I am the founder and administrator of a facebook group for missionaries who served under the same mission president Mr Mo and I did back in the day. President & Sister A were lovely people, and I was always glad to have the chance to stop and visit them on those rare occasions when I would be in Salt Lake City. Sentimental soul that I am, I have also founded other mormon church-related FB groups as well… but not because I'm still a believer.

Anyway, last night a relative newbie to the missionary alumni group posted this question: "So 30+ years on, I'm wondering how many of you guys are still practicing LDS?" Uh-oh, thinks I, here is a loaded question, and right off the bat, I correctly guessed that the asker, we'll call him Guy, was no longer a practicing member himself (actually, no longer a member at all, but I'm getting ahead of myself a bit). Various people responded, most of whom are still active mormons. Then finally an inactive or ex-mo alumnus piped up, at which point Guy chimed in and said that he no longer believed … and further, gave a short laundry list of reasons why.

This started a flurry of generally quite respectful back-and-forth. When one alum — "Andy," a fellow with whom I have locked horns quite a few times in the past in various listserv venues — when he contributed his two bits, once again I thought uh-oh, given Andy's propensity for sinking into contention and nastiness. So I monitored the discussion closely and finally invoked my administrative privileges and asked them all to take it off-line, as I didn't want it to become unpleasant and besides, the alumni group was not the right venue for that type of conversation.

Mr Mo noticed that during the course of the thread, which went on to about 90 comments, I managed to sidestep the original question entirely. Well, yes, I did, although I surprised myself at how very tempted I was to out myself as being among the "inactive" — more tempted, in fact, than ever before when similar opportunities have arisen.

I am, in fact, "out" on the Feminist Mormon Housewives FB page. So why not more out, or all the way out, in all of these venues? Why not tell these old friends and acquaintances that I've never attended any mormon church service while living here in Europe, not even one, and that I can count on my fingers the number of times I've been to church in the U.S. since I stopped going in (iirc) early 1996? While there's no particular reason for me to feel the need to bring up the subject myself, why not take advantage of appropriate openings to let my status and feelings be known?

Well… it's complicated. A significant chunk is my not wanting to give Arschlöcher like "Andy" any satisfaction. Here's a man who is about the worst online ambassador for the mormon church imaginable: contemptuous, self-righteous, sarcastic, nasty … and he's been that way at least since he was a missionary. Most if not all of his companions detested him, and little wonder. He is also a rabid right-winger, and his political posts and comments are as puerile as his religious ones; his FB feed is filled with the worst of the dreck about Democrats, Obama, liberals, and so on. He would happily hold me up as a liberal who had gone astray — and assert that progressive values and apostasy are two sides of the same coin.

So there's that. But why should I care about that sort of thing? And why should I care what kinds of conclusions my winger acquaintances might draw from the not-wholly-without-at-least-some-foundation connection between my politics and my (lack of) religion?

Enter projection. For better or worse (and landing more and more on the worse side as time goes on), I know exactly how people like my old companion Nina would feel if she knew I have "gone astray." Bad enough that I am/we are in my parents' prayers, and probably those of my practicing sibs and all, but I don't want my church status to be in anyone else's Thoughts and Prayers, too. And god forbid that I become some kind of project along these lines… which is certainly something Nina might pursue.

I don't have any desire to debate or discuss church matters on a personal level, really. For one thing, unlike "Guy," I don't have any particular desire to bring up all of the factoid-based reasons for leaving; and unlike Guy, I've done all the proselytizing I'd ever care to do, thanks very much, and if I want to convert people to something, I think there are political and social issues that are far more important.

—Which brings me to another reason: I frankly think that keeping my status unknown (OK, not saying anything that would induce people to realize I'm no longer active) helps my "cred" a little bit in the political arena. I have plenty of experience with my family to know full well that anything I say about political or social issues is immediately discounted because of my "inactive" status and/or "apostate" views. I think it is easier to talk about issues when one is perceived of as being on the same level or page. I think I've occasionally gotten through to people like Nina about some things that I otherwise would not have had I been pegged as an apostate. (As it is, I'm sure a fair bit of my liberal views are being blamed on my living in Europe… and that isn't even especially incorrect, come to think of it.)

Is it less than honest to know that people assume I'm active when I'm not? To sidestep precisely with the aim of keeping my cover? Well… gosh, what can I say? My initial response is — meh.

If I felt strongly that I needed to pull people out of mormondom (and if I didn't think the internet was doing a pretty good job at that already), I guess I'd be more open about my unbelief and the reasons for it. As it is, I'm pretty "live and let live"… up to a point. And maybe I'm approaching that point. But I'm not quite there yet — not quite ready to overcome this particular "sin of omission."

Update, 20/01, 10h00: Well, sure enough, "Andy" couldn't resist his baser nature and posted a comment full of insults and invective… which I deleted and then officially closed the thread (meaning that I would no longer allow comments to be added). To which Andy responded with yet another comment directed at Mean Me… which also got deleted, and led to the entire thread getting deleted… and to "Andy" quitting the missionary group. Good riddance. Arschloch.