A Mormon Atheist Agnostic comments

11/11 - 11/21/97 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 11/21/97
I was interested in your title of "Page of Honest Intellectual Inquiry : Philosophy, RELIGION, Science, and other thought provoking topics discussed." For a man who makes himself out to be such an honest and truly great individual, and to know a great deal about Philosophy, Religion, and Science I found most of your pages to be very one sided.

Perhaps you can point me in the direction of where I made myself out to be a 'truly great individual'?

I realize that being your web page you can give your opinion freely and openly. I seem to get the impression though that you were trying (with a lot of effort) to be very neutral (I would recommend a few more acting lessons, two thumbs down).

I'm not trying to be neutral. I make my opinions known very clearly. Do I think people should look at both sides of the issues? Yes. That is why I freely link to opposing viewpoints. Why do you think the opposing viewpoints so seldom link to my site? Do they want others to look at both sides of the issues?

My focus was mainly based on pages dealing with Mormon issues, even though I think they are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Not Mormons. Mormons being a name received from the mobs as a simpler form of the way to recognize the church.

According to Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon means 'more good'. He likes the term. Mormons call themselves Mormons. I call them LDS members at times and Mormons at others.

Having many friends who are "Mormons", (making sure this is not above your non-partial simplistic mind) and from the study of religion for most of my life I have come across many informative issues about the LDS Church. I have even come to the conclusion that it is a very good church.

As far as churches go, I won't disagree with you. Does it have problems? Yes. Can they overcome those problems with better, more honest leadership and individuals? Yes.

What I would like to comment on is the fact that your title is a little misleading it should be a Philosophically looking at Religion or even a Scientific view of Religion.

Many of my pages have nothing to do with religion. Why should I change the title to something that doesn't cover the whole site?

Your web page and even some of your response page tries for the fact that if can not be proved then it can not be, which is a very scientific way to look at Religion or, "show me a sign and then will I believe".

That is because it is a page of honest intellectual inquiry. If I wanted it to be a page of faith, I'd call it something else and house different content here (probably boring many of the frequent site visitors to death).

Religion has always been based on the fact that the feeling or even thought is what will guide you in the right path. Science bases its study on something that can be proven and if it can not be proven then it is not so or it will remain a simple theory.

That is an awfully narrow way to define religion--which many religionists would not agree with. Mormonism claims to encompass all truth from whatever source. That is why I like it better than many other religions which won't stray beyond the Bible. If science can add to Mormon doctrine, then the church is better for that acceptance of science. If Mormon doctrine rejects the findings of science, then Mormonism isn't living up to the ideals of some of its past leaders.

Now with that, how is it that you are trying to believe religion based on the fact that it needs to be proven by science.

I'm not trying to believe religion. I'm looking for truth and happiness wherever and from whatever disciplines I can use.

Now I am sure you are thinking that if I can't prove something then how am I suppose to believe on that thing. If you can't trust your own feelings how can you be trusted and if you only believe what is convenient to you then how will you ever improve. Every one has feelings if you believe in a God you believe he gave us these feeling for a reason if you "Know" science they, the feelings, are simply a hormone that is being released. Good luck on your search for what ever it is you are trying for, but I would try to suggest to state your opinion as an opinion and a fact as a fact.

Where have I done otherwise?

Realize that science and religion will never be the same unless science becomes its own religion!

I'm sure many scientists are glad to hear that they aren't in the same profession as religionists. ;)

received 11/20/97
An excellent aid for reading the Bible objectively is The Bible Handbook. With 100+ pages on biblical contradictions and 150 pages on other discrepancies, it is one source which does not predispose the reader to indoctrination.

For those who are interested in accurate information on Hebrew culture prior to the arrival (onslaught ?) of so-called Christian culture and the survival of the Jewish faith despite the artful proclivities of catholic (i.e. universal) church dogmas already by the 4th century (e.g. Nicea), please refer to the wonderful series of 10 videos entitled "Heritage -- Civilization and the Jews". This series was filmed and researched over a four year period on four continents and chronicles the 3,000+ year history of the Jews in the context of other Western religions. It presents an array of primary sources and is on location at relevant historical sights. It would do many historians and theologians well to view this before they present any academic rhetoric on the "demise" of Jewish culture or the so-called "post-Holocaust" era.

For young people and adults wishing to further their education, required reading should be the book Lies My Teacher told Me by James W. Loewen. With excellent documentation, this book provides not only details as to how our history books de-educate us (i.e. dictate to us what to think rather than teach us how to think), but also how Christian culture throughout history and presently has come to monopolize western thought and devalue other modes of thinking (science, philosophy, literature) and other cultures' ethical and moral achievements in thought and practice.

For those who are active in biblical scholarship, the University of Muenster, Germany, has recently published [in German only at this point] the volume "Editio Critica Maior" which compares all the greek manuscripts from the 1st century through the year 1000 CE. (The term CE -current era- is preferable to the customary AD -anno dominae- which carries with it a certain medieval mindset.)

Thanks for all the pertinent information.

received 11/16/97
In answer to your question as to status of my faith, I did not know what a heterodox was until I looked it up in the "inerrant" Encyclopaedia Britannica (after reading your response). At this point in life, I find myself adhering to so-called "Christian values" (which were plagerized from our friends the Greeks, cf. Plato and Aristotle) while associated ecclesiastically between deism and universalism, i.e. I am desperately trying to reach an articulate understanding of the world around me without denying my origins. I hope to keep the positive attributes of the Bible - as part of the cultural inheritence of mankind: inspiration for authors, musicians, painters, etc. - a significant attribute of the cultural heritage of my protestant upbringing (whilst acknowledging the sorry status of numerous inquisitions and burnings caused by fundamentalist and their version of biblical literalism and application of "God's word"). The expression "tolerence in diversity" is my present guide. (No, it is not an original thought, but I don't know where I heard it before.) I would aspire to be a decent person, perhaps even a sincere humanist, ala Erasmus' tradition, but I have much to learn. More specifically, I grew up in and had the dubious "enjoyment" of 12 years of so-called "Christ-centered" education and biblical inerrancy before entering the "lions' den" of a small liberal arts' college. My graduate work took me to Europe where I was "indoctrinated" with all these "liberal" German theologians and the language of Nietzche and Bultmann, Luther and Mozart, Rilke, Heine and Goethe, Einstein and Copernicus. Having consciously learned how a language functions, the insight given to me by the hermeneutical writings of Rudolf Bultmann were a wonderful key in scriptural exegesis.

You sound like a Unitarian Universalist. Many of them share a very similar mindset to your own (and my own).

I would also recommend, for those who have the time and interest, the video series "The Ascent of Man" by Jakob Bronowski. In a series of 10 (12?) hour-long videos, the author takes the viewer on a tour of the major accomplishments and highlights various periods of human history. This should be used in most university/college courses as a primary source, whether in science lectures or literature courses or history seminars and even if only in excerpts. Even high school students would learn much from the presentation. My "favorite" is the video entitled "Knowledge or Certainty" in which Mr. Bronowski illustrates the principle of uncertainty (or better the principle of tolerence - his words) and at the conclusion visits the concentration camp of Auschwitz to illustrate the point that it was not science which turned people into numbers nor gas which killed millions of people and turned the centuries of culture into ashes, but rather dogmas, which were fueled by intolerence and ignited by ignorance. Also mentioned in the series is the point that we, as educated individuals, are responsible for the democracy of knowledge, i.e. the responsibilty for the integrity of what we are as humans. The aristocracy of the intellect, e.g. dogmas or the 11th commandment "Thou shalt not question!", has no place in a society which is democratic and decent.

An insightful work for gaining an accurate overview and understanding of biblical interpretation and its history, is the book "The Authority and Interpretaion of the Bible" by Rogers and McKim.

I will be visiting your pages again. Thanks for the effort.

received 11/15/97
Funny how you seem to think that exposing people to these supposed "neutral" books, many of which I started to read but tossed out because of the total lies they contained about the LDS church, will somehow give them the ability to make an "intelligent" decision about what to do with their lives. HA!

Do you have any specific examples of the 'total lies'? Generalities do no one any good. Why toss them out? If you would have made a list of all the errors you could find, I would have gladly posted them for the world to see. Wouldn't that have been more "intelligent" than tossing them and making vague generalities?

It's both sad and hillarious to watch you waste your time with this useless web page (which I accidentally stumbled upon) while stating that you have found something more constructive to do with your time!?!?

It's both sad and hilarious that you wasted your time on this message to me when you had nothing of substance to say.

I think your time would be better spent mowing your lawn or painting your house. Or maybe even mowing your neighbors lawn or painting some widows house. Oh no . . . we couldn't have though, could we? That's what elders quorums do, those horrible bunch of time wasters!

I've never been in an Elder's Quorum that mowed lawns or painted houses. Good idea though--that would be much more productive than sitting in meeting after meeting.

received 11/13/97
Thank you for your review of Ishmael. It was just what I needed and was looking for.
received 11/13/97
Well I dont mean to beat on your low opinions of the statement you tried to trash, but I understand that the principles and other blessings mentioned in that statement are very true and benefitial to all that live within those guidlines. I have been a member of the LDS church for most of my life

me too

and served a full time mission,

me too

also being resonably endowed in scriptural text,

me too (I think--what exactly does 'endowed in scriptural text' mean?)

and what points you try to make are irrelevant and from your own opinion.

How are they irrelevant?

If you understood the nature of God and the eternal nature of man you would not question the prophet of god. Your say you believe in prophets words using scriptural reference

Referencing a scripture does not mean I believe all the words of every person who has claimed to be a prophet.

do you not believe that there could be a prophet today that speaks on behalf of the Lord.

Sure there could be. Do you have anything besides feelings and tradition that lead you to believe that Hinckley is a prophet? What prophecies has he made that have come true?

I hope that you do someday because your life will be truly blessed.

Blind obedience leads to blessings? I've found that well thought out ideas and hard work lead to becoming "truly blessed".

received 11/13/97
I really like your quotes page, very interesting to think about. [Regarding] Sterling McMurrin's quote [though. . .] I guess I am a fool, because I don't feel bad about god not being there, I never could understand His ways, and since along with god not being there, neither is there a devil, so I'm free to do well in the world I can see and understand.

I totally agree with you. However, I think that McMurrin's point is that none of us want our existence to end. We would probably all enjoy our future outlook a bit more if we knew that there was some afterlife that we were going to where the happiness we have felt and the relationships we have enjoyed in this life could continue.

Hmm, why is it sad the "world" cares nothing for us, when we have each other to care about us, and our values that we create and sustain. This understanding of no God, merely reinforces how important it is for us to take care of each other and societies values, since we can't just leave it to a god.

I agree (and I think Sterling would too if he were still around).

Do you feel badly that evidence does not suggest to you the presence of god, or do you read the evidence that way?

Not anymore. A deist-type god who created an afterlife for us but didn't hang around to manipulate the world like the puppeteer many religions envision would be nice.

Do I think the evidence shows the existence of such a creature? No.

My wife wants to know what your spouse did as you progressed in knowledge

At first, it was very difficult for her although she had harbored many doubts inside too. (I think this is the case with all Mormons even if they aren't willing to admit it to themselves.) She hasn't done nearly as much research as I have but has basically come to the same conclusions on her own. I don't preach any of my opinions to her, but we occasionally have philosophical chats--something we never did when we were both TBMs. Our marriage is actually much better now (not that it was bad before) than it was when we thought we were married for eternity and acted like TBMs. Our communications are much more open and honest too. This took a couple of years to achieve though as the initial reaction from a member of her family (who she was VERY close to) was extremely hostile. In the long run, the only drawback of our journey have been the cruel words said to us by several family members. Some have taken the news very well though (at least that is how it appears to us--who knows what they really think).

and do you still attend LDS services. (I guess I'm curious too)..

I haven't been to LDS Sunday Services for over a year. We went to the baptism of a friend's child since then, and my wife has gone to church while visiting relatives a couple of times. We attend a UU fellowship on a pretty regular basis now. There we are encouraged, rather than condemned, for questioning.

Oh you mentioned kids- they were the fruit of the tree of knowledge that really made me start this whole process. They saw inconsistencies in church teachings and began to ask me questions I couldn't honestly answer (Fabulous name on your web page- never be afraid of truth and all-that's how we got here)

This is very similar to my story except that it was the expecting of the first kid that got my wheels turning.

We have never wanted to lie to the kids and never thought it was for their own good, like some people say. (and now even when I try to lie, for their own good, following neat advice like telling them they'll go to hell for not believing in Santa..they just laugh.

Any way thanks again for the quotes page, just wonderful.

