Fool-proof Proof of God

Rusty - June 22, 2009

To witness what event would have the greatest capacity to convince an atheist of the existence of God? Why?

My inclination is the think either the Resurrection or the First Vision, but I can’t decide which of them would be more convincing. The Resurrection has the tangible evidence of Christ’s un-dead body, but lacks a provable connection to God. The First Vision is compelling as an event, but could easily be chalked up to self-delusion, also lacking in tangible evidence when it’s over.

Am I missing a more obvious event?

127 Comments »

  1. Their own death.

    Comment by Silus Grok — June 22, 2009 @ 9:21 am

  2. The birth of a child.

    Comment by Manuel — June 22, 2009 @ 11:07 am

  3. Silus,
    Funny and true, but doesn’t count.

    Manuel,
    A child-what? A human child? Lots of atheists have witnessed their childrens’ births.

    Comment by Rusty — June 22, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  4. The appearance of Jesus to the Nephites. It would be hard to ascribe it to delusion if millions had their eyes glued on the same Man descending from the sky and then had the chance to touch his nail wounds themselves. Plus, it was accompanied by the voice of God.

    Why doesn’t one’s own death count? Maybe because death won’t convince anyone of anything. “So, I’m still conscious; that doesn’t mean there’s a God.” The existence of post-mortem missionary work seems to imply a lack of consensus among spirits. I’m sure there are Catholic spirits, Jehovah’s Witness spirits, and atheist spirits who all continue the debate on the other side.

    There isn’t anything so true that a sufficiently motivated skeptic can’t dismiss it. I wonder if standing before the judgment bar will be enough for some people.

    Comment by Thaddeus — June 22, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  5. With special effects and magicians making the Statue of Liberty disappear, can you really say an event like the First Vision would convince anyone? Same with seeing someone resurrected.

    Maybe the Second Coming along with everything that will accompany it.

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 22, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  6. Creation of the Universe

    Comment by ed42 — June 22, 2009 @ 8:06 pm

  7. Well, if nothing else we know EVERYONE, including atheists will bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord. Don’t know if that means they’ll accept Him as a supernatural, deified being, but that’s gotta help:)

    Comment by Bret — June 22, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  8. Oh, I get it. This is a post with no answer (so what’s the point)…
    I guess it is similar to proofing any other religious event.

    How do we prove the creation?
    How do we prove spirits exist?
    How do we prove Moses parted the sea?

    If mental delusions are factored in, then we cannot prove anything. Not even our own daily experiences, for they may be delusions of the mind.

    Although I don’t believe in real atheists though. They can claim it, but I doubt they really achieve atheism in a constant state of mind throuhout their lives. Therefore, I have often assumed atheism is a constant choice, and if the atheist is trying hard to remain in that state of thought, then it is pointless.

    Comment by Manuel — June 22, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  9. #6 nailed it, but I think you’re wrong that witnessing the resurrection of Christ lacks a provable connection to God. Anyone who could watch Christ rise from the dead and then deny the existence of God would be beyond delusional.

    Comment by MCQ — June 23, 2009 @ 12:04 am

  10. Question misses the point.

    Proving the EXISTENCE of God has never been a really important issue between religious people and atheists. It’s actually an almost irrelevant sideshow.

    It’s just stupid modern religion and equally stupid modern atheism that has fooled people into thinking this debate was ever about empirically establishing the existence of a God.

    Even if you prove God exists, why should I worship him?

    Comment by Seth R. — June 23, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  11. Question misses the point.

    Proving the EXISTENCE of God has never been a really important issue between religious people and atheists. It’s actually an almost irrelevant sideshow.

    It’s just stupid modern religion and equally stupid modern atheism that has fooled people into thinking this debate was ever about empirically establishing the existence of a God.

    Even if you prove God exists, why should I worship him?

    I’m quoting this as hard as I can, but I don’t think you guys have enough HTML tags to accommodate me.

    bravo Seth, bravo.

    Fortunately, I think this latter (better) question is not so hard a task. To be honest, I haven’t found an answer, and I think the answer would differ by person. But to be sure, I completely agree that the goal is not to target externalities (e.g., does an external being with the traits of God exist?) but rather completely about internalities (e.g., regardless of the existence of anything external, should an individual internally direct himself with a belief in such a concept?)

    Comment by Andrew S. — June 23, 2009 @ 2:59 am

  12. [...] was most certainly an amusing post, and I wish there were more answers for me to read. It’s interesting that some people gave [...]

    Pingback by Who needs a fool-proof proof of God? « Irresistible (Dis)Grace — June 23, 2009 @ 3:29 am

  13. Seth R,

    GB Here.

    Hey, I have been trying to post a response to Echo over at Marks blog but have been unable to.

    I am beginning to think that Mark has quietly locked me out.

    I wonder why!! he he.

    Comment by GB — June 23, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  14. Seth,
    It may be true that this question misses your point, or maybe the “important” point, or maybe the point that theologians and philosophers deem to find value in, but I don’t understand why it’s not a question worth exploring. I have no hope nor intention of converting atheists into believing Christians. I’m just curious what evidence would need to be submitted in order for an atheist to become a theist. But maybe that’s the problem, is that I think if someone is convinced God exists means that they will “believe” in God. What does it mean to “believe in God”? That he exists? Or that he can do something for me? I don’t know. But I was just trying to keep it as simple as I could.

    Comment by Rusty — June 23, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  15. When we talk about missionary work for the dead, we have to keep in mind what we do and don’t know about where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with.

    Do they get to actually see and be with Christ? I recently asked this question of a few people and they didn’t know (couldn’t give me?) the answer. One would think that to see God would make a believer out of all, and maybe it is. But as I think about what it would mean to have that certainty, I doubt highly that it would be fair to ask someone in spirit prison to not only endure His presence (for I’m SURE it would be painful), but to be accountable for that witness. If there’s anything I’ve noticed about the arrangement of the Plan of Salvation, of learning truth and gaining a witness, it’s that God does not give any experience that He knows His children cannot be responsible for keeping at the time when it’s given.

    There’s a reason that we’re told to gain a witness line upon line, precept upon precept. The actual temporal and spiritual transformation that has to take place for a spirit to endure the presence of deity requires effort.

    If you want certainty, it can only come as a reward to faith, and faith only comes where there is hope–that abiding trust in God that edifies better than knowledge ever could. If you want that certainty, it’s a transformation both temporal and spiritual that requires a lot of work, so perhaps the questions has always been this:

    How much do you want it? Will you do what it takes to have it? If not, then quite frankly that’s a personal problem, not evidence that God doesn’t exist.

    Comment by Paradox — June 23, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  16. Rusty,

    I, for one, thought it was a good question.

    Even if you prove God exists, why should I worship him?

    Accepting God’s existence naturally leads to this question. We need next to understand His nature. But it is fruitless discussing His nature with an atheist who doesn’t accept the first premise.

    Unless there is something compelling about His nature that indicates His existence… Testimony that He is our Father and a real person can certainly soften a heart and help a man who became atheist because he rejected the idea of an impersonal, nebulous, omnipotent force.

    Comment by Thaddeus — June 23, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  17. While I personally like Seth’s question better, I don’t see this one as irrelevant.

    To me, a useful way for a theist to go about answering this is to ask the question of what evidence would be required for them to acknowledge the existence of something they don’t believe in, say fairies.

    Would a person telling you they have felt the presence of fairies do it? Would someone telling you they have actually seen a fairy once do it? What if they testify to regular interaction with fairies? What if 100s of people you knew testified to regular interaction with fairies? Would seeing one while alone in the forest do it? What if it flies you into the sky to demonstrate its existence to you? How about…

    Find the right line for that and you’ll probably find a similar line for the atheist and God.

    Comment by NorthboundZax — June 23, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

  18. I think it’s an interesting question, but of course it comes with its own set of assumptions, which is why I answered the question the way did. I assumed that, given what we know about Christ and his mission and his prior words, if someone actually witnessed his resurrection, one would be compelled to acknowledge that he was what he claimed to be. If, however, you are looking for a way out of such an acknowledgement, you can always find one, until that point when every knee shall bow…

    Seth’s question is an entirely different one that is also interesting but does not make Rusty’s question at all meaningless.

