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Partial Transcript of John Dehlin’s A Thoughtful Faith interview…at Wheat & Tares

February 10, 2013

At this point, I’ve written something like three posts referring to the recent interviews with John Dehlin (at A Thoughtful Faith and cross-posted at Mormon Stories). I have at least one more post definitely planned, and I know I have material to make at least a couple more.

But if you haven’t listened to the interview, and you don’t have 3 hours to invest in your life to listening, then maybe you might consider reading a partial transcript at Wheat & Tares?

The transcript therein relates just to John’s comments on morality after faith crisis. They have been quite controversial in the various Facebook discussions I’ve seen about the interview, so I took all the comments and put them in one place so I could see what people who hadn’t listened to the interview thought.

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25 Comments
  1. This is a very interesting thing happening within the Mormon church. There is a new kind of Mormon. One who knows the history of Joseph Smith and money digging; one who knows of the many changes in documentation and doctrine. He is aware of Brigham Young and the teaching of Blood Atonement. (The slitting of a person’s throat in order to save his soul; lest he apostasize.) “But,” says this new kind of Mormon, “why not stay and be a part of something good.”
    It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ the church is, the foundation is unsound.

    • Just Judy,

      I guess for that “new kind of Mormon,” they are realizing that they cannot deny their positive experiences within the church. So, even if the positive experiences or progress that they’ve made in the church are not tied to the history, those experiences are still there to be reaped.

    • Seth R. permalink

      The problem is – you can only say that Mormonism looks particularly distasteful in a context of relative ignorance of how ALL human organizations, societies, and endeavors have played out.

      The flaws of Mormonism are not relatively all that bad once you are informed about the workings of humanity in its normal and usual state. The problem is that people in the modern context are not well-informed of these things. They don’t realize the dark side of all worthy organizations. They don’t realize that many of those that they revere – like the Sierra Club, or gay advocacy organizations, or the ACLU, or whatever (I’d be picking on conservative hobby horses if I thought most of the readers were actually Republicans) have their own dark underbelly, their own hypocrisies.

      In short, anger at Mormonism comes in a context of ignorant idealizing of other human movements and then unfairly asking why the LDS Church doesn’t measure up to the simplistic and incorrect perception of these other human movements.

      ALL human movements suck. And that includes Martin Luther King Jr’s march, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and UNICEF. Mormonism however is often the first organization that critics have bothered to investigate in any depth. So it had the misfortune of being the first organization they had their illusions broken with.

      But the truth is that Mormonism doesn’t suck any more than most other admired movements, and actually it sucks a lot LESS than many of them.

      • Seth,

        Most other organizations do not principally claim to be better than other organizations, such as by being the “one true church,” etc.,

        It’s not so much that the church is pretty much the same as other human organizations…it’s that it’s the same but it will not own up to that. That’s why ex-Mormon criticisms isn’t just that “the LDS church is bad” but that “the LDS church is not what it claims to be” or “the LDS church lies“.

        As far as “suck[ing] a lot LESS than many of them,” that is very obviously a subjective consideration. If you’re a person with the sort of life circumstances and privileges for whom the LDS church can work and provide a positive construct of meaning for you, then perhaps it does suck less, but for others, the flaws in the church that are perpetuated by it are real dealbreakers.

        Like…all organizations may fail, but they don’t all fail in the same way.

        • Seth R. permalink

          Answer below – to avoid the curse of threading comments.

  2. His quoted remarks are wrong in so many ways I can hardly begin to count them. But the absolute worst point is where he implies that he (and by projection, others) need(s) the church to convince him to value his marriage and stay with his wife.

    The problem is that women in the church are essentially given the message that they are nothing without a man. To be thanking the church for motivating him to stay with his wife when (left to his own devices) he might just dump her for all these other sexy ladies is about the cruelest message one can send. Sadly, a lot of women believe the messages too deeply to respond with “stay if this is what you truly want, but don’t do me any favors.” It reminds me of your post the other day about privilege. Please, go ahead and kick the person that the church has already knocked out for you.

  3. chanson,

    I’ve been pretty scarce on my current W&T post because I definitely plan to write a followup with my thoughts, but I definitely agree.

