All or Nothing Part 2 — Switching Dogmas
This is a followup to “All or Nothing,” where I highlighted how some aspects of the church reinforce this idea that members have to accept all of these religious propositions…or else he shouldn’t accept any of them. In my article, I gave Mormon examples, because that’s what I know — the church foundationally rests on ideas about Joseph Smith, the Apostasy of the church (and the need for its restoration), the divinity/inspiration of the Book of Mormon, and other things. From there are hinged other ideas that might be doubtful doctrinally, but which are culturally claimed as required. How did the First Vision really go? Does the Book of Mormon need to be a literal historical account, and what is the right interpretation of such history (full hemisphere, or just localized in a certain area)?
So, there are certainly members who get their faith wrecked because of some area that is conflated to essentiality due to rogue Mormon culture. Mormons don’t believe in prophetic infallibility, for example, but due to cultural expectations, it might seem like if a prophet has said or done something off kilter, that’s sign to head for the hills.
It was quite refreshing to see a post of a similar caliber on the blog “slacktivist.” Slacktivist speaks from an evangelical perspective — and he speaks about how culturally, Fundamentalist Christians have created a similar all or nothing house of cards on something that also could easily wreck the faith of Christians — the absolute acceptance of young-earth creationism that utterly rejects evolution. Personally, I’m glad Mormons (may) not have this problem. A quote from the site:
But it’s really hard…to avoid encountering some incontrovertible piece of evidence that the earth and the universe is far, far older than young-earth creationism allows. When they encounter this evidence, they may be able to cling to some desperate form of last-Thursday-ism (the world is 6,000 years old, but was made to seem older) which may provide them with a temporary patch until they get better at living with very high levels of cognitive dissonance and barely veiled self-deception. But just as often, the whole edifice collapses. Hard. They wind up rejecting everything they ever believed.
Everything, that is, except for that pernicious notion that “all of it must be true or none of it is.” These kids…become the mirror-opposite of their old fundamentalist selves. They become as strident and binary in their unbelief as their failed mentors at Bob Jones were in their belief. Yet even their rebellion tends to remain shaped by that world and its narrowly imagined options.
And that’s a tragedy. I think it was Maya Angelou who said there’s nothing sadder than a young cynic, because they’ve gone directly from knowing nothing to believing nothing.
And you know what…I agree with him and Maya Angelou. Even though I am not a believer, I would say to my believing brethren, it is ultimately tragic that people are indoctrinated with the all-or-nothing kind of mentality that ultimately wrecks them when it comes into contact with reality. Please work on that.
…and yet, slacktivist brings up something else. He brings up those who not only become disillusioned and skeptical, but who become the mirror opposite of their old fundamentalist self. They still keep all or nothing! And so, I guess it is with people like these that we have the idea of atheism as a dogma or religion — of fundamentalist atheism. Because we do pick up a lot of ex-theists who want to dogmatically proclaim atheism with the same all-or-nothingness as their old religion did. We need to work on this.
Commenter Geds posts something that ALSO reminds me of something I have discussed recently on other sites:
…And I’ve tended to use True Believer, just like AW does above. I’ve learned that I simply don’t have the knack for True Belief and that part of the problem was I kept forcing myself to have it.
So this makes me wonder if going from all to nothing isn’t also a personality trait…and one that’s not literally going from all to nothing, but switching which full glass to drink from. As the religious glass empty, one might take a hard skeptic glass. As one politicians goes out of favor, one might jump on ship with a new one.
It makes me wonder who is prone to this trait? Is it something people can change or choose? I, for one, can’t “choose” to *truly* believe…but that goes both ways — I can’t choose to truly believe in a god, and I can’t choose truly believe there is no god. I’ll make a post distinguishing negative or weak atheism (that is, I disbelieve, or lack a belief in god) from positive or strong atheism (that is, how some others actively believe there is no god), and why perhaps I can see the strong atheism perspectively theoretically. I still cringe to see some ex-Mormon comments or atheist comments around the blogosphere, because I wouldn’t take such an audacious stab (although I can take a few audacious stabs too — I’ll write a post about it soon).
I’ll have to make another post bawwing about agnostics who think they are distinct from atheists and theists (which goes back to my idea of weak atheism), but at the same time, the idea is tantalizing — for people without “true belief,” certainly, it might be awkward to commit to an idea that they don’t believe.