61: Agree to Disagree – Why Religious Debates are So Exasperating

Brandt talks with Greg, Matt Nokleby, and Jana Riess about religious discussions with opposing viewpoints, and why we can’t seem to get along.



  1. Quit now and save 10%

    Isn’t the real problem with mormon debates that both sides already know they are right? As young mormons we were told that we have the truth, we are right, and so forth. At some point, we have an experience that changes our view on what we perceived as the truth, and many of us go atheist. Going from knowing there is a god to knowing there is no god. I can’t see much personal growth there. We change from BYU fans to Utah fans. Big deal, we still “know”. In reality we have no more evidence that proves or disproves the existence of a god. It seems that the need to “know” is overwhelming for a long time and there is very little room to add the “I don’t” in front of the “know”.

    Reply Jan 16, 2014 @ 19:29:20
    • Greg Rockwell

      Atheism should (ideally) not be confused with “belief that there is no god”. It is, rather, “I don’t believe in the god which you have defined/outlined.”

      I don’t have any evidence whatsoever for the existence/non-existence of the god which has not been defined. I have none whatsoever, for example, for a deist definition of god. (Conveniently, deism ropes that into it’s definition as a fundamental tenet). I think it’s kind of silly to believe in things without any reason, but whatever.

      To the theist I say, define god, and then we can talk about whether your definition holds any value.

      I am not obligated to define and then defend or oppose this notion of yours. It’s like me saying, “I think you have a friend in Nebraska whom I have never met. I will now tell you what he/she might be like, and then tell you if I think this friend exists.”

      That’s kind of a stupid approach.

      Reply Jan 29, 2014 @ 12:10:11
  2. ozpoof

    This podcast got me pretty frustrated.

    Firstly, there seems to be an assumption that people from both sides of the “discussion” have equally valid perspectives and tools for debate. The exmo always sees both sides of the argument. They were once TBM. They know how Mormons think and understand the methods Mormons are taught to self-check and stop themselves thinking logically. Almost always, TBMs only know one side of the debate. They are often very ill informed with regards to their own religion. They have a testimony, which they often fall back on as part of their “argument”, but often this testimony is based on lies they were told to get them to believe. Therefore, the Mormon has a vested interest in ignoring facts that go against what they believe the Holy Ghost witnessed was true to them. Mormons cannot argue the facts because the facts immediately undermine their testimony. They have to fall back on personal anecdotes and faith stories, which while impossible to prove are also difficult to refute given they are based on confirmation bias, emotion and feelings. Basically, if you are brainwashed into believing a whitewashed and correlated version of Mormonism is truth, you can’t ever have a rational discussion with an exmo about Mormonism. Any facts presented will be seen as Satanic lies by the Mormon. You can’t debate with a person like that.

    Mormons like Brandt however, can engage in debates with exMormons because they choose to cherry pick what they consider to be important details in Mormon history, and they also choose to ignore certain teachings and covenants they make if these promises conflict with their world view, which may be changing. I say this because anyone who knows they history of Joseph Smith MUST choose to ignore a hell of a lot of information if they are to remain a believer in the religion this man founded. Also, it takes a special kind of person to raise their arm to the square in support of, let’s face it, a lunatic like Packer while espousing their support for the gays. Sorry Brandt, but this is some very Sybilesque thinking in my opinion. If you disagree with what Packer says, you’re not a TBM. That’s Mormonism talking there mate.

    I think it was unfair for Jana to assert that Greg is acting immaturely by leaving the church in reaction to finding that one of the canonized scriptures (BoA) is a demonstrable fraud.

    The church teaches that it is the only true church, that other faiths may have a degree of truth, but only Mormonism has the entire truth. Mormonism teaches that the scriptures contain the truth, and that we must live our lives according to the scriptures. That alone should raise alarm bells considering Mormonism doesn’t resemble the religion of the Book of Mormon, but when it is proven that the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham is a fraud, how can anyone take anything else Mormonism teaches at face value? Even the church no longer says the BoA was a translation. They quietly changed the intro, as they did with the BoM, to reflect how science has destroyed many Mormon claims of truth.

