Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Pretty soon I will be leaving for home so I can't guarantee anymore posts on topics. I have been working on typing up my exit story though, so I will post it in parts over the break in case people are interested in hearing that. For today though, I wish to talk about Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

I love this woman. LOOOOOOVE HER! Seriously, Ayaan inspires me so much. And I haven't even read any of her books yet.

Born in Somalia, she was raised in the Islam faith where the culture supports intense subjugation of women, including genital mutilation. She later ended up in Kenya. Ayaan is repeatedly asked in interviews about women in Islam, especially in that region, but she generally brings up how the hate and abuse is not just geared towards women, but everyone. She defends her brother, explaining the expectations that were on him, how he was supposed to treat women and girls, and things he could get in trouble for, just for being a boy. She also explains many times how Jews are treated (poorly), and how infidels or apostates are abused, and literally anyone who does anything wrong. I believe in an interview on she explained that everyone was literally watching everyone else, looking for slip-ups where they could accuse the others.

As I've said before, studies (no links to give) have shown that often the most supportive group of a religion will be the believing group that is subjected to the most abuse and inequality, generally women. Ayaan supports this belief by her examples of how dangerous your fellow women are in an environment like that. No remorse. Always trying to catch you, keep you down, crush your dreams, physically abusive, and it's the women who are the most aggressive with female genital circumcision, or cutting, or my preferred word; mutilation.

Forced to an arranged marriage with a cousin (not a close relative though) she was on her way to Canada to seal the deal but took off while in Europe and sought refuge in the Netherlands. This is where I need to read her book, because less than a decade later she was in Parliament. Later she worked on 'Submission' with Theo van Gogh who was brutally murdered (I've heard his throat was cut, stabbed 28 times, and shot several times, all in interviews, but I'm unsure if some of these could be exaggerations) with the last stab leaving the knife in him with a note to Ayaan, telling her she would be next. Now she speaks publicly, always accompanied by bodyguards, is part of the New Atheist movement, close friend of Christopher Hitchens (watch them together and there seems to be some kind of platonic love), is outspoken against Islam, freedom of speech and expression, and women's rights. She is an amazing figure.

I really enjoy listening to her, she's so smart, and has this calm 'aura' about her. I also enjoy it when she doesn't care for what she's hearing or disagrees, she get's this look on her face and just blinks. Here's a good example of Ayaan saying how it is.

'People speculated how Theo had upset him by calling Muslims goat-fuckers.' She is so great, in every way. Even the video of her and Glen Beck was good, even though he doesn't know when to censure himself.

Ayaan became an atheist shortly after 9/11. Already disillusioned to Islam, and seeing similarities in Christianity and other religions she seems to have been becoming deistic, but eventually became an atheist. She doesn't care for Christianity, but she likes it better than Islam and drew up some controversy when she stated that if Muslims couldn't become atheists they should at least become Christians, lol. She has written at least three books, her 'main' one being 'Infidel,' which I found at the BYU bookstore actually.

This post is mainly just a bio and praise for her. I really enjoy the podcasts where she's been on, or interviews she's in. She is a big atheist figure, but she's so much more. I recommend checking her out, not in the sensual way though feel free to do that as well, it will be worth your time. Lastly, here is a well-done Fox News interview from a few years ago.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Mormonism Has Issues Part 3

These posts are not necessarily in a particular order, or need to be read together. Long ago I said I had no plans on bashing Mormonism out-rightly, as in, making specific posts. I've made fun of the culture, I've pointed out issues or qualms I have with it while also pointing out some of the good, but these posts are meant to deal wholeheartedly with Mormonism in it's negative light. I've given the outline of issues, not promising to go into any, and then last time was enraged when I decided to use my god Google to find articles about gay teen suicides in Utah. I was pretty enraged by the stories I was reading about, the stats I would find, the poor and sometimes fatal parenting some Mormon households were doing, and I even posted a links to a few of my 'favorite' stories I had found. But I'm done with that for now. Maybe I just miss USGAY at BYU, I haven't been in a while.

Nope tonight, or this morning, I hope to do just a small post on one area of Mormonism that most people probably know about personally. It is best explained by this video:

Now, I'm pretty sure the LDS church was overstepping some of its tax exempt status with Prop 8 and that was one issue that put me on the fence with the church. I loved the church and believed, but I could not support Prop 8. Peter Danzig's story is pretty similar to the beginnings of how I doubted the church.

But that's not the point, the point is how the church reacted to him. Or to Cary Cralls article. Or to anyone who disagrees with them. There is no open dialogue within the church. You cannot express doubt or insecurity for your leaders, and of course this leads to some issues. In my mission there was an area several years ago where a person high in authority went on a power-trip of some kind and excommunicated a lot of people and upset even more. The classic case of someone who felt teens should be excommunicated if they had lapsed on the law of chastity. As if those teens would ever come back for being excommunicated at that time in their life.

The church is set up so that if your bishop is the one causing problems you can't go to anyone. If you send letters to the Stake President he simply sends it back to your bishop, and then he READS it. Everyone hears horror stories like this, some first person, but I went to this area that I'm talking about, and every Sunday there was a large number of people who were excommunicated and working on coming back, and on the roster there were tons of less actives who had no interest in coming back. Tons of part-member families who had been 'whole' member families before. This is meant to be an example of the authoritarian structure within the church.

The video shows what happens when you disagree publicly. Sometimes postmos in groups I go to will ask how to get excommunicated, cause they do tons of 'bad' things and people know but no one is doing anything. Easiest way? Get up in sacrament meeting and talk about a point you disagree with the church on. In fact there's a video of a guy doing that and then they shut off the mic. Lol.

Being that there is no dialogue about issues within Mormonism many people who wish to talk about it slowly become disillusioned to it. Some people would stay in the church if they could voice their opinions. Well, this could be a benefit actually, rather than an issue.

This stagnates a lot of thinking though, so it is an issue. Perhaps the blacks would have received the priesthood sooner if people had been allowed to question this 'doctrine,' or perhaps members would be educated on the genetics of homosexuality so parents wouldn't kick their kids out onto the streets or how the church used to employ shock therapy. Perhaps if the membership would allow science to explain things instead of scriptures they would understand how depression actually works instead of saying it comes from sin.

I had a hard time accepting that Mormonism was a cult, but any religious organization that tightens its grip on original thought and uses authoritarian rule generally is going to be a cult when you look deeper. Mormons are told that to be truly happy you have to be Mormon, to associate with fellow Mormons and try to convert your neighbors, avoid non-members who can easily corrupt you or your children. They form tight-knit societies wherever they go, they are told to avoid discussing anything against the church, and then they all judge each other, such as who's had all their children go on missions. Told to doubt scholars who aren't Mormon. To distrust anyone who has anything negative to say about the church.

Now, for the churches benefit, many of the Brethren talk about being more open and loving. But at the same time they enforce a cult-like atmosphere. Why do postmos talk about the church? Because we all have so much to readjust and go back and make meaning of after we leave! Lol, there's a level of brain-washing we have to throw off. In the real world I have some odd views that don't really agree with progressive thought, such as women.

This is a lot of rambling, and not very well thought out. I'm getting kind of sick again, probably stress due to finals. The video probably lays it out best, lol.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Small Note

Aimed at the Screaming Nephite:
Okay, so I've noticed you've deleted my older comments on your blog. Now, being that I am cordial and not vulgar and offer you to reply, I don't understand your need to delete my comments, especially when you ask for them. As to why I am posting this on here. Not only can you not delete them, but I don't see how you can avoid seeing this post.

Is it cause I actually don't rant but give an intelligible response? That some of the things I say are true, or are 'facts' and that some of these 'facts' are not spiritually uplifting for Mormonism? This is especially so with your Bountiful post, you even posted that you wanted people like me to comment. And I come back a few days later and you deleted my comment?! I beginning to debate if you are sincere at all. For one you are so indoctrinated you don't seem to find anything wrong with your views to people of other beliefs or homosexuals being that my last post was about gay teen suicides and your comment didn't reflect any remorse.

You have caricatured Mormon-Haters and atheists in a predictable Mormon fashion. I recommend listening to the Mormon Expression podcast so that you can at least begin to understand what it would be like to be a more liberal Mormon. Having just listened to the depression episode I'll ask you -
If someone is depressed is it due to their sins or failures?
Is sin truly never happiness?
Are atheists just hating God?
Can anyone be happy outside of Mormonism?

Four years ago I would have answered: they certainly add to it, of course sin is never happiness, most of them, and no - not truly happy.
Now? - No, but many times religion can be too extreme and only make the environment worse for the person, of course sinning is happiness, a true atheist can't hate God that's an oxymoron, and OF COURSE. Because billions of people are happy outside of Mormonism. And going back to depression rates and drug abuse in Utah, it seems Mormons are not as happy as even the general American population. Ahh!!! I'm getting frustrated. This is a pointless post. I should never post something like this as a post for my blog. But, I do promise that if I write it, I post it. So here goes, but this will be replaced with a newer post probably later in the day, after I finally get to sleep.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Atheism Is For Nerds

I mean, we've all known this for a while. Atheists. Are. Nerds. We all are. I don't know a single atheist who wasn't very nerdy on some level.

Okay not true.

But the real 'generalization' is that an abnormal amount of atheists, when compared to the general population, are nerdy. Full-blown video game, RTS, Popular Mechanics, 4chan, l33t speak nerds. And so I ask:

"Why is that?"

I'm truly serious, cause statistically speaking the population is skewed. This is a very nerdy bunch. Even the girls are nerdy ... and bi but that's not important right now. Though, many atheist girls are hot and sometimes bi. Many guys will like that last link ;) But even my gf is nerdy! I don't wish to be boastful, but usually nerdy people are pretty smart and intelligent. Well, that isn't being boastful, using the 2 studies from Profiles of the Godless (Reasonable Doubts) we do have a much higher education level than the general population. So maybe nerdy people like to go to school, play video games, keep tabs on the latest Hadron collider updates, and spend countless hours ... doubting ... God?

Not sure on that one. But this comes up after nerding it out a bit amongst my fellow atheists and agnostics down in Provo. Amazing hot chocolate. I don't particularly care for coffee. I'd say maybe that's why Joseph Smith and Brigham supported the Word of Wisdom ... but they actually drank too, so ....

Beside the point, I'm just caught up on it. Generally nerds like to think, and that seems pretty legit. And I don't mean that in a demeaning way, but lot's of nerds I know actually enjoy thinking. I mean, sitting there and just thinking. Obviously not all, and obviously not for long periods of time, but we like to think. And especially when it comes to Mormonism if you stop and think you'll stop believing in it, lol. And for most people this means it's time to move on. And then still for most it means they'll 'think' about other religions. And then for a good portion they apply this 'thinking' to God, and then the whole thing just seems ... fluffy.

I'm not really sure what to make out about it. The popular, preppy groups I know generally are pretty concrete in their beliefs or non-beliefs. While my nerdy Mormon friends are the ones with doubts. And within the local atheistic community a good portion are pretty nerdy. I love nerds, I've only recently accepted my nerdiness in the last few years of my life. I know plenty of people who are not nerdy in just about every way. Most people have a nerdy area to their life, and then a decent population is very nerdy but realistic, while another decent population is very nerdy and delusional. The live in your grandmas basement kind, falling in love with anime girls, and staying up late playing WoW. So many atheists I know fit in the nerdy but realistic realm. Why is that?

Hands down win for Google for me ... thus far!

And now I'm asking you, dear reader. I'm betting I have some nerdy followers and lurkers out there. Maybe someone has put some thought into this. Cause statistically we are not representative of the population. In fact, besides nerdiness, it seems lots of doubters and atheists and agnostics love fantasy, and stories, and the fantastic. Shouldn't religion be inviting then? So many of us seem to love a good book or story more than usual in comparison to my believing friends and acquaintances.

Gods, so many different things, and I just have no idea where to start.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mormonism Has Issues Part 2

So more about those issues. I already brought up some, but let me elaborate a little more. And first, point out my thinking. I will probably post my exit story soon, which will help to make sense of my thinking some more ... hopefully. But one thing that was liberating in leaving the church and 'becoming' a non-believer was how more ''me'' I felt I became. Now I really do act the way I want to, and sometimes it is scary, and I'm unsure on some things or how I feel about them, but being let loose has been an overall very good and, as I said, liberating thing. I focus on virtues like truth, integrity, acceptance, and others. I accept Mormons, good ones, but I find it very easy to disagree or dislike them if they are completely bigoted. And then this isn't just towards Mormons either. Sometimes my fellow agnostics and atheists don't even like what I have to say.

Having said that there are many reasons I would not be in Mormonism anymore. One that comes to mind is Pres. Packers talk at General Conference. In an older post I said that he gets props for speaking his mind and not giving a damn what others think. He says what he wants with seemingly no understanding of political correctness and in that sense I give him a thumbs up. Way to be your own person. But then what does he say? Some more hateful speech directed at gays (I'll say gays, but I'm including lesbians, just the church rarely admits lesbians exist, especially since they don't admit women even look at porn). And again, I love the gays, but this wouldn't be such a big issue if there wasn't such a big issue with teens and gays in Utah. Utah has an epidemic of problems with teens, especially the gay ones, if they don't kill themselves. Which it's pretty easy to find stories and stats on suicides in Utah, I found one here at the Bloggernacle, oh, and one here, and another here, and yet another here. But perhaps that's not enough diversity, so there's these three as well (1, 2, and 3). What the fuck! WHAT ... the Fuck!?

Things like this make me outraged. Bill Bradshaw, everytime someone asks, "what should we do, how should we react?" he's like "love them! don't stop loving them!" and this is why! Teens already have enough issues and parents, especially Mormon parents in Utah (not so much outside of Utah) are hating them, disowning them, kicking them out of their homes. And then some of these teens end up killing themselves. Some people say, "oh, they had other issues," so yeah, you're not gay unless you have issues? I have gay friends, outside of church, and sometimes they had 'issues' that we're only there because they were gay. Yes, being gay can sometimes be enough reason for a teen to take their own life. Wonderful job parents.

By the way, those last three are pretty good, I WOULD go check them out. I hope that's enough diversity on the sites I chose. And they cover a few years, doesn't seem to be much change. I love the internet, full of information. I hate it when I hear professors say they don't accept Wikipedia as a source. I like books. I have the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for psychology and psychiatry. And I have gone on Wikipedia and compared the writings. You know what, Wikipedia is pretty dead-on with what it says. Maybe paraphrased, but pretty dead on a lot of the times. You look and search and do background searches and compare sources and material, it isn't hard.

Enough of that soapbox, how about the gay teen suicide epidemic we have. And then it's furthered along with statements like "if you didn't change then it's your fault, not the program we gave you to stop being gay." Yes, their fault, not the program. Then this leads to the pogrom of the gays within the church. Being told it's sinful and evil and disgusting. Mormons already fret over masturbation as if it's the equivalent of killing animals (or more for some, I know plenty of Mormons who abuse animals but won't masturbate, lmao. [i say that mainly cause i hate hurting animals, so having been in the situation of seeing the abuse i'm a little scarred]. Also, being into 'science' and 'psychology' there has been genetic correlation, statistically significant, to say that homosexuality can be in the genetics. I say 'can' cause some gays say they chose, and I think I'll take them for their word, but many say they didn't choose, and I'll take them for their word too. I don't feel like I chose to be sexuality attracted to girls, and I was long before I should've been and was told to not be interested, and yet ... here I am.

