Chiasms, Bible thumpers, and other stuff

2/9 - 2/18/98 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 2/18/98
I see you have a very comprehensive list of books, but I noticed you didn't have any Freud. I would like to recommend The Future of an Illusion. Whether you are a fan of Freud or not it is a great book to read.

Don't be scared away by the "dirty word: Freud." The book isn't all Freudian. He does point out several good non-Freudian arguments against religion. The book is, however, mostly Freudian. He basically presents religion as a mass neurosis. I strongly suggest that you read it and keep an open mind.

received 2/13/98
What is the "White Bible" that missionaries are given at the MTC?

It is a book of rules and policies for missionaries. Quite boring actually.

Is there any way you could print its content in the web?

Probably not 'in total' since it is copyrighted. I doubt it would be of much interest. There isn't anything of much excitement in it.

received 2/13/98
Who is Lloyd M. Graham?--I've read his book on the bible. What is his background?

I don't know. I looked into this soon after reading his enlightening--albeit sometimes wacky book on the Bible too and couldn't find out anything about him.

Has he written any other books?

Not that I know of.

If anyone knows please email me. I've had these questions raised more than once.

received 2/11/98 (but didn't get around to responding to until 2/13/98)
If you think Joseph Smith's writings (or an Indian "Four Winds" ceremony) is unexpected -- check out Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech.

To be fair, we have the Four Winds Ceremony listed as a Parallelism, not a Chiasmus. ;)

To be honest, I don't see any of these writings as "unexpected" (chiasmus or parallels). I see them, and other 'studies' like the "Bible Codes" more as people looking for things that aren't really there (no offense). Have you done a statistical analysis to see how many of your 'parallels' may result from chance alone? An excellent fiction work on the subject is "Foucault's Pendulum".

Carl Sagan had it right when he said,

If enough independent phenomena are studied and correlations sought, some will of course be found. If we know only the coincidences and not the enormous effort and many unsucsessful trials that preceded their discovery, we might believe that an important finding has been made. Actually, it is only what statisticians call 'the fallacy of the enumeration of favourable circumstances'. "Broca's Brain"
Anyway, keep up the good work. I appreciate your efforts even though I disagree with your methodology and conclusions. ;)
received 2/13/98
Hi there... I just stumbled onto your site while trying to look up some information I saw the other night on a TV show called Steven Hawking's Universe. I am quite amazed and impressed! At first I thought you might be a bookstore (! :>) but further exploration indicates that you are a person who "reads". It looks like it could take a life time to explore your reading list so let me just congratulate you on your being and say I look forward to my exploration.

It is an enlightening exploration that I'm sure you will enjoy.

I'm way behind though as I didn't begin my reading (and thinking) until a few years ago. It will be scary to see how long it takes the front page to load in ten years. ;) Hopefully, bandwidth won't be as large a problem then as it is now.

When I was in 10th grade (a looooooonnnnnnnggggg time ago) I undertook to explore and try to understand why people believe in God. In 11th grade I had a discussion with a teacher who was an ex-nun who told me something that I found/find moving... basically she said that looking for knowledge is the greatest homage or path, I can't quite remember exactly. I was surprised (in my young naiveté) to find a "religious" person who advocated exploration and wonder. I guess I share this as a "handshake" with you.....

Thanks for the nice message! I'm currently reading a biography on Thomas Huxley. Unfortunately, it is at home so I can't pull the exact quote I'm thinking of from it (I'll eventually put it on the quotes page), but at one point Huxley states something to the effect that true religion has nothing to do with theology or dogma. True religion is a never ending quest for knowledge.

One of the principles of UUism, that I heartily agree with, is "A free and responsible search for truth and meaning". Unfortunately for many religions, science does a much better job of this and science is, at least in part, rejected by them.

received 2/12/98
I have been witnessing to a mormon for a year and he said none of the ward leaders are paid and that is how it was in Paul's day. He is taking this from I Corn 2, 17. Have you ever discussed this and if so can you provide some information?

I have no idea if a paid ministry was the case in Paul's day. Using the Bible to determine this is shaky (and contradictory) evidence at best.

As to Mormons... While it is true that local leaders are no longer paid, they once were, and the "General Authorities" are paid. D. Michael Quinn has written much on the topic (even though recent history is hard to track since none of the records are available for public inspection). See his "Mormon Hierarchy" series and his "Sunstone" articles.

received 2/11/98
You're gonna make me late to a meeting. I can't tear myself away from the new stuff you posted! Thanks. I'm laughing my okole off.
received 2/11/98 (the following are two messages from the same person combined here, with my two responses, for clarity)
I would like to start off by saying I am NOT a Mormon, but a Christian. Mormons differ from Orthodox Christianity very much such as their belief in more than one god. I do worship God. In fact, I am a United Methodist and I am proud to be in the

Once you've found the truth, what's the point in continuing to look, eh?

