Winning The War Against Unreason

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An unbelievably common refrain that I run into debating religious people that are otherwise reasonable, well read and well spoken individuals is the idea they are somehow too dumb to understand God’s reasoning.

I have debated Mormon friends1 on the topic of polyandry and underage marriage. An issue that was recently admitted to by the LDS church itself in an effort to own up to its history. 2 This makes it impossible for the believer to dismiss the topic as ‘anti-mormon’ lies like was done in the past. Most feel their stomach churn at the thought of these issues, much the same way the escapades of Warren Jeffs disgust them. But they deeply believe that old Joe was called of God to do what he did so they have to justify it somehow. That’s when you hear the phrases, ‘I just have faith’ and ‘who am I to question God?’ or the one that inspired this article. ‘God must have a reason that I am not mentally equipped to understand.’

Religious dogma repeatedly teaches the believer this idea they are too stupid to understand the ways of deity. The very act of faith so celebrated in all belief systems requires a suspension of critical thinking. Reason is mocked when it questions the tenets of faith. You are taught to cling to your spiritual evidences no matter what. That is where this I’m too stupid idea comes from. It is an outward expression of the cognitive dissonance that the believer is feeling.

The rational truth seeker will get really frustrated pushing for understanding past this point. That’s because the believer has outwardly renounced reason to keep the faith. This is where you need to remember one simple premise. You can’t reason a person out of an emotional conviction…without using emotion.

Ever try to convince a Chevy advocate that Ford is better? Or an Apple fanboy that a PC is the better deal? It’s pretty hard to do. Because they are emotionally attached to their brand favorite. Often times it is hard for us who have trained ourselves to recognize and ignore the effects of emotional bias to deal with it in others. An example of our own bias about biases :).

So how do you win the war against unreason? Emotion. The secret is to evoke emotion. Only by flooding those cognitive connections in a soup of hormones, do you open up the opportunity for them to change. Use all the emotions at your disposal, humor, love, sincerity, and even anger. You should willingly express these emotions yourself and give your friends mirror neurons a chance to fire and feel the way you feel. If this sounds kind of like a religious meeting where people testify of their faith and others feel spiritually connectedness, it should. That is exactly what you should be going for! Finding common ground, connecting with that other human being emotionally is key before moving on to giving them the alternate more rational explanation you are endeavoring them to learn.

Religions have all stumbled onto this formula of emotional conviction to a cause. They are so good at it that they can convince people they are idiots when compared to the dogma they are preaching. What if we could harness that same sense of conviction to help people realize they are not the idiots their religion would have them be, but instead that they are brilliant and capable free thinkers that can reason and develop moral convictions even to the point they can challenge the scary God of their youth. Most people I know would balk at the despicable acts of deity documented in every tome of scripture dogma from every type of faith. Most people are inherently more MORAL3 beings than the very God they worship. If only they could realize this!

If only the religiously devote could redirect that devotion to the here and now rather than the untestable eternities offered up in exchange for a few $$ and a dream of hope after you die. Imagine for a moment a world where that devotion is directed wholeheartedly to solving the problems of today rather than proving their faith is the right one that every other person should follow.

I think it can be done. I hope it can happen. And I’m pretty sure it will take a little more than just a reasonable argument to make it reality. So next time you are doing your damnedest to extol the virtues of a rational approach in your worldview, make sure you dwell on the positives of it! Take the effort to emotionally convert her to your perspective. You will have much greater success in my opinion. But who knows, I just may be too stupid to understand the ways of the Fridge.

 

 

 

  1. admittedly I debate them more than any other being a former Mormon myself
  2. Thanks to the internet bringing historical information right to your fingertips and pretty much pressing the issue.
  3. How many believers do you know that if they were God would ever ask a father to kill his son as a sign of loyalty? Yet both Muslim and Christian religions believe father Abraham was required to do exactly that! The God of Abraham is a mob boss, not a nice guy!

Savor Life, A Man Named Rob

I met a person this year, only once, but he changed my life. His name was Rob. He came to a New Years eve party at our home with a friend from my post religion phase in life. The number one thing I noticed1 about Rob is what he had done for my friend. You see my friend had gone through the loss of her faith around the same time as I did. She wasn’t as lucky as me though. Her acknowledgement of doubt and desire to seek truth cost her her marriage. She was very much a broken soul when I first met her and our families became close in the way only those that have suffered the same experiences can.

The day I met Rob stood out in my mind because of what it did for my friend. She walked in our front door beaming like a lighthouse. She was so happy, clearly in love and in every possible way I could tell a soul that was healed, and filled, with light. They were going to marry, they were so happy. Her life was on a new trajectory to something wonderful. She had this man to thank for it. I remember thinking this guy is gonna be a blast this summer when we all hang out together.

