As I read this blog post, Can you have the bells without the believers, I was amazed at how easy it would have been to read this as being a blog post about/for Mormonism…if only it hadn’t used specifically identifying terms like “Anglican,” “Richard Dawkins,” and “Catholic”. Check out this line:
…being a cultural Catholic or Anglican or member of another tradition requires that there be committed members of the same tradition. Of course, Dawkins is in a slightly different situation, since his aesthetic comfort is state-supported. But, even in that case, and even if he is right that many Anglicans don’t actually believe anymore, when there are no more believers, the churches will be just museums and the sepulchers—as Nietzsche’s madman had it—of the dead God. That is not quite the same thing as a functioning church to which you have a cultural affinity, any more than an altarpiece in a museum is the same thing as an altarpiece in a church. Having been divorced from its purpose, it loses some of its meaning. There’s no contradiction in being a non-believing, though culturally-entwined, member of a tradition. There might be something elitist about it, maybe it causes a tension, maybe it might even be bittersweet.But my point is that being a cultural Anglican or Catholic does place a kind of restriction on one. Since what you love relies on committed others, they deserve respect. You can’t run around with and cross-promote the work of people who claim that religion poisons everything, a la Hitchens; or, that those who pray are no more stable than those who believe God can be contacted by talking into a hair dryer, a la Harris; or, that all religion is a delusion, a la Dennett (and Freud); and, you can’t claim that people ought to lose their jobs because they take their religion seriously, as Dawkins himself has—though that was with a person who believes a religion for which Dawkins has no affinity. …
It reminds me of this Millennial Star post about the secret in the Mormon sauce (warning…Millennial Star post…)
…but as an aside, who knew that Richard Dawkins considered himself a cultural Anglican? I almost feel like all the people who hear the latest things that Pope Francis is saying and think that the Catholic church must be making a heel face turn — while I want to believe this is a big deal, I know that really, it probably is just evidence of my gross ignorance of the subject.
Anyway, the article where Dawkins declares himself thus is from this month, so I’ll take it that it’s a recent revelation. Read more…
I just saw this post from Young Mormon Feminists: “a letter to the mormon on the fence.” It begins:
Growing up Mormon, you’re taught you either have to accept everything the Church teaches or reject it entirely. And now, you’re on the fence trying to figure out which side you want to be on, trying to figure out if you believe the Church is true or not (whatever that means).
I am not writing this in order to be one more person trying to persuade you towards one side or the other. I am writing this, however, in order to tell you that I think the best option is to be yourself, to be honest about what you do or don’t believe, and to do what you think is best for you.
This isn’t some grand binary decision, some major either or. In reality, there probably is no fence, there probably is much more than just two sides when it comes to these complicated social and religious decisions.
I think the best thing is to find out what you believe about Jesus, what you believe about the scriptures and the priesthood and the law of chastity, what you believe about evolution and fate and psychology and gender and sexuality. You can address each of these subjects individually! You can find that you believe in Jesus but not in the priesthood. You can find you believe in the priesthood but not in the law of chastity. It’s O.K.!
And in choosing what you want to do, if you enjoy praying, pray. If you enjoy having a drink, have a drink, too. If you enjoy going to church, go to church. And if you don’t enjoy those things? Don’t do them.
I don’t think life is about total obedience or total rebellion. I think it’s about finding out what works best for you.
On the one hand, I just want to give Curtis a huge round of applause. It’s the message I want people to internalize — whether they are Mormon or not.
However, I can definitely see some of the counterarguments. Maybe life isn’t simply equating what one enjoys with what works best for one. For example, see this comment:
As I have alluded in passing in certain other blog posts, I have been involved with the Mormon Hub Facebook group as an administrator. While I have been an admin to other media (Wheat & Tares in particular), the Mormon Hub’s “back stage” discussions are more frequent and animated than any other moderation group that I have been a part of. And, in general, Facebook groups are a different beast than blogs.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about. Instead, I wanted to write about the fact that for me, the Hub means something a bit more than what a Facebook group probably means to most folks. It is not just a place to chat, but also a living experiment and a proving grounds. The Hub is trying to do something that many other sites and groups have tried, but that seems (based on the graveyard of previous attempts) to be difficult, if not impossible to maintain. (Either that, or the Hub is simply trying to do something that has never been attempted before…can’t decide which).
If the Hub is doing something that many other sites have tried, then that can be best summarized as trying to have a space where Mormon believers and non believers can coexist, but without the polemics of incessantly trying to argue about the church’s truth or falsity. Discussion about Mormonism beyond the truth claims, as it were.
