Friday, December 31, 2010

Forms of Theism and the evolution of Joseph Smith's Theology

My definitions of the forms of theism (belief in God):

Monotheism: There is one God and there are no other Gods, ever. Never has been, never will be. God is eternal and NO ONE else can ever be God. Jesus was not God, the Holy Ghost is not God, there is only one God and no one else is or can become God. (Judaism is an example of monotheism. They believe in Jehovah and beside him there can be no other. Even the Messiah would never be equal to Jehovah and the Messiah certainly would not declare himself to be Jehovah.)

Scriptures in support of monotheism:
Exodus 20:3
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 23:13
“And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”

1 Timothy 2:5
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”

Modalistic Monotheism: There is only one God but the form of God can change. Before Jesus came to earth Jesus was THE God in heaven, the Jehovah of the Old Testament. However, when He came to earth he was God in the flesh. Beside him there was no other God while he was in the flesh (in heaven or anywhere). Basically there is only one God, but God can appear in different forms as needed. While in a form, the form is God and the other, prior, form of God ceases to exist while God takes a different form.

Scriptures in support of Modalistic Monotheism:
John 1:1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 8:38-40, 58-59
“38 I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
39 They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
40 But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham… [Apparently Abraham did not know the name of God, or, if he did, he did not tell anyone.]
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” [When Jesus declared “I am”, the reason the Pharisees took up stones to throw at him is because he was committing the worst form of blasphemy by declaring to be Jehovah of the Old Testament. “I am” or “YHWH” was the name given to Moses on the Mount as the name of God. See Exodus 3:14-15.]

Binitarian/Trinitarian(ism): God is made up of two (Binitarian) or three (Trinitarian) beings that all exist independent of each other and may occupy different places in space but all share equal power and authority. If one of the 2 or 3 beings says so than God says so and they always agree and will always support each other in their decisions/actions. Besides the 2 or 3 beings of God, there can be no other Gods.

Scriptures in support of Binitarian/Trinitarianism:
John 17:5
“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

John 5:23
“That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”

Matthew 28:19
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” [Why would baptism require the names of 3 beings unless they are all equal and need to sponsor (in essence) or accept the ordinance for it to be valid?]

Polytheism: There are many Gods. God has a father and His Father has a Father and it has no beginning. It just goes back on and on. Anyone can become God and many already have become Gods. In this view God is just a title and not so much about who the person of God is, just about who meets the criteria to become God. In essence these all speak for God and theoretically no one who has achieved the title of God will ever disagree with what God the title stands for.

Scriptures in support of Polytheism:
None from the Bible

Abraham 4
“And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.” [Chapter goes on to describe the creation story replacing God with Gods]

Doctrine and Covenants 132:20
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” [However, “gods” as used in this verse, is not capitalized. Are we to assume that there are different levels of god? One may be able to become god but will never be able to become God with a capital G?]

Atheism: The belief that there is no god or gods but all of it is made up.

Scriptures in support of atheism:

Problems with each:

Monotheism: This is contrary to the LDS theology that man can become like God or become God. It does not seem to offer any hope of anyone ever being able to achieve God’s status in the universe. Man (along with all of God’s creations) will never be able to be like God. We are all damned, sort of speak, in the sense that we will never be able to be as enlightened or smart as God, let alone enjoy all that he enjoys in the eternities.

Modalistic Monotheism: This seems to contradict what Jesus himself said. Jesus said that everything he did, he did to honor his Father in heaven, which seems to indicate there is another being in heaven that Jesus wants us all to be mindful of and give all the glory to. His cry on the cross asking His Father to forgive them or to take the cup from Him, doesn’t seem to make sense if He was crying out to Himself (yet to achieve another form). Jesus seemed to indicate that his Father was a separate being from himself that we should give honor to. The only question is what level of equality with God the Father did Jesus achieve through what he did? The very idea that God can take different forms depending on the situation, and need, is an interesting one, however.

Binitarian/Trinitarian: This also seems to exclude the possibility of anyone ever achieving Godhood. It does make sense that God the Father is God and Jesus, the Son is a being equal to God and therefore a God and the Holy Ghost is considered God as well. Also, this view seems the most likely to become a polytheistic one because the logic would follow that if Jesus was able to become God as God’s only begotten Son, then maybe God has other begotten sons or daughters that could also become like God.

Polytheism: The problem with Polytheism is that it is not supported any where in the bible. The Old Testament only mentions Gods (plural) when referring to all the heathen false Gods (other than Jehovah) and the New Testament does not mention the possibility of becoming God (with the exception of expressions of the divinity of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.) Another more practical problem of polytheism is that there is always a question about which person of God we are communicating with. Since God is a title and not just one person, when people pray they may be praying to the God who was Jesus when he was on the earth (but is now God in heaven), or Abraham who is a God in heaven or any number of Gods which have subsequently become Gods. Some LDS may take comfort in the idea that they may actually be praying to Joseph Smith who has since become a God and could have taken the place of the God the Father.

Atheism: The problem with atheism is that those that are theists claim that atheists have no purpose in life. Life is declared to have no meaning if there is no chance at a life in the hereafter. The difference is atheists do not place emphasis on a life in the hereafter or allowing someone who claims to know what god wants for them to reveal what their purpose in life is. They find their own purpose and live life to its fullest now because they are not concerned about what any god thinks of their life and what makes them happy. There are many reasons for behavior and acting well in a civilized society. The thing that theists do not understand is that belief in god is not required to have a moral code.

What is the current LDS view of God?
Who knows.

Did Joseph Smith’s definition of God change over time?
Changes related to the nature of God from the Original Book of Mormon Text and the current version:

Original 1830 Text (1 Nephi 3, p. 25):
“And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.” (This represents a modal monotheistic view because it implies a change in state once Jesus became flesh)

Current, Altered Text (1 Nephi 11:18):
“And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.”

Original 1830 Text (1 Nephi 3, p. 25):
“And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Eternal Father!”

Current, Altered Text (1 Nephi 11:21):
“And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father!”

Original 1830 Text (1 Nephi 3, p. 26):
“And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.”

Current, Altered Text (1 Nephi 11:32):
“And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the Everlasting God, was judged of the world.”

Original 1830 Text (1 Nephi 3, p. 32):
“These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.”

Current, Altered Text (1 Nephi 13:40):
“These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world.”

Early Examples of Monotheism
Book of Mormon, Alma 11:26-28 (1827-1830)
“And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God. And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.”

D&C 20: 17-19 (April 1830)
17 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them;
18 And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them;
19 And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.

Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible Isaiah 44:6,8:
“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer, the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

The Book of Moses, Moses 1:6:
“And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of my Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.”

Moving from Monotheist to “Binitarian” (belief in two equal Gods)
Lectures on Faith, Lecture Five:
There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things — by whom all things were created and made . . . They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fullness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made and fashioned like unto man.

Lectures on Faith, Lecture Five (question and answer section)
Q. How many personages are there in the Godhead?
A. Two: the Father and the Son.

Examples of Polytheism
Book of Abraham 4 (1835)
“And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate . . . and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters. And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light.”

Joseph Smith’s King Follet Discourse (History of the Church, vol. 6, 1844)
“I want to reason a little on this subject (that God himself has a father). I learned it by translating the (Book of Abraham) papyrus that is now in my house. I learned a testimony concerning Abraham, and he reasoned concerning the God of heaven . . . If Abraham reasoned thus - If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also.”

The teachings of religion in relation to the nature of God do have distinct characteristics and can be placed in one of a few categories. Christianity seems to be Trinitarian, while Judaism seems to be Monothestic. LDS theology is an enigma because examples of Trinitarianism and Polytheism can both be found. In addition, the understanding of Joseph Smith seems to have changed over time. If one examines writings of Joseph at different times in his life, it can be shown that his views of God evolved over time from pure monotheism, to modal monotheism, to trinitarianism to polytheism. As for which the church stands for today, remains uncertain because clarification on the official stance of the church has yet to be forthcoming. This only leads to confusion when attempting to confirm Joseph's mission and calling as "restorer" of truth. It seems he actually did more to create confusion regarding the nature of God in the universe than any other religious leader. To me this confusion is indicative that Joseph Smith was mostly acting in his own interests rather than acting out of respect for any divine mandate or calling from God. If Joseph didn't really understand who God was and seemed to change his views over time, how can one rely on any of his work?

