The Context of Doubt

I just got done reading the latest effort by the LDS faith to get people to doubt their doubts. It’s titled Overcoming the Danger of Doubt and comes from Elder Hugo Montoya. I don’t know if it was the Fridge inspiring me, but I kept hearing this line from Princess Bride as I read it.

Doubt is certainly the thing religions fear most. In fact you pretty much have to doubt you are in the right religion to convert to another one. I know as a missionary for the church I saw more than 100 people doubt their previous faith enough to be baptized into the Mormon one. I only realize that in hindsight now though. At the time I was 100% sure I had the truth that I was offering to them. Never once did I think that doubt was something to be feared. After all truth doesn’t fear doubt right?

In this article I noticed that as usual there are personal stories that illustrate the principle. In this case how you ‘shouldn’t doubt.’ But aren’t those kind of stories in all religions? If a scientologist gets help from sea org, does that really mean you should not doubt the commitment you made to scientology?

Doubt is a wonderful thing, it’s not dangerous at all. But it is scary. Truth doesn’t fear doubt, but humans do. I was afraid to doubt my faith because of the ramifications if those doubts were realized. To me it meant a loss of hope, a loss of community and potentially the loss of family. But I found new ways to hope and new communities to belong to. My family didn’t survive the faith crisis without scars though. It could have been better but it also could have been much worse. I count myself lucky for the most part.

So yeah, to be totally honest, doubts can cause some pain if realized. But they also serve a useful purpose. If you are investing with Bernie Madolf and you hear a story about him that causes you to doubt. Clealry in that case checking out that doubt is a good thing and it could prevent you from further losses. But do you think that you might feel some pain discovering you were bamboozled? I think so. That isn’t the fault of the doubter though right?

I think it’s having your doubts confirmed that hurt the most. How much, depends on how deeply you held the belief that crumbled under the spotlight of doubt. Especially when the community you doubt is legit helped you in a time of need like Elder Montoya. But I don’t think that means he should call anyone or anything that causes doubt ‘dangerous.’ It’s too easy to get the impression that the natural fear that comes with doubt is a sign. It’s too easy to blame the doubter for simply questioning. And far, far too often it drives a wedge between families that believe and those that don’t, just because they doubt. This whole Ensign article1 is filled with manipulation based on fear. I’d sum it up like this.

Hello, my name is Hugo Montoya, you doubted my religion… prepare to die.

 

 

  1. Warning! easter egg, not intended to be read as part of this post 🙂

    Ok so I wanted to talk more about context since one of the claims in the article was about how important context is. But the ending just flowed and I really liked it. So if you are still reading, enjoy this easter egg.

    Context IS important, I’d like to see church apologetics use legit context! But typically what you get is careful wording. Like when they say a girl was ‘almost 15’ to make the context of a 14 year old marrying a 37 year old under threat of eternal damnation more palatable.

    My suggestion? If you want to know the context. Don’t count on anyone else to give it to you. Go find the history and read it yourself. The essay admitting the polygamy of Joe Smith endeavors to say the 14 year old marriages were legal. Um well sorta, it was legal to marry a 14 year old, but it wasn’t legal to marry two of them, which he in fact did… to put in context.

    Context does matter, but don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself.

Stealing Your Self Worth, The Psychology Of Obedience

So this morning I was talking to my wife about religious beliefs, the conversation started because I asked her if she felt persecuted because I make fun of religion and religious beliefs and even though she realized the Mormon church couldn’t possibly be the only true one, she still believes in God. And when it comes to a divine plan I do tend to make light of it. In case you hadn’t noticed this whole blog is kinda devoted to mocking the idea of a supreme leader.

You see I was debating the existence of God with a family member on FB and she asked me if I similarly mocked my wife’s beliefs in God. The fact is I often point out the illogical baloney that makes belief in an all powerful all loving deity so easy to make fun of.1  I do this in front of my wife, just as much as anyone. Actually I am more restrained with my family that still believes in the LDS faith than I am with her when I think about it. We never discuss the problems with the church in person. With my wife we discuss all this stuff, and much more.

So this morning I asked my wife how she felt when I would make fun of stuff like a father in heaven that prioritizes prayers to find lost keys over the desperate pleadings of starving kids in Africa. She said she really isn’t offended by what anyone else says at all, she realized everyone believes different things. I mentioned that the whole idea that you need to respect beliefs (which was the thrust of the comments my sis was making that instigated this conversation) just because people believe them seems ridiculous to me.

This is when my wife as she so often does, said something cogent and enlightening. She said, “She’s just super defensive. How can she not be. It’s one of the reasons she feels value.”  My wife’s statement was so true I realized, the social order of the LDS religion demands perfection, “be ye therefor perfect” is the end goal. Sure it pretends to cut you some slack with all the forgiveness talk, but in reality it hangs all your personal value on doing exactly what the religion says too.

In short, it steals your self confidence and ransoms it back to you for your obedience. Your worth to God depends primarily on how good you obey the leaders here and now. 2

No wonder people take so much offense when you view their beliefs as silly, especially when you layout the examples of how crazy it all sounds. “Stop saying that!” Is the cry, “you are being mean to me! I get to believe what I want and you shouldn’t ever make it look bad or silly or wrong if you are a nice person.” This leaves me personally flabbergasted because I swear these people don’t even read their own scriptures.

“…the Personage [God the father] who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight” JSH 1:19

“Are you telling me that the guy you worship is not a nice person?” I have to ask myself. It just doesn’t make any sense at all. Not logically that is. Emotionally however it is another matter to the person that really believes it. You see a true believer is deeply invested. Just for a moment think about the investment a person that has been LDS for 40 years has made. We are talking about 6 figures in tithing or more. 2000+ days of church attendance, thousands of hours of home teaching, doing callings and all sorts of stuff. This is not a small effort on their part, not in the least. No wonder they want respect, they have put a lot into it. Doesn’t actually matter at all if it is true or not when it comes to this emotional connection.

They were obedient, they did everything they were told to do! They deserve to be happy now and if you point out the bamboozle you are raining on that parade.

 

 

 

The psychology at work here is known as the sunk cost fallacy. It basically states the more you put into something the harder it is to abandon it. Basically the same reason it is hard to stop playing clash of clans.

 

So next time you feel like a believer treated you like this:


Realize that they are not at all thinking logically or rationally. It is emotion that is driving them. And one thing the Fridge teaches us all is that emotion often overpowers reason. In this case the emotion is fear, the believer is afraid of losing that which they have worked so hard for. That doesn’t make emotion in and of itself bad though. Fear is a life saving mechanism that has done a good job of keeping us around for quite a while. Fear is only a problem when it keeps you from engaging in reason. But you can’t appeal to reason when it comes to such a deep emotion. You can however appeal to another emotion that believers are also familiar with. Make sure they know you honestly have their best interests in mind. Offer faith, ask them to have a little faith in you as a friend or a loved one.

You might just help another person open the door and see the light of the Fridge.

  1. Is this why God insists he must not be mocked? Because it is so easy to do?
  2. Don’t believe me? Go look at how many hits you get searching for it here. Obedience is even more important than truth. And they have a rule that is so important that you swear it as an oath in the temple. Never think your leaders are wrong, ok you can think they are wrong but never ever ever talk about it. To be totally open though you also promise to not laugh out loud so maybe that whole not speaking bad about the leaders should not be taken so seriously…