Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Quoted in USA Today on the Issue of Romney and Anti-Mormon Bias

"Mormon Bias Still Part of Politics" by Dennis Wagner is an article in USA Today that came out Nov. 24, 2011. Dennis writes both for USA Today and the Arizona Republic. I was surprised to be quoted since I know that I was just one of numerous people the reporter interviewed, plus I've had lengthy interviews with other reporters that didn't get used. I find the article to be fair and reasonable, though I think anyone who is quoted in an interview feels some disappointment in how it all turns out. However, I think Dennis went out of his way to be fair and to understand the topic.

The quotes from me came in a portion of the interview when the reporter wanted to know if it's appropriate to use the term "anti-Mormon" in describing the people pushing the Mormon issue in their opposition of Romney. Discussing the merits of that label was one of the least interesting and least important parts of the conversation to me personally, but that part got used. Also used was the point I made about LDS politicians like Mitt Romney and Harry Reid clearly demonstrating that they will do things their way and not simply rely on the prophet or LDS teachings to determine their stance. So here's the passage where I'm quoted, but do read the whole article:
Richard Packham, the 78-year-old president of the Ex-Mormon Foundation, writes that the church's "ultimate goal" is "to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America and to govern the world as God's appointed representatives."

"I love the Mormons and hate Mormonism," Packham told The Arizona Republic. "To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect."

Tricia Erickson, a bishop's daughter who left the faith, just published a book titled, "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?" Erickson casts the church as a sexist, racist leviathan striving to gain power through politics. And she contends that Romney or Huntsman, as members, would have a duty to "follow the prophet -- no matter what," giving allegiance to religion over country.

Jeff Lindsay, a Mormon scholar who prolifically defends his church on the Internet, says Packham, Erickson and other critics convey an "awful distortion" of LDS doctrine and practices.

"It's paranoia. It's not based on any example," Lindsay said. "There is plenty of room for decent people to disagree with us. But when someone strives to stir up anger toward the church and relies on misinformation or half-truths, then I'm inclined to apply the anti-Mormon label -- especially when they do it for a living."

Church defenders point out that thousands of LDS members serve in public office without acting as church puppets, and critics are unable to identify Romney gubernatorial decisions that his religion dictated.

As Lindsay puts it, "The prophet has not been coming in and telling him how to vote."
When I discussed "anti-Mormons," I was speaking in general terms without Richard Packham in mind. I don't think he's one of the professionals who makes his living off spooking people about the Church. But I was really floored by his comment. Did he really say that, or has he been victimized by some sort of anti-anti-Mormon bias at USA Today? We're out to control the world? And a Mormon President raises the prospect of Mormonism controlling America? [Update: I questioned whether he really said that, but have been assured that he did--I just don't think he could have seriously meant it in the extreme way it reads in the article. But that extreme fear is what's fueling a lot of the controversy the USA Today article addresses. People, get real.]

"Brothers and sisters, today's sacrament meeting will be dedicated to the Mormon conquest of Planet Earth. Sunday school will focus on taking over America once we get the Prophet's agent in the White House. Also, home teachers, please begin working with your families this week to help them develop plans to subjugate their neighbors and take over the neighborhood."

The goal of anti-Mormonism is to frighten people away from the Church and stir up anger and fear. Spook them. Create anger so that people hate Mormonism and refuse to consider it even for a moment. I don't think it's healthy, personally.

165 comments:

Darren said...

[QUOTE 1]
"Richard Packham, the 78-year-old president of the Ex-Mormon Foundation"
[END QUOTE]

'Ex-mormon Foundation'? Is this, like, the Mayo Clinic for former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? Do ex-Mormons need therapy? Oh, wait, it's probably a fellowship place to strengthen one another. That way ex-Mormons can act like mormons without actually being Mormons. This is brilliant I tell ya'.

[QUOTE2]
writes that the church's "ultimate goal" is "to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America and to govern the world as God's appointed representatives."
[END QUOTE]

Apparently to Dr. Packham Mormons are rab rats.

[ERICKSON QUOTE]
And she contends that Romney or Huntsman, as members, would have a duty to "follow the prophet -- no matter what," giving allegiance to religion over country.
[END QUOTE]

What about Harry Reid? [QUOTE] One participant told the newspaper that Reid said the decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to support the successful Proposition 8 ballot measure in California last year was a "waste of church resources and good will." Another said Reid made clear that he "felt it was harmful for the church to focus on such a divisive issue." [END QUOTE] Last I check he was in good standing with the LDS Church.

Reid Criticizes Mormon Church for Proposition 8 Support

If I may, "11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." (Articles of Faith)

Ammon said...

Great post and congrats on being quoted in USA Today. If anything, I hope this issue leads to greater dialogue between the LDS and the sincere individual looking for greater understanding.

Darren said...

Who's "America's Choir"?

Anonymous said...

As a Jew, all I can say is that if the Mormons want to take over the world they'll have to take it from me first.

-- Eveningsun ;-)

Openminded said...

Haha, well. religion's been trending downwards for quite some time now, Richard Packham is a bit of hot air right now.

He gets a decent amount of flak from the ex-mormon community, too. makes ex-mormons look bad, ya know? yet to mention they have a sense of morality.

ha, it pretty much is like a fellowship place to strengthen one another. pretty ironic, Darren

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

That was pretty funny. :>)

Openminded;

Ironic indeed. :>)

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Sorry, I deleted a comment that was helpful but included a link to an anti-Mormon website. I don't want to use my blog as a platform to elevate the Google Page Rank and traffic to anti-Mormon sites, so as a general rule I ask not to post such links here.

Bookslinger said...

As a Jewish convert to Mormonism (and still Jewish, according to my patriarchal blessing), I prefer the Mormon conspiracy to the Jewish conspiracy.

It might be cool to do a compare/contrast list between Judaism and Mormonism....

Jews have the "Wailing Wall"; Mormons get up and cry at Fast and Testimony Meeting.

Jews: blintzes. Mormons: funeral potatoes.

Etc.

Anonymous said...

It might be cool to do a compare/contrast list between Judaism and Mormonism....

I'm game.

Geography -- Jews have Jerusalem, population 700,000 and coordinates 31°47′N 35°13′E; Mormons have Zarahemla, population 0 and coordinates ????.

Science -- Jews have Maimonides, Spinoza, and Albert Einstein. Mormons have ????.

Ancient writings -- Jews have the the David story, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job, universally acclaimed as literary masterpieces and taught in college and university literature classes worldwide; Mormons have ????.

Modern writings -- Jews have Sholom Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer; Mormons have Levi Peterson (I do think The Backslider is really, really good).

Science fiction -- Jews have Marge Piercy; Mormons have Orson Scott Card (OK, Mormons win this one).

You know, Bookslinger, you can always convert back. ;-)

-- Eveningsun

Stephen said...

Anonymous -- you've missed Bryan Sanderson and some other writers ...


"Brothers and sisters, today's sacrament meeting will be dedicated to the Mormon conquest of Planet Earth. Sunday school will focus on taking over America once we get the Prophet's agent in the White House. Also, home teachers, please begin working with your families this week to help them develop plans to subjugate their neighbors and take over the neighborhood.


Makes me think he is part of the group that believes Salt Lake is run by the mind control lizard men ...

Rusty Southwick said...

Anyone who's the member of an ex-group is precariously hanging onto their past without having yet found a present. Why would they want to continue to be associated so closely with Mormonism? Do they need to hold onto something to blame?

In a divorce, people sometimes feel the need to demonize their former spouse in order to further justify their decision to end the marriage.

Find something with affirmation instead of focusing on what you're "against". If you've truly had it with the church, just cut the cord already and move on! (although you're always welcome back ;) )

Mateo said...

Kudos, Jeff. :) That's pretty cool. I totally agree as well. I don't get why this is such a hot button issue in politics. I could honestly care less what a person's personal beliefs are when running for office. Whether they be Mormon, or Muslim or Protestant or Hindu or none of the above... I just don't see how it's something worth talking about.

When it comes down to it though I think politics is too huge and complicated for most of us to wrap our heads around so people tend to gravitate towards thinking with their emotions instead of their heads and inventing demons and angels. It's much easier to create a label and strap it to someone then to try and actually understand what their policies are and how they're going to affect you.

I think it's especially difficult with certain belief systems to get people to understand where you're coming from and not just follow their "gut" feelings and prejudices. Since Mormonism is seen as more "peculiar" to many I think it gets more then it's fair share of misunderstandings.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Geography - Mormons not only have Jeruselem, Bountiful, and Nahoam. See HERE.

Science - Mormons have "Healthcare Physicians and Surgeons", "Biologists, Physicists, Chemists, Geoscientists, Economists, Psychologists, Sociologists and Historians", and "Engeneering Engineers and Inventors".

Ancient writings - We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (No fair.)

Science Fiction - Various authors of various genres. Use the next page button at the of this link.

Darren said...

Jeff;

Sorry. Please remind me in the future if I do it again.

Mateo said...

D'oh!!! I COULDN'T care less! That's what I meant to say... I always screw that one up. :(

Darren said...

Mormanity;

I know there are blogs who moderate posts with many links. I'm very sure I posted a comment here to Eveningsun regarding advances in literature and science by Mormons though it contained probably 5 links. While there is a chance I never proberly clicked the published comment button, I'm stilll pretty sure I did. Is there a post waiting moderation?

Just in case, here's a simpler response:
_______________________________
Eveningsun;

Click on Famous Mormons and from there you wshould be able to navigate through several posts and find where Mormons have added to the development of science and literature.

Bookslinger said...

Eve Sun:

It's a good thing my testimony is not based on science, geography, geology, anthropology, DNA, award-winning literature, or any of "man's wisdom."

Even the award-winning literature of the Old Testament speaks of how man's wisdom is foolishness to God.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Darren, yes, there was a comment flagged as spam by Google since it had several links. I released it. THanks!

Anonymous said...

Bookslinger, just what is your testimony based on? Some intense feeling you had? Such subjective feelings are notoriously unreliable guides to the truth, as is evidenced by the fact that they convince some people of the "truth" of Mormonism, others of the "truth" of Islam, etc. When it comes to empirical questions about things like the origins of Native Americans and other questions bearing on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I'd rather trust "science, geography, geology, anthropology, [and] DNA" than my own subjective feelings.

As for literature, given the fact that so many different conflicting religious traditions have their own great literatures, the existence of such a literature doesn't guarantee the truth claims of the faith whose devotees create it. (On the flip side, the poor literary quality of the LDS scriptures is not an argument against Mormonism.)

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"When it comes to empirical questions about things like the origins of Native Americans and other questions bearing on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, I'd rather trust "science, geography, geology, anthropology, [and] DNA" than my own subjective feelings."

So, what's the archeological evidence of King David's rule over Jeruselem and his kingdom which is more or less modern-day Isreal?

Archeology, history, science, etc. are great tools for learning but they are not the means promised to man on the Day of Pentacost. These tools are not the Second Comforter Christ promised man. It is the Second Comforter by which I know the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true. All other things, the sciences of man, are secondary to me in regards to divine truth. If sciences were my rimary means to learn of God's truths then I would be rendering that which is God's unto Ceasar. That's just not how it works, is it?

As for DNA, here is a great link from a man I'm sure you're aware of.

http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/DNA.shtml#x

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks to Richard Packham for clearing that up: apparently "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was about Mormon elders all along!

wage slave said...

The last time I saw Anti Mormons was at the Palmyra Pageant. I'll bet they were a little perplexed when a torrential summer rain blew in and drenched their side of the road (and them) but didn't touch the audience or stage.

Bookslinger said...

Eve. Sun:

What you snarkily dismiss as "subjective feelings" are for some people, very powerful revelatory experiences that go far beyond what you might think of as "feelings."

The fact that some people may have actual "subjective feelings" upon which they (perhaps incorrectly) base absolute statements such as "I know that [A]..." it does not disallow that others may have actual revelatory experiences upon which they may (correctly) base absolute statements such as "I know that [B]...."

The fact that you can't comprehend or admit the possibility that revelatory experiences from a divine source actually occur, does not preclude their occurance in others.

Anonymous said...

OK, Bookslinger, I'll admit for the sake of argument "that revelatory experiences from a divine source actually occur."

Not only do they occur, but they occur all over the place, to all kinds of peoople. Paul has a revelation, Mohammed has a revelation, Joseph Smith has a revelation.... Juan Pablo has a testimony and becomes a Catholic, Abdul has one and becomes a Muslim, Brigham has one and becomes a Mormon. So many powerful experiences!

But how do we know which are from a divine source and which are not? You seem to be saying, "I know Joseph Smith's revelatory experience was from a divine source because I had my own revelatory experience from a divine source."

But many a Muslim and many an anti-Mormon evangelical Christian say exactly the same thing. They can't all be right! At least some of you have to be wrong. Deficient as I seem to be in the revelation department, how am I to tell? If I want to evaluate these competing truths, must I have a testimony of my own, or is there some other way for me to do it?

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"Well, thanks to Richard Packham for clearing that up: apparently "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was about Mormon elders all along!"

I know, right? As I read Packham's own words I've concluded that his vision of not just Mormonism but religion in general are highly superficial. For instance:

1) He said that Mormonism teaches that the earth is 6,000 years old as opposed to science which teaches that it's billions of years old. 6,000 years? Where in the world did he get that from? I'm sure he met Mormons who believed that but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has never taught that.

2) One citation he made as a contradiction to the Bible was that God said in the Bible that He's the only God but that the Bible recognizes other gods. On the surface I agree but he cited "gods" as in idols. Of course the Bible calls idols gods since they are, indeed false gods. I wonder how much depth of scripture he acknowledges?

3) Packham said that turning to atheism is returning to the religion of his birth since when at birth, nobody has any belief in God. That the believers are trained and indoctrinated to believe. Well, what other forms of infancy does Packham advocate? Drooling? Messing their diapers? (Cloth in his day, I'm sure). Having to completely rely upon others to obtain meals? To me it seems no wonder he lost his faith. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, "11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Well, instead of progressing, Packham's delighted to regress and as an adult, not put away the foolish things and thoughts of a child. What other end result is there on this path than to lose faith?

4) He was critical of the LDS Church when he told his wife that he was "revealed " that the LDS faith was a man-made religion. This, he says, cause his wife to storm off and eventually leave him without notice. That he could have returned to her only if he reconciled himself with the faith. Well, as for Mr. Packham, who is highly educated in academics, I wonder what result he'd expect between a couple if the husband returned home one day and said, "honey, it was revealed to me that education is a farce. It's nothing more than a man-made scheme to control me and others. Let's drop our plans to attend college." Or, how about, "honey, it was revealed to me that my job is lame so I quit and walked away from it. i do not plan to ever return to it."

5) Packham advocates that parents can raise highly moral children without any religion whatsoever. To him as with various others I have encountered in the blogosphere, I ask, "where does your sense of morality originate if not by religion?" In Packhham's case, the very long line of Mormon history by which he came. Even atheists have to admit that their sense of right and wrong is a direct result of the religious teaching within their own societies.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"But how do we know which are from a divine source and which are not?"

You take the matter to God. Strive diligently to seek God and live as He would have you live and the heavens will open up to you and all others who do so. As an LDS I have no worries about which faith others choose to follow. Whether it be Islam, Catholicism, mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, Shintaoism, etc. In fact, I strongly encourage all to embrace and live their faith. For I am of the belief that all God's children will eventually come to learn of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Savior. That they may come unto Him through covenant administered by those who have the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. If such a person has built up their own personal character with the truths they have embraced then I have little to no doubt that they will choose to convert to Christ.

The Holy Spirit will send peace to one's mind and heart when an individual learns of the truths of God the Father through His Son, Jesus the Christ. When that happens, the individual knows it is true.

Whether or not an individual has learned of God's thruths is way beyond my ability to judge. That matter is between the individual and God. But the witness of God's truths, as Bookslinger proclaimed, is very real and mighty. It is by far the greatest source of influence in the entire universe.

Darren said...

"If I want to evaluate these competing truths, must I have a testimony of my own..."

Yes. Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit and truth will be revealed to you.

Pops said...

@Rusty Southwick:

Yes, that's pretty much what I've observed as well. Self-betrayal, when coupled with pride rather than humility, leads to self-deception. The attacks on one's former beliefs apparently work to maintain the self-deception. (See Bonds That Make Us Free by C. Terry Warner.)

Mateo said...

@ darren (man I was trying to not get involved in this one but I can't hold back anymore

To your points (Forgive me for sumarrizing them I just wanted to save space and hopefully I'm not altering your meaning. Please correct me if I am.

1)The church does not teach a 6,000 year old earth:

I totally agree with you here that the church doesn't actively teach that this is the case (especially today) it also does not state that this idea is incorrect. It rather strongly indicates that the age of humanity IS 6,000 years though. (Even the BoM annotations indicate this in the lower right hand corners) That sort of a timeline is pretty heavily disputed by most scientists. I'd also say that the young earth idea is fairly common as is a rather close adherence to a literal (more or less) interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis by church members.

2) God and false idols being the "gods" plural that are referred to in the bible:

Your idea on this seems plausible. This is one of the many fun parts about ancient scripture (and the problems of using it as a roadmap for one's life) is that there is such a huge amount of vagueness in everything that is stated that knowing exactly what is meant by any passage requires a vivid imagination and plenty of mental gymnastics. While your interpretation sounds good to me it could also be the case (based on the wording of scripture) that it really is referring to other gods (this could be backed up at the various places where it refers to the priests of Baal pulling off their own "miracles" but their miracles being lesser then the miracles of the "true" god)

3) Atheism as a default position and returning to atheism is like drooling or soiling oneself:

Rather childish attacks aside, I think you're missing the point of a statement like this. Christians and those that believe in any number of religions out there often take the standpoint that they are following what god "designed them to follow" and that their beliefs and understandings are innate. This is not the case. Had you been raised in a very different background it is highly unlikely that you would be an LDS member today. Just as it is highly unlikely that a person who is Muslim, or Jewish would have been so if they were raised in a mormon household from birth, or surrounded by mormon friends growing up. One can point to conversion and say, "well explain that then! This person came in contact with the church and joined it sooo... there's something to it!" That's a fine observation but it should be also noted that there are loads of folks that leave the church, or join other churches.

Mateo said...

His main point is that without indoctrination of people from a young age the probability of them being religious later in life is very very low. Even mores so for those that are encouraged to think critically about everything around them and not just take the word of others that something is "right" or "true".

4) Packham's having it "revealed" to him that the church is not true:

I don't really agree with the way he went about things and to me personally my relationship with my wife would trump any belief system. I.e. I'd rather have a happy marriage and go through the religious motions then rub in her face that her religion seems false to me.

People have a lot of different reactions though to coming to a realization that an institution that they sacrificed a sizable portion of their life to is less then they thought it was. This sort of ties into the falacy that because the "people can leave the church but can't leave it alone" phenomenon exists that it lends creedance to the religion. Why else would people fight against something they're no longer a part of unless it's really true and they're driven by satan, right?

The problem is that you'll see this same phenomenon in most any highly devoted religion when people separate from it. You can find Anti-jehovah's witnesses or anti-7th day adventists that are just as fervent and rabid as any anti-mormon. The reasons people leave a religion are myriad. Sometimes it's for petty reasons, sometimes it's because they feel they can't keep up with what it demands and sometimes it really is because they don't believe it and can't continue up the appearances just for the sake of appearances. For people that were deeply involved in something (and often have all their friends and family still inside it and assuming that they left because they are "weak" or somehow inferior spiritual specimens) it's not something you just shrug off and ignore. It may take time to overcome a lot of anger and resentment over the state of things. It should also be noted that for every Packham there are plenty of others that simply become disenfranchised and leave. They don't put up much of a fuss or make a big scene.

Mateo said...

5) Morality comes from religion:

This one is one of my favorite religious fallacies. :) Honestly you have absolutely nothing to back up the idea that without religion you would have no morality.

To turn it around, how do you know that teachings in the bible such as the way slaves should be treated, or the way women should be treated (women are not to speak and should be submissive) are not good things to follow anymore? If you say it's because they are part of the old testament and were superceded by christ coming that only excuses why you are allowed to not follow them. It doesn't explain why you see those things as immoral behaviors. The truth is that you and every other person on this planet follow a very complex "moral" compass. This compass is comprised of loads of things you have ingrained in you on a rather basic biological level (importance of not hurting the social group you depend on, importance of raising offspring, importance of not hurting innocent people especially children) and then a huge number of cultural ideas and morals.

It's easy to say in our modern age that racism is against our morality. It's easy to feel superior to the men of the past that owned slaves. Those men of the past had religion though. Why did they not find such slave owning to be immoral? What changed since those times to these times to cause a shift where most cultures almost unanimously agree that such behavior is "bad" whereas previously nearly all culutures were at best indifferent to the practice? While religion (just like any philosophy) can certainly influence what a person finds to be "right" and "wrong" it doesn't have a monopoly on this, nor does it do so much differently then other philosophies do. It's perfectly reasonable for a person to raise their children to treat others kindly, to do good deeds, to work hard, to respect women and to love others without any reference to a deity or afterlife. Honestly I don't think most religious people are deriving their morals from religion either. They use their own moral compass to decide which aspects of their holy books (bible, Quaran, Book of Mormon) are important and worth following. This is needed and important because, as I stated earlier, religion is rarely clear on what it means with anything. Meanings change as cultures change, parts are thrown out as "fulfilled" and other parts are focused on as the "really important parts" on top of that nearly all these passages are vague enough that they are open for a wide amount of interpretation.

That people would lack an internal ability to be "moral" is a rather horrifying idea to be honest.

Mateo said...

@pops,
I know you don't see the LDS church this way at all, but let's say that I was involved heavily in scientology and had devoted most of my life (time, money and talents) to furthering it's mission. Later in life that belief starts to unravel and I start questioning it more and find it's claims to be completely lacking. Are you stating that in such a case if I began to go on the offensive against an organization that seemed to me, personally, to be manipulative and wrong, that I am doing so out of self deception?

You need to understand that those that become "anti-mormon" are not that different from those that become "anti-catholic" "anti-Jehovah's witness" and "anti-muslim". It seems to me more of a psychological reaction people have with losing their relationship with a very large part of their life. It should also be noted that there ARE plenty of people that leave and don't make a fuss. You don't read blogs by them or posts by them because they don't write them.

It's not always a personality flaw or personal flaw that a person fight against something they personally see as negative. I understand that you disagree that what they see as negative really is so and that's fine. Please realize though that such accusations can go two ways. Many people that have become disenfranchised with the church see such statements as an attempt to deter cognitive dissonance and are a rationalization of what, on some level, your mind recognizes as deeply flawed.

Darren said...

Mateo;

6,000 years - Here's Packham's direct quote, "I enjoyed my four years at BYU, being surrounded by devout fellow- students and being taught by devout and educated teachers. One professor of geology was also a member of our ward. I was just learning about the age of the earth as most geologists taught it. I asked him one Sunday at church how he reconciled the teachings of his science with the teachings of the church (which said that the earth was created about 6000 years ago)."

As far as I'm aware, the LDS Church has never taught that the earth is 6,000 years old. It does calim that it's been around 6,000 years ago since the creation of Adam though my understanding is that the LDS Church is completely neutral in the science of creation. That the only point of "fact" it stands on is that Adam and Eve were created by a divine being and for divine purposes and that Adam was the first human male and Eve the first human female. If science says otherwise, then so be it. Let it be taught, discussed, and debated openly. As for the creation ofthe earth, the LDS Church has always believed that the best way to interpret "day" in the account of Genesis with regards to the creation is "time period". That leaves a wide open range of interpretation for linear time.

As far as I know, a very small minority of Mormons, and Christians in general, believe the earth was literally created 6,000 years ago.

gods - Here's Packham's references: "There is only one God (NT passim; also Jer 10:6, many other passages). There are other gods (Ps 82:1, 95:3, Jer 10:11,Ex 20:3)."

Here's Jeremiah 10:11 - "10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens."

These two verses link together to create a common story. There's the LORD, or YHWY, who is the living God God and whose wrath no man can escape and then there are "gods" who shall "perish These gods did not creat the "heaven and the earth". This refers back to the God who did create the heavens and the earth, and that is YHWY. YHWY is the true God and these others "gods" are nothing but idols: imaginations of man's own thoughts and feelings.

These are other passages which declare the existence of other "gods" and Packham does cite one in Psalms - " 1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods." (Psalms 82). This is a reference to true gods as indicated further on in the same chapter - "6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." This is repeated in Christian scripture. When accused by Jews of blasphemy, Jesus told answered the Jews, " 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" (John 10). So, clearly, the Psalms example is declares the existence of true gods beyond the living God YWHY. But this is no contradiction of the Bible itself but of the mainstream Christian interpretation ofthe Bible that there can be only one (mono) being called God.

Packham grew up in a church that best makes this distinction so the fact that he left said church and how declares the Bible as contradicting itself tells me that he really lacks knowledge on scriptural matters. I doubt he made and effort to learn them. He seems like a person who went through the religious motions but failed to embrace religion itself.

Darren said...

Mateo (con't);

Atheism / childness - "Had you been raised in a very different background it is highly unlikely that you would be an LDS member today. " I doubt it. I know myself and the things that I wondered growing up. No matter what environment I grew up in, I think that once I accepted to learn of LDS teachings, I would join. My source of acceptence of the LDS faith is the Holy Spirit Himself. And that can be manifested under any conditions if only I do my part.

"Christians and those that believe in any number of religions out there often take the standpoint that they are following what god "designed them to follow" and that their beliefs and understandings are innate." I'd have to say yes and no. Yes, we all have a conscience but to know of God and the things of God requires learning. Though not explicitly said in the Bible, I'm sure Jesus had to learn what God's word was as He grew: howbeit faster and more perfect than anyone else. Leanring what to do and doing it is the pathway to God. Regressing to infancy is not the process.

"His main point is that without indoctrination of people from a young age the probability of them being religious later in life is very very low." No, his main point is that you do not need religious upbringing in order to bring up a moral generation of youth. "I married a lovely girl with beliefs similar to mine, and we now have two fine adult sons whom we raised with no religious training whatsoever, and who are as admirable human beings as one could ever want their children to be." There's no reference to there being a "chance" of becoming religious later in life if one is raised without religion earlier in life. That's not even implied. Packham is simply saying that even though he rejected his fait,he still raised moral children.

This goes directly to my #5 point: where does he think moral standards came from? Our society relies heavily on Judeo-Christian mores and ethics. So when Packham says his children are morally great (and I'm sure they are) he's simply saying that, "measured up to the Judeo-Christian standards of morality which our society uses as a guidline (there's definitely plenty of room to debate how moral we are), my children are great people." It's nonesense to think he came up with a sense of morality all on his own. It traces back somehow to religion.

Darren said...

Mateo (con't);

"Honestly you have absolutely nothing to back up the idea that without religion you would have no morality. " That's not what I even attempted at saying in the firstplace. As I just noted, our sense of right and wrong as a society, traces directly back to religion. Not stealing, not lying, honoring your parents, being honest, telling the truth, etc. All Judeo-Christian ethics.

"(women are not to speak and should be submissive)" - That's the best biblical morality ever. Just don't tell Mrs. Darren I said that cuz she'll punch me. (Dang, I love that woman).

"To turn it around, how do you know that teachings in the bible such as the way slaves should be treated, or the way women should be treated (women are not to speak and should be submissive) are not good things to follow anymore? "

We have slavery, it's called prisioners and I strongly support it. We don't call it slavery but how different is it than slavery? the only difference is that prisioners pay their debt to society whereas slaves to their masters.

And, no ,I don't see slavery in the Bible as immoral; but I do see race-based slavery (not biblical) as immoral and like many other things, subject to the mores of society.

"This compass is comprised of loads of things you have ingrained in you on a rather basic biological level (importance of not hurting the social group you depend on, importance of raising offspring, importance of not hurting innocent people especially children)" - If biology were the determining factor for morality then there's a whole lotta things I would have done (and be dead by now) but I had my faith in my life and that showed me constraint and the blessings of bridling my passions and serving God. I'm a much, MUCH better man today because of my faith and not despite it.

"and then a huge number of cultural ideas and morals.
"- Which, by the way, come from religion.

"Why did they not find such slave owning to be immoral?" - They didn't follow good and correct principles, that's why.

"What changed since those times to these times to cause a shift where most cultures almost unanimously agree that such behavior is "bad" whereas previously nearly all culutures were at best indifferent to the practice?" - Repentence. Our nation literally paid the price with its own blood.

"While religion (just like any philosophy) can certainly influence what a person finds to be "right" and "wrong" it doesn't have a monopoly on this" - Agreed but God does and we are to discover the will of God and to follow it.

Darren said...

mateo (con't);

"Honestly you have absolutely nothing to back up the idea that without religion you would have no morality. " That's not what I even attempted at saying in the firstplace. As I just noted, our sense of right and wrong as a society, traces directly back to religion. Not stealing, not lying, honoring your parents, being honest, telling the truth, etc. All Judeo-Christian ethics.

"(women are not to speak and should be submissive)" - That's the best biblical morality ever. Just don't tell Mrs. Darren I said that cuz she'll punch me. (Dang, I love that woman).

"To turn it around, how do you know that teachings in the bible such as the way slaves should be treated, or the way women should be treated (women are not to speak and should be submissive) are not good things to follow anymore? "

We have slavery, it's called prisioners and I strongly support it. We don't call it slavery but how different is it than slavery? the only difference is that prisioners pay their debt to society whereas slaves to their masters.

And, no ,I don't see slavery in the Bible as immoral; but I do see race-based slavery (not biblical) as immoral and like many other things, subject to the mores of society.

"This compass is comprised of loads of things you have ingrained in you on a rather basic biological level (importance of not hurting the social group you depend on, importance of raising offspring, importance of not hurting innocent people especially children)" - If biology were the determining factor for morality then there's a whole lotta things I would have done (and be dead by now) but I had my faith in my life and that showed me constraint and the blessings of bridling my passions and serving God. I'm a much, MUCH better man today because of my faith and not despite it.

"and then a huge number of cultural ideas and morals.
"- Which, by the way, come from religion.

"Why did they not find such slave owning to be immoral?" - They didn't follow good and correct principles, that's why.

"What changed since those times to these times to cause a shift where most cultures almost unanimously agree that such behavior is "bad" whereas previously nearly all culutures were at best indifferent to the practice?" - Repentence. Our nation literally paid the price with its own blood.

"While religion (just like any philosophy) can certainly influence what a person finds to be "right" and "wrong" it doesn't have a monopoly on this" - Agreed but God does and we are to discover the will of God and to follow it.

Mateo said...

Darren,
Regarding the 6,000 years issue. I agree the church doesn't officially teach this as doctrine. From Packham's wording it's a bit ambiguous and disingenuous. I agree with you there. I'm simply stating that you can find plenty of people in the church that DO believe in a young earth and the church basically has no official stance on it (even if many of it's leaders have had a stance) He would have been more correct stating the church believed in a 6,000 year human history. (Which is not a supported view by paleontology)

Mateo said...

@darren,
"Not stealing, not lying, honoring your parents, being honest, telling the truth, etc. All Judeo-Christian ethics."

Those are not unique to judeo-christian religions. They're found all over in the world in most every culture we find regardless of whether they have a judeo-christian background. On what are you basing this assumption that it came from judeo-christian theology and not vice versa?

Mateo said...

"We have slavery, it's called prisioners and I strongly support it. We don't call it slavery but how different is it than slavery? the only difference is that prisioners pay their debt to society whereas slaves to their masters."

This is not comprehensible to me. There are biblical passages referring to the correct way to "repent" if you've beaten one of your slaves to death. I don't think that has anything to do with a criminal justice system.

And, no ,I don't see slavery in the Bible as immoral; but I do see race-based slavery (not biblical) as immoral and like many other things, subject to the mores of society.

You do not see the enslavement of another person (forcing them to work for you with out a recompense or at the threat of taking their life) as immoral?!? O_o

*backing away slowly

"If biology were the determining factor for morality then there's a whole lotta things I would have done (and be dead by now) but I had my faith in my life and that showed me constraint and the blessings of bridling my passions and serving God. I'm a much, MUCH better man today because of my faith and not despite it."

You may have noted that I did not say ALL moral ideas come from our biology. I think very few of them do but the most universal ones would seem to stem from those. Altruism (weird as it may seem) has a lot of evidence that it is biologically based and is viewed in plenty of animals other then just homo-sapiens. We're not unique in that. I agree though that not all of what we deem as "right" and "wrong" is derived from biology. We take much more of it from our environment and it's not a static thing. I believe the more similar two people are the more similar they are to have common ideas of "good" and "bad". I think you'd be hard pressed to show that such things are not subjective or are remotely unified across the cultural board.

Mateo said...

There's a common idea that because something seems "wrong" to me that it must be "wrong" to all people. That's not a supported idea though. I feel no remorse whatsoever when eating beef. There are people that were raised Hindu that would find this ghastly and abhorrent. They would be sick with guilt if they ate the flesh of a cow. Which one of us is right? It's easy to just chalk it up as a cultural norm when it's not your belief. It's much harder to cope with the fact that while morals are supremely imortant in giving us order and even meaning in our lives, they are not immutable parts of our universe. They are a complex mixture of human experience, cultural creation and biological prompting. They are nearly unanimously things which help societies function and help us be the social animals that we are.

"and then a huge number of cultural ideas and morals.
"- Which, by the way, come from religion.

"Why did they not find such slave owning to be immoral?" - They didn't follow good and correct principles, that's why.

"What changed since those times to these times to cause a shift where most cultures almost unanimously agree that such behavior is "bad" whereas previously nearly all culutures were at best indifferent to the practice?" - Repentence. Our nation literally paid the price with its own blood.

"Agreed but God does and we are to discover the will of God and to follow it."
Then apparently his will is contrary to much of what he taught early prophets since (as stated before) our moral compass has lead us away from many of the previously established religious teachings and morals.

This holds equal sway with me as a person claiming that Poseidon controls the motions of the ocean and sends storm when he feels wrathful. As frustrating as that may be to hear, your claim is backed up no better then the claims of other religions, so while it's impossible to say you are wrong with any certainty just be aware that the same goes for all the things that you dismiss out of hand for being completely ridiculous

Mateo said...

D'oh! Meant to type "archeology" not "paleontology" :P

Mateo said...

@ darren,

"Had you been raised in a very different background it is highly unlikely that you would be an LDS member today. " I doubt it. I know myself and the things that I wondered growing up. No matter what environment I grew up in, I think that once I accepted to learn of LDS teachings, I would join. My source of acceptence of the LDS faith is the Holy Spirit Himself. And that can be manifested under any conditions if only I do my part.

-

We're probably not going to get anywhere with this part but what the heck. I'll explain how I see it anyways.

We're starting on two very different foundations. You seem (from what you've stated here and correct me if I'm incorrect) to believe that there is an immutable exact "self" that is your spirit and that if somehow it had been slapped into a different body there would have been some minor differences but overall you'd be basically the same person and would eventually find the church and join it. My idea on this is significantly different. I think that there is NOT a permanent "self" that exists outside of the body. So the "self" I see myself is a complex mixture of my genetics and my experiences and the ridiculously complex interaction of the two. I see this as being a fairly likely possibility because if we look at any population you see that nearly everyone acts in a way that makes sense with their race and culture. Educated, wealthy families tend to produce educated wealthy offspring. The chance of having kids that are doctors is greatly increased if you are a doctor. That sort of thing. There are always statistical outliers that will buck the trend but they are exactly that... statistical outliers. We tend to ascribe all sorts of meanings to why people do what they do because it makes the world feel more like we are in control. From the outlook that I typically hold your statement is basically saying, "but I would join the chuch no matter what!" but if you had truly been born in another area of the world to a different family NONE of what you currently experience as "you" would be that way. It would all be different. I guess it's sort of an impossible thing to argue (whether a person would be different if they were a different person) so all I can say is that there is not a big enough surge of people quitting their various religions to take up mormonism to show much of a trend let alone any evidence that mormonism holds something special over the others.

Darren said...

Mateo;

Whatever arhcheology (and here I thought we were going to talk dinosaur with paleontology ;>) ) says is fine with me. In fact I do believe that there is not that much time difference between scripture accounts of Adam and what archeology/history acknoledges as the comencement of agricultural society. And I've no doubt that Adam was taught to farm. If there were human-like creatures prehuman, I'm fine with that as well. And I personally have not encountered too many Mormons who are young earthers. The LDS fully accepts science and does approaches learning liberally but based upon eternal truths. Science fluctuates greatly, that's the nature of it.


"Those are not unique to judeo-christian religions."

I didn't say they were. My point is that they are found in religion and taught in religion. What society upholds universal morals without religion?

"This is not comprehensible to me. There are biblical passages referring to the correct way to "repent" if you've beaten one of your slaves to death." Then you better repent. I'm unfamiliar with that part so I won't comment further.

"You do not see the enslavement of another person (forcing them to work for you with out a recompense or at the threat of taking their life) as immoral?!?" - Nope, not according to how the Bible teaches it. Weren't much of these slaves captured peoples from conquests?