The point of me writing this letter though is to ask a thought-provoking question. What do you hope to gain by being an Atheist?

Not a thing. I didn't choose to be an atheist in order to gain something.

If theism somehow rewards theists then I'd have to be dishonest in my beliefs to receive those rewards. BTW, what are these "gains"? Perhaps you can be the first to enlighten me as to what the benefits of theism are. I'm much happier now as an atheist than I ever was as a theist. Illusory philosophy was never very rewarding for me.

If you are right, it won't make any difference to me because I will be "rotting with the maggots" with you anyway. However, if I am right it is going to make a difference for you.

Sounds like you've been given a dose of Pascal's (flawed) Wager. Check out my response on this page.

read it, but didn't unerstand your point

How do you know you've picked the right god? What if there is a god who punishes those who rely on faith and rewards those who think?

You said earlier not to quote the Bible which I found very offensive.

I didn't say not to quote the Bible. I said not to waste your time telling me to "read the Bible" again.

Speaking of quoting the Bible though...
Do you find Numbers 31 offensive? I do.

If you are talking about the wrath of God on the Midianites, you have to realize that the Old Covenant that God established with Abraham was very different than the New Covenant. Circumstances changed. In the Old Testament, the best people could do is sacrifice a lamb or a goat to "cover" their sins. The ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ eliminates our sin and clothes us with a blanket of righteousness. Also the Israelites were, are, and always will be God's chosen people. If you get in the way of them, you get in God's way and consequences will be there.

This offends me. I will thank your God every day that he didn't let you become one of his chosen.

I do hope, though, you will hear me out. The Bible tells us that remission of sins without the shedding of innocent blood is impossible. It also says that he who rejects the Son of Man will burn in the Lake of Fire (hell). I regret that I cannot quote this exactly, but I am sure it says these statements. A possible response you might make is "If God loves everyone, why would He send anyone to Hell?" Please keep in mind, God doesn't send anyone to Hell. Every person makes the choice of where they will spend eternity. It is our decision, not God's, because we were given a free will.

You've yet to establish any reason why I should rely on the Bible, or why anyone is in need of sin remission, or even what "sin" is. Perhaps you should start with these questions before coming to the conclusion that God doesn't send people to some imaginary Hell--people choose to go to your lake of fire.

The entire idea of almost any religion is you base it on faith (Hebrews 11:1). No, I can't proove to you that the Bible is the Written Word of God and inspired by Him. However, there must have been a time when you did believe in Christianity (otherwise you wouldn't be so opposed to it). If that's the case, you probably believed it at some time.

Yes I was a believer--I confess, but I wasn't thinking at the time. Wishful thinking ('things hoped for' in the above verse) is no longer how I determine what to believe in.

I would find it hard to believe that you can believe beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is no hell.

I couldn't really care less if there is or isn't such a place in some other life. I disbelieve for the time being as there is no evidence of such a place.

I believe you know what sin is--anything that displeases God and is triggered by another "non-existent being" by your theory, Satan.

God has failed to tell me what displeases him. How can he possibly judge me for what he hasn't bothered to inform me on?

Anything that flaunts immorality altogether needs change.

Again, you haven't defined "immoral". Your rationalization of Numbers 31 is immoral in my opinion, but I won't bother calling you a sinner because of this belief of yours. When you start to kill people who don't believe as you do, then I will.

By being an atheist, you probably have the idea that you can do whatever you want without having to answer to anyone.

What atheists have you been talking to? I answer to myself and society on a daily basis. Us atheists try to do good from the "get-go" since we don't believe in your after-the-fact repentance.

Remission for sins refers to the idea of "making amends" for your sins. I believe remission of sins comes only by the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary.

And I believe remission of sins comes from: not 'sinning' in the first place, and making recompense when I accidentally screw up--rather than your form of passing the buck to someone who died a few thousand years ago.

Based on what was typed on this page I get the impression that you used to be a Mormon. If that is the case, I don't think they accurately present Christianity.

Mormons don't pretend to accurately present main-stream Christianity.

I take that back...some in the new PR campaign do try to blur the differences. Back in my day, we didn't claim to be main-stream Christians. To Mormons, Christians used to be apostates and the whore of all the earth. That didn't help raise the baptism totals which seem to be the main concern now.

I have never heard a Mormon say they aren't Christian

They don't. That isn't what I was saying. Mormons didn't used to claim to be 'regular' Christians in the "born again" Bible-thumping sense. Now some of them are trying to ignore and remove the differences of Mormon doctrine and history to appeal to mainstream 'regular' Christians. Mormons have always believed in Jesus. That is why they have always called themselves "Christians".

