How Obvious Is It?

Apparently, some people think I’m sending mixed messages about Mormonism and how “reasonable” it is. Let me take this opportunity to clarify my position.

For a very long time, Mormonism was eminently reasonable to me. It made sense, and the things I had placed on my “shelf” weren’t serious deal-breakers to me. Book of Mormon anachronisms? Well, it’s the message of Christ that matters, not the historicity. Joseph Smith slept around with teenagers and married women? Well, we shouldn’t expect perfection from fallible humans. The Book of Abraham facsimile translations are gibberish? Joseph Smith was operating on an entirely different plane of consciousness. And so on. I really did convince myself of these things.

As I’ve mentioned before, it was a call from a distraught friend who practically pleaded with me to tell him that the stories of Joseph Smith’s trading teenage girls for exaltation and sleeping with his friends’ wives weren’t true. In that instant, I knew I had been rationalizing some horrible, awful stuff. So, if my conscience didn’t let me rationalize that, why would I rationalize the other issues? Everything unraveled in an instant, and when I went home that day, I told my wife I no longer believed in Mormonism.

But how obvious is it? Can a rational, intelligent person actually believe in the rather remarkable claims of Mormonism? It goes without saying that I think the problems of Mormonism are glaring and clear markers of fraud. But does that mean I think those who disagree with me are morons? Nope.

People arrive at belief in any number of ways, and what works for some people does not work for others. And what troubles me deeply about Mormonism doesn’t affect others in the least bit. And that’s OK. I have a lot of friends and family members who have considered the same issues I have and have chosen to maintain belief in Mormonism. I used to wonder why it was that some people can’t see what to me is so plain and clear. But then they tell me the same thing. Why, they ask, can’t I wrap my brain around certain issues that fall off them like water off a duck.

In the end, belief is subjective, and no one makes a purely rational and logical decision in matters of faith. I’m content to let others believe what they will, but I reserve the right to express what I think and what I believe. I’m convinced that the truth is on my side. Your mileage may vary.

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8 Responses to How Obvious Is It?

  1. erlybird says:

    “But does that mean I think those who disagree with me are morons?” Some of them…yep…definitely.

    Others among them definitely NOT. But let’s be nice…let’s not use the word “morons” at all…let’s use “simple minded”.

    “…no one makes a purely rational and logical decision in matters of faith.”

    Exactly.

    On my blog I tell the story of my former freshman roommate at BYU who now serves as an LDS High Councilman and simply has decided to believe though he knows it is irrational..the Christianity and general belief in God, I mean…not the Mormonism per se. He calls it a “collaborative mythology” which he chooses to embrace and he is NOT simple minded and I respect him a great deal.

    I can even see myself having done the very same thing just to make my life EASIER…because in the end I really, really think that EASE OF LIVING is why most complex minded people choose to let themselves believe in simple minded ideas about sky faeries or strange golden plates. It doesn’t start out that way, mind you…mostly it starts out by the child being indoctrinated by the parents’ well-meaning mind-f**k and I could even see myself having stuck with it but for one thing…

    The simple minded folks. That’s what kind of tipped me off very early on. I can’t hang with those people. Lord, Lord this…and Lord, Lord that and Listen to the Spirit. They actually THINK it is all true! Like, you know, the way the sun coming up in the morning is true…the way fire needs oxygen to burn kind of true. They actually BUY it! It is BEYOND them to even CONSIDER an intellectual argument for living next to a religious one. They simply can’t understand how a non-religious person even has a reason to get UP in the morning let alone live a good life. And the worst part? These simple minded folk can actually be COMPLEX MINDED PEOPLE in EVERY OTHER AREA OF THEIR LIVES! But the moment their simple mindedness runs up against their perfectly normal, complex mind the simple minded, religious noise is all they can hear.

    Infuriating.

  2. jr says:

    erlybird: well put!

