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Is Apologetics Insincere?


Daniel Peterson

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I'm still intrigued by amantha's position, declared on another thread (now closed).

Let me tell you how I see it.

I'm disgusted to see some people casually assume that those who view things differently than they do are insincere, acting in bad faith. Such an assumption violates the most basic principles of civil discourse, and is profoundly offensive.

I'm disgusted to see some people casually assume that those who view apologetics differently than they do are violating the most basic principles of civil discourse.

The violation of civil discourse arises, not in disagreeing or in viewing something differently, but in presuming, without very serious and direct evidence, that those who hold a different opinion do so out of dishonesty, disingenuously or in bad faith.

apologists are only there to dose the masses when the opium starts to wear off.

My main interest is the notion that apologists -- perhaps including C. S. Lewis, Origen of Alexandria, Thomas Aquinas, G. K. Chesterton, al-Ghazali, and others, though perhaps (amantha hasn't yet clarified this point) intending only Mormon apologists -- are, by nature, intellectually dishonest, and that what they write is intrinsically disingenuous.

But I'm also struck by amantha's insinuation here that believers are in the intellectual equivalent of a drug-induced stupor. This seems to suggest that there may be a second explanation for failure to agree with amantha on religious issues: While some proportion or other of those who differ from amantha may do so because they're dishonest, it's also possible to differ from amantha because one is (temporarily or permanently) incapable of rational thinking. Disagreement with amantha results either from character flaw or mental defect.

I am not "violating civil discourse" by stating my opinion that apologetics are intended to shore up weak faith.

Of course not. The violation of civil discourse arises when amantha suggests that those who think in ways of which amantha does not approve do so because they lack integrity (or alternatively, as we now see, because they are effectively deranged).

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I was likewise curious as to her interpretation of Jame 1:6, and how to resolve doubts without any form of apologetics. Demanding that someone blindly believe another's testimony seems more likey tyranny than any form of witnessing. Given the two, I'd rather be the witnessing apologist, rather than the sincere tyrant.

PacMan

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In order to be dishonest, apologists would have to know or strongly suspect that what they defend is false. I have no reason to suspect that this is true, except in a very small number of cases. Therefore, apologists are not dishonest, by and large.

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In order to be dishonest, apologists would have to know or strongly suspect that what they defend is false. I have no reason to suspect that this is true, except in a very small number of cases. Therefore, apologists are not dishonest, by and large.

I agree. And...

Awesome sig, Bach!

HiJolly

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Iâ??m not at all surprised that this conclusion is so common among those who have selected a naturalist viewpoint to define their life paradigm. LDS apologists are, by definition, attempting to defend a life paradigm that includes a presumption of the supernatural. Therefore, the only logical conclusion (for those committed to naturalistic explanations) is that seemingly intelligent persons who engage in LDS apologetics must be either dishonest or delusional.

After all, is it not an obvious given that things like visions, angels, gold plates, seer stones, and miracles are simply figments of someoneâ??s over-active imagination or outright deception? Therefore, there is no need to seriously examine the specific arguments of an apologist whose arguments are designed to defend the indefensible reality of the supernatural.

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I believe in some cases the accusation that an apologist is lying results from defects on the part of the accuser. That seems like a given, I realize, but the truth is, it's much easier to accuse someone of lying than back up claims with well-thought-out research.

I think people like amantha are prone to hope those with views counter to their own are all just liars or mentally deficient because it absolves them *from, but not limited to, the following:

1) addressing the actual issues

2) learning the viewpoint of someone who differs from their opinion

3) respecting said viewpoint

4) discovering errors in their own line of reasoning or belief

When discussing apologetic topics I think it is critical for apologists to subscribe to Joseph Smith's comments on introspection. I am looking for the actual quote, if anyone knows the reference. He says, in effect, when he hears himself maligned he doesn't immediately dismiss the criticism. He looks inside himself to see if there is even a shred of truth to what was said, and if so, he seeks to repent.

In apologetics we owe the same attention to many sincere criticisms.

To the constant critics I would say: "Search your hearts to see if you are like God. I have searched mine and feel to repent of all my sins."

If anyone knows where the JS quote I mentioned above is located, I'd appreciate it greatly.

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What explanatory work do appeals to the supernatural do? Not everyone agrees that they are "explanations" at all

This is an important issue -- I think the position referenced above is misguided, incidentally -- but it's not the topic of the thread.

I'm particularly interested in having amantha explain why s/he regards (Mormon?) apologetics as intrinsically insincere.

I wouldn't mind, too, if amantha would explain whether s/he really regards those religious believers who are not flatly dishonest as, by definition, intellectually incapacitated.

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Here is how a non-LDS person can suspect less-than-entirely-altrustic intentions from LDS in defending their faith:

- a fundamental part of Mormonism is the missionary effort, spreading the word.

- (especially in Utah) there are significant cultural benefits associated with drawing new members into the Church, or otherwise "saving" LDS who are wavering. 'Productivity' in this regard has definite intangible rewards.

In this light, it is not an entirely cynical view for a non-member to suspect ulterior motives on the part of (apparent) TBMs who stretch to defend the religion.

This viewpoint is lent considerable creedence when cultural Mormons live double-lives, joining the wordly crowd when it makes sense to do so, but getting to church & hitting all the requisite "notes" when that is good for business. I work with some of these folks. I feel sorry for them - I would have a tough time performing that juggling act.

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Here is how a non-LDS person can suspect less-than-entirely-altrustic intentions from LDS in defending their faith:

- a fundamental part of Mormonism is the missionary effort, spreading the word.

- (especially in Utah) there are significant cultural benefits associated with drawing new members into the Church, or otherwise "saving" LDS who are wavering. 'Productivity' in this regard has definite intangible rewards.

In this light, it is not an entirely cynical view for a non-member to suspect ulterior motives on the part of (apparent) TBMs who stretch to defend the religion.

This viewpoint is lent considerable creedence when cultural Mormons live double-lives, joining the wordly crowd when it makes sense to do so, but getting to church & hitting all the requisite "notes" when that is good for business. I work with some of these folks. I feel sorry for them - I would have a tough time performing that juggling act.

Intentions are intentions, but a lie is a lie.

Clearly some people may misrepresent the truth at times, perhaps out of ignorance, or misunderstanding of doctrine or history. Does this mean it is often done as clear cut lies, as well?

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there are significant cultural benefits associated with drawing new members into the Church, or otherwise "saving" LDS who are wavering.

Care to elaborate on this? What are these "significant cultural benefits"?

T-Shirt

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This is an important issue -- I think the position referenced above is misguided, incidentally -- but it's not the topic of the thread.

You're absolutely right -- I'll start my own thread.
I wouldn't mind, too, if amantha would explain whether s/he really regards those religious believers who are not flatly dishonest as, by definition, intellectually incapacitated.

Doesn't everyone think, though, that people who disagree with them are wrong? Surely there's something not right in a person's head if they hold a false belief... or do you suppose that amantha believes that apologist's mental ailments are chronic and/or intrinsic?

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In order to be dishonest, apologists would have to know or strongly suspect that what they defend is false. I have no reason to suspect that this is true, except in a very small number of cases. Therefore, apologists are not dishonest, by and large.

I've seen a different tactic, Bach. What do you think of this: someone who sincerely believes the truthfulness of the thing they defend, but who knowingly misuses sources and employs fallacious reasoning to defend that thing? Or what about someone who facilitates the publishing and dissemination of such material, as long as it supports the faith of others. A person can sincerely believe the end (defending the truth) justifies any means required. Furthermore, given that there are scriptures that decry the "wisdom of men" or "arm of the flesh", a true believer in faith shouldn't have qualms about distorting human scholarship in order to serve God's greater wisdom. No doubt there is dishonesty involved in this, and yet the person may be 100% sincere about the overarching faith-based belief.

