Saturday, March 30, 2013


"...what interests me and always has is this: Do the preachers and prophets also believe, or do they too just "believe in belief?" Do they ever think to themselves, this is too easy? And do they then rationalize the trick by saying that either (a) if these wretches weren't listening to me they'd be in even worse shape: or (b) that if it doesn't do them any good then it still can't be doing them much harm?"
--Christopher Hitchens (author "god is Not Great")

This post might get a little personal...

In the various conversations I have had with family members, in particular with my mother, concerning my position on and apostasy from religion, I have had to define for them what "atheist" actually means, and why I qualify as such, rather than a mere agnostic. There is a common misconception that all atheists believe no god exists, or that they are distinctly anti-religion. However, atheism is simply the position of not holding a belief in god.

Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Experience often uses an analogy to explain this distinction by comparing an atheistic view of god with a courtroom trial. Suppose a jury is trying to determine if a defendant is guilty or not guilty. Those in the "not guilty" camp include those who believe the defendant is innocent, and those who are simply not convinced of guilt. The same goes for atheism, which includes those who claim to know that no god exists and those who simply do not have an active belief in god (this also applies to theism, which includes those who firmly know of god's existence and those who simply believe). In a sense, atheists find god "not guilty" of existence.

Now, there is another label which has become more popular in recent years: anti-theism. This is the position that not only is religion wrong in terms of its supernatural claims, but that it is actually harmful. This is a point of quite a bit of debate, even within atheist circles, and those who side against anti-theism often say that some beliefs give people meaning or hope, and are therefore, net-positive even if they are untrue.

First of all, I have yet to hear of a false belief which has absolutely no negative effects on a person's life, views or method of thinking. But I don't even have to go that far to show why such supposed "false yet positive" beliefs are actually harmful and why I am anti-theistic.

In one of the very first conversations I had with my mother about my atheism, she admitted to me that she has failed me as a mother. According to her, it was her job to prepare me as a youth to go out into the world and stay firm in my faith; to live in the world, but not of it. And since I no longer have faith in the religion of my upbringing, my mother did not adequately prepare me for adulthood; ergo, she has failed me.

Never mind that by most counts I am a good, moral person, and in many respects still live a "Mormon lifestyle" devoid of many of the things the Church condemns as sinful. Or that my job has me working with people in some of the worst conditions in the developed world. The fact that I don't believe in Mormonism means I won't be able to join my family in the Celestial Kingdom.

The best I can hope for, according to Mormon theology, is the Terrestrial Kingdom (aka Heaven Jr) where my family can visit me on occasion (when they aren't busy building galaxies and making spirit babies). But if I, having gone through the temple endowment ceremony, am a son of perdition, even that consolation prize is taken off the table. This is what my mother fears most of all, and it is why she still prays for my speedy return to Mormonism.

This idea, although completely fatuous and rooted in a notion taken on faith rather than evidence, literally terrifies my mother to the point of tears. This is the damage mythology causes in the hearts and minds of true believers, however pleasant-sounding or otherwise inert it may seem. This is why I hate religion.


Some inspirational thoughts from Christopher Hitchens:

Matt Dillahunty explaining his courtroom analogy (part 1):

Part 2:

Part 3:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


So today is the day that the Supreme Court is deciding what to do with California's Proposition 8. Social media is plastered with debates about gay marriage, most of which are predictable. Several people have been posting the following picture in support of gay marriage:

Simple, eye-catching and to the point, this symbol effectively communicates where a person stands on the issue rather quickly. One of my Mormon Facebook friends posted this image as her profile pic which was met with the following comment:

"We solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God... Or have you forgotten?"

It should be common knowledge by now that Mormons are almost universally against gay marriage, if not purely homophobic. This view stems primarily from an official statement issued in 1995 by the Church and is functionally scripture for many members. In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" Mormon leaders officially state that marriage is ordained by god as being between a man and a woman for the expressed purpose of procreation and building families. And of course their reasoning behind all of this is their deeply held religious beliefs, which they wish to impose on the rest of us.

Now, generally speaking I am in favor of free speech and Mormons certainly have the right to oppose whatever they want based on whatever reasoning (or lack thereof) they wish to employ. But as soon as they try to legislate those beliefs with nothing more than a vague claim that homosexuality weakens ones spirituality, or that it is bad for kids (a claim which contradicts several sociological studies from the past several decades), then they have crossed the line. Those claims need to be substantiated through empirical evidence if they intend to have people not of their faith abide by them.

A while ago someone told me that the reason marriage is ordained by god as being between a man and a woman is because that is how marriage was established with Adam and Eve. Setting aside the utter lack of evidence that Adam and Eve actually existed, I wonder how this could stand in light of Mormonism's polygamist history? You see, for the first several decades of Mormonism, polygamy was taught as being essential to one's eternal salvation. But how can this be if the claim is true that god ordained Adam to have only one wife?

Mormons seem to have jumped on the mainstream Christian notion of "traditional families" because it suits their current agenda (to appear more mainstream Christian). Looking at the first 70 years of the Church's history tells us that doctrinally Mormons do not believe that traditional families started with and continued since Adam and Eve or that they are the foundation of society. Even if traditional families really are the foundation of society, how does this demonstrate that being raised by two men or two women is harmful? Shouldn't we be able to actually see the harm? Aside from a few fringe ideological researchers, why don't sociologists and psychologists report on all of this harm?

A thorough search of the Bible will turn up very few examples of so-called traditional marriage, but many examples of polygamy, polyandry, incest, concubines, sex slaves and so on, not to mention arranged marriages where girls were bought and sold as property. So tell me, when exactly did this tradition start? Even if you could answer that, it is still a tradition based solely on religious views and cannot be constitutionally imposed on others.


The Atheist Experience on marriage in the Bible:

And an article on today's proceedings from The Onion (some language).

Thursday, March 21, 2013


What is the difference between a miracle from god and a magic trick? Scientific ignorance? Deception? Misdirection? An emotional need to believe? I wonder how many people would be convinced by Jesus' miracles if he did them today...

Consider the Indian Guru, Sathya Sai Baba, who performed miracles on par with any supposedly done by Jesus in front of millions of eye-witnesses, many of whom are alive today. Is 'divinity' really the only explanation for a proposed miracle? Does the number of believing eye-witnesses really matter? If you can't explain how some one does a particular feat, does that mean they are magical? If some one were really capable of bending the natural order of things, don't you think they should use that gift for something more worthwhile than just proving their power and authority (or spreading platitudes)? Why not cure cancer?

If you have witnessed a 'miracle', how do you know your interpretation is correct?


Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean) reading from the New Testament:

Mr Deity and the Magic:

Mr Deity and the Magician:

Sunday, March 17, 2013


When I was in high school preparing to go on a Mormon mission and trying desperately to have some kind of spiritual experience affirming that the Mormon Church was true, I had a seed of doubt planted by a well-intentioned source. This young man was a couple of years older than me (he still is, in fact) and had just returned from a mission of his own, making him an ideal person for me to talk to concerning such a "burning in the bosom." Or so I thought.

During a discussion or class or something, this person brought up some of the conditions one must allegedly meet in order to recieve a genuine answer from god concerning the validity and historicity of the Book of Mormon, among other things. As he described how one must first have a desire to believe, I found myself for the first time questioning how this process was any different than just simply believing what you want to believe, because you just want to believe it. At the time, I had no knowledge of confirmation bias, or self-affirmation, but what really got me was when he further explained that the Holy Ghost will never lead you astray from what the Church teaches. In other words, only spiritual experiences which agree with the Church are really from god. Well, if this isn't a circular argument, then I don't know what is. He may as well have said, "I know god talks to me, because he tells me so."

Deep down I knew there was a huge problem with the reasoning behind all of this "spiritual experience" business, but I couldn't bring myself to admit it--not even in private. There was too much pressure for me to go on a mission, go to BYU, get married and make lots of babies as quickly as possible. Which brings me to my next point: the Mormon Church's policy to "get 'em while they're young".

One of the toughest things I can imagine in a marriage is when two people of the same religious devotion get married, and some time down the road, one of the two loses their faith. I don't know of very many couples who have survived this. For this reason, many people bury their doubts about a given religion, as it were, "for the kids". Now, the cynical side of me wants to think that this predicament is exploited by religious leaders, with claims that god wants young adults to marry and have children as soon as they can, in order to seal the door on a marriage and trap people in a particular religion for the rest of their lives. The more compassionate side of me wants to think people wouldn't be so callous and flippant with the lives of other people. The more practical side of me thinks it is more complicated than either of those options.

It always seems sinister to me whenever I hear the Mormon Church talk about eternal families. The idea that families can live together in heaven for all of eternity sounds great to many people. This is especially true of young couples starting their families. But without any thing more than a pre-desired sensation, with no verifiable evidence to confirm its origin, and a vague promise that, if obedient to Mormonism, families can be eternal, how can a rationally minded person not at least be skeptical of the claim? Sure it sounds nice, but so what? Is it true? How do you know one way or the other?

This sort of manipulation of the heart-strings brings the argument "What if you're wrong?" to a whole new low. This is why videos like the one below irk me so much:

One last point: Suppose for a moment that one were to empirically demonstrate that god really does talk to people through physical sensations in their chest, and that such a sensation really does confirm that the Book of Mormon is true; would this mean that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the "official" Mormon church) is true? No. Ever since the death of Joseph Smith there have been more schisms in Mormonism than Catholicism has had in 2000 years. Just look at the chart below.

With so many sects claiming the Book of Mormon is true, and that they are the true successors of Joseph Smith, how do you know you have accepted the right brand of Mormonism? Even if a burning in the bosom is genuinely from god, how does it prove anything? How do you even know it's genuine?


A family which survived a crisis of faith:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


The latest video from Mr Deity is a response to the "And I'm a Mormon" ad campaign. It is neither ubiquitous nor information-free! Here are some of my favorite lines which are particularly relevant to my own apostacy:

"I no longer believe that a burning in my bosom is any indication of truth or value."

"I no longer give 10% of my gross income to a multi-billion dollar corporation."

"I no longer believe that homosexuality is a sin."

"I no longer believe that a stone knife is a good substitute for what the Book of Mormon very specifically calls a "steel sword."

"I no longer believe that an ordinary Egyptian funerary text from the Common Era contains the writings of Father Abraham."

"I no longer believe that dark-skinned people can become light-skinned people by living the Mormon gospel."

"I no longer believe that placing one's face in a hat containing a "seer-stone" is a reliable means of translating an ancient language."

"I no longer believe that my happiness is enhanced by my obedience to other men's ideas of how I should live my life."

Here is the video:

Friday, March 8, 2013


In previous posts I have discussed the Book of Abraham (part of Mormon scripture) and tactics used by Mormon apologists in general. Well, it turns out that BYU professor Kerry Muhlestein has recently issued a series of videos which attempt to explain away some common criticisms of the Book of Abraham; like the claim that according to every non-Mormon Egyptologist, the papyri Joseph Smith used in the translation of the Book of Abraham have nothing to do with the book:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Now, some may say that the reason that only non-Mormon scholars are critical of these things (or that only Mormon scholars agree with Mr Muhlestein's claims) is that when a non-Mormon scholar examines the evidence and finds it confirms the claims of Mormonism, they naturally join the church on that basis. However, I have never even heard rumors of such an event taking place (which would also fly in the face of Moroni's Promise in the Book of Mormon), so I am inclined to offer an alternative explanation that Mormon scholars are leading the evidence and succumbing to their own biases. Let me put it another way: No scholar has ever joined the Mormon Church because of evidence in favor of Mormonism. If that ever happens, please let me know.

Well, in response to these videos, YouTuber FlackerMan has issued a rebuttal citing several scholars refuting many of Mr Muhlestein's claims (video below). One expert goes so far as to say that Mr Muhlestein is one of many "ideologically driven researchers, not experts interested in actual evidence" being pumped out of BYU by the Mormon Church in order to appear more credible. This is an important point. The scientific method is designed in such a way as to remove personal biases. Without this mechanism, science would not work and would be subject to opinions and beliefs, rather than supportable, demonstrable evidence. Such "ideologically driven researchers" are, therefore, not scientific in their methodology.

Before we get to the video, let me just point out that every single instance we have where we can actually examine the accuracy of Joseph Smith's translations (i.e. The Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook plates, the lost 116 pagesThe Greek Psalter, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), it turns out he got every thing wrong every time, thus indicating that he was making it all up out of whole cloth. Why would the Book of Mormon be any different?

OK, here is FlackerMan's rebuttal:


Here is a recent clip from the Thinking Atheist interviewing a psychologist about confirmation bias: