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Feedback #7

Names and e-mail addresses have been witheld to protect the guilty. If you recognise your letter here, and wish to have your name and address displayed, feel free to contact me.

Received: 6/15/98

Very interesting site!

Your page"My Story" about how you reached agnosticism says:

Of course, Christian apologists had a ready answer for this. "God reveals Himself through Nature", I was told, "the unbelievers will be judged on how well they responded to that Revelation." Despite the fact that this doctrine does not appear in the New Testament (and, in fact, is specifically contradicted by the Bible in several places), it mollified me a little.

Just for context let me say that I am a United Methodist, but way out at the left pole -- almost indistinguishable from a Unitarian.

One of the hammers the Fundelicals (Fundamentalist / Evangelicals) use to whack homosexuality is in Romans 1. Right before it, though, is this:

[Rom 1:14] I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish:
[Rom 1:15] so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
[Rom 1:16] For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
[Rom 1:17] For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."
[Rom 1:18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
[Rom 1:19] For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
[Rom 1:20] Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
[Rom 1:21] for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
[Rom 1:22] Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
[Rom 1:23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

Did not any of your informants point you to that one? I believe that is their only leg to stand on, vis-a-vis "nature reveals God." Just as they keep parroting "Jesus said, 'Your sins are forgiven; now go and sin no more'" when there are MANY places where he is quoted as saying the first part, but only two where he then continues with the second. Once they get an idea in their heads, they can't examine it again -- it ossifies into Truth.

Yes - this was one of the "proof texts" that even I used to use when confronted with the "what about those who have never heard?" argument.

The problem, as I later discovered, is that Paul was wrong. The only thing we can reasonably conclude from nature is that it exists. It says nothing about its origins at all.

Furthermore, Paul claimed that "they are without excuse", which is also incorrect. Even if nature did reveal God, the problem remains - which God? Does it reveal Yahweh, Allah or Brahma? Since there really is no way to answer that question, humans do indeed have an excuse. No matter how you slice it, God is not justified in condemning his creations to Hell if he has not given sufficient evidence for his existence.

Received: 6/14/98

How do Mormons explain the obvious false prophecy in Alma? Book of Mormon Alma 7:10

7:10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers, she being a Virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed, and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God

Isn't it common knowledge that Christ was to be born and was infact born in Bethlehem? And, The only specific name I have come across in prophecy is the name Cyrus. A fact is established by two or more witnesses, perhaps if the name Mary was in the old testemant? Regardless the verse is a false prophecy thus the entire book of Alma should be discarded. Why do they keep it?

The common answer is that Bethlehem was a suburb of Jerusalem, and thus the phrase "land of Jerusalem" is permissible. It's a stretch, but then anything goes when you are dealing with people desperate to shore up their delusions by any means.

You are correct in noting that the Book of Mormon prophecies are suspiciously specific. The answer of course is because they were written after the fact, just as the second part of Isaiah (from chapter 40 onwards) was written after Cyrus had conquered Babylon.

The sad fact is that no-one can foretell the future. Both Mormons and Christians are fond of claiming that their holy books contain fulfilled prophecy, but when they are closely examined, they turn out to be less than compelling.

Received: 6/13/98

Great web page. I just bookmarked your site on The Book of Mormon Research Page. I don't know if you knew this page should be publicized on the net...just my suggestion...so that should really open the door to the dissecting Mormons who prefer to stick to their faith than look for reason. That way will change the way they preceive the church as the one and only true church (overmentioned, it's just a hypocrisy) and will eventually destroy their faith.

In truth, I am a Mormon inactive for years because I'm deaf and the prejudice was biased against me from the outside. Especially the LDS seminary classes I've been in for three years, and they didn't seem to care to know me...almost. I now live with my active family in Provo, Utah, and although it's home of BYU (and the #2 central west town on Money Magazine's list) I'm an anti-jock because you won;t believe most of the young rich Mormon males consists of sport jocks dwelling there, and I've been in jobs in and out because I always disagree with the (slightly unintelligent) Mormon managers. They did confess that they opted to cheat in school to stay in the football teams. Not very smart thing to do. Sports is part of the obsession among the Mormon males (besides cruising in cool cars and looking for worthy girls to marry in the temple). I don't understand it. Even Prez Hinckley is a fan of the Jazz (don't get me wrong, I like the Jazz, they should go for the title if they can try hard) There's even the large billboard with the picture of a BYU football guy's aggressive face and the motto says, "Think Win Win".

It made me want to puke.

Anyways, I had a friend who changed the way I think two years ago. His name is Simeon Gonzalez and he's an athiest from the family of active Christians. He doesn't believe in the existence of God because of all the religions dissenting each other. Especially the LDS church denouncing all of the religions as corrupted and wrong. I think Joseph Smith coined this. I am in the process of researching the controversial LDS materials I discovered thanks to the contributions of the net. It really opened my mind since I'm also an intellectual and I disagree with the church docrines sometimes. Well, maybe you could consider me a threat to humans, but I don't treat them that badly, except for Mormon dissenters with the low I.Q.

You can find a lot of controversial LDS materials that the official authories of the church tried to confiscate, conceal, or even destroy to cover the excruciating history of the past. An instance is University of Utah Special Collections Library has the original 1830 Book of Mormon in its first edition, and it contained uncorrected errors and altered verses not matching to the present edition of B.O.M., and the original printer's written manuscript that he's the sole witness of Joseph Smith and his assistants who paid him to print thousands of first edition--what he saw and heard in intriguing details. I also found the photocopy of the original Nauvoo Expositor at the BYU library. It exposed all of Joseph's personal doing, including sexual liasons--it may be the only crucial evidence that may have led to a chain of events leading to the death of Joseph Smith. I never found a reason as to why Joseph was killed, an unexplained situation the LDS church has a problem with. They never told the members that it's because the 'gentile' mobs condoned the issue of polygamy as a threat to the tradional American family, it's just because they claimed the mobs condoned the religion as the true church, and thus killed J. Smith. You might know that fact. They in no doubt never tell the truth about this fiasco!

Well, enough of my rants. I am thankful you did put hundreds of hours of extensive and exhausting effort to research on the comparision between B.O.M. and the Bible, and it was a big shock that B.O.M. was clearly a plagurism of the Bible (what about King James version?). I recall someone quoted the line in Time from the famous Mormon mocker Mark Twain: "Chloroform in print". Twain may be right, he clearly said it's a genuine plagaurism as said in his book "Roughing It". You should check the book out at your local library.

Thanks so much for your hard work putting the most important point of evidence against the Mormon church. No doubt you got these hate mails from the twisted hearts of the Mormons.

Sorry if this is long. Keep it going!

Your comments about covering up Mormon history are right on the money. This is true, to some degree, of all religions. Since all are human inventions, it follows that all evolved and went through some periods that later religious leaders would prefer not to have made public. Since Christianity is so old and so diverse, it is quite simple for one faction to blame another for the atrocities of the past, and claim that they were not "real christians". Mormons cannot easily do that, so they prefer to keep damaging documents from the public eye.

P.S. I wonder how many months it took you to research on the comparision. You really have the eagle eyes to catch the obscure verse lines ripped for B.O.M.

It took quite a long time, but not as long as you might expect. One the things that my decades as a true believing Christian has left me with is a fairly intimate knowledge of the Bible. This means that I was simply able to read the BoM, and note those phrases that were familiar. There was a little more to it than that, of course, but that's about the gist of it.

Received: 6/11/98

It seems M.J. Agee just hasn't quite gotten it yet. The rapture didn't happen on 5/31/98 so she postponed it for seven days. She referenced Gen 7:4 to say that God had delayed. A real perversion of that passage if you ask say .... ok anyone who has read it. Well, when 6/6/98-6/7/98 went by she had some person send her an e-mail about the third watch of the night, scripture found here;

Luke 12:37 "Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or COME IN THE THIRD WATCH and find them so, blessed are those servants."

M.J. Agee has adopted this as meaning yet another seven days, incredible. Perhaps you might want to wait until next monday to see if someone comes out with a fourth watch of the night or something. If so it will be to explain why the rapture didn't occur this weekend. I certainly believe in the rapture, but I also believe when your wrong say so. She has strung so many people along, on what started as a good guess, but turned into a wild goose chase, that I'm not sure she feels that she can say that she is wrong. I have sent her E-mail, but in the one email she returned she seemed delusional, not accepting the reality of it. I hope you maintain your doomsday list, and update it soon.

Actually, Marilyn is following the psychological model to the letter. Many decades ago, the psychologist Leon Festinger wrote a book called "When prophecy fails". He analysed what happened when people make predictions and then have them fail. Curiously, it turns out that most of the "prophets" simply extend the prophecy, and become even more fervent in their evangelism. It is quite the opposite of what one might expect, but Festinger explains it in terms of "cognitive dissonance".

