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 Post subject: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:05 am 
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I'm planning to cut way back on the time I spend on Mormon-related websites. It's been interesting but at this point I'm mainly using it as a distraction from things I should be doing instead; it's not really a good use of my time.

I have no personal stake in the subject. No close friends or family members have ever been Mormon, and I'm afraid that if I were going to change my religion Mormonism would not be high on my list of second choices. Before I was interested in Mormonism I was similarly interested in Scientology. I wanted to learn how decent and intelligent people could manage to believe something that seemed so obviously bogus. The phenomenon seemed as though it might teach me something about how theories and reality are supposed to relate.

I think I was right to be interested. There is something curious going on, all right. I thought I'd start one last thread to see what other people might be able to tell me about it.

Mormon apologists can be impressively rational on any one point, yet somehow their worldview as a whole just seems absurd to me. It's like an M.C. Escher print, where the scene as a whole is impossible, but nothing's wrong in any particular patch of the picture. The trees are all fine; it's only the forest that's wrong.

Escher's technique might even offer an insight into how cult thinking works, I think. Escher used shading and other contextual cues to make inferred perspective change from place to place in the picture, so that "up" in one part of the picture was not the same direction as "up" in another. In a sort of similar way I found that Scientologists would use a lot of words whose meaning seemed to shift, automatically, with context.

For example, the term "workable" would sometimes mean only, "you can get it to work, in some sense, if you do everything right", but other times it would mean, "it always works, as advertised, perfectly". As a result a Scientologist could say, "Hubbard's technology is workable" and it would be either a modest claim that was easy to defend, or a great boast that sounded very impressive, depending on context. They could say, "Hey, Hubbard only said it was workable" one day, to excuse all kinds of problems, but then the next they'd be crowing about how, "The tech is workable!" as if that were amazing. As long as the conversation shifted slowly from one context to the other, they didn't seem to notice the slowly shifting goalposts. They seemed to believe that they really had an impressive claim that was easy to uphold—a cake they could also eat. And if one tried to bring the two different meanings of "workable" together within one frame, I think the Scientologists had the impression that one was playing sophistical word games on them.

Does Mormonism do that too, at all? I don't know. I recently had a brief exchange with Smac on the other board in which he seemed to invoke a "presuppositional lens of faith" in a way that practically let him say, as far as I could tell, that (a) evidence for Mormonism could never be adequate to support Mormon claims but (b) non-Mormons really ought to be paying much more attention to the strong Mormon evidence. Maybe Mormon apologetics is workable.

All of that is just to explain what my interests are: how does cult thinking work? I don't mean to give answers to anyone here. But if anyone can, I'd be grateful before I go for any suggestions from people here, based on their experience with Mormonism. If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:50 am 
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I was just thinking/remembering this morning about how when I first admitted that the Church was not true, that I needed to double down on "But I still believe in Jesus". The indoctrination is so strong, the worldview so engrained it is super hard to back away from it.

I also believe that the "Dollar Auction" plays a big part. Good god the investment is tremendous. Kind of a super charged Pascal's Wager with a lifetime of ante on the table. This in combination with the avoidance of shunning, the loss of spouses, children, extended family and friends. It's a wonder, that in some, personal intellectual honesty is worth the cost of the treacherous journey out.


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:05 am 
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I think you are correct in saying that the strategy of the apologist is to argue that the parts are plausible without regard to the whole. I think this works for some of the members because Mormons are so geared to the conclusion that the church is true that they only need their apologists to give plausibility and they will fill in the rest. There is a focus on a desire to believe and that is put high up on a pedistal. The members really want the church to be true and have had emotional experiences that the leaders tell them are from god. They desire to believe that the emotional experience is valid and real. So, it doesn't take much to convince them that, for example, certain bofm passages (Ether 13:2) mean something different than what the words actually say if their emotional validation depends on the different meaning. Of course, it doesn't work for everyone and one only needs to see the "magic" the apologists are practicing in order to find out how truly weak the church's claims are.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 8:29 am 
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LDS appolegtics reminds me of years ago when I tired to use some discarded carpeting, parts of which were in really good shape, to replace some worn out carpeting I had in a large irregular shaped family room we had in the basement. Friends ours had replaced their carpeting in their entire house. The old stuff was in good shape where traffic patterns had not occurred. So I grabbed it, took it home, got some seam tape, rented the iron and went to work cutting up the best pieces for the room.

