Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"

From the Mormon Times Monday January 25, 2010:

"Readers have no way of knowing which critical claims have already been discredited, and the anti-Mormon sponsors are certainly not going to tell them right there on the site," he said.

The democratization of ideas sometimes confuses the reader as to what is true and what is not, as all ideas are presented horizontally and as fact, thus positioning the blogger's flippant opinion alongside the scholar's well-researched dissertation.

Elder Hafen said there is much discussion out there regarding the methods through which Joseph Smith translated ancient scripture such as the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price and the Bible. That's all fine and good so long as the questioner is mainly focused on the works themselves, the great mountains of eternal knowledge they contain, and what that knowledge means in the lives of God's children rather than on the specifics of the revelatory process.

"How (Joseph Smith) received it doesn't ultimately matter to us very much," he said.

Elder Hafen said the "mountain" that is of most importance is the fact that all people are children of a loving, concerned father in heaven.

So long as a person has that tenant down pat, they'll be able to explore more challenging ideas, and even deal with unanswered questions.

The above excerpt of a summary of a fireside speech given by Bruce C. Hafen struck me as funny...not as in a ha ha but a strange sort of way. I, as a flippant blogger, struggle with the amount of cognitive dissonance that is required here to suspend disbelief. While Elder Hafen encourages study; he discourages examining the facts on their own. Instead he suggests the examiner defer to the writings of the scholars who I assume would mean FAIR or FARMS. I have read the summarizing and distortion of history on the scholar’s sites and am left questioning “what the definition of is…is”

The reality here is that Elder Hafen, as a General Authority, should be in a position to speak with authority regarding the doctrinal issues surrounding the translation of the “sacred texts” and what the methods therein mean to the veracity of those texts. Instead, according to the summary of his speech, he obfuscates. He does not address for the member and especially for the member who is in question what the truth is. Members and seekers alike who research this material by using the apologist sites offered by the “scholars” are in many cases left with a WTF response to the convoluted distortions.

The facts are:

• Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, not by reading the plates or and translating them character by character but by burying his head in his hat with two seer stones (urmin and thummin) inside the hat.

• He didn’t have to “write the story” he “told the story” to his scribes. In many cases the “plates” were not in the room. Of all the scribes only three died as members of the church. The rest either left or were excommunicated.

• The seer stones were the same stones he used to hunt treasure with.
This photo is the one the LDS church uses to illustrate the process. Indeed this is a misrepresentation of historical facts and accounts surrounding the actual events.

Elder Hafen suggests the reader should be interested in the works and their content not the way the content came to be. This double bind is common in cognitive dissonance. If you don't get it it's your fault....try harder! It has also been postulated that the character of the man is not as important as the restoration of the gospel. However, a "flippant blogger" is discredited based upon character...why shouldn't a supposed prophet? My offense is sarcasm and skepticism. The man in question here was convicted of treasure hunting, married 30+ women (many of whom were already married), took child brides, engaged in willful destruction of a printing press, and consumed alcohol all after having been selected by god to restore the gospel.

I am of the opinion that character matters and the method at which our works are delivered are of significant importance. To attempt to separate the two creates a psychosis and an unresolvable double bind.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Words of Wisdom

This clip by Lord Bertrand Russell has all of the wisdom we get from a LDS General Authority or Evangelical Minister. It comes from a man who felt strongly about his convictions...strong enough to go to jail. However it comes from a man who had no belief in god. He was an open atheist when it was very dangerous to be so. I believe this clip is from 1959.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There's a Recession On!

I am sure if you have not been affected by the recession you have at least heard about it on the news. The downturn in the economy and the recent changes in the mortgage lending and licensing requirements had caused a shrinkage in my disposable income. So I started looking at ways I could trim expenses out of my budget. My satellite bill was $145.00 a month to have High Definition programming and all of the premium channels.

Initially I cut the programing to just the basic channels. I found the remaining programming was all of the crap that I didn't want to watch. In the mean time my Oldest was streaming Netflix through his Playstation 3 and seemed to have a bunch of choices. He had split the cost of the subscription with a friend. I started to research the options for low cost content on CNET. I found I could stream Netflix and Hulu through my Xbox and the Playstation 3. Netflix was easy to stream but I would need third party software to get Hulu. The Netflix account was $8.99 a month and the software was $39.99. Both had two week trials. The person I had to convince was my lovely wife Lisa. I showed her what we had to choose from and she was impressed.

On January 2nd I fired the satellite company. I set up two TVs to receive streamed content. Purchased HD digital antenna's for all of the TVs and will recoup all of my costs in two months of no satellite bills. There has been a change in my children's viewing habits for the positive. They now choose the content and watching TV is now an event rather than a mind numbing ambition sucking ritual.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Skepticism doesn't just question religion

I found this on Skeptchick. This is second post about alternative medicine I have seen on their blog in the last couple of days. The topic of "Alternative Medicine" is one of my biggest pet peeves next to religion. I question why we are so willing to dump concentrates and compounds into our body that have not been evaluated by the FDA.

