Friday, December 18, 2009

The God of Endorphins


When I first began questioning the church, and making thoughtful decisions about leaving, I had so many people talk to me about the spirit. The Mormon church places great emphasis on the reliability of the Spiritual witness to the veracity of everything related to it. The Church asks members to accept the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's Visions, etc, etc on Spiritual Witnesses.

I love this entry because it addresses the other possible sources to Spiritual Witnesses. Frankly, when you stop looking for the supernatural, or magic in everything, then you begin to be able to look for reasonable answers to life. When you are able to look for reasonable answers, then you begin to see things in a different light. You begin to see how those who want to make you believe 'anything' would use your emotions to their advantage.

It should be a huge clue to us that the professional scam artists that call up your aging mother/grandmother to ask her for money use emotional tricks almost exclusively in their strategies to part her from her cash.

Emotions are definitely real, but they just aren't reliable identifiers of the truth or the future.

Thanks for your story!

in reference to:

"I was naive to believe that religion is the relationship between man and god. It appears to be the relation between man and his own endorphins."
- My pestering prayers don't work like Joseph's | Post-Mormon Scrapbook (view on Google Sidewiki)

Spanky's closed down?


After my wonderful experience at Spanky's following my 7 year old daughter's driver's ed course, I fell in love with Spanky's. So did she. Their environment was comfortable, clean and friendly, and their food tastes great.

I was really sad though that for her birthday, they were unexpectedly closed. I visited yesterday in hopes for delicious lunch. Again they were closed. Called today too. But they appear to be closed.

What is going on Spanky's? I am in need of your Fresh Delicious Guacamole Burger!

in reference to: SPANKY'S EXPRESS (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CALM Casino Night


Can you think of a better way to promote the CALM community than to play the night away with friends and help pay for advertising to help so many more of us in the community who might feel there is nowhere else to go?

in reference to: Facebook | CALM Casino Night (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Resignation Accepted



Many of you may recall my post from May: resign Today, my confirmation letter arrived. I'm not sure why it took so long, but I did go through quite a while waiting. Finally, two weeks ago, my family and I crafted a letter together. We all signed it and sent it in via certified mail. Two weeks later, I received this notice from Gregory W. Dodge, Manager, Member and Statistical Records:

Brent Fisher
1234 Church Street
Highland, Utah

Dear Brother Fisher:

This letter is to notify you that, in accorance with your request, your name has been removed from the membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Should you desire to become a member of the Church in the future, the local bishop or branch president in your area will be happy to help you.

Sincerely,


Gregory W. Dodge

Manager, Member and Statistical Records
Sometimes it seems like forever ago, and yet my thoughts are about religion, mormonism and philosophy nearly every day.

Somehow I've got to figure out this new life of mine. What traditions do ex mormons adopt? Its a difficult road, not knowing all of the answers.

Since I do press for honesty here though, I must admit, that I'm learning quite a bit. I'm learning that I wish that I knew more what to do with my kids on Sundays. So far, I just sleep in late, and hang out with them as much as possible on Sundays. For now, that seems to be enough.

If God didn't create us...


My friend Mike just sent me this brilliant look at the Sumerians and their probable confusion at the Judeo Christian God running through the creation of the world while they were on it.

It makes me wonder so much. I get so many bewildered stares and sorrowful looks from those close to me when they discover that I think that God probably doesn't exist.

They think it is so sad. Many of them argue that I'll probably become a 'bad' person. If you read part of my blog, you'll see that some have even put forth the argument that I am the most unfriendly neighbor they know. While that may be true from his stand point, the truth is that I just don't sell out my friendship cheap. But that's a different story.

My point is, what if it were suddenly discovered and completely believed and understood beyond any measure that God didn't exist. At that point, each of those sorrowful people would have a very important decision to make. Having the understand that God doesn't exist, do you choose to act differently? Do you choose now to become less generous? Would you choose to remove charity and kindness to others from your character attributes?

If your answer is no, you can now understand why I can still maintain my good character, even though I believe God probably doesn't exist.

in reference to: Sumerians Look On In Confusion As Christian God Creates World | The Onion - America's Finest News Source (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Age of Reason



Today is the birthday of my only daughter Shea. Eight years ago, she came into this world, smiling and bringing me all sorts of joy and interesting experiences nearly everyday.

In coordination with her birthday, I ran across this quote recently from one of my unmet friends on Facebook named Donald Pulsipher. http://www.facebook.com/donald.pulsipher?ref=nf.

If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world. Christopher Hitchens.

I hadn't heard this quote before. I had to stop and ponder it though. How different would our children and grown ups develop if religion weren't instilled into them from such an early age as a given.

As a former Mormon, I can remember very well many of the doctrines concerning the age of 'accountability'. Paradoxically, the LDS Faith asserts in D&C 68:25 that those accountable adults that aren't able to convince their children to be baptized by the age of accountability, the age of eight for you outsiders, will have 'the' sin upon their heads.

The contrast between the two kind of punches me in the face. Which method should a loving parent use?
On the one hand, you are threatened with Godly sin upon your head if you don't get your child baptized. Pretty heavy. Pretty tough punishment for attempting to teach your child to think for themselves (if possible).

On the other hand, you could fit your child getting baptized to ensure they received that saving ordinance.

I read this, and I think we should consider this for ourselves. What if we had never heard of the religion we are currently in. Would we be able to accept it? Or would reason take over? Would superstition rule our lives and thought processes? Or would we decide to investigate and demand proof from those who would ask for our time, money, mentality, etc, etc.

Happy Birthday Shea. I hope that my biggest birthday gift to you today (besides Monsters and Aliens, and dinner at Spanky's) can be your freedom to consider and build your own truth from reason, experience and the beauty in the world and all people around you. Love, Dad.

in reference to:

"If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world. Christopher Hitchens."
- The Atheist Missionary: My 10 favorite atheist quotes (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Ponzi Scheme that stole my house in Highland

Some of you may have read earlier in my blog http://www.fishtells.com/2008/04/lure.html concerning the investments that went sour for me. Well, this is where my money ended up finally. Misused and abused by Mr. Rick Koerber. I'm glad he is being indicted and prevented from scamming even more people.

in reference to: Rick Koerber pleads not guilty to new criminal charges (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book of Mormon Authorship

If you haven't explored it yet, Craig Criddle's theory on the Book of Mormon Authorship bears investigation. This compilation is the clearest I've seen so far.

in reference to: 2009 Craig Criddle Video Clips (view on Google Sidewiki)

Seems pretty cool.

I think I like this Side Wiki. Now, if it would only let me highlight stuff for context, etc, I would love that.

in reference to: Google Sidewiki (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Humanist Faith vs. Religious Faith

The enemy of Humanism is not Faith. The enemy of Humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance...

Faith in God is believing in something absolutely without proof of it whatsoever. Faith in Humanity means believing in something absolutely with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the True Believers...


Joss Whedon --- The Harvard Humanism Chaplaincy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Free Thinkers Fathers and Sons Camp Out


I recently came upon a very interesting idea here. A summer camp for free thinkers. What a concept. I'm constantly asking myself, "Should I go to 'Priesthood Commemoration Campout' with the ward next weekend? Or as it used to be called, Fathers and Sons outing? I love going out the camp ground, to nature, and I love seeing Logan and Hayden playing with all of the neighborhood kids, but I hate the part where they start praising the Priesthood, and even worse when they begin to pull out all of the praise for Joseph Smith. I just want to shrink back into my tent.

How many of you would be interested in a Free Thinkers Fathers and Sons camp out? There will be no praising the man, but maybe some excellent stories around the campfire about Charles Darwin, Galileo, David Hume and do fun exercises on thinking. What do you all think? Anybody interested?

Or how about our own summer camp for free thinkers. No longer should non-mormons feel left out in Utah County, we could have our own free thinking summer camp for kids. We could invite thought provoking activities, along with fun camping games. It sounds so fun, is anyone interested? I mean, if I were to organize something simple like that, who would be interested in coming? Drop me a line, or place a comment here.

What to Expect at the Utah County CALM Chapter Meetings

Lately, I've had several people ask me what the CALM meeting is like. Let me give you the details here.

Who:
Dennis Borg and I co-chair the CALM meetings.

When & Where
We alternate hosting the meeting at our homes on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. E.g. the next CALM meeting is Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 7:00 at Dennis' home in Orem. The following meeting will be at my home Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7:00 at my home. RSVP to bc.fisher@yahoo.com or Dennis at db0942@gmail.com to get the address and help us get an idea of who is coming. (Dennis isn't always able to respond in the same week because of his work schedule, so you may want to send email to us both to get a response back quickly.

Meeting Format:

7:00 - 8:00
Generally, there are about 20 people. We are a new group, so we spend a considerable amount of time introducing ourselves by sharing stories and experiences.

8:00 - 9:00
Then we may discuss a relevant topic, such as how to still interact with our still believing family & friends.

9:00 - ?
After that, there are generally some refreshments to be eaten, and smaller groups will break off for a bit, then we go home.

What to expect:
Its very therapeutic. Everyone I've met so far is very nice & open, and generally fairly educated about the history of the church. We don't generally sit around and bash anyone. Generally, we are a respectful bunch of folks willing to discuss things openly. Not much like an Elder's Quorum meeting or Relief Society Meeting at all. I promise that you won't go to sleep.

All meetings are confidential. We ask all attendees to keep what is said in the meetings, at the meetings and to themselves. We respect each other's privacy. We don't publish names or pictures of the event, nor do we write any specifics about what has transpired, to encourage open discussion and healing.

You will probably come away feeling better about yourself, confident in your path, and even feel content about not knowing everything anymore.

I look forward to seeing you!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Skooby Doo and the Holy Ghost


"Zoinks!" says Shaggy, "Like, let's get out of here Skooob!" after hearing about another ghost of the swamp. They were scared. Swamp ghosts are creepy, even when you've encountered a hundred like it before that all turned out to be hoaxes. (Junior Skeptic, The Skooby edition: Vol. 15 No 1 pp 82)

'We're all vulnerable to our hopes and fears. Emotions can mislead anyone, which is why we must follow the evidence.'

Many religions, including Mormons assert that because we feel good about something they are teaching, that it must be true. In fact, the Mormon church teaches that this feeling is actually the Holy Ghost which is personally confirming the truth.

What about the opposite feeling? If we are listening to someone tell us a scary story about the Boogey Man and we feel scared, what truth does this feeling reveal about the facts related in the story itself? If you feel bad about a person because of testimonies given about a man's character, does that prove the man is bad? Do those feelings verify the testimony being born?

If a man sits in front of a 'psychic' and has his fortune read to him like a book of hist life, and his hairs stand up on end on the back of his neck from how close the psychic has come to describing him, does this prove psychic powers, or spiritual powers?

Storytellers rely on pulling readers or listeners into their stories by stirring their emotions. In deed, how many 'fictional' stories of drama, love or war have been read with tears in your eyes at the end of it. Are these tears due to supernatural entities existing to exert their influence and reveal the truth? Or are these tears due to the storytellers ability to pull at our heart strings. Do storytellers understand the human desire to resolve conflict, to be part of community, to love and be loved, to bond with others, to live? Do storytellers use this knowledge to create great fiction that although false, describes truth?

Is it true that even if you know a story is probably bogus, a spooky story is still creepy? The ability to stir emotions does not convert fiction to fact. The only thing that can be counted on when hearing a story that 'moves' you emotionally is your reaction to it. Great fiction helps us understand ourselves better by placing us into situations that we may never encounter naturally. It may inspire us to be better people, and teach us the lessons we need to do so.

When we begin to understand that fiction is fiction, and that there is no sacred, absolute knowledge of the truth held in any book, then we begin to understand its power. Salman Rushdie believed that the novel held the most possibility to offer humans that kind of transcendence that Religions seek to provide through indoctrination and Dogma.

Instead of looking for the answers in the supernatural, I'd like us to consider the possibility that the answers lie with each other. If we could possibly understand and allow ourselves, and our beliefs the possibility of fallibility, then each question isn't met as a a source of treason to the group, but as a source of community to achieve a more open society.


J. Robert Oppenheimer, by all accounts, a scientific genius, the director of the Los Alamos Manhatten Project, seemed to struggle his whole life with his role in developing the 'gadget' as it was called then. After his death, a published essay described his desire for a more open society, where untethered access to knowledge and uninhibited free associations of men would be what would make a vast, complex, growing and expert technological world. Nevertheless, a world of human community.

Humans must be encouraged to think, to question, to be allowed to examine the world we live in and pursue courses that continually strive to improve it by destroying the false ideas of the past. Ironically, for all of the talk that religions have of damnation, it is damnation that religions bring to an open society. Religions claim absolute truth and claims to encourage followers to search for truth, while stifling those who question it openly. An Open Society asserts that truth is elusive and encourages participants to continuously question existing tenets of that society.

It is natural to want all of the answers, and we would all love to have them, but no one has them. We must contually search for and explore them. When confronted with the swamp ghosts that breed fear and guilt, we must confidently follow Fred's lead when he declared, "Looks like we have a mystery!" and press forward to solve that mystery, even though most mysteries of life can't be solved in just a three TV segments sandwiched by advertisements.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ireland's Church Bar vs. Utah's Church Ball


With today's news of the passing of state liquor laws, I was immediately reminded of Ireland. OK, so I've only visited twice, both times were for business. While there, our company had a gathering at a local bar called the Church bar. In fact, it was a local bar that had originally been St. Mary's Church more than a couple centuries ago. As more Dubliner's began to leave the church behind, in all but culture and heritage, they also stopped giving money to their churches, so many become empty.

Even visiting the famous St. Patrick's Cathedral, for which we celebrate St. Patrick's day in the US on Sunday resulted in a beautiful choir, with a mostly empty Basilica and collection plate.

On my last trip to Dublin, I had the opportunity to share a pint or two with some Dublin natives. I asked them what they thought of the religious transition, how they were brought up, and where they were now in that religious transition.

Their responses astounded me. Most replied that in their youth, they and their families had been faithful church goers and believers.

"But your not now?" I replied. "What happened for you"

"The Internet." They replied matter of factly.

As I pressed, they continued to intimate how with the internet, and nearly the whole of human knowledge available to those who seek it, they were able to study and investigate their church's history, doctrine and dogma, and began to realize that it didn't agree with their own personal cosmologies.

Who knows? Perhaps someday, folks will travel through Utah and play basketball at the new Sports Gym appropriately called 'Church Ball' that used to be a Mormon Stake Center, forced to close down by the people's insistence on knowing their history and following their conscience as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Marriage in our Human Society


Yesterday, Peter Danzig invited me to join the Facebook group LDSApology. I have been trying to sit on the fence on this issue for quite a while, while I learned more. I've spoken with members of this unfortunate group of humans, each time I've encountered the tremendous troubles that they have had, both personally and with legalities. While their legal inequities are certainly great, and possibly enough to gain my vote on this issue, it is their personal struggles that most influence my decision on this matter. I remember reading Carol Lynn Pearson's book Goodbye, I love you back in the eighties, and discovering many of my high school friends from drama and choir were gay (after I left highschool). This morning, I read Stuart Mathis' struggle on the subject (pictured here) when the Mormon church supported California Proposition 22. I recalled the tremendous local effort put forth by the church (as I lived in Santa Rosa California at that time).

I wrote my letter to ldsapology@gmail.com :

While I am neither gay, nor mormon (as of last week), I can no longer sit on the fence on this issue. The church remains stoically quiet while the GL community has made its point. Humans need each other. We need each other more than anything. Marriage is THE accepted symbol of our society to make our commitment to another human being. To refuse one class of human beings this right, is to deny them society in fellow humanhood.

Please add my name to your petition.

Kind Regards.

Brent Fisher
I hope you will join me in this petition as well. Let the title of Carol Lynn Pearson's recent book, "No more Goodbyes" work on you for a bit, and lastly, remember the closing remarks given by Stuart Mathis' Bishop in his heart felt requiem:

In his famous meditation on death, John Donne wrote, "Who can remove from that bell [for the dying] which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ... Any man's death diminishes me, ... and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

The bell that tolls for Stuart Matis tolls for us all, for we are all diminished by his passing.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Currencies of Life & Religious Bankruptcy


After waking from a small nap, my brain began to consider the struggles that some people have mentioned to me upon discovering their religious investments going bankrupt. Many become upset at me, or others that may expose their empty account balances by opening up their minds to the inconsistencies and deceptions within the fundamental doctrines and premises of the Church. Their lives were so easy before that! They had all of the answers to life then. They knew exactly how to live, think, raise her kids, daily activities, all of the things that are needed to produce true and everlasting happiness in this life and the next. No wonder they become upset when exposed to the holes in the story.

Upon waking though, I thought about money as a metaphor for that existence. If somebody would give you money your whole life, tell you where to get the money, how to spend it, etc. You may very well be happy. But lets suppose, for just a moment, that is no such thing as 'free' money. Nobody is out there to give you money to pay your mortgage. Let's suppose that you were, however receiving that money, from somewhere. You need money to feed your kids, buy your new sneakers, watch a movie, etc. You've been receiving this money, your whole life, but you didn't actually do anything to produce this money. In fact, you weren't producing wealth at all. Unknowingly, you had been 'borrowing' this money the whole time, until finally, one day, your creditor goes bankrupt, and your account is now closed. Now you've got to find out how to get money for yourself. This puts you into a very serious, and precarious position, because not only were you dependent on this money, but you were supporting a family on this money as well.

You would probably find yourself hungry, and tired right away since having not trained in any money gaining profession, having not apprenticed in any trade, having no tradable business entities, the only gainful enterprise you could qualify for, until attending trade school, or something business school, or university, would be minimum wage jobs, and what if the economy was suffering, as it is now.

What if your leaders had allowed the leading financial institutions to fall into ruin by mortgaging their investors funds and losing the lot of it? The economy might be so bad that you wouldn't even be able to work for minimum wage. You would be homeless and destitute.

Few common folk, like myself, expect anyone to simply give them money everyday for living on. We expect to have to produce some good or service worthy of recompence. We expect to receive no money when we don't. We would not be surprised one bit, if we quit our job, or closed our business, that no more money would come in. We have come to grips that getting money is an everyday struggle. Instead of becoming upset about it, we encourage each other to become proficient at earning it. We encourage each other to learn ways of earning money that we actually like and enjoy. In deed, some of us find that earning money is fulfilling, and we resent nor blame no one for life's requirement to do so. Money is one of the currencies of life.

One of the other currencies of life is knowledge and wisdom. Interestingly enough, there are plenty of those in the world, willing to offer up their produce in this areas, and there are many of us in this world, content to receive it without the expectation of the same daily struggle we accept to receive our daily bread.

So, we go for years, believing that our coffers are full, only to realize one day, that we have accumulated, not a wealth of this currency called wisdom, but a debt of it.

This debt of wisdom can not be repaid quickly, and we should not be surprised if we must suffer greatly from the weight of it. This debt of wisdom comes from all of the decisions made for us while we did something else. Many of us were so happy to pay others to do this work for us that we happily traded currencies such as our time and dollars to continually fund this massive insurance policy on the wisdom nest egg we need for retirement. What fools we are! We can't believe it when we discover that our insurance company isn't keeping our interests in first place.

We ask, how dare our insurance company come up bankrupt! Surely our insurance company is far too important to fail! (Where is President Obama when we need him?)

But the investments that this insurance company was founded on were based on fabulous speculation, rather than reasonable humanity. Like Ponzi's fools, we threw our wealth after that fabulous promise, rather than ask along the way if it was too good to be true. All of us decided that if it was simply a Ponzi scheme, or a comforting promise backed by no sound financials, surely one of the other investors, much smarter than we, would have discovered the truth long, long ago and called the proper authorities to shut it down. All of these people couldn't be mistaken at the same time, could they?

Some, even after discovering their investments to be failed decide to pretend them sound. They imagine that if they continue the program as if it were sound, then it must be sound. They console themselves with the view that so many others continue to join, and apparent happiness abounds, so why not maintain the wonderful, comforting plan, for now. And this goes on, and on.

Those who decide to withdraw from the plan find that those currencies they 'contributed' are not fully transferable to the other markets of life, receiving only a fraction of of their contributions back to help them make it day to day. The Insurance Company promises to pay them out, in full, and more in the future... far into the future, although, the company admits, it can not demonstrate even one testimonial of an investor portfolio reaching maturation. The Company insists that the payout will come in the future, but that the investor will receive nothing now, should premiums stop now. At this, many decide to wait and see. Many decide to postpone their judgment on the validity of the Insurance Companies claims until after which time it would be impossible to have any ability to do anything about it.

The currency of wisdom doesn't come free, or easy. The human being must struggle on a daily basis to earn it. If you have been relying on someone else to provide it for you, then you have been increasing your debt for it that you must repay before you can begin to build any sort of wealth of it. Those who promise to provide it for you should be considered with as much careful skepticism and due diligence as any financial instrument, company or portfolio. Those that promise freely provide their 'financials' for study and investigation can begin to gain the public trust. Those that refuse to provide the information necessary to prove their investment worthiness should be avoided in favor of those that do.

At first, the struggle will be very, very difficult, and one may even resent it. However, after working at it, and gaining the tools necessary to produce in this currency, it may become easier.

You may become as accustomed to trading in its currency as buying groceries at the store. You may even get out of the debt you find yourself in.... someday. But only if you decide to spend wisely. You must spend within your means, and repay those debtors to eventually begin to build real wealth. You should carefully choose where you will invest your wisdom currency, refusing to put credits with traders that refuse to reveal their books and past history.

Begin to understand, manage and take control of your own currency, accept no new debt, and soon the burden of that debt will lift and life's beauty will begin to open in ways you may never have even dreamed before.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why People Leave the LDS Church.

One of the principal reasons I started my blog was to help others understand the reasons why I couldn't go to church anymore. I recently posted the following video produced by an active member of the church, aimed at helping fellow members of the church understand how to help us wayward members. It received quite a few responses from facebook, including one comment:
People leave churches because they no longer wish to keep commandments they find restrictive in their lives. Perhaps you could resolve issues with God by using a KNEE MAIL.
Which is one of the stereotypes this video tries to remove.

If you have members that are in transition, and you want to really help them as a friend, instead of taking an hour to watch Seinfeld or Conan O'Brien this evening, take an hour to watch this video, and I'll think you will agree with me.

People leave churches because of cognitive dissonance much more than they ever leave because they no longer wish to keep commandments.

In fact, Wednesday evening, I spoke with a fellow who's cognitive dissonance became so disruptive in his life, that he began treating it with pain medications, rather than work it out, eventually leading him to prison.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Resign, Withdraw Your Comments, or Face Church Court



Many of you read my post on An Insider's View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer. In that post, I detailed some of the amazing misconceptions of the history of the church. That post appears to have been my undoing. On Thursday, I met with my Bishop to discuss that post, and my apostasy. The church's handbook describes apostasy as follows:

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishops or higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or higher authority.

My Bishop pointed out to me that the last paragraph is considered apostasy. He brought a highlighted copy for reference and read it to me aloud with a bit of strain in his voice. I include it here for reference:
It matters to me. I think the truth should will out, and no matter how much Mr. Smiths 'works' draw people to Christ, they were built on complete falsehood. Like former President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein under false pretenses, even though Saddam was bad man, Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale to bring people to Christ. Seems like a good goal, but completely unjustified.
In his opinion, this followed point 1 from the manual. I.e. it 'Repeatedly act[ed] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.'

The key phrase here, I believe, must have been the Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale.

Anyways then, I have resigned. Below follows my resignation letter:
To Whom It May Concern:

With this letter, I hereby submit my resignation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, effective immediately. Please remove my name from membership records.

Last week, my bishop explained to me that I could stop publishing apostate thoughts about church history, resign, or risk enduring church court proceedings. In considering the aspect of censoring my thoughts about this church and its history, I was reminded of Joseph Smith’s attempts at censoring the truth about the sordid details of his polygamous philandering published in the Expositor by his second counselor, William Law. Mr. Law tried to keep quiet as long as possible, but then found he no longer could keep quiet upon learning of the prophet’s indecent proposals to his own wife. Upon publishing the Expositor, the prophet ordered the former friend’s printing press destroyed and all copies of the Expositor destroyed.
I believe that the truth about Mr. Smith can no longer be suppressed, and should be spoken of openly by members of the church and the public. I fear for the morality of the members of this church, that are expected to profess knowledge of the divinity and veracity of both the Book of Mormon, and its prophet, when at most, members have only a strong faith generally based on faith promoting versions of the past.

This decision has come as a result of much study and heartfelt sorrow discovering the shady past of this church that has for so long been such a big part of my life.

I look forward to the day when this church openly and honestly discusses the past and lets the consequences follow as they may.

Sincerely,


Brent Fisher

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Can you identify this fossil?


Thanks to an old classmate of mine, Darrin, for this one:

A 47 million-year-old fossil may be from a primate species related to humans, apes and monkeys. Michigan paleontology Professor Philip Gingeric said the newly discovered fossil also supports the adapid theory of evolution, The Wall Street Journal said Monday. A major ongoing evolutionary debate is focused on whether humans descended from an ape-like group called the tarsidae, the known descendants of the modern Asian primate tarsier, or the adapidae, whose modern descendant is Madagascar's lemur.

Gingeric said the new fossil offers evidence for the latter and traditionally less accepted theory.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hunt For Red October


I'm not sure if you ever saw the movie: The Hunt for Red October. In that movie, Captain Marko Ramius and the officers of his crew conspire to defect because of moral objections they have to the 1st strike weapon they control. To seal the decision to defect, and unknown to his co-conspirators, Captain Ramius sends a letter to high ranking Soviet official, to be opened after they have sailed. This seals his decision, and motivates the rest of the crew to succeed, under penalty of death if they are caught.

In essence, my blog was my letter to the high ranking Soviet official. It let everyone know my thoughts and views, and deal with these thoughts and views on their own time table.

Before that, when I talked to people close to me about it, they tried everything that they could to get me to deny my conscience on the subject, and I succumbed one time - but that only made things harder for me, so I don't back slide anymore.

My stance is that, if they desire to discuss this with me, I'm open, but they had better arrive pretty well prepared, and they should also be willing to risk their own testimonies, because the only way to describe why I left is to detail the proof. The proof is pretty clear in many cases, and sooner or later, reason will engage to take over myth. (Although, some do prefer to remain in ignorant bliss).

Can Cognitive Bias Influence Religious Beliefs? Part I

This is Part I in a series focusing on these cognitive biases and their influence on religion.

Recently, a friend on Facebook shared a thought provoking, albeit crude, video, illustrating how religious beliefs (perhaps unwittingly) suffer from a human evolutionary judgment phenomenon called Cognitive bias described in Cognitive Science and Social Psychology. Unfortunately, his video was too crude for me to share with you, as it is somewhat verbally offensive in several places, so I pulled it from my site. I prefer discussion on a more respectful, objective level.

Since I have degrees in neither Cognitive Science nor Social Psychology, I will be consulting experts and students of the field to learn and discuss openly how Cognitive Biases have shaped our World Views historically, in current events, and in the future.

The purpose of this investigation will be to gain understanding of the evolutionary processes that have moved humans to fall prey to these phenomenon so we may eventually lead humans to overcome them. I.e. we may find that path to the elusive √úbermensch described by Nietzsche.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fishtells added to Outer Blogness

www.fishtells.com has been added to the Outer Blogness Blog roll. Check it out!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lunch with Bill McKeever of the Mormon Research Ministry (MRM)

A couple weeks ago I sent a post concerning my visit with Mr. Marlin Jensen to admin@mrm.org with the purpose of sharing my experience with whomever would listen there at MRM, to gauge there response.

Apparently, they monitor that address fairly well because in a few days I received a message back from Mr. McKeever inviting me to lunch, his treat.

We met today at Bajio grill in American Fork to discuss religion over delicious fish tacos and chicken burritos. Religion is always easier to talk about over delicious mexican food. More pastors should use this approach!

Mr. McKeever presented himself sincerely, and no matter what my queries, questions, differing views, contrary positions, critical thoughts or stubborness, he maintained his calm, friendly demeanor, while presenting his position fairly clearly.

Going in, I had become accustomed to folks believing in God due to a spiritual feeling confirming their faith in God and whatever religion they ascribed to. Mr. McKeever disagreed with this position. He asserted that his belief in Christ stemmed from a background of Atheism and Skeptical approaches, eventually leading him to study Christianity and the historical aspects of it, leading him to believe that Christ did live, and that he did get resurrected. Disbelieving him, I pushed to find the depths of this religious model. I.e. I asked him if most evangelicals develop their sense of Christian testimony from skeptical rational thought, as he did. The ones in my circle sure do, he asserted.

This perspective was a breath of fresh air, having become accustomed to the Holy Spirit inspiring folks to believe in God.

Our discussion went in all sorts of interesting directions from there including the history of man, archaeology, his calling to missionary work to the Mormons, etc., and I rather enjoyed the whole of it.

Upon leaving, Mr. McKeever presented me a book, "The Reason for God" and suggested I investigate the Christ Evangelical Church in Orem. I think I will attend to confirm more of what he said. It would be such a breath of fresh air from ending discussions with, "I have a spiritual witness, and that trumps rational discussion and thought".

Thanks Mr. McKeever. I wish you luck in your future endeavors, and peace in your personal life.

Atheist Blogroll

www.fishtells.com has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: An Insider's View of Mormon Origins


Mr. Palmer asserts with heavy clarity and sources that Mr. Smith authored the Book of Mormon. He cites several cases where Mr. Smith claimed to translate something, and the translation was later proven completely incorrect, including one encounter with a man who presented him with a Greek Psalter where Mr. Smith claimed it was reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, and gave him its translation. The man happened to speak Greek, and knew right away that Mr. Smith had no gift of translation at all. To which, Willard Richards rationalized, 'Sometimes Joseph Smith speaks as a prophet, and sometimes he speaks as a man'

He moves logically through comparisons of Josephus and the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon and several areas of the Bible, Methodist questions, current Protestant doctrines, etc.

Then moves into a compelling argument considering the spirit. The spiritual swelling in your heart is an unreliable means of proving truth. I.e. all religions claim these spiritual feelings verify the authenticity of their religions, but obviously, they can't all be true because they all teach such differing doctrines.

He asserts that the spirit merely urges souls towards God through Christ. (Personally I don't know how he can make that assertion since Muslims feel it too).

My personal feeling is that this feeling is probably something more evolutionary and biological in nature that instinctively moves humans (and other animals) to affect goodness to their fellow earth dwellers. My thoughts are that Human beings have a primal need to pack together, to form communities, stemming from the human evolution of trying to take over larger animals and make these personal connections, and whatever else. We must respect each other as Gods, for without each other, we would not exist. We would become depressed, violent and ultimately never even come together to reproduce, an instinctive trait present in all animal species.

I postulate we would live something more like Autistic lives, possessing the ability to carry on and reproduce, but without the desire.

After you have read this book, I am curious specifically about your thoughts on Joseph Smith. Did he author the Book of Mormon, in your point of view? Does it matter?

It matters to me. I think the truth should will out, and no matter how much Mr. Smiths 'works' draw people to Christ, they were built on complete falsehood. Like former President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein under false pretenses, even though Saddam was bad man, Mr. Smith was wrong to invent this wonderful fairy tale to bring people to Christ. Seems like a good goal, but completely unjustified.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Change a life



I served my two years for the Church in Barranquilla, Colombia. While there, I came to see people living in poverty. I visited on a daily basis with folks who were happy to have a cup of rice per day to feed themselves. Work was scarce, and living as the head of the household in Colombia, like here was a hard thing. The economy there isn't that great, really. There are so many people, and family planning is difficult to do. The cheapest form of entertainment is beer and sex. There was a lot of that going around.

I sometimes told a fictional joke (in bad taste) about one lady we knew who had three sons, all named Joseph (Jose'). "This way," she said, "if I need them all to come to dinner, I can just yell, Jose'". It is easier.

"But, what if you only want one of them?" I purportedly queried?

"Well then, I simply call for them using their last name." She said matter-of-factly.

The joke is in bad taste, and it never actually happened, although the situation it describes exists quite a bit. This situation cyclically produces more children living in poverty and everything that comes along with it: no education, disease, over-population, depression, crime, etc.

In one house that I lived in, a young lady lived and worked as the maid/housekeeper. After talking with her one afternoon, she told us that she had been with child 8 times, and had aborted each of them. I don't know where she got the money for it, but she was very 'active'.

This story isn't uncommon around the world where ever poverty exists.

You've probably seen Television advertisements where a Christian group asks you to personally sponsor a child in one of these areas. I've watched quite a few myself. Several years ago, I decided to help out. I sponsor a child in Colombia. I was able to pick the child (a two year old), the location, even they provide pictures of who you can choose.

They send me letters every so often to tell me things are going well, and I write at times as well, just to encourage them to study their homework, etc.

These groups assist this child with enough food to eat so that he can study at school on a full stomach, and provide him with clothing so that he can be sure to go.

You can do this too. Visit World Vision's website right now and browse through their list of children in need. Its true that you can't change the whole world by helping one child, but you can change the whole world for one child.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A sense of community


I recently accepted the Facebook invitation to attend the Mother's Day meeting at the UVUU (Utah Valley Unitarian Universalist Church).

This will be only my second time attending. I went two weeks ago for the first time. My kids were more than a little bit nervous about it. My eldest son, Logan, said as we approached the church (which is a presbyterian church) "Let turn around. I don't want to go in".

And when they split out the classes for my kids to go with all of the other kids, none of them would go... well, Shea would go if someon e would go with her (she's up for adventure), the rest were stuck to their seats.

Afterward, we had a potluck dinner, and we were able to mingle a little bit more, so it was a little bit nicer. I met some really nice folks who were really into this Medieval re-enactmants and fighting with swords, etc. But it was wonderful to sit and mingle with folks going through similar trials that I was. Everyone was a former Mormon in various stages and heavy ties still in the community.

They gave a very warm welcome to us as we shared their food. We brought brownies because we didn't want to come with nothing to the occasion. If any of them are reading this, thank you so much for your warm welcome and sharing your community with my family.

This mother's day though, I don't know if anyone is going to come with me this time or not. We'll see. I'm excited for the little boost of energy I got from going last time. It was very upbeat, and incredibly educational, as the speaker was from a female couple sharing her struggles to navigate the complex state laws preventing her from establishing a family and all of the laws connected with it.

Understanding her struggle on a personal level went a long way to sway my vote on issues related to establishing family units in relationships like hers.

See, a whole new world, right here in Utah County. Who would have guessed!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Why not just go along?

Recently, a discussion with a friend ended when he suggested that I just go along. Other close friends and family members have suggested the same.

And don't think that I haven't thought of it. In fact, I thought of it for fifteen or so years... What's wrong with just going along anyways. Clearly there would be many benefits to 'just going along', but I believe that 'just going along' is destructive, dishonest and ultimately puts me on a path to personal mental risk and will produce long term family disfunction.

I've often tried to consider 'just going along'. As my friend suggests,

"if the church is true and you just have some issues with some things, wouldn't you still rather err on the side of going through the motions and potentially receiving the blessings promised"

Of course, this was my take from the beginning of my trail. I believed that the church was true, but just had some issues that must surely be misunderstandings on my part. After all, I had felt the spirit, and therefore, it must be true on that basis alone because an extra-terrestrial being of light (the holy ghost) sent by the actual creator of this world (including me) had sent a confirmation of my requests for knowledge. Certainly, that must be enough. And if the source of that 'confirmation' could in fact be verified and if it could be wholly claimed by the Mormon church, sort of like a spiritual patent, then I would accept it. Unfortunately, I have realized that this 'spiritual witness' is claimed to be used by nearly all spiritual denominations in one form or another, including Spiritualists, Muslims, Evangelists, Catholics, etc. By this test, all of the churches are true, true enough to pass the test anyways. In fact, Atheism, or Humanism as practiced by John Lennon, would also pass the test. If you don't believe me, take a minute to watch his music video 'War is Over' promoting the absence of Religion (among other things) to remove the wars fought in the name of absolute organized religion and patriotism, or take a listen to 'Imagine'.
Both songs invoke a very strong 'feeling' using both imagery and music to stir emotions.
While I'm not saying that we should disregard feelings, I am asserting that a spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon based on feelings is enough to establish the truth to Joseph Smith's claims to supernatural communications with a supernatural being such as an all powerful God.

For my part then, there is enough evidence to suggest clearly to me that Joseph Smith wasn't in fact directed by God. Under this line of reasoning then, to 'just go along' would be to deny myself and betray my own mental capacities.

What if I were to ask the same of one of these fellow human beings? What if I were to ask my friend to 'just go along' with the Jehovah's Witnesses, or Muslims, or radical muslims for that matter? After all, they might be true as well. Sure they aren't the pre-dominant religion of this area, but they are the pre-dominant religion of another area. Could he ever see himself 'just going along' with them? Would he be able to deny his daughters their privileges and rights to learn and grow their intelligence? Or would he fight to bring them their rights of study and intellectual growth?

To remain silent at that point would clearly lead him to conscienciously deprive his family of the tools necessary to not only survive and prosper in this world, but it would also remove from them, their ability to pursue their own human fullness, or as Maslow put it, the highest rung in the hierarchy of needs, 'Self-actualization'

My friend may argue that he would never do that, and he may also argue that the comparison isn't apples to apples. Islam is nothing close to Mormonism, and the comparison isn't valid. That might be true, however, there are many aspects to Mormonism that as a follower must be received as follower as inspired revelation. I.e. Mormonism teaches members to accept Mormon Doctrine on Faith. In the past, there have been some very strange Mormon Doctrines that members have been asked to accept on faith, and there may be future church positions that require it as well.

E.g. the Mormon church has made its (current) position on marriage clear. A marriage is defined as being between one man and one (or more in the hereafter) woman. Members of the unfortunate homosexual community are asked to remain second class citizens. The Mormon church has even used its power to influence political processes regarding this issue.

Why don't I just go along? Questions such as these are difficult questions, and should not be left up to Mormon leaders. Instead, individuals should investigate these issues as they come and search out their own thoughts, and the thoughts and experiences of others in deciding their support for such things. I don't want my children, or those I know to agree with the Brethren on anything, unless they would investigate an issue for themselves and independently come to the same conclusion.

I want my children and those that I know that I don't simply accept the decisions made by the church because at the least, I know that the church is fallible. This point is important. The church is fallible. If the church is true, i.e. formed by an all-knowing supernatural being that created it and controls it, then it wouldn't be fallible, but it has reversed many direct revelations (See polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, interracial marriage, the voree plates and strangites, McConkies predictions on space travel, etc.). The church leaders are good men, but they do not speak with a supernatural being that knows everything. They are humans, running a church built by fallible humans, and their decisions are therefore suspect, and should be subjected to normal human skepticism and held to the same standard of proof, reason and justice as the rest of the world.

I don't 'just go along' because just going along indicates my acceptance of it being ok to claim divine providence when none exists. I can go along with science because science makes no claims of supernatural beings directing their findings. It's all an open book. Science admits fallibility, and openly requests careful scrutiny by all, and hides no sources from view. Religion claims exclusive rights to sources of immutable knowledge whereas science understands that humans are often wrong.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Shoot the messenger


Recently, I've discussed with several people the tendency for others to blame me personally for the things I've discovered. Others I've spoken with have mentioned how others have blamed them as well for the things they have studied and shared with loved ones. For example, one fellow explained that he studied the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and that he was surprised at what he had found. When he shared his discovery with a church leader, the church leader asked him if he had thought about what effect this research would have on his family.

When I first shared my 'research' with those close to me, their first reaction was to blame me as well. No matter how hard I tried to explain that I didn't create, write, or influence these events in any way, but was merely reporting about them, blame still fell upon me for uncovering them, or discussing them. It's as if a silent pact had been made to repress these things and I had broken the pact, betrayed the community by discovering these unfortunate truths.

I'm reminded of Charles Dicken's 'A Christmas Carol' when Mr. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of christmas past. After several fond memories, the spirit begins to lead Mr. Scrooge to the day when his relationship with Belle was severed. "Please spirit, do not show me these memories. Have you no pity?' To which the spirit replied, 'These are the visions of things gone past. That they are what they are, do not blame me.'

To this reply, Mr. Scrooge could say nothing, and remained silent to watch the vision of the past. It was only by looking back at the past, feeling of the pain of that mistake that Mr. Scrooge could hope to reform his life and live a full future.

When Galileo dared to observe the moons of Jupiter and ponder a heliocentric universe as opposed to geocentrism, he was sentenced to house arrest (after a commuted sentence of prison), accused of heresy, and he was forbidden to publish works any more.
Galileo dared to look down the telescope. It is rumored that those that imprisoned him stuck to the traditional interpretations of I Chronicles 16:30 as the universe revolving around the earth, and not vice-versa, rather than take a look down the telescope themselves.

Galileo didn't invent the observation that the moons revolve around Jupiter, 'That they are what they are, don't blame him.' Isn't it better to know the truth, and then deal with the consequences, whatever they may be?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Music, practice, Springtime

I recently visited Tom's blog and read about his daughter playing piano in a competition. I wonder aloud, how does he do that?

I recently bought the Yamaha YPG-635 along with the Soft Mozart piano learning software and hooked it all up to try and teach my kids piano. At first it started working marvelously. The kids love Soft Mozart, and it really does get the learning notes and rhythms concept into them pretty good. What it can't do, is get them to practice everyday.

They were doing really, pretty well until springtime came. Now, when they get home, all they want to do is play outside. I just need them to practice for a little while to help them progress. Playing music stimulates parts of the brain that otherwise remain dormant. During moments of melancholy it can bring a soothing friend, during moments of elation, it can share with you. Music can be the place you can turn to when there is nobody else to turn to.

I want my kids to understand that, I think. But, I don't want to 'pressure' them into it, but rather help them enjoy it as I've enjoyed it. Also, learning a musical instrument brings all sorts of mastery and confidence. But not the type of false confidence so often encountered and encouraged through the PMA movement of schools today.

Musical mastery provides a real positive attitude, and a real sense of empowerment, creativity and self worth. Somehow, I must find ways to encourage my children to practice more. Any ideas? Send them my way!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yes Judge, I know I saw the murderer with every fiber of my being

On my way home from work last night I started thinking a little bit about testimony meeting. Testimony is meant for ensuring others of the truth as witnesses see it. If you've ever been to a Mormon testimony meeting, you realize right away that the testimonies given there don't resemble the testimony given at a trial.

Imagine this witness stand scene on Law & Order:
Attorney: Where were you on the night of the 15th?
Witness: I was at church.
A: Did you see the accused stealing the car in the parking lot?
W: I testify with every fiber of my being that I saw the accused open up the door of the car and steal the car. He must be less-active.

After all, it is the testimony itself, the facts presented, along with the corroboration of other unrelated witnesses, that convince the Judge and the jury of the veracity of the testimony being given, it isn't whether the witness says, with every fiber of my being.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Creating a following

I've been writing this blog for several years now, and I've posted some of my scariest thoughts and experiences here, and you've shared with me. Many of you have written me personally through email, and many of you have dropped a comment on my posts. Thank you for your comments.
I have more to say and share in my intellectually honest, yet considerate manner that many of you have commented that you enjoy. Take a moment to 'follow' my blog and hear about my new experiences in the coming weeks such as trying to figure out how to drink coffee and make it taste good, discovering that I really like beer, and what beers I like, dealing with neighbors that would rather you don't exist.
You may not agree with me, you may not even like me anymore, but follow anyways. You're gonna learn a lot. Just click on the Follow this blog link on the side bar. To try and get things started, I'd like to offer the first follower some lunch. That is right! Lunch with me. And I don't like Wendy's.
Do you wish you could remain private, but still follow me? I understand your fears. You can drop me a line and I'll anonymously subscribe you.
Take care.

Meeting with Marlin K. Jensen, the Church's Historian

Several months ago on Jan. 27, 2009, I finally met with Marlin K. Jensen, the Church's Historian, to discuss some of the concerns I had with the church. I should have come home immediately to pen my thoughts, but I got busy with too much work. See my other post on how to lose thousands of dollars. My examples were not figurative. I really did lose more than $100K and it does really affect my free time.

I wasn't too surprised by the meeting really. Most of what I expected to happen, happened. Mr. Jensen invited us into his office at the church office building where he cordially greeted my wife and I. The first 1/2 hour or so of our meeting was spent building a relationship of trust. I recognized the pattern from serving a mission in Colombia. He told us about his family, showed us pictures, asked us about our family, etc. Unexpectedly though, as perhaps a show of good faith, he divulged that some of the members of his own family had faced similar disappointments and concerns related to Polygamy, but even more with relation to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The latter event I had not gained any knowledgeable degree of familiarity until this meeting.

Mr. Jensen often returned to the topic of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, relating to me the recent not so flattering findings of the incident. I found him candid, open, and willing to share plenty on the topic, even though most of the information was quite negative toward the branch of the church established in Southern Utah at the time. At some time later, I must find my way to study this event in more detail.

As deeply informed about the Mountain Meadows Massacre as he was equaled the shallow depth of his knowledge surrounding my illegitimate lineage to Joseph Smith through Sylvia Porter Sessions and her daughter, Josephine Rosetta Lyon. See this post for a reminder of that discovery.

Mr. Jensen unaware of the allegation that Joseph Smith fathered a child with any other woman other than Emma Hale. He stated that there was just quite a bit that he, and the church in general didn't know about Mr. Smith. Looking back at the discussion, it seems more than trivial or coincidental that this area of Joseph's life is so secret, when he wrote, and rewrote such pivotal experiences such as the first vision so as to ensure he got it just right, but a doctrine so important as section 132, he would record so sparingly. Perhaps the Joseph Smith Papers will have more to tell.

Because of Mr. Jensen's sparse understanding surrounding that part of Mr. Smith's history, I did most of the talking. I related to him what I had learned surrounding Sylvia Porter Sessions, and the current efforts underway to secure DNA evidence to support her death-bed claims to her daughter. I told him about how I had made the discovery in the church history center at my stake center. He found the tale rather amusing and made a comment about the irony of how the church would send members to the church history center to strengthen their testimonies only to have those same testimonies degraded by work. I had to agree with him, because I have found the experience one of those experiences that I'm glad I had. In my life, it has been rare to encounter such living poetry, but as rare as it should be, I still remember with fondness, this experience at the church history center, my experience proselyting, and my Pearl of Great Price class.

After our brief discussion concerning these events, our time was drawing to a close. He apologized for starting late due to his busy schedule, but he wanted to relate something that he had discussed with now President Monson (or perhaps Mr. Maxwell) years back.

He related to me how at one time, he had received a letter from a member, asking for clarification concerning another piece of church history. He recalled extensive efforts by himself and others to research the claim, documenting everything they could find with the intention of clarifying the church's position. In the end, he produced a fairly lengthy and detailed report to discuss with the sender of the letter. Before presenting the document though, he brought the inquiring letter, and his response before Mr. Monson (or Mr. Maxwell) for approval.

The approval didn't come. Instead, he received a response something like what I'll try and represent here:
While there are certainly many events, doctrines, scriptures, writings, teachings, etc that may seem inconsistent, I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet because of my spiritual testimony that I have received concerning the Book of Mormon. Either the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith is the prophet that brought the book, or the Book of Mormon is false, and Joseph Smith is a fraud.
Mr. Jensen then asked me if I had ever felt the spirit concerning the Book of Mormon. I replied that I felt sure that indeed, I had felt what those in the church describe as the spirit of God testifying to me through the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.
I then continued to explain to him why I now used great caution with my feelings. I explained that although I had felt the Book of Mormon to be true, I have also had identical feelings about other things in my life, and then found them to be false. I related Joseph Smith and the Pearl of Great Price as an example, along with mention of certain other life experiences. I also related how it was interesting to me how all God seeking religions counted on identical spiritual witnesses to validate their own beliefs, including Evangelical Christians, Catholics, Muslims, etc. Members of each of these religions relate their own spiritual testimonies of the validity of their own prophets through study, personal reflection, prayer, etc. Which is more likely, that only one of these churches is indeed divine and chosen of some supreme being, or that all of them believe their church to be divine, but none actually are.
Mr. Jensen kindly acknowledged the dilemma, offering the statement that he would have to be pretty arrogant to insist that his testimony based on feelings were more valid than that of another human being with different beliefs, but that he felt confident it was so.
"And what of these obvious incongruities surrounding Mr. Smith?" I asked.
"I am willing to defer my judgment until I can ask God Himself." He replied.

With that, our time was over, but Mr. Jensen offered his services again should we ever want it. He offered to be our 'friend in court' as it were.
My overall opinion of Mr. Jensen is that his demeanor is sincere, but his desire to know the truth has been suppressed, deferring it until after death, a time when conveniently enough, he won't be able to tell any of the rest of us his results, nor when, if he is wrong, and the Muslims actually got it right, it will be too late to actually do anything about it.

I'm reminded of a tale of the philosopher Socrates about how he was lecturing to a group of students around a body of water. One of the students posed a question to Socrates, "When, great teacher, do I know when I am truly seeking knowledge." Without answering the student Socrates got up and walked over to him, he then pushed the students head underwater and when the student finally tried pushing up for air Socrates let him go. When the student had collected his composure Socrates said to him, "when you desire knowledge as desperately as you were desiring air to breathe you know you are truly seeking knowledge."

I believe that those content to defer their judgment concerning Mr. Smith until after death are not truly seeking knowledge.

I'm not convinced that I am truly seeking knowledge as this student sought air either, but I'm not content to defer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The origin of moral values

While compiling today, I read an interesting question from a comment on Michael Shermers blog:

http://www.michaelshermer.com/2007/02/dinesh-shermer-debate3/#more-390

Comment:
Dinesh says Christianity gave us our values. I think people gave Christianity it’s values.

W
hat a wonderful and provacative question. Could we humans have obtained our values but for Christ?

I love the idea that many of the values we have could have been obtained by humans, and claimed by Christianity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tooth Fairy Agnostics

So, I watched Richard Dawkin's talk on his atheist call to arms done at TED. Click Here .

There were several moments that really made me thing a little bit. He spoke about the negative stigma that atheists receive in the US, and about what name Atheists should give themselves to be more accepted.

In one passage of his speech quoted George H. Bush answering a question about how patriotic atheists might be. Get the whole story here. George's response was

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Which is funny, since 'under God' wasn't even in the original pledge. According to that all knowing Wikipedia, it was added later by a very influencial group called the Knights of Columbus that felt separation of Church and State wasn't all that important.

Atheists really tend to have a sort of social stigma attached to the name. Probably this is why I have insisted to friends who ask me if I'm atheist, I generally reply that I'm Humanist. Mr. Dawkins continued to suggest that in order to gather votes in this country, one would have to be openly religious. Gathering votes means gathering enough money to get votes. I wonder if an atheist could ever rise to the point of political power in this country. Mr. Hawkins argued that an atheist probably could not.

But some of our smartest and brightest stars are atheist and intellectually they would certainly be as capable, if not more capable, of guiding our country through the strange religiously based political mine fields in our world today.

Well, at least they would not claim that God was on the side of America. Instead, perhaps we could have discussions about how we as humans, and possibly the most intelligent creatures on the planet, should be good to each other for goodness sake, rather than for fear of damnation's sake.

I understand that most people in the world have some sort of religious belief. I also held 'deep' religious beliefs up until very recently and so I can see how people have them, but it seems like reason should begin to have more influence over private thought. I'm not sure how I managed to dodge these thoughts for so many years really. How is it that politicians do?

He related a story about a meeting with someone who described himself to Mr. Dawkins as a Tooth Fairy Agnostic. His thought process was that although he could not prove Tooth Fairies don't exist, he certainly wasn't going to live his life pondering their existence, much as he felt there was a lack of evidence to conclude the existence of God.

In the end, he recommends that closet atheists come out of the closet and be known so that folks begin to see that atheism doesn't necessarily equal an amoral individual responsible for the crimes of humanity.

In my opinion, it would seem much more likely that theism itself would be more responsible for many of the crimes committed against humanity in God's name.

Sort of unrelated, but also featured on TED was Julia Sweeney's act on meeting the Mormon missionaries. I giggled a little and enjoyed her story.

It is quite true that when you hear somebody else tell you about their superstitious beliefs, it can sound more like the fantasy section at barnes and nobles than a religion. But interestingly enough, I think it probably only sounds that way because I'm not used to having it brainwashed into me from childhood.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins. I've been avoiding this man for far too long, and I think its time I took a look. So I started watching his video:

http://www.postmormon.org/exp_e/index.php/sound_thinking/comments/the_enemies_of_reason_richard_dawkins/

His thought is that our unfounded spiritual pursuits detract from scientific achievement.

This line of of thinking moved me to think on the amount of hours spent in Churches and spritual centers, listening to and studying superstitious beliefs. Imagine if that time could have been spent in service of others, or in studying to irradicate some of our diseases, or at least our diseased economy.

The final line Mr. Dawkins says rings true for me. We must favor verifiable evidence, over private feelings, otherwise, we leave ourselves open to those who would obscure the truth.

I think of all those that would have interest in obscuring the truth. There could be those who deliberately obscure the truth, as well as there could be those who obscure the truth through well intentioned gap filling. I.e. in the absence of a complete picture, there are those who will fill in the gaps with well intentioned superstition or anecdotal evidence.

I can't believe that religion has anything more than this unverifiable private feeling. There is no proof of any of the bodies that have died in our past as coming back to life. In fact, we have found most of them right where we left them, what is left of them anyways.

I am brought to consider how I would be received were I to attend my local church and ask folks which they preferred, religious belief, or verifiable evidence. I'm afraid I might get run out of town with pitch forks.