Mormon Confirmation Bias -“Just pray about it…???”
This most recent encounter with some Mormon missionaries has strengthened my resolve for rationality (Let the read understand this as logic/truth) in religion. What kept coming up, no matter the questions I asked, was that we who are not Mormon should go and pray about it. We should ask “Heavenly Father” to reveal to us the truth. Now, someone like myself believes that any honest seeker of the truth should be able to find the One True God. But, that is in part because of how we can verify who that true God is or not.
In the case of these Mormon missionaries, they had no way of falsifying their belief. In other words, they could not offer any reason of how their belief could be false. Why? Because they had some subjective experience that validated what they were seeking. Thus, now nothing is ever supposed to contravene that. Now, Christians…you may want to quote something in favor of your experiences sometimes. Namely, that a person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. But is this true?
There are two ways of looking at this question. But, there is a serious problem with this idea. Sure, if the experience is valid, (1)you did not have a confirmation bias, (2)it seems true compared to other beliefs, (3)and does not contradict known facts about reality. But, in the case of the Mormon plea to ‘pray’ (which I think is sincere), no amount of subjective experiences are going to overcome the fact that their system of religion is built on a weak foundation. Namely, their denial of Jesus’ divinity which is something he claimed, and thus his claim to eternity. Moreover, their thinking Christianity became apostate. Even more, their mishandling the Trinity.
You see, how does one go about delineating between the various, and different spiritual experiences that people have. Muhammad (founder of Islam) had spiritual experience, Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) had a supposed experience, many Hindus share of their experience. How do we determine which is really true? Well, there is a way. I am taking my categories from “Come Let us Reason” by Geisler and Brooks. One can find Ravi Zacharias make similar points in his Question and Answer sessions. These three avenues will help you sort the true from the false.
1. Empirically Verifiable – There has to be components of a belief system that rely on the facts of the world around us. We should be able to look at the major claims and ask if there is any grounding in the world that we live in. Moreover, in the case of religion, we might have to do this component by thinking historically. The major problem with Mormonism is that it lacks an empirical element. There is no grounding for their history of ideas in the book of Mormon whatsoever. The events simply did not happen. Whereas, in the case of Christianity, we are talking about the historical existence of Jesus Christ and his apostles. We are thinking about his actual death on the cross and then his subsequent resurrection in history. Christianity has an empirical focus, and Mormonism lacks this.
2. Logical Consistency – The next major component in evaluating truth claims is if the claims are consistent with other claims from a given system, and from other knowledge about reality. In the case of Mormonism, we have a flawed system. They say they follow the Bible, and many do sincerely read it. However, they (as an organization) end up denying some of its most central claims, namely that Jesus is divine (Colossians 2:9). Therefore, their system of religion is not actually coherent. It is internally inconsistent.
3. Existential Relevance – An existential claim is a claim about one’s being. Namely, it touches a person in some way. This really is the only leg Mormonism tries to stand on. If they can get a ‘seeker’ to focus on experience and themselves enough, then a person does not have to do the hard thinking. They can feel like life has purpose and they are welcomed into some great big family (Mormon that is). The problem here, is that the nature of being cannot be adequately described in Mormonism, because they have already failed the first two tests of truth.
Sure, a person can have an experience, but if it denies significant portions of reality elsewhere, then something is awry with the experience. Namely, you cannot use the experience to justify your beliefs. And, if one does when their other beliefs are so contradictory to begin with, then that means there is a huge confirmation bias in the works.
To be a bull about the true does not mean being bullish. It sometimes just means standing firm. 🙂