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Nov 28 2009

Hooray, Mormons!

So, after all my jealous whining every time Kazim has a story to tell about religious types knocking at his door, yesterday evening I got a visit from a couple of Mormon missionaries. You know, the young guys riding around on bicycles in white shirts, black slacks and ties and calling themselves “Elder” although they’re all of 20 or 21, if that.

No, I didn’t bite their heads off and drink the blood from their spurting neck stumps. These were a couple of nice guys, and I thought, we’ll, here’s a chance to pin them down on their beliefs and see how they respond to a tough question now and again. I told them up front I was an atheist, affiliated with a local atheist organization, co-host of a TV show and moderator of a blog, both on atheism. They were like, Oh, okay, and asked me a couple of questions about the difference between agnosticism and atheism.

So, to the highlights. I kept the tone entirely pleasant all the way, just in case they were worried. I suspect that these guys put up with a lot of “No thanks” and slammed doors, but generally aren’t accustomed to dealing with someone who both openly identifies as atheist and then eagerly proceeds to engage them. (And one of the guys later on said as much.) My main question was one right from the AETV playbook: Exactly what do you guys believe and why do you believe it?

It is always interesting to question believers like that, because right there, in that most basic of all approaches to religious discussion, you will see just how differently theists and atheists approach thinking about religion and its claims. They essentially told me about their belief in God as a loving father figure, etc., and instead of giving me a solid “why” for what they believed, they merely asserted the strength of their belief as some kind of validation for it. The thing is, I don’t think they were playing dodgeball. Cognitively, this is just how a lot of theists are. Passion equals proof, more or less. I think they thought they were giving me a very solid why, without understanding why “I know it in my heart” or whatever descriptive phrase they call into play does not, in fact, answer, why. I could have hammered the point home, demanding to know why they knew it in their hearts so strongly, but I know that for an answer I’d have ended up on a rhetorical merry-go-round.

Where the conversation got interesting — to keep this post short — was when I asked them why they believed Christ’s sacrifice was necessary. It all went back to original sin, as in mainstream Christianity, though where Mormons split from mainstream Christians is in rejecting the Trinity (at least, that’s what they told me). Jesus, in their belief system, is the Son of God, but was not God in the flesh. Anyway, this led to my asking about sin, and why God would allow such a drastic flaw in his creation in the first place, thus necessitating Christ’s sacrifice years later. Their answer was interesting. Apparently, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were perfectly innocent, like “three year olds.” They didn’t reproduce because, in their innocence, they didn’t know how, poor things. But here’s the strange part. God apparently realized that this childlike, innocent bliss was stifling, stultifying. He introduced sin, they told me, so mankind could be happy. Certainly, introducing evil into the world brought with it much strife, but it also brought humanity the ability to exercise their free will to choose happiness over evil.

I had to admit this was a new take on the theology to me, but it still didn’t really pass the smell test. For one thing, I told them I couldn’t figure out why a perfect being like God, what with being omniscient and all, couldn’t have come up with a better and more consistent business plan. Wouldn’t God have know how to get it right from the start, without wasting so much time by first creating a world of innocent, developmentally arrested and hopelessly boring children romping around a meadow doing nothing in particular, only to think to himself “Nah, this ain’t working” and change the rules? God here resembles those artists who are said to be such great masters at their craft that they introduce deliberate flaws into their work simply so they themselves don’t get bored with it. But even those artists aren’t all-powerful and all-knowing, so why wouldn’t a perfect being have simply done the job to his satisfaction the first time?

The discussion went back to the whole free will thing, which led me to ask if there was free will in Heaven. After all, Heaven is supposed to be a place of eternal bliss. Why, if the Earth was such a drag in that condition, should Heaven then be a place we aspire to? Do people in Heaven have free will? Yes, they told me. So, if that’s true, then is it possible for people to do evil in Heaven? Yes, they said, only in Heaven, well, it’s such a great place that up there, you just wouldn’t want to.

Okay, hang on, I said (thoroughly enjoying myself by now). Why can’t Earth simply be that kind of place, one where you can choose to be evil, but are so content with your life that you don’t? Because, if that’s the definition of Heaven, I’d have to say I’m already there. I choose not to do evil, because I see too many reasons not to, and even more reasons to be good, plus, I simply have no impetus towards evil acts. It seemed that the more these guys described Heaven to me, the less it seemed like there was any notable difference between it and Earth. (And besides, I had to point out that Lucifer chose evil while in Heaven and rebelled against God, which kind of threw cold water on their assumption that no one would want to.)

Well, you might be able to see where this is leading: they finally admitted (I’m big on body language, so I couldn’t help noticing one of the guys take a big step back as he gave me this answer) that in the end, it boils down to faith. Well, of course it does, and if I’d bet myself a ten-spot we’d eventually end up at this point, then…well, I’d have a ten-spot. I was encouraged to read the Bible and the Book of Mormon and study it, but — and here’s the kicker — check those hard questions and skeptical thoughts of mine at the door, and just allow the message to wash over me. Now, without shifting from my Mr. Nice Atheist persona, I couldn’t let them off the hook with this one. I told them I simply couldn’t do that. Whatever I read, I think about it, and if there are hard questions to ask, then goshdarnit, I ask them. You have to. Indeed, the more important the issue at hand, the more there is at stake (and if the claims of Christianity are true, then there is quite a lot at stake), the harder your questions have to be. What they didn’t realize was that by insisting I had to treat their holy book different from anything else I might read — simply choosing to exercise little to no critical thinking in the reading of it — they were all but admitting that their holy book could not stand up to such intellectual scrutiny. And that’s hardly the way an all-powerful, all-knowing being would go about his business in spreading his Word, wouldn’t you say?

Anyway, there are more details about the conversation I could go into, but those were the highlights. We parted cordially, I told them it was nice to meet them and good luck in their efforts, and I hope I left them with some food for thought. If nothing else, I suspect that they’ll be telling their fellow missionaries at the church on Sunday about the atheist guy they talked to. I hope they come back.

195 comments

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  1. 1
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Did you invite them to watch the show, maybe call in?

  2. 2
    Seth

    I was a Mormon missionary in Russia from 2001-2003 and I had lots of conversations like this. I remember always being so upset that I didn't have answers to the hard questions, and the harder I looked the more I learned…. and that's what led me out of the Mormon Church and any other brand of religion. Now when I have these conversations, I'm on the other side of the fence. It's much nicer to be on the side with actual answers based in reality and not just assertions. (I bet they come back. I would have.) Nice post. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. 3
    triggertom

    What a wonderful post. The Socratic method served you well. Your response to these well-meaning young men was a textbook method of friendly, reasoned discourse which may not appear at first to make an impression, but, I believe, will keep coming back in their minds. At the very least, they will know that there is a rational opposition to what they have always assumed to be true.

  4. 4
    Mav

    I have had a similar experience a few weeks ago and also used the 'is there free will in Heaven' bit but it hit my guys too hard and they went reeling.They had to 'be on their way' far too quickly :(I also burst out laughing in a very condescening manner when they told me that their goal is to be like their god and have their own worlds.

  5. 5
    Shea

    I really enjoyed reading this! I think this is how I will go about dealing with these people from now on. Before, I'd just do what most do and say no thanks and have them be on their way. But I think you did a good thing in that (to borrow a line from Christianity) you "sewed the seeds". This time of thinking and logic. Maybe they won't abandon their beliefs, but at least they'll get to think long and hard about it after that. All without teeth gnashing and screaming.

  6. 6
    Zurahn

    You know you've done your job when they retreat to faith or personal experience. All things done honestly and accurately, that's pretty much the only possible conclusion.

  7. 7
    Rhys Halliwell

    Did you give them the blog adress so that they could read about your perspective of the discussion? I'd be interested to see them reply

  8. 8
    ouini

    Sounds very similar to my experience; I let them in, was up-front and nice, and asked straightforward questions.Odds are good your two visitors will come back. Especially if you said you'd read and ponder those passages. Mine did, a couple of times. Until my wife pointed out that by not telling them *not* to come back, I was essentially leading them on.Months later, another pair of Mormons came to the door, and got pretty excited when they saw a Book of Mormon bookmarked with post-its and stickies. My wife was merciful, and turned them away.

  9. 9
    Guillaume

    I usually don't have the patience to talk to Mormons, Jehova's Witnesses and others. They just irritate me too much. Anyway, as a literature specialist and a geek, I think Mormons have a lot to answer for: the Dragonlance novels and the Twilight books, among others. If I ever see elders coming around my neighbourhood, I'll tackle them on that, because it is impossible that one can be inspired by God and make such rubbish. If he existed, he would not tolerate that.

  10. 10
    Seth R.

    I served a mission in Japan. They don't really go in for intellectual argument there. The culture sees it as kind of pointless. Instead they focus more on human affiliation and how a person models right-living in their own belief system.Not that we saw a ton of success there. But it did show me that the hyper-intellectual and cerebral approach of American debates is not the only valid way to do things.As for the problem of evil in the world. I don't really think a lot of atheists have thought through the implications of what it would mean if God actually did step in and enforce a less evil world.How would he do that? You tell me.And don't just dodge the question by saying "well, he's God, he can do anything." That's not an acceptable answer. You've got to tell me specifics. How much evil would he allow in your mind. And if he didn't allow any, then how would he enforce that?

  11. 11
    Lurker

    You should have asked them if they serve caffeinated beverages in Heaven.Because, it can't be called Heaven without caffeine.

  12. 12
    Mike

    Hey Martin,If they come back, please ask them – "How do you determine which god you're going to have your faith in"? Ask them if they have faith to believe in (pull out 5 gods of your choice). They'll HAVE to fall back on specific reasons why they have faith in the god of their choice and then you have something to work with. If they go back to faith, remind them of the above. Rinse and repeat. :)Looking forward to more posts!

  13. 13
    Strider

    I don't understand why you told them "good luck in their efforts". Wouldn't that lead to creating more Mormons? I understand it can be a meaningless phrase but you didn't need to be THAT polite.

  14. 14
    Martin

    Strider,You know, there's more than one way to say "good luck" to someone…

  15. 15
    minus

    Good job with that. I will try to emulate your patience next time they knock on my door. I always feel so sorry for those kids, wasting a whole year of their youth on this nonsense. They are really dedicated and sincere. They deserve to have some new ideas put in their brains and asking hard questions is best.On the other hand, JWs? fugidaboutit

  16. 16
    Martin

    Seth,Here's a way. God could prevent the sexual abuse of children in all instances. Having "thought through the implications" of God stepping in and preventing sexual abuse of children, I conclude that it would result in no children being abused sexually. Are you attempting to argue this would be a bad thing?And don't just dodge the question by saying "well, he's God, he can do anything." That's not an acceptable answer.Nice projection. You seem to forget we're the atheists in this discussion. It usually tends to be you guys who fall back on the unacceptable answer of God's supposed omnipotence when you're unable to provide specifics. Instead of shifting the burden of proof to us, why don't you give us one valid reason why God allows children to be raped?How much evil would he allow in your mind. And if he didn't allow any, then how would he enforce that?Are you implying by that question that you don't believe God to be omnipotent? If enforcing a world without evil is a problem for God, then he must not be omnipotent, because if he were, he could do so with no effort, without even lifting his divine pinky, simply through an act of will. Let me ask you what I asked the missionaries: Is there free will in Heaven, and if so, is there evil in Heaven?

  17. 17
    Scott

    Having grown up in a predominately Mormon family (my uncle was head of the local church) I heard all the same things Tracie heard during her visit.Based on my own experiences with Mormons, Tracie's visit was a typical one. Within my family it always came down to three things.1) Being so critical of God meant I was being closed minded and not open to his message.2) When a family member was made to feel uncomfortable by a difficult question or was incapable of applying logic and reason to the discussion they would fall back on "you just have to have faith".3) God uses suffering and sin to strengthen our faith and to teach us lessons.:)

  18. 18
    tonyboling

    Mormons are my absolute favorite. JWs, Free Methodists and Baptists are generally middle-aged to elderly women while the Mormons are always younger guys that I can be firm with, without feeling like I'm beating down an old woman.

  19. 19
    Martin

    Scott,Actually, I'm not Tracie, but thanks for asking. :-)

  20. 20
    Scott

    Sorry Martin, I saw Tracie's name just before I posted and I used her name instead of yours.

  21. 21
    Seth R.

    We believe all affiliations in heaven are voluntary in nature. In fact, we believe that God's status as God is voluntary on his part. All have the option of choosing otherwise.For God to stop all child sexual abuse, that would mean he'd have to force people to be good, right? He'd have to take human choice out of the matter.What's the greater evil?Child sexual abuse? Or essentially lobotomizing the entire human race to ensure some sort of Orwellian state of affairs where no such abuse is possible?

  22. 22
    Tyler Olsen

    Wow, I really liked your question about whether or not there is free will in heaven and if so, is there evil as well. Now I feel the need to go ask my theist friends about that.

  23. 23
    Ing

    "We believe all affiliations in heaven are voluntary in nature. In fact, we believe that God's status as God is voluntary on his part. All have the option of choosing otherwise.For God to stop all child sexual abuse, that would mean he'd have to force people to be good, right? He'd have to take human choice out of the matter."Um, no I can stop child abuse with only the power of a gun and a stern voice without taking away choice. Superman can do a lot of good in comics without making himself a dictator. How about God runs the world based on a karma system where only bad things happen to bad people?

  24. 24
    Ing

    @ TylerWell there has to be the potential for evil in heaven if they believe Satan is a rebellious angel.

  25. 25
    kopd

    Wow, so all you have to do is turn off your brain when you read the Bible and you too can become a believer!! Why not do the same with the Quran, Bhagavad Gita, and Dianetics? One of the things that started me down the path to having no religion was the question of whether I had the right religion and how I would know.

  26. 26
    Adam

    Seth – You've missed the point. Your god is supposed to be all powerful and all knowing. By saying that he'd have to accomplish this in any way you could think of is implying restrictions on what by definition has no restrictions.An all powerful god could have created us with both freewill, and at the same time made sure that child abuse never existed, by his very definition.Seeing as that's not the case, you realize that you believe in a god who is actively allowing this to happen, when he could at any time stop it.The whole free will thing is nonsense, and I'll repeat it once more -An all powerful omniscient god is possible, by definition, of creating humans with both free will and stop child abuse. Anything else sets arbitrary restrictions on the unrestrictable.The question of free will in heaven jumps right to the heart of the contradiction.

  27. 27
    Question Everything

    Seth, How about he just prevents the pregnancies that will result in child molesters being born? He is supposed to know who these people are and what they are going to do correct?

  28. 28
    tracieh

    I really liked reading this account. And I liked reading the comments. I think the real reason Scott called you "Tracie" is that you were so polite to the religious people–which is generally un-Martin-like! ;-)Seriously I have to laugh when people say sin is necessary for free will. As Martin has noted many times previously it sets up a world where the free will of a child sex predator is important to god, but the free will of the child victim is of no import to that same god. I'm sure that little girl who was in the news recently, raped and murdered, did not "will" for that to happen to her the whole time it was going on. So, according to the "god respects free will" crowd, god didn't give a hoot about the child's will in this heinous crime, but he found it paramount to respect and see to the free will AND FREE EXERCISE of the child rapist and murderer.And this is the god model that should be revered?I have to say I was at least a little disturbed by people who spoke after the event was on the news, to say that this was part of a greater plan or that the child was now in a "better place" with this same monstrous supernatural entity. I find it odd that people can worship a god that sees fit to either orchestrate or not interfere in child sexual predation. Any standard human being would have interfered with this action if they'd (1) known what was happening and (2) been able to halt it. But this "god" can't be bothered to help this child out? Really, this is a god who is going to teach _humans_ about morality? It sounds to me like such a god model might actually learn a thing or two from us poor simple humans.If god inserted sin into the mix, then it's ridiculously hypocritical to call foul on anyone who uses it. It would be like handing a group of 3-year-olds a loaded hand gun to play with and then trying one of them for first-degree murder, as an adult, after s/he shoots someone. That's just and righteous and all-wise thinking?How do people not see what a buffoon of a god they've actually created for themselves to worship?

  29. 29
    Guillaume

    @Seth R.-If God existed, he would not NEED to devoid people of their free will to prevent child abuse, sexual exploitation (in which I include polygamy), or indeed any crime committed in his name. He could just show himself and say that he find such actions utterly wrong and contrary to his divine, perfect conception of goodness. He could do that, or simply hold positions that are moral. I don't know all that much about Mormonism, but I do know a thing or two about the God of the Bible, in whom you believe. He is anything but a moral God, regardless of his power to stop immral acts to be taken: he allows slavery, polygamy, rape, sometimes orders genocides, does not have a problem with incest (see Lot and his daughters), etc.

  30. 30
    Seth R.

    tracieh,So, I take it you would be in favor of implanting brain chips in the heads of all citizens to force them to behave the way you want, if the technology was available to do so?Correct?

  31. 31
    kopd

    The "free will" argument is weird.I wonder, does God have "free will?" If he does not, then what determines his actions? If he does, can he exercise his free will without committing acts of evil? If he can, then why did he not model human nature in the same way, so that humans could have free will but still have no desire to commit evil?On the other hand, if he does have free will but chooses to do evil, then how can he be called perfect or good?I think "free will" raises more questions than it supposedly answers.

  32. 32
    Seth R.

    Mormons have a different definition of omnipotence than is being advocated here.Omnipotence doesn't mean that God gets to do whatever he wants.For instance, no matter how powerful God is, he cannot create a square triangle.Why, because it is logically incoherent and self-contradictory. The very notion is self defeating and denies the very thing it affirms.Likewise, you cannot coerce free choices. The moment they are coerced, they are no longer free. And just the fact that you are God does not change that reality.God is logically and inherently incapable of having free beings who are incapable of choosing evil. It just doesn't work. It's the same thing as a square triangle.A lot of Protestants get around this by saying that you are free as long as you get to choose the things you desire to do. It doesn't seem to bother them that God supposedly created them with the desires that they have, so really, there was never any real question of them acting otherwise than they, in fact, acted (at least, under their theology). Mormonism rejects this "compatibilist" idea of free will. Instead, we hold that free will is defined as the real capacity to choose and act other than what we end up choosing or acting.There had to be a real choice – the results could not be pre-determined.Under Mormon theology then, free will is utterly impossible when God is rigging the game to force the result.

