Monday, January 28, 2013

Attacking the foundations, part 2 - Defense Mechanisms

This is part two of my post that talks about the foundations of the LDS church.  Here, I am focusing on the defense mechanisms of the church.  According to an article by Daniel Dennett called "The Social Cell," many organizations can be seen in the same light as a cell (like those you learned about in your biology class), part of that is a defense mechanism.  Daniel Dennett mentions in his article "Biologists know that you can infer much about the dangers in an organism's environment by studying its defences, which have been crafted to protect it from the most salient challenges."  I want to discuss the things that are "dangers" to faith in the Mormon church and what that says about the tenets of the LDS faith.

Information Hiding
One big defense mechanism is information hiding.  The church likes to hide information all the time, I already discussed this in more detail in my last post.  However, the church discourages people from seeking out any information from any source other than "church approved" sources.  The obvious danger is that if people hear the real truth they won't want to stay in the church, this is an obvious danger to the organism.

Ritualistic Behaviors
One big defense is to keep a certain set of behaviors, a behavioral programming, up.  This boils down to daily prayer and scripture study, and down to weekly temple and church meeting attendance.  Somehow, God will withhold blessings from you if you are not perfect in this regard.  For whatever reason, you must have regular religious rituals.  This is couched in terms of "you are missing blessings" or some such in order to make it more palatable.  In actuality, this is to keep people immersed in the religious experience.  They even tell you the exact reason why.  Because if you are not completely immersed, daily, you will fall away from the church.  This is a real danger.  A lack of immersion will work you out of the church.  I have also talked about this in detail, previously.

Top Shelfing
This is a big defense mechanism, most, if not all, church members engage in this.  If there is ever a problem, some question, that attacks their faith, the last possible resolution for their cognitive dissonance is to put things on the "top shelf" for later "revelation" or insight.  For many who exit the church, their top shelf had become so over loaded that it simply collapsed.  They realized that there was simply to much to of a load to bear.  Obviously, things that are a problem to the church need to be ignored (if it were true, they could be confronted, but they can't).

Persecution Complex
Most, if not all, cults engage in a "persecution complex."  They see others as persecuting them, especially if anyone is coming close to saying anything bad about them.  They get chased away an yelled at for their anti-social and aberrational behavior, and they think that it is all a sign of being God's "chosen" people.  Just like the Israelites in the old testament, God's chosen people chased from promised land to promised land.  This is a defense mechanism to counter the fact that people hate the cult, because otherwise they would need to accept that their behavior is wrong.

 Service/Family Focus
The church focuses on service and family.  Perhaps this isn't so much of a defense mechanism, it might be in order to show that the church is good based on the "by their fruits ye shall know them" thing.  I see it more as (as Dennett mentions) a mechanism to perpetuate the organism, a method of replication.  It is like a peacock showing off its beautiful feathers in order to attract a mate.  Good people will be drawn to the goodness, and will not have the time to consider or look into what the church is really about.

False Dichotomies
Everything is cast into terms of black and white.  Either this or that.  All or nothing.  There is never anything in between.  This is a defense mechanism to keep people from operating in the gray-shade regions that the world actually works in.  People are not all good or all bad, and yet the church represents the believers as all good and the unbelievers as all bad.  If you are outside the church you are misguided, stupid, or evil.  If you are in the church, you are one of the few blessed and chosen in the world.  Another example is the fact that the church is either all true or a complete hoax.  Joseph Smith was either a prophet of God or a complete liar.  None of these things are true, there are plenty of shades of grayscale in between the two extremes.  This helps people to reject the obvious bad answer, but then they must in turn accept the somewhat implausible alternative.  The dichotomy is a defense/replication mechanism that works extremely well.

Social Focus
There is a big social focus in the church.  You incorporate a person into the church socially.  This gets them deeply ingrained into the workings of the church.  Once they have friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and family members in the church there are serious repercussions to leaving the church.  This keeps many people in who would otherwise leave.

Another defense mechanism is to dehumanize or depersonalize any opposition.  They become "the mob," "the world," "non-members," "gentiles," or "the wicked" or any other label that removes the humanity from detractors.  It is so much easier to disagree with something that has no humanity than it is to disagree with your friends and family.  This is a defense mechanism to prevent people from agreeing with those that disagree with you, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

False Appeals
These are false appeals to authority or to the masses.  "14 million people can't be wrong!"  "The church is the fastest growing religion in America, they can't be wrong!"  "So-and-so is a professor and really smart, he is a member, he can't be wrong."  "Elder x is a Doctor/Lawyer/Successful businessman, that shows that even smart and thinking people like myself are members, that must make it okay."  "A smart person like Mr. x is a Mormon, that must mean its true, he usually knows better than I do."  These kind of logical fallacies are pervasive in church thinking.  They, again, keep people from considering that the church isn't true, it keeps them believing by trusting others.  Another is an appeal to Pascal's wager (which goes back also to a false dichotomy), which states that you can either believe or not, and God either exists or not.  The only way to lose is to not believe and have God exist, which implies that there is safety in believing, you miss out on nothing if you are wrong, if you are right you win big.  This isn't to mention that there are many things in between.  Don't forget the large opportunity cost to believing in a lie, the behavioral control, and the misery caused by all of the conditioning and lies.

Holding Family Hostage
The church holds your family hostage.  Not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense.  You need to do everything the church asks of you, or you will lose your family.  Not just for this life, but forever.  People naturally love their family and they want to keep their family forever.  This is a natural human desire that the church abuses by teaching people they can HAVE the forever family that they so desire, if only the cow to the demands of "God" and toe the line for their whole life.  This keeps people "top shelfing" in order to stay in the church, it keeps the people from accepting anything when doubts are brought up (and even can cause them to become violent).  This one makes me angry because it has caused so much misery for so many people, all across the church.  So many people worried that, even though they have been faithful their entire lives that they might still lose their forever family.

In order to keep members strong and active, what better way to do so other than classic conditioning?  The church has many teachings that depict this.  You do good things, good things will happen.  You did a good thing, and so something good happened.  You do bad things, and bad things will happen.  You did a bad thing, that is why this bad thing happened.  You are taught to see things in terms of this Good/Bad conditioning.  Teach people, control their behavior, ensure they act the way they want you to.  An especially insidious defense mechanism.  One thing I noticed during the last time I read any of the Book of Mormon is how pervasive this type of teaching is in the Book of Mormon itself, and even highly intelligent people don't notice it while they are still inside of the religion.

Fear, Obligation, Guilt
The church has an interesting mixture of fear, obligation, and guilt.  You are afraid of everything.  You are afraid (and guilty) of everything thought, action, desire, lack of thought, action, and desire.  Everything you do or don't do causes amazing amounts of fear and guilt.  There is a great deal of obligation to perform so many obligations in so many ways.  This is an interesting behavioral control mechanism.  It causes an interesting mixture of co-dependent tendencies in people that experience these kind of cognitive patterns.  This is similar to the conditioning, keep people afraid of disobeying, keep people doing what you want them to, and they can't escape.  A defense mechanism intended to keep the organism intact.

Emotional Appeals
Rationale is bad.  The church tries to keep you appealing to your emotions, which are not completely reliable, instead of your intellect, which is a bit more reliable.  People construct emotions constantly.  If you see and reason things out, it can be reconstructed and proven or disproven.  Emotions cannot be tested, and thus are much more fallible.  The church teaches that they are (paradoxically) more reliable.  To cement this, they teach that it is the way God speaks to you.  If God speaks to you through emotions you cannot ignore emotions, ever.  Those become more important than anything else in the world.  This is why the members of the LDS church become very disagreeable when emotions are cast into doubt.  This defense mechanism prevents people from applying their critical thinking skills to the church, which would make the whole system crumble.