    Seth, I don’t know at what point you acquired this smug attitude, but I can pesonally assure you that I never at any point have wasted any time trying empirically trying to establish the existence of God. Why would I, when He could do so in an instant and has always chosen not to?

    Comment by MCQ — June 23, 2009 @ 4:37 pm

  19. Whatever are you talking about MCQ?

    I’ve always been a smug jerk.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 23, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

  20. Rusty – I don’t think any of the events outlined above would have the intended impact on an atheist until they were ready to accept it themselves. I clearly remember an experience from more than tens years ago. I was driving on the Capital Beltway in the pre-dawn hours, listening to some uplifting music. I’m sure I was “in the zone”, probably because of the music, when I came to a point on the beltway where the horizon opened up and in those moments, just before the dawn, the sky was like I’ve never seen it before. The combination of colors was overwhelming and I was overcome by emotion. I r3eally can’t describe it here, with the detail it deserves. Through tears in my eyes I looked away momentarily – to make sure I was still on the road – and when I looked back the thing I had witnessed just a moment before had changed. It was as if I took myself out of “the zone” by putting myself back in the world, even for a moment, but I will never forget what I saw that morning. That event, and so many others like it (I especially like the comment about the birth of a child) have convinced me of the existance of God. But that was because I want to be convinced and have been looking for the signs. I’m not sure an atheist is ready for that in their life – or they wouldn’t be an atheist.

    Comment by lamonte — June 24, 2009 @ 4:13 am

  21. This is a summary of Richard Dawkins’ “Definitive Proof That God Doesn’t Exist”

    ————————————————————————————————————-

    Believers often claim that we are too complex to exist without a god. That is, since a watch requires a watchmaker, and the universe is more complex than a watch, the universe requires a human maker.

    However, God, is even more complex than the universe he created (for example, God is alleged to be omnipotent, while the universe itself is not). It makes no sense to account for the complexity of the universe by believing in a much more complex God.

    ————————————————————————————————————–

    I would point out that I don’t believe this philosophical argument actually holds water- it merely demonstrates the level of “proof” Dawkins believes necessary for him to accept the existence of God.

    Since God has attributes which transcend the attributes of the Universe, ** NO EVIDENCE IN THE UNIVERSE IS SUFFICENT TO PROVE THE EXISTENCE OF GOD **.

    Moses was convinced by a simple bush burning without being consumed. Isaiah was convinced by the personal visitation of God himself. Neither of these would be sufficient for Dawkins: the bush could be some heretofore unwitnessed, but wholly natural phenomenon. The being who appeared to Isaiah could be some powerful, but not omnipotent being—or, a mere delusion.

    According to economic and statistical principles, the fact that the sun has risen every morning in the past is no indication that the sun will rise every morning in the future.

    I’m just saying I have a much lower threshold of proof.

    Comment by Matthew Chapman — June 24, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  22. 1st century Jews saw Lazarus raised from the dead and it made them want to kill Jesus.

    Comment by Joel — June 26, 2009 @ 6:56 am

  23. Seth asked two questions both of which I would like to answer from my atheist perspective. What would it take to convince me that there is a God? For me and oversimplified answer would be that if one of the current God myths and their narratives and testable claims held up when taken literally. All of you are atheist in regards to the majority of God myths just not your own, I don’t believe there is a current God myth that passes this test just as I am fairly certain you believe that science has disproved the Iroquois Creation Myth that we live on the back of a turtle. That is what makes me an atheist as I don’t believe in any of the deities that I have to currently choose from. Just because we do not know everything and science has yet to discover and have an explanation for everything about our world or universe doesn’t make a belief in a Deity the logical default position. With my current understanding of evolution and what we know about the beginnings and workings of our world and universe I don’t feel I need to have a belief in a creator there would still be just as many if not more unanswered questions for me if I had to try and make sense of it from a God standpoint, Which then leads me to Seth’s other question, if in fact there is a God and it is one of the current Deities to choose from I would not want to worship any of them and if after this life comment #4 is true and I could still be spouting my atheistic views in ignorance that still sounds better than the alternative of worshiping a God with the characteristics found in any of the current texts used to define such deities.

    Comment by coventryrm — June 27, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  24. Just because we do not know everything and science has yet to discover and have an explanation for everything about our world or universe doesn’t make a belief in a Deity the logical default position

    I have never thought of belief in God as a logical position, or as a default position of any kind. Faith is in many ways the antithesis of logic, but I only have faith in God and in my belief system because I have had experience with the Spirit that require my adherence to these beliefs as a matter of conscience. I don’t blame anyone for having different beliefs. We all have to act according to the dictates of our own individual consciences. But that has little or nothing to do with logic.

    Comment by MCQ — June 27, 2009 @ 11:40 am

  25. The worst thing about being an atheist is I’ll never have that smug “I told you so moment” that most believers seem to look forward to having after death (i.e. response #1).

    As coventryrm says, we’re all atheists, except my list of diety in which I don’t believe contains one more name than yours.

    Comment by KH — July 3, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  26. I don’t know KH, there are an a lot of people who just believe in a supreme being, but have no conception of what he is like, others believe in a god that has a religious tradition, but very few specific attributes. For myself, I choose to believe that all believers are talking about the same person. We just all have a few different ideas about what he might be like, because we don’t know him very well yet.

    Comment by MCQ — July 4, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  27. I agree with MCQ. Other religions view the same God through different filtered lenses. We claim our Church is the only true and living church, but I think that just means we believe our lens is the most transparent and our conception of Him is closest to the truth.

    Any other church might say the same thing and that’s fine; we just invite them to take a look through ours to see for themselves.

    The difference is that we don’t think all the other filters are opaque (as KH suggests).

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 6, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  28. But you are still subscribing to the Judeo/Christian Monotheist God and none other, I think MCQ is saying that ALL God concepts are a derivative of this “God” they just have it a bit wrong or sideways? I think it still sidesteps the issue that you in fact you are an Atheist to one God or Gods concept besides your own, and to reconcile it you still bring it back to Monotheism.

    I think the point that KH and I made still stands, I am sure there are plenty on God myths that you reject as total nonsense.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 6, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  29. correction
    “to one God or Gods concept” Should be – to at least one God or Gods concept -

    Comment by coventryrm — July 6, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  30. Hindus and other polytheists are viewing Him through a prism. :)

    We fully recognize there are important distinctions between our beliefs that are mutually exclusive, but we are willing to embrace those aspects of other religions that we share in common.

    One must not entirely reject Vishnu, only recognize that it is a name Father is sometimes called, associated with some erroneous doctrines (and some correct doctrines). I am not an atheist of Vishnu.

    I would not normally look at religion as a buffet table (take what I like, leave what I don’t), except my beliefs are firmly anchored by a prophet who authoritatively speaks for God. This is, in my opinion, what makes my filter so transparent. Well…that, and privately answered prayers.

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 6, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  31. Thaddeus,

    I now expect you to tell me that Apollo, Diana, Mars, Venus, Neptune, Minerva, and Ceres are all just different manifestations of the god Mormons call Elohim.

    To steal a phrase from Michael Shermer, I am an atheist not because I don’t want to believe. I am an atheist because I want to know. And I don’t accept emotion as a valid determinant of knowledge.

    Emotional-based knowledge (how we feel when we are presented with information, when we pray/meditate, or read holy books such as the Koran, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, or Book of Mormon, i.e. that “burning in the bosom”) isn’t really knowledge and allows one to believe that David Koresh was a prophet, that Scientology is a true religion, that alien abductions really happen, that homeopathy actually works, or a number of other equally unlikely things. So to say that god exists and Mormonism is true because he’s answered your prayers, is no more valid to me than my Hindu friend telling me of his transcendental experience that proves he is on the path of truth, or my Wiccan friend who feels wonderful when she’s casting a spell in a magical circle.

    The problem with asking for evidence is that Mormons equate such a request as equivalent to Korihor asking for a sign. I can live with such accusations. So I would ask you, what tangible, testable proof do you have that god, any god, exists?

    Comment by KH — July 7, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  32. KH, I don’t expect you to believe me. My answered prayers are for me, and they are enough for me. I wouldn’t want you to base your belief in God on my personal experiences, anyway.

    I never said answered prayers were purely emotional, but they sometimes do have strong emotional components. The only tangible, testable evidence I will offer is for you to try your own hand at praying.

    I’m not here to offer objective proof. All I am doing is presenting my point of view. You are free to reject it.

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 7, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  33. Emotional-based knowledge (how we feel when we are presented with information, when we pray/meditate, or read holy books such as the Koran, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, or Book of Mormon, i.e. that “burning in the bosom”) isn’t really knowledge and allows one to believe that David Koresh was a prophet, that Scientology is a true religion, that alien abductions really happen, that homeopathy actually works, or a number of other equally unlikely things. So to say that god exists and Mormonism is true because he’s answered your prayers, is no more valid to me than my Hindu friend telling me of his transcendental experience that proves he is on the path of truth, or my Wiccan friend who feels wonderful when she’s casting a spell in a magical circle.

    Why do you characterize personal revelation as purely “emotion”? Because you want to trivialize it. There is a difference between spiritual manifestation and emotion. Your comment is the traditional fallacy of rejecting all forms of knowledge except your preferred form. Personal revelation is and always has been the only way to approach God. If you reject it and demand scientifically testable proof, you are simply rejecting any opportunity you will ever have to know God. I am not responsible (or even able) to judge the personal revelation of some other person, only my own. And you are responsible for yours. The difference is that you have already decided that you will never have any.

    Comment by MCQ — July 7, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  34. Rusty,

    Serious question here. Do you think that a third party in the Sacred Grove at the time of the First Vision would see anything other than Joseph Praying? The vision of Moroni lit up the room, but didn’t wake anybody, and they were sleeping in close quarters. Joseph and Sidney saw the three degrees of glory while in a room full of people.

    I am not sure that a witness to the First Vision would have seen anything extraordinary.

    The only worthwhile miracles are when a heart is softened, so that it can feel the love of God.

    Comment by a random John — July 7, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  35. The difference is that you have already decided that you will never have any.

    “Spiritual experience”, “personal revelation” does not automatically = God. I still experience both as an Atheist and the experience is much more profound than any received in the past that I attributed to a specific God.

    I think there is a misconception that Atheists belief in “Nothing” this thread is about what sign or evidence would it take for me (Atheist) to accept a God.

    There seems to be an assumption that as an atheist you must have hardened your heart to reject God etc… and that with a softened heart or open mind to things “Spiritual” then it would be obvious and you would become a believer.

    I would propose this, you can accept what science has discovered without compromising ones “Spirituality” and throw out old myths that contradict these discoveries as mankind has done and will hopefully continue to do but, in my opinion, at an embarrassing slow pace due to irrational sentimentality or fear, the narratives seem to either just get changed or adjusted or reinterpreted to fit the empirical evidence rather than accept it was fictional in the first place.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 8, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  36. coventryrm, this is very interesting to me. I have never heard any atheist claim to receive revelation. To what do you attribute it? (i.e. is an epiphany the result of a random, but serendipidous configuration of neuron connections, or is there some higher power directing your thoughts, or what?)

    You mention spirituality. Does that imply you believe you have a spirit? What exactly do you mean?

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 8, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  37. I’ve already had this conversation with coventry and I still don’t understand it. That’s not intended to be insulting to you coventry, but as I told you before, I can’t figure out how you can have spiritual experiences without concluding that it comes from a source like God. I know you feel differently, I just wish I could understand it.

    Comment by MCQ — July 8, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  38. I use the term “Spirituality” and “Personal Revelation” so that we are talking the same language, as an Atheist I would more likely describe it as being at peace or having inspiration,tapping into something different than ordinary consciousness.

    I am not sure why this is so hard to grasp that the logical explanation of these type of experiences does not necessarily default to the existence of a Deity. There are a countless number of explanations that have and could be made for these experiences, the Judeo/Christian God being just one of many explanations and not even necessarily the most probable one either.

    I think the difference of opinion is regarding what is the stimulus behind these experiences not about whether these experiences are authentic or not.

    What I am claiming is that I had those experiences throughout my life; there was a time I believed these experiences were tied into my LDS faith that they confirmed truths to me while in the temple or praying in private etc…. I now believe there is a fine line between these experiences being a result of a desire to believe in a belief and manipulated sentimentality verses inspiration and being in touch with something beyond just our conscious self that increases ones ability for introspection and emotional and spiritual growth. (Again the use of “Spiritual” is for lack of a better word)

    Comment by coventryrm — July 8, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

  39. To me, you still seem to be wanting to have it both ways.

    Comment by MCQ — July 8, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  40. So, what is the stimulus, in your view? And does it come from within or from without?

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 9, 2009 @ 6:50 am

  41. No, the point being is one isn’t depedent on the other. I don’t see the both way angle at all. Not exactly sure what you mean by that as well.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 9, 2009 @ 6:56 am

  42. Thaddeus

    I don’t think we know the answer to that question nor do I think it really matters, in my opinion if it is come from without it is more like an energy we can tap into become in harmony with, but not a personal God or Deity that is aware of or interested in us personally.

    I think the spirit that is felt in LDS testimony meetings at the temple is something totally different and is within and triggered by conditioning, sentimentality or vulnerability and has been used by religious and political leaders for centuries.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 9, 2009 @ 7:10 am

  43. “an energy we can tap into become in harmony with”

    >_>

    <_<

    To me, you still seem to be wanting to have it both ways.

    The question would probably become…what is your definition of deity?

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 9, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  44. I don’t see how “an energy we can tap into” is any more likely than a personal God. For whatever reason, you’re just choosing the explanation you prefer.

    Comment by MCQ — July 9, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  45. Your right it isn’t more or less likely, just one of many possibilities. In my opinion however you can rule out just about every current God narrative or myth based on the inconsistencies with what we know to be true about our beginnings however and that brings us back full circle to my original post.

    I like what Carl Sagan said in regards to recognizing truth.

    “How can we recognize truth? It is, of course difficult. But there are a few simple rules. The truth ought to be logically consistent. It should not contradict itself; that is, there are some logical criteria. It ought to be consistent with what else we know. That is an additional way in which miracles run into trouble. We know a great many things- a tiny fraction, to be sure, of the universe, a pitiful tiny fraction. But nevertheless some things we know with quite high reliability. So where we are asking about the truth, we ought to be sure that it’s not inconsistent with what else we know. We should pay attention to how badly we want to believe a given contention. The more badly we want to believe it, the more skeptical we have to be. It involves a kind of courageous self discipline. Nobody says it’s easy. I think those three principles at least will winnow out a fair amount of chaff. It doesn’t guarantee that what remains will be true, but at least it will significantly diminish the field of discourse. “

    Carl Sagan, Varieties of scientific experience, pages 229-230


    Comment by coventryrm — July 9, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

  46. Why do you characterize personal revelation as purely “emotion”?

    Because that’s what it is. You choose to interpret those emotions as revelation. I choose to interpret them as the complex interaction of millions of neurons. Unless you are telling me that you’ve actually seen a spiritual being; then were out of the realm of emotion, and into the realm of vision/hallucination, and again, complex neuronal interactions. You don’t have any more proof than your feelings, i.e. your belief, that your experiences are supernatural and from some specific deity.

    This whole post was Rusty asking what proof would be required to convince an atheist that God exists. How can you as a believer even pretend that your answer is anything other than supposition? If my answer of needing empiric, tangible, testable proof is insufficient to you, I don’t care. I reject the notion that emotion, or “revelation”, or visions are adequate proof.

    Comment by KH — July 9, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  47. coventry, making Carl Sagan your prophet is no more sensible than doing the same with any other person. At least Joseph Smith claimed to be an actual prophet. Sagan’s never claimed to be anything more than some guy with a cool book and a miniseries. Besides, you’ve already violated his strict reliance on logical criteria by your belief in “an energy we can tap into.” I’m certain that Carl would not find that logical at all.

    Because that’s what it is.

    KH, pardon me, but your saying so don’t make it so. It’s very interesting to me how you are so certain that the experiences I have had which you know nothing about are simply “emotion.” Great diagnosis doc. You may want to try knowing something about the patient and the symptoms next time however. Most rational people find that to be helpful.

    BTW, I’m not trying to prove anything to you. I’ll say it again: I’m only responsible for my own revelation, and you are responsible for yours. You have decided not to allow for any: even seeing God would not be enough for you, because that’s just “neurons.” That just guarantees you will not have any. I don’t think that’s a smart idea, but it’s your life.

    Comment by MCQ — July 9, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  48. I mean, I could see how an atheist might believe in an energy source or something like that. I can see how an atheist might believe in an afterlife. The atheism only denotes that the atheist doesn’t believe in god/s/deity/deities/higher powers. So at least theoretically, I can understand that someone would do such a thing.

    But my question is why? For the same reason I do not believe in one of these, I happen not to believe in the others. The question is…can you have personally convincing evidence (not saying empirical or anything like that) of an afterlife or of an “energy source” without having personally convincing evidence of a deity? It seems these often appear to be two-for-one specials.

    And that “personally convincing evidence” is important. Empirics be damned — what matters is that whatever is provided is personally and subjectively convincing. If a magic trick is convincing, then so it is. If reality is not, then so it is not. As Seth noted before: existence (an empirical kind of thing) is a sideshow. What is important is what motivates people to *believe*?

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 9, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  49. MCQ

    I never claimed Sagan a prophet I just think he is someone that has a vast amount of knowledge regarding certain things and have found wisdom in many of his observations, are you saying that everyone that you quote or find informative is considered a Prophet?

    I never said I believed in an energy I said:

    I don’t think we know the answer to that question nor do I think it really matters

    I as far as the energy part I said “like” not that it “is”

    Not sure why you need to spin what I said, certainly you are smart enough to counter or offer an alternative point of view without resorting to such tactics.

    Andrew S

    The question is…can you have personally convincing evidence (not saying empirical or anything like that) of an afterlife or of an “energy source” without having personally convincing evidence of a deity?

    I think, yes, why not? Most Buddhists don’t believe in a deity there are many belief systems that claim afterlife without a deity. I don’t see where it makes anymore or anyless sense that a supreme being has to be tied to it.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 9, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  50. What I don’t understand is your willingness to accept personal, subjective evidence of some kind of external force or energy, but you are not willing to accept my personal, subjective evidence of Heavenly Father.

    Does it really all boil down to creation myths?

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 10, 2009 @ 9:31 am

  51. Well, to be honest Thaddeus, the external force or energy (or, as coventryrm says, something that is “like” that…so he hasn’t even committed there) is a much less ambitious concept than a personal, anthropomorphic God of flesh and bones. This is pretty basic, in the same way that a deist construction of a god is radically different than the way most theists conceive of god

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 10, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  52. I can imagine when people started to challenge the Elders of their tribe regarding lightening and that maybe it wasn’t God’s anger and that perhaps sacrificing things of value to appease their God was a waste of resources, but still weren’t exactly sure what was causing the lightening but were interested in researching the phenomenon further, received a similar reaction from the hardcore believers

    After all the last time they made a sacrifice the lightening did eventually stop and many could share personal testimony to the truthfulness of that fact and lived in fear of what would happen if they stopped showing their God this favor. Some even had stories of the blessings and the abundance they had recieved from God for making such a sacrifice as afterwards their crops flourished after the lightening stopped.

    The oldest and wisest of the tribe would share the tale of the man that was actually struck by God’s hand many moons ago and came to such a frightful end, while he was standing on the hilltop cursing at God for making him sacrifice more of his precious resources and they would admonish the tribe to never forget this valuable lesson and to never question God as the consequences for doing so are great.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 10, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  53. LOL, You have a rich imagination, coventry.

    Comment by MCQ — July 10, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  54. LOL, it just comes naturally after all those years of reading scriptures and listening to talks and testimonies! Just modeled my little story after all of that! :)

    Comment by coventryrm — July 10, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  55. I used to think Southern Baptists were the most closed-minded people I ever met. Now I think atheists are. Congratulations!

    Comment by MCQ — July 10, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  56. This is what I find ironic is that, the tone of this thread, is that of, if these Atheists would just open their hearts and minds to what we have to say then they would obviously find God, anything other than that means that they are closed minded or have hardened hearts.

    Yet as an LDS you are taught that anything that could sway or cause you to question your faith is to be avoided and is the work of the adversary. How then can you truly say you have an open mind with that as a part of your culture and belief system?

    It is actually mind boggling that you would throw that at me, I am open to just about anything and am willing to study and check out and research anything put in front of me and is the reason I am no longer LDS. What piece of LDS information do you think I have not considered and tried to practice and apply in my life, been there done that, no thanks.

    I am just not sure how if you actually try and experience something and then go on to find something much better to want to put the lesser behind you and share your experience with others makes you closed minded.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 10, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  57. *facepalm*

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 10, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  58. Yet as an LDS you are taught that anything that could sway or cause you to question your faith is to be avoided and is the work of the adversary. How then can you truly say you have an open mind with that as a part of your culture and belief system?

    I have never been taught that, coventry and if I was, I would ignore it.

    What I’m talking about is the statements made on this thread rejecting any possibility of personal revelation. Sorry, but anyone who says that even seeing God would not suffice to change their mind about his existence is as closed-minded as it gets.

    Comment by MCQ — July 11, 2009 @ 1:51 am

  59. MCQ

    I have never been taught that, coventry and if I was, I would ignore it.

    Is that really an honest answer do I really need to go through conference talks, ensign articles, LDS publications and give you the many examples that this has been taught? I gave a talk in Elders quorum once straight out of the manual about what to and what NOT to read. But I am glad that you ignore such nonsense.

    “but anyone who says that even seeing God would not suffice to change their mind about his existence is as closed-minded as it gets”

    I think you misunderstood the point, one would have to consider that such a manifestation could have been a hallucination and look at all the evidence surrounding the event and consider all possible explanations. The problem with using personal experience void of anything else is it is still left to our own personal interpretation of meaning of that experience and it would be naïve and irresponsible to not realize that what we have been feeding our psyche could have a great influence or even manufacture such an event and how we interpret it.

    Again at some point we all have our levels of what we think is outrageous, I find it interesting when someone of faith will laugh at or discount something as outrageous or silly, I remember my son writing to me while on his mission about some crazy lady he met that claimed to see Mary in her toast. Is that really any less probable than JS needing to use a hat and seer stones to translate the BofM?

    Comment by coventryrm — July 11, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  60. …a much less ambitious concept than a personal, anthropomorphic God of flesh and bones.

    Well, yes. If I was inventing the concept in my head.

    I tend to believe the eyewitness testimony of people who have seen Him, though. You may not believe the testimony, but it seems reasonable to me to learn the most about Him from those who have met Him.

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 11, 2009 @ 9:39 am

  61. I gave a talk in Elders quorum once straight out of the manual about what to and what NOT to read. But I am glad that you ignore such nonsense.

    One doesn’t give talks in EQ, coventry, one gives lessons. I have been an EQ instructor off and on for about 15 years and I have never given a lesson on what NOT to read. Perhaps you could point me to the lesson you gave.

    But whether such an idiotic thing has ever been taught is hardly the point.

    one would have to consider that such a manifestation could have been a hallucination and look at all the evidence surrounding the event and consider all possible explanations. The problem with using personal experience void of anything else is it is still left to our own personal interpretation of meaning of that experience and it would be naïve and irresponsible to not realize that what we have been feeding our psyche could have a great influence or even manufacture such an event and how we interpret it.

    That is not what we’re talking about coventry. I have no problem considering all possible explanations. What I have a problem with is ruling out some possible explations ahead of time. That does not seem very open-minded to me. I can’t see how you can argue that it is.

    The statements I’m talking about are these (all made in this thread):

    I now believe there is a fine line between these experiences being a result of a desire to believe in a belief and manipulated sentimentality

    I reject the notion that emotion, or “revelation”, or visions are adequate proof.

    If a magic trick is convincing, then so it is. If reality is not, then so it is not.

