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.