Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't Use Unfair Arguments!

I talked to my mom yesterday, and she brought up the subject of faith.  She wasn't too confrontational, but definitely was trying, again, to convince me that I ought to stay active in the church.

She talked about some people she knows (disapprovingly) who have left the church, and how it was not fair to their spouses because it was understood at the beginning of the marriages that the church would be part of their marriage and family.
I don't completely object to this line of reasoning, because I've thought that maybe I should attend church socially for my wife's sake.  It wouldn't be so bad, after I was out of BYU and no longer obligated to keep secret my disbelieve in god, accept callings, etc.

What I object to is the injustice of this argument when used by my mother, who very openly applauds a former Catholic minister who joined the church in her ward despite the concern that it has caused his wife.  If my mom is going to use the above argument, she'd damn-well better make sure she's okay with it working against her beloved church.

The same goes for another thing she tried to tell me last night: she was telling me that religious experiences are very subtle, but that you had to learn to trust them.  I indicated that some people don't really have very convincing experiences, and she said something like "but what about family and friends who have had those experiences?"  I told her that that doesn't help, because there are people all over the world having religious experiences confirming the truth of vastly different worldviews.  She seemed shocked and asked "what about your family and people who really care about you, though?"
I think it's only fair for her to say this if she is willing to disapprove just as strongly of people coming from other faiths into the LDS church despite their family's devotion to another faith.

She talked about another person who'd left the church because he'd tried hard and eventually given up, as if he'd done it on a whim and altogether too quickly.  The idea, I believe, is that if you don't believe in the church, keep trying to until you do, or until you die.  If she is willing to argue this way, she'd better be ready to accept the argument that other faiths should never convert to Mormonism, but keep plugging away trying to make their own faith work for them.

There are many other arguments of this nature thrown around all over the place.  The LDS church teaches its members to avoid anything critical of the church like the plague, like it'd smut or a pack of vicious lies and authored by the devil himself.  Yet the church openly and smilingly criticizes the doctrines, practices, and historical actions of other churches regularly.  It's part of the missionary lessons.
Why exactly shouldn't I read anything critical about the church?  Can't I make my own decisions about the validity of its claims?  Getting only one narrow side of the story never seems like a good idea.
Is it thoughtcrime?  Am I committing treason by even considering that the church might be based on a bunch of fiction?  And yet the church and its membership are moved to tears of joy by the stories of people having doubts about their own faiths and then joining up with the LDS church when it better fit how they felt the world should operate.
If I am a traitor, then every freaking religious person who has ever joined the church is a traitor.

  I understand why these arguments propagate so well in the church; they are persuasive arguments in their own ways and the church circulates ideas that are best-suited to preserve itself.  It's not necessarily deliberate, it's the mind-virus adapting to its host.  Among religions, blindness to your own implicit exempt status from your own arguments seems to be a particularly common symptom.


  1. I had a companion that would say something similar - that he had no respect for people who just give up (mainly referring to exmormons). Yet, that's what we were asking people to do everyday of the mission. At the time I wasn't smart enough to realize this double standard but I know that I didn't quite agree with his sentiment and thus I just usually said nothing at all.

    Good articulation on this double standard.

  2. The sad thing is, I remember being a missionary and thinking that way... "are people morons?"
    Foolish, foolish little missionary. But it was what we had drilled into us 24/7.

    I wish I could say I had noticed this double standard significantly before I got the short end of it.