Omar Call wrote these words in his Missionary Call Acceptance letter to the LDS church in 1995. He was excited, though going on a mission was entirely expected.

His father, Brad, is a medical doctor and a former missionary himself. He met Omar's mother, Lola (now a psychologist), while on his mission in Peru and converted her to Mormonism. Lola was a devout Catholic and in her late teens at the time, and after she converted to Mormonism, she left her predominantly Catholic home country to attend Brigham Young University in Utah.

Back in the U.S. himself, Brad heard Lola was at BYU and called to see how she was doing. They began dating and eventually married. They had two children — Omar, born in 1977, and his sister, Ariana, born 15 months later. When Omar was 6, his family moved from Baltimore to Tucson. They continued attending three-hour Sunday services at an LDS church.

Omar Call in his Mormon days, flanked by his parents, Lola and Brad.
courtesy of Omar Call
Omar Call in his Mormon days, flanked by his parents, Lola and Brad.
The Secular Free Thought Society, a group that often joins Call on street corners in Tempe.
Kyle Jacobson
The Secular Free Thought Society, a group that often joins Call on street corners in Tempe.

Ariana, who lives in Tucson and works as a high school science teacher, says their home environment was "somewhat restrictive," but otherwise normal. Halloween was a big holiday for the family, and they all made intricate costumes, especially Omar. One year, he and Ariana made Garbage Pail Kids outfits by cutting the bottoms out of garbage pails, slipping trash bags over their bodies and climbing into the pails, and rigging the lids to open so their heads could pop out.

Another year, Omar made a Transformer costume out of cardboard boxes and metallic paint, with elaborate robot limbs on the front, and an automobile coming out the back. The last Halloween Omar's father recalls him "dressing up" was when he was 14. He dressed as himself, and said he had the most original costume anywhere.

Their mother didn't want Ariana and Omar to watch too much TV, so she taught them how to sew and paid them to do it several hours every week. Today, Omar alters clothing for customers at the boutique where he works and sews his own fashion designs — sometimes well into the night and early mornings.

His whole life, Omar says, he followed the tenets of his religion closely. He attended every church service, refused to listen to secular music on Sundays, didn't watch R-rated movies, abstained from premarital sex, and tried not to drink any caffeine. At 19, he says he was quite secure in his faith, to the point of being "self-righteous."

In 1995, Call enrolled at Arizona State University, planning to follow in his father's footsteps as a physician. Before he got more than a year deep in college, the LDS church sent him on a mission to Lisbon, Portugal.

Call's schedule as a missionary was typically rigid: He got up at 6 a.m. every day, prayed, showered, dressed in his suit, went through the neighborhoods of Lisbon and knocked on doors all day, and went to bed by 10:30.

The goal was to spread the vitally important message of God to as many unconverted souls as possible.

It was hard for him to accept rejection. Once, Call was trying to find a neighborhood in Lisbon where he could "share the gospel." As a senior companion, he was in charge of guiding the younger missionaries, and every day, they would try to find some sort of divine guidance for the Lisbon area.

"Every day, we were like, 'Okay, there's somebody that the Lord wants us to teach. There's someone who wants to hear the gospel. We have to be faithful enough that we can be led by the Holy Spirit to find them,'" Call says.

So they got down on their knees and prayed, asking God to guide them to the right place. Afterward, they looked at a map and had a really strong feeling about one particular neighborhood. So they went there, and they had a bad day.

"We went and knocked on doors for eight hours — the whole day," Call recalls. "We couldn't get anybody. People slammed doors in our faces. No one let us in."

They returned to one particular door, practically pleading to be let in. "I was getting kind of desperate at this point," Call says. "I thought, 'Something's wrong. I thought this was the area; this is where we were led. There's someone here we need to teach.'"

The woman who answered the door told the missionaries to stop begging her, and closed the door. Call wandered off so his junior companions wouldn't see him crying, and spent the next several days thinking about what had happened.

"Eventually, I was able to assuage my conflict with it by just saying, 'This was a test to see if I'd be able to maintain my devotion in the face of rejection. The Lord just wanted to see if I would stay strong,'" Call says.

Toward the end of Omar's work in Portugal, the president of his mission wrote a note to his parents. In it, President and Sister Clegg thank Brother and Sister Call "for sharing with us such a dedicated and spiritually prepared son . . . We loved Elder Call. He is one of our savior's finest missionaries."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
28 comments
Liza
Liza

Its nice to read a story about an alternative point of view. Especially in this religion dominated city-state-country.

S.W.
S.W.

As a Christian, I disagree with the atheist who commented (regarding this article and our disagreements in general) that the "full respect" approach by atheists toward Christians wouldn't work. Quite the contrary, I think that's precisely what both sides *NEED* to do. We can agree to disagree. Those who choose or care to get into a debate can do so, and do so passionately, but respect isn't an option.

We need to learn to get along regardless of our beliefs. I mean, didn't we all learn in preschool to "play nice with others?" How basic of a lesson is that? Yet adults (on both sides-- I see it far too much with those who share my faith, even)seem to have overlooked it.

Show me respect, show respect to those around us, and I'll invite you to my house for a BBQ. I don't care who you are... atheist, Christian, Muslim, agnostic, "apatheist," Hindu, whatever.

Everybody just needs to get over themselves, hug each other, sit down, have a beer, and listen to some Miles Davis or something. It really isn't that complicated.

Ethan
Ethan

Good article, but comment strings are less about the article than about the comments, so it is to the string that I tailor my response.

The article reflects what has been revealed in the comments, that the issue is not nearly as "black or white" as many people may think. There is not merely a dichotomy of "religious" and "secular" people, but interesting and competing factions of each that deserve acknowledgment. The comments range from those who give outright denunciation to Call for his position or for NT's legitimization of it; there are those who offer blanket appreciation for them. But the interesting debate is that between moderates and conservatives on both sides, who, as is often the case, often find themselves encamped with those of the other side against the extreme factions. Sadly, many Christians have a tendency to believe that they hold the patent on righteousness, as if bigotry is, by definition, absent from their beliefs. Believing that all members of one's own group are good is just as fallacious as believing that all members of another group are evil. There are gradations among atheists that Christians would do well to acknowledge, for fear of reveling their latent bigotry and ignorance. Atheism is not a cult, as one commenter claims, it is a belief. I am an atheist, and an "out" atheist, and I admit that my belief is just as strong as those who believe in deities, but it is neither a cult nor a religion, and it is ignorant to fear it, though more Americans fear atheists than *any other social group.*However, there is an interesting shift in atheism that is discussed by one poster's assertion that it is illogical to speak outwardly of one's atheism. I think this is common among atheists who feel that they have no right to impose their choice on others, and see it as a virtue that they do not proselytize. I was one. My realization was followed by an initial phase of loud, zealous declaration where I would look to challenge people's beliefs with my newfound "enlightenment." However, this subsided, as it should, to quiet, internal satisfaction (people were getting pretty annoyed by me). But I strongly believe that it is time for atheists to "come out of the closet" and acknowledge our place in this country. Nearly 18% of this country is atheist or agnostic; a larger inclusive percentage than African Americans. However, these people are forced to vote for a religious (read: Christian) president, or not at all. This country was founded on some pissed off people screaming "No Taxation without Representation," and this creed has been forwarded by African Americans, women, and (hopefully soon) homosexuals. It is time that the atheists raise their own voices and combat the bigotry that keeps us deferential and supplant the country's fear of "Communist" atheists with a picture that combines the Hitchenses and Calls with the quiet, content, secret to their co-worker atheists than most of us are.To Christians and religious people of all banners who fear atheists and what our growing voices may mean, please understand that we are people, too. We're not out to eat your children, we just want our slice of the pie.

Brian
Brian

I just want to say that its a very immature thing to attack a man that does not believe the same way that you do. "He already has a hole in his head, judging by the article" Grow up.

Editorial Assistant
Editorial Assistant

via Letters to Editor:

What were the editors at New Times thinking by running such a sacreligious picture on Christmas Day. The very idea of running a story about such a terrible man on this holiest of days! The pictures on the inside of your paper were worse than the one on the cover, especially the one where he�s got the cross in his mouth, as if it were a gun he�s using to blow a hole in his head. I can tell him, he doesn�t need a gun or a cross for that; he�s already got a hole in his head, judging from your story.Ned Graham, Phoenix

Editorial Assistant
Editorial Assistant

via Letters to Editor:

I feel just as sorry for strict atheists as I do for strict Christians, Jews, or Mormons. How can anybody be that sure of they�re right?! I know, some people will say they talk directly to God, that�s how they know. These are the people whom I consider bonkers. or liars. At least Omar Call doesn�t do that. Yet all he�s done is replace one dogmatic belief system (Mormonism) with another (atheism). He�s a fool to be so committed to any belief. Omar�s just another of those annoying street preachers you cross the road to avoid. Here�s an idea? Why don�t we all stop worrying about what some religious/atheistic propaganda tells us and just try to be good and honest people? What a concept, eh?Jack Williams, Las Vegas

Wendy
Wendy

This was an awesome article, I loved it all!I have gone down to ill Aventue and 5th street but didn't get to hear him talk. I lan on going next saturday. I hope he is there this time. It would be really great to hear a passionate debate on religion.

The hatred that religious followers, mostly christians, it's the reason that religion is an ugly thing. I don't support following any religion to the point that you hate anyone who doesn't follow your cult. Which is technically what any religion is.

Awesome article!

Holy Cheese and Rice
Holy Cheese and Rice

A psychic, palm readers, witches astrologist, soothsayers, prophets, popes, and priest. What are the differences?

None.

Elder Call is going through what many intelligent Mormons go though, classy cognitive dissonance. Once the scales of make believe are pull away, there�s a feeling of angry, resentment and embarrassment.

In time Brother Call will settle down, move on, like many of us ex-Mormons, and enjoy life without believing in talking snakes, arks, talking donkeys, creationism, walking on water, buried books, golden plates and other folktales.

Heather
Heather

I'm reminded of the song "I Used to be a Hippie, Then I was a Stockbroker, Now I am a Hippie Again" with an added componate of self-hatred. I'm guessing he was molested as a child.

Janis Chambers
Janis Chambers

I sometimes wonder what mixture of respect and audacity we atheists should use. I don't think full respect is ever going to work, religion demands so much respect that it goes virtually unquestioned. There seems to be a default backlash installed into religion, I think the only way to ever win over theists would to fully express that we only desire to free people from dogma... but it's almost impossible when people would choose certainty over truth.

darter22
darter22

We are all atheists when it comes to the gods of others. Atheists just don't believe in yours either.

Eat Jesus Crust
Eat Jesus Crust

I was raised in a very similar situation to Mr. Call (LDS, served a mission, left the church), and I can completely appreciate the vigor with which he approaches his newfound anti-faith. While I'm not as publically active as he is in proclaiming my dissidence, in private discussions we're probably about even keel.

Organized religion is a scourge, for large ones a means of accumulating vast amounts of wealth and land, and for smaller groups it is merely a vessel for the propagation of lies, damn lies, and the premise of faith: something which is to be hoped for but never seen.

mabel_said_so
mabel_said_so

As a once stout atheist who was married to a Mormon, I completely understand Call's need to argue with believers and express himself and his new-found information. I am still not religious nor believe that there is a God, but I ceased arguing with others who are or do. Why, one may ask? Because IT IS ILLOGICAL TO DO SO. As a philosopher, for one to make a claim to knowledge such as there being a God (i.e. theism) or there not being a god (i.e. atheism) this knowledge must be a true justifiable belief, because that is what knowledge is. Now, we can not prove that there is a God and as Mark Twain said "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true," so right here the argument should cease. But for Call to continue to argue that there isn't a God, he can't prove this either, and is really trying to prove a negative. So his claim to knowledge is false as well. I still stand by Socrates words of wisdom "All I know is I know nothing." So therefore, I am agnostic. I find Call's tactics inherently dogmatic, and also a bit ridiculous, the same with the "Secular Free Thought Society's." Isn't the point of this whole movement to disprove religion and beliefs in God? Instead these people are ASSEMBLING with like-minded people of ideas and beliefs (which, as proved above, they are also using faith, instead of knowledge, for the non-belief in God) and are labeling their "clubs" (for lack of a better word) and so are therefore forming their own religions, which, in my opinion, defeats the whole purpose. They are also invoking HATRED and ANGER in believers which is one of the problems with religion nowadays anyway. I am all for expressing one's beliefs, but to do so through pictures such as the one's Call took for this article, or through T-shirts with fuck so-and-so's church printed on it, is really only reinforcing the underlying problems with religion in the first place. It should be noted that although I consider myself a skeptical-secular-free-thinking-agnostic-humanist (as far as labels go) I am not a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and think that Call and others are only emulating their tactics.

Isaac Iris
Isaac Iris

HAHAHA! This article was hilarious. This is what I got out of it: was a mormon, now an atheist, still self righteous... and what a snazzy dresser!

Alton
Alton

I understand and [respect] those who have a need to believe in the magical universe of the religious. It is extremely difficult if not impossible for some to truly think objectively as they drag all the baggage and trappings of our society, history, culture and family with us through our lives. But, if Call's mission is to demonstrate that we non-believers exist (in larger numbers than most would imagine) and need to be recognized, excepted and respected, then I support him 100%. On the other hand, if he's just having fun, more power to him. Keep on dancing.

Chris
Chris

Remember when the church excommunicated Galileo because he said the Sun was the center of the Universe? Remember when it said the world was only 5,000 years old? The Church has been wrong time and time again. There is no higher power giving them answers. It's just the Church, telling us whatever it wants us to believe, regardless of whether it is true or scientifically accurate.

Religion was useful back when we didn't know what caused rain, or what held the Sun up in the sky. Now that we know the answers to those questions, we don't need a "god" who "magically" does that stuff. We understand how it really works, and it's not what the Church told us. Believing in a god who performs miracles is the same as believing in a wizard that does magic. Both are fantasies. It's time for the Church to stop deceiving people. It needs to stop telling them that the bible is true, because it is not.

Besides, religion is routinely used as an excuse for violence. Remember the Crusades? The Inquisition? Present-day Iraq, where religious extremists are using religion as an excuse to kill Americans? The sooner we get rid of religion and replace it with science and reason, the better off the entire world will be.

Chris
Chris

The Church is constantly wrong. Remember Galileo? The Inquisition? Religion was useful back when people did not know how the Universe was created, or what held the Sun up. Now that we know the answers to those questions (which are not what the Church told us), we don't need their lies. We know the answers. The Church should stop trying to delude people into believing things that science has proved wrong. Plus, religion is often used as an excuse for violence (i.e. the Crusades, present-day Iraq, etc.). The sooner we eradicate it, the better off the world will be.

mabel_said_so
mabel_said_so

As a once stout atheist who was married to a Mormon, I completely understand Call's need to argue with believers and express himself and his new-found information. I am still not religious nor believe that there is a God, but I ceased arguing with others who are or do. Why, one may ask? Because IT IS ILLOGICAL TO DO SO. As a philosopher, for one to make a claim to knowledge such as there being a God (i.e. theism) or there not being a god (i.e. atheism) this knowledge must be a true justifiable belief, because that is what knowledge is. Now, we can not prove that there is a God and as Mark Twain said "Faith is believing in something you know ain't true," so right here the argument should cease. But for Call to continue to argue that there isn't a God, he can't prove this either, and is really trying to prove a negative. So his claim to knowledge is false as well. I still stand by Socrates words of wisdom "All I know is I know nothing." So therefore, I am agnostic. I find Call's tactics inherently dogmatic, and also a bit ridiculous, the same with the "Secular Free Thought Society's." Isn't the point of this whole movement to disprove religion and beliefs in God? Instead these people are ASSEMBLING with like-minded people of ideas and beliefs (which, as proved above, they are also using faith, instead of knowledge, for the non-belief in God) and are labeling their "clubs" (for lack of a better word) and so are therefore forming their own religions, which, in my opinion, defeats the whole purpose. They are also invoking HATRED and ANGER in believers which is one of the problems with religion nowadays anyway. I am all for expressing one's beliefs, but to do so through pictures such as the one's Call took for this article, or through T-shirts with fuck so-and-so's church printed on it, is really only reinforcing the underlying problems with religion in the first place. It should be noted that although I consider myself a skeptical-secular-free-thinking-agnostic-humanist (as far as labels go) I am not a huge fan of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and think that Call and others are only emulating their tactics.

Poetry2Beatz
Poetry2Beatz

Interesting Article! I haven't read much atheistic work like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, but a Buddhist friend of mine let me barrow "Anthem" by Ayn Rand. I am a very opened minded/curious guy who loves to pursue absolute truth wherever that leads me. Here's a really good book for believers and non-believers, I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek...

r�nato
r�nato

we are all atheists; some of us simply believe in one fewer god than the rest of you.

Jesse Chanley
Jesse Chanley

Very good article. I admire Mr. Call's willingness to publically challenge religious dogma.

Some of the commenters assert that LDS is not Christian. That assertion is false. LDS members believe in their version of Christ, just as Catholics and the many Protestant faiths have their own versions. The LDS version is among the least believable, but it is a variant of Christianity.

Not mentioned in the article is the overwhelming scientific and historic evidence that people created god(s). The reason there is so much good and bad is that there is no beneficent god ordering nature. The good and the bad done by people is all to our credit.

What I find most frustrating about Christianity is the failure of many Christians to pay attention to Christ's message, which is very radical. Christ said to love our enemies and to practice pacifism and material selflessness. Many people in the U.S., and especially those who call this a Christian nation, are among the biggest supporters of our military and the strongest opponents of collective welfare. These positions contradict Christ's teachings.

Jeff
Jeff

Hats off to a true thinker. It takes true courage to confront the American Taliban on their own turf. Keep up the good work Omar Call.

Jeff

Vocab Malone
Vocab Malone

I know Omar. I debate with him often on Mill. He gave me a ride home once. Interesting guy.

Some of the pictures (flipping off, cross as gun, hostage situation, cross in mouth) invoke a sense of hostility and even violence that caught me off guard. This type of posturing is unbecoming in my estimate.

I also concur with TED that LDS and actual Biblical Christianity (read: orthodox evangelicalism) theology were unfortunately conflated in this article. This is much to the detriment of the reader's understanding.

Once again, I am just glad the NT is covering stuff like this. So props on that end.

Merry Christmas,

VOCAB of Backpack Truth dot com

PS - Can Omar really READ Hebrew Script? I don't think so ...

VOCAB

Jack O. Fire
Jack O. Fire

If millions of people worldwide share the same common (non)belief and use the same arguments and rituals to convey those beliefs, then Atheism in itself is a religion. Welcome to the new cult.

Niki's article proved what I have known for years: atheists have now become every bit as annoying (if not more) as the street corner bible-thumping testifiers that inspired them to turn their back on the word of God.

ted
ted

Well, no wonder, Mormons don't believe in Christianity. They believe in some other stuff. There are so many stories of former Mormons becoming agnostic or aethiest as if it were the same thing as Christianity. It's like saying a Jewish person is Christian. It'd help if secular writers at least got these journalistic facts straight first.

Hammer of The Gods
Hammer of The Gods

Call talks about the evils done in the name of God. Just because evil is done in the name of God in no way means that God was actually involved. On the flip side, how about the good done in the name of God? The charities, the homeless shelters, the food and clothing banks, the hospitals, etc. Ever hear of an atheist charity? Ever hear of a pagan food bank? Me either.If anything has outlived it's usefulness (if it ever had any use), it is atheism. Promoting a cause that is mostly about being against something else is simply a dead end street. Try being FOR something, something positive, life enhancing, enriching, freeing, contributing to the well being of others as well as yourself. Go ahead, TRY it!

Avinash Machado
Avinash Machado

From one extreme to the other. From the LDS cult to Atheism. Hope he regains faith in God.

Jeff Schrade
Jeff Schrade

That was an interesting read about Mr. Call. It's unfortunate that he is an all or nothing kind of guy. At one point he was 100% Christ-believing Mormon. Then he becomes a 100% atheist who wants to convert small children to his new-found belief system. Weird.

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...