mormons, objectivists, and other heterodox ramblings [an error occurred while processing this directive]

1/18/02 - 5/23/02 Messages

The most recent messages can be found here.

received 5/23/02
Intriguing service you provide -- somewhat of a spiritual-intellectual "pawnshop" -- for people in transit between full faith and activity within the Church and falling away for any of a 100 reasons. And of course, good for the unenlightened and curious.

I admire your intellect and Web mastery; I respect your sincerity and the brilliance of a "thinker" concept. I feel badly that your efforts may be criticized or attacked by some who don't express themselves tastefully, or who over-react emotionally and label you a rebel.

Obviously, you attract many who are confused and in need of support, and yours is a therapeutic experience for them. All people need an emotional support structure -- your religious-intellectual cyber gathering must give you satisfaction.

Not really. I did it partly for myself years ago, but now it is purely for others. If I didn't think others benefited from my leaving up I'd take it down as I get nothing out of it anymore. I have no interest in religion at this point and try to waste little or no time on the subject.

Clearly you have a wonderful collection of exhaustive research and literature, which I have enjoyed.

Finally, I haven't read your bio and background, but you seem to be one who might have known this. Based on the simple claims, tenets and history of Mormonism... (and despite the many human elements and errors, because "god works through man... in his weakness...") That either the whole package has to be true and divinely provided, as a prologue to the 2nd Coming, or the whole LDS thing is a hoax, just another of man's created religions, as they characterize the protestants and Catholics (for whom I feel some compassion right now in their public crisis). So I question why you state "there is truth within's a great improvement.." If it's true, it's all true and the most phenomenal Revelation from the heavens since Jesus did His miracles!

Life isn't that black and white. There can be truth in Mormonism (like the importance of families, honesty, etc.) without everything being true (like the Book of Abraham, polygamy, discrimination, etc.)

You have a great site here, and the power to do even "More Good" than you're doing. You've developed a Rush Limb-like following.

I'll take that as an insult. ;)

Again, that same one thing (Revelation) is the only stimulus that could affect you to really lift up the arms that hang down.

Revelation has proven to be a rather inferior, contradictory, and divisive truth-finding methodology don't you think? Think of all the wars, broken families, and poverty that have been caused by people relying on differing "prophets" or blind faith rather than evidence, experiment, and logical reasoning.

Otherwise, the 'type' shown in the stories of Korihor, Nehor and Sherem come to mind.

Except that those fictional characters were set up as straw men to unite believers against a common enemy--a frequently used religious preaching tactic. Unlike Korihor, Nehor, and Sherem, though, I'm real and couldn't care less if believers listen to me or not. Also of interest is how in Joseph Smith's mind these "anti-Christs" were actually believers who had been visited by angels and the like. Too bad the Mormon god has changed and no longer sends heavenly messengers to talk to with us atheists, eh? ;)

received 5/15/02
I found your site because I was looking for data about Karen Armstrong. When I finished with my main interest I decided to read the reviews of other books. I must declare that it really cost me a lot to stop reading.

I appreciate that you comment these texts. I live in Mexico and study an MBA. This site makes me easy to keep the track of interesting books on different topics. Now my list of books to read is immense!! Thanks to share your notes...

My main interest was to congratulate you. I really exercise the process of "2think" on your site.

received 5/7/02
You are very talented. I wish you would use your talents to build rather than destroy. Whatever your course I wish you no ill will.

Sometimes destruction is necessary if you wish to build.

received 5/6/02
I just wanted to thank you for your work on the site! Within the last year I have discontinued participation in the LDS Church after some years of doubt, and an important factor that brought me to this outcome was your recommendations on books and other materials. I acquired and read a number of your recommendations, and this joined with the essays, commentary, and links on your site, much helped me to look at things in new (and better!) ways.

