Episode 151: John, Zilpha and God

137 comments on “Episode 151: John, Zilpha and God”

  1. Kevin Reply

    Zombies! Cheetos! Zilpha providing the sound effects as John discusses sucking from a teat!

    All the key elements of a great podcast. Thank you.

    But I’m going to give John something to ponder (a great Mormon term) about belief in demons. I don’t think it’s as naive or absurd as you appear to believe. For a theist (at least a non-Mormon one) it’s mostly about addressing the incongruity between a benevolent, omnipotent God and the existence of moral and natural evil.

    It’s also connected with the non-Mormon belief in God the Father as an entirely spiritual Being. While He may be the only PERFECT spiritual Being, nothing in the theistic experience suggests that there are no other spiritual beings at all. In traditional Christianity, this thought is extended to belief in good spiritual beings (angels and, at least for Catholics, saints) and evil spiritual beings (demons). As you how or why demons may influence the rest of us, who knows?

    • Kris Fielding Reply

      From a skeptical perspective the idea of demons is absurd because it’s just another argument from ignorance. I think they mentioned in the podcast that the problem is that with
      theism, or any supernatural worldview – anything goes. Because by
      definition these things may exist outside of the natural world they
      don’t have to play by natural rules.

      • Kevin Reply

        I agree with you that arguments from ignorance are absurd. But I am not suggesting that demons — or anything supernatural — must be accepted unless it can be proven false.

        Supernatural truth claims cannot be objectively proven to be true or false. They are not subject to scientific testing. This is because religious experience cannot be reliably replicated among disinterested observers.

        I don’t think this means that religious experience does not really exist, or that it cannot be described as a sort of perception of the supernatural. The closest analogy is probably aesthetics.

        Most people would probably agree that some things are beautiful and other things are not. They may also agree that beautiful art or music can somehow be very important. That’s why they might take serious risks to protect great art from destruction, or be deeply moved by a piece of music. But of course, there’s no way to prove that the art or music is beautiful, or to objectively demonstrate why it should be considered important.

        I think that religious faith is much like artistic perception. It seems to begin with the persistent impression that something is out there, and that it’s somehow important and has much to offer. But its characteristics cannot be perceived except in a general, elusive way. Openness to the supernatural seems to be more about being open to a relationship than wanting to master a set of truth claims.

        Anyway, please forgive this little rant. I just didn’t want anyone to think that I use logical fallacies. And I also want to compliment John and Zilpha again for the terrific podcast.  

        • Gthorneiii Reply

          While I generally liked your clarification, we should also keep in mind that while perceptions about a piece of art are both subjective and real, the existence of the piece of art is not.

          I assume/hope that you are framing religion and the supernatural as a poetic expression of subjective experiences and perceptions.  This I can understand and partially get behind.  The problem is that most people who engage in that type of “poetic expression” of religion and the supernatural actually believe it to be objectively real in some sense.  This is what it dangerous about religion, and why I cannot in good conscience engage in it myself.  I could in good faith engage is something similar within the known realm of fiction, however, as it would avoid those pitfalls.

          • Kevin

            Yes, I think that most religious expression derives from subjective experiences and perceptions. As you point out, these experiences and perceptions are real. But it does not follow that there is no objective reality that stimulates the experiences and perceptions. To me, this suggests the presence of the supernatural, although we may often go wrong in our understanding of it.

            To continue the analogy, our reactions to a piece of art may occur within us, but they are still undeniably connected with a real piece of art that has its own objective existence.

            I agree with you that religion is dangerous and can be the source, or maybe the catalyst, of much evil. But it isn’t the only dangerous thing in the world. Nor do its dangers and pitfalls mean that it is not ultimately connected with good.

            As John and Zilpha point out, religion can be most destructive when it feeds the “us vs. them” tribalism to which we seem to be naturally inclined. But it can also be uplifting when it helps us to reach out to the “other.” As Zilpha notes, this is usually very difficult.

            Hey, maybe Zilpha’s a prophetess after all!

          • Gale Thorne

            “But it does
            not follow that there is no objective reality that stimulates the
            experiences and perceptions.”

            No, but neither does if follow
            that there is a objective reality being accurately reflected by the subjective
            experience.  There are countless examples of when objective reality and
            the subjective experience are in direct opposition.

            There is a distinct danger in
            assuming that subjective experiences can accurately reflect an external
            “truth”.  And yet this assumption is at the core of all
            “faith” based beliefs and ideologies, and also the reason for my
            rejection to faith.

          • Gale Thorne

            “But it does
            not follow that there is no objective reality that stimulates the
            experiences and perceptions.”

            No, but neither does if follow
            that there is a objective reality being accurately reflected by the subjective
            experience.  There are countless examples of when objective reality and
            the subjective experience are in direct opposition.

            There is a distinct danger in
            assuming that subjective experiences can accurately reflect an external
            “truth”.  And yet this assumption is at the core of all
            “faith” based beliefs and ideologies, and also the reason for my
            rejection to faith.

        • Kris Fielding Reply

          I think you can argue that the term “absurd” is subjective certainly, but any supernatural claim is an argument from ignorance.

          I agree with you that religious experience is highly subjective. Years ago I had an experience where I had a very vivid dream that I was being attacked by an invisible “demon.” I woke up and was paralyzed and thought I was still being attacked. Because I was a church going TBM I assumed it was a demon and it supported my testimony of the church. Now as an athiest I know it was a night terror/nightmare or some other natural cause. I think my assumption was absurd because it was based on a supernatural world view that I now realize was not based in reality.

          Do demons exist? Doubt it. I think about the same likelihood as unicorns and leprechauns, but still possible. I just won’t believe in them until I see some verifiable proof.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Using demons to solve the Theodicy is like using arsenic to solve a stomach ache.

  2. Steven Stewart Reply

    I love these podcasts where John and Zilpha just have a conversation.  I enjoy the other panel discussions, and diving into history, and going into scripture, they are great.  But these little discussions between you two break it up and personalize it in a magical way.  I’m glad that sometimes you don’t have a podcast, and just have to talk.  Just great!

    • Anonymous Reply

      I so agree with that!  I don’t appreciate these dialogues between John and Zilpha any less than I do the other podcasts.  A big part of that, though, is who they are.  I don’t think there are that many couples who could pull off such podcasts as well as they do or make them as interesting.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        And I agree as well. I think that the good friendship and relationship that John and Zilpha obviously share make these special. 

        To say that they have “chemistry” is a bit of an understatement. Hey maybe they should get married! 

        😉 

    • Anonymous Reply

      If you mean by comparison to the many of the gods invented by religion, I agree with you–especially the malevolent and vindictive God of the Old Testament!

  3. R. K. Reply

    Awesome podcast!  I don’t want you two to get too ” Puffed up” as they say, cause that would ruin the charm, but you guys are just great together. A very enjoyable discussion. I’ve thought so much about these issues, because the church spends so much time drilling into my kids and neighbors heads how lost and caught up by Satan I and other doubters are. And it is such crap. They so don’t practice their Article of Faith about allowing all men to worship as they please. They will let you believe what you want as long as they can spend eternity denigrating and slandering you! And the greatest sin they commit in my opinion is the one of making you think you can’t make decisions without the church. I believe they cause great harm in keeping people from reaching their full potential by making them afraid to trust their instincts and go where their heart is leading them.
    Anyway, great job John and Zilpha. The podcast is never quite as good when one of you is missing!

    • Anonymous Reply

      Yipes!  I hadn’t considered the possibility that John and Zilpha might get “puffed up” by too much praise!  That would indeed ruin the charm!  I would not like that to happen!  To John and Zilpha–Ignore the praise expressed in my reply to Steven Stewart before.  I would hate to see you get all puffed up! 😉

  4. danko Reply

    John,
    You mentioned that the Devil has no real motivation to do anything. Aren’t Mormons raised to believe that he is trying to compete with God for the souls of men? In Mormon theology, isn’t he motivated by the desire to become like God or to even beat God at his own game by bringing more people into his(satan’s) kingdom?

    I think the best way to rid oneself of the devil belief is to come to understand the true motives behind people’s “evil” actions. For me, evolutionary biology/psychology provides the most convincing explanations. I would highly recommend Michael Ghiglieri’s book “The Dark Side of Man: Tracing the Origins of Violence.” 

    Thanks for a great podcast.
      

    • Kevin Reply

      Another good book is Scott Peck’s “People of the Lie.” He wrote it after he began wondering if it might be possible for him, as a psychiatrist, to treat evil as if it were a sort of mental illness. Interestingly, he describes two of his cases in which he believed that a kind of demonic possession occurred.   

    • Anonymous Reply

      The only motivation I was ever given was “misery loves company,” which seemed ok to me at the time but now I have to think Really?  All that dedicated effort for thousands of years just for spite?  I sure couldn’t keep up the effort.

  5. Bryce Reply

    Brilliant as usual.

    I kept thinking that there is another way zombies and religion are similar: they both want to eat your brain.

  6. Elder Vader Reply

    Children are de-facto atheists.  Best line for me.  I especially liked the parts where John and Zilpha were pointing out that if you go into any Junior primary you’ll see how much work it is pounding these ideas into the skulls of the young children.  Very interesting.  Look, we all want our kids growing up to be happy, well adjusted, etc… Thanks for speaking to it.  

  7. Elder Vader Reply

    Children are de-facto atheists.  Best line for me.  I especially liked the parts where John and Zilpha were pointing out that if you go into any Junior primary you’ll see how much work it is pounding these ideas into the skulls of the young children.  Very interesting.  Look, we all want our kids growing up to be happy, well adjusted, etc… Thanks for speaking to it.  

  8. iamse7en Reply

    Food stamps. John, you should know that the corportists massively profit off of food stamps. The rich and powerful profit off of the welfare state. But leave all that aside for a sec and look at the moral argument. If you approve of welfare ponzi schemes that redistribute property (like food stamps), then you approve of threats of violence made against peaceful individuals, because that’s how the funds are collected. Jesus asked individuals to give to the poor, not government officials with guns to force others to give to the poor.

    Otherwise, it was an interesting discussion. I completely disagree with your arguments about demonology and god, but it’s useful to understand where people like you and Zilpha are coming from.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Before one can question the morality of the “re-distribution of wealth” one must deal with the propriety, ethics and morality of the initial distribution of wealth. I would suggest a reading of Plato’s Crito. When an individual profits from the benefits of society–i.e. roads, fire protection, police protection, civil courts, etc. one is indebted to society and cannot morally opt out of portions of the system.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I so agree with you there, John.  When such a tiny minority of the very wealthiest individuals controls such a huge and still increasing majority of the wealth while a still growing and already too large proportion of the population live in poverty, “re-distribution of wealth” can be more justly described as a moral imperative than as a social evil.  Of course it would be better if that re-distribution of wealth came about by generous voluntary action of the wealthy than by some kind of government program or mandate, but given the demonstrated and widespread greed and avarice that contributed so heavily to our recent economic collapse, I have very little hope of that happening any time soon, if ever.  I can’t help but notice that wealthy conservatives object only to re-distribution of wealth from the wealthy to the impoverished.  They seem to have no objection whatsoever to the continuing re-distribution of wealth from the impoverished to those who are already immensly wealthy.

  9. Wes Cauthers Reply

    As always, I appreciated the candor of the conversation.

     

    A few thoughts:

     

    “Religion” and “Religious People” were both used quite often
    to describe large groups of people, implying that all people of faith are
    pretty much the same.  As a former Mormon
    who still believes in God, I have to respectfully disagree.  While it may be true that in some cases,
    there is little to differentiate an average Mormon with an average fill-in-the-blank
    person of faith, there are plenty of cases where there is a major divergence.  I think I understand why John and Zilpha are
    lumping all people of faith in the same boat, but in reality there is great
    diversity that is both unfair and inaccurate not to acknowledge.

     

    John mentioned that the crusades were done in the name of
    Jesus which is an undeniable fact of history. 
    The problem is that the crusades are in direct opposition to the
    message of Jesus, who died forgiving those who killed him.  Thus, another undeniable fact of history is
    that those who participated in the crusades using the name of Jesus are hypocrites
    and behaved in an un-Christlike manner.

     

    John also mentioned that nothing can be explained by faith
    that cannot be explained by science.  It’s
    possible that I have missed something, but I was not aware that scientists
    claim to understand what happened before the big bang or how matter came to
    exist or why there is aging, to name a few.

     

    I share the frustration that was mentioned regarding
    athletes who thank God for their victory.

     

    When Zilpha desrcibed how she now defines morality, it
    sounded like the basic structure was “avoid pain and seek pleasure” and that
    life was basically about doing what gives a person the most pleasure.  Without an objective standard, this is a perfectly
    viable option for a person to have as a moral code.  However, at the same time in this scenario,
    no one is in any position to say that anyone else’s moral code is
    inferior.  In other words, all moral
    codes are subjective and relative without an objective standard.  One person’s definition of right and wrong
    might be completely opposed to another person’s definition but neither party
    has the moral high ground to say whose is better.

     

    John mentioned that “we must create our own paradise”.  My only question is if that’s actually true, why
    haven’t we done so by now?  While we in
    the West enjoy a relatively comfortable existence, the sad fact is that the vast
    majority of people in the world live in abject poverty and injustice.  If we as a species have are not yet motivated
    to change this in light of current suffering, what’s it going to take?

     

    John mentioned AA and how he wants to tell them that they
    did it themselves rather than because of any help from a higher power.  This fails to recognize that AA members credit
    their success to the acknowledgement that they are weak and in need of
    something greater than themselves (a higher power).  They also consider themselves alcoholics for
    life, even after they become sober.  In
    fact, I have heard longtime sober alcoholics talk about being only 5 minutes
    away from their next drink which is a continued acknowledgement of their
    weakness and neediness.  They did not
    have this perspective when they were drinking and “knew they could quit
    whenever they wanted to”.

     

    Lastly, The Miracle of Forgiveness and the “licked cupcake”
    were mentioned and John said “this example can be used for all kinds of faith”
    again implying that everyone is pretty much the same.  While I acknowledge that there are clearly other
    examples of this outside of Mormonism, it is not ubiquitous.  If Jesus hung out with prostitutes and also
    has them in his lineage, I think that is a pretty good indication that he
    thinks books like the Miracle of Forgiveness and phrases like “licked cupcake” are
    complete and total bullshit which make him seriously ill, much like the
    crusades or anything else said/done in his name that contradicts his
    message.  They either skipped reading the
    NT entirely or forgot what it said after reading it.

     

    Please know that everything I have said here is in the
    spirit of friendly discussion and respect for both John and Zilpha.  I really do enjoy the podcasts where it’s
    just the Larsen’s chatting and I love the honesty that is brought to those
    conversations.

    • Anonymous Reply

      Response:
      People of faith are all the same in this regard: they chose faith, a form of irrationality over reason. This makes them do irrational things that are often dangerous.

      The Crusades were inspired by Christianity and the bible. See for example the Revelation of John.

      I stick by my statement about faith and science. Faith has nothing to say about what happened before the Big Bang other than “just-so stories” that change with nearly every passing generation.

      Why haven’t we created our own paradise? Religious people keep f*cking it up for the rest of us. 😉

      I believe the AA pattern of calling themselves alcoholics for life is not true and it follows the religious pattern of keeping followers in an infantile state.

      Once again, religions rely on the method of telling believers they are broken without accepting the faith, or rights, or traditions. Thus “us” is ok and “them” are all licked cup cakes.

      • Wes Cauthers Reply

        I disagree that all people of faith choose irrationality over reason and do irrational things that are often dangerous.  Some, yes, but not all.  That is a serious overgeneralization.  Let’s take an example of someone who actually lived their life consistently with the message of Jesus.  I’m talking about Mother Teresa.  Nothing dangerous there that I am aware of unless you consider it dangerous for someone to freely choose to live and serve among some of the poorest and most desitute people on earth.  Actually, I guess that’s not very rational either so it looks like you win on that one.  😉

        The Crusades are in direct contradiction with the life of peace and forgiveness that Jesus lived.  He said to love your enemies and do good to those who curse you.  I could do violence in the name of John Larsen but that doesn’t mean you are to blame for my actions.  Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus command people to commit violence, including Revelation.

        You can dismiss the answers given by faith about what happened before the big bang, but they still exist.  Your statment was that science can answer those questions just as well and I am not familiar with those answers.

        I know you were (halfway?) joking when you said religious people are the reason we have not created our own paradise, but I think the question is legitimate.  If we haven’t done it by now, I have a hard time believing why we would in the future.

        You may not think AA members are alcoholics for life and that they are in an infantile state, but it is a very successful program that many people credit for saving their lives from alcoholism.

        The “us is ok and them are licked cupcakes” definitely applies to Mormonism as well as a number of other religious dogmas.  However, this is again in direct contradiction to the message of Jesus who hung out with “them” and turned religion on its head which got him killed in the end.

        • Anonymous Reply

          I am not suggestion that religious people are always irrational. In fact, during the podcast, I argued that religious people follow their own reason most of the time. But faith, by definition must be opposed to reason. And when anyone is follow this line they can be dangerous.

          The Crusades were in violation of *your* faith. But they weren’t in violation of their faith in Christianity. I am afraid you are evoking the “no true Scottsman” argument here.

          As to the big bang, I can just make up an answer right now. I can say that it was done by a giant snail. Now, how does that statement have any more or less value than any other faith based belief. They are all equally devoid of reason or evidence.

          As to AA, you point out a reason why religion works. It works because it often produces good results. But the incidental production of merit does not validate the (false) premise that it is based on.

          • Wes Cauthers

            I think at times faith can be opposed to reason, but not necessarily always.    For example, faith in the BOA is by definition unreasonable because it has been thoroughly debunked.  But faith in the existence of an ancient people group called The Jews and the ancient city of Jerusalem is perfectly reasonable.

            As for the “no true scotsman” fallacy, I disagree that it applies here.  It’s not “my” faith they were in violation of, but the explicitly clear teaching and example of non-violence from Jesus in the NT which exists independently from me.

            Yes, you can make up answers about what came before the big bang, but that does not address your statement that science can also answer those questions.

            Again, you use the general term “religion” and say it produces good results just like AA.  First, not all “religion” produces good results.  The Taliban and Quakers both fall under the category of religion and yet have vastly different results.  Second, Mormons often give credit to Mormonism for all the good “results” in their lives.  However, in most cases there’s no real way to measure that since most Mormons who say that are born and raised within Mormonism and have nothing to compare it against.  In the case of AA, there is a clear and undeniable benefit of the program that was not present previously.

          • Carson N

            Believing that the Jews and Jerusalem existed does not require faith. As soon as the idea becomes “reasonable” because of the amount of evidence, it is no longer faith.

            The crusader’s violated your cherry-picked bible passages, not their own cherry-picked passages.

