Monday, August 14, 2006
  Journey to Belief (part 4)

(part 1)(part 2)(part3)(intermission)

I tried replying to the comments yesterday. In fact, I wrote for about an hour, stupidly doing my work in the comments window. Of course, blogger burped and I lost it. They are great questions, and some of it lead to what I wanted to discuss anyway.

Just because gods come into existence doesn't mean we must either worship them or follow their commandments. My idea that they must evolve from an infinite meta-universe makes no comment on just what they are. They could be any of the following things:

  1. indifferent - if this is true, there is no point. It is just as if there was no God.
  2. malevolent - if this is true, such a being does not deserve our worship or respect.
  3. benevolent - if this is true, we need to pay attention.

This doesn't even approach traditional definitions of God such as omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omnipotent. Every single one of those characteristics are points of seperate discussion, and they have been argued for millenia.

The suggestion was made by ex utero that it is arrogant to believe that such beings as would evolve into gods would ever bother with us. It may be inappropriate to believe that all such beings would pay attention to us, but I do not think it egocentric to believe that some would, in much the same way that some of us pay attention to different species on this planet. Making such an assumption does not make humans a special case, because it does not exclude any other intelligent or even non-intelligent beings from the same attention.

Ex utero also proposed an interesting question: "Would I care to believe even if God were real and all the facts in the bible were historically accurate, but there was in fact no after-life and that death were final?"

The no afterlife god of this proposition is malevolent, for if this is truly the god of the bible and that god is lying to us about the afterlife, then that is not the only thing going on. For that god of the alledgedly historically true bible does have power great enough to create an afterlife even if there was no natural one, or is lying about the power he has. To not give us an afterlife and then lie about it is, in fact, not a god I could believe in or worship. However, the bible=historically true/there is a god/but no afterlife proposition has a variety of logical problems with it, and it has even more inconsistencies with the doctrine and facts of my own religion, such that I, myself, cannot consider it a sufficient reason to reject a belief or worship of God.

I had a very similar question I proposed to myself once: Would I regret having lived my life believing something false and basing a lifestyle on that if, in the end, death were final?

My answer was different from ex utero's. I decided I would not regret it. Why? Because my lifestyle had honor and goodness, the standards it held up to me were worthy to keep me always striving to become better than I am, and the philosophy it was based on had pure love at its core. In short, I do not act in order to gain heaven by divine decree after I die; I act in order to create heaven where I am. I have been, and I will be, but where I am now is the only thing that can be acted upon. This is true with or without an afterlife.

It is clear that the difference in our approach may have something to do with the religious backgrounds we came from, but I do not want to address that right now.

When I wrote of my "careful construction" that bothered Sarabeth, I did wonder if I should refer to it in this way or not, and opted to go ahead despite cultural references such as 'house of cards'.

We all construct our beliefs using our experiences and knowledge. Some of us humans take no thought to the process; letting 'memes' (for lack of a better term) and our reactions lay where they fall, unquestioned, their construction being a pile of whatever came by. Others attempt to put this information together to create coherancy, but may lay bad foundations or no foundation at all, or use poor materials, or do not measure properly. And others may be very exacting, but still find that a material they used was defective, so that they must now go in and replace it throughout their construction. We will always find new technologies, better methods, and better things to build with, so that our construction should never be considered complete. Of course, I couldn't get all of that information in, but that was basically my idea.

And finally, MommaTN, thanks for the kind words.

Next, separating emotional motives for belief or lack thereof from reasonable motives.

Oh, I have so many problems with religion, organized or not, that I don't even know where to start.

So, I should just read and keep my fingers still, but I just can't.

Here's just one problem: A person lives his life as best he can and just happens to live that life according to the commandments, but he lives in the heart of Africa and has never even heard of Jesus. Would your benevolent god accept this man into your heaven?

Would you be surprised that many people who call themselves Christian answered no?

And, I once heard a person (wife of a minister) profess that God had reason for allowing the Wolrd Trade Center to be attacked. I nearly choked on my lunch.

Oh, just tell me to shut up.

but you dodged my question. In my scenario I specified that God lied about the afterlife in order to comfort those who need to believe in an afterlife - a benevolent act if he was in fact insufficiently omnipotent to grant it. You assume that the God that happened to turn his, her, its eye towards us would just happen to have sufficient omnipotence to grant all of mankind a continuum of immortality. Why not assume that it was gifted in intuition and empathy and chose a little white lie that would put our minds at ease instead? Knowing that perhaps one day we would outgrow the need for such things and recognize the simple kindness of it's solution.

And by the way, this is the best debate I have had in a very long time.

One more point, I think you have just conceded that mankind may not have been created by God. Slippery slope Ami, might want to reconsider that one. If God bought our loyalty with heaven, then my goodness, what's to keep God2 from coming along and making a better offer?
Sarabeth has questions for me:

Question: A person lives his life as best he can and just happens to live that life according to the commandments, but he lives in the heart of Africa and has never even heard of Jesus. Would your benevolent god accept this man into your heaven?

Answer: Absolutely. There is both doctrine and practice that would get this man into heaven, though for the Mormon religion heaven is a bit more complicated. The practice, doing ordinances for the dead, is flawed in that there have been many who've lived and died without a trace of their name appearing on any record anywhere. But it is understood that these cases will come to their proper resolution at a later period. It is enough that we be engaged in such work at this time.

Question: Would you be surprised that many people who call themselves Christian answered no?

Answer: I was stunned when I found out this was the doctrine of mainstream Christianity, though I am no longer surprised. I've debated with many a Christian about this. It frustrates me to no end.

Question: And, I once heard a person (wife of a minister) profess that God had reason for allowing the Wolrd Trade Center to be attacked.

Answer: I do not believe the World Trade Center was an act allowed because God desired to punish the evil world, or inspire America to stir, or any other manipulation. It was simply a consequence of the plans of evil men, and perhaps our ineptitude in catching it before it happened.

Ex Utero also has some challenges.

"I specified that God lied about the afterlife in order to comfort those who need to believe in an afterlife - a benevolent act if he was in fact insufficiently omnipotent to grant it."

Answer: Just how much of the bible is historically accurate in this scenario? Are you giving up the New Testament? An afterlife is not merely a "little white lie" there. It is absolutely central to the book. If it really were a touchy-feely god that couldn't do a thing for us but communicate to us, then why tell us so many fairy tales? Why would this god have spoken during biblical times and ceased to speak to us now or at other critical junctures where mere communication could have helped us avoid a great deal of suffering if death were so final and that was all this god could do? One could assume that this god would at least have practical knowledge to impart to us. Such a god as you describe is malevolent.

My kids never believed in Santa Clause or the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. We played the game, but I always said it was pretend. A benevolent god who was, as you said, basically powerless on this planet (despite many assertions to the contrary within the bible) would be at least as good at the "real deal" as I am. It would give us a better story than "Believe in Jesus Christ and be good so you can go to heaven, otherwise you'll go to hell" and then leave us to our own devices.

As to my slippery slope, I haven't quite conceded that man was not created by God, though I admit to coming close. I've only conceded that mankind is not a special case.
I think we have a difference of opinion as to what historical accuracy is versus what The Book of Morman or the New Testament says. While each contains many accuracies, in the end it's pretty hard to verify the historical accuracy of Revelations, since that hasn't actually happened yet. Likewise, the gospels have some not so subtle differences, for example in the appearance of Christ at the time of the resurrection. Then of course there's the fact that when the bible was put together all of the gnostic gospels were deliberately left out, precisely because the architects worried they would have a destabilizing influence on the church as an institution (and I'm not just dragging in the Mary theories that have be popularized by Dan Brown), they were right - many of these splinter groups were the equivalent of todays cults. BUT, these cults also often had someone who was close to Christ in their midst, so how are we to know that such diversity was not what God intended?

Now let's play a different game. If this God is so all powerful and omniscient then why not reveal just a few more essential fundamentals for the harmony and beneficiece of his flock, which he repeatedly professes to love, such as "I don't care which religion you choose, just don't fight over it, they'll all get you to heaven in the end." Or better yet, why not send a daughter instead of a son, so that she could jump start equal rights? And finally, if he can manipulate heaven and earth, why can't he make Pat Robertson keep his mouth shut? The man has probably single handedly cost the Lord more souls that any other person on the face of the planet. Surely if he were up there and watching the TV he'd think the man had it coming. I mean these three things would have really demonstrated beneficience and they wouldn't have required that he set up a whole another dimension called Heaven. Any minor diety who was serious about benificence could have done these things (OK, I admit it, I'm only half serious about Pat Robertson).

You don't have to stray very far to come up with my answer. I think it's because the architechts of the judeo-christian faiths were banking on the afterlife as the trumpcard for proof of God's beneficence. They knew what people needed. My argument is and actually has always been in this thread that whatever God is, or was, it's irrelevant. Organized religion mutated Christ into what the masses wanted 1800 years ago, when they peiced together the New Testiment and took a God that belonged to an ethnic minority and made him accessable to everyone.

