An Interesting Encounter

Advice Family Marriage

Earlier today a young man entered my office seeking my adviceThis is not unusual for someone in my line of business. But it is a rare day when someone comes to me, in my capacity as an apostate, seeking advice regarding of all subjectsreligionparticularly the Mormon religion. But it happened today.

A bit of background:

Several years ago, during the same period of time that I was going through my enlightenment/apostasy, my daughter happened to be dating this same young man. To ease the pain of her fathers loss of belief in the one true church, my daughter poured her TBM heart out to this young man. Needless to say, he remembered that he had once dated the daughter of an apostate and came to me for some apostate advice. You seehe is now, a non believer too.

Flash forward to today, turns out this young Mormon man has fallen head over heels in love with a TBM girl. But as I said, he is anything but TBM. He was baptized has struggled with wrapping his brain around the Mormon paradigm despite many attempts to do so, as a result did not go on the required mission. (How he dated my daughter Ill never know) None of this however mattered until he started to date and fall in love with the TBM.

As he entered my office and even before he introduced himself he asked Do you go to church? with a smile on my face, I replied Nope. He then said, Good Im in the right place.

Over the course of the next hour he poured out his heart about his relationship with this girl, explaining their love for each other and his unsuccessful attempt, at her insistence, to find a way to believe. She will not be married in any place other than a Temple built to the Mormon god.

He was aware from his discussions with my daughter, that I have been able to live a happy life with my very TBM wife and wanted to know HOW this was possible. He also wanted to know if faking belief for her sake would work. I shared the following advice with him.

01. I told him that faking belief was a recipe for disaster and would result in the ultimate destruction of his future marriage. That any marriage worth participation in must be built on a foundation of mutual respect for who each partner in the marriage really IS rather than on whom one partner wishes their spouse to be.

02. That he was fighting an uphill battlethat the Mormon Church would use all of its cultural influence to destroy his relationship and do everything it can to dissuade his girlfriend from engaging in a relationship with a non-believer. He confirmed that the Mormon Machine was already trying to undermine his relationship.

03. That for his relationship to work, his girlfriend must love him more than she loves the churchsomething that TBMs are programmed from an early age not to do.

04. That if he cant get his girlfriend to respect his right to his current worldview as much as she wants her own worldview to be respectedthat the relationship is doomed.

05. I also confided in him, that I live everyday knowing that despite the love my wife and I share for each otherwe both know that if my wife knew then what she knows nowshe would have never agreed to marry me.

We also discussed the many reasons that Mormonism is not what it claims to beand that a frontal attack on his girlfriends beliefs is futile. For there to be any hope for his relationship to workboth must compromise, respectful of each others beliefs (or lack thereof) and abandon all hope of ever dissuading the other.

Following our conversation, this young manwith a somewhat more sober understanding of his situationthanked me for my candor. I offered to meet with both he and his girlfriend any time should he feel it beneficial. I wished him luck but added that he needs to be prepared for the worst. Thus is a the path of TBM/non-believer relationshipsthey rarely work out because of the inflexibility of TBMs…I count my blessing everyday that so far I am an exception

Cross-posted fromCr@ig In The Middle

73 thoughts on “An Interesting Encounter

  1. That if he cant get his girlfriend to respect his right to his current worldview as much as she wants her own worldview to be respectedthat the relationship is doomed…

    For there to be any hope for his relationship to workboth must compromise, respectful of each others beliefs (or lack thereof) and abandon all hope of ever dissuading the other.

    I completely agree with you in that respect of each other’s religions is the key aspect here. Clearly, this young man’s girlfriend has asked him to consider whether he can give Mormonism another try. But has she given him the respect of giving non-belief a try? I doubt it. Yet, one would think that respect for faith or non-faith is a two-way street.

    Interfaith marriages are never simple, whether they are interfaith from the start or turn out that way. Although some differences may be surmountable – and your relationship, Cr@ig, with your wife sounds very admirable – there will always have to be significant compromise on both sides. If not in the mutual respect and consideration of one another, then certainly in the raising of one’s children.

