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  1. The glitch I am feeling while listening to Dan describe his personal formula for successfully embracing Mormonism is simply this:

    Dan, if you did not carefully edit your speech while teaching lessons within the walls of your local ward house, The Brethren who lead and govern the Mormon Church would soon arrange for your local leaders to excommunicate you.

    You seem to understand this reality quite well (or you would not edit your speech). A more blunt description is that you must carefully ‘walk on eggs’ when you are around your fellow members and leaders. Clear statements of what you actually believe about the non-literalness of the Church History Story and how you interpret Mormon Doctrine would be considered heresy by your bishop and stake president (if they are typical TBMs).

    My guess is that The Brethren will continue to leave you alone. They really don’t care what individual members think or believe, as long as you edit your speech on company property and continue to outwardly pray, obey (and especially pay).

    Having observed the above, there are very good reasons for lots of Mormons who do not believe the literal truth claims of The Brethren to decide to remain active members of the Church. For those people, I see that you are providing a valuable resource to help thinking, semi-un-brainwashed members stay in the Church and still retain a form of sanity within their otherwise tortured psyches.

    Another way to describe the peace you have made with Mormonism could be a self-administered, cognitive dissonance palliative, anesthesia/lobotomy.

    I fully approve since what you have done is working for you, and does/can work for others who decide to make peace living immersed within what is clearly a Mind Control Cult. You refuse to allow your mind to be controlled, so you have creatively rolled your own version/distortion of Mormonism … a transmogrification you can live with.

    Great work!

    1. “Another way to describe the peace you have made with Mormonism could be a self-administered, cognitive dissonance palliative, anesthesia/lobotomy.”

      Well said.

      Listening to Dan over the years, in other interviews and here . . . I almost physically hurt and find myself in strained, strange, tense body positions reminding myself to breath.

      Of course, after a “self-administered, cognitive dissonance palliative, anesthesia/lobotomy, it’s hard to coherently explain your thought process.

  2. I liked the discussion in part 2 (ep. 568) where John was asking if Dan sees those who conclude that there is not something deeper/more profound/more positive within Mormonism (or other religious traditions) are inferior to those who do. I definitely think that the question is deeper than “those who stay in Mormonism” or “those who don’t”. The discussion regards a broader question regarding whether there is a deeper spiritual reality.

    I think that Dan’s position that a lot of it depends on temperament is a pretty good answer, but it also undercuts his thoughts elsewhere. In other words, his thoughts elsewhere seems to be, “There is a spiritual reality (however you refer to it…expansiveness, interconnectedness, etc.,) that we should strive to experience/engage in/be aware of. This spiritual reality can be accessed with some form of discipline (and Mormonism is just one of many paths that one can engage this spiritual reality in), but is typically not a “head” thing, so focusing on “head” concerns misses the mark.”

    (and I think where Dan appears to come off as most “arrogant” so to speak is when he hears the cue of a “head” question and then points out that these are categorically different than what he feels are important questions to spiritual reality. This came up later on with the question and answer on Book of Abraham. As John says, some people can be mature and say, “If Joseph made it up, then I don’t want to be any part of it.” But for Dan…this is still “head” not “heart” and thus is it really not as “mature”. This isn’t a judgment of inferiority, but saying or implying “you’re not *spiritually* mature if you’re still focused on these head questions” just sounds off).

    I think, from this baseline, there is a tension. If there is a spiritual reality and some people are — by temperament — unable to engage with that spiritual reality, doesn’t that imply a sort of spiritual disability? That doesn’t itself imply inferiority (I’m assuming Dan is not intentionally ableist), but it’s very delicate to manage. Are some people “temperamentally” unable to focus beyond “head concerns” (e.g., Did Joseph Smith make up the BoA?) rather than “heart concerns” (e.g., Does the BoA expand me in some other sense?)? What does that imply?

    I’m having this argument elsewhere regarding whether aesthetics is subjective or objective that seems to analogize well. I want to say that aesthetics is subjective — what I may find beautiful or attractive says something about *me* and my *temperament*. If I like a band and you don’t, neither of us is wrong. If I like a piece of art and you hate it, neither of us is wrong. If spirituality is just a matter of temperament without an objective background, then there need not be any judgment to an objective standpoint…but I don’t think Dan would agree that spirituality is just temperament.

    To the contrary, on aesthetics, my interlocutor wants to insist that Mozart is objectively more beautiful than Miley Cyrus, regardless of if the latter is more subjectively popular than the former. There is an implication to me — though he doesn’t explicitly say it — that if you don’t agree, you are just wrong. Factually incorrect. Uninformed or misinformed.

    That’s the impression that comes off with spiritual maturity.

  3. I understand Mormonism being its own culture or tribe, but what I cannot fathom is how good people can see the pain–and sometimes death–of those who struggle at the hands of Mormonism and say, “Oh well; things will get better in a few decades.”

    With every amen, every tithing check, each temple visit, and raised arm to the square, you are supporting others’ pain and being complicit in the real harms Mormonism visits on its most vulnerable.

    1. Kendra,

      You make a very good point by acknowledging that the Mind Control Cult does indeed inflict serious damage on vulnerable members who lack Dan’s nontrivial ability to disconnect his personal psyche from the destructive force fueled by The Brethren, and thereby live ‘peacefully’ up in the clouds high above the personal suffering and train wreckage of his less capable fellow Mormons … those who allow The Brethren to control their minds through merciless judgment, relentless ‘never good enough’ guilt and crippling shame. Never mind that TBMs actually pay lots of their hard-earned money for these ‘blessings of the gospel’.

      It’s true that Dan is aiding and abetting and supporting the survival of the Mind Control Cult. The ideal solution is to simply leave Mormonism in your rear view mirror and take your Life, your Power, your Energy (and your money) back. Unfortunately, for many, the cost of leaving seems too high to endure.

      For those ‘stuck’ individuals, Dan is offering a Lifeline of sorts … an oxygen hose with potential to keep them from suffocating and drowning in the Spiritual Sewage spawned by Joseph Smith and spewing forth from Salt Lake City.

      Mind Control exists within the mind, and is ultimately therefore an Illusion. Dan is showing how ANYONE can seize control from The Brethren and proactively author your own kinder, gentler, less brutal version of Mind Control.

      Dan might be somewhat self-delusional if he has convinced himself that learning how to survive while floating in a Spiritual Cesspool is just as good as climbing out, showering yourself off, and then gifting yourself with total change of venue where you get to breathe actual fresh air instead.

      John Dehlin now has a personal testimony of how amazing his new found Fresh Air feels with his Church membership in the rear view mirror where it belongs. Dan has not been there or done that yet. In the meantime, Dan’s interim solution offers a much needed respite for those who, for very good reasons, need to remain floating in the putrid effluent dispensed by The Brethren. If you can’t get yourself to actual Fresh Air, Dan’s brand of Gospel Air Freshener can make your sentence in Spiritual Prison feel a bit more bearable.

      So, once again, I express sincere approval of what Dan has discovered for himself, and is proactively offering as a Lifeline for his fellow Mormons … those who cannot yet do the right thing and get the hell out.

      Thanks, Kendra, for adding an important observation to the thread.

  4. Yes, I understood you are a believer, and most of my friends are in the same position – not SOME of my friends, but MOST of my friends. Were it not for these believers, there could be no Church that has benefited me so much – raising happy and responsible kids, etc. with hundreds of people caring about them as they grew. My wife’s being a believer has also been such a blessing.

  5. If inside Mormonism, or outside of Mormonism, neither is better than the other, and richness can be found in either, as Dan mentions at about the halfway mark, doesn’t truth matter? Not truth as in a non-cognitivism, philosophical sense where one is really trying to say, “I have sympathy for your struggles and your situation. We are all in need of comfort and hope, and you can have it if you perform certain kinds of behaviors and adapt a certain kind of attitude with regard to yourself and your place in the world. When I do these things it makes me feel joyful, and I want you to feel joyful too.” I mean truth in the sense of aligning yourself with objective reality?

    I think that for those who find a spiritual path rewarding they should pursue it (within or outside of Mormonism), but why go to an organization that promotes a big helping of non-true things just to sift through it? I mean, for those like Dan who want to, that is fine, but Dan seems to make it seem (as John points out) that those who stick it out–for sunk cost (family for generations being in the Church), or whatever–are better in some way (and he goes onto talk about temperament, which is something that an individual doesn’t choose.

    I guess what I’m asking is, if spirituality can be found through things like mindfulness meditation, where nothing needs to be sifted through, why not go down that path? Why stick with Scientology because your family has been in for generations? Why promote staying in Scientology because some sense of ‘non-factual but still beneficial truths’ can be found there? Why stay in Scientology if there are people there who disagree with you?

    I see the point that this man is making, and I think they are good to raise, love those you disagree with, look for the good, etc., but I have to disagree with his overall premise of sticking it out is somehow noble. I do not think it is either noble or not, any more than I think it is more noble to sit through the second half of an extremely boring play rather than leave at intermission.

    That said, Dan’s voice is but another voice in this bigger conversation. If I look at his views on a macro level I get a little frustrated, but looking at them in contrast with some of the more critical views, I think his voice helps add depth to the conversation.

    I think for me, I care about what is actually true first, then I care about other, secondary, truths that he raises. This is why I practice mindfulness meditation and enjoy the secular works of people like Carl Sagan. I feel “spiritually” (for lack of a better word) uplifted, but get the satisfaction of knowing I am not believing a bunch of untrue things or having to sift through a host of untrue and superfluous beliefs.

    So all in all it seems my main disagreement with Dan is order. I want my belief to first be factually and objectively true, and then I will find meaning. Dan first looks for a belief system that provides meaning and then tries to sift out the facts from the B.S. that he can’t stomach.

    1. I may be misinterpreting Dan’s comments, but I see him as saying in general:

      1) Seek profound spiritual experiences wherever you can. If that’s mindfulness meditation, do that. (Dan’s problem, if anything, is that he sees people write this entire endeavor off. They don’t seek spiritual experiences or engage in spiritual practices because they classify these things as emotion, confirmation bias, etc., etc. Or, because of their experiences in Mormonism, they dispute that those spiritual experiences could exist in Mormonism)

      2) When you have these spiritual experiences, they will re-ground and re-center you. As a result, other things (“head matters”) will be put in a different context and won’t bother you. (one could say this “expansiveness” that Dan keeps talking about is the sine qua non of the these sorts of experiences…if you don’t have them, then you’re experiencing the same thing.)