It was evening when I got done. I went and got my wife to see it and hopefully admire the work. As she turned on the lights in the room to get a better view it quickly became apparent that there was something about carpeting I did not know. It has a grain which shows up when you place two pieces together without making sure the grain is going in the same direction.

So when you read these nice neat apologetic theories and works about 15th century translation committees, or a central and south American Book of Mormon locations, or diffusion effects, native populations being labeled as Lamanites, Book of Abraham texts being tied to 2nd century apocrypha, and so on, they look nice and neat until you assemble them together and shine a light on the whole edifice. It quickly becomes apparent that these theories do not fit together in an single whole, rather work against each other like my patchwork carpet job.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:02 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?

It wasn't so much a question of keeping it working as it was being raised in it and therefore assuming it was completely normal.

Of course, "Don't look at anti-Mormon literature; it's from Satan and designed to lead you astray" prevents you from ever finding out it ISN'T working.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:37 am 
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Dr. Shades wrote:
Physics Guy wrote:
If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?

It wasn't so much a question of keeping it working as it was being raised in it and therefore assuming it was completely normal.

Of course, "Don't look at anti-Mormon literature; it's from Satan and designed to lead you astray" prevents you from ever finding out it ISN'T working.


My experience was similar. I think the brain tries to interpret whatever situation it finds itself in as “normal.” Growing up, Mormonism seemed natural and sensible to me. It was only after exposure to information out side the sphere of approved literature that I began to see the flaws.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:05 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?


That's a good question. The best way I can describe it is that I stopped making excuses. As a believer, I made all kinds of excuses why certain truth-claims didn't add up, why evil behavior wasn't evil, and so on. I think I just had a moment of clarity when I realized I'd sold my conscience for faith in Mormonism.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:38 am 
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"...it's not really a good use of [your] time," so you thought you'd start a thread asking people to distract you one last time?

:lol: What are you procrastinating?


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:28 am 
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Lecture preparation, of course. I've done this before on other message boards, though. Going out with a sort of last hurrah makes it easier to quit. The question is whether I can avoid just replacing it with something else.


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:44 am 
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RockSlider wrote:
I was just thinking/remembering this morning about how when I first admitted that the Church was not true, that I needed to double down on "But I still believe in Jesus". The indoctrination is so strong, the worldview so engrained it is super hard to back away from it.

The ex-Scientologists speak of "peeling the onion". The outer layer is suspecting that the current cult leadership has messed things up a bit. There are several layers further before reaching the core and concluding that it was all nothing but a con from the beginning.

In the Mormon case there's a major division in the onion layers, when you hit the point at which Joseph Smith tried to tack things onto an 1800-year-old religion that was already popular in his place and time. To me the layers do start to look different at that point, but everyone makes their own calls.

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I also believe that the "Dollar Auction" plays a big part. Good god the investment is tremendous. Kind of a super charged Pascal's Wager with a lifetime of ante on the table. This in combination with the avoidance of shunning, the loss of spouses, children, extended family and friends. It's a wonder, that in some, personal intellectual honesty is worth the cost of the treacherous journey out.


This seems like a huge factor. I think it's related to the good trees, bad forest thing, too, though: you can't start rejecting the forest by at first merely purging a few bad trees. As long as you assume that nothing really big can be wrong, you'll tend to find that nothing at all is wrong, because for any one thing there's always a good explanation, as far as it goes. So even apart from the personal and social costs of doubt, there's a high start-up cost for doubt just intellectually, because you're not really doubting at all until you're doubting pretty big.

The onion layer effect is presumably a way the brain has of trying to break doubt down into tolerable stages. Each stage is still quite a big deal.


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 11:50 am 
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Fence Sitter wrote:
So when you read these nice neat apologetic theories and works about 15th century translation committees, or a central and south American Book of Mormon locations, or diffusion effects, native populations being labeled as Lamanites, Book of Abraham texts being tied to 2nd century apocrypha, and so on, they look nice and neat until you assemble them together and shine a light on the whole edifice. It quickly becomes apparent that these theories do not fit together in an single whole, rather work against each other like my patchwork carpet job.

A nice analogy.

I have the "grain mismatch" feeling especially when some of the more sophisticated apologists talk about how ancient writers and editors of the Book of Mormon would have been fallible or even politically motivated, so the text can be authentically ancient while being quite inaccurate. But then there's an angel, and a magical rock in a hat. It's like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:44 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
But then there's an angel, and a magical rock in a hat. It's like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Please explain how Who Framed Roger Rabbit? applies to this discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:46 pm 
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Movie with cartoons and a live actor in the same frame.


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:46 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Lecture preparation, of course. I've done this before on other message boards, though. Going out with a sort of last hurrah makes it easier to quit. The question is whether I can avoid just replacing it with something else.


If you can't avoid replacing us, why settle for less? It's been fun and interesting having you here. :smile:

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:54 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Movie with cartoons and a live actor in the same frame.

I like your analogies in this thread. Whenever I read what apologists write, I can't help but continuously ask myself, "do you really believe this $#*! you are saying? Really? Really?

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:58 pm 
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Analytics wrote:
Physics Guy wrote:
Movie with cartoons and a live actor in the same frame.

I like your analogies in this thread. Whenever I read what apologists write, I can't help but continuously ask myself, "do you really believe this $#*! you are saying? Really? Really?


I like it, too. That moment when my perspective on the church shifted reminds me of a scene from Roger Rabbit: Roger removes his hand from the handcuffs that have kept him linked to the detective. The detective asks: Wait! Could you have done that at any time? Roger replies: No. Only when it's funny.

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― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:05 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
...if I were going to change my religion Mormonism would not be high on my list of second choices.


Are you religious?

Physics Guy wrote:
Before I was interested in Mormonism I was similarly interested in Scientology. I wanted to learn how decent and intelligent people could manage to believe something that seemed so obviously bogus.


I would probably be a good case study for you. BIC. College educated. Active in the church. Fairly well read.

Interestingly, I feel the same way about Scientology as you do. But when it comes to the LDS faith, I see it differently.

Physics Guy wrote:
...Smac...invoke[ed] a "presuppositional lens of faith" in a way that practically let him say, as far as I could tell, that (a) evidence for Mormonism could never be adequate to support Mormon claims but (b) non-Mormons really ought to be paying much more attention to the strong Mormon evidence. Maybe Mormon apologetics is workable.


As others have said here and there, apologetics "works" in that it provides a baseline to work from. One can then go different directions from there. My presupposition is that there is a creator/God in whose image mankind is created. I personally start from there. Of course, the non-believer would say that I...and many others...are simply creating God rather than the other way around. A while back, I made a choice to see myself and others as 'the created' rather than 'the creators'. Moving forward with that presupposition in mind changed the way I looked at so called 'evidence' going both directions...towards faith and non-faith(ful).

Physics Guy wrote:
...my interests are: how does cult thinking work?


I've had to ask myself that question many times. Am I simply a product of environment and conditioning? Am I really not able to see the forest through the trees? Forest being 'truth' and trees being the multiplicity 'doctrines of the gospel' and conditioned responses and continued practice in confirmation bias that I've been a (willing?) participant in and/or victim of as a BIC Mormon?

Physics Guy wrote:
If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?


I'm still a believing Mormon, so maybe you're not interested in what I have to say...but here goes anyway. :wink: Simply put, when I was younger I thought inside of the box. As I've matured and grown older, I've found myself thinking outside of the box. I keep it working through patience, forbearance, forgiveness, church activity, and continuing to learn and grow both within and without the gospel framework of understanding.

As an aside, I haven't been around these parts in months. And I understand your need to find better ways to use your time. That's pretty much where I've intended to come from as I've participated on this board but unfortunately found myself, at times, feeling pressured in one way or another to spend more time than I really should participating on this forum. No more. There's other stuff to do, for sure. But I think that in online venues there need to be voices asking/suggesting for moderate points of view rather than settling on what may be predictable responses that lean towards negativity.

There is obviously too much of that in the world! Read the comments section after almost any current online political controversy/issue/article.