    I mean, the most sympathetic I can get is to possibly suggest that the way that someone gets to thinking like John is is because they have internalized too much of the church’s message and culture. But then the discussion becomes something more like how the church cripples its members when it comes to moral reasoning, and that conversation is also pretty scathing.

  4. I regret hitting send last night — I fear that I expressed my point rather incoherently. What I meant to say is this:

    One of my biggest pet peeves is religious people who make a big public announcement of how grateful they are to God and religion for making them stay with their spouse. Don’t they get how insulting that is to their spouse?! Don’t you love your spouse enough to value your marriage and family for their own sake, without needing God to hold up an extra carrot-and-stick?

    But then the discussion becomes something more like how the church cripples its members when it comes to moral reasoning, and that conversation is also pretty scathing.

    I haven’t seen that discussion, but you can’t say he didn’t ask for it. Given what he said, it’s hard to avoid that interpretation.

    note: I’m getting a lot of error messages. If this is a double comment, please delete the other one.

  5. chanson,

    I think I get what you’re saying. I have actually heard a variation of this argument from traditional marriage advocates in general — marriage between a man and a woman isn’t really something that you do for its own sake, because you want to, but because there are social pressures to do so, and that, like vegetables, being tied to a woman will improve the man’s life. Marriage is merely a *responsibility* or *obligation*.

    This is usually tied in with religious overtones too.

    Like, I just…don’t know. When I get into discussions about how people can be moral without religion/God, I sometimes get pretty down because to many people, morality is just an obligation posed onto them from outside.

  6. Gay Note permalink

    Andrew, First of all thank you for maintaining, from what I’ve seen so far, a very respectful blog. I’m 18 years out of the church but somewhat new to the ex-Mormon blog-world. I enjoy what I’ve read on your blog including the comments and discourse back and forth.

    I have not listened to the three hour interview; and likely won’t, so thank you for the excerpts. I left the church for many reasons; ten years of questioning and joining in intellectual discourse through Sunstone and other groups, as well as coming out at the age of 36 were some of the reasons. I remember BKP’s talk in General Conference like it was yesterday. He basically asked me to leave when he told me that I fit the description of, not one but, three of the ‘greatest enemies’ of the church. It was like a slap in the face as I sat in the chapel with my husband and three children trying so hard, in spite of my recent revelation of being gay, to stay in a loving marriage and raise my children in a ‘loving’ church. Now I say thank you to Mr. Packer for shining a light on all of the reasons I should not be sticking around. I found it difficult, no impossible, to stay in a community that deplored me and found me so repulsive. I did not want to be tolerated I wanted to be celebrated and it wasn’t going to happen in this church.

    I did experience a loss of faith, but instead of leading to perceived ‘immoral’ behaviors, it led me to greater happiness, greater wealth and a fulfilling and authentic life. I think that my life, and the way it has turned out, set a healthy example and gave permission to my three children to choose their own destinies and their own paths. All three of my children have ended up, as adults, questioning and leaving the church. None of them turned to ‘immoral’ behavior. They all took a lot of time and were very sincere in their process. I believe the strict teachings of the church and the brainwashing we endure as members of the church are what lead some people to swing to the opposite side of the morality scale. Fortunately I didn’t feel the need to do so. I did, however, feel the need to reconnect to something spiritual within me. There was a disconnect for me that needed to be reconnected. Once I found that part within me I felt happy and content. I continue down the road of learning and have picked up a lot of different beliefs along the way.

    If what John wants is to grow within the church then more power to him. For myself; I have never done well with dissonance or dichotomy. There’s no judgment; just the observation that some people can, and some people can’t, live with the dichotomy. As to my thoughts about his marriage; I hope he’s staying for all the right reasons. Many people, in and out of the church, question their marriage/relationships. I hope that John’s questioning led him to a greater love and appreciation of his wife and that he isn’t staying out of obligation or with regret. I hope through questioning and doubting he was able to reconstruct his marriage and will find fulfillment and happiness there. The fact that it takes the church to keep someone in their marriage is sad indeed. I hope that isn’t the case for John.

    Perhaps I’m not seeing John’s experience the same as a lot of folks do because I don’t know who he is. But it seems to me he thinks quite highly of himself as a ‘leader of men’. We all have a great responsibility for our actions and our words, I believe we all have influence and we need to know that what we put out into the world is our responsibility and our legacy. I respect John’s decision to return to church after reconstructing his faith and his marriage. But I would never do the same, I am fortunate to have come through my ‘dark night of the soul’ a stronger, happier and better person with all limbs attached. (Though there were definitely times I felt as though I was losing everything.)
    I hope that the Mormon Church, and so many others like it, evolve and become more honest, open and loving places. But at this point in my life there is no change great enough that would bring me back. My belief system and the conditions of my life have evolved and I don’t find it necessary to belong to a religious community. But I respect and understand the desire for some to do so. More power to him, it sounds like he will use his influence, his creative mind and all of his gifts to make change and progress within the church.

  7. GN,

    Thanks for the comment and for sharing your story!

  8. Seth R. permalink

    Actually I do consider the Church to be exceptional and in a different class than other organizations. My point was not that “they’re just like all the others.” Mormon history is an exceptional anomaly in many ways.

    My point was that the disillusionment that many feel with the LDS Church is actually little more than disillusionment with discovering the general human condition. It’s just that they are uninformed about the general human condition – so the think they’ve stumbled onto something unique in unearthing Mormonism’s problems.

    And yes – Mormonism is held to a higher standard. I’d actually say a double-standard. Mormonism is held to a standard that no other organization is held to.

    Like that stupid City Creek Mall whining.

    Not a single one of the self-righteous atheists who were screaming about City Creek would have given a damn if a local government had chosen to fund a mall with money that “could have gone to feed starving orphans.” They would have thought it was just another community betterment project that would hopefully revitalize the urban economy and create jobs and city revenues. No big deal.

    But when it’s a CHURCH – oh heavens no. Any money not spent for starving orphans is a waste of a church’s money and a sign of black-hearted corruption. Because when you are a church the ONLY thing you are allowed to do with money is feed starving orphans. End of story – period.

    And it does no good to say – “oh but governments don’t claim to be led by God.”

    No they don’t. But given that atheists don’t believe in God and tend to view government as a substitute for the role of church (abolish the churches, and put welfare with the government where it belongs)…. I have to say…. If atheists don’t have the same expectations of government, why don’t they?

    They should have the same expectations. In fact, they should have HIGHER expectations of government since the ideal they espouse is free of the inhibiting superstition of all this fairy-magic mumbo jumbo. Enlightened secular government ought to be BETTER than religion ever was. And if atheists aren’t shooting for that, then I have to say – I’m rather disappointed in them.

    It seems that this “well, my pet organization doesn’t claim to be led by God” is just another atheist way of saying “I don’t believe in anything, so I don’t have to be held accountable for anything.”

    It’s just a way of creating a moving target.

  9. Seth,

    You can’t have it both ways. If you want to say that the church is exceptional and is “in a different class than other organizations,” then you’re going to have problems if you say it is susceptible to “the general human condition.”

    And yes – Mormonism is held to a higher standard. I’d actually say a double-standard. Mormonism is held to a standard that no other organization is held to.

    Mormonism itself seeks to be held to a higher standard. Leaders themselves make the dichotomy — either (insert a statement about the church/some leader/the Book of Mormon/etc., being either divinely inspired) or (it is a fraud/lie/deception/whatever.) It’s kinda like the Liar/lunatic/Lord trilemma from CS Lewis — devout followers don’t want the possibility of “good, flawed, human” to be seriously considered.

    I mean, you act like Mormonism is held to a ridiculously high standard for no reason at all. No, disaffected Mormons are just listening to what the leaders tell them and believing them. You can say this is naive, or unrealistic, or whatever, but those are the terms by which the church itself speaks about itself.

    Not a single one of the self-righteous atheists who were screaming about City Creek would have given a damn if a local government had chosen to fund a mall with money that “could have gone to feed starving orphans.” They would have thought it was just another community betterment project that would hopefully revitalize the urban economy and create jobs and city revenues. No big deal.