Cognitive dissonance is defined as the difference between what your mind perceives as reality, and what you earnestly believe is true. In the case of failed prophecies, the proponent has a strong belief that a particular event is going to occur, but that belief is challenged by a real event, i.e. the failure of the prophecy. In order to reduce the dissonance, the proponent is faced with two choices: abandon the belief, or restructure the prophecy so as to maintain the belief. The latter is usually accompanied by increased evangelism, since having more people believe as you do tends to reduce the feeling of dissonance.

It is an intriguing theory, and helps to explain the reactions of the "prophets" to failed prophecy quite admirably.

For myself, I obviously no longer believe that the Rapture is going to occur. I took a longer look at the texts that are usually used to support the idea, and came to several conclusions. The first is that when one analyses Daniel and Revelation in their historical contexts, it turns out that they were written for a particular time that is now long passed. Daniel in particular is very easy to understand. It was written about 164 BC, in order to give comfort to the Jews who were persecuted by Antiochus.

All of Daniel's prophecies neatly fit that time period. There is no indication that Daniel has a period far in the future in mind.

The second thing that I discovered is that the early apostles believed that Christ would return in their own lifetimes. Even Jesus made several statements in which he promised to return before his generation had passed away. (Note: Jesus clearly referred to his own generation. The text in no way supports the idea that he was talking about some far future generation).

The bottom line is that the entire idea of the second coming is built on a faulty foundation, which is why I no longer believe that it is going to happen.

Oh, Peter Hader who signed onto the list, took it really hard after 5/31/98 apologized to everyone sincerely, but He signed onto her seven day delay krap and continued until that failed. Now He can't be found, He really was sincere and Honest in recognizing his error.

Yes - I noticed that Peter's home page is now gone. He seemed to be quite distraught about the events. Strangely enough, he never thought to question the source of his error, which was the whole concept of Bible Codes itself. It has been proven time and again that the codes that Drosnin though he found in the Bible are simple textual patterns that appear in any book of sufficient length. If only Peter had been able to grasp that point, he might be a far happier person today.

Received: 6/8/98

There are numerous ways to be critical. As a reformed objectivist and a born again "Mormon" Christian, I have spent many years and many hours (if you know what I mean) in the pursuit disproving and disclosing the more irrational elements of the translational errors of the Book of Mormon to save the souls of my fellow man. How arrogant! How vain! Please don't tell me that you haven't wondered about your own immense vanity in those genuine moments of introspection. We all have if we have an honest shred within us.

There is a basic message of the Book of Mormon:

That God will do his own work in redeeming his children from "the fall". (This act is an act of mercy, of compassion, of charity and it is likely beyond anything educated fools like you or I can concieve of in and of ourselves without authentic divine revelation.)

Back to the message...

God is all loving. His love is quite different than the contorted emotion which we germinate and share. His love is concise and healing, ours is selfish and short-lived. Now, I have felt His divine love and I have compared it with that emotion which I generate from my self interest. There is no comparison. The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the message of the Gospel, i.e., God sent his only begotten Son to earth that He might be lifted up upon the cross by men, God (the Father) in turn lifting men up to stand before Christ to be judged of there works whether they be good or evil... To repent, be baptised, to be filled [with the Holy Ghost - the spirit of God themselves] to endure to the end, the necessity of being cleaned by Christs' blood. The process is one which requires a leap of faith. A departure from earthly wisdom and learning. The rewards are purely spiritual and healing. The rejection of the books questionable origins is only a stumbling block my friend. See passed it if you can. If you can't, God's mighty grace is still sufficient for you. I'm convinced that the fallibility including the disinformation (both within and without the Church) is all part of Gods marveleous plans. I wouldn't care if the hierogliphics came from chicken scratch in Brother Josephs' hen house. The message is glorious and beautiful. This much I know.

I'm afraid I cannot share your sentiment. From my point of view, if a document has a fraudulent origin, it should be rejected, no matter how beautiful the message may be. The bottom line is that Joseph Smith lied about the Book of Mormon. He made up a fantasy involving angels, gold plates and lost hieroglyphics, while all the while knowing full well that the book originated in his own mind.

For me, the only beautiful truths are those that are hard-won from nature. I find the truths about the size and beauty of our own cosmos to be far more satisfying than any delusion, no mater how much it way appeal to our sense of wishful thinking. Life is awe-inspiring, all the more precious when we realise that it is simply a happy accident. I enjoy it for what it is - I prefer not to live behind the blinkers of blind faith.

Received: 6/8/98

I saw your web site today and from reading your biography, etc you seem like a reasonable man to put forth this question. How are you going to explain to your young child there is not God when he asks. My daughter who is now 5 has been asking this question. I have told her some people believe there is a God and some people do not.

I find this disturbing because is shows how prevalent and powerful religion is although I have not taken her to church. I am sure this is a problem for many atheist who have children especially when you have relative close by who are true believers and go to church all the time. I would like your opinion on this matter.

To be honest, I have thought about it for some time now, but still have not reached a conclusion. At the moment, my kids are still too young (15 mths and 2 1/2 yrs) to be asking those sort of questions, but it won't be long until they do.

I have sort of decided that it would be best if I tried to equip them with the tools to make their own decisions. Statistics reveal that about 85% of people stay in the religion that they were born into. This obviously indicates, to me at least, that if people don't learn to question assumptions when they are very young, they probably never will learn to think for themselves. So, I think that the most important thing would be to try and instill a skeptical attitude in my kids, i.e. to reject claims that cannot be substantiated. Exactly how one goes about this, I am not too sure.

I do know that Dan Barker (of the Freedom from Religion Foundation) has written two books on the issue (called "Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong : A Guide for Young Thinkers", and "Maybe Yes, Maybe No : A Guide for Young Skeptics".) I haven't yet needed to get hold of them, but I intend to when my kids get older.

Until then, I guess the best thing to do is to teach your kid the two most important things: always ask "How do you know?", and that "I don't know" is an honest answer.

Received: 6/3/98

I have periodically browsed some of the sites on your Doomsday List (the site telling the identity of the Anti-Christ was priceless). Today, I looked at all of the sites that foretold the so-called "rapture" ocurring on May 31st. Most aren't addressing their failure, but at least two are. It is very interesting, and very distressing, to see the rationalizations and corrections. The spin is, of course, that "God is testing us", or "our calculations were just slightly off". These two sites also have scores of e-mail messages from the faithful offering their own views on why they are still with us. One even suggested that there is a two-week transit time for angels to get from heaven to earth, so we should wait until June 14! (These people are so looney that I can't tell if this one is sarcasm or not.)

One of the main reasons why I started this list was precisely so I could watch the reactions of the believers when their prophecies failed to come to pass. As you noted, they all address their failures in different ways, but none of them ever come to what I would consider is the obvious conclusion - that their prophecies failed because the source (the Bible) was faulty. No matter how many times Jesus fails to appear, these people will simply never understand that it is a futile effort all around.

My hopes for the future of humanity have diminished as I contemplate the sheer number of imbeciles who actually, truly believe this crap. You are performing a valuable service by exposing the fraud of these "prophets".

Ta. I, too, am somewhat despondent over the collective failure of humanity to embrace reality in any meaningful way. I suspect that it is going to get a lot worse before Y2K rolls around.

Received: 6/3/98

I've been following your Doomsday List and I wondered if you had checked out Marilyn Agee's page and noted that she has extended the deadline for the Rapture by 7 days (to the Greek Orthodox Pentecost), although with some lesser degree of commitment.

Yup - it looks like Marilyn is holding out for another date, although with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. Dare we hope that she learned something from her last fiasco? I doubt it...

Does this mean she's extending the date for the end of the world by 7 days? I hope not. Agee is of particular interest to me because she predicts the world will end in September 2007 -- on my 40th birthday!

Guess life won't begin at 40 for me.

You might be lucky. During one of our e-mail exchanges, Marilyn assured me that even in the May 31 prophecy fails, the rest of her chronology is still definite. Hope springs eternal.

Received: 5/20/98

Welcome to visit my site for an article on the date of birth of Christ.

A few points that I need clarified:

You state that Justin Martyr claimed that Quirinius was governor of Syria twice. Yet the quotes that you have on the page do not indicate this. Are there other quotes from Justin that support this view?

Received: 5/28/98 (in response to above)

They do to me. Sorry it does not do that for you.

Ancient subjects are not answering correspondence with us, and normally do not supply as much information to all possible question for clarification as some would like.

In the 3 quotes Q was placed in the context of Lk 2:2. It is well documented that Q was over Syria at 6 AD. With the 3 quotes Justin suggests that Q was there before taking office at 6 AD, hence being in office over the area twice.

You state "A clue to a solution lies in an inscription which states that P. Sulpicius Quirinius governed Syria twice." Can you provide references to this inscription?

This is a case proposed by W.M.Ramsay, where he made a reputation.

