This one needs a bit of background. Not one believer in my family has ever spoken to me personally regarding my transition of belief to non belief. On one level, that’s fine. Perhaps they are fearful of confronting their own doubts or perhaps they’re afraid of introducing conflict into rare family social occasions. But I think their lack of doing so should prevent them from then commenting on what I believe or on what my motivations were for leaving my former faith.
In one particular case, a believing brother and I have mutually agreed to not discuss each other’s beliefs with each other. I’ll call that brother “Ich”. He just violated that agreement in my opinion by commenting on a fellow non believing brother’s public blog on Christianity. I’ll call that non believing brother “Wiz”. My choice of pseudonyms is more satirical than anything. See, those are their real nicknames. In “Ich’s” comment, in an insincere attempt to mask my identity, he refers to me by my real nickname. A good rule of thumb:
1. If you are sincerely trying to hide someone’s identity, you don’t use their real nickname as a pseudonym.
Since “Ich” chose to break our agreement by identifying me and referencing beliefs of mine in a public forum, I assume I’m able to clarify some points:
Years ago while I was still an active, believing Mormon I wrote some personal notes and collection of random historical and doctrinal facts that were troubling me at that time. It was a way for me to organize my thoughts. This was a personal journal, not something I intended to share with anyone. At some point my wife asked to read it. Later my Dad and my brother, both non believers at the time, asked to read it. Just recently a niece asked me to e-mail it to her and I did with the same agreement. I gave it to them with the instructions that it was to be kept personal. Apparently it has made the rounds with the family because “Ich” referenced it in his self-righteous slur on “Wiz’s” blog.
The irony is that “Ich’s” accusations of “Wiz” were that he and I were guilty of taking evidence regarding our religious beliefs out of context. Yet “Ich’s” entire reading of my document is completely out of context.
He called it a “manifesto” but it could hardly be considered a manifesto if its intention were to keep it private. I’ve only shared it with 4 people that I know of. Each time at their bidding, not mine. Each of those people assured me they would keep it to themselves and that they already agreed with me on many issues anyway so I wasn’t preaching disbelief to anyone. If “Ich” got his hands on it, then he did so dishonestly and therefore his eyes even seeing it is out of context from the start.
Assuming that the document is a “manifesto” for my leaving the faith is also out of context. For one, I stayed in the LDS church for at least 18 months after writing it. My conclusion at that time was to stay. It’s therefore out of context to assume that that document in any way references any of my reasons for actually leaving the LDS faith 2 years later.
One thing believers like to do is throw out accusations of lies and “out of context” references with out ever actually providing specifics. My brother “Ich” does this in his blog comment to me. Since he has read and chose to reference my document, it’s dishonest of him to make claims of “key fact oversights” and sources which actually “disprove my claims” without specific references. What exactly are they?
It’s also arrogant and self-righteous for a believer to assume he knows of my motivations for studying beyond the approved church manuals. Again, people should be specific when throwing around accusations. He claims I “wasn’t trying to disprove anything, [I] was trying to justify [my] behavior” What “behavior” could he be speaking about? At that time I was a worthy temple recommend holder. Being a true believer at the time, I was hardly “just reading books and seeing movies supporting [my] own bitter view of things” My view was the church’s view and I just couldn’t imagine that I’d encounter anything I hadn’t heard before…or anything questionable to me. He took the entire time frame of that document out of context.
Since we are apparently making the same lazy generalities and assumptions always leveled by believers against non-believers, I’ll be just as lazy as him and say, “Back at ya”. I don’t believe he’s really studied from independent and peer reviewed sources like he says he has. He has merely “just read books and seen movies supporting [his] own [naive] view of things”. I spent 38 years of my life pouring over sources favorable to his point of view and found them to be “bold faced liars” and I’d be happy to provide specific references of such.
I’d love to see specific sources any believer claims to have studied, but I have to say I only find sources with independent verification of the facts reliable. In other words, a bunch of FARMS guys paid by the LDS church hovering over a plausible translation of “NHM” on a rock somewhere in Yemen does not a fact make. What do real archeologists and real linguists say? Or even real theologians? What do the full body of facts point to?
There’s a small yet significant difference between asking yourself, “Can I believe this?” and “Is this believable?”
The answer to the first one will always be “yes!” because it takes very little to convince the human mind of pretty much anything it wants to believe. If you want to believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon then the standard for giving yourself permission to do that is very low. It will almost always come down to a feeling. Feelings are easily manipulated and have been proven to be unreliable sources for the truth.
The second question starts off at square one with zero assumptions and without off-limit sources. Each source can be analyzed and given proper weight. The sum total of all the facts helps you decide if it believable or not. When I did that, for example, I couldn’t find anything that put the Book of Mormon at anything better than highly improbable.
Can you believe it? Absolutely.
Is it believable? Hardly.
Another huge difference between me and a believer: I don’t think I’m right with a full stop. I’m open to changing my opinions and beliefs if anyone wants to provide some reliable evidence, but as Carl Sagan liked to say, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”