Dealing with the pressures of Utah Mormonism
How can I, an 18 year old atheist, live comfortably in a 90+ percent Mormon community?
I grew up in Utah, moved away for about 4 years (WA) then moved back when I was about 12. I am one of the more privileged residents of Alpine, Utah, seeing as how I have lived outside of "the bubble."
In Alpine, the concentration of Mormons is shocking. I recall once hearing it was around 98%, though I'm skeptical of the source of that figure. I do think it is safe to say it is at least 90 percent, though.
Literally 3 houses of 30 in my neighborhood are occupied by non-LDS families, and I rarely see the families who live there!
I guess what I'm getting at here is that living in an area with virtually no cultural diversity is terribly unhealthy. My parents grew up in the LDS church, and even married in the temple. My dad served a mission for the church, and has only recently become inactive.
Day to day I meet people who simply assume I am LDS. They start talking to me about going on an LDS mission (since I am 18, and most missionaries leave when they are 19), doing various church activities outside of a church setting, and going to seminary class. I find many people here to be exactly what they constantly teach against, which is being "narrow-minded", and having a "hardened heart."
I feel as though I am committing social suicide whenever I tell people I am not LDS. I feel immense social pressure, living in an LDS community, especially because my mother is extremely LDS, and everyone assumes I am a follower. The reactions I get from people I once respected when I tell them I'm an atheist are shocking.
I could go on for days, but I will try and sum up my questions:
What is the best way for an 18 year old atheist like me to cope with the pressure I feel from Utah Valley Mormons?
How can I best go about letting people know I do not care for their religion?
How can I differentiate myself from the flock without becoming an outcast?
How should I most effectively make it clear that I am NOT serving a mission, and no amount of scriptural, or prophet-revelational "evidence" will change my mind?
Any other comments will be much appreciated.
I would lastly like to thank Dr. Dawkins for giving me the strength and confidence to start coming out as an atheist, even though my community deeply frowns upon atheist views. I recently took another step and changed my religious views on Facebook to "Atheist" after listening to a podcast of yours (a small step, yes, but I feel proud of myself for doing it). Words cannot explain how thankful I am for your influence. It has helped me to (so far) survive in this religious "pressure cooker."