The Mutt’s Nuts

Where religion is about as attractive as a two week holiday in Afghanistan

Every believer has their own version of God and religion

with 12 comments

I’ve just had one of those “D’uh!” moments. The kind where you slap your head and say “Why didn’t I see that before?”

Reading the recent comments on this blog from Kuri and Snark, I’ve finally realised that everyone who belongs to a church, or who believes in a god, sees that church and that god in their own personal way. When I was an active member of the Mormon church, I believed everything that the church taught, about itself and about God, wholeheartedly. I realised that there were other people in my ward (local congregation) who didn’t appear to have the same kind of commitment as I did, but I put this down to lack of devotion, rather than to a different view of the church and its teachings. I would have been very surprised to discover that many of the people I was judging so self-righteously were as devoted to their own concept of the church as I was to mine.

Now the penny has finally dropped and I realise that everyone (including me, when I was a believer) has their own customised belief about their religion and their god. For some, their belief might cause them to follow the “letter of the law” absolutely, without any deviation or concession, even when it may be inconvenient, uncomfortable or downright unreasonable to do so. For others, it will mean adapting certain teachings to suit their own ideas of what the church or the god should be.

In order for anybody to successfully embrace a religion and its teachings I think they have to reconcile it, to some extent, with their own personality. Otherwise, cognitive dissonance sets in pretty quickly and makes life increasingly uncomfortable. Especially when the person is told that they should believe certain things, or act in certain ways that are at odds with their experience or inner values.

So, when someone tells you that they believe the LDS church, or the Catholic church or any other church, is true, what they are really saying is that their version of the church is true for them. When they talk about God, it’s their version of God that they are referring to. So many religions, so many gods, so many “truths” – they are just different people’s ideas of religion, God and truth. Those people may be the founders or leaders of a religion, but often they are simply the members of that religion, each worshipping and proclaiming the god, and teachings about that god, that suits them best.

I think that’s why people’s responses to certain religious ideas vary so widely. While a set of teachings may resonate with one person and incline them to believe in the institution that is propagating those teachings, another person may find the same teachings unconvincing, maybe even bizarre. I’m satisfied that it’s not a “holy spirit” that convinces people of the “truth” of a certain precept or revelation, but their own inner beliefs, shaped by upbringing, culture, circumstance and personality. This is why different people can firmly believe in the correctness of totally different creeds.

The Mormon church teaches that there are certain people known as “the elect”, people who are particularly righteous and valiant in support of God’s plans and purposes. It is said that these “elect” people will be more inclined than others to accept the church’s version of the “truth” when they hear it. But I no longer believe that it is some special character trait or spiritual sensitivity that accounts for the attraction that certain people feel towards the LDS gospel, but the elements that I mentioned in the previous paragraph. There’s nothing outstanding about them. In fact, in my experience, the LDS church has just as many lukewarm members as any other church.

What all this tells me is that you can never be sure that what you believe about God, or what your church teaches doctrinally, is actually true – it’s just someone’s perception of the truth and that can hardly be reliable. In the end, religious belief just comes down to feelings, and those feelings are triggered by external elements, rather than by supernatural affirmation.

I realise now that, when I used to believe and express that I knew the LDS church was God’s true church, that I knew Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that the Book of Mormon was true, my “knowledge” was nothing more than a strong feeling about my personal and individual perception of the organisation, the Prophet and the scriptures. I could say that those things were true because I had made them true for me.

Isla

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Written by islaskye

March 5, 2008 at 6:48 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Plato’s horse.

    We all may be looking at the same thing but from difering perspectives. Even if you were in my exact situation and position you would see things differentlly through your paradigms.

    Plato may have put it this way: Truth is truth but your view of it differs from mine.

    ditchu

    March 6, 2008 at 5:47 am

  2. ditchu

    The story of Plato’s horse shows that there’s no substitute for facts, but religion doesn’t deal in facts, it deals in faith.

    Plato may have put it this way: Truth is truth but your view of it differs from mine.

    My point is that we have no objective, verifiable way of determining the truth of religious claims. Our only recourse is to our feelings about the teachings or doctrines that religions put forward, and feelings are subjective and dependent on a number of variables that will be different for each person.

