a personal example, values the subjective warm fuzzies he feels as proof of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and simply refuses to subject the truth claims with the same scientific rigor as his studies. Because he “knows” it’s true, he won’t even allow himself to form questions in his mind.

I don’t go out of my way to try to point out flaws to Mormons but he asked me why I left, and wanted to know my reasons. Yet, when pointed out the obvious, the denial was so overwhelming.

There is something about faith which prevents some people from processing reason. I grew up that way, which is why leaving a religion such as JW or Mormonism is so difficult.

For the other things which Smith made up, including the First Vision, I suppose the principle applies. The believers are going to believe, despite the overwhelming contrary evidence.

I thought of a better example for @Spice_Weasel about the facts being withheld from members.

It’s a matter of historical record that Mormons practiced polygamy, yet apparently that is not widely taught these days. Two of my great grandparents grew up in polygamous families, so I always knew, but it stopped being taught by the church. In fact, quotes from early leaders were altered to avoid mentioning polygamy. Naturally, the fact that Joseph Smith married other men’s wives was effectively concealed by the church, as was his marriages to girls as young as 14 years old.

I know people who left JW, and it seems very similar. The particular details naturally differ, but it’s the same overall experience.

Congratulations to the OP to be able to finally let go.

Mazel Tov, @Two_Many_Cats2!

Ex Catholic here, and finally after about 50 years I’m pretty much over the resentment and loathing for the church that I felt when I left.

If your religion (even Catholicism or JW) brings you comfort and joy and makes you a better person, then, shucks, what more can one ask from an ideology? Sadly, the church did neither for me and it’s been a relief not to have to fear hellfire just because I can’t accomplish the mental distortions necessary to justify the mythology.

I have ended up an agnostic. Perhaps this is just being intellectually lazy, but here’s what it looks like to me:

Whatever I or anyone else believes changes nothing about the actual construction of the universe. God isn’t Tinkerbell: you can’t keep a deity alive by wishing.

By definition (at least mine) any god worthy of the name would have to be unfathomable to a mere human. So all these mere humans that pretend to know what god wants are full of it. Theology is just another, and particularly boring, branch of cryptozoology.

If you have an argumentative personality (e.g. Richard Dawkins or Penn Jillette) and enjoy semantic one-upmanship, I suppose atheism provides some amusement. I personally just don’t care that much about theology.

And now you can enjoy the Official Atheist Anthem!

That isn’t what atheism is about, atheism isn’t “about” anything. It honestly is merely a lack of belief. Most atheists don’t care about theology either, most atheists don’t know enough about theology to care about it or argue about it.

I thought it was “gobble gus.” But in any case, congrats. TooManyCats2!

I think theology is a fascinating subject, honestly. I’m interested in my own faith and the process of losing it. I used to speak in tongues and spend a great deal of time trying to ward off demons. Now I think the whole thing is ludicrous. How do we get from point A to point B? I hate proselytizing but I enjoy talking to others about their faith or life philosophy. One of my close friends is a Presbyterian minister and he knows so much more than I do about the history of theology.

Yeah, maybe I’m not most atheists, I dunno. But I don’t think you can generalize about atheists any more than you can generalize about, say, stamp collecters.

The correct analogy is surely that you can’t generalize about atheists any more than you can generalize about NON-stamp-collectors.

Thanks. I knew something was off about that.

But I wouldn’t call what you are describing “theology,” more like "sociology " or “history of religion.” To me theology means “the study of deities.”

I agree with you that trying to figure out why people enmesh themselves in religious practices is both fascinating and important.

Spot on.

I also like to learn about different people’s conceptions of God. For example my friend now does sermons online, and I’ve actually watched them to better understand my friend’s faith.

I’m atheist but I’m not anti - theist. I tend to think religion brings out the best and the worst in people. It’s true many evils are committed in the name of religion, but in the absence of religion I think the dangerous people would still coalesce around some shared ideology.

Unless you define exactly what you are agnositc about, exactly what the thing is that you think might exist, your claim that you “don’t know” is meaningless. How can you make any claim to belief or knowledge (or lack thereof) about a non-existent hypothesis?

I’m not interested in engaging with someone who has already already arrogantly insisted that they know what I believe, and that I don’t. I couldn’t care less about your inability to comprehend my point of view. Go pester someone else.

As an evangelical Christian, I’ve said before that if I weren’t a believer, I’d be the most diehard atheist, because I have an atheist-type mind with atheist-type programming in my brain. I have had experiences that point to the existence of God, and do believe God exists, but totally understand why atheists would think not. My family leans atheist too.