But unfortunately a terrible tragedy occurred and we lost him.  Rob passed away. I didn’t suffer too much, I lost the glimpse of future days at the lake with him and my friend, our kids playing together on the beach taking it easy and soaking in life. But my friend, she lost it all. And I felt terrible about her pain and loss.

It is the closest death I have faced since the imaginary comfort of religious belief crumbled into the history of my life. It caused me to  ponder the depth of my beliefs repeatedly since there are no longer those pat answers I was raised with to make sense of such a difficult thing.

Something happened though, something I am really glad I experienced. My friend sent me a few paragraphs she had written about her fiancé for his funeral. She wanted my help polishing them up. I was happy to help in anyway I could. Little did I know she would help me more than I ever expected. With her permission I am sharing the part that touched my soul here.

“I just want to share what I learned from Rob that changed me, and my heart, for the better….things that I will cherish forever, the memories, the stories, and our love.

The first thing I learned from Rob was about healing. Rob was a healer. I know he healed many of you and he healed me, from moment I met him.

His ability to mend others came in three ways. Things he taught to me by his example and presence in my life.

First, Rob taught me to listen to listen and not to respond. Listen by not talking, by leaning in, by looking you straight in the eyes, by touching, by sitting close and, most importantly, by making it about you, and not about him. His phone is put away and there is no speaking except for….’I am listening.’ ‘Tell me more.’ And ‘I love you and you matter no matter what you say or who you are.’

Second, Rob taught me how he healed by never walking away from a loved one or any person without making a friend of them or making them smile. He did this through teasing, joking, talking, listening, spending time with them and most importantly hugging. On my third date with Rob, he hugged me in that way he hugs and in that moment…every wound I had, every hurt I carried, was healed and I knew I wanted to be with this man! When Rob took his leave of someone, he left them better than when he found them.

The third way Rob was a healer was through his laugh. He laughed loud, and full, long and deep. He laughed with his whole face, his eyes, his body….Oh that man could laugh…….and it was contagious! Hard to be sad when your are laughing!

The next thing I learned from Rob his take on life. He was present. He lived in the moment. He savored his moments. To Rob, my cooking wasn’t just ‘good’ or ‘OK’. It was ‘delicious’ or ‘horrible’. He didn’t feel ‘fine’ or ‘meh’ in a half hearted attempt at life. He felt ‘fantastic’ or ‘terrible’. The views we saw weren’t ‘pretty’ and our adventures weren’t ‘fun’. It was ‘gorgeous’ or ‘the best day I have ever had’ or ‘the most amazing place I have ever been’ or just ‘wow’!

Then to both save and share those beautiful highs and lows in life took pictures of it all. He shared those pictures and those stories with everyone he spoke to. From the minutiae of his day at work to his latest adventure, he lived and he shared. He savored life and he remained who he was: comfortable in his own skin and unapologetic and unafraid of that comfort.

Every day Rob lived by this this imperative: Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love you.

He left life unfold as it did and lived it for all it was worth.

Rob, we never got to exchange our marriage vows. But I would like to make a vow to you today….to you, whom I love so deeply, with my whole heart and being, that I will honor you, cherish you, and love you until the day I die and I will do this by emulating that which I learned from you.

I will still give you my future by trying to be a healer: listening to listen and not to respond; when taking my leave of someone, leaving them feeling better than I found them through laughter, talking, a smile; I will learn to hug as you hugged. To love as you loved. Rob, I vow to emulate you in living in the present and in the moment. I will savor those moments. I will share the pictures and our stories and my stories with anyone and everyone who will listen. Unapologetic for who I am, comfortable in my own skin because I was loved….so much and unequivocally, by you.”

You see as I read these words and thought back to those few hours in which I became friends with my friends fiancé. I realized he had tapped into a key purpose of life I want to make my own. He definitely savored life. Every moment. He helped others heal. I saw how he had healed the broken soul of my friend. Even now after all this tragedy I could see a light in her eyes that he had left burning there when he stepped into eternity. She has faced a second soul shattering difficulty and although her new trajectory in life isn’t what she expected, it seems to me it is still on a healing path. Because of a man that taught her and me these simple truths…  To savor life, to heal others and to hug often. A man named Rob.

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  1. Besides his awesomely shaved head! We both sported the slick look that so few can pull off 🙂

Avoid Speculation?

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”

― Walter ScottMarmion

As a child in the LDS church I was taught principles of honesty and integrity. I learned that although doing the right thing was sometimes not easy, that should never stop you from doing it! As a child I loudly sang ‘do what is right and let the consequence follow!’ Now I think if only that same religion could heed its own council… As it and many other religions move into this new millennium I believe they are facing an accounting. Sometimes past leaders  kicked the ball of deception so far down the road that current leaders are hard pressed to stop the ball rolling.

The thing about deception in this age of free access to information is you can’t keep it up. It’s far too easy to get caught redhanded  in the cookie  jar swearing it wasn’t you. Believe me, I don’t envy LDS leadership at all with this current state of affairs. Especially the local leadership that, based on my anecdotal conversations, most times doesn’t even know about the church’s essays and efforts to inoculate the current membership from the realities of its history.

Case in point. Here is a link to the new seminary teaching manual in regards to the polygamy practiced in the early church.

Reading through this I was dismayed at the deception employed to caution members from looking beyond the blinders it endeavors to put on the student.

avoid speculation jpg
This was the lesson’s first glaring evidence of deception. Any dedicated student of church history knows that celestial marriage = plural marriage to the early leaders of the church.   Later in the lesson we are told that it is only ok to get additional information from two places…

“Reliable historical research concerning the practice of plural marriage can be found at josephsmithpapers.org and byustudies.byu.edu.”

Interesting, because in ten seconds I found this link via the google search engine (but not the search function on LDS org :))

https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=8744

SmithNauvoo marriage

 

As I said, in the early days of the church celestial marriage and plural marriage were one and the same. The 132nd section of canonized scripture in D&C was dedicated to this concept. Over and over in every history book you read from that time celestial marriage was equal to polygamous marriage. In fact Sarah Pratt who resisted the prophets advances called the results of these marriages ‘celestial consequences’ in this rather disturbing testimony as to why we can’t find of the seed of Joseph that according to the Book of Mormon is the only legitimate reason according to God for polygamy in the first place.

So why are the educators in the church so adamant about ‘avoiding speculation’? Why is it so very important to keep our eyes straight ahead and not look to either side? Why is the church putting blinders on its seminary students?

blinders and cart

Are the blinders for the benefit of the horse? Or more for the owner who doesn’t want his cart overturned and to end up walking…

Speculation is a natural human trait. It’s the beginning of critical thinking and us opening our mind to new ideas.  Before we can change our mind about something we need to speculate about alternative explanations.

Go make yourself a timeline on polygamy using only the josephsmithpapers site for reference. I dare you! You will find out just like I did that this statement in the lesson contradicts the facts of history.

 “(As students respond, write the following principle on the board: Plural marriage can be authorized only through the priesthood keys given to the President of the Church.)”

The fact is, the very first plural marriage1 went down BEFORE the keys were restored to do them. (And a long time before the “revelation” that made it all legit was ever penned down. Seriously from a normal perspective it totally fits the bill of an excuse made up after getting caught!)

That is just one of the things you will find if you do your own followup research. No wonder the teacher is repeatedly warned to avoid any derailment! 2 This seminary lesson is rife with internal contradiction and careful wording designed to keep the student from digging any deeper and speculating any alternative explanations for polygamy in the early church. Was Joseph Smith a con man bent on duping people out of money and coercing women into his bed and in the process created a religion, just like Muhammed with Islam? That is the speculation that you MUST AVOID at all costs in order to still believe. Why is that? Frankly, because it makes too much sense. If you start considering this possibility and you for a moment realize that you can’t always trust your feelings, you might just start looking and eventually discover the tangled web of lies that have been intricately woven since one horny guy told a girl that God was gonna kill him if she didn’t do the nasty.

Yes, avoid speculation, don’t even consider the possibility that Joseph might have just been a Warren Jeff’s type con man a couple hundred years ago when he could get away with it. Don’t remotely postulate that he could have been smart enough to make it all up and charming enough to get people invested. Don’t ever question the validity of your own feelings and for the love of Fridge never ever consider you might be the one that has been fooled by your own emotions in the same way you are sure the Muslim is when he proclaims the same devout belief about Muhammed. Don’t ever speculate. 3

blinders-on carrot

Because speculation leads to questions and questions lead to the collapse of your own shelf and then… The cart will have one less horse pulling it. Because unlike horses, once our blinders are off we humans are smart enough to ditch the yoke too.


fences free

 

  1.  To the maid Fanny Alger. Seriously, it is that cliche, we are talking about the 17 year-old live-in maid!!
  2. Personally I see this whole thing as fulfillment of Fridge profesy in regards to polygamy.  “As the profet of the Fridge I kind of expect this particular admission to have more of an effect than all the others to date…” I have found that self proclaimed profets love it when they get a hit with their own speculations!!
  3. Here are some more things to not speculate about:

    GBH has a video link on the lesson where he vehemently denies a church belief in polygamy… so why can you get sealed to another wife after the first one dies?

    Why would God need to send an angel with a sword to force polygamy onto Joseph Smith? Isn’t force Satan’s plan?

    Why did the guy that gave his 14  year old daughter to Joe think it was for a guaranteed place in the celestial kingdom?

    Why in the world is this topic detailed now if the history of it all has been in the church archives and documents all along?

    And maybe the some of the most important questions. Why are the exact same actions if done by Warren Jeffs despicable? And honestly do you think he has followers that just as devoutly believe he is telling the ladies God’s word? Why are they confused and you not?