Some of the frequent site visitors have asked what kinds of reactions I have received to the pages here. This page contains some of the reactions. (I don't post the vast majority of messages received as they are quite similar to prior messages.) Messages will be anonymously posted unless the author specifically requests that their name (and/or email address) be added.
My responses (when I have one) are in italics.
First off, I think you have some of the best book reviews on the internet. It'll probably take me several more trips to work all of your reviews into my "to read" list. I've been on an adventure kick and just finished Tim Cahill's "Road Fever" and am working on Hemingway's "Old man and the sea". I also have Augusten Burrough's "Running with Scissors", but my wife is busy reading it now (I've been picking on her because she's catholic and is enjoying a book from an openly gay author - that sinner is pretty funny, eh?) Before that I started about 4 or 5 books and put them down due to boredom or disinterest. Check out www.paperbackswap.com, if you're interested in book exchanging.
Reading the summary of Road Fever reminds me of my neglect on this website! I recently finished Travels With Charley on a trip to Mexico and didn't get around to writing a review for this site. Maybe I should.
From some of your reviews, I gather you're an ex mormon turned athiest? I'm an ex jehovah's witness turned athiest. I began hating religion during my teenage rebellious years and calling myself an athiest. It wasn't until I read Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael" and "Story of B" several years later that I began to critically view the destruction of religion on society and the human condition.
I assume you have children from some of your book selections. Is your wife religious? As is said earlier, my wife is catholic, but she is very respectful of my opinions. I could probably convert her if I tried, but I don't. My children are 3, 5, and 7, and I began introducing them to critical thinking and creative thought processes. Recently we've been inventing new games to play on our pool table (tiger ball, white ball, zebra ball). It is also giving me a chance to teach them good sportsmanship. I'll let each of them win at different times and then we'll talk about how good each of us played.
Thanks again for all of the great reviews.
Thank you. Your message inspired me to update this page and write a book review or two as I had been getting slothful. I had been blaming the lack of updates on my book, but I finished that months ago so I need to shake a leg. ;)
Of course, that depends on the system being monitored by a protector who can activate the weapon, so some ships have been able to slip through.
I highly recommend reading the first three books in the Ringworld series, and really I would even recommend reading the earlier Known Space books to give you more of the backstory. WORLD OF PTAVVS, PROTECTOR, TALES OF KNOWN SPACE, CRASHLANDER, FLATLANDER ... they're all good. And then RINGWORLD, THE RINGWORLD ENGINEERS, and THE RINGWORLD THRONE, of course.
I have a few things that I have questioned about my religion that you did not include in your site, and I thought I would point out the one that makes the least sense to me. If "there must needs be oppostion in all things" (2 Nephi 2:11) and "that which is evil cometh from the devil" (Omni 1:25), that seems to suggest that the devil is a necessary part of the atonement. But there is even more than that. We, according to the stories in the Old Testament and Pearl of Great Price, are here on the earth for two reasons: 1) To be tested by God, whether we choose good or evil, and 2) To gain knowledge and experience through the decisions that we make while here. Therefore, if there was no devil, there would be only one choice. We would gain no experience, we would not be tested. The ironic thing about this is that we are taught that the devil's plan for us was to force us into making the right decisions, something that would theoretically happen anyway if Satan simply did not exist. Even weirder than this, Satan will be cast out and die spiritually for this role that he plays in the plan of salvation, meaning that he will end up sacrificing more for this plan than Jesus Christ ever did.
I apologize if I have filled this with Mormon vocabulary and propoganda. Mormonism is all that I have ever known, so free-thinking is a bit hard. I completely agree with your mission in life to find the truth. I hope, someday, that I will be able to find the truth as well.
Theology never does make much sense when you think about it on more than a superficial level.
But the biggest problem with the devil, in my opinion, is that "he" has evolved in the human imagination. Real beings don't change to fit the current needs of believers like myths and fables do.
Keep up the freethought,
First of let me "break the ice" by saying that this site and lds-mormon.com are excellent, and I get more valuable info about Mormonism and christianity from this site than from any other. I am a temple going LDS yet I still keep and open mind when it comes to factual information and studies. I totally relate to the comments made and the reasons stated for these sites. I would like to be apart of a cyber group or forum concerning these topics but am very leary of forums for money or "bash you, bash me" groups. If you would, please give me some recommendations of any groups I can be a part of. I would love to discuss books I've read and my ideas with others that are on the same "page" about religion, mormonism, christianity, etc. as I am. Thanks for your time and web sites.
Here are a few:
My complaint is this: for a site that is dedicated to objective analysis of the facts, it seems very one-sided. I commend you for including links to “pro-Mormon” sites, but your specific analyses seem pointedly “anti-Mormon” despite your claims to the contrary. I will not complain that you expose the faults of the Church. I am well aware of them. I can see that many members of my own Church voluntarily adopt distorted views of reality. Whether this is done through ignorance or wanton disregard of the facts, I see no need to belittle them at the expense of objectivity. There is much to consider when you discuss the life and teachings of Joseph Smith. I personally would never undertake the effort of developing a site like yours because I can glimpse the depth of the topic and I know I would not be able to present it completely. Your site has a lot of breadth, which is fine; but I’ve noticed a general omission of facts that can deceive the reader as much as a complete misstatement of facts would. My own personal study has centered on a few aspects of Book of Mormon research, and these few aspects are sufficiently complex to have occupied many hours of my time every day for months on end. If your intent is to inform your readers, some of these facts should be considered in your analyses.
I have one specific example to illustrate my point. On your annotated Book of Mormon page regarding 2 Nephi 26:25 http://www.2think.org/hundredsheep/annotated/iinep26.shtml you point out that Isaiah 55:1 was written after Lehi left Jerusalem. Therefore the phrase "buy milk and honey without money and without price" constitutes an anachronism. This is granted. However, what you have omitted is, to me, more glaring than what you have included. If you view the attached PowerPoint presentation, you will (begin to) see what I see when I read this passage. There is not only one anachronism in this verse. There are at least half a dozen of them. So what does this imply? Well, certainly it implies that the Book of Mormon was probably not a direct translation of the Golden Plates. However, I believe that any astute reader who has learned "to think" for himself will begin to ask other relevant questions. By including only one of the "borrowed" Biblical passages, you imply that Joseph Smith simply picked up a Bible and browsed casually through it, ripping off a word here, a phrase there, and a whole chapter in another place. In my mind the sheer complexity of this verse demands a greater explanation than the one you offer. When you consider that this level of complexity continues (with the exception of the chapters from Isaiah, Malachi and Matthew) for 531 pages in the current edition of the Book of Mormon, it quickly eliminates your proposition that this was a poorly designed book, and it casts serious doubt in my mind that an individual or even a committee could have composed it. Of course we are both free to draw our own conclusions about how it was produced, but all facts should be considered.
So the book is full of anachronisms. How are we Mormons to deal with it? The answer is fairly simple, for me at least. It appears that Joseph took a character from the plates (or from the Sen-sen papyrus) and embellished it in his translation. If there were seven Biblical sources that contributed to 2 Ne. 26:25 (and there were actually more that I did not include in the presentation), why should we preclude the possibility that there was an eighth (non-Biblical) source, namely, a character from the Golden Plates? (There is some evidence to suggest that the Book of Abraham was produced with the sen-sen papyrus in exactly this manner. See http://www.bibleman.net/Egyptian_alphabet.htm
I apologize that the transciption on this site is not professional, but you get the point.) The “embellished translation” theory is preferable for me because it’s simple, concise and comprehensive. It explains why “View of the Hebrews” and Shakespeare can appear in the Book of Mormon translation. It doesn’t force me to equivocate and say that the Book of Mormon witnesses lied, or that chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is not pervasive, significant or deliberate even though it obviously is, or that themes from the Dead Sea Scrolls don’t actually appear in the Pearl of Great Price even though they obviously do. It adds a thread of consistency to the way the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the endowment were composed. I think Occam would be proud.