    Among others. If you can’t trust your own personal experience and in fact have already decided beforehand that a spiritual witness is not sufficient evidence of anything then you have closed the door to any possibility of spiritual knowledge.

    Let me give you an example. Suppose you and many other people were sent to a country where everyone spoke only Russian but, unknown even to themselves, you and these others all had an inate ability to understand English. They could not possibly know they understood English until they heard it spoken. Suppose further that the person who sent you decreed that he would speak to you and the others and reveal important knowledge throughout your life, but only in English.

    Unfortunately, you and some of the other people decided that Russian was the only real language and that English was a foolish superstition that did not really exist, and even when you heard English you decided you were just imagining things. That would be a very unwise and closed-minded thing to do, would it not?

    Comment by MCQ — July 11, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  62. MCQ

    Thanks for the conversation, yes, I did mistakenly use the term “talk” instead of lesson but that does not change what I know was taught and spoken about in that class.

    In the Church Loss of Faith is taught to be feared and that the adversary is trying get you with his “fiery darts” words such as that and you will be destroyed etc are fairly common place among articles and talks given by the LDS leaders. I just don’t see how you can dispute that with any sort of integrity. If someone starts questioning their Faith they are counseled to stay away from controversial information and to focus only on faith promoting material.

    I do agree that in the example you give the people would be foolish.


    I now believe there is a fine line between these experiences being a result of a desire to believe in a belief and manipulated sentimentality”

    I don’t see how this statement can be grouped with the other two it is more consistent with the thought of I need to investigate and consider what caused and how to interpret each experience and this just happens to be my conclusion in regards to the things I experienced.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 11, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  63. Thaddeus

    I tend to believe the eyewitness testimony of people who have seen Him, though. You may not believe the testimony, but it seems reasonable to me to learn the most about Him from those who have met Him.

    Suppose I consider what you are saying, so why should I believe the Testimony of those that claim seeing the Christian God as opposed to those claiming witness to all the other Deities? I even found some historical documentation of reported visitations by Dragons and Green Deities what criteria should I use to discern between these Dragon Accounts and Joseph Smiths account?

    Comment by coventryrm — July 11, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  64. I think they are counseled to pray, coventry. You make it sound like there is a constant barrage of advice from the brethren about not reading certain things. That’s just not the case.

    Just as an illustration, I did a search on lds.org for all current lesson manuals using the term “fiery darts.” The search turned up four lessons. In each case, the lesson was about avoiding temptation and keeping the commandments. The “fiery darts” are temptations, which you avoid by putting on the armour of God, including prayer, attending church, etc. It has nothing to do with avoiding any particular reading material. A similar search in GC addresses turns up talks in the same vein.

    As to your last paragraph, I thought you were saying that you had concluded that all spiritual experiences were “manipulated sentimentality.” If that’s not what you were saying then I apologize for mischaracterizing you.

    Comment by MCQ — July 11, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  65. I use LDS Library 2006 and shows fiery darts used together 291 times throughout LDS publications Adversary 3679 times, I think there is an overriding message that it is bad to lose your faith, that is an understandable teaching what religion doesn’t teach that?

    However back to my original point regarding being open minded, being taught that losing your faith is such a horrible thing has to impact ones ability to truly be open to other options or belief systems don’t you think? I know once I started questioning I was pretty scared at first.

    I was not so focused on the directive of what or what not to read but certainly understand that I communicated it in that way. I hope this clears up my point.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 11, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  66. If a magic trick is convincing, then so it is. If reality is not, then so it is not.

    Among others. If you can’t trust your own personal experience and in fact have already decided beforehand that a spiritual witness is not sufficient evidence of anything then you have closed the door to any possibility of spiritual knowledge.

    Since you picked one of my quotations, I guess I should respond…

    You can trust your own personal experiences all you want; this is exactly what I’m saying. Everyone already is going to do this and everyone already does this. But even though I am amazed by a magic trick, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is real. This is all. I can still be amazed by it, and trust my personal experiences, though (which I might very well do because I enjoy a good magic show).

    The question then becomes…is what is truly real important? This is a sideshow question, as I’ve tried to state in this discussion many times. What is truly real may not be important anyway, because we don’t know it and we go by our subjective experiences anyway

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 11, 2009 @ 6:37 pm

  67. Well, yes. If I was inventing the concept in my head.

    I tend to believe the eyewitness testimony of people who have seen Him, though. You may not believe the testimony, but it seems reasonable to me to learn the most about Him from those who have met Him.

    People have been eyewitnesses to a lot of things. A lot of things which are hopelessly contradictory. I simply reserve the right to note that there are faulty narrators and I should take this into account…even if I may too be a faulty narrator, at least that’s *me* and that’s *my life*.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 11, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  68. Andrew, that’s fine. “Who to believe” is a fundamental question we each decide for ourselves. In discussing it with you and coventryrm, I’m becoming less frantic in insisting you believe the same as me.

    what criteria should I use to discern between these Dragon Accounts and Joseph Smiths account?

    I find it helpful to discern using that same “energy source” that you brought up. I just call it the Holy Ghost, and I’ve found I can tap into it through prayer. To each his own, though.

    Comment by Thaddeus — July 11, 2009 @ 7:10 pm

  69. Similarly, I’m not telling anyone to believe or not to believe, and that has never been my point. My point, however, has been to show that people will be inclined to believe different things because they have different and contradictory experiences, and from this, we have to take things with a grain of salt. Certainly, for every individual, his own belief and his own feelings will be enough, but I should hope that he should be humble enough to consider — even for a second or even if he concludes it is not so — that it might be a personal feeling that cannot be extrapolated to others. I think if people could do this and allow others the same privilege, things might not always be so jumpy.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 11, 2009 @ 8:36 pm

  70. it might be a personal feeling that cannot be extrapolated to others.

    My point was that personal feelings can never be extrapolated to others. Each person has to find out for him or herself. I was only alarmed at the prospect that some would cut off the only means to find out before they ever took the opportunity to do so.

    Comment by MCQ — July 11, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  71. I know once I started questioning I was pretty scared at first.

    See, I wasn’t really all that scared when I started questioning. And yes, I did go through a questioning period about the LDS Church, and I still am. I don’t take things for granted like I used to.

    But when I started questioning Mormonism, I already knew that whatever the result, I wouldn’t be leaving my Church participation. I’d still go to church, I’d still participate. No matter whether I found out the LDS claims to ongoing revelation where true or not. I knew I’d be staying.

    I told my bishop this same thing. I told him “the question isn’t whether I’ll stay a Mormon or not – the question is what kind of Mormon I’m going to be.”

    With that question settled, I was able to wade into questions of Joseph Smith’s supernatural claims, character flaws, and the whole works without the same sort of emotional feelings of panic that others seem to.

    I always knew who I was throughout my process of questioning.

    I was a Mormon – no matter whether Joseph Smith was a charlatan or not.

    Nice to know who you are. It keeps other things in perspective.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 12, 2009 @ 1:07 am

  72. Seth

    I can’t say I disagree that having a solid sense of self is a great thing and is helpful in our emotional and mental growth, I find great peace in knowing that mine is no longer dependent on something such as “I am a Mormon” or even “I am an Atheist”

    It does make perfect sense that part of my anxiety, fears in discovering my truth about Mormonism is that during that time of my life my sense of self was greatly tied into it. I had just never put it into such succinct terms.

    It also helps me understand a little better the dynamic of the debates and conversations that happen on these blogs.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 12, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  73. I was a Mormon – no matter whether Joseph Smith was a charlatan or not.

    Pardon me, Seth, but I think that’s idiotic.

    Comment by MCQ — July 12, 2009 @ 11:00 am

  74. My point was that personal feelings can never be extrapolated to others. Each person has to find out for him or herself. I was only alarmed at the prospect that some would cut off the only means to find out before they ever took the opportunity to do so.

    Well, I may be saying something different than coventryrm, but I’m not saying that people should “cut off the only means to find out before they ever take the opportunity to do so.”

    As for what Seth has said, I understand strongly about the sense of being a Mormon — no matter what — but still, I interpret it differently. I think, I am a Mormon — no matter whether Joseph Smith was a charlatan or not. But I do not think,

    whatever the result, I wouldn’t be leaving my Church participation. I’d still go to church, I’d still participate. No matter whether I found out the LDS claims to ongoing revelation where true or not. I knew I’d be staying.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 12, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  75. Why is it idiotic MCQ?

    Comment by Seth R. — July 12, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  76. Basically, if you lost faith in the LDS Church – you think there’s somewhere better for you to be?

    Comment by Seth R. — July 12, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  77. Wait, is someone seriously using the argument that because it’s neurons it can’t be communication with God (#46)? How else would God communicate with us than through those physical things that make up and determine our thoughts and emotions? How is God SUPPOSED to communicate, if not through millions of neurons interacting?

    Comment by Rusty — July 12, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  78. Seth, I’m just saying that if you discover that your church is based on fraud it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense for you to continue to participate in it and perpetuate that fraud by passing it along to your children.

    I think the Church does have some benefits apart from its being the Kingdom of God, but to me, any such benefits would be far outweighed by the negatives if it were not the true Church of Jesus Christ.

    I certainly don’t expect that you will discover that the Church is a fraud, especially if you ask God about your questions, and I hope and expect that your faith in the gospel will increase from this experience, rather than the reverse, but if you came to the conclusion that the Church’s claims were completely false, it seems to me that the thing to do would be to leave and go spend your time on an institution you could believe in.

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 9:29 am

  79. MCQ,
    I totally get what Seth is saying and largely agree with him. I don’t know of any other institution that could have had a more positive impact on my and my loved ones’ lives than the Mormon Church. Even without the truth claims it is a wonderful institution that promotes love, forgiveness, kindness, sacrifice for the greater good, choice, self-improvement, etc. If I stopped believing that the priesthood was from God, I’d still feel that whatever voodoo magic the Mormons were using was still a good thing from which many positive benefits come. So I’d have to sit through a few testimonies of people saying they KNOW the Church is true (when I KNOW that they don’t know) and an occasional lesson on following the Prophet (who obviously knows his own fraud). Not much of a sacrifice. Like Seth says, what’s the better alternative? Crippling relationships with all my loved ones so I can find spirituality or enlightenment by focusing on myself. No thanks.

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  80. Crippling relationships with all my loved ones so I can find spirituality or enlightenment by focusing on myself.

    The fact that this would be the result of you pursuing your heart and path, and focusing on yourself which may actually make you better at loving and accepting others, should tell you something about just how untrue this statement is

    it is a wonderful institution that promotes love, forgiveness, kindness, sacrifice for the greater good, choice, self-improvement, etc.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 13, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  81. Coventry,
    I don’t understand what you are saying. Please clarify. (you quoted me twice with your comment in between but I don’t know what exactly you are referring to.

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 10:28 am

  82. is someone seriously using the argument that because it’s neurons it can’t be communication with God

    I don’t think the point was it “can’t” I think the point is more that since we know that everything we perceive real or otherwise is done through this process and knowing how these neurons can be manipulated it is really a very poor criteria for recognizing truth especially when there is sufficient lack of other evidence and or physical evidence that runs contrary. We should be very skeptical of these experiences especially when they run counter to what we already know to be true if not discount them all together.

    An extreme example would be the Mother that recently killed her children because God told her do so, something that I am sure all you think is horrific. Yet you have no problem with Nephi murdering a defenseless passed out drunk or Abraham willing to murder his son. The only difference is you actually believe that God actually did speak to the latter two.

    On a less extreme example I can follow the advice of one of the LDS Prophets in regards to Mormonism and know that it runs counter to what we know to be true.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 1:, p.143

    “IF EVOLUTION IS TRUE, THE CHURCH IS FALSE. If life began on the earth, as advocated by Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel (who has been caught openhanded perpetrating a fraud), and others of this school, whether by chance or by some designing hand, then the doctrines of the Church are false. Then there was no Garden of Eden, no Adam and Eve, and no fall. If there was no fall; if death did not come into the world as the scriptures declared that it did-and to be consistent, if you are an evolutionist, this view you must assume-then there was no need for a redemption, and Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, and he did not die for the transgression of Adam, nor for the sins of the world. Then there has been no resurrection from the dead! Consistently, logically, there is no other view, no alternative that can be taken. Now, my brethren and sisters, are you prepared to take this view?”

    For me it is actually quite that simple, The Prophet laid down the gauntlet the church published it. I believe him.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 13, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  83. Rusty if the first quote is what happens if you leave the church then it tells me that the second quote is not what actually happens in reality.

    IE you leave the church and it cripples your relationships it seems the two concepts are not consistent.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 13, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  84. Maybe I’m just being a typical evangelical here, but can I ask where Christ’s resurrection factors into this “if Joseph Smith were a fraud” scenario? If you stopped believing in Joseph Smith, would you automatically stop believing in that? (1 Cor. 15:14)

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — July 13, 2009 @ 10:45 am

  85. Rusty, what’s wrong with the proof given to Korihor?

    Comment by john f. — July 13, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  86. Jack, if you can undermine Mormonism with me, the other religions – including faith in Jesus – aren’t going to be looking too good with me either.

    MCQ wrote:

    Seth, I’m just saying that if you discover that your church is based on fraud it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense for you to continue to participate in it and perpetuate that fraud by passing it along to your children.

    Even if you discover fraudulent aspect of Mormonism, Mormonism will always be more than a “mere fraud.” There’s more to the package deal than whether Joseph Smith was a lying pedophile or not.

    To use an inaccurate term – Mormonism is an ethnicity for me as well as a religion. I’m not going to chuck my ethnic identity just because Thomas S. Monson turns out to be the Wizard of Oz.

    As for concerns about living a lie…

    Everyone on the planet lives a lie. It’s an inescapable fact of human existence. No one lives completely true to themselves or anyone else.

    So, “being true to yourself” always seemed to me like an incredibly stupid reason for causing a rift in your family or community.

    So you don’t like living a lie? Tough beans. I imagine we don’t like it when it rains on us in the Albertsons parking lot either. But we manage to deal anyway. That’s life.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  87. I think that’s an incredibly cynical view of life, Seth. I largely agree with Coventry on this one. If you truly believe that the Church was founded on a lie, the only honest thing to do is leave, and tell your family, as honestly as possible, why you are leaving.

    Jack, I agree with you too. If I stopped believing in Joseph Smith as a prophet, that change of belief would not touch the fact that Christ is my Savior and the Redeemer of the world. My testimony of Christ is in no way whatsoever dependent on Joseph Smith.

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  88. Why should leaving the church cause a rift in your family or community, or as Rusty said, “cripple relationships with all my loved ones so I can find spirituality or enlightenment by focusing on myself” if, as Rusty also said, the church “promotes love, forgiveness, kindness, sacrifice for the greater good, choice, self-improvement,”…?

    I think the answer herein, however ugly it may be, is why others in the topic are saying that the negatives if the church were found to be fraudulent would outweigh the positives…

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  89. Seth, it sounds like you’ve seen Memento one too many times. And I don’t like to be judgmental, but if your faith in Jesus Christ is completely dependent on your faith in Mormonism, then I’m not sure you really have faith in Jesus Christ to begin with. Sorry if I’m being an ass for saying that.

    I can understand what you’re saying about continuing to participate in the LDS religion even if you lost faith, especially if your spouse didn’t share in your loss of faith. That’s just the way Mormon culture works. I do think it would be a little sad to set the children down the path of a religion that Dad quietly doesn’t believe in without some explanation of your doubts.

    MCQ, glad to hear it.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — July 13, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  90. I actually have seen this type of drama play out in real life. I may have mentioned before that I have a friend and neighbor who has left the Church, much to the dismay of his wife. They have 6 kids ages 3-17 and their Dad told them that he will not be attending Church anymore because he doesn’t believe it is the true church (for a variety of reasons relating mostly to Joseph Smith).

    He said that he would support them in whatever decision they made, and that Mom would continue to attend Church as her beliefs had not changed. This family continues to stay together and support each other and so far, all the kids have remained active in the Church. I know this man personally and he is a great guy and I respect his choice, even though I don’t agree with his conclusions about Joseph.

