Monthly Archives: January 2014

In The Year 5000

Everyone knows about my connection to the Harry Potter universe; it’s how I have made many friends, I immortalized it in tattoo on my leg, and most importantly of all it sparked the connection to the woman I asked to be my wife. It is not unthinkable that I would relate much of my life and stories to the series and as such I bring you this post.

If someone in the future were to look back and try to line up the events of the Harry Potter series to our history, do you think they would be able to?

There are factual locations and events in the series that could be used as evidence of it occurring in our world, but we have other sources of evidence that say some of the events didn’t occur. Which are we to believe, this single book or the accepted history? The timeline of the late 20th century could be adapted to fit the events in the series; we have had wars, bridges have fallen, explosions have happened. Some of the more mystical events must be taken on faith to have happened because there isn’t any other evidence that they did or could have happened. (Please note: I am not saying that the events of the series ever happened or ever could have or will happen)

If the timeline that has been set up from multiple sources in history must be adapted to fit just this one story/book, perhaps there is a possibility that the story was made up, or at the very least had some changes throughout history that have damaged its factual basis.

I hope you agree that the above scenario is outlandish to say the least. Please understand how intellectually dishonest this act is. In order to make the story contained in one book seem factual we are told that we should change what is accepted of so many separate sources that have been used to construct our history.

We (the people of our time) have records from the Egyptians, and they are almost universally agreed upon to be an accurate history of the people of the time. If the stories in the bible were literal historical accounts it would easily be discovered in the records of the Egyptians. The proposed timeline of the bible has been made to match up with the records of the Egyptians but only by ‘correcting’ the Egyptian records and the dates associated with them.

I would not state that none of the stories in the bible ever occurred but I am confident enough to state that some of the ‘facts’ contained in the true stories most likely have been exaggerated or falsified, either purposefully or not. I will say that the events of the bible are NOT a literal, factual, history of our people and should only be accepted as true as we would accept Harry Potter. Basically there are parts that are true, there are parts that are exaggerations of reality, and there are parts that are unbelievable.

I hope every gets the titular reference there, if not please click here.

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Criticism of a Critic

I’ve gotta fight today
To live another day
Speakin’ my mind today
(My voice will be heard today)

I’ve gotta make a stand
But I am just a man
(I’m not superhuman)
My voice will be heard today

It’s just another war
Just another family torn
(My voice will be heard today)

-Hero by Skillet

I have, since my very first post, been told that my posts were harsh and biased. Though, I don’t view anything I have posted as particularly attacking I can understand the position. I am speaking out about a part of the lives of some people which they hold most dear. I have been told that I have my right to free speech and to speak against whatever I would like, but feelings have been hurt because I have based the majority of the criticism on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been asked to, at the very least, broaden the scope of my comments.

“Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all.”
–Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991), television writer and producer, creator of ‘Star Trek’

This post too may be taken as an attack but I sincerely ask you to read and understand my position. I accepted the invitation to the church and the entire process was rushed and pressure filled. I accepted the church and its teachings and even lied to many people who asked my feelings on it all. I am sorry that I lied but I am not sorry to have met all of the people that without this experience I likely wouldn’t have encountered. You may feel it was wrong to lie but I am confident that most of the people who go through the process have the same feelings of pressure. The process is designed at its very core to pressure new ‘investigators’ into accepting the faith quickly; I was asked to make a decision about baptism on the very first discussion with the missionaries.

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Religion is, at its very core, an opinion on how the world works. Historically “God” has been attributed the power over what we could not understand. Every civilization in history has claimed the existence, supremacy, and ‘true-ness’ of their god. If god claims were never challenged we would still be worshiping as the Greeks and Romans.

Thor, Indra, Zeus, Raijin, and many others were the God of Thunder and/or Lightning. Because someone challenged those beliefs we now know that thunder is simply the sound of the super heating of the air surrounding an electric discharge we call lightning. Ra is said to have pulled the sun across the sky with his chariot, but we know now that the movement of the Sun is actually the movement of the Earth on both our polar axis and in orbit around the sun.

“If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”
–J. Reuben Clark, D. Michael Quinn (1983). The Church Years, p 24. Provo (UT): Brigham Young University Press

Every opinion deserves criticism and if it can not withstand it, that position or idea should be abandoned. Science (and our world in general) is based on someone saying ‘this is how this works’ and other people trying to disprove that hypothesis. The majority of the prizes in the scientific communities are awarded to ideas that disprove conventional thought with a more rational and descriptive theory.