            John didn’t say that science has answers to the aforementioned questions. You yourself paraphrased him as saying “nothing can be explained by faith that cannot be explained by science”, not “science has answers for everything that religion claims to have answers for”. Here is perhaps what you should have heard: “there is no independently verifiable and repeatable faith-based explanation that doesn’t have a verifiable and repeatable scientific explanation.”

          • Wes Cauthers

            My point with the Jews and Jerusalem was that faith can be grounded in the real world, unlike what we have with the BOM, the BOA, etc.

            Your accusation of “cherry-picking” is unfounded. Jesus himself said there would be people who claimed to be his followers but were actually not.

            It’s certainly possible that I paraphrased and/or understood John incorrectly on the last point. I’ll give it another listen.

          • Gale Thorne

            I wholeheartedly disagree with the use of the term “faith” as a description for a reasonable evidence based belief when it is also used (often in the following breath) to indicate belief in something not reasonably evidenced or that stands in contrast to the best available evidence.  It is an objection I draw because of the clarity lost.

            For the purposes of discussions here, let us please use different words or expressly indicate when you are referring to belief in something that is reasonably evidenced.

            Jesus could have been talking about you, so your point has yet to be made regarding the crusades.  Like it or not you are cherry-picking just as “they” are.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Wikipedia defines faith as: “the confident belief or trust in the truth
            or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.”

            I think that’s a pretty good definition because faith is not limited to the supernatural.

            Yes, Jesus could have been referring to me or anyone for that matter, but that is beside the point.  The accusation of “cherry-picking” has no basis because there is nothing to “pick” from that Jesus said to justify the crusades.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Actually looking at how the Crusaders used the Biblical text I wouldn’t say “cherry picking” was the issue as much as really bad hermeneutics:
            http://www.crusades-encyclopedia.com/referencesinpreaching.html

            Further, Pope Urban II was on pretty thin ice Biblically and Theologically in his doctrine and papal declarations. Helen J. Nicholson writes:

            “The crusade was not simply another holy war…it had an added dimension. We don’t know exactly what Pope Urban II said when he called the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095, but it is recorded that he promised that ‘Whoever for devotion only, not to gain honour or money, goes to Jerusalem to liberate the city of God, may substitute this journey for all penance’. [Riley-Smith, The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading, p. 29]. Here he seems to be linking the military expedition that he was proposing to pilgrimage, a penitential journey to a sacred place. The link was emphasized by the fact that those who decided to go on crusade took a vow to go and received a symbol in token of their vow – a cross. They also received the same privileges as pilgrims: amortisation of their debts, the protection of the Church over their families and possessions and a stay of payment on all taxes due.”
            (“Serious Violence: Church justification for violence in the Middle Age” by Helen J. Nicholson; http://freespace.virgin.net/nigel.nicholson/SSCLE/holywarF.html )

            And Joseph J. Fahey, notes that the Crusaders fought not in the name of Christ but in the name of the Pope:

            “Those who participated in Crusades fought in the name of the pope, were granted a papal indulgence for the remission of sins upon taking a votum crucis (vow) to go on a Crusade. The indulgence was later granted whether or not one actually went on the Crusade since it was possible to pay another to take one’s place. They wore a cloth cross on the shoulder of their garment as a symbol that they had taken up the cross.

            Crusaders received the privilegium crucis: papal protection of their property; a moratorium on the payment of debts and on the debts’ interest; and Crusaders could be judged only by ecclesiastical rather than civil tribunals.”

            (“Columbus and the Catholic Crusades” by Joseph J. Fahey; Human Quest, Jan/Feb 2002; http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3861/is_200201/ai_n9064045/ )

            Overall, I find very little of the Christ of the Bible in any of this. Again, Helen J. Nicholson writes of the earliest Christians:

            “…in the Gospels, Jesus is recorded making various remarks that tell people not to use violence. For instance, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’. (Matthew 5, v. 9) and ‘do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also’. (ibid. 6 v. 39) and ‘Put your sword back in its place.. for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’ (ibid. 26 v.52). This all makes it look as if Christians should not fight. What is more, of course, the sixth Commandment is ‘You shall not kill’ (Deut. 5 v. 17). As a result, in the first few centuries of Christianity, many Christians would not fight. In fact, there were a number of famous instances of soldiers who became Christians and then threw away their weapons and refused to fight again. They were then executed for their refusal to fight.”
            (“Serious Violence: Church justification for violence in the Middle Age” by Helen J. Nicholson; http://freespace.virgin.net/nigel.nicholson/SSCLE/holywarF.html )

            Interesting topic and the historical evidence is thought provoking and fascinating!
            (and it looks like I’m getting indented into oblivion by this discussion board to boot)

          • Wes Cauthers

            Those are great references, Fred.  Indeed, really bad hermeneutics, papal indulgences, and a clear neglect of Jesus’ actual teachings are a perfect recipe for disaster.

          • Aaron L

            Irregardless of whether biblical teachings lead directly to the crusades – most wars, like the crusades, come down to a “my God is better than your God” mentality.  If you eliminate God and his supposed divine directives, you eliminate much of the reasons for conflict and the motivations that people have to fight each other, whether they come through Jesus, the Pope, Muhammad, or any other religious leader. 

          • Fred W. Anson

            I see.

            So once “eliminate God and his supposed divine directives” we’ll rarely see such behavior – right?

            Irregardless of whether that’s your thesis of not, history discredits that assertion.  To cite just one example, the Atheist regimes of Lenin and Stalin murdered 20-times more people (61,911,000) than all 6-Crusades combined (approximately 3,000,000) (see http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm#Stalin and http://necrometrics.com/pre1700a.htm ) and did so in just 37-years combined to 196-years for the crusades. 

            As I said in another post: ” I would caution my non-Christian friends against leveling too many stones at our glass house as one just might ricochet off and hit theirs.”

            This is a human problem that transcends religion.

          • Aaron L

            I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we would “rarely see such behavior.”  It is likely that as humans without religion we would simply find other reasons to do horrible things to each other. Nevertheless, religion has often played a role in the low points of humanity’s history.  It can be an incredible motivator, both to do good and evil (even when you think you are doing good).  I don’t want to get into a pissing match of which group (religion vs. atheists) have caused the most suffering, as they have plenty to be ashamed of.  You are right that this is a human problem that transcends religion, but I think that we would all be better off if we recognized how religion (and other factors) sometimes cause us to hurt and oppress each other.  

          • Gale Thorne

            Yes, you have solid ground for your use of the word, and yes, faith, according to its definition, is not limited to the supernatural.

            …but this is precisely my objection.  If ‘faith’ is simply “trust” and can be applied equally to belief in the existence of a city called Jerusalem, the historicity of the Book or Mormon, the shenanigans of leprechauns, or effectiveness of tinfoil at blocking aliens from reading minds then what good is using the word “faith”?  It is precisely it’s fluid nature and ease of application to the supernatural or unsubstantiated concepts that makes it such a poor word for things that are reasonably evidenced.  I cannot assume any degree of reason or evidence has played a role in a persons acceptance of a concept or claim when a person elicits “faith” in that thing.

            Please proceed to use the word as you wish, but understand that many, including myself, will presume irrationality unless you specifically demonstrate otherwise, especially since the most common use of the word is in relation to the irrational.

            You only assume that “cherry-picking” couldn’t be used to justify the crusades because that is not your objective.  A quick google search should provide you with a few different approaches.  And there is no reason to limit yourself to what Jesus said when there the Bible is so much bigger that what Jesus said.

          • Richard of Norway

            And there is no reason to limit yourself to what Jesus said when there the Bible is so much bigger that what Jesus said.

            This is EXACTLY my point regarding this whole topic. It seems some Christians want to pretend the rest of the Bible doesn’t exist, or that we should ONLY care about what it says in the NT or specifically the Gospels. Unfortunately, many many people regard the entire canon of scripture as equally important. Or in my case, equally unimportant.

          • Hermes

            From my perspective, I am still a Mormon (an agnostic/atheist Mormon, but a Mormon nonetheless).  I still believe that “we are saved by grace (i.e. sheer dumb luck), after all we can do.”  But I can do a lot better than believing blindly in myths put forward by “authorities” whose practical record is terrible.  I don’t have to throw up my hands when the great Giant Snail speaks through an apostle and commands me to do a rain dance whose efficacy I have very good reason to doubt (having done it many times before and seen the results, not to mention all the history I have read of other performers whose obedience accomplished nothing useful).  I don’t have to turn off my reason at the first opportunity and submit abjectly to the dictates of a guru whose reason is as human and fallible as mine (at least).

            Reason has limits, yes.  Most of us have not even come close to exhausting those limits for ourselves.  We prefer to leave the hard work to someone else (i.e. a guru), setting ourselves up to be manipulated and inviting our “authority” to become an abuser (whom we can sue when his foresight fails).  We are so eager for simple, uncomplicated, easy solutions to life’s problems that we accept the pablum that most modern gurus give.  Sometimes, we create gurus where none exist, projecting our need to avoid rational thinking (and responsibility) onto teachers, doctors, scientists, politicians, etc.  Reason is something that works best in groups where everyone plays.  In other words, I have to use mine to get the best use of yours.  I cannot roll over and take whatever you say as gospel truth just “because” (even if your name is God).  I have to man up and stand for something I have thought out myself (instead of taking my talking points from selective readings of ancient myths whose only authority is, “the Great Snail said so, and we will humiliate anyone who speaks against the Great Snail”).  Too many people enter the game of the Great Snail passively, flopping around in search of a guru when they should be fighting to stand alone (as their own gurus, their own prophets, their own ultimate connection to the reality they experience). 

        • Guest Reply

          If Mother Theresa was someone who lived her life consistent with the message of Jesus, I think that message is not of a high quality. Mother Theresa received many millions of dollars in donations for her work. Those dollars did not show up in high quality facilities, in pain relieving medicines for the dying, in help to the poor of Calcutta. Those dollars were banked while she gave the minimum of care to the dying and received lots of positive publicity and more dollars in return. She herself went abroad for top-notch medical care. She didn’t give it to her patients. If that’s Jesus’ message…no thanks. 

          • Wes Cauthers

            Mother Theresa did not personally benefit from any donations that may have come as a result of her work with the poor in Calcutta, nor was she responsible for how those donations may have been used.

          • Guest

            I’d suggest you do further research. There’s lots out there. If she wanted to live in poverty, that’s fine, but her insisting that her patients not benefit from the huge amount of donations received specifically for them is evil. And she did insist. 

          • Greg Rockwell

            I would be willing to bet that the source is this: http://www.amazon.com/Missionary-Position-Mother-Teresa-Practice/dp/185984054X

            The Missionary Position by Christopher Hitchens.

            The contention is that she believed that suffering was a virtue and so she provided less facilities to relieve suffering than she could have.

          • Wes Cauthers

            If this is true, then in no way do I have any defense of it and in fact I find it quite unfortunate.  However, this does not conclusively prove that faith in the supernatural is inherently linked to potential danger anymore than nuclear weapons prove that faith in science is inherently linked to potential danger.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with you that religion, at its best, can and has inspired people to great acts of compassion and charity and has also inspired many breathtakingly beautiful works of art and music.  If giving up religion meant never having had available the awesome musical compositions of J. S. Bach or Handel, for example, many of which were both inspired by religion and largely made possible by the patronage of organized religion, that would be a terrible tragedy!

          • Wes Cauthers

            Yeah, I gave always liked that Pascal quote too.  I think Blaise was definitely one of the smartest guys of all time.

          • Anonymous

            Without any reasonable doubt!  Yet, he was also famous for Pascal’s Wager, one of the poorest and most irrational of Christian apologetics.  I can’t help suspecting, though, that his famous wager was more an attempt to deflect unwelcome and uncomfortable scrutiny by officers of the Catholic Inquistion than a true statement of how he really felt about religion.

          • FullyWashable

            Mother Theresa was also absolutely instrumental in preventing birth control from being used by individuals and promoted by the government in India. The damaging attitudes of the Catholic church to birth control, and of Mother Theresa’s pull with government authorities on this issue are directly responsible for the magnitude of the HIV epidemic in India, as well as the chronic poverty and malnourishment of millions of families too large to be supported by their income. Mother Theresa is, in my opinion, responsible for far more suffering than she alleviated by allowing people to die in a bed instead of on the street. This was absolutely a direct result of her religious beliefs–there is NO rational reason NOT to promote birth control and safer sex in India.

          • Anonymous

            That is my understanding too.  As greg said, she believed suffering was a virtue and may have had the attitude that actions that maximised suffering also maximised virtue.

      • Kevin Reply

        Two suggestions:

        1. I think it is incorrect to say that faith is opposed to reason. Reason, like science, is a simply a process of deriving conclusions from premises. The premises may be shared perceptions based on our physical senses, as in science, or individual perceptions based on experiences that are rooted in something other than our physical senses, as in religion.

        In either case, the reasoning process can lead to either right or wrong conclusions. This is why scientific conclusions are always tentative, as you point out in the podcast. I think that reason requires us to also remain open to revision of our religious conclusions, but it does not demand their rejection. 

        2. Could Zilpha make that sound with her mouth every time somebody mentions a licked cupcake?

        • Anonymous Reply

          Kevin,

          You first paragraph is a non sequitur. That reason has limitations does not disprove that faith is the suspension of reason.

          • Anonymous

            I think it would be more accurate to say that faith that is not backed up by sound, objective evidence is the suspension of reason.  Scientists also have faith, but I think they have a slightly different concept of it.  They certainly have faith that theories that are based on carefully evaluated evidence and sound reason are more likely to be useful than hypotheses or theories arrived at without examining the evidence or that are contrary to evidence.  This faith has been abundantly justified numerous times through the centuries.  Incidently, it would be quite difficult to translate this particular discussion into my birth language, Norwegian, and have it make sense.  They don’t have a seperate word that corresponds to the English word “faith.”  They have only the word “tro” which means “belief”, and belief is not necessarily the supension of reason.  Ideally it should be the product of reason and evidence (as should faith).

      • Anonymous Reply

        John, your first paragraph is also a non sequitur. I agree that faith is irrational; however, having faith does not mean that people will do “irrational things that are often dangerous.” Having faith simply means that a person holds to a belief that cannot be explained in a rational way (i.e., they cannot scientifically prove the existence of said belief); therefore, it is an irrational belief. Your argument is a fallacy, my friend. [Good thing I took that basic logic class at BYU so that I could catch your mistake.]

        • Anonymous Reply

          I disagree with your definition of “having faith”. Your objection only works if someone believes something via faith (i.e irrational) and takes no action whatsoever on those beliefs. But we know that this is never really the case. For to do anything (including believe which is a conscious act) based on that faith is an act of irrationality. Therefore merely holding faith positions are irrational. Since our actions are based on our thoughts and beliefs, it is dangerous to hold these views.

          This is much like it is dangerous for a toddler to walk around with a sharp knife. Merely holding a sharp knife is not dangerous per se, but it is dangerous because of the potential threat of harm. Likewise, irrational beliefs are dangerous because of their potential to follow up into irrational actions.

          • Kevin

            I think that we are defining the terms “faith” and “reason” a little differently. Here’s what I mean when I use those terms. (Please forgive me if I let myself get in touch with my inner blowhard in this post.)

            “Faith” is the way people understand or accept premises, aka axioms, which are truths that appear to be self-evident. These truths can be raw data from scientific observations, or they can be spiritual experiences, aesthetic responses, intuitive ethical ideas (such as those you described in the podcast), or the existence of deep emotional relationships with others. When applied to virtually anything other than direct sensory data, faith is for all practical purposes “proof of things not seen.”

            “Reason” is the way people logically build on premises in order to reach conclusions. Reason may be applied to almost any set of premises. For instance, raw scientific observations may lead someone to develop scientific theories. Or intuitive insights about fairness and kindness may lead someone (theist or atheist) to choose to behave fairly and kindly. Or deep emotional relationships may lead someone to conclude that it is desirable to make serious sacrifices for a loved one. Or spiritual experiences may lead someone to decide to believe in God, and to seek a relationship with Him.

            Where we often go wrong is not in having faith, but in doing a crappy or dishonest job of reasoning. It is especially dangerous to use any sort of faith as justification for our baser impulses. For example, scientific observations may be dismissed because they lead to conclusions that might distance us from friends and colleagues. Or belief in God might be cited as a good reason to go plunder the Middle East.

            Also, your mama’s a non sequitur. So there. 🙂

            Thanks again for the wonderful podcasts. 

          • Anonymous

            Let me get back to your original point. If I am an active member of the mainstream LDS Church (a believer), how will my beliefs make me “do irrationaI things that are often dangerous”? I would also like you to define what you mean by “dangerous.” I guess I’m defining your use of “dangerous” as a form of religious extremism. Just because I have faith in the Church doesn’t mean I am going to join the Danites to start wiping out apostates, take up polygamy, or start practicing blood atonement. I just don’t see that type of danger in the mainstream LDS Church. However, I would love to hear you explain what “dangerous” actions I am capable of committing as a believing member of the Church.

          • Kevin Johnson

            An irrational thing that many believers do is indoctrinate their children, because they feel what is best for them is best for their children.  However, it is true that in at least some cases, children will want to choose for themselves (at a sometimes spectacularly early age) against what you are indoctrinating them.     The pressure t that you will, in the interest of keeping the eternal family eternal, bring to bear upon their actions can lead them to attempt to commit suicide  This seems dangerous to me.

          • Anonymous

            Kevin, but isn’t all parenting basically indoctrinating children based on parental belief (regardless of religion)? Don’t all children, regardless of faith, have to make the decision to choose for themselves? I agree that Mormonism is a tough moral code for children (and adults) to live (hence all the guilt), but I think your argument can be made for a lot of religions, incuding atheistic parents who still teach their children some type of moral code that the children feel guilty for not living up to.

            I would have to do some research, but I doubt the Mormon teen suicide rate is any different from any other demographic in the U.S. I would love to see some stats though if anyone has any.

          • Fred W. Anson

            YOU WROTE
            “I would have to do some research, but I doubt the Mormon teen suicide rate is any different from any other demographic in the U.S. I would love to see some stats though if anyone has any.”

            MY RESPONSE
            Here you go: 

            “Several parents and mental health professionals interviewed for this series, “Teen suicide: Utah’s grim reality,” wonder whether the LDS Church’s high expectations for young people may contribute to depression and suicide.     

            “I am an active, believing member of the LDS Church,” said a Utah Valley mother who did not want her name used. “But I cannot deny that the culture of high expectations this belief system generates around itself can be so deadly to its youth.”     

            Depression runs in her family, and she said she is especially concerned because her 11-year-old son is entering “those years of precarious dips and peaks of emotion.”     

            There’s pressure to “live worthy,” said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, an LDS father of five.     

            Latter-day Saints are counseled to avoid premarital sex, pornography, drugs and alcohol, among other things. Young men and women are taught to live clean lives to prepare for missionary service and marriage in an LDS temple. Those who make a mistake or fall short might lose self-esteem or fall into depression.”
            ( “Some Say LDS Culture is a Factor of Suicides” by Dennis Romboy;   Deseret Morning News; http://www.mentalhealthlibrary.info/abouthtf/foundationinthenews/ldsculture.htm ) 

            I would give you a link to the entire, six-part, award winning series but the Deseret News no longer seems to have it on their website.

          • Kevin Johnson

            There is a difference, I think, between careful guidance and indoctrination.  With my own child, I look at him as learning on his own with me there to answer questions and provide support.  It should never be the object of parenthood to make a carbon copy of yourself in your child.  It should never be the goal to utterly control your child’s life.  Mormonism tends to promote these goals, as I’ve been a party to in the most ugly manner.  I myself fostered an enormous self hatred that led to two suicide attempts because i was failing my glorious, latter day chosen destiny.  My son will never have to worry about living up to my moral code because it’s so damn easy to live up to being happy being yourself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I won’t care how many times he masturbates, if he discovers he’s gay, or if he wants to be a Muslim because so long as he is treating himself and others with love and respect, that’s a pretty simple and beautiful moral structure.

          • Anonymous

            Perhaps I am wrong about this, but it seems to me that the point about irrational beliefs is that those who can be or have been persuaded to accept irrational beliefs are also more likely to be persuadable to commit violence or atrocities to promote or defend their beliefs.  Thus susceptibility to irrational ideas, at least potentially, makes one more dangerous to others.

        • Carson N Reply

          Premises:
          1. Beliefs influence actions according to their nature
          2. Having faith means holding irrational beliefs
          3. Irrational actions are dangerous

          Conclusion:
          Having faith influences people to perform dangerous actions.

          Where is the logical fallacy? You neglected to point it out. Maybe you disagree with the premises. I suspect it is premise 3 you have a problem with.

          • Anonymous

            Carson, in a non sequitur, the 3rd point is the conclusion (you may want to go review Wikipedia again, my friend), and your conclusion cannot be obtained from you first two premises. Thanks for giving the perfect example of a fallacy.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Carson, I’m not seeing that.  I think that you’re both making good points and having a good dialog. I would like to see it continue. 

            Why were you so quick to play the “troll card”? 

          • Kevin Johnson

            Premises:
            1) A non sequitur is any conlcusion that doesn’t logically follow from premises of an argument.
            2) An argument is any number of premises (at least numbering one) followed by a conclusion.

            Conclusion:  A non sequitur applies to any number of premises.  There is no requirement of the third point to be the conclusion.  You might be thinking of “syllogisms” but there’s no reason to limit non sequturs to that one special kind of argument.

            Right?

          • Anonymous

            Kevin, I got a C- in my logic class, so I’m not totally sure on my own equations 🙂 I just don’t think an irrational belief guarantees that a person will act in a dangerous way. That’s ludicrous. Carson’s first two premises don’t logically make his third statement true. I especially disagree with John’s initial statement: “People of faith are all the same in this regard: they chose faith, a form of irrationality over reason. This makes them do irrational things that are often dangerous.”

            I think I have a lot of irrational beliefs, but I also have rational beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Let’s not make people of faith sound like a bunch of mindless zombies who are willing to turn themselves into a human bomb at the drop of their spiritual leader’s hat.

    • ff42 Reply

      Are you not idealizing (cherry picking his forgiveness side and ignoring his violent side) Jesus? 

          • Gale Thorne

            How about some of the following:

            -[Jesus] made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
            -“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
            -[Jesus] said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one…” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”  “That is enough,” he replied.
            -Jesus cursed a fig tree for not having figs for him out of season.
            -Jesus expelled devils into swine, killing them

          • Wes Cauthers

            The fact that Jesus went to his death without retaliation while forgiving those who killed him shows pretty convincingly that he believed in non-violence, not to mention his clear and explicit teaching on loving your enemies, doing good to those who curse you and turning the other cheek.  The few isolated verses you quoted are favorites of those who try and claim Jesus taught violence, however, when you look at the overall picture of Jesus’ life, it’s obvious that this claim holds no water.  Beyond that, even if one tries to hold onto that erroneous claim, the content of those verses are hardly grounds to justify something like the crusades, especially in light of everything else I have already mentioned.

          • Gale Thorne

            Wes, I am not arguing that the character of Jesus was significantly violent or that that violence was a major theme of the teachings of the new testament.  I am trying to point out the examples that you are oddly determined to deny.  To be clear, I am an atheist and don’t give the Bible the high place that you seem to.

            While you’ve denied it before you are indeed applying the “No true Scotsman” fallacy:

            “No true Scotsman is an intentional logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it.”
            This is exactly what you are doing with anything you don’t like about how others do or could interpret passages from the Bible (and please stop pretending that only the bits about what Jesus purportedly did or said matter or could influence others).  I’m not a historian and do not know to what degree the Bible was used to support the crusades… and neither do I care very much.  That’s not really the point.  The point is that the Bible is often used as something of a rorschach test, with everyone largely seeing what they project into it.  While I’m glad that you give greater credence to the peace and love portions of the NT, there are many who look to other parts of the NT & OT and do in fact find biblical justification for violent actions.

            You can claim that they are not true Christians until you are blue in the mouth, but unless you can prove that you are an oracle of God or the final arbitrator of truth you’re simply playing the “No true Scotsman” game.

          • Richard of Norway

            Wes, Fred, Gale, you are all awesome and I love reading your posts. I hope nobody takes offense when I say I wholeheartedly agree with Gale on this one. No offense, Christians. You guys are great! I just disagree with your conclusions and arguments about “true Christians” and find it silly to even attempt to coin such a phrase. But keep up the great dialog! I truly enjoy reading your comments. 🙂

          • Wes Cauthers

            Just to clarify, I have never used the phrase “true Christian” in this conversation but I have used the phrase “genuine follower of Jesus”.  This may seem insignificant, but it has been very intentional on my part.  Here’s why:  The word Christian in modern usage has come to mean many different things to many different people that I think it is often a meaningless term.  It is also associated primarily with the religion of Christianity which may or may not have much to do with the person/message of Jesus at any given moment in history.  I do not find compelling evidence in the NT that leads me to believe Jesus was trying to start a new religion.  In fact, it seems to me he was very much trying to do away with it.  This is in part why I identify myself as a non-religious follower of Jesus.

          • Fred W. Anson

            Well Gale, perhaps.  None of us are perfect and we all have blind spots. 

            However, rather than engaging in the “No true Scotsman” fallacy I would hope that I’m engaged in the “All true sinners” reality for this is what the Bible teaches.  

            I’m not denying that the Crusaders or that Mother Teresa were Christians I’m affirming that they were sinners doing their best and badly failing in points just like every other Christian who’s walked this ball of mud – including me.

            The danger, and the reason why them make excellent object lessons, that that people suffered because of their sin. And the insult is that those people suffered in the name of Jesus Christ using the Bible as justification for it all.  

            That’s why it’s important for Christians to study them through clear eyes and open minds so we learn the lessons and don’t repeat them.  However, I also know that George Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “If we learn anything from history it’s that we’ve learned nothing from history.”  

            And I would remind you that Shaw’s comments weren’t directed just at Christians.  

            This hard reality applies to all humanity.  So as I would caution my non-Christian friends against leveling too many stones at our glass house as one just might ricochet off and hit theirs. Now I’ve been trying really, really hard to NOT engage in the old, “Oh yeah, well what about YOUR group!” rhetoric here but none-the-less the fact remains that no people group’s track record is “sterling” and there’s room for improvement all around. 

            Thus, though it’s not scripture, there’s the final words of the Repentance Rite in the Book of Common Prayer have become something of a mantra for me as a protection against those times when I really begin to think that I’m something that I’m not.  At the very end the Anglican Priest is to say to the repentant: “Go in peace and pray for me for I too am a sinner.”  

            And when I consider the harsh rhetoric of those – Christian and non-Christian alike – who have been so quick to throw the Crusaders and Mother Teresa under the bus in the end all I can say is, “Go in peace and pray for me for I too am a sinner.”

          • Wes Cauthers

            Great points once again, Fred.  Just to clarify, I don’t believe there is any way to know with certainty who may or may not be a genuine follower of Jesus.  Not only are we incapable of such knowledge, but it’s not our job to make that determination anyway.  Jesus said not to pass judgment and that definitely applies here just as much as anywhere else.  Like you, I claim no superiority over anyone and am well aware of the reality that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”  At the same time, I think those of us who call Jesus Lord are called not only to live the way he taught, but engage in dialogue with others about what that looks like, especially in light of things like the crusades, etc.  I think you do a much better job of that than myself but I’ll keep trying.  🙂

          • Wes Cauthers

            The definition you supplied of “No True Scotsman” says it is “an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.” Given your acknowledgement that the character of Jesus was not significantly violent, nor was violence a major theme of the teachings of the NT (along with his clear teaching and example to the contrary including specific behaviors like love that his followers would be known for), what is the most reasonable way to define a genuine follower of Christ?

          • Richard of Norway

            Not a good question Wes. I can assure you there are several answers to that which you would not be very satisfied to hear. You are trying to manipulate others to view Christianity or even Jesus the way you do. I think one can get an entirely different (and equally valid) reading of him through the scriptures. If you disagree, that’s fine but why try to push your beliefs on others?

          • Wes Cauthers

            I don’t doubt there may be several answers to that question but it’s also true that some would be more reasoned than others.  If “No True Scotsman” is an attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion, I think the question is legitimate.  I am honestly not trying to manipulate anyone or push my beliefs on others and it saddens me you think that is the case.

          • Gale Thorne

            I concede that you’ve not applied the term “true christian”, but my point was not the phrase itself but the sentiment you applied.

            The “unreasoned assertion” you made was that Jesus’ message was of love and peace and that no one can or could legitimately do violence in Jesus’ name or support violence with Jesus’ teachings or actions (while it may not accurately describe your position on the matter it is largely what I and others took from your various comments).

            When counter examples were given to your generalization you rejected them as being illegitimate in order to preserve your generalization.  While I conceded that violence was not a major theme of Jesus’ teachings one cannot deny that there are examples of violence by example and command.  It is by denying these counterexamples in order to preserve your generalization that you commit a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

            I am not trying to define a genuine follower of Christ, and am unsure why you are.  If you are making such an attempt may I suggest that you take into account that the text of the NT includes messages of both peace and violence, even if most of them are in favor of peace?

          • Wes Cauthers

            I have taken into account the totality of Jesus’s life and teachings, including the verses you quoted (in context), and I think it is an unreasoned assertion to say that he was a legitimate inspiration for the crusades, which was the original point John made in the podcast that I objected to.  As Fred said earlier, perhaps I am guilty of “No True Scotsman,” but I am definitely guilty of “all true sinners”.  I would ask you to pray for me, but since you are an atheist, I’ll just say thanks for the discussion.  🙂

          • Richard of Norway

            This could get into a pretty lengthy discussion – which I do not have time or energy to invest in, so I hope it suffices to share a couple of simple viewpoints, which may or may not help you understand why I and possibly others find it difficult to accept the idea of a “true follower of Jesus” or “true Christian”.

            From what I gather from reading all of the texts in the New AND Old Testament, and based on which books and passages scholars in general deem reliable (yeah, I know some of you want to believe the Christian scholars more than others, but most of us view them in much the same way we all view FARMS), these are my conclusions about Jesus, and why I don’t think many of his followers have it “right” in regards to who he was or what he said and did.

            1) Jesus was a Jew who believed in and followed the OT scriptures and laws.
            2) OT God was a wrathful, angry, vengeful S.O.B. who cared more about our blind worship, fear, obedience and respect than anything else.
            3) Passages about Jesus which contradict the angry, wrathful OT God tell me that Jesus was either NOT what Christians believe (Son of God nor God incarnate) or that the passages themselves are inaccurate depictions of Jesus’ life. Or of course, in my case: OT God was an invention by man, and so was much of Jesus’ sayings and stories about his life.
            4) Mark is the earliest and most reliable source for how Jesus acted and what he said and did.
            5) I agree the narratives imply he allowed himself to be arrested, but disagree that he knew he would be going to his death. (BTW, who was the naked dude who fled the scene? Mark 14:51-52)
            6) Regarding Jesus as a non-violent pacifist, I suggest you read this: The Problem with Jesus’ Arrest and Trial
            Excerpt: “Our evidence is good that Jesus did act politically seditious against Roman authority”
            7) For me, the overall picture reveals a man who believed the end of the world was nigh (would happen within the year? – or surely within Jesus’ lifetime) and that he would reign as King over a group of people (the rejected and downtrodden) who accepted him as such.

            I honestly can’t understand how intelligent, rational people as Wes, Fred and so many others are, can consider the NT to be a 100% reliable source for Jesus’ acts, words and teachings. Considering all of the contradictions (it baffles my mind for some to claim there are none) how and why should we consider the Gospels an infallible, 100% accurate depiction of the events? Surely one can agree that there is more to the story than is told, and that some of the recorded events were likely exaggerated or even completely made up? Clearly, the Gospel authors molded the story to support the narrative they wanted to portray.

            Anybody who denies such, while at the same time so easily shows skepticism and doubt to the LDS version of Joseph Smith’s story frankly loses credibility with me. I consider it an obvious case of confirmation bias.

          • Richard of Norway

            This could get into a pretty lengthy discussion – which I do not have time or energy to invest in, so I hope it suffices to share a couple of simple viewpoints, which may or may not help you understand why I and possibly others find it difficult to accept the idea of a “true follower of Jesus” or “true Christian”.

            From what I gather from reading all of the texts in the New AND Old Testament, and based on which books and passages scholars in general deem reliable (yeah, I know some of you want to believe the Christian scholars more than others, but most of us view them in much the same way we all view FARMS), these are my conclusions about Jesus, and why I don’t think many of his followers have it “right” in regards to who he was or what he said and did.

            1) Jesus was a Jew who believed in and followed the OT scriptures and laws.
            2) OT God was a wrathful, angry, vengeful S.O.B. who cared more about our blind worship, fear, obedience and respect than anything else.
            3) Passages about Jesus which contradict the angry, wrathful OT God tell me that Jesus was either NOT what Christians believe (Son of God nor God incarnate) or that the passages themselves are inaccurate depictions of Jesus’ life. Or of course, in my case: OT God was an invention by man, and so was much of Jesus’ sayings and stories about his life.
            4) Mark is the earliest and most reliable source for how Jesus acted and what he said and did.
            5) I agree the narratives imply he allowed himself to be arrested, but disagree that he knew he would be going to his death. (BTW, who was the naked dude who fled the scene? Mark 14:51-52)
            6) Regarding Jesus as a non-violent pacifist, I suggest you read this: The Problem with Jesus’ Arrest and Trial
            Excerpt: “Our evidence is good that Jesus did act politically seditious against Roman authority”
            7) For me, the overall picture reveals a man who believed the end of the world was nigh (would happen within the year? – or surely within Jesus’ lifetime) and that he would reign as King over a group of people (the rejected and downtrodden) who accepted him as such.

            I honestly can’t understand how intelligent, rational people as Wes, Fred and so many others are, can consider the NT to be a 100% reliable source for Jesus’ acts, words and teachings. Considering all of the contradictions (it baffles my mind for some to claim there are none) how and why should we consider the Gospels an infallible, 100% accurate depiction of the events? Surely one can agree that there is more to the story than is told, and that some of the recorded events were likely exaggerated or even completely made up? Clearly, the Gospel authors molded the story to support the narrative they wanted to portray.

            Anybody who denies such, while at the same time so easily shows skepticism and doubt to the LDS version of Joseph Smith’s story frankly loses credibility with me. I consider it an obvious case of confirmation bias.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Yeah, I agree it could get into a lengthy discussion which I don’t think this format is very conducive to, but I will share a few things as well.  I doubt you will be persuaded by what I have to say, as it seems you have pretty much made up your mind on the matter and I really am not trying to convince you or anyone else of anything anyway.

            Regarding Biblical scholars, there are a wide range of perspectives and I disagree that you can equate all those who believe with FARMS.

            There is no question that Jesus was a believing Jew who knew the Old Covenant scriptures well and observed the Jewish law.  At the same time, followers of Jesus believe he came to usher in the New Covenant which supersedes the old one because his life, death and resurrection fulfilled it.  I can provide both OT and NT references for this if you’re interested.

            I understand why you and others (especially those who leave Mormonism) see the God of the OT the way you described and I don’t deny that anger and wrath are part of his character.  The Bible (including the OT) also describes God as kind, compassionate, merciful, etc.  Followers of Jesus believe that a comprehensive Biblical understanding of God reveals him to be multidimensional in both character and nature. We also believe that both justice and mercy were demonstrated on the cross, where God himself voluntarily suffers on behalf of all humanity and freely offers redemption to everyone.

            Regarding the reliability of Jesus’s acts, words, and deeds in the NT, I personally find it more compelling that everything isn’t all wrapped up in a nice little package since that is not the human experience.  In my mind, it would be far more suspect if everyone had every little detail exactly the same.  More importantly, the contradictions/differences are relatively minor and do not affect the substance of the message/story.  Beyond that, if we believe Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead, it follows that we would also believe God to be capable of providing us with a sufficient record of whatever happened.

            In the case of Mormonism, we have loads of contradictions that do affect the substance of the message/story in major ways.   You may disagree, but I think the evidence against the truthfulness of Mormonism and the lack of evidence in favor of it make it demonstrably false whereas with Jesus it’s not such an open and shut case.

            As I said earlier, I’m really not trying to convince you or anyone else about any of this stuff.  I have no problem agreeing to disagree and fully support the idea that people should be able to believe whatever they want.  I also acknowledge that I may be wrong about any number of things and I don’t claim to “know” anything the way we were used to hearing during fast and testimony meeting.  Finally, while I do have faith that the NT is an accurate account of Jesus’s life and that he was who he said he was, I don’t believe in anything (that I am aware of) that is demonstrably false.

          • Richard of Norway

            Thanks for your respectful reply. Very well done. 🙂

            I guess I am mostly curious to know how you take the birth narrative as factual. It has been debunked so well by very competent scholars. Please explain why you think they are wrong.

          • Wes Cauthers

            Your question assumes I am familiar with certain arguments against the birth narrative which is not necessarily the case.  To be honest, that’s not something I have read much about.

          • Richard of Norway

            Well I really admire and appreciate your honesty. I wish I could get such honest answers out of my wife. Since I don’t want to come off as overbearing and tactless (which my wife accuses me of all the time) I will just supply a couple of simple quotes and links, and hope you would do the research (reading books) on your own to find out how historically accurate it is.

            I read E.P.Sanders book The Historical Figure of Jesus and while it didn’t shed much light on anything (in my opinion he was far too careful not to offend believers, perhaps because he is one himself, to a degree?) I did walk away relieved that even a believing scholar would have the integrity to admit that the birth narrative is fictional. He describes them as “the clearest cases of invention in the Gospels” (as is pointed out in the Historical Jesus Wikipedia page).

            Personally, I think Bart Ehrman did the best job of documenting reasons why it couldn’t have happened that way. I don’t have his book(s) with me now (I’m at work) but he explains some of them in this YouTube video (birth discussed at 22 minute mark). Starting at 26:30 he explains why Luke’s account of the Census of Quirinius is implausible. In short: No other record of such a census exists, and the idea of everyone in the Roman Empire returning to an ancestral city for a census is.. ridiculous.

            The Wikipedia article summarizes it well:

            In Christianity, the Gospel of Luke connects the birth of Jesus to a “worldwide census” in which individuals had to return to their ancestral cities. Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, travel from their home in Nazareth, Galilee, to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. This explains how Jesus, a Galilean, could have been born in Bethlehem in Judea, the city of King David. No other record of such a census exists, and the idea of everyone in the Roman Empire returning to an ancestral city for a census is questioned by scholars.[3][4] The Gospel of Matthew has a different birth narrative, with Jesus’ birth taking place during the life of Herod the Great, who died c. 4 BC. Bible scholars have traditionally sought to reconcile these accounts; while most current scholars regard this as an error by the author of the Gospel of Luke,[5] thus casting doubt on the Historical reliability of the Gospels.

            (See Wikipedia article for sources, etc.)

            And then there’s the virgin birth, which problems are well summarized here, even though scholars like Ehrman and others cover it better in their books.

            I recommend reading more on this because (for me at least) when so many elements of Jesus’ birth narrative are conceded to be fictional, why not also concede that other parts of the general story were exaggerations or author’s artistic choices, rather than meant as 100% factual?

  10. Johnboy Reply

    These chats are actually my favorite episodes.  Thank-you so much for the service.  I agree with almost every viewpoint you have.  I feel so much more at peace accepting reality instead of jumping through the hoops and living in zombie hell on earth just to get my celestial hell.  Just 3 weeks ago a family member said “children need God” so I especially appreciate your observation that children are born atheists and don’t need God to develop empathy.  It drives me crazy that I have to pretend to be a zombie too just to keep my family (wife stated she would never consider my viewpoint no matter the evidence).  It’s lonely having a spouse who won’t even talk about non-church-approved ideas, so it is nice to know that there are couples who can make it through the dark veil of dogma together.  

    • Wayne Perry Reply

      Boy, can I relate!  My wife has said much the same thing.  Although we have come to a good place as far as dealing with our different views of the church peaceably, and are as much in love as ever, the church is frequently the “elephant in the room” that we ignore.  I can’t agree more with your statement about loneliness.  Of course, my wife is dealing with her own loneliness, too, not being able to share her happiness in the gospel as she once could (for about 25 years).  This makes things like Mormon Expression all the more important.  Enjoyed your comments…thanks!

  11. Eric Reply

    John, the last few minutes of this were great.  If only that could be said from over the pulpit at General Conference.

  12. JT Reply

    A few of John and Zilpha’s remarks reminded me of a line from Keith Parson’s Essay, “Hell, Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine” in the anthology The End of Christianity (edited by John Loftus).

    “You don’t need much moral authority if you can scare the hell into people.”

    Two quick related points

    1.  I will grant that Mormonism got around to replacing the endless torments of hell (see its ponderous treatment in the Book of Mormon) with the kinder and gentler three degrees of heaven.  But the latter still provides the LDS institution with an adequate tool of instilling loyalty through fear and anxiety.  What could be more perverse than holding the threat of family separation over people’s head?  All the more effective in how it works implicitly behind a rosy “Families are Forever” curtain.  

    2. Some earlier respondents mounted defenses of their Jesus-centered Christianity with regard to morality and rationality.  I say:  Don’t be cherry picking Jesus’ – he did a pretty good job dishing out the hell fire, with Paul and John adding icing to that damnable cake.  And then there are the serious “irrationality” issues with traditional Christian doctrine. (See the book I referenced above for just a few)

    Cheers

    JT

  13. JT Reply

    John pointed out that science is best understood as a methodology for generating knowledge and not merely a collection of empirical facts and theories that every scientist will acknowledge are open to refinement or refutation by further testing, which points to the admirable governing ethic of science.  The power of this methodology is demonstrable (rip the back off your keyboard and sink your teeth into a few million p- and n-doped silicon transistors).  Perhaps more apropos are the advances in cognitive science and neuroscience that are peering “under-the-hood” of the human brain to reveal mechanisms of perception, learning, motivation, emotions, and choice that run largely independently of our conscious awareness.

    But I digress.

    The point is, might religion best be understood as a methodology for generating knowledge?  Indeed, Alma outlines the Mormon/Christian methodology in Alma 32.  He even appropriates the word “experiment.”  I’ll leave it to you to consider to what degree this is a misappropriation.  Let me just say that its power is demonstrated in the 33,000 Christian sects – which I will appropriate the term theory to describe.

    Oh, I just can’t help pointing out the essence of Alma’s experimental method.  He just needs to be quoted.

    Verse 33:  … because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the [Gospel] seed, and it … beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seen is good.

    Verse 39:  Now, [if it does not take root, etc] it is not because the seed was not good … but because your ground is barren.

    Now I know what Joseph meant by “one eternal round.”

  14. Porter Rockwell Reply

    A highly enjoyable discussion! I love your reasoning John, and Zilpha has a very pleasant podcast voice (and great reasoning too of course)

    Keep up your fantastic work, I look forward to every Tuesday, when the next episode comes. You are two of my heroes :-). Helps me endure my situation in the church (nonbeliever but attending for family reasons). Gives me hope for a brighter future,

    Thanx again!

  15. Carson N Reply

    I really enjoyed listening to this. You have a real talent for free form conversation on a podcast, and often the way one of you will phrase things or one of the the apt analogies you come up with on the spot will give me a micro-epiphany.

    Often, John, it feels like you’re taking the thoughts directly from my head and explaining them to me in new ways. One of these days I’d like to meet you both in person.

  16. Ckborough Reply

    John and Zilpha – I spent a year visiting 52 religions and wrote reports of the experiences. After reading those reports people would ask what I was. (You know atheist, agnostic, believer?) I answered that question in the little book “That Little Hardback.” Here it is: 168. What am I? Well, I find it impossible to believe a person made the universe, so reasonably, I am an atheist. On the other hand, I know something is going on that is beyond my comprehension, something far more than myself, so evidently, I am a believer. I do not think anyone is capable of knowing what is going on, so obviously, I am an agnostic. I am all of these at the same time. I am not one of them in a foxhole and another when secure. I am an atheist agnostic believer.
    – Chuck Borough

  17. Eric Comstock Reply

    A few thoughts based on the podcast. By the way a great discussion that I wish I could have added to and found myself talking at my computer screen several times.

    I guess I am somewhere between Atheism and Agnosticism. I guess I would also say that I am anti-religion. My moral code is “be nice.” Be nice to yourself, be nice to animals, be nice to others, be nice to the earth.
    On Moral Purity: When I was a member I constantly heard the message, avoid bad thoughts, don’t masturbate, don’t look at pornography. I felt like I was always hearing don’t think of pink elephants. Don’t think of pink elephants because if you do you are sinning. But when you keep hearing that message you start to think about pink elephants and you think that you are a terrible person. But now that I am out of the church and no longer hear that message (and no longer care about that message) I no longer think of pink elephants. I think the way religion teaches moral purity is destructive and degrading. 

    On raising our children in non-religious home: My wife and I teach our children to live their lives based on logical consequence and not based on “religious” consequence. I remember one conversation we had with our daughter while we were still members… she told us that she learned at church that day that it was wrong to steal. We asked her why, she said because Heavenly Father didn’t want us to do that. We explained to her that we don’t steal because it is wrong to take something from someone that does not belong to you. We are teaching our children to be honest, kind and nice. That there are natural consequences to all of our choices. I think life can be hard enough without adding into the mix that there is a God is generally always disappointed with you because you are not doing “your very best”… as if I could do better than my best.

  18. JT Reply

    John,

    You and Zilpha spoke of children not being natural theists – implying that god-belief was determined by overt indoctrination.  Well, science that contradicts this claim – which is not to say there is no substance to differences between children raised with and without religion.

    The psychiatrist J. Anderson Thomson (http://www.jandersonthomson.com/about/) summarizes the  current state of research in the psychology of religious belief  in a new book (co-authored with Clare Aukofer) entitled Why We Believe in Gods: A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith.

    Thomson addresses this issue (i.e. how our evolved cognitive mechanisms are “hijacked” by religions) in a Youtube video lecture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iMmvu9eMrg

    This research is also relevant to your discussion of the differing perceived God personalities.

    JT

    • Anonymous Reply

      If indeed belief in God is genetic (which I am still highly skeptical of) that doesn’t prove that God exists. It merely demonstrates that belief in God gave a reproductive advantage for survival sometime in our past.

      More likely is that since human beings are social creatures and survive in small groups, we evolved the cognitive ability to share common values and stories. This would aid in cultural transmission of survival skills and group cohesion. More likely then is that we didn’t evolve the belief in God, but rather the tendency to believe the in-groups mythos.

      • JT Reply

        John,

        Indeed, the evidence supporting our innate disposition to believe in the supernatural points more strongly toward a naturalistic explanation. Some see the cognitive science/neuroscience of religious belief as the next front in the war between science and religion (rumblings have already begun from the same people who back intelligent design). The related issue in all this is the scientific understanding of human decision making (freewill) – mounting evidence that it is not all that our intuitions crack it up to be.
        (consider the work of Daniel Wegner at Harvard and John Bargh at Yale(?)

