Monday, November 05, 2007

The Critical Necessity of Reading Articles Critical of Your Current Beliefs

One fundamental lesson I learned as I discovered the fraud of Mormonism that I cannot stress enough is the critical necessity to read information critical of whatever current beliefs you have. The only thing that kept me believing in the Church as long as I did was that I did not read good quality anti like "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus" by Charles Larson. I was so certain the Church was true and I "knew" lots of evidence that "confirmed" it from institute manuals and other pro-LDS books. After finding out that I was wrong when I had been so sure that I was right, I knew that I needed to not fall into the trap of unjustified certainty again. It is not enough to build a strong case for an idea, one must be aware of the evidence against the idea as well.

After reading several posts here, I fear that many of us are again becoming convinced of the correctness of our new views when we have not fully investigated the literature opposing our new views. I believe that one cannot be a fully informed orthodox True Believing Mormon. Most TBM's aren't fully informed of the evidence against Mormonism. There are many other Mormons (i.e., New Order Mormons, Sunstone, Middle Way, etc) that are very informed and continue to attend, but are no longer orthodox TBM's. Then, there are apologists, some are TBM, but not fully informed, others are very informed but are not orthodox. They do not look at Mormonism the way regular chapel Mormons do. They buy into theories such as Blake Ostler's Expansion Thesis or the pious fraud theory. In any case, one seems unable to be a fully informed orthodox TBM while being true to the evidence.

Similarly, I believe it is impossible to be a fully informed, orthodox true believing Christian. I find that there are very few Christians who have read both the critical and apologetic info about the Bible and Christianity. In my opinion, the evidence is just too strong against a literal take on Christianity. I do believe that it is possible to be a fully informed, liberal Christian. Where there are unknowns, there is room for faith and to believe as one wishes. But, there are several knowns and a resonsible belief system must integrate the realities of those knowns, in my opinion. One is not likely to learn of those challenging pieces of evidence if one sticks to only reading pro-Christian literature.

Now, to practice what I preach, I am open to hearing the evidence for an opposing view point than the one I expressed. One thing to watch for though is a mistake I made while in Mormonism: I thought I knew all the evidence against Mormonism way before I actually did. I did not know what I did not know.


Hüffenhardt said...

I think we need to learn to live with uncertainty and ambiguity. If we really want to take these thoughts to their logical end, there is nothing we can be certain of except perhaps that "something is happening". (Descarte thought that he could prove that he exists, but philosophers have since shown that even that is in doubt). The best we can do is detect any consistencies in our experiences and estimate probabilities for certain things if we assume that anything exists. So, how do we proceed? I'd suggest that where there is an absence of evidence, one is free to believe whatever one wants. For example, there is no way to conclusively prove that there is no Easter Bunny, nor can we prove that one exists. Even if we traced the origins of the concept of Easter Bunny to a particular guy who acknowledged making it up, that does not preclude the possibility that a real Easter Bunny exists that no one has ever seen. It is an issue of probability, not possibility. So, one is free to believe or not believe in the Easter Bunny's existence. The same goes for a god of some sort. I am ok with people having faith in those things that cannot be ruled out, like god and the Easter Bunny. However, my personal preference is to lean toward estimating the probability as very low of something existing for which there is no evidence. I believe it is foolish to rule conclusively on an issue when one does not have the evidence to do so. But, when evidence does exist that could discount or vastly lower the probability of our belief being true, we should seek it out, in my opinion. As someone pointed out, we only have a limited amount of time, so how should we best spend our scrutinizing time? I think whatever belief we feel certain of (hopefully, we are not feeling certain of anything) or believe to be highly probable, and this belief will have a major impact on how we live our lives, it is those beliefs that we should focus on and look at the critical literature on. I have found that in actual practice it does not take too long before you have read all of the major arguments on a particular topic and the apologetic responses. For example, it might take quite some time to read everything ever written on near-death experiences, but it does not take that long to read the arguments and evidence for and against their supernatural origins.

GDTeacher said...

There is a lot of wisdom in what you write. TBM's focus on their certainty to help them through life. After I found out the more accurate history of Mormonism, I focus more on probability and the necessity of being open at all time to being wrong about my current views. Reading arguments on all sides and thinking as cleary as possible is important. I also always remember that no matter what I read, I am filtering it through my own experiential filters and thus clouding what it is I am reading.

I pretty much don't believe I know anything, but view things probabilistically. Reading critcally brings sharpens our view of the world around us and gives us clarity.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

(Edited my original comment)

What I meant to say:

What are your the most compelling articles you have read that are critical of your current beliefs. If they are from online sources, could you link them?

Hüffenhardt said...

Lately, I have been most interested in politics. As you know I am a liberal democrat who often reads the Huffington Post. In an attempt to hear from both sides, I also have bookmarked the Drudge Report and read it each day.

Back when I first became an atheist and postMormon, I was reading a lot of pro-Mormon stuff through the Bloggernacle and pro-Christian stuff on Christian apologist sites I found through Google like CARM, but I haven't read that much religious stuff lately.

John said...

Right on.