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Extra-Biblical, Non-Christian Confirmation of Jesus

My response to a claim from an email exchange that I didn’t get to address during our conversation.

“There are actually lots of extra biblical non Christian sources that wrote about the life of Jesus and wrote them with in 100-150 years of his life. Historians like Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny, Trajan, Hadrian, Talmud, Toledoth, and more. What they wrote correlates with the biblical account.”

While I have heard of some of these, a few I’ve never heard of so I just want to go through each and see what claims are made for each. I would like to point out that I don’t think I was ever a mythicist. I see no contradiction is accepting that a preacher called Jesus existed; though, I will make clear that I don’t see any reason to believe the supernatural claims about him. What I know about these sources before this post is that most, if not all, are merely evidence that the Christian sect existed, not that a supernatural, god-man existed.

The first place I went to get information is Wiki, other sources will be linked when used.

After doing the research below, I wonder if those who spout these names, as sources of information that confirm the existence of Jesus, have done the same. A few of these are so sketchy that I wouldn’t use them and would think even a believer could see that they aren’t helpful in their arguments.

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Josephus

A Jewish historian, ~90CE, credited with two mentions of Jesus. Josephus is one of the ones I’ve heard of before but really don’t know what he was supposed to have said.

The first reference in Book 20, a reference to Jesus as the brother of James:

-Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law.

This reference seems okay though it does have some criticism surrounding it.

Critics like to point out that in the same passage Josephus references Jesus Damneus and Jesus son of Gamaliel. Richard Carrier says “who was called Christ” was likely an addition not written by Josephus in the original text. While supporters say it is used to distinguish this Jesus from the other two.

-While the authenticity of some passages in Book 18 of Antiquities of the Jews has been subject to debate, the overwhelming majority of scholars consider the discussion of the death of James in Section 9 of Book 20 to be authentic. –Wiki

I think that by this consensus of people who know better than I, I will agree that this passage is likely talking about the biblical Jesus. That being said, I don’t think there is any reason for me to convert instantly. This is simply a passage that may be used to verify that he actually existed, not the claim that he was more than human, and it was written approximately 60 years after he supposedly died. That seems like plenty of time for stories to spread. Mythicism may be out of the window but post-mortem apotheosis seems more likely.

The second reference, in Book 18, and quite possibly the best a believer could hope for:

-About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.   – Flavius Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3

But then there’s this:

-Scholarly opinion varies on the total or partial authenticity of the reference in Book 18, Chapter 3, 3 of the Antiquities, a passage that states that Jesus the Messiah was a wise teacher who was crucified by Pilate, usually called the Testimonium Flavianum. The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian expansion/alteration. Although the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear, there is broad consensus as to what the original text of the Testimonium by Josephus would have looked like. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

The TF contains some obvious Christian glosses that no Jew would have written; such as “he was the Christ” and “he appeared to them alive again the third day.” – http://www.bede.org.uk/Josephus.htm

If there existed that much doubt about this source I would definitely not be using it to back my claim. That criticism even lends credence to the apotheosis hypothesis (that’s fun to say).

-After reading the rest of the text of this passage we find that the Jews were so angry about the stoning of James that they they demanded that King Agrippa fire Ananus. Why would the Jews be angered over the killing of a Christian, since Christians were seen as heathens by the Jews? After the angry Jews get their way, “Jesus” is put in charge, Jesus son of Damneus and not Jesus son of Joseph. It seems as though “who was called Christ” was simply a margin note that got added to the text. The context would suggest that Jesus and James are brothers and after James is killed his brother is made to be high priest. And therefore the passage has nothing to say about any Christians but rather Jewish infighting. –http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Testimonium_Flavian

In the end, I will accept that the writings of Josephus are possibly factual accounts of the existence of a man named Jesus. They can’t be used as anything more than that and I have already admitted that I am not a mythicist. I would agree that most of his information came from Christian sources but I don’t think that is any reason to disregard all of the information.

~~~~~

Tacitus

A Roman historian, ~100CE, provides an account of the persecution of the early Christians and the crucifixion.

-Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty (i.e., Crucifixion) during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus… -Tacitus, Annals

So, he states that a man called Christ, whom a sect of Jews were named after, was crucified by Pilate. But he calls Pilate a procurator, not a prefect. Tacitus would surely know the difference, even if we don’t.

-Thiessen and Merz, while stating that Tacitus provides few details the source of which is unclear, conclude that there was a Jew named Christus who Pilate had executed, and he began a religious movement which was widespread during Nero’s reign.

I think this next quote is relevant to most of the people/references on this list considering the events were so long ago, so poorly documented, and the claim is so extreme.

-In his book Jesus, Charles Guignebert states that “so long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus was simply repeating the story as it was being told], the passage remains quite worthless.” Without more information, which we don’t currently have, the passage proves nothing (it can’t be used as evidence for or against).

But…

-Scholars generally consider Tacitus’ reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

The IronChariots Wiki gives a list of other objections to the claim of relevance of Tacitus. Many of them lead me to believe that Tacitus was merely documenting what the Christians at the time were saying.

-Given that we are lacking key information, and that the passage itself provides very little detail, a determination about Tacitus’ diligence in investigating it cannot be made. Any statement which assumes he did exercise due diligence (i.e. that what he said was based on fact) is speculative.

My final judgement…Confirmation of a man named Jesus, leader of a set of Jews, but nothing about a deity. Even with just these two sources I am confident that the Christ Myth theory is debunked but I won’t go all the way to say that Jesus was the savior the bible bills him as.

~~~~~

Suetonius

Roman historian, ~115CE, reported to mention Jesus by name.

-“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from Rome” –Suetonius

This one is pretty short and I’ll just copy/paste the whole of the article from the wiki.

-Elsewhere in the same work (The Lives of the Caesars) Suetonius talks about how “Punishment was inflicted on the Christians, a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition.” under Nero demonstrating that Suetonius knew the difference between Jews and Christians.

Suetonius wrote in the year 115 CE, so this is far from a contemporary account. He doesn’t cite or list sources and Christianity would have been decently established by this time.

The name in the text is not “Christus” but “Chrestus,” which by no means is the usual designation of Jesus. It was a common name, especially among Roman freedman. (Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, book 2, letter 8, section 1; “What! Do you suppose that I meant you to send me an account of gladiatorial matches, of postponements of trials, of robberies by Chrestus, and such things as, when I am at Rome, nobody ventures to retail to me?”) Hence, the whole passage may have nothing whatever to do with Christianity.

I don’t think that most of the people who parrot the names of these “extra-biblical, non-Christian sources” have actually looked at them, just as I hadn’t. This is not a good example to use in favor of Jesus.

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Thallus

If Suetonius was a sketchy source, this one is worse. This “reference” to Jesus is from a 9th century source working on a manuscript of a 3rd century commentary of Thallus’ writings about the supposed darkness referenced in the Bible after the crucifixion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_darkness

“On the whole world there pressed a fearful darkness, and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. Thallos calls this darkness an eclipse of the sun in the third book of histories, without reason it seems to me.” –Africanus, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Thallus

So, Africanus is commenting on, criticizing really, something supposedly said by Thallus from 200 years prior. Not to mention the name is spelled differently though that is easily explained away I know.

~~~~~

Pliny

Pliny the younger, I assume, was apparently a Roman lawyer and the only mention relevant seems to be:

“Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.” –Pliny, the Younger, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Pliny_the_Younger

This in no way confirms the existence of Jesus, it only confirms that there were Christians. This couldn’t even be used as evidence against a mythicism view of Jesus. I guess I have to concede that Christians do exist based on this source, but again I’ll say it doesn’t have anything to do with a halfling Jesus.

