Friday, January 25, 2013


"Every crowd has a silver lining"
--P.T. Barnum

I can recall several instances in my youth and during my mission when people would talk very optimistically about the reported "rapid growth" of the Mormon Church. I am told that just in my life time the Church records have quadrupled. This may be true based on some definitions of what constitutes a Mormon, but of the estimated 14 million members on the roster how many actually consider themselves members of the Church?

For many Mormons the growth rate of the Church represents its veracity. Why would people join the Church in droves if it is not true? Well, the problem with this logic is that it isn't logical. In fact, it is the classic logical fallacy "argumentum ad populum" (argument from popularity). Truth is not a democracy. Besides, many religions boast much higher growth rates, including atheists. Does this mean that they are true? If the Mormon Church's growth rates are on the decline, would this mean it is not true?

According to an article on Richard Packham's site, in 1999 alone the Mormon Church added 306,171 members to their 10,752,986 total membership, while the Seventh-Day Adventists (a much younger religion, mind you) claimed 1,090,848 new members to their 10 million total membership. Mr Packham explains why this is so problematic for the Church:

"Approximately half of all converts each year are outside the United States. Applying that fact to the 273,973 convert baptisms, deducting those who will no longer be active after the first year, the net increase by converts for 2000 was approximately 104,000. Placing that figure against the 87,500 who took the trouble to resign officially, and considering the fact that many who become disenchanted with Mormonism simply walk away without requesting name removal, one must conclude that the net growth of the church - other than by breeding children - is close to zero." [emphasis added]

Until recently I did not know that Mormon higher-ups are offered a salary if they want it, since they usually have to quit their day job when accepting such time-consuming positions. The Church openly criticizes other churches for paying their clergy members, so this puts them in an awkward position, doesn't it? But setting aside any apparent hypocrisy, the real issue is what the Church is currently doing to boost "sales".

In the 80s the Church saw its greatest period of growth, and by the year 2000, despite having twice as many missionaries actively proselytizing, their growth rate dropped to about half. Current figures are difficult to come by, as the Church is very secretive of its membership records (and finances). But it is clear to me at least that they are desperately grasping for anyone willing to buy the snake oil.

I think these declining growth rates are the reason behind the "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign (likely a multi-million dollar endeavor, but good luck finding those figures) and the recent announcement that young Mormon boys and girls can now apply for their missions much earlier (from 19 years old to 18 for boys, and from 21 to 19 for girls). This will likely boost missionary efforts initially, and may even result in additional baptisms, but the problem the Church faces is not that people aren't joining the Church--they are leaving! How will having even more naive and inexperienced missionaries world wide address the issue that so many people leave the Church after their first year of membership (~75%)?

It is difficult to say what would fix the dilemma Mormonism currently faces. If I were interested in finding a remedy (cough, cough), I would suggest they should try being more forthright and honest about their history and odd doctrines. But let's face it, there is a reason they have been so secretive all these years....


Here is the official press release announcing the changes to missionary ages, which Elder Holland says is because "god is hastening his work" (which implies that the Second Coming of Christ is fast approaching, and says nothing about declining membership. Score "1" for being forthright and honest. Oh wait....):

Here is the Mormon Church exploiting compassion towards disabled children to promote their religion:

Well, two can play that game:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”
--David Whitmer (An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

Most of my opportunities to listen to Mormon apologists in person have been in BYU religion classes. Most of them were pleasant people and tried really really hard to reconcile difficult points of doctrine with history and science. They were true-blue believers and were essentially forced to accept practically any answer in place of no answer. As a result, many of their hypotheses were either incredibly complicated and on par with some rather "out-there" conspiracy theories about Area 51 and 9/11, or they were so weak and feeble that they would brush over their explanations as though they were embarrassed by saying them aloud. But in spite of their compartmentalization and constant need to spin new information in a favorable light for the Church, I only ever disliked one of them.

I don't recall this professor's name, and I don't feel sufficiently compelled to go through my transcripts to find it, but he was the sort of person who was so enamored of the idea of being liked and humble and Christ-like, etc., that I could never tell if he was being genuine. Although, I do recall him dismissing the now common knowledge that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by placing into a hat a "seer stone" (magic rock), which he had used to unsuccessfully search for buried treasure, and reading whatever words mysteriously appeared on the stone's surface.

His justification for such dismissal was that there were too few first hand accounts to verify the rather sketchy and eyebrow-raising practice; therefore, the Church's "milk before meat" version (that Smith had used the Urim and Thummim (seer stones attached to a breast-plate for no apparent reason) provided by the Angel Moroni while reading the Golden Plates directly) was clearly correct and true and not the least bit watered-down for easy consumption.

I find this particularly interesting since the Church is now rather open about the use of the seer stone in a hat. Yet, despite this belated admission (that the facts are correct) Mormon apologists still spin their wheels to say that the Church was open and honest about the practice all along...

The following is a video deconstruction of a talk by Mormon apologist Scott Gordon, president of one of the two leading Mormon apologetic organizations, As this YouTuber, layperson and ex-Mormon clearly shows, Mr Gordon is not only dismissive of criticism, but is dishonest in his responses and presents misleading information in such an authoritative way that most members of the Church will likely just take his word for it. Again, a poor answer is often preferable to no answer for the intellectually lazy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


"I’m in a weird position, because I like rainbows, but I’m not gay. So whenever I go out wearing a rainbow shirt, I have to put “Not gay.” But I’m not against gays, so under that I’ll have to put “… but supportive.” It’s weird how one group of people took refracted light. That’s very greedy, gays."
--Dmitri Martin (comedian)

What does it mean when a "prophet" makes a prophecy which does not come true? What does it mean if they prophesy about something which is guaranteed to happen at some point? What does it mean if their prophecy displays a fundamental misunderstanding of scientific principles, thereby rendering it either mundane or physically impossible? What does it mean if the scientific principles were/are unknown at the time of the prophecy?

Recently I came across a fascinating prophecy from Joseph Smith as I perused Richard Packham's site. Towards the end of his "career" Smith claimed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will not come in a year when we can see rainbows. Think about that for a second. He may as well have said Christ won't come so long as pigs don't fly:

“I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, "In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year; but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant.” [emphasis added]
("Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph F. Smith, 1976., pp. 340-41", and "HC 6:249-254")

I'm sure that anyone with even a cursory understanding of optics can tell you that rainbows, at least in nature, come as light passes through drops of water, which acts as a prism to split the light into all the colors of the rainbow. It is a scientific principle. It works every time, and, best of all, we know why and how it works!

Smith's worldview was such that he believed that rainbows did not exist until after the Great Flood. Seriously. Which would be fine if he had lived before Sir Isaac Newton had explained how rainbows came about through natural processes, but Smith lived much later than Newton, so he either was ignorant of Newton's theory or, well... I guess that would have to be it, huh? 

Some Mormons have convinced themselves that Joseph Smith is speaking allegorically, and that a lack of a rainbow means that no spiritual "light" is coming into the world. Of course, this would mean that even the members of the Mormon Church and its leaders (aka "prophets") would be devoid of such light; but I doubt they have considered that. 

Some other Mormons (same source) have opined that the prophecy is indicative of a severe drought where the utter lack of water would make rainbows impossible. But, again, they fail to think it through as such a drought would be so severe as to make life--especially human life--impossible. Furthermore, the drought would have to last for an entire year before Christ would come to save mankind. If this were really the case then Jesus would be a dick. But let's not forget that Mormons believe that Jesus was the god of the Old Testament (under the direction of god the Father) and called for the Great Flood which killed everyone on Earth except for 8 people and created rainbows to show that he would never do that again; so it seems that they are "OK" with that sentiment...

The Mormon Church appears to be a non-prophet organization...


And now, a double rainbow (What does it meeean?):

Thursday, January 17, 2013


"It takes a big man to cry; it takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man"
--Saying from my childhood

Only once have I seen my father cry. But more on that later.

Lately I have been reconsidering what it means to be "spiritual", and whether it requires or just leans towards belief in supernatural things. If one were to remove the supernatural aspect of spirituality, what would be left? Awe, wonder, transcendence? Maybe introspection and self-improvement? I would argue that all of these things are worthy of our time and effort, and can bring meaning to life, and none of which require a belief in anything supernatural.

The other day I told someone that they shouldn't confuse or equate spirituality with a belief in god, and proceeded to list several religions, philosophies and secular groups (Buddists, Jains, Shintos, Secular Humanists, etc)--all of which do not have an expressed belief in god--which can still have spritual ideals. Buddists, for instance, do not believe in god, and really don't have many supernatural beliefs in general. For this reason some people argue that it is not actually a religion, but a philosophy. I'm not sure if I would make such a distinction, but the point stands that Buddists find many reasons to promote morals and a spiritual mind set without divine command.

The person with whom I spoke seemed to be feeling pressure from peers and various authority figures to improve her "spirituality" by finding god--any god. My point to her was that she shouldn't feel pressured into it and that millions of people find ways of being spiritual without the supernatural.

For me, spirituality is an incredibly vague and practically useless term. If by "spiritual" a person means awe-inspired and transcendent, why not just use those words? This is similar to when people say that "god is the universe". Well, then why not just say "universe". Is it really necessary to invoke "god" or "spirituality" to describe other words?

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of performing with several of my family members along side world-renowned trumpet player Allen Vizzutti (you might recongnize him from the sound tracks of "Back to the Future", "Star Trek" and "Halo"). During the concert, Mr Vizzutti played a timeless and rather well-known trumpet concerto called "Carnival of Venice". This song has been a family favorite for my entire life. My father played it in his 7th grade orchestra audition and several of my brothers and I all learned to played it in high school. It has significant meaning for practically everyone in my family. In many ways, it is our song.

During the performance, I looked over at my father and saw that he was crying, which was very touching for me, as I had never before seen him so much as shed a tear. As I realized the significance of this song for him, I also realized how special this very moment was. Not just for him, but for me. This was as "spiritual" an experience for me as I have ever had. Nothing flashy. Nothing supernatural. Just sharing a moment with my father as we lived life.


Here is Allen Vizzutti performing "Carnival of Venice" during the concert (luckily, you can't hear any crying):

And here is my family playing with Allen Vizzutti ("Brass Machine"):

One more, author and neuroscientist Sam Harris on spirituality and transcendence:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


The other day I had the unexpected pleasure of defending Mormon theology against some, shall we say, misinformed ex-Mormon vegans. It all started with a post on Facebook:

"If you are Mormon and you eat meat, you are breaking the word of wisdom... Just sayin'"

This was mostly a "tongue in cheek" jab at what appeared to be a slam dunk case of hypocrisy by Mormons. As anyone who has read even a few of my posts can plainly see, I think that there are a large number of things for which to criticize the Mormon Church, both docrinally and in their methods of operation. But pointing out that Mormons who eat meat are breaking the Word of Wisdom (part of the Mormon canon) is not a valid criticism.

Before I get to my response, here is the passage of scripture in question:

"12 Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;
"13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."
It should be noted that at the time this "revelation" was recieved by Joseph Smith, it was not to be considered a hard commandment or even really doctrine (this came much later--several years after Joseph Smith's murder), and should therefore be taken more as sound advice, which I will get to later. But first, my response:
"This’ll be fun…

"D&C 49:18-19

"18 And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;
19 For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance."

"And just for clarity, “forbiddeth” = “biddeth” according to the footnote (I know, crazy old-school English, right?). Also, the Word of Wisdom says nothing about animals which are neither beasts nor fowls (ie. fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, arachnids, slugs, maybe rodents (?), etc.). Neither does it advocate abstaining completely from meat, but to use it “sparingly” and with “thanksgiving”. So to say that if a Mormon eats meat they are breaking the Word of Wisdom is entirely too simplistic. Also, it IS winter, and it’s rather cold. Just saying…
"Furthermore, the Apostle Paul describes apostasy thusly:
"1 Timothy 4:3-4
"3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:"

"OK, I’m done. I don’t actually care what you do or don’t eat.

"2 Nephi 28:7
"…Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die;"


Mostly I was having fun, and I think the original poster was as well. But still, even a little research on his part could have cleared up his confusion before making it public.

Going back to my statement that the Word of Wisdom was intended more as advice than doctrine, we need to look at the literary and historical context of this passage in order to really understand what is being said. After all, Joseph Smith was notorious for desperately, and often unsuccessfully, trying to sound more intelligent, inspired or official by using the 17th century English of the King James Version of the Bible.

In Smith's day the term "beast" would have meant animals which are commonly hunted or domesticated (by and large this is still the colloquial meaning of the word in the context of food). This is why in my response I made the distinction between beasts and "fish, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, arachnids, slugs, maybe rodents (?), etc." You see, at that time meat was one of the best, and yet, most difficult to come by sources of protein and fat, both of which are essential to our diets. So, for Smith to say that meat should be used sparingly and in times of winter, cold or famine would not have been a mandate of morality, but frugality and prudence. In other words, people would be wise to save it for a rainy day, of which Smith and his merry band of Pioneers had plenty. This makes even more sense when you consider the Church's current admonission to members to have ample food storage.

Interestingly, my response, which fell mostly upon ex-Mormon vegan ears, recieved only 1 "like".

Friday, January 11, 2013


Harry: "I expected the Rocky Mountains to be a little rockier than this."
Lloyd: "I was thinking the same thing. That John Denver's full of shit, man."
--excerpt from "Dumb and Dumber"

There are a number of people whom I have read about or seen videos of, or whom I know personally who have left their inherited religion after investigating its history. To a lesser extent this would apply to myself, although most of my research into the history of the Mormon Church occurred after I had already apostasized, and did so primarily out of curiosity. This seems like a common occurrence for lay people or those who are not as invested in their beliefs as, say, theologians and clerics. But from time to time I do hear of extremely learned people uncovering the uncomfortable past and teachings of their religion, and thus are compelled by their own conscience to abandon their beliefs. The following are just a few examples.

Matt Dillahunty, President of the Atheist Community of Austin and host of the Atheist Experience, was raised a baptist and spent about a year and a half studying to become a preacher when he came to the conclusion that his beliefs were untenable. Here is his story in his own words:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Next up is Dan Barker who was a preacher for 19 years, and after becoming an atheist went on to found the Freedom From Religion Foundation (similar to the ACLU), and Freethought Radio.

Here is Dan explaining atheism to a Muslim audience:

And here is Dan paying tribute to Christopher Hitchens on Freethought Radio:

Finally, we have Bart Ehrman, who is a Christian theologian and Bible scholar who after years of study lost his faith. Yet, he continues to teach college-level Bible courses and regularly gives seminars for Christian audiences. The following lecture exposes the fraudulent history of how the New Testament was compiled, at the end of which the theologian conducting the meeting asks Mr Ehrman questions about his lack of belief:


It seems that every belief system has some concept of sin, whether it be disobedience to a god's commands or certain actions determining one's place in the next incarnation. This seems like an effective way to curb behaviors without actually substantiating any claims. Clever.

Some say that even if such teachings are untrue, they are still useful in instilling young minds with a sense of morality. For the moment, let's set aside that fact that such a mind set is not indicative of moral reasoning or agency but rather obedience to divine command, and instead ask the question, what happens when a person realizes that the basis of their morality is untrue? If a person only does good things because the Bible tells them to, for example, what will happen when that person finds the god of the Bible to be non-existent?

I have heard many religious people admit that if they did not believe in god they would opt to act immorally. This is just sad, and I think it shows the weakness of the argument that a belief in god makes people act better. It sounds to me that they are doing good things for bad or even selfish reasons (neither of which are moral). But none of this addresses the Euthyphro Dilemma which asks whether an action is good because god says so, or if god says so because it is intrinsically good (the first option makes morality subject to god's whim, and the second makes god irrelevant to morality).

Within most forms of Christianity there is a notion that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unpardonable sin. There are many disputes and interpretations as to how this actually applies (such as: "any and all apostasy or just those with certain knowledge", "accidental blasphemy", "using the lord's name in vain", etc.). Mormonism has addressed this perhaps more clearly than most denominations, but it is still unclear whether some one such as myself who has received the Temple Endowment qualifies. Some would say yes, and some would say it requires the Second Endowment (a little known ritual, even within Mormonism).

Well, it turns out that due to certain people at the Mormon Think website being summoned for disciplinary hearings, the newest managing editor of the site is an ex-Mormon who actually did receive the Second Endowment from Russell Ballard (a Mormon Apostle). So, if any one qualifies for such damnation, Tom Phillips surely does.

I want to touch on a few points he makes in order to give you some idea of his experience. Shortly after his Second Endowment ceremony, Mr Phillips (an Area Executive Secretary for Harold Hillam, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and President of the Europe West Area--pretty high up in the Mormon hierarchy) began studying certain conflicts between science and Mormon theology so as to help certain friends and family keep their faith.

The answers Mr Phillips was given by Mr Hillam and other Mormon higher-ups were not only unsatisfactory answers to his questions, but also raised a slue of even more challenging and problematic unanswered questions. Mr Phillips, who as a result of his various positions in the Church had become familiar with Jeffery Holland (another Mormon Apostle), raised these questions and doubts to Mr Holland in hopes that he might have some answers. The response from Mr Holland, as Mr Phillips describes it, was "a rant full of logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks and insinuations." It really is a fascinating read.

So, what was the theological/scientific conflict which caused someone who had his "calling and election made sure" (a straight shot to heaven) to question his beliefs? Whether or not there was death before the Fall of Adam (approximately 6000 years ago).  Here is Mr Phillips' explanation to Mr Holland:

"Note 2 No Death before 6k years ago is a doctrine of the Church
Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48). The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © 2006 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Rights and use information. Privacy policy.
“And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.” (2Ne 2:22)
“And now behold, I say unto you that if it had been possible for Adam to have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life at that time, there would have been no death…
And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death…” (Alma 12:23, 24)
This means to me that there was no death on this earth prior to the fall of Adam approximately 6,000 years ago (D & C 77:6-7). To confirm that I have understood this doctrine correctly I quote the following from a priesthood lesson manual for 1972-73 :-
“In that condition the earth and all upon it were not subject to death until Adam fell. When Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the same judgment was placed on the earth and all things upon it. Therefore every living thing, including the earth itself, is entitled to death and the resurrection.”
The above quote is from page 54 of “Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions A Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums 1972-73 Selections from the Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith” Tenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” published by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I mention this source lest any excuse the teaching as Joseph Fielding Smith’s own personal view and not that of the Church as has been done with some of the teachings of Brigham Young, Bruce R. McConkie etc. This was (in 1972) official church doctrine and accepted as such very emphatically by my stake president in 2004.
Also from the writings of Joseph Fielding Smith :
“NO DEATH ON EARTH BEFORE FALL. The Lord pronounced the earth good when it was finished. Everything upon its face was called good. There was no death in the earth before the fall of Adam. I do not care what the scientists say in regard to dinosaurs and other creatures upon the earth millions of years ago, that lived and died and fought and struggled for existence. …..All life in the sea, the air, on the earth, was without death. Animals were not dying. Things were not changing as we find them changing in this mortal existence, for mortality had not come……….
BOOK OF MORMON TEACHES TRUTH ABOUT FALL. We Latter-day Saints accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God. We have the assurance that the Lord placed the stamp of approval upon it at the time of the translation…The truth is the thing which will last. All the theory, Philosophy and wisdom of the wise that is not in harmony with revealed truth from God will perish. In regard to the pre-mortal condition of Adam and the entire earth, Lehi has stated the following :
And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. (2Ne. 2:19-26).
Is not this statement plain enough ? Whom are you going to believe, the Lord, or men?” ( pages 108-9 Doctrines of Salvation volume1 by Joseph Fielding Smith published by Bookcraft 1954 - states in the preface by Bruce R. McKenzie “Joseph Fielding Smith is the leading gospel scholar and the greatest doctrinal teacher of his generation. Few men in this dispensation have approached him in gospel knowledge or surpassed him in spiritual insight.”)
The clear message from the above is that church doctrine, based on Book of Mormon, Book of Moses, Genesis and statements by latter-day prophets is THERE WAS NO DEATH ON THIS EARTH PRIOR TO APPROX 6,000 YEARS AGO AND SCIENTISTS ARE WRONG BECAUSE THEY ARE CONTRADICTING THE WORD OF THE LORD." [citations added]
I must admit, in all the times that I went through the Temple ceremony and heard and read these scriptures describing the immortal condition of all creatures before Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, I don't know if I ever really thought about the scientific implications of such a doctrine. Furthermore, as Mr Phillips points out to Mr Holland either the Church is correct on this or all of the scientific understanding which we now have pertaining to "anthropology, zoology, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, biology, linguistics, history, archaeology etc" is completely wrong.

And what was Mr Holland's response to such scientific inquiries?

"So do what you want, Tom, but don’t embarrass yourself by asking about metallurgy or archeology or horses. The discussion about the power and promise of the Book of Mormon went light years beyond that a long time ago."

Tell me, does this sound like an adequate response from someone who is supposed to have afternoon tea with Jesus Christ? How about someone who is charged with being a "special witness of Christ" and have a vested interest to bring people to the Church? Either Mr Holland has the answers which would bring Mr Phillips back to the Church and chooses not to tell him for some unknown reason, or he doesn't have any answers and is dodging the questions. Which seems more likely?

This reminds me of several instances where I brought up some scientific problems of Mormonism to people and all they did was say I was "dead wrong". No justification; just a bald assertion that I was wrong and they were right. It is incredibly difficult to discuss anything with a person who thinks this qualifies as an argument.

In the end, Mr Holland retreated to a watered-down version of the tired old argument: "what if you're wrong":

"I love you and pray God you will be open to some spiritual indication of what is at stake here... I do love you and I will pray through this very night for you, more so than I will for the man who has cancer whom I now leave to bless. Yours is the more serious circumstance."

I am almost embarrassed to admit that at one point I actually admired Mr Holland. The man is a shameless coward for resorting to such infantile tactics and completely brushing off any and all criticism without so much as acknowledging a sincere man's questions and doubts.


Now for some videos. First is an excerpt from an interview of Tom Phillips with Mormon Stories during which Tom discusses the Second Endowment:

Part 1

Part 2

Next is a video recommended by Tom Phillips which deconstructs a talk by Jeffery Holland, which Tom addresses in his letter to Jeff, and which I have discussed in the past.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

And finally an interview with Jeffery Holland backpedaling and spinning his apologetic wheel:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Yesterday the Atheist Experience had their first episode of the new year, during which they had one of the best discussions on morality I have ever heard. Here is my favorite quote from co-host Tracie Harris:

"If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That's the difference between me and your god. He watches and says 'I'm shutting the door, and you go ahead and rape that child. But when you're done, I'm gonna punish you.' If I did that people would think I was a freaking monster."

As much of a zinger as this is, there is quite a bit of truth to it. I work on a daily basis with people who were raped as children and I can say it truly would take a monster to stand idly by as such an evil act took place. Preserving the free will of the offender is a poor excuse for such neglect from the one entity in the universe which allegedly could intervene on behalf of a helpless child. God must, therefore, be a monster.

Here is the full video, the relevant discussion begins at 11:45 and goes on for the rest of the hour (some language):

Sunday, January 6, 2013


"All children are atheists--they have no idea of God."
--Baron D'Holbach

"Sort of" is such a harmless thing to say. "Sort of". It's just a filler: "sort of". It doesn't really mean anything. But after certain things, "sort of" means everything. Like after "I love you". Or "you're going to live".
--Dmitri Martin

Today I went to church (sort of). I mean, it wasn't actually at a church and I went in a supervisory role for work; but I went just the same. The service was supposed to be for troubled Mormon teens, but quickly became a proselytizing recruitment seminar for those who were not Mormon.