    I don’t think I could say the same thing if he chose to remain active despite a lack of belief. He was a Sunday School teacher before he left and he taught one of my kids. My son said he never talked about any Church subjects and just made the class a fun discussion time on any subject they wanted to discuss. That’s not an honest way to approach a calling or Church membership.

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 11:45 am

  91. Don’t get me wrong. I do actually believe in Mormon claims.

    But this whole authenticity thing is waaay overblown. Life isn’t perfect. Nor are ANY of our affiliations. So living with stuff that is less that true is just a reality that grown-ups need to deal with.

    My testimony in Jesus is not dependent on Joseph either.

    But if you can prove Joseph Smith a fraud, what’s stopping you from asking the same questions about Paul?

    I think Christians who claim their faith claims are built on a more solid foundation than Mormonism’s claims are frankly – full of baloney. If you can nail the Book of Mormon, you can nail the Bible.

    Hard to say where I’d end up after leaving Mormonism, but it sure as hell ain’t traditional Christianity. I think I’d go Jewish before jumping into that theological mess.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

  92. No one is saying the Church is perfect, Seth, nor that you can prove Joseph or Paul to be a fraud (you can’t, just as you can’t prove that either one are prophets of Christ).

    What I took issue with is that you said that you wouldn’t leave the Church, and would continue to participate in some fashion even if you had concluded for yourself that it was false. Now you appear to be saying that you would leave, but you would just go to a non-Christian religion. Which is it?

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

  93. Seth, I’m well aware that some of the arguments that can be used against Mormonism can just as easily be turned on traditional Christianity and the Bible, but still, the possibility exists that the resurrection can be true while Joseph Smith’s claims are not. I can’t see why a Mormon wouldn’t seek to have a testimony of both subjects independently.

    I’m somewhat confused at your reason for preferring Judaism to traditional Christianity. I suppose Judaism is less of a theological mess, but between Orthodox, Reformed, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Humanistic and Hasidic Judaism, they’re still quite the mess of their own. And then there’s always those pesky Messianic Jews fighting for acceptance in the Jewish community…

    MCQ, I know someone who was perfectly honest with her bishop about her doubts in the church and the bishop still appointed her as a counselor in the Relief Society at her ward. I don’t think there should be a problem with doubting members participating in church, but if members are concerned about doubters being placed in local leadership, perhaps bishops and SPs need to be directed otherwise on appointing them. Maybe your friend the SS teacher was dishonest about his doubts, or maybe the bishop just didn’t care.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — July 13, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  94. What’s stopping me from participating in the LDS Church even if I think it’s false?

    The only reason I didn’t buy a World of Warcraft account way back when was that I didn’t have a computer capable of running it, and was too poor to get one. I would have probably signed up – even though I understand that it’s both untrue, and rather ridiculous (and possibly even harmful).

    Obviously, I feel that the benefits of being a part of the club outweigh the negatives – even if Brigham Young was just an apostate opportunist.

    As to whether I’d leave – you’ll note I said “IF” I were to leave. Never said I’d prefer to rather than stay.

    As for my kids – I’ll have adult conversations with them when they are ready to have adult conversations.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  95. viewing religion on the same level as a MMO.

    excellent.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  96. Oh no you didn’t, Seth. Say my religion ranks below Judaism in your book all you want, but I won’t tolerate this blasphemy against World of Warcraft.

    You take that back.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — July 13, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  97. Which part?

    The part where I said it was make-believe?

    For the record, I think it would be awesome to run a troll shaman and name him Parley Pratt.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  98. The Prophet laid down the gauntlet the church published it. I believe him.

    Very nice Coventry, pulling a quote from 100 years ago that is dismissed even by Church leadership, to prove our fraud. You got us, man. There’s no response to your airtight logic. I guess your work is done here.

    And I don’t like to be judgmental, but if your faith in Jesus Christ is completely dependent on your faith in Mormonism, then I’m not sure you really have faith in Jesus Christ to begin with. Sorry if I’m being an ass for saying that.

    Jack, come now, you’re among friends. We all know you like to be judgmental. It’s not “faith in Mormonism” so much as it’s “faith in Jesus Christ according to my Mormon understanding.” Mormonism actually clarifies many of my problems with Christianity and its understanding of Christ. Without the Mormon perspective on Christ and His resurrection, it would make much, much less sense to me and give me much less of a reason to believe it.

    And do you mean to say “sorry if you perceive me to be an ass for saying that” or “sorry that I’m being an ass for saying that.”? If it’s the first one, remember that you can’t be sorry for someone else’s actions. If it’s the second one, I forgive you.

    John F, that’s a pretty good proof, but I’m not the guy to ask. Ask an atheist why it’s no good.

    Why should leaving the church cause a rift in your family or community

    Andrew S., just because the Church promotes love, forgiveness, etc. doesn’t mean people would be immune to a loved one leaving their (as Seth put it) ethnic community. The Church is the best hospital in town, but that doesn’t mean everyone being treated there has been healed. Why do you insist that they must be mutually exclusive?

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 1:54 pm

  99. pulling a quote from 100 years ago that is dismissed even by Church leadership

    Someone might want to tell that to the Mormon senator from AZ . :)

    Comment by coventryrm — July 13, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  100. Andrew S., just because the Church promotes love, forgiveness, etc. doesn’t mean people would be immune to a loved one leaving their (as Seth put it) ethnic community. The Church is the best hospital in town, but that doesn’t mean everyone being treated there has been healed. Why do you insist that they must be mutually exclusive?

    If the church is the best hospital in town, but everyone hasn’t been treated (or indeed, the vast majority haven’t been treated, since we intuit that our families and friends within the church would abandon us), then why should we give deference to this kind of medicine? If I may try to interpret your analogy, you like religions to hospitals, and Mormonism is the best. But if Mormonism is found to be fraudulent (just hypothetically), should we really stick with the fraud instead of trying to build a better hospital based on proven medicine or at the very least recognizing that our current medicine is not sound?

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  101. liken*, not like.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  102. Seth ~ I’m surprised you wouldn’t roll a troll priest and name him Aaronshaf.

    Rusty ~ No, I am not judgmental (or I try not to be), yes I am an ass (and rarely try to be otherwise).

    As far as my point on the resurrection goes, here’s how I see it. Let’s take two historical events which I accept as an evangelical Christian: the resurrection of Christ and the parting of the Red Sea. Let’s say someone proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the resurrection didn’t happen.

    Now I don’t doubt that this would drastically change my conception of God to the point that it would be harder for me to accept the parting of the Red Sea. But I wouldn’t automatically throw it out. Any religious system which denies the resurrection of Christ while still allowing for the parting of the Red Sea would at least get a fair shake from me, including (but not limited to) Judaism.

    I can accept that a loss of faith in Mormonism would give you less reason to believe in the resurrection, but I don’t think it should be automatically thrown out. It should get an evaluation of its own.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — July 13, 2009 @ 2:58 pm

  103. Coventry, I’m with you on that.

    Andrew, I’m sincerely interested in what you believe to be “proven medicine” when referring to the institutions and/or teachings that help us become better people. It sounds like you know of some scientifically-proven teachings/methods that aren’t utilized by the Mormon Church and I’d like to know what they are.

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  104. In my case, things happened in Stages; first I left Mormonism but still considered myself a Christian but was not interested in finding a new church or religion. I did attend a few new age churches and a couple of Unitarian meetings out of curiosity more than anything else the idea of organized religion was a pretty big turn off.

    I have always been an avid reader but I made a decision several years ago to only read non-fiction and mainly read about science and religious history and slowly I have come to where I am now, it wasn’t sudden I didn’t automatically throw out all my Christian beliefs just because I was no longer a Mormon.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 13, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  105. I can accept that a loss of faith in Mormonism would give you less reason to believe in the resurrection, but I don’t think it should be automatically thrown out. It should get an evaluation of its own.

    I completely agree. And it’s something that I’ve already tried to do (considering Christianity without the Mormon Patch™) and I’ve concluded that it doesn’t make as much sense to me. But it’s one thing to hypothetically engage that question and another thing entirely to actually face it in the real loss of faith. So I don’t know what I’d really do.

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 3:16 pm

  106. I agree Andrew, there’s no reason to check into a hospital if you believe the doctors there have no real healing power.

