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.
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.
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).
-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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.”
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”.
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
Before 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.
Also, 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. Huntington
“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.
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?
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.
What are morals? Where do we get our morals? I have been debated saying that morals come from the bible. I say what about before the bible? What about the bad decisions that were made in the bible?
Morals – of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical
I claim, like many others, that we have evolved our moral code from decisions that affect our life, the lives of our family, the lives and workings of our community, the animals around us, and the world itself. Right and wrong have evolved, they are not concrete standards. The link below shows a moral ring and shows how our decisions and standards have expanded to include more variables over time. Including the variables changing are the specifics to individual situations: is it right to kill a person? What if they killed a person? What if they killed many people?
Killing is wrong, but for the benefit of society that person who is murdering individuals needs to be stopped. That is moral decision and it can have different answers from different people. There is no code that has an answer for every situation that can occur. There are no absolutes, we make our own right and wrong.
“The lord’s truth is not altered by fads, trends, or public pinion.”
-David A Bednar, Apr. 2013 General Conference
Yeah ok, we just won’t talk about the “truths” of:
Well, lets we, I think I can come up with at least one, right?
Oh, I know:
Blacks in the priesthood
Black/Indians being cursed with their skin color
The cursed being able to become “white and delightsome”
The ancestry of the American Indians
“Hot drinks” …. Caffeine
The stance of the church on these truths has never changed. Oh wait yes it has. Th church has a great and well documented history of doing exactly the opposite of Mr. Bednar’s statement. All of the changes mentioned above and some of the “prophecies” made by the prophets came in the light of public opinion or pressure. (Check out my post, My Coming Out pt5, to see some failed prophecies)
A fairly good list of the practices and items that are banned and have set consequences in the Bible but modern believers look over.
I wasn’ t on YouTube looking for these videos but they came to me, perhaps by divine intervention? (no I don’t think so) I am in a debate with a fellow on FaceBook about Dawkins, religion, and evolution and he claimed Dawkins believed aliens seeded the human race. I was looking for a clip of Dawkins which someone claimed existed where he admits that he believes that an advanced alien race seeded the humans….it does and it doesn’t exist. He says he can entertain the idea of that happening but that race too was developed by Darwinian natural selection to the way they were. He maintains that no “creator” had a hand in it all.
Ive never put a bunch of thought into the different names for the god (godS) of the Bible. Its pretty strong evidence of the evolution of the polytheistic Old Testament fusing the gods into one being for the New Testament. Sorry, I’m really not doing them justice but theyre worth the watch.
My draft of the post I am going to make to Facebook to come out to my family and friends. Any help would be appreciated.
This going to be a long post for you guys and some people are not going to take it very well.
If a video surfaced that clearly showed a Sasquatch/BigFoot (not pixelated, not miles away, a clear image of it walking around) we would use that as evidence for the claim of their existence. If however evidence comes up that the person who brought the video public had only days before bought a brand new camera and a very nice costume we would instantly and rightly question the video evidence. Changing your belief in the existence of that Bigfoot would not look badly on you and you should not be embarrassed about believing it when that was the only evidence that was available. You should however be embarrassed if after counter evidence is submitted you still hold to that first belief.
Believe the evidence and change your view when evidence requires and do not be embarrassed by that. This changing of views is the way of science and should be the way of the world. It is how we got to our modern world. We thought the world was flat until Magellan’s crew made it around the world one way (too bad Magellan died on the way). We thought the body was balanced in the humors until evidence came for the complexity of our systems working together. We believed in Santa until we found out our parents bought, wrapped, and placed the presents.
I have changed my views on the world in light of evidence (and more so the lack of evidence) I have been shown. I am not embarrassed, I have not made a big deal about it because it has not changed who I am. I make this post now because I do not want rumors and misinformation spreading. I am willing to debate my point to anyone, though I must insist it be in writing, as I can get all of my ideas out in writing and can get tongue tied or forget what I want to say when in person.
I find it quite coincidental that the very week I choose to “come-out” as it were, is the very same week of General Conference in which this talk occurred. Amazingly the basis of this talk is one of the main counter points I used to come to my decision. You may have seen this already or when you watch it you may get a completely different point than I have. My view is to look before you leap as blind faith can be devastating.
THE ARTICLES OF REASON
OF THE FREE-THINKERS OF THE WORLD
1 We believe not in God, the Eternal Father, nor in his Son, Jesus Christ, nor in the Holy Ghost, nor in Odin, the All-Father, nor in Ganesha, the Lord of Obstacles, and so forth.
2 We believe science is the best method for explaining reality, as far as it is practiced correctly.
3 We believe not in sin, nor in the punishments for such.
4 We believe that the principles and ordinances of the Scientific Method are: first, Formulation of a question; second, formation of a Hypothesis; third, Experimentation by systematic manipulation of variables; forth, Analysis of the data; fifth, Submission for review by a group of our peers.
5 We believe skepticism is the best default position. We assume the null hypothesis until proper evidence indicates otherwise; indeed we may say that we apply Occam’s razor to all phenomena.
6 We believe morals are derived, revised, and refined by our ability to reason. The Golden Rule is the basis for our ethics as far as it is formulated correctly.
7 We believe that today’s churches are based on the ignorance of the Primitive Churches, namely, their beliefs in the scientifically inaccurate, the scientifically improbable, the scientifically impossible, and so forth.
8 We believe not in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, nor in the interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
9 We believe the Bible to be the word of Man, not of a god; including the Qur’an, Torah, Book of Mormon, Bhagavad-Gita, and so forth.
10 We believe that the burden of proof rests with those that make the claim.
11 We claim the privilege of investigating the Cosmos according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them explore how, where, or what they may.
12 We believe that our understanding of the Cosmos is subject to change contingent upon the proper presentation of sufficient evidence. We welcome all constructive criticism and encourage debate as well as free exchange of ideas.
13 We believe in being honest, inquisitive, virtuous, and respectful to the autonomy of all men and women; indeed we may say that we follow the science of Darwin-We believe all things science can show evidence for, we have endured many things as an evolving species, and hope to be able to endure all things by adaptation. If there is anything virtuous, evidential, praiseworthy, and of good report, we seek after these things.
Ok, it’s long but stick with it, it’s very good.
OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO
Salutations! I’m writing to say,
I’m off to great places! I’m off and away!
My mind is wide open, I’m ready to choose,
I can see for myself, I can see through the ruse,
I’m off and away, and I choose where I go.
I’m in charge of myself, to flourish and grow.
I’d rather be open, to wonder and doubt,
than closed by belief, day in and day out.
I’ll read what I want, I’ll drink what I dare,
You’ll still judge my choice, although I don’t care.
With a free-thinking mind and my eyes open wide,
I’ll guide my own life, spare me your scorn and chide.
I’m off! Truth here I come! To Boyd I’ll pay no mind,
for all truth is useful, even the non-Mormon kind!
Empirical fact, to truth is the key,
John 8 fills my mind: “The truth sets you free”
It’s my goal in life, my aim, my apogee.
From now on, only the truth will lead me.
History has a way you see, of coming back around.
Even when its white washed, or put deep underground.
After searching the web, I see my life’s been spent,
in service of a church, whose honesty is bent.
Most folks don’t like being duped, just you wait and see.
They’ll see your skewed truth as blatant dishonesty.
I’m sure you’ll quip: “He’s nuts! He’s lost to apostasy!”
Clever lies and half-truths won’t keep all of us in,
and droves will leave when with Google they begin.
Steel in the new world? Horses and chariots? Nope.
I say dear brethren, adieu! These stories have no hope.
Surely native ancestry, will exonerate Joe’s claim?
From Asian lines not Jew, are whence the red man came.
Science gives apologists a real sense of dread,
their answers make scholars scratch their head.
The versions of the first vision are quite a few.
Same with history and doctrines; what’s really true?
It’s so confusing—one day it’s this, the next it’s that.
What was it again, special stones or a magic top hat?
“No! It was no such thing!” “Peep stones and a top hat?”
“That’s not faith promoting!” “Who would swallow that gnat?!”
This is a choice you’re sure to regret…
but serving up camel is not the safer bet!
“How noble and pure Joseph was, just look!”
“Young boy, to stave the pain you must imbibe.”
“No sir! I’d rather endure pain by my dad’s side.”
What’s this? Smith had a bar? Wine in Carthage jail?
Give that answer in Sunday school and you fail.
Joe had many wives, but leaders from this always shy.
Past nor present, our leaders won’t openly confide.
Why veil god’s command? Must have something to hide.
“Surely we can explain! It’s not as it seems!”
Spare me! Real men don’t marry girls of fourteen!
“Ol’ Brigham, he’s prone to false doctrine and blasphemies.”
“Blood atonement and Adam God are just theories.”
Silly me, I thought he was the prophet, wasn’t he?
We won’t talk about the Meadows or John Lee
but was there a slip, a lapse, with the prophetic keys?
I’m beginning to think there were no keys to begin with…
With sourced truth all around, what are we to conclude?
Is all of Mormon history, deliberately skewed?
The answer I might’ve found, had the latter-day prophets sought,
at least to be forthright, but forthright they are not.
Years past, faithful stalwarts had to dig and comb,
to see the history and roots from whence they’d come.
Rules were quickly set, making examples of some.
Like my friend Paul T, a scholar among six:
“Opine church history, will you? Have him nixed!”
To doubt was apostate. To question was heresy.
Sharing ideas with friends, was considered mutiny.
For days I could write the absurdities of Bruce R.
“The time for black priesthood is still quite far.”
“As a man only was how he gave the speech.”
Isn’t the pulpit where the prophets reveal and teach?
Not to worry, Spencer flipped ol’ Bruce on his head,
and saved our blessed “Y” having its accreditation shed.
Seems to me most convenient,
while at times change avoidant,
a prophet and god can sway,
and bow to what the masses say.
Ten percent’s a steep demand,
and even the poor must sacrifice.
Shouldn’t we all pay worship,
without money and without price?
“What to do with this tithe?” A mall you say? Am I awake?
How much for such a mall? “Just a few BILLION give or take.”
For one, shouldn’t we leave the ninety and nine?
“Trouble with doctrine? Get out! Or fall in line!”
“Poor boy, you’ve used the atonement to get out of a bind?”
“Stay home, we’ve raised the bar! We don’t need your kind!”
“Interested in the same sex? We don’t buy your bluff, your knuckles aren’t yet broken or bloody enough.”
Homosexuality, hmm, anomaly or fate?
Thanks, but I’ll side with science, it leaves out the hate.
How many bright lives are lost because of this…
whose end comes undue, too soon, like Stuart Matis?
Oh the heartache and tears you could have spared,
if you’d just offered that their burden be shared.
Instead, we’re offered a love with conditions,
from leaders at pulpits with elevated positions.
If twenty years back, a saint like Carol Lynn,
she loving all, or voices like John Dehlin…
these forward thinkers, these lovers of all,
their fate would’ve been seen all over the wall;
Gone! Nixed with the six, slandered and estranged.
But not so, not now, what seems to have changed?
Let’s search and ponder, what is it I wonder?!
You’ll do just about anything, to avoid another PR blunder.
You’ve learned bad press has a way of putting your bottom line asunder.
“Focus groups, what will you say?”
“Surely our image is okay?”
“We should spend millions for their expert advice!”
Silly me, but why doesn’t inspiration suffice?
Seems just a little strange, that the prophets of god,
would fail to foresee, what Google would laud.
“By single lines we grow.”
“In time the lord will show.”
The cost of a pace so slow?
“Merely a few lost souls.”
“What ever should we do?” “We can’t teach truth pure!”
“Only milk for these sheep, never meat, that’s for sure!”
“Please be patient! Please give us more time,
we’re adjusting the history to make it benign.”
“It’ll be white and delightsome, every last senine!”
“Then with excuse anew, you best fall back in line!”
I’ll stay out of line, I can see through the guise.
I won’t allow the wool to cover my eyes.
To less active, apostates, you plead “Come back!
We’re open now; we’re willing to share the facts!”
Do you think we’re blind and we can’t clearly see
your feigned new resolve for open transparency?
Fool me once and I’m done, you’ve had your shot!
You’re only changing now because you were caught.
Like Dorothy I feel, she being told to pay no mind,
as the curtain parts to show a man standing behind.
After a journey so deep and so long, I need to say:
My trust is broke, this silly game I’ll no longer play.
What’s more, Gordon gave an escape to be had:
“All of its good, every last bit, or all of its bad.”
With this point alone, I have reason to leave.
I consider all the rest, and your store is cleaved.
With my mind opened up, and my past steered by lies,
off I go with the droves, with my path open wide!
Credit to Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”
and to RedBullet750
Tradition, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or social custom); a belief or story relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable. Traditional beliefs often start from almost nothing; perhaps somebody just makes them up originally to explain phenomena that they did not understand, like the stories about Thor and Zeus. But after they have been handed down over centuries, the mere fact that they are so old makes them seem special. People believe things simply because people have believed the same thing over centuries. The trouble with tradition is that, no matter how long ago a story was made up, it is still exactly as true or untrue as the original story was.
The largest tradition that we come in contact with, in our day-to-day lives, is religion. Most of the people in America are Christian. There are many branches of the “Christian” church: Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Latter-Day Saints etc. These are just a few of the hundreds of branches of just the Christian religions, there are also Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc. There is no way to have an exhaustive list. The differences in some of these are admittedly large while some are miniscule. People who believe even slightly different things from each other often go to war over their disagreements. So you might think that they must have some pretty good reasons, or evidence, for believing what they believe. But actually their different beliefs are entirely due to different traditions. It seems that if evidence comes to light that agrees with their views, it somehow reinforces their position, but when evidence comes up that disagrees with their views they no longer need evidence as much as “faith.”
Many people try to refute the argument against tradition by using language as a crux. Yes, language is passed down by tradition, there is no other way. Evolution states that an organism (like fish, lions, and us!) is built to survive in the environment where its kind lives. Some fish live in fresh water while others live in salt water; lions learn to track and hunt their prey; we learn the language of our people. In order to prosper and thrive in our environment we learn the language of the area. In America, the majority, speak English (in one form or another) and call Racer a cat, in Italy they speak Italian and would call her un gatto. Neither of these words is more right and as such neither the Italian nor the English consider theirs the more correct way, just two sides of the same coin.
Children are required to absorb a myriad of traditional information about the culture they grow up in. The child can’t be expected to sort out the useful information (like language) from the bad information (like gods, devils, and the like). Because children have to learn from adults they are likely to believe nearly everything that they are told; right or wrong, true or false, backed up by facts or unsubstantiated claims. I am not saying to not listen to your elders; they can pass on very valuable information, like I am trying to do with this letter.
Could this be what happened with religion? Belief that Thor caused the lightening, that Jesus had no human father, a select few prayers are answered, or that a group of Jews crossed the globe to populate America while destroying the genetic link to their supposed ancestors. Millions have believed these things; millions more still do, but why? Perhaps they were told that it was true by their elders when they were young and impressionable. Muslim children are told very different things from Christian children, yet both are convinced that they are following the correct path. The two languages are correct for their respective countries because they are not mutually exclusive, but because different religions claim different things happened to the same select group of people they can’t both be correct.
In closing, I want you to know how very much I love you. I have not written this to break bonds within our family; I only want to try to raise you above the influence of authority, revelation, and tradition. I know the topics in this letter are huge, possibly too large for you to comprehend yet. I am ready to answer any questions you have. I may not have every answer and perhaps you should not simply listen to me (authority and tradition, you know), but I will help you find the answers with an open mind and heart. I hope this letter finds you well, I hope you are able to understand and absorb what is contained in it, and lastly I hope that (since I am writing this years before you will read it) I have been a good role model for you. I will leave Mr. Dawkins’ final paragraph un-edited because it is better than any I could come up with.
What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself: ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.
Love your Daddy