  3. bull says:

    It’s pretty obvious to any objective, knowledgeable observer. The better question is why people hang to such improbable beliefs despite complete lack of evidence and plenty of contrary evidence. I think that the bottom line is that once you are invested in believing something there is really nothing that can prove it wrong as long as you allow any rationalization, no matter how improbable. In the realm of the supernatural it’s really no problem since the original belief is already fantastic. You can basically invent out of whole cloth anything you want to explain away your doubts and that is what the apologists do. When you do this you can maintain an internally consistent, rational world view. The only caveat is that your belief system may consist of a whole bunch of highly improbable beliefs that are completely unfalsifiable.

    As long as people are happy they never question those assumptions or beliefs. It’s when it isn’t working and you start to wonder why that you allow yourself the freedom to question your beliefs. Usually the result is a collapse of the house of cards.

  4. erlybird says:

    True, that, Bull.

    I just thought of a little something that goes along with your point about “highly improbable beliefs that are completely unfalsifiable”. On NPR the last week I heard a report about the goings on in a prison for the criminally insane. They made the point that some regular inmates try to act nuts so they can get in there since the food was better or something. The reporter heard this from one of the inmates that was there when he claimed that he had done it himself. He seemed fairly lucid though and the reporter was almost fooled into believing him until he said something rather strange…

    When asked what he was planning on doing when he got released from prison he told her that he had been working with a high level Wall Street Money Wizard of some sort and that he had told him the secrets of investing and would be going back to all the money the guy was holding for him. Of course, this belief was completely falsifiable with a bit of rational thought, but to him it was HIS truth. And everyone else just gets a chuckle out of it.

    So MUCH of what the simple minded religious folk BELIEVE is completely falsifiable to a rational person…for instance, that prayer can bring on an immediate healing or that water turns to blood when blessed. But to those who believe it is THEIR truth. And everyone else just gets a chuckle out of it. Until it gets dangerous.

  5. ElGuapo says:

    That’s funny about the “obvious” thing. I just had this same conversation by email with a believing friend the other day. I had called the Book of Abraham Joseph’s “most obvious fraud,” but then regretted that choice of words. I’m still not sure what adjective really fits; best I could come up with was “obvious in hindsight.”

  6. nebula0 says:

    What you said about how you rationalized Mormonism’s difficulties could have been my words. I did the exact same thing with the same words. What I question though, is that I actually, truly believed it. I tried to, I wanted to, I found it amusing to defend it and debate about, but did I really really believe? That is, if the prophet came out and told me that he had a revelation and that I was to drop what I was doing, migrate to Utah and join a secret revival of polygamy, would I do it? Hell no. I wouldn’t have. So how much did I believe anyway?

    How about those people who know the difficulties and choose to ‘believe’ anyway? I argue they don’t believe, they simply find it convenient to continue on with the way of life that they are used to and not rock the boat with their friends and family. They choose to not have to make a painful change. They choose to keep all that knowledge they’ve accumulated over the years as useful (I channel it into blogs and debates even today, just because I know so damned much about Mormonism, I have to do something with it!). But those people, who can tell you exactly what they are doing, don’t really believe. They wouldn’t sacrifice Isaac on Moriah.

    How about the others with less sophisticated thoughts and knowledge? Many do believe. That’s the only way to explain how some get revelations about this new fundamentalist group or that, drop all that they are doing, and become so and so’s fifth wife. Not everyone of this group may believe the same things in the same ways, but genuine belief is involved, at least enough of the time.

  7. Seven says:

    What happened to your distraught friend after learning the truth? Just curious.

    I was never comforted by any of the apologetic explanations so I really can’t relate to the experience of going from apologist to critic. I went right from faithful BIC TBM (who thought Joseph was only married to Emma….I am embarrassed to admit) to devastated, betrayed, sick beyond belief, etc. and lost my testimony with the first book on church polygamy history I had read.

    It must make apologists at minimum a little uncomfortable to see someone like you who once shared the same beliefs as them, turn to the rebel forces.

    Your very peaceful and understanding approach to the church doesn’t fit the evil anti Mormon caricature they have created for those of us who can no longer believe in the claims of the church. That probably pisses them off more than anything.

  8. runtu says:

    My friend works at the Church Office Building. I don’t think he really believes in the church, but it works OK for him. As for my “peaceful and understanding approach,” I have just been informed yet again that I’m on a quest to sow seeds of doubt. Some people really crack me up.

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