I will freely admit that the majority of my remarks have focused on the LDS and I can justify my doing so; some of the claims made by the church are finite, specific, and verifiable claims. I am not speaking of the three kingdoms or degrees of glory, that God lives on/near Kolob, that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County Missouri, et al. I have and will continue to focus on the claims that, if true, could and should be verified by physical evidence.

​“If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.”

–George Albert Smith, 1st Counselor to Brigham Young

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says that a group of Hebrew travelers made their way to the American continent and, as such, are the ancestors of the Native American Indians. The church teaches that there were massive civilizations and wars on the American continent. Members are taught that the series of events in the formative years of the church happened in a certain way with very specific details.

“Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.”

–Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley, LDS General Conference, April 2003.

Being of the scientific background that I am I am aware of the use and importance of sources. The largest source of information for the refutation of the above claims, is in fact church history and church resources. To this point I have repeatedly responded to my critics that if there is a factual inaccuracy they believe exists in my posts to inform me and I will give the source for that claim. Also because of the majority of source information coming from Church sponsored or friendly places I cannot understand the utter disregard for the information they contain.

To this day I have not received a single response concerning the facts contained in my posts. I have only been given comments about ‘think what you want but don’t put it on Facebook’ or ‘why do you only talk about the LDS’. I am sorry that I have hurt anyone’s feelings and for those who feel as though I have only posted concerning the LDS I can confidently say that you haven’t seen the rest of my blog.

“Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions.”
–Frater Ravus

I am currently reading the Bible and taking its words as literally as they were written to be read. The stories contained in the Bible were not meant to be allegory or figurative tales, similarly the Book of Mormon was written to be a literal historical account of the history of the Americas. Just like the stories of the Greek gods of Mt. Olympus and the tales of Asgard the narratives of the Bible and Book of Mormon were written as literal, factual, and completely true accounts.

I wonder if my remarks on the Bible count as something that isn’t LDS-centric. I understand that the Mormons claim the use of the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon but in my experience it is not considered an equal and is not equally quoted or referenced in the church. It is remarkable that the membership spends so much time reading and ‘studying’ the scriptures but haven’t actually studied the claims made by the scriptures or the problems with them.

The very worst attitude that I encounter and that gets the worst response out of me is that of the person who acts like a child in their reasoning and argumentation. Fingers in the ears, saying ‘LA LA LA LA’, not actually being part of an adult, reasoned argument. ‘I’ll never change my position, NEVER’ is one of the worst claims I’ve encountered. I know that when someone says that, they have lost more than just the current argument. They have lost my respect.

Please if you are reading this, be open minded. At the very least let your imagination wander. Let it think about the possibility that there is no god. I tell you now mine goes the possibility that there is a god daily.

I don’t know if this post has rambled beyond control but I will end here. Thanks for going on that tangent-filled ride with me, come back soon.

What the 15-million statistic of Mormon church membership really means

The Irresistible (Dis)Grace

The post that I am responding to really doesn’t centralize the size of the church at all — it is really a quite thoughtful (though I disagree with much of it), lengthy discussion of the roles and purposes of marriage (especially in light of the recent legal decisions that have made same sex marriage a reality in Utah). I apologize from the start for doing such a disservice to James here for referring to such a tangential matter here, but I just wanted to talk about how one casually mentioned statistic really derailed the rest of the article for me.

First, the article: Three Reflections on Same-Sex Marriage in Utah.

Second, the part I found problematic:

Now, I am not saying a state government couldn’t choose to encourage the formation of such “extended nuclear families.” But it seems clear to me that Judge Shelby’s assertion that same-sex marriage will…

View original post 820 more words

In re: In re:

I know the title sucks but sorry I couldn’t come up with something right now. Basically this post is a rebuttal post to Witzlaw at Blogger. Obviously I’d like you to read his first as mine is merely a rebuttal of his statements. Its long, I’m sorry, but it is needed. There are many misconceptions and errors in the blogger post I hope to confront and correct.

http://blog.witzlaw.com/2014/01/in-re-faith-versus-atheism.html

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By the definitions set in this post I would be considered an agnostic, but these definitions are not the generally accepted ones. First and foremost atheist and agnostic are not mutually exclusive. Agnostic and Gnostic are mutually exclusive; Theist and Atheist are mutually exclusive. Actually if you want to be nit-picky we are all atheists about the vast majority of the gods that have ever existed (or said to have existed), I just go a few more. A Venn diagram or Punnett square are the best ways to look at these terms.