    Because we already know that local governments are fully human enterprises — and more importantly, fully human enterprises with different roles and goals than churches. People would more often view the role of a local government to revitalize the urban economy, create jobs, and city revenues. Not so much for a church.

    Like, look at the basic difference between how tithes are perceived vs how taxes are perceived — and the role people view tithes for vs. taxes. Of course, you will have people who oppose how taxes are spent as well, but the sorts of things that people regard taxes as for is going to be different than for tithes.

    (Also, I think you’re definitely probably missing that many people would still be opposed to a government funding a mall — but perhaps on the basis that this is corporate welfare.)

    But when it’s a CHURCH – oh heavens no. Any money not spent for starving orphans is a waste of a church’s money and a sign of black-hearted corruption. Because when you are a church the ONLY thing you are allowed to do with money is feed starving orphans. End of story – period.

    No one says that a church can’t be a business. Just, if it’s a business, then we’re ought to have a very different relationship with it. Again, no one says you can’t be savvy with investments. But then people are going to point out that for an organization that claims to be Christian, Christ wasn’t a pro banker and wasn’t exactly friendly to those who were.

    Again, it’s all a matter of brand confusion. You want the church to be able to do whatever it wants…OK, but then you want to recognize it specially as a church. You can’t have it both ways.

    And it does no good to say – “oh but governments don’t claim to be led by God.”

    No they don’t. But given that atheists don’t believe in God and tend to view government as a substitute for the role of church (abolish the churches, and put welfare with the government where it belongs)…. I have to say…. If atheists don’t have the same expectations of government, why don’t they?

    They should have the same expectations. In fact, they should have HIGHER expectations of government since the ideal they espouse is free of the inhibiting superstition of all this fairy-magic mumbo jumbo. Enlightened secular government ought to be BETTER than religion ever was. And if atheists aren’t shooting for that, then I have to say – I’m rather disappointed in them.

    This reminds me of the argument that since atheists don’t believe in God, they can’t/shouldn’t believe that conceptions of God can be “unfair” or “cruel” or (insert any description.)

    But that does not follow. We can look at how things are conceptualized and see how they live up to that conception, and then comment on the discrepancy as a criticism of that conception.

    In other words, you don’t have to be a theist to know how theists conceptualize of their religions (e.g., how Mormons conceive of the LDS church). And you can point out that the LDS church doesn’t live up to that concept, but it won’t reject the conceptualization….and that adds a completely new ill on top of things.

    “If atheists don’t have the same expectations of government, why don’t they?”

    Because believe it or not, Seth, but atheists aren’t replacing church with the government as being the perfect organization led by divine leaders that safeguards and reveals truth and light.

    Like, you’re coming at this all wrong. You’re saying: “Why do atheists hold religions up to these incredibly high expectations, but not government?”

    …because religions demand that people hold them up to high expectations, and religions draw credibility from these high expectations. Governments do not draw credibility from being seen as these “one true” institutions. We do not conceptualize governments this way, so when governments end up not being “one true” institutions, there’s no surprise.

    The atheist isn’t saying, “Without fairy magic mumbo jumbo, then all will be gumdrops and roses.” No, fairy magic mumbo jumbo is one sort of thing that causes abuses in the human sphere, but it assuredly is not the only thing. So, getting rid of fairy magic mumbo jumbo doesn’t mean that you have reached a nirvana of perfect rational proportions. It just means you’ve gotten rid of one sort of rigid superstitions and you now can try to address other kinds endemic to human nature but which may not have as formally institutionalized in society.

    It seems that this “well, my pet organization doesn’t claim to be led by God” is just another atheist way of saying “I don’t believe in anything, so I don’t have to be held accountable for anything.”

    No, it’s a way of recognizing that human institutions are flawed, and we should be honest about that. Those human institutions that are flawed but will not even admit that (and claim to be above and beyond flaw or reproach) should especially be challenged not simply because they are flawed, but because they won’t own up to that.

