Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is this a negative blog?

A few months ago, I was asked by a faithful LDS person not to do any "negative blogging" while at this person's house. The request caught me off guard, especially considering I had just finished fixing this person's wireless network, and I stammered something conciliatory. There's plenty I could say about the concept of asking someone not to indulge their personal thoughts in unobtrusive silence. I won't. But I will say two things. (If this person happens to be reading this entry, my comments aren't directed to you personally, but our interaction sparked some thoughts I felt like expressing.)

First, I don't consider what I do here to be negative. This person was obviously referring to this blog, where I am sometimes critical of the LDS church, as well as other organizations and belief systems I find to be suboptimal. I try to promote the virtues that are most central to who I am as a person. These include honesty, integrity, evidence-based critical thinking, kindness, empathy, and not making shit up while claiming divine truth. I think these are among the highest virtues, and to support them is a very positive thing indeed.

I will always be critical of people who proclaim virtues with their lips while denying them by their actions. This sometimes includes the LDS church leadership, though they're certainly not the only people who do this. I genuinely hope others will treat me in the same way, and will let me know if they think I am falling short of my own ideals. If I were not open to criticism myself, my criticism of others would be hypocritical. Criticism does not mean simply to tear something down. It means to try to examine it objectively, perhaps even to improve it. Although criticism is one thing the LDS church seems not to value, I continue to express it because I believe it makes the world a better place.

Second, in the "wink, wink" nature of the request, I perceived an implied, unspoken agreement. Maybe it was a misperception, but the attitude seems to be that unbelievers like myself know we are wrong, and we know deep down that we are fighting against the truth. Hence the ease with which the word "negative" is used to describe my actions, and I'm supposed to just nod my head in agreement.

Well, I disagree. In fact, I do not believe deep down that I am doing something wrong. I do not believe that I am fighting against the truth. When I say Korihor was right, I'm not being flippant; I mean it. However, I would not say that Mormons are really atheists who are fighting against the truth. I would not say that deep down, Mormons know their beliefs are harmful. I understand that we have honest differences, and I respect those differences as valid disagreements.

Here's something I would hope we can all agree on: Regardless of whether there is a creator god who loves us and wants us to grow, I believe we should try to do so anyway. The more questions we ask, the more we learn. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the better we are. Progression is a valid principle, even if not an eternal one.

However, I no longer see the value in artificially constraining the answers to my questions. For example, I don't see the value in seeking answers only as long as the answers don't challenge faith in Joseph Smith or the LDS church. I also don't see the value in seeking answers only as long as the answers don't indicate anything paranormal or supernatural. I'm not interested in protecting my personal answers at the expense of hard questions. I am only interested in what is true. As Joseph Smith himself once said, truth will cut its own way. In other words, if something is actually true, it will withstand scrutiny. So I scrutinize, and I believe that makes this a positive blog.


dbd said...

Excellent post Saganist. I do hope the 'wink, wink' relative reads (and understands) this.

Ann said...

Kick ass post.

I admire your openness to criticism. I don't do that well.

I stole your values as a sig (citing you, of course).

Just wonderful.

TGD said...

Bravo! I had to go back and read your post about Korihor. The last time I had read that story was years ago in the mindset of a missionary.

When I read it now it reminds me of a lot of the scenarios depicted in those Christian "Chick Tracts".(

That story in the BOM is just the sort of thing any Christian wished would happen when they confront an atheist or any non-believer who looks for evidence.

Saganist said...

Thanks, dbd! I actually don't care whether the original person reads this post; it's not intended to be addressed to that person. In some ways, it might better if the person doesn't read it, because my frankness on my blog may just put stress on our relationship. Then again, stifling my own thoughts and feelings isn't a great solution either.

Thanks, Ann! I'll admit, sometimes I take criticism a little too personally, but I recognize that I can learn from everyone's perspective. And besides, dealing with disagreement is an important part of growing up and being a big boy. I'm glad you liked my list of core values. I liked it too!

Thanks, TGD! I never thought of it like that, but you're right, the Korihor story reads a lot like a Chick tract. I love those things. They're always totally black and white, and the characters have no depth at all. I guess it can be a powerful story for children, but shouldn't adults recognize that life is a little more complicated than that?