Stupid Critic Tricks

Over the years, a lot of critics of Mormonism have made some pretty stupid arguments and have adopted some counterproductive tactics. Here are a few of the highlights (or lowlights, maybe):

“Let me tell you what you really believe.” Often a critic will insist that some obscure, esoteric item represents core LDS doctrine. Usually, these “doctrines” come from some long-forgotten book, pamphlet, or address from the nineteenth century. And when the unsuspecting Mormon replies that Mormons don’t really believe such things, the critic will move in for the kill: “See? Your church has been hiding its true beliefs from you!” But rather than seeing the light, most Mormons will come away from such an exchange believing that, not only does the critic not know anything about Mormonism, but he or she isn’t interested in dialogue of any kind.

“You Mormons rely on feelings, and you can’t trust feelings.” This one is just plain ridiculous. If you talk to any religious person, no matter their belief system, you find that their faith is based in feelings. They believe because it feels right. A Calvinist who constantly berated “feelings-based” Mormonism explained that he had found God through an extraordinary spiritual experience in his car at a stoplight. Asked if his experience was not based on feelings, he said something like, “No, this wasn’t feelings. This was God speaking to me.” It seems like common sense, but if you’re going to tear down other people’s spiritual experiences, yours are going to be subject to the same kinds of attack.

Related to this argument is the suggestion, particularly by fundamentalist Christians, that their Bible-based beliefs have the factual and archaeological support lacking for Mormonism. Jerusalem and Egypt are real places, they argue, so obviously the events described in the Bible must have taken place. Where, they ask, is the evidence for the Book of Mormon? Of course, this argument completely falls apart when you realize that there is no archaelogical evidence for the spiritual and religious claims of the Bible. There’s no conclusive evidence for Adam and Eve, the Flood, or the Resurrection. On that score, the Bible has no more going for it than the Book of Mormon.

“You follow the wrong gospel, worship the wrong Jesus, and are inspired of the devil!” Nothing is quite as effective as telling another person that their beliefs are Satanic, but that’s what some ostensibly well-meaning critics (primarily of the Evangelical strain) tell Mormons. Some have actually said they’d prefer that Mormons lose their faith entirely and become atheists rather than persist in the diabolical religion Joseph Smith taught. Of course, most Latter-day Saints brush off these arguments as being unworthy of discussion.

“Mormonism doesn’t make sense.” Some Christian critics have argued that Mormonism doesn’t make sense rationally (see, for example, Frank Beckwith’s attempt to show the logical impossibility of eternal progression). The problem, of course, is that the logical arguments used to destroy faith in Mormonism are just as destructive when trained on traditional Christianity.

These are a few of the dumber arguments against Mormonism. Generally they don’t get critics anywhere, but it’s kind of fun to watch newcomers continue to bring such stuff up.

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14 Responses to Stupid Critic Tricks

  1. Stephanie says:

    I find the argument that the Bible is true because Jerusalem and Egypt are real places to be quite amusing. I mean, the Alice Munro story I am in the middle of mentions the town that I live in, but that doesn’t make it true. It may seem more true than, say, Lord of the Rings, since we don’t see Middle Earth in the common atlas, but it doesn’t make it true.

  2. aerin says:

    Thanks Runtu for this post.

    As far as your second paragraph goes, I personally have found it very disappointing that various policies/doctrines have not be renounced or officially denounced. I understand what you’re saying about not believing something anymore, but just because one member doesn’t believe in, say, Brigham Young’s attitude towards race doesn’t mean that another member can’t believe in it. Members are told not to study or research some history because it might not be faith promoting.

    I believe that anyone should be able to study and research anything and come to their own conclusions. And by excommunicating authors and researchers who disagree with SLC, the leadership is not creating an environment of open and honest inquiry. It could give a person the idea that there is something to hide. Just my opinion. I don’t think this is what you were talking about, just wanted to clarify that having some of those 19th century policies still on “the books” could/can confuse some members. There isn’t a good method that the LDS leadership has to go through beliefs and reject those that were not “from God”.

  3. erlybird says:

    Funny thing, really. Even as a rationalist non-believing, non-superstitious, un-compromising embracer of humanism I still find myself defending the LDS approach to belief when I hear these stupid Christers spouting their born-again Jesus nonsense…because even though I know it’s just picking between stories, the whole “Believe and accept Him as your Savior and spend Eternity worshiping at His feet” crap doesn’t even make the least bit of sense. I will believe in a quest to Destroy the Ring before I give any respect to that crap. Much better the LDS approach to life, the “Beehive” approach, the “any knowledge you gain here on Earth” approach, the “He has brought you the base of the summit now you have to climb the last rock” approach.

    That said, I return always to my favorite story…The Emperor’s New Clothes. I imagine myself as the child who sees the naked Ruler (along with many, many others who don’t feel obligated to keep their minds shut to the obvious) and I am simply bewildered that with this guy marching down the street, swinging in the breeze, all I hear are arguments from the crowd about what COLOR his clothes are or what they are MADE of. Imagine how SILLY that is. Blue…Red. Cotton…Silk. Veracci…Ralph Lauren. HE IS NAKED!!!!! It is ALL MADE UP!!! And yet, there are entire UNIVERSITIES devoted to studying the nuances of these “clothes”…theology…one might as well study the realities of POKEMON. So much effort wasted. So much time devoted to daydreams of an afterlife. So much offense taken.

