January 27, 2010

Coerced Faith

Probably the most fundamental problem I have with organized religions in general is their basic premise. Many of the religions with which I am familiar carry the underlying message of "If you do not accept and follow what I say, without any shred of evidence, then you will be punished." Sometimes the preachers carry out the punishment here in life (take a look at radical Islam), and sometimes the punishment lingers until the afterlife (see pp. 52-53 of Preach My Gospel). Of course, the LDS church veils this threat as an "invitation to obtain salvation" but the result is the same. You must believe without any compelling reason other than because you were told so (e.g., D&C 46:9).

By the way, anybody else who tells you to accept what they preach without a shred of evidence or you will be punished is a liar, has been deceived, or is working for the devil (Matt. 24:4-5, 11). But not the LDS church. No, they're the one and only sincere threat.

Why is it that some people find favor in the sources of threats? Why is it that some people remain attracted to the very source of punishment? A similar phenomenon occurs with victims of domestic abuse. Compare some of these reasons the abused stays with the abuser with why believers may stay with the threatening source of eternal damnation. Week after week believers are told they are not yet good enough; that their wants and desires are sinful; that they must remain loyal no matter the odds; that they will only suffer if they attempt to leave; that they are bad if they question the doctrine or those in authority. For the same reasons that a bright woman may stay with an abusive spouse, believers are similarly molded to "want" to stay with the threatening Church.

In contrast, the message I get from science, reason, logic, and common sense is "Here's all the evidence I can possibly find. Here's what I conclude, but sort it out for yourself too, correct me if I'm wrong. If you don't believe it, no problem; you'll be just fine."

Which message sounds more honest?


The Girl With... said...

This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. My husband and I have recently left the church and his parents have had a very difficult time dealing with it. His mom wrote him a letter to try to get him to change his mind, and it was so utterly ridiculous that it almost made my head explode reading it.

One sentence said "A common characteristic [of people who leave the church] seems to be that all of you feel that man knows better than God and you depend on man’s “intelligence” instead of faith in Jesus Christ."

The problem I have with this is that I can only trust my own intelligence. I think that's why I was given intelligence. Plus, man knows better than God according to whom? According to the prophet? Which one? There are many people who consider themselves a prophet.

Then it always goes back to the spiritual witness. God will tell you, through the spirit, what is right. Except if God tells me that this church is not true, then I am being deceived by Satan. It's a no win situation. It makes me crazy.

Anonymous said...

Nick in the UK

This is exactly the same mentality amongst Jehovahs Witnesses who believe they are the only true church etc.

When a member leaves the JW cult/church then its because Satan has got them etc. I have an elderly JW couple visit me monthly (for me its more to do with my hospitality and love my neighbour sincerity rather than wanting to be a JW). No matter how many times I try to explain that I just do not believe the JW organisation is what it claims it doesn't deter them from 'witnessing' to me. :) I think they are happy to log our social time to meet quotas as part of the Ministry (as JW's are obliged to do so many hours a week/month prosletising to remain in good standing - commanded by Christ!).

The watchtower society in New York (JW HQ) have referred to themselves as the 'Prophet Organisation' exclusively directed by The Father in Heaven(Jehovah in this case. Sound familiar?

Furthermore they have prophecised false things and taught wrong things in the past and likely will again (response from them - we are fallible). But thats not what they say when they make the original claims. In fact to oppose or disagree with any aspect of their theology would be classed as speaking against God(even if you are right and they wrong! lol).

Its amazing how many organisations claim to be the sole approved and direct communicators with God and yet have a history of arrogant leaders and teachings which turn out to be wrong.

Yes it can be a numbing and empty feeling realising that the leaders of ones former religion are not actually in communcation with God, but at the same time its better than being misled unless you believe that Ignorance Is Bliss, though It's hard to undo what one discovers and then try go back to a former way of thinking.

I. Puerility said...

Hey Eli.

I have been out of the blogging world for a while for personal reasons. I have been reading each post of yours though. Still love the perspective.

I downloaded your .pdf version of the blog. Awesome. I wanted to ask you, how did you get everything in that format?

Eli said...

Response to I. Puerility: Thanks for the comment. We've missed you in the blogging world, but I can empathize with why.
I have noticed a lot of typos in the pdf, so I'll keep updating it occasionally. Feel free to get an updated version at any time.
To do that takes a little bit of work if you want to do it for free. I go to the "edit posts" tab on blogger and then go through each post individually to copy the text and then paste it into a Word document. That's the time vampire. After you get it formatted the way you'd like you can just save it as a .pdf (excuse me if you know all of this). Then, in order to make it available to all, I upload the .pdf to Google docs (docs.google.com) without allowing it to convert to Google docs' format, and then "share" the file with everyone, without requiring a sign in. If that's too much info, excuse me, or if you'd like more specifics of any part, feel free to respond. If you'd like a simpler route to a .pdf, you can use blog2print - a website that will convert your blog for $8. It's pretty simple and saves a lot of time.
I hope that helps. Good luck.