  33. 33
    Kazim

    Seth, this is a pretty serious "false choice" fallacy you're committing here. Martin proposed that "God could prevent the sexual abuse of children in all instances." In response, what you heard is that God would have to "essentially lobotomize the entire human race." I mean, wow.Look at this from a human point of view. If you were walking down the street, and you saw somebody molesting a child right in front of you, would you try to stop it? Or would you just walk on by, saying to yourself "Well, I certainly have no right to interfere with that guy's free will. And anyway, I couldn't do it without lobotomizing him."Really???It sounds pretty ridiculous when you put it in human terms that way, doesn't it? In the universe of comic books, it's a common story that a seemingly ordinary person winds up with unimaginable power. The first thing many of them realize is that it would be selfish to refrain from using this power to prevent people from being hurt. The phrase "With great power comes great responsibility" springs to mind.And yet for your god, who in your comic book universe possesses INFINITE powers, it's not even a consideration. There's no question of God pulling a Superman and intervening in a conflict where one side is clearly causing unjustified harm. Apparently your god isn't nearly as powerful as Superman, or else he simply doesn't give a damn. Discuss.

  34. 34
    david

    Scott mentioned: 3) God uses suffering and sin to strengthen our faith and to teach us lessons.I would conclude:In the argument of child molesters and such, wouldn't this logic lead one to believe that allowing one's child to be molested would be better for the child? If some suffering is good, a lot of suffering is better, in which case, the more evil the world is, the better we all are for it?I would perhaps say that God 'allows' suffering and sin since 'uses' implies he is an active participant, but this does not make it any better.

  35. 35
    Ing

    "Mormons have a different definition of omnipotence than is being advocated here.Omnipotence doesn't mean that God gets to do whatever he wants."Ok let me quote XKCD"Communicating poorly and then acting smug when you're misunderstood does not make you clever"If you're going to talk with the rest of the goddamn human race you're going to have to use the words to mean WHAT THEY FUCKING MEAN!For example if we're trying to talk about the problem of evil and we're talking about the idea of god being love and you define love as "badass wrath slinger" then we're gonna have a fucking problem here.

  36. 36
    Ing

    @Seth RHey I have decided I don't want to die. Is god going to impede my freewill in this decision?

  37. 37
    Ing

    "3) God uses suffering and sin to strengthen our faith and to teach us lessons."This basically means that "God creates certain people specifically to be sacrificial sheep to inspire others. Anne Frank's whole purpose was to show people the evil of the Nazis. God made her knowing her life would be as such and didn't care. Her wants and her wishes were irrelevant, her destiny was to suffer and die horribly. Taking that further every still born, every miscarriage was created by god to strengthen faith. We abort to save the woman's life, god does it so as to make it look like he doesn't exist so that people's strength will some how be strengthened." If god is like this he's an absolute monster. I'm glad that I exist souly for you to argue your apologies and strengthen your faith. No need to care about the people who die in bombings, they exist to strengthen our faith.

  38. 38
    Thomas

    @Seth RAs for the pedophilia analogy, why do some people have to have that desire? I have no interest in that, or cannibalism, or in a great number of depravities. Does this mean that I am lacking in free will, or that I have somehow been "lobotomized"? You write as if "being a good person" were a psychological abnormality.

  39. 39
    jem

    How about a forcefield that protects everyone below age 18 from being killed, raped, ect…They can still feel pain but nothing over a certain threshold and nothing that can cause permanent damage.Also, how about make all humans immune to death from natural disasters. I can come off with much beter ways off the top of my head then the current "system".Seth R, how is heaven different from this universe? And if it is different then why couldn't we just live there from the start?

  40. 40
    otakursed

    If any of these encounters of the Mormon kind actually turn sour, you may want to bring up the Ether Bunny. Now THAT'S an 'urban legend' of sorts that could lend itself to TV movie/musical fodder.

  41. 41
    Tommykey

    Or, my suggestion, pedophiles could spontaneously combust at the moment of penetration. Thus, they were immediately punished for their actions but were not deprived of their free will.

  42. 42
    Seth R.

    Rejecting the definition of "omnipotence" as "getting to do whatever you want" is using words how they mean. I think your definition of the word doesn't work.It should be noted that under Mormon theology, all human beings made a free choice to come to earth knowing the risks. So, in that sense, we would disagree that the child victim had no say in the matter at all.I also think you are inflating one aspect of a person's life – being sexually abused and inflating it into the sum total of that individual's life. I find this attitude profoundly disrespectful to people who have suffered.You guys act like child abuse renders a person "damaged goods" to such an extent that the abuse renders their experience of life not worth living. I think many victims who have triumphed over their circumstances would find your attitude highly disrespectful of them.Point being that possibilities of abuse notwithstanding, we still chose to come here and take the risks. We felt they were worth running.We are also here for something more than to simply maximize pleasure. We are here to learn to choose God on our own with free and full capacity to reject him.How much could God intervene in our lives without compromising that free choice? We are asked to choose him by faith.This whole point is lost if God comes stomping-in and forcing compliance or erecting magic force fields willy-nilly.Finally, keep in mind what you are. You are not just some poor beaten woman who was punched in the face by her husband last night. You are not merely someone who just got fired. You are not just a victim.You are an eternal being who has existed forever. You had no beginning and you cannot be destroyed. And you are here to learn to be a god. You will exist forever. And you can rise above every problem you have now – because you are frankly far, far greater than any of your problems.We are in the business of becoming gods. We cannnot do that unless we cultivate the capacity for joy as deep as God's is.But not just that. We must also cultivate the capacity for sorrow as deep as God's is.There is no joy that means anything without equal measure of sorrow. The greatest happiness cannot exist in absence of the possibility for the greatest unhappiness. One is utterly meaningless without the other.A world in which there is no sorrow renders all of us incapable of really feeling any joy.The capacity for suffering is an attribute of God, and it is one of our greatest treasures. And it's not something I'm willing to relinquish just to be treated like some moral toddler.Infancy is a comfortable notion for some people. But it holds no appeal for me.I need my pain. And I don't want God to take it from me.

  43. 43
    Ing

    i'm going to set the bar low and just say "SUper heroes" God doesn't even have to impose any power directly on freewill just make it so champions can arise to protect the people if they heed the call.Anyone who has played D&D know that any diety worth his/her/its salt will tap paladins into public service.

  44. 44
    MethodSkeptic

    @Seth.R — the point is, that God apparently values free will to such a level that he's willing to permit atrocities to happen, when it's within his power to gerrymander the most coincidental means to prevent it. He needn't exert power blatantly. Leaving aside the child murderer, what about the natural disasters that meaninglessly wipe out thousands of lives in one swoop? Where's the greater good in that?Please understand these are rhetorical questions. Sooner than have a god whose nature has to be twisted around these dilemmas, the far more parsimonious explanation is that a) no such god exists and b) shit happens.

  45. 45
    Ing

    "It should be noted that under Mormon theology, all human beings made a free choice to come to earth knowing the risks. So, in that sense, we would disagree that the child victim had no say in the matter at all."What a great way to blame the victim. As we say in Jersey, "Fuck you too, asshat"

  46. 46
    Ing

    Let me specify that I am glad to be nice and actually probably could get along well with you Seth R. But when you spout out such hateful garbage expect me to treat you like a hateful idiot. and yes omnipotence means ALL POWERFUL which does mean "you can do whatever the fuck you want"

  47. 47
    Seth R.

    It's not blaming the victim. It's just saying that we all chose to be here knowing what the possibilities were. There's a difference.I also find the suggestion that anyone who has sex with a child ought to spontaneously combust to be rather disturbing.It's like we make some people's identity solely a function of one particular evil they committed.People are never that simple.

  48. 48
    MethodSkeptic

    Even more appalling. First off, it's not that one act defines a life, we are talking about the EXISTENCE OF SUFFERING. Suffering exists. That's bad. Why does God build it into the system.Saying "we knew what we were getting ourselves into" IS BLAMING THE VICTIM exactly as much as saying "well, she was in that neighborhood, wearing that dress, she knew the risks."When I get behind the wheel of a car, I know there's a certain risk I'll be hit by a drunk driver, total my car and land me in the hospital. THAT DOESN'T MEAN THAT IT'S A GOOD THING IF IT HAPPENS. It doesn't build character! I'm perfectly aware that car accidents are bad without having to live through one.This is just one more spin on the theology of "God puts humans through the wringer to see if they're worthy of magic happy land." It's repugnant, even without you standing on the sidewalk, making excuses for the cop who didn't arrest the drunk driver when he had the chance. "He's got a right to be on the road too, besides, life threatening accidents build character."Sorry about the caps, but Seth R really does have me in a screaming mood right now with his odious concoction of a theology.

  49. 49
    jem

    So guess mormons don't believe in prayer nor do they believe god would intervene in any way in human affairs for fear that it would affect free will(you know…like sacraficing a son?).That would be more of a neutral deist god that you are discribing, a god that takes resposibilities for the evil and good in the world and one that is apathetic to mans problems because we "choose" these problems for ourselves.The bible has storys of God constantly telling people what to do, saving his favorites, instantly punising those who don't listen, and performing all sorts of miracles to impress believers. You claim this is a test but I don't even understand why omniscient beings need to test anything, they already know the answer…It seems you want it both ways, a distant god when attacked for contridictions but a personal god for your own emotional needs. You can not have it both ways.

  50. 50
    Seth R.

    You remove the capacity for evil from human beings, and you don't have human beings anymore.You have a bunch of amiable, but ultimately pointless, vegetables.I don't know why you guys find that appealing. I find it rather horrifying. You are talking about nothing more or less than the annihilation of human identity in the name of a bland sort of meaningless state of comfort.

  51. 51
    Kazim

    And… instead of addressing any of the points made to him, Seth R. simply repeats what he said before. Only louder, I presume. Good form, Seth!

  52. 52
    Seth R.

    Yeah, well… no one answered it the first time.Except to post a bunch of ALL CAPS phrases about how reprehensible I am.But you guys seem to be dodging my point – virtues are pointless and without force in absence of their opposites. Bravery is pointless in absence of cowardice. Kindness is pointless in absence of cruelty.And life without suffering is equally pointless.To annihilate the most upsetting evil, is to likewise to annihilate the highest good. All resulting in an utterly pointless universe, possessing no higher good than to maintain your own comfort-zone.I think I'll pass.

  53. 53
    Kazim

    Bullshit. Search above your post for "false choice," my response which you totally pretended did not happen.

  54. 54
    kopd

    Is god an "amiable, but ultimately pointless, vegetable" or does he have the capacity for evil. If he has the capacity for evil but not the desire, then again I ask, why was he incapable of creating humans with the capacity but not the desire for evil. If this god is our creator (which I highly doubt) then he is far from perfect or omnipotent (shortening telomeres, anyone?) and is responsible for the actions of his imperfect creations since he created them with the potential for evil.

  55. 55
    jem

    Answer these simple questions. Is your God a amiable, but ultimately pointless, vegetable? It doesn't seem like this being suffers, yet still has free will…how?If not then why can't we have the same capabilities?

  56. 56
    Seth R.

    kopod,I believe that God is capable of evil, but voluntarily chooses to be good. In theory anyway.The moment that God chose to do evil, he would cease to be "God." But it is a choice I believe he is capable of making. And I think I have some basis in Mormon scripture for this view.As for your question of why God didn't create us such that we would choose good…The answer is – God didn't create us. Mormonism holds that we are all co-eternal with God. He did not create us out of nothing. Thus Mormonism rejects creation ex nihilo. This is probably our most radical departure from the rest of historic Christianity.We believe that human identity is eternal and had no beginning. So God is not really responsible for who we are at our core. He can influence us, guide us, plead with us and teach us if we are willing.He also could theoretically coerce.But he chooses not to coerce.This is something atheists would do well to keep in mind when talking to Mormons about the problem of evil. Our theological problems on this issue are completely different than those of other Christians you are used to dealing with.

  57. 57
    Seth R.

    Kazim,It was not a false choice because of what people here were actually asking.They were asking that God use his omnipotent power to step in an remove an undesirable element of human identity.It was that limited demand that I was responding to in the lobotomy comment.

  58. 58
    Seth R.

    jemakai,We do believe that God suffers.There's a passage in the Book of Moses (uniquely Mormon scripture) chapter 7, verses 28-37. Here the prophet Enoch sees God weeping. He is puzzled because he was under the impression that God was perfect, holy, lacking nothing, all powerful and all that stuff. So why would such a being be weeping?God explains that he weeps over the wickedness of his children. That they are without love and "hate their own blood." He states: "wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?"The Mormon God is not necessarily a happy person. His capacity for sorrow is just as infinite as his capacity for joy.

  59. 59
    Curt Cameron

    Seth wrote:"You remove the capacity for evil from human beings, and you don't have human beings anymore.You have a bunch of amiable, but ultimately pointless, vegetables.I don't know why you guys find that appealing. I find it rather horrifying. You are talking about nothing more or less than the annihilation of human identity in the name of a bland sort of meaningless state of comfort."And here we come full-circle.The point was made by Martin in his blog posting, that however God prevents evil acts in heaven, he could do the same here on Earth.From your (Seth's) own words, you have to consider heaven itself to be a "bland sort of meaningless state of comfort."That's what you aspire to?!?

  60. 60
    tracieh

    >So, I take it you would be in favor of implanting brain chips in the heads of all citizens to force them to behave the way you want, if the technology was available to do so?Currently we lock them up in cages for years at a time. Would a brain chip be any more objectionable? Aren't both means of social control?

  61. 61
    tracieh

    And to add, I agree with prior objections. Your argument means your god is a robot as well. If he has free will but does no evil, why could people not be the same? Please explain.

  62. 62
    tracieh

    >The moment that God chose to do evil, he would cease to be "God." This is not true. The truth is that nothing god does is ever defined as evil. What "evil" could god do? If god floods the planet and kills nearly all life, and also commands the Hebrews to commit mass infanticide against the Amelakites–and that's not "evil," I object to your statement on the grounds that nothing god does will ever be "evil" to a believer. Any atrocity that model of god commands or commits will be labeled "good."It's not that god doesn't do any evil in the Bible. It's that Christian minds are so twisted they have been taught to accept evil as good if it's done by a model of god they accept.

  63. 63
    tracieh

    And also, again, why is the free will of the individual being violated unimportant–and only the free will of the perpetrator something god wishes to protect? That's "good"?

  64. 64
    Seth R.

    tracieh,I'm not really a Bible literalist, so I have no problem with the Canaanite genocides being simply a product of Israelite narrative and not particularly God.Good is not defined in Mormon theology as "whatever God does." It has it's own independent value.

  65. 65
    Seth R.

    "And also, again, why is the free will of the individual being violated unimportant–and only the free will of the perpetrator something god wishes to protect?"Free will in Mormon thought is freedom to make the choices you want to make. Not to be free of all external inputs.You jump off a bridge, you fall. Having free will doesn't mean to get to float in mid-air just because you'd like to.It's the ability to make choices and decide how you will respond to what is happening around you. Someone walking up to you and shooting you in the face does not negate that reality.

  66. 66
    tracieh

    And finally you're assuming free will even exists. Until you can demonstrate it this whole dialogue is sort of moot.If free will exists, and you believe god is all good and has free will, and is not a robot, then you accept that beings can be all good and have free will and not be robots–which is how people could have been made by god. No problem.If free will does not exist, then you're belief rests on a misconception of reality.

  67. 67
    tracieh

    >For instance, no matter how powerful God is, he cannot create a square triangle.Then why not worship logic–the thing that even god must bow to?

  68. 68
    Martin

    Being busy all day yesterday I'm returning late to the comment party today.Seth: For God to stop all child sexual abuse, that would mean he'd have to force people to be good, right? He'd have to take human choice out of the matter.What's the greater evil?Child sexual abuse? Or essentially lobotomizing the entire human race to ensure some sort of Orwellian state of affairs where no such abuse is possible?Quite simply, the Appeal to Free Will as an answer to the PoE has never been anything other than an epic fail, and it doesn't work for Seth either. Seth may think that Mormons' "theological problems on this issue are completely different than those of other Christians you are used to dealing with." But as far as I can tell, they're no different. Seth is repeating the favorite argument I've already heard time and again from mainstream Christians: that God cannot intervene, even in the case of one specific crime that everyone pretty much agrees is the worst imaginable, without eradicating all free choice and turning the entire human race into mindless, docile vegetables. And the wrongness of that ought to be glaringly obvious. Stopping an act from happening need not involve influencing someone's thought processes at all, let alone the thought processes of round 6 billion other people not involved in the crime.As Kazim has pointed out, Seth's argument is about as extreme as either/or fallacies get. For God to stop all child sexual abuse would not entail "forcing" people to be good, let alone "lobotomizing the entire human race," which has got to be the dumbest assertion I have ever heard an apologist make. It would simply involve preventing all child sexual abuse. He wouldn't have to rid the world of people with pedophiliac inclinations or even the desire to act upon them. He would simply stop the act itself from occurring on the part of anyone who attempted it, as a police officer would.I notice Seth is at least aware that God cannot be omnipotent, a logically impossible attribute, although he'd have been more honest simply to say "No, God is not omnipotent" than to say "Mormons have a different definition of omnipotence," which is rather beside the point.The majority of people already believe in a God, believe in sin, believe in divine punishment for sin, and believe God will look out for them and answer their prayers. If God were simply to pick one crime — child sexual abuse — to enforce, in that anyone who attempted it would be swatted like a fly, this would simply serve to confirm beliefs that most monotheists hold already. People could still think anything at all they wanted, because the free will issue only involves thought, not action.(Cont'd)

  69. 69
    Martin

    (Cont'd)Yes, there might be less crime overall than there is today, because people would see just how God dealt with child molesters and would think twice about being a bad guy on the whole. But isn't that a world we're already striving for? Don't we want there to be less evil than there is, and don't we hope those who would choose crime would consider the consequences of their actions? I could choose, the next time I'm at Best Buy, to grab a Blu-Ray player and run out the door fast as my legs will carry me. But then I consider that A) stealing isn't nice, B) I could get convicted of a felony and go to jail for while, after which many income opportunities would dry up as no one wants to hire a felon, C) my best friends will think less of me, and on and on. So I reject the choice to steal.Now, are you going to argue that I've been "lobotomized" by "Orwellian" societal pressures against stealing and the very real punishments prescribed? Has the law "forced me to be good" and this undermined my precious free will? Well, no. It may have persuaded me to exercise more rational choices than I otherwise would have done had there been no consequences to my actions. But again, in that, I'm simply striving to be the upstanding citizen that all societies want all their members to be.

  70. 70
    tracieh

    >I'm not really a Bible literalist, so I have no problem with the Canaanite genocides being simply a product of Israelite narrative and not particularly God.>Good is not defined in Mormon theology as "whatever God does." It has it's own independent value.Oh, so where god does evil, you just say it's an error. Cafeteria brand Xianity–you cherry pick what you like, assign it to god; and what you don't like, you just say is a mistake in the book–god didn't really do what the book said god did.>It's the ability to make choices and decide how you will respond to what is happening around you.I agree that free will and free exercise are not the same. In this case, then god can stop the molestor without interfering with his free will. He can allow the molestor to will to molest, but not allow him to exercise the will. No free will would then be impeded–only free exercise, which we all subscribe to–as that's what prison is all about.

