I’ve done quite a lot of meandering on the ex-Mormon side of the internet, and I notice that a lot of ex-Mormons tend towards atheism. Most of the Catholics I know are either ex-Catholic or on their way to being one, but majority of Catholics end up moving on to some other religion. Mormons, on the other hand, fall completely out of love with religion.
All I can say is: I don’t blame them.
There’s a saying by Bishop Fulton Sheen about the Church (Catholic) that is very true: “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” Later, he added a caveat (and here I’m paraphrasing); “and if we saw a Church that did all those things, we would hate Her too.”
I think this can also be applied to many atheist’s views towards religion and God. There are very few atheists who hate religion or God, but there’s a lot who hate what they think religion and God are.
And, while I’d like to say I’ve met many atheists who do not hate the image of the Judeo-Christian God, it wouldn’t be true. A lot of the atheists I’ve met seem perfectly fine with Pagan gods/goddesses, or the image of God in Islam, or Buddha, or whoever. But wow, bring up something Christian and suddenly there’s cause for shame, and a great excuse for some bashing. Perhaps its because of the culture in which they’re surrounded. After all, its a lot easier to resent something that is in your face every day, rather than something that is far away.
Not to mention, shiny is shiny, especially when new. I know I went through a similar phase where suddenly all the Eastern religions (okay, spirituality, if you like) was enlightened, and new, and novel, and better. Because, you know, no wars were ever fought over Buddhism. Especially not in Japan. Or China. Or Tibet. Or…oh yeah…there were certainly some wars. The concept of warrior-monk didn’t just pop out of anime in the 90’s doncha know.
It seems that atheists, like any group of people, have different groupings. In my area, they tend towards 3 broad and overgeneralized categories. Go ahead and call them stereotypes.
1) Born-Again Atheist- This is the atheist that (usually quite recently) has lost his faith. If he’s college age, and his parents still pay for everything, he’ll dress quite stylishly but only in a tousled manner. He’ll be sporting a Moses-beard, which apparently is in denial of all things Christian. He will consider himself quite the enlightened one, quote Christopher Hitchens as often as he used to quote the Bible, (Now, instead of every other word being Jesus, it will be Hitchens) and will press you to agree with his every damn word. In short, he’s a fundie who just switched his belief set.
2) Teenage Atheist- This can be any age, but she will suddenly start wearing black, chopping off her hair (according to some groups in my area, short hair offends God), collecting tats, and will possibly take up smoking since that’s apparently rebellious. (Unless you’re Catholic. And going to Hell. Pretty much the same thing depending on who you talk to…) She won’t be so much of a walking encyclopedia as Born-Again Atheist, but she will make it a point that she can’t believe in a God who doesn’t rain down puppies, candies, and condoms whenever the hell she feels like it.God, to her, is some Ol’ Man in the Sky who takes away all her toys.
3) Rare Atheist- Basically, Rare Atheist doesn’t really agree with the whole religion thing. He doesn’t feel its right for him, but he doesn’t have any particular bone to pick with some Person he doesn’t believe in. He may (or may not) have studied religion intensely, and just found that a lot of it is a little too much to take in and believe. In Catholic parlance, he’s a Doubting Thomas, but he’s not going to belittle anyone for their personal taste in religion, nor is he going to try to convert you to his “side” as it were, although its not as if he won’t debate or talk about his personal convictions. He really does believe in live, and let live.
You can guess which one I like best. (ADHD says: Tim Curry just flashed before my eyes! Hurrah!) This all leads to the video I saw on Progressive Ex-Mormon, which somehow manages to convey all three of these stereotypes. See if you can spot them:
First, you have the dead-eyed generic Christian parents. They’re stodgy, old, cranky, and apparently can’t handle differences that well. Of course, it must be because of religion. They don’t start looking happy until they start being less like priks to their son, because that must imply a weakening of strongly held religious beliefs. Same thing happens with the two annoying girls at the park- also dead eyed and ugly, and one of them is fat. If you notice, the people in Church are either dead-eyed, or have a serious glaze. Cuz religion is thinking for them, get it?
