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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.

~~~~~

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.

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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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Morals

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.

click here

Eternal Unchanging Doctrine

“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:

Polygamy

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

Blood atonement

Adam-god

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)

Things the bible bans but people do anyways

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via Things the bible bans but people do anyways.

A fairly good list of the practices and items that are banned and have set consequences in the Bible but modern believers look over.

Evolution of God

 

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.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlnnWbkMlbg  pt1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPfFx9JTQl8 pt2

 

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 Facebook Post

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

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.

Oh the Places You’ll Go! LDS Version

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

My Letter to My Daughter pt4

Tradition

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

My Letter to My Daughter pt3

Revelation

Again to Merriam-Webster, revelation is the act of revealing to view or making known. Suppose I told you that Racer or Cleo (I do hope they are still around when you get to read this) had passed away. You would be upset but then you would ask questions; Are you sure? What happened? Where did it happen? When did it happen? If my answer was that I only had a feeling you would be skeptical and would hopefully know that a feeling is not good enough reason to believe. We all have feelings inside ourselves, but to be sure of something we require evidence. You may not actually want to see the body of our deceased cat but you would want to talk to someone who had and ask questions about their evidence.
An argument for revelation is that if you don’t trust any of the little feelings you have there is no way to be confident of concepts like love. I love you, your mother loves me, I love her, these are not merely little feelings we have deep down. When we are together many little happenings occur that can be backed up by tiny evidences that add up. That special look in your eye, little favors we do for each other, the soft touches we share, the way we speak to each other; these are all little pieces of real evidence that back up that feeling we have inside.
A scientist finds value in those feelings we all have as well, but only as a starting point. That feeling/urge/hunch is not a good reason to believe something, it can be a reason to spend time and resources on a particular experiment. Science knows that these feelings are worth nothing until they have been supported by evidence.
Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will stand and give testimony professing that they know the church to be true, the one and only, restored church of Jesus Christ. This is purely revelation. The plates that Joseph Smith reportedly “translated” are no longer available for critique. The papyri that reportedly contained the Book of Abraham have been found to contain none of the information that was “translated.” Many evidences have surfaced that are directly contradictory to the belief that Smith translated/wrote the Book of Mormon. Still, the members stand and give their testimony of their personal revelations. The children, too, are brought up before the congregation to profess that they know the truth of the gospel and that the church is the one true church. This is the link between revelation and tradition. In many of these cases they are brought up by their age group, being told the exact words to say, and have not read the holy books for themselves (if they can even read at that point). Please consider, do you think they truly believe this? Is personal revelation even a good reason to believe?

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