Tuesday, July 22, 2008

a query on Mormonism

My freshman roommate Martin asked me how I reconciled some of my previous beliefs like atheism and basing things off empirical evidence with my Mormon faith.

My reply:

"For me, my main problem with religion was the simple truth question: if you're asserting some religious claim., how do you know that? I never really disliked religion, I just didn't think it was true.

As a result, I was more of an agnostic than an atheist, prizing (then and now) empiricism and the scientific way of knowing things. It was one extended passage from the Book of Mormon - extremely well-cited and beautifully empiricist - that helped start and sustain me on the path to belief: "And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good"...and so on.

Personally reconciling that outlook with the Mormon faith....I still see atheism is a coherent (lack of) religious belief, even if I am no longer an atheist. Interestingly, though, LDS thought starting with Joseph Smith is infused with heavy doses of gnosticism and empiricism, as well as a general prizing of religious and secular knowledge and a willingness to accept other traditions as good or even partially inspired by God.

Something I've realized about myself is that in my yearning for knowledge, more than anything else I yearn for frameworks to look at things. Like economics looks at frameworks of incentives in understanding how society works. (=why I'm an econ major)

When I was in Florida last summer, the man who eventually baptized me was insistent than the LDS framework was extremely conducive to a scientific, emprirical mindset, pointing to LDS scriptural verses like "the glory of God is intelligence." That was my big intellectual roadblock to faith; when I came around to Adam's view and had spiritual experiences (=evidence), then I believed.

But about the empiricism thing - think about LDS beliefs that man can become like God, or that the latter-day church has additional truths that are not available in other Christian denominations.

On those bases, a traditional methods of copping-out of theological dilemmas simply doesn't fly. That being, saying we can't understand God's ways, our understanding is microscopic compared to His, and citing Isaiah 55:9 ("For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts"). I do still hear that occasionally, especially re: not wanting to admit mistakes like denying blacks the priesthood.

Of course, you have the church's reputation (somewhat deserved, but not really) for being authoritarian and hierarchal...but I see the sort of synthesis of empiricism and religion - not to mention individual free agency - as basic in Mormonism and am quite willing to ignore quotes from past conservative church leaders to the contrary."


Lincoln said...

Enjoyed the post, and agree heartily that Mormonism, as religions go, is quite compatible with scientific world views. Here's something I wrote about that recently -- may interest you . . .


Allen said...

I have a blog that might interest you. It is called "The Convergence of Science and Religion" and is based on the belief that truth in science can't disagree with truth in religion (and vice versa). My blog is tracking recent developments in science that parallel in some way Mormon beliefs.