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Pet Peeve: Idea of Religion as Necessary

December 9, 2008

For some reason, I have been suspicious of the blog Mormon Coffee…and I wasn’t able to put my finger on why until quite recently. I wondered if I were being paranoid — after all, Mormon Coffee is an Outer Blogness tradition blog…so we ought to be on friendly terms!

But now I have it…and I can pinpoint at least one of the concerns I hinted at having in my last post. I guess I should’ve realized it before Chanson spelled it out (or before I saw their link to Mormonism Research Ministries, which sends my “anti” meters tingling — even as a nonbeliever!)…but Mormon Coffee represents a Christian (the non-Mormon kind) perspective!

Unfortunately for Jared at a House of Prayer, I don’t necessarily believe Mormon Coffee is irksome for the reasons he does. In fact, he’d probably be more likely to side with them than me on this issue.

The story: I was reading a rather neat article on Post-mormons at Mormon Coffee…I was trying to do some outside research for a blog entry I was writing for Main Street Plaza (will link to it as soon as it goes live), and one thing I got from this article (that I feel Outer Blogness may be behind on) is that Post-Mormonism seems for mature, reasonable people. It is a means of moving past the church in one piece, whereas the actions of certain ex-members (not all, of course) can be simply to rant and rave and hiss and scream as their broken faith lay shattered on the floor — and that does no good to our public image with the faithful or with innocent bystanders.

So, my question was…can the Outer Blogness become a more solid community? Can it sustain a civil community for continued discussion that will attract even the faithful, or is it just a place for exxies to take kleenex and bear testimonies of anger?

Do the Postmormon community’s goals even mesh with the Outer Blogness community? What I fear is that the post-mormon movement may be about setting and forgetting (but then again, I don’t know)…and although I have no problems with those who are able and who wish to do that, as I’ve discussed and as others have discussed ad nauseum, I see myself culturally as a Mormon. I don’t want to lose that just because I don’t accept the whole bundle. Chanson has delineated a list of vocabulary terms for different “kinds” of Mormons, and I for one think that the distinctions are meaningful. But for whatever reason, when I see the post of postmormon, I imagine someone fully dissociating from Mormon part, whereas I might see an ex-Mormon as being one who is out of the church structure but has not “outgrown” Mormonism in full. And then comes Cultural Mormonism and New Order Mormonism. Each has a distinct meaning, and although many would feel at home in the Outer Blogness…each group may have a different fate or calling.

I digress. Really, I was supposed to be talking about what annoyed me about Mormon Coffee…and where does my title fit in anyway?

I was really enjoying this entry on Postmormonism, and then the blog author wrote something that made it so painfully clear that although we may agree on certain issues, our motivations are night and day.

Sharon says:

From a Christian perspective, there’s a definite down side to The group does not endorse any religion or belief system, though members are welcome to “continue their spiritual journey through more traditional means.”…It’s unfortunate that, dedicated to helping people find joy in life after leaving a religion whose “dogmatism” was “detrimental,” would embrace such an idea…

I love the idea of available support for people struggling with the problems they encounter in questioning or leaving Mormonism, but seems to be throwing the baby out with the bath water. Truth is freely available to all; yet the ability to know the truth is not an illusion. By embracing this ideology is merely replacing one deception with another.

It’s probably just representative of our separate biases, but…I dunno, it seems that this blog author subscribes to the same One-And-Only-Truth-and-It-Lies-In-something-without-proof idea that I disliked in the first place.

Is it a wonder that many (or at least enough to cause people to talk about it) Mormons leave religion completely after leaving the church? Is it truly throwing the baby with the bathwater, or recognizing that the baby was never there?

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  1. This is a very common point of dispute between the Christian camp and the rest of the exmo/postmo community.

    I could link you to an amusing old debate on this, or just draw you a brand new venn diagram about it! 😀

  2. Cool! In an older article, I had pulled up a few MSP articles on the issue, now the Venn Diagram is perfect!

  3. Rich McCue permalink

    I agree, religion is not necessary for a happy meaningful lif. I don’t go to any church now, but still maintain friendships with Mormon friends, and have Mormon habits that I will probably take to my grave with me (alcohol & coffee just don’t appeal to me for example).

