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Author Topic: How important is spreading truth to you?
Amanecer
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Due to a link in another thread, I was looking around Nauvoo earlier and I've been thinking about this post all day:
quote:
Psychologically speaking, I think it is morally reprehensible to yank a person's beliefs out from under them if those beliefs gave them peace and they cannot replace those beliefs with something that will gives them more peace... A good analogy might be Tarzan swinging on a vine (belief). I don't push him off that vine, but give him another vine to use so that he does not fall into the swamp... Anti's who want to take hope and peace from Mormons and leave them in existential angst are doing awful things in my opinion.
I am not interested in this line of thought in a Mormon context, but rather in a general sense. Is it reprenhsible to share your view of the truth with someone if it will cause that person pain? Or is this pain necessary for growth?

Currently, I believe that the existential situation is really all there is and I don't know that it doesn't constitute another, albeit much more difficult to hold, vine. However I also value the peace of mind and community that belief systems offer people and have little desire to try and take that away from anyone.

What do you guys think about this? Is it wrong to try and take away somebody's beliefs without replacing them? Does the existential situation count as a replacement? Is truth good if it causes more pain than joy?

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Sterling
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I think someone whose beliefs are easily taken away is in for a lot more troubles than just the absence of those beliefs...
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Morbo
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Good point, Sterling.

You can't "take away somebody's beliefs" without their consent.

People are better off knowing the truth in most situations, so they can make up their own minds. Since you cannot predict the future, there is no way to tell if knowing some truth that shatters a belief is better or worse in the long run than having a cozy and comforting but untrue belief.

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King of Men
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Anyone who takes comfort in a stupidly false belief deserves the pain of having it shattered.
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Amanecer
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I wasn't trying to suggest that I, or anybody else, was so persuasive that we could immediately take away somebody else's beliefs. The assertion the person made was that the attempt to take away belief is inherently immoral. Is actively proselytizing against something you believe to be false, without replacing the belief, really immoral?
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ReikoDemosthenes
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I think that proselytizing for the purpose of removing someone's beliefs is wrong. That achieves nothing more than removing a belief. If you wish to change their beliefs to something, that is different. However, simply to remove their beliefs does not bring anyone any good, except perhaps a notch for you.
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Celaeno
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I've always been the sort to think that if someone holds a false belief, then not only do you have a right to tell him that he's wrong, but you have a duty to do so.

Morbo makes an excellent point. With the truth, a person can more wisely make decisions. Let's say that a person must decide whether to take the freeway or back roads to work. She decides that the back roads will be faster because of the traffic on the freeway. However, if she knew that a water main broke on her back road route to work and traffic was not allowed through, then she would surely take the freeway.

Okay, okay. That was an overly simple scenario, but it gets my general point across. False beliefs prevent people from acting in the way that's best for them. If we truly value freedom, we'll truly value truth and its propagation.

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A Rat Named Dog
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quote:
False beliefs prevent people from acting in the way that's best for them.
Where this gets dangerous is where the self-appointed shatterer of beliefs decides that he knows what is best for other people, based on his own subjective values.
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Nato
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I'm very supportive of truth. That's why I watch the Colbert Report.
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King of Men
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Well, Scott, if your beliefs can't stand up under actual, critical thought, they can't have been much good in the first place, eh?
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rivka
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[Confused] Who're you calling Scott?
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Khavanon
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I think the only thing you can argue in religion is moral values. I think it's pointless to argue with the more supernatural parts, since they can't really be proven or disproven to another person. I really don't understand why anyone would want to bother with another person's religion anyway. Just because a person might be capable of overpowering another in a philosophical debate doesn't mean someone else from that same philosophy couldn't tear him up and down in return (the whole idea seems counterproductive to me anyways). Critical thought is nothing more than perspective and attitude-based judgment. Practical application is where you see the merits of philosophy. You can argue any facet of scripture or politics or philosophy and come up with every possible angle imaginable under some level of justification. But if you apply it, and it works, then where is the need to argue?

[ March 14, 2006, 09:39 AM: Message edited by: Khavanon ]

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twinky
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quote:
Is it wrong to try and take away somebody's beliefs without replacing them?
I don't think people should enter into discussion with conversion as an goal. I also strongly dislike the original quote, which validates Mormon evangelism while criticizing anyone with an atheistic (not necessarily areligious) worldview who accords his or her beliefs similar merit.

