Tag Archives: faith

Everything Is Possible

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

— Epicurus (maybe)

 

You are God.  Omnipotent.  You also have a beloved creation, human beings, for whom you would like to create a universe.  You also want to test the humans.  You want to see if they will behave, even if they aren’t sure you’re watching.

What does your universe look like?

Mine?  It consists of a single world.  The world provides it’s own light and warmth.  No need for an external source.  No need for stars, galaxies, or potentially deadly and harmful comets and meteors.  One self-sustaining and beautiful planet.

The planet, let’s call it Ceti Alpha 6,  also grows unlimited food, and provides unlimited clean water everywhere.  Most of the planet consists of dry land upon which my creation can spend their time.

Wait.  Why does my creation need food and water?  I’m omnipotent.  Ok.  Now humans no longer require food, water, or air.  The planet only provides warmth and light.

Wait.  Why does my creation need warmth and light?  I’m omnipotent.  Ok.  Now humans no longer require food, water, air, nor warmth, nor light.   They can experience and interact with one another without it.

My planet has no tectonic plates.  Not earthquakes.  No volcanoes.  Humans can live everywhere, not just on 1/3 of the planet.  No meteors to worry about.  No fights over necessary resources like food, clean water, etc.

Now, every human is born with a “tattoo” on their inner arms of my commandments.  Everyone is born perfect.  No birth-defects.  No mental defects.  Ceti Alpha 6 has no disease.  No cancer.  No parasites.  No deadly animals.

Being omnipotent, and omniscient, I know the exact moment at which any of my humans has truly chosen to break one of my commandments.  If they do, I simply blink that individual out of existence, and wipe the memory of them from every other individual.  Each person still has perfect agency, but a choice to use that agency to cause suffering only affects the evil person.  No external suffering need exist.

Of course, if I am omniscient, maybe this whole “test” thing is unnecessary and superfluous.  If I know who will be good and who’ll be evil, maybe I needn’t bother.  Or, hey, maybe I just shouldn’t have created evil humans in the first place.

That seems much less nonsensical.

“Once you believe anything is possible, everything is possible.”

Meet The Mormons

I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them.” Brigham Young

There is so great a need for civility and mutual respect among those of differing beliefs and philosophies.” Gordon B. Hinckley

Last week, during the The LDS General Conference, the organization reported that the current membership of the church included 15,372,337 individuals. I am counted among that number.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I pay no tithes.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not know where my ward house is located.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not own a copy of The Book of Mormon.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I am pretty sure that sea-gulls did not save Salt Lake City farmers from hordes of crickets.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I accept all families as genuine and valid; not just those that resemble my own.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not know which of Joseph Smith’s many “First Vision” accounts to accept as truth.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know the LDS Church lied for decades about Joseph Smith’s polygamist past.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know the LDS Church lied for decades about the reason(s) Black members were denied full membership.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I believe that Brigham Young was a misogynistic and racist bigot.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I believe my brave, strong, and faithful pioneer fore-bearers were needlessly imperiled and endangered by the dangerous ideas and practices of the aforementioned misogynistic bigot.

I am one of those 15,372,337 million people, though I do not revere Thomas Monson, nor any of his peers, nor predecessors as prophets, nor seers, nor revelators.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I find it unethical, despicable, and immoral for any church to take 10% of their members’ hard-earned money — money that the congregation gives freely in the fervent belief that it will be used to build up The Savior’s churches and temples in order to fill the whole of the Earth with Christ’s light — and uses it, instead, to build a shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City (I find this so repugnant, I refuse to set foot inside that abomination, yet, still, I remain one of the counted).

I am one of those 15,372,337 million people, even as I believe that Joseph Smith was a known treasure-hunter who plagiarized the text of The Book of Mormon from many contemporary sources, including The King James Bible, View of The Hebrews, and possibly Manuscript, Found.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I know that the church was repeatedly and repeatedly duped by Mark Hofmann because the leaders knew there were ghosts and skeletons in the Church’s history, and would do (and pay) anything to hide them.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I have long believed what the LDS church now readily admits, that The Book of Abraham was not “translated” from the common Egyptian funerary texts, but invented by Joseph Smith.

I am one of those 15,272,337 million people, though I do not believe that there is any kind of god, let alone one who lives on Kolob.

My name is Justin, and I’m a Mormon.

My name is Justin, and I’m an atheist.

My name is Justin, and I am not alone.

Eyewitness Faith

“Faith can move mountains, Milt, but it can’t beat a faster draw.”
– El Dorado

Each Monday morning, I start off my podcast listening schedule with an episode of “The Atheist Experience.” It’s a show out of Austin, TX that takes open calls – mostly from believing Christians – which discusses and debates the callers ideas on belief and God.

This past week, one caller brought up a subject on which I have often dwelt. After rambling a bit on his woefully inaccurate understanding of biological evolution, he came to tell his own conversion story. The caller claimed that he used to be skeptical and once fell to his knees and asked God if he was real and if He was the god of The Bible. The caller then claimed that he was visited by a being that convinced him that God was real, and that He was the god of The Bible.

A powerful story. At least, it was for the caller. Fair enough. Mayhaps it did happen, just as the caller purported. Neither the hosts, nor I, nor anyone else is in a position to claim it didn’t happen. We were not there, and there is no other evidence to prove or disprove the event.

There are a great number of issues I have with that story (start with the assumption that he asked God if God was real), but chiefly it reminds me of the story of Paul – struck down on the road to Damascus. Apparently Paul had been preaching against God, which upset God, and thus he was visited by an Angel, told to change his ways, and struck blind. Somewhat unremarkably, this confirmed to Paul that he was woefully wrong to doubt The LORD. Hence, Paul went on to become a mighty advocate for Christianity – though he no longer had need of faith as he now had pure, unequivocal knowledge. If questioned, he might have answered, “God and angels and supernatural things exist; I have seen them.”

Similarly, Jesus reportedly performed many miracles for the inhabitants of Israel during his life. Attendees to the wedding in Canaan did not have to have faith in the power of Jesus; they saw the water turned to wine. Neither did witnesses to Lazarus’ resurrection, nor those who were healed of blindness or leprosy. Their faith in miracles was replaced by sure knowledge that miraculous things, being the will of God, could and would occur.

Of course, we in the here and now are to take on faith that these events occurred. We cannot verify their experience. Even if the Bible stories were written first person, they are anecdotal at best.

I have prayed for miracles. Long before my doubt took full hold of me, I prayed often, and sincerely that I be made to understand. I asked God that I be shown something that would take away the rushing tide of doubt. I am still waiting for His response.

I am left to wonder, why a Paul-like experience does not befall me? I am known to most of my friends to readily question the existence of God, and miracles, and anything supernatural. I write this blog (which, admittedly, not many really see nor read), but nary once have I been visited by an angel, nor spoken with a deceased relative, nor struck blind, nor seen water turned to wine.

Some who know me from my youth may feel that I have witnessed miracles. It is true that I have been given a blessing and felt better. I cannot deny that. Of course, though I felt better, I still had a fever, still had a cough, still had strep throat, my leg still broken. Knowing what I know now of placebos, confirmation bias, and Pygmalion effect, I cannot help but assume that time, biology, and knowing I had the care and concern of my family, friends, and church leaders, did most of the healing, and that the most miraculous event was the love of a family, fortunately so common amongst our fellow human beings.

But, forget my tiny and insignificant contributions to the heathen realm. What about Dawkins, and Shermer, and Dennet, and Hitchens, and Harris? People who have truly led so many away from the road of faith – and specifically Christianity. Why does God not see fit to send upon them the visitation of an angel, much like Dicken’s Marley? Warning them of their folly? Their arrogance? Their pending damnation? Their damage to humanity? Why are they so different from Paul? Why am I? Why must we who doubt take the anecdotal word of long dead prophets as truth, whilst others are given visions that confirm the truth?