Mormonism Beats Christianity—Or Does It?

The Christian world has plenty of people eager to predict the future. Hal Lindsey published several predictions of the End. Harold Camping hilariously predicted the end of the world in 2011 (I wrote about that here, here, and here).

These are just a few in the long line of end-of-the-world predictors, and they all make two mistakes. First, they delude themselves that they can predict the future. Second, they’re too specific! That’s why Nostradamus’s nonsense is still popular but Hal Lindsay’s breathlessly titled The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon or Planet Earth: The Final Chapter aren’t. Nostradamus is ambiguous, so it can be interpreted (always in hindsight!) to mean something profound. Specific, short-term predictions tend to explode in your face when they don’t happen.

The importance of that lesson will be apparent shortly.

Mormonism beats Christianity

I recently wrote a post with this thought experiment: imagine the most convincing historical record of a religion. What could it possibly say to convince you to sign up?

Mormonism almost has that imaginary perfect historical record. It certainly beats Christianity.*

  • Number of documents. The Christian apologist may say that the New Testament story is supported by the writings of Josephus, Tacitus, and other outsiders. But Mormons point to newspaper articles, diaries, letters, and even court records documenting the early fathers of the church, a far broader record than that of the New Testament. Some of these accounts of the events in the early Mormon church were written days or even hours after the events.
  • Quality of copies. The apologist will talk about the tens of thousands of New Testament manuscript copies and the antiquity of some of the oldest manuscripts, the most voluminous record of any book, but the Mormon record beats this again. The books of Mormonism were written after the modern printing press, and we have many early, identical copies. There is no centuries-long dark period separating originals from our earliest copies and no worry that scribes “improved” manuscripts as they copied them.
  • Cultural gap. The Jesus story is from a culture long ago and far away, and the gospels document the Christian tradition within Greek culture, already one culture removed from the Aramaic Jewish culture of Jesus. In Mormonism, we can read the accounts of the participants in our own language.
  • Oral history gap. The apologist will talk about how little time elapsed between the events and the documentation of those events—perhaps 40 to 60 years for the gospels. Not bad, but Mormonism spent basically no time in the limbo of oral tradition. Its holy books were committed to paper immediately.
  • Provenance. The New Testament books were written by ordinary people, not by God himself or even angels. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was told by an angel about the golden plates, from which the Book of Mormon was written. Yes, Smith’s translation process was fallible, but he wasn’t writing from memory. That his source document was vetted by an angel says a lot about the quality of what he started with.
  • Eyewitness accounts. The four gospels don’t claim to be eyewitness accounts. We don’t even know who wrote them. Within Mormonism, 12 men saw the golden plates. Testimony from those men is at the beginning of the Book of Mormon.
  • Who would die for a lie? Christian apologists ask this question and then point to the martyred disciples of Jesus. In the first place, this argument crumbles on investigation. In the second, Mormonism matches it. The Mormon inner circle put themselves through much hardship, including death in at least the case of founder Joseph Smith. If Christian apologists claim that this is strong evidence for Christianity, must it be for Mormonism as well?
  • Naysayer hypothesis. Christian apologists say that if the Jesus story were false, naysayers of the time would’ve snuffed it out. A false story wouldn’t have survived to be popular today. In the first place, this argument is ridiculous. In the second, Mormonism matches it. If the story were false, those in the inner circle would’ve shut it down, right?

But there’s another side to the story: part 2.

If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed;
if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.
— Mark Twain

* I use “Christianity” to mean “conventional Christianity.” I have little interest in the question of whether the LDS church is legitimately Christian or not.

Photo credit: Religion and Politics

Rationalizing Away the “Canaanite Problem”
Christianity Is a Hospital, and Sinners Are Ill (Or Not)
Rationalizing Away the “Canaanite Problem” (2 of 2)
How Reliable is Apostle Paul When He Knew Very Little About Jesus?
About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    As I told the nice young Mormon missionaries back when I was in college and had sat thru their 6 hour-long standard presentations, Mormonism certainly seemed to have covered a lot of bases, and if I were going to be religious at all, I’d probably be a Mormon. But there was no way I was ever going to swallow all the mystical bullshit that any religion is built on.

    I said it more nicely than that at the time, of course, but I could tell that the 2 guys were kind of hurt that it turned out like that, because I must have seemed like a promising prospect, having sat thru all their talks and asked pertinent questions. Nonetheless, we kept in touch during their stay in town, and I provided them with a variety of social experiences (mainly revolving around pick-up games of basketball and football) that they got to chalk up as “time spent with the heathens” or whatever they called us on their weekly reports to Mormon missionary HQ.

    I actually kept this up thru several succeeding generations of missionaries. The way the LDS church works it is that each team has a veteran at that location, who’s been there for at least 10 weeks, plus an understudy. After the novice has been there for 10 weeks, he becomes the “old pro”, and his mentor heads off to be a fledgling somewhere else. That way there’s always overlap, and nobody stays in one place so long that they form attachments to it and corruption and temptation (IE, girls) can start setting in.

    Nonetheless, I did my level best to corrupt the ones I knew, and I hope I managed to plant some long-germinating seeds of doubt in them.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I hope I managed to plant some long-germinating seeds of doubt in them.

      You’re clearly a wicked man.

      • RichardSRussell

        And that was before I started reading your blog.

    • Makoto

      I usually had Jehovah’s Witnesses popping up at my place, but I did the same. At one point, after I got one arguing that their god was intentionally evil based on our observed world, he stopped, shook his head, shook my hand, and walked away with his junior partner following. I’m not quite sure what happened after that, but no other Witnesses appeared at my door while I lived there.

  • smrnda

    An issue that you may get to later is that the contents of the Book of Mormon are very different given the context of their production to the books of the NT.

    The NT was written by people with a rough estimate of around 100AD for some of the later one, and a bit earlier for some fragments. So you have people in the ancient near east writing about some events from a bit earlier.

    The books of Mormon don’t concern events around the time of their production, but are meant to be an account of things that went on in the Americas which (it seems) were never recorded anywhere. The claim might be closer to the claim that Moses wrote the books of Moses and that god dictated what he was to write.

    At the same time, there exist eyewitnesses who say that the gold plates business was real.

    There’s also the point that the supposed events the book of Mormon discusses don’t seem to be well supported by evidence from the Americas – some Mormons tend to take a ‘you can’t prove it *DIDN’T* happen’ approach, but a number of details make it rather implausible. Of course, the NT does this as well with miracle claims, but I don’t think the book of Mormon really does that much better – for each point of strength, there’s a point of weakness.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks. I hope to touch on some of those points next time.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Since Mormons call themselves The Church of Jesus Christ, I am mystified by why they would claim this and deny the NT. Where else would the Jesus as The Christ part of LDS religion come from?

    • MNb

      Your question is based on the assumption that mormonism is rational. That assumption is wrong, as far as I know for every single religion.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Is it rational to believe that every individual is complete unto him or herself, or is it more rational to find ways to bond humans in community, based on more than animal instinct? Bonding people in community seems to be the highest purpose of religions.

        My issue with many religions is that they reduce people to their animal instincts with fear promoted by the “sacred” scriptures. This reduction then encourages people to accept “saviors” outside of what reason would tell them is available through physical community.

        There is quantifiable evidence that what we refer to as “love” and belonging promote well-being in humans, and other life forms. When personal well-being is combined with production, based on individual and group talents, harmonious living seems to surface.

        • RichardSRussell

          Is it rational to believe that every individual is complete unto him or herself, or is it more rational to find ways to bond humans in community, based on more than animal instinct?

          Neither of these attitudes is rational; they’re both a product of emotion-based wishful thinking. Your question is akin to asking “Which is more red, blue or green?”

        • Itarion

          Define “more red”. From a standpoint of light, green is “more red,” because it has energy and wavelength more similar to red than blue. From the standpoint of pigments, blue is “more red,” because blue pigment has more properties in common with red than does green. Plus green can be described as “not red” from a pigments PoV.

          That’s not to say your point is invalid. I like your point.

        • Y. A. Warren

          What is your definition of “rational?”

        • RichardSRussell

          It’s possible that you may recall my discussion of decision-making methods, in which I defined such terms as “faith”, “trust”, “confidence”, etc. very narrowly for purposes of highlighting the distinctions between them.

          I make no such specialized, “for this discussion only” distinctions here. I use the standard definition of “rational” from Merriam-Webster Online:
          • based on facts or reason and not on emotions or feelings
          • having the ability to reason or think about things clearly

          as further explicated by Wikipedia, notably in its observation that “Determining optimality for rational behavior requires a quantifiable formulation of the problem… “

        • Y. A. Warren

          There are things in the study of behavior that can’t be “proven” but can be observed and studied rationally. Honest scientists admit that what they say are proven truths are actually the prevailing theories, based on what they now know.

        • RichardSRussell

          I hope you don’t know any scientists who claim that any explanation is “proven”. In good science, all findings are held provisionally, as the best current explanation, pending further evidence coming along. Only abstractions like math and logic admit of proofs.

          Nonetheless, gut feelings do not constitute rational evidence for, let alone proof of, anything.

        • Y. A. Warren

          I don’t know in what era you went to school, but in my education, the emphasis was on memorization of dogma in all subject matter. It seems relatively new (since the advent of the internet) that “sacred cows” are being challenged in liberal arts, sciences and religions.

          I am mystified as to why anybody wants to make a competition of religious beliefs. I am seeking to find areas of agreement in terminology, rather than in disproving or ridiculing those with different world views and/or different languages than my own.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it does seem like the delivery has changed significantly since T.Kuhn brought ‘paradigm’ to the fore. (plus i’d spitball that there tends to be a gradual increase in the proportion of science educators who can claim to be “trained scientists”.

    • Makoto

      As I understand it (and I’m no expert!), it seems that they think the NT is more or less true.. but not the full story, since Jesus came back again later, etc etc etc according to the Mormon texts. Kind of like how Islam says Jesus was there, but a prophet, not god in the flesh like Christianity claims.

      Similar roots, different results.

    • JohnH2

      We don’t deny the NT.

      • Y. A. Warren

        Perhaps there should be some discouragement toward those who think all “sacred” scripture has already been written and that there will be no more interpretations of what is sacred or scripture.

        Derisive comments and interpretations should definitely be discouraged. All of history, both religious and otherwise, is based om world view and perception. Eye witness testimony has proven to be very unreliable. All that is reliable is that we all believe what we think we experience.

        • Greg G.

          All that is reliable is that we all believe what we think we experience.

          It is more reliable that we are all susceptible to misperception and fallacious thinking, so we should temper what we believe by identifying, accounting for, and eliminating flaws like confirmation bias and wishful thinking.

        • Y. A. Warren

          Which brings us to the question, “Is there any knowing, or is all that we think we know actually a belief?”

        • Greg G.

          We each know we exist. We couldn’t ponder the issue if we didn’t. Pretty much everything else is just based on the strength of the evidence.

      • smrnda

        Many Christians believe that Mormons have beliefs that cannot be reconciled with the basic tenets of Christianity. At the same time, that’s the opinion that a multitude of sects have on everybody who is part of a different type of Christianity, so it’s really just a higher % of Christians view the Mormons that way.

        There’s also the issue that non-literalists get rejected by literalist for ‘denying’ parts of the Bible and I don’t say those people aren’t Christians.

        I guess my point is that to me, “Mormons are not Christians” is just the result of a popularity poll among Christians, not a statement of a verifiable fact.

        • JohnH2

          The point that MNb is hung up on, that spirit is matter and the God has a body does contradict the Christian creeds. Those aren’t meant as scientific statements but as utterly revolutionary theological statements, in that it denies nearly 3000 years of not just Christian theology but also Jewish, Greek, and everyone else (Zoroastrianism, Hindu, Islamic, so forth).

          It is in fact the primary (and only valid) reason that while an atheist baptising someone is valid for Catholics a Mormon baptising someone is not valid for Catholics. The words, ritual, and intent otherwise would make it completely valid but the difference in conception of God is such that the Catholic Church has deemed the ordinance to be invalid because of it (and hence Mormons as not being Christians),

        • Bob Seidensticker

          On the question of whether Mormons are proper Christians, one could say that they’re obviously Christians because they’re following the exact same guy. And anyone who says that Jesus didn’t mean that should remember that Jesus wasn’t a Christian of any stripe; he was a Jew.

          You could also say that they’re obviously not Christians because “Christianity” is presently understood to mean doctrines that Mormons reject.

          (I could sympathize with JohnH2 being frustrated that someone who’s neither religious persuasion is now throwing in opinions.)

  • MNb

    “But there’s another side to the story.”
    I hope so, because since I have learned from our very own house mormon that his god is supposed to be material but also immeasurable because it’s not a scientific theory, but a revelation which is supposed to prove that same god there is no way I can’t take mormonism seriously anymore.

    • JohnH2

      God is totally measurable, it would be getting Him to agree to be measured which would seem to be the problem.

      • ZenDruid

        Replace “God” in your statement with “The monster under Joe Smith’s bed”, and you might get an inkling of how absurd your premise sounds to your opponents in this discussion.

      • MNb

        Oooohhh, the silly he could but doesn’t want to excuse. Yeah, I claim that I could run faster than Usain Bolt. I just don’t want to.
        Your reactions get lamer every time.

        • JohnH2

          How about this MNb, unless you meet your own standard for me I won’t believe that you exist? So unless you make yourself measurable to me personally then you don’t exist; no amount of other evidence will do.

        • Greg G.

          I can testify that MNb has been sending you messages that don’t originate inside your head. We can compare the messages I claim he sent with the ones you seem to have received from him. It would be unlikely that I would be able to reproduce them word for word or letter for letter if they were just inside your head.

          But I could be a conception of your imagination, too. Using that standard for your god, he could be a product of your imagination.

          The interactions I have had with you and MNb are more real than the experiences I had with God during my religious period. I thought the warm, fuzzy feelings were reliable indications of truth. I’ve since learned that those feelings are unreliable emotional responses and that it’s not uncommon for people of many religious persuasions to rely on them.

        • JohnH2

          Greg G.

          Sorry your message comparison is just confirmation bias and wishful thinking, besides we have a record of the claimed messages.

        • Itarion

          But that record is just the messages written down by the person who “received” them. The difference between the texts you have and the messages X person has sent you is that the messages sent to you were sent in such a manner that they left a quantifiable, discernible, and understandable record independent of your receiving them. It is that independent reproducibility that is the heart and soul of any investigation, scientific or criminal or whatever. The records can be verified. The record of the OT, NT, and BoM cannot be verified, because they are ALL purported copies of works that no longer exist, meaning that there is a very real chance that they are fabrications at their origin. More to the point, this can be said about ANY historical work, and will likely be said about current documents like newspapers etc. when our culture is analysed after its eventual collapse.

          The point here is that the messages from MNb and the Bible differ fundamentally, because the original messages from MNb are still accessible to multiple people, rather than being revealed to only one person, who then wrote them down.

        • Greg G.

          All the communications with existent beings are only through material mediums. Imaginary beings must communicate using some extra method apart from material objects. Which of these methods does God use?

        • JohnH2

          Material, as everything is material.

        • Greg G.

          We communicate visually through gestures and body language, audibly through language and other sounds, through touch with nudges, caresses, or hugs, perhaps through scents and pheromones, and possibly through taste via nursing. Even animals communicate with through some of those methods.

          Monsters under the bed communicate through tree branches rubbing on the house. Imaginary space aliens communicate with people by a method that can be blocked by colanders.

          Does God communicate like people do?

          Electrons interact with each other and protons by electromagnetic forces. Neutrons and protons use the strong and weak nuclear forces to interact. Gravity affects them all, including electromagnetism. Material uses those forces to interact.

          Which forces does God use to communicate through material?

        • JohnH2

          ” I could be a conception of your imagination, too.”

          You realize that is very much the point I am trying to make? Say I did know the mass of God, what exactly would that tell us? How would it help anyone to be a better person? Why would a person believe in God if and only if they had His mass?

          In terms of lame reactions asking for the mass of God is way down the list as in our every day interactions unless one is a doctor then another persons mass is not really relevant to anything. Mass doesn’t tell us whether we should love or hate a person and wouldn’t tell us if God was or was not Who and What He claims to be. This is just a lame excuse to try avoid reality.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I know the approximate masses of my wife and children. That’s uninteresting, of course, except that it’s an almost inevitable consequence of my knowing that they exist.

        • Itarion

          This a something that really gets me, though. If God was quantifiable, and his existence was proven, there would be NO ONE who believes in him. Belief is without proof, at least in faith discussions. Alternate definitions and colloquial use, etc., etc. If a god existed, I would still not believe in him, because I wouldn’t need to. I would just accept that he exists, acknowledge that, and go upon my merry way.

        • JohnH2

          You have a valid point, and it is valid with what I said. It wasn’t quite what I was trying to say though, in this case if you knew that a god existed would you follow him? If Thor should show up, for example, and you verified that he had height, weight, mass, and that he could command lighting and had a really cool hammer; would you listen to his ideas on the nature of morality? would you do what he said to do?

          I hope that is clearer, it was my fault for using the word believe around a bunch of atheists, sorry about that.

        • Itarion

          If Thor showed up, proved he was Thor, and offered his opinions on morality, I would certainly take them into consideration. If he offered me a reward for following and obeying him, like a minor copy of his hammer and some lightning based powers, that would be cool, and I very well might. I would certainly do my level best to not violate his rules too egregiously where they don’t line up with my own ideals.

          That said, there are some very real demigods, in a sense, in the world we live in. The ultra-wealthy in this world have the authority to ask and receive* things that most people can’t. That’s a form of power, yet it would be foolish to worship these people. What’s different? The scale by which gods exceed man? I don’t think that there really is a difference. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, something’s existence is not enough reason to go about worshiping it. I would worship, rather than merely acknowledge, a god for doing things that I would be proud to do. The gods are greater versions of ourselves, and I would worship a god that, through my worship, brought me closer to the ideal of me.

          So, Thor’s probably not the best choice. Too quick to anger, too destructive. You kinda get a volatile nature with lightning gods. I’d have to go with Hermes’ aspect of knowledge and invention on this one.

          *why isn’t receive spelled the same as believe? English bothers me. I after E, except after… NO. That’s it, we’re done. No exceptions.

        • JohnH2

          Your response actually makes the point I was trying to make better than what I did.

        • Itarion

          Atheist =/= denier. I won’t deny what I can clearly sense, be that directly or indirectly, with my own senses or machinery.

          If Thor descends from the skies in a sparking chariot and screams to the heavens, “I EXIST!” I’m not gonna argue. I’m gonna say “You sure do. Looks like I was wrong.” And also probably, “Oh, crap!” But that’s the shock/surprise of the force of revelation.

        • Itarion

          It also hopefully makes a point about myself. I would love for there to be a higher power. Makes everything easier. But I don’t see it, so I act in a manner representative of my experience. I’m moderately certain that this is not a widely recognized fact about nonbelievers generally.

        • JohnH2

          Everyone generally acts the best they know how given their knowledge, experience, and circumstances. It is largely fear of the other and lack of empathy and understanding that causes people to say otherwise. Jesus very explicitly taught this repeatedly but that is often missed, I think. One of the most powerful parts of the story of the Good Samaritan is that it was a hated Samaritan that stopped and helped and Jesus ended by telling the Jews to be like the Samaritan; which would be like telling Christians to be like Atheists, or Muslims.

        • Itarion

          Not to be generally good to everyone? I thought that was how that was generally played. Be a good person towards everyone you come across.

          Modern remix, the Good Muslim. That’s probably a needed thing, really.

        • JohnH2

          “Not to be generally good to everyone?”

          The concepts are related and not exclusive.

          ” That’s probably a needed thing, really.”

          Absolutely a needed thing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t get the worship thing. Let’s say that I was convinced by a god’s existence and that he was super good. Why would I worship him? I’d certainly listen to him, both because he’d have great advice and because he might punish me for not following rules of his.

          Maybe I’m just not getting the worship thing, but why muddy the waters by throwing that in? I mean, here I am, having a great relationship with this insanely wise person. I’m sure that “Golly, you sure are fabulous!” or words to that effect will come out of my mouth occasionally. But worship?? It makes no sense.

        • Itarion

          Well, what is worship? Google’s definition of the verb is to show adoration and respect for a deity. Would I hold services for the deity? No. But signs and actions indicating regard for any god is worship, so “Golly, you sure are fabulous” is worship, though singularly nonrigorous, when directed to a god. That’s how I see it, anyway.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          So if I say “Golly, you sure are fabulous!” to a god, that’s worship, but if I say it to you, it’s not?

          The sycophancy of typical worship is what puzzles me. Don’t sentient things get less needy as they get wiser? Sure, an ordinary king might get off on lots of praise, but the stereotypical enlightened holy man meditating in Tibet wouldn’t. How much less so if you imagined a perfectly wise being?

        • Itarion

          That question applies to the Christian pan-God, but for Thor and Hermes, it doesn’t. This being because Thor and Hermes don’t have wisdom as an attribute. Either way, “worship” merely means respect for a deity. Most people see that as the highly ritualistic stuff, but private prayers are a form of worship as well, even if its just popping in [up?] to say hey.

          Why am I on this side? Why am I explaining my perspective on worship? Why do I HAVE a perspective on worship? This is weird.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I suppose “worship” could simply mean respect, but in practice in many evangelical contexts, it’s an odd celebration of putting God/Jesus high and putting oneself low. Perhaps we could find the psychological buttons that this pushes, but that’s not my point. I’m saying that if there really were a god, wouldn’t he tell us to stop grovelling? (Maybe that Monty Python Holy Grail god was on to something: “Oh, don’t grovel! One thing I can’t stand, it’s
          people groveling.”)

        • Itarion

          Oh, absolutely I wouldn’t grovel.

        • JohnH2

          People worship idols all the time such as celebrities, money, sports teams, their own intelligence, etc. They give their honor and respect to that thing and desire to have, be like, or have favor with that thing. The thing is as a deity to them. Worship isn’t really for the thing being worship but is more for the person doing the worship and their defining themselves in relation to what they worship.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Sure, we worship celebrities and money. But wouldn’t it make sense to not worship a deity? He can’t enjoy it, right?

        • JohnH2

          I am not following how you go from an admission that people worship money to suggesting that we not worship a diety. I have to be misunderstanding what you are trying to say.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Money and deities are two different things. Money won’t correct you if you give it inappropriate worship, but it seems clear to me that a perfect god would tell you to not worship it.

        • Greg G.

          I just watched the new Thor movie. He could prove his existence to me more easily than an average peasant in Europe because it would be easier for him to show up if he existed than it would be to arrange air transportation from Europe. If he stated 14th century Viking morality as the epitome of human thought, I would still think he existed, but I would doubt his wisdom. Likewise, if he based his morality on 5th century Judean culture.

        • avalpert

          I think you mean belief wouldn’t require faith without evidence – belief, by any common definition, does not require faith and certainly not faith alone. I believe the keyboard I am typing on exists, that is not just a colloquial use of the term that is a formal use of the term as in an assertion that I think it is real, this is not based on faith but based on the physical reality of me typing on it and it acting as a keyboard.

        • Itarion

          I mean what I wrote.

        • Itarion

          While there are other definitions, the word as it is often used in religious discussions implies no evidence. As well it should, by this quote from Hebrews. “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not yet beheld.” Though not yet beheld. Unseen, unobserved, yet believed. Common definitions of technical terms fall short when applied in the area the technical term originated in, and one should recognize when the term is being used as a technical term, and when it is not.

        • Greg G.

          Right. I knew my high school sweetheart existed and I had faith that someday my love would be requited. It didn’t work out. But if we knew that a god existed, it would still require faith to believe it loved us. Even if we were showered with blessings and protected from suffering, we might still think that it was just a ruse to make us think he loved us more than the Catlicks.

        • Kodie

          Fortune just doesn’t require a god. However people are counting what happens to themselves as proof of a loving god or proof of a just god, or proof of god’s ability to coerce human beings to his will (as reported by other humans) by expressing violent nature and thus requires worship, requires submission and humility – as if he’s a person doing this to you on purpose – is superstitious bullshit. It just is. There is something to be said about being sensible, i.e. don’t just wander off a cliffside, I mean there’s humility admitting we can’t actually fly, and then again there is the sort of “well, why not”? Discover a means to leap from a cliffside without injury. Nature is in a sort of control, but it’s not insurmountable, and it’s not conscious. A tornado is not a mid-term grade on your ability to discriminate against gay people. Nature does not care. It’s not picking and choosing who to punish and who to save.

          And yet measuring the evidence of a god (a predetermined god) on what happens to yourself is how many people claim to know him. Didn’t the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens make a bargain with Allah after nearly drowning in a riptide? That’s why he’s a Muslim now. I can think of the many people who come by these blogs and forums and say they used to be atheist or at least lukewarm and vague in their faith really came to it through some (to them) major event that happened to them. This is their evidence, and this is the full extent of their evidence. Chance accidents spooked them to submit to a force that had total control over their lives – a delusion.

        • Greg G.

          What’s the point of wondering whether something loves or hates a person if you can’t demonstrate that it exists? Is the Witch of South-By-Southwest a good witch or an evil witch? How should we prepare to protect ourselves from alien invasions? These questions can’t be answered without knowing something about them.

          We could speculate about the properties if we can test for them to establish the existence of something with those properties. That’s how science has detected quantum particles to other solar systems to black holes.

          Gods that have testable properties don’t stand to scrutiny. The only gods that can survive scientific scrutiny are those that are contrived to be untestable. The human imagination is quite capable of conceiving untestable ideas. Being able to measure a property of a god would separate its existence from a human conceived, untestable, imaginary contrivance.

  • Jim Hoerst

    What’s wrong with Mormonism?

    1. It has all the same crazy things as Christianity, rejection of science/evolution, angels, devils, holy men, holy books and the like.
    2. I has more crazy stuff, holy underwear, a heritage of racism, and a fabricated history of native Americans.
    3. The one falsifiable claim that it makes, that the North American Indians are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel is not supported by DNA evidence.

    • avalon

      one falsifiable claim that it makes, that the North American Indians
      are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel is not supported by DNA

      There’s also the Smith’s translation of the Egyptian papyri. The later discovery of the rosetta stone proves his translation incorrect.

    • Greg G.

      The “heritage of racism” could be listed under item 1.

  • jason

    I call this approach “fighting fire with fire”

  • natsera

    Try Baha’i! It’s even closer to “provable” than Mormonism!! Pretty much everything is documented, by Baha’ullah’s persecutors as well as by his followers! :-)

  • Douglas McClean

    It’s too bad the plates weren’t given to Smith and shown to the other witnesses two or three decades later when photography was more available.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Good observation, though I’m sure Mormons would have some song and dance about why Joe didn’t think it appropriate to photograph them.