Sunday, December 4, 2011

Religion didn't destroy my marriage, but it played a big part.

I received word that my divorce is finalized. We filed in September which is when I went incommunicado on the Blog, on Facebook, everything. I wanted some time for reflection. I’m not sure that I reflected enough but I need to get back to writing and I guess it’s time to write about this.



Towards the end of 2008 I found it increasingly difficult to endure the cognitive and ethical dissonance that occurred as a result of my faith in the LDS church. This was something that had been building for a while with the usual uneasiness of reading certain bible stories to my children, and so on. Those discomforts were punctuated by my deep discomfort with the bigotry I heard preached from the pulpit in support of Proposition 102 (Arizona’s version of the higher profile Prop 8 being voted on in California at the same time). I found it impossible to accept the position of the 'Prophet' on this and once you start questioning the legitimacy of the Prophet, it's hard to keep the house of cards still standing. I tried to wrestle with my doubts privately for months but it was soon clear that this was going to be a bigger process than I thought and it was time to include my wife*. Midway through 2009, I let her know that I was having a major crisis of faith. It was a struggle for us from the beginning. For those who aren’t intimately familiar with the doctrines and culture of the Mormon Church, it may be hard to understand how deeply emotional and profoundly, eternally consequential this struggle would have been—but understand that there are few things that could pose a greater threat.

For many months, while I worked on resolving my doubts, she worked on reconciling herself with the fundamental change she thought she saw happening in her life-partner, praying for it to go back to how it was supposed to be. We had inspirational and terrifying discussions. We went to counseling. We dug deep into the foundations of our relationship and found that without the church we were one very shaky ground. Crucial issues like trust, acceptance, worth and equality, security, value systems, joined our now-divergent worldviews as sources of conflict instead of unity. Most of these issues existed before my departure from the faith, and I'm sad to say some were deeply aggravated by it. I can't lay all of that exclusively at the feet of the religion. I can however, say with certainty that had religion not established itself as the true source of ethics and morality that issues like trust and acceptance might not increased as issues we had to work through.

We spent well over a year working through those conflicts as more and more were exposed. I worked with the Bishop and others to reclaim my faith. I went to individual counseling. I finally asked to be released as Elders Quorum President and stopped going to church altogether sometime early to mid 2010. Angelica* and I worked at it for several more months after that. Finally we separated early this year.

In the end we didn’t come to the same conclusion about what the consequences were for issues we faced. I was the one that finally decided that we needed to end it. Angelica disagreed with me; I think she still does, but I wasn’t the first to give up on us—just the first to stick to the decision. I had spent tears on the other side of that threat plenty during the months prior.

One of the things I had to relearn was something that we both knew from the beginning; we even talked about it when we got engaged. It is this: Love isn’t the most important part in making a marriage work—it’s not even the second most important part—and love can’t keep you together by itself. More than love, you need (1) commitment and (2) some key compatibilities for a marriage to survive the storms of life. “Love” comes in as item (3). Perhaps number 4, now that I think about it, maybe even 5…anyway…I also realized later that those are all completely independent of each other. They barely even inform or motivate each other.

The new, hard lesson was the other side of that truth which is this: Love isn’t the most important part of making a marriage work and love alone can’t save one that won’t work. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, period. Not even between to loving, compassionate, beautiful people. Not even when those people really want it to.  

So yes, my apostasy was a milestone and a central issue in the ending of my marriage and yes the deep, conflicting feelings we had on the issue of religion would have been an ongoing source of major conflict (especially with regard to our children) and yes, that played a large part in my decision. But, if you ask me, the greater damage that religion did to us happened at the very beginning, when it took over, and took the place of the relationship itself. The commitment, the duty to the marriage as an institution and its key role in God’s plan was the first absolute. We had HUGE issues that we never would have, should have, or could have ignored had eternity not been the foregone conclusion. It turned out that we were only partially committed to each other. We were much more committed to “the marriage” and the idea of what we “should be” for each other and for the Church. My role as a worthy priesthood holder was, in many ways, more important than my role as husband friend or lover (Yes, brothers and sisters, I understand it’s all connected, and well-defined but it’s not as simple as that, is it?). Maybe if we hadn’t been so focused on how happy we were supposed to be, we might have been able to see much sooner some of these critical  threats.

On that note, one might think that I should owe the time I had to our faith, allowing us to ignore all that stuff. But I would argue that we may have had an easier start, but I think that ultimately it did more harm than good. That is not to say I regret the time I had with Angelica. I am deeply grateful for my time with such an amazing woman and for the unbelievable joy it was to love and be loved by her. I am grateful for that time and for the amazing children that we will forever share as their parents.

We are going into our first holiday season as a family with divorced parents. There are challenges and heartbreaks but there is hope and reason for rejoicing too. I will probably be telling you all about it.

Thank you for your time and attention.

*I will be using the name Angelica in place of her real name.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don't worry too much. It happens to a lot of people.

I didn't post this to my FB page like I wanted to and like I should have. Why? Because I knew that everyone that should learn something from it would probably just stop listening once they felt accused - for all the reasons discussed in the video. They would feel I was probably pointing the video right at them. Guess what? I am. Guess what else? It's not said with the venom and misconceptions you think it is.  

Bigotry is a natural consequence of transition, of growth and progress. Not everyone can change their minds at the same pace, not everyone should. Not everyone that is a bigot is a bigot because they are hateful or spiteful, shallow or stupid. Sure there is plenty of that out there too, but I don't think that everyone that condemns homosexuality as immoral is a hateful person. Some people are bigots for all the 'right' reasons. They are trying to do the right thing. They are given a paradigm about love and righteousness. It can be instilled and reinforced in a myriad of ways. It happened with racism (which still exists but know you can count on it occurring mostly in the hateful people that I'm NOT talking about here).

I don't condone any mindset that promotes intolerance of people based on who they are but we can't hope to change it if we don't fact facts about what it is. It's not a group of slur spewing, red-faced, rage addicts that are getting in the way of progress. It's sweet mothers and loving fathers. It's the majority of voters in CA and AZ and many other states. Minimizing and demonizing them won't give us any insight in to how to overcome the cultural obstacles we face. It is simply hard for some (again, for a myriad of complicated and personal reasons) to overcome their preconceptions and prejudices about the LBGT community, and the value of "traditional" marriage.

We are also fooling ourselves if we think they don't see gays as fully human and deserving of rights. They really can manage to see these as separate issues. In many cases they don't think that "gay" is real. As DE-humanizing as that is it doesn't sound like it to them. It's not like skin color, it's too easy to make it seem like a choice - no matter how much contradicting evidence they aren't listening to.

Change is hard. Not all change is progress. It's not monstrous to want things to be like you think they were when you were a kid and everything was comfortable and simple. It's not evil to have faith in an ideology that is still shared by a large majority of your fellow citizens. But in this case it IS bigotry. It's intolerance of other people for who they are, and for their differences. It IS bigotry and it is wrong and it's time for it to stop.

Please, if you watched that video and were tempted to dismiss the content, or had trouble concentrating on the words, because of the appearance of the speaker. Or, if you shutdown as soon as you felt like the the bigot label was getting smeared all over you, again. If you didn't give the video your full attention the first time. Please watch it again and really listen.


I'm going to post this on my FB page now...

Monday, September 5, 2011

The terrible power of faith: Javon Thompson

I have often said that it isn’t religion, per se, that I object to. It’s the faithful adherence to dogmatic certainties. This can take the form of devotion to state, party, economic principles, and causes both good and bad. Anytime people choose their ideology over evidence and reason it is a recipe for disaster.

I still maintain that this is true. But I have a particular bone to pick with religion here and now.

I just read the story: Slain boy's mom discusses cult life

I was livid, as I’m sure you are – whether you are religious or not. I would have been when I was a religious person too. It got me to thinking though. What other examples are there of this type of behavior, outside religious devotees? For instance I agree that faithful devotion to an idea like communism (or capitalism) can be and has been as disastrous as any religious belief but where is the communist equivalent of Madeline Kara Neumann? Where is the party affiliation equivalent of Preston Bowers or Lydia Schatz? Where is the North Korean example of that is comparable to the dozens or more children that are beaten and killed , or suffer preventable deaths due to the religious beliefs of their otherwise “sane and loving parents" every year?

I would call the events at Wako with the Branch Dividians primarily religious in nature and but I would concede a similarity to the political motivated stand off at Ruby Ridge. The Jamestown Massacre, however where parents fed the Kool-Aid to their children has no political equivalent that I’m aware of.

There are examples of mass murder on both religious and non-religious sides. There are disturbed people that have done horrific things for religious and non-religious reasons. I fail, however, to conceive of more than a couple instances where otherwise loving, sane parents neglect to care for their suffering children. There are some rare examples, equally horrific like Gloria Thomas Sam , Eliza Jane Scovill where the suffering and deaths we caused not by religious faith, but faith in pseudo science like homeopathy, etc. Aside from these I don’t know of any other time when parents will defy the conventional wisdom/medicine that offers to treat a terrible sickness tormenting their child without a religious reason. In some cases like with Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions, they KNOW it will save their child’s life but deny it anyway , not because they think that they have faith that God will heal their child, necessarily, but because they think that it would be better to die than to disobey God. This is almost exclusive to religion as far as I can see. It may not be YOUR religion but it IS almost exclusively religion that is to blame. This is the dreadful power of belief in heaven and hell. This is the single threat and promise that would justify this behavior to a rational human being. This why I have to speak out against it. Because all the religions in the world have this power and all the major religions have, at one time or another, exercised this power to the suffering and death of men women and children inside and outside their congregations. Name me one religious tradition that has more than a million members and I’m pretty sure I can find an example. My head is swimming with them right now.

If I am wrong and you can think of examples of this type of abuse done for secular reasons by “sane” people, besides the ones I have already listed please share them. I have already considered and discounted vaccine refusal - as dangerous and deplorable as it is, for reasons that, if not already apparent, can be addressed if anyone wishes me to.

Thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why the LDS (Mormon) is a logical choice: The Trinity

What is the Trinity and what role does it play in our understanding of God? The Trinity is the very concept of the roles of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. It establishes some of the most fundamental doctrine of the Christian faiths. Whether you are an Evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, or Pentecostal the "Godhead" is one of the keystone doctrines of your belief. So why is it so difficult for so many people to understand let alone communicate. It never made since to me as young inquisitor. The separate but same just never jived and totally fell apart when I thought about how the different roles played out.

God scarified himself, to himself, to atone for sins He created us to commit? That sounds absurd. It always has. If we were created by God, and this world was created by God. Then every experience we have here is something that was set in motion by Him/Her. Yes, we make our own decisions and we are responsible for our own actions but we never asked to be placed in this no-win situation that would require a human sacrifice on our behalf. A sacrifice I never asked for but am responsible for. I am told that I have my own part in the driving of the nails into His hands.

I haven’t ever found this to be a coherent description and I haven’t ever found it a description that inspires awe or reverence. How can this be how we “understand” the God we worship and revere? Reading the Scriptures (and history) it is very clear that the Trinity concept, as we understand it now, was invented long after the scriptures were written and nothing of the sort was ever conceived by many, if any, of the original authors.

So what is the Mormon doctrine on the subject of the God-head? Well, when I was introduced to it it sounded much MUCH better. The Mormon assertion is that there are three separate and distinct entities. There is God the Father (who has a separate, resurrected physical body), His son Jesus (who also has a separate, resurrected physical body) and the Holy Ghost who is a separate, intelligent, conscious, self aware entity (who doesn’t have a physical body) that influences the way we feel and the decisions we make.

This is not without its problems, which I will get into in a minute but at least this is something I can understand. It’s something that makes since not just because I can more easily relate to it, but because the separation of the entities allows for the separation of roles. The idea that God must be just but Jesus can allow for mercy makes more sense, sort of.

This may not be an important distinction for some but it was HUGE for me, that is until I started thinking about it more critically.

I don’t need to get into a verse for verse comparison of all the potentially applicable biblical passages because I’m not here to argue whether one interpretation is more supported by the text than another. It’s a moot point, really, because all the different versions of the Trinity fail on the same fundamental levels. All we need to do at this point is to start with the Mormon Church’s own articulation of the doctrine. The traditional statement is “Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine.” How is this any better than being one entity with multiple incarnations? Why does there need to be more than one person? Why does there need to be a sacrifice? Why can there not simply be forgiveness? If forgiveness is good and right then there is no need for a sacrifice, in fact the sacrifice is an introduction of injustice. Why does my forgiveness depend on my acceptance of the story of Jesus? Do you only forgive those that embrace you? Do you only forgive those that are remorseful? No. You forgive what you can find it in your heart to forgive. Why should God be any less?*

All the different convoluted, incomprehensible approaches to the Trinity doctrines throughout Christianity is yet another betrayal of the the lengths theologians have had to go through trying to square a circle. The Old Testament and the New are so fundamentally incongruent accounts that any attempt to reconcile them is doomed.

This is the last entry for this series. I hope it was useful to someone.

*This is leading into a different discussion, the immorality of the doctrine of the Atonement. I want to address that separately so look for that soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why the LDS (Mormon) faith is a logical choice: Prophecy

This is the second to the last in my series about how the LDS faith (Mormonism) is a relatively logical choice among the Christian denominations. I am doing this series for two reasons.

1 – I think that it is good to understand this influential religion and some of the reasons why it is so tenacious in such an antagonistic social environment.

2 – So many of the arguments that skeptics/atheists use against the “standard” Christian dogma’s are often not applicable to the Mormon tenets. And if one might try making an argument about, say, the injustice of Hell to a Mormon - they might be in for some surprises.

