5 Reasons You Will Wish You Never Left The Church

Leaving a religion you deeply believed in isn’t easy. In fact it can be very difficult. This is not something you should do without thoughtful consideration of the ramifications. On my mission I often watched people convert from one religion to another. They suffered. They were cast out of their homes as young teenagers because their parents were catholic and they expected their kids to stay catholic. Sometimes getting baptized Mormon meant leaving their family and loved ones forever, not because they wanted to leave their family, but because their family had a religion and bringing in a new one was just too much for them to handle. Having traversed the path of leaving my religion of birth I have gotten a little insight into what can occur should you make the choice to speak up and openly say you no longer believe. Here are 5 reasons you might wish you had never left the church. (Inspired by this article.)

1. Offending People
Friends and family that are still part of the religion will be offended by any opinion you voice that runs counter to their religion. If you point out a bit of bothersome history or post some evidence of your reasons for leaving on social media, they will confront you, they will call you, they will ask you to please stop attacking their faith. It doesn’t matter if the point you are making is true or not. Anything that disparages the faith you once held is offensive to those that remain. With the single act of leaving you will likely offend more people in your life than another way.

2. Understanding Doctrine
You will be accused of not understanding the doctrine. The problem is if you ask a member to define what doctrine is, you will soon discover that is pretty much impossible. The reason is the religion often claims that their doctrines never change. That is probably because the core of most religions think God never changes and thus his doctrines don’t change either. This leads to some really upsetting discussions in regards to doctrine. Especially if it has changed, which it does all the time. Those that remain in the religion can’t see it or acknowledge it. Thus pinning down doctrine is a really slippery thing. If you get into a doctrinal discussion after you leave the church with a person still remaining it will be an extremely frustrating experience for both of you.

3. It’s too hard
Staying in the faith is easy compared to leaving it. You might have to sacrifice some time and money to your religion to stay in sure, but all religions require some level of commitment, that is why they succeed. In an odd twist of psychology our beliefs are formed after our efforts not the other way a round. Ben Franklin was the first to point this out. Admitting you might have been mistaken about the thing you were so sure was true, that is possibly one of the most difficult things you will ever face. To make it worse once you leave, the ones you left behind will accuse you of being lazy or sinful. You might want to ask them when was the last time they considered honestly that they might be wrong setting aside the fear or eternal damnation for just a moment to considered things rationally. If you do that though, things will likely escalate right up to where the believer is offended again. So you will be faced with some hard choices. Keep your mouth shut when you want to speak your mind and voice your opinion or speak up and inevitably face all sorts of accusation from those that remain about your choices. Leaving means your children’s friends will change, your community won’t be the same, likely people will gossip about you and even avoid you in public. People that were never of the faith will be treated better than you because in the eyes of the ones you have left you are now a traitor and not to be trusted. Compare rejection and loss of trust by everyone you love to donating a little money and time to the religion, you tell me which is harder.

4. Anti-everything
My religion was Mormon, I still identify with my pioneer ancestors. If you don’t think the Mormons got it right you are automatically anti-mormon. In fact any document or bit of evidence that might convince you Mormons were wrong about the claim theirs is the one true church of God is considered ‘anti-mormon’ material. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not because that is not the definition of anti. The only definition as best I can tell is ‘anti’ stuff is everything that would make you doubt or question your belief. This is common to most religions. It is the nature of ideology. If you are right then others must be wrong. By leaving, you automatically become anti-everything in the view of those that still believe. Their religion means everything to them. For the believer it is a source of happiness and joy. If you leave and point out any of the errors in their faith, it makes you anti-happiness as far as they are concerned.