Both LDS apologists and God-fearing anti-LDS can be a little dishonest in order to serve the greater good.

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The Dude:

Yes, that can be the case, but it's not an inherent feature of apologetics. The question is, "is apologetics necessarily insincere?", and not, "is apologetics sometimes insincere?". The answer to the latter question is an unequivocal "yes", but the former is a little bit more complicated.

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After all, is it not an obvious given that things like visions, angels, gold plates, seer stones, and miracles are simply figments of someoneâ??s over-active imagination or outright deception? Therefore, there is no need to seriously examine the specific arguments of an apologist whose arguments are designed to defend the indefensible reality of the supernatural.

Is not the belief in God at all... the belief in the supernatural?

Pa Pa :P

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Perhaps she poses the analogy of apologists as political spin doctors who ask the question, "Did anyone actually see the candidate eat the rat?" With no evidence to the contrary, they could then assert that the candidate is perfectly normal and that being hosed down at night is an accepted custom in many parts of the world.

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Care to elaborate on this? What are these "significant cultural benefits"?

A few obvious ones:

* Sense of belonging in school. Kids in church together often band together in school, and LDS represent the majority in many Utah schools.

* Business contacts. There is a "big boys club" of Mormons who own and manage many of the large businesses in and near Salt Lake City. If you can't go to the temple -- where they sometimes will go together before a golf game -- you're out. No, I won't cite references or names, but I have worked -- and now work -- with several of them. This trend seems to have diminished over the past ten years as the Utah population has become more religiously diverse.

* Ready-made friends if you move.

* Ostracism at work if it's known you were once Mormon and now aren't, and acceptance by cliques at work if they learn you are Mormon.

Ther are more, but that's a little sampling.

As far as apologists being insincere, I don't think so. I defended the church very vocally before leaving it, and I was sincere on both sides of the fence. I think, however, that quite a few apologists do so to help bolster their own faith.

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For Corky Wallace:

I guess I'm not clear on what you're saying here. Are you suggesting that missionary efforts are motivated, wholly or in large part, by a desire to gain wealth, sexual favors, or (most likely) status -- or, at least, something of that sort -- and that, accordingly, defenses of the Church are (again, wholly or in large part) insincere?

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Bach:

What explanatory work do appeals to the supernatural do?

The issue is NOT that apologists make appeals to explanations in the realm of the supernatural. My observation is that, in fact, they rarely do this.

The issue is this: In the mind of the critic, the apologist must be either dishonest or delusional for attempting to advance any argument that, at its root, presumes supernatural events.

For example, critics cannot advance to the point of seriously engaging an argument about Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon, since to do so they feel they must presume at least the possibility that there were gold plates, an angel, and a miraculous translation. They regard the discussion of Hebraisms in the BoM as an exercise in comic futility, since the book can be rejected at a more fundamental level. This attitude is at the root of Dale Morganâ??s famous quote:

With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith's story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church.

Dale Morgan to Juanita Brooks, 15 December 1945, at Arlington, Virginia. Transcribed in John Phillip Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism: Correspondence and a New History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), 84-91, quotation on 87.

Likewise, in the minds of most critics, there is not any argument that can be advanced by apologists that should be considered seriously. And since no sane and intelligent person could actually believe the truth claims of Mormonism, therefore when an apologist seems to disprove insanity by manifesting obvious cogency, expertise, intellect, etc., in pursuits outside of apologetics, then the only possible explanation remaining is that the apologist is dishonest.

Hence the common claims that people like Dan Peterson and Bill Hamblin are being paid tidy sums by the church to defend the manifestly indefensible premises of Mormonism.

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That's likely true. Humans are humans.

Was your omission of secular anti-LDS from the indictment above intentional, or mere coincidence?

It was intentional... but on second thought, even secular critics can be shortsighted and dishonest in promoting the "greater good" of their own careers. That can be just as blinding as faith in (so-called) God's greater truth.

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