The Mormon church doesn't even seem to realize the damage it does. The problem is with their whole approach. They've been improving, but it is not good enough. The USGAY group at BYU (really USGA btw) isn't affiliated yet. And they were told that they should "take it slow," "there's no rush," "maybe this coming spring we can see about making it official." Bullshit. Bullshit! There is a rush to get more understanding into members minds, and to have a place for college-age gay students. How can there not be a rush? Guys and girls are not only feeling alone, confused, self-loathing, hated, misunderstood, depressed, and sinful (as if these weren't enough), they're also FUCKING KILLING THEMSELVES!

But there's no rush to reach out to them, or to have the church affiliated, indirectly through BYU, with anything being supportive of gays, even if it is from an LDS perspective and supportive of the church. Ridiculous. Completely ridiculous.

Wow, I was gonna just list off some 'issues' and move on, but this has me so riled up right now. Lol. And I'm not even sure why. I guess it's all the names of dead people I've read about. Looking at life as finite I have a really badly bleeding-heart now for needless deaths. This is one of those things that I want to see stopped. And I don't think I'll ever hide that now, and I don't think I'll be ashamed bringing up the suicides to make my point. I cannot stand the level of ignorance the bulk of the membership expresses. And to add more pain to measure the rest of America isn't much better.

So yes, this is an issue with Mormonism, and is enough that if I was a member I would leave. Nothing to do with God or doctrines or such, but purely actions and culture. This is not something I would want to be a part of until it changed. In the sense of being Christian and spreading good in the world, instead the LDS church here is spreading death by indoctrinating teen minds with a vileness of human nature that can alter their very will to live. Acceptance. One of my virtues, lol. The church has had great speeches on the subject of love and acceptance, by Pres. Faust, or Wirthlin. It's about time they make some doctrinal leaps with homosexuality, and spread that love to their misunderstood, hated, depressed, and dying brothers and sisters.

Some do okay, but many aren't, and it only takes one to make it an issue.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Something Good to Talk On

Well, I have some BYU stories to tell. First off, I've found some new wonderful people through my blog, it makes such a good tool. In the least it offers 'community' to people who want it, more possible friends, parties, activities, girlfriends, and plenty of single guys cause the ratio of guys to girls is like 2:1. I wish more girls would at least be agnostic about the LDS religion.

Being that some new people have gotten into the group we had a nice turnout last night for the coffee group. And I had one of the most amazing hot chocolates ever. Ever! It was transcendent. But it was nice. And we've even got a nice plug on, though I guess we aren't as cool as CALM. Now, I know we mainly ramble and don't have a led discussion, and some people may have an axe to grind while others want to talk about normal things not related to Mormonism or atheism, or that not all the people are even atheist at an atheist meeting. But we are so much cooler than anyone else, come on. Also, as awesome as it makes me feel to be called the 'one in charge,' I am too humble to accept that title. I will accept the 'smart one,' or the 'cute flirty guy,' or the 'director.' Lol, I did mention starting an official group, but sadly I was not the one who did it on Facebook, it was two other people and me and St. Pickle helped.

Then I found out about one very interesting BYU site - The Locked Lip Project. It seems some girls, probably guys, wish to get some juicy stories from BYU Mormon kids. I even made a post, though from now on I think I will title myself jdog when I do. No one calls me jdog. You guys know where I got it from? Jaydogs (or however it really is spelled) hotdogs southeast of campus. Excellent hotdogs with BBQ sauce. Yum. So, that's the meaning behind my ridiculous nickname for this blog. What was I ... Locked lips, that's right. This may be something to keep an eye on. Or for risque people to make risque posts. Could be entertaining and sexual.

Which I am giving props to BYU. I saw some people painting boards (?) outside the Cannon center and some asian guy was bent over and some girl was putting painted handprints on his butt. Full girl hand on guys butt. Yes. Bring on the sexual tension. Bring on the inappropriate touching. For once BYU students have acted like normal college students (not really, I am exaggerating my reactions, ... obviously) and this makes me happy. I clapped and cheered. Again, no, I didn't. But I did.

And then, as if today couldn't get any better, there was a gay meeting up in Alpine. It was affiliated with the USGAY group at BYU, and was a panel meeting with audience questions. However it was cut shorter than I had planned on. To my slight surprise 2 friends were there that I hadn't known were going, I had a friend with me, and a friend was actually on the panel. The audience was generally concerned people and parents. Bill Bradshaw was there, every word he says is pure gold, and the panelists did a good job taking turns answering questions, and being personable and sincere. I even met one of 'Hermits' friends, but she didn't like me.

Now, I was gonna talk more on Mormonism's issues, or gay penguins, or my exit story, but this was just too much to update on.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mormonism Has Issues Part 1

I guess I'll work in reverse. I'll now make a post briefly about some issues with Mormonism, at least in my mind. Then I'll work backwards and start posting my 'exit story' in parts, and hopefully by the new year I'll do a post on Patriarchal Blessings! I forget all the other posts I've promised to do. Oh, here's a new one, so maybe in two months or so I'll do it - Lady GaGa.

So Mormonism. It would be handy to know that I didn't lose my faith due to Mormonism. I lost faith in a God (and gods in general). The idea of a higher being is inviting and can help to make sense, but also doesn't make sense in a lot of ways. A literal Biblical god is a tyrant regardless of which sect you come from. A loose one is just a hater and incomprehensible, and a deistic god is something so alien to us and so apart from us why should we even care about it if it obviously doesn't care about us? This is a different rant for another time though. I will say that my idea of a God is nice and warm and fuzzy, but it doesn't make it real. And it took me a while to figure that just because my God in my mind worked, didn't mean it actually existed.

Again, rambling, but it's important to know that I didn't really have a beef with Mormonism. No anti or anything. Lot's of reading, some taboo, but really Mormonism was helping me to believe in a God and when I began doubting Mormonism it opened the way for me to admit that I didn't really believe in a God.

Growing up and maturing in high school I had lots of Christian friends, some who didn't care, some Indian spirit friends, friends and relatives interested in eastern thought and philosophy, and later some atheist and agnostic friends. Which, I can say all the ones I've asked as of now are agnostic atheists. It isn't necessarily fair to put all gods into one bucket and doubt them all, but being how similar they all are, and how similar religions are in the basics, especially with how they all know their god or gods is/are the right one(s) ... I think it's prudent to be brief with them. Especially since if you spent a good week researching a religion to know if it was true or not you'd spend the rest of your life looking at them all.

So that's partially, fractionally, how I moved from agnosticism to agnostic atheism. Almost nothing to do with Mormonism. But having moved on from God I decided to look where I had been counseled to never look. And things got interesting.

I had already gotten into the Women and Authority articles, thanks to Demosthenes, and Rough Stone Rolling thanks to some missionaries, and the Setting the Record Straight series from some members on my mission, so I had begun looking into the gray areas of the church and it's history but I hadn't moved to what most Mormons call ''anti.'' Word of caution: some anti is stupid. Pure, idiot lies. Usually from Evangelical Christians. Anti like this actually kept me in the church cause I was like ''wow, this is a lie and i know it is, anti is dumb. these people are dumb. satan must be using them." Thank you Evangelical Christians who keep Mormons in Mormondom. Mainly you Southern Baptists.

No, I'm talking about good, researched, scientific maybe, honest, personal, smart anti. And maybe it takes some research classes to get a bearing on how to differentiate the good from the bad, but I recommend trying. And always being open to the fact that something you learn could be have been wrong on a point, or all together incorrect. Now, one problem with Mormons and anti is that anti, to them, is ANYTHING against the church, or ANYTHING that they 'feel' is against the church. Therefore most Mormons, especially TBM, don't ever see the stuff. They may hear about it once or twice, but move on cleanly.

So I had gotten into the rough history stated in Rough Stone Rolling and had discussed some things about Fawn Brodies No Man Knows my History book, but I still felt that it was all okay. Blood atonements, okay. Blacks and the priesthood, okay. Women in the church, okay. Gays, okay. Sex is almost as bad as murder, okay. Do your home teaching or you won't be exalted, okay. As I said before, I'm the all of nothing type, so it made perfect sense that if I couldn't do my home teaching I wouldn't be fit to be a god with eternal numbers of children. Miracle of Forgiveness was one of my favorite books.

