Why didn't you tell me?

When I was first discovering things about the LDS church that I hadn't been taught before (things like Joseph Smith's criminal record, or the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham being interpreted incorrectly), I thought things like "Why hasn't anyone told me this before?"  I was angry and upset that I had been lied to.  I felt betrayed.

There are many reasons that I am outspoken about religion, and specifically the LDS church.  One of those reasons is that I want all of my loved ones to know what I know.  I don't want any of them to be able to say "Why didn't you tell me?"  I feel like I have an obligation to persuade others to examine their beliefs, just as I examined mine.

There have been two people that I have personally watched exit the LDS church.  I cannot take credit for them leaving.  But I do believe that I have played a part in their decisions.  I am happy for them and I know that they are happy as well, having come to the realization that they have.  They have both thanked me for my interactions with them.  It would make me happy to see many more people follow suit and cast aside their religious beliefs--whether Mormon or any other religion.

It is not easy leaving a religion.  I don't know how it compares with other religions, but I know that it is very difficult to leave the LDS church.  I didn't personally have much issue with the church itself, but I know that many do.  In some cases, the home teachers or other church members (sometimes including missionaries), continually call or visit even when asked to stop.  I'm fortunate I didn't have to deal with that.  I actually had the opposite problem.  As soon as I came out of the closet and then subsequently left the church, all my friends from church stopped talking to me.  I would hang out with them on a regular basis, but not a single time after I left the church.  That hurt because I had considered them friends.

But there are many things that make it difficult to leave the church.  You get judged, by people that you love dearly.  They tell you that you're faithless and apostate (which are accurate descriptions, but when they're meant as insults they do hurt).  People assume you left because you were offended or because you want to live a sinful life (in my case, the sin of homosexuality).

When you leave the church, you feel a need (and, in many cases, you are asked) to explain why you left the church.  I have been extremely vocal about my views.  I haven't hesitated to state exactly why I think the church is a fraud and why I think religion in general is nonsense.  This is problematic because nobody likes being told that they're wrong.  Especially when it's about something that they feel is sacred, something that they hold very dear to their hearts.  Thus, merely explaining why you personally left the church is interpreted as a personal attack against them and their beliefs.

I won't pretend that I don't attack people's beliefs.  I merely mean to say that for people who really are just explaining why they've left the church, they hurt a lot of feelings for people who still believe and often get many harsh comments in response.  One of the guys I mentioned just posted about some of the reasons why he left the church.  He got many angry comments about it.  Emotions were very high.  From my perspective, he was being very respectful.  He wasn't condescending, he wasn't mocking, like I often do.  He was just stating his reasons matter-of-fact.

But I do attack other people's beliefs.  I feel justified in doing so.  I feel that it is appropriate.  I feel that it is often useful as well.  It may not be the best way.  It may not be the wisest way.  It certainly isn't the most peaceful or harmonious way.  One way I look at it is "in for a penny, in for a pound".  I know that even if I try to be timid and respectful, I will hurt people's feelings just because I'm criticizing their deeply-held beliefs.  So I might as well just go whole-hog and actually mock their beliefs because that's how they take it anyway.

Another way I look at it is I like to laugh.  Some posts I see and they just make me laugh, so I post them.  And I don't really mean to hurt people's feelings by the post--I'm not blind to the fact that it will hurt people's feelings, but that isn't the reason I post it.  I post it just because I think it's funny, and I know many of my friends (mostly the non-believers) will also find it funny.

And yet, another reason I mock is because I'm not convinced that hurting people's feelings is all bad.  Sure, it isn't very kind.  But I think that many times it can be good in the long run.  I think that sometimes hurt feelings are a catalyst for learning and growing.  They can also be a catalyst for cementing a believer in eir own beliefs.  And I've certainly seen that happen many times.  So, perhaps my method isn't the best.  But I do think it has its place.

But mockery really isn't the only method I employ.  I do try to get people to think.  I post some things that are meant to be thought-provoking.  I post things to demonstrate the harm that I see the LDS church (and other religions) causing.  I just saw an article about a boy who committed suicide because he couldn't stop masturbating.  I think that's one very clear sign of harm caused by the LDS church, and other churches which teach that jacking off is a sin.

My goal is to get people to think.  When I say that, I don't mean to imply that people who believe in some sort of supernatural thing (religion or otherwise) don't think.  And I certainly don't mean to imply that they're stupid.  If I were to claim that, I'd have to admit that I'm stupid because I used to believe in religion.  No, it's quite common for intelligent people to believe in stupid ideas.  The fact that you can engineer complex electronics does not make you immune to believing in things which are patently false.  I want people to consider their beliefs, to ask the question "If my beliefs are false, would I want to know it?  And what would that mean?"

So perhaps I can find more effective ways to go about this, but ultimately what I want is to never have someone say to me "Why didn't you tell me?"