I’ve always found Mormons (the “Church of latter-day Saints”) to be interesting:
First: they are basically the “prototype” for a whole bunch of later organizations and “movements” which themselves have some very unpleasant implications for older (more supposedly “legitimate”) religious systems.
With the oldest currently ‘active” religious systems (Hinduism/Judaism) we’re several thousand years away from whatever their “origin”-point may have been (seizure, hallucination, delusion, “religious experience”, out-right bullshit, whatever….)
There’s been enough time for a whole bunch of distinctly “social” factors to muddy things up (Jewish isolation leads to a distinctly Jewish “ethic” identity — Mommy disproves of her son dating a “shiksa”, Rabbi’s whine about the supposed “crisis” imposed by “intermarriage”, etc.)
(Note: NOT exclusively hammering on Jews — the above are just fairly obvious examples)
The basic problem faced by “later” religions (Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Wicca etc.): has to do with the fact that their origins are not “shrouded in mystery”. At least some documentation exists from relatively early on. For example, archaeologists have recovered a significant amount of Gnostic stuff which is typically considered to be “heretical” by Roman Catholicism, Eastern “Orthodoxy”, and the various “Protestant” denominations — who, ironically enough, are ALSO considered “heretical” by Roman Catholicism, itself…but that’s an issue for another blog post.
Also, Christianity failed to eradicate the various Pre-Christian European religions (so-called “paganism”) — both by failing to burn every trace of Greco-Roman “mythology” they could find, AND because their “Christianization” of the Norse countries has always been shaky at best — so “Christendom” was never able to do what ISIL is attempting to do (with regard to the systematic destruction of Pre-Islamic archaeological sites, etc.)
The basic reason Mormonism interests me is: it developed “recently” enough to not be taken seriously by any but other Mormons. You don’t typically see this with older religions. Oddly, there’s quite a bit of what can only be rationally described as anti-Mormon “debunkery” going on, and a significant amount of it appears to originate from Evangelical/Charismatic/Fundamentalist Protestants.
The thing is: there’s always a risk that attempting to “debunk” another religion (which can’t help but involve ideas like “evidence” and “critical thinking skills”) will end up biting the proselyte doing so in the ass. Eventually (if they’ve actually learned — and understood — the ideas upon which your “debunkery” efforts depend): somebody or other will come to the conclusion that you should at least attempt to have some sort of “evidence” for what you “believe”. The same critical-thinking skills behind “discrediting” Joseph Smith’s claims about golden tablets, magical reader-stones he had to put into a hat, “Native Americans” being the descendants of an ancient Hebraic tribe for which no evidence exists, whatsoever etc. — could very well be invoked against (say) “Young Earth” creationism, or the KJV-only movement (although, to be honest, the KJV-only thing is so abysmally idiotic as to constitute a sort of self-refuting parody: “Yahweh ‘inspired’ various writers to write various texts in Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek for the exclusive reason that those texts would then be transliterated — er, “translated” — into the sort of English used by Chaucer.
That makes debate about whether or not hares do — or do not — “chew the cud” seem downright reasonable. 🙂
Now: notice that I’m not (explicitly) arguing for the truth of any specific religion. I am however pointing out that the mere act of presenting (or refuting) “evidence” for or against any particular viewpoint presents the very real risk that those doing so will (inadvertently) “break” religion.
Here’s one (hypothetical) sequence:
- Somebody is either “raised” Mormon/encounters Mormonism at some point via some of their proselytization-schemes (those teen-age “Elders” on bicycles, etc.) They either dismiss the whole thing as bullshit out-of-hand, or wait for the theological ‘sales-pitch”.
- Eventually the individual “raised” Mormon will have some sort of Anti-Mormon agitprop shoved in his/her/face (typically as part of another religion/denomination’s ‘sales-pitch”). The “Prospective” Mormon (on the other hand) was either raised in some other religious tradition (where their parents/clergy will do their damndest to keep the individual from being “seduced” by “false doctrine”, etc.) — or they stumble dacross the aforementioned Anti-mormon Agitprop on their own, while trying to do the “reasoned appraisal” thing.
- Any sane person in the above two scenarios is going to be confronted with the “Crimestop” situation to which I alluded in another post: they are going to have some cherished dogma from their upbringing which they simply cannot allow to be questioned — even in the deepest recesses of their own mind.)
If they do, they’ve already admitted that Mommy/Daddy/their pastor might be mistaken/deceived etc. (at which point they can no longer continue aping/parroting. They are GOING to end up questioning (even if only within the depths of their own mind).
From the point of view of (would-be) religious “authorities”, that’s dangerous, because it marks the break-point between being merely reflexive and being reflective.
This brings me to the substance of my post: I refuse to allow door-to-door missionaries the opportunity to inadvertently destroy themselves by attempting their denominational sales-pitch. It’s not worth it. I inadvertently shattered a Jehovah’s Witness woman’s “faith” at the age of 12 merely by pointing out the fact that they (like most/all religious) were cherrypicking verses.
I’m not interested in (accidentally) doing that again — even accidentally.