Most atheists classify themselves as agnostic atheists. One who doesn’t believe that a god exists because they don’t ‘know’ and would change their belief if the evidence supported any god, while most theists claim to be gnostic theists claiming they know that god exists. Someone claiming to be a gnostic atheist is simply untruthful or mistaken on the terms. Similarly a theists claiming to be gnostic is likely mistaken or untruthful. I offer that we are all agnostic.

More directly this post says Atheists “are those who firmly adopt a belief system in which god does not exist, and where there is not even a possibility of such existence.” This is the most blatant exaggeration of the atheistic stance I have ever seen and you need to know that for the vast majority this is not the case. In fact later in his post the author states that atheists are lead by truth, this statement does not correlate with that. This statement about all atheists is akin to if I went around spouting that all Mormons are polygamists. Mine, like most others, is a position that there is not enough evidence to support belief in this particular god and the claims thereof. If evidence surfaced that supported a god claim, and the evidence was sufficient enough, I and most others would change obviously to gnostics but also to theists.

You may be weary of what I have said and retort that some atheists would be hard headed enough to still reject god even after the evidence surfaced and I agree, some would. Have you ever heard of the geocentric theory of our solar system or that our planet is a sphere (an oblete spheroid actually)? There is an abundance of evidence for each of these theories and they are readily accepted as fact but unbelievably there are people who deny them. The Flat Earth Society is the largest.

Objective and Subjective are fairly well defined but the examples given are not the best. Yes a snowball is objective; the cold, the texture, the taste even, but in criminal trials we allow objective evidence but he makes no mention that we also, faultily, allow subjective evidence. Eyewitness testimony is a subjective thing. It is what that person thinks they saw. It has been shown that eyewitness testimony can be faulty and lead to bad results. If you’ve ever seen the show Mind Games you know a bit about what I am talking about.

The example of pain as a subjective thing is not the best. Pain can be examined with scientific instruments and tests. When the body is in pain it changes the brain chemistry and electrical waves. Endorphins are released and a reaction to the pain can be examined. A better example of subjective evidence is, noted later, prayer. Spiritual is a sub category of subjective evidence only.

“I would also submit that answers to prayers are repeatable under the right conditions.” This is a strong statement that has ZERO backing. The answers to prayers are subjective at best. The ability for answers to be repeatably given has never been shown to be true. The conditions given are basically ‘if you believe you are going to get the same answer you will’.

Inference is logic. We must approach logic arguments with care because you can infer truth from another statement but only if the truth is the basis for the argument. He knew his friend had more than enough drinks but what if those drinks weren’t alcoholic? You can have an internally consistent argument that is based on false information.

Why is Webster ok to define agnostic but not faith? I must point out that the majority of the world doesn’t go to Alma for their definitions. Just because this single definition fits his personal need for a definition and that makes it the best for the situation is ridiculous; Webster’s definition is clearly the best.

This idea that saying there is no proof means that there can be no proof is beyond absurd. That is not what the definition says! There is no current proof of what gives matter it’s mass but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any proof to be found. At one time there was no proof that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe but that didn’t mean we would never find any (we did by the way and we found out earth wasn’t in fact at the center of anything).

It’s strange that a theist would liken the argument for his god to the tooth fairy, but since it was laid out I will talk about it. He says the child’s belief in the tooth fairy wouldn’t be called faith by this definition but again this is wrong. The tooth fairy is taken on faith by the child the first time until the money appears, then it is considered, faultily I’ll admit, an objective belief. Of course we all know that the entire system of the tooth fairy is set up to deceive the child and they are not faulted for their belief in such myths. The money is given as evidence and the child infers that the tooth fairy is real; remember an inference, or logical argument, can lead to a faulty answer if based on false information.

Again this post restates that having faith means you can never find evidence to validate your point.

Amazingly, the statement, “I would infer that even the most outspoken among them would say that their one guiding principle is the truth,” is one of the best in this entire post. That is the most truthful statement he has made, in fact one of the most out spoken atheists Matt Dillahunty is credited with saying, “I want to believe as many true things as I can and as few false things as I can.” We don’t know absolutely that mermaids don’t exist but we don’t believe until it’s disproven; we don’t believe until it is proven. This is the position of the atheist/agnostic

But on to the main point….

