Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Secularism offers little comfort’

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Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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John Marx
Layton, UT

Yes, Religions offer comfort against mortality.
I have a simple question Dan. How would you respond if a member of another religion claimed that their religious message was more comforting than Mormonism? Saying that people naturally preferred said religion over Mormonism because people found it more appealing? For the sake of the question, let's say that this religions message is indisputably more comforting.
I think you would give the exact same response that the atheists would give to this column. That basically it doesn't matter what is more comforting. What matters is what is true.

Orem, UT

Having followed Peterson for a while, I strongly suspect that he would argue that Mormonism is true, as well. But that doesn't seem to have been the point of this short piece.

Phoenix, AZ

It is somewhat human nature to sugar coat the uncomfortable and aching aspects of human life, and it is usually the polite and comforting thing to do; but, it doesn't change the truth of the matter. It just makes it a little easier to deal with. However, it is probably best in the long run to learn to deal with the truth.

Olympia, WA

"Truth" to me is that there is a purpose and a plan to our existence and that it didn't all just happen "by chance", and that our existence is eternal. In spite of that, I respect the opinions of atheists and can see some reasons why they believe the way they do. What's "true" to athiests is not "true" to me and others who believe that there is a purpose and a reason for the existence of all life on earth. The purpose of the article is not to ridicule or make light of atheism, but just to state the logical fact that a belief system that doesn't believe in a purpose to life, doesn't have much to offer in the way of comfort to those grieving over the loss of a loved one.

Portland, OR

Some years ago I lost my mother unexpectedly. We were very close. Although she had not requested a service, we decided to have one at the community church so that friends and family could meet and pay their respects. Among the many friends there, were her grand and great grand children by marriage; family who had been a meaningful part of her life.

The local pastor, who didn't know her, offered some quite touching scriptures and did the best he could. But then, one by one, the family stood up, and recounted their fondest memories of mom in touching detail. Then, other people joined in, most I knew but some I didn't. Their touching stories continued and it was amazing.

I'm not religious and neither were most of those that spoke that day. Yet, through their words came comfort. We all miss her and we have great stories to tell. For us, that is enough.

Medical Lake, Washington

A year ago, our family faced similar challenges. After a 13 year battle, my 40 year old sister finally succumbed to her cancer - she was a true role model, especially at the end. Six months later, a couple of weeks before Christmas, my father passed away.

We grieved, but we also felt certain that there is a purpose to life; one that extends beyond the grave. It is one thing to read about death in the headlines; quite another to witness it first hand. The events which preceded the death of each of these family members, and countless others in our family, was a choice and sacred moment. The things which we experienced and felt and observed transcended skeptical explanation.

Since I am aware that to share such special and sacred experiences here will only draw ridicule from the voices that frequent this site; and apparently for the sole purpose of tearing down faith and throwing barbs as belief systems. However, I know what I experienced, and my mother and my siblings. Ridicule it and equate it with wishful thinking if you will, but my personal experiences are sufficient for me.

Portland, OR

Bertrand Russell was a charming fellow, wasn't he. ;)

Reminds me of statements that Carl Sagan's widow (a renowned secular humanist in her own right) made after his death, about how annoyed she was at people who attempted to comfort her with "he's in a better place" comments. But she too got into hot water with other secular humanists when she once wrote in an essay that she and Carl had "hope" for the human race.

This was apparently too "spiritual" for the outraged secular humanist audience.

Portland, OR

Bertrand Russell was a charming fellow, wasn't he. ;)

Reminds me of Carl Sagan's widow (who is a renowned secular humanist in her own right) who once said that she was annoyed by persons attempting to comfort her with "he's in a better place" comments. But even she got into hot water with other secular humanists when she wrote in an essay that she and Carl had "hope" for the human race.

This was apparently too "spiritual" for the outraged secular humanists.

Lindon, UT

I love his last comment: "It's not just the packaging. The message is intrinsically unattractive." It is essentially the absence of Hope. As we know, Hope and Faith are inseparably connected, and without either, well, it's pretty bleak.

How utterly hopeless is the opinion of the man he quoted? "Brief and powerless is Man's life." This is precisely why there will be no shortage of the incidents like the one in question. No amount of legislation can fix it. Without purpose, and the hope in what comes next, there is little reason for many people to behave in a civil manner...and there is plenty of reason for them to completely lose control.

Brigham City, UT

Religion is more exciting than politics; no new ideas from either party in Washington D.C. It is common people who dance, marry and have children that makes the world go around.

John Marx
Layton, UT

dtlenox you wrote
"The purpose of the article is not to ridicule or make light of atheism, but just to state the logical fact that a belief system that doesn't believe in a purpose to life, doesn't have much to offer in the way of comfort to those grieving over the loss of a loved one."

I guess to me it's just a pretty meaningless critique of atheism.
Just as meaningless as it would be for a member of another religion to state that their beliefs are more comforting than those of Mormonism. What about that would be a meaningful or useful critique?
Is that we Mormons have a more comforting message the point? Heck if that's the case, why don't we just believe in Santa Claus and fairy tales? It's comforting after all.

