Saturday, September 11, 2010

9-Page Reply #1

(An adorable picture, I have to point that out in case you couldn't tell.)
Unfortunately I have nothing funny and quirky to report on BYU. When you don't have classes every day, due to work, then the exposure to BYU is much less.
And that's how I like it.

So I will begin going through some points on the 9-page rebuke. I want to clarify a couple things before beginning. Rob, who wrote it and mentioned so in a comment on my blog, is a good friend and I don't want people exploding in anger on him. He makes points in the email, making sure to express that he doesn't necessarily think I am meaning everything I say or meaning to imply some of the things. He feels that being more moderate on this is more beneficial for both sides, theists and non-religious persons, and I've agreed with that type of stance for most of my life. Some of the points I'll bring up were not truly directed at me, but more of 'what they could be read as saying,' in particular from a believing Mormon who comes across my blog. If I wish to make a difference and have an effect on theists who have doubts or could become more moderate themselves, then sounding like a ranting, angry, hormonal teenager certainly won't help. Even the guys at Irreligiousophy recognize that they are having little to no effect on actual believing Mormons because they are such pricks on their episodes that no believing Mormon would listen more than 10 minutes.

And that's a reason to enjoy them. If you're in the mood for what they'll say and how they'll say it then listening to them is like dessert. I'm betting my blog has done that too for people, but I wish to be more serious, at least for a couple weeks as I go through some points. Doesn't mean I won't still make funny points, though, I think some things with religion are hilarious, and I will continue to remind people of this.

9-Page Rebuke

Beginning, I've pointed out in my Mormons and Atheism posts that Mormon interpretation of scripture and doctrine has a very limited and incorrect view on atheism. The one I'll focus on is that they see atheists or apostates as angry individuals, full of Satan's rage and bitterness. I have to bring this up cause my blog, at times, definitely fits this, lol. And I have fun doing that. Some things, like combined third hour meetings where we talk about collecting college books for our children after the end of the world, are dang funny. But to the outsider or to a Mormon, then I play right into their hands - I come off as the angry atheist. This is perhaps my biggest reason for replying to the email, cause I hope to show that I am a thoughtful more moderate person. Some of my followers recognize this, I hope, my friends do, Rob does, but some random lurker on here probably doesn't. Second, I was turned off from atheism last year when I saw so many angry atheists. I think I would've made the step over last year if I had met more moderate atheists and not just the angry ones who focus their whole day around their atheism.

I do believe in fighting against any evils in religion, and it makes perfect sense for an atheist to be angry if that person has left a faith - they'll feel lied to, betrayed, that they wasted so much of their life on something false. Of course that person will be angry. If I met a recent postmo who was not angry with their experience in the church then I would be confused, and slightly leery of them. What kind of person would be okay with 'everything' they had done for something they no longer believe in? But perhaps I have made comments that come off too angry and if I feel I need to clarify myself, then I feel I did come off too angry, for the comments do not reflect how I really feel.

The comment of - religion flies you into buildings, pointing out Christians who don't care about the environment cause Jesus is coming back soon, or that they only have to read the Bible to get through life, these comments can easily be seen as attacks on religion, but truly it is more complex than that. These are how people act, not necessarily what a religion teaches. The Bible is a massive book, a collection from many authors, covering centuries of time. You can see the evolution of thought and morals in the Bible. We go from a tribal-esque society who feels you should kill adulterers, to a city-state where a moral leader asks accusers to cast the first stone if they think they are spotless before God. With that much breadth covered a person can pull whatever they want out of the Bible.

(A nice example.)
And they do. Look at all the different Christian religions and sects just coming from one massive book, with so many different views. Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Southern Baptists, and Mormons are just a few. All claim that the bulk of their doctrines come from the writings of Paul alone, or, rather, can be found in the writings of Paul. This does not reflect religion, this reflects the minds of humankind. We believe something and then we go out to find support for that. I may have read a couple atheistic books before I was really thinking I did not believe in gods, but I didn't get a couple dozen of atheist books till I felt I was leaving faith behind. Most people go after things they're interested in, and read books on topics they are interested in. Republicans tune into Glen Beck and read books by republicans.

So is it fair to say that 'religion' teaches us to fly into buildings, not care about the environment, or to only read the Bible? Well, if religion is a creation of man, then I think you can put some blame on religion, but you have to be specific. Mormonism does not teach me to kill myself for eternal glory. The Qur'an does, but only if you take specific verses and sections and line then up in the way you want. That's the key, and that's why moderate Muslims don't do such things. Does the Bible teach to pollute and litter cause Jesus is coming back soon and will clean it all up? Not at all, but people who don't want to care or work extra in life will take a belief like that.

I hope I make my point, men (in this case mostly men) put down their thoughts, and most religious icons were people who felt they needed to improve on the morals of society, a little at a time. The thoughts written into passages get passed down through religions as infallible truths and people are raised in those beliefs. Religion, here, is to blame for perpetuating bad or imperfect teachings and ideas, but only to a point. Nowadays a good percentage of people have a choice of what religion to follow (percentage, I would say not even half the world has much choice) and usually they will align themselves with whatever religion or sect that follows their line of thinking. Most people who are in a particular religion don't even follow all the teachings and disagree on some points.

So can I blame a Catholic for the church's involvement in WWII? Can I blame Buddhism as a religion for the fanatics who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers on this date in history?

No. I don't think I should be blamed for Indians losing America to the white folk, I wasn't there, and I hate being told that I am partly to blame. The blame rests where it lies. The Qur'an helped crazy shitheads pass along doctrines of martyrdom to people who had the mindset to believe it. The problem grew out of people, and still is a human condition, but I want to point out that religion helped those fanatics to do so.

I am an anti-theist towards a lot of religious aspects, religion certainly helps some good people to commit evil acts, but religion also helps to take control of evil people and to get them to do good things for the world. I'd rather there was no religion, but I still think we are a long ways off from that kind of future. I also do not think moderate religion is the best thing either - I do not want to be told to love religious terrorists.


  1. Tangent since it's 9/11.....There really are still valid theories (despite popular opinion and popular media) that point to the viable possibilities that the motivations behind the World Trade Center bombing actually had nothing--or very little--to do with religiously motivated extremism.

    Also, what's the reference to Buddhism about?

  2. I take it as religious extremists offended by globalization and Americanization, which is an offense to a culture that has strong ties to their religious views. However, I won't profess to know what went through their minds as they worked up to it.

    That's a generalization, should I blame 'religion' for the twin towers? Buddhism or Jainism had little to do with the attacks (or nothing to do with it) and their teachings generally speak against violence of any kind. Point being made - religion in general should not be blame for something people can do without religion. However, in the case of the terrorists, I think Islam is partly to blame.

  3. Nice clarification J-Dog. One small quibble, however. You say "The Qur'an helped crazy shitheads pass along doctrines of martyrdom to people who had the mindset to believe it. The problem grew out of people, and still is a human condition, but I want to point out that religion helped those fanatics to do so." Sure, but the same can be said of Japanese or North Korean nationalism. Kamikaze pilots in WWII weren't acting out of religious motives, but did what they did for ideological reasons all the same. Mao wasn't a Marxist, but he used others' Marxist ideologies to get them to kill and torture.

    The point is that you want to use the term "religion", when what you really mean is "ideology". God isn't necessary for human evil, it's built in. You say you'd prefer a world with no religion, but that wouldn't solve the problem. And a world with no ideology isn't possible, or even desirable. With no guiding philosophy of life building meaning would be difficult indeed. The trick is to propagate good ideology, and so far religion seems to be doing a much better job of that than any other organized force in the world today.

    A thought experiment to prove the point:If you were lost at night in a bad part of any inner city in America today and a group of men was walking toward you, would you or would you not be relieved to discover that they were coming from a Bible study?

  4. Ah, one of my fears of being more serious - I open it up to debate A LOT more, lol. I agree with the ideology statement. Communism under Mao or Stalin or the nationalism in Japan during WWII were not related to religion, but they sure acted like dogmatic religions. Not my original idea of course, but I believe that statement. Having watched a documentary on kami-kazes, I am pretty sure that the nationalism of Japan and their reverence for the emperor was near unto a religion.

    Yes, the thought experiment works. But it does depend on the circumstances, and is being limited to a Christian Bible study. Religion does work in certain regards. If religion disappeared in the next year I think the world would become a horrible place. However, I think we could replace it with something better ... eventually.

    The trick IS to find a good ideology, but religion is not good enough, and extreme nationalism, and dogmatic communism doesn't work either. Regardless of what people say, I believe the world is a far better place today than before, and I think our morals will continue to evolve. But as a whole, the world is not ready. That's my opinion.

  5. I dunno, J-Dog, a pretty essential part of a good ideology is sticking power. From what I've seen, atheist groups tend to be reactions against theism, and if religion goes, so does any reason for atheists to congregate. If nothing else, religion brings together people of wildly different interests and backgrounds and forces them to make a community together. It says something important about the major world religions today that they've been around for millenia and are still going strong, whilst many others have gone by the wayside. Perhaps survival of the fittest is a religious concept after all. I guess we'll see when we're eighty whether or not atheist or secular humanist groups are still around and have managed to make something productive of themselves. If we still know who we are - alzheimer's runs heavy in my family too =).

  6. Rob: amen. I'm having trouble not wondering what your ideology is, or not trying to be fanatic about it. You sound so rational. haha. I just want to point out also, that your points are the same ones I've been making in my blog, loosely. eh eh?

  7. I also want proof that Rob and J-dog are not the same person. Is this like Ender's Shadow, where you guys are in cahoots? (What can I say, I'm a skeptic. lol. If this sounds offensive or foolish, then I'm just joking. If I'm right, then I was serious. lol.)

  8. I actually sound like Rob? I'll take that as a compliment though I can't stand the guy ;)

    Good point with atheists groups falling apart with religion. Divulgatus leans on humanism, and I think we could see more humanists coming out of the floorboards. I think one of the major things about Hinduism, or Buddhism, or Christianity, is their inherent level of change they can take. I am hesitant to say the same for Islam, but moderate Islam does the same thing too. I bring this up in the sense that we all know the religions are far different today then they were, especially if we say the moderate and peace movements are the majorities in the religions.

    I'll make my stance clear = I'd rather there was no dogmatism or religion in the world, and that humans could do better. But I do not think the world can right now, and I do not know how we would ever get there. This is why I do not actively fight religion, but only truly 'evil' ideas and theologies that people may bring up to my face, such as saying that divorce (in any situation) is evil, I will speak out against that.

  9. Ok, I may be annoying, but I'm certainly not Joey. I'm a lot taller and much better looking, as I'm sure you can tell from the text =). More importantly in a written forum, I have much better grammar. I met Joey when he was a missionary in my ward in Nashville where I was going to medical school.

    Ideologically speaking I describe myself as an ethical monotheist, meaning that I believe in a God that makes moral demands on us, and that defines morality in terms of the effects of our actions on others. Essentially it's religious humanism. That's about the only theological claim I'm wiling to make, and I find it much more rational than dogmatic atheism, for reasons that will probably come out in this blog.

    I'm a former Mormon with in-laws who are currently serving a mission as the heads of church welfare in the old Confederacy (read hurricane alley), and who do tremendous amounts of good in the area cleaning up after natural disasters. My dad's a bishop of an older singles' ward, and I was a missionary in Brazil, a Sunday School President (twice), a choir director and a Scoutmaster before burnout and unbelief did my activity in.

    I spent a year in New Zealand doing residency and was essentially secular. I found my life to be shallow and lacking in meaninful community, and so when we returned to the States a few months ago my wife and I visited a dozen or so different churches and synagogues before settling in at an Episcopal cathedral. I don't believe much of the theology, but the formal ritual provides a space for contemplation and the music is gorgeous (I'm a classically trained tenor). There's something about a liturgical year to mark the passage of time that speaks to me, and it is deeply powerful to participate in the same rites that have marked births, marriages, and deaths for most of the Western world for thousands of years.

    Simply put, as an agnostic I can either choose to act as if there is a god or act as if there isn't. I choose to act as if there is because I find it deeper, more emotionally satisfying, and more likely to better my family, my community, and the world at large. I have the utmost respect for those who choose differently, so long as they grant me the same consideration.