5. Sin
Sin is all your fault now that you have no religion to take all the guilt away. Back in the faith forgiveness was easy compared your life post religion. No longer will supplication and sorrow be enough make up for your mistakes. It’s all on you. If you mess up, you got to fix it. God isn’t gonna just make it all better with a wave of magical atonement. Worse yet those same friends and loved ones that still believe will accuse you of just wanting to sin and party it all up. Somehow they will not be able to see your perspective at all. You will realize that there is no magical poof to make your mistakes all better. You have to deal with it. All that repentance stuff, where you try to make amends, etc you still have to do it to resolve your integrity and forgive yourself and move on. Sure there might be some peccadillos that you can do guilt free. But is it really worth giving up the idea that God has a plan and it will all workout? If something bad happens to you our your family and it is your fault, it’s your fault. You no longer get to rationalize it away as God’s will. It was your screw up and you have to live with it. When you realize there is no magic way to kiss the boo boo and make it all better it, means you are ultimately responsible and that isn’t easy.

athiest

So why leave?
Given all these reasons to stay in church, you might be asking why leave? Religion often teaches some great morals, it often creates a sense of community and bonds people together in striving for common good. Why with all these negatives to leaving would a person leave? I can only think of one. Integrity! If your faith requires you to declare it true when you can prove it is not. It means it is asking you to lie to other people. It might be for all sorts of good reasons. It might be to protect budding testimonies it might be because it is a great way to raise kids. It might be the only way to see your children married, it might be the only way to keep peace between a spouse that believes and one that doesn’t. But as miss chill says it so eloquently. The church is an ultimatum. You have to believe in it or at least pretend you do. It’s not that they kick you out for not believing. They will happily let you stay and even take your tithing dollars without an ounce of belief. You can even stay and not pay tithing and they will only bug you once a year about it. You can not believe and teach sunday school or serve as a bishop or leader. All you have to do is not tell anyone about your doubts… you have to lie to yourself and others. Since my disaffection I have found so many people that still serve and do their best to follow this NOM route. I hold none of you any ill will. In a lot of ways it is much easier to stay in the church to keep your family together or to not risk your job or backlash of your community. There are good moral teachings and the average ward is a group of people generally trying to help each other. Eventually though you might come to the point where you have to decide if pretending is worth it. You will have to decide if your integrity means more than the warm hug of conformity.

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.
– Gordon B. Hinckley

It can be very difficult to face the matter. So hard that we will do our very best to prop up our faith against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We will fight ourselves to avoid facing the matter. We will justify awful things that bother us at our very core1 to avoid facing the matter. But the matter will always be there and the more we learn, the more it will force us to look at it and acknowledge it. Eventually we will have to face it.

It can be devastating leaving your religion once you realize it isn’t what you thought it was, only you can decide if your integrity is worth it. All because you know something you didn’t a few months ago. All because you gained insight and learned something. No wonder they tell you to stop thinking about it. Ignorance truly is bliss.

So will you run the risk of regret and speak up about your loss of faith? Will you go on pretending? There are most definitely consequences either way. I’ve always been taught to do what is right and let the consequence follow. But it’s not my call as to which path is right for you. It’s yours.

honest man

  1. such as polygamy, polyandry, underage brides, fraudulent banks, attacks on freedom

20 Replies to “5 Reasons You Will Wish You Never Left The Church”

  1. ” I can only think of one. Integrity! If your faith requires you to declare it true when you can prove it is not. It means it is asking you to lie to other people.” — I do not really see this as an issue. I believe that you can agree to the good, and disagree with the bad in open, and honest discussion. You can also declare a belief in some substance rather a dead end truth claim. Honestly, I’m not all that convinced that science has hold on this so called “truth” either. There are only pools of data that further convince ones faith/belief that something is of benefit or not.. until more data suggest a new (set) of belief/s. You can though provide discussion, compassion, & understanding to what may or may not be issues according to your current beliefs.

  2. Excellent article(as always).You have great insight young Padawan the force is strong with this one.I personally like the idea of being responsible for my own mistakes or errors,bad judgement etc.Too much of a cop out to heap our problems onto someone or something else take responsibility for yourself and your own mistakes own it and resolve to do better.First rule of life”Do no harm”if at all possible .You are correct(as was your dad) if it sounds too good to be true it probably is(can be applied liberally to all aspects of our lives).Keep up the good work.

  3. Wow! Good stuff! I had to take blood pressure medication just to get through all of Trimbles post. “Truly considering the logical conclusions from the same perspective that I took in every other aspect of my life was the tipping point.” Perfectly stated! I know some incredibly intelligent believers who for whatever reason (denial) never stop to apply that same logic to their religious beliefs. It’s a hard pill to swallow. Heaven knows I tried like hell to talk myself into believing all of the teachings that had an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. I just could no longer live without integrity. I’m one of the only non-members in my extended family & a lot of them seem to be genuinely surprised that I’ve managed to raise good kids with values, or have a happy life & a good marriage. They’re indoctrinated to think anything outside of their religion can’t possibly be good or happy, that I’m somehow lost & confused. The truth is I was miserable in the church. I felt shame & guilt for all of my doubts & questions. It was only once I started thinking independently & honestly that I found true happiness. If being a member gives you that, by all means continue doing it. But don’t be so arrogant to think your way is the only way! I can’t count how many times I’ve had to explain that I don’t need the threat of eternal damnation to maintain & live by my values. That I live my life with integrity not out of fear but because it is inherently inside of me.

  4. It’s also much harder to raise children once you’re out of the church. “Because Heavenly Father/Jesus would be so sad/angry/proud of you if you don’t do it this way” are handy copouts to get a kid to go along with the program. It’s much harder to drill down and come up with a rational basis for teaching kids the difference between right and wrong choices.

    1. It is all on you now! consider this, I think it helps:

      God, morals, values, etc where do they come from?

      If you have reached the stage where you can’t find belief in a divine father or mother figure watching out for you due to the horrible things in the world that are allowed to happen, you have probably also realized that when people pray and talk to God they are really just talking to themselves.

      When they get an answer or a feeling that it will be alright and they will overcome the difficulty in their lives, it is an answer that comes from inside.

      What does it mean? It means the power to overcome, the power to survive, the power to forgive, the power that you always attributed to God… it was in you all along.

      Ironically you are the divine that you are looking for. You always were.

      1. You make this sound like it’s a “contradiction” or something different than LDS doctrine. (Well, it certainly isn’t modern LDS doctrine, but it was the “original” stuff!)

        Bret Corbridge, in his book 77 Truths, does a good job of citing all the verses that show we were in the beginning with God, of the same substance as He is, that the Holy Spirit will “bring back” to our remembrance whatsoever has been told to us, etc. In short, the “Holy Ghost” within us is what enables us to “reclaim” our divine potential and destiny, as we embrace it and see ourselves for whom we truly are — not the shabby, ill-clothed “characters” this world makes of us into, by imposition.

        Now that you have thrown off the latest vestige of religious falsehood, why not recognize the truth for what it is: that the Holy Ghost (in you) will lead you to all truth by which you may become even as He (the Way, the Truth and the Life) became: first son, then heir.

        There is much that is a crock. But not all of it. Be gentle with the errors of others and you will find a cloak for your own sins.

        1. Which original doctrine are you referring too? The one where God sent an angel to force women to marry Joseph, or so he told them…Or are you talking about the doctrine in the Book of Mormon where killing a defenseless drunk is a ‘good thing’ you know for the future… cause an all powerful deity can’t put that guy into a coma like he did king Lamoni later in the book.

          The book Stranger in a Strange Land has ‘doctrine’ closer to this… I suppose you could cling to the root of it all being still true once your shelf collapses, many I know do. But some of us realize it was guys making shit up all along, nothing magical at all.

          And then you realize it is up to you to make the magic.

          Orignal mormonism has no more claim to ‘truth’ than modern mormonism or Muslims or Catholics or any other religion that claims revealed truth. You tell me to be gentle… Honestly I think I am considering from my perspective a pretty slick conman fooled generations of people… kind of like Muhammed.

          I don’t need a cloak for my sins, because I don’t condone coercion of young teens into marriage with guys that could be their father. I don’t think ordering the killing of a child to be some honorable test of faith… and I certainly don’t think killing defenseless drunk people is some sort of great blessing… All these things are sins cloaked in the guise of ‘God said so’ in the original mormonism.

          It is wonderfully liberating to realize that if it isn’t the source of some amazing fountain of truth there is no need to through a cloak over the sins of your church just keep believing it in. Once you realize it was just men making shtick up the same way shaman have been doing for millennia it becomes clear that you don’t have to call evil good when it comes to teen brides, deceit (careful wording) and all sorts of stuff that just doesn’t sit right with your moral center.

          You don’t have to venerate the religion for anything at all because its ideas weren’t its to sell, they belonged to you from the get go.

        2. I have heard that doctrine of cloaking your own sins by covering up others… You seem to be saying that you should not call out the prophet on the actions that Warren Jeffs mimicked centuries later which got him tossed into jail, as if by forgiving that guy for chasing teens and other mens wives behind his own wives back was just a mistake he made… even though he himself said God sent an angel with a sword to make it happen not at all unlike when that angel showed up with that book that you all believe in…

          But like I said I have heard that bit about covering up for others to get your own sins covered up, oh yeah I saw it on this meme. cloaking sins

  5. Excellent post, Profet. I know some people who have taken their leave with seemingly little difficulty, but for the vast majority of us finding the courage to tell friends and family that we could no longer believe was a long and painful process.

  6. Wow. Articulate and insightful. Everything you wrote was spot-on, and I appreciate you posting. When I left the Church, I put everything on the line: my marriage, family, friends, and position of authority (I was Relief Society president at the time), but the bottom line was that leaving was a mater of integrity. What lesson and exmple would I be teaching my children by ‘going along to get along?’ It would have been (for me) like saying being a part of the Good Ole’ Boys Club is more important than being true to truth. As it turned out, my husband and eight of our ten kids left Mormonism for Biblical faith, which at least to us has evidence to support it (unlike the BOM, for example).

    I love the quote you included about ‘an honest man will either stop being mistaken or stop being honest.’ Like you, I’ve seen that over and over. It’s very sad, regardless of which religion, when people feel they have to pretend to believe something just to gain or maintain acceptance. Authenticity and transparency are foundational to healthy, strong relationships–or at least they should be. Thanks so much for intelligent discourse!

    1. You are welcome. I personally dug clear to my foundations of belief entirely, biblical based religion on the surface had historical evidence, but I realized that was like saying the proven existence of Nauvoo meant Joseph Smith was really a prophet. For me that logic didn’t hold and I lost my faith in the divine entirely. I have rebuilt it though on faith in humanity and the goodness of people. The power of belief in a cause is a good thing provided it drives good changes. Only when it can’t be questioned or creates an us vs them mentality does it typically go bad and enshrine the things we call evil.

      If integrity is important to you, it doesn’t matter what faith you hold in my book. That is how we develop trust in each other.

  7. I always appreciate the well-written scope of the posts here. This one especially is poignant. Integrity is a great choice for the number one reason to leave, despite the difficulties. In that light, I always found it interesting that when I was in the church and especially in YW, I was always taught that integrity was what you do when no one is looking. But do they not also teach that God is always watching you and seeing what you do? Does that mean as a faithful believer, you never really exercise true integrity? Food for thought.

    1. you said poignant! as a word nerd I like that. 🙂 and yes that is some very good food for thought. I think that religions actually tend to strip personal responsibility from people in the long term. but that is worth a whole other post!

    1. I read Trimbles post and all I saw was a rehash of all the stereotypical reasons a person leaves. In my personal experience and those of many I have talked to since and they, as John Dehlin says, are all myths. Ultimately for me being honest with myself and truly considering the logical conclusions from the same perspective that I took in every other aspect of my life was the tipping point. My dad gave me some sage advice that always served me well “if it sounds to good to be true it probably is” I had never applied that to my religion before. It doesn’t mean everything is false, it simply encourages a little healthy skepticism to keep from being fooled. What I was totally unprepared for was discovering I had been fooling me.

      1. The irony in Mr. Trimble’s post is that those 5 reasons he discusses for leaving are the very ones that Uchtdorf even stated in that conference talk for members to avoid assuming about people who leave. That’s what gets me. And he’s so incredibly judgmental without knowing all of the people who left or their reasons.

  8. I really appreciate the post. It’s would be great if active members would read it and try to understand where we are coming from.

    I do have an issue with your point #5. I think that it’s worth nothing that while sins are your own, the Mormon concept of justice is no longer valid. Sins don’t require sacrifice or pain to resolve (I don’t think that the atonement logically leads to access to forgiveness of sins in the first place). Sins are mistakes you make against your own moral code. They are your responsibility, but they also happen to everyone, so the goal is not to be forgiven, but to repair the harm if you can and then move on with a continued goal to not sin (or just try to become a better person).

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