Truthfulness versus Perceived Usefulness

Is it worth staying in the Church after discovering it was originally founded on lies just because there are some perceived benefits?

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This dilemma is now facing many thousands of Mormons around the world as they discover the truth about the foundational claims of their faith, and come to the awful realisation they have been mistaken.

Some members try to stay in the Church despite realising the lies upon which the foundation of the Church is built. They do so for a variety of reasons, not least of which is staying for the sake of maintaining reasonable relationships with loved ones. Another reason is staying for the benefit of the social community of the Church, and for the opportunity to give service to others through Church callings & assignments leading to a feeling of being needed and of value to others. And some others desperately rationalise to themselves that the Church has made them a better person, so feel a need to stay where they are comfortable.

All of these reasons can be justified by our subconscious minds, yet all are rooted in fear of the unknown.

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The Church is very good at feeding our minds with ideas which create subconscious & irrational fears, phobias and prejudices. I seriously considered that I would live a miserable life outside of Mormonism; that I might be punished with illness, unhappiness and failure. I actually believed that my life would no longer have purpose. At the time of my crisis of faith I felt like I was dying on the inside; that who I was as a person had lost its meaning and purpose. The Church was so deeply ingrained in my life that the Mormon belief system defined me. Every aspect of my life, every decision I made was seen in the context of the Church.

Mormonism gave me my identity and purpose in life. To consider leaving Mormonism caused me to suffer something akin to an existential crisis.

How can a belief system be healthy if it creates fear & guilt in our minds when we question those beliefs? Surely a healthy and secure belief system would encourage and value debate and questioning. And promote the best in human flourishing and wellbeing.

I love the members of the Church. They are wonderful people who I do not wish to offend, though this may sound offensive to many gnostics. I was one, so I know whereof I speak. (A GNOSTIC is someone who believes they KNOW, in this case “knows the Church is true etc.”)

I now have less problems tolerating agnostic beliefs than gnostic ones.

Certainty about supernatural beings & events based on spiritual feelings is unreliable at best, & potentially life-threatening at worst. Just ask the many fundamentalist Muslims who are terrifyingly so sure of their beliefs they are prepared to take lives, including their own, in its defense.

I suppose I’m following the counsel of President Hinckley when he said if Joseph Smith did not have the First Vision then this is all a fraud!

I’m trying to be authentic, so for me that means living true to what I’ve discovered about objective reality. If something is not true I believe it disconnects me from reality if I believe & follow it.

However, I accept that people have various reasons for believing in religion: a sense of community, a purpose or meaning of life & a sense of security, and frequently a strong feeling of happiness

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But I also think those things are ultimately built on crumbly foundations if not built on objective, factual Truth! If one’s purpose in life is founded on a fantasy then there is always a cost to pay.

Truth is what sets us free, not fiction!

Belief in a fantasy, no matter how comforting, is a damnable false hope.

We look back with incredulity at how Bronze Age people could believe in child sacrifice to placate the gods in order to secure their harvests. Yet Christians still believe in a God that required the sacrifice of His child on a cross. The origins of which belief are rooted in the superstitious prehistory of primitive humankind.

In the end I am not a relativist, believing that truth is whatever you want to believe. I think truth is more reliable than that.

Either God and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith or they didn’t.

Either Abraham wrote the Book of Abraham or he didn’t.

Either the story in the Book of Mormon is actually a true account of the people depicted in its pages or it’s a work of fiction.

I think the reason religion has such a strong appeal is due to the power of stories, myths & legends on our psyche.

I believe that stories, whether true or false, have power.

I think stories can inspire & motivate us. They can teach us useful principles to live our lives by and lessons on good social relations etc.

I’m reminded of Aesop’s Fables.

I think the problem occurs when the story-teller promotes their fictional narrative to the status of factual truth or reality. I think this is especially significant when the narrative is absurd & bizarre and not related to reality. I think the danger then is that superstitious minds can start to become disconnected from the natural world, other people & their day to day lives, as they start to believe in irrational, supernatural powers & events.

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I believe evolutionary psychologists have explained this tendency could have been an advantageous adaption for our ancient ancestors to cope with a scary, dangerous natural world they couldn’t explain or understand.


Is Religion Really Needed?

Now that we’ve gained a greater understanding of the natural world through the medium of scientific research we really don’t need to believe in those myths & legends as actual depictions of reality, even though they are fun to contemplate. (I love Lord of the Rings & Avatar movies).