First of all, the majority of the teens attending the meeting were not Mormon, so I kind of understand why they took that approach. However, I was confused that the presiding Bishopric (local clergy members) were so willing and eager to have so many non-Mormons take the sacrament (communion). You see, according to Mormon scripture, partaking of the sacrament before you are worthy and baptized is a damnable offense. This is what Jesus (allegedly) said on this matter in the Book of Mormon:

"28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
"29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
"30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood." [emphasis added]
Now, the common practice in the Church is to ignore this bit of scripture since it is often off-putting to those sincerely looking into the Church. But it is there nonetheless, and I can recall several instances where this very passage was used to make my peers and myself fearful of violating this tenet lest we be damned. This is religious fear-mongering.

The second point I want to address is part of the lesson which began with a 10 minute video on Joseph Smith's vision of god and Jesus, anachronistically portraying Joseph and his father citing Mormon scripture at a time before the supposed discovery of the Book of Mormon--the source of the cited scripture. The discussion which followed evolved into how one can know that a given proposition is true. In this context they were discussing the truth of religious claims primarily.

However, the Bishop conducting the lesson emphasized a particular passage of the Book of Mormon which says: "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things". That's right: "ALL things". I have discussed this passage before, but I usually gloss over the "ALL things" part--but not this Bishop. He stressed the word "ALL" as if to imply that the Holy Ghost really is the arbiter of all knowledge, through which one can know literally anything just by asking god.

Naturally, this got me thinking. With such a powerful source of useful knowledge eagerly awaiting requests from an infinite database, why hasn't anyone used this method to uncover the cure for AIDS? This would surely save the lives of millions of people around the world, in particular in southern Africa. And the scriptures say time and time again if you ask god in faith for a righteous thing, he will give liberally. What could be more righteous than sparing millions of people the insufferable pain and impending death caused by HIV and AIDS? Not to mention cancer.

As Christopher Hitchens inquired, if Jesus could heal a blind man, why not cure blindness? Why such callous non-responsiveness from a god who is said by his followers to want to help mankind, if we simply ask? Why such a condition in the first place, and has no one tried this? If prayer works, why hasn't this already occurred?

Why did it take scientists hundreds of years to develop an effective germ theory of disease in order to rid the world of small pox? What did prayer do for the discovery of the polio vaccine? Which scientific theories were brought about through prayerful consideration rather than methodological naturalism and the scientific method? Why the long silence from heaven?

Furthermore, the Bishop described in detail the "burning in the bosom" experience which is supposed to confirm the veracity and historicity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's story, as being either a "warm, joyful" sensation, or a confirming thought randomly popping in one's head. And this is his proposed method for knowing the truth of all things? Growing up in the Church I never realized how silly this proposition actually sounds. But hearing it from the mouth of a true believer was a stunning experience. If you feel good about it and you think to your self it is true, then it is a fact!

What reckless and fallacious reasoning to be telling already troubled teens. If such a concept as sin exists, I believe this Bishop's actions today would qualify.


This kind of manipulation of young minds reminds me of a documentary (available on Netflix, last I checked) called "Jesus Camp". Here is the trailer:

And here is a rather disturbing clip from the same film:

And here is the Atheist Experience talking with someone who was at Jesus Camp, part 1:

Part 2:

Thursday, January 3, 2013


The following is from a 1979 BBC talk-show on Monty Python's "Life of Brian", which is one of the most profound and influential satires on Christianity ever produced. I find it interesting that so many of the topics John Cleese and Micheal Palin address are still thrown into the arena of intellectual debate by religious folk.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


This may not be news to many, but Time magazine has declared Barack Obama as Person of the Year for 2012. While I freely admit the influence the President has had during the last year by beating the first prominent Mormon Presidential candidate, I can not help but feel it is a similar situation to him being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 as encouragement for him to do something peaceful in the future... I will not say Obama is undeserving of any recognition; but I feel Time may be overreaching just a tad.

At any rate, I am more interested in the runner-up, Malala, for whom I voted during Time's online poll a few weeks ago. I have written about her in past, and I am frankly surprised that she did not win given the boon for women's rights and the uneasy light shed against religious fundamentalism which her story illustrates, but at the same time I am greatful that so many people are now aware of her story.


Here is Time explaining their choice: