A while ago I put out a post with an infographic regarding the Plan of Salvation. The overwhelming majority of the responses were positive, because most people aren’t stupid and are capable of recognising satire when they see it. But those who choose orthodoxy are obligated to pay for it by surrendering their sense of humour.
I was pleased to learn some unexpected things from this post. First was the satisfaction of seeing people enjoy themselves when they had a good laugh. Second was the value of constructive comments and requests for clarification. I’ve finally got some time to revisit the infographic, and will be delighted to include the many good suggestions for improvement that I received. I’ll also thoroughly annotate the chart to show that I do, in fact, know what the hell I am talking about when it comes to deep Mormon doctrine.
That post also caused me, regrettably, to have to ban a commenter for only the second time. The first time I had to bid adieu to a user was when I banned SethR, a pro-Mormon grouch who specialises in alternating between concern trolling and invalidating legitimate objections to the abusive aspects of Mormonism. I appreciate robust debate, but threadjacking is tiresome and I have to draw the line somewhere. This time I had to show the digital door to a bloke who called himself Edgrr, for no other reason than he spewed nonsensical streams of comment vomit all over perfectly good discussions. His comments were not so much offensive as a simple waste of space. I am still not certain what his deal was. The theory that is least confusing to me is that he is a pro-Mormon troll seeking to discredit a site he finds threatening by trying to make it look as if the readers here are psychotic babbling fools. It makes more sense than Edgrr being a real person with that much sincere contempt for the Queen’s English.
But the biggest thing I gained from the comments was exactly how a believer chooses to defend their faith, and the sheer number of logical fallacies that entails.
Response #1: You’re a Bigot
“Tyrone” accused me of crafting “stunning piece of bigotry, half-truth, and misrepresentations.” And that was it. No examples, no legitimate discussion, just the Internet equivalent of a schoolchild responding “NUH-UHH” to something he dislikes. At least he said it was stunning . . .
Response #2: You’re an Idiot
This is the smugger, more self-righteous version of Response #1, utilized by people who are clever enough not to sound like babies, but not clever enough to realise that adopting the tone of an uptight schoolteacher makes them sound like twats. For example see “Spens” who said “Any of you that take this for any sort of educational value are honestly rather pathetic.” He then criticised my grammar with incorrectly spelt words, affirming my point about people like this being neither stupid nor clever.
Response #3: You’re Wrong
Another variation on Response #1, when “Trent” said “Good luck finding a Mormon who believes this” he was not only displaying phenomenal ignorance and an inability to address my work on its actual merits and defects, but he’s also just behaving like a child who, after being told to stop whining, whines, “I’m not whining!”
Response #4: You’re Wrong Because We’ve Whitewashed The Bit You Criticised
It’s a fairly ineffective attack on my credibility when “Anne” “invites me” to “actually” talk to Mormons about what they believe. The average Mormon is not a trustworthy source on LDS doctrine. They aren’t permitted to discuss what goes on in the temple, and misinformation abounds thanks to years of Sunday School manuals glossing over issues like the Curse of Cain, the Curse of Eve, the actual material purpose of polygamy, and so on. Pray enlighten me, Anne, what is the doctrinal purpose of polygamy? And believe me, I already know what you are going to say, and it’s bollocks.
Response #5: Criticism Is Bad Because It’s Critical
If you truly believe that any criticism of a social system is inherently bad because it ruffles feathers, grow the fuck up. This attitude is for infants, not grownups capable of understanding the significance of their chosen faith system. I’m talking to you, “Shelly”.
Response #6: Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain
Sack-of-delight “Shelly” rebounds from a rebuff by claiming that the LDS Church is good and correct because it does some charity work. I could engage in an entirely separate criticism of the illusion of charity the church projects, but that’s off-topic. “Inviting” me to witness a Bishop’s Storehouse (no thanks, I’ve done my share of slave labour there) contributes nothing to the criticism of the merits and deficiencies of my presentation of LDS doctrine. Running over to some shiny objects and waving your arms and shouting will not distract me from the issue at hand: your doctrine is rubbish.
Response #7: I’m No Expert, But You’re A Bitch
“Ed” starts off poorly by admitting he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but he thinks I ought to shut my gob because public criticism of beliefs never accomplishes anything. I beg to differ. The vibrance of the skeptic community is largely responsible for the increasing liberation of the human population from the childish belief in all powerful imaginary friends.
Response #7: Why Are You Picking On ME?
“Kevin” falls into the common fallacy of mistaking a challenge to his religion with an attack on himself. Mormons take their faith so personally that separating the two can be nearly impossible. So let’s use a different example. If I were criticising a failing school, only a fool would equate that with an attack on the students themselves. Like children locked in a failing educational system, I view Mormons as victims in all this.
Response #8: Real Criticism Can’t Be Funny
“Michelle Parnell Beck” admits that Mormonism might be nonsense. She also admits that I’ve made good points. Yet she’s able to reject it because I used humour. Oh, darn. Too bad serious arguments can’t be made using Humour. Erasmus. I mean Swift. I mean Voltaire. I mean Twain. Inexplicably, this defender of the faith concludes by telling me to “suck her balls.” I think perhaps she ought to inform her Bishop that she is transgender so she can be excommunicated, since doctrinal purity matters so much to her. Oh, I apologise. I was being funny again.
Response #9: You’ll Be Sorry When You’re Dead
“Chris” and “Mrs. H” berate me for being a dirty evil bitter angry apostate, and then gloat over the fact that God will smack my arse after I die for this blasphemy. I can’t even dignify this position with a response.
Response #10: You’re Wrong Because You’re Only 90% Right
Uncreative commenter “Anonymous” (who couldn’t be bothered to come up with a generic anonymous handle so we’ll call this person “HGluvR4tehWIN”) tells me that I got LDS doctrine almost entirely right, but then takes the typical Mormon route of rejecting the whole thing because I was irreverent rather than obsequious and groveling.
So what’s the common factor in all ten of these responses? They are *all* Ad Hominem attacks. Not one of these approaches engages with the facts. The gentlest techniques try to distract from the issue, and the more heavy-handed ones go straight to my character. (My favorite moment was being called Korihor, which I consider an immense honour. I never dreamed of ranking that high on the apostate-o-meter.)
Here is a friendly word of genuine, honest-to-flying-spaghetti-monster advice: If you want non-members, apostates, or even allies to take you seriously in a discussion, learn what logical fallacies are and avoid them. Hard though it may be, learn to separate a person from their ideology when the ideology is what is under the microscope. Realise that name-calling, distractions, mud-slinging and whining, whilst the norm on Fox News, is not going to reap you any benefits in the real world outside the hermetically sealed bubble that you live in. Here’s the downside for you, though: as soon as you figure this out, you’re going to start agreeing with me. I know it’s scary but give it a try. It’s nice over here on the apostate side. We have beer.