He is correct in stating that Korihor’s statement is similar to what would be said by atheists today because HE WAS AN ATHEIST! Korihor didn’t believe in god and told people about it. Why would this be such a revelation?

“…even the concept of experience seems to be constrained by the need for objectivity, repeatability, and verification.” YES! If you assume that a single experience you had yourself was truth you would likely be flawed. We have experiences everyday that show our senses can be mistaken. Repeatability and verification are extremely important. You see a shadow on the wall or hear a sound in another room; you don’t instantly think someone is in your house. You look around for what could have made the shadow or sound and attempt to recreate it usually to satisfy curiosity and imagination.

Korihor and today’s atheists do not think anyone can look into the future and know of future events. Harold Camping prophesied of the end of the world many times and after each failed prophecy followers dwindled. You likely didn’t believe any of his prophecies and you had the attitude of Korihor when it came to Mr. Camping.

Korihor “characterizes the interaction between god and man as indicative of a form of mental illness.” More and more, lately, the news has had to report on scenes of gruesome death/murder based on religious belief. A Phoenix man takes an axe to his son because he thinks he has a demon inside him. A woman drowns her children in the bath because god told her to. Daily in the Middle East religion is used as the basis for murder. Maybe Korihor was on the right path.

Atheists are not an organization of people who have to think the exact same like religion. There are those who like to ridicule those who have a faith in god, but over all atheists do in fact believe that faith in god is faulty thinking. Publicity of criticism of religion can go too far sometimes but it is the best way to get the message out sometimes. You don’t believe in unicorns but you likely don’t disbelieve them at the same amount as I do. You may think that even entertaining the thought of unicorns is laughable while I think it is possible however improbable. If you wanted to tell other people about my beliefs you would say it was laughable that I believe and that it is ridiculous.

I think this next paragraph is very telling of many religious people. “…but I can also assure you that my own views will not change.” This is not the stance of most atheists but it is the stance of most theists. An atheist will change his/her views in accordance with the evidence. The closed mindedness of this and many other theists is harmful to our world as a whole.

“First, atheism’s emphasis upon the purely objective and the scientific is inconsistent with how even much of secular society operates.”

The rambling of this post is hard to read but it basically states that subjective evidences is used in society sometimes. Yes, it must be. Subjective evidence is used and it just can’t be avoided. The only thing the author doesn’t mention is that the decisions made based on the subjective evidence are relatively meaningless compared to those that are made based on the objective evidence. Guilty or not is based mostly on objective evidence while the sentence or pain and suffering payment is based on the subjective. Who to market to is likely based on objective evidence (who buys the product, who watches tv at this time, who listens to the radio in the car) but whether to use cats or dogs in the commercial is subjective. The subjective evidence is not being used to decide the fate of the world, as well it shouldn’t be.

“Second, atheism’s emphasis upon the objective and the scientific—even to some extent its emphasis on experience—is also inconsistent with how individuals naturally operate, even when decisions are made outside the realm of religion or spirituality.”

Talents are hard to explain. In fact I can not explain them properly, I doubt you can either, but that isn’t evidence of god. Intuition is similar but I have the distinct feeling that intuition is based in our brains on personal experience. The examples given about a manager hiring someone or a cop talking to a particular suspect may very well be some good examples. What about that manager who hired someone who turned out to be a thief and stole from the company? What about that suspect who had enough time to get away because a cop went to interrogate someone else first? The manager and cop made these decisions based on intuition and ‘gut feelings’ too but they turned out to be wrong. I’ve bought a different kind of toilet paper because of a gut feeling but I have since gone back to my trusty Angel Soft. Experience is a type of scientific inquiry, however informal we use the scientific method within our own heads everyday. Look at a child who has had no formal science education and you can see them decide to put something in their mouth, it tastes bad, they see something similar they decide to not try that one because of their experience with the last one.

Our brains are not very well understood yet. Growing up we are confronted with millions of stimuli that affect us is unknown ways. A particular font or color on a sign that at the time you didn’t notice but your brain made note of it. If in that same instance you had something bad happen to you, your brain would likely have connected the two items and caused a ‘gut feeling’ later in life for some unknown reason.

“Third, atheism, as a philosophy, discounts the fact that scientific knowledge is itself very limited and finite.”

“the very best we can do—when left to our own devices, is to make an entire series of inferences and extrapolations to form models.” Yes, we do, that’s called science. The models and inferences are based on very basic mathematical facts and just like the logical arguments above are only as good as the information fed into them. Scientists know this and are careful that the information is as correct as possible. This is why the peer review process is so important in the scientific community. One person doesn’t just say ‘this is how it works’ and everyone believes them; someone says that and everyone tries to disprove it. In addition to the models science is very open about the facts that theories and models degrade at some points and our current understanding just doesn’t work. That is why they keep going!

The author quotes Korihor again but now he agrees with him. “You cannot know of things that you do see.” I must disagree with the both of them. Inferences can be made to gain the knowledge of something I didn’t physically see. The entire field of forensics is based on this fact. The author takes Korihor’s statement and ‘runs with it’ but he just runs off a cliff of misunderstanding. Science holds theories about planetary formation, stellar formation, the origin of life, and evolution; yes, but they are not held so dear that they can never be overturned. Through his rant, the author, has missed one or two points that would go well with his argument: Were you around when Joseph Smith found the golden plates? Were you around when Mormon/God/Jesus/Evil Spirit came to Joseph in the grove? Were you around when Jesus rose from the grave and then came to the America’s?

The author states that it takes faith to make the extrapolations or inferences, but this does not mesh with even the author’s definitions in his own post. And the author makes a false correlation with the inferences based on known data and the belief that god created the universe less than 10,000 years ago.

“Fourth and finally, atheism discounts, discards, and even ridicules the notion that knowledge can be obtained in ways other than the objective or purely scientific. Specifically, it ridicules the idea that knowledge can be obtained spiritually, since this is the antithesis of the view that there is no source that exists which can provide spiritual knowledge in the first place.”

Again the author makes the mistake, knowingly or not, that atheists are completely against even the idea of a god existing. The atheist will change their position depending on the evidence and can usually conceive of a universe ruled/reigned over by any particular god, so this line he speaks of is only for his point of view. “…and as certain as anything, I will not even consider unlearning such things,” it’s so sad to read this and think about how closed minded this person is and that many more people feel this way without speaking about it.

Alma is quoted speaking to Korihor that all things denote a creator god, and the author falls in line 100%. The author then takes to explain that the intricacies of life and the universe are evidence of a creator and another false claim about atheists. Imagination lends itself to be able to help me conceive of the thought that the universe is so vast that we don’t know how abundant or probable life is. We have theories that explain the movement of the planets, the formation of stars and star systems, and even at the galactic level. And again most atheists don’t hold the position that there is no possibility of the existence of a god.

The author says Alma says that everyone can come to the same conclusion as he has about god if they only have the correct state of mind. Basically ‘if you believe you can come to the same conclusion, you will.’ Crazy. Especially since he claims the freedom for the people to believe as they will but (not quoted by the author) in Alma 1 Nehor was killed for heresy and in Alma 30 Korihor was taken before a judge for the same.

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“For just because something is subjective doesn’t invalidate the underlying truths behind what that person is feeling.” A faulty statement; the mere fact that something is felt doesn’t mean it is true and too we must be open to the possibility that our feelings and senses can be fooled. Just because someone feels that they have truth doesn’t necessarily mean they do. That man in Phoenix felt his son was a demon; his evidence was spiritual and subjective but I doubt you would agree it was based on truth. The lady who drowned her children knew god had spoken to her; it was a spiritual truth to her, but I doubt you would side with her. Just because we feel something does not instantly make it true. Many mind games and puzzles are easy examples of this.

“a person who sincerely loves god with all of his might, mind and strength will behave a certain way and desire to do certain things for himself, his family, and his community, within the limits of his capabilities, and notwithstanding his weaknesses and imperfections.”

A good quote on the surface but look deeper and it’s not much. The author states that spiritual truth is objective because that person then acts better. Two things about this statement:
1-What about those religious people who do bad? (i.e. Catholic priests molesting altar boys, the Mormon boys who nearly killed a guy for fun, or honor killings in the Middle East)
2-What about those good people who aren’t religious? (I hope you don’t think you can only be good with religion. I find myself to be a better person now than I was with religion; I am more honest and giving)

The author has likely had a few bad encounters with atheists and has formed his conclusion based on them. I want you to know we aren’t all like that. We have no mantra that we live by. We have no creeds we are bound to follow. The only thing that makes us different is that we require more than feelings to lead our lives. In closing I must ask you to not be completely set that you will never change your mind. Thank you for reading.

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