Veronika Was a Mormon, an Ex-Mormon Profile Spotlight

Veronika’s faith journey from a Mormon to an agnostic secular humanist shows personal evolution and intellectual transformation. Growing up in Utah, she was the first in her immediate family to step away from the LDS Church. Initially embracing the conviction that living the gospel would lead to a happy life, Veronika grappled with the church’s stances on LGBTQ members, the role of women, and its historical issues. After her “shelf” broke, she delved into memoirs of individuals leaving their childhood religions, studied cults, and explored human decision-making processes, biases, and fallacies. Immersing herself in evolutionary psychology, she questioned her beliefs in Christianity, recognizing the intricate factors influencing human behavior beyond conscious control. Letting go of certainty, Veronika adopted a secular humanist stance, endorsing a moral and fulfilling life without a belief in God, and emphasizing empathy, shared pain, and a commitment to intellectual humility. Her narrative is a testament to the courage it takes to question deeply ingrained beliefs and embrace a worldview rooted in evidence and compassion.

I am a mother, wife, psychology professor, and writer. I was raised LDS and grew up in South Jordan, UT. I was the first to walk away from the church in my immediate family at the age of 29. I was a Mormon.

I knew it was true because I had felt the spirit. But even if it wasn’t and there ended up being nothing after this life, living the gospel would lead to a happy and fulfilling life. I assumed that if I were ever to leave the church, I would immediately become a sex worker strung out on drugs who neglected her many children from multiple partners. I would worship Satan and live a short and miserable life.

It made sense to me to keep the parts of the gospel that advocated for service and love. But if it wasn’t capital T True, how could I excuse the church’s stance on LGBTQ members, the role of women, or the church’s history of racism? My platitudes that “God works in mysterious ways” and “It’ll all make sense in the end,” were only comforting when I believed the church was ultimately run by God. After my shelf broke, meaning after I acknowledged all the things I couldn’t make sense of in Mormonism and everything fell apart, I wasn’t sure what I believed in.

You may not have experienced a so-called “faith crisis” but put yourself in my shoes for a minute. I know this is difficult for my critics, but imagine you’re in a situation where you’ve somehow come to know with certainty that your childhood religion isn’t true. If it’s easier, imagine you grew up in a completely different religion like Scientology or Islam. What would you do once you learned it wasn’t what you thought?

I read memoirs of other people leaving their childhood religions and searched for how they made sense of their life afterward. I learned about cults and how we humans justify our beliefs. I learned about how we make decisions — about how susceptible we are to biases, fallacies, and overconfidence. I dove into evolutionary psychology to understand human nature from a broader perspective, learning how group behaviors, snap judgments, and intuition can be both adaptive and maladaptive.

The more I contemplated, the weaker my belief in Christianity became. Human behavior is so much more than choice and willpower. It stems from our evolution — it’s influenced by what our parents ate while pregnant with us and whether they smoked or not. It’s influenced by the genes we didn’t choose and the zip codes we were born into. It’s affected by hormones, neurotransmitters, pollution, toxins, trauma, and an endless list of other factors. Once I immersed myself in the complexities of the brain, studied the origin of behavior, and read the history of how mental illness has been treated, I saw how little conscious control we really have over our behaviors.

I let go of claiming, as many religious people had in the past, that my feelings confer ultimate truth. I let go of certainty. I made no claim to know if there was an afterlife or a supreme being. I don’t believe suffering is a lesson from God to help us grow. Sometimes bad things just happen, and there is no supernatural explanation. People experience injustice and needless suffering. Leaving the church created a greater urgency in me to learn about injustice, social policy, and community action. If God isn’t here to end world hunger, slow climate change, or welcome asylum seekers at the border, who is?

We, humans, evolved with the capacity for empathy. Communities that were cooperative were more likely to survive and reproduce. We have mirror neurons that allow us to feel what we perceive another person to be experiencing. I don’t know what the meaning of life is. But I know despair and loneliness. I know shared pain. I don’t want anyone to go through needless suffering.

So what am I now? A Jaded exmo? A Godless commie? You could probably say atheist or agnostic. But those have a lot of negative connotations here in Utah. The label I’m most comfortable with is Secular Humanist. Humanists believe we can be moral and find fulfillment without a belief in God. I wholeheartedly endorse their 10 commitments which they use as an alternative to the ten commandments. The beauty of letting go of dogmatic and unquestionable beliefs is that I can be flexible and simply follow the evidence. I can practice intellectual humility.


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