"Altruism (weird as it may seem) has a lot of evidence that it is biologically based and is viewed in plenty of animals other then just homo-sapiens. We're not unique in that." - Male dolphins like to get to know as many female dolphins in the quickest amount of time, society calls that trashy behavior. Also, hamsters eat their babies. **YUCK!!!**

"or the way women should be treated (women are not to speak and should be submissive) are not good things to follow anymore?"

Here's another passage - "25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;" (Ephisians 5). Yes, women are to still be submissive to their husbands. The husband is the head of the house and that erosion has cost society dearly. Men are to love their wives like no other. Eve wasAdam's "helmeet" and, as the wife of President Kimball put it, she was not created from Adam's head or foot for either to show superiority but from his rib where it's locate under his arm and tenderly protected. And don't take the "silence" too literally. As a member fo the restored Church of Christ, I'll tell you that the Relief Society is a great organization. one which Joseph Smith saw as essential to brinig the kingdom of God on the earth and for the world's benefit. It is under the direction of the Priesthood and as such the LDS Church gives the soiety great liberties for them to do their good in the world.

"I feel no remorse whatsoever when eating beef. There are people that were raised Hindu that would find this ghastly and abhorrent."

I'll join you for some beef eating anytime, sir. As for huinhus, my roomate and I at BYU explained to another roomate from India who was Hinsu/not LDS, that pepperoni on pizza is meat-based. He then sold us hid pizzas. thati is, until he got hungry. So we gave it back to him and let him eat it. Go figure ;>) . He was a good guy.

"My idea on this is significantly different. I think that there is NOT a permanent "self" that exists outside of the body. So the "self" I see myself is a complex mixture of my genetics and my experiences and the ridiculously complex interaction of the two."

Dude, you really need to find Jesus in your life. ;>)

Darren said...

Sorry about the double post on Ephisians. I used the wrong command button.

**OOPS!**

Darren said...

Sweet, i didn't double post afterall.

**Double OOPS! though**

Pops said...

Mateo wrote:

Later in life that belief starts to unravel and I start questioning it more and find it's claims to be completely lacking. Are you stating that in such a case if I began to go on the offensive against an organization that seemed to me, personally, to be manipulative and wrong, that I am doing so out of self deception?

No. What I said is that when a person commits an act of self-betrayal, they can either react with pride and lapse into self-deception, or they can react with humility and correct the error.

With respect to LDS folks that I've seen turn anti-Mormon, it begins with a serious violation of commandments/covenants. The bit where they "start questioning" comes later. The act of self-betrayal is the trigger.

Mateo said...

Yeah, I almost took us down Dinosaur alley with that Paleontology slip up. ;)

In reference to the biblical verse on the beating of slaves: Exodus 21:20-21 "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money." (from what I've read that last bit is commonly interpreted as "if he doesn't die within two days of the beating then it's okay because he's your property and after that point it might not have been you hitting him that did it anyways. There may be other, better, interpretations out there though so maybe I'm off with that)

That's great that you met a hindu man that started eating beef. I'm sure that there are plenty of mormons that have tried alcohol. I'm not totally sure what that shows us though. All I'm saying is that what you find morally repugnant is not what other cultures will always find to be morally repugnant. The only rules that seem to show up nearly everywhere are things that allow human beings to survive well in a group setting. This doesn't just incorporate base survival but also the importance of working as a cohesive group (so altruistic behavior IS something that is selected for on a gene level even though it may have detrimental effects for a particular individual. For example an 11 year old that sacrifices his life by jumping on an explosive to save the lives of others will nix his particular genes out of the gene pool in that case it may not in other cases and the willingness to do things like that, especially when protecting one's close friends or family is rather high in the population itself meaning that in general it's a trait that is being actively selected for. Such traits are extremely important for social animals like wolves, lions, and primates.)

By all appearances, when we look at populations of people, we see people living happy and fulfilled lives even though they don't all adhere to the same ideas on "right" and "wrong". To me this seems to be a pretty clear mark against the idea that religion is where we derive or sense of morality. There are so many people (Everyone from what I can tell) that take their sense of "right" and "wrong" not from what they read about in scripture but from a great number of other sources.

The main beef I have with religion is that (at least the one's I've come across so far) are way to petty and small to make sense in the grand universe we find ourselves in.

Posp said...

...I'd rather trust "science, geography, geology, anthropology, [and] DNA"...

The beauty of seeking and finding any and all truth is that you get the benefits of both science and religion! After all, there is only one reality, and it includes everything. If there is a God (there is) and an afterlife (ditto) and a purpose for our existence (yes), it's part of the package. We're not talking about some goofy intellectual exercise, we're talking about reality.

Of course, when it comes to science, you have to beware of epicycles...

mkprr said...

Eveningsun,
You said:
" Ancient writings -- Jews have the the David story, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job, universally acclaimed as literary masterpieces and taught in college and university literature classes worldwide; Mormons have ????."

Well, for starters I guess mormons have the David story, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job, universally acclaimed as literary masterpieces and taught in college and university literature classes worldwide :)

Well maybe not Song of Songs, I've heard some mormons have mixed feelings about that one

crazypoliticos said...

As an agnostic and non-Mormon I find the attacks on the LDS Church by other denominations to be idiotic. Mainstream Mormons are about as Mainstream America as you can get. I'm not going to comment one way or the other on whether, doctrinally speaking Mormons are Christians because it's silly. Mormons get up on the same side of the bed, tie the same shoes, butters the same toast, and go to the same jobs and schools as the rest of America. While it's true that Mormon doctrine is Fundamentalist Mormons integrate into the general American milieu in a way Fundamentalist Christians do not. Harry Reid is a perfect example of a transparent Mormon. To be honest I favor more progressive Christian denominations that are not gay phobic or fundamentalist. I also feel that the LDS Church exerts too much control over its members in requiring a 10% tithe. I just don't think mandatory tithing is a good idea. I do think that we all need to think more about how various religions and religious organizations impact the political landscape. As a non-secular agnostic I am often intimidated by how some denominations tend to form huge political PACS or how many act like sheep at the polls. If we are to remain free we must recognize our duty to vote as individuals not as religious groups. But a mandatory 10% tithe is a competitive tax and more than just a bit "cultish". At the end of the day I want Mormons to behave as American individuals and not Mormons at the polls. Gay marriage is quite simply a freedom of association issue. A family unit is a family unit, period. What about couples that intend no congregation or sex in the marital relationship whatsoever. Perhaps one is blind and the other deaf and they just think they're compatible as a couple even though they are not sexually attracted to one another. To me the bottom line question is does this blind and deaf (same sex, opposite sex, who cares) "domestic partnership" receive the same protection under the law as a traditional married couple. Having said that, I do think it is a problem if a church official makes a statement about abortion, gay rights or any other political issue and that church's membership practices "group think" based on their religious beliefs at the polls. So, of course "the rest of us" are terrified by this kind of religious political cohesion. Say whatever you will of me as a liberal, I don't bring week after week, month after month, year after year of religious indoctrination and bias into the voting booth. I just bring me and my individual interests into the booth. I haven't yet gone out and established "the church of liberalism" and collected 10% of my members' income and held three hour indoctrination sessions followed by a monthly "get up and tell everyone why you think liberalism is way cool and the way to go" session. But that would be so fantastic. Liberals with beaming shining obedient little faces willing to sacrifice a day up in the mountains to sit on a hard bench while we discuss the virtues of abortion and mandatory "gay indoctrination and desensitizing" classes. That would be so cool! But we don't. We're laid back and amorphous, not a hive at all. At the end of the day most Americans don't want a leader elected by Mormons or Catholics or Muslims, they just want a leader elected by the people. You, yourself, may believe that abortion is a bad thing but you may, paradoxically, also believe that permitting abortion is the best thing for your community and your country. Jesus said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. This general admonition implies more than just "taxes". And in a democracy we have to be willing to render our individuality and commit an individual act at the polls. That is what we all owe Caesar, the expression of our individual interests. If you want the rest of America to trust you you're going to have to act American, not Mormon.

crazypoliticos said...

As an agnostic and non-Mormon I find the attacks on the LDS Church by other denominations to be idiotic. Mainstream Mormons are about as Mainstream America as you can get. I'm not going to comment one way or the other on whether, doctrinally speaking Mormons are Christians because it's silly. Mormons get up on the same side of the bed, tie the same shoes, butters the same toast, and go to the same jobs and schools as the rest of America. While it's true that Mormon doctrine is Fundamentalist Mormons integrate into the general American milieu in a way Fundamentalist Christians do not. Harry Reid is a perfect example of a transparent Mormon. To be honest I favor more progressive Christian denominations that are not gay phobic or fundamentalist. I also feel that the LDS Church exerts too much control over its members in requiring a 10% tithe. I just don't think mandatory tithing is a good idea. I do think that we all need to think more about how various religions and religious organizations impact the political landscape. As a non-secular agnostic I am often intimidated by how some denominations tend to form huge political PACS or how many act like sheep at the polls. If we are to remain free we must recognize our duty to vote as individuals not as religious groups. But a mandatory 10% tithe is a competitive tax and more than just a bit "cultish". At the end of the day I want Mormons to behave as American individuals and not Mormons at the polls. Gay marriage is quite simply a freedom of association issue. A family unit is a family unit, period. What about couples that intend no congregation or sex in the marital relationship whatsoever. Perhaps one is blind and the other deaf and they just think they're compatible as a couple even though they are not sexually attracted to one another. To me the bottom line question is does this blind and deaf (same sex, opposite sex, who cares) "domestic partnership" receive the same protection under the law as a traditional married couple. Having said that, I do think it is a problem if a church official makes a statement about abortion, gay rights or any other political issue and that church's membership practices "group think" based on their religious beliefs at the polls. So, of course "the rest of us" are terrified by this kind of religious political cohesion. Say whatever you will of me as a liberal, I don't bring week after week, month after month, year after year of religious indoctrination and bias into the voting booth. I just bring me and my individual interests into the booth. I haven't yet gone out and established "the church of liberalism" and collected 10% of my members' income and held three hour indoctrination sessions followed by a monthly "get up and tell everyone why you think liberalism is way cool and the way to go" session. But that would be so fantastic. Liberals with beaming shining obedient little faces willing to sacrifice a day up in the mountains to sit on a hard bench while we discuss the virtues of abortion and mandatory "gay indoctrination and desensitizing" classes. That would be so cool! But we don't. We're laid back and amorphous, not a hive at all. At the end of the day most Americans don't want a leader elected by Mormons or Catholics or Muslims, they just want a leader elected by the people. You, yourself, may believe that abortion is a bad thing but you may, paradoxically, also believe that permitting abortion is the best thing for your community and your country. Jesus said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. This general admonition implies more than just "taxes". And in a democracy we have to be willing to render our individuality and commit an individual act at the polls. That is what we all owe Caesar, the expression of our individual interests. If you want the rest of America to trust you you're going to have to act American, not Mormon at the polls.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

CrazyPoliticos, thanks a ton for dropping by!

Lamdaddy said...

Mateo, if you haven't read it before, I highly recommend 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. It brings up a lot of things that I had never thought about before that puts forth an argument for morality coming from God. Sure, there are criticisms of his works, but I found that it puts forth a fairly solid argument.

Lamdaddy said...

Crazypoliticos, I agree with a lot of what you're saying, but the rest to me is liberal rhetoric. I don't believe that a Mormon should vote for someone simply because they are Mormon, and don't think that others should do the same for other religions. But that's about where it ends with me.

Many people who I talk to who are agnostic, atheist, liberal, etc. describe a feeling of freedom and liberation when they do not adhere to a certain religion. I can understand that, and might even agree with them (however, my take on it is that it's more like a kite being cut from the restrictions of a string). Because of this, my impression is that you feel you have a sort of "edge" over the religious because you are not bound by a set of beliefs. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains my sentiments on this in a speech of his called "Truth and Tolerance":

'For example, an atheist has no need to decide what kinds and occasions of profanity or blasphemy can be tolerated and what kinds should be confronted. Persons who don’t believe in God or in absolute truth in moral matters can see themselves as the most tolerant of persons. For them, almost anything goes. “You do your thing and I’ll do my thing” is the popular description. This belief system can tolerate almost any behavior and almost any persons. Unfortunately, some who believe in moral relativism seem to have difficulty tolerating those who insist that there is a God who should be respected and certain moral absolutes that should be observed.'

I don't see the 'moral relativism' philosophy as superior to 'absolute truth.' At the least, I just view it as a different, valid philosophy. But I don't often see that kind of understanding coming from the 'moral relativism' standpoint. You expect us to believe, behave, and vote as you do (which is an accusation often directed towards the religious) by expecting us to shed our belief in absolute truth like you have.

"At the end of the day I want Mormons to behave as American individuals and not Mormons at the polls."

This oversimplifies the human persona. A person's beliefs are a part of who they are. Requesting that someone behaves as "American individuals" requires some sort of definition. An American individual is that--an individual. Beliefs will vary, so will votes. There is no choice between being American and Mormon.

Also, there is nothing in this church that forces me to vote a certain way or give 10% tithing. My choice. So although being a "laid back" liberal who is not affected by religion might sound groovy, keep in mind that in the end I have control over what I think and believe, same as you. It is just different. A true free-thinker understands and respects those differences of philosophy.

Mateo said...

@lamdaddy, "Unfortunately, some who believe in moral relativism seem to have difficulty tolerating those who insist that there is a God who should be respected and certain moral absolutes that should be observed."

So... let me get this straight. A person that does not believe in absolute morals that are the same across all people (something that cannot be shown to be true in any sort of satisfying way) has difficulty tolerating someone that tells him that he/she is immoral because they are not following the other person's ideas on morality?

I'm not seeing how one could expect anything different. Most atheists and agnostics that I have met are perfectly fine with Mormon's believing as they wish. Where they tend to get frustrated is when mormons start trying to tell others that their way of living is the way everyone is supposed to live. It's frustrating because it's not backed up by anything other then the personal testimonials from members of such church. I would imagine most mormons would not tolerate it well if everyone around them told them how horrible and immoral they were for receiving modern medicine and blood transfusions. This doesn't mean that you can't let people that believe such things go on believing them. You may try to change their mind though if their children are at risk though. Does that make you intolerant of them?

There's a difference between being critical of a belief system (questioning it) and trying to force people away from it. Most atheists and agnostics (again this is anecdotal evidence so perhaps my experience is abnormal) are not the type that are trying to force people out of their religion. I've spoken with some people that will learn that I'm not a believer and keep asking me about it or throwing out the "well then how do you explain this?" sorts of questions. If I start answering why I don't believe the same things as they do I'm in this sitaution where I feel I need to hold my tongue on most of it to spare hurting their feelings (telling someone that the deity that they fervently believe in seems to me about as realistic as a unicorns and chupacabras isn't something that can be stated without coming off as offensive) or I end up speaking what my true thoughts are on it and having them think I'm some horribly evil monster that's out to destroy their beliefs.

Basically what I'm saying is that I think some deeply religious folks are overly sensitive about their beliefs and see an offensive where there isn't one.

I'd also agree that there ARE atheists that are on the offensive. Richard Dawkins is the poster child of this, and I can definitely see how such characters are grating. While I don't subscribe to his sort of "militant atheist" philosophy I do share some of his frustration and can see why he does some of the things he does. Religion permeates all sorts of things in the public sphere that can be really irritating to those that don't believe. That our country seems more concerned about their future president's religious outlooks then his economic ones is what many people (both those that believe and don't believe) should be able to agree is a detrimental situation. It's not important and really should not have a place in the campaigns at all let alone such a hugely passionate one.

Mateo said...

Also, while it's technically true that the church doesn't "Force" anyone to pay tithing, this doesn't mean that tithing is not imposed on it's members. I'm sure if there were no penalty as far as church standing goes (you could attend the temple and be seen as a fully active and responsible member without paying) that plenty of people would not pay a full tithe or any tithe and my donate that money to a much more worthy cause (one where there's actual transparency or even to something like the church humanitarian fund).

Mateo said...

i.e. there are plenty of people that are active temple worthy members that pay out of obligation and not because it seems sensible or that they have a personal drive to do so. *waiting for a "no true scotsman" fallacy response.

Pops said...

Reminds me of a J. Golden Kimball story. A member was giving J. Golden the business because he drank coffee on occasion. The self-righteous member said, "I would rather commit adultery than drink coffee!", to which J. Golden responded, "Who wouldn't?"

Lamdaddy said...

Mateo,

"So... let me get this straight..."

Yeah, you pretty much have it straight. If you're saying that people should not tolerate someone who does believe in absolute morality, then they are just as bigoted as the religious nuts who don't tolerate relative morality. It's more convenient to not really believe in anything and not have to defend beliefs that you may not fully comprehend. But to me it still makes sense and is an acceptable way to live.
I know that not many atheists are out to destroy my beliefs and I'm not "offended" by their ideas. But I found the rant by crazypoliticos to be a little absurd, and heard similar things during the whole Prop 8 thing and now with Mitt Romney.
These kinds of comments are not some sort of neutral statements, they are criticisms that we should be allowed to address without being accused of being sensitive.

I don't understand what your point is with tithing. Pop's story kind of summed that up. There are tons of things that I do that are inconvenient that I wouldn't do if I didn't believe that it was a commandment. If you've ever paid a tithing full time, you are going to find that it is NOT an easy thing to do. I can promise that when members pay a full tithe, they absolutely DO have a personal drive to do so because they believe that God wants them to do it (call it obligation). Otherwise, they would not.
That's commandments, that's faith, that's religion.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Highly recommend the article at http://www.boap.org/LDS/BOAP/SecondEd/Draft-copy/AppendixV-JS-Commentary-on-BOA.pdf. Answers some of the objections made above.

Mateo said...

@lamdaddy,
But... what you're saying is that people are wrong for disliking it when other people try and tell them how to live their lives. :/ Tolerance is different from agreement. I can tolerate the westboro baptists doing whatever asinine thing they want to spew out. I would definitely not be in agreement and I definitely (if the opportunity presented itself) explain the logical reasons why their idiotic ideas on morality are caveman-esque and barbaric. Aren't those that believe in absolute morality being equally intolerant (by your definition) when they tell others that they way that they live is "immoral"?

It's just weird and it sounds to me like a persecution complex to say, "well I told this guy that he's sinning and he told me my religion is false! He's persecuting me for being a christian!!"

Maybe I'm misunderstanding here, but I don't see any hypocriticalness in someone that has a philosophy of live and let live telling someone off that is getting on his case about the way he lives his life.

Also for what it's worth, there are tons of atheists and agnostics out there that will just ignore it when people start spewing this morality nonsense and telling them how to live. Not all atheists/agnostics are on the war path to tell everyone off.

Mateo said...

"I don't understand what your point is with tithing. Pop's story kind of summed that up. There are tons of things that I do that are inconvenient that I wouldn't do if I didn't believe that it was a commandment. If you've ever paid a tithing full time, you are going to find that it is NOT an easy thing to do. I can promise that when members pay a full tithe, they absolutely DO have a personal drive to do so because they believe that God wants them to do it (call it obligation). Otherwise, they would not."