Boise, ID

To John Marx: When a person already knows the truth--within himself, without need to explain it to anyone else in order to justify one's faith--then basking in the loveliness of its comforting principles is the next step. There are many comforting philosophies. As you say, it's truth that's the most important thing. And again, once one knows it, even in sure ways one cannot adequately explain to you, enjoying the blessings of it is a response of gratitude for the Giver of that gift. It doesn't negate truth at all to discuss the comfort. If you wanted to know the truth of Mormonism, you could, taking the same steps laid out by ancient prophets as those of us who do know it have taken. It means giving up everything else, if necessary, to have that truth deeply revealed to you; but for those of us who've done that and haven't left it behind for whatever reason, the best response to you is to go learn for yourself. No one outside of yourself is stopping you.

John Marx
Layton, UT


I am a Mormon already.
I think using the wake of a tragedy to tell a group of people that their worldview isn't comforting is in poor taste. So what if it isn't comforting? What matters is what is true. Not what is comforting.

Cedar Hills, UT

Atheism offers no comfort - it can't because atheism is all based on the world and what man and government can do which isn't much. Much of the time, folks turn to suicide because life offers no escape routes for their problems. What a shame. What a waste. To the secular world the things of God are foolishness - sort of like trying to explain nuclear atomic theory to a 5 year old. Lots of blank stares. Comfort from faith doesn't come from some shallow belief system. Real faith based on true religion is a power - a power that changes, restores, invigorates, and motivates. The secular mind can't comprehend faith - never has and never will. Faith is an eternal principle that must first be practiced and lived before any result is seen (the trial of your faith). Most won't make the effort but that doesn't explain away the reality of faith. Secularism == Liberal ideology and is the foundation of all Godless Marxist societies. Sadly, America is turning away from faith and toward secularism as evidence from the election of Barack Obama.

Boise, ID

Mormons usually find comfort at times of tragedy within the gospel they claim to uphold, as do members of other religions where faith is the key. The news of the *fullness* of the gospel is often a great blessing to those who are grieving. You've probably heard that it's a definite draw at such times, to hear the truth of life as it is or can be beyond the veil. Comparing it to philosophies that don't deliver much comfort, that don't promise an afterlife at all, even if they do give truth, rings pretty hollow at those moments. Why find fault with Peterson's supportive-of-the-gospel comments? There are many great points of truth, not only basic facts.

Portland, OR

Patriot- Your attitude and obvious surety regarding how others should live their lives, based on what you believe as truth, may be one reason why people are leaving organized religion.

With such a statement, you are inferring that nearly a billion people on the planet, who do not believe as you believe, are somehow missing a truth which you possess. Many people, and hopefully you realize this, live meaningful lives filled with joy, love and good works. And they live such lives without religion. And when they are gone, they will be remembered by their families and friends and those they touched during their lifetimes. Some, could care not one whit, about floating around in some eternal cosmic realm for all eternity and are unwilling to spend their lives propitiating away their time for a hopeful promise offered by an organized religion.

Washington, DC

I'm confused... Is it secularism, humanism, or secular humanism that offers little hope? If it's secular humanism, you seem to be picking a very narrow viewpoint. That's fine if that's what you want to do. But I don't see how anything you wrote in the article lines up with your assertion in the title that "secularism" offers little hope. Further, using one quote from one commenter to make your point about a narrow viewpoint, only makes your point more obscure, even if some might find it cogent.

That said, I do see why most would find hope in what religion teaches. Doesn't make it true or false. I was glad to see that you see that humanism has ideas that work well with religious ideas.

Washington, DC

@Bored--Is religion really the only place purpose and hope can come from?? No way. =) That hasn't been my experience. Religion has ways of talking about tough subjects that we don't know a whole lot about that nonreligious people also use to understand those subjects. Religion may have been the original champions of some of those ideas, I guess. But religion doesn't own the ideas they teach, and there are plenty of ideas religions generally reject that bring purpose. For example a belief that this is my only chance to be more than dust, along with an innate compassion for other humans can make serving others the most important purpose of my life. If I live in that way and can see a spark of the same compassion in the human beings around me, that could give me hope that my efforts to cultivate that hope and purpose in others makes a real difference for centuries to come, even when I am no more. If that's the kind of person I was after I pass on, then I've left more comfort on this planet than might be taken when I pass on.

layton, UT

RE: Historically, many humanists have been believers: Erasmus of Rotterdam, for instance, is often described as a "Renaissance humanist," even though, among other things, he was an ordained priest and an important New Testament scholar.

Erasmus was no theologian. Theology did not interest him, he had sickened of Aquinas and J. D. Scotus for he had seen the barren intellectualism. His reforming ideas were based undogmatic Christianity Christianity without Christ at the deepest level.

His first edition of the Greek N.T. appeared in 1516,The next year Luther nailed 95 propositions on the door of the church in Wittenburg. And the nails in the door of the church were like nails in the coffin of an Erasmus reform.

Erasmus did not see abuses were supported by a whole theology ,Luther thought the Church needed to return to the N.T. teaching of grace, faith and salvation could be gained without the power of the keys and indulgences (temple worthiness).

The Skeptical Chymist

To true believers, religion offers hope for a future beyond this world. But its claims are so unbelievable and bizarre that I can't find a way to become a believer. It is not a matter of wanting to believe or not wanting to believe. It is being incapable of believing, because it all seems so phony. Does this mean that there is nothing to live for - certainly not! There are wondrous things to experience in this world, and important work to be done - working for peace, for intellectual enlightenment, for passing on knowledge to posterity, and to insure a happy and productive future for humanity. All this is far more than enough to live for.

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