But all this put together was heavy. And taking God out of the picture opened the floodgates, so I got into it. And only since this last spring, months after I really made my transition. The two biggest ones that ruin Mormonism for me is the Adam-God theory(AGT) and the Book of Abraham. Most people say this, and I'm no different. I can handle racism with the blacks, women getting the priesthood in heaven, Joseph Smith stealing Hydes wife while he was on a mission, and Brigham Young getting other people's homes. But people always skipped around the AGT and would give ambiguous answers. The Book of Abraham was almost not even known to me, only a snipit from high school, till this last summer. That would have been all the nails in the coffin for me if I had learned everything I know now (about the BoA) back two years ago or even on my mission, though not in the first half. For me the BoA is tenfold, it ruins so many levels. Joseph Smith as a later character overwhelmed by the church he had made, pleasing the populace, but also loving and using them. Making specific claims with the hieroglyphs which survived and are obviously wrong. Finding most of the original sheets and having expert opinions on them that disagree with everything the religion holds dear, even BYU professors disagreeing. The present-day corporation of a church covering it up as best they could to bury it and keep it out of the minds of the members, throwing doubt on the doubts.

But that will have to be it for now. Most people don't even really care. I guess once you get into disproving something like Mormonism you really get into it. For me it was never really about that, and only once have I ever tried to throw doubt on the religion to someone who wasn't looking for it. But being asked why I left or how in the world I CAN'T believe anymore makes me go out and reinforce my reasoning. Till we meet again ;)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Heart Videos of Humor

I am so glad that I was taught all to embed and copy and paste and apply and link and whatever else I'm doing to bring videos to my post. Yay for me. Let's just hope I can remember for this post ...

I want to post a couple of my more favorite funny videos. If the links 'die' at some point or the videos are removed, then I recommend searching for the names in Youtube cause they will just crop up somewhere else.

First, Mitchell and Webb. These guys are great, I've watched dozens and dozens of their vids. One of my favs is the historian who can't keep his arms and body still for the shoot, lol. Classic and so true. But I can't find it anymore, sad day. However, here is the first one I ever watched, and it's really funny.

"Helen! Get in here!" - "Oh my-" - "Finally, after all these years of doubt!" = hahahaha.
"This melon blows my tomato out of the water. It's a full sentence, punctuation and everything." Probably more punctuation than me, sometimes, and most teens in the world, except probably the Koreans.
I'd like them to explain that watermelon though, "Probably just some random mutation in the watermelon's genetics ... oh wait, not that!"

Also, we move on to another comedian, Ricky Gervais. I had no idea about him till I watched The Invention of Lying through Netflix, not knowing it had a major atheist agenda, lol. This is part of an interview with him commenting on a lot of things, and this is where it switches to religion, his super hero, Jesus, and how his mom lied to him only once.

I have to recommend Ghost Town to everyone, it is such a funny movie. Anyways, I liked it. "Jesus is like an unpaid babysitter" - pure genius, lol. "Also ... if there is a God, why did he make me an atheist? ... That was his first mistake."

And moving to even more irreverent comedians, this is Jim Jefferies, who is also getting drunk on stage, and who doesn't care to upset the American crowd he is performing for. Switching from his hate of life, religion, namely Christianity in this part, to Noah, to pandas, this is absolutely hilarious and crude.

"I won't even know I'm dead, you know why, cause I'll be fu**ing dead!" - "What's at the end of the light ... all your dead relatives. ... Hello uncle who use to touch me. How did you get up here? Oh that's right you use to work for the church." - LMAO.
"WHAT? I'M MYSTERIOUS!" - So true. It took me a while to realize it, but if we took the Bible literally and said that is what God is like, he would be the biggest douche ever.

"There's a panda! Go f*** the panda! And they just look at each other! You put in a cage with anything, ANYTHING, and after a week I'll f*** it!" ROFLMAO.
Gods I find that video hilarious. And because of it, I've learned that pandas are stupid, and I will never support those pandas. Maybe gay penguins, but never the pandas.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hitchens and Hannity / 9th-Page Reply

I just feel an urge to throw these out there. I've said before that I haven't ever really planned on discussing reasons to not believe Mormonism and I don't plan on getting into it much here, but I kind of want to collect my thoughts on this. Mainly I'll just list them off with a little explanation as to why they 'matter,' my ''so what'' statements. - Or so I thought. Now it's some ramblings about the Hitchen's video I posted, for no reason really, just cause, and then some references to the 9-page email from Demosthenes 3 months ago.

I'm not really sure what this blog is. Sometimes I post things with readers in mind, sometimes I post things as if I writing to myself or in a journal, and then I regret having posted at all, lol. And then sometimes I just try to work things out. Discussing things with Demosthenes helps in that area. For example, in my last post I put up the Hitchens video with Hannity. Now, Hitchens is just an atheist evangelist, and I have no problem admitting that. When Dan Barker was at UofU he said he was kind of an atheist preacher, and he willingly admits it and doesn't find it wrong as long as people are looking to listen to him speak. Now, Hitchens is probably plastered as usual in that video and he makes many quips, but having watched it many times, to laugh, I eventually started listening to what he was really saying.

Overall he makes a lot of sense. The universe doesn't really speak of some great design, at least in the sense of 'for humans,' so a deistic god of course still works. A Christian God IS like North Korea, only worse. Don't worship Him and you go to hell or outer darkness. Forever! I have actually done my research on North Korea, it is disturbing, surreal, in fact I watched a political video of Hitchens talking about his 'trip' to North Korea and I think he said it was first time he felt he could describe something with the word 'surreal.' When you look at North Korea it isn't hard to see the relation between the speakers praising Kim all day and people 'worshiping' his dead father to Christianity (in the very least).

Having talked about charity Hannity brings up all the good religion does, and Hitchens points out that atheists do charity as well. For him he says 'more convincingly' lol, and he's entitled to his opinion, but his main point is after that, saying that good actions by atheists doesn't proof atheism is true no more than good Christians prove that their religion is true. Demosthenes brought up a lot of points like this back with my 9-page replies. Which I never found a reason to make a 9th page reply, only had 8 pages, or posts. Though maybe this one is kind of a post. In fact, this whole post is far from what I had planned on talking about, now I'm critiquing a Hitchens video.

(Billboard from the FFRF campaign)
In my not-so-humble opinion I felt that Hannity was p'wned by a drunk Hitchens. He didn't seem like he knew what he was talking about.
(Though I am grateful to Hannity for the things he said to Shirley Phelps when she came on his show.)
His main argument was that he can't believe all this energy could come from nothing. I still hold the belief/theory of alternative/parallel universes to our own and that all energy has always existed, though maybe not always in this universe. But with Hannity he puts forth that God was needed. Infinite regress. So you have a problem with the world existing without God but you don't have a problem with God existing without ... a ... God? This that whole bottom-most turtle thing. Doesn't disprove religion or God, but it doesn't prove itself either. The argument only takes the whole 'issue' one more step back, placing God in the equation and not solving the issue of something out of nothing. Unless Christians say God always was and is eternal ... then why do they have a problem with energy and matter being eternal?

I don't get it, perhaps I'm missing something, but even when I believed I never followed this argument.

However, even if atheists can't come up with real substantial reasoning of evidence to disprove a god, and even if theists can't prove the existence of a god I still think this is proof enough to not worry about gods in any religion. Why add something in that seems to have been made up in the first place. Take the good out of religions, fight the bad, let people live good lives if they are regardless of beliefs, but don't tell me to believe in something that, for me, is unnecessary, unfounded, invisible, magical, and continuously looks more and more like it doesn't need to be a part of the world to make the world, universe, and all matter, to work.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BYU BYU BYU - Things to do in the Happy Valley

I have been busy as usual, and now feeling slightly sick as well, behind on homework, but you know what, my room is clean, I've cleaned it up, gotten rid of piles, I feel I have accomplished something.

So I've decided to give a kind of hodgepodge of things to do that are taboo, against the norm, or atheistic. And then I will give a little treat of a video. Over the course of the blog I've listed off some groups and things I've done and now I wish to put them all together.

First is SHIFT. Up at UofU the Secular Humanist Inquiry and Freethought group meets every Sunday. You can find them on Facebook. I like SHIFT cause they have a slightly led/open discussion and are pretty accepting of different views. Obviously if a creationist is putting forward his ideas though they won't garner too much respect, but SHIFT is a fun place, and once I'm at UofU I hope to be a part of it more.

Down here at BYU, and one group through which I've met some people, is USGAY, I mean, USGA. Understanding Same-Gender Attraction. This group is churchy and supports LDS theology, but is very liberal, and pretty open-minded. Most people who go have some kind of qualm with the way the church approaches gays. It is not atheistic though, let's make that clear. But I enjoy the group, though sometimes I may cringe. I've found that a decent amount of people who are disillusioned to the church or don't believe usually are quiet, but cannot remain quiet when it comes to the LGBT crowd. Most people can't hold back their resentment for the church or its actions, as a whole, when it comes to the gays. And for me that's a good thing.

Also, there are plenty of atheists at BYU that I personally know and have met, and sometimes groups of us get together. One friend started a regular coffee meeting on Tuesdays in the evening. That's the Utah Atheists - Happy Valley Branch group. A nice place to bullshit with similar minded people.

Then of course their Godless Coffee up in SLC at Mestizos on Thursday evenings, and the Sizzler group once a month, I think they are having a gay-rights speaker come present this Sunday ....

Plenty of people to meet and things to do. And it's nice to put it all together. So for anyone horribly bored, here's a nice little video of Hitchen's giving it drunkard style to Hannity. A personal favorite of mine.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving and Hardcore ... Mormons

Thanksgiving was fun. Luckily for me I was invited to a friends house for Thanksgiving. Being that I have no family within 4 hours of me I didn't go anywhere, except about 30 minutes north. My friend knows I am no longer a true-believing Mormon anymore but is a decent friend and invited me up. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal, but once I was there ....

See, all the extended family and everyone else there were hardcore Mormons, overall. I was prepared for that and I had some clever replies prepared if I was asked certain specific questions. I don't like to lie, but if I can help it I don't wish to make things awkward. And telling your friends family who invited you over for Thanksgiving dinner that you are no longer Mormon nor do you believe in a God or any gods, could make things very awkward.

While over, though, I noticed something: the church takes up your entire life!!!! Seriously. If you are really into it then you have no life outside of the church. Everything everyone was talking about was almost always related to the LDS church, lol. Not everything, football wasn't ... overall, there was talk about 'talents' from God several times. But when going around the table saying what we were thankful for half the stuff said was related to church. Family was the other half, and then the church was related to family after that, lol. It wasn't bad, but I had brought another friend of mine who isn't a TBM and we just kind of looked at each other, giving each other 'the look.'

Now, some of those people are happy in the church, but I know some of them would be happy outside of it, they just were not enthused, and I'm beginning to really pick up on that. It might be the awkward behavior they show when being 'churchy' or 'mormony' more than they want to, or by their lack of reverence at serious Mormon moments, or lack of interest, or a combination, but I've noticed lately that I am noticing when people are not perfectly happy with the church.

And, (I'm trying to force this to my second point in this post) this has led me to consider an idea. Are TBMs or hardcore Mormons more likely to fall away? This was brought on a friend's blog a little while ago and made me think more. But mainly it led me back to one of my own thoughts on myself (which hopefully I'll begin posting my story before x-mas break).

For myself I really tried to believe. Fiercely even. At a couple separate times in my life I truly did believe, one of those being the first half of my mission. I would watch R-rated movies, but sometimes I would purge the really bad ones (either by giving away or throwing away ... ugh, so much wasted money ... and some good movies I wish I had now). I also tried to live righteously in other ways, kept the word of wisdom and was chaste at least till late high school. I've always been 'weak' there. But at the same time I've never been a cruel BF or cheated or anything like that. I fulfilled my callings, I would do things for people, I would give blessings, do my hometeaching, but in the end I left the church.

I don't speak for everyone and I think it's possible that some people leave because they were so fierce in the gospel it eventually drove them away, but I think it's something else. I think people who have high integrity, and uphold the 'truth' to be more important than lies, even good lies, lead themselves out of the church because of those character traits. People with high integrity, an all or nothing attitude, and seekers of 'truth' regardless where it is to be found, will live their lives with a lot of energy and fortitude. If they are TBMs they will probably follow the gospel and church rules more than the common believer or someone who doesn't have these virtues. When they begin to doubt they will go after these doubts and try to learn more. If they find out the church is false they will leave it, simple truth. Other people will become secular Mormons, stay in because of the good they see. Others may stay due to peer pressure or that the church is all they know (which I've pointed out is the case for a lot of people, especially here in Utah).

For someone like me I had to leave. I go after truth, but I find too many lies, misunderstandings, and holes in the LDS faith. I do find plenty of things I state as 'truth' and seek to follow them, but I don't need the LDS church, or atheism (however that would play in), to make me believe something I believe on my own. I say it is my integrity that took me out as well. I can't see myself being a part of something I don't really believe in. I also can't see myself supporting an organization that has things like Prop 8 going on, too much cognitive dissonance for me, and I don't want to be a part of it.

These of course are just my thoughts, but I don't think being a hardcore member means you'll leave the church. If the personality is based off integrity it might, but if it's based off of justification ... well, then that person will justify anything and stay a TBM till they die.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Westboro Baptistd

Okay, if you don't know anything about these people then you should. Go look them up!!! NOW!!!!

Like I said, I'm busy having fun with Thanksgiving break, but I thought I would throw out some videos now that I know how to post them. These videos are anywhere between 4-8 minutes long, but they are fun and deal with the Westboro Baptist Church. Shirley Phelps gets my vote for biggest fuc**** nutcase of the 21st century ... and she's the runner-up for last century - first went to Hitler. But he also took first in biggest asshole of the century too so ....

So first here's Shirley having some fun on public TV, and then we get to see Michael Moore do one his shindigs, one that I think nearly everyone can appreciate.

And here's Michael Moore, you give it to'em you sassy gay guys!

This is kind of becoming another pro-LGBT post, not my intention. The ultimate gay team: "A dozen of the most determined, tactically-trained, and sensibly-dressed gay men and lesbians!!!"
Yes, go gay ambassadors!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blasphemic Thoughts

Hippos are dangerous yo.

Somehow I still keep busy. Nothing too special lately in the bloggersphere-type-way though. I haven't been reading much, I don't get too many interesting things from my classes, and my friends are pretty cool and not crazy enough to have some real Mormony things to say about them. However, this picture is funny:

Hmm, and so is this one:

I will say that Mormon Expression is moving up on my list of good podcasts though. John does seem to be finding more reasons to dislike Mormonism though. His earlier episodes seemed real neutral, fair, and wouldn't talk about the temple ceremony. His later ones are covering the 14 Fundamentals and the protest at Conference. One person who has been on a few times in the newer ones is a TBM and can definitely get under John's skin with some of the things he will say. I have definitely left the betrayed phase with religion but when I listen to podcasts like Mormon Expression and Irreligiosophy (the 2 that mainly deal with Mormonism) I have a hard time believing it is such a good organization. Sure it does do good, and I'm now at the point of realizing that some people really are happy in it and I should leave them alone, but so many people are miserable, and they do 'good' things for others with some of the worst attitudes or reasons. And ones that truly believe have some majorly messed up worldviews, and I am really shocked at hearing some of the things I believed. It seems like forever ago. Though, I did start leaving on my mission and went downhill for about 20 months before stepping out ... so that is a long time.

Ugh, anyways, with break coming up I don't know how much I'll be posting, but I have my exit story in the planning, which could interest some, and I do have some work put into a post about Patriarchal blessings, but that one will have to wait till the new year once I gather enough blessings to compare things with. Personally, I enjoyed mine, but I want to see if I can find a couple that share similar templates. That would be cool.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do a Good Turn Daily!

The story of Jesus can easily be related to the story of Anakin Skywalker. But I think the latter is better. Except for Jarjar Binks.
Things I've done lately:

I've talked about sex with just about everybody I meet. This happen often. I enjoy it. People generally titter at my comments. The word titter causes tittering itself. I like sex.

People knock on our door all the time. I don't answer the door when people knock cause it most likely is someone from church. Like my home teachers, or the bishop. They all basically know I don't believe so the conversations can be a little awkward.

I joined a group that supports Gay Penguin Equality. I love the gay sassy penguins.

I've had to explain why I would feel more comfortable poking a guys dick for a second, then making out with him for five.

I bought a coffee literally 50 feet from BYU campus. Yeah, I hid that in my sweater on the way out.

I've openly laughed at stupid comments made by fellow students in my classes. Sadly, I have also kept my mouth shut when I could've stood up for some secular or atheist views or opinions or people.

I took a trip to Europe, got high, and was involved in a massive orgy of French women with armpit hair.

Okay, that last one isn't true, I've never been to Europe.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Plans and Pasts

I've decided I will write an exit story. Or rather, I will write my exit story. I've thought about doing one, but never wanted to spend the time and I didn't want to follow the flow. I'm rebellious. But now since I'm less bitter and more focused on focusing why I think the way I do I want to study myself, and what better way than to write my exit story.

It will probably be typical in the end. I'll write it up elsewhere, and then I'll post it in parts. It should help me to look back and find secular and atheistic influences in my past, what I did that was against the church, and to figure out my personality some.

See, I do find myself to be rebellious. I also am open to change, very much so, but I think I like to take it slow. I am an emotional guy, in the sense of following my emotions. I disagreed with Mormonism and many faiths growing up and on my mission, because they didn't sit right with me. One of my best friends growing up came out as gay and that really changed my thinking on some things. I was already into 'psychology' by late high school so I was studying into genetics and human psychology a decent amount. I realized that gays probably didn't choose to be that way most of the time (some do though! so they say.) I also didn't get why Mormonism, or God, hated them so much. It didn't make sense. I knew there was a lot of homosexual behavior in animals (especially those proud sassy gay penguins) and that genetics and physical makeup has an influence on personality and emotions. I also knew that people of the same gender could love each other. Me and another friend had a deep connection during high school, completely platonic lol, but I realized how similar the trust and bond was to some aspects of romantic love I had with ... two girls by then. I understood that a couple more steps and it could very well be a homosexual love, so I get where love isn't determined by gender or looks, those only play parts.

Long story short, religion in a lot of ways held me back from acting how I wanted to act. I believed in universal love, I still believe in forgiveness. I strongly believe in tolerance and acceptance. People are people, and people are weak. I enjoy the freedom of not having an ethical organization being a part of my life, such as Mormonism. I get to act how I want, and test it out for myself. One of those things is accepting and loving homosexuals, and allowing them to express their love for each other, especially through marriage if that is what they want. And they should. We didn't redefine freedom when slaves were freed, we shouldn't redefine marriage if homosexuals wish to be married.

I'm ranting a bit here, and rambling. The point is, I think one of the reasons I left religion, one of the main reasons, was to act how I want to act. I don't like being told what to do to be happy. I can figure that out on my own thanks. And I don't think I'm completely unique in that regard. I lost faith in God or gods, and because of that I don't practice a belief in one. But religion as an institution is separate for me, and it too doesn't work. Neither one works for me, and so I've found contentment and joy in my new style of life.

I'll write my story soon. Maybe this week, hopefully, and I'll post it intermittently amongst other posts. Thanks.

Afterthought - I wish to explain something a little more. I said religion doesn't work for me, and that's the truth. But it can work for others. I think people's actions do speak more than words, or in this case thoughts. If a person believes in God I don't see how that matters much to me in the end. If they hate gays because their God says to, then I have a problem with both their institution, thoughts, and God. But changing the God may be better than getting rid of it for some people. However, this still is one reason why I dislike any similarities to totalitarian cultures and ideologies. If God was removed things could be different. But then some people wouldn't work well in life. I bring up more questions to myself than answers I think.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meeting Dan Barker

Last week Dan Barker came to UofU thanks to SHIFT. He gave about a 90 minute presentation, then signed books afterwords. On my way up I had run into backed-up traffic and I almost turned around; I'm glad I didn't.

Dan Barker is one of the better known atheists out in the world, but he isn't in the limelight like, say, Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins. Dan Barker seems to support the New Atheism, but he also came off as much more tolerant and kind-hearted than people generally find other New Atheists. I enjoyed listening to a person who is so involved with the Freedom From Religion Foundation but also has a clear head on his shoulders.

Dan was never forward about the more 'tolerant' things he thinks, but amidst stating that he wanted no religion in the world he also said that some good comes directly from religion, and that there are several ways secular are religious organizations can work together. He also, like many others, said subtly that he wonders what would replace religion if we did get rid of it. He also mentioned that as a preacher before he is still a preacher as he travels around to where people want to hear his message of 'atheism,' lol.

He was also pretty funny. In telling his story of how he lost faith in faith and became an atheist preacher and eventually left the 'field' he said many funny things about his history. I think my favorite was when he realized he had lost his faith, and explained how he had been testing his faith/religion and when he tossed out the bath water he found that there was no baby! Also, when he shared why he remained a preacher for four months after becoming an atheist he also had a lot of funny stories to say about that too. Such as having to perform his piano pieces and sing and realizing how amazingly horrible and stupid his music was! Especially how so many people felt the spirit when he talked, or when one church wanted him to convert an atheist friend they all had. Haha, an atheist preacher trying to convert an atheist.

Having met him I can say Dan Barker seems like a pretty decent guy, and I've been enjoying the Freethought Radio podcast too. I wish there had been a piano for him to perform, that could've been pretty funny. He's also made some parody hymns. Generally I don't like things like that, but the one I heard had me laughing. Got my handshake. Got my picture. Now on to better things in life.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm on the Band-Wagon Now With the 14 Fundamentals

Okay, I've been avoiding what I'll deem as 'pop-ex-Mormon material' such as Prop 8 and Packer, an such, but this cannot be avoided. This is just too much. Here is the list for anyone who hasn't dealt with it yet:

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture.

Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning.

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

GOOD GODS! Need I say more?


Well, yes, I will.

This is Ezra Taft Benson's 1980 talk "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet" and is almost as bad as that talk Packer did back in the day ... not the little factory one about boys testicles ... hold on I can't remember ... let me do a haphazard Google search, Google knows everyth-AH here it is, "The Mantel is Far Far Greater Than Intellect." Good gravy the Brethren have such amazing insights into making cult-like atmospheres!

So I generally avoid topics like these cause everyone else knows about them or talks about them, but when I heard this was brought up in Gen. Conf. and I heard all 14 points I was like, "how can people think these are good things?!" Course, I do know how people can think that, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to bring up my own opinions on it. Since I'm sure all of you have heard of this by now, though, I will be brief.

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Fair enough, though this is definitely a tyrannical power grab in many ways.

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
Again fair given the Mormon mindset. I would hope that if their prophet or the standard works were about to burn they would pick him. Strangely, I think the prophet would sacrifice himself to save the standard works from extinction if he had a choice ....

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

Clever move, like an en passant in chess. This removes so many problems for the church. Things that Brigham Young said, like the Adam-God DOCTRINE don't matter since he is dead, the living prophet trumps anything in the past, including all the crazy/bigoted/sexist/racist things said by former prophets. That's continuous revelation for ya.

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

Repeat: Brigham Young didn't do this with Adam-God, or Spencer Kimball when he gave blacks the priesthood? Ah, yes, refer back to number three ....

Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
Holy Hells Bells! Seriously? What about brain surgery, just for starters? No earthly credentials. The mantle is far greater than intellect. Any subject. Any matter. Any time. And this was brought up more than once at conference. I don't remember thinking this about the prophet when I was a member, but things like this statement have to put some dissonance into the believers mind. Has to ....

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture.
Joseph Smith did this quite regularly and Brigham Young kind of hiccuped on receiving this baton. Course now anything the prophet says could be, or could not be, scripture. Ambiguousness wins again!

Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

Makes sense in Mormondom, course you NEVER question the prophet.

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning.
Such as the scientific method, or reason, or logic, or intellect. Well, we're about to establish that intellect is bad in #11 so scratch that. I like how essentially their God is not logical or reasonable. In the end it is just a new version of the Nicene Creed God but different and the same ... at the same time. That's neither here nor there however, when the prophet asks you to do something incoherent and illogical and unreasonable, just do it!

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

This seems like a repeat to #5. Also this never seems to happen with anyone in the church. No bishop or mission president knew when I was unworthy, or the prophets never seemed to know when people would betray them or were crooks. Revelation seems useless, or is very similar to how 'good ideas' get brought about.

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

Like Prop 8. Tax exempt status should be taken away right about now please.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
Well, he is clever by saying proud. Basically what he means though is anyone who has money and/or is smart and is against the church, or doesn't agree with the church. Especially if they sound smart and are clever. Oh the learned, you have to watch out for them. The smarter you are the more likely you are to hate God. How about the smarter you get the more you understand things. 'Nough said.

Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

Case in point - Prop 8. Second piece of evidence - the church fighting against the Equal Rights movement. Third - fighting for polygamy and then using their opponents arguments against polygamy 100 years ago against gays today!

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.
Centralize the power. These are the old white men you do not f@#$ with. Not even the apostles mess with them. Thank you for clarifying this Ezra.

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
Ah, I see, #13 was setting up #14. Gotta say it with a self-righteous, looming voice - Reject them and suffer!! Yes, wonderful thing to say. Everyone suffering? Anyone who reads this is probably not a True Believing Mormon, so are you suffering? Is the whole world suffering? Are all Mormons NOT suffering? Are there suffering Mormons? Are there Mormons who have doubts and are leaving the church but are suffering because of things like this being ingrained in their heads? Out of my readers, who suffered while leaving the church? I sure did. It is moments like this where I feel like I am thinking the most clearly, no glass darkly, the LDS church is a cult! Such a happy cult in so many ways, but it IS a cult. It builds a cultish atmosphere. And statements like this reinforce it. Good gods! Ugh!

Okay, enough of my rant. Hardly anything other than that. I've only barely tapped into the discussion a document like this can initiate. I'm sure other blogs out there approach this much better than I have, and I'm sure they will have posts back around mid-October on it. I'm sure USU Shaft has somewhere. Anyways, I'm done for now, goodnight.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And More Podcasts!

GAH! Mormon LOL Cats! So cute!

So first, I will write about Dan Barker on my next post, most likely. I don't have much to say, but he seems like a good guy, so I'll put a plug out for him personally later. For now, more podcasts!

American Freethought
This podcast is very professional. I can't say it stands out from the others, but it is good. They do a good job, they do interviews, and they are up on the present movements in secularism an such. I've only listened to a handful so far, but for the topics I wanted I enjoyed the episodes.

If you're feeling like a well-done podcast, that stays mostly on topic, gives good presentations, and covers topics well, then this is it. Basically anyone who is interested. They aren't crazy or hilarious like other podcasts, but I enjoy this one and it is another I recommend checking out or to go to and get episodes you're interested in if nothing else.

Freethought Radio
Not to be confused with the last one. This is Dan Barker and Annie L. Gaylor. This a decent podcast due to how they will give updates on the Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF. Plus they get some good interviews, news updates, some court updates, and Dan Barker of course travels around still. Again, not unique in any special way from some of the other ones, but they do have different interviews than from the norm, and can give some good insights into the secular movement. Plus they sound like real sweet people.

Again, this podcast is one which I recommend to everyone, but go in and look up topics you think you'd find interesting and then go from there.

Mormon Expression
I actually started this back when I last wrote about podcasts, and I like this one a lot. It is essentially Irreligiosophy without the vulgar, crude humor. John focuses on Mormon topics only, basically. And he has non-members, active members, less active members, and former Mormons all on his podcast. Some very good discussions get brought up. One of his earlier episodes on the Book of Abraham captures the heart of the podcast. If you can enjoy that episode you will enjoy everything else. He also went downtown during the protest during General Conference this last October and had people speak for themselves and why they were there. Very interesting.

He is generally calm and keeps the podcast cordial, but sometimes even he has problems not getting riled up by some of things Mormons do or the church in general. Very informative, more laid-back, well-researched, and multiple points of view are often presented. I recommend this to anyone who has let go of Mormonism but just can't leave it alone!

And that's my latest podcasts. I probably won't be getting into many more. Honestly these all keep me pretty busy now. Though I still take recommendations. I'll be keeping my job for the next 5 months, which means 5 more months of listening to podcasts for 15+ hours a week. In light of all the ones so far though here are my favorites:

Irreligiosophy is great. It makes me laugh all the time at work. Chuck is also very good at gathering information and presenting it.

Mormon Expression was just explained, but this is very well-done and very informative.

TED Talks and FORA TV are still regular ones on my list. If you're looking for views, opinions, and general information these are great tools.

Reasonable Doubts is good. I don't listen as much as I use to but between the three friends you get a lot of good points of view and information from them.

And that's it, hope you guys enjoy some of these recommendations I give out.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Agora: A Review

Last night I attended the Dan Barker lecture and it was pretty good. This morning I watched Agora with the atheist group at Sizzler. I have some things to say about both, but for now I'll do a post on the movie. I expect this to be a long review, I like movies so I have a decent amount to say. However, these first couple paragraphs will give a nice overview with no spoilers so I recommend reading a little bit into this post.

Agora was better than I had expected. Looking at reviews such as ones on Netflix there is a range of views and opinions on the movie. Some people think it is a masterpiece while others think it is a horrible movie AND a horrible atheist agenda. Generally I think those last two go hand in hand so I don't really give them much credit. But some people thought it was stupendous and I couldn't really take them all too seriously either. So I fell into the group of people who said it was a good movie, and I didn't expect anything more.

Agora was great. Exceeded my expectations. The set for the movie was very well done, Rachel Weisz of course gave an excellent performance, the music is beautiful, the cinematography does lend some very pretty scenes and nice use of colors, lot's of earth tones and oranges, and there is a coherent story.

Agora is about Hypatia the old world philosopher and mathematician. The story revolves around her within the city of Alexandria during the dying breaths of the Roman Empire. Christianity has now been accepted as a legitimate religion and the Christians regularly are abusing pagans and Jews. Only taking disrespect for their beliefs and gods these other religions soon return the abuse and the chaos builds between accruing acts of violence. In the middle of all this we watch as Hypatia is enveloped in trying to understand the movements of the planets while two men vie for her love: one of her more skeptical students, and her curious slave.

And from here on out there will be spoilers so continue at your own risk of taking the magic out of the movie if you plan on watching it.

The Appollonian Cone

The Movie Itself
As I’ve stated already, it was a decent movie with good acting, a good budget, good music, and a good story. The quality is good, and it is in English. Course everyone does sound British. I guess Romans were Brits at heart. It has a decently epic feel to it, at least in essence, but it never becomes an epic with high adventures and massive battles. It also has a reverse plot where things gradually get worse and worse and don’t recover, becoming a tragedy with Hypatia’s martyrdom. My only ‘dislike’ is that they use small white font for any words and paragraphs on the screen, such as at the beginning, and end of the movie. Also in the middle in-between the 2-part story. Very hard to read when you have a sandy background.

The Bishop Cyril

Christianity in the Movie
Right away I'll state that I give the movie a 4 out of 5 on Netflix, but it is a high 4. I was slightly surprised by how enjoyable the movie did end up being. In trying to figure out what I get from it I decided that this movie is an epitome to the cognitive dissonance people get from religion. The movie upset many Christians, and was difficult to get released into the USA and elsewhere. However, the movie did show some of the good coming from religion, such as the strong Christian sentiment towards giving to the poor and charity. Indeed, when one group rises against the Christians they are quickly sent back because so many of the populace support the Christians, such as the poor and homeless. The first scriptures heard in the movie is the Sermon on the Mount, and helps to inspire Hypatia's slave, Davus, to be converted to Christianity.

However, these good actions are offset by the darker side of Christianity. Later in the movie the bishop, Cyril, reads Paul's sexist words from 1 Timothy. Now, most scholars agree that the clerical letters to Timmy and Titus were not written by Paul but written much later, and I'm not here to argue that. But, like in times past, the scriptures read in the setting of the movie had a goal in mind, to shut up Hypatia, a woman, and to keep her pagan/atheist views out of the government. The Christians eventually drive out the pagans and the Jews.

I did a little research and I cannot be for certain on the Jews, but most scholars agree that the Christians were chiefly responsible for driving out the pagans and sacking the Great Library (my favorite Wonder to build in Civ 4). Though old ideas are often found out to be wrong, we generally build up off of them, and the destruction of the knowledge of the Great Library could be seen as a symbol of the coming Dark Ages. Indeed, while destroying the works the camera pans through the dome till it is looking at the rampage upside-down. St. Pickle next to me commented that the world was being turned upside-down itself.

The Prefect Orestes

The Devastating Power of Faith
The movie displays some Hollywood-esque thought processes by being too simplistic in odd ways. The Christians generally are wearing black attire, clearly presenting the ‘bad-guys’ to the audience. After massacring many Jews they gather the bodies and burn them, which to me came very close to the Holocaust in its intent. However, even the pagans are not portrayed as wonderful, owning slaves, and their pride and selfishness getting the best of them. There are times when we want to like many of the characters but the ones we identify with most are the ones who don’t believe as strongly as others.

Hypatia admits to having no beliefs in gods, but philosophy. Orestes, her student who later becomes the Roman Prefect, calls himself a Christian but it is strongly hinted that he doesn’t really believe. Davus turns to Christianity, but he sometimes expresses skepticism he learned from Hypatia. Looking at the pile of burning Jew corpses Davus asks the man who converted him, Ammonius, if he speaks to God and if he wonders if they could all be wrong. The most destructive characters in the movie are those who believe the most in their gods, from the pagan leaders, to Cyril the bishop. They act because they ‘know’ it is what their god wants, and it often hurts others, or their own followers.

One of the main lines from the movie is when Orestes approaches Hypatia about converting to Christianity for the sake of trying to keep the peace. She quips that he is peddling faith and then a former student turned Christian, Synesius, tries to get her to convert, to which she replies, “You don’t question what you believe. You cannot. I must.”

The philosopher Hypatia

Accurate History?

Many people against it say it is an atheist agenda movie and bring up inaccuracies about the history. After doing some more research I’ve been able to look more clearly at the story. Hypatia did live at the time the Great Library was destroyed in 391 CE. For an event like that we know the exact year. It was either destroyed by Christians, Romans, or both. The movie portrays the most commonly held understanding: the pagans looted it on their way out, and the Christians came in and desecrated the library and grounds (Serapeum).

Hypatia was murdered by Christians, though on the way of ‘how’ is disputed by some ancient historians. Cyril is portrayed as a vindictive bishop, often spouting ambiguous words and sermons which not so subtly get his followers riled up into murderous frenzies. The movie does not directly implicate Cyril for Hypatia’s murder, but many historians believed he ordered her death. He also did take considerable power after Orestes left Alexandria. Cyril is thought of as a Saint on some anti-Agora blogs, but a brief overlook into his history shows evidence of major corruption and power-hungry behavior. Indeed, Ammonius, the man who converted Davus and also threw a stone at Orestes, was killed for his treason yet Cyril declared him a martyr. In the movie he also declares him a Saint, but this is inaccurate.

One of the main plot-lines is Hypatia’s science and her studies into astronomy and the movements of celestial bodies. She remains single throughout the movie, wholly devoted to her studies where Christianity seems to be fighting against her. Though she is historically represented as one of the greatest early philosophers on mathematics and astronomy no works are in existence today, though we know she had written things down. The movie has her discover that Aristarchus’s Heliocentric model is correct though she never got a chance to write it down, or to tell anyone except her slave. Again, the movie symbolizes how religion has, in the past and present (with Creationism) shut up opposing philosophical and scientific views to its own. Hypatia continuously reexamines her views and improves upon them, whereas we watch Davus with his sparks of intellect slowly get into the mindset of answering questions with “only God knows.”

Davus the former slave

Cognitive Dissonance
This movie is full of it. The best scene being when Cyril reads from 1 Timothy – “I desire women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds… Let a woman learn in quietness and in full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

Orestes and others are present and he expresses concern as to why Cyril would be reading this, understanding it is Cyril’s subtle way of saying that Hypatia should not be allowed to speak in the government. Even the people watching the movie had to chuckle at the absurdity of the scriptures and their intended use being so apparent.

In the normal scenes slavery is never approached, Hypatia never acknowledging that having slaves is a bad thing, or anyone else for that matter. The killing of Jews however brings about doubts with Davus. Participating in the killing Hypatia walks through the massacre and spots him. Davus hides his face and glances at the blood dripping from his sword. Later, when looking at the burning corpses he expresses doubt in their faith. Hypatia and Orestes try to find unity to hold people together, while the religious views tear the people apart. Cyril defends his followers who were stoning Jews by stating that the Jews were at the theatre on the Sabbath, not keeping with their own beliefs.

Orestes and Hypatia defend their Christian brothers when the battle between pagans and Christians breaks out. Davus is torn through by the slavery of paganism or the freedom of Christianity. The pagans and Christians end up killing each other because they mock each other’s gods and Theon, Hypatia’s father, looks on in horror at what is happening. Because their religious views differ the Christians destroy the Great Library instead of continuing the great scientific history that it contained, some of the theories back then holding true today. Who knows what else we lost.

Orestes holds back from arresting Cyril, even though Cyril sent out a proclamation to kill all the Jews, women and children. Fear of Christians often gets the results Cyril or the other bishops want, not diplomacy or compromise. Synesius admits that he cannot doubt his religion or God. Later, Davus tries to save Hypatia while others call her a witch and ungodly.

Throughout the movie we watch as people see the world and know it isn’t quite right, but either are too prideful or too afraid to change it. Often the ills are brought about not because of religious beliefs, but religious differences, and those following those beliefs don’t question what they are doing, or if they do they stop short of changing. The movie is a nice collage of the destructive behavior of religion, and holds a lot of symbolism for the more subtle negativity religion brings into the world today.

No forthright agenda is made clear however. The pagans generally fight the Christians the most but are prideful, sexist, and have slaves. Only the Jews come off as the most polite, until they trick and kill the Christian enforcers, which in turn wipe them out. The only message I can clearly see is the separation of church and state, that Orestes tried to keep the government secular, in hopes of having peace between the different groups. However, Cyril eventually not only displaces the other belief systems, he eventually takes control of the government. Many intelligent people can see the problems in this, especially in America. After assaulting the Christians the pagans are pushed back into the Serapeum because “there are so many Christians.” I think this reflects the fears of many non-Christians in the USA, especially when governmental figures and the media speak so poorly of non-believers, or say that this is a Christian nation and atheists should get out.

However, I think that as a species we are generally learning to learn from our mistakes. We need to learn faster, but I think we’re doing it. Moderate religion is far more accepting, and moderate. The world we live in is far better than it used to be.