  2. I somewhat disagree on the fact that each has to fully respect the others beliefs for the relationship to survive. Simply because relationships are more complicated than that. It partly depends on how much each partner cares about that ASPECT of the relationship. For example, I know many NOM/TBM relationships that work because the NOM is not that upset about feigning belief, or is willing to at least consider that the good of participating in the church outweighs the bad. Or the TBM partner is willing to love the non participating NOM because they respect him/her as a good partner in many other ways that compensate for the lack of unity in belief. I would recommend the young couple assess if they have enough in common (interests, emotional compatability, etc.) to make it worthwhile compromising. It is true that if the young lady insists on a temple marriage NOW and the young man insists he doesn’t have the capacity to pass a temple recommend interview and neither can budge – the relationship is doomed and can’t go any further. Maybe they could try a non sectarian counselor to see if there is any way to make it work

  3. @mermaid – I don’t really see that our viewpoints differ. I think that your examples indicate as much ‘respect’ for the others’ viewpoint as any. Part of respect for the other person can be compromise.

  4. The points I was trying to help this young man understand were:

    01. Relationships must stand or fall on who each partner is now, NOT on whom one partner wants their partner to become.

    If this GF can’t accept her BF’s lack of belief (which it appears she can’t) then it would be disastrous for the BF to fake belief for the sake of marriage. Faking would take a huge psychological toll out on the BF over time and may result in his ultimate resentment of his partner and end up destroying the relationship.perhaps involving innocent children in the process.

    02. Should this couple eventually get married; the relationship NOT the church must be their #1 priority. But I warned the BF that everything in Mormonism will work against their TBM/Non-believer marriage being more important than the church.

    The Mormon Machine is unrelenting in its pursuit of non-believing spouses and generally disrespectful of boundaries that the non-believer may establish.

    Mermaid, while I see your point and seriously doubt that any TBM can fully respect a belief system other than Mormonism, for to do so conflicts with Mormonisms One and Only claim, but this couple must at least reach a point of agreeing to disagreeand to love each other in spite of their disagreement.

  5. Building on Mermaid and Madame Curie’s comments — I think it really depends on your definition of “respect.” 😉

    Just looking at my parents’ example, they get along quite well, especially considering that my mom is a devout Mormon and my dad is a devout Evangelical Christian — and he’s a good deal more hostile to Mormonism than Ms. Jack. So I wouldn’t say my dad “respects” my mom’s beliefs in the sense of considering Mormonism to be positive or even neutral. And it’s hard to gauge exactly what my mom thinks of my dad’s beliefs, since she’s a bit more tactful than he is.

    But they have other shared interests that they focus on when they’re together. So in some sense it’s a question of accepting that the positive parts of the relationship outweigh the parts that they’re less happy about.

    And there’s definitely a mutual respect in the sense that they’re willing to agree to disagree, and they both understand that they’re each making an equal-and-opposite sacrifice (instead of one seeing the other as the black-hat-villain who’s destroying the relationship by refusing to change).

  6. Cr@ig — we cross-posted, but it looks like we agree.

    Regarding boundaries, I’ve seen a lot of examples (among friends on the Internet) of exactly what you’re talking about. Basically, if the TBM partner can’t stop seeing the partner’s worldview as the problem — and can’t see that accepting their mutual differences is a two-way street — then it becomes impossible to maintain fair and reasonable boundaries.

  7. Cr@ig ~ One of the first things I told my husband when we began dating was that if he wasn’t open to the possibility of marriage outside of the temple, our relationship had no future. I’d dated or flirted with the possibility of dating enough TBM guys who had basically told me “it’s the temple or nothing” to know that pain and heartache. They were only interested in me if conversion was a possibility, but like chanson said, I wasn’t interested in having my religion seen as “the problem.”

    I think you gave sound advice here. In order for an interfaith relationship to work, respect and tolerance of each other’s beliefs has to be a two-way street.

    I do have an ex-Mormon acquaintance on another forum who, last month, tied the knot to a TBM. It can be done. See this thread here.

  8. “that the Mormon Church would use all of its cultural influence to destroy his relationship and do everything it can to dissuade his girlfriend from engaging in a relationship with a non-believer.”

    I can see them doing this prior to the marriage.

    And for good reason. He’s talking about attempting something very difficult, and with a lot of potential for pain and struggle. Any responsible Mormon in that girl’s life would have an obligation to warn her about it. I would frankly, think less of them if they didn’t discourage her.

    But once married, I don’t think that above statement is true at all.

    I happen to have personal information of an interfaith marriage in which the LDS person wanted out, citing need for a “temple marriage” as the reason. The bishop flat refused to approve such an irresponsible move, sided with the non-Mormon spouse, and told the Mormon to live up to their commitments and do right by their spouse.

    That bishop helped save that marriage. And the couple is now happily together and still interfaith.

    So yeah, you’ll get some discouragement from entering such a relationship. If you came to me, you’d get such discouragement from me.

    But once you’re married, I think you’ll find the LDS Church willing to step up to bat for the success of your marriage as often as not.

  9. I should also note that often a reason these relationships don’t work out is the continued contempt the non-LDS person holds for the “TBM.”

    It’s always a little horrifying to listen to the things I’ve read a few choice individuals on “Recovering from Mormonism” or exmormon.org say about their own spouses.

    If anyone talked about my wife that way in front of me, I’d punch them in the face. I can only feel sick pity for the women married to such worthless excuses for husbands and wives. The damage to the marriage doesn’t always come from the TBM you know. Some of the most intolerant, and uncharitable people I know are atheists (the others are, of course religious).

    I appreciate that I don’t get too much of this “contempt for the sheeples” here. But it happens a lot. And the ex-Mormon crowd need to own up to the fact that half the problem in these broken marriages is coming from their half of the ball court.

    Only half though, mind.

  10. Not talking about my marriage there, are you Seth?

    For the record, I wasn’t trying to use “TBM” in a derogatory fashion. I feel like there’s a lack of good terminology out there to describe the different types of Mormons and I’m never quite sure which terms people will find offensive.

  11. Alan, knee jerk defensiveness is, of course a wonderful ingredient for any successful marriage.

    Mix that with a touch of paranoia and my own special brand of sarcasm, and you’ve got a veritable soap opera.

    How could love fail?

    Let’s be clear. I’m not giving either side a free pass here. Just like any marriage, it’s rarely ever, really clear who is exactly at fault.

    P.S. Jack, I had at least a couple examples in mind with that story. So I tried to keep it generic.

  12. I don’t mind the phrase “TBM” when it’s clear it’s just being used because the writer is tired of finding a different word for it.

    But the way it’s used on some forums, you’d think the acronym was synonymous with “bigot” or “retard” or something.

  13. Surely there is an answer to this question that extends beyond the blame game.

    Interfaith marriage failure is pretty universal among faiths that claim “exclusive” access to God. Its not just devout Mormons.

    Devout Catholics are urged not to be “unequally yoked” with spouses of other Christian religious denominations with whom they cannot enter the Sacrament of Matrimony.

    Orthodox Jews are considered dead to their parents if they marry outside the faith (This nearly happened to a Jewish friend of mine, whose parents and grandmother ceased speaking to her when she was dating an atheist).

    Devout Muslims are also disowned for marriage outside the community (again, I know this from experience where a Muslim friend married a Hindu woman).

    So, if this is such a common theme, how is it overcome?

  14. Mermaid, I totally agree that the relative strength and nature of the practicing Mormon’s beliefs make a big difference in whether an interfaith marriage can work.

    On the other hand, I think if you are talking about a deeply-committed believer in the LDS faith, then, I’m sorry, you are just going to have to respect the beliefs, or this marriage is not going to be pleasant. In those cases, the beliefs can no longer be segregated from the innermost character and identity of the person in question.

    If you find yourself in love with such a deeply committed Mormon and STILL feel contempt for the belief system, I would question whether you really love the person at all, or whether you are, as many before you, merely in love with a fantasy image you have set up about the person.

  15. I should also note that often a reason these relationships dont work out is the continued contempt the non-LDS person holds for the TBM.

    I think the self-loathing of the TBM could also be a really big problem in inter-faith marriages–particularly if the TBM in question is female. I remember well this horrible story that used to get read all the time about “Don’t make a marriage decision that will leave you standing outside the temple gates.” What really resonated with young women was the self-loathing and regret of this woman who had married outside the church, and so couldn’t even watch while others made the joyous commitments she had denied herself. Only some kind of reprehensibly stupid and shallow idiot, the story made clear, would choose alienation, exclusion and misery, in both this life AND the next, just because she was “in love” with some guy who didn’t even have the priesthood–as if what one feels for such a creature could even be called “love”!

