Monday, November 26, 2007

Obama for President!

Obama has as much experience as JFK and Lincoln had when they were elected. He will make a great president because he will be uniquely able to get the votes he needs in congress to pass the important legislation that needs to be passed. Why? Because he is a uniter, not a divider like Hillary. Hillary's philosophy is to overpower the opposition. But she will not be able to get things done by ostracizing her opponents. Obama takes a win-win approach and really listens to those who oppose his ideas to find ways in which their concerns will be resolved and they can work together. Obama is exactly what this country needs both domestically and abroad. This is our chance! Please elect Obama for President.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time Magazine Article on Atheist Sunday School

Sunday School for Atheists is the title of a new Time magazine article on church-like resources for atheist families.

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

Supernatural stuff

BooBoo asked: "For the record, I am willing to consider both scientific and supernatural theories regarding spiritual experiences. Huff, where exactly do you stand? Sorry if I lost it somewhere in the translation."

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

The Perils of Anecdotal Evidence

Most of this post is from the wiki post on anecdotal evidence :

"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[1].

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" [2]
* "non-scientific observations or studies, which do not provide proof but may assist research efforts" [3]
* "reports or observations of usually unscientific observers" [4]
* "casual observations or indications rather than rigorous or scientific analysis" [5]
* "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. [9] 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. [10] 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. [11] Only double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials can confirm a hypothesis.



Sites devoted to rhetoric [12] 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. [1]

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

What is Your Inner European?

Your Inner European is Dutch!

Open minded and tolerant.
You're up for just about anything.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Blog's Topical Guide

About Me
Why I left the LDS Church
My Perspective
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

Mormonism
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

Post-Mormonism
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

About Christianity
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?

About Theism
Using the Construct of God as an Explanation Causes More Problems than it Solves
Beliefs Concerning the Existence of Gods: A Primer
Purposeless Suffering
My response to the Prime-Mover and First-Cause arguments
God cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving
Abiogenesis

Life as an Atheist
Introduction to Atheism
Atheist "Church"?
Freedom from Judgment
Why I celebrate Christmas even as an atheist
The love of an atheist
Atheist Blogroll
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

Epistemology
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”?

Spiritual Naturalism
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
Supernatural stuff
RadioLab’s “Who Am I?”

Values
The Virtue of Being Teachable
Sincerity and openness
My respect for faith and doubt

Attributes
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
Trust

Consciousness and Free Will
Thinking about Consciousness

Hymns
We are a Gentle, Angry People
Adapting Familiar LDS Hymns for Atheist Beliefs
"Blue Boat Home"
"God Rest Ye, Unitarians" Hymn

Politics
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

Research Aids
New Personalized Search Engine: Scholarly Mormon Resources
Resources for Those Investigating All Things LDS

My epiphany regarding the LDS Church

Short Answer: Book of Abraham

Long Answer:
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.

Reality and Meaning

A poster on NOM wrote the following:
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"

My response:

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

Why I left the LDS Church (Written in Jest)

I left because my dress shoes are uncomfortable. I now attend a church in which one can wear tennis shoes, sandals, slippers, or go bare foot.

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!

Source Article

Refusing to be Manipulated

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.

poster:
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!!!!

poster:

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

In Response to Which Guideline is Better

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.

Resources for Those Investigating All Things LDS

"For there are many yet on the earth among [Mormonism]...who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it"
-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:

Search Engine

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)

Critical

Utah Lighthouse Ministries Topical Guide

LDS-Mormon Articles

Zarahemla City Limits

Deconstructor's Rethinking Mormonism

20 Truths About Mormonism

Recovery From Mormonism Articles

Reason

Real Mormon History

Mormon Classics Library

Mormonthink

Dr. Shades Mormon Information

Joseph Lied

Apologetic

FAIR LDS Topical Guide

Maxwell Institute

Shields

Jeff Lindsey's site

Ask Gramps

Blog Aggregators and Select Blogs

Outer Lightness - for DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) blogs

Mormon Archipelago - for TBM blogs

Equality Time

MormonStories

Mormon Curtain

Discussion Forums

PostMormon.org

Mormon discussions

Mormon Think Tank

Ex-Mormon forums

Mormon Apologetic and Discussion Board

Recovery From Mormonism board

Further Light & Knowledge

New Order Mormons

The Critical Necessity of Reading Articles Critical of Your Current Beliefs

One fundamental lesson I learned as I discovered the fraud of Mormonism that I cannot stress enough is the critical necessity to read information critical of whatever current beliefs you have. The only thing that kept me believing in the Church as long as I did was that I did not read good quality anti like "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus" by Charles Larson. I was so certain the Church was true and I "knew" lots of evidence that "confirmed" it from institute manuals and other pro-LDS books. After finding out that I was wrong when I had been so sure that I was right, I knew that I needed to not fall into the trap of unjustified certainty again. It is not enough to build a strong case for an idea, one must be aware of the evidence against the idea as well.

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.

Tell us about one of the groups to which you belong

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.

Windows Media Version

Real Video Version