two interesting news items – Mormon’s Secret and Maxwell Institute shake up

Apologetics

Not sure if you’ve heard, but all you ex-mo’s out there missing your “super sexy” garments can now get them without the requisite temple recommend. www.mormonssecret.com has recreated them, symbols included. I’m tempted to buy some of these for my wife for role-playing:

(I kid, of course. Nothing sexy about these, despite the picture. And my wife hated garments.)

Second news item: Everyone’s favorite apologist to hate – Daniel Peterson – has been given the ax. Apparently his ad hominem attacks went too far when he was involved with a 100-page tirade against John Dehlin. Dehlin, who has, amazingly, managed to stay on the border of Mormonism longer than I ever would have imagined possible, has friends in high places. One phone call later and Daniel Peterson was out the door on his keister as editor of The Mormon Studies Review. So long, Daniel. Can’t say we’ll miss you!

110 thoughts on “two interesting news items – Mormon’s Secret and Maxwell Institute shake up

  1. I find it telling Suzanne that when a an ex-Mormon is pontificating about how misguided “TBMs” are, it’s “courageous,” “necessary,” and “thoughtful.”

    But when a Mormon says the same thing about an ex-Mormon, it’s suddenly “cruelty masquerading as enlightenment.”

  2. You expect that to pass without objection?

    Not necessarily. If you think Kuri’s comment was outside the bounds of civil discourse, you are welcome to say so, and give your reasons. If you think his comment was acceptably civil and constructive, and you respond to it in a civil and constructive way, that’s fine too.

    I’m not trying to scold or punish — I’m just trying to encourage people to be clear.

  3. No, I didn’t think his comment was outside the bounds of civil discourse.

    Nor do I think mine was – either here or on the other thread you alluded to. My comment here was appropriate in response to what was being said.

    Taryn, on the other hand represents the sort of hate-speech you often find in corners of the ex-Mormon online world. I don’t lump Kuri in with her.

  4. Taryn, on the other hand represents the sort of hate-speech you often find in corners of the ex-Mormon online world.

    This does not help us get the discussion back onto a civil and constructive track.

  5. chanson
    Regarding your comment #49
    Suppose there was a pedestrian who walked most everywhere, and they kept getting run over by cars.
    in an attempt to help with pedestrian safety, the city installed crosswalks. However there were some drivers, who with their lofty intellect, proclaimed that in their whole driving history they had never seen a crosswalk, and so rather than wanting to safely crossing the street, pedestrians were only flipping the bird to drivers. And the effrontery of the pedestrian in denting the car with their body.
    Now suppose the pedestrian went for a stroll down a peaceful plaza and there’s that car again. I imagine a few impolite forceful words.
    And since I’m pontificating, — Ridicule, no matter how much thought was but into the belittlement, is not lucid, rational thought.
    Which is where I entered the discussion.

  6. Suzanne — I already agreed with you on the theory. My question was What specifically did Seth say that was out-of-bounds? What was out-of-bounds about it?

  7. Chanson
    While this is colored by past exchanges, what I focused in on was this specific heartfelt comment by Taryn Fox–“Because thats exactly what Jesus did, was preach rational thought and disdain for the suffering that your actions hurt.”

    Followed by very dismissive piece of contempt, “Thats exactly the sort of lucid, rational thought I was talking about.”

    I may not approve of someone emotionally crying at their mother’s funeral. But no matter how intellectually outraged I am, I wouldn’t approve of me ridiculing their tears. Eventually someone is going to get testy and tell me to eff off.

  8. I focused in on was this specific heartfelt comment by Taryn Fox […] Followed by very dismissive piece of contempt

    Cool, so you have explained what sparked your comment. Now all we need is for Taryn clarify what sparked hers.

    Chanson, are we inviting continued discussion of this exchange?

    If Taryn would like to explain her comment, she is welcome to do so. If she doesn’t want to, that’s fine too. Unless/until she does, as far as I’m concerned, no further meta-discussion is necessary.

  9. I think quite a lot about apologetics. Kuri and Seth R. seem to be at the impasse that I find myself whenever I think through arguments about the validity of LDS theology (or politics or whatever else). Both sides seem to believe there is something inhibiting the other side from seeing things correctly. I think the something probably would be one’s conclusions (or perhaps another form of bias?). Or at least the something can only be identified by the conclusions one comes to.

    So Seth R. says it is Kuri’s disbelief and ex-hood that prevents him from correctly using logic to think through the BOM’s historicity. Kuri says Seth R.’s belief prevents him from correctly making conclusions about data (calling Seth R. a denialist in his blog post if I read that correctly).

    So two conflicting ideas remain presently unresolved. And it seems that both sides would be convinced that their opponent’s biases weren’t influencing their opponent’s conclusions only if the opponent’s conclusion changed.

    So how does either side get around that? Is there a reasoning process that both sides could agree to that would mitigate the biases they see in each other?

  10. muucavwon,

    I think we get into a vicious spiral on these things where we think:

    “You attacked my mental competency, so I’m going to attack you back”

    Then the other side responds the same way, and we go back and forth endlessly until neither of us even remembers who started with the insults. Maybe the same thing happened with Dan Peterson and those who debated with him over on MDB.

  11. Then the other side responds the same way, and we go back and forth endlessly until neither of us even remembers who started with the insults.

    Sure, but then is it any wonder why Peterson was dismissed? The FARMS crew has been giving Mormon apologetics a bad, unprofessional name for the last 20 years. The Church decided to do some last minute housecleaning before this election cycle.

    I don’t think the Maxwell Institute is done with apologetics, since in my mind, “apologetics” simply refers to “insider” intellectual work, and church scholarship will always have an “inside.” Maybe, though, institutionally supported apologetics are going to have a bigger inside, which is good. I’m not sure what consequences this will have on BoM scholarship. Maybe the Church feels it’s big/powerful enough now that the Book of Mormon is no longer in danger, so it doesn’t feel a need to keep bullies in place to defend it.

  12. I guess that since I’ve made certain insinuations about Seth’s mind, I should explain myself better. I find his thinking fascinating and worthy of comment precisely because he’s obviously not a dummy. Reading almost any of his comments aptly demonstrates his intelligence. Plus, he has an advanced degree and works in an intellectual profession. So, no, of course he doesn’t find Mopologetic arguments compelling because he’s stupid. But why does he? That’s a question that still fascinates me.

    I should add that I don’t expect everyone who evaluates the evidence properly to necessarily come to the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is “false” or a work of fiction or whatever. I only expect them to see that the case made by mainstream archaeology and so on is infinitely stronger than the purely secular case for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I always recognized that, even as a believer and even before I saw the parallels between apologetics and retconning. But enormously improbable things are sometimes true; the Book of Mormon could be one of them.

    I used to believe it was; I don’t anymore. That’s changed, but, again, my view of the (obvious) strengths of the relatives cases is unchanged from the time when I was a believer.

  13. Alan, do you have any particular evidence that “the church” decided to do housecleaning here? Also, I would note that the Catholic church doesn’t consider itself big enough and important enough that it doesn’t have any place for apologetics. So it seems unlikely that the LDS Church is getting rid of it either.

    Kuri, I guess it’s just that I don’t see the existing archeological evidence as providing a counter-narrative to what is in the Book of Mormon in the first place. For instance, unless you are suggesting we know how the word “Zarahemla” looks in Mayan – how would we even know what we were looking at in the first place?

  14. Seth, I said @62 that I don’t think the Institute (or the Church, for that matter) is turning away from apologetics; rather, they’re turning from the way Mormon apologetics has been conducted over the last many years under the FARMS guys. If a field called “Mormon Studies” is going to be something studied beyond BYU (which is increasingly the case), then a publication called the “Mormon Studies Review” put out by BYU has to have a less bullying/insular tone. FARMS is out of its element when it has to review non-Mormon scholarship of Mormonism; historically its focus has been on “defending” the Church from ex’s and internal problems, which were issues for the Church particularly in the 90s and when FARMS was asked/forced to join BYU in 1997. And with its focus on “defense,” FARMS has developed a reputation for being mean-spirited and polemic — other reason those guys have to go.

    From what I’ve read, there was GA involvement in the decision to bring FARMS to BYU, including as high as Hinckley. Packer has has said good things about their work over the years, too. Now that the same folks are being dismissed 15 years later, I find it highly unlikely that Bradford would wield that much power without also having GA backing — maybe not from anyone in the Twelve, or maybe so. Either way, this seems to me like obvious housecleaning.

  15. @61: Seth maybe faith is what you need for the little things, but for the BIG things you better have science, too. I doubt that I would step into a flying machine without knowing that the inventor had worked out all the science and engineering and that the passengers weren’t going to have faith that it would fly.

    I doubt that you would trust the births of all of your children (assuming you have a family) to a friend off the street just because he/she was a good person.

    If you believe your life (and eternal one, at that) is a big enough issue that an organization PROMISES you they have the one and true path, why would you take it on face value alone? Maybe you do. Hey, that’s okay but some people don’t. Some people find the scientific evidence compelling enough to think that maybe the ones claiming TRUTH are banking on the faith argument to keep the church afloat. That’s cool, too.

  16. Nah, actually science is a very lousy reason for doing anything important.

    Because science has no ability to say “should.” It’s merely descriptive – and therefore next to useless in deciding anything actually important.

  17. Should, to me, seems to be a descriptive word. It describes an outcome when all other conditions are in place. In Mormonism, if you are a good person and follow the tenets of Mormonism you ‘should’ go to heaven…etc. If you feel good when you attend a Mormon church then you ‘should’ continue to go. If your argument does not hold water you ‘should’ change it, ‘should’ you feel like it.

    On the one hand, you say that the feeling of ‘should’ outweighs what science has to say on anything important. On the other hand, TBM people who stay say that the feeling belonging to the people who feel they ‘should’ leave is erroneous and only based on a feeling of being offended or needing to sin. It can’t be both ways, IMO.

  18. Nah, actually science is a very lousy reason for doing anything important.

    Because science has no ability to say should. Its merely descriptive and therefore next to useless in deciding anything actually important.

    Once you’ve decided what goals/outcomes you value (eg. diminishing suffering in the world, maintaining an environment that can sustain human life), Science will give you the information you need to help you get there. Religion is useless for deciding what you “should” do unless you happen to value the goals of your particular religion (eg. obedience to your particular God).

  19. I just read–skimmed, actually–a piece saying that the GAs are quietly purchasing property and digging caves, and storing canned goods, in preparation for some impending something or another. If I were really interested in whether that is true or not, I could do one of two things. I could, with a sincere heart, pray, knowing that the Lord would manifest the truthfulness of it unto me. Or I could seek tangible, concrete evidence that would confirm or not that the piece was an accurate representation of an actual event.

    For me and my house, we choose the evidence route.

  20. Parker, you would still have to get beyond the merely descriptive facts and apply normative value to the information before you decided you felt about the GAs actions. It’s true enough that science can provide useful information once you have your own set of goals you got from somewhere else.

    But let’s not maintain the fantasy that science tells us to do things. And let’s keep in mind that the majority of things we believe in, and the majority of decisions we make every day, are made without a lot of scientific backing or analysis.

    The person who demands sufficient scientific backing for everything she determines every day would be a psychopath.

  21. Seth, I don’t find your description of science very accurate.

    Are you telling me they are people on the planet who want lung cancer?

    See, if science doesn’t tell us what we “should” do, only how to do what we want to do, then why do scientists say things like, don’t smoke cigarettes?

    You’re drawing a line between the “is” and “ought” as though it is a clear, definitive, well-demarcated line. That isn’t an accurate depiction of science. There are no scientists currently working on the best way to increase the spread of lung cancer to the greatest number of people or how to make lung cancer as severe as possible or how to stop people from curing lung cancer. Collectively, we all agree that lung cancer is bad. Science, therefore, is working to prevent and cure it. The “is” and “ought” are interlinked. And that is science.

    Also, your assertion that, “the majority of decisions we make every day, are made without a lot of scientific backing or analysis” is also inaccurate. I make all of my decisions every day based on science. Science is a method for interacting with the natural world. Just because I’m not using peer-reviewed publications to tell me how to mow my lawn doesn’t mean I’m using faith. I’m using science because I am determining a clear way to interact with the grass in my yard using a lawn mower. No supernatural entities are being invoked. And I have decades of past experience indicating this is how lawns get mowed. I don’t pray for my grass to get cut. I don’t believe, without any prior evidence, that moving a metallic object with a whirring blade over my lawn will make the grass shorter. I’ve done it before (far too many times) and know what will happen. That is science, not faith.

  22. Faith is all the reason you need.

    For all sorts of things.