    What is immature about rejecting a religion that teaches it’s the only truth, then attempts to hide the fact it is not when it can no longer argue against reality? Belief in the truth of the scriptures is a central requirement for temple worthiness, therefore, if you are a recommend holder you have successfully kept yourself ignorant of the scriptures you are supposed to be studying, or you are lying to someone – yourself and/or your Bishop.

    It comes down to personal integrity. Are you prepared to lie to keep the peace or to keep your standard of living (meaning income or relationships with family and friends)? There’s no difference between someone who knows what they teach from the manual on Sunday is a lie, but they teach it to keep peace, and a corporate clone who is told to lie for the company. Anyone with honesty and integrity will not knowingly lie to further the objectives of a corporation, be it Mormonism or Enron. When people teach kids that homosexuality is evil and gays choose to be gay, they have blood on their hands. When they teach such lies KNOWING they are lies, they are complicit in the deaths of young men and women. It is not harmless peace-keeping to parrot whatever the LDS Correlation Committee decides is to be called truth this year. It impacts lives.

    No Brandt, if you have personal integrity you do not grit your teeth and work through the correlated lesson manual when you know there are outright lies in it. You say something. You grow a pair and refuse to teach what can be shown is not the truth. There is no fuzzy grey area here. This is most definitely a black and white issue.

    That’s another thing black and white. So-called “liberal Mormons” AREN’T MORMONS! They don’t support the Brethren. They don’t agree with basic Mormon teachings or the position of the Mormon church on many issues. I can attend a Hindu meeting once a week but if I don’t believe in the blue elephant headed god or reincarnation, then I’m not a Hindu, no matter how often I say I am. To be a Mormon is to believe the contemporary teachings of the Mormon church. Just living in Utah in a Mormon family doesn’t make you a Mormon. This is especially true of Mormonism because the religion places so much emphasis on testimony and “knowing” the church to be true, which means you must support God’s anointed who are set apart as seers and revelators.

    The middle way is the wishy washy way. You either believe Mormonism is true and the Mormon leadership are inspired of God, or you don’t. Black and white. Mormonism has done this to itself. By forcing the issue of absolute truth, any lie will get people questioning. Lying to cover up other lies is proof these aren’t just mistakes, they are intentional deceptions. Once a single lie is discovered, it automatically destroys the claim to absolute truth. That’s why it collapses like a house of cards after that.

    Grant – good to hear you again.
    Brandt – I believe you’re a good bloke, which is why I very much doubt you are a 100% believing TBM. It must be difficult.

    Reply Jan 18, 2014 @ 10:44:11
    • Greg Rockwell

      Oz, thanks for the nice comments. I appreciate your support, but I actually largely disagree with you.

      I don’t think you get to define Mormon any more than the corporate church does. A Mormon is not a consistent object that exists. It’s a human conceit, a fictional designation, and it definitely means different things to different people.

      Believer is the same. What Brandt means when he calls himself a believer is different from what you or I mean. Any happily married person can attest that honesty is NOT always the best policy. Integrity can involve an ability to not be emphatic in adherence to objective truth at all times. Admittedly, that is difficult for me, but I realize that OBJECTIVELY, humans care very little about the objective truth as it relates to their social connections.

      Since you and I (most likely) agree that there is no god making a judgment on this fact, there is no basis by which one can make a case that “the truth” in this case is definitively preeminent. For a variety of inscrutable reasons, you are less compelled by the mythology of faith. So am I. BUT that preference is both arbitrary and outside of our control.

      ….and there are still a lot of things I agree with you on. ….and the truth claims of the Church are obviously bullshit. But that’s not news to any of us is it?

      Reply Jan 29, 2014 @ 11:56:35
  3. Ray

    I agree with Ozproof. This was a frustrating listen.