Of course, Theramin has another video basically saying that religion is child abuse, and uses the example of someone who is probably mentally unstable (hey-o let’s blame that on religion too!) to illustrate it.
I did like the video I got off from Progressive ex-Mormon, in the sense that the graphics were good. However, the stereotyping was just as oversimplified as what I posted above, if not more so. The good thing I liked is the message about accepting others, but even that is not so great. It all boils down to Post-Modernism and Relativism. There’s a reason I can’t stand either- because if you declare it a Truth that there is no Truth, you are still asserting that there is a Truth by declaring there isn’t one. Circles are not my thing.
Getting off that tangent, I said before that I’m not surprised that Mormons who leave their faith community end up Atheist. Nor do I blame them.
Why don’t I blame them? Well, I can understand it, having come through life with a very different view of God.
Mormonsim vs Catholicism
Calling: Person of Authority calls you (the “bishop” perhaps) on the phone literally, makes you absurdly busy, and may or may not take into account your own needs and time restraints. There’s no question, you just do it.
Calling: aka Vocation, this means you might be “called” to the priesthood, or marriage, or lay celibacy,or towards a particular career or path for life. Maybe you have a “calling” to work with the poor, or the children, or the disabled, or the elderly. Its always deeply personal, and requires a period of discernment. No one can tell you what your calling is, although you can be told what your calling is *not*.
God: One of many, but the only one worshiped. Used to be a man, spends lots of time banging spirit women and having spirit babies. Constantly contradicts himself, giving conflicting “revelations” whenever the occasion arises. At one point he impregnated Mary ala something akin to Hercules, and sent his Son (one of many, including Satan) to go suffer in a garden (apparently the Cross was just icing on the cake of suffering) after a lifetime on earth, then his son gets to die, very horribly. Mormons then get to live their lives out proving they are worthy of getting into the “good parts” of Heaven.
God: Only One. Three Persons, eternally co-existing, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was never a man, exists outside of time, and certainly has not banged anyone. He sent the Holy Spirit (still God) to the Virgin Mary, and God became 100% Man while remaining 100% God. He then lived for 30 some odd years, suffered, was beaten and tortured, cried and sweated blood in the Garden, and died on a cross. He came not to break the Law, but fulfill it, and when it came to actual pronouncements that He made, He hasn’t gone back on a single one.
Satan: Apparently not such a bad guy, other than all that time he spends on the Internet in Anti-Mormon chat rooms. Instead of having a ton of people fall off into the crappier parts of Heaven (or in the Outer Darkness…am I the only one who thinks of Twilight Zone when I hear that?) because of that pesky free will, he wants everyone to just be forced to love and worship God, be little gods themselves, and to frolic about in Mormon heaven creating more spirit babies. Somehow, God didn’t like this plan.
Satan: Once called Lucifer because he was an angel of light, and the highest of the angels, this little upstart decided he wanted to
eternally progress okay, no be like be God. He wanted to be the one everyone worshiped, and he wanted everything on his terms. He was jealous of God’s power, love, and general awesomeness, so he staged a rebellion. That obviously didn’t go well. Saint Michael, the archangel, who’s name means “Who is Like God?” kicked his horrible uglified butt out of heaven, along with the other fallen angels. Satan also rather got pissed off when he learned that God was going to give such a beautiful thing as a soul to what to him amounted to an animal, and that not only would humans be able to share in Divine Love (from which Satan had severed himself forever) they would be able to repent of sins and return after having done great damage to their relationship with God. For angels, there was and only is one chance to choose or reject God. Humans only make the final choice at death.