You might be interested to know, back in 1983 when I was at my first semester at BYU, I took a Book of Mormon class from John W. Welch. At the time, I was impressed by the material he presented (which as you can probably guess was largely apologetic material of his own, along with material of Sorenson, Nibley, Tvednes, etc.) I even dabbled a bit in apologetics myself at this time--I mixed with the FARMS crowd, met Sorenson, and a paper I wrote for Welch was received favorably enough to receive mention in the FARMS newsletter, and if you looked hard enough you would find my manuscript referenced by a certain Ensign article from some years back on Book of Mormon historicity.

Anyway, I was well enough versed in that side of the argument. Only recently, after reading work of Stan Larson, David Wright, etc., did I realize how biased and flawed Mormon apologetics really are.

Also, I learned useful things from your account of your own personal experiences with leaving the church, which I applied to make my own transition a smooth as possible. Again, thank you for your example and the valuable work you have done.

received 5/5/02
Just wanted to let you know how thoroughly I have enjoyed your website, especially the book reviews in philosophy and mind. I admire you a lot.
received 4/29/02
I ran across as I was looking for a definition of "agnostic". I was raised Baptist and converted to Catholic when I got married. In the last few years I have come to the conclusion (despite a lack of evidence) that all of the world's religions are actually the same. I believe that upon further investigation, they will all be the same at their core, and are merely different interpretations of the same thing. I have launched myself off on a philosophical quest of comparative religion to find out if I'm right. Part of that quest means trying to understand what an atheist and an agnostic believes so that I have all of the data I need. And that is how I stumbled onto your website.

I believe that there is only one God but He (pardon the politically incorrect gender specific here) is known by different names. Following that line of reasoning, "Holy War" is truly an oxymoron. And that's basically where I'm going with this ................. world peace should be achievable and one possible place to start is to make the combatants understand that our religions basically teach us the same thing. This would logically eliminate war based solely on our differing religious beliefs, and expose the underlying causes for conflict.

You're certainly correct there, but even if differing religions have some basic similarities the problem is their differences and especially the fact that the more fundamentalist varieties claim exclusivity. It is the fundamentalists who won't listen to what a you or an I would try to convey to them about building on the commonalities and giving up the differences.

We should strip away our excuses for war and get to the real reasons for the conflicts ........... fighting for the re-distribution of land, natural resources, or wealth. Then maybe we could negotiate peace.

I find your thoughts interesting. I'm a bit saddened that some incident or process in the Mormon Church caused you to lose your faith and caused you to require proof of something before you could accept it.

I'm sure I would have ended up an atheist regardless of what faith I started out in. If I had grown up in another religion I imagine I would have left a faith-based view at least a decade earlier in life. Mormonism merely kept me in with a believing flock a little longer due to conditioning from an early age, family pressures, etc.

I pray that in your quest for truth you will come full circle and re-discover faith. I am a scientist who normally follows your methodology of logic and proof for all else in life (except my religion and faith). Call me a hypocrite if you like. For instance, I am not a hard line Creationist, but Darwin is missing something. I think the truth is somewhere in between. Evolution has been proven (as far as I can tell), but I don't believe that the universe and mankind were created soley by random chance in the complete absence of a Supreme Being / Creator. .......... Even if you give random chance the benefit of infinite quantum possibilities and billions of years to eventually get it right.

If you give random chance the benefit of infinite quantum possibilities and billions of years to eventually get it right you're far more likely to come up with the universe as we know it than a being even more powerful that can create the universe as we know it. Or at least that's my current view.

Yeah sure, life on earth may have indeed been started by a comet full of the right amino acids landing in the right primordial soup pot at the right time .... But I still think there was an intelligent Creator behind it all, even though I don't have any "proof". And I think I would have come to this conclusion even if I HADN'T been born into the faith.

I will continue to review your opinions and logical progression, but it won't make me question my own faith. When you have faith, you don't need something so trivial and pedestrian as proof. I don't know who coined this phrase, but I though it was pretty good: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

But that phrase doesn't make you believe in a world stacked on the back of turtles or fairies or unicorns or a host of other myths that have been created and evolved over the centuries does it?

The point of my site isn't to make you (or anyone else) give up faith. Especially if faith makes you happy or provides you with a better life.

My own version of this (proven over and over to me ever since I was a kid) is "Just because you don't believe in something or haven't seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist".

I wish you the best in your search for truth. I hope you realize that it is actually an infinite search. That's one of the paradoxes of life isn't it? For each answer we find, we usually discover at least one (and usually more) additional questions. This is a good thing, actually. Imagine how bored you would be if you actually knew everything there is to know.

Well, I better get back to my heavy thinking.

received 4/25/02
I don't actually have children, but I've been thinking about how to raise them as critical thinkers. I'm perfectly ok with them disagreeing with me but I want them to be exposed to atheism at an early age without stifling their imagination. I came up with an interesting idea for a modification of the Santa Claus myth.

Instead of telling my children about Santa Claus, I'll tell them about Jesus and how he brings gifts for everyone on his own birthday because he's such a nice guy. They'll believe this as long as they can but eventually their natural curiosity will take over and they will discover the ruse. When they do, they will merely think that Jesus is made up to teach people moral principles but not be attached to a strict belief in his existence. Hopefully he or she will tell all their school chums about the truth of Christmas.

I'd appreciate any comments, but I'm not planning on having kids anytime soon, so no rush.

Not a bad idea but they'll be more than a little confused from the messages they get from friends, TV, etc. about Santa.

You don't have to teach or expose your kids to atheism though. They are natural born atheists. My daughter has never been exposed to theism and hence wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about if you started talking about god(s). She'd probably laugh at you. My son was the same way until his best friend tried to convert him to fundamentalism. People aren't naturally inclined to be believers in my opinion. They have to be indoctrinated.

received 4/19/02
I want to commend you on your site. I am sure that you receive many comments both commending and condemning your work, and would like you to count this among the positives. I wanted to thank you for your defense of the religion against the extreme, and for your objective statements otherwise.

I am actually writing to ask your advice. I am recently engaged to a Presbyterian. I have been inactive from the LDS religion for 10 years now, and had honestly never thought that I would consider returning until recently. The consideration has been generated through discussion about how we might raise our children in regards to religion. As you can probably imagine, we have begun to disagree.

I believe that we can and should raise our children in both, if not many, religions. I believe that we have an obligation to educate our children in the ways of the spiritual world as well as the world they live in and give all tools they might need to make the decision for themselves. I will admit to being both biased and a hypocrite. I feel that the way I was raised, although now rejected, was wonderful. I have two parents who through their intelligence and compassion understood that my path was not the same as the one they had traveled. They raised through example, and rather than fight, they let go which has allowed us to have a much stronger relationship.

My fiancée has serious reservations about allowing our children to even be influenced by the LDS religion. I realize that that statement is something of a paradox, as I was raised in a certain way and no matter what happens it will continue to influence my decisions on both a conscious and subconscious level.

Her upbringing as well as reading an anti-Mormon book as instilled a fear in her that I can not seem to address. I consistently try and explain that I am not and do not want to convert her, but that I want her to make a truly educated decision, not one based on the writings of an angered 'ex-member' or a presentation in her church's youth group that she went through, stating that Mormons are cultist just like Satanist. My opinion is that if she is educated and understands the religion and then rejects it for her children then she has every right to as it was an educated rejection, not one based on fear.

How would you suggest addressing this? I see from your site that you appear to have a very healthy and happy family, and would like to know what your plan is with regards to you children's spiritual upbringing? If this is to personal a question I will understand.

Again thank you for the research and unbiased thought that you have presented here, I will return often.

That is a tough one!

There may not be a "right" answer and even if there appear to be better answers now they may not work out that way years later.