You had stated that members pay tithing because the choose to do it and that the church does not "force" them to do so. As I stated, it's correct that it does not "Force" them but it definitely strongly influences them to do so. I've also payed a full tithe for much of my life and understand how much of a sacrifice that is. Why did I do so? Because I was commanded to do so. It made no sense to me why it was needed and it was always a bit frustrating that I had to pay 10% in order to be in good standing with the church, and that I couldn't pay that same amount to a more worthy cause and be in the same standing.

Basically, what I'm saying is that mormon's are highly pushed to pay tithing. Saying that they can opt not to do so is true. It's not like someone has a physical gun to their head. They just risk being pushed outside of a group that they've grown up in and that the associate nearly completely with. On top of that they're told constantly that an all powerful deity demands such sacrifices and that to not pay them is to deny him. I hesitate to say that the church manipulates people to do so, mainly because I don't think there are any evil men behind that curtains that are trying to get rich off the members.

"That's commandments, that's faith, that's religion."
I agree completely. I think we just disagree as to whether taking things on faith is a skill that helps people understand the world/universe better or hinders them.

Mateo said...

@lamdaddy,
"Mateo, if you haven't read it before, I highly recommend 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. It brings up a lot of things that I had never thought about before that puts forth an argument for morality coming from God. Sure, there are criticisms of his works, but I found that it puts forth a fairly solid argument."

It's been a couple years but I read through that after getting back from my mission. I enjoyed it. I appreciate Lewis' attempt at a logical approach to christianity (even if I found a lot of points that didn't seem to fit correctly to me) I really enjoyed "the Screwtape Letters" and "the Great Divorce" as well. He's got a lot of keen observation into the human psyche. While I don't personally find the idea of a deity very plausible or satisfying many of the claims he makes (especially in the great divorce) have a lot of bearing on overcoming base desires (that are negative in the long run) and the importance of forgiveness and not dwelling on slights against our person in the past. He was definitely a brilliant author, with a keen gift for analogies. :)

crazypoliticos said...

Confessions of an Agnostic


Well we will always be confronted by the condundrum of not tolerating those who are intolerant, or being intolerant of intolerance. There's no way around it. But it is not our intention to avoid a "label". Rather we want to discourage being intolerant when intolerance results in harm.

I don't think liberalism is necessarily more morally vague than religion. Certainly it is possible to be anti-abortion and pro-choice simultaneously, just as Mormons disdain alcholic beverages but are not prohibitionists.

I, like most liberals, would like nothing more than to see an end to abortions. The question is how do we best achieve this goal not should we legislate against it. Legislation is a remedy, but its only ONE remedy.

"Lamdaddy's" opinion notwithstanding, I do not feel freer from my understanding of reproductive rights as a complex issue with many facets and consequences, legal and otherwise. There are no simple answers. This is true for most intractable human problems. And back when "gay bashing" was acceptable I'd argue I had more freedom then I do now after the impostition of hate crime laws by liberals. Now we all have to play nice and behave. So no I don't accept the notion that liberalism allows liberals any more freedom than religion. Having to place "nice" can be quite restraining at times after all.

But yes, free from the chains of fundamentalism; I feel freer toward whatever Diety may exist than I ever did before. Needless to say I think it has led to more honesty in our relationship. I keep nothing from God, not even my defiance.

I, for one, take exception to Elder Oaks assertion that "an atheist has no need to decide what kinds and occasions of profanity or blasphemy can be tolerated and what kinds should be contronted." Just because I don't specifically believe in a specific God out there giving me specific laws to obey doesn't mean that I lack an intuition of moral behavior. In fact I'm publishing a poem with a rock group cd release wherein I state "...and evil and depravity cover the firmament of the earth."

However, if you want me to admit that I'm defiant towards and blaspheme God, let me go one further. Whenever I need to scream at someone for all the injustice and human suffering and my own frustrations I invent God. I even tell this "God" there better be a well armed Celestial Guard because otherwise the least God and I will have is words. But I beg those of you judging me for this statement to consider the possibility that God may value this genuine anger over obseqious and scripted worship.


I do have a book of religious practice I turn to, the Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Lord). I am drawn to the Gita because it is a universal truth with a sublime and non-sectarian approach to worshiping whatever great and awesome force confronts us or created us. To me it addresses the real spiritual challenge that faces human beings as they journey across life's strange landscape. My acceptance of the Gita as an authentic holy text is based on my own observations and thoughts about life. I have an intimate and natural empathy of its truth. That and I hear the gentle voice of the great mother in Kate Bush. (How's that for blaspheme?) So when I die, I'm grabbing a Gita and heading for Kate Bush's universe where I plan to take a long respite. I want to spend at least couple of millenia, maybe longer, floating in the arms of her music. But that's just me personally.

My agnosticism with all of its uncertainty is, for me, the thrilling aspect to this difficult life; that I turn and God is not there with all the pat answers my rational brain craves, that whatever forces the air from my lungs and holds me to this planet remains unexplained and little understood. But I sure hope whatever it is doesn't bring me back here.

Mateo said...

@crazypoliticos,
Thanks for the post. :) There are things stated that there that I can relate to a lot and others less so, but it's well stated none the less. I imagine you may have seen this clip before but it's a pretty fantastic one: Not knowing

Darren said...

"I, like most liberals, would like nothing more than to see an end to abortions."

I needed a good laugh. thanks for helping to fill that need, Mateo. ;>)

Anonymous said...

I truly admire Mitt Romney. He would be a great President and his views match mine 100%.

Unfortunately, he was not able to hide his faith. I wish he was not Mormon. LDS is a cult with bad ideals and customs.

I am going to have to cast my vote and contributions elsewhere.

He should just drop out of the race... This is going to expose this crazy religion.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Mormons are freaks.

Too bad Rick Perry has issues and Cain is on his way to hell.

Congrats Obama!

Mateo said...

@ darren,
""I, like most liberals, would like nothing more than to see an end to abortions."

I needed a good laugh. thanks for helping to fill that need, Mateo. ;>)"

Um... I didn't post that. That was crazypoliticos.

For what it's worth though, I don't know a whole lot of people that like abortions. I meet a lot of people that think it's important to leave that choice as a possibility because they see it as better then the alternative (kids being raised by a parent that does not want them or will mistreat them, or teenage parents that end up throwing away any chance at a decent life) but I really don't think there are many people out there that get warm and fuzzy over the idea of an abortion. At their most extreme they may just not see it as a big deal but most people I meet take it as a pretty serious decision and not something that is decided on lightly. I personally am not a liberal, more a moderate (Feel the government has no place dictating what people should do with their lives but also feel the government wastes a lot of time energy and money in many of the programs that it pushes.)

Anonymous said...

God is not completely anti-abortion. The Book of Numbers 5:11-31 describes a situation in which God Himself, with the aid of a priest, actually performs abortions. But you have to understand what makes this kind of abortion OK. It's not performed to save the life or the sanity of the pregnant woman. It's performed to maintain the purity of the father's bloodline. It's performed for the benefit of the man, not the woman, so it's OK. Such is the morality of the Bible.

-- Eveningsun

Lamdaddy said...

Mateo:

My impression is that you just don't believe in the LDS church so you feel that our tithing is a waste. I, on the other hand, believe that it is necessary to spread the Gospel, so it is important. The church does a lot for humanitarian aid, but it is first and foremost a church.
"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

If you believe in the Church then you believe in spreading it. If you are too selfish or unfaithful to pay tithing, you need to work that out before you can rise to the higher plane of the temple and its blessings. We also believe that God commanded it, and is not some church policy.

Darren said...

Mateo;

My apologies. i read tha line through the email subscription to this post. I don't think I'll be doing that again. It confuses me as to wh oposted what.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

What part of Numbers 5 speaks about killing a fatus/baby?

Anonymous said...

Darren, the section of Numbers 5 that "speaks about killing a fetus" is 11-31. In this section a woman has been suspected by her husband of committing adultery. Here (courtesy the New International Version) is what the priest tells the woman will happen if in fact she is guilty: "May the LORD cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry."

Given that a miscarriage is the early and fatal expulsion of the fetus from the womb, if the Lord makes a woman's womb miscarry, then the Lord has performed an abortion.

This is repeated a bit later in the same section of the Book of Numbers:

"If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry."

The priest makes the woman drink the bitter water, and the result is that her womb miscarries, i.e., expels the fetus. Furthermore, the priest KNOWS that this will be the result.

Guess what? There's a word for knowingly bringing about a miscarriage, and that word is abortion.

So I say again: According to the Bible, God is an abortionist.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"Given that a miscarriage is the early and fatal expulsion of the fetus from the womb, if the Lord makes a woman's womb miscarry, then the Lord has performed an abortion."

In other words, nature took it s course?

and, i don't know, the New international Version may give a "sucky" translation. I read the King James Version of Numbers 5 and as far as I can tell, it doesn't even hint at miscarrying a fetus. And isn't that what you were trying to say originally?

Darren said...

HERE'S a New English Version translation fromn the Septuagint (Greek). Scroll to Numbers 5 and there's no mention of miscarrying. HERE'S a translation from the Vulgate (Latin) of Numbers 5. no mention of miscarrying. And I peeked over at the Latin words, not there neither. Here's some translations for "miscarry":

aborior, aboriri, abortus sum V (4th) DEP 3 4 DEP [XXXCO]
pass away, disappear, be lost; miscarry, be aborted; set (sun/planet/star);

abortio, abortire, -, - V (4th) INTRANS 3 4 INTRANS [DBXFS]
miscarry;

Darren said...

Here's what the New international Version 1984 (a later translation from the original NIV) says in Numbers 5:21:

here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath—“may the Lord cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell

That's along the lines of all the other versions.

/Phew!!!

(What does "thigh to rot" mean anyway? It truly beats me.)

Anonymous said...

So I say again: According to the Bible, God is an abortionist.

It would be a terrible thing if God were to have some say about whether a person lives or dies. Oh, wait...

Anonymous said...

What does "thigh to rot" mean anyway? It truly beats me.

It's a figure of speech, Darren. It's a euphemism for "miscarriage." Some translations use the euphemism, some give it to you straight. Often a Bible that uses the euphemism will contain a textual note indicating that what is being referred to is a miscarriage.

Also, please note that when a miscarriage just happens, that's "Nature taking its course." When someone does something to a woman to make a miscarriage happen, that's an abortion.

Anyway, why should anyone be shocked at the idea that God is an abortionist? Is it such a stretch to think of God killing children? As Anonymous noted just above, God is the arbiter of life and death. Compared to the killings of thousands of Canaanite children and untold numbers in the Flood, what's a few abortions now and then in the Temple in Jerusalem?

The God of the Bible is who he is, and among the many things that he is is a killer of children.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"It would be a terrible thing if God were to have some say about whether a person lives or dies. '

Not terrible at all. But God commanding that fetuses get destroyed to protect "purity"? That would be terrible. Come to think of it, as a Christian, I do not think God would command any such thing. Jesu' own human lineage includes harlots which preserved the Davidic line of descendents. So why would God command man to kill human life because of adultery?

"So I say again: According to the Bible, God is an abortionist.,"

Say it all you want. That won't change the fact that you rely soley on one translation of the Bible which receives no support from any other translation I am aware of. Not only that but I am unaware of any of the most original translations support the New International Version translation of Numbers 5:21.

Darren said...

"It's a figure of speech, Darren. It's a euphemism for "miscarriage.""

It seems more of a general euphamism to "getting ill". Like if I said, "if I'm lying may God strike me ill". again, besides the New International Version translation of Numbers 5:21, what text supports your claim?

"Often a Bible that uses the euphemism will contain a textual note indicating that what is being referred to is a miscarriage.
"

I looked at notes from my own scriptures as well as on Biblios online. Not one mention of miscarriage which I was able to note. I may be wrong but I do not think so.

"Anyway, why should anyone be shocked at the idea that God is an abortionist? Is it such a stretch to think of God killing children?"

At times God allows/commands the destruction of others. Children may be among them. As for the Canaanites, they were to be driven out and any left behind would/should have been killed. Isreal did not do so and thus they guarenteed their own future destruction. But This was an isolated incident which God commanded to kill children (all, including children). Christians and Jews today do not believe in killing children because it was never taught in their scriptures. As I said, it was commanded at least once but it was not taught. It was most assuredly not practiced in Judaic temples.

"The God of the Bible is who he is, and among the many things that he is is a killer of children.
"

I think you're saying that only because you want it to be so.

i could be wrong but I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Darren, you write that you "looked at notes from [your] own scriptures as well as on Biblios online." Well, there's a reason that scholars don't do serious research online. If you're serious about pursuing this, I suggest a visit to a good research library.

You also write, "At times God allows/commands the destruction of others. Children may be among them."

Exactly. So why is it so hard for you to accept the truth of Numbers 5:11-31?

I wrote that "The God of the Bible...is a killer of children" because that statement is so abundantly supported by scripture. I honestly don't understand how you can disagree with it. And as always in discussions like these, I am astounded by your casual justification of God's mass killing of the innocent. I think that sort of thing is wrong, wrong, wrong, and as a result I disbelieve in the God of the Bible.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

and then there are those of us who don't take the scriptures literally in all cases where God is attributed to have commanded some things - especially when those justifications were written long after the fact, probably to show why murder really wasn't murder

In this instance, I agree with Eveningsun, in that I believe God didn't command the killing of children - no matter how much the people at the time might have believed it. "As far as it is translated correctly" doesn't have to apply only to translations subsequent to the initial telling. It can include the initial telling, as well - and, in this case, I believe that the original story was not "translated" (or "transmitted") correctly.

Mateo said...

@lamdaddy,

Yes, I understand what the belief is with tithing. For me, even if the church were true and I knew that to be the case, tithing would be an issue where it's a "do what I'm told because I'm told to do it, not because there seems to be any logical purpose to it."

I mean maybe I'm mistaken but I thought none of the tithing money went to humanitarian aide? I get that the church (or god from your standpoint) has never asked it's members to pay tithing with any intended purpose given for what they do with the money. Members give it because they are commanded to do so, not because there are legitimate explanations given for why these funds are needed. The super vague, "to build up the kingdom of god" may be satisfying to some but it feels to me like a way to avoid answering the question. Obviously it's being spent on something, or just hoarded.

It's totally possible that I'm wrong though. Perhaps there truly is a benevolent, all powerful, and all knowing god that requires that his followers pay 10% of their earnings. It just seems really weird to me, and even weirder that such a deity would not accept it if that same percentage were paid into the humanitarian aide funds or another worthwhile charity organization instead.

Mateo said...

RE: the last bit about whether god causes abortions

I don't see this being that far out of character to other things we see in the old testament. As papa D pointed out this stuff could be somehow mistranslated. It seems hard to say that so much of the old testament could have all been a mistake, IMO.

To me this stuff makes way more sense if we look at it the same way we look at greek mythology. It seems to me like people of this epoch looked at something mysterious like a miscarriage and wondered what happened. As people even today do, the event seemed like it had some sort of supernatural hand that caused it. Some cultures may have suspected witch craft in this one people assumed it was due to a lack of purity and god was punishing the person for it. (BTW, think about how awesome it would be to be a woman that had not done anything wrong to be labeled this way.)

We see similar things in our day and age when women are raped and you have some idiot talking head go on and on about how she was dressed in a provoking manner and while it's a tragedy she may have been partly responsible for what happened. Basically when we see a horrible thing happen to a good person it creates a ton of cognitive dissonance. (They must have done SOMETHING to deserve this) even moreso when the event is of a nature that is difficult to see firsthand (like a miscarraiage.)

While it's a flamboyant way of stating it, if there is a god, and he does watch over things, and if the bible is as it states itself to be... god seems to have caused miscarriages. Even listen to the way people talk when they have a child die (which is admittedly a really horrible thing to experience and fills people with a need for some sort of answer) you'll typically hear that god had "called them home" or that "he had a more important need to have our little one back with him." Isn't that sort of a nice way of saying, he caused our child to die? Calling him an abortionist may be rather crass, but it's not that far fetched is it?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Tithing is an important principle but doesn't get nearly as much emphasis as morality and missionary work--topics which can make all of us uncomfortable, even if we're doing well in those things. But the decision to pay tithing is a private one and plenty of people simply don't pay but keep coming to church. The pressure to pay may be far less than people experience in many other churches, I've been told several times, and reminders to donate far less frequent. That may be one of the advantages of having a clergy with no personal interest in how much is collected.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Eveningsun, I am also troubled by those parts of the Old Testament. I think PapaD's approach has merit. We know major parts of the Old Testament have been changed. Rather than reject the goodness and wisdom of God, why not hold open the possibility that the objectionable content might not really represent Him or accept the possibility that there is something we are missing in that ancient and sometimes corrupted/altered text that would help us understand Him and His ancient dealings with man?

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"I suggest a visit to a good research library."

Nope, not that serious about it. I cannot possibly fit library research into my time of day. I can, however, read books as well as online comments. The information from those sources alone is vast and deep.

"Exactly. So why is it so hard for you to accept the truth of Numbers 5:11-31?"

The only time i know of where God commands the slaughter of children is upon the Isrealites entering and claiming the land of promise. This was not about the purity of a lineage but of theology and law. The isrealites did not as the lord instructed and future generations paid for it with their own destruction. IAs I previously noted, I think a great standard in carrying out disturbing commands from God is to do as Nephi did and become absolteuly certain that thus is the will of the Lord.

When the Lord commands us to do something, He will make available the Holy Spirit for insight and knowledge. This includes a personal confirmation that of the veracity of God's will. I highyly doubt that the Isrealites blindly followed this command from God. I think they, or rather, those who did what they could to carry out the Lord's command did as Nephi and recieved a personal confirmation that the Lord's instruction were correct and to be carried out.

As I said, this is the only time I can think of where such a command was given to the Lord's people by the Lord Himself. It has never been common practice and today neither Christians nor Jews view their religion as one ot enforce by the sword.

What's so disturbing by the account you presented from Numbers is that it seemed both common/normal and you did so in a manner which allowed for abortions to be performed by man for no other sake than to keep one's lineage pure. That's highyl disturbing and I highly question that such is a correct interpretation for Numbers 5. As I posted before, even Christ's human lineage was preserved through harlots. Why, then, would God tell His covenant people to perform an abortion based upon adultery in the name of keeping a lineage pure? Furthermore, as I also noted, you rely on one translation only to declare Numbers 5 as a divine instruction manual to perform said abortions. That sole tranlsation does not conform with any other modern-day, not ancient texts that I'm aware is available to us today.

The Old Testament has definitely been altered and to me it seems most plausible to say that viewing Numbers 5 as an act of abortion is an example of scriptural corruption.

Darren said...

"I wrote that "The God of the Bible...is a killer of children" because that statement is so abundantly supported by scripture. I honestly don't understand how you can disagree with it."

Becaue saying "God is a killer of [fill in the blank]" denotes a very inaccurate character of God. God preserves life. Anyone God says shall die was done so to preserve life. I, for example, do support the death penalty under the law. I do so in part because I view to as upholding the honor of life. I view some crimes against humanity so haneious that only a capital punishment can be a justfiable end result. Anything less in these cases is simply a declaration that the life violated wasn't important enough to usher in the most serious of punishments.

I also support nations going to war to protect ther freedoms. When engaged in war I'm of the mindset to unleash the military. Identify the enemy and destroy them or force them to unconditional surrender. This means that the said nation must kill and/or annihilate the enemy. in so doing, innocents will die. But ias with capital punishment, i view this point of view as honoring life. The more devastated the enemy, the less likely there will be for future conflicts. The more quickly the enemy is "gone", the quicker said armed conflict ends.

I think this is part of God. He forsees and understands all that was, is, and will be. When God instructs His people, i do not see it as strictly a means to prove their faith, though that is an essential part of obeying His commandments. I also think God commands His people to commit acts which will bring blessings both short term and long term. That by not following God's commands, God's peopel only jeopradize many blessing which would be theirs otherwise.

Darren said...

"I think that sort of thing is wrong, wrong, wrong, and as a result I disbelieve in the God of the Bible."

Then the only logical end would be that you are atheist, correct? And it seems to me that you ignore and important part of learning about God: listening to Him directly. As a child of God, Eveningsun, you have a "right" for God to communicate with you directly. Nobody understands all of God's purposes, nor can mortal man possibly expect to in this life. But God's Spirit is real and has a tremendous amount of impact of people's lives. This includes answers to prayer and answers to questions.

Darren said...

Mateo;

"Calling him an abortionist may be rather crass, but it's not that far fetched is it?"

As I asked Eveningsun, if a miscarriage is caused dfirectly by the hand of God then isn't it only nature taking its course? But to say that God did so to preserve purity in someones' lineage igoes against God's nature and thus I think there's something wrong in the translation of Numbers 5.

crazypoliticos said...

Jeff, (Lindsay)your admission regarding the Old Testament has far reaching ramifications. Even if, by fiat, we render the Bible and the Book of Mormon spot on "true", we can never authenticate that. We can't even know for certain whether we can comprehend or see God even. I, personally, am suspicious of any detail which requires that I deny what I know about the world and universe around me. In other words, if God wants to communicate paragraphs to me an ancient book is not going to be enough. Nor is a vague intuition that 'the church and the BOM are true'. If God wants to talk to me, he/she/it/whatever is going to have to show up in person (or whatever) and put on quite a show. Seriously. An ancient affidavit or whatever...who cares...I've seen Notaries commit fraud...no if God wants to talk to me my door is always open. Other than that, any God I surmise will be from what I see in the real world with its eons and billions of stars and planets. We're in space now...we have amazing technology...we're scientifically skeptical and curious...it's up to God to step up to the plate here. Not that I need a miracle. The miracle is existence, perception; that anything at all exists. Modern man has every right to put the ancient God or Gods on trial, and the obligation to respond rests with them. It is up to modern man to declare his independence from this hide and seek game with God. If the God of Mormonism exists I challenge him to step out of the clouds and make himself known. Give us something to think about. You know a heaven wide holographic replay of the Crucifixion would raise some eyebrows and get us to wondering. But even then God would have to prove to modern man that he's not just some more evolved alien species. So knowing when you've run into God is very problematic assuming you even run into God. It is not arrogance that makes us skeptics, its honesty. And to be honest I have no idea what is up with the Universe or what its origin is or anything. I barely know what day it is. So if God wants me to get wrapped up in this whole Resurrection thing he's going to have to explain it to me like I'm six-years-old with a really advanced graphical interface. So, God, here is my 21st Century Challenge: Come and personally tell me the secret to inexhaustible non-polluting cheap energy and get me to the patent office first...and then....if you say you're Mormon...I promise...really I'll join. Oh and it has to be tonight! And bring an energy drink and intelligence booster...I'm going to need both...I as a 21st Century Agnostic invite God to prove scientifically to us all, like you know there's no way you don't get it...who and what he/she or it is. If you fail to respond to this Summons be advised I will request emancipation from the Celestial Courts! This will cost you Angelic hours and overtime...trust me the legal bill will be huge...don't tell me there isn't precedent...that I don't have standing. I'm suing, oh yeah! Bring you before the Celestial Magistrate! Don't make me beg God. Bring the cookies and milk...it will go much easier.

Anonymous said...

OK, so I wrote "I disbelieve in the God of the Bible."

Darren responded, "Then the only logical end would be that you are atheist, correct?"

No, Darren. Not logical. One could disbelieve in the God of the Bible and still believe in some other God. An atheist believes in no God at all.

You asked me, "if a miscarriage is caused directly by the hand of God then isn't it only nature taking its course?"

No, it's not "only" nature taking its course. If you read Numbers 5:11-31 you'll note that part of the abortion ritual involves a priest saying prayers, writing things down in a book, mixing some holy water with dust from the floor of the tabernacle, and then having the suspected woman drink the water. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, simply "nature taking its course." When nature just takes its course, you don't need all the priestly mumbo-jumbo to make something happen, it just happens.

Your faith amazes me, Darren. It truly does. You simply know what God is like, and you know that God can't possibly be the being so clearly depicted in so many part of the Bible, and in order to resolve the conflict between what your faith tells you to be true and what the Bible actually says, you are prepared to say simply that the Bible is mistaken. Darren is right, and if the Bible disagrees with Darren, then the Bible is wrong.

That's fine with me. But then, I happen to think the Bible is a human creation rather than a divine revelation, so of course its wisdom will be mixed with a great deal of folly. What amazes me is when people who say they are members of a Bible-believing religion are so comfortable with tossing so much of it out.

-- Eveningsun

Mateo said...

@ eveningsun and darren,
I don't want this to feel too much like a personal attack against Darren. In his defense his outlook is not that different from the outlook of tons of people out there. What is interesting to me though is that the same person that was earlier saying that morality comes from his religion is so quick to make decisions on whether a scripture is accurate because it does not fit in with behavior he deems moral.

Again, one's moral compass is used to decide if a religion teaches something that is good to follow. It's not derived only from religion (though certainly some moral ideas can and are derived from one's religious upbringing.)

Mateo said...

@crazypolticos,

but... that would take away our free agency... somehow. I think the first rule of being able to believe in organized religion is to agree to never demand anything from it. Or even better yet, to vilify those that do expect proof as weak minded and flawed. Just like the person that requested to feel the holes in Jesus's side to verify that he wasn't being tricked by someone, and was then chastised for his little faith.

I mean let's say that the LDS church turns out to truly be the one way to return to god. Everything they've said about the hereafter turns out to be spot on. In that case, I still don't see why a benevolent, loving, and all knowing god would see it as a negative that people were unable to exercise faith in his existence. It goes against every aspect of how he created them and every aspect of the world that they grew up in to expect them to eschew common sense and assume that there is an observable deity that controls all things and that created all things. Especially one that goes to such great lengths as to thouroughly remove his fingerprints and create such a ridiculously huge stage for his mortal play. On top of this he set things up in a way so that his creations see a very clear trend of belief that phenomenon x is caused by god, and then with further understanding and research they understand, "oh! Phenomenon x has a perfectly reasonable explanation y and isn't so mysterious anymore" they then move on to the next unknown and assume that must be where god is pulling the strings.

I realize there are plenty of curious and questioning folks that are religious. Many people much more brilliant then me are faithful members of any number of religions out there. I just don't get how one can congratulate a person on faith when it really seems like what they've done is agreed to stop trying to look behind the curtain and come up with an explanation that makes sense.

Darren said...

crazypolitics;

"crazypolitics;

"If God wants to talk to me, he/she/it/whatever is going to have to show up in person (or whatever) and put on quite a show"

Then you'll probably never come to know God.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"No, Darren. Not logical. One could disbelieve in the God of the Bible and still believe in some other God. An atheist believes in no God at all."

You're Jewish and yet you believe in a god other than the god of the Bible? Huh? also, recall the reasons you gave for not believing in the god of the Bible. That He's cruel to children and others. Well, what god is there that isn't cruel? And, furthermore, you're quite liberal, abortion is, as one conservative commentator phrased it, the "holy sacrament" of liberalism. I'm not saying that since you're liberal you support abortion but liberals are the champions of abortion, plain and simple. Look at medical stem cell progress. I can show you dozens of medical "miracles" from using adult stem cells to treat people with severe medical conditions. What are the medical results of using embryonic stem cells on people? nothing. No results whatsoever yet for some strange reason liberals continue to disdain those who oppose embryonic stem cell research for moral reasons. In fact, the lates controversy from what's become known as Obamacare is that doctors would be forced to perform abortions, despite moral objections to do so. Yet you think the God of the bible is wrong for requiring abortions? Why reject God and not liberalism for demanding the very thing you say the God ofthe Bible is wrong for demanding? Weird.

"No, it's not "only" nature taking its course. If you read Numbers 5:11-31 you'll note that part of the abortion ritual involves a priest saying prayers, writing things down in a book, mixing some holy water with dust from the floor of the tabernacle, and then having the suspected woman drink the water."

In my statement I was not referring to Numbers 5 for that is, according to you, an abortion and not *directly* by the hand of God. It is done through man.

"You simply know what God is like, and you know that God can't possibly be the being so clearly depicted in so many part of the Bible"

I also "know" that "plain and precious" parts of scriptures were taken from the bible but restored to the earth. God telling His covenant people to abort babies concieved by abortion is way out of character both inthe bible and in restored gospel truths. Furthermore, I pointed out more than once that this is out of character since Jesus' own human lineage was preserved through harlots. Why would God Himself take upon a "tabernacle of clay" through a human lineage if He once said that the manner in which that lineage was preserved was corrupted and thus a baby should be killed in order to preserve the purity of that lineage? Mortal lineage must be pure but not God's? Could you clarify that for me? Please? ¿Por favor?

Also, could you explain why your interpretation is correct when "miscarriage" s found in only one of several biblical translations including the Septuagint and Vulgate: two of the oldest translations we have available?

The ultimate reason I do not accept your interpretation of Numbers 5 is that i do not have any spiritual confirmation that it's true. From when I first read your declaration that God demanded abortions to this very moment, i've only have confusion in my heart and mind. Spiritual confirmations are the opposite. They are peacful and contentful in one' heart and mind. It "makes sense" even when one cannot fully explain it verbally. Without this confirmation, I cannt accept it.

Darren said...

Evengingsun;

"and in order to resolve the conflict between what your faith tells you to be true and what the Bible actually says"

No, it's in order to accept what you say is the correct way to interpret the Bible. And your solution is to simpy reject God. So, why is that better? Rejecting God outright than to reject a translation of God's word? Even you have said you think the Bible's been corrupted; yet you reject God; without determining what parts of the bible may have been corrupted and somehow you don't get my methodology?

"happen to think the Bible is a human creation rather than a divine revelation, so of course its wisdom will be mixed with a great deal of folly"

Exactly, then why reject God because of man's folly? Now, if you believe in God, the Judeo-Christian God, then you do not reject "the God ofthe Bible" but only man's iincorrect translation and interpretation of the Bible.

Gee, doesn't that sound familiar?

Darren said...

Mateo;

"What is interesting to me though is that the same person that was earlier saying that morality comes from his religion is so quick to make decisions on whether a scripture is accurate because it does not fit in with behavior he deems moral.'

While that's somewhat true, I do believe I said that morality comes from God; and even then I not say that so explicitly. I said that if God says something then it's morally OK to do it.

But what if the written record isn't what God said?

All of what I've said is not only according to my religion and the Word but according to what I think the Spirit dictates to me. The spirit is my desired guide to morality and to divine truth.

What's yours?

Mateo said...

"Then you'll probably never come to know god"

Or, the idea of what god is (or if one exists) is flawed. Were that the case the results we see right now would seem to be the same, would they not?

Mateo said...

@darren,
Where do I take my morals from? As is the case with nearly anyone I've ever met I take them from the way I was raised and the culture I was raised in. There are some aspects that I think are more or less ingrained in me on a biological level. Is that somehow a worse way to derive one's morality then the presumed words of ancient mankind as it spoke with (what it claims it was) a deity? It's just sort of odd that people tend to have similar morals as the people that raised them throughout the world and the different cultures if morality is something that is derived from religion. There are just as many good reasons to treat people compassionately from the standpoint of an atheist as there is from the standpoint of a any other philosophy about the universe and it's purpose.

I think human morality stems, primarily, from the human ability to reason and relate to the situations of others around us. That and our strong need to form cohesive and safe groups which better our chances at survival and enrich our lives in any number of ways. To me it makes a lot more sense to be faithful to one's wife out of love and compassion for her and a desire to make her as happy as she makes me then it does to stay faithful for fear of what a deity would think of my infidelity. I would hope that most christians would agree.

TL;DR version- if the only reason people treat each other with compassion and love is due to fear of what an all powerful all knowing deity will do, or the promises he has made of a heavenly reward in the hereafter... I think we're in a sad state of affairs. Thankfully, it seems rather doubtful that this is the case and I have hope that as societies tend to eschew supernatural explanations in our lives they will continue to hold many of the same moral ideas in tact, as most ideas that are often attributed to being an edict from god are simply good sensible ways to treat one another and carry out a functional happy society.

Mateo said...

Also, is a person truly deriving their morals from religion (or god) when they insist on maintaining veto rights on any passage that they find objectionable? Also by what basis are they finding that thing objectionable?

It seems that stating that absolute morality applies and comes from god only works with a rather generous number of caveats and loopholes to keep such a statement valid.

Also, if we're going to say, "well this part was translated incorrectly so it doesn't apply" can't that be said about other passages of scripture? You have the teachings of the prophets but even those are up to the same type of scrutiny and what is at one point preached as though it was passed down from on high, in several years it may be seen to have merely been the prophet's "opinion" on the matter and not doctrinal.

It would seem that religion would be a poor place to receive "word of the law" sorts of ways to live one's life. I think it has plenty of great "spirit of the law" sorts of moral ideas though. Even if none of them are all that unique to the LDS church.

Mateo said...

"Exactly, then why reject God because of man's folly? Now, if you believe in God, the Judeo-Christian God, then you do not reject "the God ofthe Bible" but only man's iincorrect translation and interpretation of the Bible. "

While I can't speak for Eveningsun I took what he wrote to mean that he does not believe in the god that is described in the bible. Whether that's because said being does not exist or because the bible is a horribly inaccurate description of him remains to be seen but it seems highly possible to me that a person could label their beliefs as "jewish" and eschew the the apparent definition of god that's given forth in the bible. Getting into whether the god he believes in and you believe in seems like an area of semantics to me, yet I can see why he would go to lengths to explain himself. Nobody wants to swear fealty to a god that seems (by some definitions and scriptural passages) to be somewhat of an uncaring, egotistical brute.

Darren said...

"Where do I take my morals from? As is the case with nearly anyone I've ever met I take them from the way I was raised and the culture I was raised in. "

No doubt that has a significant impact on one's morals. But in terms of learning divine truth, what role does the Holy Spirit have into your life?

"It's just sort of odd that people tend to have similar morals as the people that raised them throughout the world and the different cultures if morality is something that is derived from religion."

While there are "universal" morals, this is hardly uniform. (If that's not an oxy-moron). While our society places value on individual freedom, others do not. Other countries place value of collective freedom and in some societies, many openly advocate violence against those who disagree with their morals. The differences can be explained by one's interpretation of religion. In the first example, our society, we see a blend of enlightenment (in which I see the hand of Provinence) and Christianity. In the second example you see a blend of religion and strong secularism. In the last example you see the strict interpretation of religon in governmental law.

"There are just as many good reasons to treat people compassionately from the standpoint of an atheist as there is from the standpoint of a any other philosophy about the universe and it's purpose."

Again, this can all be traced back to religion. How religion taught God's will. Somehow, someway, an atheist's sense of right and wrong traces back to religion. What society was founded on atheism? Even China's official delcaration of being atheist (and China has by far the highest number of mass murders in the word by the very people who declared it atheistic) came centures after not beng atheistic.

"I think human morality stems, primarily, from the human ability to reason and relate to the situations of others around us."

Like, "I need money and so it's not bad to steal five bucks from my neighbor who is rich"?

"To me it makes a lot more sense to be faithful to one's wife out of love and compassion for her and a desire to make her as happy as she makes me then it does to stay faithful for fear of what a deity would think of my infidelity."

Again, you'd make a good Mormon. Though Mormonism hardly destresses the condemnation of infidelity, in Mormonism, your spouse is key to exatation. Treat him or her well.

"TL;DR version- if the only reason people treat each other with compassion and love is due to fear of what an all powerful all knowing deity will do, or the promises he has made of a heavenly reward in the hereafter... "

That seems like Evangelicism which I do not agree to.

"I think we're in a sad state of affairs.'

I agree.

"Also, is a person truly deriving their morals from religion (or god) when they insist on maintaining veto rights on any passage that they find objectionable?"

When there is no confirmation of the holy Spirit? I think that answers itself. In terms of personal authority to interpret scripture for all? I have none, nor do i believe I ever hinted at my thinking I had any.

"Also by what basis are they finding that thing objectionable?"

If that were the case then I'd outright reject scripture telling the isrealites to slaughter children; but I do not. Although I cannot explain it, I do believe that was a legtimiate translation to the original word. But, frankly, I'd be a bit relieved if it weren't. Likewise, I could be wrong about Numbers 5 though I've explained more than once that it is not sbecause I simply disagree with it. I think the NIV translation not being supported by any other translation and the fact that the stated purpose of aborting babies by Gods command in order to preserve putiry does not conform to Jesus' human lineage being preserved in part by whoredoms are perfectly reasonable reasons of doubt.

Darren said...

"While I can't speak for Eveningsun I took what he wrote to mean that he does not believe in the god that is described in the bible."

I too left that possiblity out there. I said, "Now, if you believe in God, the Judeo-Christian God, then you do not reject "the God ofthe Bible" but only man's iincorrect translation and interpretation of the Bible." If he didn't mean what he wrote than it's just a case of poorly writing what he meant. I'm guilt of that as well on the blogoshpere.

'but it seems highly possible to me that a person could label their beliefs as "jewish" and eschew the the apparent definition of god that's given forth in the bible"

True, but then the person would be ethnically Jewish, not theologically.

"Nobody wants to swear fealty to a god that seems (by some definitions and scriptural passages) to be somewhat of an uncaring, egotistical brute."

