It occurs to me that one way of illustrating something of what I had in mind with my post, two days ago, regarding reasons for loss of faith, is this:
I’ve encountered a number of people who have abandoned their faith in God or become alienated from the Church because, they say, of certain facts or issues. But what’s striking about the facts or issues that they cite is that I, too, am aware of them. In fact, in most cases, I’ve been aware of them for a very long time. (I’m inconceivably old). And yet, unlike these other people, I remain a committed, believing, active Latter-day Saint. And so do others who are aware of the same issues and facts.
We assign a different weight to these facts or issues than they do, or find counterarguments persuasive that they don’t.
Plainly, the sheer “facts” before us are pretty much the same, and yet we react differently to them.
I see that as evidence that there is more going on in such cases – within those who fall away, or within those of us who don’t, or, most likely, within both groups — than a straightforwardly objective rational calculus.
The more aggressive among them have often informed me that my problem is that my judgment has been warped by my material self-interest (e.g., I’m employed at BYU), and/or by intellectual dishonesty, and/or by cowardice, and/or by wanting to be as big a fish as I can in the small Mormon pool, and/or by irrational emotionalism, and/or by something else altogether. But, whatever the merit of those accusations — it’s limited to nonexistent, in my opinion — they all seem to me to assume the validity of precisely what I’ve suggested: They all allege some not purely intellectual factor.
Here’s another illustration:
A rarer kind of predominantly intellectual apostasy or loss of faith emerges from the realization, as certain critics have described it (sometimes rather angrily), that there’s simply no substantial content to Mormonism. It is, they say, vapid, empty, shallow, unworthy of reflection. The conference talks delivered by the Brethren are weak pablum (“Pay, Pray, and Obey,” as some have derisively summarized the invariable message) and the scriptures (particularly the uniquely Mormon ones, but perhaps also the Bible) have nothing of any value to say.
But, here again, I see things very differently. The depth and intellectual excitement of Mormonism still captivate me. (The radical content of Mormonism and particularly of its “Plan of Salvation” was the first thing that actually captured me, back in my teenage years; I’ve sometimes struggled with the day to day mundane reality, but the cosmic sweep of the faith stirs me still.) And I know that I’m not alone in this regard. People for whose intellectual depth and sophistication I have the very highest regard have found, and continue to find, inexhaustible satisfaction in Mormonism and in Mormon scripture.
What accounts for the differences in reaction? Not, I think, the stupidity and superficiality of typical believers when contrasted with unbelievers. I see no evidence for that. And the scriptures and conference talks and doctrines that are known to the one group are precisely those known to the other. No, yet again I think it clear that extra-intellectual, extra-rational, factors have to be granted an explanatory role.