The problem with this notion of spreading the "truth" is that a lot of people have very different opinions about what that truth actually is, particularly when we're talking about Truth with a capital T. Many different groups lay claim to Truth. Given that, it's entirely reasonable to conclude that no single group has got it completely right, in which case it makes sense to simply to find a belief structure that works for you. That doesn't mean you should turn off your brain, of course, but it does mean that evangelism as anything other than a means of raising awareness of one's beliefs (i.e. evangelism aimed at conversion) is generally a bad idea.

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KarlEd
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One man's "self-appointed shatterer of beliefs" is another man's "missionary" is another man's "participant in a religious discussion".

It's very easy to sit back and decry a belief-shatterer since you get to assign motives to your own theoretical constructs. It's quite different in reality where we all want to be understood and want to express our opinions and beliefs. This can't happen in a pluralistic society without someone, somewhere having their beliefs questioned and sometimes shattered. But I think in most cases the shattering is due to inherent cracks in the belief system rather than due to extreme hammering by a proponent of disbelief in that system. In fact, in my experience, religious belief is one thing that normally thrives on persecution and hammering from outside.

Is it cruel to tell an adult the truth about Santa Claus? Is it cruel to tell a friend about a philandering lover? Is it cruel to clue in a naive friend that perhaps John Edwards is a fake and charlattan? Maybe so, but sometimes cruelty is ultimately a kindness.

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Narnia
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*marvels at how this thread brought some MIA folks out in the open again*

*waves at Khav, Dog, and Nato* [Smile]

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twinky
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I agree with your second paragraph, Karl, but I'm not sure I agree with your first one. I think that "self-appointed shatterers of beliefs" and "missionaries" are to some extent distinguishable from "participants in a religious discussion." I don't think there's anything wrong with explaining your belief system so that others can examine it, not in the general case, but I do think there's something wrong with it when your goal in doing so is to actively convert others. I think that religious conversion or deconversion is something that first and foremost must come from within. I've heard that same sentiment from a lot of theists, too -- i.e., that god doesn't come to you, you have to go looking.
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Amanecer
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quote:
I've always been the sort to think that if someone holds a false belief, then not only do you have a right to tell him that he's wrong, but you have a duty to do so.
I don't think the car example applies to a moral or religious belief. Do you have a duty to tell a pro-choicer or pro-lifer (depending on your views) that they are wrong? I would think not. However, I think you do have that right.

quote:
But if you apply it, and it works, then where is the need to argue?
I like the pragmatism of your argument. Would it be fair to say that spreading truth is not important to you?

quote:
I also strongly dislike the original quote, which validates Mormon evangelism while criticizing anyone with an atheistic (not necessarily areligious) worldview who accords his or her beliefs similar merit... evangelism as anything other than a means of raising awareness of one's beliefs (i.e. evangelism aimed at conversion) is generally a bad idea.
twinky, I'm worried that I'm misunderstanding you. To me your last sentence sounds like you agree that deconverting is inherently worse than converting. Since that doesn't make sense with your other statement, I think I'm just reading this wrong. What do you mean?

quote:
It's very easy to sit back and decry a belief-shatterer since you get to assign motives to your own theoretical constructs. It's quite different in reality where we all want to be understood and want to express our opinions and beliefs.
Karl, yet again I marvel at your wisdom and your ability to express yourself. [Smile]
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Brinestone
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I think it all boils down to motives. A guy with a sign proclaiming, "Mormons are Devils Going to Hell," outside the LDS Conference Center during General Conference, for instance, is probably not doing it in the Mormons' best interest. (He might be, but if he is, he's going about it all wrong.)He's probably doing it because he hates Mormons and wants to convey that, maybe to release some of the hate and maybe to make himself feel bigger. This I have issue with.

I can't knock missionaries of any faith, though. They are out there knocking on doors because they earnestly believe that what they have will make others happier in the long run. They may be wrong (just because you think something will make someone happy doesn't mean it will), but at least their motives are generally pure.

Hm. Maybe that's why people like, for instance, King of Men, rub me the wrong way. What does he get out of it if he persuades me that my religion is wrong? He's said outright in this thread that if I believe something that makes me happy that is false, I deserve the pain of being stripped of that belief. That may be so (who is to say who deserves what?), but if my personal happiness isn't his ultimate goal, what is? The satisfaction of having persuaded someone of something?