Prophets are always right, except when they aren't
Prophets are the gold standard of the Mormon church, but their is one solid defense whenever they say something wrong or conflicting.  They were simply speaking "as a man."  There is no consistency to when a prophet is speaking as a man of god or a mere mortal.  There is no gold standard to determine when it is okay to believe what he says as prophecy or revelation.  This, however, is a great way to defend against any mistakes the prophets make.

Meaningfulness in randomness
Here is an interesting article about people finding meaning in random events (such as sports, gambling, coin flips, etc.) This guy does a much better job of describing this phenomenon than I could.  Good and bad happens to people as a stochastic process, it is religion that teaches us to find meaning in this random process.  People do this with everything.  If I flip a coin 4 times, and the first 3 come up heads, most people will believe that the fourth is most likely to be a tails.  The reality is that the probability is still 50/50.  Good and bad happen to everyone at random, we just need to accept that and move on.  However, the meaning church members pull out is that everything good comes from God, and everything bad comes from your own mistakes or God is trying to teach you something or the devil is attacking you for being good.  There is no real pattern here.

The only true church
The church engages in an interesting form of gaslighting (invalidating the experiences and perceptions of others).  They are firmly convinced they are the only true church on the face of the church, the source of all light and truth, the only good to be found.  This keeps people from entertaining the notion of any other group being good or okay.  Members will tend to distrust or look down on other groups, especially religious groups that aren't LDS.  The fact that they are the "only" church (ignore the fact that this isn't true) with prophets only enhances this fact.

Look at how bad other churches are, there is an obvious need for a restoration to God's original truth.  So many bad churches are out there, the LDS church MUST be true.  This is the line of reasoning that Mormons go through.  Not to mention the false dichotomy here, why MUST there be a restoration, there is nothing to suggest that it has to happen, this is a Mormon construct to protect their interests and beliefs.

Invasive Parasiting
When the church becomes a part of every aspect of your life it becomes like a parasite.  It becomes the dependent in a co-dependent relationship.  You, the co-dependent, are there to fulfill and anticipate every single need of the dependent.  You become responsible for their well-being.  This, and other examples of a, lack of boundaries makes it much harder to leave the church.  It is a form of enmeshment.

Low Self-Worth
I have talked about this before, but the church transforms people into a group with low self-worth and false humility.  You are worth less than the dust of the earth, you cannot feel good about anything you have done.  That would be pride.  Pride is bad and (see earlier) will make bad things happen to you, it will cause you to lose your forever family.  This low self-worth will keep you coming back for more, because the church provides a "high" to counteract the self imposed low.  This low is counteracted only temporarily, and then you need to come back to the religious experience to keep you going (if you don't believe me, listen to how people talk in sacrament meetings, I have heard this exact language multiple times).  If people don't feel like they are good enough to be on their own, they won't leave.  "You don't SERIOUSLY believe that everything good in your life has been your own doing?"  I was asked that question.  There is no ability to think that you can do good things, that you
can create good in your own life.  It all has to be God's doing.

By their fruits
The church has an interesting and selective application of the phrase "by their fruits ye shall know them."  They use it to show that their own actions are good and therefore they are good, other's actions are bad, therefore everyone else must be bad.  However, look at it this way.  I have explained many of the church's fruits.  The people themselves are the fruits.  There is not all good there, there is a lot of self-destructive behavior and thinking that members engage in because of the church's conditioning and behavioral control.  All good or all bad thinking is a problem here, but to make it easier you can model is like a hidden Markov process.  The goodness or badness is the hidden variable, determining the behavior.  The emission is the behavior itself, determined, perhaps not deterministically, by the hidden variable.  Settings to the hidden variables will determine to what extent good and bad behavior will be emitted.  Each person has a model that determines to what extent good will come, but according to Occam's Razor, we can choose the simplest explanation to explain the data.  This makes it easy to match organizations like the LDS church to be mostly bad, where a lot of people that the church would label as all bad can be easily seen to be mostly good in this light.  This is likely much closer to the truth than the church's version of black and white.

