The Happiness Factor
Over the years, I’ve watched former mormon blogs come and go. And posters on various former mormon boards join and leave. (Kiley recently talked about it here). From what I can discern, there appears to be a cycle that some former mormons run through. At first there can be a lot of emotions; hurt, betrayal, anger or fear. But generally, after some time, people stop posting. In the least, they stop posting about mormon culture, leadership, history, etc.
Why is that?
My theory can’t be sustained by fact. After all, most people will say they are happy or content with their lives. Both mormons and former mormons have a vested interest. Most people (mo and non mo) have a strong inclination towards denial “it’s not that bad”.
Seth studied ex-mormon narratives some years back. I suspect that ex-mormon narratives are quite a bit like conversion narratives (I agree with runtu here). A person holds one belief (or hasn’t thought about it) and then revisits that belief (sometimes with severe personal consequences). Parents disown children; children disown parents. Couples divorce. Lifelong friends stop speaking to one another.
After some time, this social upheaval stabilizes. Relatives and friends accept that the original person hasn’t fully changed, although some of their outward beliefs may have changed. There’s an acceptance that they are no longer are true believers (if they ever were). They come to terms with the divorce (if one happened). Both sides either come to an uneasy truce or end the relationship (even a familial relationship).
Personally, I strongly suspect that it’s the social upheaval that creates the majority of the angst (if angst is the right word). It’s the feelings of betrayal (on both sides). One side thought love was unconditional (beyond faith). The other side thought a family member would be strong enough to remain in the faith, would overlook truth claims or political controversies.
So it becomes an interpersonal conflict, the personal becoming the political. And after a few years, everyone basically accepts the new reality (ex. aerin is no longer officially mormon, not married to a mormon, not going to raise her children mormon). While both sides may challenge the status quo, things stabilize.
And some of this prediction take into account mormons who return and mormons who leave and never write anything on the internet.
And despite all the protest to the contrary, most former mormons (who’ve gone through this process) appear to be doing just fine. They live different lives. They make different choices in relationships. They may go to a church, they may not. But just like mormons they find themselves content with their lives.
For me, it was hard at first to watch some of the bloggers that I have loved reading over the years stop posting as much. But then I realized that this appears to be a cycle of sorts. And that it’s healthy, in fact, for people of all backgrounds to grow and change. Sometimes that growth means not posting as much on the internet. What was fascinating is not as consuming as it once was.