Thoreau, Steinbeck, Abbey, and other renegades

1/4 - 2/1/99 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 2/1/99
I am writing to you not to bash or otherwise but to let you know that it seems to me that the reasons for leaving the LDS church was a trivial one based on lack of understanding of the subject matter and not of faith.

I would say that my reasons were reversed from what you conclude. When I relied on faith and didn't bother to investigate the subject matter I was your typical Mormon--seldom doubting and thinking I was happy with the faith that would surely 'save' me.

It seems to me that faith is a greater tool available to man that seeks truths not known or understood and not the intellect of another man.

Then why do you rely on folks like Gordon B. Hinckley, Joseph Smith, and the various men who wrote the Bible to tell you what the Truth is?

Should not the truth be establish? And are there not things that are not able to be verified by others? Does this make the beliefs that you have any less true? No! It is by faith.

In my case, I rely on Occam's Razor when something isn't able to be verified absolutely. I suppose you could call this faith--but it is certainly a rational one. If you can show me how Occam's Razor cuts up any of my beliefs which contradict your beliefs, I'll gladly change my beliefs to yours.

And don't get caught up in blind-faith. Principles are there to guide,help and to give understanding to what is available in the eternal aspect of God.

What principles are these? Are any of them based on observable and/or testable facts?

Who is to say that all the intellects of the world know better than God or those that he has instructed to lead here upon the earth.

This begs the question. First you need to ask, "Who is to say that there is a God?"

Testimonies are or should be based on faith to guide and enlighten in times of struggle. This does not mean that the Lord will appear before you, but to give you comfort in knowing that he is guiding you eventhough you or I do not have a fullness in understanding. I Believe that God is mightier than you, I, or all of mankind and that by his spirit we may know of these truths.

And what happens when this 'spirit' contradicts itself between people or within the same individual?

It may not be available to us in this realm, but our faithfulness to him will enable us to gain so much in the hereafter.

What if this God doesn't want faithfulness? What if God wants people to know how to think and reason?

And what about restoration and revelation? Are these not elements of faith? With out the power of God, or the priesthood, these elements are not seen nor excepted.

What has been restored or reveled? Without evidence 'revelation' and 'restoration' are meaningless terms applied to someone else's fantasy. Someone else's 'revelation' is your hogwash and vice versa.

If you sought a way out of something that you or another could not explain, than this seems it was an easy way out. But faith in the Lord allows his hand to take the unknown and perseve it until the right time. Who are we to say when the Lord should reveal? And how can we find if the things that are revealed are true?, pray earniestly and with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Souldn't the research be based on the things of the Lord and not of or from mans thoughts or teachings?!! Wouldn't this give a better answer? I know so.

There are valid and invalid usages of the word 'know'. Without any support on your part (and my own experiences with how these 'answers' are provided by the supposed Lord), I have to conclude that your methodology is not epistemologically useful.

The quotes that you leave at the bottom of on of your web-pages are refering to truth believed is from all things and that LDS members should seek truth from all sources. This is the true fundamentle basis for understanding faith itself. It is by faith and the Holy Ghost that those things sought or found may be confirmed upon each person by the "light of Christ" or their conscious. After the gospel was taken from the earth the first time, the thoughts of man have cluttered the truth and have found ways to destroy it. With out the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, man is not the answer. Pray with an open heart and contrite spirit with a real desire to know if something is true and the Holy Ghost will manifest it unto you.

Been there. Done that. Nothing but silence.

in response to the above
If you had done this as you say, what first does it mean to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. If you understand what it takes to achieve this level of humility and humbleness than silence would not have been felt, but rather a comfort of the spirit confirming the truth of all things.

This is an interesting line of circular reasoning that will protect any falsehood from exposure to clear thinking. I can claim the moon is made of cheese and then when you taste it and tell me that it doesn't taste like cheese I can say, "Just because you can't see my results doesn't mean that my assertions are untrue. There must be something wrong with you."

And to think or reflect a response with another web page is hiding yourself from your own experiences of those of others.

Actually, referring you (and others) to pages on my site in my response is merely to allow myself to spend less than my entire life responding to messages like yours. Had you bothered to visit those webpages you would have seen that they were my own experiences and thoughts. I need not repeat them in every email.

While on your mission you must have at one time or another been influenced by the Spirit of God or seen the influenced or effect that it had in others and the positive outcome that it had then and still has today.

The power of suggestion coupled with wishful thinking is not something I have lost (although I now try and tame it a bit). Nor is it held in monopoly by Mormons. In fact, the "Spirit of God" can be duplicated under controlled conditions in a lab. See "Searching for God in the Machine" by David C. Noelle in the Summer 1998 issue of "Free Inquiry" for some details. External stimuli can certainly help fuel the mind, but we have no evidence that any external being creates the 'God feelings' in the brain.

God does not change. God does not move (speaking doctrinally).

You are missing out on the fun of studying your own church's history. The evolution of the Christian God (among others) is also an interesting subject you should look into.

It is the carnal man that feels the need to move from something that no longer provides what we can either prove or explain, again the lack of faith is evident.

Ah, yes. The old if you don't believe as I do you must be a 'carnal man' argument. The problem is, I'm less 'carnal' now than your typical active Mormon. I'm more honest, spend more time with my family, and treat my wife like a respectable human being rather than a submissive being created for me and to take care of my kids. Believe it or not, former Mormons don't always end up looking for additional people to sleep with the way Brigham Young and Joseph Smith did.

As for the men that God calls as prophets such as Gordon B. Hinkley and Joseph Smith, etc., these and others are called to instruct and lead those that are on this earth.

Again, you offer no evidence to support these claims. Hinckley claims the church doesn't "need a lot of continuing revelation" and Joseph Smith made dozens of false prophecies in addition to creating horribly erroneous 'scripture' and pseudo-history. When is the last time a Mormon 'prophet' has dared to make a prophecy?

Others, as you might recall do not have the power of God, i.e., the priesthood, to act in his name.

No one has this priesthood you pretend to hold. Research early Mormon documents for starters. You will find that 'restored' priesthood wasn't added to the Mormon system until after it had been supposedly used for years. The current Mormon spin on the history of the priesthood they have pretended to use for the past 170 years is very deceptive.

Everything is and has a purpose. Whether or not we understand that purpose or have faith in someone more powerful than we (God not man) this is what we need to evaluate in our own lives and strive to obtain to maintain on the path that Christ provided us while he lived on this earth. And as for having the truth being established isn't this something that you did when you made your decision?

I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't make pretensions to having a monopoly on Truth.

Does not the scriptures indicate that by the mouth of two or three witnesses the truth shall be known?

Again, you are begging the question. Weren't there more than two or three 'witnesses' that committed suicide in the Heaven's Gate Cult? When you understand why you don't trust their witness, you'll understand why I don't trust yours either.

And for establishing if those witnesses are liable, should we not look at their fruits and seek again the Spirit of God to testify thereof? I am sure that you have either in the past encountered someone that was able to fit those outlines. Not every member would suffice, neither those that seek out counsel from any other source than God or those that he appoints. Of the 10 million members, surely there was someone if not three or more to testify on behalf of those descriptions outlined.

The same could be said for any church--regardless of how much that church's dogma directly contradicts Mormonism. This is why faith and testimony are not good truth-seeking methodologies.

And does this make beliefs any less true? Yes. Why. Because things that are believed are not always true, but truth is always established and can be believed. Once the world was thought to be flat. This was commonly believed and many thought that you would fall of the face of the earth. This was not truth but believed. On the other hand we know the truth today that the world is round. This has been established and can be believed.

Continue this line of thinking and you will soon become a freethinker.

In a case that it is not established be man, it is therefor necessary to have faith in what cannot be seen but are true.

You are assuming that all the things you have faith in are true. I would hardly consider that position tenable. If something cannot be proven, we should reserve judgment. Faith is not necessary. When it is used it should be based on the most plausible explanation.

Rational is a carnal means to get around something that one cannot prove or establish for ones self.

It sounds like anyone relying on faith then is carnal in your opinion as they have to rationalize their way around the facts.

Again, it is taking out the essentials. What principles? Those that, in this subject matter, refer to "Mormonism." If these are unknown to you, these too might be reasons for your decision. And yes God does want us to think, one of the most viable tools that he has given his children is that of agency. As you have done, so do all. To choose as they please. Whether done so correctly will be the basis of your eternal state and that is not decided by all the intellect of the world, but by the Almighty God.

Then tell this Almighty of yours to stop hiding. Your Almighty God works mighty hard at making it look like he? doesn't exist.

received 1/20/99
I think your research is amazing. I wonder why you have put so much effort into disproving this religeon.

First of all, I don't spend much effort on Mormonism anymore. Initially, I put 'so much effort' into studying the church because the church was my life for several decades. It is not possible to separate an active, believing Mormon from their religion. I was Mormonism and Mormonism was me. I spent an incredible amount of time in Mormon meetings and doing 'Mormon things' (not to mention the dollars I gave up to the organization to avoid being burned). Therefore, it took an incredible amount of research on my part to convince myself that it was time to begin a life based on reality and put my Mormon mind behind.

My only other question is this:
When the day of dispensation comes, what will you do if God tells you that faith is the only proof you can find and the religeon that you have spent so much time disproving IS the one and only truth upon the earth?

When the day comes or *if* the day comes? If the day comes, I'll ask this God of yours why he(?) bothered to give me a brain if he(?) expected me to live by faith. A lobotomy while I was still a fetus would have been more efficient and effective.

received 1/15/99
I have visited your site on "Mormonism" and I wanted to write you. I have my differences with the LDS church, and I choose not to attend meetings. I don't believe the claim that they are the "only true church" because I don't believe any church has the full truth. If God intended for us to know every detail of the gospel, he would have just come out and laid down the law, and did it in such a way that there would be no doubt.

Don't you think that if any sort of personal god exists he(?) would have come out and done so by now? The fact that such occurrences haven't happen is a bit of evidence against the existence of a personal god don't you think?

But I do have a firm testimony in the Book of Mormon, and I want to share that with you. I will not try to justify any changes that the LDS church made to the Book of Mormon. But I do believe that the lord used Joseph Smith to bring about the Book of Mormon. If he "invented" docterine, or changed things, then he is dealing with the consequences now.

But how do other Christians know that the Bible is true? How do we know that over the years, wording hasn't been changed to fit the doctrine being taught? We can't say for asurity that it hasn't.

These are good questions which not enough people have explored.

We can prove that Jesus really did live

I'd like to see this proof.

and we can show that places mentioned in the Bible did exist, but somewhere between Jesus living and the attonemment, there is a leap of faith. There is no proof that Jesus healed the sick, or that Jesus was resurected. It is by faith alone that the Christian can believe.

And this is a serious truth finding methodology problem.

Same thing for those of us that believe in the Book of Mormon. There are evidences supporting the Book of Mormon. Individually they may be small things, but if you sit back to look at it, there is a pattern supporting the Book of Mormon.

Enough of a pattern that Occam's Razor doesn't rip the pattern to shreds?

Start with the "Tree of Life Vision" from Lehi, and the "Tree of Life Stone". Yes it could be just a coincidence.

The "Tree of Life Vision" from Lehi is more likely a 'vision' of Joseph Smith's father. There is no evidence that the "Tree of Life Stone" has anything to do with Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon.

Then ask the question "If someone were to sail from the Middle East, where would the currents take them? "Coincidentally", the currents would have taken them past the Indonesian Islands, and they would most likely end up somewhere along the northwestern coast of South America, where the oldest native temples and settlements have been found. That sort of makes you wonder. If the natives are all Mongoloid, like your site suggests, and they came from the land bridge and migrated south and east, how come some of the oldest settlements are all the way on South America, and the Aztec settlements, which are farther north, are newer?

Likewise, if it was the fictional Jaredites and Nephites that made this trek (as you suggest) why are these 'oldest' settlements in South America far older than the civilizations Joseph Smith describes in the Book of Mormon?

There has been more than one migration. Roger Lewin has written about this issue. Read the book reviewed on this page and the links thereon.

My point is not to stir up an arguement. It's just to get you thinking that maybe, just maybe, the Book of Mormon isn't the fraud that you think it is.

For the Book of Mormon to be what it claims to be it would have to be error free. There are dozens of blatant errors (like reliance on the KJV of the Bible) that apologists will never be able to explain away. In addition, possible parallels (the 'just maybes' and 'makes you wonder' sorts of things you are trying to draw on) are worthless alone. Direct evidence is needed in addition to logical explanations of the numerous errors.

We have direct evidence of Joseph Smith's translation abilities with regard to the Book of Abraham. That is a good place to start looking for clarification on the 'maybe, just maybes'.

I'm not saying that the LDS church hasn't changed the wording and meaning in the Book of Mormon, and I'm not saying it is the "only true church". I don't even believe that. God Bless You and Good Luck in all you do!

Same to you. Keep asking questions. Don't forget to search for answers though. A question of 'it makes you wonder' is only a good start if it drives you to investigate further and come to a reasonable (and tentative) conclusion.

in response to the above
There is a chance that you are right, but there is also a chance that all these people sitting around waiting for their redeemer to come or come again (depending on their religion) are right. There is no hard PROOF either way.

By the same token there is also a chance that a supernatural creator only 'saves' those who rely on facts and sends all those who base their lives on faith to hell. There is also a chance that the ancient Greeks had it right, or that the Heaven's Gate cult had it right, or that life is just a dream and you are no more real than Freddy Krueger, or that... etc. It gets down to whether or not one thinks that Occam's Razor is a valid tool and then bothers to use it.

As a meteorologist I understand the relationships of weather that SEEM to contradict the existance of a supreme being. But in all actuality, my studies have strengthened my testimony in a God above. The order of nature, the atmosphere, the universe. How could some "Big Bang" create such order?

For starters you may want to learn about the Big Bang. Try reading "Blind Watchers of the Sky" and then move on to "The Inflationary Universe" for the real guts of the matter.

In the beginning, where did everything come from?

It is more likely a supreme power exists and created the unexplainable laws of nature, than this "Big Bang Theory".

Sounds like when you don't understand something you turn to a belief in the supernatural rather than to a look at the evidence or to a possible natural explanation. What do you make of this page?

Laws of nature show that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. But where did all this matter come from to begin with to have this "Big Bang"?

Ever heard of E=mc2? Take away the E (energy) and you have no m (matter) and vice versa. Again, Guth's book may open your mind like nothing before has.

There has to be a PHYSICAL beginning somewhere! You can't get something from nothing. My belief, which I'll go to my grave believing, is that some inmaterial supreme being created all.

How did this supreme being come from nothing and become more powerful than anything in our universe so that it could create everything in our universe which as you stated above can't be created!?!?

I want to ask you, have you ever had an experience with the "paranormal"?

Not recently. When faith was my methodology, wishful thinking filled my head and my critical thinking skills only kicked in on rare occasions. In that state of mind I experienced the 'paranormal' on a daily basis. Now I don't end my searches with "I don't get it so God must have done it" type thinking. I ask more questions, research the facts a bit more, and apply Occam's Razor... Poof--just like that, 'paranormal' experiences will no longer spook a person.

If not, I encourage you to investigate into it a little. I know that this isn't the normal "religious" bs you hear about a lot, but to me, it's another proof that there's something else out there. A lot of religions tend to shy away from talk about ghosts and haunted buildings and such. But I have had a couple really "good" experiences with the paranormal. Again, it's something that can't be proved, and it can't be explained.

Sure it can be explained. You just shouldn't write it off to the paranormal and stop your search there.

But you don't believe that there is a personal god out there? So why did you bother spending all the time creating a site to "bash" Mormon's, and trying to make other Christians question theur beliefs? Even though you don't agree with them, why can't you just let people live in whatever security their religion gives them? Because that's what religion does for people. Maybe you are right, but regardless, what point are you trying to make with your site? If you're trying to uncover the "truth" which no one will know until we are dead, (or if God comes while we are still alive) why don't you change your set up?

I'd like to know how I'm not letting "people live in whatever security their religion gives them". Last time I checked I wasn't the one going door to door trying to get people to change religions. I don't tell them they are going to hell for not believing me. Nor am I spending millions of dollars on TV ads. I'm also not in any way forcing people to convert to my way of thinking. I can ask a person to think that comes to the site on their own accord. I'm not ramming anything down anyone's throat. If folks don't want to question the traditions they were brought up in, I'm certainly not going to make them.

Why don't you make it so you have each sides' stand on a particular issue. I noticed that you had some stuff on your site which surprisingly supported Mormons on a cople points. I know, it's a lot of work, but you've already spent all this time to create what you have. Why not make it a little better?

Your Critic

I already attempt to show various sides of the issues (usually through links). If you know of pages of mine that need 'the other side', I'm all ears.

received 1/13/99
Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your site. It is a thinkers site, and that separates it from what most of the crap on the web is (i.e. porn, people trying to get your money, and stuff that looks good at first, but is really crap).

I ran into your site by looking at what people had to say about Eco's "Foucault's Pendulum." I am reading it for a second time right now, because when I read it a few years ago I did not grasp a lot of it, and only understood the general themes. Reading it again now I find that there are many interesting references (and yes, I too wish I had taken more liberal arts in college, even though I am studying engineering right now).

