jordan peterson religious fundamentalism



In latest podcast episode from Jordan Peterson, he answers a question on religion fundamentalism that relates to Mormonism and the faith crisis and reconstruction topic I talk about.  Sorry to Dr. Daniel Peterson for the opportunistic use of you representing the Fundamentalist Mormon Apologists, I couldn’t resist the play on the two Petersons.


Question: Why do I not discuss religion fundamentalism more in depth. Many people consider you a religion Apologist as a consequence.


It’s OK if people consider me a Religious Apologist. I am a Religious Apologist. I am constantly making arguments for a religious orientation towards life. An orientation that’s centered in meaning an orientation that’s centered in desire for all things to thrive insofar as that’s possible. A desire for people to speak the truth and act out the truth and act responsibly. I think there’s something transcendentally necessary about all of that and I think it is the antidote to Hell. So that makes me a religious apologist.

(on the Fundamentalists)…

Christianity is an ethical framework above all else. And it’s predicated in a story about how the world is constituted. And the story provides the foundation for that ethic. And the ethic unites the community and gives people direction. This is a big deal. Now if the story is challenged. If the foundational story is challenged. Which is certainly what has happened as a consequence with the rise of empirical science, then the foundation for the ethic starts to shake and tremble. And that threatens the ethic. But the ethic is what holds people together and gives them direction. You can’t just lose the ethic. So the fundamentalist Christians are all short circuited. Because they know there is something to the ethic. And they understand that the foundation has been shaken but they don’t know what to do about it. So they insist the foundation has not been shaken. And I understand that. So, I think the way out of that is to understand that the truths that govern ethics and the truths that govern the description of the world as a material place are not the same. They’re not of the same kind.


What he’s saying is that Christianity as an ethic is true and powerful and important. It unites the community and gives people direction. And that ethic and unity is based in a foundational story. The story and the ethic are separate. The foundational story is a description of the material world, ie literal belief in the Bible. But then in the modern world, so many aspects of the foundational story are shaken. Creation story in Genesis vs evolution. Great Flood. Tower of Babel vs modern understanding of scattering of human civilizations and formation of languages. Then also Bible literary criticism came around which showed how the formation and authorship of the Bible is different than previously understood. Peterson says this shakes the foundation of Christianity. BUT. The ethic is still true. So some Fundamentalist Christian Apologists will argue that science is wrong to preserve the foundational story. But Dr. (Jordan) Peterson suggests the right approach is to acknowledge the ethic and goodness and truth of Christianity exists outside the literal and scientific accuracy of the foundational story.


Applying to Mormonism:

We’re a little late in this evolution. But now the internet is exploding the information that shows much of the foundational story of Mormonism is shaking and trembling. The literalists and traditional Mormon Apologists (represented by Dr. Dan Peterson) have doubled down to insist that the foundation is not really shaky. Science and modern history scholarship suggests the Book of Mormon can’t be historical, but the Fundamentalist Mormons will insist it is. Polygamy, Book of Abraham, Multiple First Vision Accounts. The literal foundation is shaky. But Mormon Apologists will have answers for it all to convince you nothing is shaky at all.

Dr. Jordan Peterson tells us we shouldn’t worry so much about it. The ethic is true. The community is necessary. The belief in the transcendent is critical. The participation in the covenants we make to build up the Kingdom of God–as an antidote to Hell–is meaningful and real. Give up on reconciling the foundational story. It’s a different thing. Not the same. It’s OK to separate.

Dr. Dan Peterson tells us we absolutely should worry about it. The ethic is only true if the foundational story accurately describes the material world. The belief in the transcendent, the participation in building the Kingdom of God, the necessity of the LDS Body of Christ, this is only valid if the foundational story is literal and accurate.

Dr. Peterson is right. Jordan Peterson.







  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s useful for those of us who are grappling with the objectively difficult historical issues of Mormonism, early Christianity, etc.

    I do think it’s it’s important to point out that Jordan Peterson uses the word ‘true’ as a synonym for ‘useful.’ So everywhere you’ve used the word ‘true’ or ‘truth’ in your blog post, you should actually cross that out and replace it with ‘useful’ or ‘utility.’ Listen to Sam Harris’ podcast with Jordan Peterson called ‘What is Truth?’ to understand his epistemology.

    One of my ‘struggles’ is that I tend to use the words in the literal way. That is the way they are defined in the dictionary. So when I hear Jordan Peterson using the word ‘truth’ or members of our faith bearing their testimony that they ‘know’ the Church is true, it’s a bit jarring to the grammar policeman inside.

