I served a mission in Japan and remember all the wonderful spiritual experiences and feelings very vividly. Spirituality, God and Religion is such an interesting and passionate topic.
My life has been such a wonderful journey of discovery, and I have found so much to gain by studying these topics. My life is truly enriched because of light and truth.
I encourage you to leave no stone unturned in your quest for truth.
My advice? Learn what truth is, and seek to discern the patterns of truth. Here is what I have found so far:
Truth is not afraid of being discovered and examined thoroughly, rather it is darkness and deception that hides behind the shadows — in hopes of never being “found out”.
Truth can be sliced and analyzed in 100 different ways and it will always remain true.
Falsehood on the other hand can only be sliced a few different ways before it becomes increasingly obvious that it is false.
People who hold false beliefs avoid criticism and debate, and tend to avoid sharing their experiences publicly because they know their opinion is not well founded.
Truth tends to fit all the facts, while falsehood only fits a portion of all the facts.
Truth is independent of belief, social status, tradition, feelings, experiences or culture.
Falsehoods that persist for long periods of time (generation after generation) tend to have a propagation mechanism that takes advantage of human purposes, fears and desires.
Truth cannot contradict itself or reality.
As knowledge is gained, truth and falsehood both become more self-evident. Therefore knowledge plays a major role in discernment.
When seeking truth, physical data is better than personal testimony.
Because people make assumptions. People can be biased. People make mistakes. People can give in to societal pressures. People can hallucinate. People can unintentionally forget important facts. People can unintentionally fabricate false memories. People can lie. People can persuade each other. People can have fragile emotional conditions that affect their perception or judgement. People can have rare or dubious experiences that are not generally repeatable under properly controlled experimental conditions and therefore cannot be interpreted objectively.
Physical data on the other hand can be gathered by independent sources, repeatably scrutinized and rigorously tested, measured, checked, peer reviewed, experimentally replicated and analyzed independent of biases.
In other words if someone says there was no Tsunami in Japan “because they were there and experienced it first hand”, the overwhelming physical evidence will trump and invalidate his testimony.
When determining whether something is true or false we must remove ourselves as far away as possible from known human biases, prejudices, logical fallacies and other phenomenon that are commonly used to deceive people. For example it is a common fallacy to believe that “other people hallucinate, but I do not” or “Other people are stupid, but I am not” or “My spiritual experiences are real but other people’s spiritual experiences of other faiths are not real”. In this way, we must remove ourselves from subjectivity, and even understand human nature as best we can if we are to gain any real understanding of truth.
When determining whether or not an organization is true or false, we must first understand what true and false organizations look like.
Organizations that have truth and integrity, do not need to lie to the public nor tell their members to avoid or fear information that is critical of the organization. True organizations have nothing to fear, while those that organizations that are fraudulent have a tendency to persuade their members to avoid, label, fear or cause them to feel negatively towards critical people or anti-literature. This is how a fraudulent organization survives in a world where information is increasingly more available.
How do we find truth?
If we assume we have the truth, and we shield ourselves from outside opinion and outside influence by repeating to ourselves “Nothing can persuade me to believe otherwise….” Then we have closed off a valuable portion of our brain that could help us in the case we are wrong.
If your brain gets flooded with endorphins or other “feel good hormones” while reading a particular spiritual book, or praying, it is a natural consequence that we humans interpret that to mean that the book or experience is significant in a divine way. It is not until we find people having these very same spiritual experiences all over the world while reading books and ideas that completely contradict one another that we realize that our brain is a delicate beast to handle indeed.
An atheist can read the “God Delusion” and feel an amazing spiritual experience, while a Muslim can receive a powerful spiritual experience from the Koran — Both books plainly contradict the truths found in the Book of Mormon, so what are we to conclude?
Spiritual experiences are flimsy truth claims at best, but at worst they are so common and so integral to being human, that religions use these experiences as proof of their particular authority. This does not sit well in our more enlightened day and age where we must sift through all the marketing and advertising “hogwash” that companies are throwing our way on nearly every page on the Internet. It is easy to see that companies and religions know how to push our psychological buttons to get us to buy into their particular products, services and ideas.
To find truth we must look at all the data and see which theory fits all the facts, then toss all the theories that don’t fit. False religions generally do the opposite by assuming their theory is correct and then seek after facts that fit their theory and toss all the facts that do not fit their theory.
Picking facts that fit your theory is a good way to persuade people, but not a good way to determine the truth.
False religions also tend to create reasons to believe things that contradict reality in order to keep their theory viable, but when pushed and all the reasons are debunked, false religions will tell you to rely on faith.
Faith is applied generously and desperately as the “cure all” solution to the world’s failing belief systems. It can be fun for a while, but again, it is not a great tool in helping us determine the truth. In fact faith is only required where the facts are unknown, and when solid independent data contradicts a personal or religious belief, the belief should be tossed, not held on to with an ever tighter grip for the sake of “faith” alone.
Wise people drop their falsehoods when confronted with solid indisputable data. But being wrong is the most difficult thing to admit, and herein lies the biggest hurdle in finding the truth.
Good luck in your search.
My name is Chris Johnson and I’m an Ex Mormon.