Sunday, June 28, 2009

Same Sex Marriage - A Visual

This Same-Sex Marriage debate flowchart rocks my socks. Thanks to my reader Chitlin for sending this along! You rock my socks too *wicked grin*.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

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Chatting with a Mormon Missionary: Take 6

So I've been absent the past week. I figured the best way to jump back into these conversations on religin, cults, and the weird things people say is through Part 6 of our series Chatting with a Mormon. I'm posing once again as a man, "Aaron" today. Aaron's topic of questioning is the great mystery: Death.

You are speaking live with Ben, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Ben: hello

Me: Hi Ben. A friend of mine is very ill. I'm starting to wonder what happens to us when we die.

Ben: that is a great question
here is a page that is a good place to start learning
there are tabs on the left hand side that you can click through and read more
let me know when you are finished

Me: Okay, I've finished.

Ben: what did you learn from it?

Me: So you believe we have spirits that go on after our bodies die, but that they get reunited with our spirits?

Ben: yes, at the resurrection our spirits will be reunited with our bodies.

Me: what's the resurrection? I thought that already happened 2000 years ago on Easter

Ben: it is defined on the page i sent you

Me: Well, it just says that it's a reuniting of body and spirit, but I've never heard of such a thing before

Ben: if you click on he word it gives you a little bit more
(No, it doesn't. It just says the same thing in a little pop-out box.)

Me: why do you need or want a physical body in the afterlife?

Ben: one of the main purposes of coming to this earth was to receive a body
we need our spirit and body to be whole
here is another page you can read

Me: So we're whole right now, but when we die we won't be?

Ben: we are mortal right now, when we are resurrected we will be immortal
(See? It's totally worth these little chats just to find out what's so different between Christianity as a whole and that special little faith known as Mormonism.)

Me: It says Jesus was the first to be resurrected, but he raised people from the dead during his ministry on earth
like Lazarus and the centurion's daughter

Ben: their bodies were not glorified, perfected, or immortal

Me: well everything that's physical changes and deteriorates over time, even non-living things
(I love caves.)

Ben: you know the stories about lazaurs and the centurion's daughter but don't know about the resurrection?
are bodies wont following the resurrection

Me: I know about christ's resurrection but I've never heard about us having physical bodies after we're dead, no

Ben: it is a very common theme of the bible, why don't you tell me more about your religious background
I would like to better understand where you are coming from.

Me: Christian from the time I got saved when I was 3 but now I'm not so sure what to believe. (True.) I mean, if all those miracles were happening for 2000 years, why did they suddenly stop?
Here's a link

Ben: have you stopped going to church?

Me: years ago

Ben: as to your question i would like you read a chapter in the Book of Mormon
(Only for holy texts will he find the Shift Key.)
Here it is

Me: It seems to be saying that miracles do still happen
but you have to admit that the stories of the bible are pretty fantastic, and nothing like that is actually happening right now.

Ben: they happen everyday

Me: I mean the sun doesn't stop in the sky and there aren't rains of frogs or antyhing happening. It'd be on the evening news if they were.
What kind of miracles happen everyday?

Ben: you have to remember the bible and the book of mormon are condensed histories so the stories in them are going to be the big ones

Me: Well yes, but what kind of big stories like that happen now? You said miracles happen everyday

Ben: link
This article answers your question exactly

Me: The things he describes as "true miracles" or "macro miracles" don't seem very miraculous.
He cites things like people paying their tithe or working in missions. (Seriously dude? Half the stuff he claims is "unexplainable" I personally can explain - the rest can be explained by other humans of non-religious persuasion. WEAK!)
That happens in all kinds of religions - are they miracles when non-mormons choose to pay for their church or mosque's work?

Ben: there are miracles in all religions

Me: But not miracles in the Biblical sense - big, noticeable, large-scale things like the sun stopping in the sky, or all the bodies in the graves of Jerusalem rising up as one
What happened to the big miracles?

(My son and I have a good natured debate on the merits of ice cream for breakfast. We compromise on an empty ice cream cone and some fruity oatmeal.)

Ben: i don't know
maybe we don't have enough faith
or there is no purpose for them at this time

Me: It just seems a shame to me that all the big miracles happened at a time when communication and science were so primitive that miracles couldn't be told to all instantly and obviously, the way such a thing could now
with 24 hour news cycles, advanced technology, science, and the internet
Did you read the article I sent?

Ben: i didn't get one

Me: Here it is (link)

Ben: ok
(Several minutes pass.)

Me: Let me know when you're done

Ben: im done
(Now my son wants to play Mr. Potato Head with me. I'm gonna have to wrap this up soon.)

Me: well how can you believe in prayer when there's not proof it works?
and no miracles?

Ben: God has answered my prayers many times

Me: People of all faiths claim that, but none can prove it
And they claim to worship different gods
(Dora the Explorer to the rescue - my son is well settled and may let me continue chatting.)

Ben: I guess you will never know for yourself until you exercise faith and pray for yourself

Me: Well I tried that for 20 some years and it was a bust. Besides, how do you explain "answered prayers" from people who don't pray to your god? Are there other gods capable of answering prayer?
It seems to me that if God wanted people to know he could work miracles, or answer prayer, he'd do it in an indisputable way, like back in the Bible

Ben: I think God still hears and answers their prayers
it isn't their fault, they have just been misguided.

Me: Even if they're praying to Vishnu or Shiva or Allah? I thought the 10 Commandments were pretty clear on the penalty for praying to false gods.

Me: How do you know you're not the one who's been misguided? (The question that eventually led to my non-belief. How do you know your god is the right one? Can X million Muslims really be wrong? What proof do I have?)

Ben: i guess we will find out in the next life

Me: If God answers prayers or people of all faiths, what is the benefit of being Mormon instead of something else? (I ask this same question of liberal Christian friends who think atheists/other faiths don't necessarily go to hell. It's awfully sweet of them, but not backed up by their doctrine or texts.)

(Loooong pause. Finally, I've found my "stump" question. Time to watch old Atheist Experience clips on YouTube!)

Ben: one for me is having the gift of the holy ghost to be constantly with me.

Me: What is that gift like in your daily life? (Technically, that's not a Mormon-specific "benefit".)

Ben: i find it serves as a source of inspiration, comfort, peace...

Me: Inspiration, comfort and peace are all fine things. People who aren't mormon or even christians or even religious experience those things
What is UNIQUE to Mormonism?

(Stepping away from the computer to deal with the smelliest diaper EVER. What did that boy eat?)

Ben: I guess the best thing for you is to experience it
come to an lds service, read the book of mormon, live all the commandments
and if you still have questions about miracles and blessings then we can talk
im not here to make a sales pitch to you. It sounds like you have already made up your mind on many issues, so the best thing for you is going to be practicing what we teach

Me: So you can't answer it
(By the time they're ready to get off the line anyway, I go whole hog and just push them.)

Ben: then you will know if it is true or not
i just did answer it.
it might not be the answer YOU are looking for

Me: There isn't any unique benefit you can come up with

Ben: but it is an answer.

Me: Okay, so the answer is "There is no reason to be Mormon instead of Muslim or atheist." Right?
So why are you Mormon, if there isn't anything special about it?
(Watched this video while waiting for his response.)

(I don't think he's coming back. This one has had more honest "I don't knows" than most.)
(I've also watched this video.)

Me: Ben?

(My personal trainer, aka, son, has put me through one mile on the treadmill, 150 reps of free weights, and squats - which are much harder, as he rides on my back while I do them. I'm pretty sure Ben ain't coming back.)

So what have I learned? Not much. This morning's chat was really just an excuse to dive back into the habit of religious dialogue. I did learn that Mormons believe we get physical bodies after we die, and that we are mortal now but will be immortal later. In protestant Christianity, I'd learned that we were immortal souls living in mortal bodies, and that once our bodies died we wouldn't need them anymore. If I'd stayed on topic I would have asked him if heaven was a physical place, and if hell was also. I don't know much at all yet about the LDS view of hell and think I'll probably cast that as my next conversation question. It's hard to keep myself on task, learning, when what I really want to do is get these kids to start asking questions of their own. You can't teach critical thinking in one single conversation, but I sure wish I could. Better, more thought out posts coming very soon.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran: Weekend Update

There's more information coming in than I can track. I'm trying to verify everything (as best as I can) before posting here or retweeting (RT) on For pretty well verified, constantly updated information check out Nico Pitney's LiveBlog. For other interesting sites, information, etc.
Check out the following:

Time Mag re: How Obama Should Respond

Time Mag re: Neda Becomes Cause (explains Shiia martyrdom and mourning history)

Mother Jones eye-witness account of Police and Workers Aid Demonstrators

Search Engine Journal re: How to Follow Iran Online

Press TV (Iran State media source) re: Parliment Speaker criticizes Guardian Council

BBC re: Today vs. 1979

Guardian Weekly eye-witness account

Press TV re: Ahmidenijad thanks Leader for Support

One blogger's approach to Get Info INTO Iran

I'm off to tweet #IranElection. Best wishes, safety, and freedoms to you all.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009


Here's what I'm obsessively following and doing.

Check out Five Ways Tweeters can Help Iranis. These pertain to passing on reliable information, helping with secure IPs, etc. I'm personally RTing (or "re-tweeting") only critical information, such as a map to the foreign embassies in Tehran that are protecting and treating injured protesters, information regarding secured IPs and anonymizers, First Aid insutructions (English and Farsi/Persian) for bullet wounds, chemical burns, and broken bones. I am NOT making statements of a political nature - I am keeping in heavy circulation items that relate to the safety of the peaceful protestors, and their right to have their voice heard without threat of bloodshed. But seriously, focus on First Aid stuff and don't get too swept up in "Allah o Akbar". Especially if you're one of MY readers...

Keeping up with Nico
If following #IranElection on Twitter is way too intense for you (literally hundreds of new tweets each minute) Nico Pitney at Huffington Post has been LiveBlogging the Uprising for days. This is an excellent resource and through volunteer Iranian-Americans, most of what Nico posts has been translated into English. His reporting seems to be pretty well confirmed information (and NOT some of the fear-inspiring rumors shooting around right now).

Trying to Understand
BBC article "Consequences of Engaging Iran"

Tehran Times (state media) claims "Police Were Lenient"

NY Times Op-Ed by Roger Cohen (Brilliant - definitely worth reading.)

As always when posting about current events, tragedies, or personal times of woe, I must mention that I don't believe in prayer. If you wish to do so for the people of Iran, of course that is your RIGHT. But I entreat you, please, DO something as well. Even if it's just keeping track of things, trying to understand our fellow homo-sapiens across the globe, or Tweeting first aid tips.

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I've been up to my eyeballs in Tehran, Iran, Mousavi, Ahmedinejad, Khomeini, Twitter, Facebook, and everything else quasi-revolutionary. I could say something either pithy or profound about the consequences of theocracy, me being an antitheist and all. But I tell you, I am to stunned. I am watching this the way I watched the 9/11 footage. I am reading tweets, and can't keep up with the #IranElection posts. By the time I've read 5, another 400 have come in. But what was posted within 20 SECONDS summarizes for me the bravery, stakes, risks, injuries, and threats being endured by the Opposition people of Iran.

tanyanoel: RT from Iran ! CHEMICAL BURN FIRST AID (expand) #IranElection #Tehran #Mousavi #GR88 #iranelections #iranelection #freeiran

bocateacher: RT IRAN : Shiraz Is A City Under Fire. Full Blown Riot (Confirmed) #IranElection


reemiireem: RT from Iran: was a nightmare, I can barely breath & my face is burning, friend shot in the arm & friend's brother is missing #IranElection

eadvocate: FIRST AID: CPR: (expand) , Broken Bones: (expand) Gunshot Wounds: (expand) #IranElection #Tehran #iranelection

samsafay: URGENT! REPORTS Police blocking people tryign to go to Embassy - BASTARDS!#IranElection #Tehran #Mousavi #GR88 #iranelections #iranelection

claret63: RT@WeStandAs1RT RT! CHEMICAL BURN FIRST AID (expand) #IranElection #Tehran #Mousavi #GR88 #iranelections #iranelection

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Free Will and Suicide

"Please, please God," I sobbed and begged, in torn jeans and a tank top, huddled on my purple bed clutching a pillow. "Why can't I ever get anything right?" Grief, guilt, and shame - the emotional cocktail of my faith - haunted me. I had failed to live up to His commands, His rules, His dictates yet again. I was a 19-year-old girl, and a sinner. I smoked weed, drank alcohol with my friends, and on rare, lucky occasions even managed to have sex. So of course I thought that I was worthless garbage, not fit to sit at the feet of my Lord.

I sobbed aloud, crying to my God in heaven to just make the pain of it stop. "Please God, just take my freewill. I don't want it!" I howled, tearing my throat to ribbons as anvils of grief pressed against my chest. "I'll only use it to screw up more. I can't not sin. I can't, I can't." My throat was hot and raw with anguish.

"Just take it. Here! It's an offering - a sacrifice! I give you my free will of my free will." My face red, blotchy, and tear-stained, I begged my moral savior. "I promise I don't want to sin. If you needed me to turn from it, I will. I won't listen to music or watch TV or date. Just please make it stop." My crying slowed down as my voice broke.

"Just take away the want to do bad things. You're all powerful! Why won't you do this one thing for me so I won't ever displease you again?"

I sobbed myself to stillness, like a child, face buried into my pillow. "God?" I whispered, hardly daring to voice this secret, burning, shameful desire. "If you won't take my free will, or you can't because of the plan or something, please, please God - can't I just go to heaven now? I wanna come home and be with you. It's too hard here, and it hurts too much and I keep screwing up. Wouldn't it be okay for me to just go be with you?"

Episodes of overwhelming grief like this weren't uncommon. I had similar breakdowns, or crises of faith if you will, at the ages of 24, 21, 20, 18, 17, 16, 14, 11, 8, and 5. From almost the earliest days of my belief in an eternal God who cared what I ate or wore, or how I treated others, or whether or not I brushed my teeth, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was letting this celestial parent down somehow. I wasn't living up to my end of the bargain. More liberal branches of Christianity, which I delved into during my final years of faith, propose that the primary message of the Gospel is one of grace - that even though we are miserable, wretched sinners, God loves us and wants us to be in heaven with him anyway. The more hard line denominations and non-denominations I was raised under in my early years suggested a much heavier load for the created one in the relationship. We were to have faith, worship, follow, and obey. Failing to meet God's standards of perfection was failure to be grateful, to show reverence, and to properly honor both our Maker and Savior. And so I found myself, again and again, crying my eyes out in my bedroom, hating myself for ever having been born, alternately begging for God to take away my free will and to end my life. Religion never offered me any form of comfort. Believing in an eternal, all-powerful God made me feel insignificant, unwanted, unclean, and detestable. And I though the world would be better off without me.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Survey Responses

I gave my survey respondents the opportunity to share their thoughts and memories of their former churches. Here are some of the best/funniest/most intriguing.
"I remember my pastor would tell the congregation to vote for "X" or you'd go to hell, and the rest of his speech would be an elaborate argument on why voting for "X" will keep a person from going to hell."

"They once congregated in church and fasted and prayed for twenty-four hours that God would murder my cousin."

"The "religion" that I grew up with has changed over the years but the remnants are on the web:

Pretty Crazy stuff: queens housewife hears mary, her husband, his dad, and buddies, preaches about coming apocalypse, and the evils of rock music, homosexuality, the invisible threat of communism, Satanism, demon possesion, ufo's, etc. After the death of Veronica Leuken, the crazy housewife, her last prophecy, that the comet hale bopp would slam into the sun creating a "warning", didn't come true, the religion split into two major groups.

There weren't Phelps style pickets but they would hold rosary recitations outside of abortion clinics and anything deemed as promoting homosexuality like certain plays or movies, handing out the "directives" like that on the tldm page."

"These are mostly from going to the churches of two girls I dated. A pentacostal and really weird baptist like group. I was always agnostic, I just tried to be nice about it.
Um...The main memory of the pentacostal one was the first time I was forced to go, I tried to administer first aid to the woman next to me that fell down with the "holy spirit" and began having what I thought was a grand mal siezure. That pretty much brought the festivities to an end.

Main memory of the baptist one was telling someone "Feet are dirty. No one is touching my feet." They also handled snakes. They weren't very amused when it didn't bother the agnostic guy to handle a rattlesnake, since obviously I didn't have any faith about the venom not hurting me."

"Attended a Roman Catholic church from age 7 to about age 16. There were people within the church who picketed the local abortion clinic (I worked as an escort against the picketers for the people coming in), but I don't know that it was officially sanctioned. There was gay bashing and political preaching from the pulpit, but it was very veiled -- mostly about issues and rarely"

"This is based on the Evangelical church that I was attending before I left Christianity. It was actually thanks to them that I began my journey to atheism, after the pastor started bashing various other religions. He got outwardly upset when I asked him why other religions were 'wrong and evil'. - lol - "Thanks Pastor Jim!""

"Church really sucked. A lot of brainless fire & brimstone bullshit on Sunday mornings. We were told we would go to hell for every frickin thing."

"The minister was having affairs and so anyone else in the congregation who 'fell into sin' was treated very harshly. He was an iconic charismatic leader and gathered young men around him, he mentored them into leadership and they planted churches but in every case he wanted to control them and there was eventually a very nasty divisive arguement. One of those guys is an atheist, two are divorced, not sure about the other two."

"Our minister was a woman."

"Apparently Jesus Christ sits on the shoulder of the "prophet" and tells him to marry and subsequently have sex with 12-year-old girls (I was a member of the Warren Jeffs cult, in case it's not apparent)"

"Locks as a sign of no faith?! Spleesh"

"I was pretty horrified by the amount of racism, sexism and homophobia in both churches. (Granted, they were in Alabama, so I shouldn't have been that shocked.) I was doubly horrified at one girl's "You're the man, you should decide where we go/do/etc." attitude. It eventually started a long drawn out argument that ended with "If I wanted obedience, I'd have bought a puppy.""

"Mine was Presbyterian. Mid 70s to mid 80s. These were middle class people, WWII or little children during the war. They drank, they listened to pop music. But when it came to defending their racism,sexism,and homophobia you can bet they whipped out their bibles."

"The church would 'preach' that divorce was a sin, but welcomed divorced people into the 'fold' with open arms, very confusing.
The prosperity doctrine was implied (but we should live in poverty so the church can have our money for 'Gods work')"

"I hate church!"

"The made me memorize the whole bible, we had no contact with the outside world, violenly excorsised of my demons regularilly, and was considered an adult at age 10, with full workload and 'privileges' (you get to dance naked for the leaders) Yay!"

"Again, low-church Episcopal. I checked 'yes' under other denominations/faiths going to hell because while we took great pride in loving gays and ethnic groups, this is one we were strangely silent on. So as a child, I had to defer to the bible alone which says anyone who doesn't believe as I do will go to hell."

"Anglicans are not bible literalists. To them the bible is full of stories and parables to be picked from as moral guides. The bad bible stories are ignored."

"Rock n Roll music is a communist plot to take over America via the youth. We had bonfires of rock records.

Sesame Street is a communist plot to take over America via the youth, and if you let your kids watch it, you are a tool of Satan and your children's blood will be on your hands."

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Results Are In!

Thank you to everyone who participated in my survey. It is still open, and I'll be posting updates every month to see if there are changing trends with new readers of this blog and my other one.

Full survey details are below, but here's the data points I found most striking:

  • Nearly twice as many people (40) answered "Demons can posses people" as indicated their church cast out demons (21). What on earth are the other churches doing about the demon infestation problem??

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 churches collected more than one type of monies (89.1%)

  • The most commonly held beliefs are God answers prayer (98.4%) and Original Sin (83.9%). Other biggies included Homosexuality is a sin and Modern day miracles.

  • More churches believe in modern day miracles (80.6%) than either Noah's Arc (77.4%) or Literal Creationism (62.9%). How in the heck is Noah more credible? Really, I just want to know what's so special about that arc... And where does original sin come from if we don't believe in Literal Creation? Next time I'll break this out to Creation and also Adam and Eve.

The survey is divided into sections covering church practices and church beliefs. I've further broken these down for analyzing the results. (Note: This was not a scientifically well-conducted survey. Most if not all respondents are atheist former-Christians, rather than current Christians, current members of another faith, or former members of another faith.)

Numbers in parenthesis indicate the number of respondents for each answer. 64 people in total have taken the survey thus far, although not everyone answered all questions.

Hell and Who's Going
People of other denominations of Christianity would go to hell
Yes: 58.1% (36) No: 32.3% (20) Never came up: 9.7% (6)

People of other religions would go to hell
Yes: 74.2% (46) No: 14.5% (9) Never came up: 11.3% (7)

"Once saved always saved" (former Christians will go to heaven)
Yes: 30.6% (19) No: 56.5% (35) Never came up: 12.9% (8)


Demons can possess people
Yes: 65.6% (40) No: 18.0% (11) Never came up: 16.4% (10)

Reading Harry Potter invites demons into your life
Yes: 32.3% (20) No: 43.5% (27) Never came up: 24.2% (15)

Listening to secular music invites demons and/or will send you to hell
Yes: 41.9% (26) No: 46.8% (29) Never came up: 11.3% (7)

Watching TV is evil, invites demons, and/or will send you to hell
Yes: 24.6% (15) No: 62.3% (38) Never came up: 13.1% (8)

Church cast out demons (aka exorcism or deliverance)
Yes: 33.3% (21) No: 63.5% (40) Some churches do that? 3.2% (2)

Women and Family Roles

Women should be quiet/silent in church
Yes: 35.5% (22) No: 59.7% (37) Never came up: 4.8% (3)

Divorce is a sin
Yes: 69.4% (43) No: 24.2% (15) Never came up: 6.5% (4)

Using birth control is sinful
Yes: 44.3% (27) No: 49.2% (30) Never came up: 6.6% (4)

Having a Quiver Full of children is God's wish for families
Yes: 43.5% (27) No: 35.5 % (22) Never came up: 21.0% (13)

Children should be educated at home or in religious schools
Yes: 30.6% (19) No: 54.8% (34) Never came up: 14.5% (9)

Children should be physically disciplined
Yes: 56.5% (35) No: 25.8% (16) Never came up: 17.7% (11)

Children should remain at home until they marry (boys, girls, or both)
Yes: 26.2% (16) No: 57.4% (35) Never came up: 16.4% (10)

Homeschooling is the more spiritual choice
Yes: 21.0% (13) No: 64.5% (40) Never came up: 14.5% (9)

