Laurie Goodstein has a fascinating article in today’s New York Times about Mormon leaders who begin doubting their faith after discovering, on the Internet among other places, that there were massive holes in their theology.
Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.
The story focuses on Mormonism but it could easily apply to so many other faiths. The greatest tool religious leaders used to have was the ability to contain knowledge and suppress dissent, keeping the flock inside of a bubble. The Internet popped that bubble and we’re all better off because of it.
Hans Mattsson was a Mormon leader overseeing churches in Europe, and he initially dubbed criticism of his faith “anti-Mormon propaganda”… until he began to research the ideas himself:
“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”
Much like many young Christians do, he went to his church’s leaders to find a response to these challenges. And, just as many church leaders do, they dismissed his concerns without ever answering them.
Mr. Mattsson said he sought the help of the church’s highest authorities. He said a senior apostle came to Sweden at his request and told a meeting of Mormons that he had a manuscript in his briefcase that, once it was published, would prove all the doubters wrong. But Mr. Mattsson said the promised text never appeared, and when he asked the apostle about it, he was told it was impertinent to ask.
This is why conservative Christians are freaking out. Their lies about social issues like homosexuality are demonstrably false to anyone who has exposure to the facts (and know people who are gay).
This is why Creationists like Ken Ham should be worried. Their lies about the age of the earth are easily debunked when you go online.
This is why all those people who have ever said “You just have to have faith” need to rethink their strategy.
This is why former pastors like Jerry DeWitt and Teresa MacBain struggled when trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with what they knew about reality.
Faith will always be crushed under the weight of scrutiny. Mattsson is just the latest evidence of that.