~~~~~

Trajan

So, Trajan was the Emperor of Rome from 98-117CE, he is who Pliny the Younger was writing to in the quote passage above so there isn’t much more to say about him that wasn’t said to Pliny. There is a passage of him replying to Pliny but it too is only about the treatment of Christians in legal matters, not about the veracity of their claims about Jesus being a god.

~~~~~

Hadrian

Emperor from 117-138CE, after Trajan, his secretary happened to be Suetonius. Again, he doesn’t actually say anything to confirm the existence of Jesus. The only account I can find of him that is useful:

“I do not wish, therefore, that the matter should be passed by without examination, so that these men may neither be harassed, nor opportunity of malicious proceedings be offered to informers. If, therefore, the provincials can clearly evince their charges against the Christians, so as to answer before the tribunal, let them pursue this course only, but not by mere petitions, and mere outcries against the Christians. For it is far more proper, if anyone would bring an accusation, that you should examine it.” Hadrian further explained that if Christians were found guilty they should be judged “according to the heinousness of the crime.” If the accusers were only slandering the believers, then those who inaccurately made the charges were to be punished.” http://www.westarkchurchofchrist.org/library/extrabiblical.htm

All he is doing is speaking of the way to treat Christians based on their crimes not based on the fact that they are Christians. A noble quote, for sure, but not evidence for the existence, let alone godhood of Jesus.

A piece of evidence that would make an apologist not bring up Hadrian may be this:

“There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis. Even the Patriarch himself, when he comes to Egypt, is forced by some to worship Serapis, by others to worship Christ.“ http://caesarsmessiah.com/blog/2011/11/hadrian-wrote-that-serapis-and-christ-were-the-same-god/

He wrote that Jesus and Serapis were the same god. Strange indeed. If you want Hadrian to be used as evidence that Jesus existed then we would have to also accept that Jesus and Serapis were the same deity.

~~~~~

Talmud

The Talmud, a collection of Jewish rabbinical teachings, supposedly referencing Jesus’ death, the passage in question:

“On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!” –excerpt from the Talmud, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Talmud

One criticism states that Jesus was crucified, not hanged as the passage states, but I can explain that away by saying the hung him up on the cross. A better criticism is that the Bible recounts Jesus being tried and then executed the day after his trial which was either on or after Passover; no 40 day waiting period and not on the eve of Passover.

Matt 26:2-5 – Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified… …But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.

The Bible says he was killed after the Passover; it seems more likely that this reference to an unnamed person who was hanged is someone else and the passage is just vague enough to be used for Jesus.

~~~~~

Toledoth

I’ve never heard of this source before and in asking for clarification I get this response:

Well of course I have never read teledoth just know him as early historian who wrote about the life if Christ. Let me ask around about that pRticular resource though.

You are citing a source you don’t even know about? Please agree with me that this is fallacious thinking. Considering what I’ve come across I would bet that many people who cite these “sources” haven’t done the least bit of research on them either.

I searched for a source by this title and the only thing I could come up with was the Toledot Yeshu.

Ok, so yes you are right I think. That is the one that has been referenced for me. Have you read?

If this is the source you were speaking of I must confess that I am sure that you didn’t actually look at the sources you sent to me. Laughably I read about this so-called source; it is called an “anti-gospel” and a parody of the life of Jesus.

The stories claim that Jesus (Yeshu) was an illegitimate child, and that he practiced magic and heresy, seduced women, and died a shameful death.

Jewish and Christian scholars agree that isn’t worth discussing as fact.

This scurrilous fable of the life of Jesus is a medieval work, probably written down in the tenth century. …. Though its contents enjoyed a certain currency in the oral traditions of the Jewish masses, it was almost totally ignored by official or scholarly Judaism

I hope this isn’t a source that is seriously being sent around but I fear it is still being parroted to extend the list of so-called sources and evidence for the apologist arguments. In stark contrast to giving veracity to the claims of believers, giving sources like this is harmful to the discussion.

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Lucian

This is one that wasn’t in the original list given to me but I came across it and wanted to see what it had to say too. Perhaps you know of this one but have decided to leave it out because it isn’t good enough but that would mean you approved of the others that were so bad. The passage in question is:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. . . . You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.” –Lucian, http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=Lucian

The sarcasm or vitriol in this passage is thick. This isn’t an eyewitness account of either the “distinguished personage” or the death of the “sage”. The link says it was from ~120 after the death of Jesus. I can accept that this is speaking about Jesus but it doesn’t seem like anything more than someone talking about the Christians, he certainly doesn’t give them any credit in their beliefs by speaking about them as he does.

~~~~~

I would like to comment that it seems funny that the names of the ‘extra-Biblical, non-Christian sources’ seem to be in the same order everywhere. The list that was given to me in the email exchange is the same order as the list on IronChariots and the same as I’ve heard numerous times, though it could just be me counting the hits.

If we accept most of the above as evidence enough that Jesus existed, the following points are made:

  • There was a Jew named Jesus who founded a religious movement
  • He was ordered executed by a Roman prefect named Pilate
  • His martyrdom is likely what fueled the growth of the movement

However, we have not made the points that:

  • The man had magic powers
  • The Biblical account is factual
  • The Bible is a reliable historical source
  • What people believe today is true
  • Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, and Toledot Yeshu are useful names to drop as extra-Biblical, non-Christian sources of Jesus related factoids.

If you are one of the people who has been giving the above as sources of confirmation of the claims of Jesus…

to-admit-that-you-were-wrong-is-to-declare-that-you-are-wiser-now-than-you-were-before2

This post is not to say that I am smarter than anyone else. I feel like I have openly investigated the sources and criticized them fairly. Please take the sarcasm in this post as friendly. Above all take the information in this post back to your circles and make sure people stop citing some of these sources as confirmation of the life of Jesus. Admitting that some of the sources aren’t useful doesn’t mean you are admitting that Jesus wasn’t god; it means you are intellectually honest with both yourself and others.

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In re: 5 Reasons Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Totally Unconvincing

 

This is my response to a post on happiness-seekers.com I stumbled upon recently, it’s really long, sorry in advance. This particular post seemed to fit perfectly into a conversation I was having recently with a family member. Though this is specifically about Mormon stuff and our conversation wasn’t, I think the ideas are similar enough to apply to a broader topic. I will direct comments to this person using the single letter J.

Though I will be quoting much of the post, I urge you to read it without my commentary first. Perhaps you have comments about what they wrote or even what I will write, share it!

“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

Consider the following reasons that anti-Mormon arguments are not as convincing as they appear to be:

1. Negative Evidence Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Many intellectuals argue that “negative evidence” is supreme. To understand what they mean by this, consider the hypothesis that “all swans are white.” According to these intellectuals, it doesn’t matter how many white swans you find, you never really prove that “all” swans are white. However, as soon as you find one black swan, you have disproved the theory that “all swans are white.”

Except for the obvious sarcasm vitriol in the above quote, I agree with this explanation of ‘negative evidence’; I actually don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t.

In the face of unsettling information, they disregard all of the positive evidence because they think that a few points of negative evidence is sufficient to end the discussion. And given how logical the above reasoning seems to be, it is no wonder why.

Perhaps not enough to end the discussion, but surely enough to change the viewpoint of said discussion. We found a black swan so clearly and evidently the claim that ‘all swans are white’ is wrong.

J – I don’t know if you remember specifically when I talked about this very thing in our conversation. My quote: “Disproving a claim is more about providing enough evidence to make someone doubt the claim.”

The author continues by explaining that Uranus caused doubt in Newton’s laws of physics. I think in giving this example the author actually hurt themselves unwittingly. See, the fact that it caused even a ripple in the scientific community is confirmation that negative evidence is worthwhile when investigating a claim. If the scientific community hadn’t acknowledged the problem and kept investigating, first, we wouldn’t have found more planets so quickly, and second, we wouldn’t have discovered that Newton was correct.

So, as it turned out, it wasn’t that Newton’s laws of physics didn’t work. It was that they didn’t seem to work. And that’s because the astronomers simply didn’t have all the relevant information and context.

Yes, but if the orbit of Uranus had been that ‘black swan’ it would have called for massive changes in how we think about the laws of physics. Cosmologists didn’t explain Uranus away, as many LDS attempt to do with the problems with Joseph Smith or Noah’s Flood, they acknowledged the problematic evidence and discovered why it seemed problematic. They didn’t disregard the negative evidence, they faced it and it just so happened that it was still a good theory. Just because it turned out to not be the ‘black swan’ doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have doubted.

This example shows very clearly why negative evidence is far from supreme. You can dig up all sorts of facts about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, but you will never know if you really have access to all the relevant context and perspectives.

If you think I would argue that the scientific community is always right and couldn’t be proved wrong, just look to Einstein’s theory of a static universe (there are many other theories that were proven untrue). Evidence to the contrary made the community change their “mind” about the theory. Negative evidence need only plant a seed of doubt, if the original claim can’t hold up then it needs to be abandoned.

I could give you a list of examples a mile long of incredibly disconcerting and persuasive arguments that have been made against the Church since its founding but have since been invalidated by new information.

Actual claims? YAY.

How many accounts against the Prophet turned out to be forgeries?

I don’t know, how many? hmm… The author doesn’t provide anything to back this up except a link to the church website about the forged documents of Mark Hofman.

This is a really, really bad example for the author to have used. Bruce R. McConkie said “There is no perfect operation of the power of discernment without revelation. Thereby even ‘the thoughts and intents of the heart’ are made known.” The church accepted the Hofman forgeries as true, their ‘discernment’ didn’t happen.

The fact that the documents were forgeries isn’t the ‘black swan’ the fact that the ‘discernment’ of the church didn’t show them the truth is. On the church’s website at the link the author used the church states, “The announcements and texts of some of these documents were published in Church periodicals, and the documents have been used in good faith since 1980 in manuals and discussions by leaders, teachers, and members of the Church. The following documents and their fraudulent contents should not be used, even though they may have appeared in previous Church publications.”

In addition to the Mark Hofman forgeries, there is also the Kinderhook Plates, the Book of Abraham, etc. These are the ‘black swan’ of the Mormon claim.

How many Book of Mormon animals and crops were supposedly nonexistent before European settlement, but in recent years were discovered to have ancient American date?

Ooh, I love anachronisms. And again, no examples, just an unanswered question and an unsupported claim. I won’t reproduce it fully but click the link for a list of BoM problems.

I think my favorite anachronism that the LDS camp thinks they have explained away is the horse, possibly mentioned as the “animals” in the author’s post. No evidence of horses has been found in the Americas from the supposed timeline of the Book of Mormon. The church has offered, basically, two responses: 1-the evidence hasn’t been found YET, and 2-the “horse” in the BoM wasn’t really a horse, possibly a “deer or tapir”.

thanks_for_nothing_battletapir

Ever hear about the Spaulding-Rigdon theory? Probably not. It used to be all the rage in the anti-Mormon community, but it’s now joined the long list of discredited claims against the Church.

Ooh, I actually liked this theory. A couple of things the author doesn’t mention is that it isn’t the only theory about the origination of the BoM and I really don’t think there is a “long list of discredited claims”, more a long list of claims the Church simply attempts to explain away, none of them very well I might add. The author doesn’t even link a single page to discredit this nor any other claim.

To be fair, there are certainly things about the Church and its history that continue to defy any honest attempt to explain.

Wow, I must say, I wouldn’t have expected someone to admit this. This is one of the reasons I chose to respond to this post. It is very honest. But then, he goes on to say:

But again, if we are sincere in our quest for truth, we will be very careful about how much weight we give negative evidences considering all the context we are potentially missing.

It is fallacious to keep a belief in light of contrary evidence simply because you assume more evidence will come to show your position to be true.

 

2. The Evidence in Favor of the Restoration Is Truly Extraordinary

Joseph Smith prophesied that he would be proven “a true prophet by circumstantial evidence.” Now, more than ever before, the evidence is mounting in Joseph’s favor.

Yeah, I really don’t think that’s true. There are more people leaving the Church now than ever before, at an ever-increasing rate even. One more thing, why “circumstantial evidence“? That isn’t the best kind of evidence as it can allow more than one explanation. I like to think that this is actually a sort of Freudian-slip. Direct evidence would be better as it doesn’t require support or inference.

And I don’t care if you think that the Book of Mormon was actually written by Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon or if you think that a 23 year old Joseph Smith was some kind of genius, you still can’t explain away what a feat the Book of Mormon would be if it truly was an invention.

Well, each of those could explain the BoM though I have any confidence in any of them. Don’t authors create new universes everyday? Aren’t universes expanded upon by new authors? Must we claim an author is a genius simply because they create a good piece of literature?

Authors create works of literature everyday. JK Rowling created the Harry Potter universe and as much as I like the universe I don’t think it took the efforts of a genius. Imagination and creativity abound when we are young and it’s not hard to see that people back then had an abundance of time that they couldn’t spend on tablets/computers/phones. It isn’t a far stretch to say that Joseph could have created the BoM whole cloth by himself, and it certainly doesn’t give him loads of credit.

The positive evidences may never “prove” that the Book of Mormon is true, but they can provide a strong justification to carefully and prayerfully study it.

Yes, as long as you poo-poo the negative evidence claims.

Since the evidences are so incredible and I want to do them a decent justice, I’ll have to take them up in a future article: The Surprising Evidences of the Book of Mormon.

As I don’t know what the author is going to specifically point to in the upcoming article, I’ll just have to wait for it to come out and then comment on it. But, wouldn’t this be more like the NdGT/B.O.B. flat-Earth argument if the evidences really were that “incredible”? Anyways, I won’t speculate at what these evidences may be so I’ll leave it open for another post too.

 

3. Anti-Mormon Arguments Are Like Conspiracy Theories

conspiracytheoriesBefore I get into what the author writes I simply will say that calling something a conspiracy theory doesn’t immediately invalidate it’s point, see theories that weren’t just conspiracy. We have to be careful to interpret these because we are talking about it in the past tense. Use your imagination or even your memory, if you’re old enough, to put yourself in the theory’s current time, think about it as the people from the present would have thought about it.

downloadAlso, it is a very good tactic to call those who don’t believe your claim conspiracy theorists in an attempt to throw them in a bad light. Yes, most theories are unfounded or at least very shaky. The evidences we are talking about against the claims of the Mormon church are much more solid, if they weren’t it would be more like the flat earth theory. You may not even be aware that there are people out there that say the Earth is flat, there are. The thing is that it isn’t even thought about as counter-evidence except by the most out-there people and certainly not debated daily.

Whatever proof or context the government provides to exonerate itself is simply dismissed because “of course, they’d say that” or “it’s just a government cover-up.” Most conspiracy theorists don’t recognize the problem with this, but imagine that you are accused of a crime and when you go to trial you aren’t allowed to defend yourself or bring witnesses in your defense.

Anti-Mormons get to present the facts (and half-truths and outright lies) in whatever manner they please, but when the Church releases context or LDS scholars present alternative views, anti-Mormons paint these attempts as worthy of dismissal since they come from “biased” sources.

This is true, the problem lies in the description of the ‘black swan’ from earlier. You can bring as much evidence to support your claim as you want but the evidence contrary to your claim must be weighted higher than supportive evidence. Saying you’ve found only white swans for 75 years is great evidence for your side, but a single contrary claim of a black swan one single time destroys your defense.

The thing that must be clear is that the black swan actually exists. Simply saying that I once saw a swan that wasn’t white isn’t enough to debase the claim, it should provide some doubt and lead to investigation, but more evidence would be required.

And doing so means that they are assuming their conclusion is true without actually caring about proving it to be true.