  10. Seth R. permalink

    Andrew – I see absolutely zero distinction between saying “God is on our side” and saying “democracy is on our side” or “liberty is on our side” or “reason is on our side.”

    Which is why I feel the exact same standards apply to both rallying cries. For atheists to claim a different standard is nothing more than an indication of lacking the courage of their own convictions.

    It’s also the reason you can find people in the atheist movement claiming the same absolute rightness that religion is accused of having. I don’t see the two movements as having different ideological stances or features.

    But yes – I do see a difference. I see my own faith, and even other faiths like Catholicism as having a better historical track record than general secularism – that is true enough.

  11. Seth,

    I see absolutely zero distinction between saying “God is on our side” and saying “democracy is on our side” or “liberty is on our side” or “reason is on our side.”

    Then it seems like this is your problem, not those people’s problem.

    You feel the exact same standards apply to both rallying cries. Other people conceptualize “democracy,” “liberty,” or “reason” as being categorically different from each other (and certainly different from “God”), so they aren’t going to see things the same as you.

    This isn’t a matter of “lacking the courage of their own convictions.” No, it’s a matter of not having that particular kind of hubris. (And I am well are that atheists can have all sorts of hubris — in scientism, in this idealized retelling of what “objectivity” or “history” or whatever else is…) People are aware that democracy is a *difficult* undertaking. Liberty is a tenuous undertaking. Reason is a painstaking undertaking.

    (That gets me to another point. I find the entire construction “xxx is on our side” to be extremely problematic anyway. It’s lazy. It lets people rest on their laurels in some sort of self-satisfaction. No, democracy is not “on anyone’s side.” That’s why we have to campaign, to persuade, to fight for what we believe in. Change in democracy depends on effort.)

    The issue is that many theists do not view God the same way. Even if they say people are imperfect, they are going to think that God is. Or the church (as an amorphous institution) in some way is.

    Atheists don’t have anything comparable. It’s not because they lack the courage of their convictions. It’s that they recognize that the “courage of convictions” that YOU talk about is the stuff of fundamentalism. (And again, i recognize that people who are atheists can only have really fundamentalist reasoning perspectives. But you totally bowl over the fact that there are plenty of folks pointing out how this is a bad trait in all of humanity, and so we certainly ought to challenge it wherever it appears, rather than enshrining it institutionally as a value as most religions are wont to do. But I think that when you see atheists critiquing atheists, you say, “Look, that movement isn’t as solid as mine. They can’t even agree amongst themselves! Look at all these people who don’t have the courage of their convictions or who don’t feel they have to be accountable for anything.” But when it’s your own religion, you are remarkably and selective obtuse.)

    I guess that’s probably the most frustrating part. You’re seriously projecting things that you find valuable on to other people, and then you are unaware of why people actually act different than would be expected if they had those traits. And because you can’t understand why people wouldn’t have those traits (and wouldn’t even view those traits as a positive thing…I mean, you call it “courage of convictions” without any sense of the harms that attends such unwavering “courage”), you instead create these really hollow reasons to try to explain it.

    At the very least, don’t go about asking why people see these things differently when you know for damn sure that it’s because of a basic difference in viewing the world and things in the world that you are not willing or able or whatever to even seriously entertain, probably because of the “courage of your own convictions” but I don’t even know for sure.

    anyway, I’m going to have to cut myself off from this conversation. Even here, I don’t think this message will really change anything since you are already so “convicted” or whatever, but maybe the reason I keep commenting is because I am just as convicted? And you know…it gets us nowhere. Absolute waste of time.

  12. Seth R. permalink

    It seems interesting that fundamentalism is being described as some sort of religious trait. But as you already said it’s something atheists can equally fall prey to. So I just don’t see that there is a difference between the religionists and the atheists on this score. Both seem equally susceptible to black-and-white thinking. Sure some religionists view church as perfect or something (and I don’t think it’s clear that this is as encouraged as you say it is). But you can find plenty of the same over on Dawkins.net.

    I just don’t see where equal standards don’t apply. Both claim to be pursuing things that they each view as just as admirable.

  13. Seth,

    It seems interesting that fundamentalism is being described as some sort of religious trait. But as you already said it’s something atheists can equally fall prey to.