Thanks for your comments and insights.

received 11/13/97
Your pages dealing with religious rhetoric are a welcome relief in this day and age. I am entertained by the so-called Christian Right (which is neither christian nor correct) and their array of clowns (e.g. Jerry Falwell, Pat Buchanan, Oral Roberts, Jack Van Impe, Billy Graham,
James Dobson, etc.). I have found the Internet to be an excellent source of details to counter these reality-impaired members of the Christian Collective (as in the Borg mentality), but the going gets tough. Especially amusing are these pseudo-Ph.D.s of the Creation Research Institute in California.

Two books that I would highly recommend are: The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy by C.D. McKinsey and Putting Away Childish Things By Prof. Ranke-Heinemann (a student of theologian R. Bultmann)

Keep up the good work and even though you should "put away childish things" (I Cor. 13:11) by all means "search the Scriptures to see whether these things be true." (Acts 17:11)

It would do Christians good to read Nietzsche's essay on "God is Dead". The reference here is not that God or god no longer exists, but rather that since the industrial revolution man's inhumanity to man has augmented itself. The full quote is "God is dead. We have killed God." What is related here is the perspective that the West, so-called Christian society, is so focused on doctrines and dogmas, creeds and confessions, that many individuals who subscribe to this mentality are no longer able to view the full spectrum of human suffering. Your contribution to counter this "collective myopsy" is long overdue. Thanks !!!!!

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I suspect that you are a theist and quite possibly a heterodox Christian or Muslim? If theists approached the world as you do, it would be a much better place!

received 11/12/97
I really get frustrated when I'm at the bookstore and see something by
Phillip Johnson or Michael Denton in the same section as Gould or Dawkins--shouldn't the creationist propaganda be over in philosophy, religion or humor since they really don't have anything scientific to say?

I'd vote for humor or religion since they rarely have anything philosophical to say either. ;)

On the other hand, it could just be someone on a crusade against reason; a reciprocal of myself. I often make a point of "misplacing" a copy of "The Demon Haunted World" in the New Age section ;) A couple of weeks ago I took a trip out to the Creation and Earth History Museum run by ICR, bravely parking my Darwin-amphibian between Jesus-fish and Holy Spirit-doves. I admit that I believed and taught some crazy stuff when I was a TBM (True-Believing Mormon), but it sounds reasonable next to the worldview of the True-Believing Creationist. Well, almost. If you are ever in San Diego, don't miss it (it's free).

I wouldn't dream of missing it. Next time I'm in San Diego, I'll be sure to visit. It is amazing that it's free! Do they do a hard sell on books, videos, and other sorts of so called 'charitable' contributions, or did they just leave you alone?

The wall-sized Noah's Ark painting with dinosaurs peeking out between elephants and giraffes was hilarious. Later on they herded us all into an auditorium to see a video-lecture by Phillip Johnson--again, no science, no evidence, just criticism of scientists for assuming that there is no God (excuse me, but who's making the assumption here?). One thing was lacking, however. Among all the flood-geography and thermodynamics-bashing, I hoped to learn something about creation-molecular biology. But they had nothing to say about humans and chimpanzees sharing 98% of their genomes, or shared pseudogenes--fossil genes, really (have you seen talkorigins.org/faqs/molecular-genetics.html? Good stuff there).

Yes. Denton completely ignores this issue (and many others).

I found one very good point made in the pamphlet "The Meaning of 'Day' in Genesis," by James Stambaugh (ICR's librarian). He concludes, "If God [Semitic mythology] can decieve us concerning the events of creation, He [Christian storytellers] might have done that in regards to the life, death and resurrection of our Lord. The bottom line is that we then can have no confidence in God's Word [legends and myths], if the long-day view is held. It is far better off to believe God at His Word [mythology because it says so? Wait a second...], and take the creation days as 24-hour days." Unfortunately James and I come to opposite conclusions because he begins by assuming what he is trying to prove.

It is nice to have a great big stack of similar pamphlets on hand since I don't get the Sunday comics. Someone offered me information about ICR's graduate school, but I turned that down--that's almost too funny.

I've been meaning to recommend a few books:

Paradigms Lost, by John L. Casti--The author tackles some of the big questions of modern science by presenting evidence for all sides as if it were a prosecution and defense before a jury. The book is a good way to see different arguments without having to read multiple books (though the bibliography is pretty good in case a particular "big question" intrigues you further). Casti's verdicts were reasonable, even when I was surprised by them or didn't fully agree with his conclusions.

The six claims that he explores are:
1) Life arose out of natural physical processes taking place here on earth (the creationists are part of the defense).
2) Human behavior patterns are dictated primarily by the genes.
3) Human language capacity stems from a unique, innate property of the brain.
4) Digital computers can, in principle, literally think.
5) There exist intelligent beings in our galaxy with whom we can communicate.

This one I highly doubt. Even though I'm a big Carl Sagan fan and enjoy the possibilities that groups like SETI chase, I think we are the only intelligent life (and I use the term loosely since some humans seem to be barely conscience) in the universe. My speculation is that there is much life in the universe besides that on earth, but nothing else that we would classify as "intelligent" or "conscience" in the sense that we use the words to say that humans are the only intelligent and conscience beings on this planet.

Gould has some excellent comments on the subject in "Full House". With catastrophes like those that wiped out the dinosaurs happening at somewhat regular intervals every 20-70 million years, it is a near miracle that life can evolve to what it has on this planet. Also if "intelligent" life does evolve, that life becomes very capable of quickly (relatively speaking) destroying itself through 'non-natural' means (like war, pollution, overpopulation, etc.).

6) There exists no objective reality independent of an observer.

Particularly interesting for visitors of "Honest Intellectual Inquiry" would be chapter 1--"Faith, Hope and Asperity: belief systems, science, and the invention of reality." The author suggests that the reader explore other chapters and then come back to chapter 1 later, but I completely disagree. The first chapter, about the philosophy of science, may have been the best in the book.

There is also some thought-provoking science fiction (as opposed to the comic book/Hollywood brand) I would recommend. I try to read a bit now and then as a breather between the sometimes-dry, yet interesting, non-fiction: philosophy, history, science, etc. You already have Childhood's End. Have you read:
Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury. An oldie but a goodie that belongs on every bibliophile's reading list--as much for the censorship theme as for the story itself.

I haven't (but I will now). I read a couple Bradbury books in High School (like Something Wicked This Way Comes), but I don't remember much about them.

A Canticle for Leibowitz--Walter M. Miller. After a nuclear holocaust, the Catholic Church survives through a second dark age, a rediscovery of science, and then into a new modern age where all the old problems resurface. The Abbey of St. Leibowitz is supposed to be in southern Utah.

1984--George Orwell. If you read this in high school or at BYU, read it again now that you are using your brain properly. Different details are sure to stand out with a new meaning. It may be a stretch to call the Church "Big Brother" in practice, but the basic psychology isn't much different.

I was supposed to read this for a High School class--but didn't. Believe it or not, once upon a time, I was someone who did anything I could to get out of reading (secular material). Boy how times change. ;) Most of my reading in High School consisted of the scriptures and scripture commentary and little else. How many other teenagers do you know who read the entire Bible from cover to cover, the D&C and Pearl of Great Price twice, and the Book of Mormon three times before ever graduating from High School? Boy would my seminary teacher be surprised if he knew that his star pupil, who won the Regional Scripture Bowl Championship, now maintains these pages. ;)

I have added this book to the list.

The Dispossessed--Ursula LeGuin. Two radically different societies are explored by the main character who is simultaneously an exile and an ambassador caught between them. Seeing the strengths and failings of each nation, you can't help but wonder which is the lesser evil, and how things could be made better or worse for our own society. The best social science fiction I've ever read.

Deathbird Stories--Harlan Ellison. This is a collection of short stories revolving around different fictional ideas of "gods." Some believers might label it as religious pornography, if such a thing exists. A disclaimer on the title page reads: "Caveat Lector. It is suggested that the reader not attempt to read this book at one sitting. The emotional content of these stories, taken without break, may be extremely upsetting. This note is intended most sincerely, and not as hyperbole." Needless to say, I couldn't put it down. It might not be an easy book to find.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I will look into all of them and add some (or all) of them to the main page.

received 11/11/97
Here is a question to add to
your list:

If the universe is only 6,000 years old, why do we see light from stars that are millions of light years away? Doesn't this imply that the stars are millions of years old?

Actually billions of light years away and hence billions of years old--over 10 billion to be more precise, but I get your point. Thanks. ;)

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