Jon Krakauer Criticizes All Religion

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Puritan Board Freshman
I'm listening to the audiobook of Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. This book focuses on fundamentalist Mormonism, but unfortunately, throughout it he makes sleights on all religions, including Christianity. I thought this quote may make an interesting discussion and I wonder how you all would respond to it (sorry it is a bit long):

Context of his quote:
"The Book of Mormon has been much derided non-Mormons since before it was even published. Critics point out that the gold plates, which would presumably prove the book's authenticity, were conveniently returned to Moroni after Joseph completed his translation, and they haven't been seen since. Scholars have observed that no archaeological artifacts with links to the supposedly advanced and widespread Nephite civilization have ever been found in North America or anywhere else. As history, moreover, the Book of Mormon is filled with egregious anachronisms and irreconcilable inconsistencies. For instance, it makes many references to horses and wheeled carts..."

This is the sleight at all religion, though:
"But such criticism and mockery are largely beside the point. All religious belief is a function of non-rational faith, and faith by its very definition tends to be impervious to intellectual argument or academic criticism. Polls routinely indicate, moreover, that nine out of ten Americans believe in God—most of us subscribe to one brand of religion or another. Those who would assail The Book of Mormon should bear in mind that its veracity is no more dubious than the veracity of the Bible, say, or the Qur'an, or the sacred texts of most other religions. The latter texts simply enjoy the considerable advantage of having made their public debut in the shadowy recesses of the ancient past, and are thus much harder to refute.”

Overall this is a really interesting book (I find the fundamentalist Mormons fascinating), but I do not like how he lumps all religion into one.


Well, ya can't fix unregenerate. Thankfully, God can (and does). If all religions' scriptures are equally "dubious," then he must -if being consistent- hold that all beliefs are too, including his beliefs and subsequent criticisms of others'


Puritan Board Freshman
Well, ya can't fix unregenerate. Thankfully, God can (and does). If all religions' scriptures are equally "dubious," then he must -if being consistent- hold that all beliefs are too, including his beliefs and subsequent criticisms of others'
I think his key point, though, is that religion in particular requires (in his view) non-rational faith.

Is this the case, though? Is our faith irrational and without logic?


Puritan Board Senior
Philosophically, faith is belief based on testimony. It is non-rational in the sense that a different faculty from reason is being exercised: trust is being exercised.

In Christianity, faith is more explicitly belief based on the testimony of a Person that we trust. Faith in Christianity is non-rational in the sense that it is personal in contrast to rational. We know whom we have believed and thank God for the unspeakable gift.

In both cases, one could say that faith is "non-rational." However, in both cases, faith is not necessarily irrational. Why does one believe the testimony or trust the Person? Reasons are given and evidence is presented to show that the testimony is reliable and that the Person is trustworthy and knows of that of which He speaks. A Christian has the additional benefit of seeing in one's own experience the outworking of the promises of God; even in conversion, they believed on Christ and found themselves saved from their sins by a divine power--just as was promised by God in the Scriptures. They have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The Scriptures claim to be a revelation of a God that searches the heart and tries the reins, and the Christian will find this to be true (so will an unbeliever, but they will not receive it/try to explain it away). The Scriptures claim to divide soul and spirit and be a two-edged sword; to make one wiser than one's teachers; to be a good and blessed way to live; to convert sinners; to edify saints....and in each case, the Christian will find this to be true. Neither the same evidences, reasons, nor outworking of experience can be found in the testimony of other purported holy books. The Christian having believed in One they have found to be eminently trustworthy, the Christian will continue to believe though sight appears contrary to the Christian's faith: not irrational to do, since the Person has been seen to be eminently trustworhy, including by means of past experience in trusting the Person.

The tables can be turned on the unbeliever here: what reason do they believe their senses are trustworthy or that the correct application of the laws of logic and reason will lead to truth? Faith: they believe the testimony of their senses and the testimony of the laws of thought that they cannot help but believe. However, without an Absolute, personal God that created them, their senses, and the laws of thought--and to create a correspondence between these and the reality that the same God also made--they can never give anything more than a pragmatic reason ("It always seems to work." "Unless we believe these things, we can know nothing.") for their views: there is no ultimate reality to ground the consistency of their theory of knowledge. Worse, if they believe in evolution, then they have reason to disbelieve that their senses and laws of thought will produce truth: what one believes is just the laws of nature and chemistry working on one's brain. Worse, if they are materialists, they cannot account for something non-material (like belief or truth) to begin with. To believe despite the evidence to the contrary...or to believe something that has evidence for it and something else that undermines that belief but has less evidence for not just non-rational but irrational faith.
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Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Junior
Is our faith irrational and without logic?
All knowledge is based on a worldview. And all worldviews are, at root, faith claims. So, all knowledge, reason, and logic are ultimately based on faith. The question, therefore, is not which belief system is based on faith and which is based on reason. Rather, the question is which worldview accounts for reality as we experience it—a reality that is deeply logical, reasonable, and fundamentally intelligible.

The only worldview that accounts for this reality is—you guessed it—the biblical one.

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I read this book when I was pastoring in Utah. While I would obviously argue that there is infinitely more evidence for orthodox Christianity than for Mormonism, I think his ultimate point is correct: religion is ultimately a matter of faith. The lesson for me in ministering in Utah was that it was pointless to attack the oddities of Mormonism (from my perspective) because my religion has just as many oddities to unbelievers. Ultimately it must come down to what is true and not what seems the least odd.
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