I want to mention something about my usage of the word "they."  I use the they in terms of the church because I perceive the church as a system.  The leadership may have an insight or control over what happens, but ultimately it is a system much bigger than any one person.  It started with Joseph Smith, who, I would argue, is a genius to have built this kind of an institution.  I don't know whether he believed it, but he certainly had a lot of weird behavior that the church is covering up.  One of the biggest methods that is combating these defense mechanisms is information.  The internet and libraries will do the most to help people find themselves and to find true freedom when they are caught inside of a system that would never let them go if it had its way.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Attacking the Foundations, Part 1

Quentin L. Cook said the following in the October 2012 General Conference.

   "Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed." - Quentin L. Cook, Can ye Feel so Now? October 2012 General Conference

What about those who have given all of their energy into making it work?  What about those who did everything they mention in general conference, as well as anyone else?  What about those who, in spite of all their devotion and desire, still remain completely abandoned in one of these "spiritual droughts?"  Obviously, they were just doing something wrong.  If they claim to have done things right, then they are just making it up.  I cannot count the number of times I saw, and even did, this on my mission.  Seeing people who said they did everything we asked them to, and yet didn't get an answer to their prayers.  We always assumed they just weren't sincere enough, now I know there are some people who weren't sincere, but many of them were trying hard, I am sure.

Also, apparently you aren't supposed to look up information on the Internet.  You might lose your testimony.  If the church is so true, why do they need to censor what their membership sees?  This sounds like several undesirable groups, some of the cults of the 20th century, some of the polygamy groups, and communist countries.  "We can't let people be misinformed, or they won't believe us!"  they say.  Why?  Is your foundation that shaky?  Can you not stand when compared to alternatives?  Is your truth so unbelievable that you have to hide the alternatives?  Also, apparently you are sinning and need to repent if you hear other voices.  So, you better repent if you are reading this.  If the church leader's shortcomings can be magnified and exaggerated that easily, then maybe there is more truth to it than at first meets the eye.

Let's look at another example of why this censorship is unnecessary if the church were true.  Do we need to censor information about American presidents?  Do we need to hide what people see about the founding fathers of America so that people don't doubt how good America is?  Do we need to hide information about Jesus, Martin Luther, Buddha, or any other religious leadership so that people only hear things from one source?  I realized that everything I ever heard was from the church itself.  They carefully selected and approved (look in the church books and you can even find the month and year this happened) every bit of information I consumed about church history.  Why not let any and all information through?  If it is true, it should stand on its own, without censorship.  The fact is, that it doesn't.  There is no truth to be had.

Just as an aside note of things bothering me right now, why is it that Mormons are so Pharisaical?  They set up hedges around the law so that they don't break the law, see things like the BYU honor code.  Not only is it 10x more strict than actual LDS doctrine, but most of the students will be 10x more strict than the honor code requires.  Here is one example.  Honor code says that members of the opposite sex cannot be in your bathroom area unless civility would dictate otherwise.  Most students will, to be safe, never allow anyone of the opposite sex anywhere near the bathroom.  Go find a place across the street or in some other apartment in the complex to use the bathroom.  When is it ever civil or okay to tell someone (under normal, every day circumstances, of course) that they can't use your bathroom?  The funniest part is that most of the people I see are lackadaisical about their religious observance, unless it comes down to a handful of things where they decide they need to be strict.  They kind of muddle their way through Sunday meetings, barely care about temple observance, scripture study, prayer, or keeping the sabbath day holy.  They will be cruel to their neighbors because they do evil things like swearing, drinking alcohol, or have sex out of wedlock.  They are totally okay dehumanizing people in this way.  Yet, they are the ones that will be strict about rule observance, and will get up on fast Sundays and bear a long and drawn out testimony about how much of a testimony they have of President Thomas S. Monson, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon.  I mean, most Mormon meetings are heavy on church specifics (current prophet, Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon, church organization, etc.), but will never even mention Jesus Christ even though they claim to be Christian.

Speaking of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, there is an interesting quote I found from Joseph Smith.

   "I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church vol. 6, Page 408-409

How is this sentiment okay?  If Joseph Smith is who he says he is, then how could this sentiment be anywhere near to true, or even okay for him to express?  Isn't Jesus Christ supposed to be the only perfect one?  The greatest of them all?  Where does God fit in, except for under Joseph Smith, according to this quote?

Also, what is Joseph Smith doing denying his polygamous practices, as in the following quote?

   "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one." - Joseph Smith, History of the Church vol. 6, Page 412

This is not okay.  It is proven that he had many more wives than that.  Supposedly, some of them still married to other men, others being as young as 14, many behind the back of his "real" wife Emma.  Kind of creepy, especially when he flat out denies it.

Continuing further.  How many weird things happen in the Book of Mormon that just cannot be true, or at the very least are serious inconsistencies?  Try these three prime examples.  First, what about when Nephi cuts off Laban's head?  How are the clothes not covered in blood?  This one always baffled me.  Basically, he uses a ceremonial sword, to cut off an armored, drunk man's head in one blow, alone, and then takes the, somehow, unstained clothes, and tricks this man's servant into coming with him?  Was the servant drunk too?  Was it that dark?  Was Nephi somehow a copy of Laban?

Second, what about when Shiz's head gets cut off in the book of Ether?  How in the world is he capable of doing a push-up?  There is way too much activity there for him to have just been decapitated.  I can see simple activities, but that just stretches it a little too far for me.

Third, the ships that Jared builds are a little hard to believe.  He builds a bunch of wooden submarines?  Where does all the excrement go?  What do they do when they run out of air and have to open up part of the ship and water comes in?  How do you drain the water?  What about the glowing rocks, can we reconstruct these somehow?  If the ship is rotating so much that they need holes on top and on bottom, how are the people inside not killed with all that tossing and turning?  And if the turning is slow, what do they do if both holes are covered by water and they run out of air?  It just doesn't add up in many ways.

Here are a few more interesting quotes from church leadership.

   "That negro race.... Have been placed under restrictions because of their attitude in the world of spirits, few will doubt.  It cannot be looked upon as just that they should be deprived of the power of the priesthood without it being a punishment for some act, or acts, performed before they were born."  - Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection Page 43

So, basically black people are somehow lesser than everyone else because they sinned in the premortal existence.  Once this teaching becomes unpopular enough, the church simply changes it's stance through revelation.  Surprise!

Here is one that really disgusts me.

   "...The one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people." - John Taylor, Millenial Star Vol. 15, Page 227

Having one wife is physically and intellectually degrading now?  Because having a harem is somehow more intellectually stimulating?  I fail to follow.  Plus, I have seen recent studies that suggest that polygamist families tend to have a higher disease rate than the general populace.  That probably explains my family rather well.  This shows the church's true stance on polygamy.  They may change it due to pop politics, but the doctrine is still there in the teachings of the presidents of the church and in the doctrine and covenants.  The church never said that polygamy was wrong, just that it shouldn't be practiced anymore.

This brings up an interesting point.  If the old presidents should be ignored for what new presidents are teaching, this brings the same discord and chaos that the church claims to prevent.  The church has a prophet so that we know who to follow, but if each prophet teaches conflicting doctrines, then the problem isn't solved at all.  Or, we can just ignore past prophets, then at that point what is the purpose of a prophet at all?  Once he is dead, we can ignore him anyway.

Speaking of prophets, what is the deal with the lack of continued revelation?  Check out this graphic to see what I mean.

Why don't modern day prophets prophesy?  Why is it that we received 136 chapters of doctrine and covenants, two other books of scripture, along with numerous day to day revelations from Joseph Smith, when in the last almost 200 years since there have been about 6 revelations.  The two things that president Monson has done is to open a shopping mall and to lower the missionary age.

I am just getting going on this information.  I will have more in the next post.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I am not alone

I don't have much to add to this, personally, but this blog post resonated with me.  I agree with much of the experiences, feelings, conclusions, and even the timeline is very similar to how things happened to me, it just happened faster for me.  I think this guy gets a lot right in how the church influences your thinking on many things, it is long, but well worth the read.