I think fictional narratives continue to give people meaning, purpose & security, but at what cost? When factual truths are available as the alternative nowadays.

I’m reminded of Paul H Dunn’s spiritually uplifting, but fictional General Conference war stories. He was found out and retired quickly from public service. Lying for the Lord! Again!

My question is: do the ends justify the means?

I think religions use narrative to control people at the emotional level where they are most vulnerable. Fear is often the most powerful catalyst for belief. Particularly fear of the unknown.

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I’m not convinced this is valuable, moral or ethical.

I think these quotes are relevant by Anthony Campbell,

“One reason why religions have such a strong hold on human societies is that they are based not primarily on intellectual beliefs but on narratives.”

“Story-telling accesses the human psyche not at the intellectual but at the emotional level where it is more powerful.”

Bishop ]ohn Shelby Spong, Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Newark, USA. said:

“Religion is primarily a search for security and not a search for truth. Religion is what we so often use to bank the fires of our anxiety. That is why religion tends towards becoming excessive, neurotic, controlling, and even evil. That is why a religious government is always a cruel government. People need to understand that questioning and doubting are healthy, human activities to be encouraged not feared. Certainty is a vice not a virtue. Insecurity is something to be grasped and treasured. A true and healthy religious system will encourage each of these activities. A sick and fearful religious system will seek to remove them.”

Gerry Spence said in his book, “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”

But sadly this is not the case for most people.

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To me it’s simple. Truth Matters!

If a belief system is based on a lie then the fantasy built up around it is a damnable false hope.

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No matter how much sugar coating loveliness there is, the lie at its heart stinks.

My problem with religious faith, as opposed to rationalism, is that faith is ‘belief without evidence‘ or even worse ‘pretending to know things one doesn’t know‘.

As a basis for knowledge, or pretended knowledge, faith is without foundation.

I used to think I was having a ‘crisis of faith’, when actually I was having a ‘crisis of pretending to know things I didn’t know’.

Putting that in perspective, I think it’s time as humans we dispensed with faith based religions and focused on science, rationality and reason, the best tools ever devised for understanding the world.

Nothing is perfect, but trying to make a system of belief work when it started with a lie is never a good basis for optimising human wellbeing.

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I think the ultimate question we all need to ask is,

“Are we willing to trade TRUTH for SECURITY?

“AUTHENTICITY for PERCEIVED HAPPINESS?”

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I remain on aspiring actualist, secular humanist, agnostic atheist & an optimist.

How To Think About Mormonism by Tal Bachman

Is Religion Useful Once You Discover The Hoax

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This entry was posted in Mormon Issues, Religious Epiphany, TRUTH and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Truthfulness versus Perceived Usefulness

  1. Diane Tingen says:

    Yes, truth does matter. There is so much great stuff in your post – like “If something is not true, I believe it disconnects me from reality if I believe and follow it.” My journey away from Mormonism began when I went on a Mormon Church History Tour in the summer of 2001. Before going, I decided to go some research so I would know more about what happened at the key places when we visited them – and that was the beginning of the end for me. Discovering the lies was devastating for me, especially since I had been raised in Mormonism and stayed in the church for 52 years. Once I realized that the Mormon Church is built on an enormous stack of lies, I could not rationalize it out for very long. It did take me a while to work through the programming, but I eventually did and left the church two years later. It puzzles me that so many Mormons profess to know the real truth about the church and yet remain inside the Mormon Curtain. That was not an option for me because, as you said, truth really does matter.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Thank you for your positive comments Diane.

      The issues I raise in this blog post were very real for me and are currently very disturbing for a lot of our friends in the Church at the moment. I’m in discussion with several members in leadership roles who are having an even more anxious time trying to decide what to do for the best.

      It’s made ever more difficult due to family relationships being held hostage by the beliefs.

      I wrote this post in an effort to help them realise there are others who faced that dilemma too.

      Best regards and Christmas Greetings,
      Steve

  2. D. Michael Martindale says:

    I’m not willing to trade a faith in religion for a faith in science either. Or a worship of it. Science does a fantastic job discovering a wide range of truths. But we’ve been suffering spiritually for many decades now from the missing truth science has been unable to fill.

    I consider the narrative “Science can teach us everything there is to know as big a lie as religious ones, and the acceptance of that narrative to be as much as act of faith as any religious one.

  3. Stormin says:

    You seemed to talk from an agnostic point of view, how members justify staying and participating (relationships, good they can do, etc.). From the stand point of a believer in God, it isn’t logical to stay and promote false doctrine, worship false gods, and encourage others to believe in lies and fantasy. I have almost given previous Mormon friends heart attacks because of my need to try to be honest! .(Do not worry they were only ‘church’ friends not real friends —- there is a significant difference!)

  4. “Is it worth staying in the Church after discovering it was originally founded on lies just because there are some perceived benefits?”

    Steve, I have been re-reading the post, trying to work out exactly what is your answer to the first question. It’s fairly obviously ‘no’, but I’m not entirely clear why.

    Church culture will often assert that apostates think they are happy, but are actually deceived and are not truly experiencing happiness. I’m wondering if you are making the same argument in the direction of the unbeliever who chooses to stay. Do you assert that all of the ‘perceived benefits’ of maintaining church involvement are completely illusory?

    Trading truth for security: do you assert that maintaining a level of connection to the church as an unbeliever necessarily involves investing in false hope or accepting some of the church’s truth claims at some level?

    • SteveBloor says:

      Hi Sebastian, I think it’s a very difficult road to travel which many are forced to pursue due to the risk of losing something if they leave the Church completely, like credibility and respect amongst a Mormon society (particularly in Utah), like relationships with loved ones, etc. But the evidence is showing that when non-believing members continue to participate in the Mormon Church acting as if they believe, that they suffer a loss. A loss in personal integrity and respect for themselves due to the pretense they are forced to make. I personally know many people around the world who are living a difficult and painful Church experience, but who at the moment feel they have no choice but to knowingly lie to loved ones etc or fear they will suffer worse consequences if they are honest and open. They lose their personal authenticity and most desperately wish their lives could change so that they could be free to be themselves. Others are living lives of self-deception. Their subconscious minds are lying to them, rationalising away the awful situation to protect them from the pain. I do not believe living this way promotes human thriving or psychological wellbeing. I think a person can be involved in Church without believing or investing in the fantasy, but it gets incredibly difficult to be honest with oneself and others particularly in Temple Recommend interviews. I wrote my points hoping they raise awareness of the dilemma many members now face. Unfortunately my solution, leaving the faith, is not easy for everyone. And I empathise with their pain. I hope that answers your question. I’m interested in alternative viewpoints. Kindest regards, Steve

      • Steve,
        Thanks for the clarification. The key qualifier in your response seems to be that harm results when the unbeliever maintains the pretence of faithfulness. I quite concur that the psychological toll of feigned belief is can be severe for many people. Like you, I empathise with the dissonance and heartache faced by so many and wouldn’t wish anyone on a path that exacerbates or prolongs that.

        Personally, though, I’m not convinced that there exists no possibility whatsoever of engaging with the church on one’s own terms, obtaining value while fully rejecting false historical, moral and supernatural claims. I think this path might only be open to a small few and I don’t for a moment wish to denigrate the courage and fortitude of those pay a high cost to fully remove the church from their lives… but I would hope that by reaching a state of transparency and openness about my unbelief while retaining a limited degree of church involvement, I can show those I care about that unbelief can be longsuffering, kind, meek, not puffed-up. I would hope to give my believing friends and family more access to the complete reasonableness of my unbelief by not taking the “If thy hand offends thee, cut it off” approach that would make it so much easier to dismiss.

        I’m not there yet, but I’ve made hopeful steps in that direction. Of course, this might just be naive idealism on my part. I’m prepared to accept that I may look back on things very differently from further down the road.

  5. Ryan Trimble says:

    Great insights, Steve. I like your thoroughness here, too. I feel similarly, though I have more recently explored the power of myths in our culture. I just finished an undergrad course about the anthropology of myth and religion. And, being Christmas time, I have closely watched how the surrounding myths (myth of Jesus, and myth of Santa Claus) affect us. Though I would also consider myself a non-theist secular humanist, I wonder what our humanness might look like without certain myths. Even if we understand such myths to be just that, and not take them as literal, they still have power to cultivate love and celebration of what it means to be human. I worry that continued secularization of our world, though I am in favor of this, will also produce undesirable consequences. What the answer is, I dont know. Would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • SteveBloor says:

      Hi Ryan, Thank you for your comments.

      I too love myth. As a fan of Tolkien and other fantasy I value the insights those stories give me.

      I think humanity will evolve culturally to incorporate new mythologies to fill the void left by religion.

  6. Pingback: Leaving The Mormon Bubble – The Anguish Of Transition | Steve Bloor's Blog

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