Huh? You said that atheism is better than pronouncing hellfire and damnation (and there's some common ground here between you and me). Well, don't many people people swear fielty to such a cruel God as you described? And I don't swear fielty to a cruel God. Well, I don't "swear fielty' at all to any god but I do promise to keep God's commandments every Sunday when partaking the sacrament.

Anonymous said...

True, but then the person would be ethnically Jewish, not theologically.

Actually, Darren, my beliefs about God and the Bible really do fall within the range of Jewish theology. And frankly I don't think the question of my Jewishness is for you to judge, no more than it's up to Rick Perry to say whether you're a Christian. If ever someone says you're not a Christian because you're a Mormon, please remember how easy you found it to say that I am not a Jew.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"And frankly I don't think the question of my Jewishness is for you to judge, no more than it's up to Rick Perry to say whether you're a Christian."

You're correct in that I cannot judge your Jewishness in many aspects but what about what you said publicly regarding your own personal theology? ""I disbelieve in the God of the Bible."" That falls "within the range of Jewish theology"? Really? Do tell.

And I was not judging Judaism, I was judging you in how you mearuse up to Jewdaism theologically. If I'm in err, I sdo aopologize and will withdrawl my statement to Mateo. But I am now very curious how you "disbelieve in the God of the Bible", which is the Judeo God, in part because of Numbers where you say God commanded abortions and in part because God told the Isrealites, led by moses, to slaughter the Canaanites (those who remained after being driven out), falls "within the range of Jewish theology".

I'm very curious.

Anonymous said...

Darren, you write that you are "now very curious" about how I can disbelieve in the God of the Bible and yet still claim to be "within the range of Jewish theology."

I welcome your curiosity.

There are many, many Jews like me who think of the Jewish scriptures as basically the literary and legal record of human beings trying to come to grips with the Big Questions of morality, justice, history, divinity, etc. These scriptures are "divine" only in the sense that they are concerned with questions traditionally answered by religion, and in the sense that, in attempting to answer those questions, they rely on the existence of a particularly Jewish deity.

But in terms of who wrote them, these scriptures are 100 percent human products. This is made abundantly clear by the last century of Bible scholarship. (For a good overview of that scholarship, and a good look at just how human the Bible really is, I would recommend Richard Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible?)

Anyway, while the Big Questions are pretty much universal, the Hebrew scriptures get at them in ways that are specifically Jewish. Even though I reject many of the things those scriptures attribute to God, I remain Jewish in the sense that I have been profoundly shaped by (and I'm still grappling with) the very same questions originally raised by the Hebrew scriptures.

-- Eveningsun

Mateo said...

Ugh. Sorry. I feel like I've hijacked this thread a bit. I have a bad habit of writing way too much. Will try to keep it brief.

"... but in terms of divine truth what role does the Holy Spirit have in your life?"

It doesn't. Nor would I need it too. First off I don't believe in "divine" truth especially when it comes to an idea of universal morality. The more simlar two people are the more likely it is that they will have coinciding ideas of "right and "wrong" but that's not because there is any universal truth that things have to adhere to (as I see it). It's immoral to do act X based on a lot of rules that we apply to very specific scenarios. What exactly do you see as a universal moral rule? Can you provide an example? I mean to me the ones I typically see people state are things like, "don't kill, don't hurt innocent people, don't steal" Those are all ideas that make perfect sense outside of the context of "because god has commanded us to do so" They have rational and logical reasons for being followed.

In the following paragraph you seem to be alluding to cultural differences existing due to how cloesly or loosely a country is following the "correct" morals. Maybe I'm wrong there, but that's how I took it.

You continue to make the claim that the ideas of morality had to have stemmed from religion. Why? When we encounter aboriginal tribes that are cut off from all other types of society we see several moral similarities in them. Not because they have a similar religion, or had that sort of foundational upbringing or because there are some sorts of moral rules being beamed into them by god. We see it because many fundamental moral rules simply work in societies. They help them function smoothly. Why do we find that nearly all societies establish heirarchies? Is it because we gained this from religion as well or is it because such structures allow for order and stop things from being a violent never ending blood bath of anarchy and chaos? Societies that can't work cohesively as a group cease to exist. Moral codes, as many refer to them, are needed pieces of the societal machinery. There are a number of variations of minor moral ideas that still function (or in some cases may be superfluous but exist for other reasons) so the moral landscape of all societies is not equal even if many of the large cogs are the same.

"again this can all be tracked back to religion... "

you keep saying this but what are you basing that off of? The hypothesis that people have morals due to religion is a claim that is not substantiated. You can state,
"well almost all cultures have religion" but those various religions teach a wide range of different things. We also have no way of knowing about whether these things are correlated or causal in their relationship.

"Somehow, someway, an atheist's sense of right and wrong traces back to religion."

Well, did you know that, actually god does not exist and that somehow, someway religion just stated taking credit for human ideas on right and wrong and claiming that it created them? Pretending that our unsupported claims are facts is lots of fun, no? ;)

"Like, "I need money and so it's not bad to steal five bucks from my neighbor who is rich"?"

Mateo said...

Do you need religion to say that stealing from others is wrong? For me personally I don't believe there is anything wrong about stealing from any sort of eternal perspective. The universe really doesn't care whether you're honest or not as it is not a sentient being. I don't believe it was created by a personage that cares about this either as I see no evidence for one. That being said I DO see good reasons for not stealing. First and foremost, I've had things stolen from me and it sucks. It sucks really really badly. I don't wish to but another person through that same thing. In order to not have my stuff stolen I think it's important to contribute to a society where such actions are deeply frowned upon or punished. I don't steal also becuase the fleeting reward of gaining a material possession is not worth the risk of getting caught and punished, nor is it worth (as previously stated) the personal discomfort of knowing that I cheated the rules or caused potential hardship to another by cheating. If you'd like to say that me feeling bad about cheating the system comes from god then you're welcome to that idea. Keep in mind that I also feel guilty and "bad" if I run a stop light when nobody is around. Why? It's an arbitrary rule that was definitely created by man. Yet I feel "naughty" if I do such a thing even though it may make sense or be needed (I'm on my bike it's the dead of night and my bike is not metallic enough to set off the ground sensor so I'd be waiting there all night otherwise) It's not just the fear of getting caught. Humans are pretty quick to obey rules even if they are rather silly ones. I believe that much of the same mechanisms are at work in the social rules that people label as their "morality".

Furthermore I find it very hard to swallow that the reason people don't steal and treat each other horribly is due to religious upbringing (no matter how many times removed).

I think there are plenty of logical reasons for being moral and most of them pertain to having a wide scope view of what actions one takes and their consequences. Would spending my entire paycheck on hookers and cocaine supply me with immediate satisfaction? I would imagine so. Being able to think further ahead though I would see that as a bad move for lots and lots of reasons. It would be a huge potential downgrade for my quality of life in the long run. Even if there is no deity that cares about my choices I still feel a VERY strong reason to stay away from such vices and poor decisions because they are things that would be detrimental to the type of life I want to live and the types of things that bring me the most satisfaction in life.

"If that were the case then I'd outright reject scripture telling the isrealites to slaughter children; but I do not. Although I cannot explain it, I do believe that was a legtimiate translation to the original word. But, frankly, I'd be a bit relieved if it weren't."

Could you expound a bit more here. I'm interested to see where you were going there. Do you see this as a "for the greater good, sort of thing?" Would you agree with it as a sound decision if it's originator was anyone other than a deity?

Mateo said...

Lol. So much for being brief. Again, sorry if this is all way off topic.

Mateo said...

"Well, I don't "swear fielty' at all to any god but I do promise to keep God's commandments every Sunday when partaking the sacrament."

:) Um... since you were quoting me I'm assuming we're talking about the word "Fealty" that means (according to dictionary.com) "the obligation or the engagement to be faithful to a lord, usually sworn to by a vassal. " So you don't swear fealty to god but you promise to do what he tells you to... that seems like a contradictory statement to me.

I'm taking a guess that you're stating that it's not blind faith that you follow and you don't do things JUST because god commands it but you weigh it out and decide whether it's right or not. Is that what you meant or am I way off there?

Mateo said...

Eveningsun,
Admittedly I'm rather fuzzy on many jewish beliefs. I've heard before that it's not totally uncommon to come across those of Jewish faith that have serious doubts as to the existence of god. Is there any merit in that statement or is that way off?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Eveningsun, Who Wrote the Bible? is a fascinating read. I can't agree with all of his points, but he does provide some solid evidence for the kind of human influence or corruption of some parts of the text that requires caution in dealing with the Old Testament. Any text that has gone through human hands can have such problems, which is why people should not look to any text that has been written, edited, translated, and printed by humans as the inerrant source of all truth, but rather look to God as that Source. Even if the Bible were free of errors and changes from men, to elevate it to the level that some people do verges on idolatry: it is the true and living God we must look to, and for us, that also speaks to being open to His ongoing revelations. We know so little and our knowledge is so incomplete, but we look forward to gradually learning more through that process.

Anonymous said...

Mateo, you ask about "those of Jewish faith that have serious doubts as to the existence of god. Is there any merit in that statement or is that way off?"

There are plenty of Jewish skeptics. Spinoza was probaably the first (so I feel I'm in excellent company).

Jeff, from my perspective, the Hebrew Bible is a collection of myths, stories, and poems (plus some legal codes). It's a human creation through and through, so it would never even occur to me to refer to the "human influence or corruption" of the Bible, no more than I would speak of the "human influence or corruption" of Huckleberry Finn. There's no need to explain why such texts deviate from realism or empirical fact; they're fiction! They express truth in a literary rather than an expository mode. (And I think one misses an awful lot when one reads literature as if it were exposition.)

Think about it. Would Hamlet be any less of a play if Hamlet never existed in history? Is Huckleberry Finn a greater novel because the Mississippi River really does exist? Would The Odyssey be any less inspiring and wise if it could be proved there was never a historical Odysseus?

Of course not, and to think otherwise would be kinda...well, it would be to miss the point, in exactly the same way so many religious readers miss the point of the Bible.

Anyway, it should be obvious that I agree with you that one shouldn't look to the Bible "as the inerrant source of all truth." Where I disagree is that you believe in personal revelation as an alternative and I don't. But let that be.

Also, if you enjoyed Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible? I would recommend Robert Alter's The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. The translation and notes are those of an excellent literary critic with no particular theological axe to grind, and you might find them quite interesting.

-- Eveningsun

Mateo said...

@ Eveningsun,
That's an approach to scripture that I can definitely get behind. :) I especially enjoyed that bit about whether the worth of Huck Finn is diminished by knowing that he didn't actually exist.

Darren said...

"Think about it. Would Hamlet be any less of a play if Hamlet never existed in history? Is Huckleberry Finn a greater novel because the Mississippi River really does exist? Would The Odyssey be any less inspiring and wise if it could be proved there was never a historical Odysseus?"

But those are works of fiction intended on being fiction but with a "moral of the story". The Bible is far more than just "a moral of the story", it's a guidline to God. It teaches us God's character and purpose. If it turns out that there was no Moses, no Mount Sainai event, no covenant made to Abraham, etc. these would have grave ramifications. Unlike the works you cited, if the bible were mere literature, based on nothing but the human imagination, than lives would be impacted in profound ways.

Now, I do thank you very much for your explanation regarding your faith in God as wel as you Jewish faith's view of God and the Bible. I do enjoy learning about other's beliefs. After rreading it I am now curious to ask, wasn't my argument very similar? That your interpretation of Numbers 5 a authentic and its translation was poor and thus I do not belive in your interpretation?

Darren said...

"I agree with you that one shouldn't look to the Bible "as the inerrant source of all truth.""

Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

wasn't my argument very similar? That your interpretation of Numbers 5 a authentic and its translation was poor and thus I do not belive in your interpretation?

I see Numbers 5:11 not as literature but as part of an ancient Israelite legal code. It gives us a fascinating insight into the morality of its time and place, but not much of a guide to how we should conduct ourselves today.

I see no reason to believe the passage has been corrupted or poorly translated.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

But those are works of fiction intended on being fiction...

How do you know that the stories in the Hebrew Bible are not works of fiction that are intended to be fiction? Fiction is one of our most powerful ways of conveying truth, so why is it so unthinkable that it would be used in the Bible?

Parables are fictional stories, and Jesus used them. If Jesus told his followers fictional stories in order to get his messages across, then why couldn't Yahweh have done the same in the collection of stories we call the Old Testament?

Why can't the story of Adam and Eve be a story in the same way that the Parable of the Prodigal Son is a story?

-- Eveningsun

Mateo said...

" if the bible were mere literature, based on nothing but the human imagination, than lives would be impacted in profound ways."

How so? People would still go on believing that it was true and acting the way they do based on that idea. If it turned out that it was all a story then there would be a collective, "d'oh!" in the afterlife (or if there is not afterlife they would be none the wiser)as people realized that what they had thought a truth was a story but their actions during life have not changed.

crazypoliticos said...

Be that as it may Darren, I can not compromise because whatever Diety that may exist would expect nothing less of me than sticking to my guns. This standard protects both my spirituality and my sanity. A 2000 plus year old written history does not satisfy the burden of "extra-ordinary proof" required by an extraordinary claim such as the raising of Lazarus or the Resurrection. The God that gifted me with "reason" cannot expect me to abandon it in the name of faith. I dare say if God meets either of us Darren he'll more likely visit me. Don't burn yourself green with envy though, I don't think God will be paying me a visit anytime soon. And no my goading experiment did not produce God at my doorstep, but then that is totally consistent with the universe I know and love.

Darren said...

"A 2000 plus year old written history does not satisfy the burden of "extra-ordinary proof" required by an extraordinary claim such as the raising of Lazarus or the Resurrection. The God that gifted me with "reason" cannot expect me to abandon it in the name of faith."

I find miracles more as a reward for the faithful as oppose to "proof" of divinity.

Darren said...

Mateo;

If Jesus' sacrifice for us and His resurrection are mere stories then there's no reason to follow him. But they are real and the reason there is a "universal" sense of morality than it is because all humans carry within them a portion of God's spirit. To make sparticular choices though, that may require more than a superficial sense of morality. It may require soul searching. The Judeo-Christian God is the best source when it comes to deciding onmorality. That's becuase He is real; not an imagination.

"People would still go on believing that it was true and acting the way they do based on that idea. If it turned out that it was all a story then there would be a collective, "d'oh!" in the afterlife (or if there is not afterlife they would be none the wiser)as people realized that what they had thought a truth was a story but their actions during life have not changed."

If it were fiction then I sure wouldn't strive to follow it. If you recall Packham, in his own words, after he rejected mormonism he no longer thought it necessary to forbid himself from life's pleasure of coffee and wine. There is a direct affect in how one views God and the choices they make.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Parables were written with the intent to be fiction. They are realistic fiction in that they may use real historical characters bt in fictional events in order to tell teach a specific moral. Not all scripture is parable though.

You example of the creation with Adam and Eve is a prime example. If that were fiction then I would no longer view you as my spiritual brother. I would no longer view life with a divine purpose. I would view morals as much more relative than absolute. Furthermore, if Christ did not really die for me then I either have no need for personal repentance (and become a better person) or not have a hope for personasl repentance because, in the end, what's the use? If Christ's resurrection was "just a nice story" then when the reality of the "chains odf death" ensnare me, then I'd have no hope of overcoming it. Especially not in the manner I do now: with a perfect, immortal body and a sould redeemed from the stain of sin through the blood of the Lamb of God.

And if you think that the priests of antiquity performed abortions as a egal system and did so in the name of God then logically you view them as erroneously acting in God's name. If this is so, and with no mention of God rebuking thwem for their grave error then abortion would be OK. This would render my Christian faith as well (as my Conservative political points of view) null and void. So, yes, the impact would be huge and world wide if your interpretation of Numbers 5 is valid.

I recently shared your viewpoint on a blog site I most frequent and when I can I'd like to share the feedback.

Mateo said...

Darren,
What I'm saying is that if you die and Jesus turns out to be as much of a myth as Zeus is, it would not change the life you lived or any of the fulfillment you got out of reading scripture and following his teachings, nor would it diminish any good deeds that the story inspired you to do. What I'm saying is that if this were the case (and people had the same beliefs as they currently do) what you and I are observing in our lives would be exactly the same.

Mateo said...

"The Judeo-Christian God is the best source when it comes to deciding onmorality. That's becuase He is real; not an imagination."

How so? On what basis? You're making a statement here (and wording it as fact) that any person that does not see it that way is incapable of verifying.

Mateo said...

"If it were fiction then I sure wouldn't strive to follow it. If you recall Packham, in his own words, after he rejected mormonism he no longer thought it necessary to forbid himself from life's pleasure of coffee and wine. There is a direct affect in how one views God and the choices they make."

Yes but if it were fiction you still wouldn't know that. Just like if Islam turns out to be the one way to follow god's actual teachings neither of us would know that it is.

I doubt that's something you can admit to, but whether the LDS church is true or false, the things it teaches and the way it influences lives would most likely stay the same. I mean from your point of view the catholic church is not lead by god. Does that stop it's members from deriving all sort of satisfaction from that religion just because the faith they are following is false? If your religious outlook is true does that mean that the positive aspects that a person that follows scientology derives from their worldview are any different?

As Eveningsun already explained quite eloquently, there is TONS of meaning that is derived from literature that may not be factual. If a future race were to come across the book "Huck Finn" and mistake it for non-fiction they would still be most likely deriving the same sorts of meanings they would if they knew it was fictional. Fiction can be immensely important. As previously stated the parables are used constantly in the scriptures and don't refer to factual events yet still have a profound effect on shaping human behavior.

In regards to Coffee and wine... I'm not sure what you're trying to point out here. If I write a fictional parable about the dangers of alcohol and a true account of consumption of alcohol it would depend on what sort of appeal is being made. If the reason for not drinking wine is because "god does not want me to" and there are no other reasons, then coming to the conclusion that "god may not exist" has effectively eliminated the only thing that was deterring you. If however the reasoning is "god reminds us of the dangers of liver damage, or alcoholism" and we were to stop believing that such a deity actually exists it doesn't diminish the other points and that person may continue to abstain.

If all you're trying to say is this: that if a person were to read the bible knowing before hand that it was all made up vs a person that reads it and goes into it believing it's all real stuff will interpret and apply it differently. That is a statement that I would agree with.

Is that what you're trying to state?

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

After psharing your take on Numbers 5 on the blog I most frequent, here's the responses I have received thus far.

From mharper (an atheist):

The administration of a bitter liquid does seem like it could be an attempt to induce a miscarriage, and the term for such drugs is abortifacient.

