Surrendering Gods & Heroes
by Brad Morin
for Positive Atheism
Original De-Conversion Stories
From: "Positive Atheism" <Editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Positive Atheism List"
Subject: Tell Us Your De-Conversion Story
Date: Monday, June 19, 2000 9:35 PM
TO UNSUBSCRIBE, THROW A DEAD CAT INTO A GRAVEYARD DURING THE FULL MOON
What we would like is your de-conversion story. Did you become an atheist or skeptic? or were you raised that way? If you deconverted, how has it affected your life -- good and bad? If you were raised this way, how do you think you differ from others in your approach to your atheism.
What we will do is fix the grammar and spelling for readability (unless the writer objects) and post them in a special section. If you want to include a portrait, see the specifications below.
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"Positive Atheism" Magazine
This submission to our De-Conversion Stories vividly describes the writer's initial loyalty to "The Faith of his Fathers," and continues by showing the emotional upheaval which inevitably follows the discovery of having been betrayed. All along we see the writer resisting what his natural mind is trying to tell him. This finally gives way to his resolve to stand firm and pay the price of being true to oneself. Particularly moving is how the two brothers simultaneously awaken, first to the truth of their situation and ultimately to each other's "dirtly little secret"!
Surrendering Gods & Heroes
by Brad Morin
written for Positive Atheism
April 14, 2004
Our exodus from faith was made easier by the likelihood that Mormonism is the most demonstrably false religion in all of Christendom. Still, the journey was anything but easy.
Mormons typically have larger families. Ours was a family of thirteen, reflecting the devotion and commitment of generations bred into us. Our upbringing produced both wonderful memories and successful, happy siblings. Chris and I -- bothers, mathematician, and faithful Latter-day Saints -- neither gave nor recognized any early hints that we would be the two black sheep in the family. We served faithful two-year missions for the Church and followed up with years of dedicated commitment.
The religious claims we embraced were bold, promising, and in harmony with our real world picture. The Church history we studied was inspiring. The banners of goodness we waved, "By their fruits ye shall know them," were beautiful. Our appreciation for Christ was immense. The carefully selected scientific evidence we repeated was enough to impress even the skeptical mathematician within -- to a point in time. The promise of godhood was exhilarating. The bonds of "forever families" could not be equaled by the most successful of cults. Our faith was everything to us, more precious than mortality itself.
After eighty-plus years in the Church, between the two of us, we had easily contributed 60,000 waking hours in church service and devotion. Our contributions exceeded $100,000 in tithes and offerings. We had read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ forty-five times, cover to cover, not to mention our Bible study and other selective spiritual readings. We sang the hymns, clung to the words of ancient and modern prophets, and spent thousands of hours on our knees in personal, family, and community prayer. Our willing investment was significant and sincere.
For years, our world was virtually black and white. Shades of gray entered as we realized that some of our own intense spiritual experiences were not reliable and that some of the Old Testament stories required justification in the way of repeated mental gymnastics each time we read them. We had long known that other people's religious observations and reasoning had to be questioned, but we weighed our own beliefs on a very lopsided balance scale. Our inspiration was special; our willingness to hear and obey the whisperings of the Holy Spirit was a carryover from our valiance in a pre-earth life, or so we had been told.
We tried to sympathize with how other people viewed over-population concerns, evolution, and a host of controversial social and scientific issues. We began to recognize some elements of extremism in our past political and religious views. We discussed with no one the issues that could cast a shadow on our faith. Strangely enough, as close as we were as brothers, we hid from each other our unanswered questions on faith. Sequestering such questions helped preserve our intellectual dishonesty.
One persistent rumor finally turned my head enough to double check some religious facts; Joseph Smith had in fact taken other men's wives. In my view, at that time, early Mormon polygamy was acceptable and in fact was God's doing, but this taking of other men's wives -- and girls as young as fourteen -- had been rather well hidden from me. Aspects of it sounded hauntingly similar to David Koresh. Upon doing the research and verifying the disturbing details from defenders of the faith, I became angry. I could not find language potent enough for my private condemnation of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young and their machinations. Compelling suspicions demanded more answers. Was Joseph Smith a fallen prophet, or was he a fraud from the start? Determined to find the truth and convinced that potential inconsistencies could be exposed from within; I carefully avoided all anti-Mormon writings. The Book of Mormon was shortly discredited. The Bible followed later.
I kept my faithful Mormon wife apprised of my discoveries, but she did not believe I could leave the Church. When finally informed that I was leaving the faith, her world fell apart. We had been married less than two years. My existence took on the aura of a bad dream, day and night. I could hardly sleep. I was on leave from teaching at Utah Valley State College. My software business suffered badly as I could not focus on it. Our one-year-old son, Caleb (named after the courageous Old Testament spy for Moses in the land of Canaan), became my salvation. Love for him preserved my impetus for living. My long held pride in my faithfulness and gospel knowledge became a heavy burden. I knew the dark light in which apostates were viewed. I shrank from the unavoidable judgments of beloved cousins, uncles, aunts, and a host of esteemed friends. I foresaw the return of the ill-conceived bread I had once cast upon the water.
Two beloved parents and ten siblings had to be informed. I had no desire to hurt my parents, but could not pretend. My anger toward the dissembling founding prophets was easily swallowed up in the deep dread I felt in approaching each family member. My explanations could not have sounded very coherent. Stunned but civil, they all took the announcement as well as could be expected. Some encouraged me to think it out more carefully and to pray about it. They could not have fathomed the extent or passion of my recent prayers and the depth or breadth of my considerations of the past and future.
Within days, the reactions of some siblings had hardened. "Don't share your beliefs with my children." (It was an unnecessary request.) "Maybe we better cancel the family reunion." (Cathy and I were in charge that year.) Understanding their fears did little to ease the loss of cherished kinship. Chris was the only family member with whom I felt at ease. When he made his exit announcement shortly thereafter, some family members could no withhold their anger. Some of their ardent fears eventually subsided but their distrust remains.
Cathy asked that she be allowed to break the news to her family. She could hardly bear to tell them. I knew that she would be pitied and condemned. She was viewed as being in the shadow of a spiritually darkened home. Her long and lonely journey started without a single comforting, understanding person to whom she felt she could turn.
Much of what Chris and I cherished had been lost; nevertheless, we still had a ray of hope for the resurrection. An intense love for life and for our children, coupled with a deeply ingrained belief in God, kept the hope for life after death from immediately fading. We opened everything for consideration, trying to unfold life's greatest mystery. It was like uncovering a murder plot of cosmic proportions, with us and our children as intended victims.
Acceptance of our probable, permanent demise finally came. It felt as if I had lost all of reality; yet, I knew I had not lost one blessed rivet of reality; I had lost an illusion, my spiritually driven autism. I had been happy while holding to an illusion, so I reasoned that happiness was independent of reality. There were still bike rides to make, meals to enjoy, children to tickle and teach, and boundless curiosity to satisfy in an expanding new world. There are still moments of profound sorrow for the evanescent nature of life; and yet, those moments invoke renewed compassion as -- removed from my once secure, God-ordained perch -- I see most of humanity eye-to-eye for the first time.
Having not found god, shall I lower my expectations for humanity, abandon concern for posterity, and live for the selfish, thrilling here and now? Maybe I should cast aside my false sense of importance and trudge on, finding vicarious satisfaction in knowing that following my death the intricate universe with all its hidden wonders will live on inevitably, or at least for a long time? Or, shall I don the garb of a cosmic gladiator for the ultimate, unfinishable battle; that of extending and enhancing the wonderfully unfathomable human experience, for your descendants and mine?
Maybe there is still magic enough in the cold, hard facts and in the cosmic's inadvertent experiment with humankind, a species that shows stunning promise for genuine intelligence in the not too distant future.
Brad L. Morin.
Our full story is online at:
This is not an excerpt, but a complete recap,
written exclusively for Positive Atheism.