Mormon critics and criticism: A perception of extreme ideology

 

Critics waving signs outside of Temple Square

Information cocoon is what Cass R Sunstein, the Felix Frankfurter professor of law at Harvard University, wrote in his column on Bloomberg View[1]. This same article also appeared in the Sunday edition of the Everett Herald, bearing the title: “How disagreeing can bring us together”[2]. Geared more toward political extremist viewpoints on the Conservative and Liberal side of politics, there are some gems of truth that can apply other arenas of thought and communication. This includes religious viewpoints where individuals can carry extreme ideology and perceptions. More specifically, these concepts are applicable to those who are critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the particular criticisms that they perpetuate ad nauseam.

What is extreme ideology and how does it relate to the Counter-cult movement?

The definition that is particular to this is the idea of one who goes to great or exaggerated lengths where there is the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group class, or culture and a set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system. It is the coupling of Extreme[3] and Ideology[4] into a marrying thought of exaggerated lengths of ideas that reflect particular social needs and aspirations of a particular individual and/or group and culture based upon their particular set of doctrines or beliefs that have formed the systematic thought of said individual or group. Because of this definition, all groups and individuals are susceptible to such extreme ideology – including Latter-day Saint Christians. However, for the premise and purpose of this essay, the focus is on the more specific group and culture that comprise the Counter-cult Movement.

This particular movement is defined best by the website, Religious Tolerance[5]:

The counter-cult movement … is composed primarily of conservative Protestant Christian individuals, agencies, and para-church groups who attempt to raise public concern about religious groups which they feel hold dangerous, non-traditional beliefs. Those in the CCM are sometimes called heresy hunters or heresiologists.[6]

The website continues with the overview:

The CCM movement is strongly motivated by a concern for the spiritual welfare or people in the groups that they label as cults, aberrant sects, heretical religions, etc. Those in the CCM believe that any group that presents itself as a Christian faith group while rejecting one or more of the historical Protestant Christian beliefs endangers the salvation of its own members, and weakens the Christian religion itself.[7]

Because of the ideology that particular individuals adhere to a religious or theological cult provides the framework of how the members within the counter-cult movement holds to particular perceptions that have some basis within the concept of an extreme ideology. This extreme ideology is encased in what Cass R. Sunstein mentions as an information cocoon.

This information cocoon is one that a particular group of individuals have built up and reinforce:

The real problem is that their [many extremists] information comes from a sharply limited set of sources, all of which are supportive of their extremist beliefs. Many extremists listen only to one another. They live in self-reinforcing information cocoons. Their “crippled epistemology” can lead to utterly baseless, but firmly held, convictions (and sometimes even violence)[8]

Again, extremist here is referencing the exaggerated lengths one goes. In this case, the exaggerated lengths members of the various CCMs engage in when discussing the doctrines, practice, beliefs, and history of the Mormon faith. Thus, applying Sunstein’s concept of information cocoon, we are able to notice the manner in which those of the CCMs build up their ideology on limited sources that they have provided to substantiate their particular motives in “witnessing” and “evangelizing” members of the Church. In addition to this, it is duly noted that members of the Church can become comfortable in their own information cocoon, especially when dealing with critics and criticisms of the Church.

To read more – purchase the paper here at Scribd.


[1] Sunstein, C. R. (2012, September 03). How voters can escape from information cocoons. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-03/how-voters-can-escape-from-information-cocoons.html

[2] Sunstein, C.R. (2012, September 09). How disagreeing can bring us together. Retrieved from http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120909/OPINION03/709099985/0/SEARCH

[3] Extreme. (n.d.) Merriam – Webster Dictionary, Online Edition. Retrieved September 10, 2012 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extreme

[4] ideology. (n.d.) The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. (2003). Retrieved September 10 2012 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ideology

[5] Religious Tolerance is a website that has no particular affiliation with any belief system. According to their own “about us” page, they focus on four areas in disseminating information: (1) Disseminating accurate religious information; (2) Exposing religious fraud, hatred, and misinformation; (3) Disseminating information on “hot” religious topics; And, (4) Promoting Religious tolerance. The purpose of referencing the definition RT provides is because it gives a concise and specific summation of the Counter-cult ministry without having to cite Wikipedia.

[6] Robinson, B. A. (2011, October 16). The counter-cult movement (ccm). Retrieved from

http://www.religioustolerance.org/ccm.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sunstein, C.R. (2012, September 09). How disagreeing can bring us together. Retrieved from http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20120909/OPINION03/709099985/0/SEARCH

 

 

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