Comparative Apologetics

One of the last barriers I had to jump on my way out of Mormonism might be called the “Smart Mormon” hurdle. As one approaches it, the hurdle looks like this:

  • There are so many really smart Mormons who believe Mormonism is “true”.
  • The smart Mormons are much smarter and better educated than I am. They all have PhD’s and most teach at BYU after all. And many of them have also been designated by God as his leaders. They are not only smart, but have greater powers of spiritual discernment than I have, as evidenced by their divine selection as Mormon leaders.
  • So, on what basis am I justified if I disagree with the “smart Mormons”? History and science are uncertain, after all. The safe thing to do – and the “smart” thing to do, is to reject my own conclusions in favor of those reached by the “smart” crowd.

This is the line of thinking that has been pushed by apologists of many stripes since time immemorial (see Click For Document) It can only be maintained if information, and hence perspective, is controlled by the apologists.

So, when one finally walks right up to the hurdle and starts to look at is carefully (see Click For Document) a variety of interesting things happen. The “smart” people are not so smart, for one thing. They are just regular people, some of whom are well qualfied in areas that have nothing to do with religion and so their opinions regarding religious matters are given more weight than is warranted. Richard Bushman and Davis Bitton are a prime examples of this type of person in my view. Many LDS general authorities are in the same camp. They have each been sucked in by different types of social conditioning to which their group has subjected them (including in some cases being “called” into a position of tremendous authority – nothing warps perception like power or the possibilty thereof) in the same way as have smart people within many other ideologies. And that, for me, was a key revelation – that there are innumerable smart people who at the same time believe some of the kookiest ideas on offer to be the literal truth.

Hence, one of the most useful exercises I went through while working through this phase of my collapsing Mormon belief was to visit the websites and chat rooms of many groups of apologists for non-Mormon ideologies. This helped me see the same kind of smart people using the same kinds of specious arguments as those with which I was confronted at FARMS and elsewhere in the Mormon world. I found it fascinating that in every case except my own (that is, re. Mormonsism) the use of cheap debating tricks, illogic, emotional obfuscation, etc. was obvious to me. Only in the case closest to my heart (that is, the Mormon case) where my own social conditioning was the deepest, did this kind of apologetic behaviour have any impact on me. This realization helped me to the conclusion that ideologies inculcated by thorough social conditioning create a form of mental pathology that functions to keep social groups together.

In the end, it simple. Evolution selects for people who are pre-disposed to the pathology just noted because throughout most of human history keeping the group together conferred greater survival and reproductive advantages than any individual “being right”. If you were right, the group would eventually figure it out and it was more important that the group remain intact than you be right. So, our brains developed to tend to consciously acknoweledge the kind of realities that threatened group cohesion when most of the group was ready to come to the same conclusion.

Again, it is that simple. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I think about this now.

In any event, I did not keep track of the various sites I visited as I went through the exercise just noted. I just got on Google and tracked a couple of them down. However, I suspect that others here have had similar experiences to the one I just described. I noted that Tal Bachman in a recent thread noted said he is familiar with some of these sites.

Perhaps those of you who have seen apologists for other ideologies in action and have found them similar to Mormon apologists could share some of your favorites with us. Here is my contribution to get the ball rolling. (Go to home page and poke around. There is some great stuff here.) All the best,


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