    I can totally see why a lawyer would say that.

    Faith is all the reason you need to charge someone with a crime, convict them of it, and punish them for it. Faith is all you need to decide who is the culpable party in a civil law suit.

    Evidence, sound reasoning, distinguishing inference from proof–none of that really matters at all in the whole business. Faith–especially the unshakable kind–that one person or set of people is/are telling the truth is all the reason you need to make a conclusive decision and act on it. Science isn’t used at all to evaluate legal evidence.

    And even if you have evidence and use science to evaluate it, it doesn’t matter, because evidence doesn’t tell you what you should do in legal proceedings. For that, you rely entirely on faith.

    I’m sure Seth’s legal colleagues will agree with him on that. Their faith would tell them that they should totally respect and admire him if he were to express opinions like that at a bar convention.

    At least, I have faith that that’s what would happen, and that’s all the reason I need for saying it and trying to get everyone else to believe it’s true.

  23. Actually, the legal system is profoundly grounded in faith in the social contract and trust in our governmental systems. And it can be quite fragile and easy to undermine.

  24. profxm, if a scientist tells you not to smoke cigarettes, he is making a moral proscription and not a scientific observation.

    There are usually two parts to scientific research papers. First, the scientific data where scientists record the results of a tested hypothesis. The second part is where they make suggestions for implementation and perhaps observations of wider social impact and what should be done with the data.

    The science is in the first part. But atheists regularly apply the same weight of the first part to the second. But the second part is not “science” per se.

    It’s rather sloppy thinking to conflate the two.

  25. Seth, I respectfully disagree. Again, you are drawing an artificial line. There is no reason that science cannot speak to what we “should” do. Why must there be a hard line between the “is” and “ought” questions?

    I understand what you’re trying to say. You’re saying “science” answers the “is” questions while “something else” answers the “ought” questions. But I don’t think it is that clear cut. You can call that “sloppy” but I don’t think that is an accurate characterization. As my earlier example illustrated, no scientists are trying to increase incidents of lung cancer or make it worse. Thus, the “ought” has been decided. In that case, the science is all about decreasing incidents of lung cancer. In essence, the “is” and “ought” are the same thing.

    I don’t see that as sloppy. I see that as a more accurate understanding of science.

  26. @75 — This is the point I was kind of wondering about as well. Seth, you’re a lawyer. You know that some types of evidence are admissible in a court of law, some aren’t, and why. So I don’t see why there’s this confusion over what Kuri means when he says that evidence in favor of the existence of Zarahemla is lacking.

  27. profxm, it is sloppy thinking.

    Something isn’t “science” just because a scientist said it – no matter what context he said it in.

    Just like when I remarked to my wife yesterday that it was probably going to rain – that wasn’t law, even though a lawyer was saying it.

    When a scientist talks about things we should do with the science, we have gone beyond the science and are now talking social policy. A scientist can note smoking is correlated with lung cancer. But that doesn’t get us all the way there. That doesn’t mean that the conclusion – you shouldn’t smoke is now “scientific.” It’s a moral judgment based on what we value in life.

    Science can provide data on which to make moral judgments, but it is not a source of moral judgments.

    Chanson, the evidence is also lacking for a great deal of crimes that have been committed in the US that nonetheless happened. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I was noting that Kuri was talking about a categorical topic to which his observations that “there’s not much evidence” simply were not applicable. The evidence could be lying all over the Yucatan in plain sight with archeologists cataloging it routinely – and we wouldn’t know it unless we were looking at it in the proper framework. Theories and hypotheses often drive how you define the evidence at hand. There’s nothing wrong with this. It often results in a lot of good scientific work, actually.

  28. Actually, the legal system is profoundly grounded in faith in the social contract and trust in our governmental systems.

    So what? Doesn’t at all obviate the need for evidence and the obligation to distinguish between inference and fact.

    And it can be quite fragile and easy to undermine.

    Really? wow. That’s SHOCKING. Seems like something as necessary as faith, something we rely on so much, something that is “all you need” for so many things, would be really resilient.

