Monday, October 5, 2015


I have heard religious people use the following scripture as an argument against atheism: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." This is the theological equivalent schoolyard name calling. If by "fool" they mean a person who does not believe the same unsubstantiated nonsense as they believe, well, it seems to be more of a compliment than an insult. Such provocations only serve to expose the weakness of their arguments. If there was anything of substance to be presented, they would not fall upon insults to rattle their opponent. Arguments stand or fall on their own merits, as Matt Dillahunty points out. Name calling is not an argument.

It is in this vein of "I know you are, but what am I?" that I have a hard time stomaching some of the ideas promoted in the most recent General Conference of the Mormon Church. One leader, Mr. Dieter Uchtdorf, flat out said that skepticism is the easy path and lacks the moral courage and integrity that a faith-filled life requires. This is absurd and condescending to anyone who has wrestled with difficult topics while a believing Mormon.

Problems and inconsistencies in the Mormon narrative, especially regarding history and the veracity of Mormon scripture, have caused many people over the years to question whether the church is true. This phenomenon has only accelerated with the advent of the Internet, which has increased the layman's access to information. In the past, when someone heard disconcerting information they would have to pour through volumes of books in order to find the truth. Now, most people can fact check claims they hear in church on their phones as they sit in the pews. Pulling wool over the eyes of the average Joe has become more challenging to charlatans everywhere.
The accessibility of information and the effect of raising doubts in members has become a growing problem for the Mormon church. Many people have speculated that this problem has caused the church to be more open about their history in recent essays published by the church, in an attempt to get ahead of the curve of dwindling membership.

Surely, amid the commotion, Mr. Uchtdorf has spoken to sincere believers who struggle with their new-found doubts. Surely, he has heard their pleas for satisfactory and comprehensive answers to their questions. Surely, he has seen the alienation that comes to members who doubt and the strength of character it takes to step away from the church of their family and friends. How dare he call it the "easy way." There is nothing easy about it.

I have a hard time believing that someone in Mr. Uchtdorf's position could make such a statement naively. Which implies that he made a conscious decision to ostracize a growing segment of the population of the church.

Another idea promoted in this conference is that true-believing members should only read church approved sources for historical information. In particular, members should avoid the Internet when researching the church. This is obviously a response to the problem described above that members are coming across information on the Internet which disproves the user-friendly version of church history promoted by the church itself. The more the church can control the narrative, the more they can insulate members from facts which challenge faith.

This is done out of necessity, of course. Without resorting to such totalitarian tactics, the church would likely continue to lose members--especially young adults--which directly threatens their coffers. And without ever-inflating tax-free money bags, how else would the church buy another multi-billion dollar high-end mall?

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