      3) These spiritual experiences can occur within Mormonism. As a result of (2), these spiritual experiences can show that certain “correspondence theory truth” sorts of claims are not relevant to the spiritual concerns.

      4) As such, although people may have these spiritual experiences from other practices, the “head matters” and “correspondence theory truth” sorts of claims against Mormonism are not necessarily reasons to leave Mormonism if one is seeking spiritual experiences.

      1. Hi Andrew, I appreciate your comment.

        I have met people who are what I would label non-cognitivists (as defined in my previous comment) who do essentially feel that “head matters” are secondary concerns to to spiritual matters.

        I think that self-transcendent experiences can be found in all religions and many other facets of life. For me though, I still care about what is true.

        Let’s say that I bring my child up teaching them mediation and I tell them, “You feel that good, calm, peaceful feeling? That is Mishbee the creator of everything that has ever existed, the God of all gods. He created meditation as a way for us to feel his love. If you feel anxious or frustrated while meditating, that is Bishar, the evil one, the cause for all evil and suffering in the world.”

        In this case it isn’t too far fetched that my child would likely believe me and depending on the temperament of the child they may go their whole life believing in Mishbee and Bishar. If I were able to create a large community or network of people who all believed in Mishbee and we collectively made up Mishbeeism, it would be true that the practicing Mishbeeism would yield many positive benefits. It would, in the latter case, also provide a sense of community. People could live very fulfilled lives within Mishbeeism.

        I think at this point it would be helpful to differentiate between the effects of belief, and the truth value of that which is believed.

        The effects of Mishbeeism may be desirable. It may be true that there is great richness, peace, hope, and self-transcendence to be found from practicing Mishbeeism. But that is not to say that Mishbee is real/true.

        What does it mean to say Mishbeeism is true? What does it mean to say Mormonism is true?

        To me (and I’m not saying I am right) it seems it would make more sense to toss away the belief in the supernatural aspects of Mishbeeism and simply practice mindfulness meditation. But perhaps in Mormonism, if you do that you will be left with nothing.

        What are your thoughts, Andrew? How much emphasis do you feel should be placed on objective truth (the truth value of that which is believed) vs the effect of the belief? Personally, I’m not sure there is a right answer. Who am I to say that (objective) truth (i.e., truth value) is even necessarily a “moral” (not really the word I’m looking for, but it is the best I can come up with this late at night) thing to seek?

        1. The effects of Mishbeeism may be desirable. It may be true that there is great richness, peace, hope, and self-transcendence to be found from practicing Mishbeeism. But that is not to say that Mishbee is real/true.

          Your conclusion here is just begging the question for the applicability of the correspondence theory of truth in this situation. But Dan has already pointed out that he thinks spirituality works more from a pragmatic theory of truth. But this isn’t just a “Dan” thing…pragmatism is definitely a serious philosophical umbrella of thought.

          What does it mean to say Mishbeeism is true? What does it mean to say Mormonism is true?

          To me (and I’m not saying I am right) it seems it would make more sense to toss away the belief in the supernatural aspects of Mishbeeism and simply practice mindfulness meditation. But perhaps in Mormonism, if you do that you will be left with nothing.

          What are your thoughts, Andrew? How much emphasis do you feel should be placed on objective truth (the truth value of that which is believed) vs the effect of the belief? Personally, I’m not sure there is a right answer. Who am I to say that (objective) truth (i.e., truth value) is even necessarily a “moral” (not really the word I’m looking for, but it is the best I can come up with this late at night) thing to seek?

          I think the important think to realize about a pragmatic theory of truth is that it is still defining “objective” truth…but it classifies and describes and explains what objective truth is in different terms than the correspondence theory.

          For example, one might say: what if the belief in and the supernatural aspects of Mishbeeism are vital as allegoral or metaphorical or mythic tools to point and frame the meditation process. It may be true that the “map” is not the “territory” or that the “finger pointing to the moon” is not the “moon,” but we note that artificially created maps or pointing fingers are helpful at getting us to an idealized end goal.

          In this sense, the belief in and the supernatural aspects of Mishbeeism may in fact be “live options” — they add something practical to the mix by increasing the ability for some people to engage in the underlying meditative activity. This is especially implicated with the Fowler’s stages of faith theory…your raising your child with just mindfulness meditation but none of the myth/metaphor/allegory that you consider “objectively false” may end up resulting in the child not being able to comprehend mindfulness meditation at all — because the child goes through several states of development, including mythic-literal (stage 2) and synthetic-conventional (the infamous “stage 3”) where they may best respond to the things you find “objectively false”.

          I don’t think that Dan is unsympathetic to the idea that some point, a lot of people are going to go through a process of realizing that the terms of myths and allegories and metaphor are not literally true. But I think what Dan is saying is that at some point, one should consider that they weren’t *supposed to be* literally true, because their value and truth are precisely tied up with their functions as metaphorical, allegorical, mythical. We should not prioritize literal truth as “real” and mythic truth as “fake” or “lesser”.

          I think that your example of Mishbeeism may be missing something else…mythic, allegorical, or metaphorical truth isn’t “anything goes”. Mythic truth still has to appeal to people’s sensibilities and live up to people’s experiences of the spiritual reality. Earlier, you put it that Dan “sift[s] out the facts from the B.S. that he can’t stomach” but it seems to me that when you talk about “facts” here, he’s talking about mythic facts, allegorical facts, metaphorical facts…not your objective, literal, correspondence theory facts. In this sense, when he talks about doubting Satan or whatever, it’s because they don’t mesh with his pragmatic sense of what’s going on with humans spiritually.

          In this sense, Mormonism or Mishbeeism is true/real because they tap into things that fit with the “flow” of the spiritual reality that Dan has experienced, as it were.

          THAT ALL BEING SAID, to answer your question (and please don’t undermine everything I’ve just said just because of my personal view): I place very little emphasis on objective truth. Let me put it one way: I am a bit annoyed when people go through the sorts of criticisms in the CES Letter. Like, the CES Letter is a great museum of “objective” sorts of claims, but my ‘problem’ with the church is in how it affects people — namely, how it treats and affects women, LGBT, minorities, etc., I appreciate that Mormonism does good for some people, but I also care about the fact that it makes others miserable, anxious, or depressed. And I think that’s far more important than whether some guy named Nephi actually existed.

          1. Thanks again for your thoughts.

            I’m not sure how to insert the quoted text like you did to make it look all nice like that so I’ll just piece it together.

            > “…but it seems to me that when you talk about “facts” here, he’s talking about mythic facts, allegorical facts, metaphorical facts…not your objective, literal, correspondence theory facts. In this sense, when he talks about doubting Satan or whatever, it’s because they don’t mesh with his pragmatic sense of what’s going on with humans spiritually. ”

            I see what you are saying as far as spiritual fact. And in a sense this is an objective fact. It is an objective fact that people hold these things as ‘spiritual facts’.

            I see that to say something like, “Satan is the father of contention” as a way of labeling “bad” feelings as Satan. I think that is fine to do that, but I think it is confusing. Why not try to understand the feelings/emotions on a psychological or neuroscientist level where there is evidence (at least theoretical) for those things? Why not, instead of teaching people that the icky feeling they get when reading ‘anti’ literature is not a literal evil entity named Satan, it is more likely simply cognitive dissonance and maybe go on to explain Cognitive Dissonance Theory to them?

            I guess what I’m asking is, is there a way to communicate these ideas, even using metaphors that will help us grasp these concepts without having people literally believe in entities like Mishbee, Krishna, Satan, Allah, etc?

            Take the ‘Art of War’ and other Toaist literature. These writings are steeped in metaphors and analogies that really help powerfully communicate the idea of the path of non-conflict. But I personally was never tempted to believe in “spirits of illness” or things of that nature while reading it.

            Or take the talks given by Allen Watts. He uses analogies and metaphors beautifully to communicate “deeper” ideas, but I didn’t get the sense that people took his analogies literally (I could absolutely be wrong about that).

            I think it is confusing because in church, when the teacher or the bishop talk about Satan, they are not meaning it metaphorically. My father believes in a literal being named Lucifer who literally tempts human beings to do ‘bad’ things. When he taught us about Satan it was a literal being.

            I am all for using metaphors. Even if I were to actually use Mishbee as a metaphor to help my children learn to meditate to ultimately get them to tap into some self-transcendent reality, I would not be against that. But it seems to break down if I personally literally believe Mishbee exists. At that point I’m no longer dealing in objective reality (in my eyes) I am dealing in a delusion (not in the clinical sense, but in the sense of me believing in something that is not real).

            I guess my point is, if these things truly are metaphors. Let’s, at some point, acknowledge that these things are metaphors. I don’t know about you, but 99 percent of the members I know have literal beliefs (they believe they are literally true) in these things, as opposed to them believing they are just spiritually true. If spiritual truth is what is being taught, would it negate it’s affects to label it as such, rather than teaching it as literal truth?

            > “I place very little emphasis on objective truth. Let me put it one way: I am a bit annoyed when people go through the sorts of criticisms in the CES Letter. Like, the CES Letter is a great museum of “objective” sorts of claims, but my ‘problem’ with the church is in how it affects people — namely, how it treats and affects women, LGBT, minorities, etc., I appreciate that Mormonism does good for some people, but I also care about the fact that it makes others miserable, anxious, or depressed. And I think that’s far more important than whether some guy named Nephi actually existed.”

            I personally tend to agree with you about the CES Letter. I have read through it, and FAIR’s rebuttal, and the rebuttal to the rebuttal…… And I have to say that either side could be right. To me it was never historical issues in the first place. To me it came down to epistemology (although I didn’t know that is what it was called at the time). Basically I realized without a method for testing to see if my beliefs were true in any objective sense, at least any more true than anyone else’s, I couldn’t say that my reasons for believing what I did where justified. Ultimately I tumbled down to a place of “I don’t know”.

