Equal Time

Something that I think is difficult for some (Latter Day Saint)Church members to recognize or realize is that when you have come to see the Church a certain way, increased exposure to it not only does not make you more likely to believe again, but actually increases your disbelief.

I say this because someone close to me was recently (this morning) counceled by her Stake President to give the Church 'equal time'.
Now, I am not criticizing this advice, I think it is excellent. I wish this were the advise given to all Church members, not just disillusion ones. Rather, for the most part, the Church has come to discourage a person from critically examining its claims by means other than prayer or faith. Any organization that would not encourage members to fully investigate the its claims by any means possible should be seen with caution. To encourage not giving equal time to both sides of an issue is part of what constitutes brain washing.

The Church used to not be this way. The Church used to be very much about logic and reason. It is interesting to read Church writings from even about 50 or 60 years ago how much emphasis was placed on science and reason. The missionary discussions used to read to Socratic dialogues (and were fairly manipulative. I think the current discussions are much better). But as science has advanced into areas the Church makes claims on, repeatedly, evidence has shown the claims made by the Lds Church to be incorrect(no Hebrew dna in America, Joseph Smith's 'translation' of the Pearl of Great Price has no association whatsoever to the text it was claimed to be translated from. Joseph Smith's 'translation' of the Bible bears no resemblance to any historical text. Joseph Smith's 'translation' of the Kinderhook plates was, as had been claimed, a 'translation' of made up characters. Homosexuality is not a choice and cannot be overcome by 'the Atonement' or prayer. Believing in Jesus or Joseph Smith does not increase ones happiness any more so than any other belief in any God. Tea is actually very healthy.). Now, rather than revamping their positions on certain issues as the Rlds Church has done, they have chosen to distance themselves from science and reason.

(although, recently the Church has been doing somewhat better had confronting some of the uncomfortable issues head on. I think this is because with the internet it has become unavoidable. As well, I think there was a backlash against the Church from the historical community for having closed its doors to independent investigation to its historical claims. Any organization that would be reticent towards having outsiders look into its history should rightly be viewed with suspicion, and I applaud the Church for having changed its course in that regard. I think the new multi-volume 'Joseph Smith Papers' is an amazing undertaking that illustrates the new, more open, stance the Church has been compelled to take)

Back to my first point: it is understandable that Church members would feel that if only doubters were able to expose themselves more to the Church, then their doubts would fade. This is what they have been taught as Church members. As well, I think this is a basic part of human psychology. I think most people feel that if only others could familiarize themselves with what their beliefs, then others would then adopt those beliefs as well. Our beliefs feel, to us, so obviously true, that the only reason one wouldn't belief them is because they must not be familiar enough with them.

Also, I think it is difficult for some Church members to realize that a person might actually not find the claims of the Church tenable, rather than just not want to live the lifestyle it requires. I remember feeling this way about people who left the Church when I was in it. When I was debating my high school friend, he made this claim to me. He could not belief that I sincerely had no belief in the Church, and it wasn't about wanting to not follow the lifestyle. For people who feel this way, it makes sense they would feel that if only a person could be around the Church, and be reminded of what they 'truly believe' and have their 'hearts pricked', they would then stop their doubting.

However, having lost all belief in the Church, not only does exposing myself to the Church not soften my heart towards it, but it further emphasizes to me(and others) why we do not believe. When I am not confronted with the Church for a while, I sometimes forget about the issues I have with it, to a degree. While I never feel myself starting to believe in anyway, I do find myself thinking of it, on occasion, with a certain amount of fondness. But then I will read the Ensign, watch a conference talk, or attend a meeting, and all of that fondness is shattered by the memory of how deeply I disagree with the overwhelming majority what the Church teaches. So, I think giving the Church equal time is a great idea, and for some who are easily persuaded by emotions or guilt it will probably be effective. But for those who have legitimate concerns with what the Church teaches, it will only further their disbelief.

No comments: