Flock Off: Ex-Mormon Atheists of Utah

The ex-Mormon Atheists of Utah Valley group organize to support each other and challenge the state’s pervasive Mormon culture.

| May/June 2012

  • Atheists Of Utah
    The Atheists of Utah Valley is a support group for former-Mormons-turned-atheists in Salt Lake City.

  • Atheists Of Utah

A Mormon missionary who loses his faith while he’s out in the field has picked a strange time to abandon his beliefs. Yet, for Andrew Johnson, this is precisely what happened.

Johnson says he started doubting Mormonism when he was 18, but out of a desire to please his family, and still not knowing who he was, he turned in his mission papers and set out to serve a mission. After 18 months, however, he was exposed to contraband by a secular humanist, stuff like the movie Religulous and Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.

“I remember having a distinct moment where I was like, ‘There is no God,’ and that was a liberating moment,” Johnson says. “I tried to do the rest of my mission without being too much of a hypocrite.”

Johnson felt like he couldn’t keep pretending he was a believer. He resolved to share his disbelief with his family even though he knew it wouldn’t be easy.

When Johnson mustered the courage to divulge his revelation, it wasn’t well received at first, especially by Johnson’s disappointed mother. But after a while, he says, things calmed down. That’s when he discovered a support group for ex-Mormons-turned-atheists in Salt Lake City.

After attending a few meetings, Johnson realized he couldn’t be alone in his religious skepticism, even in the heart of Mormon country. With help from others, Johnson formed the Atheists of Utah Valley, where like-minded individuals convene to support each other. Meeting over coffee in Provo, they plan group discussions, occasionally with guest speakers, and they plot group activities like hiking trips and sky-diving jaunts. They’ve talked about joining the Adopt A Highway program and lobbying the Utah Valley University library to stay open on Sundays.

4/23/2012 2:23:06 PM

I'm for agnosticism. Who truly knows? Belief is one thing, knowledge is another.

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