    All of which the guy who came to see Cr@ig should also consider in this equation. Does he really want to risk being a decision this woman might regret all her life?

  16. Devout Muslims are also disowned for marriage outside the community

    Hell, devout muslims who marry outside the community are sometimes KILLED! One of my friends converted to islam, despite his devout catholicism and his fiancee’s absolute abhorrence of Islam, so that her father wouldn’t drown her in the family swimming pool if she ever went home to Pakistan!

  17. ell, devout muslims who marry outside the community are sometimes KILLED! One of my friends converted to islam, despite his devout catholicism and his fiancees absolute abhorrence of Islam, so that her father wouldnt drown her in the family swimming pool if she ever went home to Pakistan!

    I’ve heard stories, but never seen it. I wanted to restrict my examples to things I had actually seen personally, not just heard of. In fact, the Muslim friend of mine in question insisted that he has never seen anyone killed for conversion or leaving Islam. ‘Course, he was from India and not Pakistan, but I am not sure that makes a difference.

  18. the Muslim friend of mine in question insisted that he has never seen anyone killed for conversion or leaving Islam.

    I can only report that the father of the woman in question told her explicitly that her life would never be safe if she married an infidel, and she knew of enough other women who had been drowned to be truly afraid for her own life. Of course, I didn’t “see” any of this myself, and I doubt she witnessed the actual drownings either, so it’s third-hand knowledge at best. But I trust that this woman would not make the story up.

  19. Oh, I wasn’t saying it doesn’t happen. Just that I hadn’t seen or heard of an actual incident of it in my experience.

    The friend who I mentioned who was Muslim had gone to graduate school at BYU, where he met his Hindi wife. I guess he said that a fair number of Muslims he knew liked their children attending BYU b/c they had such a strict moral code. My husband was his co-worker there. The topic of honor killing came up when we were discussing with him the Church’s restriction against prosyletizing to Muslims, because they could be killed for converting from Islam. He said that he had felt the “honor killings” were a rumor, or at least not as common as they were made out to be, since in his experience he had never heard personally of it occurring. However, it may well have been that he was in a more “liberal” sect of Islam.

    His parents aren’t particularly glad that he married a Hindi, nor are hers, but the repercussions didn’t seem much different than my family’s response when I became LDS from Catholicism (shunning, etc.)

    Of course, case reports are obviously worthless, but its interesting nonetheless.

  20. the way [TBM is] used on some forums, youd think the acronym was synonymous with bigot or retard or something.

    You mean the way “inactive” or “non-member” or “apostate” are often used in TBM forums as synonymous with “spawn of satan” and “root of all evil”? Or the way the Proclamation on the family announces that anyone who doesn’t hold the TBM view of the family is, even now, bringing about armageddon?

    Yeah, it’s true: in some forums, people do use TBM as a term of disdain. But those who do so rarely if ever imagine that god shares their disdain–at least they acknowledge that their dislike is their dislike, not some divinely justified, supremely right and righteous judgment.

    Whereas in TBM forums, when terms like “inactive” or “apostate” are used to mean “root of all evil,” there is almost always the assumption that god shares the judgment–indeed, the idea is that god condemns such people first and his followers are just following suit.

    That attribution of one’s own biases and fears to “god” makes the disdain expressed by such terms all the more condescending, insulting, delusional and insurmountable.

    In other words, TBM’s believe that their contempt for the beliefs of others is divinely modeled. So any “contempt” a non-TBM of the MSP ilk might have for the beliefs of a TBM, is mild in comparison to what we receive in return.

  21. Most of the people at RfM don’t believe in God, so I don’t see that the distinction means much.

    In the end, it all boils down to human behavior.

  22. And I think it’s silly to turn this into a “my angst is bigger than yours” kind of debate. I’ve experienced the bigotry of both the Mormon and ex-Mormon communities firsthand, and I think there pretty ugly people in both camps.

    If you want to try and pull the “we suffer more than you do” card, don’t expect agreement from me.

