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Greg Wilcox has a terrific cover story about ex-Mormons who become atheists at City Weekly:

Certain heavy-handed practices required by his mission also made [former LDS missionary Chris] Merris feel uneasy about his religion. He says that he and other missionaries were encouraged to go beyond the normal missionary discussions with prospective new members, implementing such things as what they called the “Joseph Smith pray now.” This involved getting missionaries and prospective new members to pray in a circle about the reality of Joseph Smith’s status as a seer, and then, after the missionaries testified about feeling the spirit, asking the prospective new members to share their feelings. He says that such methods amounted to manipulation and put pressure on both the missionaries and non-members involved.

“We psychologically manipulated people — it was very clear,” Merris says. “Now that I’ve read about psychological experiments and look at them in that context, I’m like, ‘Yeah, we were clearly manipulating those people.’”

for Atheists of Utah Valley group members who attend BYU, being open with their families is usually not a viable option, as they could either lose their ecclesiastical endorsement or lose money from their parents. “While attending BYU, it’s better to kind of keep them in the dark,” says one student who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of how her family would react. “I’m not afraid of what they’ll think, it’s purely for money reasons — just scared of the money going away.”

[Former missionary Nick] Godfrey quickly learned that simply displaying one’s status as an atheist can lead to hostile reactions in Utah.

“This summer, I put a bumper sticker on my car which simply read ‘Atheist,’” he says. “It was torn off in less than a week. A couple weeks later, I bought a similar sticker, which I put on my car along with a Human Rights Campaign sticker. They were also torn off in less than a week.”

Unlike a lot of articles, this one actually has a supportive comment thread.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.