Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Truth Cannot Exist Without God

May 20, 2019

I am not a trained philosopher, but thinking on Descartes’ ideas and why he is labeled as one of the founders of modern science has lead me to the following ideas.

  1. We cannot trust our senses. They do not tell us truth, only what they are sensing.
  2. The only thing we can know for sure is that we exist independently as a thinking entity. (“I think, therefore I am” in his words.)
  3. If we are to find truth, we must have a breadcrumb trail we can follow that will lead us to it. Otherwise, we are left to error on our own. Descartes puts this idea forward that there are demons that are out to deceive us. (This makes a lot of sense in his worldview, which was shaped by the teachings of Catholicism. It doesn’t make much sense to us who think that demons and angels and God are fairy tales.) I rephrase this for our generation as stating that it’s incredibly clear that people are stupid, and since we are all people, that means we are stupid too. If we ever have any hope of finding any truth, then somewhere there must be something we can follow to find that truth.
  4. At this point, I am going to provide some alternatives. There are 3 conditions we might exist in, and only one leads to the possibility of finding truth. You get to choose which reality you want to live in, but only one reality allows the possibility that you will ever find truth.
    1. There is no God of Truth. That is, there is no supremely intelligent being who not only knows the truth but can show us the truth.
    2. There is a God of Truth, but he hasn’t provided us a way to identify him. This case is similar to 1 because without a way to perceive him, he might as well not exist.
    3. There is a God of Truth, and he has provided us a way to identify him and his truth. This is the only scenario in which we have any hope of identifying truth.
  5. If we choose to live in the reality where truth exists, and there is a God who possesses it, and he has provided us a way to identify him and the truth, then we can proceed with modern science. IE, God created the universe as a reflection of himself, the universe cannot lie or deceive us, so we must interrogate the universe to understand it, hence we can do science and experiment. Note that we are still subject to being wrong as the other person, but there is always a way to identify error and free ourselves from it.

As I grow older, I see the value in accepting the reality of God. I don’t demand that you believe that he exists, I just demand that you accept it. Assume it to be so, whether or not you can cause yourself to have any sort of religious sentiment about it. Assuming God does exist, then you must assume certain aspects of his nature, such as his ability to communicate pure truth. If you accept these two premises, then the universe is open to you, things that can be learned through a study of it and things that cannot be learned through a study of it.

A lot of the objections that atheists raise against a belief in God are simply logical fallacies with fancy clothing. Which God should you believe in? The True and Living God, as opposed to false and dead ones. How can you find God? The same way everyone who has found God reported doing so. What about the Bible? I think my Christian brethren in this day and age worship the Bible over God sometimes, so I’d like to point out that it is just a book, a book with pages and words, sometimes poorly translated, but it is definitely “good enough” to get you started in the right path.

The key messages of the Bible that I find, that should give hope to any atheist:

  1. Seek, ask, knock. The promise is you will find it, your question will be answered, and doors will be opened.
  2. You can always pray. Sinner and saints can access God through Christ.
  3. God doesn’t love us because we’re righteous. He loves us just because, and he has sent his Son to demonstrate that love. He has promised not just to redeem Israel but the entire world, despite our rejection of Him who is mighty to save.
  4. The only real choice you have in this world is whether to live as a proud and flawed person, or to embrace the atonement of Christ by repenting each day and trying to do better. We receive covenants such as baptism not because we know we will be able to keep them, but because we know that we don’t have to — we do it because God told us to, and he told us we can always repent so we’re confident if we screw it all up (which we will) we can always come back.

My favorite parable is of the piano student. The piano student will never play the piano perfectly in this life. There is always some ultimate ideal they compare themselves to and they always fall short. The only way to improve is to keep practicing, and every time you practice you are going to make mistakes. Making mistakes is bad and leads to horrible music that no one wants to listen to — this is the same as sin. We are all practicing to play the piano, we are all making mistakes, and it doesn’t matter, ultimately, as long as we keep practicing and keep trying something new and different and better. That is all we can do. We can try, fail, repent, and then try again. This is what God gave us for our lives here on earth.

Why “Theistic Evolution” is Problematic

September 9, 2016

I sometimes see someone write something like the following on the internet:

I believe God used evolution to make all the animals and humans.

I wonder what someone could possibly mean by a statement like that.

In one sense, maybe they mean God put certain rules in place in the universe that made evolution inevitable. If this is what they believe, then we can do scientific investigation and we can figure out if that is true or false, starting with the question, “Do the laws of the universe imply evolution?” (Spoiler alert: I say they do not. But we can discuss that later.)

On another sense, maybe they mean God took the laws of the universe, sprinkled some supernatural intervention, and then made all the animals and humans. So, they think evolution works, but God had to give it a kick in the butt to get it going in the right direction, and occasionally tune it.

It’s this second theory that I have a problem with. Not because it’s not a good idea, but because it is impossible to test. It is no longer science. It is simply religion. And like all religious discussions, they end when someone says, “That’s what I believe.” With science, we can say, “I’ll prove you wrong!” but if someone believes something, we can only smile and accept them, or nail them to a cross.

The thing that really bothers me about this second idea is it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of science. It reveals they do not understand what science really is and how it really works.

