Apostasy and Sin


If I really mean to say that apostasy isn’t always caused solely or principally by a desire to sin, why do I use weasel words like “apostasy isn’t always caused solely or principally by a desire to sin”?


I posted a couple of timse on this subject recently.   I’m a native speaker of English and I was writing in English, and I thought I was rather clear.  Unfortunately, judging from the responses I’ve received from certain people, which they’ve repeated over and over and over again no matter what I’ve said, I wasn’t clear enough.


I’m not sure that I can be clear enough.  But I’ll try yet again:


Some have claimed that I believe that all apostasy results from sin, or a desire to sin.


It was to respond to these claims that I wrote my two previous blog entries.


I do not believe this.


I believe that some apostasy results from sin, or from a desire to sin.


I’ve seen pretty plain examples of this over the years.


But I do not believe that all apostasy results from sin.


I do not believe that all apostasy is primarily driven by sin.


I do not believe that sin is a causal factor in all instances of apostasy.


I believe that some people apostatize for principally intellectual/doctrinal/historical reasons.


I do not know, and do not claim to know, what the percentages are.


I think that many factors go into every human decision, into every human belief and commitment.


These factors include substantive reasons and logic, but they also include our personalities, our distinctive psychologies, our personal histories, our genders, our tastes, our educations or lack thereof, our family relationships, our information or defects in information, peer pressure, our relationships with friends or our failure to make friends, cultural fashions, and a whole host of other things too varied for me to enumerate or even remember or think of.


We are not logic machines.  Faced with precisely the same set of facts, Fritz may draw one conclusion, while Franz may draw quite a different one.  Many things go into their decisions, but, in such a case, it’s plainly not just a matter of the facts.


Is there anything unclear about this?  It seems rather straightforwardly obvious to me.


In any event, I do not believe that sin is the sole reason for apostasy.  I do not believe that sin is always the principal reason for apostasy.  I do not believe that sin is a part of every apostasy.


And let me be very clear:  In saying that I do not believe that sin is the sole reason for apostasy and that I do not believe that sin is always the principal reason for apostasy and that I do not believe that sin is a part of every apostasy, I’m not using code language in order to really say that sin is the sole reason, or always the principal reason, for apostasy, or that it is a factor in every apostasy.


Is that clear enough?



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  • http://kgbudge.com kgbudge

    I suppose it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

  • Bruce Webster

    I’m still confused, Dan — do you believe that all apostasy is caused by sin?

    • DanielPeterson

      You’re right, I should stop using what one of my critics on this point has called “weasel words” and just admit it: I believe that apostasy is largely if not entirely caused by sin.

  • Steve

    Other factors often contributing to Apostasy are dysfunctional cognitions or logical errors. This may include “black and white thinking,” and failure to acknowledge nuance or to account for pieces of information that do not fit into our pre-existing schemas. For example, someone may express an opinion that includes nuance at odds with our expectation, or pre-existing schema, of who that person is and what opinions he holds. We can then adapt to this new information through assimilation or accommodation or we can deny it and continue to assert our incomplete ideas even as the person repeatedly offers nuance. Nuance we just can’t account for or acknowledge. Of course we can’t, because we’re just sure he is really a hateful man and this new information doesn’t support that thesis.

  • Ed Ludeman

    Loud and clear. *wink wink*

  • Anne Peffer

    The next questions to address are:

    * Why it is that apostasy is so bad?
    * What evidence do we have that apostasy is bad?
    * Who (Deity? Authority figures?) has defined apostasy as bad and what incentives did those people
    have for choosing such a definition?
    * Do we have evidence that apostasy has a deleterious impact on people?
    If so, what is that evidence? Is the evidence based the words of
    deity, the words of authority figures, cultural notions or empirical
    * If one believes that deity has defined apostasy a
    bad, does that detract from the fact that authority figures have also
    done so (if one concedes that they have)? If not, in what situations do
    authority figures define apostasy as nefarious (again, if one concedes
    that they do) and why? What can we learn about authority figures
    if/when they display this behavior? Do we learn more about authority
    figures or the true nature of apostasy if/when they define it as bad?
    * How does our perception that apostasy is abhorrent impact our
    tendencies to analyze what may or may not have caused it? Is it possible
    that one of the primary reasons we’re having this discussion is a fear
    of apostasy that is a direct result of the manner in which it has been
    defined for us over time? Is it possible that many people are afraid of
    apostasy because they are afraid of becoming “bad” themselves? If so,
    how does that fact impact our discussions about apostasy?
    * What evidence (historical and contemporary) do we have that apostasy may in
    actuality be good? Is that evidence enough to contradict the perception/evidence
    that it is bad? Why or why not?

    • DanielPeterson

      LOL. Basically, you’re asking me to settle the millennia-old questions of truth and authority in religion as a follow-up blog entry.

      Sorry, but I have to end famine and disease first, and then I’ve promised to restore water and life to the surface of Mars.

      • joe e.

        yeah, and don’t forget about bringing back Twinkies & Ho Ho’s while you’re at it! ;-))

        • http://nathanrichardson.com/ Nathan

          And the third season of Jericho!

      • Michael Bennion

        How about reversing the rise of the oceans? Oh…wait….that was the Presidents job.

        • DanielPeterson


          • Michael Bennion

            As long as you don’t go drawing any red lines anywhere.

          • Anne Peffer

            FWIW, the use of the words “the next questions to be addressed” in my initial post did not intend to imply that the universe needed to be resolved in a single blog post. In fact, I figured it would be self-evident that they were rhetorical: food for future thought.

            (That said, it would be interesting for him to choose to address some of them because I’m curious as to how his thought processes work in these regards, but that, of course, is up to him. It should be noted, considering your use of humor, however, that getting him to address them in a single blog post was not my objective then or now.)

            The continued assertion in this (or any) discussion of the clear fact that no blog post can resolve all issues is a distraction from what’s important: people. I wrote the questions here because Peterson’s blog post acknowledged the importance of people. I see no need for anyone to continue to assert the obvious in regards to this particular matter. Such assertions are deflections and detract from what is important.

            I’d prefer, instead, to have discussions geared towards the objective of helping people. Thx.

      • Anne Peffer

        That was a dodge. These questions are timely.

        The fact that people and their loved ones are being taught (if you do concede that this is so…. you haven’t said) that apostasy is bad is at the heart of the pain that is currently being experienced. That pain deserves respect and investigation. Questioning the premises upon which the pain is based is, if nothing else, pertinent. Understanding the sources of the premises and the implications the sources have on their validity is a place to begin.

        Follow-up blog entry or not, these thoughts deserve consideration. They impact people.

        • DanielPeterson

          It was no dodge.

          If the Church is what it claims to be, then it’s self-evident that apostasy from it is a bad thing.

          I can’t establish that the Church is what it claims to be in a blog post.

          If P, then Q.

          • Anne Peffer

            1. If the church is what it claims to be, then apostasy is bad.

            2. If apostasy is bad, then it is appropriate and justified for the church to teach that it is bad.

            3. If the church is justified in teaching that apostasy is bad and if the fact that it teaches that it is bad causes people to feel unworthy and hurt and their loved ones to judge them, then it is appropriate and morally justified for the church to engage in a behavior that has consequences that are hurting people. (The insinuation being that any hurt has a purpose and is the fault of those who apostatize.)

            Is this what you believe?

          • DanielPeterson

            Yes. Pretty much.

            Of course, you play up the idea of hurting people quite a bit more than I would. It seems to be a way of poisoning the well and making my position morally repugnant up front, so that I’ll feel pressure to abandon it.

            However, to that extent, it’s merely a rhetorical ploy, and not a very fair one.

          • brotheroflogan

            But this rhetorical ploy is why we have gay marriage and why we will have huge pressure on our leaders to extend the priesthood to women. Please see Maxine Hanks’ recent FAIR speech.

        • Rathje

          Yeah, well… your question fully deserved to be dodged. It was much too ambitious a question.

          You’re basically asking “why is religious belief better than unbelief?”

          Which is just ridiculously broad of a question. I wouldn’t want to answer it either. Go read Augustine’s City of God or any of the other countless works from smarter men than any here, and get off the Internet.

          Come back when you have some more manageable questions.

  • Scott W. Clark

    Now that you’ve made yourself perfectly clear I can see you’re saying that apostasy comes from sin.

    Now if you’ll just fess up and tell us where all the bodies are buried.


    • DanielPeterson

      That’s right. When I say “black,” it means “white.” When I say “up,” that’s code for “down.” When I say “yes,” I’m secretly saying “no.”

      The bodies are all buried at the cemetery. Mwahahahaha. (Which really means that they’re in my basement. But you clowns will never know!)

      • Scott W. Clark

        You are a more patient man than I am Bro. Peterson. I’d have gotten big time surly a long time ago with all of this nonsense. And it doesn’t seem to go away.

        By the way I have read the book you suggested by Mark McConkie, Remembering Joseph Smith, if I’ve got it right. I appreciate the recommendation. It was a good book and I’d say a significant one.
        So thanks.

        And thanks for slogging it out in the fever swamps. They say somebody’s got to do it and I guess for this it’s you.


        • DanielPeterson

          Thanks for the kind note.

          Yes, I’m probably the one who recommended that book, which I do frequently. I really like it.