Cynicism is a powerful anesthetic we use to numb ourselves to pain, but which also, by its nature, numbs us to truth and joy. Grief is healthy. Even anger can be healthy. But numbing ourselves with cynicism in an effort to avoid feeling those things is not. When I write off all evangelicals as hateful and ignorant, I am numbing myself with cynicism. When I jeer at their foibles, I am numbing myself with cynicism.
When I roll my eyes and fold my arms and say, “Well, I know God can’t be present over there,” I am numbing myself with cynicism. And I am missing out. I am missing out on a God who surprises us by showing up where we don’t think God belongs. I am missing out on a God whose grace I need just as desperately, just as innately as the lady who dropped her child sponsorship in a protest against gay marriage.
Cynicism may help us create simpler storylines with good guys and bad guys, but it doesn’t make us any better at telling the truth, which is that most of us are a frightening mix of good and evil, sinner and saint.
– Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday
Continue reading “Quotes on Cynicism”
Follow the Prophet is a beloved phrase and a primary song, until it isn’t. And it usually stops being beloved when church members begin to assert their own internal authority:
Continue reading “Follow the Prophet, Internal vs External Authority”
“I determine my faith commitments”
“The church doesn’t get to dictate to me what I believe”
“I follow Jesus over the church”
“There’s no middle-man between me and God”
“I’m the one who determines what my church participation should look like”
“We’re all cafeteria members, so my choices in the cafeteria are no less valid than someone else’s”
Is empathy always a good thing?
Can it be used improperly?
What are some differences between empathy that leads to the well being of another person, versus empathy that facilitates their downward spiral?
These topics are covered in this presentation; slides below:
Continue reading “Healing vs. Destructive Empathy”
What is accusation, and why do we see it in scripture about the War in Heaven?
What is the aim of accusation?
How does accusation impact our intuitions and our powers of reason?
How have we seen accusation employed in tyrannical movements?
Slides available for viewing and download:
Continue reading “Accusation: The Epistemology of Hell”
Is critical thinking destructive to faith?
How can we fortify our own thinking skills and learn to spot errors in common criticisms of our faith?
This presentation offers a simple primer on critical thinking; slides are available for viewing and download here:
Continue reading “Critical Thinking: a Primer for Latter-day Saints”
None of the following statements make something untrue.
“Cannot be confirmed to my satisfaction”
“Does not reflect my personal experience”
“Does not reflect the experience of people around me”
“Does not meet my personal standard for validity”
Continue reading “Latter-day Saint Epistemology”
We all have biases of different kinds. Below is a collection of typical biases, many of which are useful in discussions of faith.
Adapted from a full list of cognitive biases at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases
Anchoring or focalism The tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor”, on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information acquired on that subject).
Attribute substitution Occurs when a judgment has to be made (of a target attribute) that is computationally complex, and instead a more easily calculated heuristic attribute is substituted. This substitution is thought of as taking place in the automatic intuitive judgment system, rather than the more self-aware reflective system.
Continue reading “We’re all biased. Let’s explore how.”
If you are hitching your happiness to things being a certain way, it’s a setup for suffering.-Tara Brach
As General Conference approaches, Latter-Day Saints are going to be hearing conflicting messages on social media, and they can generally be grouped into two themes:
- General Conference is coming, and we get to hear teachings from prophets. Hooray!
- General Conference is coming, so brace yourself. There will probably be things said that are harmful or insensitive. You need to steel yourself against the possibility of being hurt.
The first theme is one that views Conference as a time of rejoicing. It affirms that Conference speakers are good people and that their messages are inspired. Whatever they say, it will be for our good.
The second theme views Conference as threatening. It is neutral or negative about the motivations and/or divinely-ordained callings of the speakers, and it doubts the capacity of the hearer to process conference messages in a healthy way.
Both themes reflect bias, and bias is not a bad thing. Everyone brings their biases and worldviews to every part of life — including faith — and people who claim to be unbiased are just demonstrating another form of cognitive bias called the Bias Blind Spot. For a lengthy list of cognitive, emotional and other forms of bias, see here.
There is no such thing as an unbiased viewing of General Conference, but it is possible for us to be mindful of what we bring to the Conference experience and respond to our biases (and conference) in ways that lead to our growth.
Continue reading “Positively Biased for Conference”
A sometimes-perplexing issue in Latter-Day Saint epistemology is the question of how we value what we call “spiritual experiences.” We believe that God can communicate to us through powerful feelings, which critics sometimes dismiss as the elevation emotion, as if they have somehow determined that God cannot or would not use the medium of emotion to communicate with us. I have a little more in-depth discussion of what we call “spiritual experiences” here in my post on epistemology, and I also recommend Blake Ostler’s FAIR presentation on that topic. We also have a collection of witness testimony that gives a good idea of the breadth of our experiences.
But for the sake of this discussion, I want to focus on the question of our feelings. Are they valuable in helping us to know what is true? And to what extent? Are they more or less valuable than reason?
Continue reading “Spiritual Experiences, Motivated Reasoning, and Objectivity”
That thing that really bothers you, doesn’t bother me is not gaslighting. It’s expressing a difference in perspective.
I and many other people are aware of this thing that you find distressing, but we are at peace with it is not gaslighting. It’s an affirmation that different people can process things in different ways.
Continue reading “That is Not Gaslighting.”