  23. Well, I was considering doing a follow-up post on this interfaith marriage, but as this one has diverged into a blame game, I think I will pass.

    Which is a shame, because I think this is a pretty important topic.

  24. If you want to try and pull the we suffer more than you do card, dont expect agreement from me.

    don’t worry, Seth: first of all, I think we here at MSP actually suffer a lot less than you do–as we occasionally point out, being a TBM makes one far unhappy than not being a TBM.

    Second, while I was thoroughly shocked and pleased that you had the wherewithal to admit that a comment you left on a previous thread “went a little Jekyl and Hyde,” I don’t expect a second such admission. “Agreement” is the last thing I expect from you when someone points out how flawed your rhetoric is.

  25. Alan, knee jerk defensiveness is, of course a wonderful ingredient for any successful marriage.

    Seth, I’m pretty sure that Alan was kidding since one can hardly be “TBM” and be in a same-sex relationship.

    Additionally, the commenters here have consistently emphasized that the respect has to be mutual, with boundaries that work both ways.

    Sure, it’s absolutely possible for the exmo to be a jerk who can’t stop seeing the TBM spouse’s belief as the problem that has to be solved in order for the relationship to work. That’s one of the reasons I like to see discussions among exmos about how to make interfaith relationships work — both sides need support to value the marriage and family despite the differences and difficulties. For the Mormon side of the equation, I generally recommend the Faces East Forum.

    That said, people here can’t necessarily answer for posts at RfM. If you were reading RfM and somebody there pissed you off so badly that you wanted to punch him, I don’t think that necessarily has any relevance to Cr@ig and our discussion here. All I can say is that exmos are a diverse demographic group that — surprise, surprise! — includes some jerks, like any other demographic.

  26. Seth’s approach to this conversation lacks considerable nuance, despite his claim that both TBM’s and “the ex-Mormon crowd” bear half the blame for failed marriages between them. This statement, for instance, @15:

    if you are talking about a deeply-committed believer in the LDS faith, then, Im sorry, you are just going to have to respect the beliefs, or this marriage is not going to be pleasant. In those cases, the beliefs can no longer be segregated from the innermost character and identity of the person in question.

    So, when it comes to “a deeply committed believer in the LDS faith,” his/her “beliefs can no longer be segregated from the innermost character and identity of the person in question”… but not for someone who is a deeply committed believer in something else? Those of us here, for instance, who have rejected Mormonism as intellectually and ethically inadequate, and worked hard to formulate our own meaningful codes of conduct and belief–our beliefs somehow CAN be segregated from our innermost character and identity? Friends and family who remain LDS can claim to love us DESPITE our inactivity and apostasy, and not realize that if they “STILL feel contempt for the belief system,” we have considerable reason to “question whether you really love the person at all”?

    The implication behind Seth’s comments is a fairly common one: Mormons have beliefs which much be respected; post-Mormons do not have beliefs; instead, they have the absence of beliefs, and the absence of belief, by virtue of its being an absence, need not be respected.

    Whereas most of us here feel we DO have beliefs, and are irritated when they don’t even register to our loved ones as beliefs.

    But the fact is, I do think that although Seth fails (or perhaps refuses) to acknowledge how integral the beliefs of a po- or ex-mo might be to such a person, there are ways in which “a deeply committed believer in the LDS faith” cannot be asked or expected to separate out their beliefs about this world and the next from what they feel about themselves and anyone they are in a relationship with. One is that, as I said @21, TBM’s imagine that their ideas and beliefs are divinely decreed, and therefore feel considerable distress–psychological, spiritual, emotional, physical–when they modify those beliefs (as many of us here can attest). Furthermore, as I mention in @16, because there is such opprobrium attached to dating and marrying someone who “cannot take you to the temple,” those who do it anyway are often prone to self-loathing, for the culture tells them that they have sold themselves short and done something that endangers not just their eternal salvation, but that of their children. The day-to-day workings of a relationship can be difficult enough, but when they are also emblematic of one’s failure before God–well, then you’ve really got a challenge on your hands.

    So Seth, if you want people here to acknowledge that there’s something extra special about the belief system and identity of “a deeply committed believer in the LDS faith,” as you seem to be asking, you might want to think through the implications of that acknowledgment, and see whether you are truly happy with them.

