When I was committed, testimony bearing, faithful Mormon Bishop I used to say that ‘spiritual knowledge’ is special. It is a more sure type of knowledge. It comes from God via the Holy Ghost.
I believed that ‘Spiritual Knowledge’ is God communicating with my spirit in the most profound and unmistakable way possible.
A Testimony of The Gospel is often believed to be more reliable than any other knowledge. I used to believe this type of ‘spiritual knowledge’ was more sure than knowledge received by my other senses, including my eyes.
After my epiphany, I have come to realise that I was grossly in error.
Many millions of Mormons, as well as other fervently religious believers in all the varied and diverse faiths around the world, are just victims of a normal human psychological glitch which leaves us credulous, even gullible.
My personal take on ‘spiritual knowledge’ is that it is just a type of emotional feeling. Those feelings (of the spirit) tell you HOW you feel about something. That ‘something’ could be true or false. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to know if it’s true or false information for you to have an an emotional response to it.
But obviously, if the information is known to be factually correct, as opposed to being known to be fictional, then that extra information will also affect our emotional response to the main information.
Our emotional reactions or feelings are completely different to, & separate from, factual knowledge or empirical evidence. They are our response to learning the facts. They are, & should never be, confused with the facts themselves.
“When the day comes that repeated double blind studies can show that any ‘spiritually attuned’ individual with no particular prior knowledge of a subject can consistently answer questions with the correct answer, and do so on an equal level with a respected expert in the particular subject, and do so solely based on ‘feelings of the spirit’, or a ‘burning in the bosom’, then I will give credence to ‘spiritual knowledge’. Until then, I will accord such ‘knowledge’ the respect it deserves – NONE.
“That isn’t to say that I don’t respect intuition, I do. However, I would never classify information based on intuition at a level with that of knowledge though.
“Let me put it this way…In a court of law where you are the defendant, in which order of value or priority do you want the jurors to weigh the evidence with the highest priority? Feelings or evidence? A court places value on factual evidence first, then eyewitness observational evidence and then gives no credence to feelings whatsoever. You are ordered by the judge to base your decision solely on the evidence and first-hand eyewitness accounts. In fact, the courts work pretty hard to find and eliminate from the jury people who have any biases against the defendant.
“If ‘feelings’ were a reliable witness of truth then no conman would meet with any success, yet Mormonism is rife with people using them in affinity fraud. In fact, Utah is the number one state in the United States in that statistical catagory.” ~ Max D Crapo
I personally know of several priesthood leaders who were called by revelation, yet at the time were living secret double lives as paedophile abusers.
I am actually aware of numerous LDS local leaders with this kind of skeleton in their background…but God would NEVER inspire the LDS leadership to choose someone like that to be in charge of the youth of a Ward…or would he?
The problem with religions in general, and Mormonism especially, is that they falsely teach us to regard our normal emotional responses to spiritual questions as indicative of truth. They teach us to disregard our healthy skepticism for the bizarre ideas they teach as just the negative feelings from the devil. Any positive feeling which concurs with their teachings is said to be a sign of God revealing His truth to us.
It’s just a case of our beliefs and desires being subject to powerful confirmational biases because it makes us feel good and gives us a tremendous sense of meaning and purpose.
Sam Harris gives an example of a man who believes his destiny is to marry Angelina Jolie, and this sincere belief gives his life meaning and purpose:
Many times members have spiritual confirmation about decisions they make, only to discover later that some of those decisions were a mistake. This doesn’t faze them, because to doubt the original inspiration would be tantamount to losing faith in God. Instead they rationalise and make excuses saying God wanted them to learn an important lesson, or maybe they just haven’t been righteous enough or they didn’t have enough faith. Of course if it works out successfully then it’s seen as confirming their original faith and spiritual witness.
No faithful Mormon believes they are being irrational. That would be impossible. Their minds cannot permit that. There are well understood psychological reasons for that. Sam Harris has written about this here:
Religion As A Black Market For irrationality
A famous and well respected contemporary psychologist explains how we form our beliefs:
“Most people, most of the time, arrive at their beliefs for a host of reasons involving personality and temperament, family dynamics and cultural background, parents and siblings, peer groups and teachers,
education and books, mentors and heroes, and various life experiences, very few of which have anything at all to do with intelligence. The Enlightenment ideal of Homo rationalis has us sitting down before a table of facts, weighing them in the balance pro and con, and then employing logic and reason to determine which set of facts best supports this or that theory. This is not at all how we form beliefs. What happens is that the facts of the world are filtered by our brains through the colored lenses of worldviews, paradigms, theories, hypotheses, conjectures, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through living. We then sort through the facts and select those that confirm what we already believe and ignore or rationalize away those that contradict our beliefs.
“Reasons bit is in the mouth of belief’s horse. The reins pull and direct, cajole & coax, wheedle & inveigle, but ultimately the horse will take it’s natural path.” ~ Michael Shermer from his book ‘The Believing Brain’.
What I like about following rational reasoning and science is that I no longer have to perform mental gymnastics in my mind in order to make my beliefs fit with the evidence. I just accept the evidence!