When I read a lot of ex-mormon accounts, some of them turn me off. I know there’s ill will and perhaps downright hostility to an entity you feel has essentially lied to for years of your life, but I’ve always felt that it would be counterintuitive to react so hostilely. Life’s hard enough as it is; you don’t want to cry anymore.
I’ve seen those who will say that religion — or at least the LDS church — is “brainwashing.” I don’t have any training in what the clinical definitions of brainwashing are, but this just seems like one such term that, when used, closes the doors of conversation. How are you supposed to talk to someone when you think they are brainwashed? (On other hand, how are you supposed to talk to someone when they think your very perspective is borne of sin? I guess this goes both ways.)
So, I guess I just wouldn’t use such strong language. I tend to waver in my position — sometimes, I say, “As long as they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them,” but other times, I feel like I have to say something…if only to defend or protect someone from getting hurt. Sometimes, I want to talk about what I believe are reality, so I don’t censor myself. Other times, I don’t care if anyone makes his own reality.
I can recognize, if I won’t call it something as strong as “brainwashing,” that we do face programming. It’s not just something the church does. It’s something that everything we face does. Our culture, our media, our family, our schools — church is just one warrior fighting in the arena.
So, I can say that the church has programmed me to think some ways (and has failed to program me in other ways). And as I have deconverted, I’ve had to deprogram.
When programming works, it sticks. So it’s hard to deprogram…yet that’s what everyone has to do.
One thing that I’ve had to deprogram, for instance, is looking for spiritual “experiences” to justify my worthiness as a person. For a long time, I knew I didn’t believe in the church — I just wasn’t feeling it — but my problem was that at the back of my mind, I felt I should. And of course, my church leaders were eager to tell me that I should feel a burning in the bosom, and if I didn’t, I should pray and fast and read scriptures and attend church meetings and magnify callings until I did. I saw so many people who walked around strong in their testimonies…sure, some of them had problems in their life, but I wondered…how could they truly believe? Lacking a testimony, under this program, was a sign that I was broken, because of course, the program was based on the assumption that the church was true and it would manifest its truthfulness to you.
Others outside the church tried to program me in other ways. I didn’t grow up in Utah or any Mormon-majority community, so there were of course people who would try to convince me that the church was a cult. Of course, they came from a different program that I also didn’t follow — of a hostility-driven preaching style. From the way those people treated my beliefs, I knew I certainly didn’t want to join them or even concede my doubts to them, but at the same time, I knew I didn’t believe the church.
My epiphany was in realizing that…I didn’t have to accept either package of assumptions. I didn’t have to rack myself in guilt over lack of testimony, lack of faith, and lack of belief. I didn’t have to take theological acrobatics. And I didn’t have to listen to any of my detractors. Over time, I’ve had to work on this deprogramming, but now, I’m happy with the state of my (dis)beliefs.
What are things you’ve had to deprogram? What old beliefs (that you may have chosen or may not even have known you were programmed to believe) have taken the longest time to kill?