I always like to ask people what happened to the Gentiles before Christ and why do you think God thought that it was necessary to exclue the rest of humanity from heaven? Again (Ami), is this the benevolent God or the vengeful God? I always get confused when I start going back and forth between the old and new testiment. This is another of those platitudes that I find annoying. On the one hand (and I understand this) you have rationally constructed the plausibility of searching out the existence of benevolent God. On the other, you have a bible on your night stand the clearly describes an entity that turns people into salt, tortures a father by making him think he must sacrifice his son, and allows his own Christ-son to die painfully on the cross rather than come up with some less sadistic master plan for eternal salvation.

God did a lot of mean things back in the days when he walked among us. He was not purely benevolent... he tells you from his own mouth that he is a vengeful god. And he absolutely lied in that he told Abraham to go and offer his son Isac as a burnt offering (although he eventually allowed him to sacrifice a Ram instead - it was still a despicable, sadistic test of loyalty). What would your response be if God asked you to gut your child with a knife and burn them on an alter? What would it be if a few days later he said "Just kidding." So I ask you, why is it so hard to believe that he might have told a white lie about the afterlife as a means of charity towards us.

Or, conversly, that those who recorded and compiled the bible have constructed organized religion to suit man's desires rather than God's actuality.

I have to apologize for not replying sooner. I really didn't have the time, or for a couple days, the energy to reply. I'm back now, though, so shoot away :)

I'm not so sure that our view of the historical accuracy of the Bible is all that different. I do not believe the Bible to be the literal Word of God, inerrant. Much has been lost by design or accident, and some has been changed at the hands of men with an agenda, throughout all the ages this scripture has come down to us.

In regards to your next point, we should not assume that the motivation of God is simply to make us all happy. This would remove free will from the equation. Free will, in my book, is indispensable to growth for both societies and individuals. What if that is God's motivation? Then, just like our children, we must find our own way to a stable society and being a good person with only advice given to us from one who knows. Advice that is filtered through the culture where it was received, because it comes to us through men who had certain understandings and whose own free will was respected.

Phillip: Organized religion mutated Christ into what the masses wanted 1800 years ago, when they peiced together the New Testiment and took a God that belonged to an ethnic minority and made him accessable to everyone.

Me: That would pretty much sum up my views. True Christianity was lost within about 200 years of Christ's death.

Phillip: I always like to ask people what happened to the Gentiles before Christ and why do you think God thought that it was necessary to exclue the rest of humanity from heaven?

Me: I do not believe that God has excluded the rest of humanity from heaven. All of humanity, no matter where or when, will have the opportunity to go to Heaven. This is a foundational doctrine of my church. These particular questions I never had to grapple with.

Phillip: an entity that turns people into salt, tortures a father by making him think he must sacrifice his son, and allows his own Christ-son to die painfully on the cross rather than come up with some less sadistic master plan for eternal salvation.

Me: Look to your own profession for the answer. Some of what you do could easily be mistaken as torture, especially by the children who do not understand what is happening to them and why. When children capable of remembering are subjected to medical procedures, and asked later to recount events, is the account accurate? Are the real reasons understood well, even if carefully explained on their level? And what explanation can we give an 18 month old, let alone a premature infant?

Would you give Prozac or Wellbutrin or whatever happy drug is latest and greatest to all the mothers of your babies in the NICU because they are sad and stressed? Heck, I bet there are even better drugs out there. Why don't you use them for the moms who barely understand what is going on themselves?

Phillip: And he absolutely lied in that he told Abraham to go and offer his son Isac as a burnt offering (although he eventually allowed him to sacrifice a Ram instead - it was still a despicable, sadistic test of loyalty).

Me: I could describe to you how the offering up of Isaac was a test and a foreshadowing of things to come, I guess I just did, but I'm not sure that you want a doctrinal answer to why God would do something like that. For Abraham, the existence of God was not an unknown, but a real, absolute fact, and that this God had promised eternal life for all involved. I can only say that considering a larger perspective – larger even than traditional Christianity generally accounts for, God's actions have been reasonable and benevolent. It is only when you remove the afterlife do God's actions as described in the Bible become ridiculously sadistic to the point where such a God could not possibly be considered benevolent.

Phillip: Or, conversly, that those who recorded and compiled the bible have constructed organized religion to suit man's desires rather than God's actuality.

Me: Again, no argument with this last bit.
Why do you want or need to believe in a god? Honestly, why?
To me, that is the central question.
I want or need to believe in the Truth without emotional motive.