    You know what would help with that? You know what would make our faith in the social contract more robust and harder to undermine? A SENSE THAT PEOPLE WHO MAKE DECISIONS GROUND THEM IN THINGS LIKE EVIDENCE AND SOUND REASONING INSTEAD OF JUST FAITH. A SENSE THAT INFORMATION CAN BE VERIFIED, AND THAT WHEN “FACTS” ARE PROVEN WRONG, PEOPLE ADJUST THEIR BELIEFS AND ACTIONS TO ACCOMMODATE NEW, ACCURATE INFORMATION.

    Is there a reason were all posting in italics now?

    Probably. And probably faith is all we need to figure it the source of the problem and fix it. Or to tell us if we even “should” fix it. Hey, faith: is this really a problem? “should” we fix it?

  29. (probably the whole italics everything was engineered as a miracle by the fsm to teach us all an object lesson, if we have humility enough to learn it. At least, that’s what I think, and I’m the one who ushered it in, so I claim status as the italic prophetess.)

  30. Chanson, the evidence is also lacking for a great deal of crimes that have been committed in the US that nonetheless happened. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Right, but Kuri was not claiming to have a proof that it didn’t happen. He was (correct me if I’m wrong) wondering why you don’t recognize the difference between having evidence in favor of a given proposition and not having evidence in favor of the proposition.

  31. Chanson, the evidence is also lacking for a great deal of crimes that have been committed in the US that nonetheless happened. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Though you have to have some evidence in the first place to even make the inference that a crime might have been committed. A corpse, for instance, with bullet wounds in it. But even that doesn’t PROVE that a crime was committed. George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. But was it a crime? Well, he invoked a law that says he didn’t. We have faith in our legal institutions, so it seems likely that what George Zimmerman did was AOK.

    Faith is totally all you need to figure this one out. Faith will completely tell you what you “should” do.

    Because faith and science are all there are. They are in total opposition to each other, and they never communicate. Logic and emotion are never colored by or color either. The ways human beings understand the world are completely divisible, discrete, and distinct.

    And when the “faith” of individuals is in conflict–well, that’s easy: you ask Seth R. to decide.

    I do like this whole legal thing, since it seems very appropriate to compare the Book of Mormon to a crime.

    But sometimes the crime is that someone broke into your house and stole your TV and guns, and sometimes the crime is that you faked the crime for your own benefit. You look for what tells the most coherent story. Coherence helps determine the context you end up placing things in.

    Not that it matters, since faith is all you need when it comes to the BOM. Faith is all anyone needs to determine that Joseph Smith was a liar and anyone who believes his lies is willfully self-deceived and intent on deceiving others.

    Anyone who says otherwise lacks faith.

  32. Holly, I get the feeling that the more I respond to you, the more sarcastic and aggressive you’re going to get. You’ve been gradually escalating for the past few comments.

    Should I stop responding?

  33. Holly, I get the feeling that the more I respond to you, the more sarcastic and aggressive youre going to get. Youve been gradually escalating for the past few comments.

    Should I stop responding?

    First of all, I would point out that @87 is your first response to me. Anything you say on this thread is fair game for commentary by anyone, regardless of exactly whom you respond to. (That’s one of those accuracy/sound logic points.) If you make statements people find dubious, they get to say that, regardless of what you do or don’t do in response.

    So the question is really whether you continue to engage on this thread at all. And on that point, in order to figure out what you “should” do, you’ll have to rely on your ability to gather and interpret evidence and then make decisions based on it that, in conjunction with your personal comfort with risk, reward and other factors, seem most likely to produce the outcome you want.

    Unless, of course, you just want to rely on faith, whatever that means.

    Come to think of it, it might be nice if you defined faith clearly. I can no longer take it on faith that I really know what you’re saying when you write

    Faith is all the reason you need.

    For all sorts of things.

    Please clarify. How is faith in and of itself (which of course is what you mean, since you didn’t write “faith supported by reason and logic and evidence and experience”) “all the reason you need for all sorts of things”?

  34. p.s. How I respond to you, Seth, might be strongly influenced by how you respond in general. Making statements that don’t come off as glib, disingenuous, and dismissive might go a long way in discouraging responses you find aggressive and sarcastic.

  35. p.p.s. Looking back at the thread, I do of course realize that I was wrong in @88, when I wrote “First of all, I would point out that @87 is your first response to me.” He responds to me in @77.

    I could create a Sethian argument in which “response” means “only a direct address in which you use the name of the person you’re addressing,” but it’s easier just to admit that I was completely wrong.