  27. A few days ago, we were on break in my Christianity in Colonial America class and the other students got to asking me about my marriage. They wanted to know if I had gotten married in an LDS temple. I explained that non-members can’t get married in LDS temples and my Assemblies of God pastor had married us at my church.

    One of them asked me, “So what happens to him for marrying outside the church? Doesn’t he like, not get to go to heaven or something?”

    I tried to think of how best to explain this in terminology they would understand. I figured that with a room full of [male] seminary students, most of these guys probably got what knowledge of Mormonism they had from counter-cult sources. “He can still go to the celestial kingdom, their highest heaven,” I said, “But he can’t achieve godhood.”

    I wasn’t really prepared for what came next. There were a lot of surprised exclamations from the other students. “Wow,” said the student I was talking to, “He must really love you.” He went on to say, half-jokingly, that he had thought moving to Detroit for his wife was quite the sacrifice. But giving up the highest level of heaven, he said, now that’s love.

    My LDS friends tell me that the temple liturgy of the creation story is a bit different from the biblical account. That in it, Adam has the option of not eating the fruit and falling from the Garden, but he does so deliberately so as not to be separated from Eve. I guess my husband is more like the LDS Adam than I had ever realized.

    I suppose my only point in sharing this is that if believing Mormons can put such a negative spin on what interfaith marriage is, surely they can put a positive spin on it.

  28. He can still go to the celestial kingdom, their highest heaven, I said, But he cant achieve godhood.

    The second part is certainly true, but I’m not sure about the first part. I remember too many lessons in which we were told that marrying outside the temple automatically excluded one from any and all of the celestial kingdom.

    But I agree, Ms. Jack, that from what you’ve said, your husband seems to really love you, and that you are lucky to have found such a devoted spouse. It’s very cool.

  29. re 28:

    Yep, it’s great stuff. *passes over*.

    re 29:

    Holly, I was interested in something you had said…

    The implication behind Seths comments is a fairly common one: Mormons have beliefs which much be respected; post-Mormons do not have beliefs; instead, they have the absence of beliefs, and the absence of belief, by virtue of its being an absence, need not be respected.

    I think this arises because of how some of us (well, me in particular, I know) argue. So, I guess I feel a little bit guilty. In arguing about atheism (which, I know that all post-mormons aren’t atheist and that this isn’t necessarily a great analogy), I point out that atheism itself doesn’t necessitate a package of beliefs, but instead simply a nonbelief. So, I might say something like, “Atheists, in their role as atheists, do not have beliefs. The only necessity is that they do not believe in gods.”

    However, what I would turn around and say though is that no one is *just* an atheist. Rather, people do have worldviews that flesh out an entire belief system. It’s just that, because whichever worldview a person picks is not necessary for atheism, if you’re looking at the “macro” level (e.g., just “atheists”), then there is little commonality.

    I’d think I’d argue similarly for postmormonism. Postmormons – in our ‘role’ as postmormons, don’t necessitate a package of beliefs. So, you can be post-mormon and have nearly any set of beliefs you want. We are kept in common by our disaffiliation/disbelief (ok, well, I guess it can really be hairy as to what exactly post-Mormon is defined as) from Mormonism.

    But I don’t think that postmormonism (or atheism) should be disregarded because they are “lacks” or “are nots” or “disaffiliations.” Rather, I think that the specific absence of beliefs/actions/ideologies that postmormonism may imply *should* still be respected, separate from whatever beliefs I have instead. Even though I have different beliefs (this is true), I’d still argue that it doesn’t follow that my lack of belief (in Mormonism), because it is a lack of belief, need not be respected. Regardless of and separate from whatever I am now, I think that my not believing in Mormonism should be respected (and accepted) on its own.

    it’s possible i didn’t think that through. But I don’t think it follows that an absence of belief, by virtue of it being an absence, need not be respected.

  30. its possible i didnt think that through. But I dont think it follows that an absence of belief, by virtue of it being an absence, need not be respected.

