Sunday, July 1, 2012


"The truth has nothing to fear from discussion."
--someone smart

"Popular ideas do not need to be protected by free speech laws."
--someone else smart 

One of my closest friends is just about the most avid supporter of Ron Paul as you would care to find. Personally, I don't care much for Ron Paul, so we have had a number of debates about his policies and the effects that they might have on our current system of government. Every time we argue (i.e. "discuss"), we end up on the point that Ron Paul, a doctor, doesn't believe in evolution, and whether or not this will affect his policies on education. I firmly believe that beliefs inform our actions, and this unsupported belief, which runs contrary to modern biology, will undoubtedly influence Ron Paul's actions. My friend disagrees.

To my friend's credit, however, he acknowledges that this is an area where he doesn't agree with Ron Paul. This is important. I find it hard to take seriously someone who believes someone else implicitly, or who agrees with someone else on every point. To do so would be to claim infallibility of the other person. This is how demigods and tyrants (and prophets) come about.

The mentality of infallibility by virtue of the divine is inherent in religion. One might say it is where religion begins. Unquestioning obedience is flaunted as a virtue. My Mormon youth leaders made this very clear. It is OK to ask questions, but to persist after receiving a mediocre answer is pushing it. This devotion to leadership is reiterated in "temple-recommend" interviews, prior to admission into Mormon temples. In fact, they take it one step further and inquire about affiliations outside of the church, which may run contrary to the church's teachings (i.e. activist groups, gay support groups, etc.).

To speak out about injustices towards a community facing discrimination within the church, such as homosexuals, is to bring chastisement upon yourself. Even trying to bridge gaps between seemingly hostile communities, like disgruntled "ex-Mormons," can call your loyalty and testimony into question, or even call for disciplinary action.

Fraternizing with ex-Mormons can expose you to anti-Mormon literature (i.e. "anything that contradicts the church"), and this can challenge your testimony or lead you to sin. Religion is no stranger to censorship. After all, religion takes the saying "beliefs inform our actions" one step further by saying that "thoughts inform our actions." Merely thinking something can send one down a perilous road to iniquity and damnation.

Indeed, thoughts can be as dangerous as actions according to some religions. This is why the Bible and the Koran condemn disbelief and apostasy with eternal torture and death, respectively (I'll let you decide which is the greater punishment). In fact, Jesus himself employs censorship, by stating that uttering certain things is unforgivable. In Mark 3 Jesus is accused by the Pharisees of being possessed by an evil spirit, and Jesus responds by laying out the law of blasphemy. According to Jesus it is forgivable to speak ill of a person, but speaking ill of the Holy Spirit is not:

"28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."

Nothing wins arguments like "eternal damnation."

In past posts I have referred to videos and sites from John Dehlin, although I don't think I properly credited his name. He started a group called "Mormon Stories" which tries to network active Mormons with ex-Mormons. Dehlin believes that in order to truly help ex-Mormons come back to the church or deal with a loss of faith, etc., active Mormons should try to genuinely understand their concerns and why they left the church. Sounds reasonable in principle, but as I mentioned above, many people feel that associating with ex-Mormons will put them in a bad position spiritually, and thus are hesitant to come anywhere near an ex-Mormon forum.

Now, I'm not convinced that such a bridge is necessary, but I do admire Dehlin's efforts to open the dialog. However, not everyone is on board with this; some church higher-ups have attacked Dehlin and condemned his efforts. This is shown in an article addressing the position Mormonism has taken in the mainstream. The article points out that one such person had intended to release a "100-page take-down of Dehlin," but someone even higher-up than he stepped in, and, fearing that a smear campaign would look bad for the church, stopped the report. You may be tempted to say "crisis averted," but it doesn't end here. Dehlin's son has recently turned eight years old and, per Mormon custom, is going to be baptized into the church. Normally, the father would conduct this rite of passage. But, in the case of Dehlin, his bishop has denied him this privilege simply because of his podcast. By opening a discussion, Dehlin has become the face of censorship in the Mormon Church today.

And now, the KKK speaks out against the Westboro Baptist Church:

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