The inspiration of Joseph Smith's writings is obvious to me, but you may have another word to describe them. Members and nonmembers alike start with many incorrect assumptions and seem unwilling to give them up. One of these assumptions is that a Joseph Smith “translation” must be a “tight” translation. If we loosen that requirement, we can account for the "anachronisms," and many of the objections you have to the endowment, the Book of Mormon and other areas in Mormonism disappear. (Now, I concede that many members of the Church are not willing to listen to that sort of reasoning, but their closed-mindedness should not give honest intellectuals like you and me grounds to be closed-minded in the other direction.) Any explanation must account for Joseph Smith's "direct hits" as well as his apparent misses. Members of the Church obviously emphasize the hits. You and the Tanners emphasize the misses. It would be nice if both sides could give credit where credit is due. I’m not trying to reconvert you. I’ll leave that attempt for your more naďve readers. My plea is much simpler. If you're going to present an in-depth analysis of a book like the Book of Mormon, I would expect you to give the reader all the facts to aid him in his decision. Again I repeat, I would not feel confident presuming to know all the facts. I would hope, however, that on a site whose major premise is to consider all facts to arrive at an intelligent conclusion, you would be as objective and thorough as possible. You have admitted that your annotations of the Book of Mormon are a work in progress. I would encourage you to spend as much effort as is necessary to complete your annotated Book of Mormon page by including all relevant references, or remove it from your site altogether, and also to remove any derogatory remarks about the Book of Mormon whose whole purpose seems to be to bias readers to think as you do. By the way, if you finish that section of your site, it will likely become one of my favorite research tools.
The annotated Book of Mormon was actually done by someone else. It was part of the Hundred Sheep site that went down and I am merely hosting. Unfortunately, I no longer have the least bit of interest in things related to Mormonism and religion. I don't even think about the subject anymore. I get loads of email on it still but most is ignored. Sure, the site could be made better, but life is too short for me to spend any more time on it so it just sits there now.
You have something I've been wanting to put together for the past few years. You must be a kindred spirit. Even though I am a temple going LDS, I have come to question and research all I can about Christianity-Mormonism and how religion in general ever got started. I have come to realize it's an evolutionary process of understanding ourselves, just as the sciences evloved to explain the universe around us. I came to critically examine my faiths when my faiths seemed to fail me. I started to ask "why", "are my faults causing them to fail, or have I for all my years put a trust in something man made rather then fully Divine". I am a pilgrim on a quest to discover what the religions in my life truely are, fully Divine (as they should be), part Divine part human (as they maybe), or all of human invention and intellect (which they are seeming to be).
Thank you for your websites. Please continue with your labors to bring truth and Reality to these and other subjects.
I strongly agree with most of your points, especially the one on how we all are agnostic as nothing can be proven on such a topic.
I was never brought up in a religious environment and was never taught in great detail about the existance of God and the stories in the Bible, so I can't can't be a very strong atheistic person if i have nothing to back up my belifes on the non-existance of god except my scientific ones.
The only thing I have to mention is the attitude of theistic people. They are sometimes, and I know this is only a small majority of people, that if you mention your lack of belief of God if you are an atheist they are sometimes angry or offended. I belive that atheists should be treated equally. We belive that God doesn't exists probably just as stongly as theists belive that God does exist. We have our beliefs and they have theirs. We choose to believe there isn't a God and they do. I belive that atheists have a sort of "religion" of their own, except we believe there is no God rather than there being one.
I know that nothing on the topic will ever be proven unless the whole earth's population went to heaven and back if it did exist, but even then nothing can be done to prove that it doesn't exist. I also know that there will always be theists and atheists, and that everyone will always be agnostic, but I will live my life the way I want, and what I chose is up to me and I won't try to persuade other people to follow me beliefs just to satisfy me.
Thank you very much for such a life changing essay, and I hope everyone else who reads it will enjoy it as much as I did.
PS. Do you know of any good books on this topic or a similar one?