Tag Archives: mormon politics

New Atheists and Mormon Moderates

Over at BCC Jacob Baker put up a paper tying New Atheists with the John Dehlin style of Mormon critic. While I’ve not yet read the paper, it seems interesting. I admit up front I’m pretty skeptical of the thesis but want to read it through before commenting.

The basic issue is a quote from notable New Atheist Sam Harris on how religious moderates are unwilling to accept that so much of their religious texts are antithetical to their moral intuitions. That is by simply picking and choosing the passages to follow, they ignore the danger the texts have. The typical counterpoint to this are writers (also atheist I believe) like Robert Wright who think religions modernize when they choose what passages to privilege or ignore.1 To them this is a natural part of religion that the Harris type of critique miss. Wright often directly engages the New Atheists on these issues. Wright often actually sees retrenchment of fundamentalism a backlash to New Atheist like attacks on religion.

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  1. Wright’s The Evolution of God in part is an extended argument along these lines. Although Wright’s discussed them in many articles and podcasts.

What Does Truth Do in Mormonism?

I’ve been meaning to get back to my whole epistemology investigation I started in the spring. Then I asked what truth does. A lot of the recent posts I’ve done have actually been me thinking about that issue. Certainly the post “Hebrew Conceptions of Truth” is important as is the post from the summer “Pierce vs. James on Truth.” But of course “truth” is just a term we pick up from our language and culture. Just because the Hebrews thought of truth primarily as about objects (roughly akin to an Aristotilean essence, but in terms of reliability towards a purpose) doesn’t mean we have to. There’s no reason we can’t talk about all this from our own language.1 Within our own broad framework it seems there are two main issues we are concerned with. The first is whether we ought believe what we believe. The second in the nature of our beliefs. (I’d add that a third one is inquiry although that tends to be caught up with the question of ought) 

This is important to get clear. It may be after all we’re justified in believing something but can’t tell if we’re justified. This is a common theme among the movement called reliabilism in epistemology. We may have some process that justifies our belief but with regards to some particular belief we can’t give an account of that justification. While I think reliabilism is an important consideration I think it misses something key in that with regards to knowledge it seems we want to know if we know. That is we want to be able to adjudicate, if only to ourselves, between beliefs. A reliabilism in which the ground of our knowledge might be cut off from us seems problematic. Yet, from a Mormon perspective, we might consider ourselves guided by the spirit but only recognize that we’re guided looking back at our life.

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  1. I’m a firm believer that the Sapir-Worf hypothesis is wrong. I accept that language may bias us and certain frameworks may be thus be a more useful way to think. However I’m extremely skeptical it stops us from conceptualizing most things.

Utah Conservatism in The Economist

The economist has an interesting story on Utah and in particular our pragmatic form of conservatism. I’m not sure it’s that different from elsewhere. (I think the media often paints conservatism with too broad and univocal a brush – if you don’t mind me mixing metaphors) Since it may be behind a paywall I’ll quote from it.

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