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Conrad Dougherty

Mr. Pace

DC English IV

10 Oct. 2018

America prides itself on protecting religious freedom, but as Jon Krakauer says in his

book ​Under the Banner of Heaven, ​“How can a society actively promote religious faith on one

hand and condemn a man for zealously adhering to his faith on the other”(297)? rakauer remains

objective in the telling of how two Mormon Fundamentalists killed a mother and her infant

daughter after receiving a revelation from God telling them to do so, but there is a hidden

message underneath his objective front. Horrendous acts committed by those following their

faith are acts not justified by God, but by humans, as illustrated by Jon Krakauer in ​Under the

Banner of Heaven ​with rhetorical questions, comparisons, and human fallacies.

One of Krakauer’s most prominent methods of shaping reader’s understanding is

rhetorical questions. He uses these in a way that questions both extremes of the problem. He says

“If Ron Lafferty were deemed mentally ill because he obeyed the voice of God, isn’t everyone

who believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill”(297)? This idea comes out

as crazy and convoluted to the vast majority of the audience, even though it is logically based on

how Ron’s lawyers argued his case. He did this in a way which allows readers to reach the

conclusion themselves that faith is not crazy because the generality of humans follow a religion

and very few of those are deranged. This shows that, yes, religion is justified and people are not

crazy to follow it. Krakauer also questions the other extreme of faith “How can a society actively
promote religious faith on one hand and condemn a man for zealously adhering to his faith on

the other”(297)? After seeing this, the reader understands that there must be a line drawn

between promoting religious freedom and giving free reign to horrible activities done in the

Lord’s name. Without this line, people realize that more instances similar to those which ​Under

the Banner of Heaven​ introduces and references will happen. Anything crossing this line must be

treated as criminal and can never be justified as an act of God.

Krakauer's strongest message regarding faith’s misguided actions is a comparison which

all Americans take to heart. This is an extremely powerful statement seeing that Krakauer’s

intended audience is Americans. To incite such emotion he says; “Does he think the sincerity of

their belief justified the act? And if not, how can Dan know that what he did isn’t every bit as

misguided as what bin Laden’s followers did on September 11, despite the obvious sincerity of

his own faith”(320-21)? By making this comparison, Krakauer shows readers the severity of this

situation by making a strong connection between 9/11 and in comparison to this, rather mild

crime committed by two American men. Realizing that the same motivation drives these very

different people, readers take a mental step back, thinking that these acts cannot be justified by

religion despite the free religion laws in the U. S.

Acts of rape and murder are all logical fallacies if done in the name of God. Humans are

not perfect as Krakauer shows here; “He kept falling rapturously in love with women not his

wife. And because that rapture was so wholly consuming, and felt so good, it struck him as

impossible that God might frown on such a thing”(120). Joseph Smith is advocating cheating

with God because he wants it, not because God approves it. This is undeniably a human fault.

Logos shows that God has never been preached to support sin, unholy ways and any human
faults, therefore any acts of rape, murder, or even drugs are human fallacies, justified by the

human and not God. This makes the human directly responsible for the acts he or she has


He pushes the readers to understand that the fervid upholding of faith that includes rape

and killing, crosses a line, turning it so religious belief does not justify the misguided actions

committed. Rhetorical questions are used find the limit at which religious freedom turns into

criminal acts, never condoned by God. He compares following faith to murder with 9/11 in a

way to show that in no way is doing evil in the Lord’s name justifiable or forgivable. Krakauer

also shows that all evil done is not from God, but from the faults in human character, no evil

action can be logically commanded by God. This book demonstrates to readers that religion can

be put to horrible uses, uses that God never intends. People need to make sure they aren’t

confusing their desires with what they think God’s are.