  71. 71
    Martin

    Free will in Mormon thought is freedom to make the choices you want to make. Not to be free of all external inputs.Seth, you have just conceded my point. YES, free will involves the ability to choose. But it does not involve avoiding facing consequences for your actions, nor does it mean you are free from the fear of an EXTERNAL INPUT — in this case, God — stepping in and stopping you.So now will you agree that there's no valid reason for God not to prevent all case of child rape, and to argue that doing so would require the mass lobotomizing of all of humanity is just plain absurd?

  72. 72
    Scott

    I think the question now should be:Is the god Seth R. worships worthy of adoration, love, or praise? Certainly we lowly humans are capable of preventing such crimes and we punish those who commit crimes, such as child rape, all without interfering in free will.The majority of us would intervene to stop such a heinous act too if we found ourselves in such a situation, I have no doubt of that. Additionally in most cases standing by and not intervening makes you an accessory to the crime and a horrible human being, so why is the Mormon God not held to the same standards we are? This God, if he actually exists sounds more like an asshole than a loving caring being.Any being that uses suffering as a training tool, or to help us understand his divine nature and/or plan or to bring us closer to "Him" is an asswipe. How could anyone worship such a being?

  73. 73
    Martin

    Well Scott, the problem is that theists either don't understand or insist upon conflating the difference between thoughts and actions, insisting that for God to intervene in the latter he must somehow inhibit the former. This ought to be obviously untrue on its face.But when resorting to the Appeal to Free Will, apologists always forget someone: the victim. A god who is capable of stopping a rapist from assaulting a child but elects not to do so out of concern for "interfering" with "free will" is essentially favoring the free will of the rapist over that of the child, whose own free will probably did not involve choosing to get raped at any point. So why would I, or anyone, choose to worship the patron god of pedophile rapists?Frankly, I think the whole free will thing is a big red herring, but it's all apologists have, apparently, so they'll lash themselves to the mast and go down with it, I guess. Still, I've often wondered, if free will is such a good defense (in their opinions) for God to fall back on, why shouldn't it be a good defense for people too. Maybe I should go ahead and steal the Blu-Ray player. And then, when I'm on trial, I can just tell the judge, "Your honor, I know I really shouldn't have stolen it, but…it was my damn free will…aaagh!"

  74. 74
    Scott

    Well said Trac….I mean Martin. :) I too have noticed that the free will argument is a favorite amongst apologists, it certainly was with members of my family.Oh and the Blu Ray player is worth paying for, don't steal it. ;)I hope Seth R. makes a call to TAE this Sunday, that would be extremely entertaining.

  75. 75
    Martin

    Oh and the Blu Ray player is worth paying for, don't steal it. ;) How're ya gonna stop me, Scott? LOBOTOMIZE ME? Aaaagh! :-)

  76. 76
    Kazim

    Lynnea's gotten me into a show called "Dexter," which is about a serial killer who kills serial killers. Many shows wind up with the target held prisoner and pleading for their lives, only to have their flimsy rationales thrown right back at them."Something just takes over my mind!" they'll say. "I can't help myself!" "I know what you mean," replies Dexter coolly, "neither can I."Or: "I was only doing it because everybody is in pain, and I'm helping them end the pain." "Yep. Now let me help you end yours."It's a twisted show with a pretty ambiguous morality, but the "free will" argument does remind me of it, in the sense that just following your nature is no good excuse.

  77. 77
    Seth R.

    The difference is that my interference in a crime is done on a relatively equal footing of power. We're both human beings. We can be avoided, we can be tricked, overpowered, whatever.God's interference is on a whole other level. His interference would be complete and absolute. The particular act in question would be simply impossible henceforth and forever.This is a violation of free will, and analogies to what you or I might do are not really comparable at all. It sets up a world in which the game is basically rigged.If you're going to start rigging things, you might as well give up and admit the whole exercise is pointless.But, I am somewhat interested here.Where do you guys draw the line?How much evil would you have God prevent, and which evil would you like him to allow?And what are your grounds for establishing a cutoff line?

  78. 78
    Curt Cameron

    Seth, I still haven't see you answer the main question. To you, either you have free will and evil exists, or the game is rigged and therefore pointless.Which one describes your view of heaven? Does it have free will and baby-rape, or is it a bunch of lobotomites running around?

  79. 79
    Seth R.

    My question was your answer.Where are you going to draw the line? And why?

  80. 80
    jem

    I avoid the problem by not believing in a God in the first place, but if I were a God I there would be a few easy improvements I would start off with.First, (I will take your assumption that we asked god to come here) if this place is just about learning lessons then we don't have to come into existence as infants. We could come into this world as naive adults(don't tell me you have a problem with this because this is exactly how adam is portrayed in the adam and eve story).We would come here with all the knowledge we had before we came into this world(current world is a test, we choose to come here, ect).If you are really attached to us being infants first then as I said before god could set up a protective sheild on everyone under 18(or what ever age a person would be deemed knowledgable enough to fend for themselves). The child could not be killed, raped, ect. Basically nothing that causes permenant harm but they could still have their feelings hurt and experience pain below a certain threshold(ex. I don't need to actually loose a leg to know it is a bad experience).After that age they can fend for themselves. As mentioned before there would be no deaths from natural disasters, no cancer, ect. Basically the only way you can "die" is if you choose with your free will if want to end this little experience.Heck, you could even have a no rules zone for those who want an extra challenge but could leave at any time. Those are just a few ideas, but it basically comes down to the difference between heaven and this universe and why there is a difference in the first place.

  81. 81
    Adam

    Seth R-How do you rationalize the infinite regression problem that mormons (and all other religions) have?You've just said that "Omnipotence doesn't mean that God gets to do whatever he wants." mormon doctrine teaches that men can become gods, and that god was once a man like us. This simply moves the regression one step forward. Who was your gods father? His father? His father? Ect…You cannot claim that there is just the one god, it contradicts your religion. You cannot claim that your current father-god is all powerful, you just explained to us all that he is in fact not all powerful.How do you deal with the contradictions you must hold to believe this?-Please don't say this is not what mormons teach or believe, I grew up in Ogden Utah, and spent 20 years in the church.

  82. 82
    Curt Cameron

    Seth wrote:"My question was your answer."I asked you what you believe heaven to be, and it was a choice of one thing or another. It's not an answer to ask me what *I* would do if *I* were a God. What's your answer to my question? We want to know what you believe and why.And it's pointless for me to answer what I think God should do – remember, I'm on the side that doesn't think this God actually exists. If you think leprechauns exist, it doesn't help you convince others if you simply ask them how they think leprechauns should behave.It's your belief in God – tell us what specifically you believe, and why. That shouldn't be so difficult.

  83. 83
    Kazim

    Where are you going to draw the line? And why?Let's say, for starters, that we're going to stick with Martin's scenario. Every time somebody attempts to rape a child, God (or God's Superman avatar) shows up and saves the day. And that's where we draw the line.Does that make the world a better or worse place? Discuss.Oh, and count me also as someone who is waiting to hear your answer about heaven. Running with the current theme: do people violate children in heaven?

  84. 84
    Seth R.

    Just because a being is capable of evil doesn't mean he or she acts on it. God does not commit evil acts under Mormon theology – even if he is theoretically capable. Likewise with people who are in the state of unity with God that we term "exaltation."Infinite regression of causes is a Christian apologetic that I don't have much use for. Why does everything have to have a cause to begin with? This is an assumption that Christian theologians have tacked-onto God and I think they were mistaken to do so.Artificially dividing the span of existence up into discreet cause-effect segments is an utterly artificial way of doing things. Zeno's paradox ought to demonstrate why such artificial divisions of an infinite set yield absurd results.Kazim, the point is, you can't draw a line. The same rationales you use for intervention in child rape will also demand intervention on other crimes. And not just serious crimes – even small ones.After all, it seems a little silly to just allow suffering that we find "fashionable." What sort of consistency is that? The moment God steps in and removes child rape, what's next? And what's next after that? And after that?At each and every turn, atheists like you will be continuing to complain why God didn't take it further and eliminate something else that is less desirable about the world. It will never be enough until the possibility of all evil – even the smallest amount – has been made impossible.And what you are left with is beings incapable of good – because they know no evil.And as I said, any partial intervention of God is going to be so overwhelming as to be far more of a violation of free will than any human action ever could be.Even in the Bible where God did actually intervene – for instance, parting the Red Sea and leading Israel miraculously through the wilderness – his intervention did little lasting good for the personal character of his followers. Miracle after miracle was presented to the children of Israel, and all God had to show for it was constant complaining and rebellion.Miracles are generally reserved for those who already believe for other reasons. When provided to people who do not believe the result is usually resentment rather than gratitude.So it would be with an intervening God like you seem to desire. He'd be viewed as little more than a cosmic dictator, resented, and not loved. The complaints against him would be never-ending. He'd get little thanks from any of you lot for stopping child abuse, just more gripes.Because you've imagined the idea of God to be – someone who does everything for me and ensures I have a good deal.Teenagers don't appreciate this kind of neurotic attention from their own parents, and I doubt we'd appreciate it much more from God.The reason I'm asking you to draw a line and justify it is because I'm quite certain that no one here can draw a line without looking utterly petty and arbitrary.The mere fact that you picked the legal drinking age as a cutoff line speaks volumes.The legal drinking age? As a basis for cosmic action?Are you kidding me?

  85. 85
    Adam

    I'm not really a Bible literalist, so I have no problem with the Canaanite genocides being simply a product of Israelite narrative and not particularly God.………Even in the Bible where God did actually intervene – for instance, parting the Red Sea and leading Israel miraculously through the wilderness -Do you realize that to accept the exodus story you have to interpret the bible literally right?Also I'm pretty sure you don't get to throw away the infinite regress problem by labeling it "Christian apologetics" and ignoring them. I suppose it answered my question though.

  86. 86
    Curt Cameron

    Seth wrote:"He'd be viewed as little more than a cosmic dictator, resented, and not loved."Like in heaven, huh?I've heard Christopher Hitchens compare the idea of God and heaven to Kim-Jong Il and North Korea. Sounds like you agree with him.

  87. 87
    Seth R.

    Yeah, I'd agree.Your misguided paradigm of God and heaven is like that.I've been trying – little by little to explain why the Mormon heaven is not like the traditional Christian one. But it's hard to do that in disjointed bits with constant snarking from the peanut gallery.But I've been making an effort.

  88. 88
    Ing

    In regards to SEth, Which I probably won't do so much since he's failed epically to actually answer anyone and we all know it's best if i stand aside and let cooler heads pervail, I'm reminded of Warren Eliss's Authority comic. In the comic the league of superheroes does at one point in their goal of improving humanity take over the world. Eventually in that plot arc they realize they've over stepped the limits of freedom. Now if they were your god they would retire I suppose…their response was to just restore elections and dial it down a notch going back to the heroing. Note these are heroes who will publicly eviscerate child molesters as a message to others…yet it doesn't seem that people stop being evil in that verse…maybe more hesitant to try anything but not any 'nicer'.Hell, I would be more inclined to believe you if god even knocked it up to Zeus level and randomly zapped a wrong doing with a thunderbolt calling card just to remind people he can.

  89. 89
    Ing

    "I've been trying – little by little to explain why the Mormon heaven is not like the traditional Christian one. But it's hard to do that in disjointed bits with constant snarking from the peanut gallery.But I've been making an effort."Ok, lets go back to reality. You don't get to tell us your story about magic underpants and golden plates and Hebrew Indians (Squanto Goldstine?) and how little girls who are raped and murdered completely knew what they were getting into and call the non-believers "the peanut gallery".

  90. 90
    Ing

    "Running with the current theme: do people violate children in heaven?"Well if it's anything like the Mormon compounds which are meant to emulate Heaven they sure do!

  91. 91
    Seth R.

    Ing,Are you equating the FLDS Church with the LDS Church?They aren't the same thing.

  92. 92
    Adam

    Ing,Are you equating the FLDS Church with the LDS Church?They aren't the same thing.And yet they are mormons, and follow mormon scripture. Amazing isn't it?I mean when I visited cousins down in Colordo City in the late 90's I'm pretty damn sure it was the book mormon they had on the mantle.Do you plan on ever answering at least one simple question here, or do you plan on tap dancing around till you hear moroni's trumpet?Hint – it isn't coming.

  93. 93
    Seth R.

    I've been answering questions. You just didn't like the answers.

  94. 94
    tracieh

    I think sometimes I should never reply to anything until I’ve had a chance to sleep on it. Sleep breeds clarity.Seth’s Assertion 1: A being that chooses to do evil cannot be god. That is, god can only choose to do good.Seth Agrees: God knows children are being molested, has the power to stop the event, but chooses not to.Social Axiom: People should strive to do good whenever they can.Conclusion: If a person knows a child is being molested and can stop it, he/she should not stop it.Seth’s Assertion 2: As a human, Seth does not accept stories like the flood or the Amalekite infanticide to be attributable to god, even if it is attributed to god in the Bible. Seth’s reason for rejecting these actions are the actions of god is that he, as a human, evaluates these events as evil, and god cannot do evil, or god is not god.Point: Other humans, by a ridiculously wide margin, evaluate the action described in the above conclusion as evil, and not good. If it is true that the model/being Seth labels as god chooses to act in line with the above conclusion, Seth’s god, according to Seth’s Assertion 1, cannot be god.What I find surreal is that I’m online watching a dialogue in which one party is asserting his religious views dictate that, at least in some circumstances, it is upright to allow child molesters to rape children. How this religion gains converts can only be explained by childhood indoctrination—since the numbers of people who could be convinced of this as rational adults can only be quite small.In addition to now being able to say I have hear Christians argue for the morality of genocide, infanticide, raping/torturing/killing their own children if god requests it, I now can honestly say I have had a Christian argue to me that it is, in some cases, morally upright to allow child molestors freedom to molest children without hinderance.Religious indoctrination steals people’s humanity. In fact, I just got done dialoging on the tv-list with someone who tried to say religious indoctrination is not that different than being subjected to televised corporate marketing—such as Disney or Barbie. However, I’ve never heard anyone tell me they’d consider it a good thing to allow child molestors to “do their thing” if Walt Disney said it was a right action.

  95. 95
    jem

    I already stated that the exact age is irelevant but of course you latch on to it as if I said that it was absolutely essential(but I am sure if your God told you age 18 was the cut off then all of a sudden it wouldn't be ridiculous and it would make complete sense). Plus, you addressed none of the actually points.I solved your silly problem of free will while still protecting inocents just off the top of my head(I am sure if I were omnicient or actually spent more time on it I could do even better!), the fact that the current world is the best your God can do speaks to its incompetence. Comic book characters are more efficient then your God. Oh wait…according to you heaven is the best God can do which goes back the the question of how is heaven different from this Universe?You can't answer because you want it all, you want there to be free will in heaven but you end up with the exact same "problems"(there must be evil in heaven if we have free will there right?) You want God to not intervene yet the bible is nothing but examples of God intervening. You want to some how claim God can't do this subtley and has to always use the upmost of his power to help because…actually I don't know were you even got this from. Even I can limit myself, if your God can't do that then I guess that is one more way I am superior to this being.

  96. 96
    Seth R.

    I'll try and break this down more simply.1. God can impede evil actions.2. God sometimes does impede evil actions.3. God does not always impede evil actions.4. If God always impeded evil actions, evil acts could never be committed.5. If evil acts could never be committed, evil choices could never be truly made.6. If evil choices could never truly be made, righteous choices could never be made.7. If righteous choices can't be made, and evil choices can't be made, our existence is meaningless. I would add to this that you cannot eliminate a class of evil acts without similarly negating the meaning of existence.Some of you tried to draw an arbitrary line to exclude some evil. But philosophically, this yields absurd results, since you cannot find any good reason for not annihilating all evil if you are annihilating just certain types of evil.My definition of omnipotence does not include the ability to violate the rules of logic. Such a being that could do so would be without any meaning whatsoever.And here's one of those logical maxims – you cannot force free choices. Nor can you force people to love you. For either to occur, evil must be an option.Neither can moral development occur in a vacuum. Everything must have its opposite. And in a world where choosing to perform a class of evil acts is impossible, it can likewise be said to be impossible for people to really choose not to perform that class of evil acts.To say that I'm advocating child abuse as something good is nothing more than an opportunistic rhetorical slur. I never argued this, but if you want to go brag to your friends about victories you never had, I guess I can't stop you.My point was not that child abuse is good, but that a system in which it is systematically prevented yields results that are far, far worse over the long term.I've tried to come here and explain myself. But frankly, I very-much outnumbered here. I've been subjected to abusive language. I've been called foul names, I've had my mental competence challenged repeatedly, I've been called brainwashed. I've had my own treasured beliefs mocked and insulted. And I've tried my best not to retort in the same spirit.I've found I get this a lot in atheist forums. The level of contempt is truly unfortunate. It's probably one of the biggest reasons I have a hard time warming up to atheists, as a group.Too often their words drip with nothing but unhappiness, negativity, hatred, and contempt.Complete emotional and spiritual deadness.If you guys disagree with this assessment, I would suggest that you work a bit more on your sales-pitch.I think I've said enough for my intended audience (which was never the most vocal ideologues here anyway). I didn't come here intending to debate – though I got sucked into it anyway. I came here to simply give information about LDS beliefs and how they differ from the rest of Christianity.Hopefully, some of the more polite readership (some of whom even commented) found my remarks useful.So unless someone has a simple request for information that is not born from an agenda to score points against me, I'll probably leave my comments here.I know this will probably result in a rash of silly end-zone victory dances from certain personalities here. But I think I can live with that.If anyone has any sincere questions, I'll be happy to address them. But I'm not interested in being set-up just so individuals here can lob rhetorical grenades and score debate points.

  97. 97
    Seth R.

    Oh, and it is worth repeating that I do appreciate those who have been respectful and fair in debating.

  98. 98
    jem

    I believe point number 5 is your were you keep failing. As has been said before there is a difference between free will and free exercise. If I prevent a rape I did not stop his FREE WILL(he still CHOOSE to rape) but I did prevent his FREE EXERCISE(just because you can do something doesn't mean no one will stop you). The act(or the attempt of the act) still occurs but it is prevented."I would add to this that you cannot eliminate a class of evil acts without similarly negating the meaning of existence."Replace the word eliminate with the word prevent in the above sentence. They are not the same word, please look up the difference.As for insults the only one who did that was Ing, if you go on the internet to discuss important topics you can always expect at least one person to use colorfull language. One person is not the majority.mocked huh?Matthew 5:11-12"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."The bible warns you and you should be thanking us for the blessings. It was mainly your God that was mocked really.All of the questions are converging on the heaven issue so why don't you just answer that? How is heaven different from this universe? You gave the option of either everyone is lobotomized or child rape is okay there so which is it?

  99. 99
    jem

    Oh and this isn't a sales pitch, athiest tend to not look for converts. Calling us emotionally dead isn't a very good sales pitch for your side though.

  100. 100
    swifty32661

    Seth,As much as you'd like to call it "debating", all you're doing is driving home your points over and over again. A lot of people on here have shown you the errors of your logic, but you will not concede any points. What you do, is just TRY to re-frame it, restate it slightly different, and are hoping that eventually by rote repetition, maybe you'll get someone to agree with you.That may work with the sheep, but it doesn't work with critical thinking individuals.I would like to see you go away, OR actually address the points that have been thrown your way. Put up or shut up.

  101. 101
    Seth R.

    You may be right jemakai, but these debates really do wear you out. I've been the only person here fielding stuff from a lot of different people on the opposing side.Heaven isn't an alternate universe in Mormon thought. In fact, it isn't even really a "place" except in a symbolic sense (likewise with hell).Heaven is a state of complete unity with God. That unity is effected via a profound indwelling love shared between free beings.Because of that freedom, there is always the possibility of rejecting that unity. There is a possibility of evil. We consider God more admirable because he chooses good as opposed to the notion that he is good by nature and has no choice about it.Is there evil in heaven?Heaven isn't really a place, so the question doesn't really work.I would say that the mere fact that God – in a state of "heaven" – has to witness our evil acts means that there is evil in heaven. At least, it is being witnessed in heaven.Do people in this state called heaven commit evil acts? No. Otherwise they would no longer be in the state of unity and love necessary to be in the state called heaven.Is the failure to prevent evil an evil act?Yes. Unless the nonintervention is done in the name of a much, much greater good – which is the Mormon position.Keep in mind. I'm no longer interested in debating here.But I will provide whatever information about my beliefs that you want. That's really the best I can offer at this point.

  102. 102
    Adam

    Seth -That statement could be considered grounds for formal church disciplinary action – up to excommunication for apostasy.Apostasy is defined by the church's General Handbook of Instructions as teaching or following incorrect doctrines or "repeatedly act[ing] in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its leaders."Seeing as what you are trying to pass off here is clearly not mormon theology, I wander what exactly your trying to accomplish here.You claim to be trying to provide information, yet the information you do provide is patently wrong.See this wiki article for the actual information regarding mormon heaven.That is if you care, it's not much more crazy then anything else in the long run.

  103. 103
    Martin

    Seth: Kazim, the point is, you can't draw a line. The same rationales you use for intervention in child rape will also demand intervention on other crimes. And not just serious crimes – even small ones….At each and every turn, atheists like you will be continuing to complain why God didn't take it further and eliminate something else that is less desirable about the world. It will never be enough until the possibility of all evil – even the smallest amount – has been made impossible.Well, let's just say that it's understood that the only evil act upon which God will intervene is that of child rape. As for the rest, it's up to us. Sure, there might be many people — and in this case, it would actually be theists, not atheists, as God will have fairly sufficiently proven his existence through overt intervention in child rape — who are lazy, selfish, and full of entitlement who demand that God fix everything for them. But so what? God (assuming he has free will himself) could just ignore them, having set his rule clearly. After all, he's God. And anyway, we already have a world full of entitled theists. Every crappy pop singer who's ever won a chintzy award somehow thinks God arranged it for them.So I see no reason why God couldn't set parameters to limit his intervention in human evil to one specific crime that targets the most innocent and helpless. The all-or-nothing crisis you foresee simply isn't convincing.(Cont'd)

  104. 104
    Martin

    (Cont'd)So it would be with an intervening God like you seem to desire. He'd be viewed as little more than a cosmic dictator, resented, and not loved. The complaints against him would be never-ending. He'd get little thanks from any of you lot for stopping child abuse, just more gripes.Again, so what? Sure, God would get more gripes. But he already does. (And I reiterate, this is among theists. Atheists don't believe in God, so we don't hit him with gripes. Discussions like these are academic.) And God, if he exists, could simply ignore gripers, set a firm rule on how and when he intervenes in human evil (I will prevent the sexual abuse of children, full stop), and if anyone's unhappy that he won't go around picking up after their messes, screw em. He's God, he can make whatever rule he wants.As for people griping at God: The nature of theism is such that it allows believers to feel entitled already. (See my newest post from last night.) Here's a point you haven't recognized: when Christians pray, they do so because they are asking for God's intervention in their lives. In other words, Christians already believe in an interventionist God. It's such that, if he intervenes to do people a good turn (get me that job promotion, cure my mom's cancer, help my team win the big game), then everybody's fine with that. What an awesome God! He watches over and protect us, like a dutiful shepherd! And yet, the minute he's expected to intervene to prevent an evil, then, no way José, that would totally eradicate free will, turn us all into mindless zombies with no concept of right and wrong.I see no reason why you shouldn't apply the same earnest argument you're trying to use against the Problem of Evil to what we might call the Arrogance of Prayer. If God cannot prevent even one evil act from occurring without being obligated to eradicate every single other one, then why not also point out that God surely couldn't be expected to answer even one believer's prayer with answering them all. I mean, everybody's mother should have their cancer miraculously cured, every running back should get to make that 60-yard rush to the touchdown, every crappy pop singer ought to win that award, every political candidate ought to win, every hapless cubicle working drone ought to get that awesome raise and promotion. Hey, God, you answered their prayers, so you gotta answer mine too. Fair's fair! Suddenly, we have a world full of nothing but theists who lie around on their sofas while God simply drops everything they want into their laps. Well, if that's absurd — and it is — then why shouldn't it be just as absurd in either instance. God could set rules on who gets prayers answered and who doesn't. And God could just as easily set up a rule as to which acts of evil he will prevent and which he won't. To argue that, if God prevents one evil act he must go on to prevent them all, implies pretty strongly that you don't believe God has free will himself.

  105. 105
    Martin

    You may be right jemakai, but these debates really do wear you out. I've been the only person here fielding stuff from a lot of different people on the opposing side.Seth, I know several commenters have been getting exasperated with you. It is often the case that theists and atheists argue issues from such profoundly different perspectives that we talk at cross-purposes. So exasperation is to be expected. But whatever the case, thanks for showing up. We've had theists who were idiotic trolls we've been pleased to see the back of, and theists who were just passionate and engaged, and I appreciate that sort of participation. It keeps the comments lively and the blog enjoyable.

  106. 106
    Scott

    “God can impede evil actions.”Yet it appears that he chooses not to. Seth R. claims this is because it would eliminate our free will while he repeatedly ignores the differences between free will and free exercise. The will or desire to commit evil acts can coexist with something that actually prevents the evil act from occurring. When questioned on this Seth R. resorts to special pleading in an effort to excuse his god from intervening. He stated:“God's interference is on a whole other level. His interference would be complete and absolute. The particular act in question would be simply impossible henceforth and forever.”Why would God's interference be complete and absolute? Isn't God capable of restraint or actions that are less than absolute? More importantly how does Seth R. know that his interference would be complete and absolute? Did he have a personal conversation with God in which He revealed this to him or is he simply falling back on the assertions and interpretations of a book that presupposes God's existence?Could the Mormon God not simply place police officers near every child at the moment they are to be violated so that each child subject to such a horrible act could be saved? Such an action violates the free will of no one. In fact the individual who seeks to victimize a child is free to think it and even free to try and exercise the act. This should allow the Mormon God to protect the child and keep the individuals free will intact. I stated in a previous post that most human beings would intervene to stop such acts if they where given the opportunity to do so, but Seth R. believes his God isn't held to the same standards He holds us to. The Mormon God is an accomplice to every single act of child rape, murder, etc. He has seen it all and done nothing to stop it. Seth R. then blames the children themselves stating (paraphrasing) that we all knew what we where getting into when we came here. If the Mormon God exists and this is the best he can do why would Seth R, or any other human being worship such a God?To answer Seth's question from an earlier post he made, yes I would be in favor or placing chips in the brains of every child predator in the world if it meant that the chips would prevent them from harming children. We currently put the child predators we catch into prisons which impedes and sometimes completely eliminates their ability to harm children which is essentially the same thing, behavioral control. If we can do it certainly the Mormon God can and should. Child predators cause harm and if we have the means to stop such acts from occurring we should seek to eliminate all of it.

  107. 107
    Scott

    “God sometimes does impede evil actions.”Seth R. first claims that “God's interference is on a whole other level. His interference would be complete and absolute. The particular act in question would be simply impossible henceforth and forever.” and then claims he sometimes does impede evil actions? So the Mormon God does or doesn't intervene, he can't both not intervene and then intervene some of the time. Can Seth provide us with one specific instance of God intervening and impeding or preventing an evil act? Can Seth also demonstrate that it was God that did the intervening? Using policemen, parents, or any other human being as the example is not evidence of divine intervention.

  108. 108
    Scott

    “God does not always impede evil actions.”Many people responding to Seth R have demonstrated that divine intervention does not violate free will and so a god that doesn't prevent such acts from occurring, every time is a dick. God has the power to do so but sometimes chooses not to and instead sits idly by and watches those he supposedly loves be violated in ways that can destroy the life of a human being. Yet Seth R. worships this God, revers Him, and seeks to become closer to Him.

  109. 109
    Scott

    “If God always impeded evil actions, evil acts could never be committed”So Seth R. first claims that God can not intervene and then claims he sometimes does but can't all the time because then evil could never be committed. This is such a load of bullshit. Can Seth demonstrate how partial intervention preserves free will while total intervention in such matters as child rape, murder, etc removes free will? Seth R. and perhaps the Mormon church has set up a system by which God is infallible though at the same time demonstrates how powerless and twisted He is. Theists love to claim that their God is some sort of omnipotent being but then place limits on God's power and desire/will when tough questions are brought to light.

  110. 110
    Scott

    “If evil choices could never truly be made, righteous choices could never be made.”The majority of Theists I've spoken with always fall back on the “you can't have one without the other” argument. This seems like another example of education through suffering to me. God has to use, or chooses to use child rape to show us that the act itself is wrong. We are incapable of making righteous choices unless we are witness to atrocities and the bad choices others make? This is another clear example of Seth R. ignoring the differences between free will and free exercise and it further demonstrates that the Mormon God, if he exists, is an asshole. I'm sure there are plenty of people in this world who think about doing bad things but choose not to because they fear the consequences. Why couldn't the Mormon God punish those who commit atrocities by impeding their ability to carry out the act? When we imprison someone or put them to death we're not taking away their free will, we are simply punishing them for their actions and hindering their ability to further cause harm. Why is the Mormon God incapable of this?

  111. 111
    Ing

    "You may be right jemakai, but these debates really do wear you out. I've been the only person here fielding stuff from a lot of different people on the opposing side."Oh No I've learned alot about your view. I'm juts disgusted by it. Nice to know that my mom totally knew what she was getting into when she was kidnapped and raped as a little girl. And then you have the gall to basically dismiss me because I take offense to your nasty compasionless world view. Seriously, again fuck you.Again, I'm going to leave the logic to others in this one and just set down my sheer emotional disgust that you assert your idea is 'good and just'. Unlike your god *I* hope you never have to face having a loved one hurt like some of us have. Regardless of how much it might 'strengthen your faith' I wouldn't wish it upon you. Even if it would show you how nasty and deranged your idea of justice and fairness is I wouldn't wish that pain on you. So, seriously when you ignore all that just because i get mad when you say incredibly stupid things, yeah, fuck you too.Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but you don't get to have such offensive, unsupported asserts without being called on it.

  112. 112
    Jeff the Giant

    Seth, I appreciate your willingness to hang in there and express your beliefs. I used to be Mormon and I understand where you are coming from. I have no intention of debating free will vs. God's allowance of suffering. I never thought that was the strong point most atheists believe it is. I also understand faith from a believer's perspective. When someone who's never felt that dismisses your personal witness from God as proof, they just show they don't understand, rather than demonstrate a superior point of proof.For a believer that witness IS all the proof they need. I've been there. I've felt what I thought was direct revelation from God. I was wrong. I found when you believe you have the answers, you stop asking the right questions. Some areas of thought are just too scary or dangerous. Here are the real questions an atheist will rarely ask a believer, but is at the root of your religious conviction.1) If your spiritual witness is proof, is it possible for other people to have the same experience but get contradictory answers to yours? I know the default answer is "If they got different answers, it wasn't from God, or they didn't do it right (have faith, etc.)." But when I tackled this one head on and actually examined other faiths with an open mind, I found I had been dead wrong. We use different language and place different emphasis on various parts of the experience, but there are people in every faith firm in their stance that God told them their religion was the right one with the exact same feeling and spirit I was familiar with. Not every person in every faith has this experience and would provoke this reaction in me, but think of Mormons you know, some (or many) of them don't have strong spiritual testimonies either. 2) If God answers prayers, why does he give mutually exclusive contradictory answers? The simple response again would to assume God doesn't give contradictory answers and that there is some other explanation. I challenge you to look more closely, you may find all of your assumptions about this were wrong. 3) Could the spiritual witness you believe divine, actually be a product of your own being and mind? I found that spiritual experiences can be artificially induced by stimulating the "God Spot" of the brain. In some studies they use drugs. In others they use magnetic fields or direct brain stimulation (electric or mechanical). It's a hard question to face and I studied the information for a long time.4) Is your religion what you think it is? There are challenges to Joseph Smith's claims that 99% of the members of the church are unaware of, everything from the historicity of the Book of Mormon, to manufactured (or highly sanitized) church history. I encourage you to check out the Mormonthink web site. When you are sure you have all the answers, you stop asking the right questions. When you stop asking the right questions, you don't truly grow or learn. I encourage you to broaden the scope of your questioning.

  113. 113
    Curt Cameron

    Seth wrote:> "Do people in this state called heaven commit evil acts? No. Otherwise they would no longer be in the state of unity and love necessary to be in the state called heaven."———————————-Thanks for coming close to providing an answer. I think you're basically admitting here that there is no free will in heaven. A pointless existence, forever.

  114. 114
    Seth R.

    A highly distorted and opportunistic reading of my comment Curt.What I was really saying was that all beings in a state of exaltation are there by choice.But I trust them to remain there.

  115. 115
    Seth R.

    Been pretty busy recently. But thought I'd throw something in quickly.I think a large portion of my frustration is due to my inability to adequately articulate the arguments I know are out there and have been made much more skillfully than what I have done here. So I do appreciate your willingness to be forgiving here Jeff.To respond to your question Jeff.On your point #1, I think that both your position and my position (indeed – any human being's position) are so nuanced that it is hard to decisively claim that a person has, in fact, had a contradictory answer to yours or mine.Let me give an example.Let's say I'm coming from the position that I have prayed and received a personal spiritual confirmation of… let's say… unique Mormon scripture like the Book of Mormon.But let's say that some Evangelical comes up to me and says "well, I've prayed about your Book of Mormon, and God told me that it is false!"So where does this leave us?Well, first I would want to know if the Evangelical is accurately describing his experience to me.For instance, many Evangelicals have not even read the Book of Mormon and get their entire picture of it solely from the writings of anti-Mormon Protestants. They never read the book, never delve much into what it means for Mormons, and then base their entire opinion of the book on a bunch of opportunistic scripture cites that their pastors use – in isolation and removed from context – to paint a picture of the book very alien to believing Mormons.The Evangelical in question then takes this personal paradigm of Mormonism and then goes to God and prays for an answer.Well, of course he's going to get a spiritual witness that the picture he is looking at is false. The picture is false, so it should be no surprise that this is verified for him in prayer (assuming a God who answers prayers for the sake of my hypothetical).He asked a specific question, and God gave him a specific answer.It could also be that for a person so misguided and hostile about the content of Mormonism, joining the LDS Church would be an extraordinarily bad idea.But people, I think, take specific personal answers and then try to generalize them into conclusions they were never meant to yield.

  116. 116
    Ing

    "But I would also point out that the majority of atheists probably are only aware of the most dumbed-down reasons for atheism as well. So ignorance is hardly something Mormons have the patent on.""I know you are but what am I!"You know that most atheists were theists? So no…they actually probably thought about it. Regardless, I don't care what MOST atheists do.a) atheism is a null hypothesis, all that is required to accept it is that theists fail to make their caseb) we're talking about how your belief is supported and if it's valid "well no one else is" is not an acceptable response.

  117. 117
    Martin

    I am me. If my brain is wired a certain way, I'm certainly not going to apologize for it to anyone here.Just as long as you realize that however your brain may be "wired," there are ways to make persuasive arguments and ways to make unpersuasive arguments, and you'll only convince people who differ with you if you can pull off the former. As for the latter, well, here's an example:But I would also point out that the majority of atheists probably are only aware of the most dumbed-down reasons for atheism as well. So ignorance is hardly something Mormons have the patent on.There really is only one reason to be an atheist, and that's because you have not been convinced that there is any evidence for a god's existence, or at the very least, that there is not enough evidence to make believing in a god more rational than not believing in one. Providing that evidence is the theists' job. So the above passage is a logical fallacy called the straw man argument, garnished with an implicit shifting-the-burden. Employing fallacies spells "fail".

  118. 118
    Ing

    Also I would note, that the atheist experience does a good job saying that you should be an atheist for good reasons and bitching against bad arguments for it. There's a big difference between that and saying "well mormons don't have the patent on ignorance" with the implication that "therefore ignorance is ok".

  119. 119
    Jeff the Giant

    Seth R said:As to number 3, it may be as you say that there is a chemical "God spot" in the brain. But if so, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about it. I get a lot of value from my religion that far outweighs the negatives. So for me it's kind of a "yeah, so what?"Recent and past studies have shown people only get spiritual witness to things they already believe. Study of the function of the "God Spot" is fairly new. I've read a all I could find about it. When I was a believer, reading about it made me uncomfortable, but I had to know. I rationalized a bit of the information away to ease my discomfort though. I know you have to just believe the query to God must not have been properly prepared or executed correctly if the someone's answers disagree with yours. It's the only position you could take. I'm just telling you my experience with this when I actually looked at things objectively and listened to people's witnesses and experiences including current expressions of faith, it showed me my assumptions were wrong. As far as your religion doing you more good than harm, if that's truly the case, keep it. Honestly, if your religion is the only tool you have to find happiness then I'd be doing you a disservice bringing you out of it. I can only speak for myself, but I was surprised to find life out of Mormon belief was far more whole and peaceful than life in. Frankly though, the last 4 years of my time as a Mormon were hell on earth as I tried to deal with the conflict between how I felt about the church and what I knew was evidence it was false. So those 4 years may have unfairly colored my memory as life as a Mormon.

  120. 120
    Seth R.

    I can see that Jeff. It's a familiar story to me.I just happen to hang out with a crowd of Mormons online who have looked into the history of the Church, scrutinized all its less attractive aspects, debated it extensively, and concluded that ultimately it is not a big deal to our affiliation and identity as Mormons. It's made us a different kind of Mormon than we were before, yes. But it has not really led us to leave the whole thing.Why exposure to unflattering pictures of one's religion lead some to leave the LDS Church, and some to merely shrug their shoulders and adapt has always been a mystery to me. I have no answers for why that is.

  121. 121
    Seth R.

    Martin, I would posit that proving the existence of God objectively in such a way that everyone is forced to accept it is not evenly remotely a priority for true religion.I think the whole debate over whether God can be proven is futile and silly.Of course you can't prove God objectively to everyone. That's why it's called "faith." You're not supposed to be able to unmask God to society-at-large. That's what the whole story of the Tower of Babel was about – men trying to force a revelation that cannot be forced.Religion is not primarily, or even secondarily about whether you can prove the existence of deity in some online debate. It is a matter of personal narrative, affiliation, identity, interpersonal connection, and outlook on the world.Asking whether I can prove God to you is asking the wrong question entirely. It's like claiming you hate a piece of poetry because it lacks a testable hypothesis. It misses the point entirely.But proving God is exactly what misguided fundamentalists of both atheist and Evangelical stripe are doing in America today. And I think they are both equally ridiculous.The whole Intelligent Design debate, for example. It isn't just bad science, it's bad theology too. Both sides are focusing on the wrong questions.Look at it this way – suppose Jesus left a magical miraculous levitating rock hovering over Jerusalem just to prove "Jesus was here." Like some divine form of tagging.So what?So what if you prove that God exists? What difference does it make to you or me?Just because a person acknowledges the existence of God does not automatically lead to worship, change of life behaviors, or really anything worthwhile. Sure, you may have proved God, but so what?So he's all-powerful, magical, eternal, and all that stuff.Why should I worship him?This is why I honestly couldn't care less about proving God objectively to anyone here. Nor am I primarily concerned with whether you intellectually assent to his existence or not.Give me a virtuous atheist over a complacent Evangelical any day of the week. I'd argue the former is, in reality, closer to God than the latter anyway – whether they reach the correct result on a theology test or not.So no, the burden of proof is not really on me at all. At least, not to prove God anyway. I have an outlook on the universe that I find useful and meaningful. It's a paradigm that I find helpful for considering my own place in the universe. The burden is on me to demonstrate that this outlook is useful. But it's not about proving God.

  122. 122
    Ing

    "This is why I honestly couldn't care less about proving God objectively to anyone here. Nor am I primarily concerned with whether you intellectually assent to his existence or not.Give me a virtuous atheist over a complacent Evangelical any day of the week. I'd argue the former is, in reality, closer to God than the latter anyway – whether they reach the correct result on a theology test or not.So no, the burden of proof is not really on me at all. At least, not to prove God anyway. I have an outlook on the universe that I find useful and meaningful. It's a paradigm that I find helpful for considering my own place in the universe. The burden is on me to demonstrate that this outlook is useful. But it's not about proving God."Ok, I'll go to your blogs now and post insisting how you have to respect my belief in fairies…AND you have to live by what the fairies say. There's no burden on me to prove the fairies, it's a outlook that is useful to me. Seriously if you don't CARE if it's true or not there's nothing to talk about. You're wasting everyone else's time. Give me evidence that god cannot simply be replaced by Thor, Fairies, gremlins, or Pauli Shore's magical bellybutton troll or i have to assume you're conceding your view is inherently unreasonable and unsupportable.

  123. 123
    Ing

    "Why exposure to unflattering pictures of one's religion lead some to leave the LDS Church, and some to merely shrug their shoulders and adapt has always been a mystery to me. I have no answers for why that is."Cowardice? Fear of the "outer darkness"? Knowing you'll be exiled by your family and social structure?Yeah I can't see why anyone would dishonestly accept a flawed (or even immoral) history of a church 'dictated by a perfect divine god' rather than the truth. again if this was say a political party you can be fine with the Democrats previously being the pro-slavery party…because that's a group of people and the caucus changed. with a church you claim it was founded by a prophet with a direct link to a god, read off of golden tablets etc. ANY change in your morality is admiting the basal claim is false. What you actually think YOU know better about morality than Joseph Smith who had a direct line to the divine? What would ever make you say that polygamy or racism etc is wrong? The church gave up their stance on polygamy in order for Utah to become a state. There's no subjective issue here. They. Sold. Out. They compromised their morality for practical reasons, and you don't see that as a cause to question their claim to authority? Oh sure, we won't change on any major issues…like whether black people can be responsible for their own families…because, why now? They promise that despite doing it in the past they're right this time and morality will never ever change again? How can anyone morally support an organization that has that history, yet insists their morality is perfect enough to force on others through law?Bullshit, bullshit bullshit. You have an organization with a nasty history of fraud and immorality indoctrinating people from a young age and establishing insane levels of disensentives to leave the organization while trying to expand their power over others both through conversion and through oppression.

  124. 124
    Ing

    GAH Seth pisses me off so much. last thought.I'll remind Seth, you stated that "Child rape victims knew what they were getting into so it's their responsibility and fault" which is annoyingly offensive and when asked to defend your thought process that deduced this claim you say "I don't have to prove it"I mean seriously! Grow a pair. If you can't defend your position then stop whining about people being mean to you about the damned immorality, irrationality and inhumanity of your beliefs. Would you accept a Klans man saying "black people must be kept away from power because they are inferior mongrel people" and when you ask for their proof of black's inferiority they shoot back "It's not my responsibility to prove the blacks are inferior!"

  125. 125
    Jeff the Giant

    Seth said:So he's all-powerful, magical, eternal, and all that stuff.Why should I worship him?EXACTLY!!! Why indeed? How moral and good is the God you worship? Even if He created us all, does He deserve your worship? Does a parent that beats and kills his children for no good reason merit worship? Before you answer the beatings and killings are for our own good, I'd like to relate a very specific example from the Book of Mormon.Nephi slew Laban at the direct command of a God who unequivocally states killing is wrong. So why was it OK for Nephi to take Laban's head? Laban was so drunk Nephi could undress him and take his clothes before beheading him (I know the BOM doesn't state things happened in that order, but if not you'd have to assume he decapitated him before taking his clothes, and well, that just is silly for many reasons not the least of which include bloody clothes not making a good disguise.) Remember Laban was so drunk and passed out Nephi had time to really bemoan his decision to follow God's order. So if Laban was this drunk, why did Nephi need to kill him? He wasn't any more of threat than the village Elders whom would certainly have gone looking for Nephi and his family as the only reasonable suspects for Laban's murder and the theft of the ONLY metal scriptures in existence. I can't imagine a hung over Laban the next day would have mounted a better pursuit than everyone else that had motive to come looking for them.So here we have God demanding a killing where it wasn't necessary. An arbitrary killing. Is this the God you worship? If your God was good, the scripture could have read:"It is better for one man to be robbed than for a whole nation to dwindle and perish in unbelief." instead of "It is better for one man to perish than a whole nation dwindle and perish in unbelief." Mormonism has made God a terrorist willing to kill for converts. That's a crazy bad God. Not to invalidate my point, but God having someone rob someone else doesn't pass my smell test either. What's the problem with God dictating all the scripture to Nephi or Lehi instead? Couldn't they have put a seer stone in a hat and reproduced the entire document? Even a pair of holy spectacles would have sufficed :)Of course the Old Testament has much better examples of God's brutality, but I thought I'd use one you may not just pass off as allegorical or a "miss-translation."

  126. 126
    jem

    I call bull.http://www.speroforum.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=5558Follow the link. Peter 3:15 is just one of many verses that call on you to defend your faith. I guess you just ignore the parts you don't like, which ironically I assume there are also verses against that.It seems you have created your own religion and just called yourself a mormon. I don't blame you(it does actually sound more mature then christianity) but it is just lazy to call yourself a mormon or a christian. Your idea of heaven sounds like the allspark from The Transformers universe(Optimus Prime would be proud!).It seems you want a new age religion free of all the ignorance and violence of traditional chritianity but you still with the name recognition that christianity holds. Another example of trying to have it both ways.Oh, and if a God offered proof then it would be easier to dismiss followers of the "incorrect" gods and get rid of all this confusion(confusion that sometimes leads to deaths). Arguing against that proven god would be like arguing that there is no sun. You wouldn't need faith, you would use facts and knowledge(you know…the thing that you currently use in every other situation that doesn't involve your God). These are just a few examples of the things that would change.

  127. 127
    Seth R.

    Ing, if you would like to ask me something in a civilized manner, I will be happy to respond.

  128. 128
    Adam

    Ing, if you would like to ask me something in a civilized manner, I will be happy to respond.You could address my accusation of apostasy for your non-doctrine views.jemakai is spot on in his assessment of your position.

  129. 129
    Seth R.

    Oh, right.I forgot to get to the apostasy thing.Adam, I wasn't aware that holding views in disagreement with a Wikipedia entry was grounds for excommunication. If perhaps you could point to a specific point I made in conflict with LDS doctrine, I would be interested to know about it.Just a side note here – one of the main moderators and admins for the Wikipedia entries on Mormonism is an Evangelical faculty member of Bob Jones University.He polices the Wikipedia edits and makes sure the stuff slants biased against Mormonism. He also tends to delete a lot of stuff people try to submit from the pro-Mormon perspective.

  130. 130
    Ing

    "Ing, if you would like to ask me something in a civilized manner, I will be happy to respond"Ok, look asshole. You're the one saying my mom basically asked to be raped as little girl. Don't go with the "I'm better cause I don't use dirty words" answer the questions cause…guess what they're valid even though I'm pissed off. And no, honestly you WONT answer, you'll use every dodge you can think of NOT to answer. "It's not my responsability" "You're as bad as I am" "WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH"I'm done, as they say when they make you mad you've lost so yeah I'm bowing out. I loose since I have no patience for this pig headedness. It's been explained both by me and "nice" people what the problem is and you don't answer so seriously. Again I AM nice when it looks like someone will actually be freaking intellectually honest and not hem and haw and try to dodge like Neo. I don't have patience for it and frankly I don't know how anyone can. The point is you should be ashamed of what the church teaches and the nasty stupid things you believe and you get upset when people treat your fantasy world with the amount of respect it deserves.

  131. 131
    Jennifer Juniper

    It is incredibly frightening that people believe these things.Anyway, I just want to bring up two things I've read from Seth that really bother me that don't seem to have been addressed much (understandably, there's been a LOT to cover).So you're saying, Seth, that all of us, even MYSELF previously asked god before I was born to come here?! That it was MY choice to be born onto Earth? And what? CONVENIENTLY I've been born with this memory forgotten? That is INSANE! Seriously! That is the most INSANE thing I've EVER heard from ANY religion…ok, well maybe excepting the Xenu crap. I can GUARANTEE, if I'd seen what I was getting into, I never would have left "heaven" to come here. And if you say some shit about me not remembering or whatever (I honestly don't understand this view at all, so maybe I'm missing something) well then that's ridiculous. If I'm being sent to Earth or whatever and my entire personality is different that it was when I was in heaven or near god or wherever I was before I CHOSE to come here, then what's the point? Because the person I am today would have never made that choice. It's silly. I am seriously flabbergasted by this notion.Second…so you're saying our main goal as people is not to go to heaven or whatever, but to BECOME gods as well? (I think you used those exact words, "become gods," right?) Well if that's the case, then there would be more than one god, no? So what makes this one god that you worship so special? You say he didn't necessarily CREATE all of us, etc., so why do you worship him and not all the people that have ever become gods? This is incredibly confusing.I guess I have one last thing to say. This statement: "I think the whole debate over whether God can be proven is futile and silly." This is the most wishy-washy, I-have-no-arguement statement I've ever heard. Really? Then what the HELL are you here for!? As others have said, an atheist is simply one who does not feel there is significant proof of the existence of god. If you don't even THINK you can provide this, I honestly don't understand why you've come here.Blerg. This was most distressing. I'm going to bed.

  132. 132
    Seth R.

    Jennifer, saying that I said the victim "asked for it" is a gross distortion of what I said. I don't feel any less sorry for people who suffer than the next person. I don't think they asked for it.But I also refuse to classify people merely as "passive victims." We are free agents in a free universe. And we are invited to chart our own course and take charge of our own eternal destiny. That is what the theology means to me. Not some twisted "Oh, those starving children asked for it, so I'm not obligated to be upset about it at church" kind of viewpoint.I would agree with some here on a limited point however. The focus on an afterlife can blind religious people to the realities of living here and now. It can make them callous and insensitive.It always angered me when I heard the occasional sentiment when I lived in Utah that "why take care of the environment, since Jesus will just fix everything when he returns?"An incredibly selfish and ignorant statement in my opinion. But it did happen, and a twisted theological outlook undoubtedly contributed to it. Avoiding these things is the duty of every Mormon in my opinion.As to your declaration of not choosing this earth life, I would point out that you do not now have the perspective you had then. You don't currently know what exactly is at stake. None of us do, really.Finally, no matter how many beings are made divine in Mormon theology, they are all united in purpose and love. So it's really the same thing as having one being running the show for all practical purposes. As for why we don't direct our personal worship to those other beings, the answer is simply – because God the Father is the one who chose us and with whom we have a relationship.We are different from traditional Christianity. We don't worship God just because he has a logical set of attributes that make him "God." We worship him because of a personal relationship we establish with him. And that is not something I can share with you. So it's really of no use whatsoever in a debate like this.It constitutes powerful evidence to me. But I can't expect it to be compelling for you unless you experience it for yourself.Finally, your question on why I am here.Because my beliefs and my people were being attacked and I felt obligated to stick up for my convictions. Not to defeat your arguments, not to try and gain converts here (I have no expectations that anyone is converting over anything I said here), not to prove my position is right and yours is wrong. But merely to clarify what we believe and how it impacts and informs how we view our place in life and the universe.I didn't come here to call atheists names or win a debate. But those are not the only reasons for a religious person to participate somewhere like this.

  133. 133
    Ing

    "Second…so you're saying our main goal as people is not to go to heaven or whatever, but to BECOME gods as well? (I think you used those exact words, "become gods," right?) Well if that's the case, then there would be more than one god, no? So what makes this one god that you worship so special? You say he didn't necessarily CREATE all of us, etc., so why do you worship him and not all the people that have ever become gods? This is incredibly confusing." Actually, I have to come down on Seth's side. This is the standard Mormon theology. Highest level of heaven you get your own world (I think it may now be interpreted as universe due to cosmology) to be god over. Again this leads to the arguement that if true our god kinda sucks at his job.To state my thoughts since i"m not argueing with him. I get so pissed off at Seth a) he says insanely offensive things and won't man up to it b) he clearly CAN think and his refusal to do so frustrates me. I wouldn't be bothered at all by a clean cut moron but Seth has a sense of conscience, social responsability, and some thinking ability that he won't turn on some of his crazy objections. He gets upset when people try to point this out that some of this things aren't well thought out or are monsterous and yeah that's what upset me.I hold myself to the same criteria so I'm not picking on you. I used to be big into Buddhism, support Tibet etc a whole bunch of lefty spiritual things. When Penn and Teller or Skeptoid addressed them I at first avoided the topics. Realizing this I forced myself to watch them since I knew i was trying to avoid having my convictions challenged. Due to looking into that my views have changed and I am glad I took the time to hear and honestly recognize objections to my irresponsible stances.

  134. 134
    Ing

    "But I also refuse to classify people merely as "passive victims." We are free agents in a free universe. And we are invited to chart our own course and take charge of our own eternal destiny. That is what the theology means to me."Yeah those people killed in the Tsunami were completely free agents.Look, you ARE blaming the victim. If not passive then active meaning they somehow brought it upon themselves, their actions brought it. Seriously. Think about this for one second.Pointless random suffering and atrocity happens. It happens by force of nature it happens by force of evil or insane people. That people caught under the wheels of a existential juggernaut are not 'passive victims' is offensive and at odds with reality.

  135. 135
    Jennifer Juniper

    Seth, not once in my post did I say you were blaming the victim (though I think you are). I was just saying how ridiculous it is of you to tell me that I chose to leave god's side to come down to earth. Sorry, that's just plain dumb.Ing, I don't know what you mean about coming down on Seth's side. I was just addressing something that made no sense to me as far as Mormons trying to attain god-hood. No side was taken. I don't know a lot about Mormon thought, so that's why I was asking. Again, I think the whole thing is utterly ridiculous.But what this sounds like to me, is just another religious person picking and choosing so as to make their religion go along with what they believe. That's why there's so much breakdown into sects and churches etc. I guess it doesn't really matter though, it's all the same mess of nonsense…

  136. 136
    Seth R.

    As the only representative of Mormonism here, I have to be very careful in what I say. There is a wide range of viewpoints and beliefs within the LDS Church (as there is in any religion), and I don't want to paint my viewpoint as the only one or the definitive one.But I don't have to "man up" to other people's uninformed caricatures of my religion. Nor do I need to apologize when I fail to fit the stereotypes of others. And I don't feel sorry one bit for failing to present the easy target certain people are used to attacking whenever they talk about Mormonism.

  137. 137
    Ing

    what I meant was that was one thing in mormonism that Seth is actually orthodox on. A lot of the other he's doing the pickign and choosing…and whining. Seriously, Seth you explained your view we said "well that's pretty nasty" and you shoot back "I Dont have to defend myself to yoou!"Ok why'd you bother to share? I mean, excuse me? Have you been helped?

  138. 138
    Seth R.

    I think you're confusing too different things here.There are plenty of things in Mormonism I stand by and maintain are not "nasty."What you call "blame the victim" I call empowering and uplifting. As Victor Frankl noted we don't always have a choice over what happens to us, but we do have a choice in our response to those events. Mormon theology puts the victim back in the driver's seat and invites them to chart their own course and feel ownership over their own destiny.I'm sorry if that violates your own treasured sense of victimhood, but I consider it an improvement. We're probably not going to see eye to eye on this. Fine by me.Secondly, my comments about not having to apologize were in response to your complaints about how I wasn't living up to the stereotype of religion that you are apparently used to attacking. For example, my willingness to take certain Bible stories as symbolic, or merely as instances of Israelite national mythology.This position seemed to irritate you a great deal. That was what my response was directed at. I've noticed that some atheists get rather irritable when you don't give them the easy target of a globe-covering flood, or other particulars.My view of the Bible is that its primary worth is in how it forces the reader to confront the ugly truths about human experiences and wrestle with them. It's a very honest book actually and doesn't shy away from less than flattering facts. It's prophets are not whitewashed saints, but rather people with a whole range of issues. It's chosen people are not entirely virtuous, but rather vindictive, petty, cowardly, and violent. They stand in for each of us – in both our good and bad points.That's what religion is to me – it's getting beyond questions like "is there archeological evidence for the Exodus?" and asking instead what the story itself is really teaching us about humanity and how we should be as a society.It's a different paradigm for religion, and one held by many people besides myself. And it's utterly unconcerned with the outcome of the "intelligent design" debate and similar sideshows.

  139. 139
    Question Everything

    Seth-No one is upset that you are not presenting an "easy target". I, for one, am disappointed in you. For all intents and purposes you appear to be a fairly intelligent, rational person yet you cling to these flimsy irrational beliefs. Not because you have been convinced via evidence and argument, but because it feels right to you. I take issue with the apparent fact that you do not care if your beliefs are accurate. As you said: "I have an outlook on the universe that I find useful and meaningful. It's a paradigm that I find helpful for considering my own place in the universe. The burden is on me to demonstrate that this outlook is useful. But it's not about proving God." You seem not to be interested in the veracity of your beliefs, but only if said beliefs are useful to you. "That's what religion is to me – it's getting beyond questions like "is there archeological evidence for the Exodus?" and asking instead what the story itself is really teaching us about humanity and how we should be as a society."So are you saying that your take on religion is reading old myths to gain insight into the human condition? There is a logical disconnect between finding a moral in an old story and worshiping the God from that story. The fact that you seem to gloss over that disconnect is what is frustrating.

  140. 140
    jem

    You can study the bible as a historical work without being a christian. It is just that some people take some parts a symbolic and other parts literally, when asked how they determine this they don't give any better reason then people who claim to take the entire book literally.What it comes down to is you don't have a good reason to believe what you believe(I guess that is why you guys invented faith but it doesn't explain why you guys enter into any discussions about your God). You tried to come here to defend your God with what you thought were good explainations but they were shoot down for the logically fallacies that they were. When that didn't work you went into "I doesn't really matter anyway" mode. The sad thing is that in the future you are probably going to use those same sorry excuses you gave here for your Gods inaction as if no one challenged them. If this discussion doesn't really matter then you then I don't see the point of you defending your God in the first place. Obviously you do care in some way otherwise you wouldn't have replied in this blog.Why don't you just treat the entire bible and Book of Mormon as outdated and create a religion without all the genocidal baggage. Also make your God a nuetral one rather then an all good one and you fixed your problem of evil. You should have no problems with this in principle since mormons basically changed what they felt like changing in christianity.Though, I guess your emotional need for a cosmic father figure is why you choose to believe rather then having a concept of a consistent God that lines up with reality.

  141. 141
    Seth R.

    No, I'm actually agnostic on stuff like the Flood, or the Exodus, or the Garden of Eden. They could be literal stories, or they could be largely symbolic, and neither result would bother me much.I don't care about "proving" the existence of God by argument here because my own theological position is that such matters cannot be proven in that way.Worship of God properly arises from experiencing him personally and testing his words against what you find in life. That is not something I can simply transmit to you in a setting like this. It's something you must do for yourself.I myself am firmly convinced of God's presence in my life. People here can sneer all they want – it is something I have experienced directly and for me, the evidence is compelling and real.I have found LDS theology to be a powerful and useful way of contextualizing every bit of learning I ever took in – from the Tolstoy, to Dickens, from Aristotle to Nietzsche. Big Bang, string theory, evolution, you name it. All of these things were illuminated by my religious paradigm.And I am absolutely convinced that Joseph Smith was channeling divine influence. His entire life was touched by some influence utterly unexplainable by reference to his own capacities and intelligence. Joseph Smith was onto something big – there is no question in my mind on that score.Furthermore, Mormonism is not simply a theological belief system for me. It is an ethnicity, it is a tribal affiliation. It is where my first loyalties lie. Mormons are actually, in many ways, far more Jewish in their world outlook than Protestant. We have a strong sense of tribal identity, and tend to view our religion as inseparable from our history. Likewise, both of our peoples are not – as a whole – overly concerned with logic games and other theological debates. I'm a bit of an aberration among LDS in this respect.The Mormon God is not something to be proven. But rather, something to be experienced. This is the foundation of my faith. Not artificial logic games. Nor is this intensely personal experience something to be overturned by mere debate tactics.I'm not saying my religion is incoherent or illogical. I find it to be profoundly logical. The more I study Mormon teaching and the more I learn about the world, the more logical it becomes to me.I'm truly sorry that I was not able to convey this to some of the people here. The fault is mine.So, it's not that Mormonism is illogical or irrational. Mormonism actually holds up as well as any other religious system (and as well as atheism) in providing a view of the universe. It's just that it's strongest and most compelling arguments are not to be had in external debate. Personal experience often does not count as evidence everyone can agree to in a debate setting. But it nonetheless remains powerful for the person who has it.

  142. 142
    Adam

    Mormonism actually holds up as well as any other religious systemI think we can all agree on that point.

  143. 143
    Seth R.

    jemakai, again, you are confusing two different issues here.My stuff about the intelligent design debate and literal nature of the Bible stories was in response to one of the atheist commenters who raised the issue saying "how could God order a genocide." I responded offhandedly by noting that I don't require a literal reading of the Old Testament – because I don't. And I have not for long before I entered this discussion.But that's an entirely separate problem from the discussion we've had about the problem of evil in the universe. I did not bring up "I don't take the Bible literally" in reference to that discussion at all. It was not raised as a defense on that front to begin with. It was merely a tangential remark, responding to a tangential point.On the problem of evil I'm not backing down at all. I think Mormonism's answers are coherent on this point, and far better than the traditional Christian answers on the subject simply because we don't have to defend creation ex nihilo. Thus we don't have a God who is logically directly responsible for the "way things are."Once you get creation ex nihilo out of the way, stuff like the free will defense and the idea of a "soul building" theology actually makes coherent sense.You'll note I apologized for my inability to clearly articulate this, but don't think for a moment that I'm backing away from anything I said above.My comments about bible-literalism has absolutely nothing to do with that debate.

  144. 144
    Ing

    "I think you're confusing too different things here.There are plenty of things in Mormonism I stand by and maintain are not "nasty."What you call "blame the victim" I call empowering and uplifting. As Victor Frankl noted we don't always have a choice over what happens to us, but we do have a choice in our response to those events. Mormon theology puts the victim back in the driver's seat and invites them to chart their own course and feel ownership over their own destiny.I'm sorry if that violates your own treasured sense of victimhood, but I consider it an improvement. We're probably not going to see eye to eye on this. Fine by me."Yes, I'm sure that's empowering to anyone whose lost someone in a natural disaster. I honestly love how you pretty much argue that horrible pointless things that happen to people are partly their fault, I quote you "they knew what they were getting into" and claim that's empowering.Really…that's special."I'm sorry if that violates your own treasured sense of victimhood"I'm sorry you confuse my human sympathy and sense of reality for 'victimhood'. And um, only one of us is asserting things without evidence. All it seems like to me is you've found a rational for being callous towards said victims, insisting their empowered so their struggles are their own damn fault. They should lift themselves up by the boot straps, by golly!. When you want to come down from your mighty whitey ivory tower and talk to the rest of reality I'll be glad to.So far this is what's happenedSeth "God is good and couldn't stop evil cause that would be bad"Everyone else "what about (orgy of horrible things)?"Seth "God couldn't stop that cause he'd take away free will"Everyone Else "gives examples of why that is not so"Seth "well they knew what they were getting into.Everyone Else "WTF?"Seth "STOP PERSECUTING ME! YOU JUST LIKE YOUR SENSE OF VICTIM HOOD. IT"S EMPOWERING!"

  145. 145
    Ing

    "And I am absolutely convinced that Joseph Smith was channeling divine influence. His entire life was touched by some influence utterly unexplainable by reference to his own capacities and intelligence. Joseph Smith was onto something big – there is no question in my mind on that score."And then he promptly squandered his divine gift into spiritually blackmailing his wife into letting him bed nubile teenagers? You are aware the man had a convicted record of fraud? Hey, whatever the paradigm works for you but if you want to follow someone who did the "It'd be a shame if god told me to destroy you, my lovely wife, and your beloved children, because you refuse to let me have more wives…tsk tsk tsk that would be horrible" shtick, I won't stop you.

  146. 146
    Seth R.

    Well, sounds like your mind is made up Ing.I could provide counter-arguments on this score. But if you are already operating from an assumption of "Joseph was a fraud" and "God doesn't talk to people" then I doubt there would be much point.And incidentally, Joseph was never convicted of fraud. Not this tidbit matters much, but I thought I'd point it out.

  147. 147
    Question Everything

    Seth-I, and I assume most people here, would be willing to be convinced if you provided sufficient evidence. I will not deny being skeptical, but I am always prepared to be proven wrong. So what are these counter-arguments. What evidence do you have that Joseph Smith was actually channeling a divine intelligence and not just making stuff up or delusional?

  148. 148
    Ing

    "And incidentally, Joseph was never convicted of fraud. Not this tidbit matters much, but I thought I'd point it out."I believe there are some archived town records that disagree.

  149. 149
    Ing

    My mind is made up only in that I have no evidence to believe otherwise. If you have it provide plz k thnkx.What Joseph says SOUNDS like a scam, it SOUNDS like what other cult leaders do, and it SOUNDS a lot more like a human male using a previously established strategy to accumulate resources and mates to improve his fitness. If we had some evidence, like say his ability to accurately translate ancient Egyptian (Hint, debunked), or even his Revelations being eerily accurate of science before his time (Hint, no men on the moon yet) then we might begin to take pause and consider that he might be more than a conman. I'm not even saying he DIDN'T believe what he said, many shysters can buy into their own press (L Ron Hubbard for example.)

  150. 150
    jem

    "Well, sounds like your mind is made up Ing."This is ironic coming from you, yet you point it out as if it is a bad thing if Ing does it but just fine if you do it. The difference is I would bet Ing would change his mind if the evidence pointed differently, but I have already concieded that evidence means nothing to you.I am not confusing to issues, I and adressing two glaring problems in your mindset(how your God deals with evil and how you can call yourself a christian while ignoring what you want from the bible). My last paragraph was an attempt to help you solve these two issues but I guess you are to entrenched.If personal experience meant anything to you then you would accept the personal experience of those from other religions. Do you think a devout muslim, buddist, hindu, ect.. doesn't wake up and feel those same feelings you described? Do you think Joseph Smith is the first self proclaimed prophet who's followers would claim the same things you claim(ethnicity, it is a tribal affiliation, ect..) In fact it makes me feel like mormons should not hold public office(especially the presidency) since to hold public office you need to be loyal to the constitution and ALL citizens above even your own group.I am sure you have heard of the buddist monk who burned himself alive in protest for his people.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Qu%E1%BA%A3ng_%C4%90%E1%BB%A9c#Self-immolationIs your personal experience more correct then his? How would you know if it was?My point isn't that mormons could not do something similar, my point is all religions have worshipers that claim the same personal revelation and without logic there is no way to differentiate between any of them.You seem to be saying mormons have better answers then other christians but those answers also don't matter anyway because it is personal experience that matters. Then you claim that your can't explain your God through "artificial" logic but your God isn't some how illogical. These are the statements contridict each other and your cognitive dissonance blatant. All I can say is that you are a hypocrite if you dismiss other personal experiences from other religions. How would you answer some one from a different religion if they gave you the same explanation for their beliefs that you just gave me? If you can't say they are wrong then you are on the same plain and you really can't say your beliefs are better.

  151. 151
    Adam

    "And incidentally, Joseph was never convicted of fraud. Not this tidbit matters much, but I thought I'd point it out."I believe there are some archived town records that disagree.I took a look at the FAIRLDS apologetics page for this, it was very interesting. They claim it was just a hearing, and besides you can't judge glass looking in modern context, and besides maybe he really could do as he claims.The one interesting bit is this -In the spring of 1825 Josiah Stowell visited with Joseph Smith "on account of having heard that he possessed certain keys, by which he could discern things invisible to the natural eye." Josiah Stowell wanted Joseph to help him in his quest to find treasure in an ancient silver mine. Joseph was reluctant, but Stowell persuaded Joseph to come by offering high wages.What's interesting is how this fits into the timeline of events.1820 JS is alleged to have received his "First Vision"1823 JS allegedly first sees the golden plates said to contain the Book of Mormon1827 JS allegedly receives the plates and begins "translating by the gift and power of God"My question would be this, Why is Joe out glass looking for treasure 2 years *after* directly speaking with god and jesus as per the first vision acount?

  152. 152
    Seth R.

    jemakai,I have to be careful here and allow my arguments to include as broad a range of Mormons as possible. There are all kinds of Mormons within the religion. Some don't take the Bible literally, some do. I feel a responsibility to defend both groups. Some Mormons base their convictions purely on personal spiritual reasons. Others find intellectual and logical arguments more appealing. I have to present arguments for both.And as for myself, I'm borderline between these different perspectives.I find the logical elegance of Mormon theology to be personally compelling, yet I also recognize that important parts of my conviction of God is not based on logical argument, but personal experience.But it's not just personal experience either. The logic, the history, and the benefits of Mormonism are all compelling as well, and combine together in my life to form my personal convictions. But no one element is completely dominant.I guess to some, that can look like I'm unable to make up my mind. To me it's just a reality of the complexity of human belief.If I haven't done a good job of making this clear, then I apologize.

  153. 153
    Seth R.

    Adam, that's a pretty even-handed summary of what the FAIR website says on Joseph Smith's trial.At present, all we really have in the court record is evidence that Joseph Smith was arraigned, not convicted. All arguments of conviction are primarily based on testimony of men who had a lot of pre-existing hostility to Joseph Smith, so their testimony is rather suspect.Being a seer in early 1800s America was a profession. Like being a grocer, or doctor, or lawyer, or farmer. It was something people with the gift for it did.And like any profession, it attracted its share of frauds. A lot of the doctors in the 1800s were frauds. Same with lawyers, and any other profession you could name.But we don't take someone being a doctor in 1830 as automatic evidence of fraud. By "fraud" I mean the legal definition – acting falsely with intent to deceive.

  154. 154
    Seth R.

    I appreciate that Ing and others are willing to leave the door open on the possibility that Joseph was acting honestly in his own mind and not deliberately trying to defraud people.This is the same view that Fawn Brodie took in her biography of Joseph Smith "No Man Knows My History." That Joseph Smith was essentially a charismatic, pious fraud – using fraud in the general sense of not being truly what one claims to be – not in the legal sense of intent to deceive. She felt that Joseph was a man who sincerely believed his own rhetoric.Kind of a middle ground between the "bold-faced liar" vs. "saint" camps of thought that had been floating around before her biography.And if you're going to disbelieve in Joseph's claims, I guess I'd at least prefer you gave him that much benefit of the doubt. I'll take what I can get.Richard Bushman has also published a definitive biography of Joseph Smith recently that is well worth a read for anyone interested in American history – "Rough Stone Rolling."Bushman takes the viewpoint that the magical world view that Joseph grew up in, in upstate 1800s New York, acted as a sort of schoolmaster for him to later embrace the truly authentic revelations from God.Adam lays out a good timeline of Joseph's activities. It should be noted that Joseph himself admits to minor wrongdoing in the period of his life following his first vision of God the Father and the Son. He claims he was guilty of no truly grievous sins, but didn't feel he had conducted himself with proper decorum in life. It was while he was praying over his concerns at this behavior that the angel appeared to him and spoke of the work God had for him to do.But even then, Joseph's other supernatural activities did not cease in favor of his new calling from God. As noted he reluctantly agreed to assist Josiah Stowell in trying to locate an old silver mine supernaturally. Joseph entered this venture reluctantly, and eventually convinced Stowell to call it off. Joseph was never well compensated for this work, and he never ran off with the money (a common tactic of other "confidence men" of that period).I believe Joseph was sincere in his efforts here. And Josiah Stowell and others maintained stoutly that Joseph did have the gifts he claimed to have.I personally take the view that Joseph did have certain spiritual gifts, and sometimes frivolously employed them. But was nonetheless honest in his dealings. This seems to fit the overall record the best in my eyes. If you don't want to take my word for it, I'd suggest you read Brodie and Bushman and make up your own mind on the matter.Final point Adam, merely being called of God can be transformative of a person's character, but it doesn't always need to be. The Book of Mormon itself contains in its first few chapters a description of two brothers who were repeatedly addressed by God and angels, and saw repeated miracles, but still refused to have faith in God, or to abandon their own wickedness.So just because Joseph saw God face to face does not necessarily mean that all his character defects were going to magically vanish. Nor was he going to instantly quit his old way of life. Joseph evolved in God's service. There are no clear cutoff lines.

  155. 155
    Ing

    "So just because Joseph saw God face to face does not necessarily mean that all his character defects were going to magically vanish. Nor was he going to instantly quit his old way of life. Joseph evolved in God's service. There are no clear cutoff lines."IS THAT NOT EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU ARGUED BEFORE ON WHY GOD CAN'T JUST MAKE HIMSELF KNOWN/STOP EVIL!?BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT!

  156. 156
    Seth R.

    Ing,Turn off the ALL CAPS key, find a way to rephrase that, and I'll be happy to answer.Seriously, you're arguments aren't that bad. It's a shame that you feel the constant need to distract from them and undermine them with your presentation.

  157. 157
    Ing

    "Turn off the ALL CAPS key, find a way to rephrase that, and I'll be happy to answer."Fine you self righteous twit.How does that line up with your argument that god can't make himself known or stop evil because that would be lobotomizing people. Seriously, the Smith was still a bastard for a while doesn't freaking fly. If you had a magical divine experience telling you a) god is real b) he has morality you need to follow, damn it its inconceivable for him NOT to flipping be the best person he can right away. He has no doubt, that's the point. If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you not to pick your nose you don't wade into it, you know there's consequences so you stop doing it. again this is the exact opposite of your "problem of evil answer" which btw is STILL unanswered to any remote degree. So either you think we're stupid or you're seriously compartmentalizing. I mean if the actions of god's prophet are indistinguishable to an outside observe than someone whose making it up as they go along and using the religion to benefit number 1, what's the point?

  158. 158
    Ing

    Here's a disconnect between Seth and Myself it appears. Seth is all for the politeness I guess, not surprisingly since Mormons are typically good neighbors to have and really hype up those values. I put more weight on content. I think points that are important and someone keeps missing need to be emphasized. I think disgusting ideas need to be chastised. I don't think there's a major value to having superficial style over substance. Let's not mistake this for disrespect as I do talk to everyone that way.

  159. 159
    Seth R.

    Stephen, you asked me what evidence I have that Joseph Smith was not making the whole thing up or delusional on the Book of Mormon.We do have evidence.Please note that I do not expect it to be evidence that forces the conclusion that Joseph Smith was truly onto something. But it is evidence, nonetheless. It's more than enough for faithful Mormons to feel that they aren't just basing everything off of internal feelings that have no basis in objective evidence.The first portion of the Book of Mormon actually takes place in the Old World describing Lehi and his family's flight from Jerusalem and years of wandering in the wilderness, ending with departure on a ship to the New World. And here the text makes a few startling descriptions that neither Joseph Smith, nor anyone alive in 1800s America could have possibly known about.For instance, Mormon scholars have managed to pretty accurately map Lehi's journey across the Arabian peninsula. Taking what we know from the text, Mormon scholars have combined it with known Arabian trade routes and traced the line that Lehi's party would have had to follow according to the book.You can view the concept map here:http://en.fairmormon.org/File:Arabiajourneymap.jpg(continued)

  160. 160
    Seth R.

    In 1986, Eugene England summarized 23 details of Arabian geography predicted by the Book of Mormon, and concluded that Joseph Smith would have not had access to the necessary information to forge so many inter-related facts. England's list read:1. The route south to Aqaba is an anciently primary way out of Jerusalem.2. The ancient route, the Frankincense Trail, leaves the beach coast at Aqaba, so it is "near" the Red Sea; then it returns to it, so it is "nearer."3. The location of a major oasis about three days' journey along the trail from Aqaba.4. The location there of an impressive valley that could be used for poetic metaphor and5. of a continually flowing river that6. flows into an arm of the Red Sea called anciently a "fountain" and7. is capable of supporting extended settlement and growth of crops.8. Four days from this oasis, in a south-southeast direction, is another major oasis where9. wild animals that can be hunted with bow and arrow begin to be available.10. Further in the same direction, still along the Frankincense Trail that is in this whole area the only tenable route, with anciently dug or natural water holes at regular intervals,11. the area (north and south of modern Jiddah) becomes more inhospitable, a source of "much affliction," with fewer water holes,12. many sand storms and metal-destroying salt air and humidity where a steel bow would break and wooden ones lose their spring but13. where there is excellent pomegranate wood for new bows and14. a mountain where wild game is plentiful.15. Many days further in the same direction is another major oasis capable of supporting a caravan through a growing season, and16. this is where the Frankincense Trail turns sharply to the east and then17. skirts the notorious "Empty Quarter," the worst desert in Arabia, another period of "much affliction" to the group and18. a place where danger from Bedouin raiders could require traveling without firebuilding.19. There is, exactly where the direct route east intercepts the southern Arabian coast, a unique fertile area of fruit and wild honey, with20. a gentle beach and yet nearby high cliffs dropping into deep water,21. mountains nearby with iron ore for toolmaking,22. sycamore-fig trees growing on the mountains that are excellent for shipbuilding and23. strong monsoon winds used anciently for sailing to India and out into the Pacific Ocean.[5] If this wasn't enough, the text of the Book of Mormon speaks of a place called "Nahom" where the patriarch Ishmael is buried. Soon after which, the group turns east. Only recently has a location been discovered with inscriptions "NHM." Or "Nahom." Right in the exact vicinity where the Book of Mormon account says a place called Nahom should be. A short vid on "Nahom" here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw7fW19Sk1AAfter Nahom, the party turns east, again following established trade routes. And right where the Book of Mormon account, says it should be, you get a beautiful oasis area with trees, water, and fertile soil. "Bountiful" as the group called it. You can get a visual picture of the place called "Bountiful" in the account here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WslRp5CnC1Q&feature=relatedNone of this is information that ANYONE in the 19th century had access to. As far as the learned of the 19th century were concerned, the entirety of Arabia was a vast desert devoid of anything remotely resembling Bountiful. Certainly, there were no trees to build a ship. And the Book of Mormon has been criticized on these grounds for years.But, turns out that somehow, Joseph uncannily managed to pull facts out of the hat that no one else in his society could have known.This is one example.

  161. 161
    Jeff the Giant

    Seth, I think you've too quickly dismissed Joseph Smith's fraud court case. You said there's no proof he was convicted as if that was enough to sweep the whole problem away. I don't think you understand the significance of it. Joseph was on trial, and Josiah Stowel (completely convinced Joseph was the real deal, an actual seer capable of using his seer magic to find treasure) testified for the defense. Reading his account of events, though intended to exonerate Joseph, instead show he was an unabashed conman. Joseph used a seer stone in his con act. It was fake, as in, it never helped him find real treasure. He didn't see anything with it, but because it was a decent prop that fooled people, he continued to use it. And here's the significant part: THIS IS THE SAME STONE HE PRETENDED TO USE TO TRANSLATE THE BOOK OF MORMON! This prop of a con artist was used to pretend to reveal scripture that you hold holy. Can you see the problem? Are you capable of smelling the bullshit?

  162. 162
    Seth R.

    Jeff, you are talking to someone who believes in God, miracles, prophesy, and all that stuff.Surely you can see that simply claiming that "seer stones don't work" is nothing more than begging the question in this debate.You are doing nothing more than claiming that Joseph was a conman because seer stones don't work.That argument may find a lot of agreement among your fellow atheists, but you'll have to try a different angle with me.

  163. 163
    jem

    It is hard to convince someone using logic when they only use it when it is convenient for them. Even if we had a perfect logical argument you would just retreat back to your "personal experience" shell, then when the danger is gone you will go back to saying your god is logically consistent.How about this angle. What do you expect would have been different if Joseph Smith was a fraud?Give specifics.Many different religions make miricle claims and have prophets so Mormons are not unique in that regard, what makes mormonism stand out as the clearly true religion?When you answer this please ask yourself if what you typed could NOT me claimed by a religious person of another faith.

  164. 164
    Seth R.

    jemakai, a few possibilities here:1. Joseph was everything the LDS Church claims he was – saintly, possessed of spiritual gifts, true prophecies, all that.2. Joseph Smith did have SOME miraculous gifts from God, but wasn't quite so exemplary in every aspect as the LDS Church claims.3. Joseph Smith had no such gifts (either because they don't exist – as atheists claim, or because he wouldn't qualify for them – as Evangelicals often claim), but honestly believed he did have them. And he acted from honest motives and honorable in all respects, except for being mistaken.4. Joseph didn't have such gifts, knew he didn't have them, and deliberately lied to people with intent to mislead.The definition of "fraud" that I'm dealing with here only applies to #4. Intent to deceive.Just being mistaken or delusional doesn't cut it.Which one are you guys arguing with me?

  165. 165
    jem

    Answer my question for both 3 and 4.

  166. 166
    Seth R.

    I imagine my answer would be the same under both #3 and #4.If seerstones don't work, Joseph didn't have any spiritual gifts, etc. then it would fall to me to analyzed each of Joseph's claims and see whether I find anything useful in them.This is because I've lived as a Mormon my whole life and coming to grips with my new worldview would require such a blow-by-blow analysis.The rest of you could probably forego paying much attention to Mormonism at all, since it's not really a part of your lives (assuming #3 and 4 are the reality).But simply establishing that Joseph was a "fraud" (of either the deceitful or honest kind) as a prophet does not automatically invalidate everything he did or wrote. Nor does it cease being a part of my identity as a person.I'd probably stop paying tithing (at least on a regular basis – I might still make contributions to some of the worthy welfare programs the Church is conducting). I wouldn't participate in LDS ordinance. But I imagine I might still attend LDS Sunday services. Just out of a sense of continued community.I would not oppose religious participation by my wife or children. I would try not to undermine their religious life, but I would be available to give my candid opinion on things.In short, I imagine I would become a "cultural Mormon." Someone who attends church for cultural rather than religious reasons. There are a lot of Jews who are like this, I am told. I might take a page out of their book.I would see little to no point in becoming vocal in opposition to the LDS Church, because I don't see it as something harmful – even if its faith claims are false.I'm not sure that answered your question. Maybe I missed the boat here.Do you want to clarify what you were asking?

  167. 167
    jem

    It is more like if he was a fraud how do you think the events that transpired would be different(would he have an arrest record? would he abuse his position of power? would he know a mob was coming for him? ect…)

  168. 168
    Seth R.

    I think if he was a fraud, he never would have amounted to much of anything.He would have committed his first frauds, and then skipped town and traveled on to the next spot and the next group of easy marks.If he was a fraud, the Book of Mormon would have been undeniably and decisively exposed as a hoax over 100 years ago if not earlier. We're approaching 200 years now, with the Book of Mormon having been subjected to more hostile scrutiny than perhaps any other book on the face of the planet – except maybe the Bible (maybe). And so far, our critics have come up with nothing decisive. Just about every attack on the book has been refuted.There's no way, none, that a mere farm boy from upstate New York could have invented such a book. In fact, there is no way anyone alive in the 1800s could have invented such a book.If Joseph was a mere sex-crazed fraud, he would have done what any smart cult leader does – targeted the alone and the vulnerable within the congregation and bullied them into silence. He would never have chosen women married to other men – usually with the full knowledge and consent of the men involved – men who were not pushovers in their own right. Nor would the wives and husbands involved have remained friendly and positive about the relationship to the end.Nor would Joseph have confided in the practice of polygamy to every wealthy, powerful and influential man of character and standing in the Mormon community.There was absolutely more going on here than mere sexual conquest.If Joseph was a fraud, he would have run for it long before being tarred and feathered, repeatedly beaten, harassed by endless frivolous lawsuits, and repeatedly imprisoned without just cause.If Joseph was a fraud, at least one of those who knew him best and was closest to him would have stepped forward and outed him. If he was a fraud, the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon – all of whom left the LDS Church in anger – would have eventually recanted on what they claimed to have seen and witnessed. Not one of them ever did – though encouraged to do so by others.If Joseph was a fraud, he would have lived richly. And few men in his day had as many abundant opportunities to take advantage of the religious fervor of their followers to live like kings.Never once in his life did Joseph live like a rich man. He was impoverished his whole life and forced to live off the charity of others – and he never lived well even then.If Joseph was a fraud, we would not be finding so many ancient patterns of language, thought and tradition in the books he wrote – themes that have only been recently discovered – long after Joseph's death.If Joseph was a fraud, he never would have been able to unite such an impressive and morally powerful group of people as the people who suffered, died, and marched thousands of miles away from a nation that hated them to carve a place for themselves out of the bare rock and sand. If Joseph was a fraud, the movement would have died when he did.If Joseph was an obvious fraud, his life's work could never have convinced people like my mother and father. And it could never have convinced me.Take what you will from this. I know who I am. And we have the staying power to see this through. My people will still be here after the United States have crumbled to dust, and our most vicious opponents are nothing more than tacky historical footnotes.We've outlasted everything the world could throw at us so far, and we'll do it again.

  169. 169
    jem

    That last part got a bit cultish and once again makes me fearful of anyone from your group holding high office since they obviously wouldn't hold true allegiance to the constitution."If Joseph was a fraud, the movement would have died when he did."I can only take this to mean that you think EVERY movement in the world that has survived to today is also true. Once again, Mormons are not the only ones who make divine claims and haven't even been around for a fraction of the time other religions have been around.Hinduism has been around for 10,000 years while Mormons have been existed for around 150 years. Should I take this as Hinduism being far more true then Mormonism? If not then statements of the longevity of a religion are useless, and no your religion has not withstood the test of time compared to other religions.I am sorry, but your religion looks very much like those other religions you claim superiority over. In fact, Mormonism has a much harder time because they just added assumptions on top of a previous religions assumptions."If Joseph was an obvious fraud, his life's work could never have convinced people like my mother and father. And it could never have convinced me."So I take from this that your mother, father, and you are infallible? I thought you guys were not gods yet! You sound exactly like a person who has been coned. It could never happen to me! The people I know are to smart for that!Once again, I am sure very conmans victims has said that to themselves at one point which is how they get coned in the first place: overconfidence. Anyway you guys were spoon feed all of this at a very young age so it really isn't surprising that you think you can't live without it now. If you kidnapped as a kid and raised in Saudi Arabia you would be saying the same about Islam.The more you talk the more it shows that flaws in not just your thinking but your churches philosophy.I was going to ask you to tell me something about Mormonism that lets it stand out from the other wrong religions(sorry, a prophet that claimed powers is not unique and you can find many in India right now) but I think you will just continue to give a sermon. If your God gave you something unique and concrete(like say a mathematical proof that was not proven yet) then you would be on better philosophical footing.You answered the question in regards to 4 but not in regards to 3. Say Joseph smith was honestly mistaken just like you think every other none christian prophet was, how would things be different?

  170. 170
    Seth R.

    I don't consider Hinduism a "fraud" in the sense that people here are trying to use the word either.You guys keep trying to conflate the meaning of "fraud" as in "something that isn't real" with the meaning of the word as "something that actively seeks to deceive or make people believe in something that the adherent knows isn't true."Keep it separate, or we'll never get anywhere here.

  171. 171
    Seth R.

    By the way..I'd submit that the word "cult" has no real useful purpose in polite conversation.It's such a vague term that it could apply to just about anything – from the local chess club, to the American Bar Association, to your graduate degree program, to the sales division at Proctor and Gamble, to the Democratic Party, to your local football camp.It really is a rather worthless term as a descriptor. All it really means is, "I think you suck."

  172. 172
    kopd

    The Bahá'í faith may make a good analogy as it was founded in the mid 19th Century (like LDS) by guy who claimed that he was a prophet (like Joe), and is still thriving today. If Baha'u'llah was a fraud or mistaken, then surely the movement would have died when he did, right?etc.

  173. 173
    Seth R.

    On number 3, if Joseph Smith was simply honestly mistaken?Well, that one is a different matter altogether.I would admit that most of what I said in the previous post is consistent with Joseph being an honestly deluded individual who had a powerful idea that attracted people to his cause.I was just pointing out that the "deliberate liar" or "opportunist" line just seems utterly out of touch with the history.That was my point.I do not believe that Joseph was a fraud in the sense of lying to deliberately and knowingly deceive people.Was he deluded?Well, then the question becomes – "on what topics?"Was he deluded on this aspect of his life's work, or that aspect?Here you just have to give examples, because sweeping blanket statements are unlikely to prove useful.Some members of the LDS Church for example, believed that Joseph was originally a bona fide prophet, but later he fell off the wagon and was no longer a true prophet.It's the "fallen prophet" narrative, and there are plenty of instances in early Church history of people who held this view.I myself played around with the possibility a couple years back and still hold it as a possibility. It's just that I never found any good reasons to really embrace this narrative. The solid proof just isn't there.Sorry, if this is confusing you. But this conversation would have been a lot simpler and open-ended if people here hadn't felt the need to paint him as a deliberate liar who was taking advantage of people for purely personal gain.You'll find that I generally have good relations with atheists who are willing to simply leave open the possibility that Joseph Smith was a sincere, yet somewhat delusional, man and are willing to examine the inherent power and usefulness of the ideas he presented to the world.I have several atheist ex-Mormon friends who are like this, and we generally have pretty polite conversations on the subject.No, what drew me out was the unhinged "liar" accusations that were flying around here. And the implications that anyone who sticks with this religion is either mentally ill, or just an idiot.If people hadn't been picking a fight to begin with, I might not have even bothered butting-in.

  174. 174
    Adam

    A sincere man does not use his godly inspired influence to fuck 14 year olds girls.Doesn't take peoples money in mysticism scams.Or order printing presses destroyed.Or drink and smoke while using god to deny it to his followers.Or run a fraudulent bank, stealing the savings of hundreds.Or fall for simple hoaxes such as the kinder hook plates.Doesn't completely fail at the one thing he supposedly is inspired to do – translate ancient writings.As for you Seth, how dishonest can you possibly be? Your words alone here are more then enough condemnation of both your character and your faith.

  175. 175
    Seth R.

    "A sincere man does not use his godly inspired influence to fuck 14 year olds girls."Which you have no proof he did. This is a convenient stick to bash Mormonism with, but it usually shows little understanding of what Joseph was actually doing, or the societal context he was operating in."Doesn't take peoples money in mysticism scams."Unless he honestly believes in what he's doing. And Joseph never made more than a bare living wage off this stuff – ever."Or order printing presses destroyed."Why not?"Or drink and smoke while using god to deny it to his followers."The restrictions on coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol were not widely enforced in the LDS Church until the administration of Heber J. Grant in about the 1920s. So you can hardly say that Joseph or anyone else in the church was "denying" these things to "the followers.""Or run a fraudulent bank, stealing the savings of hundreds."Joseph never made any money from the Kirtland Safety Society failure. And the entire venture was operated consistently with common financial practices of that day. I have studied the incident in detail and find no evidence of wrongdoing."Or fall for simple hoaxes such as the kinder hook plates."Which Joseph didn't fall for. He showed interest in them initially, but ended up never attempting to translate them. The end."Doesn't completely fail at the one thing he supposedly is inspired to do – translate ancient writings."You'll have to be more specific. There seems to be a lot of evidence that, on the contrary, he was quite successful.Maybe you had some examples in mind.

  176. 176
    Adam

    Seth, lying for jesus only on the ignorant.Which you have no proof he did. This is a convenient stick to bash Mormonism with, but it usually shows little understanding of what Joseph was actually doing, or the societal context he was operating in.Horseshit.Unless he honestly believes in what he's doing. And Joseph never made more than a bare living wage off this stuff – ever.I see, lying and scamming is a-ok. Only steal a living wage and everything is cool with jesus.Why not?This is mindwarpingly arrogant. If there was a god to thank, I'd thank him for no longer allowing people like you to control sociaty.The restrictions on coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol were not widely enforced in the LDS Church until the administration of Heber J. Grant in about the 1920s. So you can hardly say that Joseph or anyone else in the church was "denying" these things to "the followers."Did he write, whether "inspired" or not, write the doctrine of the "word of wisdom" or not? I don't give a damn if it was or was not activly enforced until the 1920s, it was in place as gods word in 1839, and anyone who ignored it past that is a hipocryt.Joseph never made any money from the Kirtland Safety Society failure. And the entire venture was operated consistently with common financial practices of that day. I have studied the incident in detail and find no evidence of wrongdoing.Yes perfectly legal financial practices of the day. This explains why Joe and Sidney had to flee on horseback in the night to avoid mobs, and fraud charges.Which Joseph didn't fall for. He showed interest in them initially, but ended up never attempting to translate them. The end.More lies for Jesus?I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth. – Josepth SmithYou'll have to be more specific. There seems to be a lot of evidence that, on the contrary, he was quite successful.Book. Of. Abraham.

  177. 177
    Adam

    Seth, lying for jesus only on the ignorant.Er I should say, it only WORKS on the ignorant.

  178. 178
    Seth R.