    • The dispute over the definition of truth between J Peterson and Sam Harris seems to be the same as the issue that William James took up in his book PRAGMATISM. James believed that truth was an elusive concept that was best approached as that which is most useful in life experience. It is entirely possible that our ability to comprehend truth of things as they really are is so limited that our simplifications of truth can only be judged by how helpful they are in our negotiating life’s challenges. That appears to be our human evolutionary development. The problem has arisen of late by our proud delusion fostered by scientific progress that science reveals all the truth we need. J Peterson is humble and astute enough to acknowledge that science is too limited to rely upon for our daily walk, too thin a reed to rely upon. The scriptures support W James, Peterson in the pragmatism philosophy whereas Sam Harris and those who get so much heartburn over the apparent inconsistencies between Mormonism and science represent those who worship the impossible ideal of a perfect revelatory science. That ain’t gonna work and Peterson knows it and James knew it. Evolution is on Mormonism’s side on this issue.

      • Are you trolling? You can’t be serious with this comment, ‘apparent inconsistencies between Mormonism and science.’ That’s a joke, right? Truth only equals utility for those too afraid of following the data, logic, or reason to an uncomfortable end, perhaps one different from the cognitive programming one received as a child.

        • I like what Bryce is saying here. The idea here that James and Peterson (Jordan) and Mormonism and Bryce and I are all saying is that there’s something important, something true that science can’t explain. It can explain a lot of things about our material world, and I embrace all of it. But there are limits in science in evaluating the truth of ethical systems, the transcendent, religious experience, etc. But also where science-history-scholarship and religion disagree, I’m fine siding with science and reinterpreting my religious foundational stories.

        • Is insult a proper way to discuss this interesting issue? Your attitude seems to be the perfect example of the problem created by excessive reliance on scientific materialism. If it cannot be proven by data it does not exist and is subject to your scorn and ridicule. I don’t agree with your attitude nor your philosophy. I agree more with William James and Jordan Peterson. And I don’t exactly know what you mean by trolling. Do you mean that such comments as I made are not welcome on this blog. Bill Reel referred me to this thread by a Facebook post. Sorry if I don’t belong your club.

          • I’m sorry that my comments didn’t make you feel welcome here. This is the first time I’ve ever commented here after a long time of reading, so I certainly don’t have anything to say for what’s welcome or what’s not. I follow Bill Reel too, and I like him a lot.

            Technically speaking, you cannot prove anything with data or the scientific method. You can only disprove something. Science enables us to make predictions about our natural world, which we have not yet been able to disprove.

            It seems you are quick to heap scorn on the scientific enterprise because it has an attitude problem when it encounters religion. It comes off sounding like you’re arguing against reason and rationalism, like one can have too much of it or something. Or that you seem skeptical that there is a conflict between Mormonism and science.

            In the end, I’m not sure we shall continue this thread. You prefer the utility-based version of truth. I find it poetic and comforting, but also Orwellian and incorrect. I’m quite concerned when I see words being redefined.

          • Churchistrue caught my meaning exactly in his or her reply. James argues that our conceptions of ultimate reality must necessarily be simplifications and that we as a practical matter always rely upon the usefulness of these conceptions for our daily walk. James is not engaging in an Orwellian redefinition of truth nor is Jordan Peterson. They are treating it in a more evolutionary way and a less absolutist and ideal way. Evolution trains us in dealing with practical realities such as survival. My point is that we can’t wait for science to explain how to live. We have to have a moral code that feels right. That is the way of reality. Science seduces into waiting for some god of science to tell us how live. That is not the purpose of science and Sam Harris gets that wrong.

  2. I like Dr. Jordan Peterson. He is open and honest. As a Mormon, I have found there are good answers to be found if you want to believe that Mormonism is true. But the basic doctrines are really some of the most liberal and kind in all of Christendom. I choose to believe it and it fills me with great joy. I have had many answers come to me because I chose believe.

  3. I have to disagree that the foundations of Mormonism (sic, I suppose I should say TCoJCoLDS) are at all shaky. There are hordes of fundamental Christians (again, sic) who eagerly want to draw people away from the Church, Dan et al are a welcome theme to counter the distortions and outright lies. So I would suggest you are rather off base. You assume facts not in evidence.

    To say ‘science and modern scholarship’ says anything is a great example of the cherry picking fallacy. If the cherries you pick are wormy, is it wrong for Dan Peterson to point that out before I eat them? Dan’s calling includes calling out falsehoods. I have seen Jordan do the same, such as his campaign against Marxism as a corrupt and irredeemable philosophy. Are you put off because he rejects the insanity of the left and is an apologist for centrism?

    Life is like a Rorschach, and how we see things reflects not reality but our predispositions. I follow Dan and Jordan. Jordan is a deep and well-founded thinker, as is Dan. His 2017 address on the advantages of practice of religion was well researched and fairly presented. I knew most of that literature already, and he was accurate throughout. I know much of the literature Jordan cites, and he is always, to my knowledge, scrupulously accurate. Your formulation of them as opposites is unfair to both.

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