Hm.

(This is not meant to be an attack on KoM, but he makes such a good example of what I'm talking about. I hope he doesn't mind my using him as an example for the purpose of making my point.)

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airmanfour
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The Christians I know prosthletize for selfish reasons. Building up rewards in heaven or some such thing. I don't believe missionaries knocking on my door are doing it to make me happy in the long run. They are foisting their beliefs on me solely so they get something out of it later. Granted, they plan to be dead when rewarded, but since it doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter to me.
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Brinestone
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quote:
The Christians I know prosthletize for selfish reasons. Building up rewards in heaven or some such thing. I don't believe missionaries knocking on my door are doing it to make me happy in the long run. They are foisting their beliefs on me solely so they get something out of it later. Granted, they plan to be dead when rewarded, but since it doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter to me.
You are totally right that there are people who try to convert others for these reasons. I don't understand the mentality, but I'm sorry for neglecting that.
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Khavanon
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quote:
I like the pragmatism of your argument. Would it be fair to say that spreading truth is not important to you?

I think truth is a word that is easiest to use in a temporal sense. If a person finds it applies to them in a spiritual nature, then more power to them. I just think that if people are going to support some values, they ought to do it because they believe in the results after having applied them, not just because someone says so. Even Jesus said, "Even if you believe not in me, believe in the work that I do."

I don't think it's wrong to counsel someone, particularly those we love. But I think a person should respect a stranger's desire as to whether or not their opinion is welcome.

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Synesthesia
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Depends on what is meant by the truth.
Several things can be true at the same time.
One person's belief's could be completely confusing to me, but wrong? It depends on if it overlaps into something where they just might not have the solid facts straight as opposed to the unclear internal truths of ones personal religion.
If it is a harmful belief, then perhaps the person should be taken aside and talked to about it in a polite manner so as not to offend and hurt them as religion, as much as I don't agree with it at times is ingrained in the heart of a person.

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twinky
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quote:
To me your last sentence sounds like you agree that deconverting is inherently worse than converting. Since that doesn't make sense with your other statement, I think I'm just reading this wrong. What do you mean?
I re-read my post, and I don't see how you're getting that from the end of it. I definitely don't think that. The "purity of motive" that Brinestone attributes to missionaries doesn't endear them to me.
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Amanecer
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Alright, I reread it and then wrote a long repsonse trying to explain my confusion. Then it dawned on me where I was getting mixed up. I took "raising awareness of one's beliefs (i.e. evangelism aimed at conversion)" to mean that you were equating raising awareness with conversion attempts. I now get what you mean. [Smile] Sorry for the confusion.
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Brinestone
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So would it be fair to say, twinky, that it's the truth that matters to you more than the reason for spreading it?

I guess my point wasn't that missionaries are good and those trying to shoot down people's faith are bad. It was that I don't get so offended at people trying to shove stuff down my throat when I know they mean well. When I know they don't mean well for their target audience, I just feel confused and angry. Really, the truth itself has less to do with my reaction than the motive for sharing it. Even if a person is right about something, if they want to "convert" me to that something for their own personal satisfaction or gain, I tend to fight them on it. This goes for everything from religion to car salesmen.

Was that a bit clearer?

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twinky
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No problem, Amanecer. [Smile]

Brinestone, I do see what you're saying, I just don't feel the same way.
quote:
So would it be fair to say, twinky, that it's the truth that matters to you more than the reason for spreading it?
No, I don't think so -- in my view, in the sorts of cases we're talking about here, evangelism becomes not okay regardless of what is being evangelized if the goal is to convert the "evangilizee."
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Dan_raven
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Truth is not a negative.

You can not spread truth by shattering belief, but providing a true belief system may shatter the old one. Confused?

To have as your goal convincing a Muslim that he shouldn't be a Muslim, then what you are doing is destructive.

As an example, to have as your goal convincing a Muslim that he should be a Christian or the other way around, convincing a Christian that he should be a Muslim is your goal, and you truly believe that such a conversion is for the betterment of that person, than you are doing something constructive. Even if you want to convince them that Atheism is the True way, than that True way must include the positive aspects of Atheism, not the faults of whatever they believe.

When I was in college I had friends who played the "Smash the Christian" online game. They would sign into what ever forum appealed to them and proceed to take on all comers by denouncing what they thought was Christian belief. It sounded like a cool game, since they were smart and easily got the best of their Christian opponents.

Then I watched and realized that these friends were simply bullying less intelligent, or more polite people, feeding their own ego's on what they hoped was the shattered faiths of others.

There was no truth in what they were doing.

There was just petty bully's comparing size over the internet.

I find that morally wrong, no matter what flavor of Evangelism you want to call it.

In many ways, this is what I see as so wrong about the ID movement. ID is trying to shatter beliefs in evoluion, and in science in general, without replacing it with anything. They hope that without science some will finally join their cause and believe in Biblical Literalism. They don't care about the cynics and faithless people they are creating in their wake.

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Brinestone
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I agree with Dan 100%.

And twinky, I'm fine with you disagreeing. In fact, I'm pleased that I understand you and you understand me. [Smile]

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KarlEd
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quote:
Originally posted by twinky:
I agree with your second paragraph, Karl, but I'm not sure I agree with your first one. I think that "self-appointed shatterers of beliefs" and "missionaries" are to some extent distinguishable from "participants in a religious discussion." I don't think there's anything wrong with explaining your belief system so that others can examine it, not in the general case, but I do think there's something wrong with it when your goal in doing so is to actively convert others. I think that religious conversion or deconversion is something that first and foremost must come from within. I've heard that same sentiment from a lot of theists, too -- i.e., that god doesn't come to you, you have to go looking.

I think you might misunderstand my first paragraph. I'm not saying that they are all the same thing. I'm saying that to one subjective observer, the same person might fit any one of those labels depending on the observer's own attitude and prejudice. The fact is, all three involve people expressing their philosophy. What makes one into one or the other is largely their intent and intent is very often not belied by the methods of a given participant in a discussion. Some people feel very defensive about their beliefs and that defense may come across as an offense, such as the desire to convert, or the desire to shatter another's beliefs when really the intent was to defend, or perhaps simply to be understood.

Nothing productive comes from labeling someone with the intent of dismissing their ideas. From a "search for truth" standpoint, it's largely unimportant what the motives are. The ideas should stand on their own merit. Now, from a "selling your philosophy" standpoint, of course apparent intent is important. It's never a good idea to raise someone's hackles if you're trying to persuade them of something.

I don't have a problem with missionaries, in general, though I hate high pressure tactics. As a missionary, I saw all kinds of fellow missionaries and indeed all kinds of mission leaders. Many of them genuinely wanted to share a message that brought them joy. I hope I was this type. At least it was the type I tried to be. Some were out to "find the elect", that is, to seek out those who were seeking God. Others seemed to be out to "convert the heathen". Some measured their success through their own spiritual growth. Other through the numbers of people they baptised. Some few others through the numbers of opposing believers they could impress with their mastery of scripture and Christian arcana. And many of the well intentioned seemed to lose track of what was "message" and what was "method". This was made all the worse because many of the most charismatic of my companions (and even leaders) seemed to confuse their Scriptures with their copies of any number of books from FranklinCovey.

My point, though, is that there are all kinds of conveyors of any given message. When we slap perjorative labels on people we also make it easier on ourselves to disregard the message, regardless of its worth. On the other hand, when we act like "shatterers of belief" we run the risk of having our message disregarded, regardless of its worth. But for a seeker of truth, it's ultimately the message that is important and should be worth the time to cull from among the chaff of an imperfect messenger so it can be examined on its own merits.

[disclaimer: I do believe the above to be true. I feel a little hypocritical writing it because I know I don't always follow my own advice. But that only underscores my point. We're all imperfect products of our own philosophies, especially those of us who are open to philosophical modification. [Wink] ]

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TomDavidson
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A few years ago, I announced my intentions to become an "evangelical agnostic." By this, I meant that it was my intent to spread the Good Word -- the Good Word being that one can be happier and better-adjusted by NOT being sure whether or not there's a God. [Smile]

I believe that belief in a lie is, in a very real way, destructive -- even if the lie makes people happy. I'm not a huge fan of white lies for this reason. By eliminating the lie, you can help someone discover things which make them EQUALLY happy that are based on sounder principles, ones that -- by virtue of being true -- will not be challenged by experience or invalidated by reality; if you don't stick around to do that, though, you're not providing any service.

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Stephan
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I've always thought time would be much better spent actually doing charity work then trying to convert your neighbors.
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TomDavidson
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Well, aren't you Jewish? Last I heard, most Jews weren't really into conversion. [Smile]
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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Well, aren't you Jewish? Last I heard, most Jews weren't really into conversion. [Smile]

At the risk of going off topic, I'm having my own issues with that right now. I'm in the Reform movement, which is considering reaching out to convert people themselves.
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smitty
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quote:
Originally posted by Brinestone:
quote:
The Christians I know prosthletize for selfish reasons. Building up rewards in heaven or some such thing. I don't believe missionaries knocking on my door are doing it to make me happy in the long run. They are foisting their beliefs on me solely so they get something out of it later. Granted, they plan to be dead when rewarded, but since it doesn't matter to them, it doesn't matter to me.
You are totally right that there are people who try to convert others for these reasons. I don't understand the mentality, but I'm sorry for neglecting that.
Ummm, I don't know about anyone else, but I wasn't aware there was a scorecard we kept, and a little prize booth in heaven. "Let's see, you only got 146 conversions. Well, you can get the nose comb for 40, and the fake hand for 100. Too bad you didn't get another 4, you could have gotten a set of bubba teeth!" Are you freaking kidding me?

I've only sat down and seriously tried to convert one person in my life. And it was because I loved them, and felt that faith was something they desperately needed at that point in their life. Trying to convert people isn't something you do for a prize, it's something you do because you believe in it, and because you love people (better Christians than I tend to "universally" love people).

Maybe you've had a bad experience in your time, but your theory is a joke.

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Mirrored Shades
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If you know the Truth, spread it.

But remember that spreading the light is different than enforcing the penalties for not seeing it, and that a lot of people out there are focused on different lights, and won't much appreciate you standing in their view.

But hey, if you're right you're right.

Just... remember than any religious conversation will result in violence and/or grudges that NEVER END if BOTH parties aren't interested in hearing what the other person has to say. Don't go there if you don't want to hear dirty lies masquerading as The Truth, and aren't willing to concede that maybe they aren't so much lies as, well, The Truth.

(This is totally seperate from the actual truths of things: your boyfriend is cheating on you, your babysitter hits your kids, I'm not sorry your brother died because he really was a jerk -- that's a different discussion entirely.)

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katharina
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quote:
posted March 15, 2006 10:48 AM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A few years ago, I announced my intentions to become an "evangelical agnostic." By this, I meant that it was my intent to spread the Good Word -- the Good Word being that one can be happier and better-adjusted by NOT being sure whether or not there's a God.

I believe that belief in a lie is, in a very real way, destructive -- even if the lie makes people happy. I'm not a huge fan of white lies for this reason. By eliminating the lie, you can help someone discover things which make them EQUALLY happy that are based on sounder principles, ones that -- by virtue of being true -- will not be challenged by experience or invalidated by reality; if you don't stick around to do that, though, you're not providing any service.

I believe this completely. It is important to me that my belief system be true. If it is warm and fuzzy but ultimately empty, then I don't want it.

(To add the unspoken, I do believe that my belief system is true. I love it.)

Still, even though I don't want the warm and fuzzy but false (WAFBF), someone who rips a WAFBF from someone without guiding them (in their own best way) to something that is more true is an Unmaker.

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katharina
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Oops - that came out wrong, and Hatrack won't let me fix it. I agree with the second paragraph of the quote, but not with the first. [Smile]
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Rico
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I don't think it's immoral to present your take on things to other people so long as you don't basically try to force them or bully them into your own personal brand of truth.

Presenting a differing opinion should not be something that shatters someones faith. I believe that the questioning of faith is a wholly positive endeavor that makes people actually think about their beliefs and thus either make them stronger or make them realize that perhaps that belief isn't right for them.

So yes, I believe a certain amount of questioning is actually healthier than blind obedience because it helps people grow and understand their faith better.

While I understand the point the author of the quote was trying to make, I don't whole-heartedly agree with the intentions he/she attaches to the people making others question their beliefs. Is there such a thing as constructive criticism (which is basically what this boils down to) when it comes to faiths and what most people deem as subjective truths? This seems to be what the author is asking for in my opinion.

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