Last week, a blogger by the name of Josh Weed, posted a personal story that quickly went viral. Why? Because Josh Weed came out as a gay Mormon man who is happily married to a woman. I’ve decided to write a response to Weed’s story, not so much because of what he said, but mainly for what was not said: his omissions and the implications of his story on the wider LDS and LGBT communities.
You can read his story on his blog, The Weed, here: Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary.
I’ve decided to expand on my previous post entitled, “Atheism vs Agnosticism” where I explored the different ways of thinking about atheism. The reason for this is because since writing that post, I’ve further explored what atheism means to others and have done a lot of reading on the subject. Some of the books I’ve read are: God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Letter to a Christian Nation, and An Atheist Manifesto by Sam Harris – all of which I highly recommend. In addition to these books, I’ve come across a wealth of information on various websites and especially YouTube.
As my original post talked about, there are a number of ways to define the terms ‘atheist’ and ‘agnostic’. My exploration of these terms were on a more passive level, that is to say I didn’t apply an active component to the definitions; the words were simply defined as what they mean separate from how they’re used. I’d say that most atheists, like myself, use a strict definition where ‘a-theist’ means, “not theist” (just as ‘atypical’ means “not typical”), and opposed to “a disbelief in a god” (since this would indicate a type of belief itself). I tend to like this definition for its simplicity. However, I’ve noticed that most theists (meaning ‘religious believers’) tend to view the term as having much more intent behind the term, such as “against religion”, “god hater”, or “anarchist” (the last two making absolutely no relevant sense). There are many atheists out there who either don’t subscribe to the label (though fit my definition) or don’t actively oppose religion at all, while others are in active opposition to specific theistic beliefs or all of theism. It’s important to remember that atheism is not an ideology, nor is it a religion unto itself as some people like to think.
Last week, I came across a news article entitled, Gay Students vs. BYU Honor Code (archived here), which was an editorial showcasing three cases of how gay students were being discriminated against by LDS-owned Brigham Young University’s honor code. I found this article to be interesting since it touched on a few of the same issues that I have with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“the Church”).
After reading the article, I made the decision to share it on Twitter and Facebook (something I do regularly with articles I read). After clicking the “share” button, it asked me to add my own comments to the link, so I wrote the following:
Post-secondary education should be about challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries, innovation, exploring the world with new eyes, and free-thinking. Yet BYU’s Honor Code represses all of that, and is simply “about controlling the production of the next generation of Mormons”
(Note the last line being a quotation from the article itself.)
I knew that what I wrote would be provocative – especially for my LDS family and friends who would be certain to see it on Facebook – but this was kind of the point. I wanted the article to get people’s attention, because I feel that such discrimination happens all too frequently and shouldn’t be tolerated, let alone institutionalized, by a prestigious post-secondary institution. At the time, I didn’t expect to get much of a response from posting it on my Facebook wall, seeing as I post numerous other articles on a daily basis, with only a few comments here and there. This one, however, gained a lot more attention than I could have imagined, and turned into a large 4 day debate.
Well, it’s been a few days since I sent my essay/letter to my family and closest friends. For the most part, the responses have been very respectful and even encouraging (more on that in a later post). My family hasn’t said much at all so far, but that’s how they deal with things. My non-LDS friends have been very supportive, while my LDS friends are evenly split. Time will tell how they’ll respond to me, and my newly vocalized opinions, in the future.
I decided to release a more public announcement this afternoon via tweet and Facebook post, informing everyone I know on these social sites of my decision to leave the Church.