    The only way I can make sense of a person remaining a “beliver” vs. becoming a “non-beliver” (both subjected to the same information) is that there must be some deeper need, biological, or psychological, or something, but definately an inate predisposition to belief. I can’t change my eye color, I just can’t. Some people need to believe, and they can’t change that. Whether the were raised by athiests or TBMs, a person who needs that as part of their life will find it, and it will fill the gap.

    Reply Jan 19, 2014 @ 20:57:11
  4. Allen

    I agree with Ray. This discussion was a bit frustrating, but for different reasons for me, than Ray or Ozproof. This podcast discussed the effects of us disregarding the opinions of others (not finding common ground) but talked only briefly about the real causes in my opinion.
    I completely agree with what “Quit now and save 10%” said. It’s not whether you choose to identify as a BYU Cougar or Utah Ute fan. Or identify as a Mormon or an atheist. You are choosing to identify with something that is temporary and illusionary.
    I’m not sure I can articulate the true cause but I’ll try to come close.
    Why do two people of opposite points of refuse to see the other’s perspectives. Why do many people generally have the mindset that their beliefs, conclusions, convictions, philosophy, political persuasions, opinions, or judgments are the most correct, the most well-reasoned, God’s sanctioned truth, the most scientifically sound, etc. Whereas; the opposing opinions of others are judged as lacking substance.
    When someone goes through a faith crisis and loses their belief system, why do they have the feeling of being lost, of being afraid, of not knowing who they are any more. As one adopts a new belief system this feeling of losing one’s identity slowly dissipates.
    The answer to these above questions is interrelated to the definition of the human ego. I would like to suggest a different interpretation of the word ego than the Freudian definition.
    The ego is a part of the human psyche that judges, categorizes, pigeonholes, and labels. Through this mind-created division we separate and build a wall between ourselves and others. The ego works behinds the scenes to create separateness while who we really are (call it our Spiritual Self, for lack of a better term) works to be inclusive and united.
    The egoic mindset does not think rationally. It will ignore or reinterpret evidence that threatens the ego’s identity. The loss of identity, unconsciously prevents people from moving out of a career, religion, or relationship that is not satisfying. However, when one’s identity is lost the ego is quick to embrace another one for this is the only way for it to survive or so it thinks.
    The ego is the source of the fear that comes from loss of identity after a faith crisis. The ego attaches to an identity in order to categorize, separate, and ultimately, survive. The problem is that these illusory labels are only temporary. The athletic body fades away, the kids grow up, you get laid off, your portfolio loses its value, you lose your faith in the Mormon Church, or you finally retire.
    The word “identification” is derived from the Latin word idem, which means “same” and facere, which means to “make.” Therefore, when we identity with something, we are attempting to make it the same as our Self. But the only thing that we can really “be” is our Self. The definition of who we truly are, is for another discussion.
    For a more nuanced definition of ego go here.
    The solution to this ego problem is to decrease the power of the ego. One practical method is to see everyone and everything neutrally, neither good nor bad; no more labels; be completely non-judgmental. One opinion, no matter what it is, is just as valid as another. Unfortunately, Mormon culture teaches there is only one correct point of view. Since I have left Mormonism it has been far easier to implement this method. By transcending the ego our personal identity will slowly disappear.

    Reply Jan 26, 2014 @ 15:17:12
  5. Allen

    The links in my last post didn’t transfer during the cut and pasting.
    Freudian Definition of ego: http://psychology.about.com/od/theoriesofpersonality/a/personalityelem.htm
    More nuanced description of ego: http://www.miracles.org.nz/ego.htm

    Reply Jan 27, 2014 @ 08:41:24
    • Greg Rockwell

      I’m kind of digging this rationale.

      I think there’s a meta-judgment here which supposes that the “non-judgment” option is preferable.

      I’m not prepared to concede that.

      Reply Jan 29, 2014 @ 12:04:05
  6. the Queen

    Podcast was great….but the Ivan Bigney music….F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.

    Reply Feb 15, 2014 @ 07:37:51

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