"Given this overwhelming tendency to stupidity and selfishness in myself and among our species, it is somewhat surprising to find the light of reason penetrating at all. The brilliant Schiller was wrong in his Joan of Arc when he said that "against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain." It is actually by means of the gods that we make our stupidity and gullibility into something ineffable.
--Christopher Hitchens, god is Not Great
Those who have read my posts from the last few weeks will note my struggle on Facebook in dealing with Mormon friends and family who oppose gay marriage. It has been exhausting.
One of the more distressing annoyances has been people throwing clever-sounding one-liners at me, as if it should automatically shut me down. Inane lines such as "hate the sin, not the sinner," or "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith," or "I find more and more that I am not allowed to criticize those who oppose traditional values," or "The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center," or “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”
My blood boils further when I address their comment intelligently, or simply ask them to explain their position in more detail (i.e. The Socratic Method), and they drop out of the conversation all together. What does it say about a person's argument if they turn tail and run when asked to explain themselves?
Having thought a while longer about the phrase "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith," which was popularized in Mormon culture a couple of General Conferences ago, I realize that many people do not really understand what is being said by it. "Doubt your doubts" implies a level of investigation.
For instance, if I hear that the Book of Mormon contains archaeological inconsistencies which fly in the face of what scientists say about ancient America, I might begin to have doubts about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an accurate historical record. To "doubt my doubts" in this instance would mean that I would look at the research on the subject and then draw a conclusion. It may be that such anachronisms are not really in conflict with known history; but if they are, research should reveal this. If a conflict exists, I would want to know.
Many believers reject such troublesome inquisitions out of hand. They have a knee jerk reaction to opposition. I think this is where the sound-bite arguments come in to play. They build up a superficial wall around their pet beliefs. When their shallow wall starts to crumble, they cower.
One underhanded argument which is occasionally presented to me is that "one can leave the church, but one cannot leave the church alone." This is meant to be insulting. This is meant to get under the skin of the doubter. In this way, it attempts to validate the believer's scripture-based assumption that non-believers do not exist--they are merely rebelling against god's commandments, which are written on the hearts of men.
This is childish. This is no better than non-believers claiming that believers only believe to make themselves feel better. This is no way to live in a civilized society.
The accusation that people who leave religion, such as myself, continue to criticize it because they are trying to convince themselves that they don't believe, when, in fact, they really do, is nonsensical. In a strange way, it reminds me of a trend I have noticed at my work. I have worked in social services for many years, and every so often troubled teens admit to me that when they grow up they also want to work in social services.
Many of them are victims of physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse, usually some combination of all of them. As the kids understand how therapeutic practices can help abuse victims find peace and methods of coping, they feel the need to assist other victims in the process. Their desire to be a therapist or psychologist or counselor is motivated by their empathy.
The harm of Mormonism may not be as overt as the psychological trauma caused by abuse. But the way such a life-encompassing theology warps a believer's perception of reality and confuses sound methods of attaining knowledge with subjective feelings attributed to god, thereby fooling believers to accept as true ridiculous claims for which they have no evidence, suggests a pervasive corruption of the mind every bit as deep as abuse. And it will take more than clever soundbites to expunge this smiley-faced evil from society.
Christopher Hitchens on the harm of religion:
Christopher Hitchens on the harm of religion:
Christopher Hitchens responds to a stupid question: