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Dealing with the pressures of Utah Mormonism - Comments

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 1 by Stevehill

What is the best way for an 18 year old atheist like me to cope with the pressure I feel from Utah Valley Mormons?

As soon as you can, leave.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 14:30:52 UTC | #549831

Freethinker15's Avatar Comment 2 by Freethinker15

I'll second Stevehill... leave.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 15:06:00 UTC | #549847

Topher's Avatar Comment 3 by Topher

Comment 1 by Stevehill :

As soon as you can, leave.

Not bad advice, but probably not what you're looking for either.

Assuming you're staying, there are two ways to play it.

  1. Whenever the subject comes up, change it. If they start talking about a mission, talk about your job and/or school plans instead. Avoid confrontation, but if they keep bringing the subject back to religion, keep steering it away. If they aren't completely dense, they'll get the point and let it go. You might be able to avoid becoming an outcast, but you will be keeping your beliefs semi-private.
  2. Get in their faces about it. Wear clothing from the RDF store. Put an anti-religion bumper sticker on your car. Drink caffeinated and alcoholic beverages in front of them (in moderation, of course). I presume you know enough about the Book of Mormon to ridicule it--if not, is a good reference.

There isn't an easy way to be open about your beliefs and stay where you are, unfortunately. It's a bit easier for me (an atheist in the Bible Belt), but I've managed to find a group of like-minded friends. You might try to make some contacts.


Fri, 19 Nov 2010 15:15:48 UTC | #549853

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert


My advice is rather opposite to the justified psychological despair and persecution that you probably feel. I would suggest that you view yourself as extremely fortunate, and you have perhaps an optimistic opportunity to begin an atheist (or humanist) group within Alpine (or Utah), from which to build a community of non-believers. In this way, you're creating something from which you can derive some pride, and creating relationships and friendships with like-minded people, who probably feel equally helpless (or hopeless).

Of course, this is a huge challenge for someone so young, but if you have sufficient maturity and willpower, you could build something remarkable and be part of the history of Utah, from which in the future you will have a greater effect in changing.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 17:00:21 UTC | #549942

servus's Avatar Comment 5 by servus

Being an Anti-Theist, former resident of Utah, and a former Mormon. Let me try to answer a few questions here. First time I have ever been intrigued to sign into this site and post. This will be a doozy!

What is the best way for an 18 year old atheist like me to cope with the pressure I feel from Utah Valley Mormons?

I can only offer this: You are a citizen of the United States Of America. You are allowed to NOT believe in God. If you start making your beliefs private then you will fall into the population of Utah (and the rest of the country) who tolerate religious oppression. That is unacceptable for any atheist to do.

You should be very happy in the realization that you don't believe in a religion so absolutely ridiculous; happy and excited that you live in a period of time where you can ask questions, have information at your ready, to even entertain the idea of Atheism. It hasn't always been this way, a lot of people have died in atrocious ways for our species to get this far.

How can I best go about letting people know I do not care for their religion?

The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you wish to be done. It is really the only piece of religious sentiment that is of any meaning, even though atheist seem to be the only ones who follow it.

I hate people trying to jam their religion down my throat, so therefore I don't try to jam my ideas down anyones throat. Simple human understanding is how I always thought of it.

How can I differentiate myself from the flock without becoming an outcast?

That is the major malfunction with being an Atheist in Utah, especially if your family members and friends are LDS. You cannot differentiate from the "flock" because at that point you are an outcast. Mormonism in Utah is bonded together thru very close tribal groupings. Within each church ward there are sub groups and categories to reinforce this principle all the way down to the family unit. It is a very powerful form of peer pressure and Utah is so very special because almost everyone who lives in your neighborhood is more than likely Mormon, because no one in their right mind who is an atheist would choose to live there.

Very simple tactics of human manipulation thru fear of God create the oppressive religious state of Utah as we know it today. The Non-Mormon population of the state have sort of created their own sub-culture there, but even that can't escape an ideology that intensive. So we find even people who are Non-Mormon who hold a lot of the same principles as the very people they always claim to hate, funny.

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?

