Thank you Dr. Dawkins,
I am 42 years old, and was born into a multi-generational Mormon family–a descendent of polygamists on both sides of my family. Like so many others I was taught that it was a sin to “delve into the mysteries” that god had not yet revealed. All literature that told Mormon history from an objective perspective was labeled anti-Mormon and of the devil. I began my departure from Mormonism last year after stumbling across some objective information regarding the history of the church.
I would like to say that the vast majority of members of the Mormon faith, including those in the local leadership level, are not even aware of the true history of the church. The church teaches that the only reliable source of information about its history is the church itself. Ironically , Mormons study church history as part of the religion, but it always the fictionalized version provided by the church itself. I did not know for instance, that Joseph Smith had used a seer stone in a hat to “translate” the Book of Mormon (and neither did my family and local Bishop). I learned more about the true history of Mormonism from a South Park episode than I had learned my whole life in the church–including two years I spent on a proselyting mission!
Having left my faith, I was fortunate enough to discover Dr. Dawkins on Youtube. From there I started reading The Selfish Gene, The Ancestors Tale, and The God Delusion. I love all of the books and videos that have helped me to discover the truth about the nature of our existence. I particularly enjoyed The Root of All Evil, because based on my experience in the Mormon Cult, I really have seen good people blinded and told that it is a virtue to close your mind to reason–that god will reward you for ignoring evidence and reason. I have experienced that brick wall when trying to reason with my family.
So, Dr. Dawkins, I am on board. This has got to stop. I have three little girls under 5 years old and my soon-to-be exwife wants to raise them in the cult. Now that I have broken free, I must now wrestle my daughters free from the grips of such a destructive cult. My family reminds me that so many of my ancestors gave so much for the faith–some crossed the plains pulling handcarts. I find it sad that they were deluded into the pain and suffering and polygamy. The indoctrination and brainwashing is incredibly powerful and difficult to penetrate with reason.
In all cults, those who leave are labeled as bad, deceived, evil, etc. So it is with me. My wife, many in my family, and former friends all believe I am the bad guy. I read Raven about Jim Jones and the People's Temple cult. It is a great book, and a fascinating example of cult dynamics. It helped me recognize the same dynamics at play in my religion. There were striking parallels between Jim Jones in isolated Jones Town and Brigham Young in isolated Utah in the 1850s.
The good news is that I am now living life for the miracle that it truly is. I was in many respects waiting for heaven instead of living life. I recently was asked by a Mormon how I could be an Atheist. I explained that it was not really that far from Mormonism. Mormons believe that all other churches are false, so there is only one more to disprove. Thank you for helping me to shake off the anesthetic of familiarity and to see this world for the amazing place that it truly is.
David Arnold, proud Atheist
Las Vegas, Nevada