    Actually, throughout my messages, I describe fundamentalism as a human trait. This is why when you get rid of “fairy magic mumbo jumbo” you don’t get get rid of ills like fundamentalism per se.

    The difference, however…and to answer your next point…

    So I just don’t see that there is a difference between the religionists and the atheists on this score.

    …The difference is that in religion, the attitudes around fundamentalism are viewed positively as traits. They are institutionally enshrined as virtues. They are ossified. Calcified. To the extent that you have a religionist who views things differently, they are either a) on the fringe of their religion, b) with a tenuous relationship to the institution (and must watch out if they speak out too much), or c) part of a religion that is itself not necessarily all that effective at keeping people engaged.

    So, congratulations, religion is so successful and effective because it preys on some of the worst traits of human beings and turns these into positive values. Yep; you’re absolutely right that Catholicism or Mormonism have a better track record than secularism on that.

    …But the nonbeliever doesn’t see this “success” or “effectiveness” positively. Because the nonbeliever challenges the enshrinement of those kinds of things as being the enshrinement of human flaws. So, even when the nonbeliever is affected by these things, it’s not from an institutionally validated sense. Dawkins.net people aren’t validated to be dicks by God or a church. They are doing that well enough on their own. But for religious people, there is a sense of religious dickishness that is perpetuated, shielded, and defended *as being part and parcel of the religious endeavor.* And then the religionist has the gall to say that it is virtuous.

    I just don’t see where equal standards don’t apply. Both claim to be pursuing things that they each view as just as admirable.

    that’s because you’re still not seeing the difference in the sides. The religionist pumps all of their hangups, wants, dreams, ideals, and prejudices into this perfect idealization they call God. The non-religionist doesn’t have anything like that. “Reason,” “democracy,” “liberty,” or whatever thing you call analogs don’t work that way. This is not to say that nonreligious folks don’t have hangups, wants, dreams or ideals or prejudices, but they do not have grandiose totalized, absolute, universalized abstractions to pin these onto, where they are claimed to be beyond challenge whatsoever.

  14. Seth R. permalink

    But I think those ideals do work that way for atheists.

    Nor do I see bull headedness being advocated as a virtue at any greater rate among religious than among atheists.

    In fact, on the message boards I’ve been on where both groups were present, it was the atheists who were more likely than the religious to view their bad behavior as virtues and be unapologetic for them. At least with even the biggest religious dicks, they still had to reconcile with examples of Christian virtue – which acted as a brake on them. Atheists didn’t have that hangup frequently. They were more certain of the virtue of their position than anyone I encountered, and they were less apologetic than anyone.

    In fact, the only difference I encountered between religious fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists was that the religious bigots had standards and brakes on behavior that you could invoke. The atheists really didn’t have any – except getting banned from the forum.

  15. Seth,

    But I think those ideals do work that way for atheists.

    yes, but the operative part is that’s what you think.

    I guess the only two issues are the fact that

    a) self-identifying atheists don’t seem to agree with this characterization, even if you put it in the rosiest, most favorable terms (which you tend not to, but whatever)

    and

    b) even though you think these ideals do work that way for atheists, this thought directly causes you to ask questions like

    If atheists don’t have the same expectations of government, why don’t they?

    and really, the only thing you can come up with to possibly explain it is

    For atheists to claim a different standard is nothing more than an indication of lacking the courage of their own convictions.

    So, I guess you can be right. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will keep on disagreeing with you, and you will be baffled as to why people don’t seem to be operating according to your neat little philosophy.

    In fact, the only difference I encountered between religious fundamentalists and atheist fundamentalists was that the religious bigots had standards and brakes on behavior that you could invoke. The atheists really didn’t have any – except getting banned from the forum.

    I love how when you want to think of dickish behavior from atheists, you talk about rude people on forums.

    I guess it’s as they say…the difference between militant atheists and militant theists is that the militant atheist calls you funny names, but with the militant theist, you might have to worry about your life, livelihood, rights, or well being.