    As far as the Book of Abraham is concerned, it has been demonstrated that an Egyptologist reading of the pictures does not match up with Joseph's interpretation.However, this is not what LDS scholars are claiming. What they state is that a Jewish scribe or redactor used the Egyptian pictograms to tell his own story. This was common practice in the ancient world – plagiarizing the work of another culture and giving it new meaning in the context of your own.When you look at the pictograms from a perspective of how an ancient Canaanite source would have USED the Egyptian pictures, it's actually almost a perfect match with what Joseph Smith said it meant.The quote about the Kinderhook plates that you provide comes from the journal of William Clayton.Unfortunately, Clayton's account gets many of the key facts of the incident wrong, and is so much contradicted by other eyewitness accounts that there really is no basis for relying much on it."This explains why Joe and Sidney had to flee on horseback in the night to avoid mobs, and fraud charges."No, that would be because we had a bunch of bigots in the neighborhood who didn't like our religious claims and weren't afraid of sabotaging financial institutions and raising frivolous lawsuits as weapons in their religious bigotry.On the other stuff, you obviously either didn't read my responses correctly. For instance, I claimed that Joseph sincerely believed in his own spiritual abilities. Thus, by definition, he couldn't be "scamming" anyone.The other stuff is just you name-calling, which seems to indicate that you don't have a decent response to give. But you may prove me wrong yet.

  179. 179
    jem

    I never said you called Hinduism a fraud nor is anyone confusing the definition of fraud, you are creating a stawman position that no one entertained.You are the one that seems to be reveling in the destruction of the America that isn't mormons and treating other americans like outsiders, exactly how a cult would behave(Why even bring that up? that was just weird…). Nice try, but when it comes to high devotion(part of the definition of cults) the religious dominate(infact isn't that a virtue for you guys?).When it comes down to it I find all religions to be cults, it is just that the biggest cult gets to call all the smaller ones cults.You are not answering the question, the fact that you have a hard time answering this question is very telling."Say Joseph smith was honestly mistaken just like you think every other none christian prophet was, how would things be different?"This is basically a chance for you to outline what makes Mormonism different from all these other "false" religions. All you have said so far are instances of special pleading(which I have refuted in my previous post) and giving the same justification any other believer in any other religion could give. If there is no difference then I would be justified in placing it in the same category as the others correct?Even if Smith did translate plates I don't see how you can logically conclude HOW he did it(could have been aliens giving him that ability, or Satan, or he was born a psychic and had Remote viewing, ect…) or that Mormons are currently the correct ones(maybe he sent another prophet to the raelians that correct the Mormons?).I could easily answer what would be different if Smith or any other prophet was speaking to a God being, but maybe I just have a better imagination then your entire church.

  180. 180
    Philosopher's Mess

    @ everyonethousands of words of speculative nonsense–ah why I love this show and blog!It's a pretty ugly tactic to try and conflate somone's argument with child molestation, but something your own genus of atheists just seem unable to avoid…and it was great to read tracie defending "brain implants", which to me is the epitomy of irony, when atheists lament the horrible authoritarian acts of the gods of Hebrew's text…Seth is right if god acted the way you all claim you wish he would, you all would turn around the next day and start bitching about your loss of sovereignty!And even if god could zone in on one act like child-molestation, wouldn't that provoke the same criticism you are now attempting…wouldn't everyone just be like how horrible is this god who stopped the child molester, but allowed my adult sister to be raped, or shot etc….And you all would be so pissed if god had the audacity to stop you from your own personal evils, the ones you consider small and benign….like greed, sloth, and envy…

  181. 181
    Question Everything

    @ Philosopher's MessDidn't you hear? Those sins are soooo 6th century. There is a whole new list of sins for us to engage in now.As to your comment, there is no way that I wish God to act as there is no God. Pointing out inconsistencies in someones definition of God is not the same as wishing attributes to said deity. You would do well to recognize the difference.

  182. 182
    Michael

    Michael Free Will? a wife have the right to murder, lie, steal from her husband, whenever?Who's going to be the survivors, those with the Free Will for Righteousness or those with the Free will to Murder whoever, wherever, whenever, the Stalins, Hitlers,Saddams, etc. when they meet you, should they kill you then what. The child rapist, whats wrong just execising free will.Anybody can say or write anything, questions is can they demonstrate their bottom line world view be it political, religious or scientific with a blank piece of paper!Otherwise it just your word against someone elses! Whitter, Ca

  183. 183
    Seth

    See this video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkKblIMfmjIThe Mormons are pushing it hard from today until May 3–Facebook has some instructions for Mormons on what to say to promote this video and get it on the front page of YouTube for as many days as possible.The instructions can be searched for with the terms "The Book of Mormon/YouTube Challenge" on Facebook.They are trying to manipulate YouTube into getting them converts / staying on the "Featured Videos" listing on the front page so everyone sees it. I'd like to see some rationally-minded people knock this ridiculous crap down a notch or two.

  184. 184
    Ben

    This was one of the most interesting threads I've read on the subject. I've just watched someone start with a relatively intelligent ('relatively' being the critical word here) look at the thorny problem of free-will, alongside an effort at attempting to demonstrate the inherent necessity of a God's existence and of 'his' "omnipotence" existing simultaneously with perpetual non-interference… …then move onto saying this God interferes sometimes (but with contemporary cases unspecified, and the contradiction of his own argument un-noted)… … and gradually descend to saying proof of God is irrelevant (!) with a glorious non-sequitur about poetry and that one can just pick and choose which bits of the Bible are true arbitrarily after all, …into the totally faith-dependent drivel, and finally irrelevant arguments regarding the honesty of Joseph Smith (irrelevant in the context of demonstrating the existence of God & the truth of the Bible – of which, there remains, no evidence). What the whole thread highlights, to me, is an intelligent man attempting far more intelligent, convoluted and calm efforts than the average religious person to try and persuade/preach something – that Joseph Smith was given privileged access to evidence – that only faith actually sustains. If you're going to preach that we all willed, pre-conception, to come into being via 'Heaven', you're going to have come up with some motherfucking impressive evidence – Faith is not stronger ground than evidence for determining truth, and in turn belief. If you can't bite that bullet, give it a rest.All a bit of a shame in a way as Seth R is clearly an intelligent guy and could do a lot more good applying that intelligence elsewhere. I don't intend to be patronising, but it's… true.

  185. 185
    Seth R.

    Thanks for the compliments Ben (bit back-handed, but I'll take it anyway).I wasn't really satisfied with that aspect of the argument either – why does God intervene sometimes?The pattern of Mormon scripture – biblical and otherwise, is that God intervenes when invited to do so – in the context of a covenant relationship (like how Israel made promises to God, and he likewise made promises to them). Other than that context, the God of scripture appears fairly hands-off.I don't mean this as an airtight explanation. I just thought I'd put in that additional idea – since it seems to be the scriptural pattern.As for evidence of God – people who believe do consider themselves to be operating on evidence. Just not evidence that will force acknowledgment from anyone else. A person can have personal experience of God and religion that cannot be easily explained to others compellingly, yet remains compelling to the person who experiences it.You grow up in this religion. You test its teachings and principles against the other things you learn in life. You do the day-by-day legwork of integrating the religious paradigm into everything else you learn from school career, and life in general. You witness firsthand how well the paradigm works. You have an emotional connection – which also matters. Other people I know receive more than that, and actually witness miracles firsthand.That's more than just a warm fuzzy feeling. It's quite compelling to the person who has it. But it's not going to automatically convince anyone else.The kind of evidence I always hear atheists calling for is the kind that will be compelling to anyone who isn't already involved.But as I stated earlier, this kind of evidence would be pointless anyway. Just knowing that God exists doesn't mean you have faith. It doesn't mean you love him. It doesn't even mean you're going to obey him. That's why I said that God coming down and doing something flashy, like raising up a magic floating fortress of doom in the sky over Iceland would make little appreciable difference for the state of human faith. Those who were inclined to have faith in God in the first place would take the event as an affirmation of their faith and remain more or less as they are now. Those who were not inclined to have faith in God wouldn't change much either. They might be temporarily cowed and intimidated. But once the novelty of the event wore off, they'd get used to the idea and go back to business as usual.Last year's summer special-effect blockbuster. Here today, gone tomorrow – and ultimately nobody cares in the long run.Which is pretty much how God's miracles were treated in the story of Moses leading Israel through the desert.Hell, these guys supposedly had a freaking pillar of fire hovering over them every night. Water magically bursting out of rocks, whole seas moving out of the way, food magically appearing every day.And they still didn't behave themselves.The miracles ultimately had no power to change what people are at their core. The faithless remained faithless, no matter how many divine demonstrations of power God provided. And the faithful would have been faithful with or without them.This is why I maintain that hard courtroom-style proof is really quite irrelevant to faith. Having it wouldn't change your life much, and it wouldn't change mine either.Ultimately, God doesn't give two straws if you intellectually assent to the idea that he exists.What he wants is faith and love. And you can't force those by simply saying "look – here I am – I do exist after all!"If I prove to you I exist – does that mean you're going to promise to serve me for eternity? Or even the next two weeks?Which is why I have concluded that the sort of evidence being asked for here is really quite beside the point. A non-sequitur basically.

  186. 186
  187. 187
    Klebber

    Seth,I am having a hard time understanding your point. Arguing the specifics of Mormonism is fruitless, in my opinion, if you do not lay the groundwork of your foundational principles first. So I have a question for you: Do you believe the LDS position that Thomas Monson, the president of the church, is a current day prophet? Specifically, do you believe that God communicates directly with him, as two humans would communicate?

  188. 188
    Seth R.

    Kevin, I'm actually rather agnostic about the modern LDS Church's claims to direct face-to-face revelation. I'm favorably disposed to the idea that current LDS prophet Thomas S. Monson has seen God and receives revelations from him (and they wouldn't have to be "face-to-face" in my mind). But "favorably disposed" about describes the extent of my feelings on the matter.Let's just say that I'm more jazzed about Mormon scripture and past prophets than I am about current ones.

  189. 189
    Klebber

    Seth,So you are inclined to believe that the prophet of the LDS church receives revelation from God. What makes you favorably disposed to believe that this revelation takes place for Mr. Monson? The only reasons that I can think of to believe this would be that you have had revelation from God that it is true, or that you are simply taking the church's word for it. In fact, this applies to all previous mormon prophets, including Joseph Smith himself. Can you explain to me why, exactly, you believe that another man receives the word of God directly? My other question follows up on this: Do you think that these revelations, received by any previous or the current LDS prophet, are the inerrant words of God?I apologize for all of these questions, all at once. I live in the LDS mecca (Utah County) and I am not used to Mormons of your caliber, honestly. You make a (relatively) compelling case.

  190. 190
    Seth R.

    Hi Kevin. I spent high school and undergrad in Provo. While I consider Utah my homeland, I must say the political culture didn't really agree with me. It's nice to be out. Now to your questions…The last question is easiest to answer, so I'll start there.I don't believe in the concept of inerrancy for anything. I feel it's an Evangelical Christian concept that many Mormons have borrowed and slapped onto their own religion. But I think it's a bad fit.The Book of Mormon for instance has several passages where the author admits to possibly having missed something important, or not said something in the best way it could have been said, or even making outright mistakes.I feel that any time you have revelation – it is composed of an interface of two parts: the divine, and the human. And one of those parts is always going to be flawed under my worldview. God can always say something perfect, but it winds up filtered through a flawed human interface. Even human language is fundamentally flawed. Any student of languages knows that some concepts are easier to express in some languages than others. Sometimes there simply isn't a good word for what the divine is trying to say. Even our very language fails us. How much moreso when you combine that with human agendas, fears, insecurities, and just plain carelessness.I think it's an outright miracle that a document as old as the Bible survived as intact as it did. But I don't consider the book inerrant.Same for Mormon scripture. It was all filtered through the best efforts and mind of Joseph Smith. I respect him and the book, but I harbor no delusions that either are perfect.

  191. 191
    Seth R.

    As for why I'm favorably disposed to modern LDS authorities being "true prophets," there are a few reasons.First, it's what I grew up with. Kind of the default setting. My parents believed it, and I deeply respect my parents and acknowledge them as deep and intelligent people – not easily taken in by just any dumb idea. Then there have been the beliefs of many of my friends and acquaintances whom I also trust. Good people, smart, honest, and fully possessed of critical thinking skills.Of course that's not enough – but it's where I started anyway. From that basis, I did my own study. I've read through the scriptures and studied Mormon theology more than most people who belong to that religion. I'm kind of immersed in it. But at the same time I've pursued undergraduate and graduate studies in the broader world – so I've been able to observe for myself how Mormon theology holds up when exposed to the broader context of world thought and history.It holds up very well. I've studied science, history, politics, art, anthropology, and found that all of it fits in well, and finds a context within Mormon theology. The system is just plain useful. Which is why I continue to have confidence in it.As for Joseph Smith and early prophets, I'm a student of history and the history on Joseph Smith is almost never taught in full context and without a huge amount of prejudice on the part of those telling his story. When it comes to Joseph Smith – everyone has an angle and everyone has an ulterior motive. Smart-mouthed atheist bloggers and sanctimonious Mormon seminary students alike.I don't trust either narrative, and had to read about it myself. I have been pleased with the result. Joseph Smith is thoroughly controversial and breaks the mold repeatedly. This appeals to me. And I like his metaphysical ideas. Regardless of what you think of his personal life (which I think is waay overstated), his theology was pretty solid. I've found it robust as a framework and worldview. Same with Mormon scripture generally.So basically, I've tested the stuff in life and found it more than up to the job.At present, I'm agnostic on the legitimacy of many aspects of the LDS Church, but that's merely because I've received no particular conviction of them as of yet. But other people I respect seem to find it compelling, so I'm favorably disposed. But that's about it.

  192. 192
    Klebber

    Seth, thanks for the reply. I actually love it here in Utah, even though I am slightly liberal and very atheist. I just love the outdoors more than I dislike religion/the religious. So this is your line that got me thinking: “But other people I respect seem to find it (Mormonism) compelling, so I'm favorably disposed.” I guess that what confuses me about your ideology is that you seem to derive some or all of your faith from the value that you place on other people's faith, even though that faith is based on books that, by your own admission, are questionable. I, too, have respect for my parents and family, but I do know that they are just as fallible as I am. My mother is a Christian, for example, who believes the Bible is inerrant. I have tried to point out to her the problems of this viewpoint, but her faith is stronger than my persuasion. I just don’t think that is enough for me to take her god seriously. My dad is very close to being a Pantheist. I have told him that we already have a name for the Earth, it is called “Earth”, and that he can stop calling it god at any time. Both of my parents are responsible, intelligent and very trustworthy, but that does not mean that I cannot set aside their worldview on creation and/or god. God is either real or not real, regardless of what my parents or anyone else believes. As far as your position on revelation, let me get rid of the human element and just ask this: Why do you believe that God communicates with prophets, or with Joseph Smith, or even with family/friends? Has God spoken with you? And if so, did you factor out all other possible sources (drowsiness, hallucinations, bad Mexican food, etc.) The reason that I ask this is that I could not take another person’s word for it, if that is what you are doing. I have known a lot of people and if any one of these relationships tells me anything, it is that humans can be quite dishonest, for a multitude of reasons. Honestly, I find it much more likely that a “trusted” person is telling me a tall tale as opposed to the creator of the universe communicating with said person.It seems like you have found that the Mormon doctrine fits well within your life, and provides you with something good, whatever that is. I applaud you for this; most people are still searching for it on their death bed. But it does not give you reason to claim that the LDS doctrine is correct in what it claims, any of it. Specifically that there is a god, that he created everything, that he does not sin, that he gave us “free will”, etc. Taking life cues from a book is one thing; being a part of a religion that believes, as doctrine, that the leader of this religion receives revelation from the creator of everything is something completely different. I am positive that if I polled all of the Mormons that I know, I would get a near unanimous response that you are an apostate. I don’t mean any offense by that, I just know that anyone who takes the legitimacy of the LDS church into question cannot be in good standing. Like I said in my previous post, you don’t seem like the typical Mormon. Are you sure you aren’t just an atheist that grew up in Utah??Just another quick question: Do you think there are consequences for my not believing in a god? What do you think they are, if there are any?

  193. 193
    Klebber

    Seth,I was just taking a look back at your comments and found this: "What he (god) wants is faith and love. And you can't force those by simply saying "look – here I am – I do exist after all!"How did you come to know that god wants faith and love?

  194. 194
    Seth R.

    Kevin, there's a movement out there called "New Order Mormons" (Google it). Basically these are Mormons (some of them in significant local leadership positions apparently) who no longer believe the LDS Church's supernatural claims, but still want to affiliate as "Mormon" for either the sake of family, personal identity or heritage, etc. They'll even go to church every Sunday (though they tend to keep their opinions to themselves.Am I a "New Order Mormon?"No, not really. I have aspects of that in my religious life. I certainly have a fierce ethnic sort of loyalty to Mormonism. I feel solidly a part of the clan and am proud of the heritage. I'll get very heated in Internet debates that try to smear Moron history unfairly. Certainly I have a lot of family and friend connections at Church that I would not willingly give up for almost anything. I value what church participation provides me.Now, if that were the ONLY reason I affiliate, then sure, I'd probably qualify as a "NOM."But as you suggested, yes I have had direct personal experiences of the divine in my life that I regard as authentic. Mostly through personal prayer and emotional connection. I feel a very strong connection with a divine Father (and Mother actually).Now, have I considered the possibility of hallucination, stomach upset, etc., like you suggested? Yes I have.Am I absolutely 100% certain of myself here? No I am not. But I definitely consider it more likely than not. I am an intuitive person by nature. I believe that American society tends to overplay its rational side and deny its intuitive emotional and spiritual side. But I try to embrace this aspect of life and it has convinced me quite powerfully of the existence of God. So that's the foundation from which I build.Do I expect this to convince you?No, I'm not that naive. I imagine you'll probably write it off to some of the other possibilities you noted. Whatever, I don't really care. This is authentic to me.

  195. 195
    Klebber

    Seth, I'll look into the New Order Mormons, it sounds pretty interesting. I can completely understand your position. If you have had personal experiences that culminate into faith, then that sounds like a good enough reason to believe, to me. All I would add to this would be a deep look into other possible causes for these experiences. It sounds like you have done plenty of this, though. I just cannot say that I have had any revealing experiences, and this is not for a lack of looking. I am not, however, one to write off another person's experiences. They aren't mine, after all. I just conclude, for myself, that when presented with the specific LDS god claim, I come out yet again as an atheist.I also understand the "Utah faithful Mormon" stereotype in this culture. Most of the people that I know, who are Mormon, have a shell that they wear most of the time, a shell of Mormon, I guess. But once I get to know them, I usually find that under the shell is a thinking person with unique ideas concerning the LDS church. So I will assume that you are not alone.

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