The existance or non-existance of God is not a matter of need. God doesn't exist because I need him to, and he doesn't not exist because you allegedly don't need him.

It is a matter of reality.

What is real?
Let me rephrase:

Why do you believe in a god?

I don't believe in a god because I have no evidence of a god. I listen to the rhetoric of the believers and hear words based on lies, fables, and emotional need. I also hear ridiculous statements regarding departed loved ones that are meant to make the living feel better. (Yes, I am particularly prickly with this subject currently. Thankfully, most of my friends know what not to say to me.)

And, since you and Ex Utero brought it up, the process of entering Mormon ancestors into your church for their entrance into heaven: How do you defend this practice? Do you (meaning your church) not respect others belief in a belief system other than your own?
Hi Granola,

Now this is getting really interesting to me because in many ways our views on what God could or could not be are closer than I might of thought. Let me see if I've got this straight? You think that God did not create man, but rather that nan evolved. You think that the bible is not literal, but perhaps taps into something to do with earlier man's sense of God, that we have only at best a passing understanding of - in part perhaps because of their limitations (if you lean towards belief in a God) or because of his limitations (if you believe in his limitations). It's not literal, and perhaps not even in many cases factual.

I get the feeling what you're moving towards is that you don't believe in the judeo-christian view of God but that doesn't somehow exclude faith in the Morman view of God. While I am not an expert on Mormanism, I'm pretty sure you're in conflict. That is also, to be honest, a tired argument because it is just a different version of the bible beating I grew up with. So I really hope that's not where you're going. The "I don't believe in all those faiths, but this one has it all figured out." is the reason Warren Jeffs is in the hands of the FBI this week. It sounds good when you sit in you corner of the world and all your friends in Sunday School nod their heads in agreement that this is the way it is, but it won't hold up.

Now back to the analogy about doctors. Doctors are often accused of playing God, but to suggest that God causes pain in this life as a tool to "treat" us in the next is at best speculative and at worst sadistic. If God can create parallel universes, he does not need to play doctor. There is only one safe answer you can give to the question I asked and that is, "You don't know". And in not knowing, which you essentially did say later, you come very close to becoming agnostic.

What is it that keeps you from being agnostic. Utlimately it is because you need to believe. I think there are two reasons people need to believe. The first is indoctrination. If you grow up never knowing anything else, then it is very scary to think about the possibility of not believing. This is the reason I most abhor and I don't think it respresents true free will. The second reason, however does. That is a deep need to believe. One that comes about after reaching intellectual agnosticism and still realizing that despite the fact you cannot know or understand all the inconsistencies of the bible or believe the crap within organized religion, you still need to believe in God. Those are the believers in whom I have real respect. They have earned their faith and they have earned it much as I imagine Christ did, by sitting in the cave with Satan and choosing God despite every logical argument against such belief.

Then there are people like me. Agnostics who are incapable of that choice.
(Although this assumes there is a belief in the Bible and/or The Book of Mormon)...there are many that have even been proven the existence of God and have still chosen another way...this is nothing new. And, it is nothing new to have people say we have no need for the words of God or that there is nothing literal in the Bible...that those words are simply made up to control the masses. To a true believer, this does not change their faith, it often actually increases it. Do I need God? Absolutely. So, then, do I need to "believe" in God. Again, absolutely. Do I know God? I am working on that every day doing all of those warm fuzzy things like reading and praying. To me the nonbeliever shouldn't feel threatened by these things...the more believers come to know God and His Son, the more tolerant they become and the more good works will abound. So what is the harm? Do I feel threatened that some do not believe? Or don't believe just as I do? Nope. Not at all. We all have our freedom to choose...isn't that great? However, I do have to say that if science had to wait for proof on everything before moving forward with a theory, I think we'd be a lot farther behind now.

One other thing, I am actually offended that (Ex Utero) would even suggest that the cult led by Warren Jeffs is anything like the LDS religion or really any other Christian religion. As Ami talked about, free will or agency, is absolutely at the focus of belief in the Mormon church. In most cults, this is not the case. When children are born into a religion and have no choice what to do with their lives, that is a problem and that is what happened with the Jeffs cult. If it were just a matter of having more than one wife, I would think it were a waste of time for the FBI. But these were underage girls that had no choice. CHOICE is paramount.
Ok...I know I just commented but as I was making pancakes for breakfast I kept thinking and mulling over all of the many thoughts posted. There have been several references infering a "superior" attitude of Mormons vs. other Christian religions. And God must want us to just stop fighting about which religion is true. So I feel now that I must address these issues...