So anyhow, I looked around at what else was on the site and was impressed with the quality of thought. You present yourself well. There is one thing that supprised me a bit, was that Kurt Vonnegut was missing from reviews. I don't know if you had read his works or not, but I would like to recommend him for stimulating reading, especially "Player Piano."

Well, just wanted to comment about the site and make the reading recommendation. I will be visiting your site regularly from now on.

received 1/6/99
I am a Christian who is wrestling with doubts and recently read an incredibly interesting book which was thought provoking and well written. Charles Templeton's book is titled
Farewell to God; My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. Templeton is a well known Canadian journalist, as well as a former theologian and preacher. I believe it should be added to your book list.

You aren't the first to recommend this book to me. Thanks.

received 1/4/99
I recently did a
catch up review of your web page and was again pleasantly suprised to find one "my books" discussed. It looks like Carlos posted a message on your BB last June about a book he had never heard of, but now considers a classic - Abbey's "Desert Solitaire". I read this book about four years ago (about the same time as "Walden") and agree with him, it is a classic.

Speaking of "Walden"... I was listening to Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" the other day and noticed that the lyrics seemed to be inspired by "Walden". If they weren't inspired by Thoreau, Pink Floyd certainly hit on similar themes. "Here We Are In The Years" by Neil Young also echos these kinds of thoughts.

Another Abbey book that I consider a good read is a collection of essays that he published titled, "One Life at a Time Please". I assume the title is taken from the alleged Thoreau death bed quote, "one world at a time", his answer to a question as to whether he could see the other side when nearing death. You might not remember, but your follow-up comment to Carlos' posting was a question as to whether Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" was any good as you had heard. My answer to that is yes it's good, but don't bypass other Steinbeck classics to read it. In TWC he uses the same style as Thoreau and Abbey by using a central theme, traveling with his dog in this case, as an excuse to write about his thoughts and ideas. He does a fine job. Having been written in 1960 you can see he was ahead of his time. But Steinbeck Imo as a gift for writing those great thoughts and ideas in fictional story form that really makes you think and feel, again that's just my opinion.

While I'm here I'll tell you a little about the book I'm ten pages from being done with, "A World Lit Only By Fire - The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance". I'll try to make it quick and short. The book is divided into three sections; The Medieval Mind, The Shattering, and One Man Alone.

In the first section the author makes the comment that "there was no room in the medieval mind for doubt, the possibility of skepticism simply did not exist". Sound familiar?

The second section discusses the Renaissance, or rebirth, and is simply titled The Shattering. Sound familiar?

The last section, One Man Alone, is about Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe. But I still found the title of the section very telling of my thoughts after my personal shattering.

I found the similarities striking between the Dark Ages, Rebirth, and The Enlightenment in history and the Dark Ages, Rebirth, and ongoing Enlightenment in my own mind.

Later the above author writes:
The last six of those ten pages were excellent. In them you learn why he picked the Megellan story to end the book, and why he titled the section One "Man Alone".

As for my thoughts on the Mormon/Medieval mind I will give you the final sentences of the book:

"Worshipers want to believe, and most of the time they persuade themselves that they do. But suppressing doubt is hard. Secular society makes it harder. Hardest of all is the sense of loss, the knowledge that the serenity of medieval faith, and the certitude of everlasting glory, are forever gone."
As alive and enlightend as I have felt since the dark cloud of Mormonism was lifted from my mind I can still say that I understand this sense of loss.

One more thing. Last night as I was going to bed I was thinking about how one cannot lose their faith by simply being exposed to logic. Faith is illogical. So faith can be protected by illogical arguments. Well anyway it made me think of a funny (at least I think so) saying:

You can lead a Mormon to reason, but you can't make him think.
You know, a parody on the "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" saying. Oh well, I thought it was funny.

I watched "Winnie the Pooh" with my kids last night. Something struck me as 'funny' in one of the lines. Pooh gets spooked by Tigger's mispronunciation of 'Elephants and Weasels' as 'Heffalumps and Woozles'. Pooh then goes on to 'prove' the existence of such creatures by seeing them in a dream and then stating "I'm sure because I think I saw some Woozle fuzz". Isn't that the nature of religious testimony? People claim knowledge for something they only think they might have seen. Then they have to rearrange the real facts of life to fit this 'knowledge' that they don't want to lose.

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