One thing that I have seen work with several mixed marriages is for the "new" couple to pick a "new" religion. (i.e., both parties should drop their old religions) That way there isn't a "winner" and a "loser" and a constant battle over which way the kid(s) should be raised. The problem is finding a new religion which both can agree with.

I know several who have found that a more open religion (like the Quakers or Unitarian Universalists), without a fixed dogma that must be believed in, to work in this situation. Even if the couple don't believe exactly the same they can both fit into the new, less rigid framework. (And then there is always the "no religion" option which seems to work great too, but it doesn't sound like your fiancée would go that route.)

I would get this resolved before marriage if I were in your shoes and absolutely figure this out before deciding to have kids. Many marriages get broken up by religion. That's a bad thing, but not nearly as bad as when kids are involved too.

We sometimes attend UU services with our kids, but certainly aren't committed to it or any certain religion. Exposing your kids to many traditions is better, in my opinion, than turning over their minds to any particular organization.

Good luck!

received 4/17/02
Hi, I read with much interest Maxine Hanks' story and
alternate relief society women's creed thing. All I can say is that it was excellent, an injustice that the church responds to such things the way it has. Her comments, I believe, would really interest my wife. I know she really feels similar things to Maxine and has so for ages but is also caught between that and her 'loyalty' to the church mentality she was brought up with. Thank you. 'Mana wahine' in my native language signifies the prominant place in leadership that women have in our native society.
received 4/15/02
This is partially in response to the statement you made on
this page.

You write, "Unfortunately for Mormonism, you don't hear talks like the following anymore. The speaker was Hugh B. Brown of the quorum of the twelve apostles. He said these things about 40 years ago. If anyone can find similar thought expressed in public by church leaders in the last 40 years, please send them to me." Well, I stumbled across a wonderful quotation from Gordon B. Hinckley:

"I plead with you, do not let yourselves be numbered among the critics, among the dissidents, among the apostates. That does not mean that you cannot read widely. . . . Fundamental to our theology is belief in individual freedom of inquiry, thought, and expression. Constructive discussion is a privilege of every Latter-day Saint." (Fireside address to young adults broadcast from Temple Square on 23 June 1985, quoted in Richard Poll's essay "Dialogue Toward Forgiveness: A Supporting View--A Response to 'The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology'" in Dialogue, Vol. 26, No. 1, p.70)
To me this is speaking out of both sides of one's mouth. It makes little sense to encourage someone to think and inquire freely and also tell them that critiquing is off limits. My stake president said similar things just before excommunicating me for engaging in constructive discussion.

Obviously, this isn't on par with Hugh B. Brown's statements, but it's comforting for me to know that there is still some indication that the Church is not entirely opposed to honest intellectual inquiry. I'm going to try to find a complete transcript of this talk that Poll cited; I'll send it to you if I succeed.

Thank you for maintaining your site. It's always interesting reading, and it's definitely influenced my outlook on religion in general and Mormonism in particular.

received 3/31/02
I just wanted to say I love your site "
Science vs. The Cosmological and Teleological Arguments" was well done. I wouldn't recommend "Why I Am Not a Christian" though in the books section. I found the arguments Russell gave pretty weak. Still, your site summed up the arguments well. Keep up the good work.
received 3/26/02
I enjoyed reading some of the reviews on your site and when I looked at the bio. information and saw you were an ex-Mormon, that made me think of
this wonderful memoir by Teresa Nielsen Hayden about how she became excommunicated from the Mormons in 1970's.
received 3/5/02
My gosh, your site is amazing...simply amazing. I wanted to take a minute to thank you for giving me hours of entertainment and enlightenment.

I have come across the site in the past but was recently drawn back to it for your unbelievable in depth study of the Mormon religion. I was recently put out of work, a casualty of the Internet economy, and in my free time available while seeking gainful employment, out of a little bit of boredom and a lot of curiosity, I was drawn to learn more from the Mormon missionaries I met at a spectacular Christmas lights show at the Washington DC temple. I would describe myself as a "heterodox" objectivist (I liked how you used that phrase on your site) and am especially curious about those who possess a deep faith in their religion. You can possibly understand why your site feels like a blessing to me.

