Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebellion, or Something More?

It has been a very eventful and draining few weeks, and I haven't posted on here in a while.  I do, however, have a lot of things I've been thinking about.

I've had the chance to talk recently with some people pretty frankly about my lack of a testimony.  It's awkward to have to tell people (when they seem like they might invite me to go to the temple) "um... I should probably let you know that I don't have a temple recommend."  I always follow it up with "I'm not involved in anything horrible, I just don't have a testimony and can't answer 'yes' to the questions about belief in the interview."  I don't know exactly why I feel like I have to justify myself in this way.  I guess, with most of my family and friends being strongly Mormon, I don't want to be seen as "weak and sinful" so much as "questioning."

I really don't think the church is correct.  It's history is filled with silly inconsistencies, and it's doctrine doesn't seem to match what I perceive as true.  I was told recently that it is silly to judge the church based on statements by a previous, imperfect prophet (like Brigham Young, who even Mormons will admit had some wacky ideas).  I defended myself by saying that yes, but if there is going to be an ultimate source of "revelation" on the Earth, it had damn-well better stick out in some way.  I don't find that the LDS "prophets" tend to be much more correct in their statements, predictions, and assertions than any other person claiming to be in close contact with god.

I guess what has really been hitting me is the fact that I'm probably never going to believe in the church again (or god, for that matter), and that is going to have a profound impact on my relationship with my family and friends.  Many in my family will always think somewhat less of me because of it.  I will be excluded from family events and activities, like temple weddings.  I really love my family, and it makes me sad that my lack of belief puts distance between them and me.  It's almost enough to make me want to pretend to believe, just so I can avoid all of that.
But, I just can't live a lie.  The LDS church is very likely based on fiction, as far as I can tell.  I am interested in truth, and I want to seek truth, not accept (or even pretend to accept) what some others around me insist is truth. 

I've had moments of extreme elation as I've learned to think for myself and question my own unfounded beliefs, but it's definitely not all fun and games.  I know there is a certain entertainment I get from the rebellious aspect of the change in my life, but this is not about rebellion, ultimately.  I am very sad, sometimes, that I will never be to my family what I could be if I just never questioned the religion of my upbringing.  At these times, I review my present conclusions, earnestly trying to determine whether maybe I'm just being rebellious or have some other ulterior motive for my lack of belief.  I haven't once concluded that this is the case... I have very real reasons for doubting god's existence, and I just couldn't go back to believing given my present knowledge and experiences.  I need integrity.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Curious Case of Korihor

Korihor is a character who turns up in the Book of Mormon in Alma 30.

Korihor is an atheist.  He works hard to try to tell people that they don't have very good reasons to believe what they believe, and maybe they'd better take a good look at their leaders and their beliefs.  He tells them that Christ will not come, because why would you believe someone who says he knows the future?

Korihor ends up having a showdown with Alma.  Korihor welcomes to opportunity for dialogue, and explains why he is trying to get people to doubt the gospel.  Eventually, Korihor keeps saying that he won't believe in god without proof, so Alma gives him proof... he strikes him dumb by god's power!

Here is where the nefarious aspect of Korihor's story comes out.  Alma accuses Korihor of lying about Alma and other church leaders' taking advantage of the people, while in actuality they don't get a dime for their service.  The account seems to support this accusation.  Alma also says "can you prove that there isn't a god?" and Korihor is duped.  Finally, the truth comes out: Korihor had been approached by Satan (in the deceptive guise of an angel) and set on his blasphemous task.  He is the literal, willing servant of Satan, who manages to preach so subtly that even he starts believing his own lies.

Korihor is a very cleverly-made caricature of a skeptic.  Initially, his arguments seems reasonable enough, and he seems to be concerned for the welfare of his fellow citizens.  However, the righteous servants of god soon reveal that he is a fake who is literally in the employ of Satan himself.
The beauty of the Korihor story is that it gives LDS theology a delightful straw-man with which to equate all atheists, skeptics, and critics.  Sure, these people might seem like they are honestly out to make a point, but they are all really just working for Satan for their own selfish purposes.

Now, I can't honestly speak for all atheists, critics, and skeptics.  But I consider myself a skeptic, atheist, and critic of religion, and I haven't seen any angels.  I know some accuse the leaders of the church of taking the money of the church and enjoying their positions of power, but I honestly think that they probably work pretty hard for what they believe is right and correct, and don't get all that wealthy doing it.  I don't find a whole lot of similarity between Korihor and myself.  I'm content to leave those who are not interested in skeptical inquiry alone.  I haven't talked to Satan lately.
But I do happen to agree with Korihor on a few points.  I don't feel that there is sufficient evidence generally available to justify the insistence on the existence of some intelligent, paternal god.  I fear that religious leaders intentionally obfuscate the issues with their rhetoric, though I think that in many cases their intentions are good enough.

The point of Korihor is to show the LDS church that all those who criticize their unquestioning belief must be evil satanists with ulterior motives.  I must be just like Korihor, right?  The thing that makes Korihor really effective is his humanity, his believability as he is introduced in the text.  Subtly and slowly, it is revealed what a real liar he is.  If he had been presented immediately as a satanic man with clear ambitions of power and influence, he would be hard to compare to a lot of skeptics out there, but as he starts off as a more believable character, it is easier to equate actual skeptics with him and then assume that they are hiding similarly-nasty secrets.

All-in-all, the story of Korihor is a master stroke in creating preconceived prejudice against those of a more skeptical nature.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hooray for America

Osama Bin Laden is dead!  Whoopdy-hoo!

We managed to kill the guy we wanted dead, and it only cost thousands of American lives (not to mention the casualties on the other side), trillions of taxpayer dollars, and the respect of the international community.

But, of course, we are completely justified in calling for the blood of such a bloodthirsty killer, right?  He killed Americans, so he's evil, and we killed him and his buddies, so we're heroic, strong, and brave.

After all, we're a Christian nation, right?  And Christianity is all about revenge.
Matthew 5:39 -  “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him [and rip his freaking head off!]”

America: ruthlessly disposing of and dancing on the graves of those who oppose us since 1776.