I liked this response and I think it somewhat strikes a blow to your interpretation that Numbers 5 represents a legal procedure and to the end thereof, again, according to your view. If Numbers 5 recorded a legal procedure to perform an abortion, why not use a legal term to induce an abortion? Why "bitter water" and not "abortion drug"? This is especially true if the Latin Christians of the West viewed Numbers 5 as a nabortion procedure. My knowledge of Latin is based on looking up specific words and comparing it to Spanish and Portuguese, both of which I speak and write. As you know, I have already looked up "miscarriage" in latin and one word it translates to is "abortio". Years ago I looked up the infinitive "to do/to make" in Latin and it's "facere". So, "abortifacient" would break down to "aborti" from "abortio" and "facient" from "Facere". So the word "abortifacient" would literally mean a thing that makes an abortion. I do not recall seeing any such term in the Vulgate Bible. So this weakens the argument that Numbers 5 is a *legal* procedure to perfom an abortion.

Tedtam, a practicing Catholic, wrote:

I agree. “Thigh to rot” to me sounds pretty much like cursing the woman with a disease that wastes away flesh. Rotting thighs would make her pretty much undesirable to a man.

Since Tedtam can get a bit crass at times I won't post the entirety of what she said here but you get the picture. "Thigh to rot" cannot be seen exclusively to mean "abortion" or even " miscarriage". Truth is, I cannot find any single definiton for it. Tedtam sees that term as a striking disease to "punish" a sinner. My wife pointed out that in the Old Testament, diseases, especially communicable diseases, were dreaded. Anyone who recieved on would be separated fromthe masses. Thus from this point of view I began to wonder if Numbers 5was more symbolic rather than literal.

Bonecrusher, a devout "Isrealite Adventist" as I call him (he's one who believes in the Old and New Testaments but views The Law as never being put away and thus needs to be followed. he believes very much in Jesus Christ and awaits for his return) said:

The bitter cup: This concept is used frequently in Scripture. Messiah referred to the cup HE was about to drink from and asked if others could drink from it as well, which they could not.

That's the part of his reply I really liked. I had not previously noted the parallels between Numbers 5 terminology and that of the New Testament. Furthermore, drinking "the bitter cup" applies deeply to Mormon theology. (See 3 Nephi 11:11; D&C 18:19; Alma 40:26).

So, again, were these events in Numbers 5 literal or symbolic? I still view them as literal, though not inthe same lense as you, but would not be surprised if these events were only symbolic. Either way, they are NOT to perfom an abortion.

Darren said...

"Yes but if it were fiction you still wouldn't know that."

Not all the time, no, i don't think I would. But the Spirit of Truth would be different. I do not get spiritual promtings in the same manner awith fiction as I do with literal events. Thats why at times I wonder, "did thast really happen?" If Christ's sacrifice and resurrection were mere fiction then there is no real hope in life. We will all eventually "drink the bitter cup" and die physically and spiritually were it not for the Christ.

"Just like if Islam turns out to be the one way to follow god's actual teachings neither of us would know that it is."

Oh, I know what the way is and so by default I know it's not Islam.

"I mean from your point of view the catholic church is not lead by god."

Her's this: We believe all things, we fhope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to gendure all things. If there is anything hvirtuous, ilovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things. (Article of Faith #12; second half). Combine that with the Book of Mormon teaching that if something is good then it comes from God and thus I think the Catholic Church is very much lead by God Islam too). But I do not think either have the fulness of the gospel.

"Does that stop it's members from deriving all sort of satisfaction from that religion just because the faith they are following is false?"

They absolutely exerience satisfactory things from their respective religions. and they should for both Islam and Catholicism offers much good to the world. As for "the faith they are following is false", again, I say that only by default. I've no desire whatsoever torun around denouncing other faiths as false. I focus on the commonality betwen religions.

"As previously stated the parables are used constantly in the scriptures and don't refer to factual events yet still have a profound effect on shaping human behavior."

Correct, they do. That's because biblical parables focused on teaching morals which not only are real but based on real eternal principles. From where do these eternal principles derive? Genetics? That doesn't even begin to make sense; especially if genetics wre not made by any divine being.

"In regards to Coffee and wine... I'm not sure what you're trying to point out here."

Packham did not drink coffee or wine for 25 years because of his Mormon upbrining. After he decided to denounce the LDS Church as good but man-made (sound familiar?) he decided there was no longer any reason to continue to abstain from the pleasures hot bean juice or refreshing fermented grape juice. "Pleasures" (or perhaps it was the singular form) is the word he used. Once he decided the LDS Church was good but "ficton", he changed his behavior.

"If the reason for not drinking wine is because "god does not want me to" and there are no other reasons, then coming to the conclusion that "god may not exist" has effectively eliminated the only thing that was deterring you."

BINGO!!! Changing ones view of God does affect one's view of life. Ones view about God directly affects one's choices. This includes abortions, defining a "family", upkeep of one's body, how one treats others, etc.

Darren said...

"If however the reasoning is "god reminds us of the dangers of liver damage, or alcoholism" and we were to stop believing that such a deity actually exists it doesn't diminish the other points and that person may continue to abstain. "

In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told that God promises man better physical and spiritual health for following the Word of Wisdom. That includes not consuming alcohol or tobacoo "for the belly". Packham (I assume) knew this and he also knows (I assume) the medical dangers of alcohol and yet very soon after he decided there was no God, he chose to consume wine "for [his] belly".

"If all you're trying to say is this: that if a person were to read the bible knowing before hand that it was all made up vs a person that reads it and goes into it believing it's all real stuff will interpret and apply it differently. That is a statement that I would agree with."

I'm glad you agree. I also say that their interpretation will have a direct affect ontheir choices though ultimately it's still ther choice to make. God, who is real, will not force His will against one's own free will, which is also real.

Darren said...

Oops, that would be Article of Faith #12; not 12.

Darren said...

Double oops: That would be Article of Faith #13, not 12.

Mateo said...

Daren,
It would seem that we have very different definitions of truth and knowledge. What is frustrating to me is that I get the sense that you have different definitions of knowledge depending on the scenario. I have a feeling that if the two of us were talking and a person claimed to know that the world was going to end next spring, that we would both be applying the same critical thinking skills and noticing the ways that his claimed knowledge has potential pitfalls.

Yet when it comes to something that you have fervent belief in then those critical analysis tools are hucked out the window and not applied toward many of the points.

If I ask you HOW you KNOW that the LDS church is true then you are not able to supply methods for this "knowledge" that would be remotely satisfying in ascertaining truth in other scenarios. You would not see them as valid truth finding techniques when it's a person saying, "I know that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. I read the Book of Mormon and a feeling of dark confusion came over me. I prayed and asked if it was true and I feel a certainty that comes from god telling me that it is false, that it was written by a false prophet" Even though his truth finding toolset in that scenario is the same as the one that you're using.

I occasionally came across scenarios on my mission where I'd speak to someone and they'd tell me they did not believe in god or were highly skeptical of his existence. Trying to preach the gospel to people like that always turned out to be rather fruitless as I didn't have an "in" with them as I did with those that believed. If a person was raised without a belief in the supernatural or has developed a critical eye in the way they address it, the types of "evidence" I was there to present as a missionary are seen as rather pointless statements. I'd often have to resort to statements of "well I know that the church is true" which was more of a way to shut down criticism then anything else, because there was no way I could logically counter anything he was pointing out. The truth was I COULD be wrong, my feelings, COULD have been influenced by any number of things. Was it the spirit or was it me feeling empathy or finding meaning or joy in something? There really ARE lots of other plausible examples for why people believe what they believe other then that the thing must be true. It's definitely possible that the reason they experience what they experience is because the thing is true. It's not certain though.

Mateo said...

It could be possible that scientologists are correct in their viewpoints. That somehow, despite how crazy it all seems and how much it seems like L Ron Hubbard was making it all up to take advantage of others or appeared self delusional, that aliens were actually beaming that information into his head with some advanced techonology that we don't understand (sound crazy? Just think of it like prayer! Sure we don't understand how that would be possible now, but someday maybe we can.;) and that most of it is accurate. It's possible, but it's EXTREMELY improbable. So improbable that I have no issue dismissing it. His claims are less likely to me then any number of others that I also don't see as plausible enough to follow. Basically as human beings we seem to have no way of gaining absolute certainty of something. We instead have a shifting scale of things that we are close to understanding as they really are on one end, and things that we understand very little of on the other. We have arbitrary markers of "things beyond this point are referred to as knowledge" because those arbitrary markers are needed to communicate ideas efficiently. What sometimes happens when a person discusses their religious beliefs is that they move that marker way towards the other end of the field when discussing their faith, then move it back to it's (generally) agreed on position when talking about anything else.

Stating that you believe the church is true is one thing. Stating that you KNOW it to be true is a very different thing. Belief at least holds to the idea that one could be mistaken, and it seems the only honest way to approach such things. It COULD be that your intense feelings about the church being true are incorrect. Maybe they aren't but one cannot be certain of such things. You don't believe that the prophet Muhammed was truly a prophet or that the things he wrote are the correct way to return to god. Yet there are millions of people that believe just as much (and arguably moreso based on how much they are willing to sacrifice) that their own faiths are the most true ways to follow god. Sure you may get some spiritual feelings in your Mormon religion, but it doesn't hold a candle to all the truth they have. (This is how they would see it anyways.) They have reasons why their ideology is the most correct and why yours is a sad shadow of the truth they have that was corrupted even further Smith.

The statement "I know this" is not a statement that can be give the same pass as "I believe this" or "in my opinion." You're making a claim at objective truths and not subjective ones, yet your claim has less supporting it then many claims that I would see as flimsy. (Like the claim that some people make that birds have evolved from reptiles and not from Dinosaurs. They have some decently compelling arguments and don't rely on personal testimony, or exclamations of truth, nor do they rest on other unverifiable methods. Yet it still is not as probable as other theories like the theory of gravity, or the theory of electromagnetism.)

Sorry, I know I'm lightyears away from the original topic on this thread. :P

Mateo said...

"BINGO!!! Changing ones view of God does affect one's view of life. Ones view about God directly affects one's choices. This includes abortions, defining a "family", upkeep of one's body, how one treats others, etc."

So you see those things as illogical ideas to base morality on? If the only reason you can come to a decision on whether those things are things you find as "good" or "bad" is based on what you believe god thinks on the subject then it's a bit disheartening. Are you devoid of empathy and only capable of doing what you are commanded to do?

If god does not exist it eliminates the "we have to do this because god said so!" argument from the equation. It does nothing to much of the true motives behind why people find something "right" or "wrong". Treating people with compassion is not something I engage in because god tells me it's important or "good". Upkeeping my body has a myriad of reasons for being listened to. Does the health nut that stays away from pesticides and enriched flour do so because god commands it? Nope. They are very very passionate about why doing so is important and why they want to be healthy. Health concerns are a totally rational approach to whether someone is going eat or drink something. With abortions you've got the same scenario. If aborting a fetus is something that eliminates a thinking, aware individual from existence then there are plenty of people that don't believe in god that would see that as an immoral behavior. Not believing only eliminates reasons that in most cases are not why people do what they do, and if they are the only reason they are doing what they do... well then it's unfortunate that god commands such odd things.

So I agree that some moral standpoints would have nothing supporting them if people did not maintain a belief in a deity that commanded them. I think that they are few and far between though and if they truly have nothing supporting them other then I would question their worth. Especially if there are strong appeals to rationality that go against such rules. For example if a cult leader demands that a child be sacrificed, and all that supports his demand is that "god commanded it!" then I have to admit it is possible that the universe was created and run by such a being and that this really is what he commands and that extreme punishment awaits me if I do not follow what is being demanded. That scenario is sufficiently improbable though that it doesn't come anywhere close to overcoming all the arguments against following such a command. That such a deity does not probably exist doesn't change the fact that there may be a person that believes it and carries out that action.

When confronted with rational appeals to the idea that a thing is "bad" and a single appeal that god said something is "good" I'm amazed that anyone would choose the latter. In fact, few do. They generally will change things so that the conflict is resolved. For those that believe in god and have close friends and family that are gay, they are likely to take a much more liberal view on god's stance with homosexuality. For those that do not have such a point of view and have known a gay person that was really spiteful and hateful they have no problem maintaining a belief that homosexuality is horrid and an affront to god and that it cannot be reconciled with righteous living. People will attune god's idea of "right" and "wrong" to their own in many cases because it creates too much cognitive dissonance to try and hold onto a view that you see lots of evidence against just based on the idea of "god said to do this."

Mateo said...

Sorry, I said this, "It does nothing to much of the true motives behind why people find..." The wording makes it seem like this is a factual statement when it's more of a hypothesis. Something I believe to be the case but I have no way of knowing what the "True" motives of all people are and certainly not on any basis that holds up to objective scrutiny.

Darren said...

"Yet when it comes to something that you have fervent belief in then those critical analysis tools are hucked out the window and not applied toward many of the points."

Actually, the crtical analysis would very much be applied but based upon the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That very concept seems very foreign to you.

""I know that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. I read the Book of Mormon and a feeling of dark confusion came over me. I prayed and asked if it was true and I feel a certainty that comes from god telling me that it is false, that it was written by a false prophet""

Actually, an investigator once told my companion and I that after reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it that he felt a hand reach up and choke him. He seemed disinterested from then on out and so we thanked him for his time and moved on. One thing I know for certain is that the Holy Spirit has confirmed to me time and time again that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God, that Joseph Smth is a true prophet of God and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints is God's restored true church on earth today.

"I occasionally came across scenarios on my mission where "

Let me take back my previous statement that the promptings of the holy Spirit seems foreign to you and change that to "you seem to have become estranged to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Is that accurate?

"I'd often have to resort to statements of "well I know that the church is true" which was more of a way to shut down criticism then anything else"

Did you know it was true? If so weren't you simply speaking the truth as opposed to "shut down criticism"?

My mission in Recife, Brazil hasd a lot of followier of "espiritismo" ("spiritualism") which incorporates sipiritual possessions (that's creepy) and teaches a belief in reicarnation. These beliefs were "challenging' to penetrate as well. In fact, in al my mission I only knew of one LDS member who converted from espiritismo and I had one companion whose parents were involved in it before they became Mormons. The world has lots of spiritual variables.

"The truth was I COULD be wrong, my feelings, COULD have been influenced by any number of things."

Of course you "could' be wrong. anything human "could" be wrong. This includes mand's science. In fact, this is especially true of man's science. But God is never wrong. Thus it is imparative to seek Him and listen to His voice in your sould to learn of Him.


"It's not certain though."

Like your love for your son? I completely doubt that.

I gotta go to scouts and then to tithing settlement. Later. My todo list is to read the rest of your posts and respond and to provided some links to Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

God is never wrong. Thus it is imperative to seek Him and listen to His voice in your soul to learn of Him.

Quite so. That is why I am a Muslim.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"Quite so. That is why I am a Muslim."

And may God bless you for it, sir.

Darren said...

"That somehow, despite how crazy it all seems and how much it seems like L Ron Hubbard was making it all up to take advantage of others or appeared self delusional, that aliens were actually beaming that information into his head with some advanced techonology that we don't understand (sound crazy?"

The irony here in using Hubbard as an example is that he was a writer of fiction.

Yes, it is *possible* that hubbard was right. Do you think he was right? i don't. Do I get spiritual promptings that he was right? Nope. I'm sure I can cglean through Scientologist doctrines and find points where I agree upon but is it God's true gospel? I don't think so. Do you?

"It's possible, but it's EXTREMELY improbable. So improbable that I have no issue dismissing it.'

I don't intimately care if you accept it or dismiss it. All I encourage you to do is to follow what you honestly think and feel is the truth. Scientifically-speaking, Christ resurrecting Himself fromthe dead is highly improbable but I fuly embrace it as 100% reality and place absolute hope in it.

"Basically as human beings we seem to have no way of gaining absolute certainty of something."

I'd agree tha we do not start out knowing with absolute certainty and this is recisely why we ***MUST*** act based, at least in somer part, on faith until we know of 100% certainty. I do not care what aspect of ife we are talking about, there's always at least an ounce of faith excercised in order to act. In terms of God, we can know that he's real with 100% certainty but it will never happen until "after the trial of [our] faith".

"Stating that you KNOW it to be true is a very different thing."

Mateo, I KNOW that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God's true church on earth. I KNOW that Jesyus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I KNOW that the book of mormon is the true word of God and I KNOW Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

"Belief at least holds to the idea that one could be mistaken, and it seems the only honest way to approach such things."

Agreed. Which is why we continually excercise our faith in Christ to come closer to him and to God Most High.

6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12)

19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting. (Ether 3)

"For those that believe in god and have close friends and family that are gay, they are likely to take a much more liberal view on god's stance with homosexuality."

There was a member of our single's branch who was excommunicated because of a homosexual act he engaged in and then pretty much challeneged the Church to excommunicate him. I don't know of a single person who altered their view of of homosexuality and he remained a close friend to many. if I did facebook 9I hate it and so I do not use it) he'd be one of my friends on it. In fact I'd love for him to be one were I a facebook user. I sdont doubt you statiscically (I don't know either way) but that is my experience.

"Sure you may get some spiritual feelings in your Mormon religion, but it doesn't hold a candle to all the truth they have. (This is how they would see it anyways.) "

Then "let them worship how, where, and what they may." And God may bless them for it.

Darren said...

"So you see those things as illogical ideas to base morality on? If the only reason you can come to a decision on whether those things are things you find as "good" or "bad" is based on what you believe god thinks on the subject then it's a bit disheartenin"

That's no disheartening, that's good and joyful. And when in the world did I say "the only reason". I hought I said, that on'es belief in God has "a direct affect" on one's choices.

"Are you devoid of empathy and only capable of doing what you are commanded to do?"

Man, you're soundng very presumptuous. In fact, the more I strive to come unto Christ, the more empathetic I become. Go figure.

"if a cult leader demands that a child be sacrificed, and all that supports his demand is that "god commanded it!" '

Listen to the Spirit and he'll tell you "don't do it".

The rest of your post is based seems on the same presumptions so...

10 And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand;

(D&C 50)

Take care Mateo and God bless.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

Here's a coupe links I mentioned.

First, to repeat what I previously posted, here's Blacks and the Priesthood. Also see Black History Timeline. this gives an excellent summation to blacks receiving the priesthood inthe LDS Church. And, to add to this, most of all, you should read, Thoughts and Events Leading up to the Declaration when it was revealed that blacks may receive the Priesthood. I found this read from first-hand sources very powerful.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

You should also read, Dispelling the Black Myth by Renee olson. This is a pretty good take on the rationality from LDS members and leaders gave as to why the blacks could not receive the Priesthood and how wrong they were for doing so. This talk can also be found at the Maxwell Institute. This institute is run by top scholars of the LDS faith.

Anonymous said...

Darren's mental gymnastics here are fascinating, but unnnecessary. It's really very simple, Darren. The exclusion of blacks from the priesthood was a racist policy implemented and sustained by a racist church leadership (beginning with the racist Brigham Young). Why should this be so hard to admit? The Church was not really any more racist than many other segments of American society (but it certainly wasn't any less so, either).

Different parts of society justified their racism in different ways; one of the ways the Church did so was by invoking the Book of Abraham in order to resurrect the Hamitic theory. (This is basically what McConkie did in Mormon Doctrine, though he was hardly the first.)

By the 1970s, the Church membership (like the rest of American society) was becoming less racist, and the exclusion was becoming more and more an embarrassment. The times were changing. It was time for a new absolute and timeless divine truth to replace the old absolute and timeless divine truth. Time for a revelation, which arrived a little late, perhaps, to avoid a lot of bad PR, but hey, gerontocracy has its drawbacks.

Anyway, the Church changes with the times, just like other human institutions. And that's a good thing! Of course, in light of this little history, it's obvious that the Church is not quite the paragon of timeless and immutable truths it proclaims itself to be, but, again like all human institutions, the Church is prone at times to hypocritical self-aggrandizement. This too is vanity and vexation of spirit.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Yes, racism played a role in blacks not receiving the Priesthood. That is my view.

As for "absolute and timeless divine truth to replace the old absolute and timeless divine truth", it was a change in policy. The timless and absolute truth you mentioned never changed. Blacks are children of God as are humans of any race. Blacks, therefore, are heirs to the kingdom of God just as much as humans from any other race. This has never changed in LDS teachings.

Anonymous said...

Darren writes that black people "are heirs to the kingdom of God just as much as humans from any other race. This has never changed in LDS teachings."

Darren, this is false. Black people were denied Temple endowment and sealings. So how can you possibly say they were "heirs to the kingdom JUST AS MUCH as anyone else"?

If Daddy left your brother $100,000 in his will and he left you only $50,000, you would both be heirs to his fortune, but you would not be heirs "just as much."

And sure, black people receive endowment etc. now, but they weren't allowed to then. This fundamental doctrine has changed. Such a basic truth as fundamental equality of access to the spiritual fulfillment of one's divine nature ought to be a timeless and universal truth, but for the Church it was not.

Another truth that the Church once considered timeless and eternal was that plural marriage was necessary to achieve the highest degrees of exaltation. Not permissible, but necessary.

This supposedly timeless and eternal truth has also changed.

These are the sorts of things I have in mind, Darren, when I say that timeless and universal truth is a rather slippery concept in the Church. And I find it laughable when people write posts criticizing nonbelievers for moral relativism when the Church itself has such a history of moral relativism.

If someone wants to know the Church's stance on the morality of, say, interracial marriage or plural marriage, one has to ask, "Well, what period in the Church's history are we asking about? During some periods, interracial marriage was immoral, during others it was moral. During some periods, plural marriage was a necessity for exaltation, a moral imperative, during other periods it was considered immoral."

That is to say, basic LDS morality is relative to historical period. It's not always and forever the same, it depends on the situation, which is the very essence of relativism.

I would add that the LDS Church is not the only morally relativist church out there. The Southern Baptist Convention is infamous for its own once-racist theology, the Catholic Church for its anti-Semitism, etc.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

I correctly said, "are heirs to the kingdom of God just as much as humans from any other race. This has never changed in LDS teachings."

You replied: "Darren, this is false. Black people were denied Temple endowment and sealings."

While you are correct in this denial, you, sir, are entirely incorrect in the results. The LDS Church has NEVER even claimedthat black's wikll be denied blessings in the eternities. In fact, I highly doubt you'd find any Church leader who said any such thing.

Smith goes on to say “if a Negro is baptized and remains true and loyal, he will enter the celestial kingdom.” But he also says, “but we cannot promise him that he will receive the priesthood.”

That was from Joseph F. Smith and it reflects the Church's official belief regarding blacks.

Besides, in LDS theology, the faithful should beengaged in providing work for those who were never abe to do them for themselves. These works are key to salvation and, for whatever reason which is not entirely known but perfectly exemplified even by the Savior Himself, must be done in mortality. This work, it is believed will continue throughout the Millenial reign of Christ on earth. In this sense *ALL* God's children will have the saving ordinances needed for salvation and exaltation before God. So, in this sense, NONE will be denied the blessings of the eternities so long as they d their part and God's grace and mercy raptures them up.

"If Daddy left your brother $100,000 in his will and he left you only $50,000, you would both be heirs to his fortune, but you would not be heirs "just as much.""

Nope, but if God leaves all His children all tha He has, would not His children be equal heirs? Would they not all be "joint heirs" with Christ?

"Such a basic truth as fundamental equality of access to the spiritual fulfillment of one's divine nature ought to be a timeless and universal truth, but for the Church it was not."

Not all thetribes of Isreal were allowed to perform temple duties equally. Were then certain tribes denied eternal blessings because of this? If so, then who? If not, then, why should any faithful child of God?

"Such a basic truth as fundamental equality of access to the spiritual fulfillment of one's divine nature ought to be a timeless and universal truth"

Spiritual fulfillment will be fulfilled to all. not necessarily as we want or we view as it "should be"; but it will. Not only has the LDS Church always taught that but it's the church which perhaps teaches this more than any other church.

"Another truth that the Church once considered timeless and eternal was that plural marriage was necessary to achieve the highest degrees of exaltation. Not permissible, but necessary.

This supposedly timeless and eternal truth has also changed."

You're incorrect in that "plural" marriage was believed necessary. Celestial marriage, the "new and everlasting covenant", is necessary, but not plural marriage.

"And I find it laughable when people write posts criticizing nonbelievers for moral relativism when the Church itself has such a history of moral relativism."

Laugh all you want, sir. morality is not relative in the LDS Church. But I would like to know if you believe that morality has an affect of the lord's commands, particularly to prophecy?

crazypoliticos said...

Be that as it may Darren, these miracles were claimed. Claiming something implies proof. The raising of Lazarus and the Resurrection are go a long way towards substantiating Christianity regardless of their intention. And again, you skip right over the question: Why would God reward the faithful over the skeptical. You have an individual duty to be "skeptical". Being skeptical is part of being a healthy human being. So why would God reward the faithful over the rigorously skeptical. Why is faith in the extraordinary and supernatural a better quality than requiring extraordinary proofs? Darren, are you faithful? Have you seen any miracles? I'm betting we're about even in the department. Skepticism is a good thing Darren and we shouldn't believe everything we hear or read. There is an insidious slippery slope to what you suggest. You start with believing the New Testament miracles, but where do you end? You live in a shadowy world where the laws of physics are "almost the laws of physics". I like the solid feel of being an empiricist. I feel grounded. First its the Resurrection then its "Gee, I'm sure I can win the lottery!" Its magical thinking and whatever God that exists I hope he doesn't favor the magical thinkers above the scientists and physicists. If God wants to talk directly to me he's going to have to do it on my level and make it real clear and then he's going to have to have a really good explanation as to why he's been playing hide and seek all these millennia. I mean proving your God is a difficult task, don't get me wrong, it's a difficult proof, but I'm sure God could pull it off. It's magical thinking people...magical thinking...you can't possibly accept it. It's like this, if I read the BOM all the way through and I got this inner testimony or whatever intuitive insight Mormons gain after reading and praying about the BOM I would completely disregard and discount it. Feelings just do not rise to the level of proof and neither does intuition. The rush to believe in God is just another way of ditching out on the existential dilemma. There are no easy answers to Salvation or anything else for that matter.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"And I find it laughable when people write posts criticizing nonbelievers for moral relativism when the Church itself has such a history of moral relativism.
"

I find it laughable when non-Mormons wwrite as if they know more about my church than me. They may know more of a specific particular of my church but by an d large, not more about the church than me.

"If someone wants to know the Church's stance on the morality of, say, interracial marriage or plural marriage, one has to ask, "Well, what period in the Church's history are we asking about? During some periods, interracial marriage was immoral, during others it was moral."

When was interracial marriage taught as immoral? If a person decides he or she will only marry in his or her race, then are they being immoral?

"During some periods, plural marriage was a necessity for exaltation, a moral imperative, during other periods it was considered immoral.""

When plural marriage is authorized by God, it's not immoral. When it is not authorized by God then it is immoral.

As a reward for his faithfulness, God blessed King David in the following manner: "7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things." David got lots of wives as a blessing. Later, after David took that which was not his, Bathsheba, and had her husband killed, David was curse in losing his wives to an invading King (See 2 Samuel 12: 7-13). When women were given to David by the Lord, it was good. When he tok a woman not given to him by the Lord, nor ever authorized, David was cursed.

"That is to say, basic LDS morality is relative to historical period."

You'd have a point there except the fact that it is drected by God. The fact that the LDS Church gave up polygamy is historical and it was to protect the Church from prosecution (the Official Declaration even says as much), it wasstill given to the Church by God to give it up. The LDS Church did not give it up until this revelation was given.

"It's not always and forever the same, it depends on the situation, which is the very essence of relativism."

Again, don't take God out of the factor. And the principles in the Church's choices remain the same.

Darren said...

"Why would God reward the faithful over the skeptical."

Plato was skeptical and look what happend tohim. ;)

10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.

(D&C 82)

God promises the faithful rewards, not the skeptical. I do not know of any divine expectation from God to be skeptical though He's been pretty clear to be faithful. Skepticism will not impart unto you divine truth. You, of course, may have doubts or concerns but keep an open mind and heart to listen to God's wn voice. Combine that with, prayer, pondering, scripture study, and doing good continually and that will open the gates of heaven unto you; not skepticism.

"Darren, are you faithful? Have you seen any miracles?"

I strive to be faithful though far from perfect. and, yes, I've seen many miracles. Did you recieve miracles based on your skepticism?

"Skepticism is a good thing Darren and we shouldn't believe everything we hear or read. "

Are you presuming I do? I hope not because you'd be far from the truth if you were making such a presumption. In fact, where did I ever post thatwe should "believe everything we hear or read"? I have taken the position to include the Holy Spirit to learn of God and the things of God.

"I like the solid feel of being an empiricist. I feel grounded."

Liberals are light minded fools andare all about "feeling". Good luck with that. Come to think of it, aren't we supposed to reject feeling and go strictly on logic?

"First its the Resurrection then its "Gee, I'm sure I can win the lottery!""

Huh???

"I mean proving your God is a difficult task, don't get me wrong, it's a difficult proof, but I'm sure God could pull it off. "

It's foolish to "prove" God. That's between you and the Creator.

"It's like this, if I read the BOM all the way through and I got this inner testimony or whatever intuitive insight Mormons gain after reading and praying about the BOM I would completely disregard and discount it."

Feeling is very much a part of the human experience. It is an intrical part of the nature of our divine creation. Reject it and you only reject the divine part which is you.

"There are no easy answers to Salvation or anything else for that matter."

But answers do exist. We need to learn them and to live them.

Anonymous said...

Darren, if I understand you correctly, you're basically saying "If God commands it, it's moral."

If in one situation God commands us that "Thou shalt not kill," and a generation later, in another situation, God commands us that "Thou shalt kill all the Canaanite women and children," to me that's situational ethics or moral relativism. But to you it's moral absolutism, because (if I understand you correctly) the supreme moral absolute is obedience to God.

But obedience to authority is not the same thing as morality. If you define morality as obedience, you have defined away the idea of morality itself. The concept of morality is inseparable from the exercise of genuine moral choice. But in your scheme, one makes an initial choice to always obey God, no matter how incredibly violent and seemingly unjust his commands might be, and from that moment forward one just lets God make all the choices.

That seems pretty scary to me. Given God's record of violence and slaughter in the Hebrew scriptures, I wouldn't trust the guy for a moment.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"If in one situation God commands us that "Thou shalt not kill," and a generation later, in another situation, God commands us that "Thou shalt kill all the Canaanite women and children," to me that's situational ethics or moral relativism. But to you it's moral absolutism, because (if I understand you correctly) the supreme moral absolute is obedience to God."

If god says do it than so it. it's that simple. God knows morals far better than me andI suppose far betterthan you as well. So, once again, if God sas to do t than do it.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"Wow"

The thought of God knowing more than you, Eveningsun, about morality put me in awe as well. ;)

Anonymous said...

Darren, according to the Bible, God once suggested doing something that Abraham considered immoral. Abraham objected, saying that what God was about to do struck him (Abraham) as immoral and that God should not do it. Abraham then convinced God to back down.

I read this as a parable telling us that, among other things, morality is not the same thing as "whatever God says," and that we must have our own moral compass and we must trust it, even when the ultimate authority tempts us not to trust it. In other words, it's not just Satan that can tempt us into immorality; God can do it too.

2.) How do you know that the person telling you to do stuff is actually God? It seems to me that you and I, we're not Moses seeing God directly. In practice, your moral code is not "If God says it, do it." Your moral code is "If I THINK God says it, do it. If I have a personal, subjective emotional experience that I interpret as God speaking to me, then whatever my subjective religious experience tells me to do, I do it."

-- Eveningsun

Lamdaddy said...

"If I have a personal, subjective emotional experience that I interpret as God speaking to me, then whatever my subjective religious experience tells me to do, I do it."

I think you're trivializing what an actual communication from Diety would be like. Your statement really is based off the presumption that God does not speak with individuals. Or you're presuming that because some people have experiences like the one you describe (which may or may not be inspiration), that is a one-size-fits-all method of revelation. I don't agree with it. I have had experiences that I feel were true revelation and inspiration and defining it by your description would be vastly inaccurate. I should not that not many people would be willing to sacrifice their son based on a subjective feeling.
Your paradigm also ignores more tangible interactions with God that prophets have claimed to have, like the First Vision. I would imagine that speaking with God face to face might not be so subjective.

Anonymous said...

I have had experiences that I feel were true revelation and inspiration.

So did Mohammed.

Why should I believe you and not Mohammed?

How do I distinguish between the true experience and the false? Please advise.

-- Eveningsun

crazypoliticos said...

I should state for the record I'm rather fond of Jesus. To me the heart of Christianity lies with its advocacy of simple relief work not with its doctrinal assertions. The one universal constant that Jesus closely identified with was suffering and deprivation. Jesus even comes right out and says that our treatment of the poor and suffering reflects directly on how we would treat Jesus. If you are a true Christian you may want to consider the reason the poor are always among us is to give you as a Christian, the opportunity to practice your Christianity. Suffering and death are the universal constants. Everybody experiences these two things. And pretty much everybody is in a position to help someone else deal with the consequences of these two universal constants. The suffering, deprivation and death of others has to be a huge clue about the nature of God and what he expects from us. And we all suffer. Everyone has reason to be afraid. In Jesus's paradigm a Christian is always in one of two states, receiving assistance or rendering it. It is simple to intuit the Gospel of Christ from the world we live in. Death alone teaches us that if we are simply living for ourselves and not for the benefit of others we are on a fool's errand. Consider the possibility that the only reason other people suffer and go without is to draw you our of your narcissistic self and to see the suffering of others as your own. Perhaps the only reason you suffer is to draw others out of themselves. I know my suffering has provided the opportunity for other's to grow. Death means in the end you have to move out and give it all away. What a relief. Jesus would tell you to just feed others and have faith you are providing others the opportunity to feed you. If you put others first you will have a whole fan club of people who put you first. Faith is giving yourself away and believing you'll still exist.

mkprr said...

Crazypoliticos
That was a thought provoking comment. I think its interesting that true religion is only defined, as far as I know, once in the Bible. And It says nothing about theology. James 1:26-27

mkprr said...

Why would God reward the faithful over the skeptical?

I think Terryl Givens made some good points on this question. I'm ruining his response by only quoting a little bit of it but I suggest reading this talk, especially the second half of it: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=10924&x=55&y=7

here is an excerpt:

"I believe that we are—as reflective, thinking, pondering seekers—much like the proverbial ass of Buridan. If you remember, the beast starved to death because he was faced with two equally desirable and equally accessible piles of hay. Having no determinative reason to choose one over the other, he perished in indecision. In the case of us mortals, men and women are confronted with a world in which there are appealing arguments for God as a childish projection, for modern prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for modern scriptures as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious divinity presides over the cosmos, that God calls and anoints prophets, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. There is, as with the ass of Buridan, nothing to compel an individual’s preference for one over the other. But in the case of us mortals, there is something to tip the scale. There is something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of unbelief. There is a heart that in these conditions of equilibrium and balance—and only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally “enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:16)—is truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness."

Anonymous said...

Terryl Givens is a smart guy, but his "ass of Buridan" argument is junk, for two reasons:

1.) It poses a false dichotomy. There are more possibilities than just "modern scriptures as so much fabulous fiction" and "His word and will...made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed." A third possibility: the Book of Mormon and other modern scriptures might also be a manifestation of Joseph Smith's very human desire to make his native land part of the Judeo-Christian sacred story. There are more than two possibilities here.

2.) It asserts there's a balance between the two sides when in fact there is not. After positing the false dichotomy, Givens writes that there is "nothing to compel an individual’s preference for one over the other." But actually the evidence is overwhelmingly against the authenticity of the LDS Scriptures. The only people who think otherwise are those already committed by their faith. (You'll notice that Givens floated this argument at BYU, that is, before an already committed audience.)

I would add finally that Givens is using the old trick of confusing the belief in some kind of vague cosmic being with the belief in a very specific and much less defensible set of beliefs about things like gold plates and narrow necks of land.

-- Eveningsun

mkprr said...

Using extremes can be unfair, but it can also be useful for describing general principles. Are you thinking it is dishonest for him to talk about two views of scripture without also describing in detail every other possible view?


Of course he is tailoring his remarks to address his audience. It would be odd for him to pretend that the BYU auditorium was full of Jewish agnostics. He addresses this and other topics on mormonstories.org to a more critical audience if you are interested in listening.

What I get out of his talk overall is that faith becomes a moral decision when there are reasonable arguments to both (or multiple) sides of an issue, and we then choose the view that stretches our capacity to do good rather than a view that is more base.

If you read the entire talk, he does go into a fair amount of detail into a number of the doctrines he is showcasing. If he had specifically addressed gold plates and narrow necks of land in this short 1 paragraph excerpt instead of the general principle of faith you would have been happier I presume?

Darren said...

mkprr;

"It would be odd for him to pretend that the BYU auditorium was full of Jewish agnostics."

LOL! That was funny.

Anonymous said...

It would be odd for him to pretend that the BYU auditorium was full of Jewish agnostics.

Indeed. But my point was that instead of making "some good points," Givens was merely preaching to the converted. He was making an argument persuasive only to those who already agreed with him.

Actually, it would have been GOOD for Givens to pretend he was addressing a more skeptical audience. It might have prompted him to offer up something that actually made sense. Preaching to the converted can lead to intellectual laziness.

-- Eveningsun