    Being wrong there, however, does not invalidate my next point:

    Anything you say on this thread is fair game for commentary by anyone, regardless of exactly whom you respond to.

    And so what you must decide, Seth, is not just how you respond to me, but how you respond to the question itself, since that is part of what determines how I respond to you.

  36. Hmm..

    Perhaps.

    Anyway, I should clarify – no one makes decisions completely without evidence. Just about everything we do has some evidence behind it. The real question is the level of evidence you are going to demand for different things.

    For example, no one demands that I understand the details of shoe manufacture and how to judge the structural integrity of a shoelace before I stop to tie my shoes. But then again, that’s a rather trivial example where the consequences aren’t that bad one way or the other.

    But when I board a plane, the consequences get a bit more serious. Is it going to fly through the air and land where I want to go or not? Yet this is also a decision we make without putting a lot of thought into it. Almost none of us really understand how a jet liner aircraft works. None of us have any way to personally verify whether the pilot is competent. We operate on a profound lack of evidence every time answer the boarding call in the terminal. Mostly we just take it on trust that other people know what they are doing. Few people really agonize about boarding a plane these days. It’s largely based on faith that the assurances being given to us are legit.

    So the question really becomes one about what amount of evidence you really need before you buying into the Mormon paradigm and start to take things on faith.

    Personally, I feel like I have enough evidence.

    It’s just that I recognize that faith is a big component. And I often feel that critics of Mormonism are demanding a degree of evidence that is not reasonable or warranted for the subject. It’s one thing when they say they don’t have enough evidence to be convinced themselves. It’s entirely another when they try to assert that I don’t have enough evidence to be reasonably convinced.

  37. So the question really becomes one about what amount of evidence you really need before you buying into the Mormon paradigm and start to take things on faith.

    Fine.

    I hope you will admit that that is not at all what you said above–that in fact what you said above is both inaccurate and inadequate.

    And I often feel that critics of Mormonism are demanding a degree of evidence that is not reasonable or warranted for the subject.

    Huh. How much evidence “reasonable or warranted” for deliberately buying into an entire belief system that shapes your view of the present, your view of the afterlife, many of your priorities, many of your relationships, what you wear, what you eat, and what you do on Sunday, just for starters?

    Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

    Its entirely another when they try to assert that I dont have enough evidence to be reasonably convinced.

    I think it’s more a matter of respect. You don’t have enough evidence for me to respect your conviction. Of course I respect your right to be convinced: I just don’t respect the evidence, the thought processes, or the decisions that inhabit the same universe as your conviction.

    Of course, you have the right not to respect anyone else’s lack of conviction, and you make it quite clear that you don’t, indeed, respect that lack. But you won’t be particularly surprised when your own convictions aren’t met with the deference you reserve for them, and you won’t be surprised when the lack of respect you feel for the community you have chosen to visit is met with a corresponding lack of respect for your particular mix of religious evidence and religious faith.

  38. I can see how the initial comment could be misleading. But it was also in response to what I took as a categorical denial that faith is useful for anything, and that “science is all you need.” So maybe we’re both talking past each other here.

    Incidentally, while I agree that Mormonism is a big commitment and requires compelling evidence, I don’t think its actually larger than a lot of other real life commitments we make on faith without comment. It’s important – but so are other things we aren’t demanding the same degree of evidence for.

    And on a completely tangential side-note – I no longer consider things like restrictions on what I eat wear, or do on Sunday to be all that significant anymore. It’s not much of a sacrifice really. Other things certainly are – but those aren’t what I would pick. For women, the dress code is a bigger deal. But I blame that more on the tyranny of our modern fashion industry and how it mistreats women than I blame it on the selections at your local LDS Distribution Center.

  39. I can see how the initial comment could be misleading.

    Dude. it wasn’t misleading. it was wrong and it contradicts what you really believe. Surely you can take responsibility for that, regardless of what anyone else said.

    I no longer consider things like restrictions on what I eat wear, or do on Sunday to be all that significant anymore.

    You might consider the distinct possibility that I chose those as examples precisely because they are trivial and mundane and in sharp contrast to things like “your view of the present, your view of the afterlife, many of your priorities, many of your relationships,” not because they are every bit as weighty as “your view of the present, your view of the afterlife, many of your priorities, many of your relationships.”

    Its important but so are other things we arent demanding the same degree of evidence for.