            As of right now I personally care a lot less about ‘spiritual’ truth than I do about what is actually objectively true (i.e., what exists in reality. In other words, what ‘is’). Could people get deep meaning from believing in Raelianism? Sure. But I care about whether or not the Elohim actually created us. Can someone find hope in believing that they will be reincarnated as a higher being? Absolutely, but I care whether or not the belief is true (or justified, since I can’t really pass on to test it and come back). Can great meaning be found for the individual in radical Islam? Yes, it appears so. But I care about what is objectively true.

            Stephen Hawking describes ‘models of reality’. I think we all build cognitive models of reality. He said, “Even the physics of the solar system cannot be said to be ‘true’, it is only true insofar as it is a model that works.” In my model of reality I–for whatever reason (likely a combination of genetics/nature and life experience)–want to build my model with as many (objectively) true things and as few false things as possible. Then step two is to glean meaning from those things that I can justify as saying they are ‘true’.

            Please note, that I do note that Dan’s path is a valid one. I mean, I personally feel it is ‘better’ to care about what is objectively true (as opposed to ‘spiritually’ true). I think if believing (or pretending) someone is a wizard brings joy and meaning to someone’s life, then they need to do what is right by them and their family, but I want to see if the claim that the individual is a wizard can be demonstrated in some objective sense (i.e., objective in the sense that it can be verified outside of the individuals subjective experience).

            This comment has already run on too long so I’ll cut it off here.

  6. As someone who resigned from the LDS church four years ago, I am very happy to have found a new spiritual community that outlines a spiritual path that doesn’t require me to censor my speech, to create novel rationalizations to feel comfortable staying, and to cross my fingers and hope that in several decades it will become what I want it to be. There are enough natural obstacles to spiritual transformation; there’s no need to pick a spiritual path that is hindered by a religious institution’s massive obstacle course.

  7. C,

    It looks like we went to the end of the nested comment, so I’ll comment here.

    you can make quoted text all fancy if you put <blockquote> in front, and </blockquote>. Note quite as simple as the markdown code used at places like reddit, where just using “>” would do the same thing.

    Anyway…

    I see what you are saying as far as spiritual fact. And in a sense this is an objective fact. It is an objective fact that people hold these things as ‘spiritual facts’.

    I see that to say something like, “Satan is the father of contention” as a way of labeling “bad” feelings as Satan. I think that is fine to do that, but I think it is confusing. Why not try to understand the feelings/emotions on a psychological or neuroscientist level where there is evidence (at least theoretical) for those things? Why not, instead of teaching people that the icky feeling they get when reading ‘anti’ literature is not a literal evil entity named Satan, it is more likely simply cognitive dissonance and maybe go on to explain Cognitive Dissonance Theory to them?

    Porque no los dos? I absolutely think there is no problem with doing both. I think that a “spiritual fact” should not contradict what we know about psychology and neuroscience, but add to, suplement, provide frameworks, etc.,

    I have three possible answers for why we wouldn’t just go one route: 1) the psychological or neuroscience answers may not necessarily be that great for lay explanations, whereas myths are effective because they are easier to digest.

    2) If we go the psychological or neuroscience route, we risk the urge to reduce everything to psychology, neuroscience, etc., But part of what Dan is getting at is to say, “Do spiritual practices to realize you are more than just your body. You are more than just what your brain and head are doing.” So, the inclination to reduce everything to “just” cognitive dissonance (or confirmation bias, or emotion, or whatever thing) misses that the goal is to have spiritual experiences that are separate and distinct from those things.

    3) Psychology, neuroscience, and other scientific endeavors typically are descriptive, rather than prescriptive. They tell you how things are, not how things ought to be. Certainly, there are people trying to argue that science can determine values, can determine morality, etc., etc., but I think they are inadvertently or unconsciously smuggling in values from elsewhere into their scientific hypotheses.

    To the contrary, theology and philosophy and things like this strive to determine not just how things are (or may not even *primarily* how things are), but how things ought to be or how things *could* be.

    So, to put it in one way…science can tell you how cognitive dissonance theory works, and how cognitive dissonance will manifest symptomatically. But science cannot tell you the best way to resolve that cognitive dissonance, or even if cognitive dissonance is necessarily something to be resolved. There, you have to look toward other systems to process whether cog dis is bad or not, and how it should be related to. i think a lot of disaffected mormons implicitly assume that if they can show that cog dis is happening, then they can say, “Look, that’s bad! Mormonism causes that! Therefore, Mormonism is bad!” but the brute occurrence of cognitive dissonance does not have a value judgment or a course of action tied to it.

    I guess what I’m asking is, is there a way to communicate these ideas, even using metaphors that will help us grasp these concepts without having people literally believe in entities like Mishbee, Krishna, Satan, Allah, etc?

    I am not a theologian, but my understanding is that many theologians, scholars of religion, etc., are very aware that within religious texts there are a wide variety of texts, not all of which are meant to be taken literally. (One thing that complicates things is the fact that priority to the past few centuries, this huge split between the literal and the metaphorical was blurred…our debate here is mostly anachronistic). The fact that people keep taking things which are not meant to be literal as being literal says more about the people than the religions/their texts.

    But in another sense, we could say, “No, it’s not possible, because people will go through stage 3, as it were, where literal belief is the way they process things.”

    However, I’d say again…we have to worry about reducing things to mere psychology or neuroscience. At the core, there is still a claim about a different spiritual reality. Maybe the metaphors and myths we develop to describe those terms are inaccurate (the ineffable cannot be adequately expressed through words), but that doesn’t mean there is nothing there.

    Take the ‘Art of War’ and other Toaist literature. These writings are steeped in metaphors and analogies that really help powerfully communicate the idea of the path of non-conflict. But I personally was never tempted to believe in “spirits of illness” or things of that nature while reading it.

    Or take the talks given by Allen Watts. He uses analogies and metaphors beautifully to communicate “deeper” ideas, but I didn’t get the sense that people took his analogies literally (I could absolutely be wrong about that).

    Just responding to your last parenthetical point…I think you are wrong. For any analogy, I think there are some people who will take it as a literal truth. Whether it should be taken as such or not. Whether “objectivity” actually even matters or not.

    I think one difference is that when we look at religions comparatively, when we look at traditions that aren’t our native tradition, it’s easy for us to hold it a bit at arms length and say, “OK, I see the metaphor.” It’s difficult to internalize it as we might if they were our native tradition.

    And yet, that’s the thing with comparative religion. It should inspire us to realize, “Wait…these techniques and things that I’ve studied on other religions can be applied to my own, and then I have to come to grips that my tradition isn’t necessarily all that special.”

    I think it is confusing because in church, when the teacher or the bishop talk about Satan, they are not meaning it metaphorically. My father believes in a literal being named Lucifer who literally tempts human beings to do ‘bad’ things. When he taught us about Satan it was a literal being.

    I am all for using metaphors. Even if I were to actually use Mishbee as a metaphor to help my children learn to meditate to ultimately get them to tap into some self-transcendent reality, I would not be against that. But it seems to break down if I personally literally believe Mishbee exists. At that point I’m no longer dealing in objective reality (in my eyes) I am dealing in a delusion (not in the clinical sense, but in the sense of me believing in something that is not real).

    I guess my point is, if these things truly are metaphors. Let’s, at some point, acknowledge that these things are metaphors. I don’t know about you, but 99 percent of the members I know have literal beliefs (they believe they are literally true) in these things, as opposed to them believing they are just spiritually true. If spiritual truth is what is being taught, would it negate it’s affects to label it as such, rather than teaching it as literal truth?

    Well, again, see my comments about how accepting them as literal *also* has a value, especially for people at a certain stage of engaging with faith. There is a sense that even when one regains an appreciation through metaphor, that they still recognize the “loss” of the fervor and certainty they may have had as a literal believer. There is a value to having that literal stage, then having it all torn away, and then learning to rediscover, re-appreciate, etc.,

    If we go straight to metaphor and never undergo that literal stage, and never undergo faith crisis, we have missed out on a lot.

    (although I do think that you’re either drastically overestimating how many members have literal beliefs, or you’re underestimating the types of members who are different who you may not happen to know, or who you may know, but think are literal believers. I mean, when Dan goes to church, as he says, he is going to speak similar language as everyone else. But we know he’s using the terms in a different sense. He lets those with ears to hear hear.)

    I mean, if someone doesn’t want to deal with something unless it’s literally true, then even if you’re trying to show them that literal truth isn’t what it’s cracked up to be…you can’t even get your foot in the door UNLESS you present it as literal truth. Or at least, present it in a way that is honest, but that allows the person to interpret it in a way that is effective for where they are at.

    I mean…let’s look at this. Some people think that witnesses literally saw/felt the plates. But if you look in the narratives, even those witnesses will say that it was with “spiritual eyes”. A lot of people then say, “oh man, then you lied! That’s fraud! that didn’t happen!” But they may not have ever gotten involved in the first place if they were presented ‘spiritual eyes’ first.

    As of right now I personally care a lot less about ‘spiritual’ truth than I do about what is actually objectively true (i.e., what exists in reality. In other words, what ‘is’). Could people get deep meaning from believing in Raelianism? Sure. But I care about whether or not the Elohim actually created us. Can someone find hope in believing that they will be reincarnated as a higher being? Absolutely, but I care whether or not the belief is true (or justified, since I can’t really pass on to test it and come back). Can great meaning be found for the individual in radical Islam? Yes, it appears so. But I care about what is objectively true.

    Yeah, I am far more subjective on this point.

    Like, if people are having these really awesome, profound spiritual truths, I do not care what the explanation to them is for…those experiences are awesome subjectively regardless of the objective source.

    What does it matter whether or not Elohim created us? I see no impact on my day to day life. But I can grant that if you believe that — regardless of if it’s true or not — if you believe it, that *belief* does change your life. If it’s for the better, then that’s great — regardless of if Elohim did create us or not. If it doesn’t change life for the better, then that’s horrible.

    I am against radical Islam not because I think it’s false, but because I think it’s harmful. Even if it turned out to be true, I would still think it’s harmful without some serious convincing. That’s why I don’t care about the CES Letter. If you’re more concerned about whether some guy named Nephi actually, historically killed some guy named Laban rather than the implications of a God who would have Nephi kill Laban (even allegorically/mythically), then it’s just very different focuses. If you think that something objectively happening therefore makes it OK (suppose that God really did tell Nephi to kill Laban), then that’s just a very different focus.

    1. “The fact that people keep taking things which are not meant to be literal as being literal says more about the people than the religions/their texts.”

      This may be true. I think we could likely agree that religions are constructs of human (divinely inspired or not). Religious ideas are memetically passed on through the generations. I think you are right that many of the ancient stories (whether from the Bible or Bhagavad Gita or whatever) were likely known to be metaphors back in those days. I agree that the line has been blurred. But now I have to look at it and think, whatever the reason this belief system is causing people to hold these literal beliefs (be it the idea that these were meant to be metaphorical and have now been mis-interpreted or corrupted, or whether people originally meant them literally) the fact is the belief system *is* resulting in people holding literal beliefs and those beliefs are harmful.

      I personally don’t have the answer for what to do about this problem. Should the belief systems be overhauled? Scrapped? I don’t know. But for a gay teen contemplating suicide because these once metaphorical stories are now taken literally, this situation is literally life or death.

      I think something in society needs to change. To me, the most viable option would be a move away from fundamentalist religion. If the Mormon Church leaders could be reasoned with—as in, if you could present them with the findings of science and present them with arguments that would change their mind about these issues causing change in the Church, then that would be one thing. However it seems that they are stuck in this literal paradigm—or if they know it is metaphors, they have to keep up appearances—and they literally have to wait to receive revelation from what they feel is the creator of the universe, the source of all wisdom.

      So while yes, it is a problem with the people, it seems that people are ultimately a product of a mix between nature and nurture. If your environment trains you to believe a literal interpretation of the texts/leaders then it seems that we should change the environment, change the Church. Perhaps the prophet getting up in GC saying, “Hey everyone, just so you know these things we tell you here are meant not as literally true, but they are meant to be spiritually true”.

      And where does metaphorical belief end? What does it mean to say there is a God? Is God just a concept? Or is there a literal entity that is labeled God?

      “Just responding to your last parenthetical point…I think you are wrong. For any analogy, I think there are some people who will take it as a literal truth. Whether it should be taken as such or not. Whether “objectivity” actually even matters or not.

      I think one difference is that when we look at religions comparatively, when we look at traditions that aren’t our native tradition, it’s easy for us to hold it a bit at arms length and say, “OK, I see the metaphor.” It’s difficult to internalize it as we might if they were our native tradition.”

      Point taken. I think you are probably right.

      “Well, again, see my comments about how accepting them as literal *also* has a value, especially for people at a certain stage of engaging with faith. There is a sense that even when one regains an appreciation through metaphor, that they still recognize the “loss” of the fervor and certainty they may have had as a literal believer. There is a value to having that literal stage, then having it all torn away, and then learning to rediscover, re-appreciate, etc.,”

      I see what you are saying. I get that there is value in literal belief. And although I am not well versed on Fowler’s Stages of Faith, I think it is quite a good model for understanding this concept. I guess my response here would be that car accidents can also be valuable. A car accident, just like holding a literal belief, can help someone grow, change, etc. And this fact is true. Literal belief can be very beneficial, very valuable. But I would like to see it contrasted by someone who is raised in a secular home. Let’s take an ideal situation: What if a child is raised by educated, middle-class, parents in a safe area. The child is taught the concepts of science and reason, but the child is also taught about religious beliefs, just not taught them as literal. So essentially what you say about having all other religions, other than your own, held at arm’s length and being able to see the metaphor, is applied to all religions—the child is not taught that any of them are literal. What if the child is taught the practice of mindfulness meditation and yoga? Let’s say you even let the child literally believe in Santa Clause (but the parents don’t push it, they simply allow). Do you feel this child would be lacking anything compared to say someone who held a literal belief in Mishbeeism, Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Raelianism, etc—any more than you or I would lack from not having the (potentially) valuable experience of being in a car accident?

      I mean…let’s look at this. Some people think that witnesses literally saw/felt the plates. But if you look in the narratives, even those witnesses will say that it was with “spiritual eyes”. A lot of people then say, “oh man, then you lied! That’s fraud! that didn’t happen!” But they may not have ever gotten involved in the first place if they were presented ‘spiritual eyes’ first.”

      I see your point, but ultimately I disagree. If I go to who I think is a doctor and he is able give me some kind of medication that successfully treats whatever ailment I have, and I find out after that he is not actually a doctor, I will be upset. I mean, I will be happy that the illness is gone, but I went the route I did based on the expectation that the claims made were true.

      “What does it matter whether or not Elohim created us? I see no impact on my day to day life. But I can grant that if you believe that — regardless of if it’s true or not — if you believe it, that *belief* does change your life. If it’s for the better, then that’s great — regardless of if Elohim did create us or not. If it doesn’t change life for the better, then that’s horrible.”

      I absolutely see your point, and I largely agree with you. I personally care what is actually true, but if the belief that the Elohim created humans helps someone get through the day or adds meaning to their life, I don’t care all that much. My only concern here I guess would be, what if there really is a literal truth we should believe? I have a non-denominational Christian friend who is convinced the LDS Church is an origination that came to be through Satanic forces. She also believes that Satan is in it for the long run and that it is ultimately worth it to him to let the LDS Church do a little good in the world if it gets more souls into Hell. This woman tells me that Jesus was literally God incarnate and that if we do not accept the right version (not sure she would put it that way but this is the sentiment) of Jesus before one dies then we will not be saved and will not go to a literal heaven. She has a “personal relationship” with Jesus, who literally exists. Satan is a literal fallen angel. Now, while I do not believe she is correct, I cannot say that she is wrong. If your approach is to make the Mormon belief system “work” and interpret it in metaphors, what if that lady is right?

      If said lady is correct, then wouldn’t literal/objective truth (in her eyes the idea of having to accept the “correct version” of Jesus into your heart to be saved) matter significantly more than the truth we have been discussing?

      “I am against radical Islam not because I think it’s false, but because I think it’s harmful. Even if it turned out to be true, I would still think it’s harmful without some serious convincing.”

      Do you think that to a radical Muslim it is ultimately harmful? I mean, they believe they are doing these things out of compassion for these people in many cases (I saw a video where some radical Muslims were getting ready to kill an infidel and they embraced him before killing him, and had the embrace been taken out of context, anyone would have seen it as compassion or love). If you think that killing someone is an act of love for the person and your duty to God, would you see it as harmful?

      Perhaps a less extreme example would be the Westboro Baptist Church. They appear hateful to the outside world, yet to the members they are doing one of the greatest services they can for people, they are warning them for the next life. I listened to an interview with Megan Roper-Phelps, a former member, and she said that they do these things out of love.

      Now take a final example. The LDS Church. You have mentioned gay youth, we could also talk about broken families because spouses or children simply could not believe, etc. I think harm, or labels like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ultimately come down to desire. If a person desires something, it is ‘good’, if something is undesirable it is ‘bad’. So while to a member of the WBBC, radical Islam, or the LDS Church their belief system is obviously ultimately good (even if they can see some of the harm), but to those harmed by these belief systems I don’t think it is any wonder they see them (or label them) as ‘bad’.

    2. What does it matter whether or not Elohim created us?

      I would like to add one other idea on this point.

      It may not matter to you whether or not the Elohim created us, but it could matter to society.

      Beliefs are not formed in a vacuum.

      Take the Raeliens for example. They believe in a few strange (by my standards) sex related things and they have pushed to legalize human cloning.

      Let’s say that the Raelian movement were to take off over the next few decades because there was just something about it that gave people these deep spiritual experiences. Then, based on the ‘truths’ of Raelienism in the year 2040 the societal consensus changes and we start cloning humans.

      Granted, this is far fetched, but it is not impossible (although it is improbable enough that we could call it impossible).

      My point is: Our subjective beliefs have *real* consequences.

      We see it now. There are many LDS people who, as a result of their spiritual beliefs, are against same sex marriage.

      I think people should absolutely be able to do anything they want, as long as it is not infringing on the autonomy of others or harmful to society (fracking could be an example of societal harm). I don’t care if people literally or metaphorically believe the moon is made out of cheese. I think the problem comes when that belief begins to infringe on the lives of others. If a parent shuns their child because the child cannot make themselves believe the moon is made of cheese, or a spouse leaves their partner, or people cannot be married, or whatever, based on that belief, then I take issue.

      This is why I feel it is important to believe things that are literally true.

      You can find whatever spiritual path you want, and if it gives you happiness, then that makes me happy. But if that belief you found stops my neighbor from marrying his partner, then I take issue.

      Am I making sense?

  8. …the fact is the belief system *is* resulting in people holding literal beliefs and those beliefs are harmful.

    I don’t think so. I think you’d have to unpack this statement and nuance this statement.

    But for a gay teen contemplating suicide because these once metaphorical stories are now taken literally, this situation is literally life or death.

    OK, to unpack. Gay teen suicidality is not a matter of the literal or metaphorical nature of the stories. It’s not a matter of historicity. It’s because the teachings are homophobic. Even if the teachings were *literally true*, they would *still* be homophobic. So, when I say to unpack the previous quoted statement, that’s what I’m getting at: separate the literal/mythic component from the material content. If you want to scrap certain beliefs because they are *harmful*, that’s one thing. But you should want to scrap those beliefs whether they are literal or not.

    If the Mormon Church leaders could be reasoned with—as in, if you could present them with the findings of science and present them with arguments that would change their mind about these issues causing change in the Church, then that would be one thing.

    I think church leaders and church members can be reasoned with — but you have to start from their worldview and start from where they are at, rather than bringing in a whole different world view from whole cloth, which is basically what you’re describing. If you want to change someone’s mind, you have to start from a position of credibility with them.

    That’s why Dan notes that he may use similar language to people, but he’s still pushing the more expansive message. He’s using the language that is comfortable with Mormonism to point people to a Mormonism that is more expansive. That, btw, is part of what it means for Mormonism to be true — the fact that one can use authentic Mormonism to make the case for more expansiveness. While you say they are stuck in the literal paradigm, what Dan recognizes is that even that literal paradigm has a lot of good stuff that can be worked with.

    The prophet is never going to go up and say, “OK, this was all metaphorical.” People have to move between faith stages in their own time. The church is in some ways “designed” for those in the literal stage, and the process of moving past that is more individual.

    And where does metaphorical belief end? What does it mean to say there is a God? Is God just a concept? Or is there a literal entity that is labeled God?

    Most theologians and most theologies will say that God is ineffable. Statements about God must be recognized as analogous or metaphorical or incomplete or imprecise because of this. But I mean, one of the things Dan is stressing about continuing to engage in a spiritual life is to have those experiences that confirm to you that the spiritual reality is not just in your head, not just confirmation bias, not just emotion. Yes, the finger pointing to the moon is metaphor. But the moon — though we can’t really speak of it, only make metaphors and point — is real. At least, that is the theistic view.

    What if a child is raised by educated, middle-class, parents in a safe area. The child is taught the concepts of science and reason, but the child is also taught about religious beliefs, just not taught them as literal. So essentially what you say about having all other religions, other than your own, held at arm’s length and being able to see the metaphor, is applied to all religions—the child is not taught that any of them are literal. What if the child is taught the practice of mindfulness meditation and yoga? Let’s say you even let the child literally believe in Santa Clause (but the parents don’t push it, they simply allow). Do you feel this child would be lacking anything compared to say someone who held a literal belief in Mishbeeism, Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Raelianism, etc—any more than you or I would lack from not having the (potentially) valuable experience of being in a car accident?

    Yes, absolutely, that child is missing something. You can’t replicate the “what-it-is-it-like?”-ness of being a true believer…unless you are a true believer. You can’t replicate the what-is-it-like-ness of losing that true belief, and mourning for that lost faith, and coming to a different appreciation of faith later on, without having that true belief.

    Your question really isn’t, “Is the child lacking anything?” They obviously are. Your question really is, “Is it desirable to lack certain experiences?” Like, with your car crash analogy, your implicit assertion is that some things aren’t worth experiencing, even if they will teach you a lot.

    But where the theist would differ from you is that they would say the upsell from a spiritual life truly is worth the chaos and danger of the “car crash” as it were. There seems to be a big element of a lot of spiritual conversion stories I hear about “hitting rock bottom” being what enabled the person to “surrender” to God…what enabled them to have those profound experiences. I would certainly agree with you that I would probably not want to hit “rock bottom,” even for the off-chance that I could have those profound experiences. But then I must also say that my experiences are limited. (In this sense, I think a safe, middle-class, educated life is probably one of the biggest enemies to spirituality and religion. If you’re comfortable, there’s no need to seek for something outside yourself. Even if that child pursues mindfulness meditation or yoga, they may not understand that as anything other than themselves, or understand why they would want to get “outside of” themselves.)

    My only concern here I guess would be, what if there really is a literal truth we should believe?

    From your correspondence theory of truth, it really doesn’t matter either way. As soon as you start asking questions about the *impacts* of truth claims, however, you move BEYOND correspondence theory (does this correspond with reality) and into pragmatic truth (does this work?). You may implicitly believe that literal truth has pragmatic value, but please note: if it’s the pragmatic value you care about, then you can have that without literal truth.

    If your approach is to make the Mormon belief system “work” and interpret it in metaphors, what if that lady is right?

    I’m not saying the approach is to “make” the Mormon belief system work. It’s to test it out, endure with it, try it in other ways, and see if it works. It’s more experimental. It’s not cooking the books.

    The same would be true of that lady’s approach. But honestly, if someone’s belief system doesn’t really have much impact on this life, and then surprise, there are all of these impacts on some future life…I mean, you can’t really do much with that.

    But keep in mind…it’s not literal truth that matters. What you’re evaluating is the pragmatic impact.

    Do you think that to a radical Muslim it is ultimately harmful? I mean, they believe they are doing these things out of compassion for these people in many cases (I saw a video where some radical Muslims were getting ready to kill an infidel and they embraced him before killing him, and had the embrace been taken out of context, anyone would have seen it as compassion or love). If you think that killing someone is an act of love for the person and your duty to God, would you see it as harmful?

    I would guess they may not think those things are ultimately harmful. But that’s not because of literal/metaphorical.

    Perhaps a less extreme example would be the Westboro Baptist Church. They appear hateful to the outside world, yet to the members they are doing one of the greatest services they can for people, they are warning them for the next life. I listened to an interview with Megan Roper-Phelps, a former member, and she said that they do these things out of love.

    Right, yet again, it’s not literal/metaphorical that’s the issue.

    Now take a final example. The LDS Church. You have mentioned gay youth, we could also talk about broken families because spouses or children simply could not believe, etc. I think harm, or labels like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ultimately come down to desire. If a person desires something, it is ‘good’, if something is undesirable it is ‘bad’. So while to a member of the WBBC, radical Islam, or the LDS Church their belief system is obviously ultimately good (even if they can see some of the harm), but to those harmed by these belief systems I don’t think it is any wonder they see them (or label them) as ‘bad’.

    this is a shockingly subjectivist view of morality from someone who claims to be a cognitivist elsewhere ( 😉 ).

    But seriously, here is a failure of empathy. If someone says, “Well, it seems good to me regardless of what it seems like to the person it’s happening to,” then that’s a failure of empathy. But that doesn’t really deal with literal/metaphorical.

    It may not matter to you whether or not the Elohim created us, but it could matter to society.

    Keep in mind that when you’re talking about societal impact, you are NOT talking about whether something is literally true or not. In your Raelian example, what’s problematic is NOT that it’s false, but that it has an impact you deem to be bad (if you deem it so). If Raelianism is 100% true, you’re still going to find the impact to be bad (if that’s where you were going with that).

    I 100% agree that our subjective beliefs have consequences. But that’s totally different than talking about what is literal vs not.

    I don’t care if people literally or metaphorically believe the moon is made out of cheese. I think the problem comes when that belief begins to infringe on the lives of others. If a parent shuns their child because the child cannot make themselves believe the moon is made of cheese, or a spouse leaves their partner, or people cannot be married, or whatever, based on that belief, then I take issue.
    This is why I feel it is important to believe things that are literally true.

    You can find whatever spiritual path you want, and if it gives you happiness, then that makes me happy. But if that belief you found stops my neighbor from marrying his partner, then I take issue.

    Suppose that, in reality, the moon is made of cheese. Suppose that the child cannot make themselves believe this truth, or a spouse cannot, etc., etc., etc

    Is it more important that spouses stay together, parents support their children, etc.,…or is it more important that the child believe the literal truth that the moon is made of cheese?

    This is the ultimate question to whether you’re really for objective truth or whether you’re for pragmatism. So far, your scenarios have involved the implication that “bad” things are associated with “false” claims. But this is not necessarily the case.

    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks again for the discussion.

      I guess at this point it may be helpful to define what each of us mean as truth (as opposed to what other thinkers have meant).

      To me truth is quite simple, truth is, what is. In other words, truth is something that corresponds with reality. If I were to say, “Kangaroos live in Australia”, that is true because it corresponds with reality. If I were to say, “Kangaroos do not live in Australia” that would be untrue because it does not correspond with reality.

      To me the effects of truth have little meaning to the truth value of the statement.

      Now let’s say I say, “Unicorns live in Australia”.

      I would say that this is not true, at least as far as our evidence goes.

      Now if the belief that unicorns exist in Australia becomes useful, or if the belief that Kangaroos exist in Australia becomes harmful, to me it has zero bearing on the truth value.

      Slap the correspondence theory of truth label on this if you must, but to me this is truth.

      Do you agree or disagree?

    2. If I can get an idea of how you define truth then I can continue.

      But to try to summarize what you have said, it seems that we have some disconnect on the ‘literal’ truth of these beliefs and the pragmatic effect of the beliefs.

      I guess what it comes down to is this. If there is a literal God who doesn’t actually want gay people to marry then that changes things in my eyes. If this is literally true, then perhaps we should not let gay people get married (I agree that it will be ‘homophobic’ whether or not it is literally true or metaphorically true).

      Now, if God is a metaphor and does not exist in any kind of objective way, the beliefs would still be homophobic (in either case) but if it cannot be demonstrated in any objective way, then we should not disallow gays from getting married on the basis of religious or spiritual beliefs.

      To me a literal entity verses a metaphorical entity changes everything.

  9. Hey John & Dan, I’ve really enjoyed your wrestling match and the fact that you two love and respect each other so much! I’m a huge fan of both of you. Can’t wait to listen to part two!

  10. Slap the correspondence theory of truth label on this if you must, but to me this is truth.

    Do you agree or disagree?

    I agree that that is indeed the correspondence theory of truth.

    I would agree that the correspondence theory works *in many cases*, but that with such a definition of truth, you’d probably come to the conclusion that most if not all religions are false (in part if not in whole). With such a model of truth, it’s pretty easy to conclude that there must be something wrong with all the people who seem obsessed with these religious concepts.

    I guess what it comes down to is this. If there is a literal God who doesn’t actually want gay people to marry then that changes things in my eyes. If this is literally true, then perhaps we should not let gay people get married (I agree that it will be ‘homophobic’ whether or not it is literally true or metaphorically true).

    To me, evaluating the truth of a proposition like “same sex marriage is good” involves looking at its pragmatic effects. What does same sex marriage do for the people in that marriage, for their families, for the people they interact with in society, and so forth? To the extent that same-sex marriage brings forth flourishing and good effects says utterly nothing about whether God exists and approves of same-sex marriage, but it says everything we need to know about same-sex marriage being good.

    We know that with the variety of religious claims that describe and define contradicting deities, that they logically all cannot be right. Some of them are wrong, or maybe all of them are wrong. Yet, that’s just how the analysis works from correspondence theory analysis. If we look at pragmatics, we can see that each religion has been extremely inspiring — in fact, religions are (much to the chagrin of secularists) far more inspiring and motivating than most of things around, for good and for bad. This power is their truth from a pragmatic standpoint. Religions are true in the sense that they “work” — the teachings have lived experiential value for their adherents and those doctrines and theologies hold up as the foundation for the actions of the adherents — even if we conclude those actions may often be bad or evil.

    Maybe another illustration would serve a point: from a correspondence theory of truth, there may well be no difference between the Judeo-Christian God, your “Mishbee”, and the popular atheist trope of a flying spaghetti monster. But the Judeo-Christian God (and ideas around him) has inspired art, music, theology, people thinking and writing and worshipping (and yes, even people killing and harming and sacrificing)…whereas the flying spaghetti monster, in contrast, only inspires a relatively few people making jokes and criticism. From correspondence theory, these ideas seem comparable — hence why atheists often try to raise up the FSM as a comparison or reductio ad absurdum for theistic concepts. Correspondence theory cannot account for the gap — from a correspondence theory perspective, it just seems like a lot of people are remarkably deluded and/or misinformed.

    1. I would agree that the correspondence theory works *in many cases*, but that with such a definition of truth, you’d probably come to the conclusion that most if not all religions are false (in part if not in whole).

      Agreed. And this is the tentative conclusion I have come to — although I wouldn’t say I have come to the conclusion that they are ‘false’, I would say that I cannot justify saying they are true from an epistemological standpoint. I’m not in the business of deeming (most) things ‘false’—most things I keep at the null-hypothesis where I say (or think, rather), “I don’t know whether the claims of Joseph Smith, Wayne Bent, or Warren Jeffs are true, but based off of the information I have, I do not believe the claims to be true”. This is the same for alien abductees, “I don’t know if aliens are entering earths atmosphere and abducting people from their beds at night, but based off of the information I have I do not believe this to be the case”. Or the hypothesis that demons cause seizures; I suppose it is not impossible to think that demons cause seizures, but I have no need for that hypothesis. Please note that I am not saying any of these things are false.

      With such a model of truth, it’s pretty easy to conclude that there must be something wrong with all the people who seem obsessed with these religious concepts.

      I do not think this at all. As a matter of fact I think it is weird that there are as many atheists as there are (although I don’t want to overstate this idea). Seeing the mechanisms that go into belief, it is a wonder there are so many people that actually lack belief in metaphysics or the supernatural or whatever label you want to give it. I really do understand why so many people believe, and believe so fervently. This idea of a pragmatic theory of truth (I had heard the concept, but never knew the name) adds to my understanding. Granted, my understanding is incomplete and ever-evolving, but I absolutely see why people believe.

      To me, evaluating the truth of a proposition like “same sex marriage is good” involves looking at its pragmatic effects.

      This is true for me as well (for this proposition). I think if we are saying anything is ‘good’ we have to look at its effects. If I say same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, eating oranges, trampolines, airbags, jogging, honey bees, etc., is/are ‘good’, obviously we would have to look at the effects.

      If I say, “same sex marriage is a sin” or “same-sex/interracial marriage is immoral” or something like that, I think it is a bit different (this is where we move more into the subjective realm it seems). At this point it becomes a moral issue and it seems to get a bit more murky and arbitrary. Someone like Elder Packar would say it is a sin (even if it does not result in ‘bad’ effects; or maybe even if it yielded positive effects), someone like Dan may not.

      We know that with the variety of religious claims that describe and define contradicting deities, that they logically all cannot be right. Some of them are wrong, or maybe all of them are wrong.

      True.

      Yet, that’s just how the analysis works from correspondence theory analysis. If we look at pragmatics, we can see that each religion has been extremely inspiring — in fact, religions are (much to the chagrin of secularists) far more inspiring and motivating than most of things around, for good and for bad.

      Also true (Again, using my definition of ‘truth’ which is: what ‘is’).

      This power is their truth from a pragmatic standpoint. Religions are true in the sense that they “work” — the teachings have lived experiential value for their adherents and those doctrines and theologies hold up as the foundation for the actions of the adherents — even if we conclude those actions may often be bad or evil.

      I would say it is true that religious teachings, psychic readings, alien channeling, “new age” spirituality, etc., can inspire people. I would say they “work” in inspiring people. I would say it is true that these religions (and other aforementioned items) can bring people peace, can bring people fulfillment, can bring people hope, and “expansiveness”, and the whole bit. All of that is true. And as we know beliefs lead to action (and vice-versa), so it is no wonder religious (or otherwise) beliefs lead people to do good or bad things.

      If someone wanted to play a cruel joke on a parent they could call the parent and pretend to be a police officer and tell them their son or daughter had been killed. If the parent believed the person the belief would absolutely lead to intense (negative) emotions. That belief would lead to action. But the belief is simply a belief. It does not correspond with reality, therefor I would not say the belief is true (in this case I would use the word false, because this belief can be falsified).

      Much in the same way, as was the belief in some Native American cultures, when a loved one passed, it was believed that they had moved on to the happy hunting ground where the game was abundant. This belief can also lead to feelings—feelings of peace and comfort for the mourning loved ones. The belief may also lead to action (sacrifices to the animal spirits, dances, chants, prayers, etc).

      But I guess this is where we will just have to differ. In my first scenario, with the cruel joke, we can say that the belief was false—it didn’t correspond with reality. From a pragmatic point of view, I don’t know what it would say, nor do I care (when evaluating the truth value of the belief. Obviously I care that the parent would have to endure such a cruel experience), to me the belief is false.

      With the second example with the Native American belief, I would not call that belief true, nor would I call it false (the belief is unfalsifiable).

      I view this second scenero (right or wrong) in the same way Carl Sagan put it in ‘The Demon Haunted World’:

      Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.

      Maybe another illustration would serve a point: from a correspondence theory of truth, there may well be no difference between the Judeo-Christian God, your “Mishbee”, and the popular atheist trope of a flying spaghetti monster. But the Judeo-Christian God (and ideas around him) has inspired art, music, theology, people thinking and writing and worshipping (and yes, even people killing and harming and sacrificing)…whereas the flying spaghetti monster, in contrast, only inspires a relatively few people making jokes and criticism. From correspondence theory, these ideas seem comparable — hence why atheists often try to raise up the FSM as a comparison or reductio ad absurdum for theistic concepts. Correspondence theory cannot account for the gap — from a correspondence theory perspective, it just seems like a lot of people are remarkably deluded and/or misinformed.

      I agree with most everything you say here. The FSM, or Mishbee are the same as God (or Krishna, or garage dragons) in the sense that there is not sufficient evidence to say any of these things exist (at least not that I have found)—but that is not to say that these things are ‘false’, again, I remain at the null-hypothesis (obviously less-so with FSM, Mishbee and garage dragons), simply do not inspire people in the same way religions do. To me, that can be said to be true, because it aligns with reality.

      If a garage dragon, or belief in a happy hunting ground, really inspires people, motivates them, brings them comfort, lets them experience “expansiveness” or self-transcendence, or any other number of positive (or even negative) things, brings them to action, etc., I would say that: it is true that the belief in garage dragons, or the happy hunting ground yields positive benefits. I would not say that the belief itself is true, only that it has utility.

      So maybe what it comes down to is you and I are working from two different models of truth. I care what is actually true (what ‘is’), i.e., what corresponds with reality (even if what is actually true is that a particular belief, or set of beliefs, has utility or has positive effects). And you label something ‘true’ based off of whether or not the belief has utility?

      Is that fair to say?

  11. I would agree that the correspondence theory works *in many cases*, but that with such a definition of truth, you’d probably come to the conclusion that most if not all religions are false (in part if not in whole).

    Agreed. And this is the tentative conclusion I have come to — although I wouldn’t say I have come to the conclusion that they are ‘false’, I would say that I cannot justify saying they are true from an epistemological standpoint. I’m not in the business of deeming (most) things ‘false’—most things I keep at the null-hypothesis where I say (or think, rather), “I don’t know whether the claims of Joseph Smith, Wayne Bent, or Warren Jeffs are true, but based off of the information I have, I do not believe the claims to be true”. This is the same for alien abductees, “I don’t know if aliens are entering earths atmosphere and abducting people from their beds at night, but based off of the information I have I do not believe this to be the case”. Or the hypothesis that demons cause seizures; I suppose it is not impossible to think that demons cause seizures, but I have no need for that hypothesis. Please note that I am not saying any of these things are false.

    With such a model of truth, it’s pretty easy to conclude that there must be something wrong with all the people who seem obsessed with these religious concepts.

    I do not think this at all. As a matter of fact I think it is weird that there are as many atheists as there are (although I don’t want to overstate this idea). Seeing the mechanisms that go into belief, it is a wonder there are so many people that actually lack belief in metaphysics or the supernatural or whatever label you want to give it. I really do understand why so many people believe, and believe so fervently. This idea of a pragmatic theory of truth (I had heard the concept, but never knew the name) adds to my understanding. Granted, my understanding is incomplete and ever-evolving, but I absolutely see why people believe.

    To me, evaluating the truth of a proposition like “same sex marriage is good” involves looking at its pragmatic effects.

    This is true for me as well (for this proposition). I think if we are saying anything is ‘good’ we have to look at its effects. If I say same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, eating oranges, trampolines, airbags, jogging, honey bees, etc., is/are ‘good’, obviously we would have to look at the effects.

    If I say, “same sex marriage is a sin” or “same-sex/interracial marriage is immoral” or something like that, I think it is a bit different (this is where we move more into the subjective realm it seems). At this point it becomes a moral issue and it seems to get a bit more murky and arbitrary. Someone like Elder Packar would say it is a sin (even if it does not result in ‘bad’ effects; or maybe even if it yielded positive effects), someone like Dan may not.

    We know that with the variety of religious claims that describe and define contradicting deities, that they logically all cannot be right. Some of them are wrong, or maybe all of them are wrong.

    True.

    Yet, that’s just how the analysis works from correspondence theory analysis. If we look at pragmatics, we can see that each religion has been extremely inspiring — in fact, religions are (much to the chagrin of secularists) far more inspiring and motivating than most of things around, for good and for bad.

    Also true (Again, using my definition of ‘truth’ which is: what ‘is’).

    This power is their truth from a pragmatic standpoint. Religions are true in the sense that they “work” — the teachings have lived experiential value for their adherents and those doctrines and theologies hold up as the foundation for the actions of the adherents — even if we conclude those actions may often be bad or evil.

    I would say it is true that religious teachings, psychic readings, alien channeling, “new age” spirituality, etc., can inspire people. I would say they “work” in inspiring people. I would say it is true that these religions (and other aforementioned items) can bring people peace, can bring people fulfillment, can bring people hope, and “expansiveness”, and the whole bit. All of that is true. And as we know beliefs lead to action (and vice-versa), so it is no wonder religious (or otherwise) beliefs lead people to do good or bad things.

