Sunday, November 22, 2009

Personalities of the Deeply Religious

On the recommendation of a friend I have started reading "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer. So far I'm finding a lot of parallels with "Blood of the Prophets" and the culture and circumstances surrounding the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

I'm reading about Watson Lafferty and the following things struck me because of the parallels with my own father and some other Mormons I've known.

He was extremely conservative and was impressed with the ideas of Ezra Taft Benson including the John Birch Society and the pervasive infiltration of communists.

He was very pious, individualistic, and strict. He beat his wife and children and once beat the family dog to death with a baseball bat while the children watched.

He was very distrustful of conventional medicine. He was a chiropractor and once tried to treat a daughter's appendicitis at home with prayers and homeopathy and refused to take her to the hospital until her appendix burst and she was on the verge of death.

Despite the periodic violence his son remember him as a loving father and great role model who raised a very special and happy family.

In comparison my father belongs to the Birchers and subscribes to their beliefs in worldwide communist conspiracies. Those that disagree are pinko commies or fools that are under their sway. He's a birther who thinks Obama is an illegitimate president because he isn't a natural born citizen.

He was very strict and didn't have qualms about using the belt and was known to enforce his will with violence.

He is also very distrustful of mainstream medicine. He believes that laetrile is the cure for cancer but that the establishment has refused to research it because it is free and so they can't make money off of it. He regularly ignores medical advice and is prone to trying crackpot cures.

I wonder if these types of rigidly unconventional individuals are at the core of most religions. I know not all or even most religious people are this way. But I'm thinking of those that are the core; those that are most active, most pious, and who inevitably rise to positions of leadership.

-- Sent from my Palm Pre


Aaron said...

I'm unconvinced that the entire suite of personality traits you describe are at the core of mormonism, but I think there may be some truth to a portion of that.

The element I really think is common is magical thinking. Believing priesthood blessings to be an important, useful tool in dealing with illness and injury requires a suspension of critical thought that could well extend to other treatment regimens. Chiropractic, anyone? Further, if this sort of magical thinking is present in LDS views on medical matters, that members would utilize the same quality of thinking regarding politics or decision making would be unsurprising.

I haven't seen the kind of violence you describe, and there are quite a number of "core" members in my extended family. That isn't to say there isn't something well-hidden going on somewhere, but I know I never experienced it personally, and neither has my wife.

clip-football said...

Thank you very much