As I write this, I am working my way through their 6-part lesson plan and have found myself spending much time at the temple speaking to various missionaries and their assistants about not only their faith, but faith in general. I've appreciated the opportunity since I rarely have the opportunity to speak to people of conviction. I've learned much about myself from these talks and I realize that we've come to an impasse. I don't believe that God, if he/it exists, has given us the gift of life, a precious and sacred gift, that can only be perpetuated by our unique ability to reason. To take a "leap of faith" is a betrayal, not only to God, but more importantly, to myself. I could go on much further...but I assume based on your website that you understand where I am coming from.

I am writing these thoughts in am impromptu journal, which I will clean up into an essay form once I am complete with their teachings. I know you wrote somewhere on your site that you are a bit burned out by religion discussions, but if you are interested in assisting a young man (23) further think critically about faith, reason, etc. I would be very gracious. Once again, thank you for your web site and the insights it has given me into my current intellectual project.

received 2/21/02
A guy... sent me a link to your site describing your story. It was fascinating and encouraging. My history is quite similar. I "left" the church 10 years ago, but still have my name on the records, more because I don't care one way or the other, and removing them would likely cause my Mom more heartache than its worth. Interesting that I haven't thought about the church in ages. Once you disconnect from the culture, it is amazing how quickly your eyes are opened to all the possibilities of friendship out there in society at large. I only returned to this stuff in the last few days as I have a believing Mormon friend who is going through what I went through 10 years ago. He is more like you in that I believe you come from a very strong Mormon family...; whereas I am a "partial" convert so the ties weren't as strong. He found your site, and sent me a link, and I've had a good time with it in these last few days.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with me. I've got 3 young kids and a wife. My wife left the church a year or so after I did. I have many more questions than answers now, and likely feel less secure about the future, but my life is much more integral, honest, alive, and yes, happy. I never knew there were so many Mormons who thought like me until I saw your site, although I suspected there were.

received 2/11/02
With regard to Ed Cohen's "Mind of the Bible Believer" reviewed at "", I think that his psychological insights into 20th-century fundamentalism are brilliant and amoung the finest I have ever read, and his explanation of the 1st century origins of the Bible are utterly bogus. On a scale of 0 to 5 stars, I give this book 5 stars on the psycho-pathology of born-again Christians in modern America, and 0 stars on the roots of Christianity in ancient Israel and Rome.

Cohen shows no awareness of the fragmented character of early Christianity, the tensions between the Roman and Jewish Christian communities, the tensions between the communities loyal to Peter and the communities loyal to John, the enormous differences between John's Gospel and the other 3 Gospels.

He also shows no awareness of the apocalyptic background of early Christianity, nor of Christianity's struggle to find its own identity in relation to the Essenes, Zealots, Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Greek philosophy. Nor does he understand Christianity's struggle to redefine itself in the wake of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. and the failure of the Second Coming to take place as expected.

The Bible was no more deliberately invented as a mind-control device than AIDS is product of CIA germ-warfare experiments, or the alleged appearances of Elvis are engineered by the heirs of his estate.

It's a shame that a book characterized by such penetrating and profound psychological insight into the pathology of Christian fundamentalism should be marred by such an uninformed and baseless conspiracy theory. Jon Harvey

received 2/9/02
I discovered your site some time ago, and I've enjoyed reading your ideas. I read your article about racist statements by Mormon leaders at the following link:

I thought you might be interested in the following statement by Hugh B. Brown (as quoted in "The Abundant Life," p. 235.) I thought it was especially interesting that he made this statement four years prior to Benson's comments that you quoted. Just some food for thought. (Sigh. When will the Church get another leader like this man?)

A Civil Rights Statement

"During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed in the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.