    If someone wanted to play a cruel joke on a parent they could call the parent and pretend to be a police officer and tell them their son or daughter had been killed. If the parent believed the person the belief would absolutely lead to intense (negative) emotions. That belief would lead to action. But the belief is simply a belief. It does not correspond with reality, therefor I would not say the belief is true (in this case I would use the word false, because this belief can be falsified).

    Much in the same way, as was the belief in some Native American cultures, when a loved one passed, it was believed that they had moved on to the happy hunting ground where the game was abundant. This belief can also lead to feelings—feelings of peace and comfort for the mourning loved ones. The belief may also lead to action (sacrifices to the animal spirits, dances, chants, prayers, etc).

    But I guess this is where we will just have to differ. In my first scenario, with the cruel joke, we can say that the belief was false—it didn’t correspond with reality. From a pragmatic point of view, I don’t know what it would say, nor do I care (when evaluating the truth value of the belief. Obviously I care that the parent would have to endure such a cruel experience), to me the belief is false.

    With the second example with the Native American belief, I would not call that belief true, nor would I call it false (the belief is unfalsifiable).

    I view this second scenero (right or wrong) in the same way Carl Sagan put it in ‘The Demon Haunted World’:

    Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.

    Maybe another illustration would serve a point: from a correspondence theory of truth, there may well be no difference between the Judeo-Christian God, your “Mishbee”, and the popular atheist trope of a flying spaghetti monster. But the Judeo-Christian God (and ideas around him) has inspired art, music, theology, people thinking and writing and worshipping (and yes, even people killing and harming and sacrificing)…whereas the flying spaghetti monster, in contrast, only inspires a relatively few people making jokes and criticism. From correspondence theory, these ideas seem comparable — hence why atheists often try to raise up the FSM as a comparison or reductio ad absurdum for theistic concepts. Correspondence theory cannot account for the gap — from a correspondence theory perspective, it just seems like a lot of people are remarkably deluded and/or misinformed.

    I agree with most everything you say here. The FSM, or Mishbee are the same as God (or Krishna, or garage dragons) in the sense that there is not sufficient evidence to say any of these things exist (at least not that I have found)—but that is not to say that these things are ‘false’, again, I remain at the null-hypothesis (obviously less-so with FSM, Mishbee and garage dragons), simply do not inspire people in the same way religions do. To me, that can be said to be true, because it aligns with reality.

    If a garage dragon, or belief in a happy hunting ground, really inspires people, motivates them, brings them comfort, lets them experience “expansiveness” or self-transcendence, or any other number of positive (or even negative) things, brings them to action, etc., I would say that: it is true that the belief in garage dragons, or the happy hunting ground yields positive benefits. I would not say that the belief itself is true, only that it has utility.

    So maybe what it comes down to is you and I are working from two different models of truth. I care what is actually true (what ‘is’), i.e., what corresponds with reality (even if what is actually true is that a particular belief, or set of beliefs, has utility or has positive effects). And you label something ‘true’ based off of whether or not the belief has utility?

    Is that fair to say?

  12. I would say that I cannot justify saying they are true from an epistemological standpoint. I’m not in the business of deeming (most) things ‘false’—most things I keep at the null-hypothesis…

    I get what you’re saying. I’m just saying that by only taking a correspondence theory epistemology, you are consequently foreclosing other epistemological models. So, whether something is true or false becomes begging the question: you have already precluded someone from explaining the alternative model by which something *could* be true. It doesn’t matter if you’re not comfortable with calling things false. The conclusion just follows.

    If I say, “same sex marriage is a sin” or “same-sex/interracial marriage is immoral” or something like that, I think it is a bit different (this is where we move more into the subjective realm it seems). At this point it becomes a moral issue and it seems to get a bit more murky and arbitrary. Someone like Elder Packar would say it is a sin (even if it does not result in ‘bad’ effects; or maybe even if it yielded positive effects), someone like Dan may not.

    I don’t think it is necessarily that murky. I think we all have an evaluation of “physical” and “mental” and “social” harms and benefits…but I think what theists add to the mix is an evaluation of “spiritual” harms and benefits. So, Packer may say that it *does* result in bad effects, but that those effects are spiritual.

    How can we assess the truth of those claims? It could be that by spiritual claims are not amenable to correspondence theory evaluation…so from a correspondence theory perspective, it might seem that talking about spiritual harms and benefits is, as you say, “murky and arbitrary.” But that doesn’t mean that Packer would agree…just that your epistemological model doesn’t account for how Packer would see it.

    And as we know beliefs lead to action (and vice-versa), so it is no wonder religious (or otherwise) beliefs lead people to do good or bad things.

    It’s not “no wonder”. I mean, we know that we can conceptualize of a lot of potential belief claims…and yet we know that some of the ones we conceptualize don’t lead to actions. So, we can talk about “invisible pink unicorns” and “flying spaghetti monsters,” but these don’t actually inspire much action.

    So, the question is: why are religious beliefs — even though by correspondence theory, they are not necessarily “true” — able to inspire action, whereas we can think of other beliefs that are also not “true” that do not inspire action.

    If someone wanted to play a cruel joke on a parent they could call the parent and pretend to be a police officer and tell them their son or daughter had been killed. If the parent believed the person the belief would absolutely lead to intense (negative) emotions. That belief would lead to action. But the belief is simply a belief. It does not correspond with reality, therefor I would not say the belief is true (in this case I would use the word false, because this belief can be falsified).

    But there is a truth here. The truth is the cruelty or the carelessness of the pranking. That truth has power — making the parent upset, anxious, depressed. Let me try to convert it into correspondence terms. The belief here is clearly not “simply” a belief — it DOES correspond to the reality of how cruelty and deception “works”.

    Your Native American example shows how that power can be in positive things. If you’re just focusing on “Well, in both situations, that doesn’t correspond with the reality of what’s happening,” you miss or fail to account for the important difference in those two situations.

    What you say next shows that you’re engaging with that tension…but in a very weird way:

    But I guess this is where we will just have to differ. In my first scenario, with the cruel joke, we can say that the belief was false—it didn’t correspond with reality. From a pragmatic point of view, I don’t know what it would say, nor do I care (when evaluating the truth value of the belief. Obviously I care that the parent would have to endure such a cruel experience), to me the belief is false.

    With the second example with the Native American belief, I would not call that belief true, nor would I call it false (the belief is unfalsifiable).

    From your correspondence theory, the Native American belief is *as* true (or as false) as the cruel joke. It is *as* falsifiable (or *as* unfalsifiable) as the other. It may be true that the present tools we currently have for evaluating the correspondence truth of the cruel joke are better than the tools we have for evaluating the Native American belief, but that doesn’t make one claim fundamentally different from the other. (unless all you’re saying by “unfalsifiable” is precisely that we don’t *currently* have a way of evaluating that claim, but that is a far more tempered assertion.)

    But where pragmatism goes is says that we can look at the effects, we can look at the “cash value” of these beliefs.

    The quote you have from Sagan is written totally from a correspondence viewpoint. What the pragmatist does is says: sure, from your correspondence POV, “Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder”, but we’re saying to pay attention that some claims *are* more inspiring or more wonder-inciting.

    it is true that the belief in garage dragons, or the happy hunting ground yields positive benefits. I would not say that the belief itself is true, only that it has utility.

    So maybe what it comes down to is you and I are working from two different models of truth. I care what is actually true (what ‘is’), i.e., what corresponds with reality (even if what is actually true is that a particular belief, or set of beliefs, has utility or has positive effects). And you label something ‘true’ based off of whether or not the belief has utility?

    I will agree that we are working from two different models of truth (although I’m not saying I discard the correspondence theory…just point out that it has its domains but isn’t the only thing around). I want to stress the importance of this, because that’s what I mean when I say you are begging the question. When you say you care about “what is actually true,” that is begging the question — because “truth” has not been established. You beg the question by identifying “actual truth” as what corresponds with reality. But the entire point is that with another model, what is “actual truth” is what has utility.

    1. How can we assess the truth of those claims? It could be that by spiritual claims are not amenable to correspondence theory evaluation…so from a correspondence theory perspective, it might seem that talking about spiritual harms and benefits is, as you say, “murky and arbitrary.” But that doesn’t mean that Packer would agree…just that your epistemological model doesn’t account for how Packer would see it.

      Isn’t the pragmatic model of truth the idea that when something proves to have practical utility in the life of a single individual, then it should be regarded as true?

      If so, how can one person say that something is not ‘true’ for another person? If someone like Packer thinks homosexuality is a sin, but the individual gets much utility out of it, wouldn’t that mean it is true for the homosexual individual?

      So, the question is: why are religious beliefs — even though by correspondence theory, they are not necessarily “true” — able to inspire action, whereas we can think of other beliefs that are also not “true” that do not inspire action.

      I would say because beliefs naturally lead to action and emotions. If you do not believe in Bigfoot, I doubt you do much ‘squatchin’ (searching for Bigfoot). Or if someone were to believe that there was buried treasure in hidden somewhere in their yard and it gave their life meaning to dig for it with their family and friends, would it be true? In the pragmatic theory of truth sense, I guess it would. But what if there really simply is no buried treasure?

      But there is a truth here. The truth is the cruelty or the carelessness of the pranking. That truth has power — making the parent upset, anxious, depressed. Let me try to convert it into correspondence terms. The belief here is clearly not “simply” a belief — it DOES correspond to the reality of how cruelty and deception “works”.

      Right. It is true that the prank had power to upset someone. But the belief that the child had been killed was untrue. Right?

      From your correspondence theory, the Native American belief is *as* true (or as false) as the cruel joke. It is *as* falsifiable (or *as* unfalsifiable) as the other. It may be true that the present tools we currently have for evaluating the correspondence truth of the cruel joke are better than the tools we have for evaluating the Native American belief, but that doesn’t make one claim fundamentally different from the other. (unless all you’re saying by “unfalsifiable” is precisely that we don’t *currently* have a way of evaluating that claim, but that is a far more tempered assertion.)

      When I say something is unfalsifiable, I mean it is unfalsifiable (at least in theory) for the time being. Can you think of a way that you or I could falsify the belief that there is a happy hunting ground that holds the spirits of Native Americans?