Stay-at-home mom is the more spiritual choice
Yes: 46.8% (29) No: 38.7% (24) Never came up: 14.5% (9)

Health and Safety

God heals all physical ailments (including biggies like cancer and broken bones)
Yes: 60.7% (37) No: 32.8% (20) Never came up: 6.6% (4)

Getting medical treatment is being unfaithful to God
Yes: 9.8% (6) No: 83.6% (51) Never came up: 6.6% (4)

Getting vision or medical work is being unfaithful to God
Yes: 4.8% (3) No: 90.3% (56) Never came up: 4.8% (3)

Using locks or security systems is being unfaithful to God
Yes: 4.8% (3) No: 87.1% (54) Never came up: 8.1% (5)

Home birth is the more spiritual choice
Yes: 9.7% (6) No: 72.6% (45) Never came up: 17.7% (11)

Perform faith healing
Yes: 39.7% (25) No: 60.3% (38) Some churches do that? 0.0% (0)

Abortion and Family Planning
Church protested abortions
Yes: 63.5% (40) No: 36.5% (23) Some churches do that? 0.0% (0)

Using birth control is sinful
Yes: 44.3% (27) No: 49.2% (30) Never came up: 6.6% (4)


Racial minorities are cursed by God
Yes: 23.0% (14) No: 65.6% (40) Never came up: 11.5% (7)

Racial minorities are being punished
Yes: 21.0% (13) No: 67.7% (42) Never came up: 11.3% (7)

Racial minorities are inferior
Yes: 19.7% (12) No: 72.1% (44) Never came up: 8.2% (5)

Interracial marriage is a sin
Yes: 21.0% (13) No: 66.1% (41) Never came up: 12.9% (8)

Church gay bashed from the pulpit
Yes: 49.2% (31) No: 50.8% (32) Some churches do that? 0.0% (0)

Church gay bashed in public (ie, pickets)
Yes: 14.3% (9) No: 84.1% (53) Some churches do that? 1.6% (1)

Homosexuality is a sin
Yes: 80.6% (50) No: 8.1% (5) Never came up: 11.3% (7)

Homosexuality is a lifestyle
Yes: 43.5% (27) No: 46.8% (29) Never came up: 9.7% (6)

Homosexuality is a disease
Yes: 40.3% (25) No: 46.8% (29) Never came up: 12.9% (8)

Gay people can become straight through ex-gay therapy
Yes: 59.0% (36) No: 21.3% (13) Never came up: 19.7% (12)


Church preached politics from the pulpit
Yes: 60.3% (38) No: 38.1% (24) Some churches do that? 1.6% (1)

Church prayed for sports teams, weather, or political figures
Yes: 67.2% (43) No: 29.7% (19) Some churches do that? 3.1% (2)


Santa Clause is a false god who should not be worshiped
Yes: 30.6% (19) No: 54.8% (34) Never came up: 14.5% (9)

Halloween is the devil's holiday
Yes: 41.9% (26) No: 46.8% (29) Never came up: 11.3% (7)

Celebrating birthdays is a sin
Yes: 6.5% (4) No: 85.5% (53) Never came up: 8.1% (5)

Biblical Practices (Did your church do these?)

Speaking in tongues
Yes: 30.2% (19) No: 65.1% (41) Some churches do that? 4.8% (3)

Cast out demons (aka exorcism or deliverance)
Yes: 33.3% (21) No: 63.5% (40) Some churches do that? 3.2% (2)

Act out in the Holy Spirit (run around the room hollering)
Yes: 28.6% (18) No: 68.3% (43) Some churches do that? 3.2% (2)

Wash each others feet
Yes: 30.2% (19) No: 68.3% (43) Some churches do that? 1.6% (1)

Speak in another language (ie, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek)
Yes: 20.6% (13) No: 77.8% (49) Some churches do that? 1.6% (1)

Perform faith healing
Yes: 39.7% (25) No: 60.3% (38) Some churches do that? 0.0% (0)

Collect a tithe, an offering, and a love offering (or any 2 out of the 3)
Yes: 89.1% (57) No: 10.9% (7) Some churches do that? 0.0% (0)

Biblical Beliefs

Prosperity doctrine (God loves rich people more)
Yes: 24.6% (15) No: 62.3% (38) Never came up: 13.1% (8)

Generational curses exist (God punishes future generations for the sins of ancestors)
Yes: 54.1% (33) No: 32.8% (20) Never came up: 13.1% (8)

Doctrine of Original Sin
Yes: 83.9% (52) No: 14.5% (9) Never came up: 1.6% (1)

Modern day miracles
Yes: 80.6% (50) No: 14.5% (9) Never came up: 4.8% (3)

Bible History

Literal Creationism
Yes: 62.9% (39) No: 27.4% (17) Never came up: 9.7% (6)

Noah's Arc and the Flood
Yes: 77.4% (48) No: 14.5% (9) Never came up: 8.1% (5)

Israeli slavery in Egypt and the 10 plagues
Yes: 80.6% (50) No: 11.3% (7) Never came up: 8.1% (5)

How did you find out about this survey?
Life After Christian Fundamentalism Group on 22.2% (14)
Angie Jackson's Atheist Nexus blog: 58.7% (37)
Angie the Anti-Theist Blog: 17.5% (11)
I don't know - you're all a bunch of atheists. You're going to burn in hell: 1.6% (1, but it's my friend Joey so we shouldn't take him too seriously)

Read more!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Chatting with a Mormon Missionary: Take 5

This time I decided to approach the debate as a guy (since they won't talk to Angie anymore). Let's see if "Mike" can get further with this misogynist sect.

You are speaking live with Austin, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Austin: hello, how can I help you?

Me: Hi I've got a question about the devil.
Why did God make the devil?

Austin: what kind of question?
(We've got a slow reader, slow typer, or slow internet connection here.)

Me: Why did God make the devil?

Austin: we don't believe that He did
(WTF? I learn new things about mormons every time I do these chats.)

Me: I thought god created everything
Where did the devil come from?
(Pause during which I cleaned up maybe a quarter of my son's toys.)

Austin: the Bible calls the devil a "fallen angel"

Me: oh sure, of course not. but he made him when he was still an angel right?

Austin: we all have the ability to choose who/what kind of person, etc we will be

Me: Can god destroy the devil, now that he is fallen?

Austin: this part is harder for a lot of people to grasp, but we actually believe that if anything has the ability to think and reason for itself- then God did not create that reasoning part- He created a body to house that reasoning

Me: So God just makes our bodies, not our brains and minds?

Austin: well.. technically our brains are part of our bodies- but our minds, right. The part that allows us to think for ourselves and make decisions and reason, etc. That part of us is eternal

Me: So our minds are eternal, but God didn't make them? Then where did they come from?
And did the devil's mind come from the same place?

Austin: God's goal, everything He does, is that we (our intelligence or whatever you wish to call it) can become more like He is and experience the joy that He does, etc.
we don't know

Me: well, this is all very interesting. but back to the devil - since he has chosen to be fallen, or whatever, why doesn't god just smite him?

Austin: and yes, the devil is included in that. Eternity is something that is hard, maybe impossible for us to grasp. In Eternity, I don't think there is any "come from"

Me: So nothing really made our minds, they just always existed?

Austin: God has a perfect plan, which is in place. it began long before He created the world and will continue until the final resurrection. Before then, everything that needs to happen will... everything will be worked out before the end.
As far as we know, yes

Me: but if god knows everything that will ever happen, why did he let the devil tempt Eve in teh garden and make mankind fall?

Austin: the fall is actually part of the plan

Me: It is?

Austin: God knows what will happen. He doesn't stop it, but He does make a way for us to overcome it.
The important principle is agency
(Free will alert! Free will alert!)

Me: Agency?

Austin: God won't stop us from making our own decisions- and suffering the consequences
but He gives us opportunities to learn about consequences before we make decisions

Me: and he won't stop the devil from making his own decisions and letting all of us suffer the consequences, right?

Austin: He gives us the Gospel, and the Holy Ghost so that we will know which decisions will bring happiness, and which won't
that's correct. Instead, He gives us tools to use so that we can avoid the traps of the devil

Me: But after the Fall we're all cursed. We don't live in the garden, men have to work and women suffer pain in childbirth, right?
Even though only Adam and Eve had agency in that, we all suffer the consequences.

Austin: we actually look on the fall as a necessary step in God's plan
(Then it's a STUPID plan!)

Me: but why couldn't he have just I don't know made the garden without the tree or without the devil? Then people would still have agency but we wouldn't suffer from disease and pain.

Austin: if they hadn't been banished from the Garden of Eden, we know that they wouldn't have been able to have children... and none of us would be able to get a body. A physical body and a mortal life are necessary steps to becoming more like God
we must endure pain sometimes so that we can learn to fully appreciate joy and happiness

Me: They couldn't have kids in the garden? But God made Adam out of dust and Eve out of his rib. So we could still have had physical bodies without leaving the Garden.
Some pain, sure, but not kids starving to death around the world. I don't see how that helps anyone appreciate joy and happiness.

Austin: may I share with you a passage of scripture that explains this principle of being free to choose?

Me: sure

Austin: link
That becomes the question, then.. how much suffering isenough? Luckily we don't hav eto understand that. We only have to learn to trust that God is in control and that things will work out. He gives peace to our souls if we trust and follow Him.
That is one part of the power of the Holy Ghost- to bring peace to our souls despite trials, etc.

Me: Well I read the article, but a lot of it is confusing to me

Austin: I understand

Me: Why did God design a system where mankind had to fall? Why couldn't he make people able to grow and have kids and learn and progress, but still stay safe and happy in the garden? why make things so that innocent children starve to death?

Austin: this part is hard at first for a lot of people, but as you study the plan as a whole- and continue to pray and ask God for His help in understanding, etc.- it will continue to make more sense

Me: well since it makes sense to you, maybe you can explain it to me? I thought God was all powerful. Shouldn't a wise, eternal, all-powerful god be able to make a better system than this one?

Austin: you have to remember that He didn't create the part of us that is 'us'-the unique core of us. His plan is the only/best way to take us from where we were before to where we can have the joy that God has.
If He could have, He would have
this must be the best possible system
(Must be because my god is a little god.)

Me: He's limited in his power?

Austin: He can do everything that can be done, but there must be Eternal laws that GOd is subject to (must like we are subject to the laws of physics). but these Eternal laws are things like justice, balance, etc.

Me: God is subject to Eternal laws? Well, did someone or something cause these laws to exist, or do they supersede God?

Austin: we don't know. It's back to the "Eternal" thing again

Me: well this is really interesting. I've never heard this idea of things being more eternal than God.
Is God more powerful than the devil?

Austin: nothing is MORE Eternal
either it's Eternal or it isn't
I don't think there can be degrees of Eternal

Me: okay good point :)
(This is probably my own Christian childhood. I was taught we had eternal souls, from the moment of conception moving forward, but not backward in time.)

Austin: but this is really turning into a more philosophical speculative conversation than what is actually the purpose of this site

Me: Oh well I just... I guess I don't understand why a loving god would let kids starve to death for some master plan. I have one kid and I'd never let him starve no mater what

Austin: there is a lot we cannot understand about God and the Eternal nature of things- but we do know is important
and that is outlined here on this website
I encourage you to continue to read through the outlines here

Me: Maybe I just love my son more than God loves us?
(I do.)

Austin: and we can clarify any questions you have about what you read
that's definitely not the case. God's love is perfect. (NOT!)But He does understand things better than we do

Me: I don't know, I think I understand suffering better than he must

Austin: at some level- and that level might be different for different people- we have to put our trust in God's hands

Me: I do everything in my limited power to stop it, he doesn't

Austin: and understand that as Isaiah and Proverbs teach us-His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, etc.

Me: Higher or just different? It seems like Higher would mean better, and better would be less kids starving to death

Austin: I would not underestimate what God understand=)

Me: Maybe if he cures all the disease in the world, or ends hunger I'll believe. I can't understand worshiping a god that lets innocent people hurt so much

Austin: hold on a moment
I have to go help some new missionaries
would you like to wait? or can I transfer you to another representative who can teach you what we believe about how to gain trust in God and His plan even if we don't understand it all?

Me: Either one would be great

Austin: ok, one moment
Has transferred you to: Kendall

You are speaking live with Kendall, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is provided for assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Kendall: Hey Mike give me a moment to read the conversation to ceath up

Me: Sure thing

Kendall: Alright Mike so if I understand correctly you have a qusetion still about why God lets us suffer?

Me: And why he won't just destroy the devil

Kendall: there is actually a scripture in The Book of Mormon that explains this perfectly
are you familiar with the Book of Mormon at all?

Me: no, not really

Kendall: The Book of Mormon is similar to the Bible meaning that it is another witness of Jesus Christ's life and minestry. However it was written by the people who lived in aincent America, in 6000 B.C.

Me: okay

Kendall: Just like the book of James or John in the Bible, the Book of Mormon has other books such as a section called the Book of Nephi
Nephi was a prophet who was taught by God and here is what he has to say about why we must suffer.

Me: Okay - let me read this first
(Now my son wants pancakes, so the ultimate multi-tasking adventure begins)
it basically looks like it says that everything happens in balance? like there has to be evil for good to exist?

Kendall: that is exactly right
imagine never knowing pain, or sorrow
how could you then know joy and peace?

Me: well, actually I think so. Some people have pretty good lives all the way through, and they're happy. Other people have lives that are mixes of pain and happiness

Kendall: That is true, it always does seem like that on the surface. But I promise you that everyone goes through trials in their lives, they just might not be that visible to others. Do you remember the story of Job from the Bible?

Me: well okay but I'm not asking about minor troubles. I'm asking about kids starving to death.

Kendall. So why would God allow his children to die, if He loves them?

Me: yes, exactly. because I would do everything in my power to keep my son from starving or dying or suffering

Kendall: If I had a son, I would do the exact same thing. But if you were to solve every problem that your son has, then how could he learn?

Me: I'm not saying every problem. I'm saying those ones - starving, dying, and suffering. God is supposed to be more powerful than I am, but he lets people starve, die, and suffer. Why?

Kendall: Are you familiar with what happened to God's son Jesus Christ when he was on earth?

Me: yeah, and that's something else I don't get. Why kill his own son? He's the one who set up the system. Why not make a system that doesn't require a blood sacrifice?

Kendall: God created a plan so that we could return and live with Him, but this could only be possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

(Now my neighbor is here. She has a job interview so I'm watching her son for a little bit. While making debating mormons - and making pancakes. Why do I have the feeling this won't end well?)

Me: It seems like if I had been all powerful and all knowing, I'd come up with a different system. Heck, I'd do anything to avoid having my son tortured, beaten, and hung to death.

Kendall: I think for the most part we would all feel the same way. However before Christ left this life, He said to the God, "father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Even after Christ was tourtured, and spit upon, and forsaken by His own people
He still only cared about us

Me: I'm not questioning Christ's love for us. I'm questioning God's love for both Christ and us

Kendall: alright, and that is a doubt that most people have.