I don't regard them as Christians because of their distorted beliefs.

Nor would they regard you as a Mormon or say that your beliefs are un-distorted.

I just hope and pray that you and many other atheists like you will come to the Truth.

As do atheists with regard to your position--minus the prayers of course. ;)

I take that back too. Most atheists couldn't care less whether or not you ever find truth--so long as you don't screw around with their life or their rights to believe and disbelieve as they choose.

I am NOT trying to deprive you of your rights. I am totally powerless to do so.

But if you had the power, would you?

I am just trying to help you.

How is telling me what you think I should do a help to me? Perhaps if you used reason it could, but telling me to buy your faith instead of the faith of someone else does nothing to help me.

My strongest recommendation for you is to find a good and godly man or woman to guide you and lead you to Christ so you too may have eternal life.

Sounds kinky. I don't think my wife would approve though. ;) Perhaps you can lead Christ to me instead? I'm less elusive, and I'll be waiting...

Christ isn't the one who has gone astray. It is not He who moves, it's us.

That is too bad. I was hoping you could tell him to get a move on over to my house. ;)

I've searched for him and come up empty. Perhaps he enjoys extremely long games of hide-and-seek? ;)

Secondly, I encourage you to find a good Christian church and become an active member of its congregation.

I'm very active in my church's congregation already. I don't agree with everything said, like you may with yours, but isn't diversity of thought a good thing?

I would like you to steer clear of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, though. A response isn't necessary, but I welcome it.

No need to fear. I promise to steer clear of JWs and LDSers. Conversations with them can be very enlightening though. You ought to try it some time. If, through speaking with them, you think that their beliefs are silly, it may cause you to reconsider some of your own.

Are you so confident with your belief that you would rather die thinking that is the end? What if you stand corrected and I turn out being correct?

Then god should have given me a lobotomy before he placed me here on earth. It would have been simpler and made more sense.

Hell is ETERNAL! Don't wait until it is too late to be saved. Please.

Since you've preached to me, I'll preach a bit to you. Don't wait until it is too late to think! This life is the only one I know of that you have! If you blow it on time spent in church and reading the fables of past, superstitious generations then you will never be able to experience the joy your life can offer you and those you associate with.

As the great Neil Peart said, "We're only immortal for a limited time". Once a person realizes they aren't immortal, life begins. Enjoy it before only memories of you remain. Seize the day my friend. And while you are at it, pick up Dead Poets Society at your local video store and view it a few times.

received 2/9/98
I rented a video for my family to see. The name of the video was Dragonheart. It brought up something to my mind that has bothered me for a long time. The movie was, in part, about sacrifice. A good and true Dragon gave half his heart to save a dying prince who turned out to be evil, and in order to stop this evil the virtuous Dragon had to be killed.

I hate this type of thinking. It seems very primitive to need to involve a scapegoat. How more primitive to actually believe that "hey, well, our god's gotta have blood, he wants what is his, somebody has to pay the price"

It is indeed very primitive--as well as gruesome, superstitious, and the cause of countless wars and deaths. Barbara Ehrenreich discusses this in an interview for the current issue of "Free Inquiry".

I always used to hate those stories in church about the train track operator letting his little boy get smashed and killed by a train on the bridge while the happy passengers go merrily on their way and the boy's body bounce off the walls of the canyon. (Did you ever hear these stories?)

And many others like it. The story of Abraham may have been my wife's last straw with the church. She was in the Primary Presidency and was asked to give a 'sharing time' on the story. She could find nothing redeeming, uplifting, or moral about the story so she decided to pick another topic. A week later, after the wheels were set in motion, she said it was time to get out of the church before our soon-to-be-entering Mormon Primary child had to be exposed to such harmful thinking.

Of course we have it on good authority that being smashed and killed is no worse than a mosquito bite in the second grade...but then why should we ever alleviate any suffering, if it is so inconsequential?

It makes me wonder what the collective affect on society is when Christians imagine such gut wrenching stories week after week for their whole lives. Why do we have to believe it can't all work out o.k.? Why do we always have to have a scapegoat? I can't stand people that always want to find someone to blame for every situation. Many situations are no one's fault. Rather, they are merely the result of things that just happened.

I've always wondered why God couldn't think up a better resolution than having his son tortured and killed. People tell me that's the way it is buddy, you better toughen up. I would rather live in a "hello kitty, nakayoshi" happy world. This placing blame seems like an underlying basic concept that's causing trouble.

I agree. Wishful thinking that someone (or something) else can make everything all right for you or the world does nothing to actually better the world. When people realize that individual accountability and self-action cures problems, the world will be a much better place. See the John Dewey quote here.

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