    I don’t think so either–if I did, I wouldn’t classify myself as a skeptic. I’m not claiming this view as my own; I’m interpreting and stating a view I see in others about my world view. A respect for ignorance and uncertainty, is, I would say, a belief, and one typically embraced by skeptics and atheists.

    But I think that to a lot of people who view atheism and skepticism as simply a rejection of their beliefs, there’s no there there, and nothing for them to respect. To too many TBM’s, we are all, necessarily and as a matter of course, just a bunch of nihilists, necessarily, because we no longer actively believe in what they consider positive beliefs.

    Perhaps it helps if I specify a difference between belief and religious belief. A belief in science is a belief. A belief in evolution is a belief. A belief in the necessity of taking responsible care for the planet is a belief. A belief in our obligation as human beings to cultivate ethics and justice is a belief. They’re not religious beliefs, necessarily (though some might argue that they are–and argue it as an accusation and an insult as recently happened to me in a discussion Facebook). I don’t hold many beliefs that most people would consider “religious,” though in some ways I think they are. But the fact that these beliefs are NOT religious to people who are more conventionally religious than I am, does not also render them “not beliefs,” in addition to being “not religious.”

    Does that make more sense?

  31. p.s. there is probably also an issue of semantics and personal preference involved. Generally speaking, I choose not to say, “I don’t believe in a personal god” and instead say, “I believe there is no such thing as a personal god.” It’s a negative statement as far as “god” is concerned, but a positive statement of my beliefs.

  32. re 33:

    Holly,

    A respect for ignorance and uncertainty, is, I would say, a belief, and one typically embraced by skeptics and atheists.

    I guess I can see what you’re saying here…but I’d point out that even if this respect is typically embraced, I still don’t think it is a necessary condition. So, still, I don’t think that this is what it boils down (e.g., “respect my belief in a respect for uncertainty”)

    If we ignored everything else, it shouldn’t matter if someone thinks that we are nihilists with respect to their beliefs. It’s not as if “nothing” cannot be respected. It’s not as if “nihilism” cannot be respected. That’s really the point I’m making. That many people don’t recognize this is tragic, but I’d rather argue for respecting “nihilism” (with respect to what they consider positive views) IN ADDITION TO asserting that I have positive views.

    For example, I am agreeable to the principles of science (sounds weird to phrase it as ‘believe in’ science or ‘believe in’ evolution, but I can go with these). However, I don’t confuse that with my atheism or my skepticism, and I think that if I lead someone to believe that my atheism is reducible to my valuation of science, then I do a disservice to science (“that evil darwinism is ATHEEEIIISSSTTT.”) Even though I have beliefs in taking responsible care of the planet, this is not what I am referring to when I say “atheism” or “skeptic” or “post-Mormon.”

    I mean, I get your point. I just think I’m arguing a separate point. For example, if I’m arguing in a role as an atheist, I’m going to point out, “Atheism doesn’t give me a code of ethics, etc.,” But if people presume that I don’t have any code of ethics because I’m an atheist (or as you say, if people presume I have no beliefs whatsoever just because I don’t have conventionally religious or conventionally theistic beliefs), I’m going to point out, “No. Being an atheist is only a part of who I am. As a (insert position here…maybe secular humanist, who knows), I have x, y, z ethical positions. I have these positions regarding science, reason, etc.,” But talking about my positive beliefs, I think, is different than talking about my atheism, and I find it important to address both issues.

  33. re 34

    Holly,

    Yeah, I think here’s a big difference. I perceive a distinction between saying “I do not believe in a personal god” and “I believe there is no such thing as a personal god.” I say the former, because I am speaking about my psychological state (or rather, a lack thereof in a particular issue). So, I modify the “believe” part. On the other hand, I feel that if I were to modify the assertion part, then I’d be making more of a statement about the external universe than I really am (e.g., there is no such thing as a personal god.)

    I don’t think I have the tools to ascertain if there is such a thing as a personal god or not, and I do not identify with the arguments that would allow me or anyone to positively believe that there is not one. But I *do* have all the tools I need to ascertain my psychological state regarding such a concept, and I can say that I don’t believe there is one.

  34. I’ve brought some Diet Coke, if anyone is interested… ***fills cups*** I’ve got some stronger stuff, too, if you prefer.

