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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Real Religious Fairness Doctrine: All Evidence for Religious Belief Must Be Balanced such that Faith Is Still Required

I ranted earlier about the Fairness Doctrine while speculating tongue-in-cheek about a Religious Fairness Doctrine. On further reflection, it appears that a Religious Fairness Doctrine is already in place. Its goal is to generally leave with the freedom to believe and with the need to exercise faith.

The tomb is empty and witnesses claim Christ is resurrected? No trouble - we've got paid witnesses who say the tomb was robbed. That's only fair.

We should expect every evidence for the Divine to have seemingly plausible natural explanations. Call that a cop-out, if you're one who demands absolute proof - that's totally fair of you.

For Latter-day saints, we should expect every tidbit of Book of Mormon evidence to still leave people with plenty of unanswered questions and seemingly plausible objections or counter-explanations. We should not expect "slam dunk" evidence to be uncovered that would leave people with no wiggle room for doubt. Don't expect the gold plates to be returned anytime soon and sent to the Smithsonian for authentication (actually, they would be melted down and sold as part of some emergency bailout for needy tycoons). Don't expect a fully authenticated Mesoamerican engraving saying "Welcome to Zarahemla, Chief Nephite Capital" to be dug up in southern Mexico or Guatemala. Don't expect scholars to find an ancient altar in the Arabian Peninsula verifying the use of the ancient name Nahom/NHM in 600 B.C. in the place that the Book of Mormon calls Nahom. (Oops - my bad on that last one. Well, I mean don't expect non-LDS critics to find all that Arabian Peninsula evidence to be the least bit interesting. As long as they don't feel a need to make any concessions, the need for faith is still there. Thanks, guys!)

Oops - got to run. Time to get in line again. Here in Wisconsin, we're not leaving this election to chance.


Update on an Important Limitation: A seemingly unfair aspect of the Real Religious Fairness Doctrine is that it is only required when dealing with actual religious truth and evidence relating to the True and Living God. It does not necessarily apply to completely man-made religions and insane cultic delusions. When dealing with a false Messiah, for example, the evidence can be entirely lop-sided in favor of his divinity - at least as reported by the major media.

3 comments:

kannie said...

Excellent post! Very good way to think about it... thanks! :-)

Dan said...

Great point. In addition to what you've said, I would add that even in the face of great evidence we still have agency. There are those who witnessed angels and still turned away.

Patrick said...

As an LDS church member I have always felt that my beleif is married to faith. Since faith is belief in the plausible,not the undeniable than there is always room for doubt. At times I feel doubt about the existence of God, the atonement, and the veracity of Joseph Smith. I'm an active faithful member of the church. I've never felt comfortable expressing my belief as "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt."

I don't think I'm alone in this. Even the Nephites who believed the words of Samuel "began to be sorrowful, lest by any means those things which had been spoken might not come to pass." (3 Nephi 1:7) They were thinking, "Could we be wrong?"

Even those who saw the day and night and day as if it were one day began to doubt some 30 years later. There were some in the Nephite society who had very rational explanations for the very long day. God never compels us to believe in him, to do his will. He wants us to be willing participants.

The evidence is never so compelling that we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt. At least to this point in my life it has never been.

For me, it's the continual test of keeping his commandments (an act of faith), and observing the positive impact it has on my life. First Do then See.