How to deconvert ’em just enough…
I have to agree with Dave on this one since — although atheists famously can’t speak for one another — I don’t think any self-respecting atheist would choose to be an “anti-Mormon” and pick on Mormons full-time (as opposed to criticizing religion in general).
Then, reading on, it hit me that Dave’s definition of “good anti-Mormon” appears to be “an anti-Mormon who is not inadvertently producing more atheist or agnostic exmos than Christian exmos.” The Evangelical article Dave is responding to (We Push Them Out Into What?) as well a follow-up Evangelical article elsewhere (How to Win Friends and Influence Mormons) seem to be using the same criterion. Their analysis in a nutshell is “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and if there’s one thing LDS and Evangelicals can agree on, it’s that we shouldn’t break all the glass houses.”
One cool thing about the Internet, though, is that you don’t have to just talk about atheists in the third person (as if we’re not here on the Internet with you! 😉 ) so I’d just like to add a few minor remarks:
First, regarding Tim’s initial article, he claims that 70-80% of ex-Mormons end up as non-Christians. I’d be curious to see some real data on this — the actual proportion could be just about anything, but (since I assume most converts come from Christian faiths) I think you’d have to at least restrict to people who have self-identified as Mormon for at least five years to get a proportion that high. Even then, it’s not clear that the high proportion of atheists among exmo internauts isn’t merely due to the fact that the same personality traits that make people take skepticism all the way to atheism are also linked to enjoying hanging out on the Internet.
But the question remains: How to get them to slough off the Joseph Smith part and be left with Evangelical Christianity? The consensus appears to be that — if we can avoid being sidetracked by the “Are Mormons Christian?” question — Evangelical beliefs are sufficiently distant from Mormon doctrine that when people question part and not all of Mormonism, Evangelical Christianity is not what’s left. Seth R. and others correctly pointed out that a more typical partial deconversion leaves a “New Order Mormon.” The one point I’d add is that the situation is different for converts from Evangelical Christianity: many of them do indeed have a core of Protestant Christian beliefs that will remain intact after getting them to question Mormonism’s special claims.
Another possibility they failed to mention is leaving the “Brighamite” branch for the Community of Christ. People leave Mormonism for various reasons, and if you’re put off by the polygamy, the temple rituals and costumes, the prophet pronouncing on important spiritual issues like tatoos, and the institutionalized sexism, yet you feel a spiritual connection with Jesus and part or all of the Book of Mormon and the restoration, then Community of Christ is an obvious choice. Sometimes you hear in Mormon circles that the CoC (formerly RLDS) is moribund because of having mainstreamed or something, but from what I’ve seen of them, I would say that isn’t true.
Tim points out in the comments of his post that he disagrees with the statement that “it’s valuable to cut people out of any non-Christian faith and it’s easier to convert atheist than X (Mormons, Hindus, whatever).” In other words, Tim indicates that the two-step process (deconvert then convert) has a lower “success” rate than converting people of faith directly (without the deconversion step which introduces dangerous critical thinking skills).
Here’s another possibility to consider, though: it might be that the tendency to follow skepticism all the way to atheism is an inherent personality/character trait in some people, and that such people would never convert from one faith to another faith, hence shouldn’t figure into your calculation.