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I agree. Such an uninformative title.

But I disagree with most of what he says. I don't think he makes any arguments that haven't been made before against atheism. As that is, I don't find him at all convincing; mostly because I think he sets up a weak straw-man like version of atheism to attack.

Dave,

I've been sitting here wondering what a European Mormon apology would look like. Here a few thoughts:

The LDS church in Europe is generally considered to be a bizarro American cult, as Peterson suggests. So if we are interested in apology (and I know a lot of Saints who say "who cares?") we would need to work on that image. That's what Public Affairs try to do.

When I was back home over the summer I was proudly showed by my dad some clippings from the local paper that featured Mormons. The local Stake had organised a Pioneer trek re-enactment. The Press took pictures and everyone was pretty pleased about that. Except: IT MADE US LOOK LIKE A BIZARRO AMERICAN CULT! Look, folks, here are the Mormons: they dress like Amish and pretend to push handcarts across the American plains.

(No, we're ordinary people like you: we go to college, pay our taxes, love our country, help the homeless, work hard, are good neighbours etc. etc. My personal opinion is that our missionaries in Europe should do a tonne more humanitarian service. We are already well recognized in our shirts and with our name tags; if we could then associate that image with doing community service it would be a winner.)

it seems to me that peterson's main argument against secularism and for mormonism is that the thought of this life being it and there being no afterlife is so dreadful that therefore secularism/agnosticism/atheism are bad and subsequently mormon church = true. the church is true or not based on its own merits, not because of the unattractiveness of the alternative.

Since "Eurobloggers" are invited to pay special attention, let me say that I found Peterson's essay disappointing. That he choose to write in a mixture of anecdotes and thoughts and varied citations makes the reading pleasant, but the analysis itself seems superficial, somewhat chaotic, based on cheap and sometimes insulting generalizations. First, to put together under one title and in one essay malevolent and cynical Mormon apostates with outside writers who touch (mostly marginally) on Mormonism for other reasons, is in my opinion an error of rabble-rousing. True, Peterson is an apologist, but in his section on European secularism he targets the wrong enemy if the topic is "anti-Mormonism". Many intellectual writers in Europe indeed look at American religiousness with surprise and with a critical, sometimes amused and sometimes appalled undertone, but, if we are able to see it from their world view, not always unwarranted. And many Americans will concur with their analysis. Moreover, these writers are not "ontological anti-Mormons". Even some irony and factual errors do not make them so. At least they pay attention to us and do not call for our annihilation. The real anti-Mormons are the mostly secular cult-hunters, their organizations and their impact on anti-cult legislation in various European countries, which has a direct impact on missionaries and members. We should not put analyzing intellectuals and cult-hunters in the same bag, nor paint Europe with the same broad, sophisticated strokes as some Europeans do, I'll admit it, with America.

I really enjoyed Daniel C. Peterson's essay on secular anti-Mormonism, and largely agree with it. It reflected exactly my thinking at an earlier period in my life when I was struggling with doubt during a brief, two-year period of agnosticism. I joined the Church as a senior in high school after becoming disenchanted with the Baptist faith of my childhood which I found to be doctrinally inconsistent with itself, hopelessly so. I was initially attracted to the Mormon faith because I could see the consistency of the internal logic in the teachings of the Church if one assumed the First Vision and the historicity of the Book of Mormon as a given. Peterson points this out in his essay. He also points out the obvious fact that belief is a choice. I agree. It is a deliberate choice that I made. Unfortunately, a fellow student at BYU challenged me to prove that the personal revelation that I had received was not merely chemical reactions in my brain. When I found that I could not, I embarked upon my experiment with agnosticism. Peterson addresses this exact issue in his essay. Finally, I have felt for many years that "without God all things are lawful." I was introduced to the idea in my youth by Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov . To me it seems like a self-evident truth. And sure enough, Peterson cites the exact quotation that has so long influenced my thinking on morality. The essay almost seemed as if it were written to me personally.

And I disagree that secular anti-Mormons shouldn't be numbered among sectarian anti-Mormons. I think they are a much greater danger to the work of Jesus Christ upon the earth. And whether they have Mormonism in mind or all religion in general, their danger to faith is the same.

I liked this essay a lot, in some specific ways. For those of you who have heard Daniel Peterson speak or have read his non-Mormon work, he's a wonderful writer and a very pleasant human being. For some reason, both of those qualities tend to go away when he writes about Mormon topics. So the origins of this essay in a FAIR conference are telling; perhaps Dr. Peterson should make a resolution to always base his Mormon-themed writings on speeches. He seems far more humane, and far more capable of generating worthwhile prose, that way.

That said, I wonder somewhat about the utility of this essay for FAIR. Who in the world is going to say to herself, "Well, I can't decide whether or not the secular anti-Mormons (whatever they are) are right. I guess I better check what FAIR has to say about them." If we can't imagine such people, then we have to ask ourselves what this essay is for. Or is it just an ego thing for faithful Latter-day Saints--so that they can mock those who they think to be damned?

