Staying as atheist/agnostic

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
eyedempotent
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Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by eyedempotent » 06 Jul 2014, 10:42

Hey everyone, I'm new here (introduction thread here). Anyway, when I started having doubts it wasn't just about one thing or another. I started applying some critical thinking and, to be honest, I think all religion has problems (to my understanding, not trying to criticize others who disagree) and if I had to pin down what I think reality is I would probably say atheism is the most likely. I know there's a HUGE gulf between atheism and agnosticism as it pertains to staying in the LDS faith. I suppose I could say I'm more agnostic and not feel totally like I'm lying, but I'm leaning toward atheism being more likely. I understand comparing the two is kind of like comparing apples and oranges too, for what it's worth.

At any rate, I see a lot of people here seem to have problems with this, that, or the other doctrine, but have other reasons for believing. Is there anyone who has decided to stay but is generally agnostic or even atheist about the whole thing? Obviously staying in that situation is more about cultural or family issues. I still live a Mormon lifestyle and with a few minor exceptions don't mind keeping that up. But all of my friends (except one or two) and all of my family are believing Mormons. So, anyone staying in that situation? How do you make it through church (some days I find it painful, like fingernails on a chalkboard)? One thing I try to do is pick out the things that agree with a secular humanist philosophy. It's hard to handle how much other stuff doesn't fit with that though. Any advice, experience, comments? Am I mostly alone in this viewpoint?

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Cadence
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by Cadence » 06 Jul 2014, 11:40

I am for sure agnostic and most likely atheist. Critical thinking became so much more powerful and influential in my ideas about the nature of the universe than any warm fuzzie ever could. That said I still attend, mostly for my wife and family, although they are a range of believers themselves. Also I spent a life as a Mormon and do not know much else

How do I make it through the meetings? Not easy at times, but mostly I apply apathy. To me none of it matters in the big scheme of things. I strive to not care.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

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MockingJay
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by MockingJay » 06 Jul 2014, 11:49

You are not at all alone in your feelings. There are several here who are atheist, agnostic, deist, full believers in the Godhead as Joseph Smith taught it and everything in between. For me, sometimes it depends which day you ask me. Right now the closest description I can find of what I am is an Agnostic Theist. I'm pretty sure I believe there is some kind of God, but I don't know that and I don't think anyone else does either. I do believe there is some kind of spirituality to life that can't be explained logically, but I'm still trying to figure out what that means for me in a gospel context. I want so much for there to be a Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, but trying to take it on faith doesn't work for me anymore. As I heard someone say, the mysticism is gone. It sounds like you understand that.

As far as what to do about church, I have no idea, but I often feel like you do, fingernails on the chalkboard. I have occasional days though, where I have a calm, peaceful experience too. I'm not sure if it's me or what's happening at church or both.

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SilentDawning
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by SilentDawning » 06 Jul 2014, 13:27

I am a theist in that I believe in God and accept Jesus Christ. But I am agnostic as it pertains to Joseph Smith and the one true church concept. I do believe I had spiritual guidance to join the church, and even asked 'is it true and should I become a member of it". I did feel that I had a strong enough spiritual sensation to get baptized.

However, more information has surfaced about the church's origins, Joseph Smith's behavior as a prophet than in the past. As well, the church organization's handling of the truth (whitewashing history, not educating the membership on key, negative historical aspects of its history) disturbs me. As a result, I have grown to doubt the meaning of the revelation that convinced me to join the church. I think there was good in my getting baptized, but seriously wonder if the church is "true" as I meant it in my question to God.

But my family are Mormons, and one child engages with it near totally -- so I stay, choosing to reserve judgment on the church's own truth claims. I don't want to "deny the holy ghost " by saying I did not have a spiritual experience that convinced me to join the church, but I no longer feel that I'm able to affirm it either.

I don't find arguments given by apologists resonate with me. I see them as people's attempts to spare themselves anxiety about the obvious problems of the church. Some of the arguments are ridiculous or trite. Right now, the church is something I tolerate in my life, try to minimize its negative influence and impact, and support my family in it to the extent I'm able.

As issues crop up, I deal with them here on STayLDS as its the only place where you can get a non-standard a TBM answer -- which is an answer that doesn't usually satisfy.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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nibbler
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by nibbler » 06 Jul 2014, 16:02

It depends on the day you catch me but I'd say that my baseline is agnosticism. Mostly that translates to an allergic reaction to dogmatic worship, which is to be had in spades in most any organized religion. To put it another way, no one, especially me, knows what they are talking about. ;)

This is in some ways a "why do you stay" post, this also depends on the day you catch me, it ebbs and flows and evolves over time but one thing has stuck with me throughout my FC/FT. To paraphrase John 6 in modern, irreverent language :smile: :

Jesus compares himself to the manna that sustained the Israelites during the exodus, people think he's crazy and quit following him. He then goes on to say that if people eat his flesh and drink his blood that they will have eternal life. Ok, so he doubled-down on the teaching and people really think that he's crazy so they leave.

This is where I inject myself into the story. Church history? If taken at face value is absolutely insane. I can completely relate to the people from the story that decided to leave, under certain circumstances I'd be very inclined to join them. Continuing the story I allow Jesus to ask me his question and allow Perter to answer for me:

Jesus: Will you also go away?
Peter: To whom shall I go? you have the words of eternal life.

For whatever reason that one passage speaks to me... and I no longer believe in life after death. To me it's a bit of a mystery but there it is. I desperately want the doctrines of the church to be true even though I believe that they are almost assuredly not. Still, it's a nice belief, a nice thing to hope for.

Also I think church helps me be a bit more proactive than I'd otherwise be. It provides many opportunities to serve people that I wouldn't ordinarily get.
eyedempotent wrote:At any rate, I see a lot of people here seem to have problems with this, that, or the other doctrine, but have other reasons for believing.
I've tried to flip the equation. I try to find doctrines that speak to me instead of finding the ones I have issues with.
-----------------

How do I make it through church? That's a tough one. I hate to admit but after 20+ years of only missing meetings due to illness I've now had three consecutive Sundays where I'll skip out on a meeting or two. Maybe it would help to know that church is typically close to 5 hours for me and it's hard to maintain that level of commitment with where I'm currently at in my beliefs.

Still at times it's very hard. Today for instance a portion of a meeting was dedicated to chastising people over very trivial, non-salvation related things. In the past I may have felt guilty and challenged myself to step up to the hedge but now it's like water on a duck's back. That's essentially the key for me, to ignore the things that I don't feel apply to me (whereas I felt everything applied to me in the past) and search for that diamond in the rough.
eyedempotent wrote:One thing I try to do is pick out the things that agree with a secular humanist philosophy.
I try to do this as well. It's funny, in one stake conference the SP came down repeatedly on secular humanists during his talk :cry: I would have made a movement for the door but I had to give a talk during that same meeting... it was a very secular humanist talk :D
It’s strange. When I couldn’t find the drop and the plague came, you seemed so far away I would not ever be able to find you again. But I know now that you were here all along, and that nothing, not the Black Death nor seven hundred years, nor death nor things to come nor any other creature could ever separate me from your caring and concern. It was with me every minute.
― Connie Willis , Doomsday Book

Roadrunner
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by Roadrunner » 06 Jul 2014, 16:09

eyedempotent wrote:So, anyone staying in that situation? How do you make it through church (some days I find it painful, like fingernails on a chalkboard)? One thing I try to do is pick out the things that agree with a secular humanist philosophy. It's hard to handle how much other stuff doesn't fit with that though. Any advice, experience, comments? Am I mostly alone in this viewpoint?
Im very active in the church to the point most people would call me a traditional, conservative member. However if they listen carefully anyone would know fairly liberal. In my introduction I think I described myself as an agnostic deist. The side of my that was trained as a physicist believes it's highly likely that there is no god. However I've had spiritual experiences that make me believe that there a Heavenly Father and a Savior that exist and care for me. I cannot reconcile the two opposing beliefs and I've mostly stopped trying to. I go to church every Sunday hoping it's true and I raise my family in the church because its my tribe and because if you filter out some of the history and guilt there is a lot of good here.

Thats not a super strong endorsement of the church, but I think it's better than most alternatives for me. For me, hope is the key, based on a strong belief in the Savior and a belief that service ultimately helps the server.

Somewhat tongue in cheek postscript - just dont ask me on an "off" day. The point being that most people waver to some extent, even the seeming local Bruce R Mckonkie.

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journeygirl
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by journeygirl » 06 Jul 2014, 19:34

I'm agnostic, and I do find church meetings to be very hard most of the time. I teach in primary right now, and while at first I thought that would be even worse, I actually am glad to be in there rather than the adult classes. I sort of feel like I'm passing on our cultural myths to the children. Often when I hear what was discussed in sunday school or relief society I am glad I wasn't in there! Most of my family and friends are LDS too, so I often feel I have to tread carefully on certain topics with them. I worry that if I was to be authentic I would lose friends and have family members not talk to me. It is hard living this way, and I hope things will change in the future, where I can feel braver and be true to myself more. Having online resources like this site is very useful to me, because there are very few people in my life that I can discuss things with that don't line up with the church's teachings. So I would suggest having at least someone or an online source where you can discuss any topic, but then filter yourself more when you are around church people. This way you have an outlet for those difficult days at church, but you also don't burden friends or family who aren't able to discuss your concerns.

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Daeruin
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by Daeruin » 06 Jul 2014, 20:52

Too bad we don't have On Own Now around anymore. He could have given great insight into this question, I'm sure.

I consider myself to be agnostic. When I realized that I didn't actually believe in god and had no evidence either way, I had been home from my mission for about a year. I became extremely skeptical about the idea of the Holy Ghost or the Spirit and did not believe that I could know whether god exists, let alone anything specific about god, based on the evidence and experiences I had. When I got married a few years later, I promised my wife I would always go, and I did. For a year or two I still put in some nominal effort—going to all the meetings but talking to my home teachers about my lack of faith and even trying to pray with my wife a few times. But none of my effort led anywhere, and I started to mentally and emotionally disengage from everything about church. It just didn't matter much to me, and I felt like a fraud even being there. For a long time I simply felt that going to church was pointless. Before I had kids to worry about I would daydream about my novel and write notes about it (which has the advantage of appearing as though you are taking notes about the talk or lesson). That worked for sacrament meeting and sunday school. I skipped priesthood for years, instead just sitting in the hall writing in my notebook or playing with my phone (and feeling paranoid that the bishop would catch me and try to corner me into a calling), or often going out to sit in the car or go on a walk. When I started having kids, they were a great distraction and often provided an excuse to be out in the hall. That was how I coped for 10 years or so—just not caring and not paying attention to lessons. My imagination keeps me plenty occupied, so boredom isn't an issue for me.

These days, thanks to the wonderful people here at Stay LDS (and the fantastic Mormon Matters podcast), I have started to re-engage somewhat. I've been able to realize that one can, in fact, be agnostic or even atheist and stay LDS. It's not easy, especially if you are really engaged in callings and trying to work closely with more orthodox members and their assumptions. I haven't gotten that far yet. Right now I'm focusing on trying to sit through lessons and occasionally make a comment that I can feel good about. When people say things I don't agree with I just let it roll off my back—I don't really care what other people believe, as long as they're not harming me or my family. I try to let them worship how, where, and what they may, just as I would hope they allow me the same privilege.
"Not all those who wander are lost" —Tolkien

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by Curt Sunshine » 06 Jul 2014, 21:07

I've said in another thread that, intellectually, I am agnostic - but emotionally / spiritually, I am deeply theistic. I have had a few experiences in my life that cause that spiritual orientation - ones I simply can't fathom any other way than to believe in a God.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

eyedempotent
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Re: Staying as atheist/agnostic

Post by eyedempotent » 06 Jul 2014, 22:11

Thanks for the posts everyone. I just wanted to say that I appreciate it. I will say I'm in a state of trying to figure out what I really want and what's best. There's been some great advice and perspectives here. I guess I'm leaning somewhat strongly to atheism being the most likely explanation, but I won't rule out that there is some type of higher power. Probably not the God of Christianity/Mormondom in my opinion, but maybe something that fits a deist notion. On a related note about staying in this mind frame, I'll read the recommended temple recommend posts, but I just don't see how I can truthfully answer those questions in the affirmative. So I might be staying but without a TR. Time will tell.

Today I just went to Sacrament meeting. There was plenty of irritating stuff there but I felt so much happier after being able to leave after that and not subject myself to the pain of the next two hours that I might try that for a while and see if that calms the nerves a bit.

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