Exit or Not (FAIR post by Scott Gordon)

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beastie
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Exit or Not (FAIR post by Scott Gordon)

Post by beastie »

Since I'm having a relaxing weekend, I took the time to read another FAIR thread this morning dealing with a topic that has long interested me, and has been part of the reason I continue to discuss issues with believers. How can people be exposed to the same information about the church, and some will lose faith over it, while others shrug it off and go on believing?

When I first left the church, I was very naïve in that I didn't realize that some Mormons are aware of the same information that resulted in my eventual loss of faith, and yet find reasons to continue believing. The evidence seemed very clear to me. I wondered how people could find ways to persist believing. I was intensely interested in why people believe in specific, as well as in general. I read quite a few books delving into the psychology of religious belief, as well as the social evolution of human beings in general, as well as books dealing in particular with how the human brain works and reasons.

My tentative conclusion, at this point, is not new. Others have called it the "investment paradigm". I believe the human brain is wired to actually help human beings to continue to believe/behave in ways that are conducive to continued success (in terms of evolution - social success leading to enhanced opportunities to reproduce and survive) by editing out harmful information that could otherwise result in the loss of the ability to continuing believing what is important, for some reason, for the individual to continue believing.

Many discussions and evidence supporting this contention can be found by doing searches for phrases such as "true believer syndrome", or "selective thinking", or "biased thinking", such as this link:

http://skepdic.com/truebeliever.html

Of course, all human beings are prey to this effect, even skeptics such as myself. Perhaps my own skepticism is the result of some form of true believer syndrome, although I am at a loss to figure out how that could be the case, considering my strong former attachment to Mormonism and resistance I had to losing faith in it.

I believe that the reasons it may be too threatening to lose faith in Mormonism for the individual's brain to not engage in helpful "editing" and selective thinking are quite varied. It may be that the loss of faith in Mormonism would result in the loss of one's familial support, one's job, one's social structure. It may be that the psychology of the individual involved cannot tolerate being wrong about such an important idea.

Of course, there are examples of people who would seem to share the same "investment", but still lost faith. I believe there must be an underlying difference in how these people processed the potential threat of loss of faith. Somehow, there must have been the possibility that, even with the loss of faith, one could survive and be successful despite having lost one's primary social structure.

It is obvious that I make these statements from the viewpoint that the amount of information available that would lead to a reasonable, decent person disbelieving Mormonism's basic truch claims is significant, and that the continuation of belief is the result of a serious determination to continue to believe despite all that information.

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truth dancer
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Post by truth dancer »

Hi Beastie,

I'm convinced (thank you Ramanchandran and Phantom's in the Brain) that there is a neurological hardwiring in the brain for belief, evolved to help humankind exist in this world.

What becomes the question for me, is how do some people "unwire" the brain?

At this point I'm thinking along the lines that as long as the particular belief supports and sustains life (or is beneficial to it), it can remain and it is in the best interest (from an evolutionary perspective) to keep it. But, if the particular belief seems (for whatever reason) to be either harmful or at least not helpful, then at some level the brain can let go of it (even though it may be excruciatingly difficult).

This would in part explain why it is important to the particular belief, to "work" for the individual (make the believer feel a part of the group, have them feel supported, help them feel life is meaningful in that paradigm, etc). Also, the fear associated with disbelief in some religions plays into the neurology making one (perhaps unconsciously), feel that disbelief will result in harm/death/eternal consequences.

As you know, this has become one of my primary interests these days... I find belief FASCINATING!!!

~dancer~

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Re: Exit or Not (FAIR post by Scott Gordon)

Post by moksha »

It is obvious that I make these statements from the viewpoint that the amount of information available that would lead to a reasonable, decent person disbelieving Mormonism's basic truch claims is significant, and that the continuation of belief is the result of a serious determination to continue to believe despite all that information.


I thought Scott Gordon was an orthodox TBM. What gives???
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Post by Polygamy Porter »

Scott Gorden is the founder of Fair.

I think this is beasties post?

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beastie
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sorry

Post by beastie »

Sorry about the confusion - yes, this was my post, which was a reaction to Scott Gordon's post on FAIR.

I would have clarified earlier, but I have problems logging onto MD for some reason.

TD,

I agree that we do seem wired to be able to process information in such a selective and biased manner that it often astounds me that ANYONE can let go of a previous support system. But I think it must have something to do with your statement:

At this point I'm thinking along the lines that as long as the particular belief supports and sustains life (or is beneficial to it), it can remain and it is in the best interest (from an evolutionary perspective) to keep it. But, if the particular belief seems (for whatever reason) to be either harmful or at least not helpful, then at some level the brain can let go of it (even though it may be excruciatingly difficult).


As difficult as it was for me to lose faith, as frightening as it was, in retrospect, my survival and reproductive success was not really tied to remaining in the LDS church. I live in an area of the country where very few Mormons live, so my livelihood would not be impacted in anyway, nor would the friendships I had formed outside the church impacted at all. Yes, I lost almost all contact with friends I had in the church, but those were "specialized" friendships, based only on church membership and contact through church activity. My family were converts, and although it was very difficult for my parents to accept, I knew that they could eventually accept it and still love me and want me in their family. My marriage was bad to begin with, so I certainly didn't have an imperative to continue believing so my husband wouldn't divorce me (he didn't seem to care that I lost faith and even claimed he'd never really believed it to begin with, it was all an act to appease his family, but I never know what to believe about him). So, other than having to face the fearful task of reformulating my entire view of the world, what did I have to lose?

My oldest sister went through the same phases of doubt I did, but chose to remain in the church when I chose to leave. She did so due to the fact that her personal costs would be too high. She openly admitted to me she was going to stay in the church and do her best to find a way to believe again because she felt like the church gave her moral boundaries she needed, and if she left the church, she'd probably divorce her husband with whom she'd grown somewhat bored, and her children would never forgive her. She truly felt that the love of her children depended on her remaining a believer. If I felt that way, I would probably find a way to continue believing as well. Some losses are too awful to contemplate.

But my sister is very self-aware and extremely intelligent, and I suspect she was able to recognize her motives when, for many other people, those motives themselves are too threatening to recognize as well. I know one person who can only maintain familial relationships because the church tells her to forgive the father who molested her. I think the loss of faith would be too much for her, because it would force her to reevaluate her decision to forgive and maintain a relationship, and that is too painful. I know another person who lost a child, and the comfort LDS beliefs bring her are too important to her. This, by the way, is why I do not seek out to "deconvert" people from the LDS church, and only frankly discuss these sort of topics on boards that are designed for discussion among people who want to discuss these topics. Life is too complicated to muck about in someone else's way of surviving.

But now and then I hear of cases that seem to defy this logic - every now and then someone loses faith even though the cost is tremendously high, for example.

Perhaps the answer is as simple as some brains are more wired to accomodate "flexible reasoning" that continued belief in the church, after exposure to serious problems, requires than others, just like some brains are more wired for "numinous" experiences than others. Yeah, I just realized the answer is probably as simple as that.

Ray A

Re: sorry

Post by Ray A »

beastie wrote: This, by the way, is why I do not seek out to "deconvert" people from the LDS church, and only frankly discuss these sort of topics on boards that are designed for discussion among people who want to discuss these topics. Life is too complicated to muck about in someone else's way of surviving.


