Most people on their way out of the Mormon mainstream and into apostasy or nonconformist practise spend years delving into Mormon history, theology, scripture and doctrine. They waste countless breaths arguing and discussing and pleading with various people such as bishops, spouses, parents, children, friends, strangers on the Internet, and imaginary persons dwelling on Kolob in an effort to sort out the viable and non-viable bits of the religion.
In recent months, I have discovered something incredibly embarrassing. Among atheists, sceptics, and freethinkers, Mormonism is considered to be so transparently fraudulent that it is only considered useful as a punching bag when they need an example of exactly how self-deluded some people are.
It’s true. Where heavy hitters like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are willing to spend many words on the character of Yahweh, they mention Mormonism only as the most sad and unfunny of jokes. As Hitchens put it in God is Not Great:
“The actual story of the imposture is almost embarrassing to read, and almost embarrassingly easy to uncover.”
There’s quite a lot of fuss going on lately about tugging on Salt Lake’s coattails and begging for things that simply aren’t going to happen, such as the ordination of women, or things that are extremely unlikely, such as allowing LDS couples to have public wedding ceremonies along with temple weddings. (As it stands, the only places LDS, Inc. allow this practise are in countries like Britain, where they do not legally recognise secret ceremonies, especially if they involve funny hats, secret handshakes, and oaths to procreate.)
I understand how hard it is to let go of something when quite a lot of time and effort has gone into it, but I have come round to the position that people seeking to force Mormonism into the mold of a hip, modern, secular-values friendly, defanged diet church is a complete waste of time. This church could be reformed, but why would you bother? If you think changing swapping out Wild Cherry flavour for Berry Blast makes a difference, it doesn’t. You’re still drinking the bloody Kool-Aid.
Mormonism is to philosophy what homeopathy is to medicine. Any benefit it has works entirely on a placebo effect, but this marginal benefit comes with a monster price tag, takes up an unreasonable amount of a person’s time, and infuses the user with dangerous misinformation that will cripple a person’s ability to be truly whole and well. There isn’t anything you can get from Mormonism that you can’t get somewhere else for a much better price and with far fewer side effects.
I was recently confronted with the idea that it’s inevitable that each new wave of disaffected Mormons will have to go through their own process of disillusionment. I don’t think it has to be. We don’t let people sell poison and call it food. There are laws against that. And the poisons that we do allow to be sold, such as tobacco, alcohol, saturated fats, and refined sugars, come with warning labels. We have organic labels to indicate that a food is less likely to contain bad stuff, and fair trade labels to indicate that a product was more ethically produced.
Why don’t we have these sorts of warning labels on the things we put in our minds? Religion can never and should never be outlawed, but why is it that as a culture we have this abject fear of identifying true and false faith claims as such? Why do so many generations of people have to go through the same life-crippling process of losing faith when we could have helped them out years ago through some kind of culturally agreed on Bullshit Meter that lets the world know how viable their truth claims are? If we can come up with a bloody food pyramid we ought to be able to sort out which philosophies are mostly harmless and which ones aren’t. It wouldn’t be hard. Just pick concrete, testable truth claims and test them. Is the existence of the alleged American culture described in the Book of Mormon supported by a shred of scientific research? Are Native Americans long-lost Hebrews? Is the Book of Abraham an accurate translation of the Joseph Smith papyri?
I pity those still trapped within the psychological prison of belief, but I resent those who have escaped but then make patronising comments such as “well, some people just need to stay” or “if people want to try to fix the church we should be supportive.” I’m sorry, but I refuse to give my support to an activity that wastes precious years of a brief and beautiful life. I refuse to be so arrogant as to think that freedom is just dandy for us enlightened types, but some silly sods just aren’t bright enough to lose the crutch of religion. Those trying to change the church from within are most likely on their way out. It would be a far greater service to do whatever we can to hasten that process rather than enable their self-torture.