Skip to content

A tradition of violence for compliance

August 11, 2009

One of the things that many nonreligious people dislike about religions is how many religions seems to cultivate and celebrate a tradition of violence to ensure compliance. The Book of Mormon is actually rather legendary for this.

Now, you may be saying…what are you talking about? I would never threaten to use or actually use violence to ensure religious compliance! Mormons aren’t crazy people.

Fortunately, I recognize that today’s world is a lot better than it was…and of course, one size doesn’t fit all. But I can think of a few scriptures (and oh boy! I have a video at the end) that point this out.

Consider firstly that the Book of Mormon is a didactic and repeated study of the “pride cycle.” When people become prosperous (presumably due to their obedience and devotion to God), the probability approaches 1 that they will become proud and decadent, in which case they will bring ruination upon themselves. It’s not necessarily that they literally ruin themselves…rather, the scriptures make it clear that 1) God may wreck you himself (although this is more an Old Testament kind of thing), 2) God may withdraw (alternatively, you may flee from) himself and his protection from you, so that 3) your enemies will gain a kind of “Mandate of Heaven” and overrun you.

The Book of Mormon is a book of war. And generally, all the wars begin because of something like this. (OK, it doesn’t hurt to have a people who hate your guts and will attack at any provocation or opening, as the Lamanites represent.)

But another example is the anti-Christ preacher Korihor. Scripturally, one might say he deserved what he got. For not only did he not believe (or rather, he did believe…he was just deceived by Satan…whoops!), but he led others away into unbelief. This leading of others into unbelief is a notorious spiritual crime, (perhaps even more than sexual immorality.) The scriptures say it is better that a man should die than a nation dwindle in unbelief. And yet, what is incredibly unnerving to nonbelievers (remember, scripture to an investigator is on the proving grounds) is that of all the things God could do as a sign (by the way, asking for a sign is a no-no, it seems), the best one was to strike him dumb. And of course, Alma justifies afterward…”Can’t unmute you…because you might go astray again.”

Again, that sounds just to some. But it sounds draconian at worst to others, and at best, a little overhanded (is there no other way)?

Another instance is Captain Moroni’s scathing letter to Pahoran, chastising him for not sending troops and munitions in Alma 60:

23 Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things? Behold I say unto you, Nay. Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the ainward vessel shall be bcleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also.

24 And now, except ye do repent of that which ye have done, and begin to be up and doing, and send forth food and men unto us, and also unto Helaman, that he may support those parts of our country which he has regained, and that we may also recover the remainder of our possessions in these parts, behold it will be expedient that we contend no more with the Lamanites until we have first cleansed our inward vessel, yea, even the great head of our government.
25 And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true aspirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold I will leave a part of my freemen to maintain this part of our land, and I will leave the strength and the blessings of God upon them, that none other power can operate against them—
26 And this because of their exceeding faith, and their patience in their atribulations
27 And I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.

So he suggests Pahoran’s failure to send more support is indicative of immoral and traitorous slothfulness and pride, and then threatens — during the middle of a war with a capable foe, I might add — to leave the front lines to overthrow Pahoran, who he supposes has become gluttonous in power.

When I was reading this, I thought, “This would be a really awkward, insubordinate letter if…say…Pahoran weren’t guilty of any of this.” I know Capn. Moroni’s one angry tamale, but still.

And BAM! Pahoran wasn’t guilty! For in his letter back to Moroni, he writes, “Dude, sorry; I got ousted over here; plz save me. QQ” He seems to take Moroni’s scathing letter well enough though, understanding that the Captain only meant to threaten a military coup for the sake of righteousness and freedom.

I guess this kind of stuff is par the course for a war history. But when I went to Friendly Atheist, and he pointed out a part from A Raisin in the Sun…wow, didn’t that feel familiar?


From → Uncategorized

  1. I like your niche blog. Will be following this.

  2. Sometimes it seems to me that modern culture only manages to be polite and civil by asserting the idea that nothing really matters all that much.

  3. fortunately, we still have conservative (Democrat?) thinkers like Orson Scott Card who remind us that there are certain things that matter so much that we should over throw the government over them.

    like gays marrying.

  4. Well, it’s messy. But that’s the thing…

    You can pretend that things don’t matter. But that’s only going to submerge the problem temporarily. Because things do matter, and pretending they don’t is probably just going to make the later blow-up worse.

    Also, in the video… there’s more going on than a denial of God and enforced piety. The daughter is essentially rejecting her mother as well as God. The daughter is only a little aware that this is what she’s doing, and her mother is very aware that this is what is happening. It’s a rejection that hurts. I think the daughter hurt her mother every bit as much as mother hurt her.

    Not that it was handled appropriately. But you can never take a situation like this an write it all off as “God-issues.” Family dynamics ALWAYS matter in these situations.

  5. It’s not that things don’t matter.

    It’s that if the things we find matter aren’t getting their way, we recognize it’s not ok to incite violence to get these things. This, btw, is why angry gay marriage supporters who go overboard are chastised just as much as anyone else who goes overboard. If in the process, we find certain things didn’t matter as much as we thought (certainly not worth inciting violence over), then this is a good thing.

    It is trivially true that when parents place a premium on religiosity and belief in God, then a rejection of God is going to be seen as a rejection of the parents. Is it any wonder that the daughter says, “You and daddy were wrong,” when they have prioritized something that she sees as particularly misguided?

    And instead of coming to terms with that, the mother must have compliance. Though it isn’t a free compliance and from that moment on, it will never be a free compliance.

  6. It’s just I think that daughter was rejecting mother more than she was rejecting God.

    And you can see why – mom is too heavy-handed and controlling of her daughter.

    That all said, I just don’t see that religion incites violence any more than any other mindset.

  7. The thing is…if the reason why the daughter was rejecting her mother was because of heavy-handedness…then crazy thought, but the slap wouldn’t change that. How do I say…if the daughter is rejecting the mother, how does the mother avoid this…hmm…by not being rejectable?

    I’m not necessarily saying that religion incites violence any more than any other mindset. I probably should’ve had the video separate from the other instances (it’s not like the daughter got slapped because religion advised the mother to do so). Rather, I think that religion often uses violence as a tool (not to say that we should use violence as a tool…only that God scripturally has used threats and violence and curses and all kinds of things.) How should I say it? I don’t think religion (any more than other things) tells people, “you personally should commit violence against your foes.” Rather, I think certain religions want to preach of a God, who, if you don’t act right, certainly will commit violence against you or allow violence to be committed against you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: