Mormonism Beats Christianity—Or Does It? (2 of 2)

In part 1, we saw that Mormonism spanks Christianity in the evidence department. It has far more voluminous, recent, and reliable information. The Christian apologists’ arguments work against them since they apply even more strongly to Mormonism.

The other side of the story

Still, I’m not quite ready to convert. Mormonism has its own problems.

  • The populating of America. The Book of Mormon (BoM) says that the Americas were populated by immigrants from the Ancient Near East, beginning in about 2500 BCE, in the aftermath of the Tower of Babel. Anthropologists say that, no, the first immigrants actually came from Siberia at least 10,000 years ago.
  • Connection between early Americans and ANE? If modern American Indians were the descendants of these immigrants, we should see a genetic and (to a lesser extent) a linguistic connection between American Indians and cultures of the ancient Near East. We don’t.
  • Anachronisms. The BoM refers to things that didn’t exist in the Americas at that time. For example: “They became exceedingly rich—having all manner of fruit, and of grain, and of silks, and of fine linen, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things; and also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants.” (Ether 9:16–19). The italicized items were not present in the Americas at this time. Other anachronisms include barley, wheat, steel, chariots, the compass, and glass windows.
  • Plagiarism. The BoM appears to have been plagiarized in part from several contemporary books, the King James Bible, and the Apocrypha. The idea that God would choose to give his message to founder Joseph Smith in King James English rather than contemporary English also suggests that the story is fiction.
  • Bogus translation. The Book of Abraham, a “translation” from an Egyptian papyrus, has been shown by modern experts to be fraudulent. Though historians don’t have the golden plates, they do have much of the original papyrus, and it’s not at all what Smith claimed it to be.

It gets worse

Using “seer stones,” magical stones that would become transparent to reveal some truth, to find treasure was popular in his day, and Smith was an enthusiastic participant. He used seer stones in a hat to find treasure, the same technique he would later use to translate the BoM. For this, he was brought into court at age 20 (it’s unclear whether the charge was divination or fraud).

Close to 4000 changes have been made to the BoM since its original publication in 1830. Many are trivial, but some change the theology. For example, the original BoM used the phrase “white and delightsome” to refer to the skin of good people and said that God darkened the skin of bad people (see 2 Nephi 5:21 and 30:6). When that was no longer PC, the language was softened.

When the church’s teaching of polygamy became an obstacle to statehood, the church president received a “divine revelation” that declared that their unchanging god had changed his mind. That’s quite a comedown for a book that Joseph Smith declared to be “the most correct of any book on earth.”

The obvious explanation besides the official Mormon one is that Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter caught up in the religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening. He applied his interest in divination to his interest in Christianity, and a new religion was born. In those fervent times, his religion found fertile soil.

What have we learned from Mormonism? Rule #1.

If you want to start a new religion, the basics apply. Don’t tell your friends, as L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, did: “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” Don’t publicly use a particular divination technique, as Joseph Smith did, and then later say that an angel told you how to learn divine information … coincidentally using your favorite technique.

Rule #2

I’ve already written about the surprising benefits of ambiguity to a religion’s longevity (“How to Invent a Plausible God”).

Rule #3

Finally, let’s return to the observation we began with: that predicting the end of the world precisely and unambiguously is embarrassing when that date passes without catastrophe. Conclusion: don’t be precise.

That’s the problem with the elaborate history of Mormonism. It makes too many specific claims. Joseph Smith was able to get away with most of them, but references to steel, silk, horses, and other anachronisms make the church’s history easily debunked.

(Do Mormon apologists have snappy answers for most of these? Sure, but they don’t convince non-Mormons. Similarly, Christian apologists have elaborate arguments and snappy rebuttals of their own, but they also don’t convince skeptics. New Christians rarely convert because of good intellectual arguments.)

Note how much better Christianity does. It wins because it’s vague and untestable. Its lack of evidence becomes an advantage.

Mormon claims can be tested (and they’re found wanting), but Christianity’s claims can’t even be tested. Neither is a solid basis for a belief system.

The book [of Mormon] is a curiosity to me.
It is such a pretentious affair and yet so slow, so sleepy,
such an insipid mess of inspiration.
It is chloroform in print.
— Mark Twain

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Ya gotta give old Joe Smith credit where it’s due, tho. Sure, he had 18 centuries worth of questioning of Christianity that he could look at to say “Well, I sure want to avoid those pitfalls”, but Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology), David Koresh (Branch Davidianism), and Jim Jones (whatever) all had even longer to scope it out, plus the example of Mormonism to draw upon, and they couldn’t come up with a load of bullshit as persuasive and successful as Mormonism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Perhaps the even larger takeaway than my 3 rules is that the rules can be broken. Sure, you shouldn’t be so specific that someone will catch you in the future, but Mormonism clearly shows that it’s not that important.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yeah, Christianity also violates the rule of not making a claim that can be proven false(several times), and it hasn’t seemed to slow it down much. Jesus promised his followers that anyone who believed would “do greater works than these”–referring, I suppose, to his bag of one-off parlor tricks that he used to convince the faithful of his divinity. You would think that since Christianity is based entirely on the supernatural, the failure of his followers to be able to perform these magic tricks on demand would be a deal-breaker, but no–they just double down on other stuff, and Jesus’s claim becomes “metaphorical” or “symbolical”. Kinda like the snake-handlers and drinkers of poison–this seems to be an addendum to the original book of Mark, apparently to allow the followers to at least attempt *something* that could be considered out of the ordinary, since healing sick folk and dead-raising seemed to be a little beyond the common layperson’s ability.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus promised his followers that anyone who believed would “do greater works than these”

          Jesus rubbed spit in a blind man’s eyes. A woman was healed by touching him. Peter healed people when his shadow passed over them. (See Acts 5:15.)

          Handling snakes is child’s play. Jesus said they would be able to move mountains but I haven’t seen any religions doing that.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Is tar sands oil a religion?

  • JohnH2

    Place to get “snappy” answers:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Main_Page

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Nice. I hadn’t seen that source before.

      • JohnH2

        Places to get doctrinal answers and the thoughts of members:
        http://mormon.org/

        The churches website:
        http://www.lds.org/?lang=eng

        • John Bell

          Place to learn what’s really happening inside this incredibly dishonest and batshit crazy cult – http://www.exmormon.org/

          As always, the best place to learn the real facts about a religion is from people who have escaped.

        • JohnH2

          eh, at least at exmormon .org you know that you are going to run into a lot of angry ex-mormons who are overtly attempting to discredit mormonism; so it is at least more upfront honest then some of the alternatives.

        • John Bell

          All they do is tell the true stories about their experiences in the cult. The discrediting takes care of itself.

        • RichardSRussell

          Yup, always good to be aware when a source of information is being promoted by a non-neutral, non-disinterested, possibly biased party.

        • smrnda

          So.. any pro Mormon site is just a site run by happy Mormons trying to discredit dissenters? Are you suggesting that personal bias means that nobody can be trusted?

        • JohnH2

          No, I am suggesting it is always good to know what bias a site is operating under beforehand: with Mormon. org and exMormon .org one knows what to expect. I suppose if one wants to look at Mormon .org that way then one could, though it doesn’t actually address dissenters or target them: it would be more accurate to be “happy Mormons trying to get other people to become Mormon”. I guess FAIR fits the bill much better.

          There are other sites though that are not at all upfront about what they are and so are in my opinion less trustworthy than those that are upfront about what they are.

        • smrnda

          I just find that Mormons are not, generally, up front about their beliefs. The few encounters I’ve had with them when I choose to pretend not to know more, make me feel as if they’re trying to present themselves as simply another Christian denomination while leaving off their more unusual beliefs and extremely evasive when it come to difficult questions, as if they’re hoping to hook someone *before* they hear the more questionable stuff.

    • MNb

      Nope. I just searched on “size of god”. No answer, let alone a snappy one. The mormon god doesn’t make sense. You have conclusively convinced me of this. So I owe you my gratitude.

      • JohnH2

        I also don’t have any idea what Christ weighs now or what He weighed when He was crucified, nor His height to any useful degree of exactness.

        • RichardSRussell

          Maybe it’s on God’s blog. Have you googled it?

        • JohnH2

          It mostly seems to be about Kirk Cameron.

        • MNb

          So what?
          Btw, if we ever happen to find Jesus’ bones we can make a quite good estimation.
          Thanks to science.
          Not thanks to your belief system.

  • MNb

    “Neither is a solid basis for a belief system.”
    The only belief systems with a solid basis are pastafarianism and the pink unicorn belief. It’s not a coincidence they were founded by atheists.

  • Pofarmer

    The sad thing is, enough people buy into it that it needs to be debunked.

  • Pofarmer

    Am I closed minded for not giving two shits what the book of mormon says?

    • MNb

      No. You might be closed minded though if you didn’t even give one shit and then without explaining why.

      • Pofarmer

        I dunno. I have a finite amount of time and don’t really feel the need to intimately sfudy every quack religion.

  • JohnH2

    When the church’s teaching of polygamy became an obstacle to statehood, the church president received a “divine revelation” that declared that their unchanging god had changed his mind. That’s quite a comedown for a book that Joseph Smith declared to be “the most correct of any book on earth.”

    This one is just messed up: The only time the Book of Mormon talks about polygamy it disallows it except for the specific instance of if God tells a prophet to allow it; that caveat is usually ignored by detractors who try and say the Book of Mormon contradicts the D&C on the subject of polygamy.

    It is the Book of Mormon which is declared to be “the most correct of any book” though, not the D&C.

    With what is in the Book of Mormon already then it should be pretty clear though that OD1, the Book of Mormon, and D&C 132 all agree on the subject of polygamy, there isn’t a change in doctrine in any of them, just a change in whether polygamy was or was not allowed to be practiced at that current time.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      So the BoM says that polygamy is bad, but that can be overruled by a prophet, and Joseph Smith (a prophet) says it’s OK?

      So your concern is with my last sentence only, is that right? It doesn’t sound like the BoM is all that correct if Smith has to correct it.

      • JohnH2

        No, the Book of Mormon says not to practice polygamy unless a prophet says so (that part is part of the book). So Joseph Smith receiving a revelation saying to practice polygamy is completely consistent with what is in the Book of Mormon.

        • Itarion

          Which makes sense, really. With small numbers, as the initial group of Mormons had, you want lots of children in the next generation. But you also want to have some ability to say, “Oh, yeah, we don’t do that. That’s totally not good anymore.” Flexibility is good for religion. It’s good for any group.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re trying to give this a positive spin, but I’m not seeing it. If you want lots of babies, that suggests lots of unprotected sex, not polygamy. Polygamy can be good to provide rewards for the faithful or powerful, but you’re going to make enemies in all the bachelors denied ladies.

        • smrnda

          Is there some procedure for determining whether or not someone is a valid prophet?

        • John Bell

          To be a mormon prophet, one must be very white, very old, and, most importantly, have an outspoken hatred of gays.

        • JohnH2

          ” outspoken hatred of gays.”

          False:

          http://www.mormonsandgays.org/

        • John Bell

          Actions speak louder than words and the mormon’s behavior around Prop 8 said it all.

        • JohnH2

          And not our actions around ENDA? We aren’t going to change our position on gay marriage, but to say that it is hatred of gays or that we have to hate gays because of that is wrong.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not buying that. You don’t hate gays, you just hate gay activity. But isn’t it hard to separate them? They can’t be gay (and part of being gay is having gay romantic relationships).

          “Sure, you can be gay, just don’t be gay” is how it comes across.

        • JohnH2

          The disagreement with gay marriage is over the purpose of marriage, not whether gays should be allowed to have romantic relationships. The church is in favor of gays not being discriminated against and other such rights, but is against formal gay marriage.

          All sexual activity outside of marriage is contrary to what the church teaches, so that does mean that any members in good standing that are homosexual can not act on their attraction if they desire to remain in good standing with the church. (Which is a catch-22 if one wishes to be both Mormon and be in a homosexual relationship)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Sure, have all the gay sex you want, just do it within
          marriage (and, BTW, you can’t have a gay marriage).”

          There’s no positive spin here. You may lament that your
          church makes it tough to be gay (and I’m not sure you’re even doing that), but your “we love gays” doesn’t ring true.

        • smrnda

          But what relevance does this have to *civil marriage?* Permitting same-sex marriage doesn’t require that Mormons believe it is right, the same way that competing religions exist under the law.

        • JohnH2

          There are a decent number of members that take that position. The churches position though on the subject is that civil marriage is much more about the children, producing and raising of biological children, then it is about the romantic feelings and desire for companionship of the couple: civil unions are acceptable.

        • JohnH2

          You mean like Deuteronomy 18:15-22? Or more like the calling of a solemn assembly where the new prophet is sustained by the church.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I would think that the rather large “oops!” of Smith declaring polygamy A-OK and then the new prophet changing his/God’s mind would be dramatic enough to declare that Smith wasn’t actually a prophet (or the new guy wasn’t).

        • JohnH2

          ??? – Smith taught that there is a plurality of Gods but for us only one God, not polytheism and that has never been changed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          My bad! I meant “polygamy.” I’ll change the prior comment.

        • JohnH2

          In regards to polygamy that is what the FLDS and other polygamous sects use as their justification; Some of the Twelve ended up getting excommunicated for their continued practicing of polygamy which is where the FLDS and other polygamous sects claim their line of authority is from.

          There is also the Community of Christ (and related sects) which never accepted polygamy to begin with.

          That said though, the scriptures on the subject of polygamy have what it takes to allow it and what it takes to disallow it so I don’t see how either prophet involved in that would be false for following what the scriptures say on the subject (as long as the scriptures are themselves true to begin with).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This doesn’t answer my question. It seems to me that this conflict–is polygamy OK or not?–highlights that this is just a bunch of guys making up their club’s rules as they go. This is no reflection of the wishes of an unchanging, perfect god.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But then we wonder why the BoM couldn’t have anticipated that polygamy was, indeed, OK. Why have Smith trump the BoM? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

          Skeptics will say, “How conveeeeenient!” in the appropriate Church Lady voice. The BoM doesn’t help Mormons in salvaging the credibility of their religion.

          What edit would you suggest for that section that you noted?

        • JohnH2

          ??? – the Book of Mormon does have when polygamy is, indeed, okay, as I just said.

          As for edits, to be consistent it would be best to replace the last line with something else, not related to the Book of Mormon. You could take the route of ignoring Jacob 2:30 and reword the first sentence being God was against before He was for polygamy, but that would be more dishonest.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not understanding that first line (“does have”?). Could you rephrase?

        • JohnH2

          Jacob 2:30 :

          “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will
          command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

          Meaning God can command that polygamy be practiced.

        • MNb

          God, whose name is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, just commanded you in my dream to reconvert to pastafarianism. Will you?
          If not why should I accept what some random people in another country say that their god commands?

        • JohnH2

          No one should accept what anyone else anywhere says that God commands without checking with God as to whether He has in fact commanded such a thing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But “checking with God” is an inherently subjective process. Yes, I realize that you think that you’re talking to the Objective Truth, but this is merely a process carried out by fallible humans. What confidence can we have in the result?

        • JohnH2

          “What confidence can we have in the result?”

          One should trust their own experiences more then anyone else’s experiences but should also probably always try to better understand what they have experienced and be willing to admit to having not understood everything perfectly, because we never do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I admit that I’m imperfect, and when I check my experiences, I conclude that there is likely no supernatural, so I should live my life as if that were so (while being open to new evidence).

          Did I do it correctly? Can you fault my conclusion?

        • JohnH2

          Yes, I can fault your conclusion, we have been over this subject repeatedly and in two separate conversations you have made admissions which contradict your conclusion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I forget these admissions. Please elaborate.

        • smrnda

          I actually disagree with this entirely. It’s important to start with the understanding that your own perceptions are fallible and biased, and to find means of getting around that. My experience of whether a particular diet, drug, workout program, medical treatment or therapy works isn’t as valuable in terms of whether these things do as statistical evidence.

        • Kodie

          There’s this thing called “confirmation bias”.

        • MNb

          Just checked with god. He told me that his name really is The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
          Now what?

        • JohnH2

          MNb, you have the ability to discern between good and evil, between right and wrong. If God has met you where you are and with what you will accept and understand then that is great as everyone grows little by little. Do what you know of yourself to be right and listen to what God says.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Seriously? This is an argument that will convince a skeptic?

          This is just your theology. OK, thanks for sharing. But it’s not evidence. “You’ll really enjoy my religion once you give it a try” seems to be your idea of good evidence that your god actually exists.

        • JohnH2

          Bob,

          I am not here presenting evidence for God, MNb claimed to have checked with God and gotten the response that God’s name is the flying spaghetti monster: meaning that MNb then has already evidence of God and for some reason is still asking me a question.

        • MNb

          Just take one step further and I’ll stop bothering.
          Admit not only that you are not presenting evidence, admit that you don’t have any.
          There is no way to make out if god is your mormon version or my FSM. There is no way to make out if your council of twelve wise guys has correctly found out what the “genuine” revelations are and what the “non-genuine” ones are.
          It’s all baked air as we Dutch say.
          And you still have not solved the problem of the material and measurable but not cooperating to be measured god. Your entire belief system is circular: you believe what your (in my atheist eyes completely random) holy book says; it says there is a god and what he wants from you and by means of an in my eyes also completely random guy your god tells you so. And if your god changes his mind or notes that you have misunderstood him he sends some unverifiable new revelations to some other completely random guys which need to be approved by 12 other completely random guys.
          In short: bogus. Because you don’t have an objective standard. Science has: observation and experiment.
          I tell you what. I’ll start to take you seriously as soon as your Twelve Supposedly Wise Guys approve of a revelation that tells all the mormons that it all was a joke and that you all should reconvert to pastafarianism.
          Somehow I don’t see this or anything like this happen. Ever.
          Because like any other religion yours is infested by politics, no matter how often and how loud you deny it. As such it has nothing to do with objectivity.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You gave a Bible reference. This is theology. Fair enough, but don’t imagine that this is actual evidence (or an algorithm) that any of us can use reliably to tell us anything.

        • JohnH2

          You obviously didn’t read the reference then. it says that to know a true prophet then what they prophecy has to happen otherwise don’t listen to them. Given that you are willing to deny that a prophecy happened a second after it is fulfilled then I suppose it doesn’t matter for you and you can dismiss it as being theology but for anyone that doesn’t use a Dirac function as their prior then it is a very rational approach which can reliably tell us whether a prophet actually is a prophet.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, that’s good advice. And obvious, too.

          I’ve seen zero fulfilled prophecies in the Bible and no reason to imagine that any exist.

          Show me a fulfilled prophecy and I’ll be happy to agree that it’s a fulfilled prophecy.

        • JohnH2

          Seriously Bob? We just spent a recent thread discussing a fulfilled prophecy, which you admitted to but then said it didn’t matter. Why should I go down the same rabbit hole pointing out other fulfilled prophecies when you have as much said that the moment after it is fulfilled then you don’t care?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m pretty sure I never agreed to the existence any fulfilled prophecies in the Bible. But perhaps I’m forgetful–remind me.

        • JohnH2

          The Lord liveth that is gathering His people Israel; remember that?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A vague “prophecy,” the fulfillment of which doesn’t count as anything noteworthy? Sure, I remember.

          I could say, “I predict that in the next 50 years, America will have a president whose last name starts with H.” There’s a chance that might not happen, but it would hardly be startling if it did.

        • JohnH2

          I never agreed to the existence any fulfilled prophecies in the Bible

          A vague “prophecy,”the fulfillment of which doesn’t count as anything noteworthy

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, non-prophecies exist in the Bible. There–are you happy?

          “President Obama will have toast for breakfast this morning” doesn’t fit the kind of prophecy we’re talking about. “Fulfilled biblical prophecy” must be startling, unambiguous, and 100% accurate. But perhaps you define it a different way.

        • Kodie

          You still believe that’s a prophesy? You are still defending this as a prophesy? And you’re getting agitated because you’ve explained this to us before?

          Not to my satisfaction. Prophesies are really easy to fulfill once you set out to fulfill something that’s been claimed to be a prophesy.

        • Kodie

          Your promotion has always been to go read and follow the instructions, and maybe you will get the heavenly bat signal to believe Mormonism is correct. Are you saying you won’t subject yourself to the experiment if someone else suggests it?

        • JohnH2

          Not what I am saying at all, as long as what someone else says it not morally objectionable to me I am quite willing to subject myself to a similar experiment.

          MNb was making the claim that God had spoken to him, who am I to question that prior to him admitting it was a “joke”? If God had spoken to him why would he still be asking me questions about the subject? he should do what God told him to do.

        • Kodie

          Maybe you just don’t know what you sound like to other people, but you think MNb really talked to the same god you believe in and got some tidbit of wisdom to share. It not only conflicts with the bits you’ve been privy to, you wave it away. Do you not comprehend why nobody has to take you seriously?

        • JohnH2

          I know that I do not know everything about God and I know that God speaks to people where they are; if MNb received anything from God, even if it doesn’t line up that well at all with what I know and have received then that is a really good thing.

          I know no one has to take me seriously.

        • Kodie

          You know you don’t know a lot so it’s hard for you to make up new stuff to tell yourself when you ask “god” a question. God will not be able to reveal anything to you that you can’t think of yourself. The more elaborate explanation is that god tells everyone different secret things and some of them conflict so you go by your own biases, i.e. what god tells you that he told MNb something else. Do you have any idea why I’m an atheist? Are you curious? Because this convoluted horseshit you imagine is real is easily explained without a deity. You questioned yourself and you came to the conclusion that god is real because you answered yourself that it was true. Even when we demonstrate it for you, you persist in explaining it seriously, as if we are the idiots. It is almost funny. Are you joking with us like MNb was joking?

        • JohnH2

          I am not joking with you, I am familiar with what you have chosen to share about your life’s story, though I don’t know you have shared specifically why you are an atheist. If you wanted to share and it doesn’t involve a long angry rant about you being angry at God (that you don’t believe exists) (as you have done in the past) then I would be interested in listening.

          I understand and disagree with your assertion as to the nature of communication from God.

        • Kodie

          Have I made a long angry rant about how I don’t believe in god because I’m angry at him? What the fuck kind of drugs are you on?

        • JohnH2

          Not specifically about not believing in God, but yes, you have made long angry rants about your anger towards god and religion in the past.

        • Kodie

          Seriously. I don’t know where you’re coming up with this, except you can’t really read for comprehension. You gave MNb the benefit of the doubt even though it was absolutely obvious that he was not being serious. The character of god is very nasty and atheists talk about that, but nobody believes he’s real.

          Then there’s the people. Religions inspire people to be awful over their delusions, and that’s real, and atheists talk about that a lot too. The sooner any one of you can prove your god exists, and your religion is actually true, nobody will be able to criticize your bizarre or violent actions, because of course there’s a good reason and it’s not a delusion. Until then, John, it is voices in your head, driving you to vote, to act, and to be if not complete assholes, then just wrong about a lot of stuff and confident that you have the only right answer in the universe. That’s balls. Religion is arrogance. We’re allowed to criticize it, and the minutiae of your delusion is not very different from other religions’ minutiae.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The image comes to mind of the Christian holding a sock puppet.

          Christian: You exist, don’t you, God?

          Sock puppet: You bet I do, Mr. Christian!

          I’m not convinced.

        • MNb

          Of course. The same applies to you. Apparently god has said something different to you than to me. You’re ducking the issue once again.
          Now what?

        • JohnH2

          How am I ducking the issue? Presumably you are truthfully reporting that God said something to you, in which case you should follow what God said, assuming you know it to be good, even if it is not in agreement with what God has said to me.

          God has not told me that you have authority to say anything to me about the nature and knowledge of God; so while I fully believe that you should follow what God has told you, I am under no obligation to follow what God has told you but rather have the obligation to follow what He has told me. God gives to each that portion of His word that He sees fit in wisdom that they receive and that they are willing to accept.

        • MNb

          See my last reaction. I am asking for an objective standard, ie one not depending on subjective me. You don’t provide one simply because you can’t – again.
          Thanks for your patience.

        • JohnH2

          I already mentioned Deuteronomy 18:22, it isn’t my fault if you failed to look it up.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Another thought belatedly comes to mind. This passage makes the rather obvious point that if someone’s prophetic actions aren’t prophetic, he’s not a prophet.

          Joseph Smith’s “translation” of the Book of Abraham was flawed. (I’d say that he completely invented the translation and knew he was doing so, but perhaps there’s a more charitable interpretation.) Anyway, this seems to make clear that he’s no prophet.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Seriously? You think MNb should listen to the voices in his head?

          Maybe when someone tells us, with the enthusiasm of a new convert, that he’s found the True Path, we should try to talk him down. When “God told me!” is used to support something you know to be false, you figure that, since he followed your approach, he must be correct?

          Or can we wonder if the approach is flawed?

        • JohnH2

          Everyone is able to tell between good and evil for themselves and therefore has the ability to follow what light they have received.

          MNb has as much admitted that he is lying about the subject so him “receiving” something I know to be false tells us absolutely nothing.

          Under the assumption that it isn’t a “joke” then my theology says that God meets people where they are and gives them that portion of His truth that He sees fit in wisdom to give and they are willing to receive, if where MNb is requires that God teach him via pastafarianism then I am sorry for MNb’s condition and hope that as he follows what light he has received he will eventually be able to accept more from God and come closer to meeting God as God is.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Everyone is able to tell between good and evil for themselves

          Agreed. Unfortunately, the moral conclusions that we all come to aren’t the same ones. Some are pro-life; others pro-choice. And so on.

          It seems like we’ve agreed that any of us can have strong moral convictions but that those convictions don’t point us in the same direction.

          my theology says that God meets people where they are and gives them that portion of His truth that He sees fit in wisdom to give and they are willing to receive

          And yet you also know that people delude themselves and that our brains are very fallible. How do you know that any one push from God isn’t simply that person deluding themselves? Indeed, how do you know that all such feelings aren’t delusions?

        • JohnH2

          If they impel a person to be better, more moral, and happier then their effect is real and is good and not delusional.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Whether religion is good is orthogonal to whether it’s delusional.

          There may well be positive things about religion. Believing that it’s true remains a delusion.

        • JohnH2

          Whether religion is good is directly related to whether it is at all true, and it is delusional to think otherwise.

          So let me get this straight, Bob, should you find out about a historic prophecy a second after it is fulfilled then you will deny it and should a religion be absolutely and objectively good then you will likewise say that is a delusion.

          A long time ago you objected to me making this precise claim about you and yet, here you have now demonstrated that given absolute proof of the goodness and truth of religion you will deny it, that you are able to call it midnight while staring at the sun at noon. I suppose if an angel appeared to you and spoke with the voice of God then that would also be a delusion?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Whether religion is good is directly related to whether it is at all true, and it is delusional to think otherwise.

          There are no useful delusions? Seems to me that hope is often this.

          should you find out about a historic prophecy a second after it is fulfilled then you will deny it

          Huh?

          … and should a religion be absolutely and objectively good then you will likewise say that is a delusion.

          I’ll say it’s a delusion if it is one. Again, usefulness is orthogonal to delusion.

          here you have now demonstrated that given absolute proof of the goodness and truth of religion you will deny it

          Huh?

        • Kodie

          I think the correct term for that is hallucination.

        • Kodie

          It is delusional if they think they got their instructions from another fucking planet.

        • JohnH2

          unless they actually did.

        • Kodie

          And you believe this because you asked god and that’s all you can say. That’s normal. /sarcasm

        • Kodie

          my theology says that God meets people where they are and gives them
          that portion of His truth that He sees fit in wisdom to give and they
          are willing to receive

          That’s another way of saying “Myself, I don’t know. I can’t give me answers I can’t think of yet.” If you are doubtful of pastafarianism, it’s because you have convinced yourself against it bearing on communication that god has withheld from you and shared with MNb. You won’t be convinced of another religion because you already made yourself believe your own. “God” is not going to give you another answer because he’s you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (responding to where Kodie is going)

          If you laugh at MNb’s flippant FSM remark, how can you then take your own religious justification seriously? Aren’t they the same process?

        • JohnH2

          MNb admitted it was a joke, implying that he didn’t receive something, I didn’t call it a joke until he already had said it was.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You didn’t answer my question.

          Let’s say MNb was in earnest. His process is then the same as yours. Do you give his conclusion the respect you give your own? I suppose you would since you’re both fallible humans doing the best you can with an imperfect tool set. Do you say, “That’s right for you, just not for me”?

        • JohnH2

          Largely, if MNb was concluding something that was not just different but which seemed to me to be evil then I would doubt the conclusion more.

          “Do you say, “That’s right for you, just not for me”?”

          Basically yes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          One nice thing about your religion is that it doesn’t send nonbelievers to hell but just to a less-good heaven.

          But, like conventional Christians, your god doesn’t much care about making his message clear. It’s almost like he’s not even there.

        • Kodie

          So did you really ask god if you should listen to MNb?

        • JohnH2

          Listening to MNb is not consistent with what I have received from God and I have asked God about what MNb was saying, so yes.

        • Kodie

          Listening to you is not consistent with rationality. I have asked myself, honestly, is JohnH2 delusional or what? And I answered myself, “yep”. The difference between me and you is that I know I’m the voice I’m listening to and you think it’s coming from another planet. You can’t demonstrate this, your only advice is to pray and listen.

          I want a literal answer – what purpose for discussion do you think your voice serves here? You know you can’t prove anything, nor do you seek to try. All you want to do is be “the Mormon” and the more I know about you, the worse Mormonism looks from my perspective, and the more delusional practitioners of Mormonism must be to swallow any of it. It is 100% mind tricks for the simple.

        • JohnH2

          So almost everything you say is assertion (as is most of your comments), it is fine that you want to emote your feelings on the subject, I disagree obviously.

          ” what purpose for discussion do you think your voice serves here?”
          This discussion was started by a minor correction on something Bob had in OP where he got something actually wrong as opposed to something that could reasonably be understood that way.

        • Kodie

          Your assertions are real though? You have supported any, any of your assertions? “I asked god and he told me he’s real, and that’s all you have to do to become a Mormon too. You should try it before you dismiss it, because there’s no evidence and that’s everything, I guess.”

        • JohnH2

          I have discussed at length a few points of evidence which you dismiss.

        • Kodie

          You have discussed at length what the Mormon Book tells you to believe. That’s not evidence, though. Your answer for evidence is read that Moroni thing, pray and listen. You repeatedly claim there is no evidence you can share with us.

        • JohnH2

          That actually isn’t what I claim or why I don’t bring in more evidence; As I said, I keep bringing in the gathering of Israel, and occasionally mention other things, but that isn’t the most important evidence that a person gets. It isn’t that I don’t have more evidence but that isn’t what is important, and yes, some I am not in a position to share which is quite a bit different from not having it.

        • Kodie

          There is nothing substantial in your claims.

        • smrnda

          So, what should I make of the silence of god on all matters I’ve brought up?

        • JohnH2

          smrnda,

          God places before each of us constantly the way of life and good and the way of death and evil and we have a knowledge of good and evil to be able to judge between the two. It isn’t given to us to know everything, only enough to light the next steps in the way and if we walk the way of life to the edge of what we do know that is when we can expect to receive more.

          Since I don’t know that my explination communicated effectively what I am trying to say then perhaps this might do a better job.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Again, more theology. I think the skeptics here would prefer to have evidence.

        • Kodie

          I read your Moroni thing, I think you should take a moment and see what the Flying Spaghetti Monster has to say about MNb’s dream.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          How that means that polygamy is OK, I can’t imagine.

    • smrnda

      “it disallows it except for the specific instance of if God tells a prophet to allow it”

      So, prophets can change doctrine on issues that the book doesn’t have a stance on, and when 2 prophets disagree I’m not supposed to just think they’re spouting BS but that god just legitimately changed opinions and notified the prophet?

      • JohnH2

        “when 2 prophets disagree I’m not supposed to just think they’re spouting BS”

        You should totally think they are spouting BS. To actually change doctrine requires a revelation and requires that the revelation be confirmed and accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve; anything else is likely to be either a restatement of prior doctrine or just their own opinion on the subject.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This reminds me of the crazy idea of the pope being declared infallible in 1870. So a bunch of fallible men concluded that another guy can be infallible. How does that work?

          Ditto for LDS prophets. Sure, it’s good to get some outside input on a matter, but 12 fallible men deciding what God meant and then declaring that doctrine? Sounds a bit presumptuous to me.

        • JohnH2

          It is not that the other guy is infallible but that a revelation that the other guy has received is correct and is from God. Obviously. if one doesn’t believe in God then that comes to mean the same thing but then one wouldn’t (likely) be LDS.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So do you buy the pope’s infallibility? If not, how do you accept the authority of the Twelve Apostles, since the same process chose them?

        • Kodie

          Revelation is just personal preference. There is no message received. Getting 12 people to agree on something might not be simple, but it’s not that difficult. Sounds fancy, sounds like a ceremonious big deal, but it’s just putting on a play.

        • MNb

          This afternoon during my nap I had a revelation. It came to me in a dream. The Flying Spaghetti Monster told me mormonism is false.
          Now will you reconvert?
          If no, why should I rely on revelations confirmed by twelve random men (I bet there are no women involved) forming a random quorum, which after all do nothing but just form their own opinion on the subject?

        • JohnH2

          I don’t expect people to generally listen to them without knowing that they are not just random men.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which, of course, raises yet more in our chain of questions: how do we know this? Since there is disagreement on the subject (you think they are annointed and I think they’re not), how do we decide? Just look for that ever-reliable burning in the bosom?

        • JohnH2

          The Spirit is supposed to lead to all truth so one could do that I suppose. Jesus says by their fruits ye shall know them, but that is also subjective and being able to judge when something is fruit of belief and when something is the person themselves making mistakes may be difficult. Deuteronomy 18:15-22 could also work.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds like we’re in agreement on the difficulty of this project. Why don’t we also agree that this is a fool’s errand? Instead of being determined to cram the religion of Mormonism into the box of reason, why not just say that it doesn’t fit?

          Since humanity has invented zillions of religions and continues to do so, why not conclude that Mormonism is yet one more?

        • JohnH2

          No, we aren’t at all in agreement, I was presenting three distinct ways in which one could investigate the subject and they are all easy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Sure, they’re easy, but are they reliable? Looks like not.

        • JohnH2

          Nothing is entirely reliable, but it is still possible to gain accurate information from less than completely reliable data.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You and I look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. How do we tell who (if either of us) has it right?

        • JohnH2

          Well if your prior is a Dirac delta function at zero then obviously your posterior is much more suspect then if ones prior was a uniform distribution, or really most any other distribution.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Doesn’t help.

        • Kodie

          It is political, they’re not random, they got there by campaigning or whatever. They take themselves and their role too seriously, and because you believe the hype, you take them seriously too. From the outside – just a weird club.

        • JohnH2

          They don’t campaign.

        • Kodie

          These are details that don’t matter.

        • Kodie

          They really don’t, John. They’re not psychics, they’re not prophets. It doesn’t matter what hurdles they crossed or ladders they climbed to get on the Quorum.

        • JohnH2

          Kodie,

          They don’t do anything to get on the Quorum of the Twelve, they have only the ability to reject being on the Quorum and have no say otherwise as to if they are or are not called to the Quorum of the Twelve.

        • Kodie

          Could I be called to the Quorum of Twelve?

        • JohnH2

          It would require quite a lot more revelation than usual, but in theory God could reveal more about women in the priesthood and call you to the Quorum of the Twelve. There are a few other practical problems (like getting baptized) that would need to be taken care of; but sure it is possible, but completely unlikely.

        • Kodie

          I’m not even a Mormon. What the hell does “a lot more revelation than usual” mean? These men were chosen politically. They were well connected and campaigned all their lives to move up the ladder. Are you shitting me that this detail is important because they didn’t campaign for votes? They are not “random” guys. Whoever said that made a poor word choice, because they’re not “random,” like, blindfolded picked out of the phone book and called literally on the phone. But they aren’t magical people, they’re just guys. They know a shitload of shit about being a Mormon, and apparently use their authority to share “revelations” that people take seriously.

          When the Mormon church allows women to be high priests or whatever, it will not be because revelation from god, it will be people opening their eyes, checking the treasury, and seeing that they have to make allowances or perish. If you want to claim god orchestrated changes the church made before, you are naive. But I think you’re naive anyway.

        • JohnH2

          Usually to call a member of the Twelve requires only the revelation to know which person to call, in your case it would require additional revelation allowing women to be Apostles which is not usually needed to call an Apostle.

          A person never campaigns to “move up” the ladder; it isn’t even something that one “moves up” without also “moving down”, unless one is an Apostle. Everyone else at some point gets released from whatever position they previously held.

        • John Bell

          It’s true that you don’t campaign to move up the ladder. All you have to do is outlive the guy ahead of you. But, you are more hopelessly naive than I thought if you don’t know that one has to engage in some serious campagining to get on the ladder.

        • Kodie

          Wait a second. So someone is called to perform the duties of a legitimate (within your religious organization) prophet when some other legitimate (within your religious organization) prophet:

          has a revelation
          of somebody they’ve never heard of
          or someone that they’ve heard of. ???
          Someone whose qualifications they are amply aware of
          or some unsuspecting nobody?

          I’m not asking for a revelation allowing women, just because I happen to be a woman. I am asking if some nobody non-Mormon like me would ever be revealed to the prophets or if they are pretty much looking at the dudes who made themselves important within the church already, and how they know to fill the vacancy with someone, that person must already be demonstrating properties of a prophet. I know it’s all solemn business to you and other Mormons, but it’s just politics to everyone else. That’s what politics looks like. They don’t advertise for CEOs, you don’t apply for the job of a CEO. However do you suspect a candidate is recommended?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It must be similar to the politicking behind getting elected pope, right?

    • MNb

      “the revelation be confirmed and accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve”
      You were right when you wrote that “I for some reason keep on asking questions about these twelve guys. Time to conclude.
      I presented you a religious conflict (FSM vs. your mormon god), asked how to find out which one is correct and you were not able to provide an objective standard like one possible used by these twelve guys.
      My conclusion is that there isn’t any. That quorum of yours just consists of twelve fat asses warming some very luxurious chairs in a comfortable room, talking a lot about revelation this and non-revelation that, producing baked air. No doubt they think a lot and have read a lot – all about baked air.
      Now compare this with a recent conflict in physics. Research at CERN claimed to have found neutrino’s travelling faster than light. A holy dogma (posed by Lorentz, Poincare and Einstein) shattered! You can imagine the consternation. Some physicists started to speculated about abandoning the dogma and how the new theories should look like. Others did believed zilch. As an amateur I just followed the news and didn’t take a position. Because something very predictable happened. Everyone (and that was a lot more than just 12 with two capital letters) agreed on the correct procedure.
      1. Check the findings (a lot of calculations involved) if there had been mistakes;
      2. Redo the experiment.
      Step 1 sufficed. There was a mistake. Piece and rest returned in the land of physicists.
      You mormons have nothing that can compare when somebody shows up with a revelation about the Flying Spaghetti Monster some day.


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