Arrogant Faith

Growing up, I was taught by my LDS parents and teachers that the LDS faithful would one day be commanded by The Prophet to return and reclaim Independence, Missouri.  I was told that we may even have to walk there as our ancestors had.  That the journey could be just as hard as our forbearers, but that, as The Faithful & Elect, we would be protected and blessed.  I was told that we would listen to our prophets and we would do as we were commanded.

What would you be willing to do if commanded by your religious leaders?  What wouldn’t you be willing to do?  If they speak for and behalf of The Almighty God, who knows all, shouldn’t you be willing to do absolutely anything?

“If God told you to kill your child—would you do it?” — Penn Jillette

I wouldn’t.  Not if He personally came down, 100% proving His existence and power, knocked me out of bed, and told me that, if I didn’t murder my daughter with my bare hands, He would torture me for eternity.

I would hope I could even muster the courage to spit in His almighty, but definitively evil face.

The story of Abraham is truly terrifying.  Believers teach it as a story of faith; that we must trust to God, who knows best.  “But, Heavenly Father saved Isaac.”  No.  Abraham had murder in his heart.  A willingness to cut open his innocent and only son.  Not a desire, but a willingness.  A blind obedience to commit an act of pure evil if only commanded.  God didn’t save Isaac; He merely changed His mind.

Mr. Jillette asks the question above to illustrate, if you would not murder your child at the command of the god you claim has the right and authority to command your actions, you are probably already an atheist.

If a religious leader in whom you trust told you that your God had commanded your family to sell all of your clothing and belongings and live unprotected in the winter mountains? That God had promised to provide for you? Would you do that?  Would you willingly put your family in mortal danger?  Trusting in God to provide?

If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way?  That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?

If a man you *knew* to be a prophet told you to turn and rant and rail against your child, just because of whom they love?

Would you do it?

Or, instead, would you love your child regardless, and help them to grow up happy and healthy?  Loving those they loved and who made them happy – regardless of what a man who doesn’t know you, and doesn’t know your child, chooses to say from a great and spacious building?

“It’s not arrogant to say that you can’t figure out the answers to the universe with your internal faith. It’s not arrogant to know that there’s no omniscient, omnipotent prime mover in the universe who loves you personally. It’s not sad to feel that life and the love of your real friends and family is more than enough to make life worth living. Isn’t it much sadder to feel that there is a more important love required than the love of the people who have chosen to spend their limited time with you?”– Penn Jillette

13 thoughts on “Arrogant Faith”

  1. I think your article should be called : “IGNORANT FAITH” not ARROGANT FAITH !!

    You obviously have NO idea, that when GOD asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, it was a PROPHETIC example of GOD giving his only son !!

    I may not be able to figure out all the answers to the universe, but I know HE who has MADE the UNIVERSE and ALL that is therein.

    You made an ENORMOUSLY ARROGANT statement: saying : it is” NOT ARROGANT to KNOW that there is NOT an OMNISCIENT, OMNIPOTENT, prime mover who LOVES you personally”
    * That my friend is the HEIGHT of IGNORANCE and PRIDE !!!🐃



    1. I think it is a better example of God commanding an evil act (the murder of an innocent child) and expecting blind obedience to that clearly evil commandment. Would you do it? Slice open your child because you believe that God commanded it?

      “With or without it [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” – Steven Weinberg

      Abraham never would have been willing to commit that murder except that he was ordered by God to commit that evil act.

      I believe most believers truly have good in their hearts, and would never commit such evil; even if commanded by their leaders or their god. But, if you wouldn’t, as Penn observes, “You might already be an atheist.”


  2. The unconditional love you have for your child is commendable. All parents should love that way.

    About Abraham,
    Paul the Apostle speaks about him in Hebrews 11:17-19 “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

    We know that Issac was the only son of his beloved wife Sarah. Issac was promised to him by God. Genesis 17:19 “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” We also know that Abraham loved Issac, God refers to Issac as “thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” in Genesis 22:2

    We know from Deuteronomy 12:31 that God hates and abhors child sacrifice.

    Another interesting note, there isn’t an exact age put on Issac. It’s commonly believed that he was older then 20 based on the timeline of events, but it’s not an exact age. A 20 year old, could have easily outrun his over 100 year old father. Issac was a willing sacrifice, and most likely not a little kid. He was carrying enough wood for a human sacrifice, can most 5-7 year olds do that?

    So why was God commanding this? I would dare say the point was to prove that Abraham trusted in God above all else. Of course this story is symbolic and prophetic, but it’s also literal. James 2:21-23 “His faith was made complete by what he did”
    God already knew Abraham had faith in him, so why did God need to test him? It proved Abraham’s faith, so that Abraham, his family, and all future generations would know that he was faithful.

    God has the right to take a human life. Abraham had known God for a long time, and knew God had the right to command this, but just like the before mentioned verses say Abraham knew his posterity was supposed to come from Issac. He had reason to believe that God did not intend for Issac to die permanently.

    “Humans can take life, but we can’t bring the dead back to life, nor can we control what happens to someone after they die. A human’s killing another human is a destructive and irresponsible act, for once we kill someone, we can’t undo it or control the harm that results.
    God, however, has greater abilities and knowledge than we do, including control over life and death. If God kills someone, he is able to bring them back to life or to place them in any sort of afterlife he chooses. God’s use of death is comparable to someone burning a fire in a fireplace: it can be controlled, lit or extinguished at will, and used for a purpose. In contrast, humans’ use of death is like setting fire to a dry field: the fire rages out of control, and consequently is dangerous and destructive.” (

    Religion, and religious extremists have caused many problems historically. I think some atheists can fall into a trap of believing that most or all of the major atrocities of the world have been done in the name of religion. This site has good information about that

    I think of the classic villain from The Hunchback of Notre Dame of Claude Frollo. Claude Frollo was selfrighteous, and evil. He justified his evil intentions through religion. He was racist, and he raised the Hunchback to think he was a monster and nobody should ever see him. Was it religion that corrupted Claude? Or was Claude corrupt and tried to justify his actions through religion? I think it’s an important question to ask. Because there will always be people who do bad things and try and justify themselves one way or another.

    You stated “If the religious leader commanded that you, not even kill, but pointlessly harm your child in some small way? That God had promised you blessings without number for an earthly demonstration of your faith, would you do it?” I would not. I do not trust religious leaders enough for that, and I don’t think anyone should.

    You also quote “With or without it [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”
    I’m don’t 100% agree with this quote. “good people” can end up doing bad things for a lot of reasons. A study of Psychology can explain a lot of the driving motivations as to why “good people” do “bad things”. This link goes over 14 psychological forces that lead good people to do bad things, it’s not a super in depth article, or the best research article, but I think the information is good.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


    1. We’re getting a bit in the weeds here. I’m not arguing that there is a immoral god. I am arguing that, faced with the severe lack of any rational, reasonable, or scientific evidence for a deity, and faced with the overt indifference of the universe (good things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people), it seems that there likely is no such being at all.

      I do not believe that a god created childhood leukemia. I believe that is a fluke of biology; just as one would expect from an imperfect, evolutionary process that copies complex molecules. If you believe in a god as the creator and designer of all things, you have to believe that He *did* create childhood leukemia. That He created the parasitic worms who drill into the eyeballs of children, blinding them for life. That a being would do that seems pointless, cruel, and, since there is no evidence for it, unlikely in the extreme.

      I have read some of the apologetics you point to. If you study the logical fallacies, you will find them represented in abundance. Moving goalposts. Shifting of burden. Special pleading. Think of all the LDS apologetics you’ve now read. Do you see any commonalities?

      God used to be all-powerful. But now, since we now recognize that as a fallacious and illogical argument, He’s “maximally” powerful. He used to appear to people all the time, back before recording devices, etc., but now, it’s a “new covenant”, or some other convenient excuse.

      The Book of Abraham used to be a direct translation of Egyptian papyrus. But, now that we can read hieroglyphics, it’s an “inspired translation.”

      My dad was given a blessing that he would live for many more years the night before he died. But, “It’s God’s will. Thy will be done.” I wonder what our religious friends would have said had he lived? Special pleading. Moving the goalposts.

      Abraham is appalling, and it doesn’t matter how old Isaac was. Doesn’t matter if he was willing or not. God commanded an inherently evil act; the murder of an innocent. Abraham was willing to do it. Assuming Abraham was an otherwise good man, it took God (religion) to make him willing to commit an act of evil.

      Yes, that quote is simplistic. There are many other irrational beliefs that can cause good people to do bad things; nationalism, xenophobia, sexism, bigotry, racism. I think, however, the point is made that otherwise good people can often be convinced to perform evil deeds because of irrational belief. Hence the importance of ensuring that your beliefs are rooted in reason and rationality. Hence the importance of withholding believe until good, reasonable, rational evidence is produced.

      In your analogy of Claude and The Hunchback, having not read the book, and going only by your description, Claude was already an evil man who used religion to commit further evil. In this case, religion is blameless. How about Brigham Young? Was he a true believer? Who honestly believed that Blood Atonement was essential to God’s plan? No way to truly know, but I think the men at Mountain Meadows were true believers… Most were probably “good men” lead to do unspeakable evil by irrational belief; in their leaders, their prophet, and their god.


      P.S. – I would be highly skeptical of the’s understanding of science, biology, and zoology. He absurdly states, “No other mammals kill arbitrarily.” This is blatantly false. Look up chimpanzees and wolves, for a starter. Chimps have horrific territorial battles in which many chimps are injured and killed. Wolves will sometimes going on “surplus killings”, killing many, many more animals than they can consume and leaving them rotting in the dust. Other animals, including herbivores, kill one another mating battles.

  3. Always good to hear your thoughts and insights, what do you think about the origin of the universe? If there is no creator. How did the universe come to be? The Big Bang has been “proven”. But how did it happen? Why did it happen (can this question be answered)? Where did matter come from? Where did the laws of nature come from? If they always were, how do we know it?

    In speaking to the illogical atheist that believed his cat farted the universe…, I did some math for him. If you’d like, I can look up all the old links to these numbers, but I calculated the chance of you existing (biology, your parents meeting, sperm and eggs cells coming together, etc), on the earth (which has life on it), in this specific place of the universe.

    For the complicated universe/earth placement numbers, I got them from Oxford Mathmatical Physicist Roger Penrose.

    I got the other numbers from various sources, but I couldn’t find all the numbers I wanted (such as the probability that humans specifically would come to be) (I didn’t include any numbers I didn’t trust either) but I calculated your existence being a probability of around 1 in 10^2685163

    That’s 1, followed by 2685163 zeroes.

    In comparison, there are 10^80 molecules in the entire observable universe. So that is an incredibly huge number.

    My graphing calculator just gives me an error, my scientific did the same. Google’s calculator just referred to it as 1 in infinity.

    This is why many (but not all) mathmatical physicists come to a conclusion that a force interfered with the laws of nature. Now, the lack of another explanation is not an explanation of itself. But from a statistical standpoint, it appears that it would make sense if there was a creator who had interfered to make such an occurance possible. To me, to assume that 1 out of infinity was bound to happen (which some secular naturalists claim), is a ridiculous statement.

    A Creator that always has been, and always will be, would explain how the laws of nature, science, and everything came to be. It would explain why we exist despite the almost nonexistent chance that we would. It would explain where matter came from, and it would answer why the universe came to be.

    From the LDS Bible Dictionary, it says “All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge”. The whitewashed history narrative of Mormon origins makes me wonder how any Mormon who learns the true history could still have “faith”, but that’s besides the point.

    Proverbs 12:1 also says “whoever hates correction is stupid”. I think faith should be based on facts, and evidence, and correction should not be feared.

    It seems you are right about GodandScience, other mammals do indeed kill arbitrarily.

    After my research, it seems much more stastically probable that there is a creator. Any other argument similar to the claim that “(creation/Big Bang/ life on earth/humans existing, etc) was bound to happen”, seems far less logical to me. I’m not “bound to” win the lottery given enough time. I have to buy tickets to even have a chance.

    What do you think about the origin of the universe? And earth, and life, and humans?

    1. One of the most rewarding realizations that I have come to as a skeptic and an atheist is that “I don’t know” is a perfectly wonderful answer to a question.

      What do I think about the origin of the universe? I don’t know.

      Current scientific tools and knowledge don’t allow us to look back past The Big Bang. Until we develop different tools and theories, “I don’t know” will have to suffice. That’s OK with me, because it means that we will keep learning, keep thinking, and keep searching. On the other hand, saying, “God did it”, without any evidence for such is deeply unrewarding.

      I believe the argument that you are making with math is commonly known as the “fine tuning of the universe” argument, or the “argument from design.”

      An analogy; I have a dog. He lives in the house with me. The house provides shelter, water, food, a bed, a couch. Everything my dog needs to stay comfortable and happy. But that house was not built for him. It simply suits him and happens to make him comfortable.

      A similar, more famous analogy from author Douglas Adams:

      “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything is going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

      Richard Dawkins observes that, even if the chances of a planet evolving life is one in a trillion, then based on the number of stars and the subsequent number of planets in the universe, it’s happened a staggering number of times. Regardless of the odds, since we are able to ask the question, it has happened at least once. We likely exist as a side-effect due to the properties of the universe, rather than the universe having properties in order to host us.

      “It appears that it would make sense if there was a creator who had interfered to make such an occurrence possible.”

      What evidence do you have that such a “Creator” exists? Or maybe evidence for a universe modifying pixie? A turtle who carries the universe upon his back? Maybe the universal constants aren’t, and we are merely in a period of life-promoting values. Maybe they will shift in 1,000,000 years. I don’t have any evidence for that, but isn’t it possible?

      The time to believe something is after you have evidence for it, not before. I don’t have any evidence for shifting universal values, or pixies, or a turtle, or a creator, so I withhold belief until presented with that evidence.

      An undetectable “creator” who has always existed and always will exist again reminds me of Sagan’s dragon. Maybe there is a creator out there, but what is the difference in a creator I can’t test for, nor have evidence for and no creator at all?

      “Faith should be based on facts, and evidence”, but if you have facts and evidence, for what reason would you need faith? Hebrews observes, “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” I don’t believe that wishing for something is a good way to know what is true.

      Answering your final question, “I don’t know.” Not knowing, and the scientific search for more evidence is far more rewarding that assuming or wishing or hoping what I want to be true is true.


  4. I’m glad that you are honest enough to say “I don’t know”. Presuppositional views, and assertions not based on evidence are often the positions held by Mormons I have found.

    I was attempting to address your claim ” faced with the severe lack of any rational, reasonable, or scientific evidence for a deity”. Emphasis on rational and reasonable. It’s rational, and reasonable to believe in a divine creator from a statistical standpoint (So long as there is actual evidence of a creator).

    Mark Twain once defined faith as ““believing what you know ain’t so.” I’ve also heard people say “Faith takes over where reason leaves of”. I think both of those are definitions of Blind faith.

    Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

    When I hear “hoped for”, I wonder, “Is faith merely wishful thinking?”. Words in other languages don’t always have an equal. This is a list of 14 (foreign) words with no english equivalent that I think would be nice to have words for.

    But back to the point, the greek word ελπιζω is translated into “hoped for”. But it’s not the same as we might say “I hope it’s sunny next week”. It indicates confident expectation. The kind of “confidence” we would have when we have good reason to believe something.

    Faith is confidence in things that you have not experienced with your senses. I have never broken my femur, but I can have confident expectation that it would be extraordinarily painful, although I’ve never felt that pain. It’s not believing without reason, rather, believing in something unseen, not experienced, etc, that we have good reason to believe.

    “”Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord.”

    I think solipsism is a fascinating concept. The belief that the only thing you can verify is that you have a mind/conciousness. Because you rely on your senses for everything you know, and if your brain was broken, or everything was an illusion, you wouldn’t know the difference.

    I think Solipsism is the most basic worldview that one can have. To recognize the only verifiable thing is that you are experiencing things, which might all be wrong. I think anything beyond Solipsism requires some degree of faith (reasonable expectation). For example, I would imagine you believe that after you die the world will continue to exist. Is it possible to verify such an idea? You would be dead, so you wouldn’t know what happened or not! How do we know that the past actually happened? Can you verify it is reality? You can look to archeology, you can look to observations, and then based on the evidence you make a logical jump to a conclusion. That’s exactly how I see faith though.

    If I asked if you had a hand, and how you knew it, you could draw on observations made with your senses. You could see it, taste it, feel it, you could use it for something, but how can you verify it to me? If everything was an illusion, how would you know differently?

    I hope you don’t see this is pointless speculative questions, but you seriously consider these questions. Solipsism I think is the most basic worldview one can have. If you think I actually exist, you are demonstrating reasonable expectation (faith). You are taking the evidence of my responses, and drawing a conclusion that I actually exist, yet it’s ultimately not verifiable. Solipsism is the ultimate skepticism. How do you know anything?

    To believe in laws of logic requires a type of “Faith”. Laws of logic are not seen, yet you may believe in them. I look at Stephen Hawking’s “the Grand Design” where he makes the claims
    1. Things exist because of spontaneous creation
    2. “Because there is a law of gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing” he makes a point that the laws of nature allow for spontaneous creation.
    3. “multiverse” theory can explain why the laws of nature exist

    The problem with his whole argument, is that it’s circular. Each point is dependent on another. Multiverse theory makes no sense if nothing exists, 3 is dependent on 1, 1 is dependent on 2, 2 is dependent on 3.

    I see no casual reasoning, or logical way to see such a circle as the origin of the universe. I know you say “I don’t know”, which is fine, but the only explanation (If we put aside evidence, just looking at theory) that seems to make rational sense to me, is that of
    1. An infinite non-created creator
    2. This creator could make something from nothing
    3. this creator could make any and everything

    I’m not an expert, nor am I incredibly well spoken, but there has been evidence of God in my life. I’m not talking about “feelings” like Mormons use as evidence. Feelings prove nothing. I’m talking about spiritual experiences (beyond feelings), I’m talking about “coincidences” that I use logic to have reasonable expectation that are not simply “coincidences”. Things that have happened that make no rational sense without there being a God.

    What do you think? This quickly became a pretty long comment, I don’t know if I’ve addressed all of your points either.

    “Logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority” -Doctor Who

    1. “Is faith merely wishful thinking?”

      A good question. I believe that it is. Not knowing can be unsettling. Death is scary. Wishing that you already have all the answers and know that you’ll somehow live forever is reassuring. I can understand that. I have found, however, that being honest in my lack of knowledge, and “knowing” that my time is finite can be strangely reassuring in a different way.

      I’ve not broken my femur either. I have, however, broken my knee, a toe, and sprained my ankle several times. That’s evidence. I can say with confidence, but not quite 100% “know”, that breaking my femur will be painful.

      I have prayed many, many times. When I was young, I “knew” I had received “answers”. “Heavenly Father is real!” “The Book of Mormon is true!” “President Benson is a Prophet of God!” “Jesus died for me!” I realize that those “answers” were much more likely to be an affirmation of my desire for them to be true rather than actually true. Search the ex-Mormon interwebs (MormonThink, Mormon Stories, exmormon on Reddit) and you’ll hear story after story of people who “knew” a thing to be true; who had a true witness of Christ’s restored gospel, only to realize much later that it was only a manifestation of their “wishful thinking.”

      I believe I used this quote before in a previous discussion, but I return to it for it’s literary and comedic value:

      Do you ever think of yourself as actually dead, lying in a box with the lid on it? Nor do I really. Silly to be depressed by it. I mean, one thinks of it like being alive in a box. One keeps forgetting to take into account that one is dead. Which should make all the difference. Shouldn’t it? I mean, you’d never know you were in a box would you? It would be just like you were asleep in a box. Not that I’d like to sleep in a box, mind you. Not without any air. You’d wake up dead for a start and then where would you be? In a box. That’s the bit I don’t like, frankly. That’s why I don’t think of it. Because you’d be helpless wouldn’t you? Stuffed in a box like that. I mean, you’d be in there forever. Even taking into account the fact that you’re dead. It isn’t a pleasant thought. Especially if you’re dead, really. Ask yourself: if I asked you straight off I’m going to stuff you in this box now – would you rather to be alive or dead? Naturally you’d prefer to be alive. Life in a box is better than no life at all. I expect. You’d have a chance at least. You could lie there thinking, well, at least I’m not dead. In a minute, somebody’s going to bang on the lid and tell me to come out. “Hey you! What’s your name? Come out of there!” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard.

      Solipsism is interesting. I agree that we can’t know that anything beyond our own senses and reasoning. But how else can we behave? I know my senses can be fooled; I’ve seen magic tricks I can’t explain. Optical illusions (“brain failures”) that don’t make sense. Unless I want to live in my closet, afraid and alone, however, I have to use reason, science, and logic to best describe the reality in which I seem to exist. Is it all an illusion? Could be. An interesting point of view, but not one I ultimately find particularly fascinating. I can only interact with the world as it is or appears to be. It appears to be finite. It appears to be predictable (insofar as we can accurately measure the laws of physics, etc.). Scientists tell me when the next eclipse will occur, and it does. They can predict the motion of atoms to create energy, or explosions, or lasers. They can launch probes that travel across the cosmos and arrive within minutes of their predictions. 2 + 2 always equals 4. Thus, though it is certainly possible that I live in a simulator, I have no evidence for that hypothesis. I have no way to measure or test for it. No more than I have evidence or a method of detection for a creator. Thus, I withhold belief until evidence to the contrary is presented. If, ultimately, it is the illusion/simulator/creator itself that prevents me from obtaining such evidence, then the fault of believing incorrectly does not lie with me.

      Stephen Hawking is making claims. Claims backed by science, mathematics, and physics. The “multiverse” is not a theory (in the scientific definition); it is a hypothesis. Again, backed by what we currently know of science, mathematics, and physics. I don’t believe it. I don’t disbelieve it. “I don’t know.” I do feel it certainly has more evidence and a more testable nature than a supernatural creator and law-giver.

      I truly believe that you believe you’ve received evidence of God. I have not. I also know of no way to test for that evidence. I have done as you have previously suggested and prayed, but still have no evidence. Do you have a new and more reliable methodology I might employ?

      “I must take your assertion of what you have done and what you “know.” You, apparently, cannot accept my assertion that I have repeatedly conducted your proposed experiment and spent countless hours pouring out my heart to a god I “knew” was there and would answer my prayers. Except He didn’t and hasn’t, almost as if He isn’t there. I’m pretty sure He isn’t.” –

      Whenever we test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, regardless of whether we use gravitational lensing, or gravitational waves, or nuclear reactions, etc., it is, once more, verified to be accurate. Time after time after time after time. If I drop an apple from the countertop a trillion times, I can be relatively confident that each and every time it will hit the floor with a wet thud. I can say a trillion prayers, however, and never know if or when this proposed god will reveal himself to me. I don’t “know” that a god or creator isn’t there, but, thus far, my lab-work on this hypothesis has been extremely unfruitful. And if this is the only way to obtain evidence, it’s proven itself most unreliable.


  5. “I must take your assertion of what you have done and what you “know.” You, apparently, cannot accept my assertion that I have repeatedly conducted your proposed experiment and spent countless hours pouring out my heart to a god I “knew” was there and would answer my prayers. Except He didn’t and hasn’t, almost as if He isn’t there. I’m pretty sure He isn’t.”

    I do not assert that you should somehow know there is a God just because I do. I believe that you don’t know there is a God. I believe you truly did conduct that experiment.

    I also think statistically, a divine creator is way more logical then any other potential explanation for existence. Other explanations are based off of the laws of nature, but then still do not explain where those laws come from. The lack of an explanation is not an explanation, but statistically, and rationally I think a creator makes a lot of sense.

    My point about the word “faith” was based off of the Greek word “πίστις” or “pístis”. (which is used in the Hebrews 11:1) It refers to confident expectation, as opposed to merely wishful thinking. You have confident expectation that breaking your femur will hurt, yet you have not experienced it. “I’ve not broken my femur either. I have, however, broken my knee, a toe, and sprained my ankle several times. That’s evidence. I can say with confidence, but not quite 100% “know”, that breaking my femur will be painful.”

    Some people merely do have wishful thinking, they wish there was a God and so they have “faith” in him. You have what I would call “faith” that breaking your femur will be painful. You may choose not to use the word that way, that’s your choice. When I say I have “faith” in God. I’m not referring to wishful thinking. If there is a God, then I’m a sinner, which would be an odd thing to want to be in my opinion. I think my “wishful thinking” would lead me to the persuasion that there isn’t a God so that I’m not a sinner, and not the other way around if that’s what faith is.

    This is where the concept of solipsism comes into play. Anything beyond that is some amount of confident expectation, and logical assumptions. I cannot predict the future, yet I assume based off of all my prior experiences that when I release a pencil in the air, it will fall to the ground. I make an assumption of the unknowable future, based off of past experiences.

    This is why I see any non-solipsistic worldview as faith based. This is how we live our lives, making assumptions based on past experiences. In court, a lawyer presents “evidence” which is then used to try and persuade everyone that something happened, something which they did not see with their own eyes, or hear with their own ears, or experience for themselves in any way. The lawyer uses evidence to try and persuade people to come to a logic based conclusion, which ultimately they can’t 100% know happened. We attempt to understand the world around us by using what we observe, and then reasoning. You might say that you’re 100% confident that if you release a pencil in midair it will fall, but you cannot predict the future, it’s a very reasonable assumption, but it’s an assumption! You have confident expectation, a reasonable prediction, not knowledge of the future.

    Based partly on my entire life, and culmination of experiences, I have faith in God. Not the LDS church, nor any specific denomination, or other specific church. But faith in God. The LDS church specifically is based on wishful thinking. You read the book of Mormon, and your family, or friends, or the kind missionaries tell you that you WILL receive an answer, and given enough time, you’ll receive one. Whether real, or simply a manifestation of wishful thinking. It reminds me of Scientology in some ways for that reason. It’s semi-brainwashing.

    That is not the argument I’m presenting, I hope you understand that. This last friday, I actually did an interview on the ExMormonFiles, it’ll be airing in 2 weeks on TV, youtube, the website, and as a podcast. Most people who leave the church, do become secular, but not all. The LDS church specifically attacks the Bible, and kinda tries to debunk it. When people leave the church, they often leave all religions behind, and have no trust in the Bible. In my interview, I talk about how the Bible is the main reason I left. I interviewed with a general authority, and with an institute teacher who has been in the CES for over 30 years. I talk about the different things they told me, and how nonsensical some of the things they said were.

    I’m not alone in leaving for the reasons I did. ExMormonFiles have done some really good interviews in the past. Micah Wilder’s is especially good in my opinion. He left the church for Christianity while on his mission. Just because the LDS church is wrong, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a creation.

    I think the evidence of our lives, and the laws of nature, and our very existence is evidence of organization coming from a higher power. I think the statistical 1 in infinity chance that we would come to be simply through the laws of nature is hard to accept would occur without intervention of some kind. And also hard to accept when there is no explanation for where the laws of nature that the question is based on, came from.

    Based on statistics, reason, and the culmination of my life experience, I have confident expectation that there is a God. I do not expect you to have the same life experience, but I do attempt to share the statistics, and reasoning (although I’m not particularly good at sharing it). I truly believe your prayers have been unfruitful, and if that was the only way and reason to believe in God, it would be incredibly dishonest for you to believe in him. I don’t think it’s the only way to know there is a God though. I find the argument for creation far more compelling then nothing (which many atheists that I’ve spoken to say honestly “I don’t know”). I find the argument for divine intervention to create the laws of nature, and then manipulate them so that we would come to be far more insightful and reasonable then a mere shrug.

    I hope that this makes sense to you, and as always, I’m curious as to what your thoughts on all this are. Looking forward to hearing from you
    -Jake Miller

    1. If prayer doesn’t work, or is, at best, clearly unreliable, how else are we to learn that a creator does exist? How can we be even moderately confident in that hypothesis?

      How do you calculate the probability for something for which there is no evidence? What is the statistical probability of Zeus? Universe creating pixies? A teapot in orbit ‘round Mars?

      The creation of the universe may be extremely unlikely, but, we have evidence for it. The Big Bang may have been extremely unlikely, but we have evidence for it.

      “Other explanations are based off the laws of nature, but then still do not explain where those laws come from.”

      An explanation, without evidence, from a supernatural creator still does not explain where the supernatural creator comes from. It ultimately has no explanatory power. In my opinion, it is even less useful than saying, “I don’t know.” Claiming an explanation before having evidence is self-defeating and stops the search for real knowledge.

      We’ll have to disagree on the definition of faith. As we’ve discussed previously, I define faith as the allowance people give themselves to believe things for which they don’t have evidence. If you have evidence, you don’t need ‘faith.’

      We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith”. We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups substitute different emotions. – Bertrand Russell

      You assume that the pencil will fall to the ground, based on evidence; your past experiences with gravity. You claim confidence that there is a god. From what do you draw your confidence for the existence of this god? How would I or anyone else devoid of this confidence gain confidence for this god?

      If you were sitting in a jury for a murder trial, how much confidence would you put in the claim that a ghost or a demon or a vampire committed the murder? Perhaps several people make the claim, from the witness box. Would you believe them? Would you put much stock in their stories? Or would you find it more likely that the victim suffered a non-supernatural fate? You weren’t there; so all you have to go on is the evidence presented. A gunshot or a demon? A knife or a vampire? Which is the more acceptable claim? (Occam’s Razor)

      Have you considered the possibility that the same “brainwashing” that affects Scientologists and Mormons may be the same “brainwashing” that leads people to faith in a god? Have you wondered why the culture in which people are raised is a fairly reliable predictor of their future beliefs? Born into an Islamic culture will commonly lead to a faith in Mohammed and the Qu’ran? Born into a Mormon culture will commonly lead to a faith in Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon? Baptists give birth to future Baptists. Hindus give birth to future Hindus. Scientologists give birth to future Scientologists. Clearly it isn’t 100%, but it is a reliable predictor. Why do you suppose that is? If it is the arguments and claims that are valid, and it isn’t simply indoctrination, I would predict that religions would be far more mixed across the globe, instead of having fairly reliable borders.

      Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence almost everyone has the same religion as their parents ? And it always just happens to be the right religion. Religions run in families. If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece we would all be worshiping Zeus and Apollo. If we had been born Vikings we would be worshiping Wotan and Thor. How does this come about ? Through childhood indoctrination. – Richard Dawkins

      My daughter has been taught nothing of the supernatural. She is getting to the age now where she sometimes hears people talk about gods and asks me about them. When I tell her, without any negative commentary, what some people believe, her response is almost always a variation of, “That’s weird!” Her mother and I have never taught her that there is no god, or no supernatural, but without indoctrination, the concept is completely foreign to her. To her, it all sounds like Greek mythology. To her, the god of The Bible may as well be The Galactic Warlord Xenu of Scientology.

      I look forward to listening to your interview. I find transition stories fascinating. I likely spend entirely too much time to listening to various Mormon-themed podcasts. Please send me a notice when it goes live so that I don’t forget!

      Why do you accept The Bible as the word of this god, rather than the Qu’ran? If we apply the same skepticism to The Bible as might be applied to The Book of Mormon, why do we not reach the same conclusion? Both books were written by admittedly flawed human beings who claimed to be prophets who spoke to God. There are many, many, many other manuscripts written during Biblical times by others who claimed to be prophets, who claimed to speak to and for God, but those were NOT included in The Bible. Why not? Why do you accept the books compiled by ancient Catholics, but not The Gospel of Thomas or any of the other Gnostic Gospels? To which version of The Bible do you hold? Do you follow the words of 1 and 2 Maccabees, like Catholics, or do you reject them as Baptists do? What methodology did you employ in order to validate your decision as correct?

      Either God isn’t there, or He surely doesn’t want or need me to believe in Him. If the best and only evidence you can provide me is “It looks like it’s designed”, then I am woefully unconvinced – as well as unconcerned – that a god exists. The universe works precisely as if He isn’t there; and, again, I’m pretty sure He isn’t.

      In the end, it sounds like you just have to have faith (my definition); but I don’t have any faith, and no one can seem to provide me with a reliable method to obtain it.

      If you’ve not seen it, I’d recommend watching ‘Letting Go of God’ by Julia Sweeny (of SNL fame). It’s a funny and interesting performance in which Julia talks about how her faith and belief in God evolved over the years.

      Good to hear from you, as always. I look forward to hearing your interview.


  6. I just saw your two ebooks. Holy crap that’s a lot of writing! I’m really glad you kept those conversations, and compiled them. Since I’ve had a change of faith, some people accuse me of never having believed in the LDS church in the first place, and those ebooks show how I tried to defend my faith however possible. My faith certainly has evolved since then. Evolving faith is a good title for that. This has been a long process, and it’s cool to have it documented. Here is a link to the interview I was in on ExMormonFiles.

    I was nervous, and just kinda ended up smiling the whole time. But I’m grateful I got to tell my story.

    In response to your comments, prayer absolutely works. The issue I find with some faiths, is that they are based on feelings. Feelings are so unreliable. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

    There are many different types of evidence. What type are you looking for might be a good question for me to ask.

    Circumstantial Evidence – is used to infer something based on a series of facts separate from the fact the argument is trying to prove. It requires a deduction of facts from other facts that can be proven and, while not considered to be strong evidence, it can be relevant in a workplace investigation, which has a different burden of proof than a criminal investigation. It’s like the finger print at the scene of a crime. I’ve presented this type evidence, and I recognize that it’s weak, but it is evidence.

    Anecdotal Evidence – Which is based mostly on experiences. Which I’ve shared some of. Again, weak, but still evidence.

    Testimonial Evidence – Similar to Anecdotal Evidence, but not quite the same.

    Documentary Evidence – Which I’m pretty sure the Bible qualifies as. People writing about seeing God, or having different interactions with him.

    Prima Facie Evidence – Which I attempted to present, but if I recall correctly, didn’t do very good at. If you believe in reason, science, logic, supernatural, and really everything by default, then you’ll believe in God.

    Are you familiar with “Uniformity in Nature” and the principal of Induction in science? I found this really fascinating article from about it.

    It concludes with “When we are confronted with a natural belief — a belief that comes to us as naturally and as inevitably as breathing — we are rationally justified in acquiescing in it (provided it is not contrary to reason). A belief can be rational in this sense even though we cannot supply any convincing arguments for it, and this is a very important suggestion.”

    That quote is the defense of the belief that the future will be like the past. It’s an assumption that most atheists make, but lack any convincing argument for. It’s an assumption of reality. I think you have “faith” using your own definition of faith, in this idea. How do you ultimately know the future will be like the past? Without that belief, it’s very hard to believe in science or history, or a “secular reality”.

    Many atheists hold people to universal standards of morality. They become confused between two ideas. One being that morals are made by individual, and each person can decides them for themselves. The other is that there is a standard everyone should be held accountable for.

    The child molester that we have locked up in prison right now that has a different set of morals then we do, recognizes that we live according to the second idea, not the first. We set up laws and standards. We have a sense of right and wrong that we try to enforce on other people. We tell people what they can and can’t do, and what they should and shouldn’t do. If morals are up to individuals to determine, whose to ultimately say what’s right and wrong? We live in such a way that we try and hold people, like the child molester, to a universal standard of right and wrong. I don’t know an Atheist who can account for that belief in their worldview.

    I also know Atheists who think that honesty, and logical integrity are important. They think that everyone should use reasoning, and they dislike when people don’t. Why should anyone care about logic and reasoning if we are no more than stardust in a cosmically indifferent universe? Why would it ultimately matter? Why should we care about morals? Or reasoning?

    How do you account for those without a universal standard? In science, we use “constant variables”. Without the constant variable, there is no comparison to understand anything about the experiment. Without a constant, you can’t tell what is changing, or what is happening, or make sense of it. God is my constant variable. He has no beginning, or end. He is the beginning and the end. All things come from him. He is the standard, he is the constant, he is the foundation from where all things come from. I’m not sure if I’m saying this in a way that makes sense to you. It seems to me though, that many atheists live their lives under ideas that they cannot account for in their own worldview.

    I reject the Quran for the same reasons I reject the Book of Mormon. I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but Mohammad’s story is very similar to Joseph Smiths. He was visited by an angel, he wrote a book “he couldn’t possibly have written on his own”. And he ended up a polygamist. His followers, like Mormons, change their belief in the Bible. Mormons reject the Bible wherever it contradicts their theology. Even with the JST Bible they reject where it “isn’t translated correctly”. Why did Joseph Smith bother to translate it if it’s still wrong? Muslims believe that Jesus wasn’t actually the son of God, nor did he claim to be. They reject everything about that, and attribute it all to being written in by the followers after his death. Both are based on feelings.

    The Bible was written by imperfect people, but as God’s word, it cannot be imperfect. Or God is a liar, and if God’s a liar, then he’s not God. That’s why some Christians get very passionate about the Biblical Inerrency idea. How much studying have you done post-mormonism on the canonization of the Bible? Just wondering. I was taught a lot of lies about the canonization of the Bible as an LDS person. I still haven’t sorted it all out quite yet. I read “Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery. ” which is a fascinating book if you’ve never heard of it. It talks a lot about some of those other manuscripts, and artifacts, and some historical forgeries that have happened. There’s a lot of information in it, and I’m not sure I got it all, but I think it’d be a good read. I got the audio book on the Overdrive app from my local library.

    I don’t necessarily reject the gnostic gospels. Nor the apocrypha. I haven’t read it all, I’m studying it, but I don’t yet have a conclusion. The Book of Dragon, is actually way more disappointing then the title would suggest by the way. I don’t label myself under a denomination, or specific church. I don’t take the ideology of one man, and make it my theology. I study the Bible that I have, which is a KJV with LDS headers and footnotes. I just consider myself a Christian and do the best I can to follow Jesus.

    I find many of the arguments against the Bible to be quite weak. The arguments against the Book of Mormon on the other hand, are quite strong.

    I don’t have the mind of God, I don’t read his thoughts. I would recommend you read Luke 15 concerning this.

    I think a “it looks designed” argument is a lot more compelling then “I don’t know” would be.

    What do you mean, “the universe works precisely as if he wasn’t there”? If you were to believe in God, would the universe work differently? I really don’t understand this statement. The website I provided a link to earlier says “A matter of fact proposition has the following feature: both it and its denial are fully conceivable, possible, and non-self-contradictory.”

    What would a universe with God look like to you? What would a universe without God look like? If we cannot conceive both different, opposite universes, how can I accept your statement as any kind of truth?

    Justin, I think you do have faith in many things, according to that article about induction. I think with faith in God as a universal constant, you could account for those things you already believe, but cannot support in your worldview. I always love to hear from you and am dying to know what your thoughts on all this are. Looking forward to hearing from you.


    1. Indeed it was a lot of writing, on both our parts. I was truly surprised to see how much it was once it was compiled in one place. Please let me know if you feel I’ve been unfair at all. For the most part, I just copied-and-pasted what we had written, but I did fix a few grammatical issues, capitalization, etc. It was occasionally a little difficult as our conversation wandered over different posts. Just let me know if there is a problem and we can resolve it.

      How do you know that prayer works? It seems not to have worked for me. I have never seen/heard/experienced anything supernatural of which I am aware. I have never had a “sign” or a “witness.” Through all my prayers, I have never experienced anything more than a “feeling”, and if that isn’t what I am looking for, what should I be looking for? How can I and other skeptics come to know the same as you?

      Neither anecdotal nor testimonial evidence is of any use for such immense claims. Do you accept the testimonial and anecdotal evidence of LDS members who talk about the power of Priesthood blessings? Members who will live and die on their experiences with powerful laying-on-of-hands? Curing injuries, cancer, casting out demons? Their testimonies about The Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, The Book of Abraham? How about Catholics? Who have seen myriad of “miracles” from The Virgin Mary? Are they convincing to you?

      Circumstantial evidence, as you point out, is weak evidence. For something as important as God and the supernatural, I need something far more compelling.

      I disagree that The Bible qualifies as any kind of evidence; any more than The Odyssey, or The Iliad, or The Qu’ran. There is no compelling evidence, outside of The Bible, for the enslavement of Jews by Egyptians. No physical or independent evidence for Moses and his plagues. No physical or independent evidence for The Exodus. No physical or independent evidence for a global flood.

      As we have discussed, at length, you and I define faith VERY differently, and cannot come to an agreement. I do not have “faith” that the future will be like the past. I have “trust” and “expectations” that the future will be like the past. I trust and expect it to be so because I have trustable, reproducible evidence that it has been so. If even one time I dropped an item and it floated rather than falling, my trust and expectations in gravity would be irrevocably altered. Demonstrate to me how I can have a trustable, reproducible evidence for the supernatural and a god, and I will trust and expect those.

      “I don’t know an atheist who an account for that belief in their worldview.”

      Life is preferable to death. Not-harm is preferable to harm.

      Murderers, rapists, slavers, go to prison for violating these ethical positions. In The Bible, they are commanded and allowed to continue their crimes. (Numbers 31:17-18, Leviticus 25:44). Is that the universal standard to which you hold? If God commanded you to kill your unbelieving neighbors and enslave their children, would that be a moral act? Some might claim that God might never command such a thing, He has in the past. What is to keep Him from commanding it again?

      Our (society/human beings) understanding of morality changes. If I had lived at some other point in history, I may have considered slavery to be moral (or, at least, not immoral). I believe NOW, however, that it is immoral, was always immoral, and will always be immoral. Do you? Though The Bible endorses, defends, and encourages it? As a member, I would have defended Joseph Smith’s polygamy as a moral necessity, as commanded by Heavenly Father. I was wrong. I will be again. In twenty years, I may come to the conclusion that eating animals is an immoral act.

      “Give me veganism and temperance, O Lord, but not yet…not yet.”

      Our understanding of morality changes as our societies change and as our knowledge about the universe and ourselves change. In fact, you can see it in The Bible itself; many Christians defend The Bible by eschewing the more “immoral” parts of The Old Testament and attempting to embrace the softer, kinder parts of The New Testament (but TNT still supports slavery; Col 3:22, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18)

      Do you consider what The Westboro Baptist Church does (picketing funerals, praying for genocide, thanking God for AIDS) moral? They claim moral authority and moral standards from that same book. Catholics claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. Greek Orthodox claim their authority from the same book, but have different standards of morality. How is that constant? How is that measurable? If so many can interpret that same book, with the same words, so many different ways? How do you know which of those words come from God and didn’t come from man?

      I don’t know that there is any “morality” for using logic and reason. I would argue that NOT using it, and believing things that cannot be demonstrated, can and will lead to terrible decisions – like buying snake oil, or not taking your kids to a doctor in the “knowledge” that god will heal them, or refusing blood transfusions, or giving your daughter away to a prophet who claims divine authority to choose his wives, or detonating a bomb to kill people believed to be infidels.

      If, on the other hand, I use logic and reason, I ask for evidence before buying the snake oil. I trust the evidence that medical science is the best way to treat sickness and injury. I recognize that a blood transfusion is necessary, regardless of what a bronze-age book says. Discover that some prophets are simply trying to make profits and are not deserving of my obedience. And that killing people, even if they disagree with me, and a book says it’s right, is immoral (“Life is preferable to death.”)

      If I may use a bit of comedy for a moment to address your dismissal of The Book of Mormon and The Qu’ran:

      “God spoke to Joseph, out in a forest, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Mohamed, out in a cave, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Moses, up on a mountain, when no one was around…”

      “God spoke to Elijah, out in a cave, when no one was around…”

      I detect a pattern here.

      I’ve done a bit of study on the canonization of The Bible (I recommend “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong, a nun and historian), which is why I believe it to be a rich mythology created by an ancient people and compiled from a series of re-written, re-written, re-written frail documents, which were then “arbitrarily” chosen from amongst a much, much larger set of re-written, re-written, and re-written documents, by clergy-politicians who chose based on what was most important to them at the time. Though I clearly believe Joseph Smith’s story to be implausible in the extreme, I’ve always thought The Book of Mormon origin story is a better story than The Bible; a complete record engraved on unchanging metal plates, rather than the aforementioned “election” process.

      How do you believe The Bible to have been written? Was each word inspired by God to be written and eventually chosen for inclusions? If God merely inspires his prophets to write His Word, why are they any different from Joseph Smith or Mohamed? Why are Joseph and Mohamed different from Elijah? Could they have not been similarly inspired by God to write down new philosophies and commandments?

      Assume for a moment that I am a believer in God, and in The God of The Bible, but I am unsure as to which version of The Bible I should hold? The oldest versions of The Bible are already radically” different from one another (as I’ve pointed out before – Compare the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus ( Which one is the infallible word of God and which is heresy? The Catholic Bible has more books than The New International Version and King James Version. What methodology should we use to determine which is the actual word of God, and which might lead me astray? Should I incorporate the words of the Gnostic gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas) into my beliefs and follow their philosophy and commandments? Are they also The Word of God? What about Maccabees? It was included in one Bible, but not another. If there is no reliable methodology by which we can determine which is which, how can I trust that any of this text represents the will of God?

      Honestly, I find The Bible more interesting than The Book of Mormon, but only insomuch as it is a more historically significant than The BoM. Ultimately, however, it seems to me that they contain equally significant amounts of morality, history, and evidence.

      People thought there was a face on Mars. Leading many people to believe there must be an intelligence on Mars designing pyramid like structures, and canals, etc. It wasn’t true. It just “looked” designed.

      My universe with God:

      …if there suddenly was a God, I would expect a great deal to change. I’d expect that everyone who faithfully belonged to God’s chosen sect would never get sick. They’d never be cheated for being charitable. They’d never go cold or hungry. If, for some reason, a faithful servant did get cancer, or diabetes, or other chronic disease, prayers and blessings should ALWAYS work – otherwise, what is their purpose? Prayer would always work, thereby saving the rest of the congregation from having to uncomfortably rationalize away the many documented failures.

      Furthermore, I can still not fathom any logical, rational, or benevolent reason for natural disasters, diseases, parasites, etc. in a universe designed by a kind, loving, and benevolent god. In a godless universe, however, they are merely the unfortunate accidents of physics, chemistry, and biology; just as one might expect.

      It is possible that I do have faith, an unsupported, irrational belief, in something of which I am currently unaware is a belief. I don’t know that I do, but if I did, and someone showed me that my belief was not supported by trustable, repeatable evidence, I would evaluate it, and, if necessary, discard it.

      I intend to listen to your podcast this afternoon at work. I am looking forward to it. As we have both proven ourselves to be trustably and repeatably long-winded (long-typed?), I am sure you can expect a response 🙂


    2. I did watch your interview. I don’t really have too much to say. Mostly, I just wish the host would shut up and just let you tell your story 🙂 He interrupts and talks over you a lot.


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