Former Mormons, you know the story well. One day you are weeping over the pulpit in Relief Society about how Sister Olsen selflessly brought you tomato soup after you birthed another child. Now, you are posting selfies on the ExMormon subreddit, toasting a glass of gin and tonic to your fellow heathens with glistening, virgin shoulders on a church-free Sunday.
You were all in. A righteous son or daughter of God. Called to represent Jesus Christ in the eleventh hour. Now look at you. Getting drunk on the snark that drips from ExMormon forums and wallowing in the internet fallout of bad church PR.
I went from “Goddess-in-training” to a tattooed, coffee-drinking, social-justice pushing atheist. What the hell happened?
Call it what you want: a crisis of faith, deconversion, a fall from grace….sleeping with Satan. Bottom line is we don’t believe anymore. The details of how it happened are complicated to say the least. The poor soul who ever asked a recovering Mormon why they left the church. I have vomited my church-induced anger on a handful of people. We send out mass emails. We write the long Facebook posts. We write letters to our parents, spouses and children. We try to legitimize our disbelief with loved ones so that they will accept us. Even if they don’t leave the church themselves, at least they know why we did.
The evolution from devout to disenchanted has a traceable path. To those of us who have gone through it, hearing another’s journey of losing their faith rings painfully familiar. Sometimes the only place to commiserate and be free to express our anger is on the internet. So we share our experiences and the things that we have learned. And we find ourselves bonding with strangers.
We learn we are not alone. We aren’t crazy after all. A collection of doubts, guilt, and unanswered questions build up until a watershed moment roars out of us like a freight train. Somewhere along the way we had our minds blown and the universe looks a whole lot bigger. Like a spiritual experience, there has been a shift, and it feels profound. Monochrome to Technicolor, baby. We are reborn.
The ExMormon moment is now. Over the last few years, we have crept out from the dark corners of the internet into a thriving, public community. I have to give a huge thank you to those who put themselves out there—who publicly challenge the church at great cost. Feminine Mormon Housewives, and Lindsay Hansen Park’s Year of Polygamy. John Dehlin and Mormon Stories. The CES Letter by Jeremy Runnells. John Larsen’s Mormon Expression. Mormonthink. Brother Jake and Infants on Thrones. Kate Kelly’s Ordain Women movement. My Book of Mormon Podcast with David Michael. I am an Ex Mormon series on YouTube, NewNameNoah, and QuitMormon. There are many, many more voices, but these were the top influences during the ExMormon moment I was a part of. We don’t always get support from our family and friends, but we do get deep solace and encouragement from the broader community of ExMormon outreach. It’s not hyperbole to say they have been lifesaving.
Yes, the ExMo’s are thriving. But, I don’t want to spend time writing about why the church isn’t true. That space has already been carved out. I want to think bigger. People are leaving their dead beliefs all over the place. It’s bigger than leaving Mormonism. We are a part of a broader world community of dissenters, with eerily similar stories. Spend time chatting with other ex-Christians or even ex-Muslims and you instantly see the commonality. The religions that once set us apart are now bringing us together as we forsake them. Call it secularism, call it humanism, call it atheism; this broader platform leads the world in advancing human rights, scientific discovery, earthly stewardship, and in my opinion, holds humans more ethically accountable than the religious world.
But, I want to think bigger still. The back-and-forth between the religious and secular communities is tiresome. We could debate religious leaders with our reason and intellect forever. We should. There will always be bad ideas that need to be called into question, especially those that are so steeped in tradition that they often get a pass. But we also have to reach outside of our newfound secular ideology. Can we find some common ground to build on? To foster more rational conversations, and to connect on a more human level? Or will we go from one flavor of dogma to another, isolating ourselves from anything that disagrees with us?
My intent as an ExMormon and as a humanist is to write about experiences that reflect the complexity of our lives. Faith in a higher power is part my experience. Dissent and rejection is now as well. Both can be raw, ugly and beautiful. I used to view the world in more black-and-white terms. But now I’m seeing the grey…and the red, blue, green and neon pink. Humans are complicated creatures, and life is incredibly beautiful and sobering all at the same time. It can be overwhelming to take it all in. Yet we stumble along, learning and growing into the person we want to be; intelligent, fearless, persistent, and loving.
So, be critical of ideas from church and everywhere else. Take your passion off the screen and into something real. Stand up for inequality. Challenge the status quo. Stay thirsty for knowledge. And while we do so, may we foster relationships with believers and non-believers alike. Net progress is slow, but it doesn’t happen when we build up walls.
After four years of ideas bouncing around in my head, it’s time to put pen to paper. If I’ve struck a chord with you, stay tuned for more thoughts, some poetry, short stories and book reviews. I’ll be working on the “big-one” on the side: a dystopian novel, heavily based on my experience leaving the Mormon Church.
I’ve got something to say.
I am a force for good. I am Delaney Darco.