I think the issue that some have been pushing, RT, is to bring out in the open the assumptions and premises within so-called secular criticism. Personally I sometimes think they're beating a dead horse because *so much* has been written about it of late. But it is true that the premises that often deal with what is left out of texts is important for evaluating them. Readers who encounter these books and aren't aware of what is fairly straightforward to the rest of us may be shaken.

While none of these comments will be persuasive in the least to those who buy into the secular assumptions, they might be very valuable to people shaken by secular criticisms but who don't share their premises.

What is the more illiberal, a believing Mormon who feels all unbelievers are going to end up in hell if they don't repent, or an atheist/agnostic who considers all believing Mormons to be deluded fools?

I found the article interesting, but like the others posted here, found it not a good defense. I sometimes wonder if a lot of Mormons believe simply because to believe that God doesn't exist is not acceptable. Which seems to be the jest of his argument. Can't tell Dad he won't ever see again, can we?

As far as the problem of why God allows evil, which he doesn't really answer ... I've always found the book of Job as a key to this. In the story you'll find Satan going to visit God and talking about events on earth. In this story his focus is on Job. Satan has to ask permission to do certain things (he's not allowed to kill him) to test Job based on his challenge to God on how Job would respond (curse God). Likewise, I believe that there are a set of Rules that were determined between Jesus and Satan in their War. These rules prevent God from directly intervening a lot of the time in preventing evil. Not to mention that direct interference might be a direct affront on free agency, Jesus's main selling point in the pre-existance council.

Other points: In a quote in his article: "... if the beginning of the promenade of Mormon history, the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, can survive the crisis, then the rest of the promenade follows and nothing that happens in it can really detract from the miracle of the whole."

I don't agree with this necessarily. Repeatedly I've heard that the Book of Mormon is the key to determine if the church is false. What's interesting is that so many Mormon break-offs have determined that the BOM is inspired but not a historically acurate book (like good fairy tales telling good moral stories) and yet they at least keep their membership steady. For them, at least, it wasn't really all that important.

"Shaken by what he had witnessed, Auden realized that his secular worldview couldn't provide him with a firm moral ground from which to protest that Nazi brutality was objectively evil."

The other argument in how atheism is bad, is that they have no point of reference to determine what's evil since they have no ultimate authority (God) to go to. I think the libertarians have put that notion to rest. For them, the final authority is the belief that everyone has full freedom to do whatever they want to as long as it doesn't interfere with someone else's freedom. Its the ultimate in Free Will. War (Murder) is wrong since it interferes with that person's rights to be free. My brother-in-law is a libertarian athiest, and I'd much rather live in his world than a lot of orthodox Mormon worlds including many of the early church's cities including Nauvoo and early Utah.

[edited for length; SU, try using a real email address]

SpeakingUP, the problem with atheism isn't in defining the good. There are many ways of doing that, of which Mill-styled Utilitarianism is but one choice. Rather the problem is in justifying to the individual why they ought be good. This is a point many atheists miss but which the "prophet" of the announcement of the death of God did not.

Nietzsche is perhaps a very good read here. He characterizes atheistic utilitarians among others as people who don't recognize the announcement of the death of God, i.e., Nietzsche considered many who either were formally atheists or the like as really still believing in God in their hearts. His answer is for men to be Gods.

And it seems like there is no other choice. The appeals to utilitarianism and many other ethics within atheism (IMO) still rely on a kind of God to reign in behavior and the like. I think Nietzsche quite right that many atheists try to have it both ways.

I'm sorry that I missed this little discussion. It was only brought to my attention this afternoon.

I apologize that my remarks didn't offer a persuasive argument against atheism. However, I would have been not only gratified but astonished if they had, since refuting atheism wasn't in any sense a principal, secondary, or even tertiary goal of the essay, which was simply what it said it was -- a series of reflections or meditations on the general topic assigned to me.

As for the quality of the writing itself, I can only remark that I too am undecided as to whether it's slightly less objectionable than my usual compositions or (and this is more likely) every bit as bad as my prose typically is.

DP, to be great is to be misunderstood.

I wish that being misunderstood were enough to make one great. Even with my gross limitations and incapacities, in that case, I might have at least some hope.

I thought I clearly said in my essay that I was not arguing that, because the implications of atheism are unpleasant, atheism cannot be true. Yet I seem to have been accused, above, of making precisely that argument.

Sigh.

To all who object to Dan's essay, particularly hardened European cynical "members" trying frantically to save some intellectual face in the company of your immoral and godless peers, please read the essay again, but this time pay attention.

To the atheists who object to what Dan has said about your religion, provide a counter-argument, or show where he incorrectly presented your position and the very clear moral implications thereof, beyond mere blow-hard rhetoric aimed at undermining what he _didn't_ say.

And you accuse _him_ of building a strawman... Sheesh!

Thank you.

What's with the quotes around members, Mr. Wills? Yeesh. Congratulations - you've managed to be just as obnoxious as one can be with just two little punctuation marks.

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