It is a clue, rather than information as clear as black and white. It opens up to doubts to those requiring evidence crystal clear.

Do you have any Archaeological evidence (such as unearthed inscription) that speaks contrary to this idea? Please show.

Forgive me for being dense, but I really can't see how you arrive at that conclusion [that Justin Martyr said that Cyrenius was governor twice]. Can you point out specifically which quote establishes, or even intimates, that Cyrenius was in office prior to 6 AD, and how?

Can I provide an inscription to the contrary? Well, no. All I can point to are the writings of Jospehus, which only mention Cyrenius as being in office once. In fact, according to Josephus, Cyrenius could only have come into office at 6 AD, because prior to that point Syria was under semi-independent rule. It was only when Archelaus was banished to Vienna in 6 AD that Syria became a Roman province, and Cyrenius was appointed to clean up after Archelaus and take a census of the region. (This is all listed in Josephus).

The point is that if you are going to suggest that Cyrenius was in office twice, you need to be able to back it up with some slightly more substantial evidence.

At my web page I have all the relevant quotes from Josephus listed. If you can provide some references that support your point of view, I will be glad to list your response to the problem right there.

Received: 5/29/98 (in response to above)

Thank you for your information.

I will have a look later.

I am sorry I have no more evidence than what was given. But thanks to your reply, I have revised this article of mine.

OK - I think I finally see what you are getting at. If I read you correctly, your argument seems to hinge on the fact that Justin referred to Cyrenius as the governor of Judea, which you seem to think refers to an earlier governorship in Judea, not the later in Syria.

The problem for you, as I see it, is that Josephus clearly states that Cyrenius had control of Judea and Syria at the same time.

Antiquities 18 1:1. Now Cyrenius, a Roman senator...came at this time into Syria, with a few others, being sent by Caesar to...take an account of their substance...Cyrenius came himself into Judaea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money...

The way I see it, Justin was referring to the 6 AD census of Syria, since Judea was at that time a part of Syria.

What do you think?

Received: 5/20/98

i came across your story. i am a christian although i share some of the same concerns about God that u mentioned. if i were God i wouldn't do it the same way. i've talked with agnostics and atheists before and i have been shaken before but during those times it always seem our discussion moves in the direction of us being mad at God. and if we were God we sure wouldn't play God the way he does. oh well, i saw the comments section at the end of your info and thought i'd just let u know that i have been reading your info.

Interesting that you still seem to regard yourself as a Christian. Do you see a conflict at all?

You are correct - if a human acted the way that God did in the Old Testament, we would not hesitate to call him immoral. Why should God be above his own law? It makes no sense to me, and I have yet to find someone who can explain it without resorting to the tired "well, he's God, you know, and he can do anything he wants...".

Received: 5/30/98 (in response to above)

The point I was making is that God never makes a defense for His actions. We are the ones trying to make Him SEEM (in our eyes) consistent. God doesn't beg us to believe in Him. As a Christian, I don't make apologies for God. I realize that He is of a different realm than we are. What may seen inconsistent to us; is not to Him. HE IS NOT ON TRIAL; WE ARE!

Received: 5/14/98

Not a prediction but a memory of a false predictor. Remember back in the 70s/80s their was the guy who was the NASA scientest, who did some super computer calculations and predicted the rapture? First prediction failed, but didn't stop our guy. He made another and as I recall another. Last I recall from press accounts was that he sold everything he had and was living out of his VW waiting for the end. At the time all instances of his predictions made the news.

It doesn't ring a bell, but it wouldn't surprise me. There have been so many people who completely lot their grip on reality, and seemed perfectly convinced that the world was about to end.

I also recall during the 70s Hal Lindseys books about how Armageddon was going to happen no later then 1979 etc etc based upon his interpretation of the bible.

I had heard that before, but I haven't yet been able to find any actual quotes from any of Lindsey's books. I did read "Late Great Planet Earth" a long time ago, but seem to recall that he was a little cagey about the actual dates. (If you look at the long list of failures, you may be able to understand why).

Received: 5/16/98 (in response to above)

I browsed a new Lindsey book? called 2000 something at B&N. Anyways the book pretty well fingers 2000 as being it. As for Lindseys other books, there have been so many reprints, with revisions of course. Next time I am at a used book store and find a 70s version, I will pass on the details.

Also in a Life Magazine around 1958? (I have a copy somewhere) which featured a big article on the near space nuclear tests which turned the lights off in Hawaii. Anyways in that article Billy Graham predicted that Armageddon was at hand, between 58-60 as I recall the article.

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