Renee Descartes is considered as the philosophical grandfather of modern science. The idea that really gave rise to modern science, that he can take responsibility for, is simply this: There is a material universe, the universe in which we live, where there are certain laws that govern all behavior in that universe. God exists outside of this universe.”

By taking God out of the material universe, we introduce something new that wasn’t there before: predictability. Now we can make predictions and test them. We can theorize about the laws, and we can see which ones are right and which ones are wrong.

If God is in the material universe, then we have a problem. An omnipotent being could literally do anything. Any omniscient being will know everything. And an intelligent being defies logic and reason. With someone like that running around, who knows what will happen next?

Now, I believe that sometimes God interacts with the material universe. We call those miracles. However, if you’re running an experiment, and God performs a miracle in the middle of it, you know what you have to do? You have to throw the experiment away and start again. I mean, if your chemical reaction requires water and God changes it to wine, what can you possibly do but start again?

So, to say that God manipulated evolution is to say evolution is not science. You accomplish exactly the opposite of what you wanted to do. And you show a fundamental lack of understanding of the most key concepts in science.

This is why we have to talk about God in our schools. You can’t ignore an important topic like this and hope that the students will treat it responsibly. If you accept God and begin the process of classifying him, you get a clearer picture of all the things that are not God in our lives, and you understand how you can be religious and still be a good scientist.

LDS Doctrine and Evolution

September 8, 2016

I want to speak for my perspective on the Theory of Evolution and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not a spokesman for the church. I don’t pretend that this is an official pronouncement of the official stance of the church. I am stating my perception of the official stance.

If you want the official stance, you can go visit and look it up for yourself. My summary is that it doesn’t matter. Believe what you want.

Let me tell you the few things that are important and that we do teach and that do matter.

There is a God. God created Man. Adam as the first man. All living humans on planet earth are descendants of Adam.

That’s pretty much it.

There is nothing about how God created Man. We have in front of us 3 accounts in the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham (the latter two are in the Pearl of Great Price.) If you are an endowed member, you get a 4th account in the temple endowment ceremony. (Feel free to attend often and memorize what is said.) But in none of these accounts are any scientific statements made that we can test. I can think of ten thousand ways that each of the statements can conform to what we observe in nature.

I believe our generation is in the dark in this topic. This is partly due to the fact that we aren’t ready for the truth, and partly due to the fact that if we knew, the Plan of Salvation might be spoiled.

Why might we not be ready for the truth? One of the doctrines we teach is that God judges us based on what we know. If we are ignorant of a law, we can’t be expected to obey it. And so, if we are ignorant of the creation (which we are), we can’t be expected to believe it, and disbelief cannot be counted as a sin. Perhaps God has the truth ready to give us, but because so few of us would accept it, he doesn’t give it to use for fear of our rejection of it. I have found this to be universally the case. God gives us knowledge line upon line, precept upon precept. He gives us a little, expects us to conform, and then gives us some more, bit by bit. Within the church, each member is given a certain amount of knowledge which they are required to live by. This knowledge comes directly from God through the Spirit, so it’s not like President Monson has any say in who gets what. So if we’re not ready to accept it, he probably won’t give it to us, because he doesn’t want to force us into a position where we would be disobedient and rebellious.

I don’t know why we might not be ready. I will tell you this: The subject of science is so horribly political and vindictive that there are entire branches of science I treat with similar contempt to witchcraft. Maybe the political pressure and retaliation would be more than the church and its members could bear. I don’t know. It’s just a possibility.

Why would revealing the truth spoil the plan of salvation? I’ve answered part of this with the previous answer, but let me elaborate on a separate point. The point of earth-life is not to make good choices and show God how righteous you are.

On the one hand, we really can’t do anything well. We can’t even understand what it would mean to be good. Case in point: There are a lot of things God and Christ did in the past that we still question and think to be morally questionable. In short, we are literally incapable of being good. But suppose we were good. If we ever do anything right, God rewards us, often with much more than we deserve. And so we would end up in greater debt even if we did well.

These two points combined point to the fact that if you intend to impress God with your righteousness, you’re going to be very disappointed.

The point of earth-life, as God has repeatedly explained in scriptures and through the living prophets and apostles, is to live by faith. Faith is a key principle in LDS theology that is at the heart of everything we are and do. To us, faith is belief plus action. Or rather, action according to correct beliefs. When we hear something, we can choose to reject it or believe it. If we believe it, that is not enough. We must act according to it.

Faith in what? Faith in Jesus Christ. That is the real test: Will you live by faith in Jesus Christ?

If God were to give all the answers, and show the world what Jesus Christ has done, is doing, and will do for the world, then there would be no more need of faith. We would know that Christ has our best interests at heart, and we would happily comply with everything he asks us to do. It’s only because there are great big question marks surrounding who Christ really is and what he has done and is doing and will do that we get to test our faith.

So that’s the bottom line. The church doesn’t have “no position” on evolution, they just say, “You can believe what you like.” The scriptures don’t give us anything to run on scientifically, thus, no one can say they “know” how the world was created or where the animals and humans came from.

That said, when I look at nature, when I honestly evaluate the evidence before me, I conclude that not only was the world created by miraculous means, but there was a world-wide flood (evidence is literally everywhere!) and that it’s clear the Theory of Evolution is pseudo-science. Now, I can’t explain how God did it or what processes he used, but I can tell you what processes he didn’t use.

If you disagree with me, I’m okay with that and I’m happy to welcome you as a member of the church. We can have discussions, either theological or scientific, about this topic, and I would be more than happy to have you over for dinner to do so, time permitting.

One day, God will tell us everything, and it will all make sense. That day isn’t today, and we’re never going to get the full truth through scientific inquiry. But science is a lot of fun, and it’s useful, and I prefer we do more of it, not less.

A New Racism, or Rather the Old One

March 18, 2016

It is said the victors write history. So sometimes, in the echoes of voices long silenced, you uncover something you didn’t expect to find. After all, there was a reason why so many people fought on the other side, why they bled and died. And oftentimes, the winners don’t want you to know what they where thinking, because if you thought those same thoughts, we’d have to fight the fight all over again.

We look back at the racists of times past and mock them, rightly so. They were wrong. Or rather, our strawmen of what they stood for was wrong. The strawmen that we created were that the whites in the South thought that they were better than the blacks and that they needed to keep the blacks in slavery so that they could stay in power. It was all a power play, and the greedy, white racists were winning, and the black slaves were losing.

This is a very simplistic view of things. It’s hard to understand why anyone would fight or die for such an idea. And so I think it is not the correct view.

Before you read any further, I ask that you open your mind to thoughts you didn’t think were possible. I ask that you keep that mind open to the end, and use these thoughts to question your own morality and value system, and see if there are things you need to change.

I don’t believe you can get people to fight and kill just because a certain group of people are ugly and vicious and we don’t like the way they smell. When I read the writings of historical figures who attempted to conquer the world, that is not what they were thinking.

What they were thinking was this: If I can win these wars, if I can subjugate all nations under my ideas, perhaps we can create a better world without war, where people communicate with each other, where ideas can flourish and trade can prosper.

This is what Alexander the Great thought. At the end of his conquest, he intended to unify with the Persians, not exterminate them. There were many things the Persians did that he admired, and there were many thing the Greeks did that he admired. He wanted, really, to expand the Persian system throughout the world. The problem was the Persians were not militarily capable of doing it, while the Greeks were. The Greeks had mastered a certain form of warfare, and they had also mastered the problem of multiculturalism. They could be the backbone of the common language that could allow all the societies and religions in the world to live in peace, since Greece had found a way to do it centuries earlier.

So what, then, were the racists fighting for?

First, they were fighting for individual liberty. Yes, you heard that right, by enslaving the black race, they actually thought they were bringing them personal liberty and progress. This is witnessed by the fact that there were black slaveowners in the South. So obviously, the South did not have a problem with people’s skin color. There was something else they were objecting to.

Put yourself into the mindset of an 18th Century European. You’ve seen your culture, through the Renaissance, not only master the material that had troubled the most brilliant minds of the past entirety of human civilization, but surpass them to such a degree as to be absurd. They were, to put it in modern terms, flying through space with warp technology, while the rest of the world was still using horses and manual labor.

Now, the Christian ideal is that we share what profits us. We send out missionaries to bring others to our level. In the 18th Century, we watched as Christianity changed European culture from the dark ages to the modern age. We watched as people went from studying warfare to studying calculus. We believed that there was something magical just around the corner, a sort of tipping point at which human progress would surpass anything we could imagine.

Racists saw this and saw a problem: The other races of man were barbaric, crude, and their culture was infecting ours. They saw men turn back to base passions and ideals, and wondered what could be done about it. The protestant work ethic said that work, hard work, was the cure for almost any societal ill, so putting the lesser advanced races to work in a modern environment was the ideal.

Think about what the slaves were involved in on a plantation. They worked using modern technology. They used things like irrigation and crop rotation, modern inventions. They had the cotton gin, a machine that made it so much easier to pick the seeds out of the cotton fibers. Slaves who showed promise as civilized people were brought into the house and taught how to live in polite society. For instance, Scott Joplin, as a child, was found to have some talent with music, and so, as a slave, he was trained in the classics and became a piano artist.

Blacks who rose up through the ranks became welcome citizens of Southern society.

So really, the racism of the racists had nothing to do with skin color. I am sure they would have had no problem enslaving east asians or white people from more barbaric cultures.

When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why racists would defend slavery. Now, just because we can appreciate their argument doesn’t make it right. I believe that the ends do not justify the means, and so I would point out the inherent inhumanity of slavery, even “polite” slavery which didn’t involve physical abuse, and I would point out that whatever method we use to civilize the rest of the world, slavery would not be it.

Watching Star Trek, this kind of “racism” is evident everywhere. The Federation believes that they have superior technology and philosophies compared to backward cultures. They even go so far as to encode how to deal with these backward cultures with the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive states that if the culture is not “sufficiently” advanced, that they should be left alone. Many of the episodes deal with the problem of people from the Federation or other races “infecting” those cultures with their own ideas.

Part of the justification of the Prime Directive had to do with the fact that once you take it upon yourself to civilize someone, you have a huge temptation to do evil to them. Another problem is that sometimes people take a bit of your advanced civilization and end up hurting themselves. For instance, if we gave nuclear weapons to Genghis Khan, history might have been entirely different. But another problem is that there might be something the culture might develop that could be valuable to the Federation, and interfering would destroy any chance of that happening.

This last point I think is important: The Federation didn’t think that the races who lived in these backwards societies were inferior. They thought they merely needed more time. Most importantly, they thought that perhaps they might contribute something significant. That is, these primitive cultures were incubators of perhaps the greatest thoughts that were yet to be.

Back to the original topic, slavery was an institution justified as sort of an anti-Prime Directive. Slaveowners felt they were doing a service to the slaves, and at the same time, a service to their culture. They were wrong, of course, but they felt so strongly about it that they were willing to fight and die for it.

Now, this gets me to the point: The New Racism. It seems today that I am a racist simply because I believe my culture is superior to someone else’s. It seems today that when I say things like, “We need to preserve our culture” I am being racist. When I say, “I would like more of these types of immigrants and less of those I am a racist. But really, my thoughts have nothing at all to do with race, but culture. And as we know, culture is completely independent of race. In fact, it is racist to think that someone cannot become a member of a culture because of their skin color!

I don’t believe in the Prime Directive. I support my church which not only sends out missionaries to explain to people why and how God loves them and why we need to be nice to each other, but also missionaries who teach people how to dig wells, how to get immunized, how to bear children safely and how to treat each other with love and kindness in a family relationship. We have missionaries whose sole purpose is to help people find the best job they can get, or get training that matches their personality so that they can get a good job. We have missionaries who spend their time giving people who otherwise couldn’t work, usually due to physical disability, meaningful jobs within their capacity.

I believe this should be the general attitude of America. We should “racist”, according to the bad, modern definition, and try to spread our culture throughout the world. Not through force, but by service and love.

I think Star Trek would be quite a bit different if the Federation spent its time trying to understand how best to help people, rather than focused on understanding the true nature of the universe. I do agree, however, that certain efforts must be made to secure our borders and ensure no one enters our country who wishes us ill. The Federation did a good job at that, screening candidates and carefully considering whether membership in the Federation was right for them. And that is a very, very good thing.

Who is God, Really?

August 23, 2015

The fascinating story of the conversion of King Lamoni in the Book of Mormon explains a lot about our culture today.

To summarize, Ammon, the oldest son of the king of the Nephites, experiences and witnesses dramatic conversions, being born again with a new understanding of what life is really all about. Filled with the love of God and hopeful that the Lamanites, a group of people who separated themselves from the Nephites hundreds of years ago by trying to kill Nephi, might experience the same kind of conversion, head into the land of the Lamanites, following the Spirit of God. There, Ammon volunteers to be nothing more than a common servant to King Lamoni, one of several rulers among the Lamanites. He shows remarkable loyalty and devotion to the king, as well as seemingly infinite power through Christ, and wins an opportunity to teach King Lamoni the gospel.

He lays out the gospel by first explaining what and who God is, what the heavens and earth are, and God’s relation to it as Creator. He then continues by relaying the history of mankind, including the history of the Nephites and the Lamanites, carefully emphasizing all the troubles that their ancestors experienced and even the trouble that they brought on themselves. Then he explains the Plan of Redemption, which is God’s plan to save us from ourselves, and how the only thing we need to do is to ask for mercy from God and follow his Spirit to win eternal life.

This knowledge is obviously all new to the king, and so, after he prays to God for the first time, begging for mercy, he is overcome and reborn as a new individual, along with several members of his household. Thus begins the missionary work among the Lamanites, where many thousands come to understand God, receive his mercy, and begin a new life, laying aside their old grudges and embracing both Lamanites and Nephites as brothers.

In this experience, we learn several things. First among them is that our own ignorance is to blame for our separation from God. This ignorance can be of our own will and choice, but it is usually the fault of our ancestors, who failed to teach us the most important things. Regardless, just as (true) knowledge of God is eternal life, one and the same, ignorance of God is eternal damnation, one and the same.

King Lamoni’s beliefs about God were first that he was a Great Spirit. The second misconception was that it didn’t matter what you did, you were justified. The third misconception was an idea that slipped into his head at the beginning, that perhaps the Great Spirit did care what you did, and that he would punish you in this life for your bad behavior, even if you don’t know what that bad behavior is. These ideas all seem contradictory, but it is the exact philosophy we live under in popular culture.

The Great Spirit is called many things. In Star Wars, it is called “The Force.” In Kung-Fu movies, it is called Qi or Ki or Chi, the life energy that flows through all of us. We might also call it Karma or luck or any number of things. The important thing is that it doesn’t care about you. Either it doesn’t care what you do with it or it does care and rains down justice with nary a thought or care. We find the former ideas in philosophies that tell us that we should do whatever we think is best, with no regard to morality except the moral compass inside each of us, and even then, sometimes we have to bend the rules to get what we really want. We find the latter philosophy in the “School of Hard Knocks.” If you don’t know how something works scientifically, it doesn’t matter: It will either bless you or curse you regardless of what you think you are doing, and it doesn’t care. Call this Murphy’s Law. Call it Reality. Call it what you will, whatever you’ve come up with is hardly different than anything the Romans or Ancient Greeks came up with. You’re just using different names for the same things.

Is it hard to see why this philosophy is harmful to everyone involved? Where is there any teaching of kindness or compassion? Where is it required that we love and serve one another? No, this philosophy teaches us to treat the world and the people around us like animals, or rather, like machines to exploit.

Ammon was facing impossible odds when he took upon himself the task to educate King Lamoni. Or rather, it seemed God, working through Ammon, had taken an impossible bet putting Ammon in this situation that no mortal man can see a resolution to. However, God has a few secrets of his own, and among them are those that will erase the ignorance of King Lamoni and our modern culture. First, by making Ammon a servant, he taught King Lamoni something about who God really is. When the king told his servants that he thought Ammon, whom he assumed to be the Great Spirit, was here to punish him for his bad deeds, they reassured him that whatever Ammon was, he was a friend to the king. Ammon emphasized by word and deed that whatever King Lamoni asked him to do he would do, with the limitation that the action be right. This is the exact same promise God gives us in scripture. One, he is on our side, and not our enemy or adversary. Two, that whatever we ask God, as long as it is right, he will do it.

Once the king recognized these two facts about Ammon’s nature, he began a journey to understanding God’s nature. If someone who is your friend and who will do anything you want (that is right) makes an entire universe, complete with earth and heaven, you have to wonder, at least a little, what he is thinking. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we teach that the earth and the heavens are here for a purpose: our eternal salvation. Indeed, we teach that God’s entire purpose is our eternal life and exaltation, to allow us to grow to become like him, so that we can live with him in perfect unity for all time, and enjoy the limitless happiness only he knows how to unlock.

Now, looking around at the universe around us, at the people God placed us with, it is apparent that something must’ve gone horribly wrong. We see all kinds of evil things. We see horrible things that happen, horrible things we do. We look at our own history, and we should be shocked at who we really are. It seems there is no limit to the evil that we can create for ourselves. Ammon’s close friend Alma experienced a face-to-face interview with God in this state. He described the experience as so horrible that he wished he could be erased from existence, never having been born. This is the reality of reality: It is horrible. Anyway you look at it, there is nothing good about it. Our ultimate end is death. The only description we can apply to ourselves is evil. I mean, if a person does one evil thing and a hundred good things, that still makes him an evil-doer. There is no hope for us in this situation. Why would God, who wants to be our servant and who will do anything we want that is right put us in this situation? What is the point?

The point is revealed in the critical element always missing from ignorance. The bit of knowledge that King Lamoni didn’t have was that there is a way prepared for all of us to become like God, despite our circumstances. That way is commonly referred to as the Gospel, meaning “Good word”. That word is Christ, Savior, Redeemer, the Hope of All Mankind.

To understand, first, Christ bought us by paying for our sins. All we have to do is accept that fact.

Second, Christ is our link to God. Except when we face God through Christ, we can have all memory of our sins wiped away, so we need not fear as Alma did in his experience. Indeed, he isn’t just covering our sins, he has the power to change our very nature to be like God’s. (However, he won’t do that fully in this life, for an important reason.)

Third, Christ laid forward a simple plan we can all actually follow. The plan is summarized by the words “faith”, “repentance” and “obedience”. “Faith” is the “Fidelis” in the Marine Corps “Semper Fidelis”. Christ is like a Marine who we can trust with our very lives. When we trust Christ, we are turning over all of our worries and sins and cares and letting him shoulder the burden. In exchange, we behave differently. We let him change us. We welcome the changes he wants to bring. This is the process of repentance. We acknowledge and confess our sins, we stop sinning, and we try to do right. If we sin again, we repent again. Repentance is the getting up part of falling down. As long as we get up more times than we fall, we will be standing. As we repent, and we will all be repenting for the rest of our lives, we promise to obey God’s Law and the gospel Christ gave us. Will we do it perfectly? Of course not. But we never had any hope in our own obedience anyway. We move forward with faith, trusting that as we try to do what’s right, as we align ourselves with God’s will, then things will go according to his plan.

The Gospel teaches us to pray to God. It teaches us to read history and ponder on God’s interactions with mankind. It encourages us to hope out of despair. It encourages us to see things as they really are, rather than hide the truth of things from ourselves for fear of their awful consequences. It teaches us to forgive and accept forgiveness. It teaches us to love and serve each other, to strive to build a peaceful society where every member, rich or poor, smart or dumb, can all enjoy the blessings of sociality among friends.

Somewhere along the line, we have let this simple gospel escape us. We rely too much or too little on our own intellects, on the arguments of others. We let other voices crowd out the whisperings of the Spirit, the Still Small Voice Christ promised to send us after he left this world. Just when we think we’ve stumbled on to a good philosophy, we discover it has some fatal flaws that either prevent us from behaving more fully according to it, or receiving the promised blessings. However, as Ammon demonstrated, and as King Lamoni experienced, the simple gospel is powerful to save and change hearts. It is enough for today’s world, just like it was enough for King Lamoni.

As a postlude to the story, King Lamoni’s people received God into their hearts. Their love for their fellowman was so great that they would rather die than lift a hand to stop someone trying to kill them. They formed a society of equals based on gospel principles. When the Nephites were in trouble, they opened their hearts and helped, feeding and sheltering the homeless and dispossessed. When the Lamanites were in trouble, they did the same, giving land and jobs to thousands of former warriors. They renamed themselves “Anti-Nephi Lehies”, probably a reference to the father of both Laman and Nephi, Lehi. They focused on the fact that they were descendants of the great patriarch and seer Lehi, a call to both Nephites and Lamanites to reconcile their differences and remember the family that should have been.

Why Religion Matters in a Post-Scarcity World

July 26, 2014

This will be last on this for a while. I’ll write more when I think of things.

Why religion matters:

  • Religion gives us meaning.
  • It gives us something to do and focus on.
  • It teaches us to love each other and be nice to each other.

In a world where scarcity is everpresent, religion teaches us to have compassion on each other and help each other out. Read the Bible if you don’t see it for yourselves. Even the Israelites, under strict commandment to obey the Law of Moses, had laws given to them that demanded they help the poor. For instance, people who had fields had to leave some of their harvest on the ground for the poor to eat, and had to allow people passing by to eat from their trees or their fields (although they couldn’t pack anything away.) What a wonderful society that would be if those were actual religious obligations!

Christianity expanded upon Jewish charity. Jesus taught the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor before entering into the ministry. Jesus ate with the poor and the rich. He had one of his apostles collect money and give it to the poor. Jesus was a walking primitive walk-in clinic. In the epistles, we read countless times exhortations to take care of the widows and the orphans, to help the poor. In fact, in Acts we read of Ananias, who sold his house to give the money to the church so that the church could help the poor, but he kept some back and lied about it. God didn’t like that at all, so he struck him dead. That gives a hint to all Christians about how important charity is to God.

That’s all well and good, and is totally applicable in an economy with scarcity. I mean, this is the grease that keeps the economic engine running. When people get pushed out of the economy, religious people should be there to help them get back in, feed them, clothe them, heal them, and do whatever it takes to make them whole again.

What about a post-scarcity economy? What many people don’t realize is that Christianity is really designed for a post-scarcity economy. We look forward to millennial times, when the earth will be changed such that we won’t have weeds. We’ll cover our buildings with precious gems and metals, we’ll make our streets out of the most precious things during this time. Why will the earth change? We don’t know exactly, but I feel a large part will be because our attitudes will be different. We’ll actually care about each other and go out of our way to help each other. Maybe we won’t have weeds anymore because we’ll all work together to completely eradicate them. Maybe we’ll have gems on our buildings and streets because our economy grows and grows and grows until making gems isn’t a big deal.

Without religion, what purpose is there? Why go out of your way to help someone who falls by the wayside? What meaning do you have in the things you build with your hands or the things you own or the things you give away? Everyone needs something to give themselves and their actions meaning. I believe we should make it a point to make it our religious obligation to help one another and see to their needs as much as our own. We should make that priority #1 in everything we do. I truly believe that if we focus on helping each other, all the problems we have will be solved. If people can’t solve their own problems, then people who can will show up to help them solve them. Isn’t that the kind of world we want to live in?

I think we are wise when we examine closely the life Jesus had. He had everything. He could do everything. And look how he decided to spend it! Do you think maybe the two are connected somehow — that without the attributes of Christ in our very character, we simply can’t enjoy a post-scarcity existence? I believe so.

Who do you trust?

December 12, 2012

I’m watching the story about the violence in Michigan unfold.

The republican legislature and governor passed a bill and signed it that granted everyone the right to work without paying union dues.

The unions responded, as could be expected from an organization that operates with violence, through violence. Steven Crowder got punched several times, and decided to stand down in fear of his life. The Americans for Prosperity tent was knocked down with people inside of it, and the tent cut up and shared among union members as some sort of souvenir reminiscent of John Kerry’s memory of Vietnam where he claimed that soldiers would take the enemy’s ears and such.

What’s fascinating is how the “other” side is responding to these events. “It’s a fake! It’s staged!” they claimed. Or they just ignore it altogether.

I often wonder why our society is so gullible. Why could anyone claim that videos showing a man being beaten down by a union member were faked, and not be laughed off the world stage?

We live in a society, today, where a significant portion of the population doesn’t care about facts or reality. The democrat political machine seems to be all about crafting a message, any message, as long as the message furthers their political goals. “Mitt Romney doesn’t care about you because he’s rich.” “Mitt Romney wants to take away your contraceptives.” “Mitt Romney is going to get rid of Medicare and Social Security.” It doesn’t matter what the truth is to them.

And we live in a society where the vast majority of the media we watch, read, or listen to, doesn’t care either. Did anyone outside of some conservative media outlets bother to report about Mitt Romney’s quiet charitable life? Did anyone bother to point out that Barack Obama is rich too? Did anyone care to show how Barack Obama’s campaign was outright lying about what Mitt Romney stands for? No.

I fear for our country. We should always fear for our country. But I don’t believe the resolution to our fears is to sit on our hands and hope the media decides to operate morally.

Instead, we can only turn to ourselves. What do we prioritize? Morals and values? Or ends despite the means? If, in our own lives, we think honesty is very important, then we will demonstrate to the people around us what that means.

I believe our answers lie in religion. We need to redirect our beliefs and thoughts and attitudes to what is really important. We need to put life in perspective, and find a place where there is no confusion or doubt.

Who do you trust? Do you trust the media? Do you trust conservatives? Can you trust in any one man or group of men? The answer is, resoundingly, NO.

We can only trust in the infinite perfection and goodness that God is.

Why you Can’t Have Science Without God

September 7, 2012

Let me help my readers understand a critical fact: Without God, specifically the Judeo-Christian God, science would not exist.

Why God, or rather that God? Because the God of the Bible is a God of law and order. He is the one who stretched out the heavens. He is the one who gives law to all matter within the universe. There is no randomness where God’s laws apply. The apply fully and completely in every moment of time and in every corner of the universe.

This alone is not enough. Even if animals believed in such a God, they would not develop science because they can not think like God. Only man is set a little lower than the angels. We are created in the image of God. We are promised that we can become like God if we adhere to the doctrines that God teaches. This potential to become like God includes the potential to understand the laws that govern the universe. It is the Christian faith that teaches us to reach up and pluck the fruit of understanding from the tree of life, rather than accept life as an animal, without understanding.

This still, is not enough. One more core ingredient is necessary to develop science. With the above two qualities, a sort of science can emerge, but it would be a science of revelation, dependent solely upon man’s ability to understand God’s revelation. There is no judge except God, and he has only promised to judge mankind in the final judgment.

The last and final critical ingredient is the experiment. In the experiment, we try out our ideas against the universe itself. Since we believe that God ordered the universe, since we believe Man is capable of understanding those laws, and since we believe that God is no deceiver of men, then when we interrogate reality itself, we expect to get solid, reproducible answers that do not contradict what God has done.

This is, in short, the principle of faith that Christ and the prophets taught. Take what little understanding you have, and try it out. If it is good, then it will produce good. If it is not, then it will not.

Modern science simply cannot exist without these three assumptions.

Atheists like Dawkins and Bill Nye would have you believe that starting with those three assumptions makes one stupid or uneducated. I don’t know why they have this idea, except to blame it on the great deceiver of all mankind who would sift us and bring us down to his level.

Without God, what foundation of science could there be? Why should simply staring at the heavens be enough to drive someone to begin experiments with the idea that they will be reproducible, or to apply logic and reason to the universe with the idea that it should apply? Whatever reason you come up with should explain why, in all of recorded history, modern science was not invented until Christians who had rediscovered the sacred volumes of literature we call the Bible took the reigns of scientific thought in the world.

Response to Bill Nye

August 27, 2012

Bill Nye posted this recently.

If you don’t want to watch it, I don’t blame you. It’s a completely vacuous argument against creationism. His arguments are roughly:

  1. There’s too much evidence for evolution.
  2. We need your kids.

Honestly, I can form a retort to him that would look the same, using the same words, but substituting Creationism for evolution.

Let me reiterate why a God-less universe is not only illogical, but impossible.

First, you cannot disprove the existence of anything without examining all of the universe. Since we don’t have space ships or sensor arrays that can peer around corners of the galaxy and universe, we can no more disprove God than we can disprove that someone named Schmortz lives on the planet Fooble.

Second, supposing the technology, time, and energy exist, and someone actually does survey the universe. Not only can they disprove that Schmortz lives on Fooble, they could disprove that there is a God in this universe—but only a God who is confined to natural laws. We don’t believe in such a God, so such a survey would be pointless.

You can, however, prove a positive. If you sincerely want to know whether God exists, and what kind of a being he is, and what he wants you to do with your life, you can find out for yourself through sincere prayer and devotion to his commandments as found in scripture.

Which religion is true? You can investigate the claims of each until you find one that actually preaches a consistent and verifiable religion. I believe the LDS religion is such a religion,. No, I know it is. I have long ago left the realm of belief because what I have seen is enough to prove to anyone that what I know is true.

Now, the second point I want to talk about is how the universe cannot exist without God. See, God is the one that orders the elements, IE, provides the framework for the natural laws. Without him, the natural laws don’t exist. Everything is chaos and nothing would make sense. We know this because for the many millenia that man believed that God or the gods acted arbitrarily, rather than acting in accordance to universal laws that do not vary over space and time. It was this modern Christian concept of the marriage of religion and logic and the universe around us (accepting things as they are rather than as they ought to be) that lead to the foundations of modern science. Our universe simply wouldn’t be the way it is without those laws in place from the sub-atomic level to the inter-galactic level.

Some would argue the anthropic principle here. The universe exists, we exist, and therefore, the universe must be governed by laws and parameters that allow us to exist. The weakness of this argument is that it can be used to justify any explanation for the universe, if the explanation allows for the possibility of it at all. It is sort of the opposite to Occam’s Razor, a favorite theory that is often abused.

I, instead, argue that the laws must come from somewhere. There must be a reason that this universe exists of all universes, despite the improbability of it all. And that reason, that organizing and stabilizing force, is God. Can it be anything else? Luck or chance cannot explain it, or rather, if we relied on luck or chance to explain it we would be in a sorry state. IE, we would be forced to accept the anthropic principle and all the lunacy attendant to that. Instead, if we accept that there is a God that orders the universe, modern science survives intact.

This might seem like odd reasoning to many who aren’t used to reasoning. Without X, things don’t make sense. With X, things do make sense. Therefore, to preserve sense, we must assume X. Physicists have been doing this all along. Somehow, it’s acceptable to use things like Electrodynamics for X, or the General Theory of Relativity, or the Standard Model, but God? Without God, the universe doesn’t make sense. With God, it does.

Bill Nye’s final appeal is for us to sacrifice our children to meet his desires. This is a thought process that bewilders me. Why should I sacrifice my self-interests for Bill Nye’s self-interest? I am as offended as he should be if I demanded he teach his children according to what I thought was best, so that I could benefit the most.

Logic and reasoning are not the strong points in the Atheist world view. To be an Atheist, you must be what you claim your enemies are: ignorant of the universe around us.

Let me help you understand why, using evolution. In no case have I seen such a relationship between science as in geology and evolution. Geology assumes an ancient earth, not because there is evidence that supports this (which there isn’t, unless you assume all geological processes occur at a constant rate, which is absurd), but because they find so-called ancient animals in the strata they observe. On the other hand, evolutionists claim as evidence that their fossils are old that they are discovered in ancient rocks. One relies on the other, and the other on the one. Why does no one talk about this?

Bill Nye mentions radiation. I remember, growing up, how firm a foundation carbon dating was, and yet, how absurd a concept it was when you examined it in any detail. It assumes things we cannot assume. One, that at the time the animal or plant was covered, the ratio of carbon isotopes was similar as it is today. Two, that carbon, like all elements, decay at a constant rate, that is, no outside influence can change the decay rate of any substance. The former has been thoroughly debunked, so much so that carbon dating is only accurate within timescales of written human history,and that only because we have documents with dates on them. The latter is being questioned today, as two independent physicists have discovered that decay rates seem to change over time. What conclusions this has, no one knows exactly, except to say our assumptions were worth as much as the paper they were written on.

Any historical science suffers from the same critical flaw: We cannot rewind the clock to see what happened in ancient history. The “mists of time” obscure the past so thoroughly and so quickly we have a hard time figuring out when, exactly, a body was killed, and what exactly killed it, unless we have a fresh corpse. As time marches on and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics imposes its toll, we know less and less about what happened, until we can known nothing at all, even if there was a body to begin with. There simply isn’t enough data and there isn’t enough certainty to rewind the clock more than a few years in the past, at best. Those who claim they know what happened thousands, millions, and billions of years ago are lunatic. At best, we can guess, and even then, it is likely wrong.

Bill Nye is a prophet of the pseudo-scientists Atheists wish was taught in our schools. I say, good luck imposing that religion via the power of the state on the rest of us. I would rather live in a world where people are free to choose what they believe is right and wrong, rather than a world where our ideas are constrained by the ideas of others.

Atheism is the Worst Religion Imaginable

July 25, 2012

Of all political systems, Churchill once joked, Democracy is the worst, save for all the others. I have come to the conclusion that of all religions, Atheism is the worst, including all the others.

Atheism begins with the idea that we can know for sure that there is no supernatural power above our own. This is laughable, of course, one, because it claims to know that a thing does not exist without first knowing all that does exist, and two, because even if you knew every natural thing, you could still not prove the supernatural, that which exists beyond our natural senses, does not exist.

Atheism begins with the assumption that logic is the first thing. It continues by preaching that logic is all that is needed, and faith and belief are obsolete, along with hope and all other virtues derived from them.

Then it proceeds to preach its gospel without any semblance of logic at all.

With no logical foundation for morality, Atheists still persist in using words like “good” and “bad”, “should” and “should not”. I would someone who would join Atheism, just as any other religion, would first ask, “What is good?” Or rather, “What should I do?”

The Atheist answer is the most pathetic of all. The logically obvious answer is, “It doesn’t matter what you do. You will die and disappear. So do whatever you want to.” This is the thought that I think most Atheists have.

Of course, the above is simply a recipe for disaster. Moral relativity means what is good for one is not good for all, and so you end up with people who think it’s a good idea to dress up as the Joker and murder people in a theater. So we can’t have that kind of ideology, because it’s simply not good. (Note the logical contradiction here, or rather, the lack of any logic whatsoever in such a statement.)

So Atheists have to borrow their morals from some other system. The prime candidate is the most superior religious system the world has ever seen, the Christian religion. After all, it’s the religion that gave us modern science and unprecedented wealth that was simply unimaginable even 50 years ago. You reap the benefits that Christianity has sown every time you enjoy one of the many rights and freedoms that Christianity bestows upon all mankind, so you might as well borrow their moral code as well?

Of course, the Christian religion comes with baggage. We do not selflessly act in Christianity. We selfishly pursue our self-interest by serving the poor and needy among us. Indeed, Christ himself proclaimed that no one can enter heaven simply by professing Christ’s name, but that we need to do unto the least of us as we would do to him.

Rather than taking the whole kit and kaboodle, Atheists treat Christianity like a buffet line. How they choose which bits to take and which to leave behind is beyond me. Apparently, chastity isn’t any good, but service is. Apparently, tithing isn’t any good but stewardship is.

I scratch my head at the logical inconsistencies one must embrace to be an Atheist. I laugh inside when Atheists violate their own sacred law of logic to preach and argue in the public square. In the end, I pity them as little children. They are simply too immature to really think about what logic really is, and to learn how to apply it in one’s life.

A comment on comments: Just like I wouldn’t tolerate a Christian defending his faith in un-Christian ways, I won’t tolerate Atheists trying to defend their faith in illogical ways. Make your point, but avoid ALL logical fallacies. It may help if you label your assumptions and reasoning clearly. If you feel the urge to call me names, then you simply can’t be an Atheist.