…but when I say parenthetically that maybe the Hub is trying to do something that has never been attempted before, then what I’m referring to is the different idea that maybe, it’s trying to create a space not necessarily for a big tent of disaffected and orthodox and everyone in between trying (tenuously) to make conversation work out…but rather an online space for liberal, uncorrelated, unorthodox Mormons, separate from Sunday meanings (primarily for “orthodox” folks), and separate from most online venues (primarily for disaffected folks). Yeah, try to define that.
Anyway, however unique (or not) the goal is, one aspect of this process that has been attempted several times (but with challenges) is our approach to moderation: we want to be as hands off as possible without allowing for anyone to destroy the environment.
Internet Mormons are a peculiar people. I have commented in several venues that if I had a ward that was like the Bloggernacle, or like the various Mormon Facebook groups in which I take part, I would attend every Sunday. (Indeed, every day, I regularly read various blogs and check on updates to various Facebook groups.)
There is a sense of community among Internet Mormons…a sense that we’ve met kindred spirits, even when the ward environment is stifling, even when our fellow Mormons in the pews either pity or fear us for our doubts, questions, disaffection, or other life scenarios.
The problem, of course, is that as we collect as Internet Mormons, we sometimes forget the implications of our peculiarity. Or maybe we don’t forget the implications of such so much as have no awareness for how peculiar we might be.
How representative are online Mormon narratives about disaffection? How representative are online Mormon criticisms about social issues (e.g., feminism) in the church? Different sides will take different views as to the representativeness, but we just don’t know.
Cue the Mormon Internet Survey.
I always find nonbelievers answering this question to be interesting because I think people overestimate their ability to talk about what sorts of things could persuade them personally…Maybe they could understand a few general things that would be likely to persuade them, but surely, that’s not the total? Maybe this is a frivolous comparison, but while I can think of several foods, drinks, musical artists, and books that I like off the top of my head (and then formulate generic ideas for what sorts of new things I might like in the future), surely, I do not understand enough about my personality and inner workings to be able to pinpoint with clarity everything I could come to like based on my current situation.
Yet, Daniel writes:
If you’re an atheist, how would you answer this question? It wouldn’t be very open-minded of you if you said “no”, now, would it? You want to seem convincible. On the other hand, as Mehta points out in the video, you haven’t been convinced by the same 49 arguments that you’ve heard year-in, year-out, so what new thing are believers going to come up with?
It’s all a bit moot for me; even if I were convinced that the god of the Bible existed, I’d still never worship him because he’d be a homophobic, misogynistic dickbag.
But if it were that pastor asking me, I’d say “Sure. Something could convince me.” And here it is.
- there were some occurrence, happenstance, or phenomenon for which the only explanation were a theistic one, and
- that explanation were well-studied, and
- this were well-accepted by the scientific community,
then, yes, I would probably believe it.
This answer seems to me a little like saying something like, “If theism as is traditionally understood could fit within the scientific epistemology with which I am now comfortable, then I would buy it.” Read more…
In some of my last few posts, I have alluded to the new Mormon Facebook group, Mormon Hub. While I have been an admin at a group blog, Mormon Hub has been my first opportunity to moderating a Facebook group. In some ways, the experience is similar (working with very different personalities, trying to negotiate between heavy, overt moderation and soft, covert moderation)…but in other ways, there are clear differences (Facebook groups are media where the admins/moderators aren’t the primary content providers, where as on a group blog, the bloggers start every discussion assuming there aren’t any guest posts.)
The challenge for the Mormon Hub, as is the challenge with basically all Facebook groups and all blogs about Mormonism, is that of maintaining tone and atmosphere. In particularly, the challenge for groups and blogs like the Mormon Hub is that 1) different moderators have different ideas of what they would like to see the group become, but 2) even when moderators agree on what they would like to see from the group, they disagree on how to carry out those goals.
The “Big Tent,” as I wrote about before, is at the center of many of these idealized communities. But the Big Tent is notoriously difficult to define…More problematic is that it’s tough to decide how to create and support a big tent.
The worst difficulty, however, is what to do with folks who, for whatever reason, don’t seem to be meshing in with the ideal of the big tent.
Yesterday morning, if you were not aware, the Supreme Court released its opinions on the Defense of Marriage Act and on Proposition 8. If your friends’ group is anything like mine, then you probably heard about this. Multiple times. With great rejoicing about the outcome.
Two evenings ago — the evening before the decisions came out — Greg from Mormon Expositor invited me to take part in a BREAKING NEWS!!!11! edition of Mormon Expositor. I could not refuse, partly because if I did refuse, then it would make my impulse buy of a Blue Yeti microphone seem even sillier than it is. (From listening to the podcast, you can tell that unlike the others, I have no idea what I’m doing as far as sound settings.)
So, if you have a little over an hour, definitely check out Mormon Expositor 43: SCOTUS, DOMA, Prop 8, and the Mormons.
I don’t even know where to begin. I suspect that even if I were to share this article from the rooftops, on Facebook, on twitter, on Reddit, most people would not get it. They would not get it with a vengeance. They wouldn’t even see — for a moment — Stephen’s point.
I still don’t even know where to begin. I don’t want to just quote various parts, because to do the article justice, I would have to just quote the entire thing. So, instead of quoting this piece, I’ll make tangentially related thoughts that hopefully hit at a similar spirit to what the article describes. Read more…
Over at the Mormon Hub (…which is the new hotness of Mormon interest Facebook groups, if you had not heard), there was a discussion a few days ago about the value and the challenge of creating a “middle-way” space. In the discussion, several people pointed out how problematic “middle-way” is as a term or label. Per one comment:
I love Middle-way Mormon spaces because they do their best to respect and allow for different perspectives. People are generally free to believe and express what they want as long as they’re able to accomplish it in a way that doesn’t attempt to hurt anyone else. This seems healthy to me.
My. Favorite. Kinds. Of. Communities. (Both inside and outside of Mormonism)
With that said, I’m a little uncomfortable when the idea gets equated with individuals’ identities or a way of engaging with the church. What I mean is that while I think discussion groups that promote this Middle-way kind of thinking are healthy, I’m concerned about promoting the idea that self-identifying as a “Middle-way Mormon” is healthy. I’m also a bit concerned because many people go through a “Middle-way” stage in their interactions with the church when they first begin their crises. Many (if not most) of these people report the experience being unhealthy for them. I have concerns about contributing to the notion that trying to have one foot and one foot out is a “good” choice.
So, in a nutshell, while I think these spaces are healthy, I’m not sure about the rest of the package. It may also be time to come up with some different terminology. “Middle-way” is pretty loaded at this point.
If you’ve paid attention to the conversation on “middle-way” Mormonism, then thoughts like these should be familiar echoes — similar sentiments were raised in the Mormon Matters podcast episode on middle-way Mormonism, for example. (I wrote about those podcasts episodes here and here). I wanted to make a comment on the Facebook thread, but for a number of reasons, it was not meant to be. (I had a comment typed up, but then went to bed. When I woke up, I discovered that Windows had decided to install updates, restarting in the process.) I’ve known for a while that Facebook as a medium has issues, but the claustrophobia of the comment box is a particularly challenging one. So, here I am instead. (And even with this blog, I’ve had this article sitting as a draft for at least two days. My computer crashed, and while the content was preserved in draft format, all the paragraph spaces were deleted. I have tried to add them back, but if any paragraphs seem funky, it’s because I probably ended some incorrectly.)
The main point I want to express (in far more words than is probably necessary) is that creating “middle-way” spaces is problematic firstly because we don’t even have a consistent image of what the “middle way” is. The middle-way can refer to one of several not necessarily compatible frameworks…the fun part is that when we are talking about the middle way, we don’t necessarily think to clarify which framework out of which we are speaking. We end up not having any idea which framework our conversation partners are using, and likewise, we do not know which framework that they infer from our use of the term. Read more…
Today at Times and Seasons, Nathaniel gives sage advice: Don’t debate the Trinity. The advice is a little incomplete — it’s perhaps more accurate to say that one should never debate anything relating to religion whatsoever. The fact that we still do (those of us who do) just shows how gluttonous we are for punishment.
Anyway, Nathaniel points out that for all the conflict about Mormons’ theological view about the trinity, there doesn’t actually appear to be much essential conflict. As he writes:
The problem is that when Mormons and mainstream Christians argue about the Trinity, the real conflict has almost nothing to do with the subject at hand. This was underscored when a non-Mormon friend of mine posted the following YouTube video on Facebook along with the comment: “For the record, St. Patrick does rightly define the Trinity in the beginning: 3 people who are 1 God. Then it all just goes down hill.”
Up until very recently, I thought that the heresy of the Mormon godhead was that Mormons believe the godhead is made up of three separate persons. In contrast, I thought that the trinity was the belief that God was one person in three forms or modes or something like that.
If you had asked me to explain the trinity that Mormonism disagreed with, I might very well have used the “three phases of water” analogy — the trinity is like water, ice, and vapor. All are the same thing in different forms.
Imagine how surprised I was to find that that example itself was a heresy — modalism.