So here and there, I think it's important that folks like me raise their voices. Voices that come from a reasoned middle ground. For my part, and in my life, I've found that whatever 'truth' there is to be found usually resides somewhere in the middle. Not at the extremes.

Truth be told, I've found your contributions very interesting and thought provoking and would hope you might simply cut down on the amount of time you spend here...but spend some time, nonetheless. You have some fresh and novel ways of approaching the topics at hand.

Regards,
MG


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 3:52 pm 
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To put it simply, as soon as I wanted to know what was true more then I wanted to believe Mormonism was true that I began to open my eyes.

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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:19 pm 
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Quote:
If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?


This appears to be an oxymoron, in that one obviously did not keep it working if they stopped believing...

But perhaps you are speaking of those who remain "active" who are not "believers" anymore?

The problem with Mormonism and making it "workable" is that the leadership has defined what "workable" is, and anyone who does not ascribe to their interpretation of workable will not reap the benefits they claim for this and the next life.

This creates all kinds of problems for those that try to make it workable.

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Humanity an empty face
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But I cast at swine all my pearls,
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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 7:22 pm 
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Quote:
As others have said here and there, apologetics "works" in that it provides a baseline to work from.


:lol:

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I stand in a high place
Humanity an empty face
Futile gestures and illusory grace:
Trying to understand this world;
But I cast at swine all my pearls,
I cast at swine all my pearls.


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 Post subject: Re: Good trees, bad forest
PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:49 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
All of that is just to explain what my interests are: how does cult thinking work? I don't mean to give answers to anyone here. But if anyone can, I'd be grateful before I go for any suggestions from people here, based on their experience with Mormonism. If you were a firmly believing Mormon, and now are not, then perhaps you have some self-diagnosis of how your thinking was different then. How were you able to keep it working?

My background is in science and I have found it useful to think about things related to your question from a biological perspective. All of this thinking stuff is occuring in our brains and its all down to our neurones. John Medina talks about this in his book "Brain Rules."

We have a nerve cell or cells (neurone(s)) for everything. When we look at or imagine the Salt Lake Temple in our brains, a specific bunch of neurones "fire". We have a neurone or "forest" of neurones for every single thought/memory we have had and connected series of neurone forests for all of our thought processes. These can be visualised as a very, very complex road map. Pathways used frequently or accompanying strong emotional experiences are like wide freeways. Each time we use them we add more neurones and these thoughts get easier and easier to think. Pathways that are not used frequently are like twisting dirt tracks. These thought processes are awkward and difficult.

Our brain's wiring is heavily influenced by the culture we live in. The church is true thought/emotion is a bit like a massive spaghetti junction. It intersects with many other freeways. Major thought freeways about families, friends, church, job, security, etc all connect here. When we discover uncomfortable things about the church, our brain struggles enormously to deal with it. It doesn't instantly make new connections to accommodate the new thoughts. The brain literally needs to physically synthesise new neurones and neural connections, and that takes time, a lot of time, and frequently these new pathways are never as well developed as the old ones.

In his book Medina gives a brilliant example of the difficulty of rewiring. Most folk here would remember the time Michael Jordan played major league baseball. He was such an amazing basketball player everyone expected him to excel at baseball. But he ended up being the worst player in the league and quit. His brain was so comprehensively wired for basketball that he couldn't rewire it sufficiently to excel at baseball.

Its just as difficult, if not more, to rewire a Mormon brain. I can give a few examples from my own experience. As a Mormon I always looked down on non-Mormons. If they drank they had a problem. If they didn't go to church their lives had less meaning. My wife looked down on people who drank coffee. The list goes on and on and on. These were automatic thought pathways that were triggered all the time as a Mormon. It was 5 years(!!!) before my wife rewired her anti coffee neurones. Now she drinks three cups a day. Her I LOVE coffee neural pathways now resemble a major highway.

For some people, like the apologists, rewiring their brains is too difficult, so they build complicated pretzel-shaped neural detours and backtracks. (Its like they are blind to the GO BACK, YOU ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY sign.) They become hardwired to only look at things that support their conclusions. The feeling of financial security neural freeway runs parallel to the church is true and self importance neural freeways. And these freeways are built right over the top of where their common sense freeway should be built.

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