    And here’s a thing about christian virtue that I want to get at…I’d note that Christian virtue — even for you, as you comment frequently on this blog and elsewhere — is “defending” the “family” and marriage from teh gays. You can’t put a “brake” on religious inequity for women, gay people, and other marginalized groups when the religious value system sees that inequity as a feature, not a bug. You can’t put a brake on the fact that you literally don’t care, because the system of meaning you derive from your religion is what taught you not to care about those issues in the first place.

  16. Seth R. permalink

    Of course they don’t agree with it. That would actually make them equally as accountable as theists for things, and of course they don’t want to give up the unearned sense of moral superiority.

  17. Seth R. permalink

    As for worrying about your life from militant theists Andrew, two words for you:

    Gulag Archipelago.

  18. Keith permalink

    I’d suggest that Seth has thoroughly and comprehensively picked apart all of the arguments Andrew isn’t making. In a fictitious universe where Seth is arguing against Richard Dawkins (aka “reality” as he seems to perceive it), he’s totally crushing it.

  19. Seth R. permalink

    Well, of course I’m not just talking about Andrew here. He’s talking about a certain strain of religious fundamentalism that he knows I’m not a part of.

    And I’m talking about a certain strain of atheist fundamentalism I know he’s not a part of.

    The main point of disagreement is how inherent we both think the fundamentalist strain is to both movements.

  20. Seth R. permalink

    Incidentally, if we want to bring up my opposition to gay marriage – that’s not a religious feature of my outlook. It’s a pragmatic one born of concern for real-world societal implications.

    If you want to talk scripture – I think the scriptural basis for labeling homosexuality a sin is rather tenuous. And my testimony of General Authorities such as Boyd K. Packer has always been rather sketchy. I’ve made it fairly clear before that my main points of testimony within Mormonism are mainly Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I’ve always been ambiguous about the current leadership.

    So arguing a religious motivation in my view on gay marriage is going to be a pretty tough sell.

  21. Seth,

    The main point of disagreement is how inherent we both think the fundamentalist strain is to both movements.

    Bingo.

    I guess one thing I would point out is this: you go on and on talking about how atheists aren’t really doing enough. Like they aren’t organized enough, or they aren’t “accountable” enough, or things like that.

    …but, to me, to make this criticism means that you can’t then talk about what is inherent to the “movement” — because the movement simply doesn’t operate similarly to religion.

    …if I had to think of an analogy…I would think of something a generally “liberal” political movement like Occupy Wall Street vs. a generally “conservative” political movement like the Tea Party. (And yeah, I understand that it is problematic to try to pin these into one side…and I also know that discussing these “movements” are problematic because there’s a wide range of disagreement about how grassroots they are vs. how astroturfed.)

    Both OWS and the Tea Party have issues. They have things that you can point out that are abuses.

    …but to me, OWS, as a more amorphous, decentralized, etc., movement, does not *enshrine* these issues. You might criticize that it doesn’t have the power or organization to do that, but you wouldn’t criticize that it institutionally enshrines that.

    To the extent that the Tea Party is more organized and institutional…it has problems baked into its institution.

    …maybe that’s a poor comparison, but whatevs.

    I don’t think you can say on the one hand, “Atheists don’t organize enough” (or something to that extent), but then say, “Atheists [qua atheism] are just as susceptible to these traits.”

    But you can do this for religion, because religions *do* organize. Religious folks [qua their religiosity] are susceptible to these traits.

    Incidentally, if we want to bring up my opposition to gay marriage – that’s not a religious feature of my outlook. It’s a pragmatic one born of concern for real-world societal implications.

    I still think your opposition to gay marriage is really emotional at its core. Everything else seems to be a rationalization based on crappy experiences with gay marriage advocates and yeah, partially a religious feature of your outlook.

    I don’t think it’s based on specific scriptures or leadership quotes in specific, but rather on this generalized Seth-R-approach-on-life that comes up so many times that I see as being very connected to your Mormonism.

    …like, in any given discussion on gay marriage, I can predict you will bring up something relating to the dichotomy of “meaning” vs “meaningless happiness.” And it seems to me that this dichotomy is based on religious precepts…not just “real-world societal implications.”

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