Me: How do you get beyond that doubt to trust him?
(Crap! Pancakes are burning. Time to take them off the stove.)

Kendall: So imagine knowing that your family is introuble, and the only way to help them is by sending your only son to them. But you know that he will suffer beyond comprehension, would you till send your son to them?
(Christian neighbor mom totally, unquestioningly answered the same. "NO!" It's a non-brainwashed thing.)

Me: No, because I'm his mother. He's an innocent and he depends on me.
(At this point, I was sure I'd blown it. They MUST realize I'm actually female - right?)

Kendall: But why did God send his son, when Christ never sinned nor did anything wrong in his life knowing of all the things that will happen to His son?

Me: I don't know. It doesn't make sense to me. Why couldn't he just make us good, or forgive us? How does torturing someone (or letting him be tortured) make the rest of us less sinful?

Kendall: Because God cannot, nor will he control us. That was Lucifer's plan. The only possible reason is Love.

Letting children starve to death is part of a plan for love? Having his own son brutally murdered is love?

Kendall: We might not understand right now, but we must first trust in God. There will always be doubts, the doubts never go away. It only becomes a probelm when the doubts overweigh the truth.

Me: How can you trust a God who allows so much wickedness as part of his plan? It just doesn't seem right to me to trust someone who has the power to stop evil, but won't do it.
Why won't god destroy the devil?

Kendall: Life would deffinetly be a lot easier, and because life would be so easy that we would not grow as much as we could if their was no trials.

Me: But maybe we wouldn't be so broken either. And kids who starve to death never have a chance to grow - they're dead. Why won't god destroy the devil? We could still grow and learn without him, and it would probably be easier to love each other and be good to one another if we weren't tempted to be wicked

Kendall: In the Bible Christ is always tell us to help the poor and the needy. Maybe it is not God but the people in the World who are letting the children starve.
(Capital "W" in World concerns me.)

Me: It's both. But people only have so much power - go is all powerful. Surely he could make more food or help crops grow better or something like that. That wouldn't even interfere with agency, it would just mean there was enough food for everybody, in all places. Can't he do that?

Kendall: Of course He could, but how could that help the world for the greater good? sure people would not be hungry or dieing, but how does that help the people who wont help, who wont donate to the needy, who wont asist the poor?

Me: Are you saying God cares more about the people who won't help than the people who are starving?

Kendall: not at all, but that that is where the bigger problem is
It is already in our power to help them
just that most people choose not to

Me: But if no one was starving, it wouldn't matter if some people weren't helping. Right now people aren't helping and so other, innocent people have to suffer. And God has the power to stop, but won't. How is that loving or just or balanced?
Do Mormons send food to starving people?

Kendall: Ofcourse we do, tons
the first sunday of every month we have something called fast sunday

Me: That's really good. I think it's important to help starving people. I just don't understand why God doesn't seem to think that it's as important as you Mormons do, or as I do. Can you explain this to me because it doesn't make sense to me?

Kendall: God does care, that is why He commands us to do it. Who better to take of the poor than their own brothers and sisters? We have all already been given so much by God that he expects us to be the one to help them.

(Boys! Quit hitting each other. One of you can bounce on the trampoline and one of you can play with the fire truck. DON'T throw the fire truck!)

Me: God would be better at it, because he could fix the problem all at once. He's all powerful. He can get into countries that have secured border, where humanitarian aid can't go. He could take care of the people he created (their bodies at least) better than we can because he isn't limited like we are

Kendall: That is why we must learn how to do it.

Me: We must learn how to do it, because God can but he won't?

Kendall: But through the people who are doing it, in a way, isn't God himself doing it

Me: No! The people are doing it. If God was doing it himself, it would be a big miracle, like turning 7 loaves of bread and 2 fish into enough to feed the crowds listening to Jesus speak. Why won't he do that with starving African children now?

Kendall: Link

Me: I think it's good and valuable that you help. I also like that the Jews, Chrsitians, Catholics and Muslims help. But why doesn't God just fix it?
And why won't he just destroy the devil?

Kendall: Our church is only 15.5 million to 6.75 billion people in the world, yet look at how much we have tried to help

Me: I think that's excellent. I just wish your god was as good to humanity as you are.
If he has the power to destroy the devil, why won't he do it?

Kendall: I can totally understand why this is such an important topic to you. And if it was just as important to you as it was to everyone else, then their would be no starvation in the world.
as for the Devil, he has no power over us. It is only when we allow him to
So why would God destroy him?

Me: Because he is evil. And evil should be eliminated, don't you think?

Kendall: He has given us all we need to over come the devil. The rest is up to us.

Me: It seems like God set us up so that most people would fail. How many people are there on earth, and how many will make it to heaven?

Kendall: He has already done his part to give us a way to make it to heaven. It is not Him, but ourselves that is keeping us from going to heaven.

But the way he gave us lets most people fall through the cracks

Kendall: It is because the people Chose to not follow God

Me: If God is all powerful and all knowing, why not make a system that fewer people fail at? If he loves us, but most of us don't make it to heaven, why doesn't he change the plan?

Kendall: The plan is perfect, does it not make sense as to why we fail?

Me: The plan where kids starve to death and his own son is a blood sacrifice is perfect? I don't agree

Kendall: But what happened to his son after his death?

Me: Well he went to hell for two days, but god sends his other children - us- to hell for eternity all the time. Which just doesn't seem loving at all to me
There's absolutely nothing my son could do that would make me torture him for even one second, much less forever

Kendall: He didn't go to hell, infact he is given everything that the father has

Me: but what about people god does send to hell. Aren't we all god's children?
(Neighbor-mom is back. Time to take the little ones outside for a minute.)

Kendall: Your questions are important to me, thanks for sharing, but I know that God's plan was perfect. He knew that His son had to suffer because he loves us. If Christ didn't pay for our sins, there would be no hope for us to even be with God.
Think about that, we sin and are so imperfect and God has provided a way for us to be clean and return to Him. Instead of criticizing his plan, we should be grateful that He has provided a way for us to return through His Son

Kendall: Has transferred you to Nathan

You are speaking live with Nathan, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Nathan: Hello, hang on a second... I have a few other people I am helping right now and I'll be with you in a minute...

Nathan: Has transferred you to Shawn

You are speaking live with Shawn, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Shawn: Hello?

Me: Hi Shawn?
(I've been outside for 15 minutes. Surely they've hung up on me.)

Shawn: Yes. How can I help you?
(Whoa! They'll stick around FOREVER if you're a MAN.)

Me: Hi Shawn. I just have one question. Why hasn't God destroyed the devil?

Shawn: Because he is necessary to our growth and learning. Our purpose on this earth is to learn to distinguish between good and evil. Choosing good leads to happiness, joy, and freedom. Choosing evil leads to captivity, and misery. There must be opposition.
There will always been good and evil because there will always be agency and opposition.

Me: Do you think it's possible to distinguish between good and evil without following the Mormon faith?

Shawn: Yes. All men have been given the Light of Christ - which is like a ingrown knowledge, or conciounce. However, when one repeatedely goes against that light and chooses to do wrong, that light dims and it is then harder to distinguish.

Me: Okay so if someone follows his moral center, and does what is right his whole life, will he go to heaven?

Shawn: Doing what is right all of your life is one necessity and step you must take, but it must be accompanied with certain ordinances. For none can enter the Kingdom of God save through faith in Christ, baptism, and repentance.
We believe in three different Kingdoms of Heaven - the Celestial (Highest), the Terrestrial, and the Telestial. All ordinances must be performed to enter the Celestial.

Me: So if someone is born in say Laos and he's a good man and kind and does what is right, but he never gets baptized or has faith in Christ - what happens to him?

Shawn: ALL men will be given the opportunity to accept Christ and be baptized. All will hear the Gospel and have the opportunity to accept Christ and the ordinances before they are Judged and placed into a Kingdom of God.

Me: Like, after they die but before they go to one of the levels of heaven or to hell?

Shawn: Yes. Exactly

Me: Well, that seems good. But then why bother to do missionary work here on earth?
If God will give everyone a chance later, maybe we should just concentrate on being good people and worry about heaven and hell after we die.

Shawn: Because this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. That is the whole purpose of our time here. And we are the exact same after we die - we leave this world with the same knowledge, thoughts, beliefs.

Me: Wait, so we're exactly the same, then will people make different choices when they're given that last opportunity to hear the Gospel, or will they hold onto the beliefs they had on earth?
(Because otherwise, atheists are right. We can wait till we're dead to commit - the Mormon God is actually allowing for disbelief due to lack of evidence up UNTIL judgment!)

Shawn: They could do either. But their feelings they had while on earth are the same. Yet, just like hearts and attitudes can be changed here, they could be changed there as well. It is really up to the person.
(WTF? Better steer this conversation somewhere that isn't totally foreign to me.)

Me: But I still don't see why the devil is necessary for growth and learning. Good can exist without evil. Evil can exist without good.
If good depended on evil to BE good, then that would mean God depends on the devil to BE god. And that doesn't make sense to me at all.

Shawn: Could you ever know really what happiness is if you never experienced grief, pain and sorrow?
Could you know something was hot if you had never felt cold?
All things are relative to their opposition and the things around them.

Me: Yes, I think so. My son has had a very good life, and he is happy everyday.
He doesn't need to hurt to know what it feels like to not hurt. He doesn't need to starve to know that it feels good to have a healthy meal.

Shawn: Link
The highlighted verses should explain the concept

Me: Kendall sent the same verse. It says everything happens in balance, but I don't think that's true.

Shawn: If your son knew NOTHING except a good meal - did not even know there existed anything different - he could not comprehend what a bad meal was.

Me: Like I just said, my son doesn't need to feel starvation to know eating food is good. Our brains send us signals that we like food and so we eat it.
So what's the harm of not comprehending a bad meal?

Shawn: Well then he cannot be truly happy - maybe he feels he is happy, or balanced, but there is more happiness out there than he knows
Because then you cannot experience FULL happiness.
He is content, but he is not reaching the full possibility of joy, happiness and knowledge.

Me: Maybe the happiness that doesn't require suffering, starvation, pain, and death of innocent children across the world is a BETTER kind than the "full" happiness you're describing.

Shawn: Ignorance is bliss

Me: It makes no sense that you have to experience pain to be happy. You have to experience pain to be miserable, I'll grant you that.
Yes and bliss is another word for happy

Shawn: So if he only knew pain and suffering, then he should be content and blissful as well. What you are saying implies that they are opposite.
(No shit happiness and misery are opposites. Heck, Noggin cartoons establish that lesson daily before 9 a.m. Mormon = moron right about now.)

Me: NO! He'd be miserable. Pain and suffering cause misery. Safety, protection, and provision cause happiness.

Shawn: If we were all only ever sad and pained and so forth, then we would still be content
(Sheltered, brainwashed, CLUELESS Shawn.)

Me: No, we wouldn't be.
Because people who grow up in abusive homes, and don't know anything but sadness and pain, they are not content. They are miserable.

Shawn: They only cause misery because we know that we are miserable because we know we are not happy - because we know the difference.

Me: Parents who lose their children to AIDS and starvation in Africa, who only know pain and suffering, they are not happy. They are miserable.

Shawn: If there was not a difference, it would not matter what we experienced - it would be the same.
(Gee, if there was no difference rape would be as okay as not rape. Well duh! There IS a difference. The presence of lovemaking isn't what makes rape bad. Rape makes rape bad. Starvation is not what makes food good.)

Me: Shawn what you're saying makes no sense.
Pain = bad, not pain = good.

Shawn: Because they know of something different- they talk to people who are different, they see difference on tv, they know difference.

Me: You don't have to break one ankle to know that the other one is healthy

Shawn: They know difference thought because of this Light of Christ which is given to all men

Me: Why is knowing the difference more important than just being "content" in the Garden of Eden, or just going straight to heaven? Why make some people suffer unimaginable pain so that others can experience more joy and contentment?
That's not loving. That's God picking favorites. (Which He does in the Bible - chosen people and such.)

Shawn: You should pray about this, with real intent, truly wanting the answer, and you will get one. (AKA - I don't have an answer. Ask Magic Man.)

Me: Have you gotten one when you prayed about this?

Shawn: I know that God is our Father and he wants us to experience full joy. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know that we are here for a purpose and that God has a plan for each of us. I know that God's plan is perfect.
Yes, I have. I know it as a fact. That is how real my answers have been.

Me: What do you know of starving children who die in the desert?
or kids who are beaten in foster homes?
How is that part of a perfect plan?

Shawn: God knows and loves them.

Me: Love means taking care of someone. Love means trying to stop needless suffering.

Shawn: We do not know all things God knows.

Me: I don't claim to know all things God knows. But I know that if *I* was all powerful, I'd put an end to starvation.

Shawn: Do you attend church now?

Me: What does that have to do with the continued existence of the devil, or God's ambivalence to human suffering?

Shawn: I know that God's plan is perfect. I have no doubt. I know that God knows all things and all things will be made right in the end.

Me: So it's okay for thousands of children to suffer and die for the "greater good" of God's plan?

Shawn: I don't know. I just know God loves His children.

Me: Love means not letting someone starve to death.
If God' plan is love, then it's seriously overrated.

Shawn: Part of his love is our agency. He cannot stop us from making choices.
(Here we go again with free will...)
If a father chooses to beat his child, that is his choice, and God respects agency.
(WTF? I seriously did not see this coming!)

Me: What child born in a 3rd world country, already infected with HIV, has agency?
God respects beating your kids?
If you knew a man was beating his children, would you try to stop him?

Shawn: This life is but a small part. We will live for eternity.

Me: If you saw your neighbor beat his child, would you try to stop him?

Shawn: I know all of this is true. I have prayed, I have felt greater joy than I have ever known. It is clear we have different beliefs. I respect yours. We are both rooted in our opinions. So this conversation must come to an end.

Me: If you say your neighbor beat his child, would you try to stop him? Just please answer that
My opinion is the moral one that does not try to excuse an unjust god.

Shawn: Have a nice day!

What have I learned? Shawn was by far the most brainwashed. "I know I'm right because I know I'm right because I know I'm right." Circular logic blows. Apparently Mormons are waaaaay more off from the Christianity I'm more familiar with than I'd realized. God didn't make our "selves" just our bodies? Seems like a god that didn't do that part shouldn't get to screw with us as much as he does, in that case. He should only have jurisdiction or guardianship over the physical self. And what's up with god being subject to "eternal laws"? That's different. Of course, all religions are weird and only the one you grew up with seems semi-normal. But still, there was a lot more Scientology similarities than I'd expected. And most important of all: Mormons will spend literally 2 hours talking to a man, trying to persuade him, but will log off lickety-split from a woman who disagrees.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Answers in Genesis: Morons on a Moral Rampage

I'm an atheist and a mom. It's a great combination. I never tell my son he's sinful, evil, or dirty. I don't have to worry about him spending eternity in hell for being born with Original Sin. I encourage him to learn about science, culture, and playing nice with others. I engage in a guilt-free parenting style that lets us have a great, close relationship. I'm not "choking on my halo" here. Just this morning I was thanked by 10 individual mothers I know for helping them relate to their children better, and to form closer bonds with the kids they love. All of these women were religious, most Christian. I gave a parenting lecture last week before a group of women in outpatient rehab, who have had their children removed from the home due to drug abuse, and who are trying to straighten their lives out to be reuinfied with their families. The counselor who facilitates the group told me this afternoon that she had heard from dozens of women what wonderful parenting skills I had, and was so thankful that I came to give the talk. She's asked me to return every few months, as she has new groups of dislocated parents, and I intend to.

