Rebirth of Reason

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Saturday, June 19, 2010 - 1:24pmSanction this postReply
What does it say about a person's intellectual thought process if as an adult with free will they chose to convert to Mormonism? Glenn Beck consciously and unabashedly made such a decision as a grown man.

We can chalk it up to the phenomonenon on compartmentalization, I suppose, wherein people can apply reason well enough in most areas of their thinking, but yet selectively believe nonsense in other areas. But there's something about Glenn Beck that makes his case a bit more of a glaring intellectual error.

Even most Christians believe Mormonism to be ridiculous. At least the other Abrahamic faiths go back far enough in time that some can be inclined to think, "Well, this couldn't have lasted centuries/millenia and be a complete lie, now could it?" Also, long-standing religions have the benefit of going back to a time when recorded history wasn't nearly as thoroughly documented, thus one can be inclined to "take it on faith." However, an objective thinker raised outside the Mormon faith shouldn't be able to look at the story of Joseph Smith and conclude anything other than either Smith was delusional at best, or a manipulative cult leader at worst.

Beck's Mormonism, or anyone's for that matter, would at least be much more understandable if he were born and raised in the faith. Religion is a powerful influence on family and cultural identity, and 'appeal to tradition' is a strong notion for many. But this is not the case with Beck

What judgement, if any, can one make on the intellectual thought of Glenn Beck that, with all the possible worldviews available to him in the modern Western world, he chose to become a Mormon? Do you think he really believes in it?

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Saturday, June 19, 2010 - 5:31pmSanction this postReply
Ya'know, I almost want to give Beck a pass on it.  Addictive personality types find religion and cling to it for dear life. They're terrified of "going back," and religion gives them a reason to stay on the straight and narrow. Or at least, that's what they believe. As religions go, he could of done worse than Mormonism, I guess. At least they believe in self actualization, self reliance, and productive effort.

I almost want to say Beck hasn't "evolved" to accept Reason as his only means of survival. He just doesn't believe it. No religious person believes it. There's got to be something more!

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - 9:54pmSanction this postReply
I'm sorry that I missed this topic, and I hope you don't mind me responding a bit late. I might have some insight here as I was raised Mormon, and was thoroughly converted to the faith for 23-24 years. I also served two years on a mission to convert people to the church. I baptized somewhere around 30 people into Mormonism, a majority of them being adults.

Converting to Mormonism in adulthood now seems absolutely absurd to me. Then again, I, like most of you, have a very clear and reliable method for arriving at what we accept as true. We are very concerned with reason and evidence.

We have to realize - with some degree of dismay - that most people don't have a clear method for arriving at moral truths. An argument from the position of reason might sound just as convincing as the argument that there are millions of people who believe these things - why don't you?

In the case of Mormonism, the method is a very cheap trick. First, we were taught to "build relationships of trust." Since that sounds so manipulative, the Mormon leaders re-phrased the method, but you are supposed to get people to trust you before teaching.

Next, "Elders" (the 19-21 year olds) and "member missionaries" will often say things like "I know the church is true with every fiber of my being." They will repeat these "I know" statements so often with such conviction that you begin to believe that these people actually know something. This can actually have quite an effect coming from someone you trust and respect. I would bet that Beck's Mormon friend in radio did this more than once.

Finally, there is a strong appeal to your emotions. You are told to read the Book of Mormon and pray about its truth. "I know that if you do this," I would say very sincerely, with emotion, "God will tell you in your heart and mind that it is true." It's basically the standard religious appeal to use feelings (vs. rational thought) to find the truth.

What really happens: A missionary tells the investigator that he "knows" the truth. He might have a tear in his eye, and you can tell he really believes it. The investigator believes him, or at least feels a sense of empathy at this uncommon outpouring of emotion.(thought) The investigator then feels emotional (feeling)
What you are taught: The feelings you are feeling are from God (feeling), and he is confirming to you through your feelings that what the missionaries are telling you is true. (thought)

The real trick is just to convince people that they are feeling things about what they should think and believe. Once someone is blinded to the fact that the reverse is true - that they are just having feelings about what they think - you just have to make things very emotional. People like me who are very empathetic can be pulled into this very easily if they're not careful. When I see someone showing intense emotion I feel a very deep sense of empathy, and may get emotional myself.

Go to a Mormon church on the first week of the month if you want to see this method in action.You are likely to see a lot of people on the stand crying about how they "know" something. There will be several people in the audience weeping as they do this. (But this next month might be a little bit different, as they will be talking about "this great country" quite a bit.)

The thing is that Mormons are taught to begin saying they "know" very early into their conversion or childhood The member missionary thinks he/she is "teaching by the Spirit" when he/she gets very emotional. The point is that it's an almost purely emotional appeal, and people who believe in "going from the gut" like Beck does are easy prey. The more someone appeals to logic to answer questions of fact, the less likely the conversion.

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - 4:57pmSanction this postReply
Joseph, thank you for this enlightening post! I applaud you for following your mind. I can imagine that it's very difficult to separate yourself from something you were once so completely invested in. It's not easy to change your mind on fundamental issues - especially as you advance into adulthood.

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