  4. Mina says:

    I don’t know about #1 John. I’ve met many, if not most mormons whose understanding of the religion they worship bears little in common with the historical entity of the mormon church. Add that to the slipperiness of just what is and what is not “doctrine,” the many times “the church” has out and out lied (polygamy) and Lying For The Lord, and, well, I don’t think you have much of an objection. Of course, I’m not interested in persuasion but in history…

  5. runtu says:

    Of course, Mina. Nailing down doctrine in the LDS church is really difficult. It’s not out of bounds to explain what the church has historically taught, but it’s quite another thing to insist that some past teaching represents “doctrine” that Mormons must believe.

  6. Tim says:

    A Calvinist who constantly berated “feelings-based” Mormonism explained that he had found God through an extraordinary spiritual experience in his car at a stoplight. Asked if his experience was not based on feelings, he said something like, “No, this wasn’t feelings.

    You kind of did a bait a switch on this one. You said that the argument against feelings is not a good one, and the reason it’s not good is because THIS guy was relying on a mystical experience for his own conversion. So perhaps HE shouldn’t be making the argument but what about some one who is not relying on any feelings or mystical experience at all? Can they make the argument? Can they at least make the argument that feelings are not the most reliable evidence for faith? Can they make the argument that feelings alone are not the most reliable evidence for faith?

    Are you suggesting that Mormon epistimology is correct even if Mormonism is wrong?

  7. runtu says:

    Perhaps my point wasn’t clear. Whether or not an epistemology based on feelings is “correct,” most religious believers I have met indeed base their beliefs on feelings. That’s why it’s a bad argument for people to criticize what they do themselves. It’s the old idea that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  8. Mina says:

    I think that’s just fiddling with the term “belief,” though, runtu. Whether or not mormon X actively agrees with or is even conscious of belief Y, their membership in the church is a tacit support of it: the obvious example being “celestial polygamy.” But I think one could even make a case for more esoteric items like blood atonement and my “evidence” would be how “violently” it intrudes into their fantasies (but now I’m treading on scholarly territory I don’t want to drag out publically, yet).

    Anyway, my first impulse was in response to internet regulars like “charity” who used to sneeringly and smugly complain that people were telling her what she believes and that just shows how ignorant and presumptious they were. In fact, it usually displayed her own ignorance in spades.

  9. One thing that I have found interesting John is that in both the threads (and to a small extent, these comments), both we “apologists” and the “critics” end(ed) up engaging in our stupid tricks in the very place in which they are/were being pointed out.

    That’s some good irony.

    -Stu

  10. runtu says:

    I thought so too. Both sides over on MAD engaged in the very arguments I was pointing out. Too funny.

  11. Seven says:

    I disagree with: “Let me tell you what you really believe.” Often a critic will insist that some obscure, esoteric item represents core LDS doctrine”

    Can you give examples of what you mean?

    Here is why I disagree. For example, I have seen many TBMs get upset when they hear critics say plural marriage is required for exaltation, that Jesus was revealed as a polygamist by former Prophets, God has many wives, etc. “don’t tell us what we believe!!!!!”
    Most LDS don’t know that plural marriage IS a core doctrine of Mormon theology so I can see why they would say “don’t tell me what I believe” because they have not studied the meat yet. Does that mean plural marriage is not a core doctrine? Even apologists argue over the place of plural marriage in the plan because it’s such a sensitive issue. Until the church removes section 132, stops sealing multiple wives in the temple, and condemns the plethora of past teachings on it , polygamy remains a core LDS doctrine for heaven. (and possibly to return on earth again at the millennium)

    If critics mention blood atonement, Adam God, the sexual act of God creating Jesus, racial statements of blacks in the pre existence, etc. is that unfair? Unless the church has revealed official DOCTRINE removing the past doctrine, those remain. Even though the priesthood is now given to all worthy males, I am not aware of any statements by Prophets that removed the reasons for the ban. (pre existence being tied to our placement on earth)

    So while there might be esoteric teachings from the past that many mainstream LDS would never claim to believe in, are they no longer doctrines just because a majority of Mormons are ignorant or pick and choose from the buffet table of what they are comfortable believing in?

    Critics use official teachings of the PROPHETS, not opinions of random members. I wouldn’t call that a stupid critic TRICK.

    I agree with the rest of your post. 🙂

  12. Demon of Kolob says:

    The Bible is true where the Book of Mormon is false in that the Bible is a real ancient document the BofM is not. The bible is a actually a true record of what an ancient tribe (Israelites) believed about god and their history. This makes the stories in the Bible no more true that Greek tales of Zeus or stories of Buddha etc.

  13. runtu says:

    DoK,

    Yep, the Bible is a verifiably old book, whereas the Book of Mormon isn’t. But the Bible’s antiquity is no argument for its truth.

  14. Demon of Kolob says:

    Runtu , I never said that the Myths and doctrines in the Bible were true just that it is a valid antiquity.(unlike BofM) What makes the beliefs of the ancient Jews anymore true than anyone else’s? Nothing!

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