  35. and saying that “I believe there is no such thing as a personal god” is still a statement about my psychological and intellectual state; it is not the same as saying, “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no such thing as a personal god.” I am capable of identifying what I believe, and I am willing to make positive statements of my beliefs, even when they are beliefs that something does not exist.

    I also believe that there is no such thing as leprechauns, Santa Claus, balrogs, or talking billy goats. And I am impatient with anyone who tells me that I don’t have the tools to positively “believe” that these things are myths, though I might not be able to affirm with complete certainty that I KNOW that they don’t exist.

  36. re 39:

    Holly, I agree. I was pretty sloppy with what I was saying…beliefs all represent psychological and intellectual states (that differ from knowledge), but what I was trying to point out was the difference between modifying the action (e.g., believe or not believe) and modifying the assertion or content (there is a god or there is no god). Saying “not believe” just changes the action, but keeping believe and changing the assertion to “God is not real” or “There is no god” changes the proposition up for question.

    I’m not going to say you don’t have the tools to positively ‘believe’ that the things you listed are myths, anymore than I wouldn’t say that anyone who believes that these things do exist don’t have the tools. Obviously, they do. (Because belief is a psychological, internal state.)

    This is now a bit of a different topic, but with Santa Claus in particular, I’d take a different approach. The North Pole (AND the true source of Christmas toys) is pretty accessible to humanity. Santa Claus as a North Pole residing entity can be nullified, unless he is quite a bit more magical than we thought. I am not so sure about a deity, considering the scope of the universe, although the lack of evidence so far doesn’t persuade me to believe in such an elusive entity.

  37. I was pretty sloppy with what I was sayingbeliefs all represent psychological and intellectual states (that differ from knowledge), but what I was trying to point out was the difference between modifying the action (e.g., believe or not believe) and modifying the assertion or content (there is a god or there is no god). Saying not believe just changes the action, but keeping believe and changing the assertion to God is not real or There is no god changes the proposition up for question.

    I think I have finally managed, after six or seven readings, to decipher what you are trying to say….

    and now I must say, “No duh; thanks for echoing my point.” Yes. I am quite well aware that there is a difference between saying “I believe” and “I do not believe.” I believe that is the point I was making. I grant you the right to frame your epistemology in a way that is authentic to you; I claim the same right. Saying, “I believe there is no such thing as a personal god” is the most accurate, intellectually and morally responsible way I can frame my ideas about reality. As my comment @34 makes clear, I understand that framing my assessment of reality this way is not the same as saying, “I do not believe in a personal god.”

    This is not the first time, Andrew, that you have struggled to express an idea I expressed much earlier in a thread, as if I was unaware of the primary point I was trying to make. It gets old after a while. Please stop. Please do not waste my time or yours repeating back to me, in a much longer form, what I have already said, as if I were unable to think of it myself.

  38. Seth, Im pretty sure that Alan was kidding since one can hardly be TBM and be in a same-sex relationship.

    Hehe, yeah. Apparently that got lost somehow. I’m not sure that I understand Seth’s reaction, actually.

  39. Im not sure that I understand Seths reaction, actually.

    I think he missed the word “same-sex” in your comment, and then took your comment at face value (and thought you were seriously claiming that it’s always the TBM’s fault when an interfaith relationship fails).

  40. Seth is right, of course, that RfM is a community that encourages dysfunctional behavior. I understand that a lot of it is the result of frustrations but there have got to be better ways of dealing with that.

  41. The best way to deal with a demand for a temple marriage is to actually read D&C 132. Usually, Mormons merely have a general conference but not a scriptural understanding of the new and everlasting covenant.

  42. Several of my peers have never gotten married because they would not want to get married outside the temple. Instead, they have been leading a life in loneliness while there would have been gentile mates available who were not any more defective than Mormon men and women.

  43. chanson @49: If Andrew is going to think about it, he could write something like, “Hmm, I’m going to think about that” instead of @44, “Brrrrr! So icyyyyyyyy.”

    I suppose it’s not “necessary to escalate the conflict,” but I don’t suppose it’s necessary to write things like *Reaches for popcorn* either.

    If not just out-and-out naming-calling but even snark violates MSP’s policy on civil discourse, you can state that, and you can also chastise everyone who is guilty of it.

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