You just stated a very effective way of telling people that! "I am NOT serving a mission, and no amount of scriptural, or prophet-revelational "evidence" will change my mind." That will do quite nicely. Also, Mormons believe in what is know as "free agency" so tell them your expressing your "free agency".

The main problem is that it isn't your obligation to explain anything to anyone bothering you about religion at all. They are the ones making the extreme claims about the universe with absolutely no evidence whatsoever; historic or scientific. Therefore they are the ones who have the explaining to do, because saying "Joseph Smith said this" "or God said this" doesn't explain a damn thing in relation to the complexity of our known Universe. It only cheapens it. There is a much greater feeling in knowing you are choosing to lead a moral life rather than doing it for your vengeful. dictator zombie god, who can convict you of thought crime.

It may seem like "social suicide" as you say, but it will get better don't be afraid. There are worse scenarios that you could have been born into. Trust me, it could be a lot worse and I am proof of a life of abusive parents and a religion that crushed my family and led me on a very self destructive path until I became an Atheist in my late teens and now in my twenties a very motivated Anti-Theist...

the very best of luck to you!

By the way fun fact:

What city hold the highest amount in viewers of pornography in the entire USA?

Provo, Utah just south about 30 min from SLC. Home to BYU (Brigham Young University).

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 18:39:46 UTC | #550029

BanJoIvie's Avatar Comment 6 by BanJoIvie

Hey Steventheskeptic,

I too was raised 'in the church' here in Utah. I'm in Salt Lake. You may be amazed to know just how much the world can change with just a short drive north. It may seem that the whole world is stacked against you, but keep reminding yourself how tiny and insular the little enclave of Mormondom that surrounds you really is. The REAL world is vast and Alpine is tiny. There is diversity and culture and freedom barely an hour's drive from you. You are right at the verge of the age where you can access it at will. The bonds of your community are already slipping. Keep it in mind and try to take the long view when you can. All that social pressure, and the constant show of piety that your community engages in is really a sign of just how weak it all is, and how much EFFORT it takes to maintain the group delusion. Before you know it, the situations that now seem so daunting will be memories that make you smile with distance. Honest.

Also, some of the world's most interesting and beautiful natural settings surround you. I often take perspective from the mountains or the desert; from thoughts of just how long they were there before the 'pioneers' came, how long they will endure after 'the church' is long forgotten, how indifferent they are to the little holy dramas of the 'saints' that now claim them. Perhaps you have the sort of temperment that could be set free by immersion in study and the world around you?

Try thinking of yourself as an anthropolgist studying the strange little tribe with which you live. Just one step of mental remove from your situation might make a difference at a crucial time when things feel extra tough.

It sounds like you are fortunate enough to have parents that will give you freedom of choice regarding church attendance? 'Your' mission? College? If so, chalk that up as a major plus! Two whole years of your life that you can keep for yourself! I served a mission and it's time I can never get back. I knew lots of kids there who were 'serving' due to their families choice, not their own.(I didn't go due to parental pressure. I 'discovered' my own testimony at about 18 and chose to go. The odd coincidence is that I started dating the daughter of a Bishop right about the time I felt 'the spirit' calling me back to church. Wierd! Be very careful of the friendships and relationships you form now, and their influence on your choices.)

Instead of two years drilling and indoctrinating yourself, you can instead look forward to college, and a host of opportunities to expand your mind and your world.

My advice at your age is to put as much time, thought and energy into choosing a college (and preparing to get into/attend/afford it) as possible. At all costs, move out of Utah County after graduation. You can go anywhere in the world! But you needn't feel obligated to flee far if that is a hardship. There are non-church schools just a skip away where the atmosphere will be completely different. Social pressures will exist wherever you go, but you will find all sorts of support which can make all the difference. You are gonna LOVE college!

And you're not alone. I have lots of atheist friends, right here in SLC. You probably have friends right now whose doubts are only kept in check by the pressure around them. Wait till you see what happens to some of THEM in college! (Those who manage to avoid BYU and/or early too early marriage/parenthood.)

Really, you've already won! Just think how fortunate you are in many respects, and be glad that you have seen through charade at such a young age. You'll be spared a lot of wasted time. The folks who are judging and oppressing you are ALSO victims of the very pressure you feel, and they are not as lucky/strong/whatever as you.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 18:58:23 UTC | #550036

Layla's Avatar Comment 7 by Layla

It's good to hear someone growing up in a Mormon family in a Mormon area can still have the good sense to see through it.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 19:01:47 UTC | #550038

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 8 by crookedshoes


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?

You should not feel pressured by them. Let them feel pressured by you. They have numbers; you have truth. So many things about these issues are really "perspective" issues. You need to change your perspective. They are talking fantasy and you are grounded in reality. Do not fall prey to your own insecurity. You are the man!

Do not worry about letting them know. Interact with them the way you would anyone else and when (if) the topic comes up tell them you have a difference of opinion....You do not have to attack.... Tell them you disagree and leave it (unless they won't)

You are an outcast. You have to understand. THEY decide this about you; you do not decide it for yourself. ANd you are an outcast.

Most importantly, only seek to control what you are actually able to control (yourself) do not fret over what you cannot control....It leads down ugly roads. Good luck!

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 19:04:55 UTC | #550039

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 9 by Atheist Mike

Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert :


My advice is rather opposite to the justified psychological despair and persecution that you probably feel. I would suggest that you view yourself as extremely fortunate, and you have perhaps an optimistic opportunity to begin an atheist (or humanist) group within Alpine (or Utah), from which to build a community of non-believers. In this way, you're creating something from which you can derive some pride, and creating relationships and friendships with like-minded people, who probably feel equally helpless (or hopeless).

Of course, this is a huge challenge for someone so young, but if you have sufficient maturity and willpower, you could build something remarkable and be part of the history of Utah, from which in the future you will have a greater effect in changing.

Hm, creating an atheist haven within a 90+% mormon community. Is it not a tiny bit dangerous? I think AtheistEgbert is right in some way and that it would be quite a noble thing to do, but if I may make a suggestion, go somewhere safer where you'll be more accepted then come back at them later if you actually want to make a difference in Utah. I don't know much about american atheism but according to this, Washington would be your best bet (or British Columbia if you don't mind moving to canada). I presently live in a tiny appartment and my neighbours are Jehovah's Witnesses, it's simply unbearable, I don't know how you're doing to stay calm in such an enclave of superstitious nonsense but don't give up.

As a sidenote I'd like to say that this is encouraging, your "coming out" proves Mr. Dawkins' influence is indeed far reaching.

Good luck.


Fri, 19 Nov 2010 19:08:40 UTC | #550043

bill ronald's Avatar Comment 10 by bill ronald

hey stephen, chin up and watch the south park version of joseph smith. it never fails for me. lmao dum dum dum dum dum

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 20:37:43 UTC | #550106

StevenTheSkeptic's Avatar Comment 11 by StevenTheSkeptic

Thank you for all of your comments! I actually can't wait to move away from this place, which I plan to do after I graduate HS. I do watch the south park episode about joseph smith when I feel like just laughing at all the ignorant people around here.

I am still required, by my mother, to attend church, and I believe most of the pressure I feel happens because everyone seeing me at church every sunday (the pressure being that everyone simply assumes I am LDS). To my surprise, I actually prefer this to if I didn't attend. This is simply because once people start noticing that I'm not there, all the crazy, pushy mormons will be the ones bothering me. Although I hate sitting through church, I much prefer that the crazies leave me alone. The marketing skills they learned on their missions don't work on me, and I don't want to hear them.

For the longest time, I would just "go with the flow" during church and church related conversations. Just recently, I decided to stop being a phony and to quit BS-ing myself and everyone around me. At first I naiively took a quite defensive and possibly attacking stance, which I believe was simply caused by being utterly fed up. Lately, however, I've actually started to have conversations in a light, respectable, and simply questioning (not attacking) manner, and ONLY when people start to assume I'm LDS. I really feel like It is working to an extent. I have noticed a lot of people still respect me afterwards, and most actually back off. I still, however, could NEVER see myself living here much longer than the summer after I graduate. I think my new stance and social/conversational tactics will last me just long enough, until I can move away from home.

I'm loving the advice! If anyone has more, keep it coming!

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:11:56 UTC | #550147

PurplePanda's Avatar Comment 12 by PurplePanda

And this is why reason alone is not enough to convince people to turn away from religion in such religiously dense areas as the bible belt. It just doesnt benefit one!

A have to agree with the others though. Move away. If that seems daunting, you can make the first step to doing this by 'going travelling'. See the country (or even the world, preferably) without making any commitments about what you're going to do afterwards. I'm sure 'going travelling' will be acceptable to your peers. Once you've had a taste of surviving by yourself and of the world, making a permanent move wont seem so hard at all.

Fri, 19 Nov 2010 22:30:29 UTC | #550157

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 13 by crookedshoes

the first real inkling that i had that I was witnessing a scam was in my catholic church when people LAMENT church. They leave before the service is over, simply trying to prove that they were there. If they really believed, it would be the most important thing they could do. And they are sitting there timing the homily and leaving early... no one rally believes.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 03:48:04 UTC | #550243

kzoframe39's Avatar Comment 14 by kzoframe39

If you continue to live in this environment, you'll probably spend a lot of time developing an anti-social personality and getting used to the idea of living outside your surrounding social group.

If you live someplace else, you probably won't have to mention your beliefs at all, outside of some nice discussions. No one will think twice if you are an atheist in most places. Then instead of concentrating on tip-toeing around the elephant in the room, you can concentrate on life.

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 08:36:56 UTC | #550333

lilalindy's Avatar Comment 15 by lilalindy

Run rabbit run!

BTW, being ever so very slightly dislexic, when I first saw 'Dealing with the pressures of Utah Mormonism', I read it as 'Dealing with the pressures of Utter Moronism'. Maybe there's a T-Shirt slogan in there for you to wear when you are feeling particularly antagonistic and brave (or should that be antagonistic and immortal?)



Got a certain ring about it.

Don't stare into their headlights too long and like I said, as soon as you get the opportunity; Run Rabbit Run!

Sat, 20 Nov 2010 10:28:06 UTC | #550368

goose1979's Avatar Comment 16 by goose1979


This is just the kind of support I never had at your age when I was going through the same dilemma just north of you in Sandy, UT. I thought Mormonism, like any and all religion, was simply evil from the moment my parents jammed me into the baptismal font at age 8. Growing up in a cult environment while you're going through all the ups and downs of adolescence can be tough. It's especially hard for a lot of atheists to forget how difficult it is to walk away from an insane religion because it might require you to walk away from your family, friends, neighbors and your heritage.

I'm going offer you things that I wish someone would have told me when I started coming out at 16 now that I'm 31. I apologize if it's lengthy or self-righteous and please remember to be critical of things I might add.

Get out. Get out. Get out. Everyone above is encouraging you to leave because it will help you gain some perspective and help boost your atheist outlook. Whether that is school, work or travel it's a necessary ingredient to building a heat retardant suit in the pressure cooker. Leaving doesn't make you a coward or a weak atheist or person either. Leaving is just a necessary step to development to gaining a stronger sense of perspective. Oddly enough, I recently made a few friends in their late forties, punks from the 80s, who tried to stick it out in Salt Lake Valley. I get a lot of mixed messages from them. Most of them regret not leaving or act like they are permanent exiles within their own city and country.

There might be some temporary solutions such as enjoying the mountains/desert; hanging out in Park City with ultra-rich foreigners; trying to find closet atheists in the Salt Lake Under Ground (not to be confused with SLUG mag which has been going soft for the last five years); living in the bizarre music scene; or attending Westminster College or the U of U but all of that will simply fail. I'm saying this because I did all those things. I also tried to maintain friendships with my high school friends who started falling apart from their true anti-theist feelings when they left high school. You know the story or can see it at Timberline High or American Fork high: hypocrites in high school, hypocrites in college, the mission, they return as "angels" in college, they get married, and start another mormon family. It's an ugly cycle and I thought, when I was your age, that my friends would resist the pressures of the Church/State/Society. Nearly all of them failed. Several fled Utah for their twenties but then came back and fell right into the party line. A lot of my friends, guys and girls, didn't have the guts to obey their atheism over family. It's not an easy choice and I hope you aren't forced into this dilemma.

For the time being, seek out other kids you know have the same outlook. Stick with them but don't become an elitist. Do stuff with them: hit the skate-parks, go ride Brighton/Snowbird, watch SLC PUNK a couple times, climb up Lone Peak once, be 18, hit up the Tower Theater, eat at The Tin Angel or Red Iguana, go up to Raunch Records in SLC, volunteer, learn a new language or pick up a new instrument, go check out the Copper Mine, go check out, and go camping. Those are the atheist escapes and they aren't in Happy Valley. Sundance might be the only exception.

At the same time, your in training now as an atheist. This is not an easy life when you are coming out of the cult society. Find a healthy mix of confrontation where necessary or ignoring Mormons at other times--pick your battles and practice. Atheist shirts can trigger all kinds of results. I just wore my biology/science related shirts (bugs, hansen planetarium, fish, arrowheads, ect.) and propaghandi/minor threat shirts. Honestly, there really is no way of not calling attention to yourself in a place like that unless you live on a compound with the FLDS. Figure out what your comfort level is and then start pushing it. If they play the emotional card, then call them out and then disengage if they start baring testimony. I had a "Have you met my imaginary friend Jesus" bumper sticker and it got me lots of ugly looks but also some good debate sessions to flex my weak little intellect. I would ride my bike past the kid's lining up for class at a religious school and yell, "Don't let them touch you. Run away." I ditched Sunday School and Seminary as much as possible. Go to a "kiss-in" at the main temple in SLC. In 1996, I supported the East High School Gay-Straight Alliance when the school board tried to ban all school clubs. It failed with the help of the ACLU and high school students and by 2000 they had their club. Aim small, miss small. Boycott the Desert News. Invite other atheists over to Alpine so they can confirm your worst observations. Fight battles where you can control things or participate in the outcome without going to jail or wrecking your grades.

If you're family is on the fence, then let them know how you feel. That might turn out to be the most difficult part of this journey your on.

The main thing is to read and think critically. This isn't an overnight process--it's like working out and becoming an olympian. Go to the library or Sam Weller's and start reading up on science/atheism/religion. It doesn't just have to be this stuff. Fiction/poetry can help. I would try and track down a couple books about men and women who went through what you went through. Bertrand Russell, Ibn Warraq, "the portable atheist," definitely get your hands on Hitchens "Letters to a Young Contrarian." There are no how-to-get-out-of-mormonism books. "God Makers" by Decker/Hunt is not well researched and just plain inflammatory. You'll find plenty of anti-Mormon literature from other crazy and pious Christians. Don't be another ignorant atheist who hasn't read the religious literature. Read the Book of Mormon and then read histories about it's creation and about the history of Utah. As I said, you're in training, so you have to know the enemy.

When your floating around in that kind of religious excrement, it can cause you to feel hopeless or to feel outcast. Mormons have a method of peer pressure I haven't seen at work anywhere else except in Iraq. (I was in the Marine Corps and served a couple tours there. Islam in Iraq is identical to Mormonism in Utah but the coercion in Utah depends on social standards and gossip rather than a mix violence and peer pressure). The self-doubt, isolation and negativity are part of the Mormon program. Never feel guilt about being an atheist. You didn't really choose this as if it were a lifestyle or a new car; you just had the good sense and luck to see through the mire. Other atheists might tell you to single-handedly start an association and change everything and that can be daunting at any age. Negativity is only going to help up to a certain point. Everyone here is trying to figure out how to leverage change according to their skill set without turning into a fascist or a hypocrite. Some people are going to be swinging big bats on TV, in books, or in politics and others will just change the minds of one or two people through a letter, a song, or their example. You've got a lot of time to work out how you might eventually want to come back and try to change the system or convince fence-sitting friends to drop the antics.

You're doing what most of the older folks, me included, are doing and that's finding a way to survive in a city, society, or world full of lunatics with the intention of changing their minds. Build up your defenses through study and friendships. Keep your head up and ask the hard questions but don't feel like Mormonism, or any other myth making magic pipe dream, is winning. The situation has to be improving because I can say these things openly to you in this forum that didn't exist just a few years back. There are signs that their whacko foundation is cracking.

make it count

Sun, 21 Nov 2010 00:49:03 UTC | #550728

Markyboy01's Avatar Comment 17 by Markyboy01

well my friend, having been in the same boat for much longer. I grew upbouncing back and forth between San Diego and South Salt lake, though mostly in Utah. When I walked out of the church when I was 17, I'm 32 now.

I went through what you did, I never went on a mission and mostly the only people who gave me any sort of hard time about that was my extended family. Thankfully my older sister screwed that up which took a lot of the pressure and focus off of me.

If the subject of a mission comes up you can easily follow the advice of previous posters, also you can just tell them "it's not for me." or simply say "I'm not mormon" which isn't as bad as saying "I'm an atheist". It's not a lie, you're just not telling anybody anymore than they need to know.

I don't know what your plans are, if you're planning on going to school, do that. If you're planning on staying in Utah probably the "U" would be best. it's much more 'liberal' than most of the others. Cedar City's not bad either. (depending on your interests, it's almost it's own world by comparison to the rest of the state.)

All I can really tell you is you'll live. You'll make it and despite what you might think you're not alone.

Mon, 22 Nov 2010 05:30:29 UTC | #551300

Glenn Ashbrooke's Avatar Comment 18 by Glenn Ashbrooke

Hi everyone

Thanks for your comments about Mormonism...I wondered if anyone knows any webpages / books on explaining in simple language to my children aged 12 & 13 about the criticims of Mormonism / LDS. I'm in a difficult situation where my ex-wife has converted to Mormonism after remarrying a Morman and they are trying to convert my children. Whilst thankfully they are old enough to think for themselves, it is difficult when faced with the pressure of thoughts & emotions coming from their mother, whom they also love. My sone thankfully is quite clearly an atheist..but my daughter is more emotionally vulnerable. Before I became an atheist recently, I was a kind of pantheist & brought my children up to believe in mother Earth & have respect for the world & people & animals in it. My daughter still believes in mother Earth, but her mother & partner are even trying to say that Mormans believe in mother earth too and are trying to show her so called Morman scripture to say why she really is a morman believing in mother Earth. Whilst I like to tink I tried to d my best in bringing them up to have respect for the Earth, I'm feeling guilty in suggesting the earth is divine..and feel I've taken part in brain washing my kids also. It's also difficult, in that when we went through the divorce, as you can imagine, it was emotionally very difficult for my children, so whilst I'm concerned about what thier mother is teaching them, I do not want to overload them with too much. any thoughts would be most appreciated.

Sat, 26 Mar 2011 10:04:40 UTC | #607324

Glenn Ashbrooke's Avatar Comment 19 by Glenn Ashbrooke

Hi since my earlier message, I've now discovered lots of useful info on the internet now about Mormons and Joseph Smith to answer my earlier queery..sure was a dodgy guy..34 wives, 17 in 1843 alone 2 of which were 14 !!..illegal bank, forgery of book of Abraham..let alone pro slavery & racism..and the twaddle about interpreting the golden plates with seer stones !!...don't normally watch South Park, but has a funny sketch in series 7 / 12 including the Joseph smith song.

Mon, 04 Apr 2011 13:11:37 UTC | #611693

HightekRedneck's Avatar Comment 20 by HightekRedneck

While I know this is an old thread, I thought I'd chime in.

Getting out is certainly the best idea, but sometimes that isn't an option, and the reality is, other places aren't always much better. I've lived in a number of places around the US, and there is almost always a predominant religious thread. Where I lived in New York it was mostly Jewish, in the south it was predominately Methodist, etc... True, these are often not as crazy as the LDS, but it's always there.

My advice is to reach out to non-theist groups in Utah. There are a number of them and they are growing. Atheists of Utah, Atheists of Utah Valley, Salt Lave Valley Atheists, Utah Coalition of Reason, Humanists of Utah, etc... Living in Utah, I've found it nice to hang out with like minded people to offset dealing with the people at work and neighbors.

Tue, 05 Feb 2013 17:25:54 UTC | #951332