Predetermined Religious Paradigms

One’s original religious belief system is often predetermined by the culture and geographic area one is born into and has little if anything to do with doctrinal truths. There are a multitude of multifaceted belief systems in a supreme entity or intelligence which can be observed from one cultural system to the next. These various belief systems, with their doctrines, ceremonial rights, and underlying psychological paradigms, differ from one culture to the next in infinitesimal and momentous ways. Due to the diversity in religious practices, doctrines, and beliefs, the study of religious systems and how religions interact within cultures, communities, families, and politics are often filled with controversial, complex, and conflicting claims. “We can learn much about religion in many societies by standing back from it, seeing its role in society, and noting the differences and similarities between religions.”[1] In short, one’s geographical location directly predetermines their religious paradigm rather than the truth claims of the religion.

Looking at religious beliefs systems through an anthropologist perspective gives one the ability to trace the origin of religious belief systems from the macro level, where society itself interacts, to the micro level, where individual choices are made based on the personal beliefs of the individual.  Furthermore, religious belief systems, both macro and micro, correspond to the underlying cultural agendas and persuasions. Since societies endeavor to maintain a stable foundation on which to build their own unique cultural agendas, it is not surprising to find that when the globe is dissected into religious persuasions one finds high concentrations of similar religious belief system within localized geographical areas. For example, in India the majority of the population is Hindu, in Afghanistan the population is predominantly Muslim, in China the major belief system is Buddhist, in Israel the inhabitant’s belief system is based on Judaism, in the United States the vast majority of the population claims Christian as their religious belief system, and so on.

The beliefs, customs, and rituals of one’s culture become a complex part of one’s personal beliefs and practices. Understanding a given subject is best done when it is associated with something already familiar to the inquiring individual. Therefore, a person’s belief system is added to “precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” until it becomes a unique psychological and philosophical matrix which one uses to interact not only with the outside world but also within the realm of personal inquiry and consciousness (Isaiah 28:10). Religious doctrines and cultural customs become a unique intricate interwoven tapestry that dictates the course of a practitioner’s choices and thoughts. No two piece of cloth are identical and yet there are similarities between these intricate tapestries which allows sociologist, psychologists, and philosophers the opportunity of studying religious belief systems at a societal and individual level.

By the time one grows to an age of conscious recollection and understanding the doctrines of a given religion and cultural are already imprinted deep within the intellectual compass and morals of an individual. As a barrage of outward influences intrudes upon the five senses the intricate internal idea of the self, in regards to a given religious belief system, is continually in a state of flux; expanding, contracting, adapting, and developing in direct relationship to outward stimulus. Although not often thought about at a conscious level, one’s religious paradigm is constantly being reevaluated, restructured, and rewritten in accordance with cultural influences.

At the genesis of making sense of the bombardment of one’s senses, also known as the learning process, an individual yearns to make sense of intrapersonal perspectives in relation to the world around it. “Consciousness simultaneously distinguishes itself from something, and at the same time relates itself to it.”[2] This sense of self relation to outside influences is a complex psychological process that involves distinguishing oneself from his/her surroundings and at the same time understanding one’s surroundings by relating them back to the self. The process of alienation reveals itself in many striking ways as one begins the arduous journey of incorporating the religious practices which one is exposed to. At first, religious doctrines must be simplified and even then are generally not fully understood. Upon further association with a given religion it often becomes the driving influence over one’s thoughts, perspectives, political agendas, and ultimately the outward behaviors that can be seen and interpreted by others. As stated by Hegel, “The movement is the twofold process and the genesis of the whole, in such wise that each side simultaneously posits the other, and each therefore has both perspectives within itself; together they constitute the whole by dissolving themselves, and by making themselves into its moments.”[3] This state of understanding reality through religious beliefs is a continual growing process that can be seen throughout the course of an entire life.

As religious traditions are observed and experienced they become a part of how a child identifies their self.  This self identification that occurs at a young age, through religious customs, is a way in which traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. This passing down of traditions can also be seen as a passing down of religious preference. Often times the religion of a family has a pedigree chart of its own that is traced and passed down from generation to generation. Although conversions take place, a new pedigree starts with each and every converted individual and so the process continues on with their posterity.

“There is an universal tendency among mankind to conceive all being like themselves, and to transfer to every object, those qualities, with which they are familiarly acquainted, and of which they are intimately conscious.”[4] This anthropomorphic approach to life can be traced all the way back to 500 BCE with the Greek philosopher Xenophanes. Anthropomorphism is a type of comparison that relates the subject to the object. Due to this type of relationship the subject is able to associate themselves to a given object. This realization of the self through outside objects can be seen specifically in religious practices. Furthermore this familiar acquaintance that is imposed onto outside objects and beings allows one to feel comfortable and relatable to the outside world and to a personal ultimate being. The more familiar one becomes with something the more one sees their reflection in it.

The rituals, practices, doctrine, customs, and literature of one’s society are at the forefront of the developmental process. As a given individual develops he/she is trying to come to an understanding of their surroundings. This is done through analyzing their surroundings. These surroundings become a point of reference to that individual and as such a familiarization with certain rituals, practices, doctrine, customs, and literature occurs. This familiarization serves as a foundation to a person’s behaviors, thoughts, desires, and their religious preference. What is accustom to a given individual or society is generally what is best understood regardless of whether or not it is grounded in truth. Because of this customization with cultural practices, the various religions of the world prosper not due to their truths but because of their geological influence on self-identity. In India, Hinduism prospers however in American Christianity is the prosperous religious preference. One comes to realize that the religion one recognizes as true has a direct link to the culture it is found within rather than a direct link to ultimate truths. In this sense, religions are lenses to ultimate reality that apply understanding to the ultimate based on the practices one is most familiar with.

Religion seems not only to be highly influenced by culture but one’s personal religion is directly tied to the household one is born into. “Religion, whatever else it may be, clearly embodies social practices and bodies of belief expressed in particular ways of life.”[5] As social practices and beliefs are so intertwined with religious practices and beliefs it becomes difficult to distinguish the two from each other. Due to this interconnectedness, the ability to freely choose one’s religious preference is lost in adolescence. “Religious belief is not to be understood as a reflection of some transcendent reality but a projection of human needs and aspirations.”[6] As human needs and aspirations are reflected in societal needs and aspirations religion attempts to satisfy these cravings. If an individual was born in Bhutan their needs and aspirations would differ from an individual living in America. Furthermore, the religious preference of these two individuals would also differ. The cultural upbringing of individuals stands as a centerpiece and reference point for each and every individual found in the various regions of the world.

Often times the religion of one’s parents is the first contact one has with religious doctrine and practices. There is little choice on a child’s part as to what material will be presented to them through their developmental years. Many times children are found attending church with their parents and at a young age and begin to be indoctrinated with the religion’s traditions of their parents. Frequently a given set of religious doctrines and religious customs turn into habits that become difficult to break or detach oneself from as the concept of the “self” is realized and shaped through them. Everything one does, sees, hears, and reads leaves an imprint on the self. This imprint although not always recognized has a direct influence on one’s conscious and subconscious behavior and belief system. Although a break from one’s original religious belief system is not essentially necessary, it is worth mentioning and analyzing that religious preferences are not always based on a quest for truth. Often time religious preferences are based on traditions of the family or the traditions of society. The truth contained within a religion is generally not questioned till later in life; if it is even to be questioned at all.

The theory of religion being predetermined by the community one is born into can be illustrated by the LDS community. Soon after a child is born a blessing is preformed through the recognized church authority, namely, the priesthood. This blessing is meant to present the baby to God as well as bestow certain blessing for their future contingent on their faithfulness to the specific doctrines and codes of conduct found within LDSism. Younger children, not yet baptized into this church, still attend church meetings regularly where they are introduced to LDS practices through lessons, songs, and activities. Although one is not able to become a member of the LDS faith until the minimum age of eight years old, the younger children that attend LDS church meetings still recognized themselves as Latter-day Saints. It is expected that when a child, that is already involved in LDS church activities, reaches the age of eight year old they will become a member of the LDS church through baptism. Tremendous speculation takes place in the LDS community if a member of a family chooses to leave or not participate in the LDS practices and traditions as, from my understanding of this religion, the LDS faith is seen as the only true church to its practitioners. Generally the autonomous choice to leave a given religion does not come till a later age when the influences of parents are less authoritative. In some cases, not just limited to the LDS church, the disgrace that encompasses the whole family if one of its members chooses to participate in alternative religious practices keeps individuals from abandoning the religion of their parents, even if they view the doctrine as false. Instead individuals stay bitterly entrapped within the religion of their parents or community.

The theory of the “accident of birth” states that what we believe in is primarily rooted in where we are born. “Someone born to Buddhist parents in Thailand is very likely to be a Buddhist, someone born to Muslim parents in Saudi Arabia to be a Muslim, someone born to Christian parents in Mexico to be a Christian, and so on.”[7] Because of this most followers of a given religion are not actual believers but merely puppets of the previous generations. One’s personal religious truths are judged and interpreted from within the confines of one’s own particular religious traditions. This type of interpretation leads to ethnocentric blind sidedness and is an inadequate way of confirming one’s faith. “There are of course conversions from one faith to another, but in the case of the great world religions these are peripheral to the massive transmission of each from one generation to the next within its own population.”[8]

In western cultural it is the common exclusivist view that only one religion can be correct unlike the well known eastern philosophy that religions are all different paths leading up the same mountain. The western standpoint creates opposition within various cultures as a battle of conversion begins rather than a pursuit of truth. For those trapped within western mindsets the religion of their birth is clung to and seen as a natural and acceptable aspect of life. Twisted ideology of what to expect from religion is often convoluted by the conflicting claims found within the various religions of the world. Separation between a given community and a given religion is often not completely attainable as religious doctrine generally has a stance on certain views that are constantly being debated in communities. It is almost impossible to remain neutral on either side as cultural beliefs and religious beliefs are continually intruding upon the other’s realm.

Many of the major religions of the world are so interwoven with given ethnic groups, cultures, political systems, and everyday life that it is hard to picture one without simultaneously picturing the other.[9] It is hard to imagine America without Christianity, China without Buddhism, or Israel without Judaism. “In essence, religion is so deeply embedded into the matrix of many societies that its boundaries are permeable and its impacts pervasive.”[10]

In conclusion, evidence indicates that an individual’s allegiance to their religion of birth is substantially conditioned by cultural influences. The vast majority of humanity’s religious beliefs are not supported by truth and validity but rather it is supported by how religious beliefs are incorporated into the overall paradigm of one’s cultural lens to ultimate reality. For a majority of the earth’s inhabitants religious beliefs are passed down from generation to generation; with parents, grandparents, and in some cases great grandparents having an influence on the rising generation. In most parts of the world families stay within the same geographical region for generations; as such the major world religions generally stay within the same geographical region and have an empowering influence over those regions. From the cradle to the casket one’s religion is often an affirmation based on family and cultural traditions. The decision on what religion one will practice is usually no decision at all. The interconnectedness between cultures and religions makes it almost impossible for an individual to autonomously choose a religious preference. The religion of the ageing generations is given to the rising generations as a family heirloom to be guarded and protected.

[1] Winch, Peter. Religion and Understanding (New Work: The Macmillan Company, 1967), 47-48.
[2] Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 52.
[3] Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 24-25.
[4] Hume, David Writings on Religion (Illinois: Open Court Publishing, 1992), 117.
[5] Trigg, Roger. Rationality and Religion: Does Faith Need Reason (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 1998), 29.
[6] Trigg, Roger. Rationality and Religion: Does Faith Need Reason (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 1998), 39.
[7] Hick, John. An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 2.
[8] Hick, John. An Interpretation of Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 2.
[9] Park, Chris. “Religion and Geography” in Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, ed. Hinnells, J. (London: Routledge, 2004),1-2.
[10] Park, Chris. “Religion and Geography” in Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion, ed. Hinnells, J. (London: Routledge, 2004), 2.


  1. Marci says:

    Love this.

    I find it interesting that LDS doctrine/culture (seems difficult to draw the line between these two terms at times) often seems to be able to provide a response to the Eastern philosophy of all faiths being equally valuable (i.e, “Everyone IS going up the same mountain but some people—righteous Mormons—are going a bit faster than the rest”) or the idea that “…many are called and only few are chosen….” so its “natural” that only a “few” people from every country would join the LDS faith.

    What do you think about those “arguments”?

    Note: I find it disturbing that most of humanity isn’t ready for God’s truth. That makes me sad. 🙁

    Thanks for your entry! 🙂

  2. B.C.A. says:

    Thanks Marci! I love your Mormon perspective of the eastern philosophy of religion. Classic.

    I would agree, Mormon culture and doctrine is an extremely elitist enterprise. This elitist mentality is rampantly apparent in the Mormon perspective that members of the Mormon faith are God’s elect and the most valiant servants in the “pre-esxistence” (who were chosen to prepare the world for Jesus Christ’s second coming).

    It’s also interesting to apply the 11th Article of Faith for the Mormon church to this elitist perspective. I feel like Mormons are great at staking their privilege in, “worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience” but that they are lacking in their ability to “ allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

    What would you classify as being “God’s truth”?

  3. Kira says:

    There are more members of the Church outside of the US then inside.

    I do agree with your last statement . We need to allow all men to worship or do as they choose…After all that’s what the war in heaven was all about…Agency right? and I’m a big believer in that.

    No one said that the people in the LDS community were perfect. However the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Jesus himself is, and we as latter day saints claim his name and look to him as a example.

    Good post! I like to see your thoughts.

  4. Marci says:

    Since I love definitions I would be interested in reading/understanding Kira’s definition of “perfection.” What does “perfect” and/or “perfection” mean?

    Curious in Salt Lake City! 🙂

  5. Kira says:

    Well first of all, Im not here to argue. Or Spam Brookes blog. I enjoyed her point of view and perspective and even agreed with some parts.
    But since you ask
    My thoughts are: Perfection is flawless. The media portrays and pressures us that we HAVE to be perfect. In our career path, in our choices, and especially in our looks.
    We all are human. We all make mistakes, we all have different strengths and weaknesses.
    The Savior teaches that though we are not perfect.. we CAN be clean and THAT is good enough. and there is a difference between being clean, and being perfect. Just because we are clean doesn’t mean we won’t mess up.. But its through the atonement that we can be forgiven and clean again.
    Perfection can be attained but its something that will take a lifetime to get there with much work, repentance, and compromise on our parts
    The Savior makes up the rest.