Answers in Genesis - a group of Biblical literalists - has purchased this recent billboard ad (at the top of the post) and created THIS hate-mongering video:

WTF?! Because God-belief is the only thing keeping kids from blowing your brains out with a handgun? And by the way, where'd that kid GET the gun anyway? I don't keep one in my house - I have a KID! Who gets into EVERYTHING! I'm certainly not worried that he's going to pop a cap in my ass. He's more likely to scribble on the walls or spill his sippy cup, but even once he's older skipping school seems more likely than shooting anyone.

News flash: People who believe in God kill people all the time. Want examples? Citations? Facts to back up my outlandish claims? Here you go!
Let's start with the biggies:

  • Crusades

  • Spanish Inquisition

  • World Trade Center attacks

Oh, those are all too recent, or too massive to count? Okay, let's focus on just incidents of religious (god-believing) violence in the past month.
  • Four Muslims attempted to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx (but were stopped by outstanding counterterrorist police work).

  • OB/GYN George Tiller was murdered in his Lutheran church for performing abortions. Scott Roeder, a Christian (admittedly, with schizophrenia) has been arrested.

  • An American born Muslim shot two US Army recruiters in Little Rock, AK, killing one and wounding the other.

  • Yes, I get that these are extremists. I'm not in any way implying that all religious people are killers, or would kill. I'm just saying that neither would all atheists, or their kids. This kind of propaganda is stupid and harms our public discourse. And propaganda - be it Jihadist, conservative American, or any other kind - can lead to muddled thinking, principles over people, and murder.

    Cut the crap, Answer in Genesis. And pick up a biology text book while you're at it.

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    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    How You Can Help

    Turns out today's post won't be a jaunty religion-bashing rant either. One of my friends was raped in the early hours of the morning in her home. My theist readers may wish to pray for her, and that is their perogative. I know when I was a believer, when faced with a situation where I just wanted to Do something to make a horrible situation better, offering to pray for someone made me feel as if I might be helping in some small way. But whether you believe in prayer or not, there IS something you can do to help. Out of respect for me and my lack of beliefs, and for the sake of millions of girls, women, boys, and men who are sexually assaulted every day, please give your time, money, or energies to one of these excellent organizations. Click the organizations name or acronym to be connected to their sites, where you can learn how to donate, educate, or volunteer.

    The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE and the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline at, and publicizes the hotline's free, confidential services; educates the public about sexual assault; and leads national efforts to prevent sexual assault, improve services to victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice.

    Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute
    This research institute focuses on finding concrete ways everyday citizens can prevent child molestation of their loved ones. They are also studying ways to prevent people who have a predisposition or susceptibility to becoming sexual offenders from harming children, through interventionist therapies during the "thinking" stage, when a person has begun to fantasize about such acts but has not yet engaged in them. This is important and difficult research. Currently most molestation-related education charities focus on arming children with defenses and strategies for avoiding unsafe people or situations, or for identifying abuse once it has occurred. CMRPI attempts to tackle the problem from the other end - the potential future abuser.

    Silent Lambs
    This charity was founded by women who were molested within the Kingdom Halls of the Jehovah's Witness faith. A strict interpretation of a particular verse encourages JWs to protect pedophiles within their ranks from criminal prosecution for the abuse of children. Church funds are used in the legal defense of these molesters and rapists. Silent Lambs sheds light on individuals known within JW to have abused children and helps to fund the legal prosecution and witness attorneys for the child victims.

    Thanks for all your warm wishes. There is nothing quite like watching a friend in pain and feeling there is little you can do to ease it. For me, knowing I may be able to help another seems to ease that burden.

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    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Secular Pinky Swear, Starfall ABCs, and Tori Amos

    Okay, so today's post is weird and random. My only excuse is that I spent the day remembering that I used to love ballet and dancing ridiculously around my apartment listening to old school music from my high school years. This whole memoirs writing thing has gotten me into an oddly nostalgic frame of mind. I was surprised to realize I'm not as clumsy as I thought I remembered being. That could just be that I'm not surrounded by size OO ballet majors within my apartment. (My son thinks I'm funny looking, but he always thinks that.)

    So onto the randomness: Today I'll leave you with a piece of positive secularism, an excellent kid's website for any parent of a yungin and one of the earliest blasphemous songs I ever loved.

    Secular Pinky Swear
    Tired of your theist friends acting all "morally superior" because they've made an abstinence pledge, or some other vow they're not likely to keep? Want to lord it over them that secularists also have moral principles, and that you're willing to put it in jewelry form? Then take the Secular Pinky Swear and receive your very own gold (colored) pinky ring!

    I, ________, strive to live my life according to progressive, secular values, not dogma or superstition. Therefore, because the conservative religious community promotes pledges of abstinenceand religious obedience, I want to demonstrate that I am committed to legitimate and ethical secular principles. I commit to living by my humanist principles so long as those convictions are central to my worldview. I also affirm the following:
    1. I will be open about my secular values and will not feign religious values due to pressure from friends, family, employers and/or the general public.
    2. If I face religious pressure in the future, I will be mindful that as an individual I have a right to believe and act in a way that I deem appropriate. To accept dogma, superstition or creeds that I don't believe in would be to sacrifice freedom of conscience and expression on the altar of conformism.
    3. Without need for religious reference, I will make every effort to take a mature, intelligent approach to decisions regarding my sexuality. I understand the appropriate context for sexual abstinence and appreciate the benefits that communication and maturity bring to intimacy.
    4. If I marry, my wedding ceremony will be either humanist, secular, or a joint ceremony that avoids the implication that I hold to views not actually my own.
    5. If I have children, I will recognize the importance of letting my humanist values inform my childrearing, and won't yield to cultural, family, or other pressures to indoctrinate them into traditional religious beliefs or force them to participate in religious rites of passage.
    6. Without losing sight of the importance of diverse viewpoints, I will encourage others to appreciate the value of reason, compassion, equality, and other enlightened principles that make the world a better and safer place for humanity, now and in the future.
    7. In all of my actions, and without threat of divine retribution, I will strive to respect the dignity of all people.
    As a reminder of these aims, and to acknowledge my secular values to those I meet, I will accept a gold pinky ring indicating my participation in this petition.

    Starfall: Great Kids Reading Site

    Okay, so I'm in love with a couple of kid's websites. Obviously I'm ancient (mid-20s) enough that the internet wasn't in every home when I was a wee one. Since he was 1 Little Man has been a huge fan of the web, including having his own bookmarks list. One of our mutual favorites (entertaining without being annoying!) is Starfall. The ABCs page is great for preschool letter recognition; Learn to Read is great fun to do together (clicking the illustrations makes them move and you can rate the story by smiley faces when you're done); It's Fun to Read has great little biographies on famous composers; and I'm Reading has early reader level stories from Chinese Folk Tales to Greek Myths, Plays, Nonfiction and more. So snuggle up with your little one and your qwerty and get ready to read - no dead tree editions required!

    Tori Amos
    It's funny to remember feeling guilty for loving a song this good. I'm glad that's over with. Enjoy the music and stop back by tomorrow for a more typical angry anti-theist rant. Too many endorphins for me to get a good rant going today.

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