This is a guest post by Leah of Unequally Yoked. Adam is on vacation.
When in argument with Christians, it can be hard to find a good way to explain why you doubt their precepts. John Loftus has a good idea with his Outsider’s Test for Faith, but most Christians believe that their faith can pass the test; it’s hard to show them how their faith looks if you haven’t been steeped in it.
Sometimes I’ve tried comparing and contrasting with other, conflicting denominations and asking why I should find one compelling over the other, but it’s easy for Christians to escape that maneuver by claiming that they do agree on the most important aspects of God’s nature. According to them, I should be convinced by what binds them together. It’s also easy to end up in an endless cycle of counter-citations and courtier’s replies if you try to get technical with objections and apologetics.
I have a couple standard questions, but, after seeing The Book of Mormon on Broadway, I’ve got an idea for a different opening gambit. As we heard during Romney’s first campaign, Mormonism has a lot of mind-boggling propositions embedded in its theology. According to data from the Pew Research Center, over a third of Americans do not believe Mormons are Christians, and that proportion is higher among white evangelicals. In other words, most Christians have no emotional ties to Mormonism and are less likely to get defensive when talking about it.
So the question to pose is: what evidence should compel me to believe in your faith rather than Mormonism? There are plenty of parallels to push on. Apologist Lee Strobel makes much of the fact that early Christians were willing to be martyred for their faith and that, despite persecution, the Church grew and thrived. The same is true of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Mormons were persecuted and threatened as them moved west. According to standard Christian apologetic logic, we should give them more credence for persisting and creating new converts.
Of course, the problem for Christians is that they find Mormon theology to be false prima facie. If you’re a little shaky on Mormon theology, take a listen to the ballad “I Believe” from the musical. In the song, one of the missionary leads sings a song that encapsulates parts of Mormon dogma. It starts off mainstream (“I believe that the Lord God created the Universe / I believe that he sent his only son to die for my sin”) but it quickly gets stranger:
I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America…
I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob
I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well
And I believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri
Except, according to some Christian apologists, the implausibility of beliefs can be proof of the certainty of the believer. After all, they say, no one would profess such a ridiculous seeming belief if they didn’t have good reason to think it were true. (Though the Mormons are certainly proof that widespread ridicule is insufficient to kill off a religion or halt its expansion).
Try turning the old defenses around and asking Christians how they account for the extremely rapid expansion of a church they regard as false. They can’t take the out they do when questioned about Islam; Mormonism didn’t convert by conquest. Framing the question more pleasantly (“I don’t understand how….” rather than “Bet you can’t explain…”) could get you more a more considered response and a more charitable hearing once you try to pick their answer apart.