Another aspect of “traditional” Christian doctrine that bothered me was the inconsistency between the Old and New Testament regarding the nature of divine communication. Throughout the Old Testament God does his own talking. God speaks to the prophets, to the people. God walks with them. The OT God goes out of His way to create situations (silly for a God to need to do?) where He could show off his power and prove to the Israelites, and their enemies, that He was their God. Divine chest pounding is rampant throughout the OT. Not so much, in the New Testament, and absolutely not now, unless you are Mormon. The claim that God is a constant being, the same now and forever is in complete contradiction with these ‘stylistic’ differences – especially if you believe that Adam and Eve are the first full humans. Why would the Israelites deserve/require so much more direct intervention?* The idea that we, in these troubled and doubtful times, are any less in need of prophet, of demonstrations of power is ridiculous. If you believe that all the secular influences are a threat to a spiritual connection to the true gospel then we are in a more treacherous time than we have ever been. How has Christ’s atonement, or his teaches, supposed to have eliminated the need for that more direct and demonstrative interaction with God?

The Mormon answer to this is pretty simple. There is no difference. We have always needed a prophet as much now as ever and there is one. Currently his name is Thomas S. Monson. Elder Monson receives direct communications from God, as did Gordon B. Hinkley before him and so on back to Joseph Smith. The clear line of communication between God and his people, through a prophet, is the same today as it was in OT times. While this seemed a real strength at first to me it was ultimately this doctrine above all others that proved to be the undoing of my faith.
Here is why:

1. First and foremost a prophet must be a prophet. If they are the prophet and speak for the church, even if there wasn’t a biblical requirement of infallibility (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), there would be a logical one. We have too much information and history on all the modern LDS prophets to ignore how terribly fallible they were. Not fallible as people**, that wouldn’t be a problem, but fallible as prophets, seers and revelators. They are invariably products of the thinking of their eras with no evidence to a higher, more eternal understanding of truth (moral or physical). The minute you hang your hat on a doctrine of prophetic (or papal) authority then the validity of your entire doctrine is contingent on the validity of that single claim and it will invariable prove to be the easiest claim of all to disprove. There are more reasons below why this doctrine of modern day revelation fails but this one refuses any attempt to be reconciled by any other means but blind faith, and dismissal of the preponderance of evidence so completely that you don’t really need anything else. This is the one that forced me to start pulling at the foundation of my house of cards.
Other reasons it fails…

2. Even with the LDS reinstating the prophets on earth, there is still a vast difference between the God of the OT and the one most Mormons 'know' now. There are no more miracles; there are no more overt demonstrations of destructive and genocidal power. The only similarity is that there is a prophet who speaks to God. Some Mormon lore maintains that there is a chair for the prophet AND a chair for God in a special temple room where the prophet and He converse, and that both chairs are equally worn. So the contention is that at least some of the communications are physical face to physical face.

3. If the divine design calls for a prophet to lead his people, what than of the great apostasy, the time between the death of the last of Jesus’ apostles and the revelation to Joseph Smith? How can the wickedness of the Dark Ages be a reason for God to remove his presence instead of a reason for greater intervention? Are we supposed to accept that there was not one single person throughout all those centuries worthy of the “true” gospel? Were all the prophets of this dispensation so much more virtuous then everyone that lived for almost 1800 years? If the contention really is going to be that Joseph Smith was the most worthy individual, the only one able to receive the fullness of the Gospel throughout all that time, well that is a hard case to make considering the true (untarnished, and unembellished, unimproved) history of this character.

4. The Mormon Church’s attempt to reconcile the modern dogma with the OT is just as problematic as any attempt to align the OT and the NT, because they don’t work together. You can align your dogma with one but not the other. Most modern Christians align themselves (sort of) primarily with the NT ignoring most of the old, under the blanket idea that Christ made the OT essentially irrelevant, somehow knowing which few little bits like the 10 commandments, are still relevant. The Mormon Church makes a valiant attempt at bridging the gap, more fully embracing both. This bit about prophecy shows how much folly there is in that idea. Christ was not a prophet, at least not as those that came before. He didn’t receive revelations, he shared that which as innate knowledge. He preached from a totally different kind of authority, and the apostles continued in the same vein thereafter. A place of personal spiritual awareness and authority, much less so the walk and talk and negotiate with God prophets like Noah, Abraham and Moses. So to align themselves more so with the OT the Mormon Church has to distance itself more from the NT in some crucial ways. This is inevitable because they are fundamentally different representations of a fundamentally different God.

* They were not so primitive as to lack the ability to understand the more subtle concepts of modern Christianity. They were not so crude that they couldn’t understand forgiveness, it may not have been as valued culturally, but it wasn’t beyond them. God was not a respecter of cultural justifications for immorality anyway. If loving thy neighbor as thyself is so central a theme to the message from God why was it a new concept in the NT? Why were the Israelites the only people of consequence before the NT, if all the people were God’s creation?

**So much of the stuff that the LDS prophets have established as official doctrine in the past but is unpopular now (Blood atonement, Adam-god theory, spiritual inferiority of blacks, etc.) is disavowed by saying that those were the statements of true prophets but that they we not speaking from divine inspiration when the said them. If you read the statements, it’s pretty clear they were absolutely confident of the divine authority from which they were speaking. So if THEY didn’t know, shouldn’t they have? Who are we to say they were mistaken – except it is current prophets that are saying it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why the LDS faith (Mormon) is a logical choice: Original Sin

One of the traditional Christian doctrines that bothered me in my initial investigations was the tenet of Original Sin. The idea that we are “created sick and commanded to be well.”* The assertion that the fall of one man, Adam has doomed all of mankind to the burden of a sinful nature. The very idea that Infant baptism is required lest the poor innocents be damned is antithetical to the idea of a just and loving God. This comes from the Catholic cannon, but there are equivalents in all the Christian religions.** We are all base and sinful creatures, due to the fall of Adam, or just because God made us that way – it doesn’t matter. It is unjust either way. If you believe in Hell, if you believe that we are a sinful people, if you believe that “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction” ( Matthew 7:13, 14) than how cruel is God to create so many doomed creatures. Better He had left us unmade then to make us such that the vast majority of us will endure eternal torment. Even if He was powerless to control our nature He would have known we would have ended up this way.

The Mormon version of this still establishes us as a sinful and imperfect people. It still says most of us are headed for “destruction” – they have to, they use the KJ Bible. The key differences are these:

1. The Mormon version of “destruction” isn’t so much eternal torture, but eternal life without spiritual advancement.
2. The specific doctrine of “Original Sin” is addressed by the 2nd Article of Faith. (2nd of 13 published in a letter from Joseph Smith, 1842): We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
3. Mormon doctrine is that it wasn’t God that created our spirits. It was God who created the bodies and the earth our spirits would inhabit.

Point 1: So God is not cruel but a spiritual facilitator, a Heavenly Father, with limited power. This is a much easier way to imagine God. It seems to even be supported by some scripture. Great! Unfortunately it only works if you leave it at that.

The problem is that it really isn’t supported by much scripture. Most discussions of Hell and the utter destruction that faces the unbelieving and the sinful sound nothing like an eternity spent on a new earth, in a perfectly resurrected body. They barely even sound like “outer darkness”. The LDS teaching is that these passages refers to either a lesser exultation or to Outer Darkness but neither work with the idea that the majority of humanity will suffering and punished eternally as these verses suggest. Unfortunately this IS the hell of the bible and if we are going to accept the bible as scripture then we cannot disavow this hell and no amount of clever re-branding can change that.

Point 2: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.”This is a great sentiment, and a necessary one because the idea of inherited sin had been losing popularity for some time. The problem is that Brigham Young and subsequent prophets taught that blacks were black because they were under the mark Cain and the Curse of Ham, ineligible for the priesthood. Is this not an inherited unworthiness no different than the idea of Original Sin?

Point 3: As much as the idea of eternal spirits uncreated by God helps with some troublesome bits of Christian theology once again there isn’t any support for the concept in the Pre-Joseph Smith scriptures. The majority of Christian dogmas established the beginning of life and of the spirit is at conception. Adam came into existence (flesh AND spirit) when God created him.

Even if it was true and the scriptures support it, as I’ve already noted in my previous post (LINK) there is no more justice in an eternity of spiritually blocked souls. The doctrine seems to assert either that these people are incapable of learning, growing and improving themselves, or they deserve to be disqualified from the opportunity – forever.

There is no way to reconcile the pain of life, and threat of Hell, with the reputed love of a perfect God.
* Mustapha; Fulke Greville (1609)
**Few assertions are more ridiculous as the one I have heard made by many a “true Christian” (See ‘True Scotsman’) regarding Catholics. Apparently modern “Christians” are increasingly inclined to disavow themselves from their Catholic roots. While I can understand the desire to separate from such a beleaguered organization, it is more than hubris to accuse the Catholic church of corrupting the “word of God”. So many of the modern interpretations of the message of Christ, so many of the apologetic arguments that are still used by “true Christians” today are the result of centuries of Catholic theology. The very existence of Christianity is due to the perseverance of the early Catholics until Constantine. Thomas Aquinas formalized many of the still used proofs of God (The Quinque viae, Five Ways, or Five Proofs are five arguments regarding the existence of God summarized in his book, Summa Theologica. - LINK). Martin Luther and the Reformation may have challenged the spiritual authority of the Catholic Church, the idea of free will, Papal authority, etc. but much of Christianity’s understanding about the fundamental nature of God, and Jesus Christ, creation, heaven, come from centuries of Catholic apologetics and theology. If you want to say the Catholic Church isn’t a “true” church you had best do some homework on how much of your beliefs are rooted in Catholic theology and traditions.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why the LDS (Mormon) faith is a logical choice but it’s still wrong: Purpose and heaven.

I mentioned in my first post in this series, that I came to the Mormon Church initially as a result of that faith’s ability to provide the best logical answers to the existential questions I was wrapped up in throughout my young adulthood. Once I was able to consider those very same questions in more depth and free of the constraints that faith put on me, I left the church and discarded religious beliefs altogether due to the failure of the church, (and all religions I knew of) to answer them after all.

The question that plagued me most, that wouldn’t leave me alone here I think, was the classic “What is the purpose of life?” or “Why are we here?” I think it’s a question that, for various reasons, confronts many people in that young adult stage of life, that is if they don’t just adopt a pre-packaged worldview provided by their parents.

It was the church’s answer to this question more than anything else the opened me to the idea that it was the “right” one. Ironically it’s the same answer that gets the LDS church in more trouble with mainstream Christians than any other.
First a little background on what answers my inquires had uncovered so far. “We were created to worship God.” Really? Good created an entire universe so that he could create a single planet so he could populate it with people that would praise him for their creation? What a vain being, not to mention an illogical one. Considering so much of the experience of life involves so much misery and pain it’s not really the best gift to inspire abject worship. There is a reason even those of us in privileged comfort understand and can empathize with the phase “I wish I’d never been born.” I never bought the “free will” argument for why there is pain in the world. There are natural disasters that drown toddlers ripped from the arms of their hysterical mothers, there are “acts of God that destroy lives and break hearts. Besides that, “free will” is a component of God’s creation. If God created all that is, than He/She is responsible for all of it, joy and sorrow. If our purpose is to worship, why the pain? Why the trial of faith? If God simply needs to be worshiped, or somehow it is for our benefit to worship him, what need is there for all the obstacles to that worship?

There was also the idea “We are here to be tested and to live a righteous life so we can go to heaven.” This speaks to God of a better character, if less powerful, than the first contention but isn’t much better logically. How is that a justification for our existence? Did this divine being decide how nice it would be for some folks to go to a heaven, and therefore create them? If so, once again, why the trial? If the goal was to go to heaven, why not just create us in heaven? Why create so many people that won’t make it into heaven? Why create a hell? Why create so many people that will go there? Are we to believe that God doesn’t have control over how He/She makes us? Are we the result of a production process with poor quality control? Considering how few are reported to be able to qualify for heaven, how much of “the product” is destined for the defect heap? It seems like His/Her production process could be bettered, percentage-wise, by almost every system us meager humans have managed. Perhaps that’s deliberate? Perhaps God intentionally created a heaven and then intentionally created a lot of people that wouldn’t be able to go there? Are we not at the same logical incongruity in the omnipotent/omniscient paradox and the problem of evil? It is no different to assert that there is pain and suffering in the afterlife. To say that the purpose of life is to allow a small minority of people to go to heaven is the same as saying the purpose of life it to ensure a large amount of people go to hell, which, of course, means God must be either incompetent or cruel or both.

Throughout the diversity of Christianity and other religions there are variations on these themes but most that assert the existence of a God place Him/Her as the central focus of creation. The central theme is the glory, edification, exultation of God. Sure we might get something out of it too. If we work hard, and prove ourselves worthy, we get to enjoy an eternal, spiritual, morphine drip administered by the ultimate drug dealer. This is heaven? If the purpose or even just the end result of life on earth is that we go to heaven (again if we are good enough.) What is the purpose of this heaven? What is the purpose of life if all we do is go on to this utopian holding tank for spirits forever and ever without end. This may appeal as an alternative to death but not as a justification for existence.

Now let’s look at the Mormon answer to this question. Firstly, according to Mormon doctrine, our spirits are eternal. They have always been. They existed before the world did. God created the world so that he could create a place where these spirits could grow and learn to become more, and where they could gain physical bodies (it’s never made clear why that part is important.) Already we are significantly apart from the common narrative. We are who we are – not because it is how God created us (individually) but because it’s how and more to the point - WHO we are, period. It’s outside of God’s control. Secondly we aren’t here to do anything for God. We are here for ourselves; God is facilitating our progression, with creation and the plan of salvation. Finally, “Heaven”. “Heaven” in Mormon doctrine isn’t a just static happy place. “Heaven” or “Exultation” is progression onto the next stage. It is the opportunity to be with God and to learn and grow further because, and this is where many “Christians” really start losing their minds, ultimately we can continue to grow until we ourselves could become God’s. Like the God of this earth, we participate in the eternal cycle as we create new worlds and facilitate the progression of the next “generation” of spirits. This seems unsettlingly bizarre to a lot of people, but to me it made the most sense. There is a constant, ongoing, progression. No cosmological argument needed to explain the origin of the universe. No problem establishing a first cause, or irreducible complexity (at least at first, superficial glance) because the logical extension of the concept is valid (watch out for yet another top popper for mainstream religious) meaning that the God of this world once was a frail fallible mortal like us. The LDS religion simultaneously aspires to place man on the throne of God, and pull God down to earth.

I eventually managed to see the fundamental flaws in these doctrines. There are plenty of issues with these doctrines that I don’t address here, I am just touching on the ones that stand out to me the most.

1. The world was created as a school and proving ground for us spirits, because it is an intrinsic requirement for spiritual progression, facilitated by God. While there are better arguments against this, the one I keep coming back to is how this concept is so revolutionary. If this was the plan from the beginning, as the church asserts, and all the prophets knew this (from Adam, to Noah, to Jesus, to Pres. Monson) why was it first understood when Joseph Smith introduced it in the 1800’s? If you get the argument that it was introduced further, carefully examine anything that is produced as evidence. The Book of Mormon can’t be considered here anymore than the Bible can be considered proof of the great flood. There has to be something else that demonstrates that this understanding was widely held, as it must have been had it been held as true by the populations the church claims it was.

2. The idea that God would create us out of some vain desire to be worshiped is so distasteful to me that the idea of a facilitator God that has created this world to facilitate something we needed to accomplish for ourselves seemed revolutionary and beautiful. The initial assumption of creation was never questioned. Regardless of how much better it seems as a reason for the creation of the earth, there is a still the idea that the prophets of the latter dispensation (Joseph Smith and after) have gotten HOW the earth was created, and man – Wrong. Very, very emphatically wrong. They have asserted with the full authority of a prophets, seers and revelators (these priesthood titles apply to the prophet and to the 12 apostles so the idea that some of the quotes of prophets from when they were “only apostles” is hard to swallow.) that the sciences of evolution and cosmology are not only categorically wrong, it is heretical and spiritually destructive to accept them. You might say that these spiritual authorities were confused about the science but how can we say that they misinterpreted the narrative directly revealed to them from God, or whether they received revelation or not? So while this doesn’t specially address any logical fallacies associated directly with the specific doctrine of the purpose of creation I think that the assertion of prophetic infallibility combined with young earth theory = they aren’t/weren’t really prophets, which is foundational to EVERYTHING in the church.

3. Heaven, vastly improved, yet still untenably eternal, still an illogically recent revelation. My issue with this doctrine is addressed better in the first post Mormon Logic #1 discussing hell. I would only add one thing to the points I made there. The thing that appealed to me within this doctrine is it’s inclusiveness, in comparison to the hard line so many Christian religions take this seemed to allow for “some degree of exultation” for almost everyone. It took me years to realize how it wrong that was. Just like “separate, but equal” was better than slavery, but still absolutely racist and cruel, so too is the eternal relegation to these different levels of exultation. To be assigned a place of spiritual captivity, however pleasant, while others are allowed to continue on and progress establishes an eternal punishment. It denies to idea that these less valiant (inside Mormon joke there) spirits will never deserve to progress. That we cannot learn and grow anymore. That no matter how much time passes some people are inherently, fundamentally unable to achieve the same level spiritual progress as others. We are talking about the vast majority of the spirits that have ever lived on earth. Most of us are stored like so much spiritual flotsam. The Telestrial and Terrestrial worlds are no different from the heaven that I rejected in mainstream Christianity. These spirits are left to pass eternity, happily or not, in stasis. This is so clearly a response to the fear of death, but not a functional one. There are none of those. This same irreconcilability (knowledge of death and the will to live) is one of the primary motivators for religious belief in the first place but ironically it is the complete failure of all religions to create purpose in death, that also works with our primitive ideas of justice, that fails every time. Heaven, hell, reincarnation, all these doctrines are expose, by their very tenets, their true source: Human fears and desires, not divine plans. The Mormon idea of the afterlife is no different.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The LDS faith (Mormon) is a logical choice: Hell

If any religion has it right, the Mormons do. This is a short series on why I think that statement is true, as well as few reasons for why I still am a firm disbeliever.

13 years ago, last September, I joined the LDS church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka – Mormons). My conversion started with a very logical consideration, which might come as a surprise to some of you, but it shouldn’t. I had studied religions for some time prior to my conversion. My “research” was very haphazard, casual and very shallowly done, comprised mostly of asking friends about what they believed and why. Even in my very poorly developed understanding I had uncovered some things that I really didn’t like which tended to keep me and religion at arm’s length up until I learned more about the LDS faith.
I think that if you are a critic of the more mainstream Christian religions you might be surprised to learn, if you didn’t know already, how cleverly the LDS doctrine side-steps some of the more problematic and insidious aspects of traditional Catholic/Protestant doctrines. In this post I will discuss one of the points, other will come later.

Hell - Eternal torture for those that do “bad things” and don’t repent, or by some doctrines for those that simply make the mistake of believing the wrong thing regardless of how, or when. they were raised. This is about as immoral a doctrine as exists, anywhere. I had friends that seemed like normal, friendly, caring people who could, with a smile on their face, tell me about how African tribes that never heard the name Jesus were doomed to hell which is why they hoped to go on a mission to help them some day. How cruel is this idea of God? How unjust? How illogical? Only recently has mainstream Christianity started to let go of this terrible doctrine, and not without some painful adjustments. (see controversy regarding the new book: Love Wins by Rob Bell)

If you don't look too deeply into it, the Mormon faith addresses this in a way that seems to be in harmony with both the bible, and the idea of a just and merciful God. Here’s how. Hell or “outer darkness” is very hard to get banished to - only truly horrible people, unrepentant, malicious murderers, and apostates (like me) go there. It isn’t a lake of fire like is said in so many passages of the bible, but a complete removal from the presence of God and the torment of knowing the full weight of your transgressions. The key point here is that the vast majority of people that are living or have lived on earth aren’t going there. How could this coincide with biblical accounts of how hard it is to get into heaven? Simple. With the Mormon’s it’s not binary. It’s not heaven or hell. It’s Hell (outer darkness)and then there is not-hell, not heaven, which is “Telestrial Exultation”. This is a lesser degree of “heaven” which still involves eternal life and resurrection with a perfect body but it’s not “heaven-heaven”. One level above that is “Terrestrial Exultation" which is like in between heaven-heaven and the Telestrial world. It’s got more God in it but it doesn’t get you to the ultimate goal. Finally is the Celestial world. This is the place (tee hee - inside joke). This is where families can be together forever, (all earthly bonds are broken in the lower worlds) This is where one can live fully with God, and this is where one can reach their full spiritual potential (more on that later.)

But wait, there’s more! Remember those poor unenlightened African tribes? What about them? Are they denied the option of the full exultation because they died never meeting a boy in a stiff white shirt? No! The will have an opportunity to hear the gospel in the afterlife, in the spirit world. The spirit world is a place where less righteous spirits will await the second coming. In the spirit world, missionary work continues. If someone in the spirit world accepts the gospel they are eligible to receive full exultation provided they participate in all the required ceremonies and make all the required covenants. Which is the doctrinal reason for Baptism for the Dead, by proxy and other ordinances for the dead by proxy that are performed in the temple. This is also the reason that Mormons are so engaged in genealogy. They are attempting to identify all the ancestors they may have that haven’t received these saving ordinances.

So there we go. No one is tortured unjustifiably. No one suffers for something beyond their control. No one is ever denied the opportunity to really make the choice. That makes much more sense, doesn’t it? That is undeniably just, is it not?
It took a long time for me to realize that this didn’t really fix much of anything. Here’s why.

Eternity is too long. Eternity is inescapable. If I am denied an opportunity to grow, progress, learn, change, be with my family without end., it is unfair. It is unjust. No matter how misguided I may have been prior to the Judgment. Just as the idea of anyone, no matter their offense, enduring endless torture is unjust, so is anyone being denied the opportunity to change their fate, to earn respite – no matter their offense. The idea of eternal consequences is a brutish social deterrent that is still rooted in our social infancy, and is only slightly improved in the LDS version.

Secondly. It’s not in line with the bible after all. It’s amazing to me now how few members are unbothered by all the passages that discuss hell and torment, for all the same offenses that have been there the whole time without wondering why it doesn’t contradict the teachings of the church. The introduction of more than two options totally works in some cases. Take Matt 18:3 “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” For someone that believes that there is Heaven and Hell only “Not-Heaven” is the same as Hell but an LDS member can read this and say that has nothing to do with Hell it’s only saying that that a contrite spirit is required to enter the highest degree of “Heaven”, not that without one you’re going to “Hell”. That’s fine but what about passages like: Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Or “Matt 25:44-46 “Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Mark 9:47 “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,” How can an eye participate in murder or apostasy?

I’ll take time for one more. Not that anyone is likely to have made it this far anyway. Inconsistencies: There have been changes in this modern dispensation regarding the conditions for exultation, and what will earn you a one way ticket into outer darkness. This shouldn't be possible with an unbroken line of "true prophets, seers and revelators" at the helm. I speak of, among other things, the abandoned doctrine of Blood Atonement. This doctrine stated that in the case of0 egregious transgressions (apostasy and malicious murder) the atonement of Jesus was insufficient to fully atone and that the shedding of the sinner’s blood was also required. This has been disavowed to some degree, there seems to be a caveat about when the church and the state are one. If you don’t know of this old doctrine you can find text of the 1954 edition (before it got cleaned up) Doctrines of Salvation online or you can try to find a hard copy of the old printing. They are around, I know know that much for sure.

These strengths and weakness come from the same place, Joesph Smith and modern day revelation. The church grew out the revival era and much of the distasteful, and illogical stuff in the Old and New Testaments had been mulled over for centuries by theologians and apologetics prior to and contemporary to, Joesph's time. In the "Burned-over District" these issues were being discussed passionately and constantly. This exposed him the everything he needed to start Christianity over, reinvent it, and do it in a way that resolved much of the problems that plagued traditional Christianity for so long.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Supreme Court fails, again!

John Thompson:

This is more of a political rant than a religious one.

John Thompson was wrongfully convicted. That is not in dispute.

That the Prosecution willfully and deliberately withheld potentially acquitting evidence is not in dispute. (Blood samples of a different type – not just different DNA, eyewitness accounts of the killer that describe someone significantly different from Mr. Thompson)

That Mr. Thompson spent 18 years in prison, 14 of them on death row is not in dispute.

That Mr. Thompson came within less of a months of execution is not in dispute.

What was in dispute was if the state owed him the $14 Million he was originally awarded for having his life taken (almost literally) away from him.

In comes the Supreme Court. Do they uphold the states responsibility to compensate him? Do they reduce the amount? No. They give him nothing. He is entitled to nothing.

I read the Supreme Court's ruling and the opinion, and the dissent. I get the majority of the court felt their was no evidence of "a pattern of similar Brady violations" and so there was no "deliberate indifference to an obvious need for more or different Brady training". I still think that the lower court's ruling make much more sense. "The court had concluded that a pattern of violations is not necessary to prove deliberate indifference when the need for training is “so obvious.”

The dissention opinion (Written by Justice Ginsburg) seems to think that I'm not too way off, and also contends that a real systemic issue (a pattern) was clearly there.

So I know that it's not as simple as the conservatives of the Supreme Court did something they shouldn't have by leaving a man without anything after he was put through a hell didn't deserve by the unethical conduct of the state.

So it's not a simple issue, but it is a clear one none-the-less.

Someone PLEASE explain to me how this isn’t officially a corrupt and power-elite supporting institution?

I give up - again.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan disaster a sign from God. Apparently God is good and ticked

I know this has already gone around plenty but I wanted to it highlight it one more time for some personal reasons.

I am often accused of focusing criticism on a group that is a small fringe group with little political or social presence. It is neither small or un-influential. Religious fundamentalists make up a larger portion of the population than moderates seem to be willing to admit. Everyone seems to think that everyone else is more moderate than they are and many people are less moderate then they think themselves to be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bible told me to...

View more videos at:

Point 1. There seems to be much more to the story of their relationship than is discussed in this video clip. The written article adds only more murkiness. Perhaps the younger man was being abused, perhaps it was greed, much of it is speculation at this point.

Point 2. I think it is relatively obvious that the young man was disturbed, either clinically or as a response to the relationship he had with the victim.

Point 3. Without more information, much discussion on this story is speculation and speculation based analysis is pretty pointless. There are a few facts and they alone warrant discussion, at least they do to me.

Point 4. He is totally correct in saying that the OT calls for the stoning death of homosexuals.


Even if the young man was deeply disturbed and even if it could be reasonably argued that he would have found another reason to kill this man, isn’t this still a very real condemnation of his Holy Book - that he derives his motivation from an accurate reading of its text?

People point to Catcher in the Rye as a book that has been inspiring to people, some of which have gone on to commit terrible crimes - including murder. Is this not the same thing?


Catcher in the Rye is not held up by significant portions of our culture as the moral guidebook from the ultimate divine authority. Catcher in the Rye itself makes no claim of authority of any kind. Catcher in the Rye doesn’t explicitly call for (or glorify in) the killing, torture, rape or slavery of anyone let alone whole groups of people.

Disturbed people will find motivation for their crazy just about anywhere, true enough. However here we are, as a society, revering a book that explicitly calls for it. We endorse it and we give it special influence and privilege. Even if it could be argued that it is a “misinterpretation” – it’s not. Even if the same book says we should NOT kill. When the book is given unique and divine authority- its words, all of its words, take on the virtue of that authority, all of its words not just the ones we like.

The Bible is not anymore evil than any other book, as long as it is just a book. Once we start saying that passages such as the ones that justify the stoning of disobedient children are divinely inspired or the inerrant word of God that is something altogether different.

Many Christians, Jews and Muslims don’t hang their religious faith on the less popular and more bloody/bigoted passages in the Bible. Many of them will say those passages are irrelevant to their understanding of God and his message. That’s great. I applaud that. It just doesn’t change the urgency of this problem. The folks that hold these relatively moderate religious views do not make up a large majority of the faithful, especially not in America, as we often want to think

We cannot ignore that many people DO take these passages seriously and it’s NOT a small fringe group. The majority of Americans still oppose equal rights for Gays, the vast majority of them with biblical justification.

(55% oppose Gay marriage, and 51% oppose civil unions :

That is just one of many statistics that support the Religious Right in their agenda to create a fundamentalist theocracy in this country.

I’m not saying all people that revere this book are bigots or violent, or even a majority. I’m saying that the book itself can be reasonably interpreted to endorse those things and it takes a more creative interpretation to disavow those messages. I’m saying that this book has too much influence in modern America and should be dismissed as a divine book, let alone an inerrant one. It is time for us as a society to renounce the special status of this book. Allowing us to more freely preserve what good messages are there (Charity, love, forgiveness) and dismiss the destructive ones. As long as the book is holy we will have to argue to establish any passage as immoral or irrelevant. Without that distinction each story, assertion, or value stands on its own, for better or worse, as what it is - the wisdom and understandings of an ancient culture, sometimes noble, often barbaric, simply what it is.

Indulge me a moment of even deeper and less founded speculation:

If it turns out that this killing was motivated in part due to a young homosexual being conflicted by his nature vs. his faith, as too many suicides have been, there also is a condemnation of the aspects of our culture that use this book, (as he did) to justify hatred against homosexuals, against self.

Here is my question: How can we call this book (the Bible) a good book or a moral book without disavowing the “naughty bits”? If we disavow the naughty bits how can we claim divine authority for any single part of the book without establishing divine authority for all of it?

Monday, March 21, 2011

She said it pretty good...

Ever since I heard about the passing of House Continuing Resolution 13 today I have been unable to put any real thought into it but I wanted to make an observation none-the-less. Trying to get a little info on it I came across this observation and I liked it so I'm just going to do the lazy thing and copy it into here and give Megyn in Las Vegas some big props...

House Republicans come out swinging on job creation:

Last November, House Republicans rode to an overwhelming electoral victory on three little words: "Where's the jobs?" And since taking over the House in January, Republicans have worked tirelessly to answer that question by attempting to curb equal rights, defund family planning (except for horses), and tackling that top-of-the-list-concern for voters, redefining rape.

And now that horses can safely screw like rabbits, the GOP is making their next bold moves, and have:

... introduced the English Language Unity Act of 2011 on Friday, a bill that requires that all official United States government functions be conducted in English.

H. Con. Res. 13, the “Reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States and supporting and encouraging the public display of the national motto in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions”

The potential job creation from those two acts alone are practically limitless ...

And not only that, Republicans have answered that question they asked so many times last year: They don't know. And apparently they don't care.

I don't care to make any assumptions about how much or how little the Republicans and/or Tea Party care about jobs, but I will say that they sure seem to care a LOT about how much of their religious views we can nationalize. Chalk up a 'victory' for Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pagans are Snakes

Atheists and Agnostics tend to get a “party pooper” image for ruining everyone’s fun on holidays by pointing out the not so fun aspects of said holidays. So I find it interesting that, in the usual forums, I have heard so little regarding the darker side of St. Patrick’s Day.

Obviously I can’t let this go by un-downered! Don’t worry I have some good things to say about it too. I actually celebrate this day a little more than some. My ancestry is primarily Scots-Irish. My kids set traps for leprechauns, we wear green, and we attend parades (when convenient). So don’t think it’s all anger and objections at my house. I will go into why I celebrate the holiday at the end, but first my issue with the main tradition of the holiday that I don’t celebrate - the story of St. Patrick himself.

There isn’t much in the way of actual historical fact regarding the person of St. Patrick. The short, short version that is celebrated as the fundamental basis for the holiday is that as a Catholic missionary in Ireland he performed a miracle and drove all the snakes off the island.

There never were snakes in post glacial Ireland.*So what was it that St. Patrick is really being credited with driving out? The pagans. There isn’t any real history that I can find in my superficial researching (I intend to do more) on the spirit in which this was done. It may have been a peaceful conversion or it may not have been. Considering the common methods of the time I am inclined to assume the latter, but my assumptions are irrelevant. There are some indications and publications from the time period that indicate that the Christian attitude toward non-believers wasn’t too congenial, but that doesn’t mean anything about how St. Patrick approached his mission. What is relevant is the imagery. The druids were snakes to be driven out. It smacks of the religious persecution that was just gearing up as Christianity was starting to come into real power.

That having been said I still like St. Paddy’s day. Why? Because, like Christmas, I have infused it with new meaning, separate from its Christian origin story. I enjoy it as a celebration of the Celtic culture of my ancestry. I also like the role the holiday played in helping overcome the terrible prejudice the Irish faced in America after the potato famine migrations of the mid 1800’s. This is discussed in an excerpt from below.

So, yet again we have a holiday where there is good reason to question the claims and the morality of its origin story. And yet again we can still enjoy the “spirit of the holiday” – not sure what that is really in this case, except to drink lots of green beer.

No Irish Need Apply
Up until the mid-19th century, most Irish immigrants in America were members of the Protestant middle class. When the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland in 1845, close to a million poor and uneducated Irish Catholics began pouring into America to escape starvation. Despised for their religious beliefs and funny accents by the American Protestant majority, the immigrants had trouble finding even menial jobs. When Irish Americans in the country's cities took to the streets on St. Patrick's Day to celebrate their heritage, newspapers portrayed them in cartoons as drunk, violent monkeys.
However, the Irish soon began to realize that their great numbers endowed them with a political power that had yet to be exploited. They started to organize, and their voting block, known as the "green machine," became an important swing vote for political hopefuls. Suddenly, annual St. Patrick's Day parades became a show of strength for Irish Americans, as well as a must-attend event for a slew of political candidates. In 1948, President Truman attended New York City 's St. Patrick's Day parade, a proud moment for the many Irish whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and racial prejudice to find acceptance in America.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Indiana joins the anti-abortion rampage, legislating lies.

Thanks to The Young Turks for turning me onto this story.

Indiana has several new abortion bills before the state legislator. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the things in some of these bills. The link to the senate website is below so you can read them for yourself.

Some would mandate the telling of outright lies like abortions increase the risk of breast cancer, fetuses in the first trimester might feel pain.  
 - HB-1210: Out of committee, in first house
 - SB-0328: Passed first house
 - SB-0457: In committee, first house

Some are just shaming – forcing the mother to see an ultrasound and/or hear the heart beat if there is one. With a little 18 hour delay tactic, which is tossed into several of the bills.
  - SB-0050: In committee, first house

Some are unfunded mandates, requiring the mother to pay for the aforementioned ultrasound.
- SB-0050: In committee, first house

There is, of course, the increasingly popular “conscious clause” not just allowing doctors to refuse treatment but it makes is a criminal act, (Class D felony on second offence) for an employer to take any disciplinary against a doctor or pharmacist that refuses treatment – no exceptions for life of the mother.
 - HB-1228: In committee, first house.

They even have one that simply outlaws them altogether. Not late term, ALL of them.
 - SB-0290: In committee, first house

Cuts any state funding for, and ends all contracts with any entity or facility that performs an abortion – no exceptions. So they don’t want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they want to cut funding to any clinic, any hospital that perform abortions.
 - HB-1205: In committee, first house.

This one also requires the doctor to make a metaphysical declaration to the mother - that life begins at conception. Phased differently in two different bills
- SB-0328: Passed first house: “an embryo formed by the fertilization of a human ovum by a human sperm 
immediately begins to divide and grow as human physical life.”
 - SB-0457: In committee, first house:  “That human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm.”

Honorable mention is SB-0522: prohibition of abortions after 20 weeks.
 My favorite part of this one? “Creates the special litigation defense fund to provide reimbursement of the costs and expenses incurred by the attorney general in defending the constitutionality of this act, and continuously appropriates the fund. Provides for severability of provisions if a court determines that any of the law is unconstitutional, and specifies prior law returns to effect if the amended law is found by the court to be unconstitutional.”

Indiana State Legislature bills under the topic “Abortion”

Reference on fetal pain susceptibility:
 According to Dr. Paul Ranalli,  Vice-President of Canadian Physicians For Life, it is likely 20 weeks before fetus’s can feel pain.

Reference on breast cancer risk:
In 2003 the National Cancer Institute said not only is there no increased risk, they said that taking a baby to full term might ADD to your risk of breast cancer if you are of “late age” and it’s your first child.  

Colbert's Lent

Warning: There is some pretty crude and irreverent humor in this. I know what you're thinking, Colbert? Never! Anyway, if you are easily offended...I wouldn't watch..

Supreme Court upholds "In God We Trust"  

My question, for those that may understand better than I do how this makes sense is this - isn't this pure bunk? 

Is there some legal technicality that explains this or does the decision really come down to justifications like this quote from the 1970 decision referenced: "the use of the motto on U.S. coins and bills is of a patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise."

Patriotic? How can we say that this is nationalistic without saying that we are theocratic in nature?

Ceremonial?  What ceremony?

Not a religious exercise? What kind of exercise is it then?  

How does any of that survive any kind of scrutiny? Of course I'm not even close to educated on the legal intricacies here so I know there is LOTS I don't know. Maybe someone here can help me understand.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Traditions Today #2: Noah and the Flood

Considering the heated and in depth discussion that my last post got going (thanks Mike D.)I would say that this series is a supreme success. 

Seriously though, I doubt that I have enough readers to get something like the discussion I would like but I think I’m going to run with it anyway. I also realize these may be exhausted topics for some of the more active apologists, and disbelievers alike, but I hope some will find it worth a read, and a comment. Maybe at some point these will prove a useful collection of musings on the morality and relevance of the Bible. That has a much better chance of being true if it’s more than just my meager thoughts being documented here. 

Up next, one of the worst stories of them all, Noah and the flood. 

Not that most people need a summary of this one but I thought I would hit the highlights. There are a couple things here that often get overlooked in Sunday school:

1.       Genesis 6:2: The sons of God marry the daughters of man – this is an affront, there are different thoughts on how but let me just point out they marry. The only real way this could be an affront that I see is that those who were worthy (angels, or worthy men chose to commit themselves to the unworthy women of the land). Note that we are only in the 6th chapter of this book and the women once again are the vessels of destruction for worthy men. Poor, silly men.

2.       Genesis 6:3-6: More discussion of the evil and wickedness of men. “the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Giants are mentioned here for the first but not the last time. 

3.       Genesis 6:7:: God decides to destroy all man, beast and foul – “for it repenteth me that I have made them.” God regrets making man? Is he second guessing himself?

4.       Genesis 6:8: God looks on Noah and finds favor in him decides not to kill him or is family. 

5.       Genesis 7 & 8: The ark, the flood. Since this is a discussion of the morality/relevance of this story we don’t need to get too much in to the logistic arguments for or against the possibility of the flood. Let’s just assume it could have happened. Everything but Noah and his family and preserved species on the ark dies, horrifically. Children, infants, kittens everything. The thought of any child panicked and gasping for air is monstrous, but all the children of existing humanity?

I have a really hard time with this one. Not just this one, but it makes my top 5 for sure. I will be less antagonistic on most topics but on this one it’s difficult to strike even the pretense of objectivity. It might have to do with the fact that I personally took part in the teaching of this story to my children, and other children, toddlers on up.

This is one of the first stories children learn. This is the one that invariably is depicted in cheery cartoon scenes.  We teach children that God’s morality is perfect and that he was directly responsible for the most complete genocide ever to occur. They are too young to question so they simply accept that it makes sense that some people deserve to die, if they are wicked enough. 

This is a story that should give them nightmares (and for some it does) but most children take it in stride, why?
What is the moral lesson here? Death is better than wickedness? Was God sparing those innocent children before they could be corrupted? I really would like someone’s perspective on this one. Is this defensible? If so, how?

Secondly, aside from the morality of it, is there anything to take from this story that is relevant to us today? If so how do you apply the lessons of this story in your life?

I look forward to your comments, I really hope people are willing to participate in a discussion on this one, sooner or later.

Little Mormon trivia: 
According to Mormon Doctrine Noah was also the angel Gabriel. Gabriel lived his earthly life as Noah.

Little belated Mormon trivia that should have gone with last post: 
According to Mormon Doctrine the Garden of Eden was actually located in present day Missouri. The references to Ethiopia and the Euphrates River, is explained by these landmarks being located there prior to the super continent Pangaea being split up buy the great flood (so I guess it’s a little topical) and the renaming of geographic areas and landmarks after. 

I guess this brings up a bonus question. For someone to believe in this Eden revelation by Joseph Smith, doesn’t the flood have to be a literal, historical account? If it was more metaphorical how then would the names be preserved? I can see how the creation story might be allegorical and therefore not present a challenge to a faithful LDS member that also accepts the science of evolution, but this little tidbit doesn’t seem to work the same way. This one pretty much requires young earth theory. If I am wrong in this, I preemptively apologize and I look forward to being set straight.   

Thank you for making it through all that. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.