Ep 373 – Why Can’t we be… Oh yeah, That’s Why

Panel Discussion

Posted May 19th, 2017

Randy and Glenn talk about apologetics, planting seeds, and our new best friend from down under and off to the right, Kiwi57.



  • chapster

    If you consistently say and do racist things, it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’re racist. You are racist.

    • Glenn

      Give me some examples.

      • chapster

        I didn’t mean you Glenn, this was in response to the little aside you made (and admitted that you didn’t dig into very far) about Mike Tannahill. I apologize, it did look like I was speaking specifically, I meant it as the general “you”.

        What I mean though is, if you know someone who consistently and repeatedly does racist things, isn’t it fair to call them racist? (Or homophobic, sexist, etc.) Nobody thinks they’re a bigot, but we both know there a hell of a lot of bigots out there.

        • Glenn

          Lol. I knew that. No worries. I’m just thinking about this Fallacy Fallacy thing. Trying to find some examples to know where the line is — cuz everyone caries around biases and prejudices — racial, sexual, whatever is different from us, anything that is an “other” — and sometimes (maybe even often) those prejudices influence our thoughts and actions whether we are aware of it or not. So does that make everyone racist/sexist/other-ist? At what point does someone become a racist?

          I really don’t think that Mike is a racist. And by that, I mean that I don’t think he carries any prejudicial hatred towards people of other races — at least I haven’t seen any evidence of that (maybe there are things I just don’t know about).

          Yes, Mike believes in a racist doctrine — but not because it is racist — he believes because of his devotion to his faith tradition, and that is an unfortunate part of his faith tradition. To me, that alone does not make him a racist. So I was just wondering where that line is that justifies accusing someone of such an awful thing.

          • Randy_Snyder

            Did we or did we not call Mike the “Unintentional Racist”? 😉

            There’s a difference in my opinion between having these conditioned and unconscious responses (like the study that showed the brains of white people show a higher response of emotion to white skin being poked by a needle than black skin) to “others” and embracing ideologies, politics, policies, CANDIDATES, etc that overtly are bigoted. We’re all a little bit racist, it’s truuuue, but the difference is being able to recognize that in oneself, feel bad about it, and fight against those things I mentioned that codify and/or support it.

            You say Mike isn’t racist bc of his devotion, and I mean literalized, bold, unremitting and proud devotion to a racist doctrine. I say bullshit bc plenty of less racist Mormons are duly embarrassed by it and still believe in Mormonism as a whole. Many come up w less racist but still racist apologetics like my sister that try unsuccessfully to weasle the church out of it by saying “well, white people simply weren’t worthy or ready to have God let black people have full fellowship.” Many others still hope the topic never comes up it’s so indefensible. But Mike owns that shit.

  • Orrin Dayne

    I’d recommend checking out Bill Reel’s facebook profile. Bill is the host of the Mormon Discussion podcast who is active LDS, but doesn’t hold any orthodox LDS beliefs from what I can tell. Bill consistently posts information from the lds.org essays, also posts information outside of correlated LDS materials, asks difficult questions, and then attempts friendly interaction with the TBMs who see his posts (either his own friends or friends of friends I suppose). Bill’s efforts are as futile as Glenn’s interactions with Kiwi. I, like Randy, was wondering why Glenn bothered to engage. But maybe there was a hint of optimism at the time? I enjoyed the episode because I think the upshot (engaging with particular people may not be worth it) is a lesson we all should take to heart.

    • In the end (or just slightly before) we all come to the realization that Entertainment is the highest calling and the only purpose. That’s all any of us were doing the whole time. Glenn just went and got all godly on us, that’s all. I, for one, can’t look away.

    • Glenn

      Good call, Orrin. I met Bill briefly at Sunstone last year. We talked about collaborating on something at some point. Maybe it’s time.

    • Mary Ann

      Yes, but the lesson “engaging with particular people may not be worth it” too easily devolves into “engaging with all people who hold a certain viewpoint may not be worth it” – like an anthropomorphized fallacy fallacy.

      Glenn’s made a big deal the last couple months about avoiding echo chambers and engaging with members in a different place than you. I saw the Kiwi episode as him putting his money where his mouth is. Unfortunately, it’s going against the tide of increasing polarization, so you *often* get encounters where you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall when you’re in a discussion with an ardent supporter of an opposing view. But engaging with people who hold different views is still something we really need right now.

      • Orrin Dayne

        It may be slippery slope from “particular people” to “people with particular beliefs”; however, in this case, I think the problem related to features of the particular person that were not his particular beliefs.

  • Blair

    Black shirt + White name tag = Waiter

  • Mary Ann

    LOL. I’m fine being a token data point, I guess. It’s hard for people to see a difference between “Man, I was such an idiot for believing this stuff,” and “Man, you’re such an idiot for believing this stuff.” So it makes sense that people can feel threatened. Think about the panel discussion on the Spaulding stuff in your Froback episode – when you are trying to present your position and *everyone* around you thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous (and you just can’t understand why they refuse to acknowledge the merit in the argument you can see), it can get frustrating. Another angle is what Lindsey Handsen Park said in that Trevor Haugen panel – if your position is part of your identity, then you take it much more personally when people attack that position. (Even though they never intended for you to feel it as a personal attack.)

    I can only speak for myself, but I participate in the blogs and listen to a couple podcasts because I enjoy learning about various viewpoints on Mormonism at an intellectual level (maybe it’s the anthropologist in me). So it’s not as emotional for me, which is probably why I can laugh or roll my eyes more easily at the barbs. But I can’t say I represent a typical believing member (I mean, I had a lot of fun writing a post over at Wheat & Tares providing data points people can use to attack OR defend a theory critical of the church, so…).

  • I know what you mean about being a scorpion—or the general concept anyway. Anymore I find myself watching myself do things I know I probably shouldn’t do, knowing, feeling, that pressing “Submit” is not a good idea, but doing it anyway because that’s what I do, and in that moment realizing that I’m not who I thought I was; I’m actually the asshole in the next seat over.

    kiwi57 serves as a catfish, like in the movie Catfish, stirring everyone up and getting them talking. There’s no harm in keeping things fresh, but . . . Religion makes your world small, is what it does. It’s not nearly so much about what you believe as it is about what you’re not allowed to believe, what you can’t think, what you can’t do, who you can’t hang out with or agree with. Religion is constricting and stultifying, not enlightening. You end up going around with blinders on while the rilly-fer-rill world is right there for anyone to see the whole time. I will not live with a bucket over my head, no matter what color it is—or what color yours is. So there.

    I miss the monumentally unflappable Mike Tannahill, though damn, that guy could be hard to listen to. That could be a Zen meditation: put on your headphones, sit back in your recliner (or on the floor next to your recliner in the lotus position if you’re a true adept) and listen to old ME and IOT Tannahill episodes—and do NOTHING. Don’t shout at your computer screen, don’t reach for the keyboard, don’t throw the mouse across the room; don’t do anything. Just let everything wash over you as it returns from whence it came, leaving you whole and untouched. Ommmmm . . .

    • Glenn

      I disagree with the way you said this:

      “religion makes your world small.”

      Maybe it did for you and for me in certain specific ways that we just could not get over, but “making your world small” can mean any number of things, and it certainly does not mean “make your world less meaningful” or “make the relationships with ‘brothers and sisters’ in that religion less significant” or anything like that (and it doesn’t “literally” make the material world any physically smaller, so it has to be a metaphor for something — you have to explain better what you mean by that and be careful that there is evidence to support what you are claiming).

      The overwhelming evidence shows us that religion absolutely gives meaning and value that expands people’s worlds — exposes them to people and ideas they would not otherwise be exposed to, expands their compassion in certain areas, expands their willingness to serve and help others — not shrinks it (even if it enlarges those things only within a certain limited demographic).

      So I think that “religion makes your world small” is a fundamentally flawed and extremely unhelpful way of expressing the experience many of us have had with religion — and is a very good example of leading with our biases that immediately shuts down any possibility for rational empathy.

      I agree with you that my religious worldview kept me from seeing how Mormonism was one of many such religious-social groups, and is unique in some ways and very common in others. And it didn’t work for me being a part of it. But I have to take most of that on me — I was the one with the problem accepting everything you have to accept to fit in. It didn’t work for me. But it demonstrably works for millions of people. We can;’t just dismiss that fact and still claim to be interested in “truth” and in following evidence.

      This is an example of what I meant when I said that I think we exmo’s are guilty of being sloppy with the language we use, and projecting our personal experiences and revelations about the world onto others with different experiences (as a way of validation us by invalidating them).

      We may be hearing from Mike again soon. He’s been working a ton, but is trying to find some time to come on for a discussion again. He’s become a big Jonathan Haidt fan. Go figure.

      • I can’t claim to come from where you guys come from because, while I grew up in the middle of it, I never believed any of it. In my upbringing Nephi and his brothers carried no more weight than Hansel and Gretel. We have a great family and lots of good memories, but our particular “Mormon” family wasn’t like the ones I hear about on Mormon Stories or Infants on Thrones. We had (still have) TBM cousins, but when the whole crowd got together at Grandma’s for Thanksgiving or the 24th of July, all of the kids played with all of the other kids and religion never came up. This was in the ’50s and ’60s. Was that pre-correlation? It was certainly more pleasant than it seems to be now. Even now my most TBM cousin e-mails and visits my aging Jack Mormon uncle and his kids regularly.

        For whatever reason, our family doesn’t seem built on religion, but neither was it poisoned by it. I have no nostalgia for religious community. My friends from age two to fourteen were Catholic, Mormon, Unitarian, Atheist (no kidding) and Nones, lots of Nones. We cherished our community out on the East Bench and still reminisce about it, but in that particular instance it had nothing to do with religion. The fact that no one in our neighborhood was particularly rabid about their religion probably had a lot to do with it being laid back and pleasant. For a brief shining decade or two there was no us and them; only us. So, I know a sense of community and belonging can be had without religion, and in my personal experience it’s a lot more likely in the absence of religion

        As for the “small world” comment, I was actually trying to take a softer tack than Hitchens’s “How Religion Poisons Everything.” I did make it through Haidt’s book finally, and while I think everyone should read it and understand it, I think in the last quarter of it or so he’s making a case for tribes and silos and nationalism. That may have helped us survive to this point, but it needs to be jettisoned if we are to go any further. I’m mostly an ultra-liberal who tends to look at the planet as a whole and want everyone to have the opportunity for a decent life. Haidt’s assertion that, well, maybe some folks just have to be marginalized to make everyone else feel better and form a more cohesive society, to me, amounts to human sacrifice and sickens me. It’s the sort of thing that leads to throwing acid in people’s faces or setting them on fire or leaving them to starve or relegating them to an untouchable caste. I know Haidt had an epiphany in India about how patriarchal, authoritarian, misogynist societies are really pretty cool after all, but remember, Haidt was treated like royalty in India. Had he been made a honey bucket emptier while he was there and fed wormy bread, he may have come away with a different impression.

        Which is kind of why it doesn’t surprise me that Mikey is a Haidt fan. Many Republicans and alt-rightists are climbing on board the Haidt wagon because they feel it provides justification for marginalizing certain types of people—certain types of other people. Funny, but they never seem to suggest relegating themselves to the margins, just others.

        I think, Glenn, you’re one of the most well-intentioned people I know of, but I think you’ve made Haidt-ianism your new religion and it’s making your world small. We need to friggin’ get BEYOND religion. We need to teach everyone to tie their own shoes and wipe their own noses and yes—I’m that kind of an asshole.

        PS: Sam Harris did an interview with Haidt in March of 2016 (I think) which was interesting all the way through, but in which at one point Haidt really went off on “the Millennials,” which endeared him to me for reasons independent of his book.

        PPS: I probably hadn’t thought of Mike Tannahill for a year or more until I saw him mentioned in comments on the “That’s Why Not” episode this morning and then mentioned him in my own offensive comment. Later this afternoon, watching a presentation of “Films You Might Not Know Were Made In New Mexico” at the local art house, there was a scene from a ’70s hospital drama that never made it past the first season in which someone is repeatedly paging “Dr. Tannahill” behind the real dialog. Ooooooooweeeeeeoooooo. I almost expected to run into Rod Serling in the restroom.

      • “The overwhelming evidence shows us that religion absolutely gives
        meaning and value that expands people’s worlds — exposes them to people
        and ideas they would not otherwise be exposed to, expands their
        compassion in certain areas, expands their willingness to serve and help
        others — not shrinks it (even if it enlarges those things only within a
        certain limited demographic).”

        That’s Haidtian Kool-Ade, Glenn. It simply isn’t true. The evangelical alt-right that elected Donald F. Trump president is living in an expanded, enlightened paradigm? Give me a break.

        • Glenn

          I guess we’ll be disagreeing on this then. It’s not Haidtian Kool-Ade — it is an opinion I formed years ago through my academic studies of vernacular religion. Listen to religious people. Study the way they live their lives. Believe them and accept what they say when they talk about the meaning and value their religion brings to their lives, (even if that meaning and value isn’t a standard of success you would use to evaluate your own life — what you mean by “expanded enlightened paradigm” will not fit every cultural group you try to impose it upon).

          The religious traditions would not continue if they did not provide value and meaning to peoples’ lives. Of course it isn’t all peaches and roses and of course there will be perochial things that benefit themselves at the expense of others. But the truth is out there in spades if you are willing to see it and accept it.

          And yes, even evangelical alt-right Trump supporters find value and meaning in their religion that expands their lives in many ways (just maybe not in the ways we often wish they would). But sweeping this all away with a broad brush as if it isn’t even worth considering is a foolish, ignorant mistake. Not unlike flat earthers insisting that the world is not what it observably is.

          • Generally speaking, though, the more civilized places on the planet, like Western Europe and East Asia have been drifting away from religion for the last several decades. The prosperous free thinkers are not flocking to religion for warm-and-fuzzies or cultural heritage or anything else.

            I saw a documentary on how the Italian government is being “forced” to take on the upkeep of some very old historical churches in Italy, churches designed and built by contemporaries of Da Vinci, one even by someone Da Vinci had studied under. The problem is that many Italian people are not going to church anymore and the Catholic Church doesn’t want to have to pay to keep these places up if there’s no one there to put anything in the collection plate. They want to sell off the real estate to help with the upkeep of their pedophile priest class.

            I never said people don’t get something out of religion; I’m sure they do. I have no problem with anyone’s religion until they start to try to force their religion on other people, which they do with great regularity. I’m sure Islam has given great meaning and sense of community to pretty much every suicide bomber there ever was, but I can’t appreciate and condone what they do. They should be stopped, as should the evangelicals in the US who try to legislate their so-called “values” onto society at large every time the ACLU or FFRF isn’t looking. I could have a lot more respect for people with religious beliefs who had respect for my right to believe differently or not at all, but many of them don’t. And I also worry about people trapped in and subjugated by religions they were born into. I can’t go along with Haidt’s reasoning that that’s just collateral damage inevitable in maintaining societal stability. When people of Haidt’s position and privilege begin volunteering to live out their lives in servitude, subjugation and anonymous obscurity to make the rest of us feel better, I’ll start taking them seriously.

            To me, religion is limiting by definition. If you’re going to belong, you need to adopt (or pretend to adopt) a bunch of fossilized ideas that were probably never true and certainly can’t be proven now and can never be changed. Even one of the newest religions, Scientology, is based on the writings on a dead guy who is referred to as “Source” and whose teachings are immutable. People are punished severely or kicked out for tampering with “Source.” People can do what they want as long as they let me do what I want, but I don’t see how subscription to a predefined immutable set of beliefs is not limiting.

            Yeah, we’ll just disagree I guess.

  • Thomas Moore

    Mormons now days are just “The Guilty Remnants” from the HBO series “Leftovers”. They’re just there to remind you that they’re taking “Latter-days” out of their religion and doctrine. They’re becoming more pick and choose and cultural Mormons rather than believing in the leaders (Look at how they voted for Trump, even after they were told not to. How they’re buying up cattle farms and hunting reserves, even though D&C 8 says to eat meat only during famine and winter, Look how they’re changing or deleting their “Full and Everlasting Gospel” and becoming pick and choose followers.

  • wcassi

    I loved this – thanks. This is peak Glenn – still quirky, some funny drops slipped in(yay Party Down), but also sincere and thoughtful, not contrived and affected. I wished it would keep going.

  • Bill

    The problem is that the kiwis of the world have no way of comprehending that back in the day we all took our religion as seriously as he does now. They think that taking this religion seriously = coming to the same conclusions I do. I assure anybody that I (we) took Mormonism much more seriously than the average member. Unfortunately, because I ended up where I am now, no TBM will ever believe that.