A lot has happened since my last blog post. Most notably, I've graduated from BYU-Idaho (finally!!) and will be getting married in January to a wonderful man and fellow atheist that I met while we were both students there. I'm also coming up on the three-year anniversary of my apostasy. It feels like it's been a lot longer than that because so much has happened. I was thinking about that today, and about how much religion changes a person--whether you're joining or leaving one. A lot of things about me are the same as they always were, but the church was such a fundamental part of my life when I was a Mormon that I really couldn't help but change drastically when I extricated myself from it.
I often note to myself or others how much freedom I have now that I've left the church. A lot of that freedom has to do with ceasing to give a shit about the church's rules. Word of Wisdom? Fuck that, I love coffee--although I still get something of a rush when I go to Starbucks, like I'm getting away with something. It's fun that something so mundane to the rest of the world is so exciting to me. I haven't tried alcohol and I'm not hugely interested in it, although I'd like to try wine sooner or later. Law of Chastity? Fuck that, too. Both the WoW and LoC are examples of ways that the church infantilizes its members. Rejecting the church's rules means having to think things through for yourself. Coffee was a pretty easy thing for me to do. Alcohol is a bit more complicated in my mind, because I have alcoholic relatives and there's a lot of social stuff wrapped up in it as well, but I now trust myself to make mature and responsible decisions regarding it. The same is even more true of sex. I don't rely on an institution to make choices regarding my sex life for me. Back when I was in school, my roommates had a discussion about whether oral sex was okay for married couples to do. To Mormon me, deferring to the church on this matter would have made perfect sense. Now, it's none of their business. It's between me and whoever I'm having sex with; why the fuck would I ask some old guy at church whether oral sex is okay? And, by extension, on what planet should I care about what some old guy, or a panel of old guys, thinks about whether I've gone through some legal shenanigans before having sex? I'm a grown-up. I'm capable of making responsible decisions for myself.
That freedom--the freedom to make my own decisions--is particularly important to me, in part, because of my gender. Since leaving the church I've become adamantly pro-choice. I don't want the church making personal decisions for me, and I don't want the government or society making them for me either. It is my choice whether or not to get pregnant or stay pregnant, and anyone who wants to make that choice for me can fuck off. I don't care if you think that a blastocyst somehow qualifies as a person, or that deferring to someone else's preferences regarding abortion is "taking responsibility" for my actions. I'm not part of a cult anymore. I make my own choices now. The Mormon church and anyone else who presumes to dictate my choices can go fuck themselves.
Another aspect of my life where I feel significantly more free since leaving is intellectual, but still somewhat gendered. I've made posts about this topic in the past, so I'll be brief here--I'm a feminist, and I don't care what the church wants me to do with my life. Choosing not to have children does not mean that I'm "listening to Satan." Neither does choosing career over children. I'm getting married soon, but if I wasn't interested in marriage, there would be nothing wrong with me staying unmarried.
It's kind of an exhilarating feeling, actually. It's like I'm suddenly invulnerable. And, in a sense, I am--I'm immune to the church's coercive tactics. After all, telling me that I'm "listening to Satan" isn't very effective when Satan doesn't exist. You might as well tell me that Santa won't bring me any presents this Christmas.
This freedom is awesome. I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything. Church members are regularly told that the church is the only way to happiness, and that they're happier as members than they would be otherwise. As someone who's lived on both sides of the fence and was reasonably happy on their side, I am so much happier with a free mind. It's like waking up and winning the lottery every day.