Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, September 02, 2005

On Religious Prejudice

In a recent comment, Mike Parker quoted a passage on religious prejudice from Daniel Peterson's 1993 article, " Chattanooga Cheapshot, or The Gall of Bitterness: Review of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon." I'd like to share it with everybody as food for thought:
In Cairo some years ago, I spoke at length with a Muslim chemistry professor at the University of Cairo. He was astonished when he learned that I was a Christian. "Do you really," he asked, incredulously, "believe that God had a Son, and that he allowed that Son to be murdered in order to buy himself off?" After expressing some reservations about how he had expressed the doctrine of the atonement, I replied that, yes, I did believe precisely that. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "How can any intelligent person believe in such nonsense?" Well, the fact is that highly intelligent people have accepted Christianity. (Origen, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, and Kierkegaard are among those who come immediately to mind.) But it was thought-provoking to find that my most sacred beliefs seemed insanely ludicrous to a highly educated outsider. It was enlightening to find Christianity, for once, in the minority, and Christian assumptions questioned as less than self-evident. How many times have I heard people say things like, "How can any intelligent person believe in Islam?" or "How can any intelligent person be a Catholic?" Yet people like al-Ghazali and Iqbal and Ibn Khaldun have been Muslims, and the Catholic Church has claimed the loyalty of such people as Cardinal Newman and G. K. Chesterton and Jacques Maritain. Reflecting on this, and on my own experience as an Islamicist, I have come to formulate what might be termed Peterson's First Rule for the Study of Other Religions: If a substantial number of sane and intelligent people believe something that seems to you utterly without sense, the problem probably lies with you, for not grasping what it is about that belief that a lucid and reasonable person might find plausible and satisfying.
Let's remember this next time we are tempted to mock another religion.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that.

We've been told time and time again that there's no room for arrogance in our faith, but we often forget.

How surprised many of us will be when we get to the Celestial Kingdom and find out we are spending eternity with our Catholic and Protestant and Muslim and Buddhist and Hindu brothers and sisters!

Ben S. said...

Peterson and Hamblin posted something similar at Meridian a while ago.
http://www.meridianmagazine.com/ideas/040315respecting.html

Mike Parker said...

That comment by Peterson affected me deeply when I first read it, and has since had a profound effect on how I view people of other faiths.

I was recently honored to take three coworkers to the Newport Beach Temple open house. One is Muslim, the other is a nondenominational Protestant, and the third is agnostic and gay (he even brought his partner on the tour). We had a wonderful experience, and (in addition to the Spirit) I attribute much of that to the fact that we all respect each others' beliefs, even though we don't necessarily agree with them.

If the Church is to "became a great mountain, and [fill] the whole earth," it will only do so by inviting people to bring all the truths they already have and receive the fulness, not by tearing down their incorrect beliefs.

Robert Boylan said...

Thanks for brining that up. I (sadly) own a great deal by Ankerberg and Weldon on Mormonism (alongside a number of publications by Harvest House[e.g. the COunterfeit Gospel of Mormonism]). I have to say that the book "Behind the Mask of Mormonism" was nothing more than sick bigotry, almost on par (IMO) with Lorraine Boettner's "Roman Catholicism" or the 16th century book "The Jews and their lies."

This is the methdology, however, undertaklen by the vast majority of anti-Mormons - misrepresent Mormon belief and argue against the straw-man.

Steve C said...

"How surprised many of us will be when we get to the Celestial Kingdom and find out we are spending eternity with our Catholic and Protestant and Muslim and Buddhist and Hindu brothers and sisters! "

Then what is the point of conversion, if all are to be saved? I must say this sounds like new-age liberal theology to me.

Steve C said...

"If the Church is to "became a great mountain, and [fill] the whole earth," it will only do so by inviting people to bring all the truths they already have and receive the fulness, not by tearing down their incorrect beliefs. "

When Joseph Smith received the vision, he was not told that Methodism and Presbyterianism were OK, fine and dandy, rather he was told they were abominations in His sight. We must disagree with their beliefs, albeit in a friendly and warm manner. We must remember that you can disagree without being disagreeable.

Mike Parker said...

Steve: "When Joseph Smith received the vision, he was not told that Methodism and Presbyterianism were OK, fine and dandy, rather he was told they were abominations in His sight."

Not quite. The Lord said that "their creeds were an abomination in his sight" and those who professed those creeds were "all corrupt" (JS-H 1:19).

There is much that is good and true in all faiths. The Methodists and Presbyterians in Joseph Smith's time believed in salvation through Jesus Christ, so there is at least that fundamental truth at work. We have much in common with our Christian brothers and sisters.

That is not to say we should apologize for or be embarrassed by our unique teachings; far from it -- we should proclaim them loudly. But we can do so while be respectful of others who disagree with us.

Bookslinger said...

Steve:
>>"How surprised many of us will be when we get to the Celestial Kingdom and find out we are spending eternity with our Catholic and Protestant and Muslim and Buddhist and Hindu brothers and sisters! "

>Then what is the point of conversion, if all are to be saved? I must say this sounds like new-age liberal theology to me.

I believe he was referring to people along the likes of Alvin Smith, as described in section 137:8 "all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;"

Anonymous said...

"That is not to say we should apologize for or be embarrassed by our unique teachings; far from it -- we should proclaim them loudly. But we can do so while be respectful of others who disagree with us."

Yes------we must proclaim our beliefs loudly. But first we must proclaim____________??? fill in the blank. Good teachers know that first a relationship(s) must be established prior to new concepts being proclaimed.

#1-----our brothers from other churches often do not beleive that we are Christian. They believe we do not share a Savior with them. First we must establish that relationship.
#2------Living the principles of His gospel is the easiest way to teach and establish the relationship we share with them.
#3------Modeling is one of the great elements of teaching. Writing equations on the chalk board is impressive----but if we do not establish multiplication and addition-----we can write until we are blue in the face the formulas that establish square roots----but it will not be understood.

Start simple. Love one another.

Stephen said...

There is much that is good and true in all faiths. The Methodists and Presbyterians and others -- as Brigham Young preached over and over and over again.

Steve C said...

"There is much that is good and true in all faiths. The Methodists and Presbyterians and others -- as Brigham Young preached over and over and over again. "

A bit of truth is not the whole truth. If I am faithful to my wife 6 days a week, one might say that I am doing a pretty good job. But 1 of every 7 days I err, gravely.
Would this not be the same with Christian denominations? Although we can appreciate their accuracy of some things, do they not need enlightenment? Should we not continue to convert? Because if the point it "Oh well, they will just be saved anyway", the end result will be what we have seen in liberal Protestantism, i.e. a lack of attempt at conversion. Why bother at the difficult task of evangelism when they will all be saved?

Steve C said...

"Not quite. The Lord said that "their creeds were an abomination in his sight" and those who professed those creeds were "all corrupt""

I stated that Methodism and Presbyterianism, which would be the creeds, not the people. I fully agree that we should proclaim our positions with dignity and respect, but we MUST continue to proclaim our positions, else WE become abominations in His sight.

AlexG said...

But don't we suffer sometimes from the same prejudice against other religions? It is common to hear some members that think that the Catholic Church is the 'great and abominable church' or the 'Church of the Devil'. For the Roman Catholic Church I have great appreciation, because they maintained Chrisitianity alive as well as publishing the Bible and keeping it fairly well. The statement of JS History 1:18 - 19 should not be taken as a condemnation to other Churches OR their members. I have had the most fruitful conversations with many coworkers of different denominations, Christian and non - Christian, and my feeling is that we could certainly learn from them. Joseph Smith said something to the effect that there is truth in all denominations and we should seek the best of all religions. From what I gather from Muslims, for instance, is that if Latter Day Saints had stronger testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as they have of Muhammad, less people would depart from the Church. Their scripture reading is very good as members are encouraged to learn the Quran by heart. Their standard of personal worthiness is very high (the whole covering for women is a bit extreme, but many of my Muslim friends agree on that). If Latter Day Saints want to have a fair view of our beliefs it is necessary that we do the same with the belifefs of others and try and learn something from them.