The Gospel: The Bible, insomuch as its twisted to fit Mormon ideas, as well as the Book of Mormon and Mormon beliefs in general. If you don’t “hear” and accept it, you get to be stuck in Spirit Prison (at death) until some relative baptizes you post-posthumously, and you accept the Book of Mormon as true. I’m sure its not a coerced choice at all.
The Gospel: In general layman’s terms, this can refer to the entire Bible, but generally is taken to mean the 4 books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that chronicle the life of Christ. Catholics accept anyone as Christian as those who believe in what is taught therein, although they acknowledge huge differences that can be stumbling blocks to faith (John 6 comes to mind). Catholics believe that the best way to Heaven is through the Church Jesus founded on Peter, and as far as who is going to Heaven or Hell, only Saints are proclaimed in Heaven. If someone dies without the fullness of the truth, through no fault of their own, God himself will deal with it, and its assumed that a merciful God wouldn’t cast someone into Hell (or heck, Spirit Prison for that matter) just because they died truly ignorant of God.
These are just some of the differences, and I think they explain a lot about why a lot of Catholics just switch religions, and a lot of Mormons become atheist.
When your image of God is some sexist jock in heaven pounding babes, changing his mind about huge decisions constantly, and using church leadership to control your life so that you constantly feel unworthy and have to keep working to get His approval- no wonder you’re sick of him. This is even more understandable when your ultimate salvation might depend on another family member- just one defect in the family and everyone might be stuck in Latch-Key Terrestrial Heaven.
I often wonder what my mom thinks about when she considers her “eternal progression”. My father is not Mormon, nor do I think he will become one. Especially as a woman, she can’t become “eternally progressed” to the good bits of heaven, because of the whole “marry a worthy Mormon spouse” directive. She can’t call him, to her, since she’s only a woman, and besides- he’s not a Mormon.
What kind of dick god would come up with a plan that fragile? At least in Catholicism, its made very clear that you are saved by grace, but you fall on your own terms. You are responsible for yourself- you may look out for others, and pray for them, and even suffer for them, but your sins are your sins- their sins are their sins. Someday they will have to answer to God, and someday you as well.
If I end up in Hell, it is because of my own choices and turning away from God. Not because my brother decided to become an Agnostic.
Also, as I’ve mentioned before, Catholics aren’t all that afraid of apostasy. We find it sad, we worry for souls, and we pray, but that doesn’t mean we stop communicating and loving that other person. If anything, it reminds us to examine our own consciences. Religion is a huge part of our life, but we’re always reminded that Jesus hung out with people that didn’t believe as well. He didn’t approve of what went on around him, but he also didn’t go running around in the cloak of self righteousness, declaring he was too good to be with *those* people.
For heaven’s sake, Biblical Jesus (as opposed to Mormon Jesus) emphasized that he came for the people who needed it most- not those who were already doing well spiritually. He set up Peter as his first Pope, even though Peter denied him 3 times. He called Paul to become a great preacher, even though Paul, until getting knocked off of his high horse (pun intended), ordered the deaths of Christians. He hung out with Samaritans, adulterers, tax-collectors (in case the public doesn’t know, Jewish tax-collectors were akin to brown-nosers of the Romans. Romans were jerks, to understate things a little.) and even a possible prostitute!
And instead of Hippie Jesus, who never felt anger (apparently Mormons think that’s going to hinder the Holy Spirit…obviously they’ve never read much of Saint Paul…) Catholics have the real Jesus, who went on a rampage at all of the commercialism, greed, and avarice he saw in the Temple.
Seriously. He ran around chasing people with whips, screaming at them. Hippie my chism soaked head.
And as far as Catholics leaving the faith? Speaking as someone who left and came back…all I can say is that watered-down Christianity does nothing good for one’s faith. Note to hippie, progressive Catholics out there: stop bullshitting us and just give us the Truth of Catholicism. We’re adult enough to determine if we should accept it or not.
Give people Truth, and I bet you anything we’ll see a reduction in Type 1 and Type 2 Atheists listed above.