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's a Miracle!

OMG! The Provo tabernacle burned down! But it was a miracle because a picture of Jesus got burned all around the edges leaving just the figure of Jesus in the middle! I can't believe it! It must be a sign from the Good Lord Himself! Here's a link to the story here.

What does it all mean? Is the second coming closer now because of this miraculous good fortune? Is Jesus going to descend and make his first stop in Provo whilst miraculously rebuilding the Provo tabernacle!? I like that it is a "Christmas" Miracle no less. This must mean that Jesus was really born on December 25th! No wait, that's not right, he was supposedly born in the spring...well it must mean that Jesus loves the fact that we adopted a pagan holiday festival for his birth because He gets all the glory in spite of the fact that it's not his actual birthday. I can't dog on Jesus too much, though, He's just a symbol. The Guy probably doesn't really care very much at this point what property burns and which survives. Of course it just cracks me up that, if Jesus is somehow orchestrating all these events, Jesus would decide to spare a part of his picture, but allow an entire structure, a place that was built to allow his worshipers to congregate in his memory, to be completely burned out. Maybe Jesus' message is that he doesn't require houses of worship, just pictures of himself to meaningfully celebrate him and his mission. But wait, we can't interpret it that way, because we have to continue to have places to meet...even though Jesus taught the people in his day in the great outdoors or borrowed places. But that is no way to run a church...people have to have places to meet and honor him. The messages are so confusing...

Don't get me wrong, I mean absolutely no disrespect in what I am saying here. The burning of a great historical landmark is so immensely tragic. I do not in any way condone the mocking of the loss of such a great place that brings many fond memories for so many. My observations here are strictly in relation to the elation communicated by people over the apparent miracle of the Lord Jesus' picture surviving the fire.

Has anyone seen the movie playing on the Hallmark channel called "Finding John Christmas"? My wife loves that movie. I tried to like it, but it was just a hair over unbearable for me because of the supernatural aspect of it. What is it about supernatural events that people are so drawn to? Is it that people who have faith in something are constantly looking for signs to confirm what they believe? But I thought sign seeking was wicked and adulterous? So we're not supposed to seek signs, but the faithful secretly hope for them and really love it when they are encountered? After all, they remind us that God is in the "little things".

Part of me wants to go along and find comfort in the Christmas season and all the miracles that go along with it (even if they are small and meaningless). I love the time of year. I love the lights, some of the music and the goodies that numerous people send our way. This is a very difficult time for me as well. This is really the first Christmas that I am going through being where I am at with the church and all. My eyes are being opened to all of the ways which religion has so infiltrated a great pagan holiday. I also take comfort in the fact that the holiday is somewhat returning to its roots so to speak. There is so much that Jesus has successfully been left out of, that for people who no longer buy the whole story of Christmas b.s., it is actually quite bearable. I had to notice that it seems like many of the Christmas songs (played in stores and on the radio, unless you are in Utah I guess) that mention stuff about Jesus are usually musical renditions only and they leave the lyrics to the imagination. Now we just need people to come up with good lyrics to go with the music we all associate with Christmas.

One final thought about what would truly be a miracle. It seems that there was a musical group who were going to be performing in the Provo tabernacle who had left all of their sound equipment in the tabernacle which was all lost in the fire. What would be the real miracle is if the church put in the money to pay for all the equipment that was lost. Last I heard the group was soliciting donations to be able to replace it all, but nothing was mentioned about the church putting up funds for the group. That would be the real miracle!

Merry Christmas!
(Shared in the most temporal and pagan way possible)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I am so blessed

I was watching an interview with a professional athlete recently and he said of winning a recent game and his performance that he is "so blessed". When I hear this it just grates on me like nails scratched on a chalkboard. I understand that being thankful is important and can definitely cheer us up when we're down, but the whole concept of God being the ultimate source of all our blessings (and choosing to label beneficial happenings as such) just rubs me the wrong way.

You see, to me, saying you are blessed means that God sent favorable happenings in your direction instead of mine. Obviously one could argue that I am blessed just as much, but in different things. For some reason I don't buy this explanation. For the athlete, there is so much time and dedication put out in the form of practicing and training that it should be no wonder they are "blessed" with a good performance in one game or several. I was fortunate to be born in the USA so I had a leg up when pursuing the American dream, having started out in America and all. When I think of those outside my country and circumstances, however, like someone in Africa for example, I get an entirely different reaction. If God is the source of all our blessings, why does he play such favorites?

When I ask this question to people like my wife who believe in God, and believe that god has one favored true church on the earth, the response is that everyone's conditions may seem different here, but in the hereafter we'll see how equitable it all was. This might be, but should we always assume that when there appears to us to be inequality in the world, we should just turn a blind eye and hope everything will be settled in the hereafter? I think this belief can lead to being taken advantage of in the least and outright defrauded or killed (and having it be said that it was god's will) at the worst.

The funny thing to me is that those members who do take advantage of others seem to move up in the ranks of the church fastest, while those that let others take advantage of them because of a belief in the equitable hereafter seem to be the lowest on the totem pole as far as callings (and blessings) go. Obviously this is possibly a gross generalization on my part, but it can be shown true in many cases (Like when Henry B. Eyring says he was blessed to be able to sell a very valuable extra piece of property he just happened to have sitting around in his portfolio of assets). Of course I realize I sound like a bitter apostate in this, but I just can't continue to accept that there is a director or choreographer (or whatever people claim God's role to actually be in our lives) out there divvying up blessings here and there based on some, as yet unknown, standard of fairness. I guess we can either accept that because "the" standard of fairness is not known it must not exist (which would be a perfectly natural conclusion) or we can say that it does in spite of appearances to the contrary, but we just don't know what it is.

This goes back to the question of faith I explored in a previous post wherein I ask what is the purpose of faith. Until and unless someone can show me that there is ultimately a benefit in the hereafter for exercising faith (instead of, or in addition to, reason) in the here and now, I will choose to follow reason and rely on my intellect instead of placing faith in a hereafter that has yet to be proven even exists let alone knowing that when it is revealed everything will be shown to have been perfectly equitable.

On top of that, I cannot relate to this God of whom so many speak. When you say that God is my heavenly father, I naturally try to relate to him by placing myself in his circumstances and asking myself, if I were god would I treat my children this way? The answer most of the time is no friggin' way! It turns out there is much that God does that I cannot relate to, because if it were up to me, things would be wayyy different here.

On a different note, I went and looked up the word mammon (duh, I probably should have done that before I wrote and posted my views on the word) and it doesn't mean "the world" but means riches or material wealth (which could be considered part of the world, right?). I guess that changes my whole outlook...does that scripture mean I have to choose between the god of riches (mammon) and the Hebrew god of...poverty? I think I'll choose to avoid following a god that advocates poverty thank you very much. Makes me wonder what is up with all the admonitions against riches in the bible. I have heard some say (no doubt trying to find the work around to this teaching in order to have riches but still live the spirit of the law) that it is the "love of money" that is to be avoided and not just money or the pursuit of it in itself. But if you desire to pursue money don't you kind of have to love it? If one believes the bible and teachings of Jesus it seems as though it is better to avoid the temptation and seek a life of poverty than to seek riches and be subject to so much temptation. Jesus would say don't worry about stuff...all your needs will be taken care of...just let things take care of will be blessed. Then a modern day leader of the lds church would say, "See, all those people that went out on missions early in church history were taken care of." However, if I go out today and take nothing with me and embark on a journey across the country, I could probably survive on the charity of others for a very long time, but is that any kind of life worth living? Living on somebody else's dime your entire life does not bring confidence and self respect, it robs you of it.

I can see some sense in saying that riches can never bring true happiness, but I sure wouldn't mind testing out that theory ;-).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thoughts on mammon

My wife says that it is difficult to serve two masters, that I will eventually have to decide one way or the other; to either get back into the church or remove myself entirely from it. Of course, I cannot ever truly remove myself entirely from it if I want to stay married to a woman who is active in the church, but I digress. I think this philosophy only creates a line in the sand mentality and causes divide among people in the world who are just trying to get along and do what they think is right. This thought has caused me to think upon the scripture the thought is based on, man cannot serve two masters, man eventually has to decide between God and mammon. I am not 100% sure about my definition of mammon, but I think the word has been generally used to describe "the world". Especially since there is a teaching about being in "the world" but not of "the world".

It seems like nobody really questions this teaching or its underlying assumption that "the world" is evil. So who is this "the world" anyway? If I ask people who cite this teaching or prescribe to it, it is always defined as a nebulous place "out there" or "all the bad stuff". So, if I press for some specific examples of the influence of "the world" what do I get? Is your neighbor of "the world"? Are your co-workers of "the world"? Some might say yes, but if I ask which one's, what do I get? Lots of hemming and hawing and excuses about how "the world" can't be described as any individual but a nebulous group of people "somewhere", "out there" who are influenced by the devil to promote his works. So which people belong to this group? Oh, you know, the murderers, rapists, etc. bad people. You mean the one's in prison? Yes, those people. So are we supposed to go and hang out in prisons, then, to be "in" "the world" but not "of" "the world"? It only gets more ridiculous until the point where the believer begins bearing their testimony to me about the existence of "the world" and that they believe the scripture is true telling them to be "in" "the world" but not "of" "the world". Essentially the believers put their fingers in their ears and begin yelling "la la la la" really loud and saying they can't hear me anymore.

I have a TBM friend who recently invited me to read his blog. Other than a nice layout the content was pretty boring. In one entry he talked about going to Best Buy early in the morning on black Friday and that there was a youth group there from a local church that was handing out hot chocolate. He observed that some people in line (to get into the store, before they opened) gave the youth a hard time because they wondered aloud why the youth were not in Africa with other missionaries trying to do what they were doing. Basically my friend felt bad because he didn't do a better job of standing up for the youth and he wondered why our world seems to be so anti-religion. Of course, his reaction was to silently criticize those apparent anti-religionists and wonder why the world had to be so evil.

I had a glimmer of hope that he might begin to touch on what I see is the larger issue at hand. And that is, why is it that people who go about doing good things must advertise the fact that they belong to a certain church/religion? I was curious as I passed the local baptist church on my way to work the other day where their sign outside said (I'm paraphrasing), "Our mission is to seek Jesus and teach others to do so" (it was put somewhat more elegantly on the sign and my paraphrase doesn't do it justice). In my opinion, it is the constant proselytizing and attempts to convert others that may actually be the crux of the problem. I wonder if those youth that belonged to that church could have done the same service without announcing to everyone which church they belonged to and announcing who or what they were serving on behalf of? I wonder how the result may have been different had they done that?

It seems to me that Jesus would be more inclined to have people go about doing good works without anyone knowing what church or religion you belong to, but rather I think Jesus' idea was to just go about doing good for the sake of making the world a better place. Instead, attempts to serve are darkened by the advertisement of the church that is doing the serving. It reminds me of those trailers that are setup at freeway rest stops during holiday travel days that have signs that say "Free Coffee and cookies", but when you get up there to have some, they push a donation cup in your face and have signs all over advertising who is offering this "free" stuff. I understand that this is the way the world works, but it doesn't seem very Christ-like to me. If only Christians understood what Jesus was trying to tell them, don't hide your good works, but you don't need to go about doing them with the intent of converting those that you serve.

I guess this is how advocates of religion define being "in" "the world" but not "of" "the world". They place themselves in situations they call service to others, but they attach strings of advertising what group they represent and almost make the acceptance of the service a conditional acceptance of their invitation to come to their church some day.

If only they were sincere in their pronouncements that you can come and receive spiritual nourishment at their church and didn't want to tell you how important it is to buy into the concept of tithing (paid to their church only) if you want to adequately demonstrate your faithfulness to their brand of God.

So do you take the hot chocolate or not? Right now I am inclined to not do so because of the strings attached, but maybe if I was hungry enough or cold enough I would consider it. This conclusion causes me to think about the question of guilt. Since I was proud of myself for recognizing that guilt had no power over me when I began my journey out of belief in the church, I told my wife that at one point. I said, I don't really feel any guilt anymore. Of course, she freaked out at this because then she wondered what terrible thing I would do because I had no guilt anymore. So, why do I feel guilt about taking hot chocolate from a church youth but I don't feel guilt about not going to church or believing in Mormonism anymore? I will have to ponder on this some more and see what my subconscious helps me come up with. I probably need to do some more field work by being "of" "the world" and see what I come up with. I really don't think "the world" is such a bad place after all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Confessions of a stupid Mormon kid

So I read an excellent blog post here that reminded me of some stupid stuff I did as a kid in the name of my religion. I feel so bad that I felt such terrible behavior was justified, but I think it is also helpful to share some of my experiences if, for no other reason, it helps me understand better how some of my beliefs were actually harmful to others, even though I could not see it at the time.

When I was in 7th grade I did something that I am not proud of at all. I was raised in an active LDS home and was taught all about how bad coffee was. My 7th grade math teacher had a fresh cup of coffee sitting on his desk when he would start class pretty much every day. I could not believe that a teacher would do such a thing, so I decided I needed to teach him a lesson about how bad it was to drink such a vile substance.

One day, I came into class and my teacher’s hot cup of joe was sitting on the desk, but my teacher was not around. I quickly scanned the room for something I could put in his coffee that would teach him a lesson. The only thing I could find was a can of Boraxo cleaner. I am so ashamed that I actually dumped some in his coffee.

There was only one other student that saw what I did and I told him to not say anything. The teacher came into the room and I could barely contain myself as he would pick up his coffee to take a drink during class. The more he drank the worse I felt. Then I began to wonder if he would even notice. Finally, as we were quietly working on an assignment, he stopped drinking his coffee and said, “What?! What is this?!” He then asked if anyone in the class knew about this crud in his coffee.

I didn’t say a word. I was prepared to go to my grave keeping my secret, but the student who saw me do it obviously wasn’t so loyal. When the teacher threatened to not let anyone leave class until someone fessed up, my witness caved and ratted me out.

For my punishment, the teacher said that it would only be fitting if I drank some of the coffee myself. The funny thing was, I tried to use the excuse that it was against my religion to drink the stuff. It didn’t work. He said I could go spit it out right after, but I had to drink some if I didn’t want detention (or get expelled or whatever). I remember quickly taking a swig and running out into the hall and spitting it into the drinking fountain.

I felt so bad, but I also felt justified because he was the one breaking the word of wisdom. So sad, how my behavior was so hurtful and I had no idea. If only I could have been taught tolerance and love for others instead of the importance of avoiding taboo substances or prohibited behaviors.

I also remember when I was younger, that I felt justified for throwing rocks at a colored girl in my neighborhood. I’m pretty sure that feeling came from my upbringing and teachings about the inferiority of blacks from their less valiant behavior in the pre-existence. At least my mother said what I did was wrong and made me deliver cookies to their family to try and make up for my behavior. Even so, the racism was still there…I just learned I wasn’t supposed to act on it. So sad indeed.

I think now about how messed up sometimes the teachings of the church are when it comes to being in line with the golden rule. If treating others the way I want to be treated would have been more emphasized in my religious upbringing, I probably wouldn't have done some of the stupid stuff I did and even felt justified for. I think that the golden rule has been somewhat forgotten in LDS circles because some are so busy working their way to heaven that they don't have time to stop and actually live the golden rule. Many fail to think of how others might feel about what LDS members teach or how their behavior ends up treating others with judgment as a result of those teachings. What makes me even more sad is that it took losing my belief in the LDS church to help me realize this.

What is even more unfortunate is when I think about the recent talk by Boyd K. Packer and how I might be inclined to treat young people who may have homosexual feelings were I a young person today. If I ever had any idea that my behavior led to a young person committing suicide, I would feel completely awful. The sad thing is that the church is blind to what its teachings are doing to so many in the church. I sure hope the church realizes soon the pain and heartache these teachings are causing so many or I might have to grab my rocks and Boraxo and start taking matters into my own hands! I am just kidding of course...I hope I have grown out of that...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quit the Church

I have an uncle that knows how I feel about the church, so he sends me messages that he feels will "bring me back into the fold". Since I was so amused by one he just sent me, I thought I would post it here on my blog for anyone interested to see. Of course, I had to add my $.02 to the mix offering what I would love to send to my uncle (and the author if there was any way to track him down), however, I realize this is a fruitless exercise because no matter what I say to people like them, they will not be able to see my point. So, without further ado, here is the note along with my interjections throughout. Enjoy!

"Quit the Church"
In a local newspaper there had been an ongoing series of articles written by individuals who wanted to persuade LDS Church members to leave the Church. In response to the highly critical and spirited remarks, a local member wrote this rebuttal:

I have been thinking of quitting the Mormon Church. Yes, if I can, I am going to get even with that church.

(ME: You can tell this guy is trying to feign anger at a non-existing - or at least unknown - list of reasons to be angry. In addition, this statement is pointless because it is extremely difficult to “get even” with a large multi-national corporation such as the LDS church. It is like saying, “I have been thinking of quitting smoking brand X cigarette. If I can, I am going to get even with that rotten tobacco soon as I can find a tobacco company that can tell me ...[all the same things that tobacco company X has told me over the years]")

As soon as I can find another church that teaches about the Gathering of the House of Israel; the return of the Ten Tribes and their mission; the return of the Jews to Palestine and why, and how they are going to build the temple; the building of temples and what to do with them; the mission of Elias, the prophet, as predicted by Malachi; the method for the salvation of the people that died at the time of Noah in the flood; the origin of the American Indian;

(never mind that the explanation offered by LDS, inc. for the origin of the American Indian does not jive with ANY scientific explanations for their origins)

the complete explanation of why Jesus of Nazareth had to have a mortal mother but not a mortal father; the explanation of the three degrees of glory (three heavens) as mentioned by Paul; the complete explanation of why Elias and Moses did not die but had to be translated (since they both lived before the resurrection was introduced by Christ); the restoration of the gospel by modern revelation as promised by Peter and Paul and Jesus himself; the belief in eternal marriage and the family and the knowledge and the place to be sealed for eternity; that teaches abstinence from all harmful drugs and foods; and that sells the best fire insurance policy on earth, for the last days, for only a 10th of
my income.

(The one piece of information this gentlemen needs is that all the things he lists here that he is looking for an explanation to may have all been entirely made up in the first place. All of the above items that he is looking for a replacement for, or alternative explanations for, is like saying, “I am looking for a replacement for my belief in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as soon as I can find a story that explains all the goings on of the people in middle earth”)

Yes sir, as soon as I can find another church that teaches all that, or even half as much, I will say good-bye to this Mormon Church. The church that I am looking for must also be able to motivate 50,000+ youth, and adults, for the first, second or third time, to leave their homes for two years at their own expense and go to far-away places to teach and preach without salary. It must be able to call, on a frosty day, some 5 or 6 thousand professors, students, lawyers, doctors, judges, policemen, businessmen, housewives and children to go and pick apples at 6 a.m. It must be able to call meetings and get the attention for two hours of more than 150,000 men.

(It is pretty amazing what can happen when people believe in something isn't it? However, the numbers in the LDS church are not unique as far as what large organizations are able to command in terms of people and service.)

Yes, it must also teach and show why salvation is assured for children who die before eight years of age.

Mr. Editor, could you help me find a church that teaches all that and more than hundreds of other doctrines and principles, which I have no room to mention here, and which brings solace and comfort to the soul; peace, hope, and salvation to mankind, and above all, that answers the key questions that all the great philosophers have asked;

(The LDS church does all this??? I had no idea. If anything, I have found quite the opposite; the church can’t even begin to provide solace and comfort to women who don’t desire to be eternal housewives, those that are attracted to the same sex or those that just don’t feel like they can measure up. Not only that, but it also does not begin to adequately answer key questions that all the great philosophers have asked...unless you are willing to suspend reason and good judgment in favor of supernatural myths that seem to be made up by men. Men, who claim to be speaking on behalf of an eternal and all knowing being, that speak so-called truths that have had a tendency to contradict each other over time or depending on the circumstance. I would be very curious to hear what questions this author feels are answered by the church and what those answers are. If there could be some listed, I could very easily show how those very answers have not always been held to and do not seem to apply universally when trying to apply to unrelated cases inside, or outside, of the religious context.)

questions and answers that explain the meaning of life,

(Life has whatever meaning we place on it)

the purpose of death,

(Maybe death has no purpose – why does it need to have a purpose?)

suffering and pain; the absolute need for a Redeemer and the marvelous plan conceived and executed by Jesus Christ the Savior? Yes, as soon as I find another church that teaches that, and also that has the organization and the powers

(What “Powers” does the church have exactly? Oh, I forgot, the supernatural power given by the supernatural being to act on the supernatural beings behalf)

to make that teaching effective, I am going to quit the Mormon Church. For I should not tolerate that "they" should change a few words in the Book of Mormon-even if those changes simply improve the grammar and the syntax of the verses-for,

(How come the most correct book on earth has grammar and syntax errors? If you can explain that sufficiently, next you have to explain why the changes were not always simple grammar or syntax changes like changing the word white to pure)

after all, don't you think the Divine Church should employ angels as bookmakers, and clerks, to do all the chores on earth?

(I guess the point the author is trying to make here is that God had to employ imperfect men to do his work because apparently all the angels have better things to do?)

Don't you think, Mr. Editor, that the Divine Church should also have prophets that don't get sick and don't get old and die,

(If God was truly interested in convincing people of his power this would be one way to do it, sure)

and certainly, that don't make a goof here and there.

(Goofs are one thing...deliberate and selfish deceit is entirely another)

No, sir! A Divine Church should be so divine that only perfect people should belong to it, and only perfect people should run it. As a matter of fact, the Church should be so perfect that it should not even be here on earth!

(Amen! The church really shouldn’t be on the earth...but not because of perfection. It shouldn't be here because it encourages delusional thinking in so many areas. It also creates, among its members, dependence on those who run the thing for guidance about how to live life, guidance that should come from the individual for their own benefit and not from a man, or men, who claim to represent God on the earth and therefore claims authority over you as an individual.)

So, I repeat, if any one of the kind readers of this imperfect letter knows about another church that teaches and does as much for mankind as the Mormon Church, please let me know.

(There are actually plenty of organizations that do much more for mankind than the Mormon church corporation. The author should look into the United Way, American Red Cross or Catholic charities for some examples or go here to see the largest charities by revenue)

And please do it soon, because my turn to go to the cannery is coming up.

(So you want a church that does the most for mankind, but you expect that if you found such a church that you would not be expected to serve in such an organization? Why does one have to be a member of the LDS church to go to the cannery? Why are you going if you don’t really want to?)

Also, "they" want my last son (the fifth one) to go away for two years and again, I have to pay for all that. And I also know that they expect me to go to the farm to prune trees, and I have heard that our ward is going to be divided again, and it is our side that must build the new chapel. And also, someone the other day had the gall of suggesting that my wife and I get ready to go on a second mission, and when you come back, they said, you can volunteer as a temple worker. Boy, these Mormons don't leave you alone for a minute. And what do I get for all that, I asked? "Well," they said, "for one, you can look forward to a funeral service at no charge!"... Do you think you can help me to find another church?
--Thomas D. Clark

(Thomas, you make an excellent point at the end of your letter. The church expects [some might even say, demands] a lot from its members. This speaks to the importance of such an organization being able to stand up to any scrutiny related to the authenticity of its claims. Doesn’t it make things so much easier if you just asked, “What do I WANT to do?” instead of, “What does a church WANT me to do?”)

Thomas, I sincerely hope you feel like you are getting your money’s (and time and everything else) worth in a church where the best that can be said of what is received in return is that you get to hold your funeral free of charge. Best of luck to you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Disagreements of faith

So my wife and I found ourselves in our inevitable "discussion" mode last night. I always want to engage in the discussion because I keep holding out hope that she will see things my way at some point. Of course, to my continual surprise (and high blood pressure), she never does. However, I think I was able to gain some insight into the way she thinks, if only just a little.

While discussing the issue of faith, my mind was drawn to something I read concerning the warping of the definition of the word faith from something innocent to something relied upon without seeking for understanding. Let me elaborate. Faith is a word that simply means proposing an explanation for the way things are until you can actually prove that they are the way you think they are. Scientists use faith all the time when they come up with a hypothesis. They suspect that something is true based on some thought experiment or observation. This suspicion is then articulated, and experiments are formulated and attempted to try and discover "proof" of the correctness of the hypothesis. Until the experiments can be devised and carried out, the scientist is motivated by faith to continue on in the face of the unknown. The scientist is driven by hope that what he thinks is true may actually be so.

So it is with the traditional understanding of faith. Faith is the substance (action in the form of experiments) of things hoped for (as determined by the hypothesis) and the evidence of things not seen or currently known.

The problem with the current religious definition of faith is that it has morphed into something a little different. Faith, in the religious context, now stands for continuing belief in something that cannot be proven even in the face of evidence that stands in contradiction of it. When I ask religious people what they have faith in, the answers come very easily. However, when I ask them why they have faith in those things, the answers don't come so quickly. I think faith is a stepping stone to knowledge and is only useful until the knowledge can be obtained. If the knowledge cannot be obtained, faith in that idea should be discarded in favor of something that knowledge can be obtained in. That is my opinion any way.

For example, to illustrate the ultimate effect of having faith in God, I ask myself the following; If there are two people in heaven standing before God (which I apparently still feel the need to capitalize out of deference or respect to the 95% of Americans that supposedly still believe in His/Her/Its existence - then again that statistic may be outdated and come from religious sources). One person did not believe in God and the other had faith that God did exist while they were living on Earth. Which one is better off? When presented before God, the non-believer simply says, "Oh, OK, I guess you do exist, God. I'm so glad to know that now, so where do we go from here? (and they're thinking what was THAT all about anyway???)". The one that had faith in God's existence says, "Wow! I was right all along! I'm cool. So, now that we're here together what do we do now?"

I really can't see how one is better off than the other. Unless, of course, God is a sadist and delights in making people miserable if they didn't believe in him all along...which, I suppose, he could be, but I certainly would not choose to hang my hat on belief in that sort of being.

Needless to say, when I try to make that argument I get angry because my wife starts bearing her testimony to me in some fashion.

Well, I wanted to come up with an analogy that would address our particular situation and not result in the changing of the subject due to the overwhelming cognitive dissonance by my wife. So here is my analogy I decided to share with her;

Let's say I was an Amish man living in my Amish community with my Amish wife in my traditional Amish home without electricity. Let's say as an Amish man, I became exposed to the wonders and ultimate convenience of modern living with electricity and all of its associated appliances. So one day I come home to my Amish wife and say, "Honey, I'm tired of living without electricity...tell me why we don't have it again?" She says, "Well, the Amish good book or good leader tells us it is because it is what God wants." So I say, "That's not good enough anymore. I don't see how having electricity is really harming anyone out there in the majority of the world and unless you have a better reason I think I might just have to get our house wired with electricity." If I insist, apparently an argument ensues which I cannot win. If I raise my voice, I am full of the spirit of contention and am of the devil and am only serving to prove to my wife that I am possessed. If she yields then she must also "suffer" because she believes she would be displeasing God even though she might learn to actually enjoy not doing laundry and dishes by hand any more.

So my wife actually responds with, "If I were that Amish woman, I would say too're not getting electricity in my house as long as I live here!" Because to her, the belief trumps the convenience and all the evidence. Unfortunately, if I want to stay married to this woman, I have to continue to go without electricity as it were. She has faith that not having electricity is better than having it and she continues to follow that faith in the face of (at least I would say as a beneficiary of electricity) overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Of course, she would never consider actually going without electricity...which I hope only serves to make the cognitive dissonance more severe.

Of course, no real Amish people were hurt in my example here, but the point is that there has got to be some point where people say, "You know what, you're right, electricity may not be bad and maybe we could get it for just a little while and see how it goes." This would be the scientific approach. However, as I composed that last response, I think I realize what my wife is saying that remained unsaid. I think she may have gone on to say we can't do it because 1. Too much fear that the authorities may be right and God does actually somehow punish those that have electricity 2. Too much worry about how the Amish community would label us and possibly even ostracize us or cast us out.

I really think fear comes from the unknown and there are lots of people who fear leaving the church. So much so that it will not even be considered. Of course, the assumption of those that continue to believe in the face of such evidence to the contrary is that they are doing the right thing. My issue is, who is defining the "right" thing and how do they know that it is right for everyone? Unless there is some way to independently verify that something is, in fact, right, that we can all buy into, we will never cease to have disagreement and conflict about what is right.

The scientific method of asking questions and then attempting to find verifiable explanations, in the face of extreme fear that one may be wrong, is much more noble to me than not attempting to even ask the questions in the first place. But then again, that just may be where I am at and I am not showing enough compassion to those that feel differently. I guess I am still angry.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Halloween Night 2010
5:10 pm: The kids' friends come over and are wanting to know if my kids will be going trick-or-treating.

5:11 pm: Said kids come to my wife and ask her if they can go out trick-or-treating.

5:11 pm: Kids come to me and ask if it is OK if they go out trick-or-treating. They tell me their mother doesn't care if they go out or not.

5:11 pm: I tell kids that I don't have a problem with them going out.

5:12 pm: Kids are ready to go out trick-or-treating getting their costumes on and all share in the excitement of the upcoming festivities.

6:30 pm: I can't find my oldest 3 kids and my youngest (3 yr. old) needs help getting ready to go out. I help him get ready and I can't find any of the other kids. Have to assume they have already left to go trick-or-treating.

6:35 pm: My youngest son and I begin going out trick-or-treating.

At this time my mind is wondering about the appropriateness of participating in the activity on Sunday. Not because of my beliefs about it not being appropriate, but my wife's. I really don't know what is going through her mind or whether or not she truly thinks it is a violation of the Sabbath or not. I had successfully found some justification for it (which I could have easily used on my formerly tbm brain, but it probably would not have worked since I was uber tbm) which is that it is a good chance to meet and greet with neighbors in the area and let them see how cute my kids are in their costumes. This, to me, is a great Sunday activity because it encourages neighbor interaction. None of my kids' costumes were scary by any stretch (Basketball player, Ironman, Princess and Toucan) and therefore not able to be considered evil at all.

The thought that crossed my mind while wandering around looking for houses to visit (most neighbors did have lights on and were handing out candy...probably just a little less than last year, but not much) was what people who are not very religious must think of those who don't participate in giving out candy because it is on a Sunday. My first thought was that most people probably don't each their own. But I couldn't stop there. Since I am an angry apostate (I should rename my blog to that, but I'm sure it is already taken) I had to take it one step further and imagine what people must REALLY think of those that don't participate in trick-or-treating.

My first reaction along those lines was...that they are arrogant snobs. I placed those people right up there with those people who told my kid to only take one piece of candy and, when they took two, would reach into the bag and grab the extra piece of candy back. They are selfish bastards, just one step below arrogant snobs.

Then my mind was taken to what religion does to people. Religion teaches that as long as an institution finds your behavior acceptable, you are encouraged to engage in the behavior whole-heartedly. But the moment the behavior is deemed unacceptable, you are strictly forbidden to participate and guilt and shame should be heaped on you if you dare to violate "the rules".

I'm sure I am being way too harsh here, but these are the thoughts I had. I kind of felt sad that there are people who refuse to participate in a fun and arguably wholesome activity because some religion teaches that the behavior is not becoming of the ideal adherent.

But then again, maybe in this tough economy, people were glad to be relieved of any question about whether or not to participate in Halloween since they couldn't afford any candy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Going to church

For the first time in a couple of years I went to church (LDS) last Sunday and actually stayed and attended Sunday School and Elder's Quorum. I had become very accustomed to attending Sacrament meeting with my family and then ducking out to the car to read or whatever to pass the time until my wife and kids came out from church and we could finally go home. I also tried not going at all for a while, which made me very happy, but the shame and disapproval conveyed by my family was very difficult.

I have come to realize that my disaffection from the LDS church is very much a process I am going through and is a very real grieving process. I am just beginning to recognize and deal with the stages I have found myself in. The first stage is shock and/or disbelief, which I do not think lasted very long for me. The second stage is bargaining. I don't think this stage lasted very long for me either. There really was no way to bargain with my bishop because it was either his way (following his suggestions that I take one principle and live it to gain a testimony of it and go from there) or the highway (Don't get me wrong, my bishop is a wonderful man whom I respect immensely). I have thought about bargaining with my wife about going to church (or the church teachings), but it was just easier to either not go there or just go for Sacrament meeting and skip the rest.

The stage I have been in the most (and seem to return to frequently) has been the anger stage. This is where I have been for at least a year or more. My wife has been very understanding and forgiving, but she is just not able to relate to what I am going through. I try so hard to help her see what I see, but it is just pointless. Every time I try, it turns into an ugly argument and we have to take a step back and repair the damage. Sometimes the damage is pretty severe. I sometimes wish my wife could see what I see and for once just say, yes, you have a good point. Instead it is a fight every step of the way - at least until I stop and say, OK we just have to agree to disagree (but truth be told, I hate this so much because it leaves things unresolved in my mind).

In any case, I swallowed my pride last Sunday and stayed in Sunday School and Elder's Quorum. My wife was happy, but I didn't let that last very long. The funny thing is, when I was in there, I actually participated and didn't attempt to get people to question their beliefs with my comments. I just toed the party line and gave my honest opinion when it wouldn't serve to try and shake anyone's testimony up. I was amazed at how naturally I was able to put on appearances, get back into that "mode" and not let my anger show through. And then I realized, maybe I am moving into the next stage of grief! Maybe I am at a point of acceptance. I know I have been through the depression stage, but that hasn't lasted very long for me either.

The stage I seem to keep coming back to, though, is anger.

I was fascinated by my behavior in church, but then I was curious about the aftermath. When I came home I just couldn't resist the urge to try and start an argument with my wife. I just couldn't hold it in. I had to let it out. This resulted in more hurt feelings and more walls being built. What I am most interested in is the trigger. It seems to me that going to church and staying and trying to swallow or bury my true feelings only resulted in a major angry release at my wife (this time the kids were even included in my tyrannical rant - so sad indeed. This was the first time I actually saw my son coping in a way that was similar to my wife's. Why does the church have to keep people in so much intellectual darkness?!? whoops, I am getting angry again...)

My wife made an interesting observation, however, and that is that my increased frustration may have been from the fact that I attended church for all 3 hours. I think she may be right. It may be best to just remove myself as much as possible for the sake of my sanity and my family. Will it eventually get better if I just keep going to church every week up and work through things or will it get worse? I don't know. It seems like some have been able to go back and they seem to have adjusted well, but then I hear others say that a clear breaking point must come at some juncture. Frankly, I don't know what to do or what is the best path to take.

To go or not to go...that is the question.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Existence of God and Free Willy

I read a blog post here that reminded me of some thoughts I have had surrounding what evidence it would take regarding the existence of God that would be necessary for me to accept the existence of God.

For me this question is inseparable from the question of free will. The first question I would want an answer to is; Do we truly have free will and is the principle of free will one that is maintained absolutely for everyone?

To endeavor to answer this question, let's look first at the opposite of free will. The alternative to the concept of free will would be that our life outcome is the result of some form of predestination setup by an omnipotent (i.e all powerful) and omniscient (i.e. all knowing) being who really has no spontaneity because everything is already known and planned out exactly how it will happen (which sounds kind of boring). If God is, in fact, omniscient, does it mean He/She/It knows past, present and future? I would think so. If that is the case, then free will is an illusion and does not exist. If free will does, however, exist absolutely, then this same heavenly being is only omniscient to a point (could we really say God is omniscient then?) working really hard to react to every single stimulus and response to make sure that free will is maintained at all costs and is not really omniscient, but is omnipotent. A third possibility is that God is omniscient and omnipotent but is not all loving because He/She/It allows bad things to happen to good people (at least according to our traditional understanding of love - which could use further clarification as to what it means, I suppose).

Regarding predestination; I think most religious people reject the idea of predestination because the idea of us having absolute free will is the most encouraging possibility for us to be able to determine our life outcome and potential redemption/salvation in the hereafter. Otherwise, our eternal existence is already planned out, so this life becomes pretty irrelevant. In the religious context, what often follows the question of whether or not God is omniscient is an explanation that 1) He either knows what will happen in the future and does nothing about it (i.e. maintaining our illusion of free will that ultimately does not exist) or 2) He is only omniscient when it comes to expected outcomes, so He/She/It pretty much knows what will happen to you, based on a universal law of consequences, but again, chooses to do nothing about your/our consequences. In either case, the idea of an omnipotent AND loving God is just thrown out the window. Unless, the epitome of love is letting people learn through sad experience and pointless death, destruction and loss which, in many cases, does not appear to readily manifest its lesson or meaning/purpose.

Of course, an idea known as fore-ordination is one that creeps in every once in a while. I guess this would be the idea that we are given the potential to achieve a life outcome but the actual accomplishment of it is entirely up to us. This does not violate the concept of free will since we still can choose whether or not to live up to our potential in that scenario. So, based on the above, it would appear the idea of free will (i.e. our ability to choose our life outcome) exists absolutely as taught by the religious. I don't think I could find many that would dispute this conclusion.

If that is the case, then, there will never be anything that will happen to us that will violate our freedom of election to choose what we do (in response to stimuli) in any given situation. Based on my limited observations, this appears to be the case (Except where some people try to limit my choices by imposing rules that follow their whims instead of my desires).

So, if the question is asked, "What evidence would it take for you to accept that God exists?" I would have to respond by wondering, what evidence is a God who will not violate the principle of free will going to be willing to provide?

It seems to me that, if God appeared to me right now and said, now you see me, so you must believe. Then slapped me across the face for good measure to make sure I got the message and the sting would help me know that God was real. Would this not be a violation of my free will? In other words, wouldn't my freedom of choice not always be upheld? Would I retain the ability to choose whether or not to believe in God if He/She/It did that? I don't think so. Which leads me to the conclusion that God will never do something which takes away my freedom to choose. Since the act of appearing before me would take away my freedom to choose whether or not God exists, or not, it seems that God would not do that.

Why do believers insist on asking then, what evidence for God's existence would it take for you to believe? When no evidence can (or will ever) possibly be found if the principle of free will is maintained absolutely. Unless, of course, you believe in a deity that maintains free will except when it comes to subtly steering you towards a belief in He/She/It.

In any event, the concept of free will has been pronounced by religion to exist absolutely (at least as far as I am aware) in the context of powers granted to us and upheld by the divine creator that religion claims to receive direction and guidance from. So, if the religion is shown to be a man-made creation, the concept of free will (and any answers surrounding whether or not we have it absolutely) are pretty much null and void.

The only logical response to these questions is to utilize the scientific method to deduce what our present state of affairs is here on this planet and whether or not the concept of free will is even an important one. I would point out that if religion is man-made, the emphasis on free will comes out sounding more like an excuse to try and explain the state we find ourselves in (a.k.a. why bad things happen to good people) and not so much like a divine revelation from a being who either has everything already planned out that will happen (i.e. follows predestination) or is tip-toeing around making sure that there is not any overwhelming evidence on one side or the other (i.e. free will is maintained absolutely). The belief about how active a role God plays in our lives is one that usually serves to answer these questions.

See here for more discussion of this topic.

Sorry that Free Willy didn't make it into this post. I'm sure there are a whole bunch of Free Willy fans that are extremely disappointed now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LDS Church Takes Additional Cost Cutting Measures

New LDS cost cutting measure says temple goers need to put in some labor in construction at the temple during regularly scheduled construction dates before or after regular sessions or weddings. The new policy will go into effect immediately. LDS general authorities say that all the training that is needed for the volunteer workers will be posted on clearly marked posters around the jobsite. Elder John Widstoe of the Presidency of the Seventy said this was a marvelous blessing to be able to actually contribute meaningful service at temple sites around the world. The amount of money the church will be saving in labor expenses was not disclosed, however.

Friday, August 6, 2010

An Open Letter to Washington County Justice of the Peace James Shartel

You Sir, ought to be ashamed of yourself and should be impeached!

My name is Chris **** and I recently came to learn first hand the kind of shady shenanigans that go on in the name of the law at the Beaverton Justice Court of Washington County.

I was accused of speeding by a Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy and I was guilty before I even stepped into your courtroom.

When I first appeared before you, Mr. Shartel, I asked you what the nature and cause of the accusation against me consisted of. You said you did not understand my question. Mr. Shartel, you should try reading the United States Constitution Amendment 6. So, to make it simpler, I asked you if the action being brought against me was criminal or civil in nature. I wanted to know so that I could begin to adequately prepare a legal defense. You told me the action was civil in nature. Therefore, I took to reading the code of civil procedure for civil cases.

Rule 62 of those procedures says that when a defendant requests a special finding of fact to be made by the court, the court is required to make its findings known. When I specifically requested this, you flatly refused. I asked you if I could record the proceedings so that I might have a record of what was said at trial, you again simply refused to honor my request. My motions were denied quickly and without any reason whatsoever. What are you afraid of Mr. Shartel? It seems to me that you hide behind the Revised Statutes of Oregon, but you blithely pick and choose which one’s you actually choose to follow.

The icing on the cake in my situation was the fact that the only witness for the prosecution directly contradicted himself (which should have indicated to you that he was either lying or completely incompetent), but he was allowed to have his testimony stand anyway.

I challenge you to officially make your court of no public record open so we can all learn first hand the number of declarations of guilty you pass on citizens of the community compared to the number of cases brought into your court. My guess is that ratio is overwhelmingly in favor of the plaintiffs. Please show us all otherwise.

You didn't even hide the disgrace of your biased representation as you mockingly disclosed to me that you represent the same party that was bringing the action against me. This is strictly prohibited in your code of judicial conduct, yet you again simply choose to ignore this breach of the public trust as you go on pronouncing guilty verdict after guilty verdict.

How do you sleep at night? Knowing that you openly refuse to follow the path of truth and justice in favor enlarging the coffers of Washington County.

Please do our community a great big favor and openly admit the miscarriage of justice you have overseen during your tenure and gracefully step down. I call for a suitable replacement to be found that is more interested in granting a fair and objective hearing to the accused in our community instead of helping the county grow its bottom line. Just because we may all have been suffering financially lately, doesn't mean you can take from me what little I have left without following the law and call it justice.

I hope you do excuse yourself soon, because I'm sure I am not alone when I say that I have grown weary of your shady charade.


Chris ****

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The man stickin it to me!

So the way I left it with the Justice Court (which is such an oxymoron), I figured I would never hear from them again since it is not really my job to actively pursue my innocence. I guess in today's world, however, it is.

I never agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the court (although I did appear at the arraignment and the trial, which, I suppose, could be technically construed as submission to their jurisdiction). Instead, I appeared and asked the judge what exactly I was being summoned there for. I specifically asked if it was a criminal or civil action being brought against me. He reluctantly agreed it was a civil action, although he tried to tell me it was something of a hybrid between the two. (By the way, the judges name is James Shartel of the Beaverton Justice Court in Washington County Oregon, in case you were wondering). I did not make a plea. I told the judge that I did not believe the court had subject matter jurisdiction since there was no individual alleging that I had violated their rights. I was therefor not subject to having a civil action being brought against me. Judge Shartel summarily dismissed my objection out of hand. So, I asked him for some sort of finding of fact and conclusion of law to back up his decision and validate subject matter jurisdiction in the case (which the Oregon code of civil procedure says the court must comply with when requested by the defendant). He simply refused. Then he entered a not guilty plea for me and scheduled a date for trial. I could not believe how completely belligerent this man was being! 

I guess the Justice Court technically did have a judgment against me (even if it was obtained fraudulently and is completely without merit and void according to any common law standard of legal procedure), so they decided to act on that judgment. I got a letter in the mail from the court wherein I was notified that the court was sending a notice to the DMV to suspend my license because I never paid their fine. For a brief moment I was tempted to let them go ahead and do that. I would be more than happy to travel around in my automobile without a driver's license, however, my job requires me to occasionally travel and, when I do, I usually have to rent a car. Since every rental car company requires a driver's license to be able to rent a car I guess I could not really do that.

As soon as I got the letter, I went to the court and asked the clerk how this was happening when it was a clear violation of my rights! They said I would have to ask the judge and that I could see him when his current case adjourned. So 40 minutes later (after witnessing another very sad miscarriage of justice where an elderly couple was being dragged into court because they have several dogs that bark. They were responding to 8 counts of violating a noise ordinance.) When I finally got to speak to the judge, he looked over my file and he said I never perfected my appeal. Of course I did not perfect my appeal! That would have cost me over $300 and is completely non-refundable! My simple question was, "Why should I have to pay to pursue my innocence, when it is obvious to any thinking person that I did not receive due process in my case?" He then said that he was sorry, but he could not do anything. Then, I asked him if he would consider a motion to vacate the decision against me (which is basically asking the judge to reverse his previous decision due to the judgment being made in error.) He said if I gave him a good reason, he would certainly consider it. So I paid the fine to get them to stop the suspension of my license (to keep from incurring another $75 in non-refundable DMV fees to re-instate a suspended license)

I have since sent in the motion to vacate listing the reasons I feel the case was not legitimate (1. The officer lied or was incompetent. 2. My request for a finding of fact and conclusion of law was completely ignored. and 3. Conflict of interest existed since the judge admitted he represented the same party as the one bringing the action against me.)

Now I am waiting to hear a response from the court, however, I fully expect that the motion to vacate will be denied, considering the judge's previously belligerent behavior and complete disrespect of the law. What a racket! I guess the lesson I have learned from all of this is that the next time I appear in court I really have to drill the officer and get him to look like a complete idiot when I question him because apparently the judge needs a lot more elaboration to realize the officer is either lying or is incompetent. I would also make a request for discovery of evidence from the officer prior to the case and see if they do not respond. If they did not respond then I could move for the case to be dismissed for lack of compliance to a request for discovery. However, if my experience is any indication, it appears that the court will do whatever it wants as long as the outcome is a guilty verdict with a fine collected. This makes me very sad that this is what things have come to. Individual rights be damned. We are in the era of government taking and claiming rights for itself to be able to confiscate our money at the whim of the officers sworn to uphold the law (which now includes the right of the government to take your money without any real due process). That's my rant. I guess as I continue to live, I continue to learn.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Speeding Ticket Trial No News is Good News?

It has now been nearly 4 months since I was convicted in a court of no record in Washington County Oregon for exceeding the maximum speed (70 in a 55) and I have heard nothing. When I left the court, I was given a letter that said basically that I had two options. 1. I could pay the reduced $143 fine or 2. I could choose to have the trial all over again in a court of record at a cost $302. They said I had to respond by March 1st, 2010 (I was issued the letter on Feb. 8, 2010).

Instead of bowing to their demands, I chose the unwritten option #3. I sent a letter to the court which stated the following:


I, (name of the defendant), a natural born citizen of the United States of America, defendant in error do hereby make a special appearance to state in writing to any and all interested parties in the matter of the Justice Court of Washington County, OR docket # ****** that I do not waive my right to a speedy and public trial (in a court of record), by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the alleged crime or violation was said to have been committed. I do not waive the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against me; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in my favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for my defence. Nor do I waive the rights afforded me by the 6th ,7th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states,

“1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Any judgment obtained against me, in the above stated matter, by any other means will be considered a violation of my constitutionally preserved rights and shall be considered null and void. I further hereby demand a stay of any derogatory action taken against me in the aforementioned matter which may include any fines, fees, interest charges, court costs, Oregon Department of Transportation abstract reports, DMV filings, charges and Etc. until such due process shall be afforded me. Any action taken by any party in the above matter, outside of my rights of due process, shall be considered a violation of my constitutionally afforded rights and shall be considered actionable in a federal court of the United States judiciary.

Thank you for your respect of my rights."

I am really curious what would have happened if I had presented the above letter to the judge when I was arraigned. I wonder if things would have turned out any differently.

Anyway, as far as the status goes, the deadline they gave me to "choose" one of their options has past and I have heard nothing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stickin it to the man!

Recently my mind has been extremely occupied by strategizing and preparing to respond to a speeding ticket I got last month. I thought my approach was perfect. I sent a couple of extremely well researched legal motions to the court asking for some legal confirmation of the validity of the case against me (ie. subject matter jurisdiction if you want to look it up). I know people think I am so crazy for getting so worked up (and spending so much time) over a $190 ticket that eventually got reduced to $143. But, at this point, principle is purely the motivating force for my actions. You see, I have been questioning the legitimacy of criminal/civil prosecutions that do not follow the guidelines the U.S. Constitution sets forth for due process in this country. 

There are actually a few issues I have right now; 1. State and local governments have created a dubious category of crime known as a violation. This "crime" technically does not meet the requirements for due process that traditional criminal prosecutions/accusations do. This is essentially a way for local governments to earn additional revenue without having to spend money on incarceration or jury trials or any of that other stuff that due process requires. The fine is also seen as a punitive deterrent that discourages the behavior in the future. On the face of it, it seems like it could be a win-win situation. In other words, if I get pulled over for speeding (or any other "violation" for that matter) no crime has technically been committed, however, the state or local government can assess me with a fine that helps their revenue a little bit and acts as a deterrent so I don't decide to speed again in the future. (Personal interjection of opinion: We really are just sheep because we respond so well to this psychological manipulation of behavior by authority figures, generally speaking.) The local government can require me to appear in a court of no record (where nothing is recorded - I even asked the judge for permission to record the proceeding. He quickly said no. I should have recorded it anyway). In addition, they can find me guilty without the accuser having to produce any evidence whatsoever. They can ignore any legal argument (that would normally be valid in a court of record) that you might come up with that should cause the case to be completely thrown out. These are just some of the issues I have with this new category of "crime". They do not follow normal legal procedures that act to ensure objectivity and protect people from unlawful breaches by the government. 

In doing my research, I have discovered that courts that do not follow due process (jury trials, etc.) only have jurisdiction through sufficient pleadings. In other words, both parties agree to the jurisdiction of the court and agree that the court represents a fair place to settle the question of your guilt or innocence. In order to keep from being subject to the court's jurisdiction, you need to ask the court to offer some evidence that it represents a place you can receive due process according the U.S. Constitution, or you can submit to a new category of criminal-like prosecution where you essentially have no rights of due process whatsoever (except what the accusers decide is fair for your situation). If you do not agree to submit to this new category of criminal-like prosecution what are you to do? What can you do? Apparently, according to the accusers (local government law enforcement and authorities), you can not do anything but attempt to prove your innocence in a setting where you have no rights. 

In my case, they found me guilty in their court of no rights and now I am left with an alternative of having my case tried in a court where I will have some rights (court of record) that will cost double what the penalty is for just submitting to the first court's jurisdiction (verdict of guilty). I can refuse to accept that their court represents what I am entitled to receive and choose to not voluntarily submit to their form of due process and I can pay for it out of pocket - Double! Since I am a United State citizen and am protected by the Constitution, I should be able to object to what they are doing since it doesn't qualify as due process, so there is a standoff that is occurring. I am anxious to find out what their next move will be. I am currently in the middle of this standoff. I have notified them that I do not feel that their court had any jurisdiction in the question surrounding my circumstances.

The court found me guilty (where a court of record would have had to throw the case out due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction) where I repeatedly asked the court to justify its jurisdiction to validate it according to the rules of law. It did not and would not do that, so the court did not have any jurisdiction over the matter. Sufficient pleadings means that the accusing party represents that they have a valid case against you and you agree that the court the accusing party is using to settle the matter meets with your approval as a place you can get fined from (or get a fair hearing, haha!). But what happens if I don't agree to that. Apparently, they fine you anyway and you have to spend more money to get a fair trial in a court of record. The court gave me a letter after they found me guilty where they said I could either pay a fine of $143 or I could pay $307 to appeal the matter (but it's really not an appeal, it's a whole new trial - trial de novo. How ridiculous is that?!?)

2. What is a crime and how should it be enforced? To better understand crimes, we need to first have a better understanding of civil actions. The purpose of government (as it is setup in this country) is to protect and maintain individual rights. If you injure me directly or cost me money because of your negligence, I have the right to sue you. In other words, I should be able to ask the government to act as an intermediary in our dispute and not represent either side, but weigh the evidence we both present to objectively work things out between us. 

With criminal actions there really is no individual party that has been wronged, but rather, it is assumed that crimes represent actions that are generally discouraged or not approved by society at large. An example of this is murder. We all find the behavior of killing someone to be socially unacceptable, so instead of having to go and take the murderer to court to try and obtain justice we just have the government do it for us. This works because in society we value the rights of the dead to be represented to pursue justice for wrongs against society (the deceased in this case, along with everyone else that could potentially become a victim). We say there are some crimes that affect society so much that, in order to properly administer justice, we have the government step up for us and prosecute crimes against society. The penalties may be fines, jail time or even death where the people have decided that is acceptable. Whereas the only current penalties that can be assessed in civil cases is a monetary fine. So we discourage behavior by saying if you act against the laws we have established to provide peace and prosperity in our society we can punish you for it. 

What should be done if the people decide to prosecute for crimes where no one is actually hurt? Should we allow the punishment of actions that represent the breaking of the rules, but do not actually result in an injury to society? Should we be punishing people for 'potential' harm to society? Let's say, for example, I am on a road in the middle of nowhere, no cars can be seen for miles around and I decide to run a stop sign. I could see in all directions of the intersection for miles and there are no cars anywhere. Should I have to pay a fine for running that stop sign? Shouldn't I be credited with being able to make a decision based on the current traffic conditions and situation at that particular stop sign? Shouldn't I have the ability to do that? If not, how much should I have to pay for running that stop sign? Can I just pay in advance? Can I get a discount for pre-paying?

What if I am coming to a stop sign and I see a tree is in the act of falling right where I would have to stop, so I decide to take evasive maneuvers to avoid the falling tree. Should I get a fine in this situation? Maybe or maybe not. I don't have the answers to these questions, but the law does say that there needs to be a demonstrated injury to someone for an action to be classified as a crime. Unless, of course, we just ignore that and allow statists to do whatever they want and start calling anything they want criminal behavior. Where does it stop?

It seems to me that if the people want to punish crimes with the potential for society being injured we need to be awfully sure that those behaviors do actually result in the negative side affects being alleged before we can go ahead and punish those that engage in the behavior. I'll try to remember to follow up and fill everyone in on how my case turns out. Should be interesting.