May 12, 2014
John, Laura, Jen and Randy Discuss the character of the Devil in Mormonism and the role he plays.
Podcast: Play in new window
Ex-Mormons, mormon studies
As someone who has been super duper LIberal most of my life, I spent a long time recognizing that, as John mentioned, Conservatives have always on the wrong side of history and with that, felt their role was nothing but harmful to the world.
But after a lot of thought, I came to realize conservatives play an important role:
Although they have (almost) always been on the wrong side of history, what sort of things might we as a society adopted if we hadn’t had another part of the population fighting tooth and nail against it?
. Maybe in the early 1900’s we would have turned out like Communist Russia and China, without a strong conservative base who would never even entertain such an idea.
Often social movements tend to swing like a pendulum, when an idea is accepted it is accepted in excess and later the pendulum swings back towards the middle. Without conservatives resisting, how much more in the excess may the pendulum have swung?
That we have a group of people fighting against innovation, while often maddening, (especially now with how fast the world is now changing) seems to serve an important function in the long run of making sure new ideas are not adopted to quickly by a culture, leading it into chaos.
(however, now that society has become so disconnected and the two sides rarely even interact anymore and both sides just speak into an echo chamber, the delicate balance seems to have gone awry)
Concerning the Devil and free will – it seems that in a court of law, if one can convince a jury that a defendant is “hearing voices” in their head telling them to commit a crime – even when no reasonable jury believes in the actuality of the the voices – the punishment is tailored as the person on trial is considered to have had their free will compromised. If you truly think that the universe is inhabited by unseen spirits that can at any moment cause thoughts to form in your head, then in the end, what moral culpability do any of us have? It would be one thing to be able to recognize the evil thoughts as coming from outside of us but this is a skill that even prophets seem to lack as John pointed out with the BofM copyright debacle. And the same problem involves the good acts we commit. Can we take celestial credit for the inspired thoughts that pop into our heads unbidden by the good ghosts and cause us to be nice? Mormons reinforce the idea that there is no safe sanctuary in this devilish world with our devilish bodies and when the space between your ears is not sacred and private then this whole supposed “plan of happiness” is really one sick, scary ride. The concept of Satan and his minions is an idea that needs to die and if there is a “God who weeps” it just might be for this incoherent system that causes so much guilt and fear and irresponsibility.
Which is the correct side of history when it comes to the Kermit Gosnell case? Which side were the smart progressives on?
That’s an unfair question that assumes progressives condone illegal medical practices. Progressives have never condoned Kermit Gosnell who was operating illegally. He maintained a filthy and unsanitary clinic; he did not staff his facility with licensed or qualified employees; he never properly monitored women under sedation (where in fact, some died); he performed abortions past the state’s limit of viability; he botched surgeries and then failed to summon emergency help when it was needed. He was a criminal plain and simple. One of the tragic realities of this situation is that these women (mostly poor and minorities) were so desperate they were willing to seek out someone like Gosnell because he was cheap and easy. Can you imagine the number of Gosnell’s that would surface if this country made abortion illegal? Abortion rates are highest and most unsafe where it is illegal. If you want to lower abortion rates then educate people about their bodies and give them access to contraceptives, including emergency contraceptives. States with abstinence-only education have higher rates of teen pregnancy AND abortion!
Here’s an equally unfair question for you that assumes conservatives are cold hearted. Which is the correct side of history when it comes to the Savita Halappanavar case? Which side were the smart conservatives on?
A blanket assertion that group A is always on the “wrong side of history” while group B is always on the “right side of history” is fraught with perile.
The term “wrong side of history” is used to silence opponents so we don’t have to debate them or think too deeply about our own truth claims or positions.
The assumption I hear on some (most?) LDS-themed podcasts is that those who come out of the church will automatically put their shoulders to the wheel of the “progressive” movement, since that’s where all the super-smart critcal-thinky people are. I have no interest in wearing the uniform of yet another Utopian movement any time soon.
Movements are stupid. Progressive movement. Conservative movement. Religious movements. They make as dumber together than we are as individuals.
I don’t need to join a movement to be appalled by these numbers:
“In 2012, there were more black babies killed by abortion (31,328) in New York City than were born there (24,758), and the black children killed comprised 42.4% of the total number of abortions in the Big Apple, according to a report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Personally, I think human life is worthy of protection. I oppose policies that would kill babies. I also opppose policies that would kill mommies, such as Savita.
My frustration is that human life (among other good things) takes a back seat to advancing the ball for Team Blue or Team Red. As in this sentence from the Wikipedia entry about Savita:
“Two days before the Irish public at large were made aware of the fatality, pro-choice activists held a meeting in Dublin city center to plan how they would shape and use the tragic news story that was about to break to further their political cause.”
“Two days before the Irish public at large were made aware of the fatality, pro-choice activists held a meeting in Dublin city center to plan how they would shape and use the tragic news story that was about to break to further their political cause.” Since wikipedia is open to public edits, I’m sure that specific wording was intentional and written by a conservative with an axe to grind.
Besides, are you honestly surprised that pro-choice activists living in an extremely conservative, Irish-Catholic nation with a No-Abortion-Policy-In-All-Instances would choose not to use this story as an example that such a law is wrong? It is a perfectly legitimate thing to do, and in fact, that is how Supreme Court decisions are challenged in this country, through individual cases and examples. It is interesting that you chose to focus on that part of the story when conservatives did the exact same thing with Gosnell, shaping the tragic news to further their political cause, and which you unabashedly did yourself. For someone who thinks “movements are stupid” (even though they shape policies that affect millions of people), you are certainly not above using “wrong side of history” tactics to further your own cause.
Again, if you want the rates of abortion to go down, then focus on the root of the infection instead of the bandaid. Support policies that educate people about their bodies and give them access to contraceptives.
So using a woman’s death to further a political cause is both a) an example of conservative axe grinding and b) a “perfectly legitimate” thing to do? Okay.
Help me understand what you think of “wrong side of history” arguments. I think they are bad and are used simply to make the other side shut up. If you agree, then great. That was the entire point of my posting here. If you disagree, well, I guess you won’t be offended by my saying you are just on the wrong side of history, will you?
Also, last I checked, everyone at my local Walmart had “access to contraceptives”. Or by “access” did you mean you want to forcibly take money from one group and use it to buy contraceptives for another group? If so, you maybe should use a different word than “access”.
The devil does exist I tell you hahaha … and he’s gonna get each and everyone of you!
so…Conservative and Progressive, that delightful canard of a false dichotomy, really? After John and company goes on and on about setting up an us versus them critique about the gratuitous LDS dichotomy of Devil and God, he then states one of the most common false dichotomies of our time…. Two terms which in and of themselves mean very little and are in terms of what they can mean or should mean are rarely used in terms of their actual meanings.
Conservative of what? Progressive toward what? Why are these the only two choices? Each label has been and is currently used to promote activities that are destructive to humans because they require the application of violence or the threat of violence to make them happen. These terms have meanings that have slid around so much in my shortish lifetime and have shrouded themselves in morals and outcomes so diverse as to have little meaning.
The positives they attach to themselves are inarguable. If you are a Progressive, that means you want to move forward with every exciting bit of new knowledge and theory. If you are Conservative, you want to preserve traditions, values and institutions that you feel have been beneficial in your life. Those are the primary two self righteous positives of how each label sees itself. The Progressive label looks at the Conservative and says, you backwater troglodyte, because of your attachment to an older value, therefore you are implicit in the past behavior of all who have shared that value. The Conservative looks at the Progressive and says, why are you burning all the bridges to the past and the lessons we’ve learned there, why break down the society into something new if the outcome is not certain. These are all strawmen that each has constructed to support one and vilify the other.
If you argue that Progressivism is the use of collective action to convert society into some sort of ideal that you or others may share, then that same appellation must be put on people like Rick Santorum, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and other easy target neoconservatives with whom you do not share specific outcomes, but who also believe that it is through social ostracization, the force of law, the threat and application of violence, and the confiscation of property that their goals and yours are achieved. Pulling the Nazi card (they really did have such excellent outfits) they believed they were pushing the world toward some progressive ideal. So did the communists of Russia, so did quotable warmongers like Teddy Roosevelt, and the list goes on and on for the varieties of ideal lives that others have advocated for.
I still don’t understand why many LDS people leave the Church, rightly accuse it of using manipulation and lies to get them to individually choose to do personally or socially destructive things, then come out of it and decide that instead of using debate, rational discourse, and free choice; they decide that the best way to cure ills is to use slim democratic majorities to impose on themselves and large minorities their outcomes. At which point does Progress become Conservative? Or do we have to, as the Russian communists insisted, maintain a solid state revolution. A persistent set of arbitrary 5 year plans to keep pushing us toward some visionary’s utopia?
The fact is, that Conservatives and Progressives, all argue from two sides of the same coin and after all the debating, fact finding, reasoning, name calling and sound biting; their final argument is always a bullet. They are arbitrary borders drawn between two children sharing the same bedroom.
One thing that I did learn coming out of the Church was that I had been so wrong about knowing what was best for myself and the big whole wide world for so long, that I certainly don’t know what is best for you or for anyone else. And due to the general large capacity for humans to deceive themselves and yet function at fairly high levels, that I doubt that there is any group or individuals that would know either. This has impacted my approach in my personal life, my professional life, the teaching I do, and my day to day interactions. It’s made me more introspective about my motivations and developing goals. The world is a much more fascinating place now and I look forward to exploring it without razing it.
It’s true that conservativism vs progressivism is a false dichotomy. It’s also a bit of a non-sequitor to say that progressives are always on the right side of history, because that’s true out of definition; a society that doesn’t progress is a dead society and progressive movements that fail tend top be forgotten.
But with that said… the bible is a terrible, terrible book, and just about everyone who has used it to derive social policy has been on the wrong side of history. That’s why there is so much angst against the alleged conservative party in the USA… because there are very few real conservatives out there. As it stands now, to the cynical viewer, the Republican party is run primarily by radical theocrats and libertarians. Putting God on money and into the Pledge of Allegiance was not a conservative move.
Umm… having thought about this for a few hours and I want to emphasize that I realize that rant is a bit of a strawman (hence the use of cynical). I’m aware that not everyone is a fool and a lot of good politicians are caught up on party politics, etc.
Another thing to keep in mind is that progressivism and conservatism are typically used tautologically. Who could be against “progress”? Onwards, Upwards, and always Twirling Twirling Twirling. These are terms that are not used for their meanings but are used as exclusionary terms. They’re tribalistic and help us form in and out groups so we can define and organize ourselves antagonistically. Look at your association of the terms theocrats and libertarians. That’s like mixing oil and water. You can certainly have religious libertarians, but you can’t have theocratic ones, since one group is for the expansion of a specific type of invasive governmental influence and the other is for it’s general reduction to one degree or another. Some pundit somewhere has used the mixture of those two things over and over again and they are now closely tied in yours and many others’ minds.
It’d be nice if there were some actual libertarian republicans, instead of a handful of those leaning that way or those just using the rhetoric.
Gotta watch those logical fallacies! It’d be nice if there were an official list from the Logical Fallacy Institute…I do see a broad variety of general lists of them, some share most elements, but most have their unique branding as well.
There’s definately a great deal to learn about thiis topic.
I eally like all of the points youu made.
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