    That said, religions that promote omniscient, personal gods with no solid proof to back up their claims are non starters for me. I consider myself agnostic, but I’d be very surprised if the faith claims of any of the world’s major religions are anything more than wishful thinking.

    Thanks for your post!

  4. To me this debate is beside the point for the simple fact that it’s irrelevant.

    I once heard an Evangelical scholar point to “it will make me happy” as one of his top ten bad reason to be a Christian. And I tend to agree with him.

    I find “being happy” to be a nice perk of religion, but it is not the central point. Christians often are NOT happier than others. Just like parents are often more depressed than childless adults (I think there was a recent study confirming this).

    Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, the most worthwhile things in life often do not make you happy. Put simply – happiness is overrated (by people both within and without the LDS faith). The object and purpose of life is to cultivate the ability to think and feel deeply and fully. Our aim is to partake of both sorrow and happiness to the fullest.

    This is consistent with the account of Enoch in the Book of Moses where he witnesses God weeping. He is baffled and cannot understand why a “perfect” being would ever have reason to weep. God then makes it perfectly clear that He weeps for the loss of His children. He feels sorrow.

    Since the LDS aim is to become like God, you could very well say that our ultimate goal and aim includes attaining the capacity for deep sorrow and suffering.

    Sure, most Mormons don’t really get this implication. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t plainly there in the scriptures if you look.

  5. uh…wow…that’s surprisingly masochistic.

    I can’t say I agree, haha. People naturally move towards happiness…now, they might not move to immediate happiness or the lowest forms of happiness, but I think it’s unrealistic to say seriously that the object of life is divorced from happiness.

    I’d like to see that study, because I’d more expect parents to say they are more fulfilled by parenting, which in turn makes them happier. Not happy in an immediate, “Wow, I went to Disney World today” happy. But happy in a sense of a thoughtful appreciation of one’s life and accomplishments.

    In other words, perhaps parenthood is a *higher* or *deferred* pleasure, but it would be fatalistic to look at it as something that is merely depressing and then come to accept it as that.

    I’d propose that your “ability to think and feel deeply and fully” is a joy in and of itself. It’s not at ends with happiness…it is just a different facet of the diamond.

    I think the reason Mormons wouldn’t get that implication is because they pay more attention to more visible scriptures like…2 Nephi 2:25. I mean, I guess even in that set of scriptures, you have the necessity of sorrow (e.g., Adam fell).

    I guess in the end, I can agree that we need the capacity for sorrow and suffering. But I don’t think that’s the “goal” of things like parenthood. That’s more macabre than I usually like to be.

  6. Well, I was being a bit extreme to make a point.

    I agree that “men are that the might have joy” and all that.

    It’s just that I don’t equate “joy” with just “being happy.” I think what we are truly shooting for is a richness of experience. The full range of experience.

    You might have heard that famous saying “it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” I think it was one of the refutations of utilitarianism that I heard in Philosophy 101 back in college. The idea that merely seeking pleasure and avoiding pain isn’t the whole picture on what makes the human experience worthwhile.

    But I think it is clear from Enoch’s vision that unbroken happiness is not the cards for us in the hereafter.

  7. A refutation of utilitarianism?

    No, I heard that, but it was an anticipation by Mill. Mill went on to theorize that there are higher pleasures and lower pleasures…philosophy would be one such higher pleasure that justifies why we don’t all just become absolute hedonists.

    I think that’s a lot better than looking at it as if we *want* to be emo and depressed just because that gives us a “wider range of human experience”

  8. You’re right, it was Mill himself who said that. It’s been a while. But I still think that there is something worthwhile in even the more negative experiences. Bitterness probably doesn’t have much redeeming value, but sorrow…. Well, I think it does have value. So does regret in its own way.

  9. It sounds too much like that “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” — which seems to hold favor with many, so maybe there’s something to it.

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