        But your intuitions about the social psychology of groups seems to line up with some of the recent research (it is still a young field, but rapidly progressing). If you have 45 minutes free (ha ha), check out Thomson’s video lecture. I think you’ll appreciate it.

        JT

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      YOU WROTE
      “You and Zilpha spoke of children not being natural theists – implying that god-belief was determined by overt indoctrination. Well, science that contradicts this claim – which is not to say there is no substance to differences between children raised with and without religion.”

      MY RESPONSE
      Paul C. Vitz wrote about this in his book “Faith of the Fatherless” ( http://www.amazon.com/Faith-Fatherless-Psychology-Paul-Vitz/dp/1890626120/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0http://www.amazon.com/Paul-C.-Vitz/e/B001HPPHUU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ) citing the body of Anthrolopological research that demonstrates the human propensity for Theism, the research indicates that it is Atheism not Theism that is a “learned” religious state.

      A few points from the book:
      – In many cases the drift toward Atheism is as much a result of socialization as intellectualism.

      – “In short, the presence of a positive and effective father, or father-figure, seems to be a strong antidote to atheism.”
      (“Faith of the Fatherless” p. 104)

      – “Another characteristic that seems to be found among many atheists is a significant level of ambition and, closely related to it, intellectual arrogance.”
      (“Faith of the Fatherless” p. 106)

      – “…we expect male atheists to be explicitly atheistic and to have a new ‘divinity’ that takes the intellectual place of God.”
      (“Faith of the Fatherless” p. 110)

      – “In the case of [atheist] woman, the vacuum created by loss of the divine relationship is filled with other relationships. The woman who rejects God will look for substitute relationships in some new enthusiasm.”
      (“Faith of the Fatherless” p. 112)

      – Atheism is often an Oedipal wish fulfillment. That is they murder their Father (albeit intellectually) and place them self in His place.

      It is, as one might imagine, a thought provoking book for Theist and Atheist alike.

      A White Paper that (I think) was written before the publication of the book can be found here: http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth12.html

      On a personal note, and speaking as a former militant Atheist, this book really resonated with me. So much so that at times I felt like I was reading my biography!

      • JT Reply

        I will read the white paper… but my initial response is that this analysis looks to be a Freudian and Freud has been steadily losing traction in psychology (science) for decades precisely because it is not holding up to empirical testing … Indeed, it suffers from the same problems as religion … it is comprised of unfalsifiable speculations that can be easily molded to fit anecdotal case studies. Elements of Freudian psychology have been substantiated by the research, but a lot does not hold up. Modern psychology enjoys a confluence of supporting research from cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and neuroscience. A rift of sorts has grown between psychiatry (with its speculative ideological tendencies) and academic psychology (edging closer to a hard science).

        I agree that agnostics/atheists are the “odd balls” and deserve as much study as true believers… But I am skeptical of the caricature your outline portrays. It does not seem to fit me… But I am neither a militant atheist nor anything more than anecdotal evidence!

        I’ll look forward to reading the piece and/or book you referenced.

        Thanks

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          Actually, to clarify, he deconstructs Freudian psychology.  And though it resonates with me I’ve lived long enough to realize that I’m not everyone. 

          I think that you’ll enjoy it even if you disagree with it in total or in part – it’s quite thought provoking, even evocative in places.

          • JT

            Fred,

            Thanks, and I am indeed intrigued and will read it.

            Who sponsors that website holding the white paper? One link from it took me a Campus Crusade for Christ page and there are links related to Christian apologetics, etc.

            Cheers

            JT

          • Fred W. Anson

            I’m sorry you disprove of the website.  Unfortunately that was the only place I could find an online copy of the article.  If you find another copy on the web please let me know and I’ll start using that link instead. 

            However, I would hope that you would agree that just because someone’s work in posted on a website doesn’t mean that they’re in full agreement with the website owners or somehow secretly aligned with them. 

            For example, I know this guy, Fred W. Anson (a Theist to boot!) who blogs on the website of a frakin’, flamin’ Atheist, some dude who goes by the name of John Larsen (no doubt an alias). AND this same Anson guy has housed some of his Mormon Studies research archives and articles on the Concerned Christians website – a website that’s blatantly Theist.  What’s up with THAT?  Geez, I wish the guy would make up his flippin’ mind here!  Theist or Atheist, what’s it gonna be Anson? 
            (come to think of it, I’ll bet his “name” is an alias too – he’s probably Sandra Tanner in real life!)

            The truth be told, in the end, Mr. Anson is his own man and while enjoying a good symbiotic relationship with both website owners isn’t beholden to either. After all he’s said things on BOTH websites that the website owners are diametrically opposed to and do NOT agree with in any way. 

            Know the old saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover?” well JT, you can’t judge an author’s work by the website that it’s housed on either. 

            All that to say that I hope that you will consider Mr. Vitz’s work with an open mind rather than prejudging it just because the folks at Campus Crusade liked it enough to post it there for public consumption. 

            😉

          • JT

            Fred,

            I agree with you … As I said, I’m interested in reading it … and while I admit to a red flag popping up when I read “Christianized Psychology” I am keenly aware of the dangers of dismissing things with prejudice.

            Thanks
            JT

          • Fred W. Anson

            I understand.  I’m not saying that Vitz’s work is perfect, or even definitive, but it’s certainly thought provoking – and for this former militant Atheist cum Theist it was evocative and biographical as well. 

      • JT Reply

        Fred,

        I looked up Vitz … The first bit that popped up.

        “It is the aim of this website to make available in on-line form the published works of Paul C. Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University, which address aspects of a Christianized psychology, that is, the integration of the two disciplines”

        Christianized psychology? Hmmmm. Religionized science?

      • Kevin Johnson Reply

        Out of curioisty, Fred…you say “former” militant atheist.  Did you find your way back to Mormonism after atheism?  This would be fascinating to me to track your reasoning, as your viewpoints here have been highly respected on my part.

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          Contrary to popular rumor I’m not now nor have I ever been a card carrying member of the LdS Party . . . er, I mean Church. 

          I’m actually a Charismatic Presbyterian now after a long, strange trip.
          (yes, we do actually exist – believe it or not, it’s not an urban myth)

          I was raised Nazarene and I would say that nothing will turn you from God like the Nazarene Church but every time I say that I get push back from Catholics, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and others – including ExMormons – claiming the same about the church that they were raised in. 

          If you watch my blog I’m slowly unpeeling the onion on all this and will be doing so for some time – stay tuned for more.

          • Richard of Norway

            I for one am anxious to hear your story. I think it would be cool to hear you tell it on a podcast, but I guess that might not fit into John’s idea for “Mormon Expression” as it might not have much to do with Mormonism specifically.

            Looking forward to learn more about you, you interesting fellow! 🙂

          • Fred W. Anson

            Your wish is my command – see my latest blog. 

            And you’re right – only a small portion of my story brushes up against Mormonism so I’m not sure that it would make for a good podcast.   

            Besides, there are FAR most interesting people than I that I would love to see on the podcast. I’m sure that John’s tired of getting my, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get . . . ” emails by now!

            Besides I’m sure that Thomas S. Monson has far better things to do with his time!

            😉

  19. ff42 Reply

    To the question of Atheist (at least mine)  morality, I use the coma test:  I person in a coma, by definition, can not be immoral (i.e., can’t steal, rape, lie, collect taxes, murder, etc. ).  In short a man in a coma can not initiate harm against others.  What does that leave?  Voluntary interactions with others.  If it is not voluntary it is immoral.

    • Fred W. Anson Reply

      ff42, I’ve given this post a fair chance to “germinate” and I must say that it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.  In fact, I don’t even know what clarifying question(s) to ask because I find the whole post so peculiar and strange.

      Could you try to frame it or articulate it differently so it’s clearer?

  20. anonymous love Reply

    hey john, you should probably not talk about 12 step programs or why or how they work, i usually respect your opinion but i think you were speaking about something you know very little about. the phrase “god as you understand him” which AA and other twelve step programs use was coined by an early member of AA who was an atheist. AA has the highest success rate of people quitting and staying stopped and you said you would like to tell recovering alcoholics they did it on their own which is in fact wrong. relief needs to come from some outside source

  21. Verminpants Reply

    Love it John and Zilpah! You reflect my views of the church perfectly while other Mormon Podcasts are becoming too compliant and are beginning to pander to to the church. Some BYU scholars and apologists talk Bullshit.
    Keep it up!

  22. Hyjaxe Reply

    I really liked this one.

    John, I completely agree with you on all grounds. Makes sense to me, /shrug. I like your statement about the snail, quite funny, though I think it’s a giant spaghetti monster : )

  23. Rbsaladino Reply

    I hate to admit it but the only reason I went back to school to get my MS was because the church force fed me the whole BS idea about getting the most education you can…thus I now have student loans that I didn’t have before
    Thus I thought I would easily be able to pay then back because of tithing…yes I know very irrational but I was exercising my faith!!!!

  24. Will D Reply

    Don’t apologize this was my favorite podcast so far!  Zilpha I love your comments and John I love your rants!  😉  

  25. Wayne Perry Reply

    I’m always “late to the party” here because I’m usually a few weeks behind in listening.  However, regardless of how much after the fact this is, I have to comment about how much I’ve enjoyed this conversation between John and Zilpha.  Both articulated in words and ways that have escaped me for years how I feel and where I am.  Far from being the filler piece that you seemed to think it might be, I was captivated from the beginning to the end and now am on my second listen…and there might be a third!  Thanks!

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