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Why wouldn’t someone want to be a part of the church?

January 13, 2011

Could it be because they don’t think it’s true? Could it be that they have learned one sort of thing about church history, about the way the world works, and so forth, but they have later since learned that the history is quite a bit different than they were raised to believe, and the world doesn’t seem to work the same way they learned?

I guess that’s a naive way to look at things. The lady doth protest too much.

After all, people can learn all of these things, come to very similar conclusions, and stay in the church. It’s just too ignorant to say, “Well, these people haven’t learned enough…they haven’t read enough.” Face it; people can have the same information and have different plans of action. Why would these people stay in the church?

I guess the answer is simple too: “because they want to.”

But the real mystery never gets solved. Why do some people want to and others not want to? Given the same information, both can and do happen.

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13 Comments
  1. Seth R. permalink

    I guess I just came to view subjective narratives, incomplete information, bias, error, etc. to be part and parcel of humanity-in-general. Such that wherever I encountered human beings, I expected this to be the case.

    In my view, the only way to avoid this being the case, would be to end the human element entirely.

    As a result, I had a hard time seeing what the big deal was when it turned out the LDS Church operated under the same limitations.

    • Seth R. permalink

      Sorry about the double post.

      I hit send to quick.

      To me the whole thing was kind of a “no-duh,” and I just never related to how personally some other people took it.

  2. Double comment deleted.

    Anyway, I guess I can see a bit of what you’re saying. But at the same time, it doesn’t seem to really answer much.

    After all, that gets us to some place like, “OK, so the church isn’t what it said it was — but then again, neither is any other institution. But then, the church has no special place above any other institution.”

    So why do some people want to stick with it and other people not want to?

    More importantly, I don’t think everyone is even willing to go that far. They will say, “Sure, humanity-in-general has bias, incomplete information, subjective narratives, etc., and the church is not immune to this, but the church (or leaders or gospel or members or whatever) is still inspired” So there is still a belief in some kind of privileged status.

    • Seth R. permalink

      I never said it was not more special than any other human institution.

      I said it was subject to the laws of human reality.

      • I guess the feeling is that the laws of human reality preclude specialness. if that makes any sense…

      • So here’s this organisation that claims to be led by the supreme creator of the universe. Wouldn’t that make some kind of difference in the way it operates? What kind of consequences would that have?

        According to Seth, the answer is, “Well, none, really.”

        Isn’t that a bit of a giveaway? Doesn’t that raise any red flags at all?

        • Sorry, that was me above, as GoodReason. I need to keep track of my screen names.

  3. Sarah permalink

    People are creatures of habit.
    People like to feel comfortable and sometimes I think it is easier for them to stay and ignore the things they have learned that are contrary to their upbringing.
    Leaving the church causes problems with extended family.
    Maybe it’s laziness because it’s simply easier to stay.
    Some people NEED to believe.

    Has anyone seen The Devils Playground? It’s a fascinating documentary about Amish teens who during a period called rumspringa leave the Amish lifestyle to experience the outside world. 80-95% of the teens return even though some are very conflicted about the lifestyle/beliefs. I think their reasons for returning are similar to those raised LDS who return or never leave the faith.

    Just a few thoughts. I enjoy your blog.

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Sarah, labeling the other side as “lazy” is easy.

    I could just as easily label people who leave the Church as too intellectually lazy to make the effort to live a faith that isn’t spelled-out, black and white, with no troubling nuance to grapple with.

    I could simply label them as people who would rather pack up their ball and run home crying than try and work out game rules with the other kids on the playground.

    But that wouldn’t be very fair, would it?

    Neither is it fair for ex-Mormons to blanket label all people still in the church as either ignorant or lazy. It’s an obviously self-serving exercise – on both sides.

  5. Sarah,

    I have to agree with Seth here.

    btw, I haven’t seen The Devil’s Playground. But I did watch Amish in the City, which was the same concept, but in reality TV show format.

  6. Sarah permalink

    I guess my point of view was why do people stay in the church. If I were to think about why people leave the church I could easily see that being lazy could be a factor on that side as well. And maybe lazy isn’t the right word. How about complaisant? In that it is easier to stay and keep the peace and make everyone happy.

    Just a little background so you know where I’m coming from (Seth – I don’t consider myself the other side): Raised LDS, left around 16 and returned in my 30’s. I’ve been going to church now for the last five years.

  7. Seth R. permalink

    I absolutely agree that some people probably do remain Mormon out of laziness.

    Sorry Sarah, this is an ex blog and most of the readership is ex. So I made some assumptions. My mistake.

  8. There’s a book called “When Prophecy Fails” by Leon Festinger et al. True story of a woman who thought she was getting messages from space aliens and managed to attract a following. The aliens said the earth would be destroyed on a certain date, so psychologists infiltrated the group posing as investigators to see what would happen when the world didn’t end.

    You’d think everyone would leave after the disconfirmation, but they didn’t, and they key factor was social. Believers who stayed in the physical presence of other believers stayed in the group. People who for one reason or another went somewhere else on the weekend after the disconfirmation stopped believing.

    I think this is hugely important. On my mission, I never had any of my investigators join or stay in the church unless there was a strong social component, whether that was other family members, good friends, or some ward contact. It’s almost like people don’t care if it’s true, or if they do, communal reinforcement is enough to quiet doubts.

    This is why religions need to form ‘bubbles’ — groups of believers who constantly reaffirm the beliefs of the group to each other — because it’s more difficult to hold irrational or counterfactual beliefs in isolation. Tight church communities are bubbles. BYU is a bubble. When you go there, you’re supposed to get married, and then you’re in another bubble for the rest of your life.

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