    Other things don’t make the same truth claims or offer the same rewards or threaten the same risks.

    My beliefs about the relative position of the sun and earth or the speed of light or the weight of the moon don’t have many implications for my eternal soul.

    If Mormonism is going to claim to be God’s one and only true church, and to provide the only means by which we can achieve eternal life and happiness, and tell people who reject it that they will receive some sort of eternal punishment, well, I think all three of those separate claims make it pretty damn reasonable to expect of Mormonism a greater burden of proof “than a lot of other real life commitments we make on faith without comment.”

    You are entitled to feel otherwise.

    I am entitled to withhold respect for your logic and your ethics if you do so, and think you’re a naive jerk if you get pissy and petulant when that respect is indeed withheld.

  40. @94 I was with you until that end bit, but I think this weakens your case:

    I am entitled to withhold respect for your logic and your ethics if you do so, and think youre a naive jerk if you get pissy and petulant when that respect is indeed withheld.

  41. I think this weakens your case

    Why?

    thinking that someone is a naive jerk if they do A & B is not the same as saying, “Hey, you’re a naive jerk!”

    Likewise, thinking that someone is deficient in logic and ethics is not the same thing as punishing and persecuting them for those deficiencies, no matter how much people cry “You’re an anti-Mormon and you’re discriminating against my freedom of religion!” any time someone critiques the church’s truth claims.

  42. No I think “misleading” is how I would characterize it.

    I didn’t mean the bit at the end to make it look like I was trivializing Mormonism’s importance. I wasn’t trying to say – oh, you guys are all over-dramatizing this or something like that. That’s why I labeled it as a tangent to my point.

    I think Mormonism is important, and requires a LOT from people. It’s why when I was in law school and a guy in my class asked me about converting to Mormonism for his girlfriend, I strongly advised him to reconsider. I emphasized how much work and demands are put on people in the church and how it requires a lot of life commitment and so forth. I think it can give you back just as much as it demands, but it’s not something to be pooh-poohed as trivial.

    But my point was that there are a lot of other crucially important decisions in life that we take on less evidence than we demand from Mormonism. Like boarding an aluminum cylinder to be launched into the stratosphere, or signing off on 100K in debt to go to college that may or may not pay off, or whether that Democrat/Republican guy on TV is going to ruin your kids’ future or not once you elect him president. Or…

    There are any number of things we take leaps of faith on without enough evidence. Things that I would rank up there in importance with Mormonism’s claims.

    Heck, as theologies go, Mormonism isn’t even that threatening. Basically everyone better than Cain-level goes to some version of heaven. It’s not exactly Southern Baptist Calvinism.

  43. If person A’s remarks towards person B are petulant or pissy, it will be that much more obvious whose position is stronger if person B’s remarks are beyond reproach when addressing (defeating?) person A’s case.

  44. Come to think of it….

    My decision to remain firmly active in the LDS Church has been a far, far, better investment and payout than my law degree was.

    Go figure…

  45. But my point was that there are a lot of other crucially important decisions in life that we take on less evidence than we demand from Mormonism.

    I understood your point. I agreed with it. It is useful to learn to recognize when someone agrees with you.

    Where we differed was that I was saying that we are right to–that we “should,” to use a term you employed earlier–require less evidence in evaluating certain other decisions that we demand from Mormonism.

    That is why I wrote, “I think all three of those separate claims make it pretty damn reasonable to expect of Mormonism a greater burden of proof ‘than a lot of other real life commitments we make on faith without comment.'”

    There are any number of things we take leaps of faith on without enough evidence. Things that I would rank up there in importance with Mormonisms claims.

    it’s good to know that you equate choosing a religion with joining a political party or deciding whether to board an airplane. that provides a great deal of context for how to interpret and evaluate your statements about religion.

    Heck, as theologies go, Mormonism isnt even that threatening. Basically everyone better than Cain-level goes to some version of heaven. Its not exactly Southern Baptist Calvinism.

    the fact that there are religions vastly inferior to and far nastier than Mormonism is not, in and of itself, a good reason to become a Mormon.

    My decision to remain firmly active in the LDS Church has been a far, far, better investment and payout than my law degree was.

    That is indeed remarkable, given that you imply that deciding to remain active in the LDS church is equal in weight and scope to deciding whether to get on a plane.

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