Although I know there are Mormons out there with a self righteous attitude that think they know it all and everyone else is wrong...that is the wrong attitude. One of the doctrines of the LDS church is "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Do all members live what they preach? No. Should they? Yes.

God does not want people to fight over religion...contention is of the devil. Fighting and arguing does nobody any good. Very true.

Let me finish by bringing up the pancakes I was making again....I make these incredible pancakes from scratch using a recipe given to me by my mother-in-law when I was first married. I love to cook...from scratch, following a recipe. Now as I am making these pancakes if I were to look at a recipe that had all but one of the ingredients, would they turn out right? No...without the flour they would be a milky mixture of eggs, salt, sugar and such that wouldn't resemble a pancake at all. Now if I just left out the salt, they would look exactly like the pancakes I make that are divine. But would they taste the same? No. If you think about the gospel of Jesus Christ- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that they have all of the ingredients together in one recipe. Are other churches wrong? No. But some are missing the salt and others are missing the flour. What is wrong with sharing the whole recipe so that the pancakes may be enjoyed to the fullest? And if that is what you believe, then it is sharing to bless others, not to justify one's own beliefs. It is not a selfish thing...nor a pushy thing...sharing the recipe gives everyone the choice to partake, not just a few. This is also why we do work for the dead. Does our work ensure that they choose the gospel? No, it just gives them the ability to choose for themselves in the next life. Again...choice is paramount.

And if one chooses not to believe, so be it. And hopefully a feeling of mutual respect on both sides can be had.

as an an agnostic, I don't feel threatened by believers. I think that atheistist often do, because the two of you live in different universes. Remember, I entertain the possibility of both realities.

What I do feel strongly about is that individuals should have the ability to know themselves. Their own desires and wants, their own needs. They should grow up to know who they are and develop a mature sense of self. One unfettered by any form indoctrination that might stunt free will. I grew up in religion and while I recognize some positives in it, I think there are an equal number of negatives. This is particularly true for intelligent, creative and (not related) gender confused adolescents. There are a hand full of main stream religions that I think should be outlawed. Christian Science is the first one on my list - they've been repeatedly prosecuted for child abuse because of their habit of refusing children medical treatment (they believe in faith healing over modern medicine).

Warren Jeffs is practicing Mormanism pretty much as it was a 100 years ago. I think it hardly appropriate for you to be upset that I should make reference to it. It is an excellent illustration of the evil implicit in indoctrination of children through organized religion. The fact that if offends you means that it is an effective example.
MommaTN, ExUtero is right--as an athiest I exist in a world wholly alien to you and vice versa. The fact that you think you are giving a dead person a choice when you posthumously baptize him/her into your faith is utterly laughable. Keep doing it if you think that is what is necessary in your belief system, but it is amazing arrogance.
And, I'm not threatened by those who believe differently than me. Go ahead. Rock on. Whatever you need. However, don't attempt to enforce your belief system's rules onto me or others. That is what is offensive and threatening. (And, I'm not saying that any of you are doing this.)


(Blogger insists that I don't exist at this moment.)
Ex utero: You think that God did not create man, but rather that Man evolved.

Granola: Yes, and no... and yes.

The Mormon concept is far more complicated than traditional Christianity. Basically, intelligence is eternal and indestructible. God first created spirits to house the intelligence, but technically they've always been around. So even at the soul level, men are both not created by God, and created by God. It is this initial state of having no beginning and no end that grants us our ultimate right and need for free will. The earth was then formed. All creatures have spirits that were created first, all have at their core that initial intelligence. But only humans are spirit children of God, created in God's image.

I think that what I've said before is purely church doctrine. Here, my statement becomes my own personal speculation.

Life evolved on the earth in a 'free will state', where there was very little intervention from God. Perhaps a nudge here or there. Really, it is only this kind of a world that would allow us to act with true free will. When an animal ascended that was appropriate and compatible to the human spirit, then God housed that spirit in that animal. The first instance of this was Adam and Eve, though I believe the story is mostly metaphorical.

There are other Mormons, most of them really, who believe in the literal creation story. Official church statements say only that we don't know how God created mankind.

You are correct as to how I believe in the Bible. I am in a bit of conflict with some aspect of Mormonism, but only that which is folk doctrine.

The doctor analogy was not really meant to fit only for the next afterlife. God has an active interest in how we learn and grow here, in this very life. Many of the things we need to learn in this life can really only come to us through hardship, either centered on our own mistakes, or outside of our control (the mistakes of others or random disasters).