So I am ready for the responses which indict the FDA, the Drug Companies, the Capitalists, Communists, and Fascists who are trying to keep us sick by feeding us scientifically evaluated medicine which have gone through peer reviewed studies. This idea that a grand conspiracy has been has been invented to keep us sick and dependant on the medicine is ridiculous. Doctors who are acting in good faith do not put their patients at risk. The day of the snake oil salesman were gone almost 100 years ago. However with our regression back toward religion we are seeing a rebirth of miracle cures.

Doctors who abandon scientifically based medicine like Deepak Chopra are radical quacks who found away to exploit our willingness to believe everything. PZ Myers posted on his blog this story: Cancer is a Disease. The story outlines the suffering that can be imposed on someone who is already suffering from a potentially fatal disease. The prescription offered is criminal. Much like religion's premise that if you do not feel the spirit you should pray more, fast more, give more money, and if that doesn't work...its you! Deepak offers the prescription that positive thinking and meditation will rid you of your disease and if that fails...its because you were not positive enough early enough.

Equally criminal is the marketing of products that have miracle properties. The Acai Berry, Tahitian Noni Juice, oxygen drops, homeopathic remedies, many vitamins and the nearly credible Airborne "created by school teachers" and packaged to look like real cold medicine. Because they do not claim to be traditional medicine they do not have to go through the rigorous FDA evaluation process. US senators like Orin Hatch have worked overtime to keep them from being regulated. In most cases we find they do not do what they claim and in many other we find they are harmful. In most cases the only benefit the consumer gets from the ingestion of theses products in anecdotal.

In another article Elyse of Skepchick answers an offer by a Doctor peddling his new alt. migraine remedy. I love her her response and think it is well worth your time to read and this one which really got me started on the topic at the first of the year.

7. Good for You or Healthy As opposed to what? Says who?

I think that is the question. Whether we explore the claims of religion or alternative medicine we should be asking...Who says and with what proof. A feeling is nice but at the end of the day it is anecdotal. In the case of alternative medicine "if alternative medicine has been proved to work then its medicine."

Talk among yourselves....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sometimes Religion is Dangerous for our Children

"Note: Just to let you it is not that we don't believe in things like that, it is just misslead when you talk about it being billions of years old, when we all know that the world is only about 6,000 years old. So why would I pay so that you can mislead my children, your world is just a revolving(?), ours has a start and an end. God created the world. He created animals and man all in the same week. It was also Adam who named all the animals, they will do the essay 'Rock and Minerals' but it might not be 5 pages long, and about billions of years, it will be according to the Bible."

I found this note on PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula. I know in this country we are "free" to "believe" any way we choose, but, intentionally misleading your children and ignoring rational science, that is not in dispute, unless you attend a Baptist or Evangelical church, is dangerous for the child and the country.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Quote of the day-
"Now be honest. If you peel the Bible away from the argument, just pretend for a moment that it doesn't exist, do you appreciate the fact that there is no independent evidence to support the story you draw from it? Think like a heathenish pagan who has no respect for biblical authority, and you'll realize why your claims have no weight. What creationists are always trying to do is to cobble up some of that evidentiary support for their beliefs, while refusing to acknowledge that their entire claim rests on a presupposition that the bible is a valid source of prehistoric information."
-PZ Myers

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Failed theist argument against Atheism

I have been known to point out the atrocities committed in the name of religion. My theist friends, acquaintances, and antagonist like to tell me about the atheists who have committed great crimes against humanity. As if they committed them because of their lack of belief.

First, Hitler, by all accounts, was not an atheist. He frequently attributed his racism to an ordination by god. He was raised as a theist and benefited from the blind eye that the Catholic Church turned to his cruelty.

Second, Stalin and Pol Pot did not commit their atrocities because they had no belief. The argument is absurd. They indeed committed their crimes because they had a deep devotion to a political ideal. Not because the were compelled by the god they had no belief in.

Non belief is at the base line. All humans are born without belief. It therefore has no compulsion that is intrinsic. Belief is acquired and requires faith and has been the motivation for the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Jim Jones incident, the Salem Witch Trials and the list goes on and on. Religion creates a compulsion to action. Atheism has no such trait.

The basis for atheism is born in reason not fanaticism. While atheists like me who are out spoken are accused of having a fundamental belief the claim is a mischaracterization. We want proof. When there is insufficient evidence we treat absolute claims with a skeptical eye. When there is sufficient disproof we abandon the prior theory as false. The tendency to link atheism with communism and fascism because historically in this country we have treated both as a threat to democracy. However religion philosophy is closer to both ideals than atheism. I dare say that at the end of the day that religion is a bigger threat to democracy than atheism ever could be.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

God Delusion-Video

I have often said out loud that everything that is wrong with this world was created by organized religion. This video shows not historical examples but examples that are contemporary to today's world.