Monday, December 24, 2007
"God Rest Ye, Unitarians"
Lyrics by the Rev. Christopher Gist Raible of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester
God rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay;
Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas Day;
When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.
There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angels' song;
There could have been no wise men for the trip would take too long.
The stories in the Bible are historically wrong,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact!
Our current Christmas customs come from Persia and from Greece,
From solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East.
We know our so-called holiday is just a pagan feast,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
When was Jesus born?
1)Before 4 BCE.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king.
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
Note: Herod the Great died in 4 BCE.
Wikipedia: Herod the Great
2) After 6 CE.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
Note: Quirinius (in Greek, Cyrenius) became governer of Syria in 6 CE, ten years after king Herod's death.
The Gospel of Luke mentions the census taken by Quirinius when he was governor of Syria, as part of a census of the "whole world", in connection with the birth of Jesus. However Luke and the Gospel of Matthew date the birth to the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC, nearly ten years before Quirinius became governor. Most historians argue that Luke is in error.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
As with any employee, if their religious beliefs are completely separate from their job performance, I don't care what they believe. This might be possible in a presidential candidate if the person doesn't really take their religion seriously (i.e., a Christmas and Easter only attending Christian). But, I think that is nearly impossible for the devoutly religious. For the devoutly religious, their whole world view is filtered through their religious beliefs. Their understanding of world events and how they should be solved is influenced by their religious beliefs.
The worldview of a presidential candidate is relevant. Their epistemology (how they learn truth) is relevant. Their views on social issues are relevant. All of these things can be shaped by religious views, which makes the candidate's religion relevant if they believe enough that their religion informs their worldview.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
But, this is who we are. We are not asking anyone to read this blog, but if they want to, it is here. We are always willing to talk about anything here.
If anyone is interested how much traffic this site gets:
|Average Per Day||25|
|Average Visit Length||3:23|
|Average Per Day||47|
|Average Per Visit||1.9|
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I have known about "atheist churches" for a while, but did not know about these summer camp programs and private schools.
Hooray for the growth of freethinking! Just as there are growing numbers of people leaving Mormonism, polls show that there are growing numbers of people in America who do not subscribe to any religious identification (their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001). We have also seen the rise of many popular atheist oriented books, such as "The God Delusion", "Letter to a Christian Nation", "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "God: The Failed Hypothesis". Often these new freethinkers want services such as "churches", summer programs, and/or private schools.
I think we are living in a wonderful time.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wow, it really depends upon which theory of supernatural stuff we are talking about. First, we must answer the question of whether this supernatural stuff in any way affects the material world. If it does not, but is operating in some other plane having no influence in the material universe, then science cannot investigate it. But, that sort of non-interacting substance seems irrelevant. If on the other hand, this supernatural stuff interacts with the material world, then science can investigate the effects because we can measure events in the material world and hypothesize what might be going on behind the scenes.
If things are as Joseph taught that there is no such thing as immaterial matter, that all spirit is matter just of a finer type (this is called qualified monism), then science should be able to investigate it just fine. It would be no different than monitoring neutrinos, mesons and bosons, or identifying the spin on quarks. This is hard work, but completely within the realm of particle physics.
Even if you speculate that the "supernatural" stuff is some kind of energy, that is still no problem for science because energy is part of this natural, physical world. We can measure charge and electric fields, heck we can even convert energy to particles. Energy and matter are just different forms of the same thing, like ice and water. Remember E=mc^2. Science can investigate energy and has been for years.
What if supernatural stuff is a force like gravity, or the strong force? That would be completely within the realm of scientific investigation. That is not supernatural, but natural.
What if this supernatural stuff was completely non-material and really supernatural, above nature? Well, then we have a problem. How can a thing with no physical properties (no mass, charge, momentum, etc) influence physical objects? There has to be some kind of interface. A neuron fires when the charge inside passes a certain threshhold (-70 mAmps). It will not fire any other way. Now we can change the charge by pumping in charged particles or we can send a current through it. But, how is some non-natural stuff that does not have charge (it cannot or else it would be natural) going to get a neuron to fire when it otherwise normally would not? This non-natural stuff needs to be able to produce some natural property to be able to have any influence in this material world. And if it produces a natural property, then we got 'em as scientists, because we can measure that. We can detect charges just suddenly appearing out of nowhere without an identifiable physical cause.
So, if the supernatural interacts with the physical world, then we as scientists can study it. If it does not interact with the physical world, then it is irrelevant because it plays no role in what happens here. The reader might be excited by this point and say, hey, then let's start researching these supposed supernatural phenomena: astral projection, near-death experiences, esp, prophecy, miraculous healings, answered prayers, etc. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but scientists have already been researching these things. You can read their research and critique it or be persuaded by it. But, the net result is so far all of these phenomena appear to have very banal natural explanations - no cool mystical forces at work.
Now, you can doubt that research without every even looking at it if you wish and instead lean on your own anecdotal evidence. The mind is easily amazed. There is excellent reason to not trust ourselves over carefully controlled and peer-reviewed research. I wish all knew our current understanding of how the brain uses heuristics to come to wrong conclusions.
God, I am proud of science. I encourage all those who are skeptical about science, to investigate those concerns so that you might get rid of them, instead of holding on to undeserved prejudice.
Some might find the story of Dr. Susan Blackmore interesting. She is a scientist who started out as a believer in supernatural stuff. She was going to show those stuffy scholars that there really was something to astral projection, near-death experiences, esp, etc. She went in trying to demonstrate that they were just as they seemed, but held true to her rigorous training by designing experiments that were sound. After years or research she finally had to conclude that there is nothing mysterious about these phenomena.
If all things are natural, as it appears to be the case. Then, we do not have free will, but are determined. For, how can we make our neurons do something they would not normally do based on their chemical inputs. In my opinion, we evolved to have the illusion of free will.
A long time ago, Beenthere asked for clarification about my belief that we don't have free will. Well, here it is.
So, there you have it booboo, this is where I stand.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
"Anecdotal evidence is an informal account of evidence in the form of an anecdote or hearsay. The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence, which are types of formal accounts. Anecdotal evidence is often unscientific because it cannot be investigated using the scientific method. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is a logical fallacy and is sometimes informally referred to as the "person who" fallacy ("I know a person who..."; "I know of a case where..." etc. Compare with hasty generalization). Anecdotal evidence is not necessarily typical; statistical evidence can more accurately determine how typical something is. Psychologists have found that people are more likely to remember notable examples than typical examples.
In all forms of anecdotal evidence, testing its reliability by objective independent assessment may be in doubt. This is a consequence of the informal way the information is gathered, documented, presented, or any combination of the three. The term is often used to describe evidence for which there is an absence of documentation. This leaves verification dependent on the credibility of the party presenting the evidence.
In science, anecdotal evidence has been defined as:
* "information that is not based on facts or careful study" 
* "non-scientific observations or studies, which do not provide proof but may assist research efforts" 
* "reports or observations of usually unscientific observers" 
* "casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis" 
* "information passed along by word-of-mouth but not documented scientifically"
Researchers may use anecdotal evidence for suggesting new hypotheses, but never as supporting evidence.
Anecdotal evidence is often unscientific or pseudoscientific because various forms of cognitive bias may affect the collection or presentation of evidence. For instance, someone who claims to have had an encounter with a supernatural being or alien may present a very vivid story, but this is not falsifiable. This phenomenon can also happen to large groups of people through subjective validation.
Anecdotal evidence is also frequently misinterpreted via the availability heuristic, which leads to an overestimation of prevalence. Where a cause can be easily linked to an effect, people overestimate the likelihood of the cause having that effect (availability). In particular, vivid, emotionally-charged anecdotes seem more plausible, and are given greater weight. A related issue is that it is usually impossible to assess for every piece of anecdotal evidence, the rate of people not reporting that anecdotal evidence in the population.
A common way anecdotal evidence becomes unscientific is through fallacious reasoning such as the post hocfallacy, the human tendency to assume that if one event happens after another, then the first must be the cause of the second. Another fallacy involves inductive reasoning. For instance, if an anecdote illustrates a desired conclusion rather than a logical conclusion, it is considered a faulty or hasty generalization.  For example, here is anecdotal evidence presented as proof of a desired conclusion:
"There's abundant proof that God exists and is still performing miracles today. Just last week I read about a girl who was dying of cancer. Her whole family went to church and prayed for her, and she was cured."
Anecdotes like this are very powerful persuaders, but they don't prove anything in a scientific or logical sense.  The child may have become better anyway and this could be an example also of the regressive fallacy. Anecdotal evidence cannot be distinguished from placebo effects.  Only double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials can confirm a hypothesis.
Sites devoted to rhetoric  often give explanations along these lines:
Anecdotal evidence, for example, is by definition less statistically reliable than other sorts of evidence, and explanations do not carry the weight of authority. But both anecdotal evidence and explanations may affect our understanding of a premise, and therefore influence our judgment. The relative strength of an explanation or an anecdote is usually a function of its clarity and applicability to the premise it is supporting. 
By contrast, in science and logic, the "relative strength of an explanation" is based upon its ability to be tested, proven to be due to the stated cause, and verified under neutral conditions in a manner that other researchers will agree has been performed competently, and can check for themselves."
There are so many problems with anecdotal evidence for the existence of god. It is easiest to show those problems with specific examples. So, provide some if you have them.
One of the biggest problems is non-falsifiability. In other words, God is covered no matter what the outcome is. If one asks god for something, and you get it, he gets the credit. If you don't get it, either it was not god's will or god does not respond to our requests like a circus act or we were unworthy, etc. If we don't ask for anything, and we get something good, well, god sometimes blesses us even when we don't believe in him or it was going to happen anyway. If we don't ask and we don't get it, well, that is just what happens or god is punishing you. There is no control condition. There is no condition in which if such and such outcome happens, we have shown the premise of god's existence is false. This makes a true experiment impossible, and without that you only have correlational data, and correlations cannot prove causation, for there are many factors that can explain correlations.
Furthermore, the supposed correlations may be only perceived correlations and not true correlations due to selective memory, confirmation bias, and the availability heuristic. We fall victim to these effects without even knowing it and even when we are trying very hard not to. Sincerity does not mean accurate reporting.
Conditions of the experiement must be written down before the experiement is run and one must be specific about what constitutes failure or success. An independent party needs to write down the outcome. Skeptics need to review the evidence to see if the outcome actually satisfies the conditions set out in the beginning. A close call counts as a miss.
You see people often say that they watch a video and it was just like the vision they had earlier that week. Was the vision written down before the video was watched? If not, how do we know that your mind is not merging your memories or giving you a false de javu? We don't. You are sure it is not, but that doesn't count for squat. If I had you here with me I could implant false memories very easily. Our minds are not tape recorders. Each time we retrieve a memory different pieces of it are reassembled anew. It is very easy to be certain and wrong at the same time.
And we tend to remember our hits and forget our misses. We forget about all the premonitions we have that never came true.
We also forget how we subconsciously pick up on certain clues and warnings from our environment.
For every miracle, there are many possible explanations. We will never know what the true explanation of a past event was, but we can design experiments that replicate the situation and rule out many of the possible explanations. So, since we can never know the true explanation for past events, we can never be justified in being certain that god is the explanation.
We sometimes marvel at the odds that somethings could happen without god's intervention. What we forget is that we may not have to explain as much as it first appears. The event may not have happened quite as the person is telling you. The probability of what really happened may not be that rare. And we mustn't forget the law of very large numbers, in that even very improbable events will happen if given enough trials. And we need to remember that we have a tendency to way underestimate the likelihood of some events occuring. And our inability to imagine alternative explanations says more about our ignorance than the true possibilities.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Why I left the LDS Church
To email me
My Patriarchal Blessing
Thinking About What Was Different With My Wife
Genealogy - Its Continued Significance to One Post-Mormon
My thoughts about going through the temple for the first time
Relaxing and Peaceful Sunday
BYOT: Spiritual Autobiography (part 1)
My Beliefnet Quiz Results
Why I left the LDS Church (Written in Jest)
My epiphany regarding the LDS Church
What is Your Inner European?
Outing My Blog
I also post under the name of Enochville
My Resignation Letter
The Offense-Taking Scale
How I like my alcohol
What Do You Do for a Living?
Book of Abraham
Book of Abraham: Joseph Knowingly Deceived
More Book of Abraham and Refutation of Expansion Theory
My Reply to Stan Barker: Book of Abraham Plagiarism
Reply to Stan: Book of Abraham (Part 2)
“THE BREATHING PERMIT OF HÔR” AMONG THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPYRI
Critics Response to Book of Abraham Parallels
Prejudice in the pre-1990 endowment
Hating the Sin and Shunning the Sinner
Swedenborg’s Heavenly Kingdoms and World of Spirits
Spalding's "Manuscript Found" vs "Manuscript Story"
Mormon apologist claims there is no damning evidence against Mormonism
Some things about Mormonism that many people do not know
My critical response to "Irreantum"
List of Questions to ask Mormon Leaders
Allegations Abt Joseph Smith Encouraging Abortions for His Plural Wives
Scattering of the Saints: Schisms within Mormonism
It’s Deja Vu All Over Again!
LDS Church counts almost 33 % more people as members than reported themselves to be Mormons
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain
My Former Interest in Deep Doctrines
Evidence that Joseph had Sex with his Plural Wives
What should non-believers do? Stay or Go
Proud to be part of the DAMU and Outer Lightness
Charting our own paths: What do you use for a map and compass?
Do couples face one partner's disbelief similarly to how they face other problems that arise?
Tell us about one of the groups to which you belong
My Advice for Those Looking for Marriage Counseling
It is not our fault the Church isn’t what it claims to be
Solid Ground and Treatment for Anxiety
Christ preaches intolerance and abandoning one's family
Why I don't believe in Adam
New gods are created all of the time
There is nothing to be saved from
My Doctrinal Issues With Christianity
In Response to Which Guideline is Better
When Was Jesus Born? Fun Tidbit For Your Family’s Luke 2 Re-enactment
Bizarre Biblical Tales
Was Jesus the Jewish Messiah?
Using the Construct of God as an Explanation Causes More Problems than it Solves
Beliefs Concerning the Existence of Gods: A Primer
My response to the Prime-Mover and First-Cause arguments
God cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving
Life as an Atheist
Introduction to Atheism
Freedom from Judgment
Why I celebrate Christmas even as an atheist
The love of an atheist
Atheists put less value on love than believers: study
Time Magazine Article on Atheist Sunday School
The Gospel According to Homer Simpson
Preparing Young Atheists for the Draws of Religion
Parenting Resources for Non-Theists
Evolution’s new wrinkle: Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective
Life Approach - Meaning and Morality
Must we give life meaning?
Does An Objective Morality Exist?
Reality and Meaning
My Peace with the Idea of No Afterlife
Much Ado About Nothing
Recognizing our assumptions and subjective interpretations
The Single Most Important Thing For Mormons to Learn
Is the Truth about Reality Knowable?
The Critical Necessity of Reading Articles Critical of Your Current Beliefs
My Respect For Faith and Doubt
The Perils of Anecdotal Evidence
"If You Had Experienced It, You'd Believe Too" Nonsense
The fallacy of the test “Try it. If it works, it is true”
Could someone explain to me what is meant by the phrase “finding your truth”?
Mistakes I made by following what I thought was the "Spirit"
The Emotions I Formerly Called "The Spirit"
This would be my endowment movie
How to produce spiritual experiences
The Odd Sensations Produced by Neuron Fatigue
RadioLab’s “Who Am I?”
The Virtue of Being Teachable
Sincerity and openness
My respect for faith and doubt
Softening: Humility and Awe
Things we are grateful for that the LDS Church gave us
What Torture Has Taught the Former Head of Amnesty International
Learning to find the good after no longer having to fight "truth" claims
What the Ten Commandments Should Have Been
How to Protect Children Against Brainwashing
Refusing to be Manipulated
Consciousness and Free Will
Thinking about Consciousness
We are a Gentle, Angry People
Adapting Familiar LDS Hymns for Atheist Beliefs
"Blue Boat Home"
"God Rest Ye, Unitarians" Hymn
Rank Order Voting for President
Obama for President!
Are a candidate's religious beliefs relevant?
Excellent article expressing why I love Obama
Draft 2008 Democratic National Platform
This is part of why I am proud to support Obama
Obama: McCain was wrong (video)
Hollywood Declares "Don't Vote"
How good it is going to feel to defeat the Church on Prop 8
New Personalized Search Engine: Scholarly Mormon Resources
Resources for Those Investigating All Things LDS
I used to be an amateur Mormon apologist and I believed strongly in the witness of the Spirit. It was my perception that I had more experiences with the Spirit than most members. On countless, various occasions I felt the warmth of the Spirit in my chest, peace in my heart and mind, overwhelming love, what I can only describe as a brightness and clarity in thought, a sure confidence, a connection with God that was so real that it approached tangibility, a knowledge that God was my friend and father, excited joy, a passion for helping the Lord prepare for his Second Coming, a sense of the immensity and beauty of God's plan, heart-aching in prayers, crying out of amazement and gratitude, I gave beautiful priesthood blessings that meant special things to the recepient that I was not aware of, people recovered from their illnesses and sometimes were given instant pain relief and peace, I felt my ancestors prompt and cheer me in my family history and temple work, I had what I believed to be an angelic visitation when I was 9 years old, I sometimes sensed that certain things would happen before they did, I miraculously got unexpected scholarship checks when I needed them, etc. I knew and loved the scriptures and tons about church history. I read "Joseph Smith Papers" (Joseph's diary) because I so wanted to know the man and be able to receive the revelations he received. I even tried to find my own peepstones so that I could learn how to focus more intently on the still small voice.
In my intense interest to soak up all things related to the Church and Kingdom of God, I read a lot of original works and got exposed to many issues that cause members to question Mormonism. Due to all of my spiritual witnesses and insight I felt I had gained, I always dug for the explanation, the way to understand why certain things were done the way they were (i.e., how polyandry was right and approved by God, how God used Joseph's interest in peepstones to train him to listen to the Spirit, etc). And with every issue I came across, there was always some way to interpret or explain the data in a way that was favorable to Joseph. That was until I came to the Book of Abraham. After 6 months of studying all apologetic and critical and original sources, I had to face the fact that there was no workable hypothesis that sustained Joseph that did not ignore data. The Book of Abraham was not only not a translation, in all likelihood it was not a revelation, and the evidence points to it being a knowing fraud by Joseph.
Well, that shook me to the core. This wasn't some "prophets are imperfect" situation. This was the chosen leader of this dispensation while acting in the office of prophet, seer, revelator, and spokesman for God, at a time when he is supposed to be as in tune with God as ever, purposefully fabricates false scripture that has been cannonized and accepted by the whole Church. I had previously had a spiritual witness that the Book of Abraham was what Joseph claimed it to be. This witness met all the requirements that we have been taught to be a true revelation and not some feeling I had created and mistook for the Spirit. Presumably there would be many members, even Presidents of the Church that had had the same witness, and yet I now knew that we had all been duped for the BoA is not anything close to what it is purported to be. This is not to say that it does not contain passages that can be meaningful and give comfort to people, but that does not make it scripture.
So, at minimum, I had to conclude that the experiences that I had previously called the Spirit were unreliable as a method for discovering truth, not only for me, but apparently for modern day prophets as well. This is not to say that those feelings are wrong every time, but I could not tell when they were right and when they were wrong (and apparently neither could anyone else), so they should not be relied on. I thought back on the many personal experiences I had had when I interpreted the Spirit as telling me something and I was wrong. For example, on my mission I was certain through a powerful spiritual witness that when I blessed a convert of mine she would be healed of her endometriosis; or another time when I just knew by the Spirit that I would marry a particular girl. Neither thing happened. These things happen all the time in the church but we right them off as lack of faith or hormones or whatever. What if we did not find some excuse for them but stare them square in the face?
Those were big struggles for me at the time; I doubted myself after they happened and concluded that I was out of tune or did something unworthy to make the prompting not come true. But, now when I reconsidered those experiences, maybe I had not done anything wrong or was out of tune, maybe this unreliable Spirit never speaks to anyone and it is all in our heads. So, I tried out that theory. What if the Spirit isn't real? Can I account for everything in a purely naturalistic world? I found that I could. I have never come across any hard physical evidence that does not have a potential natural explanation. Now, is that explanation the right one, sometimes we may never know because we cannot cross-examine or replicate in a controlled environment. I have found tons of problems with interpreting reality with a supernatural component. I find the naturalistic view much safer and will stick with it, until compelled by evidence that naturalism is incapable of accounting for all observations. I don't want to be fooled again or taken advantage of by opportunistic charlatans that claim access to supernatural worlds.
Nothing makes sense. I am reading, but it all seems so contrived. I am just waiting for this dream to end so I can experience something real.
Life seems so contrived. All the motions: eating, sleeping, working. Death, joy. Everything is so imaginary. It all exists in my head.
Yet around me, I perceive a universe that actually exists, and I see nothing of myself in it. Yet I am completely and utterly dependent upon the universe for my existence.
So my question is, if it is made up then it isn't real? And if it is real, then it isn't made up?
If all the imaginary things exist because of me, and I am a product of the universe, then why are all these imaginary things separate from the materialistic world I live in?
And even if my thoughts are real, then why do they matter? If meaning doesn't exist, then why do I care? Why do I continue to live?
But if meaning is contrived, then what is meaning? Who's meaning? What meaning is the most meaningful?
And here is the clincher: Who is the bastard who taught me that imaginary things are not real? Life is imaginary! Everything is contrived, in our heads, and nothing is "real" by the definition of real. I will say this with arrogance or humility. Either way, it's how I see things at the moment.
"And I guess that I just don't know, and I guess that I just don't know."
-Velvet Underground "Heroin"
I am sorry for the anguish that you are experiencing.
One of the things I gather from your post is that you want to experience something real. In my previous post I showed that there is one thing that we can know for certain and is impossible to doubt, and that is that something is happening. That is real. That is reality. Something is happening. "What it is ain't exactly clear".
If we insist that we must be certain before we can move on, then we are stuck right here with the concept that something is happening and we can go no further, because any step we take beyond this point enters the realm of uncertainty; we have to start making assumptions and hypotheses. But, since our certainty journey is over, why don't we see where the uncertainty path might take us?
Now just because we are leaving the realm of certainty that does not necessarily mean that we are leaving the realm of reality. Our assumptions might match reality, but we have no way to be certain of that. With each assumption we make, we will be creating a model of what we think reality is, that might be correct and might not. But, it is important to remember that we will be working with a model of our own creation that represents our conception of reality; we will never be directly perceiving reality.
Let's start with the assumption that observation is happening and that there is an "I" that is doing the observing. Let's assume that there are a few different types of observation I can make: visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, tactile (including texture, temperature, etc), temporal, orientation, etc. Let's assume that there is something out there that exists; that I can observe even if it is only through rudimentary tools of observation. With those assumptions in place, let's start looking for patterns or consistencies in our observations. Can we then derive laws of perception such as Gestalt organization and Piaget's object permanence? Can we then also recognize what we term laws of nature: an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by some force, etc. If we do this, we end up with a scientific worldview that is based upon the above mentioned assumptions.
Might this model be faulty? Might our model making abilities be constrained by limitations in thought that we are not even aware of? Sure. But this is what we have to work with. This is one of the few models that we can make that does not lead to a dead end. So, if we assume that we really are homo sapiens spinning on the third rock from the sun, what now?
Some of the observations we have made were that we get hunger pains when it has been a while since our last meal, and it feels good to have sex, and it feels good to care about the feelings of our spouse and children. Drawing from our observations and the observations of others that they share with us, we learn that some pleasure seeking activities can lead to great pain later on. So, words of wisdom and morals are created and passed down to warn of those activities that can result in sorrow or danger. Things can be put into the moral code that don't belong, but that is a tangent to this discussion. So, the answer to what now is keep making observations and do what you believe will lead to lasting happiness.
Now, for many of us, we feel like we need a purpose in life. Without a purpose we observe an internal sense of sorrow and lack of will to do anything. I believe that purpose isn't something out there that we can observe. Purpose and meaning are perceptions that we have to bestow.
Personally, I can't think of a purpose to my life that I can bestow at the universal or eternal levels. I just really don't think my life has any influence at those levels. However, at the local level in space and time, I can give my life meaning and purpose. I choose to care about the feelings of my wife and child. They would be very upset and hurt if I were to suddenly not be here. I make a positive difference in their lives and I choose to care about that. I observe a feeling of emotional closeness when I have these thoughts. My life does not feel pointless. Even if all of what I assume to be reality is no more than a dream, I am emotionally invested in this dream, and that is real enough for me. It is the only thing I am aware of; it is my life and my only experience. I am going to go with the assumption that it is real. If I assume that it is not real and do something stupid like kill myself and it turns out that this life is real, then it would cost my loved ones dearly. I love them too much to take that chance. I'll die eventually regardless, but I'd like to make as much of a positive difference in the lives of my loved ones and posterity as I can. I observe that that thought makes me feel good, and that is enough for me.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
No, I left because I have solid proof, a photograph even, that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is real. And where do you think he lives? Not in the heavens. The heavens are clear; if god lived there we would have seen him. The FSM lives in the most appropriate place for the god of the pirates - deep in the ocean.
And here is his pic:
Behold Your Maker!
I absolutely refuse to allow anyone to manipulate me or guilt trip me. For the most part I am an easy-going guy. But, I become a bear when someone tries to manipulate me. I just will not stand for it.
One reason I quit attending immediately after determining the church was not true was to circumvent any manipulation attempts and guilt trips.
Hueffenhardt, let me know how you do this..and how you can tell when you are being manipulated..I let people do this to me outside the church in all the corners of my life and I want it to stop!!!!
If you want to stop manipulation attempts, but are not doing it, I don't think it is necessarily due to a lack of know-how. It might be due to some internal factors on your part. May I lead you in a little introspection to see if we can identify why you are having difficulty doing what you want to do in this situations?
A person cannot be manipulated or guilt tripped without allowing oneself to be manipulated, or allowing oneself to feel guilty. Someone can shoot you without your participation, but no one can manipulate you without your participation. At the heart of manipulation is trying to get another to feel some emotion. I simply refuse to feel that emotion. You can't make me feel guilty about something when I know I was not in the wrong. You can't make me feel bad for not waiting on you hand and foot, when I know it is not my responsibility to wait on you hand and foot. You can't make me feel like a disloyal friend for not letting you cheat off my paper, when I know that true friends would not ask me to cheat.
Futhermore, I just get mad when I recognize that someone thinks they can use me or take advantage of my values or emotions. And when I get mad like that, I ain't doing anything for you. I'll tell whomever straight to their face that I recognize their manipulation attempts and that it makes me mad.
So, it looks like a few things are involved:
1) A confidence in one's own behavior that comes from a strong morality, and an understanding of what can reasonably be expected of you when you are in the wrong.
2) Valuing one's self highly. You are worth sticking up for and your own self-interest is a valid consideration.
3) A strong enough sense of self, that one cannot be unduely affected by what others think of you, especially others whose opinions shouldn't really matter when they are doing much worse by trying to manipulate you. I don't care if a manipulator thinks I am an asshole or unloyal, because I know that I am good to those who don't try to use me.
4) An emotional intelligence in which you recognize when someone is trying to manipulate your emotions.
5) An assertiveness to actually call people on the carpet and tell them it ain't happening.
Poster, when you introspect, what do you think is keeping you from refusing to be manipulated?
Monday, November 05, 2007
On PostMormon.org, a thread was created discussing whether Confucious was ahead of Christ. The author made the argument that Confucious' Golden Rule was superior to Christ's "Love one another as I have loved you" because Christ encourages an external reference point (himself), whereas Confucious encourages an internal reference point. Here is my response:
If Jesus were god and loved us perfectly, then the saying, "Love one another as I have loved you," would be essentially saying, "Love one another with a perfect love even as I have demonstrated to you". I wouldn't have a problem with that if Jesus were capable of perfect love and demonstrated that. But, he did not in my opinion.
For the sake of brevity allow me to give just a few examples:
Matt 10:34-37: 34Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
37He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matt 13:41-42: 41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The above examples do not demonstrate perfect love to me - maybe perfect sadism - but no where near perfect love and there are many more examples where these came from. Most everything that Jesus supposedly did that was nice involved using his supernatural powers, which example we can't follow because we don't have supernatural powers. About the only nice thing I think he supposedly did that did not involve supernateral abilities was that he forgave the woman taken in adultery and the people who killed him.
Anyway, as for the Golden Rule, I think in most situations it is good advice to follow, but there are times when it needs to be superceded. I believe a lot of problems in relationships happen because individuals treat their significant other the way they themselves would like to be treated instead of how the other person wants to be treated.
Example: Suppose Tom loves strawberry ice cream more than any other treat. He enjoys banana cream pie, but not nearly as much as strawberry ice cream. Ann loves banana cream pie more than any other treat. She wants to show Tom how much she loves him, so she does unto him the way she would like to be treated and gives him banana cream pie, which is a big sacrifice for her. She thinks Tom will be so grateful and appreciative. Tom recognizes that Ann is doing something nice for him, but is sort of disappointed, too. He thanks her, but not with the huge gratitude that she was expected and would have shown had she been getting what she was giving him. She is disappointed and frustrated. It would have been better for Ann to treat Tom the way he wanted to be treated instead of treating him the way she would like to be treated.
Real life examples might include a husband giving advice when the wife only wanted to be heard and did not want advice. The husband gave advice because that is what he wants when he shares his problems. Another example might be a wife trying to get a husband to talk about his bad day because that is how she would like to be treated, instead of giving him some space as he would like to be treated.
Futhermore, the Golden Rule causes problems in cross-cultural interactions in which treating someone from a different culture as you would normally treat someone from your own culture can be offensive.
Then, you also have people with odd tastes such as sadomasochists. Most people would not appreciate being treated by a sadomasochists the same way as they would like to be treated.
So, the Golden Rule isn't perfect either. In fact, I'd say that the injunction to love one another is superior to the Golden Rule, because if you truly love someone you will at least treat them as they would like to be treated and maybe even better in cases in which they want things that are not best for them. For example, many kids would like to be treated to fast food and junk food all the time, but if you love them, you will treat them better than they want to be treated.
-D&C 123:12 (adapted from the original)
The following is a list of sites that are useful in helping the reader learn more about all things Mormon, everything from the Kinderhook plates to the Hoffman cover-up to the most recent happenings in the Church:
Scholarly Mormon Resources - Find original sources and scholarly articles fast about Mormonism. Includes information from both apologetic and critical websites.
Informative Websites (not an exhaustive list by any means)
Utah Lighthouse Ministries Topical Guide
Zarahemla City Limits
Deconstructor's Rethinking Mormonism
20 Truths About Mormonism
Recovery From Mormonism Articles
Real Mormon History
Mormon Classics Library
Dr. Shades Mormon Information
FAIR LDS Topical Guide
Jeff Lindsey's site
Blog Aggregators and Select Blogs
Outer Lightness - for DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) blogs
Mormon Archipelago - for TBM blogs
Mormon Think Tank
Mormon Apologetic and Discussion Board
Recovery From Mormonism board
Further Light & Knowledge
New Order Mormons
After reading several posts here, I fear that many of us are again becoming convinced of the correctness of our new views when we have not fully investigated the literature opposing our new views. I believe that one cannot be a fully informed orthodox True Believing Mormon. Most TBM's aren't fully informed of the evidence against Mormonism. There are many other Mormons (i.e., New Order Mormons, Sunstone, Middle Way, etc) that are very informed and continue to attend, but are no longer orthodox TBM's. Then, there are apologists, some are TBM, but not fully informed, others are very informed but are not orthodox. They do not look at Mormonism the way regular chapel Mormons do. They buy into theories such as Blake Ostler's Expansion Thesis or the pious fraud theory. In any case, one seems unable to be a fully informed orthodox TBM while being true to the evidence.
Similarly, I believe it is impossible to be a fully informed, orthodox true believing Christian. I find that there are very few Christians who have read both the critical and apologetic info about the Bible and Christianity. In my opinion, the evidence is just too strong against a literal take on Christianity. I do believe that it is possible to be a fully informed, liberal Christian. Where there are unknowns, there is room for faith and to believe as one wishes. But, there are several knowns and a resonsible belief system must integrate the realities of those knowns, in my opinion. One is not likely to learn of those challenging pieces of evidence if one sticks to only reading pro-Christian literature.
Now, to practice what I preach, I am open to hearing the evidence for an opposing view point than the one I expressed. One thing to watch for though is a mistake I made while in Mormonism: I thought I knew all the evidence against Mormonism way before I actually did. I did not know what I did not know.
This thread is your oppotunity to tell us about one of your current affiliations. It could be a home schooling group, a mountain biking club, a religious group, an online community of people with similar interests. Give us a link and/or an introduction. What is one of your hobbies or passions that you regularly chat with others about? How did you become involved?
I'll go first. I am a Unitarian Universalist. My wife, Lilly of the Field, and I left the LDS Church at roughly the same time and shortly thereafter became agnostics/atheists. We wanted to keep all that we liked about our previous lives as Mormons and change and improve on the things we did not like. We both enjoy feeling peace, transcendence, unity, joy, comfort. We wanted to be part of a community that encouraged those feelings through hymns and the sharing of thoughts and experiences, but without supernatural emphasis. I'd rather not have to filter through a bunch of stuff I don't believe that is taught from the pulpit as if it were the undisputed truth. I would not be comfortable with that.
We also wanted to be taught the sorts of things we were now into: environmentalism, skepticism, personal spiritual journeys, justice for all regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc. I wanted a community that I could raise my children in with those values and have mentors for them that would encourage exploration of ideas. I wanted people I could turn to for support during times of hospitalization, deaths, births, marriages, etc. I wanted to be able to unite to accomplish greater good through community service and pressure on legislatures. I wanted to enjoy community pot-lucks, seminars, and functions, etc.
Basically, I wanted an atheist church that valued a non-supernatural spirituality. I briefly entertained the idea of starting my own atheist church, but then I learned that they already exist. So, we visited a local Community of Reason, and I emailed several other secular humanist groups and freethinking "churches", but we found them to be devoid of spirituality and not very kid friendly. They felt more like academic societies with weekly lectures, than a church community. But, then we heard that many post-mormons had found a home in Unitarian Universalism. So, we went to our local one and felt right at home. It was a spiritual community that accepted atheists just the way we are. The sermons prompt introspection and contemplation. I have no fear that my kids will be indoctrinated. I am learning to be more tolerant of others who do have supernatural beliefs.
Unitarian Universalism has no creed dictating that all UU's must believe such and such. Instead, there are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Here is a link to a ten minute film on Unitarian Universalism.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Our brains are amazing! We often take for granted the sensations and perceptions and phenomenological experience different clusters of neurons give us. We become acutely aware of what these neurons do when we induce fatigue in them. Here are a few examples:
1) Wernicke's area is involved in language comprehension. It is the area of the brain that allows us recognize the meaning of words. To fatigue this area, say the same word over and over and over again until the word doesn't even seem like a word anymore. There is this weird disconnect, it is like a flip has been switched and the word is now meaningless.
2) Our brains treat faces differently than other visual objects. Face recognition generally activates a different area of the brain -the right middle fusiform gyrus - than non-face object recognition. There have been some remarkable studies with split-brain patients that have shown if you present paintings of faces created out of inanimate objects such as vegetables to the part of the brain responsible for face recognition, the patient will say they saw a face, but if you present the same painting to the hemisphere that does not have the face recognition area, the patient will report that they only saw vegetables.
Anyway, if you want to fatigue the face recognition area of the brain, stare at a picture of a face for a long time, until you lose the sensation that you are looking at a face.
3) There are many more examples, but I want to skip to the cool stuff. Some people report that through meditation they can reach a state in which they can see their hand, but it no longer seems to be a part of them. It is like the hand is just as separate from them as the desk in front of them. There is a part of the brain responsible for making us feel like our body parts are part of us (very useful from an evolutionary stand point). Apparently, some drugs can produce that same sensation achieved through meditation.
4) The sense of self, which comes from an area of the brain behind the left ocular cavity, has been reportedly lost temporary during episodes of meditation.
There are other odd sensations, or rather loss of normal phenomenological sensations, that can be achieved through meditation or drug use. I think what meditation and drugs are doing is causing below normal activity in the parts of the brain responsible for those normal experiences.
Many people want to attribute something mystical or supernatural to these odd sensations. But, I believe they are produced by hypoactivity in specific parts of the brain responsible for things like making a word "feel" like a word, a face recognizable as a face, a hand being perceived as belonging to us, or for producing our sense of self.
We are amazing creatures, and I am facsinated by the inner world produced by a collection of neurons. No spirit seems to compensate for the abilities lost due to neural damage. The ability is just gone.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
My everyday language would suggest that I have many beliefs which I do not. I don't believe in free will, yet I speak as if I do. I can doubt the validity of just about everything, yet my sentences are written as if I am certain about the statements I am making. I live with the ambiguity. I speak the way I do partly because that is the way English is structured, but also because our minds are trained to think as if we have free will and as if we are more certain about things than we can be.
Believe me, the irony is not lost on me.
I first read Rene Descarte when I was in Middle School. I think he is right in that nearly everything can be doubted. We very well could be in the Matrix in which everything we think is real is actually just computer software, or something else. If we see a table, feel a table, taste a table, hear a table, etc, all we have shown is consistency, not that it exists in reality. Descarte said that the only thing that he could not doubt is that he is doubting. He then coined the phrase, "I think, therefore I am". I believe that he did not go far enough. I think that I can doubt that I am doubting. I suggest that all we can know is that something is happening. So, there you have my core belief about certainty.
Now, in everyday life, acknowledging that there is little we can know for certain, I take an interest in this "something" that I perceive. I assume, fully recognizing that this is an assumption, that this world is real. Now, if it is real, I ask myself what can I learn about it. Through systematic observation, will we be able to detect some consistencies or patterns? Might we be able to organize our data and through inductive reasoning describe natural laws? Might we test our reasoning by making predictions about future observations? We refer to this process as science. I feel that science is the best tool we have to learn about this world we live in. It is not perfect, but I believe it is the best tool we have.
So, is truth about reality knowable? I do believe that an objective reality exists. I believe that we might come close to discovering the truth about parts of that reality. But, because we can always doubt that are findings and thinking on a particular subject reflect reality, I would suggest that we will not be able to "know for certain" that we are right. Therefore, I would say that the truth about reality is not likely to be knowable, although we may discover the truth without ever being able to be certain that we are right.
(Note: Did you catch those certain statements I made? I caught them, too. If I reword all of my sentences to reflect the uncertainty that I believe in, the sentences would become very difficult to read. So, now that you know where I am coming from, paint this whole post with uncertainty.)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
"Brainwashing (also known as thought reform or as re-education) consists of any effort aimed at instilling certain attitudes and beliefs in a person — sometimes unwelcome beliefs in conflict with the person's prior beliefs and knowledge."
"Below is a list of the usual brainwashing/mind control techniques used in schools, hospitals, army, religious cults, totalitarian states; with political prisoners and dissidents, mentally insane, some versions of psychoterapy, etc., etc. "Indoctrination" is a more slight and more subliminal form of brainwashing (e.g. commercials). However, these concepts are nothing short of controversial and open to various interpretations.
1) HYPNOSIS - Inducing a high state of suggestibility, often thinly disguised as relaxation or meditation.
a. Repetitive Music (most likely with a beat close to the human heart 45 to 72 beats per minute). Most likely used during "study sessions" as the teacher will say the music helps you relax and concentrate better!
b. Voice Roll -- A "voice roll" is a patterned, paced style used by hypnotists when inducing a trance. It is also used by many lawyers, several of whom are highly trained hypnotists, when they desire to entrench a point firmly in the minds of the jurors. A voice roll can sound as if the speaker were talking to the beat of a metronome or it may sound as though he were emphasizing every word in a monotonous, patterned style. The words will usually be delivered at the rate of 45 to 60 beats per minute, maximizing the hypnotic effect.
c. Room "Feel" - The way a room feels is essential to hypnotizing unknowing subjects. It needs special lighting, florescent lights are best because they aren't too dim, but aren't too harsh. Also, Room Temp helps a bit, usually a little cooler than normal room temperature. You need to have the unknowing subjects very relaxed, perhaps even close to falling asleep.
2) PEER GROUP PRESSURE - Suppressing doubt and resistance to new ideas by exploiting the need to belong.
3) "LOVE BOMBING" - Creating a sense of family through physical touch, thought & feeling sharing and emotional bonding.
4) REJECTION OF OLD VALUES - Accelerating acceptance of new lifestyle by constantly denouncing former beliefs and values.
5) CONFUSING DOCTRINE - Encouraging blind acceptance and rejection of logic through complex lectures on an incomprehensible doctrine.
6) METACOMMUNICATION - Implanting subliminal messages by stressing certain key words or phrases in long, confusing lectures.
7) REMOVAL OF PRIVACY - Achieving loss of ability to evaluate logically by preventing private contemplation.
8) DISINHIBITION - Encouraging child-like obedience by orchestrating child-like behaviour
9) UNCOMPROMISING RULES - Inducing regression and disorientation by soliciting agreement to seemingly simple rules which regulate mealtimes, bathroom breaks and use of medications.
10) VERBAL ABUSE - Desensitizing through bombardment with foul and abusive language. (Physical abuse, such as torture, is the more extreme form of this.)
11) SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND FATIGUE - Creating disorientation and vulnerability by prolonging mental an physical activity and withholding adequate rest and sleep.
12) DRESS CODES - Removing individuality by demanding conformity to the group dress code.
13) CHANTING OR SINGING - Eliminating non-cult ideas through group repetition of mind-narrowing chants or phrases.
14) CONFESSION - Encouraging the destruction of individual ego through confession of personal weaknesses and innermost feelings of doubt.
15) FINANCIAL COMMITMENT - Achieving increased dependence on the group by 'burning bridges' to the past, through the donation of assets.
16) FINGER POINTING - Creating a false sense of righteousness by pointing to the shortcomings of the outside world.
17) ISOLATION - Inducing loss of reality by physical separation from family, friends, society and rational references.
18) CONTROLLED APPROVAL - Maintaining vulnerability and confusion by alternately rewarding and punishing similar actions.
19) CHANGE OF DIET - Creating disorientation and increased susceptibility to emotional arousal by depriving the nervous system of necessary nutrients through the use of special diets and/or fasting. Also applying drugs for these purposes fall in this category.
20) GAMES - Inducing dependence on the group by introducing games with obscure rules.
21) NO QUESTIONS - Accomplishing automatic acceptance of beliefs by discouraging questions.
22) GUILT - Reinforcing the need for 'salvation' by exaggerating the sins of the former lifestyles.
23) FEAR - Maintaining loyalty and obedience to the group by threatening soul, life or limb for the slightest 'negative' thought, word or deed.
Three Principles of Re-Education
1) REPETITION - Going through the same subject over and over again until it is known by heart.
2) ACTIVITY PEDAGOGICS - The subjects are never left alone nor give any private time of their own, they are always in activity.
3) CRITICISM AND SELF-CRITICISM - The subjects are supposed to feel uncertain; under the constant threat of being humiliated and despised."
I believe that the number one responsibility of a parent is to make sure one’s children survive to adulthood. A close second is the parent’s responsibility to prepare the child for adulthood (i.e., being able to take care of one’s self, and think for one’s self, so that one is not as vulnerable to those who would want to mislead and take advantage of you). These two responsibilities – protection and the nurturing of independence – do not have to be mutually exclusive, but sometimes they come in conflict. I think when children are young there will be a lot more direct intervention and shaping by the parent. Little children, if not given sufficient instruction and guidance are likely to behave in ways that could get them maimed or killed. As they grow, the parent can give the child more and more choices and foster expression of their individuality. The tough part of parenting is learning how to strike that balance and keep parenting age appropriate.
So, how do we avoid brainwashing our children? Perhaps it is unavoidable at least to some degree and perhaps not completely undesirable because most of us would like to instill some values in our kids. But, I also want my kids to think for themselves, so I have taken the list of brainwashing techniques and have made a new list of how to your children to think for themselves.
1) Discourage the passive acceptance of whatever messages the child is taught by teaching the child about how presentation methods manipulate the emotions and affect the likelihood of being receptive to the message. Commercials are a great teaching opportunity. You can discuss the role of the music, the announcer’s voice, the pleasing graphics, etc, plays in making the product more appealing and creating associations with pleasant feelings.
2) Reassure the child that they are still loved and belong even when they express doubt and resistance.
3) One must learn to foster independence by gradually cutting the apron strings and stopping the “hand holding”. Release the child so that they can learn to swim in the deep and ride their bike without your balancing it.
4) Encourage the objective evaluation by helping the child identify the good and bad of both sides on an issue or decision.
5) Encourage the use of logic by praising critical thinking.
6) Help child to identify both the direct message being conveyed by a speaker as well as any meta-messages also being conveyed. One might ask the child what the political ad said and then what other messages were being conveyed by what was left unsaid.
7) Encourage private contemplation. Set aside a little time each day, free of distractions, in which the child can reflect on the events of the day and what might he or she learn from them.
8) Teach child to be cautious of circumstances that decrease one’s ability to inhibit behavior, especially when there are others who might take advantage of us in that state.
9) Encourage child to question and challenge rules including your own. If you can’t defend your rules, then maybe they should not be rules. Child needs to be old enough to understand the advantage of social order in the classroom and the consequences of breaking laws.
10) Encourage the child not to tolerate verbal or physical abuse. Child needs to learn appropriate ways to stand up for her or himself and how to report abuses.
11) Help child understand the importance of getting enough sleep and exercise in helping maintain mental alertness and in decreasing vulnerability to suggestion.
12) Encourage individuality and also the value of striking a balance with conformity.
13) Encourage exposure to lots of different literature, philosophies, and religious ideas.
14) Help child develop personal boundaries and understand that it is best not to share their inner most feelings or weaknesses with people they hardly know.
15) Encourage financial independence, and a healthy skepticism of anyone wanting their money or trying to place them in a position in which they will be dependent on another.
16) Discourage judgmental attitudes.
17) Teach child to beware of those who would attempt to separate them from their support systems.
18) Help child learn to identify manipulation attempts, especially peer groups that withhold praise except for acts of conformity or obedience.
19) Teach child about how important nutrition is in helping keep one’s mind alert. Beware of drugs that loosen one’s control over one’s self.
20) Encourage child to really consider a situation before obeying.
21) Encourage child to question everything, especially authority.
22) Encourage child to be on the lookout for guilt-trips.
23) Teach child to beware of anyone who tries to instill fear in them.
A) When in a situation where repetition is unavoidable, encourage child to actively critique the message that is repeated.
B) Avoid over-scheduling the child.
C) Be consistent and respectful of the child.
Here are some things about Mormonism that many people do not know. Anyone who would like to learn more may use the valuable links on the thread: "Resources for those investigating all things LDS".
1) The Book of Abraham is not as Joseph Smith claimed - the writings of Abraham written by his own hand upon papyrus. In fact, the text contains anachronisms and much of the text appears to be borrowed from other authors whom Joseph confessed to be familiar with: Swedenborg, Book of Jasher, Josephus, Thomas Dick, etc.
2) Joseph Smith had 33 wives, at least one as young as 14, two were his own teenage foster daughters, and several were concurrently married to other men, and yes there is sufficient evidence (children and statements) that he had sex with many of them.
3) The text of the Book of Mormon was dictated by Joseph while burying his head in a hat with the very same peep stone he used while defrauding Josiah Stowell by claiming to be able to find buried treasure and accepting payment for those services.
4) Many of the doctrines and stories Joseph claimed were revealed to him from heaven were actually plagiarized from the writings of others that we have evidence he was familiar with: Swedenborg, the Book of Jasher, Josephus, Thomas Dick, Ethan Smith, etc.
5) Many supposedly eternal doctrines (aka unchanging truths) have been changed. For instance Brigham Young taught not only from the pulpit, but also arranged to be taught during the lecture at the veil that Adam is God the Father, the same one who sired Jesus Christ in Mary's womb, that Eve was just one of Adam's wives that he brought with him to start the human race on earth. Joseph Fielding Smith outright rejected that doctrine as false, but remember this had been taught quite clearly and unambiguously in the temple. Also the doctrine of blood atonement in which the only way to get forgiveness for certain sins is to have your life taken by church leaders who spill your blood on the ground was taught by Brigham, but is now denied.
6) The temple signs and tokens (and penalties) were lifted from the Masons. And the Masons and their signs date back to the 12th century AD not back to the building of the Jewish temples.
7) There is a history in the Church dating back to Joseph Smith in which the leaders have lied about their history and practices. Joseph "rewrites" his history several times embellishing accounts and changing the timing of things. The Church today slyly edits original quotes for its manuals to cover up the polygamy preached and practiced by its early leaders. But, worse than that, old Gordy Hinckley lied to police investigators about his involvement with Mark Hoffman and thus obstruction a murder investigation.
8) We have a lot of DNA evidence that shows that the Native Americans are not descended from Middle Eastern peoples. No archaeological support for BoM, despite what your institute teacher told you. The story of Thomas Ferguson might interest some of you as well as B.H. Roberts investigation into the Book of Mormon.
9) The Church has a nasty habit of excommunicating historians for telling the true history of the Church (i.e., September Six, etc). The Church has what is known as the Strengthening Church Members Committee whose job is to collect information on and writings of dissidents.
10) There are a handful of contradictory versions of Joseph's First Vision. None of these accounts were created until years after the supposed events would have taken place. In fact, all the early accounts always say that Joseph was called to the work by an angel, no one seemed to know anything about a "First Vision" in which Joseph saw God and Jesus. In fact, the idea that God and Jesus were two separate beings never occurred to anyone, not even Joseph, until sometime after the church was established. Joseph revised the first part of the Book of Mormon to make references to Jesus as the Son of the Living God as opposed to the "Living God". Joseph eventually abandoned his editing before he got to Abinidi's confusing speech.
There are many more issues, but the most important thing for any investigator is to look at the original sources for yourself. Don't trust the writings of critics or the church approved books without first consulting the original sources. The writings of the critics will cite their sources so that you will know where to look. Frankly, I find the writings of the critics to be more trustworthy than the writings approved by the Church.
Happy researching! The link at the top of this post has links for both critical and apologetic sites. We critics have no need to hide apologetic arguments, because when a person evaluates both sides, I think they will most often side with the critics. However, you will not receive such a fair and balanced approach from the church defenders. Often, they don't want you to read critical literature or at least will not link to it.