I could go on and on. "Why do men suffer?" is not a light subject. It has been discussed for thousands of years, and shouldn't be reduced to the comments section, as it so far has been.

Technically, intellectually, I suppose I am agnostic, as is any human being who has not faced indisputable evidence of God. Death is the ultimate black box in which we are all Schrödinger's Cat. But actively and in spirit, I am a believer, because the fruit that bears in this life, even if I were to cease to exist at death, seems to me to be better than what fruit one can get from secular sources.

I lamented at not having enough knowledge of eastern religions, but I'm not ignorant. I've studied several of them. I'm fascinated by creation myths and myths of all kinds. Truth can be had in many places.

I've finished my series about why I believe in God. I thought that was the only place I was going to visit in this blog, but I think I'll visit organized religion, the formation of beliefs, and perhaps suffering.

But one thing: I know you told your wife to go ahead and let your children go to a bible school, despite her feeling very understandably uncomfortable. Your idea is that they need to be able to make their own choices. But be careful. If you don't indoctrinate your kids, don't put them in a situation where someone else will.
"One unfettered by any form indoctrination that might stunt free will."

You can't completely have this. Chances are, you've already started to indoctrinate your child with such things as "Don't hit your sister." Children need a basic structure to build on. They must, absolutely must have boundaries. True lack of indoctrination creates children who have poor social skills and poor self discipline.

As to Warren Jeffs, I'm afraid you don't really understand Mormon history very well, or how polygamy fit into it. What have been your sources? If you have been interested only so far as to prove your assertation that all organized religion is crap, then I respectfully submit that you have not studied the matter well.
My apologies Ami,

I was off by 16 years. Your church officially abandoned polygomy in 1890 so that that would have been 116 years ago, although I imagine my assertion was accurate in that polygomous marriages were probably still rampant among the faithful 100 years ago.

When I lived and practiced medicine as a resident in Southern Idaho, I took care of children that were part of polygamous clans. Every religion likes to move past all those dirty bits, especially when they start having elders show up on the FBI list, but to get upset about having me use that as evidence as to why organized religion is a dangerous form of indoctrination is akin to a German getting upset about the Holocaust. Denial does not change the facts.

The religion you practice today may be very different, but it somehow evolved from the roots of polygomy at a time in our country when marriage at 15 for a woman was common. Today you distance yourselves from it. Good for you. But don't throw out some, "you don't know what you're talking about" innuendo at me. Peope who were part of the Latter Day Saint community new about these families when I was in Southern Idaho. They were a part of the fold. They were seen as fundamentalist.
It sounds like it you had some very interesting cultural experiences in Idaho. But, really, this bears little resemblence to early Mormon polygamy, and these people did split off from the LDS church to continue their practice. They could not be members of the LDS church and be polygamists.

In early Mormon polygamy, practiced as it was meant to be, only a limited amount of men were allowed more than one wife. It was a church calling. Second wives and any subsequent ones, usually, though not always, were widows or divorced women. There were, at the time, a very large number of widows due to the persecution and forced exodus of the Mormons.

Under this early Mormon polygamy in the late nineteenth century, women had the vote (1870). This was removed in order to become a state, because they feared the Mormon vote. Women were also able to pursue talents and careers they were more suited to. Mormon women, under the righteous practice of polygamy, had more freedom than their counterparts.

However, two things began occuring. First, after a couple of decades it was becoming a traditional and popular thing to do. Men who were not called wanted and did begin to practice it. It became a thing of status to marry into one of the 'old families'. Second, it was being more and more harshly opposed by non-members, even to the point of military intervention.

It is my opinion that we could have gotten through the second problem, but the first one would have destroyed the church because it lead to status seeking and oppression, which in turn leads to unrighteous authority and an attempt to consolidate that authority by undermining the free will of its subjects.

What Warren Jeffs has been doing is exactly where polygamy was heading, but was not what it was in the beginning. Your Warren Jeffs comparsion does not work well since this is the thing the LDS church turned away from 116 years ago.
I see your point, in the sense that the LDS mainstream has moved on and Warren Jeffs is on the fringe of LDS. On the other hand, his actions would not be possible without the existence of LDS, which silently legitimizes him as a fundamentalist (only just this year finally publically saying that polygomist were not a fundamentalist sect within LDS).

This behavior has allowed him to convince his followers that it is actually him that is being faithful to God and Mormanism and all of you who are spiralling into Satanic delusions by forsaking the old ways - as you said - he is seeking to practice "early Mormon polygamy, practiced as it was meant to be" and your church leaders have interpretted this to be an act of status seeking. Conveniently, that also kept your religion from being persecuted by the United States Government. He might have a point.

Actually, Warren Jeffs has a lot of ammo. He is a martyr. He is outside the mainstream, where people are busy doing geneology instead of living the life that Mormans were meant to live. He is a revivalist. He is also a dispicable, self-delusioned indoctrinator and rape abettor of children who used organized religion to prey upon the innocent. And yet, I don't think you get why he is such a good example of what is wrong with organized religion. It is precisely because you endorse the mainstream version of his religion, that he has been able to ruin so many lives.

Just because an organized religion is capable of adapting and growing up, does not make it moral or desirable. It does not make it a vehicle for communicating with God. The catholic church has so many crimes against humanity that they can't be named (a short list: the inquistions; failure to communicate about attrocities during the holocaust; faciliating slaughter of the Templars; centuries on end of pediphilia; the crusades; the reformations; etc.). And yet people believe and continue to support one of the most vice- and sin-riddled institutions know to humanity. Why do they do that? Reason number one on my list from before - they are afraid not too - they believe their salvation depends upon it.

Warren Jeffs is like the pedophiles of the catholic church. You don't want him to be a part of your denomination, your dioches. But in the end, you cannot escape the logic. You belong to an organization that empowers these kinds of lunatics. It actually creates them. If you're looking for miracles, this is a dark one. These people are a direct manisfestation of organized religion. They would have been very different if their primary opportunities for indoctrination had been the boys club, swim team and little league. Instead Warren learned everything there was to know about LDS and then ran with it. He became an expert at it. You support that system. I'm sorry. I know you won't believe it, but you are ethically culpable.

Just as I was culpable for being a
Southern Baptist when they choose the wrong side for the wrong reasons in the Civil War...and in the Civil Rights movement in most towns. I made none of those decisions, but for many years I stayed in that organization knowing that they were wrong and that I did not agree with many of the their cultural and segregational practices. It's part of the reason I was eventually able to recognize the organization for what it really was. A tool of the masses. God was an excuse for the masses to do what they wanted. And they wanted to preserve the status quo of the South.

It doesn't have to be that way. I've read your last piece. If you have come to the conclusion that you need God (although I wouldn't necessarily say it was logic that got you there), that's fine. Especially after all that soul searching, I think you should be at peace with that. But the question you should be asking yourself now is, why do you want to be associated with organized religion?

Do you really think that they have a monopoly on how to get to God? Anymore than the Jews? Who have known him the longest? Or the Muslims, who have had the most prophets post Christ. Or better than your own relationship with the holy ghost and your desire to get at the truth?

Have you ever considered a Unitarian prayer or study group? I think you might find that to be a really interesting experience, because of the potential to interact with people who were indoctrinated in diverse faiths but have rejected them and instead choose to worship in a non-denominational manner.
(only just this year finally publically saying that polygomist were not a fundamentalist sect within LDS).

Where did you hear this? Please get the facts right.

What you are talking about is only the most recent news release. These things have had to be announced to the press every time something like this happens, because of stereotypes like these.,15331,3885-1-23368,00.html

Polygamy has, since 1890, been an action which would result in excommunication from the Mormon Church. There is no wink wink, nudge nudge. (The Associated Press Stylebook states, "The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other Latter Day Saints churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death.")

Warren Jeffs is not Mormon. Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that Warren Jeffs actions today would have resulted in excommunication even during the time polygamy was practiced.

You've made him out to be a martyr. The problem is that he is only the latest in a string of individuals who've done similar things. Green, I think, was the latest media frenzy. Everyone in the Salt Lake valley knows the reputations of the Kingston men, another polygamous clan, as being generally despicable. One of those guys gets publicly prosecuted every once in a while when it makes a good story, though a cop friend of mine has told me that they get charged with criminal actions quite a bit . The fact of the matter is that Mormons have no admiration for polygamists today. They feel only disgust for Warren Jeffs. The only thing you might get out of Mormons that is beneficial for polygamists is a desire to let people believe and worship as they desire, only as long as no one is harmed.

"where people are busy doing geneology instead of living the life that Mormans were meant to live."

Where did this come from? What lifestyle is it that you think Mormons are neglecting in order to do genealogy? That is kind of a bizarre statement.

At this point, I am at a loss as to how to proceed, because it is beginning to feel like I'm debating an anti-Mormon Southern Baptist who refuses to accept factual information because it disagrees with what his pastor says. Correct me if I'm wrong, and forgive me for getting specific to your personal point of view, but I wonder if even though you've rejected your religion, you still haven't rejected the biases you were inculcated with while still a member of it. It would explain your extreme dislike of organized religion a lot. From what little I gather of the organization, it spends a great deal of time and energy expounding on why everyone else is wrong and why they are right, rather than how individuals can better themselves and help those around them.

Not every church works that way.

I'll be doing a piece on organized religion probably within the week.

As to your final questions, do you really want me to expound on my own religion or are you simply asking me questions to inspire doubt? This is not a rhetorical question. I ask in order to know how I should respond. I have left very few stones unturned. I have answers, I am satisfied with them, but do you want to hear them?
Thank you Ami for setting the record straight...I believe we have talked about the media previously and I find it interesting that the media should be questioned except for when the media's agenda agrees with a personal point of view. I think we could all think about that one a bit...
*Sigh.* I may have messed up about the annual denial thing, but I lived in Idaho and I know what I saw. It is not a trivial or a we never see this thing.

I haven't been in a Baptist church for 22 years other than for a funeral or wedding. I don't really care one way or the other what they think about other religions.

At this point, I don't think you're listening anymore, so I'll stop with this comment. All I can suggest is that you read this book:

Richard S. Van Wagoner - Mormon Polygamy: A History
"Van Wagoner has made an important contribution to the study of Mormon polygamy. . . . This topic continues to be of historical as well as current interest, and this volume helps to put the doctrine and the practice into focus."
-- Utah Historical Quarterly

This book discusses the issue in a frank and honest manner without taking sides in the difficult matter of LDS polygamy. He describes the complete history of Mormon polygamy from its origins in the 1830s to the current day fundamentalists. One of the more interesting aspects of the book are the reasons why there continue to be people who believe polygamy to be a "God sanctioned" practice.

The book lays to rest many of the false assumptions that are currently held by practicing Utah Mormons regarding the reasons for polygamy such as: there being an abundance of women who wouldn't otherwise be able to be married, old women marrying into polygamy for financial support purposes, only the first wife having sexual relations with the husband, or the claim that such a small percentage practiced it (For instance, President Hinckley claimed on Larry King Live that only "between two percent and five percent of our people were involved in it. It was a very limited practice". And President Joseph F. Smith argued before Congressional hearings that only 3 percent were polygamous. They are giving a less than complete picture by making such claims. The only way to come up with these low numbers is to take only certain places at certain times and use adult polygamous males as the numerator and everyone--including kids and polygamous wives--as the denominator. The fact is that among Church leadership plural marriage was the norm and a very significant portion of adult females were polygamous. Likewise, a significant portion of children, including my ancestors, were born into polygamous families.) means that polygamy really was an insignificant part of Mormon history and doctrine. Also detailed are the numerous post-Manifesto sanctioned marriages, the Smoot hearings, the resignations of members of the quorum of the 12, and the excommunication of John Taylor's son (who was an apostle). The book shows how the statements found on the church's official site are false since polygamy wasn't practiced only in 'the latter half of the 19th century' and it didn't end with Wilford Woodruff's declaration (which wasn't a revelation).

One of the more disturbing portions of the content to currently believing members is the extensive documentation of the church leaders' practice of "lying for the Lord". Van Wagoner quotes a church leader in Chapter 17 who wishes that "simple honesty" could be practiced rather than the tradition of "something higher than honesty" which doesn't really exist.

If you are interested in the history of Mormon polygamy I recommend this book over Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith or No Man Knows My History which are both worth reading, but they don't go into the history or detail of Mormon polygamy in nearly as much depth as Van Wagoner. These two books also don't deal with post Joseph Smith era polygamy.

Van Wagoner ends the book with the story of a former polygamous wife who has broken away from her previous life by using her own head to think rather to rely on others--particularly those in a supposedly authoritative position.

At least, Gordon, you've done some research now and understand some of the deeper difficulties. Still, you lack a deeper understanding of LDS doctrine, LDS culture (just a hint: southeastern Idaho is not your best bet if you want to learn about and understand most Mormons), and the history of the church for us to really have an even handed discussion about the realities and myths of polygamy and the problems surrounding it.

As has been said, we are coming from two different worlds.

Peace to you too.
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A Mormon housewife who loves truth, science, rational thought, and reasonable action.

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Granola is a mix of things: grains, nuts, bits of dried fruit, maybe some coconut. There's some fat in it, and it's a good source of fiber to keep those arteries and colons clean.

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