I feel exactly the same way. When I first left the church I had all these "intellectual reasons" in my head, and I felt all were valid (but that's not the only, or even the main reason I left). When talking to a very staunch, long-time sister member, I thought she would be eager to hear what I thought, and about all this reading I had done. So one day I mentioned to her some of the things that troubled me, and she looked at me like a misguided little pup, and as if everything went over her head. She said, "you don't understand, I believe for different reasons". Absolutely nothing I could have said would have budged her, and that's when I realised they were all talking apples and I was talking oranges. Many have spiritual beliefs, and it's the "inner voice" that convinces them, so no amount or rational thinking can shake that. "There will be an answer." For that reasoin I have never tried to sway any of my Mormon friends. If one of them came to me and asked questions, I would answer them frankly, but even then I'd advise them to count the costs. My own belief in God is largely emotional, instinctive, and intuitive, but I fully understand why people are agnostic/atheist.

We are both rational and emotional beings, and to be truthful, I don't know too many people who get married on logic, because if they did they'd never do it, and a 50% divorce rate shows that we are not very good at logic. We fall in love with people we sometimes know are going to hurt us, but love is blind to faults. In the same way, the true believer is blind to the faults of the church, or the leaders, or the doctrines. Love (testimony) truly conquers all.

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Post by beastie »

We are both rational and emotional beings, and to be truthful, I don't know too many people who get married on logic, because if they did they'd never do it, and a 50% divorce rate shows that we are not very good at logic. We fall in love with people we sometimes know are going to hurt us, but love is blind to faults. In the same way, the true believer is blind to the faults of the church, or the leaders, or the doctrines. Love (testimony) truly conquers all.



I have thought of that exact same analogy myself.

Human beings really are complicated critters. And we excel at fooling ourselves. Whenever I see the bumper sticker that says "Question Authority", I always want to add "and question yourself, too". But it is a bit unnerving.

ps, I enjoy your Jefferson quote. I've also been reminded of this one this past week in the US:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake. - From a letter of 1798, after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Last edited by beastie on Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: sorry

Post by harmony »

Life is too complicated to muck about in someone else's way of surviving.


I wonder if the oh-so-self-righteous TBM's here (who know good and well who they are) would do some of us the favor of commiting this to memory?

Thanks.

Ray A

Post by Ray A »

beastie wrote:ps, I enjoy your Jefferson quote. I've also been reminded of this one this past week in the US:

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake. - From a letter of 1798, after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.


I think Jefferson was a genius. A simpleton or partisan would never work out his mind. If I could have one hour with any past US president, it would be Jefferson.

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Post by wenglund »

To your respective ways of thinking or feeling, how do varied levels of belief factor in (wavering or weak to unequivocal and strong)?

Or, varied levels of disbelief (agnostic vs. athiest)?

To your ways of thinking or feeling, is it possible that perceived evidence may play a part (i.e. the more perceived evidence in support of a belief, the stronger the belief, whereas the less perceived evidence in support of the belief, the weaker the belief; and the more perceived evidence in controvention to a belief the stronger the disbelief, and the less perceived evidence in controvention to a belief, the weaker the disbelief)?

Thanks, -Wade

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Re: sorry

Post by wenglund »

harmony wrote:
Life is too complicated to muck about in someone else's way of surviving.


I wonder if the oh-so-self-righteous TBM's here (who know good and well who they are) would do some of us the favor of commiting this to memory?

Thanks.


I note the rank irony of this request. ;-)

Thanks, -Wade ENglund-

Ray A

Post by Ray A »

wenglund wrote:To your respective ways of thinking or feeling, how do varied levels of belief factor in (wavering or weak to unequivocal and strong)?

Or, varied levels of disbelief (agnostic vs. athiest)?

To your ways of thinking or feeling, is it possible that perceived evidence may play a part (i.e. the more perceived evidence in support of a belief, the stronger the belief, whereas the less perceived evidence in support of the belief, the weaker the belief; and the more perceived evidence in controvention to a belief the stronger the disbelief, and the less perceived evidence in controvention to a belief, the weaker the disbelief)?

Thanks, -Wade


What evidence are you talking about? A spiritual witness, or pure physical evidence? If pure physical evidence, then I would say Jaredite barges carrying humans and animals in ancient submarines upon the water for 344 days, with illuminated stones for light, no apparent toilet facilities, and emerging half a globe away in a promised land, and starting a whole civilisation, which eventually detroys itself down to one man who survives, the leader, is fantasy. This is also what Roberts thought in his "devil's advocate" writing, and it's things like this that Roberts questioned, "how shall we escape these difficulties?"

Don't get me wrong, I'm not mocking belief insofar as mythology brings people meaning. What I am questioning is the literalness applied to what is clearly mythology. If you'd like to start a thread on the Jaredite barges, Wade, be my guest. The Book of Mormon is far more than Jaredite barges, or Liahonas, or mountains removing at a word, or three Nephites who are still alive, somewhere, and who crop up in legends so often. Nephi could see some 2,500 years into the future, in detail that would give Nostradamus a fit. Yet as beastie pointed out, the leaders could not see in 1950 how wrong racism was. I won't go into those embarrassing Petersen's quotes, because he was a cultural norm of his time, and if he was here today he would not say those things. But the Book of Mormon does have other ethically admirable concepts which disposes one to accept all the other junk stories. I contend that a separation is necessary. We need a whittling down to the good concepts in the Book of Mormon, and to ignore the junk stories.

So the evidence I see is that people place their faith in what is good and uplifting in the scriptures, yet some feel they have to make it all literal to be true. If asses don't talk, then the Sermon on the Mount is a fraud. Great logic. That's just one analogy. I have a Christian friend who insists that the world was created in six 24 hour days, and if, in his mind, this was proved false, he would lose his whole faith in Christianity! You might think this silly, but he can't wrap his mind around the "silliness" of the Book of Mormon, yet he has no problem with biblical stupidity. So is this evidence perceived, or real? Did Elisha really have two bears kill those children because they teased him about his bald head? This has to be the worst case of sledgehammering ants or killing someone, children at that, for lighthearted teasing. And if you think there is some mythology in the scriptures, where do you draw the line? To many Muslims the Qur'an is NOT mythology - it is verily the word of God. Those who doubt the literal interpretations of the Qur'an are called "moderates". So why do we call them moderates for doubting literal interpretations, but if a Mormon doubts literal interpretations they are called "apostates"?

I won't go into 1 Samuel 15 in detail, but do you believe that Samuel chopped Agag in pieces with a sword, and that Saul was disobedient because he killed all the men, women and children, but spared Agag and the animals? Is this historical fact?

I'm merely discussing evidence. Do you see anything wrong in the points I've made, if so, why?

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Post by wenglund »

Ray A wrote:
wenglund wrote:To your respective ways of thinking or feeling, how do varied levels of belief factor in (wavering or weak to unequivocal and strong)?

Or, varied levels of disbelief (agnostic vs. athiest)?

To your ways of thinking or feeling, is it possible that perceived evidence may play a part (i.e. the more perceived evidence in support of a belief, the stronger the belief, whereas the less perceived evidence in support of the belief, the weaker the belief; and the more perceived evidence in controvention to a belief the stronger the disbelief, and the less perceived evidence in controvention to a belief, the weaker the disbelief)?

Thanks, -Wade


What evidence are you talking about? A spiritual witness, or pure physical evidence?


It is whatever each individual determines for themselves is evidence. Some people may limit evidence to physical evidence, and by so doing, they my find little evidence to support a belief in spiritual things, and thus at best they may be weak in their belief, or more likely they will disbelieve. Whereas, those who are open to spiritual evidence, may find sufficient and increasing evidence to support their growth in faith.

Also, it depends upon how one may interpret physical or spiritual evidence. Some may reasonably conclude that the story of the Jaredites is physically improbable or impossible, and thus think the physical evidence is against it being a reality. Whereas others may think it physically possible, and thereby be open to it being a physical reality. Some may conclude that spiritual experiences are simply self-induced neurological reactions or human emotions, and so spiritual experiences will for them not qualify as evidence in support of a belief in a spiritual reality; whereas others who view spiritual experiences as a product of literal spiritual sensations may view those spiritual experiences as evidence supporting a belief in a spiritual reality.

In other words, whatever each individual determines for themselves is evidence, will factor heavily into whether one believes or not.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Post by harmony »

Nephi could see some 2,500 years into the future, in detail that would give Nostradamus a fit. Yet as beastie pointed out, the leaders could not see in 1950 how wrong racism was.


This is very profound, Ray.

To many Muslims the Qur'an is NOT mythology - it is verily the word of God. Those who doubt the literal interpretations of the Qur'an are called "moderates". So why do we call them moderates for doubting literal interpretations, but if a Mormon doubts literal interpretations they are called "apostates"?


This is worthy of a sig line.

Very insightful, Ray. Thank you.

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Post by truth dancer »

Hi Wade...

Also, it depends upon how one may interpret physical or spiritual evidence. Some may reasonably conclude that the story of the Jaredites is physically improbable or impossible, and thus think the physical evidence is against it being a reality. Whereas others may think it physically possible, and thereby be open to it being a physical reality. Some may conclude that spiritual experiences are simply self-induced neurological reactions or human emotions, and so spiritual experiences will for them not qualify as evidence in support of a belief in a spiritual reality; whereas others who view spiritual experiences as a product of literal spiritual sensations may view those spiritual experiences as evidence supporting a belief in a spiritual reality.


Yes but lets go even deeper ... why is it that two people can see or experience the exact same thing and come to different conclusions?

One person may see a red, horned creature in her bedroom and determine it is Satan himself, another may see the same thing and call the doctor to get her meds adjusted.

One person can read the story of the Jaradites and find it completely plausible while others find it totally impossible?

It seems there is something deeper than the actual experience/information that allows one to either believe or disbelieve it.

At this point I feel fairly certain it is neurological.

I'll give you a personal example. I grew up in a family who felt racism was a horrible, degrading, cruel phenomenon. When I learned about the priesthood ban (a few years after my conversion), I was horrified to say the least. I talked to many church leaders, heard all the justifications for it, read several books on the topic (even though I was fairly young), and nothing could even remotely make me think the ban was of God. I also prayed, fasted, pleaded with God to help me understand and all my spiritual experiences convinced me that the ban was a horrible thing created by men. Nothing I could do could convince me it was of God. Other member with whom I discussed the issue could just not see the big deal... still to this day many believers just put it aside as if it is nothing to worry about. So, I believe part of the difference between the two reactions to the ban is that my early education and moral teaching was hardwired in my brain strongly enough that I could not "unwire" it. Others perhaps grew up with the idea that the ban was Godly and so didn't seem to give it a second thought.

Does that make sense?

~dancer~

Ray A

Post by Ray A »

wenglund wrote:Also, it depends upon how one may interpret physical or spiritual evidence. Some may reasonably conclude that the story of the Jaredites is physically improbable or impossible, and thus think the physical evidence is against it being a reality. Whereas others may think it physically possible, and thereby be open to it being a physical reality. Some may conclude that spiritual experiences are simply self-induced neurological reactions or human emotions, and so spiritual experiences will for them not qualify as evidence in support of a belief in a spiritual reality; whereas others who view spiritual experiences as a product of literal spiritual sensations may view those spiritual experiences as evidence supporting a belief in a spiritual reality.

In other words, whatever each individual determines for themselves is evidence, will factor heavily into whether one believes or not.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-


If I'm reading you correctly you're saying a spiritual experience, let's say a witness from the HG, is enough to convince one that the physical evidence is correct, that no matter how impossible it may seem to someone else, in the mind of the one who has had the spiritual witness this establishes the truth of historicity. Is that correct?

Next question: Does Moroni 10:3-5 speak only of a spiritual witness (that the teachings are true), or does it, when it says "ye shall know the truth of these things" also include the history of all the Book of Mormon? That every event is true, including the Jaredite crossing.

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