We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man." —General Conference, October 6, 1963

received 2/9/02
I am sure that you probably receive a lot of mail, so I will make this short. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Your site is one of the very few that I have found that is interested in one thing: THE FACTS.

Most sites regarding LDS topics that I visit swing too far to either extreme. Your candid yet respectful treatment of the church issues helped provide a solid platform for me to research my own beliefs in the church.

It has been several months, and I have been studying several of the books which you recommend/review. Your online resource was probably the biggest help in my search for real facts about the Mormon church, instead of the spin provided by either the church or its detractors.

I cannot thank you enough for being so fair on the subject matter and providing great content for Mormons like myself who are trying to diligently investigate the history and doctrines of their own church. I am still having a great struggle because I am a young man who was raised completely in the church, BYU, church mission, and all, but my conscience has drawn me to at last honestly question church history, doctrines, and practices. In spite of the cold treatment I am receiving from family and friends, I am confident that it is time for me to wake up and seek the truth, and not hide my doubts. It makes me comfortable to know that there are those such as yourself who have been there, done that, and maintain a fair and reasonable treatment of the church.

I know that the maintenance of your website must be tiresome, but I wanted to let you know that there are people like me who have appreciated it immensely. I look forward to continuing my investigations and learning, and plan to continue to reference your site for book reviews and fair commentary.

received 2/6/02
I just stumbled onto your page and although I just briefly looked over it, I find it very interesting.

Personally, I find myself somewhere between Deism and Pantheism. I'd like your thoughts on the major differences between the two.

A deist believes that a god of some sort created the universe and then split or perhaps exists outside of the universe and hence can't meddle with anything inside the universe.

A pantheist believes the universe is god. In other words, they believe that nature, itself, is god.

While both are free of revealed religion and their "holy" books, one proclaims the existence of a Creator while the other proclaims nature/the cosmos itself as divine. Both appeal to me.

The major problem I see with Pantheism is its belief in "everything" is God. While Deists believe everything is created by God. The old theist argument says nothing creates itself. This is one of the reasons while I'm still stuck between the two.

Do you have an opinion on this?

Pantheism smells nice but doesn't really explain anything or offer anything that Naturalists don't already serve up on a silver platter. Deism doesn't bother to explain who or what created god so it doesn't add much to our knowledge either. Both theories/belief systems are untestable so I don't worry about them much.


To which s/he responded:

So you are an atheist?

I'm an atheist, agnostic. Although I wouldn't mind also being labeled a humanist, freethinker, pantheist, mormon alumni, naturalist, skeptic, unitarian universalist, quaker, buddhist, exhistentialist, secularist, etc.

received 1/22/02
I recently created: The purpose of the site is to give researchers of Mormonism access to a text of the endowment *without* disclosing those portions of the rite that are explicitly reserved for initiates only (i.e., the signs, tokens, and keywords). My hope is to discourage researchers from using the exposes produced by the anti-Mormons, which don't present the rite with the dignity or respect I believe it deserves.
received 1/18/02
I just love your website. It's nice to be able to read the real truth on Mormon history and not the cleaned up version. I don't think Mormons think of themselves as deceivers, just that they are "helping people come to the truth" by putting a better face on things. It's the same thing that happens by missionaries (like me years ago) when they teach the 6 discussions and never bring up blacks and priesthood or polygamy or anything else that might not be "faith promoting".

Not to mention the fact that potential converts are supposed to be asked to be baptized, set the date, etc. before the missionaries ever are to tell them about things like tithing, the word of wisdom, or how they will be expected to hold down a calling.

I'm now a closet atheist -- and I wonder church wide how many there are like me -- keeping quiet to not disturb parents, marriage, etc.

Thousands, if not tens of thousands. (Hundreds of thousands? I don't know the full extent and nobody probably could.) I've personally met dozens of them and have had email chats over the past six or so years with well over a hundred.

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