    As far as religion goes, I would say that doctrine is doctrine, but your view of it differs from mine. I could never label any particular church, god or religious teaching as “true” as there is no conclusive evidence to support such a claim.

    islaskye

    March 6, 2008 at 8:14 am

  3. In philosophical terms there is no conclusive evidance of your existance, nor mine.

    ditchu

    March 7, 2008 at 8:53 pm

  4. And your point is?

    islaskye

    March 9, 2008 at 8:25 am

  5. Just responding to:
    “I could never label any particular church, god or religious teaching as “true” as there is no conclusive evidence to support such a claim.”

    My point is if you are looking for “conclusive evidence” of truth, you will have a long way to go before you find any that will meet the scrunity you have place on this issue.
    Unless you are the varible type of peoson and place extream scrutinity on just thoes items that don’t jive with you way of thinkling, accepting thoes things that your paradigms let you see as “reasonable” or even “plasuable.”
    If you cannot prove your existance with conclusive evidance, (yet we assume you do indeed exist) than how can you find absolute truth. You stated that there is no shuch “Conclusive evidance” for such claims.

    keep this in mind Religous Studies and Philosophy are not dis-simmular.

    ditchu

    March 10, 2008 at 5:31 am

  6. And my mother always says that nothing I say will change anyone’s mind. You’re an open-minded person.

    I know very little about the Mormon church, but one of my best friends was first a French Catholic and then converted to Mormonism. Now she’s the athiest I mentioned who thinks I’m nuts for being my sort of agnostic Christian. My impression from her (and her partner) is that the Mormon church is especially dogmatic and that dogmatism may have been what drover her to atheism.

    Snark

    March 11, 2008 at 2:32 pm

  7. there is a grey zone to general statments. In some respect All organized Religions are especially dogmatic. But is reference to other Organized Churched with membership numbers over the ten-thousand mark. the “Mormon” Church is no more dogmatic than any other. in fact the Roman Catholic Church has more dogmatic content, also they tend to oppose Guilt on their subjects.

    ditchu

    March 11, 2008 at 8:55 pm

  8. ditchu

    My point is if you are looking for “conclusive evidence” of truth, you will have a long way to go before you find any that will meet the scrunity you have place on this issue.

    As you point out, it is difficult to prove falsity or truth when it comes to religious belief, the existence of God etc. All I can say as an atheist is that I find the claims of believers ludicrous and unconvincing. As a former believer, I only came to my present position when I stepped outside of my belief system and carefully examined what I had always believed. As I sought explanations other than the supernatural for the creation of the world, humankind’s experience over the years and my own personal situation, I found those new explanations much more rational and reasonable than my old beliefs. I suppose my understanding of reality had changed.

    So rather than citing a lack of “conclusive evidence” as the basis for not accepting the truth claims of any churches, gods or religious teachings, it would be more accurate to say that I judge things by whether I find them realistic, logical or believable. So perhaps the statement I made should have read:

    “I could never label any particular church, god or religious teaching as ‘true’ as I don’t find their claims realistic, logical or believable.”

    Thanks for nudging me into thinking that through.

    islaskye

    March 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

  9. You may not know this but I walked that path for a time and I also looked into alternitive faiths and the occult. I have come back to the realization that there is truth in Orginized Religion.
    As to the reasoning and logical proff you need… I just want to tell you to keep an open mind on some things, Logic and science cannot explain away all things. I have see things and experienced things that defy science.

    ditchu

    March 17, 2008 at 4:51 am

  10. ditchu

    Just because there are some things that science doesn’t currently explain, that doesn’t mean that it won’t do so in the future. There are many phenomena that ancient people considered to be miraculous or supernatural, for which we now have universally-accepted scientific explanations.

    islaskye

    March 17, 2008 at 7:22 am

  11. Science better hurry up if it will prove things of faith. On the other hand The proof will destroy faith. Faith is not necessarry for that which is proven.

    ditchu

    March 18, 2008 at 12:12 am

  12. I’m sure science will take just as long as it needs to.

    islaskye

    March 18, 2008 at 6:21 pm


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