I believe in choosing what I believe. I was raised in a Mormon home by wonderful and loving parents. As I got older I began to realize I just didn’t believe in what I was being told in church meetings.
When I was twenty-three I stopped going to church. Some people feel lost, at sea, when they leave their religion. They often go to extremes, over-indulging in behaviors once forbidden to them. This seemed imprudent and unwise to me. I stepped slowly, figuring out what parts of the morality I was raised with still mattered in my life. For example, I was thirty-four years old before I ever tried an alcoholic beverage.
I analyzed each and every piece of belief with which I was raised. In some cases I decided that sticking with what I was raised to believe was in fact right for me. I chose to continue with that behavior, with that belief. Up to that point in my life I had merely accepted what I was told. Smoking and drinking were bad. Premarital sex was bad. Killing people was bad. Lying to people was bad. And so on. I eventually found I really enjoyed smoking a cigar and drinking a nice glass of buttery Chardonnay. I did decide to believe that killing, lying, and robbing were in fact bad things.
Not all was smooth sailing. You don’t spend your entire youth believing in a religion and then just walk away without thinking twice. I spent many years working with my beliefs. Adjusting this and tweaking that. In fact, it’s still a work in progress, but I think I’ve weathered the worst. Three big break-throughs came after years of doubt and religious guilt. First, another ex-Mormon friend mentioned one day that he’d just stopped believing. It was simple, but it had eluded me for eleven years. The choice to believe or not was entirely with me. I knew almost instantly that I didn’t believe anymore.
The second revelation came to me on its own two days later. I no longer believed in sin. Years of guilt flew off my shoulders. I knew that I was basically a good person. I really didn’t have much of anything to feel guilty about. What a relief.
Finally, I heard an interview with a prominent business man. He said he preferred to do business with people who were once religious, but are now atheists. His logic was that people who’ve followed a religion all their life are merely mimicking what they’ve been taught and haven’t really had to examine what they believe, deep down. Someone who has chosen to be an atheist has had to choose what to believe. It is a deeper, more personal, and more concrete belief, because it is their own.
I choose to believe in what I believe.
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