This is not true. Simple as that. I’ve explained why negative evidence is more important that positive so I won’t go at it again. Also, this very sentiment is used on the anti-mormon side about apologists calling any counter evidence “biased” and unworthy of belief.

Anti-Mormons attempt to undermine the credibility of Joseph Smith, the 11 witnesses, modern apostles etc., all so that it seems only natural to distrust the Church as a source.

Undermining the credibility of Joseph, the witnesses, the apostles, and the church is the reason there is negative evidence against the claims of the Mormon church.

“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.”
-Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith

Joseph was said to use a technique to “translate” the golden plates, he used the same technique, and possibly the same stone, to search for buried treasure and take people’s money and make money for himself.  The witnesses never actually saw the supposed golden plates with their “natural eyes”. The supposed witnesses weren’t actually witnesses at all. It seems so strange to me that there seems to be a direct negative correlation between the amount of miracles/revelation that happen and the amount of technology there is to document and investigate such. There hasn’t been any revelation by the modern apostles since the time of Joseph and Brigham Young. The church has only recently sought to face some of the claims against them in their essays. Many members of the church weren’t, and probably may not still be, aware that Joseph had as many wives as he did, or that he married a girl that was only 14. Some very prominent pieces of LDS art show Joseph seemingly reading and translating the golden plates while his own accounts say that he placed his head in a hat with a stone to have the translation revealed to him. While these may not be actively hidden or covered up facts, the church hasn’t been very open with these points.

“‘Inhabitants of the Moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the Earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the Quaker Style & are quite general in Style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; comeing [sic] generally, near a thousand years.’ This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could ‘See’ whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see.”
-Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., in Journal of O.B. Huntingtonsix_foot_quaker_moon

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon?… When you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain.”
-Prophet Brigham Young

“We will never get a man into space. This Earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it … The mood is a superior planet to the Earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”
-Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith

The credibility of “revelation” to these so called prophets should be called into question after quotes like these.

If you want to see claims that are an awful lot like anti-Mormon arguments, look at this list of debunked claims that the Moon landing is really a hoax. The claims all seem to be very convincing, but when you dig a little deeper and talk to the people who actually know something about science, space, and NASA, you realize very quickly that the claims don’t hold much water.

The claims [of the LDS church] all seem to be very convincing, but when you dig a little deeper and talk to the people who actually know something about science, DNA, anthropology, archaeology, history, literature, and cult tactics, you realize very quickly that the claims don’t hold much water.

Wouldn’t an astronaut or film crew worker have spilled the truth by now?” are a lot like “Why did none of the 11 witnesses ever deny their testimony of seeing the gold plates, particularly when several of them became disaffected?”

There is some evidence that some of the witnesses recounted it as a hoax, particularly Oliver Cowdery, but I understand that those sources are concrete. Beyond that, there are many, MANY, people that we could talk to today that can tell a very realistic story of alien abuduction. The fact that they think it was a real experience doesn’t mean it actually was real. There are many people who believe something that no one else can corroborate and we put them away in asylums. I am okay with a group of early settlers agreeing that they “saw” some golden plates with their “spiritual eyes”, that doesn’t give their claim any more credit than Chris Namelka’s claim of translating the sealed portion of the BoM.

 

4. Anti-Mormon Literature Uses Deceptive Presentation Tricks

You see, the Church focuses on teaching the Gospel and the things that matter, while historical items that are unimportant, unedifying, or difficult to understand are often brushed over in the process.

Not presenting a part of your history that is directly connected to what you are talking about, simply because it doesn’t agree with or is contrary to what you are presenting is sneaky to say the least.

Why do some Mormons not know about Joseph Smith’s polygamy? Why does the church think that Smith’s polygamy is unimportant? Why don’t believers know that Joseph practiced polygamy in secret before and after the it was taught by the church? Yes, that information is unedifying but it is true and needs to be known. Joseph blackmailing a family into giving him permission to marry their 14 year old daughter isn’t “difficult to understand”, it’s damning information that the church wanted to keep covered up. What is difficult to understand is why there are so many accounts of the first vision.

The Church has responded to this by demonstrating that they have nothing to hide. They have released article after article discussing the biggest controversies, but placing them in context and providing a faithful perspective.

So, they’ve provided a bit more information that they hadn’t before but they still only share the parts that are ‘important’ or ‘edifying’, yeah that’s still sneaky.

The essays and the rebuttals to the essays are fun to read, if you’re bored.

Of course, you’ll never get the relevant context from John Dehlin and others.

That sounds a lot like something I read earlier…

…anti-Mormons paint these attempts as worthy of dismissal since they come from “biased” sources.

Dismissing information simply because it comes from a certain source is wrong on BOTH sides of an argument.

That makes no sense. And doing so means that they are assuming their conclusion is true without actually caring about proving it to be true.

This is kind of like the Trump v. Trump debate on Steven Colbert’s show recently.

What people have to understand is that while anti-Mormon literature is filled with many historical facts, they are often presented in a sinister light

Facts are facts. If there is something wrong with what happened it’s because there is something wrong with what happened, not with the presentation of the event. Just because something doesn’t mesh with what you believe doesn’t mean that thing is wrong, perhaps your belief is wrong.

An example of this is the way that some anti-Mormons will surprise their audience by revealing that Joseph Smith translated much of the Book of Mormon through means of a seer stone, instead of mainly translating through the urim and thummim as most members imagine.

I would rather go to the marriage to a 14 YEAR OLD GIRL, but to each his own, this is a good example too.

There’s really nothing more strange about using a seer stone to translate than ancient spectacles…

Another thing we agree on. They are both ridiculous.

…however, anti-Mormons describe the events in a way that makes Joseph sound like a lunatic peering into a hat. They also make it seem as though the Church is trying to keep this information secret (it’s actually on the Church website).

No, it’s usually described in a way that makes the church sound like a liar since they like to concentrate on the urim and thummim.

In addition to manipulating information that few members know about, anti-Mormons also talk about things that happened two hundred years ago that are difficult to understand from a modern perspective. Without putting ourselves in their shoes and understanding all of the facts of the day, things that aren’t really that big of a deal suddenly appear to be very important pieces of negative evidence.

I really wish the author had given a specific example of something that is misunderstood because “the times they are a changin'” but nothing. Maybe something like slavery in the Bible? We know it’s wrong now but back then they didn’t, even though they had rules set down by their deity to tell them how to live somehow ‘Thou shalt not own another human being as property’ didn’t make the cut.

 

5. A Spiritual Witness Is a Really Good Reason to “doubt your doubts”

The real reason that I believe in Christ and in the Restored Church is because of the spiritual experiences I have had. Human reason is limited. Pure and simple.

Personal experience is not a good thing to go by. UFO sightings, speaking to god, having magical powers, ESP, these are all things people claim to have by personal experience but that most people simply dismiss.

Whatever atheists tell you, they have to exercise faith too.

Another claim without backing information.

There are just so many things that are unknowable and that is why personal revelation is so important.

So, you know something that is unknowable?

So, when you experience personal revelation confirming the existence of God, Christ’s love for humankind, the Book of Mormon’s veracity, and Joseph Smith’s sacred calling, it only makes sense that this would be an overpowering piece of evidence. It may be evidence that no one else can understand, but it is evidence, and it is certainly logical to draw conclusions from it.

Thoughts, memories, emotions, senses, etc, can all be fooled. Our personal experiences should not be used as “overpowering” pieces of evidence for that simple fact. You could be wrong. That is why the scientific model is set up around confirmation by alternate sources and even alternate methods. A single scientist would never say his experiment is the most correct and claim all others were wrong if they gave a different answer.

We don’t believe someone who says they have magic powers because this one time they told the traffic light to change to green and it did. My daughter might believe that but that’s because she doesn’t know any better yet.

And after many weeks of effort, praying and studying for hours each day, I had experiences that witnessed to me the truth I had been seeking.

Isn’t that begging the question?127024-126515

I challenge you to discover it. Just remember that half-hearted scripture study here and there doesn’t cut it. God expects more from us

Believe in god and in the Mormon scripture so you can study the scriptures and come to believe in god and in the Mormon scriptures….

Yep, that’s a circular argument.

 

Why You Should Consider Sharing This Article:

More people than you may be aware are struggling with the flood of information and arguments made against the Church. You used to have to seek it out, but now it finds itself in your pocket by virtue of social media and the internet more generally.

Consider sharing both of our articles to show that arguments made by the church and it’s apologists aren’t unapproachable. Looking at the evidence against the church doesn’t immediately make you biased. It doesn’t immediately mean you are completely and utterly against the church. It doesn’t mean that you can never agree with the church about anything, ever. It doesn’t mean that everything in church history is wrong.

I am against the church and its teachings but I hope I have conveyed impartiality in my providing links to both sides of the debate. J – if you made it this far, wow, -Dismissing the evidence provided simply because a source seems biased is wrong. The church has explanations for some events that I am okay with accepting but there are still more that they can’t explain away.

Also, I don’t have that many readers and would love some feedback about my writing.

 

 

My Awe-mazing Life, pt.2 – Morality

Why you think some things are right and others are wrong?

One_Code_of_Morality-DM-2

Morality. What is right and what is wrong. Of course I’ve thought about this, I’ve decided to take the burden of deciding what is right and what is wrong on myself, and I think if we look hard enough some theists have too.

To understand my morality I will link a video here that explains the basis for a secular morality. This talk was given by Matt Dillahunty, a well known, outspoken atheist who is one of the hosts of The Atheist Experience, an atheist talk show (now on skype/internet stream) that actually welcomes questions and comments from theists.

GoldenRule-2.jpgFollowing the dictates of a higher power isn’t morality, it’s following orders. Basically the foundation for my morality is empathy. You know the “Golden Rule”, but just to stop your thought process, this isn’t a Christian idea. Every religion/culture throughout history has had this idea, if they didn’t have this simple thought the civilization wouldn’t last. It isn’t rocket surgery to know murder is bad, but in some instances I think we would agree that the death of one individual is acceptable. This is a very big thing, situational ethics.

moralityGood and bad are within us all because that is what is required to keep our society around. I see no reason to give the credit for our good deeds to a god, especially when we would still keep all the blame for the bad.

Can a deity be both just and forgiving? Forgiveness is to take away the punishment for a misdeed, while justice is the rightful punishment of a misdeed. Seems like a contradiction to me but, then again, it isn’t my god so I don’t have to rationalize it.

If you have a good sense of humor about your belief and could use a laugh check out this video of Tim Minchin’s song The Good Book. The morality part of the song lyrics are here:

Morality is written there
In simple white and black
I feel sorry for you heathens
Got to think about all that
Good is good and evil’s bad
And goats are good
And pigs are crap
You’ll find which one is which
In the Good Book
Cause it’s good and it’s a book
And it’s a book (yeah!)

My Awe-mazing Life

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience? Why you think some things are right and others are wrong? All the knowledge you hold about the human body and at the cellular level and the intricate detail involved in development and sustaining the metabolic process, you don’t ever wonder if their is an intelligent mind behind that design?  When you see you children conceived, developed in utero and then born thru this amazing process, it doesn’t make you wonder about the mind behind such a design?

 These are comments that were sent to me recently in an email, they reflect questions that many atheists are asked every day. I don’t think I’ve ever done a post about this particular stuff so here it is. I’m going to break down the quote into each question and address each one individually.

Do you never wonder about the immaterial things like, why you have a conscience?

temptation-sin-conscience-1-26-15-8-638

Of course I do, who wouldn’t!? I just don’t feel the need to answer every question with ‘god did it’. I can’t explain the exact parts that make us have higher brain functions than other animals but I am confident that it is something like Aristotle described it “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

tumblr_nf3r5iSNrH1roqv59o1_500.png

We don’t know exactly how much ‘feeling’ other primates or other animals have. It has been shown that mice will stop pressing the button that gives them food if they find out it is causing another mouse pain. Sharing and apparent caring have been observed in gorillas. To deny that animals have morality is some sort of special pleading and denial that we aren’t completely unique in this world.

More immaterial concepts exist; love, hate, etc. These are usually brought up so I will address them beforehand. Some people claim that the skeptic can’t be sure of love because there isn’t evidence for it. There is evidence if the love is there. In the little looks and caresses you and your partner share. A kiss feels much different when the feelings aren’t there to motivate it. Hate is much the same, except for the kiss part. A lovely post I came across recently on Imgur.com recounts children’s answers to the question ‘What is love?’

I’ll link this video by Tim Minchin here and the most relevant lyrics below.

But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.
….
Life is full of mysteries, yeah,
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
….
Does the idea that there might be knowledge
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you’d rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?
….
Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable, natural world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?

Myth Math

Noah’s Ark is likely one of the biggest stories from the Bible. In this post I want to show that it just isn’t likely to have happened, and perhaps just couldn’t be possible.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
-Genesis 7:17-20

So, we have a few very good math problems ahead of us. Not only are they just math, they aren’t even that complicated of a problem. Before we begin I will lay out the parts of the problem that are similar to each version.

First, the size of the Earth. NASA (clicky click) states that the volume of the Earth is 108.321 x 10^10 km³. These are big numbers, but I have all the room I need, it’s my blog. The average radius, the mean of the equatorial and polar radii, is:

(6378.1 km + 6356.8 km ) / 2 = 6367.45 km

That is the radius we will use to find the volume of the Earth and compare it to what NASA gave us.

V = 4/3 π r³
V = 4/3 * 3.14 * 6367.45 km³
V = 1.33 * 3.14 * 258164563961 km³
V = 1078146900000 km³
V = 1.0781469 x 10^12 km³

NASA reports the volume of the Earth to be 108.321 x 10^10 km³. I’d say a difference of 500 km is close enough, yay us!

15 Cubits Flood

So the text states that the waters went up 15 cubits. That is the first measurement we are going to work with. I am going to do the math to see how much water would be required to raise the sea level 15 cubits. But, how big is a cubit?

 

cubit-manBecause I want to give as much leniency to the story as possible I went to the group that takes the story most literally, Answers in Genesis.

They state that the cubit could range from 17.5 to 20.6 inches. I think the best bet for this problem is to take a middle point between the two.

(17.5 + 20.6) / 2 = our cubit
19.05″ = 1 cubit

15 cubits = 19.05 * 15
15 cubits = 285.75″
285.75″ = 23.8′

That doesn’t seem like a flood to me and it certainly doesn’t seem like it would cover the mountains. We are going to go with this measurement first.

So to find out the volume of water we simply find the volume of the Earth during the flood and take away the volume of the Earth. The 15 cubit flood raised the water level 23.8 feet so we add that to the mean radius we found earlier, a difference of only 0.00011%.

23.8′ + 6367.45 km = intra-flood radius
23.8′ = 0.00725424 km
0.00725424 + 6367.45 = 6367.45725424 km radius

If we then plug that radius into the equation to find volume during the flood, V(f):

V = 4/3 π r³
V(f) = 4/3 * 3.14 * (6367.45725424 km)³
V(f) = 1.33 * 3.14 * 258165446319.04806285631451844903 km³
V(f) = 1078150536917.6085 km³
V(f) = 1080852668589.0812231584367839066 km³

Then subtract the volume of the Earth, V,  from V(f) to find the volume of the water, V(w).

V(f) – V = V(w)
1080852668589.0812231584367839066 km³ – 1.0781469 x 10^12 km³ = V(w)
2705768589.0812231584367839065848 km³ = V(w)

That’s a really hard number to imagine, at least for me it is. Let’s make that volume into a sphere and see how it shapes up (I know it’s a bad/good pun however you see puns). If we take that volume and place it into the equation to find volume and work backwards we can find the radius of a sphere of water, r(w).

V = 4/3 π r³
r = ((3V)/(4π))^(1/3)
r = 0.62035 * V ^1/3
r(w) = 1188.4360369823730308866574874648 km
r(w) = 738.5 miles

That’s it. A sphere of water with a diameter of >1400 miles would be needed to raise the sea level to just 15 cubits. You know what else is about 1400 miles in diameter?

SLw0NlC

That’s right, a ball of water the size of Pluto would be needed to raise the sea level just 15 cubits. Like I said above though that’s only 23.8 feet of water, nowhere near covering the high hills or mountains.

Maybe we didn’t go by the Bible well enough. It does say “…and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.”

“and the mountains were covered” Flood

The tallest mountain we know is Mt. Everest at 29,029′ above sea level. If we change our math enough to cover it, not even counting going over it by 15 cubits, how much water would be needed then?

We are going to add 29,029′ to the radius of the Earth from above. Because water levels itself it would need to be at this level around the entire planet to cover any part of it. If you hold that the Earth was covered by a layer of water 15 cubits deep like a film over all the mountains and hill then I can’t do anything for you, that’s ridiculous (and I’m the one doing math to figure out Noah’s flood).

The radius of the Earth from earlier plus the added distance to the top of Mt. Everest:

r = 6367.45 km + 29,029 ft
r = 6376.2980392 km

An addition of just 0.1389%. If we then use that in the volume formulas from above we get the volume during the flood (I cut out the math but you are welcome to check for accuracy):

V(f) = 1085360995411.5541311496090510458 km³

To find the volume of the water, V(w):

V(w) = V(f) – V
V(w) = 7214100000 km³

Now, let’s find the radius of the sphere of water that would be required for that volume:

r = 0.62035 * V ^1/3
r = 1198.6641207880081840568342435861 km
r = 744.8 miles , d = 1490 miles

Isn’t that interesting? I know I am shocked. It’s less than 100 miles difference. That being said, that amount of water is staggering. Where did it come from and where did it go. Those are the big questions.

I know immediately the believer would bring up:

…all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
-Genesis 7:11

There just isn’t that much water underground, nor in the clouds, nor in the ice caps, nor in all of those combined. According to the USGS, all combined, there is about 1409560910 km³ of water on the Earth. That’s about 20% of the water needed to cover the Earth above the mountains.

Another theory I remember hearing is that the water came from an asteroid or some such object. Like we found the object would need to be nearly the size of Pluto to contain enough water, and that still leaves the question of where the water went after the genocide was complete.

The water couldn’t have been absorbed into the planet. Our planet is powered by a magmatic engine that would solidify if cooled by water. Without the core spinning we lose both our magnetic cover and our atmosphere.

It simply didn’t happen. I’m sorry if you can’t accept this point, but I feel like I have shown very clearly that the evidence just isn’t there to accept your claim of a global flood.

Well, that’s it. That was actually fun for me. I messed up the math in a few places because of the exponents and units but I feel this final post is error free. If you disagree with the math I urge you to do it for yourself and see that the only way Noah’s Ark would have actually happened is by magic. Be truthful to yourself and align your beliefs with those things that are provable. And let’s not even get started on the animals.

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A Response to a Blog’s Response to a Blog’s Response to a Meme

I don’t know how I did it but I came upon an almost year old post by an old acquaintance which happened to be a response to this post by an unacquainted third-party. This is my response to each in turn. My initial comments are directed at the unacquainted one or to anyone who holds similar views. Just in case the links don’t work I’ve posted them below.

Original Post: http://brianhblack.blogspot.com/2014/04/an-honest-concern.html?spref=bl

Witzlaw’s Response: http://blog.witzlaw.com/2014/04/reblog-raised-brow-tech-honest-concern.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I was brought to your blog randomly (and, yes, a year late) but I must make a few comments about what you have written. I am admittedly much less pithy with my comments than you and for that I’m sorry. First and foremost about this meme and the following quote:

i-think-that-svg4go

“What leaves me laying awake at night is that people can force repercussions on someone for their beliefs, totally contradicting the first Amendment of the Constitution.”

In reading this quote I am forced to assume that you aren’t aware that the Constitution is a restriction on the actions of the government only. The Bill of Rights offers specific protections of individual liberty and justice and place restrictions on the powers of government. The Freedom of Speech says only that you can’t be prosecuted by the government for your speech, it says nothing about the backlash you can receive from its citizens.

The Free Exercise Clause guarantees a person’s right to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to freely exercise that belief. Since when did exercising a belief mean that someone else couldn’t have the same rights as you? Your belief is that homosexuality is wrong and you shouldn’t marry someone of the same gender, the free exercise of your belief isn’t being hindered; Believe it, but you can’t force your belief system on everyone else. The only way your right to free exercise would be dampened would be if the government said that you could only marry someone of the same gender (just so you know, I would be against that position as strongly as I am against yours). Being unable to force everyone to follow your belief system isn’t persecution.

“I understand the hate, the fact that we are closing an option for them.”

I don’t think you understand the hate completely. Most of the ire that is directed at the religious is based on the religious person’s stance that their belief is more important than everyone having the same rights. Believing, in your head or heart, that a homosexual person is sinning is very much different from taking actions against that person. Whether it be refusing service or publicly harassing/demeaning them.

I wonder what your position on race relations is. Some very similar statements to those you are making about sexuality were not too long ago made about race. I’m not saying that you are a racist, I want you to think about how hard people fought against desegregation and interracial marriage and now it isn’t even a thought in our mind (most of us at least). Marriage equality will be accepted in the future, don’t be one of those protesters everyone sees pictures of in the history books!

imagine-how-stupid-you-are-going-to-look-in-40-years

“Three years of late night programming and frustration may go to waste if employers start to reject potential leaders on the basis of what they believe.”

“As soon as someone takes a stance against gay marriage, you may as well quit your job.”

This could very well have been a legitimate fear decades ago but there are restrictions (laws) put in place to keep an individual safe from faith-based discrimination in the work place. Thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you can not lose your job because of your faith/belief; religion is a protected class. You can however lose your job if your actions bring the company into a negative light. It is then no longer about your faith, it is about your actions. In most jobs you are acting as an extension of the company and as such you are acting as that company, quite like in John 15:2, if you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to you get cut out. Religious belief has very little to do with most careers and shouldn’t even be brought up, especially yours unless you are currently coding for some church.

“It is an opinion and a belief that I hold to be true from God Almighty. It won’t affect how I work in a position at a company.”

What if your company was contracted to program something for a gay person? Would it then affect (it’s affect, by the way) your work? If not, good for you! I hope it wouldn’t, as it very well shouldn’t. What if you said you couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work because of that belief, do you think you should be kept on at that company? How could your belief that you personally shouldn’t be homosexual or marry someone of the same gender have ANY impact on the quality of work you would/could do for a client? Why would their sexuality even come into play/question?

Hopefully you say ‘it doesn’t, it wouldn’t affect my work’, again I say kudos, why then would their being able to get married possibly affect your belief system?funny-protest-signs-7

It is well-known, perhaps more so than Mormons against gays, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bound to not receive into their body that which isn’t from their body; most notably no blood transfusions. This is a religious belief that they hold dear and will fight to be able to keep, but what is different in this scenario is that they aren’t out in the public arena denigrating those people who have had a transfusion, they aren’t attempting to pass legislation to make it illegal for people who don’t hold the belief to abide by it, they aren’t screaming “persecution” because someone disagrees with them.

Those who want to ban marriage equality must admit that it isn’t about their beliefs being attacked, it’s about attempting to make everyone see things the way they do. Why not hold your belief about homosexuality like the JWs hold their belief about transfusions; Think it’s wrong, don’t do it yourself, but it’s none of your damn business if someone else does it as long as they aren’t forcing you to do it.

Lastly, and possibly annoyingly, you could do with some spell and grammar check, specifically, change the “effect my carrier” to ‘affect my career’ as I assume that’s what was meant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And now I switch my commentary to Witzlaw’s post.

 I don’t see this as being very far removed from posting the Family Proclamation (which, incidentally, I’m going to do here), in a public forum, such as my own timeline on Facebook, in my own blog, or over on Twitter.

Actually, it is a bit different. You aren’t the CEO of an internationally recognized company. Also a financial contribution (however small compared to his salary) is a bit more meaningful and has more grip than posting the Proclamation to your personal Facebook wall. What’s that saying… “Actions speak louder than words”.84a3296e2686be248e9d22a6babe8d0e

The last General Conference was, I thought, pretty emphatic about the need to respect others, but doing so does not require that one adopts the views or orthodoxy of the person(s) with whom you disagree. In my mind, it means that one acknowledges the differences, agrees to disagree on those points, and then move on.

This is the best thing I’ve seen you write but I wonder if you see any hypocrisy. In not simply holding your belief but attempting to make marriage equality illegal the protesters are trying to make everyone “adopt the view” that homosexuality is wrong. I said it above and I’m sure you read it but I’ll ask again; Why not be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses are with transfusion? Respect and “acknowledge the differences”, “agree to disagree”, don’t require others to adopt your view, and “move on”.

I don’t know much about you Sander but I think you are in law, as part of that I assume that you very well know the laws about the EEOC and protected classes. I must confess that I was a little stunned that you didn’t say anything about these things when you responded. At the very least you could have reassured this person that their job wasn’t in limbo.

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 I will leave you with a quote routinely attributed to Paul Mattingly (I know it isn’t actually his, it’s a joke from the Ice Cream Social Podcast).

“You have the right to be offended, you don’t have the right to not be offended.”

What Would You Do? My Little Pony Edition

Hopefully, you have seen the show What Would You Do on ABC, if not you should try to catch it.

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As you can assume from the title, the show sets up situations and we observe the reactions of the unaware passersby.

 

What would you do seeing a couple’s public displays of affection, a homosexual couple’s display of affection, someone stealing something, someone lying to their significant other or cheating on them while they are in the bathroom; each of these has been featured on the show but they are not the subject of this post.  The spark for this post was from watching My Little Pony (if you haven’t seen this you should catch it too, but be careful it’s addictive) with Sariah this afternoon. 

 

Season 4 episode 20: Leap of Faith

 

The conflict in this episode is largely a personal one for Applejack. She is conflicted about what to do between being truthful to herself/family/friends and letting them feel good about a decision they made.

I’m going to put it here just for kicks so…. SPOILER ALERT beyond this point.

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Film and Flam show up again in Ponyville this time with their cure-all tonic. After seeing a display of its effectiveness, Granny Smith and Applebloom are convinced to buy and take the tonic to make Granny feel like a young filly again. Applejack and Big Mack are skeptical but Granny takes it anyways.

When somepony says somethin’s too good to be true, it usually is.

The day after Granny Smith takes the tonic she feels younger and is able to sidestep her fear of water and go swimming once again. Applejack is still curiously skeptical and goes to investigate Flim and Flam and their tonic. This is where the show goes away from aiming at just children watching a show and to a show teaching children as they grow up. Flim and Flam and Applejack have a very good back and forth about what to do. Applejack confronts them about the tonic being a fraud.

Flam: Well, well, well, that’s quite an accusation.
Flim: But let’s say that it’s true…
Flam: Hypothetically…
Flim: Theoretically…
Flam: As I understand, your Granny was a famous aquapony.
Flim: The star of the show, once upon a time.
Flam: But hasn’t set so much as a hoof in the water since.
Applejack: Until today, that’s right.
Flim: Well, then even if our tonic were nothing more than a mixture of apple juice and beet leaves…
Flam: Hypothetically…
Flim: Theoretically…
(They show that the tonic is just that)
Flam: The fact is that Granny is happier now than before she tried it.
Applejack: I guess…
Flim: So, the question is…
Flam: Do you really want to be the pony who takes all that happiness away?

That’s the best question or idea I’ve seen in a cartoon ever. Do you want to be the person to take their happiness away? This is my question to you, what is more important, happiness or truth?

Should you tell Granny Smith that the tonic is a placebo or should you let her spend her money and place her faith in the miracle cure?

Applejack did just what I would’ve done (and actually have done), she confronted Flim and Flam in front of everypony in town and exposed the fraud. She knew that the experiences the ponies had from the tonic did happen but she needed to make sure everypony knew that the tonic wasn’t responsible but that they were.

I’m sure you can see why this episode resounded so much with me by now. Applejack’s dilemma is very similar to my own over the past year except my ‘tonic’ has been religion. I decided I couldn’t be silent about the placebo effect of religion and have been vocal enough, I hope, to make people think harder about their tonic; whether it be religion, cryptids, UFOs, conspiracy theories, etc.

I must confront one response that will come up; what’s the harm in letting someone (or somepony) believe what they want to believe?

It seems that almost daily we hear of stories in the news of people who hurt themselves or their loved ones or even strangers because of their belief in the ‘tonic’. Faith healers being used instead of actual medicine is one of the best and most correlative examples. There are people who go to a faith healer, feel better, and reason that the healer was responsible. If that person has a medical condition that then causes injury or death that could have been prevented with actual medicine, there’s the harm.

So, I leave you with the question I asked myself not that long ago. What would you do? Let them have the tonic or try to show them the light?

An Open Letter To Christians: Merry Christmas From An Atheist

100th Post, Already?

Believe it guys, I’ve hit 100 posts already.

I wasn’t sure when I started this blog if I would keep up with it, I know I said I would, but you know we say things sometimes that we want to be true but we can’t actually KNOW are true. Amazingly that statement has come to mind a lot over the last few months in my dealings with coming to terms with my dissension from religion. I’ve met and talked to many people who say so many things that they just can’t have the knowledge they claim to have. I have had very few successes in getting those people to admit they can’t know that but I have also had a few victories getting people to listen to reason.

I do not say victory in that I have made them reject the premise of god and religion I say it because they admitted that they say some things just because you have to say that to remain a faithful follower. Making these few people actually look at what they are claiming to know and they realize it is just recitation and not actual knowledge is uplifting for me. That has been my goal from the beginning; not to make everyone I know become atheists, but to make everyone I know actually think about what they hold so dear.

I’ve started a read through of the bible, following a podcast/blog I found called Bible Skeptic Podcast, to ensure that when I come into a conversation or debate that I have the knowledge that is necessary to refute claims that are being made. Already I have come across verses that I thought I knew but I learn now that they actually say what I thought they did, and I’m only into Exodus. Its going to be fun but its going to take time. I’m keeping my blog and my website up to date on my progress as much as I can if you want to read along and we can discuss as we go.

Christmas is coming up too. With this being my first year out as an atheist, I am sure my family is confused about my position on Christmas. Knowing this I am debating composing a letter to explain my position, which is basically that I don’t (and haven’t for a long time) expect any gifts but I will celebrate the time of year with family and friends and food. The holiday was originally not associated with Christianity and that can easily be brought back.

I am not going to waste this momentous post completely on my ramblings about religion, I’ll waste a little on my dear family too, I guess, lol.

Sariah has gotten a haircut and is doing great in her preschool at Little Country School House. She’s made good friends with a little girl, Liya, and potentially two little boys have crushes, Gabe and Colton, guess its time to get a gun and a cleaning kit. She’s growing up so fast and I’m so proud of what she knows and how much she likes to learn. I try my hardest to teach her everything I know when she asks questions but I know I have to reign it in to not overwhelm her. I’m so glad that we got the opportunity to enroll her though I wish it had come a different way than Crystal losing her job with CMCSS.

We had a rough patch personally and financially and I don’t think we’re completely out of either one but we’re on our way. As I typed that last sentence the song “If we make it through December” came to mind. I can take some creative license and change some parts of the song to coincide with our lives recently. Like he says, this is meant to be a happy time (this post, not just this time of year).

Sariah has had so much fun playing with one of our neighbors, Jr, but sadly this week they will be moving away. We’ll miss you Tiffany, Brandon, and Jr! Thanks for the memories.

Sometimes when we are at home I think Sariah is acting bad but then we go to Monkey Joes or Kids-N-Play and I just feel bad about ever thinking it. I am so proud of her and how she acts that I can’t put it into words; it’s awesome. I just can’t understand how some of these parents can just let their children go crazy and destroy everything and be mean or aggravating to everyone else around. I don’t like Sariah being mean but when one of those kids are around I just tell her she won’t be getting in trouble if she does the same thing to them that they do to her. Took your toy? Take it back! Push you? Push them back! Don’t be mean but don’t let them take advantage of you.

In other news, the lab I work at is having a rough patch too. A weekend coworker of mine quit, the hematology section leader quit, our director quit, our quality lady quit, all in all i think we’re down about 15 positions. Melinda our assistant director, now interim director, has had to take on the responsibilities of at least 4 positions in the absences and it doesn’t look like help is coming soon. I feel so bad for her and everyone seems to get mad at her but when you have to think about the whole lab and there are 10 people out on injury or pregnant, s#!ts gotta get done somehow. I’m on her side and will back up her decisions most of the time.

We’re in the process of getting an automated blood bank instrument to help with the workload and I really hope it turns out better than most people think it will. I like the idea and I think it will help for the off shifts but I just don’t know if day shift really needs it. I know it will come in handy if we are still down so many positions by the time it is correlated, but we’ve still got work to do before then.

Speaking of creative license (i know that was a bad transition but whatever) have you seen the movie City of Bones? If you haven’t yet, DON’T! Don’t waste your money on the theater version, wait until it shows up on torrent or something, its not worth paying for anyways. I cannot believe that I urged Crystal to read that series and then wanted to go see the movie so bad that I went after a 14 hour work day and it turned out that bad. I’m sure lots of people have given some good points but they are so few and far between that they aren’t worth mentioning. I do still urge people to read the books because the book is great.

Well, this is it 100 posts, Its hard to realize that I’ve actually kept at it this long, usually I give up on projects; you should see our crafting stuff at our house. With crystal being a teacher, Sariah being a child, and me wanting to do so much cool stuff but giving up…we’ve got a lot!

Sariah is constantly changing her mind on what she wants to dress up as for Halloween and is really excited about her 5th birthday coming up. I’ve decided to be Ralph and one of Sariah’s potentials is Vanellope, but she quickly turns to mermaid or princess too.

Well, that’s about it. That is a recap of our lives recently though I’m sure you are aware much more has happened that I have not written about and even more that I’ve just forgotten. Lots of love from the Darks house to you and yours. Thanks for reading and keep following along.

Those Words…They Don’t Mean What You Think They Do

My rebuttal to a viral picture/quote going around Facebook recently. The majority of the text in this post is directed at a single person but if you can read it open minded you shouldn’t have a problem with all the yous.

I apologize in advance for the length of this post and I will offer this TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read): Giving rights to groups that previously were denied doesn’t equal taking rights away from the first/main group, and a penis is just a penis, not a rod of superiority; love and take pride in yourself!

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Ok, you may be offended by my writing this but I really could care less, this is all getting out of hand. I know you didn’t actually write this yourself but you shared it as if you agree with what it says so I will assume you do.

“I find myself again being put in that same category as a second class citizen,”

The civil rights movement did not take rights away from the majority group. The Civil Rights Movement extended rights to groups that previously had none or had less. Some of the white people in the 50s and 60s felt like their rights were being taken and given away, but just like Christians now, they were/are wrong.

Christians are not comparable to the African race in the story of the Civil Rights Movement, they are the white people! Christians are the majority; they had rights that are now being extended to other groups. During the civil rights movement the whites were the majority and had the rights that were being extended to other groups. White people don’t have the right to eat at a restaurant and not have black people around; they don’t have the right to have the front of the bus; they don’t have the right to decide about the nation with no say from other groups of citizens. Christians don’t have the right to proclaim this a “Christian Nation” and forbid other religions from exercising their beliefs during events; Christians don’t have the right to say anyone who doesn’t believe as we do can step outside while we pray to our god; Christians don’t have the right to control the government. This nation is not and was never intended to be a theocracy.

Your church came to the same decision about equal rights eventually (even though it took far too long for that to happen especially in a church that was supposed to have been revealed from an all-knowing creator god).

“Tell a Muslim he can’t pray at school or at the airport or downtown when prayer time is called for, and see what happens.”

Saying someone or some group can’t do something is wrong, saying someone or some group can’t make other people follow their beliefs is NOT. Who has proclaimed that Christians can’t pray? Where has that come from? The only thing that has been said is that you can’t MAKE other people pray with you, for you, or like you against their will, and this is only in matters of the state (government).

“We refuse to sit by and let you or anyone else mock, attack, demean, or laugh at our beliefs,”

Unfortunately for all groups we have this little thing called the Constitution. It states that just because there is a majority who wants one way they don’t get it just because they are the majority. The minority has a voice too. The establishment clause of the Constitution guarantees the separation of Church and State, and good ole amendment one allows me to “mock, demean, or laugh” at your religion and any idea I see fit.

Another analog to the above story seems to be the plight of women in the “Church.” I recently read an article about the church coming to terms with equal rights for all, View it here. This article is based on the April General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which would be a pivotal moment in the history of the church as it would be the first time a female member would be allowed to pray at General Conference. Of course I was glad to hear this news and I did watch a clip of the conference but didn’t get to see the prayer.

Back to the analog: The males in the church don’t think their rights (to prayer and leadership) are being taken away and given to the female members, do they? Unfortunately, I found this rebuttal to the article, found here. This guy’s response is based on unchanging scripture and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This is probably one of those verses that is supposed to be taken figuratively or has been “misinterpreted.” Its pretty clear what this verse says and its not an isolated event, check 1 Tim. 2:12.

I don’t know how widespread the belief of female subservience is in the church, but it seems like some do feel their rights are being taken away and unjustly given to the female membership. It doesn’t mean he is right; Just as some whites thought their rights were being taken and given to the inferiors; Just as some Christians think their rights are being taken away and given to non/other-believers. I hope against all hope that you do not believe that an eternal being would condemn half of his creation to be subservient. If you do believe this I feel sorry for you. YOU ARE NOT A LESSER BEING THAN ANY MAN! YOU ARE A MASTERPIECE OF EVOLUTION (or creation if you must) NO ONE SHOULD BE GIVEN ANY MORE OR LESS RIGHTS THAN YOU. I LOVE YOU BUT IF YOU CANT ACCEPT THIS AS TRUTH I WILL HAVE TO BREAK TIES. CRYSTAL MAY CHOOSE TO STAY IN CONTACT BUT YOU WILL NOT TEACH THAT RUBBISH TO MY DAUGHTER.

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To my dear wife, daughter, mother, sister, and all females in my life (and around the world, too): I apologize for the caps lock but the emphasis was needed. I love you all, you are all of equal value to the human condition as any other person including myself. I see no reason why an extra appendage should give me rights over and above what you have. A penis does not give me superiority, it gives no one superiority. You are not a second class citizen and I will do anything in my power to help you not feel like one.

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Thank you for reading.

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