    Yet you have no problem with Nephi murdering a defenseless passed out drunk or Abraham willing to murder his son. The only difference is you actually believe that God actually did speak to the latter two.

    This sounds awfully familiar, coventry. I think we’ve talked about this before, too. But come on, you don’t believe Nephi or Abraham are real people, so how can you take issue with their stories? Now if Mormons had been killing their children as a result of believing in those stories, you might have a reason to object, but that ain’t happening.

    If your objection is that the stories create a picture of God that you find morally objectionable, I can sympathize. Many members of the Church (and others) have problems with these stories and other worse ones where God appears to authorize murder or other apparent misbehavior.

    Heck, those two exmples are tame compared to other parts of the OT, which is basically advocating genocide. For myself, I’m not sure we have the whole story on these incidents.

    But the bottom line is: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. In other words, you can’t judge God by man’s standards. I know that’s difficult for a rational mind like yours to accept, but there it is. He’s not one of us, and he’s not bound by precisely the same rules.

    These stories and others still trouble me, too. For example, I have a real problem with the story of Uzza, the poor guy who was killed by God for steadying the ark. That seems ridiculous to me. However, part of faith is knowing that we don’t understand everything, but also knowing that we will believe anyway, because of the things we do understand.

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

  107. I know someone who was perfectly honest with her bishop about her doubts in the church and the bishop still appointed her as a counselor in the Relief Society at her ward. I don’t think there should be a problem with doubting members participating in church, but if members are concerned about doubters being placed in local leadership, perhaps bishops and SPs need to be directed otherwise on appointing them. Maybe your friend the SS teacher was dishonest about his doubts, or maybe the bishop just didn’t care.

    Apples and oranges, Jack. Members with doubts are welcomed in all callings, according to my understanding. Those who have reached a positive conclusion that the Church’s claims about its founding or nature are false are in a completely different category. That may be a fine line in some cases, but it is an important one.

    Comment by MCQ — July 13, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  108. re 103:

    Rusty, I’m a nihilist and existentialist. If institutions aren’t doing what they should be doing, it seems reasonable to me to ditch the institution and all the other institutions as well. It seems apparent that the institutions each are flawed, so I’m not going to revere any of them as more than what they are — flawed. So I’m wondering why you would say, “If institutions aren’t doing what they should be doing, I will stick with this institution because it’s better than the rest of the other institutions (which similarly are not doing what they say they will do).”

    At this time I’m not putting science against religion, or anything of that sort. I am putting the veneration of institutions against the skepticism of institutions.

    If I could ask a question, it would be, “Why do you need an institution, even if it MIGHT be the case that you’re choosing between several institutions which are just varying degrees of incorrectness?”

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 3:45 pm

  109. If institutions aren’t doing what they should be doing, it seems reasonable to me to ditch the institution and all the other institutions as well.

    Really? Have you ditched the institution of America? Or of capitalism? Or of nihilism? Or of the family? Or of blogging? Or any other institution out there that you belong to? I’m struggling to understand the difference between the flawed Mormon institution (and why I should abandon it) and the flawed family institution (and why you presumably shouldn’t abandon it). Your point makes little sense if you apply it to any institution that you, Andrew, have chosen to belong to.

    Comment by Rusty — July 13, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  110. Rusty,

    Do you revere any of these institutions as you do the church? For example, if I use Google, does that mean I worship google? If I blog, does that mean I feel blogging is the best institution available? I most certainly *do not*.

    Somehow, we see religion as something greater than, say, a corporation. We see it as something that is True, something that we stick to through thick and thin.

    Note that I say I am nihilist *and* existentialist. This should make the point seem clear. If we are looking for objective meaning, then the point will make little sense. But if I say, through *subjective* valuation I participate in certain things and institutions, this is more precise.

    But this subjective valuation is not saying, “This is better than the rest.” That is still an objective valuation, because with that you’re still trying to rank them through some universal, objective measuring stick.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  111. *not to say you worship the church in that analogy

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  112. All the more reason to stay when you no longer accept the LDS Church’s faith claims. Since you’re not as invested in reverencing it, the cost of staying isn’t as high.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  113. Seth, this would be true if the church weren’t full of people who worship and act as if investment in revering the church is a very important thing to do. Which is why even the appearance of apostasy in today’s wards can lead to you being shunned.

    In fact, part of the reason we’ve gone on this track of conversation is because each of us knows that the cost of staying in the church is high regardless of its truth factor — because it is not just a religion, it is a *culture* or *tribe*. You don’t just leave an ethnicity, or else you leave your family, your upbringing, everything you knew and loved behind.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 13, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

  114. [...] over at Nine Moons, there was some discussion of what a person might do if he found out Joseph Smith was a fraud. I think a similar question for [...]

    Pingback by ClobberBlog » If the resurrection didn’t happen — July 13, 2009 @ 8:53 pm

  115. Well, it was a fun idea to kick around. But you’re probably right that it doesn’t work.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 13, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  116. It would be better if it did, so perhaps the church should try to move to an ideal like that

    Comment by Andrew S — July 13, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  117. Rusty, what I like about the proof given to Korihor is that for him it was unmistakeable. An atheist demands proof and so he is struck dumb. It was pretty irrefutable. I guess, though, that even that wasn’t enough because it was determined that the curse shouldn’t be lifted from him because he would still continue with his ardent atheism.

    In short, perhaps no proof will ever be sufficient for this purpose.

    Comment by john f. — July 14, 2009 @ 3:40 am

  118. “believe in god or you will be struck dumb.”

    That’s a god I can believe in!

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 14, 2009 @ 5:34 am

  119. Glad to hear it Andrew!

    Comment by MCQ — July 14, 2009 @ 10:03 am

  120. Not good enough for me.

    The mere fact that a being has magic powers doesn’t automatically make him worship-worthy in my mind.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 14, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  121. My tag must not have gone through. Alma’s arguments against Korihor are shockingly poor (e.g., what proof do you have that God *doesn’t* exist? [Alma 30:40], aren’t you AFRAID of God, why tempt him? Argument from design, Argument from popularity, argument from authority [Alma 30:44]), but even the song-and-dance show to make it legitimate (oh, so Korihor gets his in the end, as presumably all heathen nonbeliever anti-Christs will, with a dazzling sign from God of muteness) is just offensive.

    Also, according to Alma, all atheists are really theists deep down inside who are just under the devil’s power.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 14, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  122. lol, my sarcasm tag again failed.

    Comment by Andrew S. — July 14, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  123. Being struck dumb would convince me if it came as a direct result of such a challenge, or even seeing one of you move a mountain with your faith.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 15, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

  124. I’m hoping it won’t come to that coventry, but hey, whatever you need!

    Comment by MCQ — July 18, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  125. well like I said a long time ago, if someone could move MT Bachelor a little closer to Portland it would save me some driving time. I would very much appreciate it. :)

    Comment by coventryrm — July 18, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  126. I believe the one thing that would prove to an Atheist is having to explain to God why the atheist survived his own birth and denied all the proof that is before us on a daily basis that science says” it is because it is.” Kind of hard to look God in the face and call him a deception. Just an Angel placed on earth to be a sticker in the side of none believers. IMHO

    Comment by Achick — July 21, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  127. Spirituality

    Many comments back in this thread I was questioned on how could an Atheist believe in Spirituality.

    My son just recently started working for an organization called Telos in Orem Utah that is a treatment center for at risk teens. I was looking over their website and I thought the way they defined Spirituality hit the nail on the head for me and thought I would share.

    “Spirituality: We believe spirituality is a person’s ability to connect to a purpose greater than oneself. It allows one to understand and live principles of goodness. It also allows the mind and spirit control physical and emotional impulses. Spirituality is an essential component in the development of individual worth and moral reasoning.”

    I was telling my Son how I liked this definition and that I had run into resistance from people of faith saying that it didn’t make sense for an Atheist to claim spirituality, he responded with the following comment.

    “so when you are talking to reactionary Christians like me, use the word humanist and we’ll think of the Renaissance instead of Lenin”

    Just thought I would share.

    Comment by coventryrm — July 24, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

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