I’ve been an atheist for about 2.5 years now and I’ve gone to church through it all. I’ve been weaning myself away very slowly. I was thrilled when our third child was born a few months ago and I didn’t even have to try to come up with any excuses for not going to church for about 6 weeks straight! There are 2 major reasons I still go to church.
The first major reason is family. My in-laws are in our ward. We only very recently told them that we have issues with the Mormon church (although they noticed the lack of garments a long time ago and expected this all along). My family has their suspicions about us, but no one has had the guts to ask (or maybe the lack of guts is on me…). We don’t live near any of my family members, so going to church for their sakes is harder to articulate and I won’t take the time to try to hash that one out on this post.
The second major reason is my calling. I’ve been the Relief Society activities leader for a couple years now and I generally like my calling. But since we plan monthly activities, we usually have a planning meeting once a month during church. So once a month, I’m expected to be there. I don’t like to let people down. I’m a Mormon, the kind of person that if I commit to help out, you can count on me to do my part. So I go to the meetings.
A few weeks ago we had one such meeting. My husband was working so he couldn’t be there, and to be honest, I needed the 2 hour primary babysitting break from my older 2 kids. The husband has been working a lot of weekends lately and with the new baby, I’ll take any break I can get. Even if it means my kids get a little indoctrination in the process.
Well, after this particular week I don’t think even the 2 hours of free babysitting is worth it. Here’s how my Sunday went.
Sacrament meeting consisted of me holding the baby in the hall the whole time while the 2 older kids sat with grandma. Not terrible, but the whole time I was thinking about how I could have been at home letting the baby play/swing/nap NOT in my arms.
So then the Sunday School hour rolls around and we have a very quick meeting about our upcoming activity, a meeting which definitely could have occurred through email. The baby is getting pretty squirmy by now so afterwards I sneak off to the nursing room to feed the baby and rock in the big chairs and read Mormon Stories Facebook group posts. There’s no way I’m going to Sunday School.
When Relief Society starts I find a seat and get a lot of comments about how big the baby is getting (we’ve only taken her to church 3 times in her life so they haven’t seen her much) and the lesson starts and I zone out. The lesson is on the sacrament. Sacrament doesn’t mean much to me as an atheist so I am bored.
Finally the 3 hours is over (why do I put myself through this!?!?) and I go to pick up my primary kids. As we are walking to the car I ask them what they talked about in class. My son said they learned about the word of wisdom and the teacher told them that coffee is bad for you and then he asked why Daddy drinks it. My response was “Why do you eat donuts?” (Later I told him that coffee is not bad for you unless you drink a whole ton of it and that his teacher was wrong…let the deprogramming begin). My daughter tells me that they also talked about the word of wisdom and she ate 5 packs of fruit snacks and a bunch of pretzels in class because those are healthy snacks. I don’t think I can take them back to primary ever again…
That was my breaking point. So fast forward a few weeks to now and I haven’t been back to church. I know we’ll go back at least a few more times for various reasons, but I’m hoping we’re done with primary. I want to be done with it all. But that thought makes me sad. I want to ask to be released from my calling, but I feel like if I am, I won’t have any excuses left to see my church friends. I don’t live in Utah where all my neighbors go to church with me. The family in the ward that lives closest to us is still a 10 minute drive away. I’m not particularly close with anyone in the ward, but I still consider them my friends. And I will miss them.
It was hard to skip church on Mother’s day. I knew the kids wanted to sing on the stage but the husband was working once again and I just didn’t have it in me to get 3 kids up and ready for church on my own so we could drive 25 minutes to sit through an little over an hour of boring sacrament meeting just so they could sing. And then drive the 25 minutes back home because I wasn’t about to stay for the whole thing. So I stayed home and felt sad. Sad that the church isn’t what I want it to be. Friendly, open, accepting, uplifting, inspiring (I used to think church was all of these things). Instead I find it boring, superficial, judgey, annoying, and dishonest. If we took away all the doctrine and just taught each other how to be good people instead of how to be good Mormons, I would be happy. But that will never happen in my lifetime and so I mourn the loss of my spiritual home. Sometimes atheism is so freeing and awesome, and sometimes it just sucks.