      I will agree that we are working from two different models of truth (although I’m not saying I discard the correspondence theory…just point out that it has its domains but isn’t the only thing around). I want to stress the importance of this, because that’s what I mean when I say you are begging the question. When you say you care about “what is actually true,” that is begging the question — because “truth” has not been established. You beg the question by identifying “actual truth” as what corresponds with reality. But the entire point is that with another model, what is “actual truth” is what has utility.

      Noted. And I think you are probably right. I have always just considered truth to be what is. That is why I was hoping, a few comments ago, we could agree on a definition of truth so we would be working from the same place.

      I hope it hasn’t come off as if I am trying to say you are wrong. In fact, you have given me a new angle to view things from.

      I would also like to point out that I do not think that facts are all that matters. It seems that the correspondence theory can provide us with facts, and the pragmatic theory is better for giving us wisdom. I’m not sure that comes off exactly as I mean it. I too do not want to throw out either one. I think science is a pragmatic model in that it is only true insofar as it works. I guess what I’m focused more on are the statements. If someone makes the statement, “Kangaroos exist in Australia”, “The moon is made of cheese”, “Allah exists”, “Krishna exists”, “When you die you are reincarnated”, “Native Americans go to the happy hunting ground”, etc. are all claims about reality. Rather than trying to say truth = useful (as it seems a pragmatist does) I simply think truth = what is. If the statement doesn’t align with ‘what is’ or if we don’t have any way to test it, I do not consider it to be true. I may or may not consider it to be useful, but to me, that is a separate thing.

      1. If so, how can one person say that something is not ‘true’ for another person? If someone like Packer thinks homosexuality is a sin, but the individual gets much utility out of it, wouldn’t that mean it is true for the homosexual individual?

        When someone says that something is not “true” for another person, they are making claims about what works for that other person. Again, there can be different criteria therein. (e.g., for Packer and others, they are basically asserting arguments about impacts to the *spirit*.)

        I would say because beliefs naturally lead to action and emotions. If you do not believe in Bigfoot, I doubt you do much ‘squatchin’ (searching for Bigfoot). Or if someone were to believe that there was buried treasure in hidden somewhere in their yard and it gave their life meaning to dig for it with their family and friends, would it be true? In the pragmatic theory of truth sense, I guess it would. But what if there really simply is no buried treasure?

        Then you’re just moving my comment one step back: why are some things more appealing to believe than others? So, you think belief leads to action…then why are some things more believable than others — despite the “objective” case for them being lacking?

        Right. It is true that the prank had power to upset someone. But the belief that the child had been killed was untrue. Right?

        Right. (I’m not doing either/or. I’m saying both are true.)

        When I say something is unfalsifiable, I mean it is unfalsifiable (at least in theory) for the time being. Can you think of a way that you or I could falsify the belief that there is a happy hunting ground that holds the spirits of Native Americans?

        If you could show that spirits are logically impossible or materially eliminated, then from that perspective, those spirits could not be in a happy hunting ground. That may be difficult in “practice”, but that absolutely is something that could be done in “theory”.

        It seems that the correspondence theory can provide us with facts, and the pragmatic theory is better for giving us wisdom.

        OK, I think this is a really good place to be. The next question is: is religion more about providing us with facts, or about providing us with wisdom (regardless of how people commonly interpret it)?

        If the latter, then focusing on the fact that people may sometimes take it for “facts” rather than ‘wisdom’ misses the mark. In fact, dismissing religion because it gets the ‘facts’ wrong is missing the mark in the same way.

        I think science is a pragmatic model in that it is only true insofar as it works.

        This is also a really good point. We may also believe that science describes reality, but what’s more important is that science is “useful.”

        1. Do you feel it would be fair to say that based off the correspondence definition of truth that the LDS Church is not true? As in, it’s truth claims do not correspond with reality?

          But it still may be useful?

          1. Well, maybe there’s a couple of ways to approach this:

            1) If you look at things like “did a person named Nephi actually exist as described by the Book of Mormon, etc.,” then that’s probably doubtful from a correspondence definition.

            2) Is there a spiritual reality that people can interact with and engage with through several religions traditions (and thus, we can check whether certain ideas or concepts from particular religious traditions seem to “match up” with that reality)? From a secular materialist perspective, this also seems doubtful — where an eliminativist would say, “Whatever things you call spiritual really just boil down to things happening in your head with matter.” (Mormonism offers a different materialist perspective, arguing that even “spirit” is just a finer sort of matter. So they’d answer, “Yes, this is true from correspondence theory perspective.” And of course, the dualist or idealist or whatever will say that even from a correspondence theory perspective, this is true, even if the spiritual is not material.)

            3) Does the fact that (1) can grant access to (2) mean that (1) can be said to be “true”? That’s where correspondence and pragmatic disagree.

  13. This thread has transmogrified into a serious case of Verbal/Ideological Masturbation.

    The core issues on this thread are not that complicated.

    Dan has figured out how to spray paint and deodorize Mormonism with a color and smell that’s less offensive than the actual color and smell of Mormonism.

    The result is not Mormonism, and that’s precisely why he did it.

  14. I like Dan and will admit I am still trying to make Mormonism work, where this grates on me is that it sounds so much like religious politics. I have to believe there are more simple answers.

    1. Peter,

      Yes, indeed there IS a simple answer to Mormonism.

      The simple answer is transparently obvious to many, if not most of the subscribers to this podcast.

      The simple answer immediately and completely resolves all of the convoluted brain pretzeling required to “make Mormonism work”.

      For those individuals (especially including The Brethren) who are not yet ready to accept or even consider the simple, obvious answer, the brain pretzeling must continue.

      1. Amen Peter! All I could think about listening to Dan is how sad I am for him and others like him that are unable to let go. What a waste of mental energy, time and effort trying to make staying work.

        Knowing the facts and overthinking things is like a battered spouse making excuses for staying with someone that’s hurting them. Dan’s a victim of intellectual and spiritual abuse and he’s simply making excuses for the abuser.

        I remember a time many years ago listening to Dan and feeling guilty as I heard him on various podcasts pushing people to keep seeking spiritual experiences. His opinions influenced me for awhile and delayed my letting go and getting to the healthy place I needed to be.

        The fact is, spiritual experiences are not necessary to be happy and I think it’s time we stop lending ear to Dan’s opinions. They’re starting to feel like an ineffective form of reparative therapy.

        1. I’m not sad for him and don’t think he’s being abused. He knows what the church is and harnesses the good while discarding the harmful. That sounds healthy. I just think you could find that healthy spirituality in easier places.

          1. A positive attitude helps, like if you find yourself in a Nazi Prison Camp, for example. No argument with that.

            Positive attitude and all, you FAIL the intelligence test if the door to your prison cell is NOT locked, and you know it’s NOT locked, and you decide to STAY there for the rest of your life anyway … while continuing to put a positive spin on your situation, of course.

  15. Hi Andrew. It appears we reached the end of the nested thread again.

    I think what it comes down to for me is I recognize (2), but value (1) more for whatever reason.

    At this point in my life I happen to care more about what corresponds with reality, and then will seek “spiritual” or “expansive” experiences within those boundaries.

    I do recognize that the religions can be ‘useful’ tools or pathways to get people these ‘spiritual’/’expansive’ experiences. And I say if it works for those individuals, do your thing. For me Mormonism was such a path, it ‘worked’–until it didn’t. Once that simulacrum stopped functioning, I simply never had enough drive to think of ways to get it back online short of it being true (corresponding with reality).

    Thank you for the discussion. I have learned a lot.

  16. The conversation between Dan and John reminds me of the typical conversation that takes place between two people arguing over ethnocentrism/egocentricism and relativism.

    Relativism is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in social sciences and often times it trips up intellectuals and postmodernists. What relativism means is that despite the fact that we accept our own way of life, our own values, and our own customs, as being superior to everyone else, we are willing to at least concede that they are not suitable for everyone. Further, the way we operationalize our relativism may push us to allow others the pursuit of happiness or to impose our customs.

    But make no mistake, relativism does not mean equality between viewpoints, customs, values, beliefs, etcetera. While the goal maybe compromise or consensus, it is disingenuous and deceitful to approach another person with the proposal that you value their ideas, beliefs customs, etc., the same as yours, when there is no intention of giving them the upper hand. More often than not conflict is unavoidable, but if it is healthy and reasonable, then it can lead to positive outcomes.

  17. The one question I kept screaming whilst listening to this was: How can Dan be a member in good standing, with a temple recommend, teach classes, hold callings, etc, unless he was lying in some form or fashion. With the thought processes that he outlines here, how can he honestly answer the temple recommend questions? If he truly believes what he says on this podcast, he can’t be honest in that interview. In some regard, either here with us or in the interview, he is seriously deluging or lying.
    In the words of Dan: Mic Drop.

  18. And it came to pass, Things Like That
    Believing Mormons have that haunting fear that somewhere sometime someone is enjoying themselves without the prophet’s BOM guiding the invisible hand to the Latter Daze of happiness.

    Wotherspoon is believing too much too often and “things like that.”
    “Things like that” seems to be a shibboleth Wotherspoon relies upon too often to be believed. HIs arrested development is THE PATH for faith to flourish? Things like that are formed by mormon to beat back the beast.
    It’s like Dan has never grown beyond adolescence; his tone and tenor appears to smack of innocence as if there are demons and there is a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is authentic, as if it came to pass from Our Heavenly Father’s lips –– ya know, things like that.
    Struggling credulity is left to the unreliable narrator Dan Wotherspoon and folks like that.

    Pax Dan

    1. The 37th response goes like this:
      Believing Mormons have that haunting fear that somewhere sometime someone is enjoying themselves without the prophet’s BOM guiding the invisible hand to the Latter Daze of happiness.
      Wotherspoon is believing too much too often and “things like that.”
      “Things like that” seems to be a shibboleth Wotherspoon relies upon too often to be believed. HIs arrested development is THE PATH for faith to flourish? Things like that are formed by mormon to beat back the beast.
      It’s like Dan has never grown beyond adolescence; his tone and tenor appears to smack of innocence as if there are demons and there is a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon is authentic, as if it came to pass from Our Heavenly Father’s lips –– ya know, things like that.
      Struggling credulity is left to the unreliable narrator Dan Wotherspoon and folks like that.

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