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.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Barker, Sexual Harassment at BYU, and Agora

Tonight Dan Barker is coming to UofU and giving s presentation or something. Hopefully a decent amount of people come out to it. I'm honestly expecting not too many people, lol, but it is in SLC so maybe there will be. It's in one of the buildings next to the Union building on campus at 7:30 for anyone who might be interested.

I haven't written much about BYU in the last month cause I haven't really had anything. See, I'm not on campus much, I don't have much reason to be. Since coming out to a decent amount of people some just don't care to hang all that much, my schedule doesn't work well for lunch, some friends aren't on campus when I am, and I don't even need to be on campus 4 days out of the week. Ahh, the wonderfulness of having no classes on 4 days. Go me.

However, for work we had a meeting yesterday about having a respectful campus. Which translates to 'sexual harassment awareness.' I should have written this yesterday, but I ran out of time talking on the phone between running errands and eating dinner and having fun on a Friday night. So first I got to make a decently uncomfortable remark en route to the meeting with the group of people going. A few of us were talking together and then something got brought up about homosexuals somehow and BYU policy an such and we joked about 'don't ask don't tell.' Then I said in my joking fashion while also having an agenda, "Yeah, but BYU wasn't like that back 30 years ago, they were like 'tell us so we can kick you out!'" Some tittering ensued, nervous and awkward silence followed, and then the girl talking fell back to talk to some other people. Lol. Yup.

Course at the meeting we had even more BYU fun. The nice older mature lady talked about the 8 or 10 different protected areas, such as race, religion, sex/gender, genetic information, and others. She explained all of them too, but we focused mainly on sex/gender since it was about sexual harassment. However, a couple sample questions regarding religion were brought up and I was happy to see that BYU wishes to respect religious views. Especially since many employees are often the foreign students and generally the 1000-some non-LDS people on campus are almost always foreign. I wanted to somehow bring up atheism, but I held my tongue, and ate some donuts I had brought.

Regarding homosexuals she brought up some of the protections they receive but then was real smiley when she pointed out that since we are a private religious institution that we can do essentially whatever we want. She seemed too bubbly saying it and I was pleasantly surprised when a few guys and girls behind me commented on that, "she acts like that's a good thing," and "she seems too happy saying that," etc.... Nice cognitive dissonance.

The sexual harassment stuff went really well. I was glad that they brought up some examples of how men can be sexually harassed. I remember from grade school how the courts in the USA were still having a hard time deciding if men could be raped. I'm all for feminism and equality, which has been brought up a lot with my significant other, but I think sometimes men are downplayed on any equality and sexism we receive. The LDS church certainly tries to overcompensate for any sexist views they have towards women by then bringing up sexist views towards men. I don't think the LDS church is alone in this. But as I said, I was glad BYU recognizes that there are issues of men and women treating men in sexist ways on campus and that the harassment goes and comes from everywhere.

I also had to laugh when the lady was talking about how dates are not 'innocent' requests, but that asking is not harassment. When asking what the goal of asking girls on a date is one guy answered, "the long-term goal is SEX!" Everyone laughed, and she repeated it for those who didn't hear. Good job BYU, you make me laugh. I'm sure there were more funny things, but I was pleasantly surprised that the meeting came off well and fair ... except towards gays but at least some people are more consciously aware of the plight of gays within Mormonism.

I also would like to point out that the Atheist of Utah ... or Salt Lake City atheists, are watching Agora tomorrow at the Sizzler around 1130. That's in SLC. I've been looking forward to this movie for about 6 months. I only expect it to be 'decent' but I'm hoping it's good. I also had a part to play in it's showing cause I brought with up with Richard, the main guy there, and explained the premise to him and once I mentioned Rachel Weisz was playing Hypatia he recognized the story and got excited. I told him it wasn't out yet, but would sometime in the future. See, it's been out, and had moderate success around the world, but America didn't really want it. It combines some elements in history and is about the Christians essentially taking over Alexandria, burning the Great Library, and then Hypatia the pagan/atheist intellectual of her time and her run-in with the old version of fundamental Christians. I hope it's at least good or else I will be sorely disappointed. However, I am happy it finally got released in the US.

Oh, and isn't that a cool movie poster? I love Rachel and I'm excited to see her portrayal of Hypatia.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

9-Page Reply #8

Alright, back to slowly replying to the long email Demosthenes sent me back in early September... ? Right? Don't remember. This post will conclude the 9 page email reply and I will do one more (part 9 of course) as kind of a tally, or overview, or finale, or whatever you want to call it. Not even sure what I'll write.

In the email the last three pages covered my No Use Credo which at once is a ridiculous document I made spur of the moment and also a very fun and slightly liberating document. I still stand by some of the things said in it, and I gave Demosthenes the gentle nod of disapproval to some of the other things said in the credo. This is the final post for the credo and the email.

I have no use for a god who gives me a sex drive but says not to touch myself and wait till I’m married, after a two-year mission, and most likely after college, making me 25+ and out of my most horny period of my life.

This was added after Demosthenes sent the email. Mainly a rant about how Mormonism corrupted the most youthful and sexual years of my life, lol. Not to be taken too seriously, and I’ve already stated that sleeping around can make it more difficult to settle down and get married, which is something I want to do.

I have no use for a god who tells me how to conduct my sex life with consenting adults.

Also related, Demosthenes asks if I would treat a sex therapist different? Yes, or course, the therapist has studied into this area of life and is trained in how to best approach different clientele. However, religions do have some good things to say about sex, and often people overlook that and only look at the bad. But, it’s easy to do cause religions have a way of doing the most bat-shit-crazy things with sex.

I have no use for a holy text wherein a character offers his daughters to be raped instead of angels.

Moving into holy texts. This is debatable because Lot was considered one of the good people from the twin cities, but he wasn’t that good of a character and the story teller shows us this through some of Lot’s actions. Either way, this story seems to say that God and his angels are far nobler and if sin must occur it would be better with women. Or to not be gay. People get all kinds of meaning out of this story and I think that’s a problem.

I have no use for a holy text wherein a woman who is raped is then cut up into several pieces and sent out to different tribes.
Honestly, I’ve never heard anyone else bring this up and I forget where it is. I think it’s after the Torah, but until I find it again I can’t debate it, cause it could be something God wanted done, or it could have been an abomination in front of Him. So no point talking about it really.

I have no use for a holy text that can make believers rise up and kill other people for disagreeing with them about who their god is or what that god wants them to do in their lives.

Demosthenes brings up Mao’s 'Little Red Book' and relates this to human nature. Now, he has converted to a more ‘human nature’ thinking, but I think religion again is to blame, at least halfly, in this case. Religion gets in the driver’s seat and helps give people more things to die or kill for. (It hijacks us in some fundamental and horrible ways, such as suicidal actions in Islam.) Not always, obviously, but it did seriously in the past and still does today, though today it is much better. So, I agree to a point. Human nature but again religion upsets the balance … if there even is a balance.

I have no use for a holy text that says the earth is flat, that the sun rotates around the earth, or that the sun is closer to the earth than the moon.
Demosthenes points out that of course a 2-3 thousand year old book wouldn’t sound like a modern geology textbook. That said, it’s not so much that I have issue with that, but that we are trying to gain so much from it, or that people think it’s infallible. Or, that people who have no critical thinking skills follow books like the Bible blindly. There are people today who think the sun is closer to the earth than the moon because of a religious text. It’s a religion in India I believe, and probably small in numbers. I also think this old Bronze Age thinking is reflected in the morals we no longer use from the book and as to why I keep saying that I recognize the worth of the old values but that we should take a higher ethical plane from now on. This could generate a discussion on its own and maybe someday I will write a post on it.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches that I cannot be a good and moral person without a deity in my life.
What this is saying is the common quip, “you cannot be good without God.” Most people don’t say this, they expect it. This is all over in the Bible and the Qur’an. This is reflected in how people wonder if I have morals anymore now that I don’t believe in a god. I’m sorry, but being an atheist, I see this one everywhere in the texts and with how some people treat me, so if any part of the No Use Credo is true then this one is it.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches its followers to hate me because I am different from them.
Perhaps this comes from my Mormon upbringing conditioning me into having a persecution complex, lol, but I don’t think so. Atheists sometimes like to bring up the poll on the American Presidency and who people would not like. Even below Muslims and gays and Jews are atheists. The Today Show had a nice clip on a girl in a high school who didn’t want to pray with her team at games and how the good Christian people reacted to that. I don’t even need to start on Muslims who hate infidels, they even find reasons to kill Christians such as Catholics. Complex or not this is a reality, and I hope it changes.

I have no use for a god/religion/or holy text that teaches its followers to hate me because I do not believe in god.
This is essentially a repeat to further clarify. But now that I finished ranting I should clarify that plenty of people still are my friends and know I have ‘lost the faith.’ And many people don’t really care what you believe as long as you act decent. I actually enjoy people who really appreciate me since I’m not motivated by a god to do the good things that I do, as rare as that is, ;P

And that's it for the email. I'll write a 'conclusion' post later. I hope any of my readers who are still with me by this point enjoyed me going through these things.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apologies and Replies on Charity and Eastern Ethics

I have to apologize. The last month has been poor for my blog. First I go on vacation for a week, so before and after I am rushing to get things done. Then midterms. And then last week I just couldn't get myself to do it, plus I'd been surfing older posts, putting 'notes' on posts that get a lot of views, and deciding how to reply to a couple comments.
Course I make it all up by writing a frickin long post, go me!

Hence, just a post to do so. First, Heretic asked a question on her blog and I have a novice understanding in a general sense, which I am proud of. I actually have read at least 1, and up to 4 books on each area of Taoism, Confucianism, Bushido, and Buddhism. So, amateur yes, but I want to learn more. So here's my reply to her question, from another person:

"Why didn't Eastern Religion(s) have to go through the process of constructing an image for God (as we see that Christianity has had to do through the process that the bible has gone through to become the document it is today)? And does that have anything to do with the fact that the Chinese civilization was one of the most up and coming civilizations for a good period of time?"

This is one area I need to look more into especially because Demosthenes keeps bringing up Judeo-Christian values. (now you HAVE to reply Demosthenes ;)

It may be a cop-out (?) but I think the simple answer could be that an embodied god just didn't matter to them. Taoism has 'the way,' and I am unsure if there were gods but I didn't get that when I read through some Taoist books, including Tao te Ching. It's a simple life, not questioning things too much except 'are you being a wise person?' Which means many things including being 'good.'

Taoism is kind of opposite of Confucianism, which Confucius essentially tried to set up a secular religion, no gods needed. He was scholarly and poor, and wanted to be rich. The rich wouldn't really benefit from his system, and so it was hard to catch on. It was mixed, as well, with his governmental views.

Then we have Buddhism which a couple sects have gods, but most don't, though they have spiritual leaders in different sects, such as the Dalai Lama. It has some real mystical views, such as reincarnation, but again, all about bettering oneself, which also means helping others.

In Japan by the time the samurai were popular they got the Samurai code, Bushido. Very tyrannical but it was a godless code of how samurais should act and how the peasants should treat them. And it wasn't necessarily a great system but it worked.

Point is, when we look back on eastern religions they had gods and spirits and ancestors an such, but the main forms ethical codes came from generally godless systems. Being godless, they didn't have to embody their gods.

This of course is an amateur spouting his opinion.

And an addendum - It would be difficult to give Chinese civilzation the one-up due to religion. Being a fan of Jared Diamond I agree with his 'theory' of European superiority is nothing more than having coal and iron abundance, especially coal next to London, and that they domesticated far more animals than other societies, giving them immunities to many contagious and deadly diseases. Which helped wipe out anywhere from 60-80% of the Native America's people in 200-300 years. I mean ALL of the natives in America. Roughly 2 out of 3 due to disease. Rambling now though, but was it religion or white superiority? No.

So for China I think it was a culture with many secular ethical views but a dogmatic loyalty to the emperor of their day. Nationalism. Which I've already stated is, in my view, just like some religions. China was still the #1 superpower only about 300 years ago, Diamond would say till the 1800s. China however is quickly rising again to be #1 but it's an amazing economic plow of having little to no debt, saving money, having a monopoly on steel, I'm pretty sure, and then having the people forced into dogmatic loyalty. Course, as with Iran, the people are continuously getting more and more say.

So why am I putting this up here? Well, I need to do a post at some point! And I'd like some feedback and arguing if possible. Or information from people that they think would be beneficial to share.

On charity I have to reply to the many good comments but I'm going to be brief. (Well, not so brief.)If you wish for more clarity on what I'm saying then refer to my last post/comments on Charity (the giving kind) maybe on another window. If you don't care to read the discussion then you can go do something else now:


It is my view that we have the genetics to be taught empathy. Sociopaths would be those who don't. I know of some kids who really are sweet in every way, and grow up to become more and more rude. But the vast majority of children are punks. So it's a nature nurture thing for me, which is generally my stance on everything.

I may be reading you wrong Demosthenes, but I do think that Judaism was revolutionary thinking. I just don't think we need to derive our morals from the Bible. If there was a 10,000 year old book on ethics I would think the Bible would be an improvement. And that's how I think about it now, that we should be moving on from it to higher thinking. Cause we're already cherry-picking the things that the Bible 'should' be saying. So, it's not a horrible book overall, just it sure makes it easy to be used horribly and I think a better newer system would be more beneficial.

I completely agree that secular institutions are harder to organize and to give as much as, say, the Mormons who truly believe, truly enjoy what they are doing, and do it for free. Mormons like to 'show off' a little with their service but because of that it is EASY to see that the money and effort put into it is amazing.

It is more difficult as an atheist to do service. I can't really go on a service mission, and other churches probably have some 'qualifications.' But the difference isn't too large. If I really really needed to do service I could go to church and in Priesthood I could raise my hand for all the coming opportunities. But again, that is a religious organization.

I agree that there are plenty of 'service' atheists. I use Guy Harrison as the example of a human being just as devoted as the religious person to helping out humanity. Being atheist doesn't mean you will stop doing work. I just volunteered at a hospital, for a class, but I enjoyed doing it and if I had time (which, literally, right now I don't = conflicting hours) and friends involved I would go back. But for me I have no level of self-righteousness to say that I'll drop everything and more to Africa to help children for the rest of my life.

Demosthenes again:

I think altruism is better, but I also do think everyone should be recognized (unless they sincerely don't want to be). I always want to thank someone for paying for my toll, or who did something kind, or brought over my mail from the wrong address. But I think we both agree that the person who just did it and the person who waits to give it to you personally so that you know it was them and hope you will praise them ... there's a difference. With charity though, if praise helps an organization then I say give more of it.

In closing I just want to say that I do hope more gets done in the world. SHIFT is trying to organize more monthly service opportunities, and Good Without God in Salt Lake City already does things. Religious groups still have a monopoly, and some work very well, and should be supported. I think the secular community needs to work harder on this, but only those who truly feel the drive, or else it'll flop, like if I tried to start one. I also think that atheists and theists should get over their god differences and work together towards helping humanity instead of not working together. That's just pathetic. I support any 'good' charity or service organization that works and brings about good in the world, religious or not. In fact, this is one area of my life that hasn't changed due to falling out of the Mormon faith. If you are sacrificing for others then good job.

Longer than I expected, oh well.