  6. B.C.A. says:

    I don’t think anyone is here to argue. A discussion or debate that is containing any sort of intellectual substance is natural going to contain disagreeing viewpoints. I like the variety in beliefs, ideas, and paradigms represented in these comments as it leads to a more diverse dialogue.

    One term or word can be used several times to represent different and sometimes apposing definitions or concepts (hence why I think Marci asked for a definition on the terminology being used). I think the term “perfection” can have numerous definitions relative to the context it is being applied to. However, in general terms I think there is a plain definition that is universally accepted to some degree. It is interesting to hear the different concepts of what perfection is and how one strives to attain it when discussing religions. I personally do not think a person can attain perfection. It is human nature to grow and progress by forming beliefs based on a series of scientific investigation of hypothesis and conclusion. I would postulate that the realm of perfection does not contain the quality of progression. In other words, if one has reached perfection they are unable to progress further. To me perfection is final and complete and has no room for improvement (progressive change). With all that being said, I do not find perfection humanly possible nor would I want to be at a point where progression (varying from emotional, physical, sexual, intellectual, etc) is no longer an option. I’d preferably strive towards continued (positive) progression rather than ultimate or absolute perfection.

    To address Kira’s first comment, while there may be more Mormon members outside the US than inside, there are more Mormons in Utah than any other religious group. So in that regard, I think the theory of geographically determined beliefs still applies to Mormonism.

    Whether you want to term the right to autonomously make decisions “free agency” or “free will”… I believe that respect and tolerance for a person’s right to make autonomous decisions is observably lacking in a wide variety of religious avenues (such as communities, text, history, culture, doctrine, etc).

  7. Kira says:

    I didn’t take anyone AS arguing, I just wanted to make sure it didn’t turn into something of that nature. 🙂

    I agree that I rather be progressing then perfect. I had that thought just yesterday about something I’m struggling with and then I thought… If it came to me RIGHT when I asked for it, and tried for it.. This life would be pretty boring. Progressing is challenging and rewarding. That’s why I like running. It’s HARD, but the more I train the more I become stronger and ready for my race.

    I also agree that we do have free agency to choose and especially how to worship. However a lot of cultures and groups DO lack that respect and tolerance, and that’s why I say the LDS community is NOT perfect because that DOES happen far to often in almost ANY religion.

    Thanks for the discussion Brooke 🙂

  8. Marci says:

    I think this discussion brings up a really good question:

    How—in the case that an individual would want to—would a person begin to categorize what religious and cultural regional traditions are or are not correct and/or useful for him or her?

    Travel more?
    Read more?
    Discuss more?

    How would it be best to optimize an individual truth?

  9. Kira says:

    I would think the first step…just like Joseph Smith. Would be to pray. 🙂 To question what is true?

    Then just as stated, to reflect, travel, read, discuss, and ultimately come to a conclusion. Whatever that may be.

    While my parents raised me and I grew up in the LDS faith… I’d like to think I learned from my own personal life experiences. As very very briefly stated here:

    I read a book and read this quote:“It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation”

    This quote is powerful to me. We ALL have individual worth and we ALL at some point in our life must find it… and I totally 100% agree that it must be sought out in a varies numbers of ways.

    Discussions like these being one of them. We can’t be closed minded. We all are here to help each other and to learn.

  10. B.C.A. says:

    For those of us who do not believe in prayer, I think it is important to ponder/meditate/think deeply/study when in pursuit of knowledge (or when categorizing “what religious and cultural regional traditions are or are not correct and/or useful for him or her”). I think conscious thought is extremely powerful and intellectually progressive. Deductive logic is vital when pursuing truth claims. You have to be willing to admit and accept that what you have previously been led to be true may not be completely valid in its nature. Truth is relative (unless you believe in absolute truths… which I do not). What is true in scenario A may not be true in scenario B. Truth is a storm of grey encompassing the depths of all possibilities. Truth does not work in terms of black and white.

    Doubt leads to questions and questions leads to investigation. Doubt can be used in a positive manner as it is a starting point when looking for logical fallacies in beliefs, truths, and theories. Philosophy is often characterized as leading to skepticism. While to some degree I think this is true, it does not necessarily follow that you cannot gain enlightenment or knowledge through vigorous investigation from a skeptical paradigm. At some point however, you have to find the unyielding foundation from which you are going to build further knowledge from. There will be reconstruction when additional information or evidence is presented. The question is, what will your foundation be? If you take the standpoint of solipsism, the self is the all that can be known to exist (René Descartes famous “Je pense donc je suis, “Cogito ergo sum,” “I think, therefore I am”).

  11. Marci says:

    I think that doubt is extremely useful as long as we don’t know everything there is to know (possibly “forever” or for longer than we can currently conceive?) and it is therefore difficult for me to see or conceive of any end of doubt in its entirety.

    Also, I don’t see doubt as a philosophical platform as the author of the quote in Kira’s response assumes. Instead, I see doubt as a temporary catalyst/short-lived-tool that “shoots” us toward exploration and learning. So…..instead of the author’s stated platform of doubt (which he greatly dislikes) I would rather USE doubt within ANOTHER philosophical platform which I would describe like this: the consistent personal realization (and re-realization) that “I admit I don’t know everything but I want to learn and grow for as long as possible.”

  12. Kira says:

    Very thought out Brooke. You’re right, if you do not believe in prayer, pondering and thinking deeply are pretty crucial. Which are apart of prayer even if its not to a higher power, entity, or God.

    Truth may be relative, and I get what you mean, but that’s why faith is SO important in ANY belief system. As Marci posed the question:How do we find our individual truth. (which I liked that she asked) Faith is one step that I think is REQUIRED for anyone. Nothing is sure in this life. No grantees. Not even science. They are learning more and more things every day to disprove theories that we thought were known as facts. I’m reminded of the quote “The only constant is change” . If things are constantly changing then what are we to believe is true? So yes.. truth is relative.

    And yes doubt is extremely helpful in the decision making process because as the quotes states:If Christ plays with doubt then so must we.

    That’s why faith is probably the biggest factor in belief. Faith is first pondering what you think to be “true”. and then being confident in your conclusion. I could list examples of how I’ve had faith myself and how my faith was confirmed, but that’s not going to convince you as you weren’t there to experience it. You have your own faith. But with faith… comes personal truth. 🙂

  13. B.C.A. says:

    While faith may be the biggest factor in belief, logic is the biggest factor in knowledge. And I would argue that faith does not contain logic. While I would agree that faith brings personal beliefs I don’t think those beliefs are necessarily true beliefs.

  14. Kira says:

    Touche.I agree. However, I think most of the time, we act upon faith and then later our faith is confirmed. Action -reaction. So I think it then makes it knowledge.

  15. Marci says:

    You know this is what I find the most fascinating! Every conversation I have of this nature always leads to the “pivotal” topic of faith. In fact, I’m becoming somewhat convinced (as any LDS member would readily admit in most cases) that the concept of faith is the point at which there can be no more discussion between those who believe and those who don’t. However, I have to say that the LDS definitions of faith that I am aware of (in Alma and in Hebrews) are not only contradictory (at least in my mind) but also confusing in defining faith’s relationship to truth. Of course, that also depends on how a person chooses to define truth…..which is interesting because we’ve already been discussing truth as something relative.

    Just thoughts…..I love talking about this stuff but sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting my time especially when the conversation seems to end in a similar timbre. Know what I mean? Of course, I always go back to it……just adore it! 🙂

  16. B.C.A. says:

    I think the reason religious discussions end in the concept of “belief through faith” is because God cannot be proven to exist through reason or logic alone. I also agree with you that using “faith” to argue ones belief is a conversation stopper. I don’t think faith has a direct relationship with truth as faith is a blind confidence based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    I don’t think it’s a waste of time… I think it is important to have intellectual discussions regardless of if it takes a similar path… because the journey is always different.

  17. Marci says:

    If any religious believer (or anyone for that matter) could define for me the relationship between faith and truth I think that would be the foundation of a very interesting conversation.

  18. Jason says:

    The relationship between faith and truth is deceptively simple, I think.

    The initial difficulty is in defining such an all-encompassing, ‘fuzzy’ word like “truth.” I see a (admittedly arbitrary) division between competing definitions: truth as an issue of veracity, and truth as an issue of meaning. 12 inches make a foot vs. love conquers all, for example.

    Faith usually begins with an assertion or presupposition of “how things are,” usually given by authority and often inculcated at an early age. In this way, faith obviates and supersedes the standard system of curiosity, testing/doubt and verifying information we use for factual or secular investigation.

    The truths gained by faith, then, come by a different route than truths gained by reason.

    No one has (or needs) faith that water, at sea level, boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a verified truth. By way of comparison, no one has ‘proof’ that Jesus physically resurrected. That’s a mythic truth.

    The relationship between faith and truth, then, is one of meaning and importance, and not ‘factual’ truth – mythos, rather than logos. Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    Can something can be true (meaningful, valid) without being true (accurate, confirmed)?

  19. Marci says:

    Jason, I like that.

    At least I think I like it. If I understand correctly you are saying that faith (depending on the answer to the last question in your comment) could be meaningful and important without it actually being true in the “12 in. make a foot sense.” Is that correct? I can see this and greatly appreciate the recognition that this could possibly be the case. It all depends (as you already know) on your question:

    “Can something be true (meaningful, valid) without being true (accurate, confirmed)?

    I, of course, have no conclusive answer to this question but tend to think that on a personal level “truth” can be meaningful and valid even without it being accurate or confirmed. I feel this way primarily (I think) because of my core beliefs.

    On another note, I find that the words “meaningful” and “valid” are found to exist on a personal level and that “accurate” and “confirmed” are found to exist at the community level. Relatedly, I think that “meaning” and “validity” depend very much on our personal beliefs. If that is the case, then personal truths would be based more on personal beliefs and less on confirmed facts, which are observed more often on the community level.

    Another question: Are there personal truths AND community-based truths? Should these truths be treated differently?

  20. Kira says:

    I like this discussion too. I just wanna point out.. I’m sorry for posting the atheists/agnostics quote. While I do really enjoy the quote, my point was not to bash on any particular person or belief… My emphasis was on doubt as we discussed.

    I think that personal truth can be termed as NOT “accurate” by a community level. Personal truth is awesome because while you may be in a religion or group of believers.. I believe we all have our own spiritual journey. It depends on how deep you want to take it and how far you want to search. The LDS community likes to call it revelation. I’d like to think that most of my personal truths were not on a sermon at church but through my own experiences. Does that mean my faith is not accurate? I dunno. I don’t think so. I think sometimes that God (which I believe in) is portrayed as magic or something that is not logical. How did Jesus heal the blind and the sick? It doesn’t seem logical or probable. I think God works under natural laws. But I also believe God created the universe so he understands the laws better then we do. So what seems like a “Myth” is actually a fact. But then again as Marci stated it all comes back to faith 😛 I don’t find the discussion a waste though. Very interesting.

  21. Jason says:

    @Marci: Yes, I’m (cautiously) suggesting that there could be a… hmm, ‘cease-fire zone’ between the two camps of truth-seekers – the mythic truthers and the logistic truthers.

    Really, this is just an attempt at fumbling for a common ground in a dichotomy that seems very divisive and a definite breeding ground for intolerance and condescension. A significant problem arises however, when one attempts to ‘cross the aisle’ and employ logos to support or justify mythos – intelligent design being an excellent example of this.
    This belies an interesting distinction – while faith may often try to use reason to bolter its claims, reason – accurate reason – can not rely on faith to support it.

    I agree with your distinction between personal and communal significance, to a large extent. I’ve always considered the concept of faith to be a uniquely personal one, but then, you have to ask – where does that faith come from? Returning to Brooke’s original assertions, the ‘personal experience’ of faith usually comes from the communal experience of family, culture and/or organised religious indoctrination(no pejorative meaning there…). The initial introduction to a ‘faith’ comes from outside the self, and only then, once introduced, does it grow – but again, it usually grows within the context of a community experience.

    I do think there are personal and community-specific truths, and I think they already are treated differently. There’s something of a range or ratio of population to reality – one person says God speaks to him, and he’s viewed with suspicion and considered a candidate for therapy. A million people say God speaks to them, and you have an assertion of ‘how reality is.’

    @Kira: I don’t think that quote was hurtful; in some ways, I tend to agree with it, but reversed.(I tend to see atheism as doubt, and agnosticism as a unwillingness to say yea or nay). It’s funny – sometimes I think the only really honest position a person can ever take is agnosticism, “I don’t know. I think this or that, but I’m just not sure.” And then, other times I think, “Well, get off the fence and make an educated guess, or take a stab at an opinion!” Personally, though, I will say doubt has yielded far greater fruits than faith has – but I also know full well that reveals my bias on belief in general.

  22. Calista says:

    It may be an illogical fear but sometimes I get anxiety when I think of people who read scriptures to their children every day and/or take them to church every week. I know there are worse things that a child could be forced to do but there is still this nagging suspicion in my mind that religion does more damage to a person’s psyche than is realized. I feel like a person can’t honestly say that they believe in free will and then indoctrinate the crap out of their children from the womb on.

    Also, I don’t buy into the idea that the church is perfect but the people are not. I know that the mormons are doing their best to be good, kind, wonderful people/family members/spouses, parents. I feel like most of them, at their core, are really really amazing and it takes a lot of hours/days/years of bullshit for them to become easily offended, easily angered, depressed, suicidal, socially awkward, sexually repressed, easily overwhelmed, constantly comparing themselves to others, never feeling good enough, super stressed, feeling worthless, feeling crazy, guilt-ridden, immature, naive, lack of healthy communication skills, having a “I am nothing without God” mindset, feeling inadequate, being a perfectionist, chronic pessimism, fake happiness, black-and-white thinking patterns, feeling possessed or being worried about evil spirits, pornography addicted, feeling that sensuality is evil, etc. A. lot. of. bullshit. Find me one ex-mormon who at one time or another during their devotion to the church didn’t feel like they were going absolutely out-of-their-mind crazy.

    On the topic of faith: If I wanted to say, “I have faith that the church is true” then I would have to go through all the doctrines/teachings of the church and check off all the ones I believed in right? And if I got more yes’s than no’s then that means I believe? Haha, not sure. In the end, I still wouldn’t know what is an absolute truth or a true principle – I would just know my own personal beliefs on a large amount of topics (including polygamy/polyandry/teenage marriage and black people only getting into heaven as servants).

    What I want to find is……….. “Truth” – truth with a capital T – the one and only truth- the truth to end all truths – the bad-ass of truths that kicks the crap out of all truths everywhere- the truth that is true no matter what anyone else in the entire world believes in ……….and instead what I get is “well, this is what you, Calista, personally believe in”. Yeah. Thanks weird conscience thing in my head. I know.

    Faith, in my opinion, is not awesome. There are no answers. There is just a hope that something is true and hope, though lovely, doesn’t tell me what is actually true, it just tells me what I want/wish to be true.

  23. Kira says:

    I get what your coming from Calista. I think thats why people have SUCH a big problem with religion. Most people feel like religion is for the brain washed, and full of a bunch of “Rules” or “Commandments” that people follow blindly.

    I too would be worried if I felt I “HAD” to go to church “EVERY” Sunday. I mean, Isn’t that what Satan wanted for us in the war of heaven? He wanted to take our our agency. He wanted to force us. Christ however had a different plan. He wanted us to be able to decipher what was right and what’s wrong.

    And the LDS community or any Christianity believe in Christ don’t they? They do, and surely they wouldn’t force anyone to go. We welcome any and all who WANT to come.

    and I also get your point about the LDS community being easily depressed. I mean I watched the documentary on “Happy Valley Utah”. We have a severe problem with that… but once again I stand by what I say. The foundation of what Christ is perfect. He is perfect… and while SOME people in ANY religion may feel guilty, in adequate, perfectionist, and all the other things you listed.. That is where the atonement falls into place. You don’t HAVE to be perfect because he made up the difference. And that to me… gives me great comfort and peace.

    and once again. A conversation stopper. Faith. Don’t know what to say there. Agree to disagree I guess.

  24. Calista says:

    Or you could think of it this way: Satan (in the LDS version) wanted everyone to succeed and to make it back as one big happy family – he was compassionate to every spirit being and very family oriented. God and Jesus’ only concern was maintaining power and glory by keeping it for themselves and a handful of people who were able to keep impossibly ridiculous rules that rarely made them feel happy or confident about themselves in general.

    I don’t understand how you can agree with me about depression and even add proof/evidence that depression is a problem in a predominantly LDS area and then just completely disregard it by saying that Christ is perfect. If he is perfect and his church is perfect then why does it make it’s followers so miserable? I’ve never seen “Happy Valley Utah” but am very interested in doing so now.

    I also don’t understand why faith is a conversation stopper. We haven’t even been able to agree on an actual definition of what faith is or how it can be used. I’m still confused as to how faith fixes anything or is helpful at all.

  25. Marci says:

    I also want a clear definition of faith and am unsure how referring to Christ’s perfection matters to us when the little “information” that we have about Christ (New Testament and D&C) doesn’t seem clear, universal and/or even applicable unless an individual comes to his/her own conclusions, inferences, insights, etc. which, when done by an imperfect person, wouldn’t be perfect at all.

    By the way, I still don’t even know what “perfect” means in this discussion. How can we discuss a perfect God (or use Him as a hope for a better future) when we have no conception of what perfection is? (The word “flawless” is basically like restating another flavor of “perfect” and doesn’t really define anything). Yes. I think we all have an idea of what is “better” or “superior” according to our own standards or perhaps based on community or cultural standards but perfection…..can we really even define that?

    This is what makes discussing religion difficult. Words like “faith” and “perfection” are fine to a certain extent….there is sort of an aura that surrounds them and that does in some sense seem to draw people together but when all is said and done these words are nearly impossible to define within the context of the English language (as far as I can tell) which I think is unfortunate for any religion that seeks to make sense to those of us who are apparently silly and/or ignorant enough to crave what makes sense to our miniscule faithless brains. (insert sarcasm here…..)

  26. Marci says:

    By the way Calista I couldn’t agree more than what you said here:

    “I feel like most of them, at their core, are really really amazing and it takes a lot of hours/days/years of bullshit for them to become easily offended, easily angered, depressed, suicidal, socially awkward, sexually repressed, easily overwhelmed, constantly comparing themselves to others, never feeling good enough, super stressed, feeling worthless, feeling crazy, guilt-ridden, immature, naive, lack of healthy communication skills, having a “I am nothing without God” mindset, feeling inadequate, being a perfectionist, chronic pessimism, fake happiness, black-and-white thinking patterns, feeling possessed or being worried about evil spirits, pornography addicted, feeling that sensuality is evil, etc.”

    The black-and-white thinking patterns and the guilt (even if you haven’t committed a “sin”) alone are enough to drive intelligent individuals mad.

  27. Kira says:

    Here is my understanding and belief. The reason why people get hung up on the church.. is because its the church. We are commanded and told to do a lot of things, and its VERY demanding. Its stressful. It can lead to our own depression when we don’t do what is “expected” to the churchs qualifications. I recently had this experience when I was called into the Young Womens. We held lots of meetings to plan, we had a budget, we went to church, we were asked to talk to the girls, go to camp and sooo much more. I understand WHY that would be SO hard to do. Because I experienced it. I even doubted myself when I wasn’t meeting expectations. I compared myself and I felt judged. It was horrible. So I can understand why there is a lot of criticism on the people of the church because no one should feel that way. However, I learned something personal from that experience. I learned of my Savior Jesus Christ, and It taught me.. that I shouldn’t care what others in the “church” may think or do.. but what HE thought of me. I can only do whats my own personal best and That is all the Savior asks for. He will make up the difference. I complained and even almost asked to get released, but then kept resolving that Christ wanted me to do this thing and it didnt matter about anything else. I understand now a few months out of the calling.. Why we don’t like to be called Mormons and Follows of Christ. It’s not just a change of wording, but a totally different meaning all together. I don’t like term religion, because thats not how I like to label myself as. I like to label myself as a follower of Christ. I believe in Christ. I take his name and thats why sometimes people get depressed, and stressed, and confused.. because they think they have to be perfect.. and that the people in the church are to quick to Judge. That is why I say I say the people are NOT perfect. Because they SHOULD NOT judge. Everything is circumstantial. Is it wrong to kill? Yes. I think it is. Is it wrong to kill in self defense?No. I don’t think it is wrong in self defense. Who are we to judge when we don’t know the persons circumstances. Religion is hard, but following Christ is easy. He welcomes all and invites all and thats who i choose to follow, but we have to have FAITH.. that he does exist.

  28. Calista says:

    This is illustrates my point perfectly. Because when you, Kira (or any honestly good person who is trying to do his or her best and happens to be mormon), are overwhelmed, stressed and/or depressed – you blame yourself. Or you get to that point (the stress and what not) by blaming yourself for something. Or you blame your fellow church members (who are often also honestly good people trying to do their best). You feel horrible.

    The reason this bothers me is because you are HONESTLY A GOOD PERSON. You could say “no” to that calling and still be worthwhile. You could sit there and do nothing all day and you would still have value as a human being. You are already incredibly awesome the way that you are. You are not awesome because you are a daughter of god. You are not awesome because Jesus bled for you or because you were a Young Women’s leader or because you were married in the Temple or because you read your scriptures every day. You are awesome because you are.

    I personally found it hard to realize my own incredible worth when it was so deeply ingrained into me that if I don’t pay my tithing, say “yes” to every church calling, stay completely clean, abstain from this or that, pray on my knees instead of in bed, not only not watch rated R movies or drink caffeine or wear my shorts to my knees or have clean language but also make everyone else feel like JERKS if they do/don’t do that stuff, then I am worthless. I am spitting in Jesus’ face because he paid for my sins so if I am committing “sins” then that means that I don’t appreciate what he did for me and I am helping those guys crucify him, I am pushing that crown of thorn into his head with my own blood-stained hands. THAT IS SO MANIPULATIVE. It is SO HURTFUL. It is SO PAINFUL.

    When a tween boy thinks that he is going to hell because he’s got an erection in the middle of the night and relieves himself – THAT IS AWFUL. Also, it’s incredibly stupid. It makes me angry because he feels horrible and it makes me laugh because the leaders are idiots for saying that something so normal, and necessary, is wrong. When a 12-18 year old girl goes to church and gets a “chastity” lesson every other week (and a temple marriage lesson on the weeks in between) about how she is a doughnut dipped in dog poo if she has sex with a boy, or she is a used piece of bubble gum – THAT IS AWFUL. When a woman is told that it is her fault that her emotionally abusive husband who uses his “priesthood” to control her just has to learn how to make her “celestial marriage” work – yeah. I’m a little upset. When any person who is attracted to the same sex is told that something is wrong with them by the Prophets and the Apostles and they decide that the only way to deal with that amount of crushing and debilitating loss of self-esteem and self worth is to KILL THEMSELVES then YEAH I’m sure as hell going to blame that GOD AWFUL FUCKING CHURCH THAT MADE THEM THINK THEY WERE WORTHLESS. I’m not making this up. It’s not like I’m sitting here wondering how I can attack you or that church. I’m talking about years of hearing stories straight from close friends of mine about how horrible being a part of the LDS church is and what it did to their lives, their families, and their self-worth. Not to mention my own experiences.

    If you want to talk about a personal relationship with Jesus that’s one thing, but when it is linked to THIS church – I think you must be wrong. I think that if Jesus exists then he has nothing to do with the Latter-day Saints.

    I honestly can’t think of any good that will that outweigh the horrible things they’ve said and done that has psychologically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually destroyed its members. It is the way the church is set up. It is authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is reinforced at church, school, and home. It is the way the leaders “discipline” the members and instil self-loathing and fear. It’s the soft-voiced passive-aggressive waves of “warning” that come twice a year straight into our homes bringing guilt, shame, and sadness. It’s not cool.

  29. Calista says:

    Also, I came across some research showing that LDS Temples are not built in regions with the most members but in regions that are more likely to have members with the ability to pay more tithes (interesting, right). For example, the two countries with the LEAST amount of members but with which still are honored with a temple are:

    Denmark and Finland (both have less than 4800 members).
    How much money do those guys make on average? $50-63,000 a year.

    Here are a list of countries who have no temple, but more members than their lucky counterparts:
    Hungary (4738)
    Republic of the Congo (4799)
    Guyana (5016)
    Marshall Islands (5093)
    Mozambique (5392)
    Liberia (5447)
    Jamaica (5721)
    Belgium (6019)
    Indonesia (6683)
    Madagascar (7637)
    Malaysia (7314)
    Cape Verde (7456)

    Ohpp! Switzerland (8092) has a temple – they make almost $85,000 a year, so, that makes sense.

    Sierra Leone (8907)
    Uganda (9042)

    And don’t forget the Netherlands (9052) because you’d be missing out on 10% of $51,400 a year per member.

    India (9188)

    Here comes Sweden (9206) at $61,000 a year.

    Mongolia (9896)
    Kenya (10270)
    Cambodia (10530)

    Okay there are a lot more but the baby just woke up and I have to go to work. My point is this:

    I want an eternal family = I have to have to be worth of a Temple recommend = I have to pay a full tithe. (Paying for salvation? What an interesting thought. And all this time I thought it came FREE through FAITH in JESUS).

    And of course the church only wants to build their gateways to heaven in the countries where people are financially able to pay lots and lots of monies — because “you can buy anything in this world with money” – like six-digit salaries & limos & private jets & fancy malls *ahem* City Creek Center *ahem*

  30. B.C.A. says:

    I want to make it known (for the sake of those still reading to better understand my outlook) that although I was raised in an LDS/Mormon family I am not Mormon. I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist and my name is not connected to the records of the LDS church (I had it official removed at age 23) or any religious organisation for that matter.

    Regarding not judging others, if you have to profess that you are not judgemental then you probably are. And I think the LDS community has a rampant amount of members that fall into this category.

    Although faith and how it validates ones beliefs have not yet been defined or explained, it may be easier to start off with what faith is not. I’m reading a book right now that states “Faith is the antithesis to reason.” I love this statement and couldn’t agree more. The definition of faith I will be referring to for the duration of this comment is a strong belief in a superior being or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

    If you take the same view as Alvin Plantinga (which seems to be underlying in some of the previous comment thread) and state that a belief in God is properly basic, meaning that belief in God can be reasonable even in the absence of arguments, proof, or evidence, then you open up the door to any irrational belief being reasonable (regardless of its validity). The Great Pumpkin Objection clearly addresses how philosophically problematic this line of thinking/rationalizing is. If I said I believed in Linus van Pelt’s Great Pumpkin you might naturally question my belief and demand evidence or reasons that support that belief. However, if I simply responded saying “I have faith, my belief is properly basic, and I need no evidence.” a believer in God could not object to my response if they are using the same type of argument in their belief of God. One can see through this example that believing in God despite the absence of arguments, proof, and evidence is irrational.

    Having faith does NOT require intellectual, rational, or logical thought. Faith is the “solve all” answer in religion (particularly western religions). Examples: 1) Why do bad things happen to good people? It is to test their faith and bring them closer to Christ. 2) Why don’t we comprehend what came before God or the complexity of the divine creation? Some things are unknowable to us in this life. You must have faith in what we are unable to fully understand. 3) Why did Christ have to suffer for the sins of the world? So we can return to our Father in heaven. It is through faith in Christ that we are healed and forgiven of our sins.

    “I am content to walk by faith so that the plethora of interesting and fascinating data does not cause me to doubt my faith or think I am ‘learned’ and ‘wise’ and need not ‘hearken unto the counsels of God.’” (Book of Mormon Principles: They Think They Are Wise by Elder Richard D. May: Area Authority Seventy North America Southeast Area) My father, who is a devout member of the LDS church, gave me the article just quoted from to read after I told him that religion is stifling to the development of human intellect because it discourages one from pursuing and attaining a deeper understanding of knowledge and wisdom. In the Book of Mormon it states, “When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 9:28) My initial response to this passage is “When they are religious they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of knowledge, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their belief is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.”

  31. Calista says:

    “I am content to walk by faith so that the plethora of interesting and fascinating data does not cause me to doubt my faith or think I am ‘learned’ and ‘wise’ and need not ‘hearken unto the counsels of God.’”

    Gotta love the circular reasoning there –

    Q: What does faith do for you?
    A: It helps you keep your faith!!
    Me: Say, what?!

  32. Calista says:

    I am (again) reading a book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz which I picked up randomly at a library as a teenager. This happened at a time when I was starting to get sick of hearing the same words over and over again in church (so much so that the meaning of the word – if ever present – was practically lost).

    I enjoyed reading this book because it gave me a different way to look at and understand the words which I had heard so often, including faith. The author basically explains that (like Brooke mentioned in her original blog) we don’t get to choose our “Dream” (what we would refer to as reality). “It was not your choice to speak English”, the author states, “you didn’t choose your religion or your moral values — they were already there before you were born. We never had the opportunity to choose what to believe or what not to believe… we didn’t even choose our own name”.

    Ruiz goes on to state that as children we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs (which I can attest to), but we agree with the information passed to us. I would argue that we agree to this information because we are given no other alternative information (particularly in the LDS culture) and because we trust our parents implicitly when they say “I know this church is true. I know that ——- is a prophet of god. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know the Book of Mormon is true” ……… “As soon as we agree” Ruiz says, “we believe it, and this is called faith. To have faith is to believe unconditionally”.

    It makes me feel uncomfortable to know that I am believing something just because I was told to and without any research on my own.

    A personal example of researching claims is that when I was still living at home I brought up religion with my ex-mormon grandpa. He became SO ANGRY and started ranting something about Joseph Smith and his stolen wives – he specifically mentioned a 14 year old girl. — That kind of freaked me out because of his intensity and because I had/still did think of Joseph Smith as a clean & pure man, a prophet of god, a person that anyone could love. He obviously loved Emma because I had seen all the movies and read all the books. Joseph Smith was better than any man except Jesus. He was amazing and I thought so highly of him – surely that claim couldn’t have been true. — When I asked my dad why my grandpa had gotten so angry, my dad replied “He is bitter because he thought the church would fix his marriage but it didn’t”. That response never really sat well with me because in my mind it didn’t really address the question that I had actually asked.

    Years later I finally got around to researching my grandpas claims. Turns out it’s pretty easy to find out who Joseph Smith married – just check any genealogy site! And there it was —- Fanny Alger: 14 years old. He married a handful of teenagers AND women who were currently already married to living men -who, incidentally, had been sent off on missions (didn’t know polyandry was part of the deal when I signed up?). Anyone can look it up – anyone can find out for themselves.

    I have to say that it is extremely frustrating and at times overwhelming to have to constantly readjust my world view.

  33. B.C.A. says:

    I found another applicable quote that I love in the book I’m reading (Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer). “All religious belief is a function of nonrational faith. And faith, by its very definition tends to be impervious to intellectual argument or academic criticism.”

  34. Nate says:

    First off, I want to say that I almost never respond to blogs. But this conversation has been particularly poignant for me.

    I was born and raised LDS and lived as the ‘perfect’ mormon, golden boy. I completed an ‘honorable’ mission and graduated from BYU. AND I would be thinking exactly like Kira right now, if some twisted, sick, little rock had not landed in the middle of my reflective pond of ‘perfection’… I had an attraction to men. As you can imagine, the ripples created by this fact have caused an incomprehensible amount of self-loathing. Suicide has been considered many times. Even in its best moments, the church (and every LDS follower I know) has only offered to ‘love me and not my sin’ and support me as I search for the pill that will cure my ‘S.S.A.’ (Same Sex Attraction). The very fact that the feeling of attraction to men, that is at my core (akin to a child who has fallen and skinned their knee, and ONLY wants their mother to hold them and tell them that ‘It is OK’), is only recognized as a ‘struggle’ infers that my core needs are wrong. That I am wrong.- devastating.

    I am, however, grateful for this ‘challenge’, as it has ALLOWED me to free myself of most cultural-caused beliefs and question what I really know, FOR MYSELF. Even this has been an insurmountable feat.- To try and divide the cultural connotations infused during primary and early priesthood beginnings from what my heart, mind, and body are really telling me- here, now, today.

    I must be honest that hearing the cultural lingo and tone from Kira has triggered me immensely. It reminds me of how blocked (damned) I was in my pursuit of ‘perfection’. On my LDS mission I had told SO many people that I ‘understood’ where they were coming from, only to have my next statement alienate them (and elevate me) by preaching to find faith in themselves, pray, and God will tell them (that I am right). Definitely a conversation stopper. No bridges here.

    Calista- Beautiful. Keep loving, defending, and protecting.

    For me, ‘God’ has come to be the entity I have come to know as the One (person or group) who loves me, guides my days, cherishes my moments, knows my story, hears my needs, and laughs with me in life’s simply ironies. The same entity who whispers to my heart to stop praying and thanking for each piece of food I eat, but EAT, ENJOY, and EXPERIENCE life, and taste the food, IN this moment.. and STOP thanking Him ABOUT it.

    God- Help us all to love one another. And, accept those ‘flaws’ we see in others that we don’t understand, but bring balance to this earthly family.

  35. Calista says:

    Hey Nate 🙂

    I don’t know if it’s a specifically Utah Mormon thing, or if I’m just naturally nosy, but I have a problem in that I always ask questions that I probably have no right to ask – so please feel free to ignore any of them at your discretion. 🙂 I have a lot of questions/comments about your post and the first one being:

    -How did you find this blog? I’m really glad that you decided to respond.

    -I feel like you have taken the best path possible. I know that’s only my “opinion”, but I just wanted to state it. What were your other options? Stay in an organization that continues to demean you on a very personal level and on a very consistent basis or take your own life (as you had considered and for which many others have opted).

    I am SO GLAD that you considered the option that maybe you just might be happier in a different environment (despite years of brain-games telling you otherwise). I just want to thank you for choosing that option and hope that you continue to find peace. I really like your second-to-last paragraph because it seems like life is probably going a little better for you now than it used to be. I hope that is the case and continues to be so.

    -I really don’t want to add any publicity to this monstrosity, but my curiosity is stronger than my reluctance – did you read this article and how do you feel about it?

    — This is open to anyone reading Brooke’s blog, as is anything else I guess, lol — Just last night I was re-reading a few conversations that a friend and I had had over email/g-mail chat a few years ago and I could tell as I was reading (using Captain Hindsight’s magical powers) that back then I had been saying certain things only because I had heard or read those same words from my dad/the prophet/my seminary teacher/an apostle/my sunday school teacher/the teaching manual/General Conference, etc – and because they weren’t my words, it made present day me feel really uncomfortable as though younger me didn’t even know who she was – also it made my arguments sound pretty weak/defensive. Now when I speak with that same friend it’s fun to realize that we still have differing opinions but I no longer feel threatened by his and he no longer feels hated on/judged by mine.

    That said – and my question for you guys: Do you know of any way that one might “help others” begin to question the dream of faith even if those people do NOT have (as Nate so aptly described it) “some twisted, sick, little rock” that “land[s] in the middle of [their] reflective pond of ‘perfection’”? Or is it a hopeless cause in your opinion. Because it kind of seems hopeless in mine, but I’m still hoping 😉

    The reason that I ask, besides the obvious side-effect of needless hate and discrimination being rubbed out of their hearts for good (which I desperately hope for), it would be exciting to be able to finally speak with more members of my family (and friends) freely, to hear their personal thoughts and beliefs and not just weird meaningless phrases/ideas that I have heard (and said) repeatedly throughout the years. I know personally that even when you feel like you’ve come up with an ingenious thought, you haven’t. For example: “Even if you don’t have a testimony that the LDS church is true, your life will be blessed by living the doctrines anyway. Think of it this way: if it IS true then you’re all good. If it’s NOT true then it doesn’t matter because you’ve lived a good life anyway” – which I arrogantly thought I had made up. Now that I’ve had people say it to me AND have seen memes of it around the internet I realize that I was grossly mistaken. There are plenty of other examples where that came from (reasons for polygamy, reasons for racism, reasons why prophets contradict themselves all of the time, reasons why the 4 gospels in the New Testament don’t add up, reasons why Joseph Smith can’t seem to remember how old he was or how many beings he saw in his first vision, or another favorite – a woman says “well I wouldn’t WANT to be Bishop, can you imagine having to hear about everyone’s problems day after day?” [reasons for sexism] etc). All I’m saying, those quotes that we think we were so clever in repeating really never were all that original to begin with. Actually (and I show my true nerd colors now), it makes me think of a Bones episode where Brennan’s cousin (and real-life sister) comes to visit for Christmas and constantly speaks/responds with sayings by Benjamin Franklin, like “beauty and folly are old companions”. Brennan finally is so frustrated that she calls Margaret out on it:

    Dr. Temperance ‘Bones’ Brennan: I’d much rather hear what you have to say, not Benjamin Franklin.
    Margaret Whitesell: Wow. That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

    I’d love to say that to a few people (“I’d much rather hear what you have to say, not G. Hinckley/Monson/Kimball/B. Young/freaking Oaks or Packer, etc) and to have them take it as a compliment, but I honestly think that as mormons we are taught to believe that we ARE thinking/speaking original thoughts. Or that no matter what, if it came out the mouth of a “Prophet” then it is 100% true. Or that if someone has a different view than us and shares that view – they are attacking us. In a similar vein, I also think that it’s incredibly dangerous to tie morality into another person – meaning, I feel like it’s extremely detrimental to say “those are my morals” when you are just repeating a statement made by someone else. Especially any kind of statement that has been repeatedly dis-proven by science, biology, psychology, etc.

  36. Chad says:

    Religion plays upon humanity’s need to feel things, strongly. It rewards, entices, subjugates to suffering then lauds persistence of individuals who care to go through the motions. When you succeed, you’re immediately gratified with an intangible, abstract reward of “being a good member,” then the cycle repeats. It’s a self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling dynamic that feeds directly on the emotional balance of a group of individuals.

    Life is lived for all the wrong reasons with most religions I have ever chanced upon. You live to suffer, with blips of happiness or reward, in the ultimate gamble that–after death–you’ll be rewarded with a life eternal in the presence of your creator. This is a strong emotional reaction that feeds our need, as a species, to feel things intensely–whether good or bad, which forces compliance to the doctrine.

    Many followers of religion, however, base their deeds and thoughts on doctrine. Every choice, decision, standpoint, moral, etc. is built upon faith in a doctrine, assuming that because it’s what you’re told to read, it’s true. This is the disposition of a faith-based being, and is easily skewed, swayed, broken, twisted and manipulated. It’s weak because it has no basis, other than faith–which I see everybody else has already done a fantastic job of picking apart.

    Inversely, choices, decisions, morals, etc. based on deduction, respect, and knowledge are the disposition of a logic-based being. These are much tougher to break, because they come from a conglomeration of introspective sources.

    Here’s a really simple example of what I am attempting to convey, if I’ve been vague:

    Why don’t you shoot up heroin? A faith-based being would say “Because God says it’s bad [and if you do, you’ll eventually wind up in hell.]” A logic-based being would make a decision based on other values, and may decide to not shoot up because, frankly, that shit will mess you up. I don’t desire to be messed up, ergo I shan’t shoot it into my veins.

    Besides being exceedingly base, this example is applied in dozens of other situations when any topic is compared between logic and faith. One party does something based on a weak principle without reason, logic or knowledge to affirm that decision, whereas another does it based on deduction; between the two, the one basing the decision on deduction has an immediate gratification and acknowledgement for their decision (because it comes from within), whereas the other is blindly hoping that they’ve followed the principle to avoid divine punishment. Both bring about a strong emotion–one is generally positive, whereas one is fraught with doubt or hope that they’ve made a generally positive decision. Whether positive or negative, it brings about the emotional response that we crave.

    While we’re picking bones, I have my personal row with religion is the outright contradiction of doctrine. A great example is that of predetermination and agency.

    “Everything for a purpose” implies that there are those that are, by God or some other divine being, used to dictate the response of others. To use yet another exceptionally simple example, our ol’ friend Adolf Hitler had the power to choose, as religion dictates (at least LDS doctrine). However, the same doctrine describes that God creates trials for the faithful to overcome, to test their faith. So, was Hitler given the power to choose? If not, he is damned by his actions for eternity–God is just, how can this be? But everything happens for a reason–a self-pitying line used by so many faithful, implies that there is a reason that Hitler’s actions were not his own.

    I hope I can be so bold as to use Nate’s experiences to help illustrate this further; God is both just and loving, yet predisposes somebody–by no choice of their own, to feel compelled to practice against his own doctrine with an urge that mirrors the intensity of our species’ desire to have sex. It seems hardly just or loving; in fact, it seems cruel, and predisposes an individual to a needlessly agonizing life because of it.

    Both situations create a logic loop that makes absolutely no sense–a loop that the greatest followers will shrug off with a phrase akin to “We’ll never understand the inner workings of God’s plans.”

    People of faith are generally content to be led by the nose wherever a book and an organization leads them, happy to live life in a continual state of needless burden, hardship and strife for those blips of strong emotion brought on by periods of intangible achievement or approval by those who help create the world that they live in.

    I know that personally my own life has gone from one that was darkened with doubt, frustration, anger, confusion, contempt and bitterness–a dusty landscape with only intermittent periods of bright happiness, to one almost entirely comprised of happiness, contentment, growth and learning, shared experience and only very small periods of anything I previously accepted as a part of my every day life.

    If that makes me a heathen, so be it. You live life once; may as well be happy while doing it.

  37. Calista says:

    Ran across something fun that I thought ya’ll might enjoy:

    If God is in fact involved in providing translations through his chosen servants, and if God has specifically called such servants to be “translators”, one can assume that God has a purpose in doing so, and that the purpose must obviously be to furnish mankind with important messages. It cannot serve God’s purposes if those translators are in fact unable to provide accurate translations of the sacred material. Surely, if God is at work here, the translations will be accurate and reliable. Man’s frailty or inabilities cannot be a frustration to the work of an omnipotent God, one would think. And D&C 3:3 reiterates that idea:

    “Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men;…”

    One should be able to assume, then, that God is a master of all the world’s languages, and that if we find mistranslations or ignorance of the meanings of words, or inability to express an idea accurately, we are not dealing with a message from God, but a message from someone who merely claims to be speaking for God.
    Mormons will probably cite as an excuse for such errors the passage in the Book of Mormon (BoM), which says (Mormon 8:17) “And if there be faults [in this record] they be the faults of a man….”.   They do not seem to realize that such an admission implies that any faults mean that – at least at that point – the man was not inspired by God. Notice, too, that “Mormon” is referring to the text that he is supposedly writing, not the translation to be made centuries later. (A Linguist Looks at Mormonism)

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