Arguments against Agnosticism

William Lane Craig is a wonderful philosopher:

John Lennox is a bright mathematician and philosopher. Lennox and other discuss the lack of evidence for the multiverse. But lack of evidence is no problem when blind faith can be inserted.

Alvin Plantinga is a bright mind:

Latter-day Saints are equipped to confront atheism

From the Deseret News story in 2017 by Hyrum Lewis.

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In recent decades, anti-religion books have become best-sellers, the culture has become increasingly secular, and religious affiliation has declined among the population. There are many reasons for this rise in atheism, but it is not because atheists have advanced good arguments. They haven’t.

The basic atheist objection to belief in God is that we don’t see him, but this assumes — for no reason at all — that knowledge comes exclusively through sight. Most religious people believe that revelation — scriptures, personal inspiration or living prophets — can give knowledge just as sight, sound or touch can. Many Latter-day Saints believe in God not necessarily because they have seen him, but because they know through spiritual witness that he is real.

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Atheists don’t take such spiritual experiences at face value, but instead dismiss them as mere illusions — tricks played on us by the brain. The mind evolved to believe nonsense, says the atheist, so we can just discard spiritual experiences accordingly.

But notice that by saying our brains are powerful deception machines, atheists have undercut the validity of the science that forms the very basis of their worldview. If we can dismiss spiritual experiences (such as “feeling the Holy Ghost”) by appealing to brain chemistry, we can also dismiss sensory experiences in the same way and for the same reasons. If our brains are built to trick us, why should we trust anything they tell us, including the evidence for evolution, relativity or any other scientific theory? When it comes to spiritual experiences, the atheist refers to the brain as an all-powerful deception machine; when it comes to science, the atheist refers to the brain as an all-powerful truth machine.

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The atheist claim that “we don’t see God” is also false. The scriptures and LDS traditions are full of accounts of people who have seen, heard or even touched God. Why are atheists willing to accept sensory evidence when it comes to science, but not when it comes to religion? It would appear that, for the atheist, the “seeing is believing” rule only counts when it supports their worldview.

Also note that atheists themselves believe in many things they can’t see. Atheists generally believe in moral principles, but when has anyone ever seen these entities called “good” and “evil”? If our experiences of God are “just feelings” that we can ignore, then why aren’t our experiences of right and wrong also “just feelings” that we can likewise ignore? “Moral” is simply a name we give to certain behaviors we prefer, but isn’t our preference for them, like our belief in God, just a product of evolution that we can now disregard?

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Science works on the principle of falsifiability, but no scientist is willing to falsify morals in the face of new evidence. It’s inconceivable that a scientist would look into a microscope and declare, “I’ve just falsified the theory that murder is wrong.” Since no atheists are willing to falsify their morals, this is evidence that they do exactly what they charge religious people with doing: believing in things for which there is no empirical scientific evidence.

Another common atheist argument says that God can’t exist because he would not allow the suffering and wickedness that are so prevalent in the world. While other Christian denominations teach that God created us from nothing, Latter-day Saints believe that our intelligence and agency are co-eternal with God. This means that God respects our free will. We played a role in coming to earth, with all the risks that entailed.

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We also have the ability to choose, even if we abuse it. If we choose greed, we reap the unhappiness of materialism; if we choose selfishness, we reap the unhappiness of loneliness; if we choose substance abuse, we reap the unhappiness of addiction; if we choose indolence, we reap the unhappiness of poverty. God could not stop this suffering without depriving us of our agency. Human choices explain much (perhaps most) of the suffering in the world.

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Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must remember that everyone, atheists included, have faith. Humans are wired for worship and we all seek out dogmas that give our lives direction. Our choice is not whether to worship, but what to worship.

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Notice, for instance, that nearly all atheists who ridicule the idea of faith, themselves gravitate to secular faiths such as Marxism, progressivism, humanism, postmodernism, scientism, libertarianism or other such “isms.” Each is based on dogmas that require leaps of faith.

While atheism has grown in America over the past generation, this is not because it has solid arguments behind it. Latter-day Saints are equipped with religious truths that can help them refute even the strongest atheist claims.

Atheism: Equally Irrational

Insightful article at Newsweek.

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Many atheists think that their atheism is the product of rational thinking. They use arguments such as “I don’t believe in God, I believe in science” to explain that evidence and logic, rather than supernatural belief and dogma, underpin their thinking. But just because you believe in evidence-based, scientific research—which is subject to strict checks and procedures—doesn’t mean that your mind works in the same way.

When you ask atheists about why they became atheists (as I do for a living), they often point to eureka moments when they came to realize that religion simply doesn’t make sense.

Oddly perhaps, many religious people actually take a similar view of atheism. This comes out when theologians and other theists speculate that it must be rather sad to be an atheist, lacking (as they think atheists do) so much of the philosophical, ethical, mythical and aesthetic fulfillments that religious people have access to—stuck in a cold world of rationality only.

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The science of atheism

The problem that any rational thinker needs to tackle, though, is that the science increasingly shows that atheists are no more rational than theists. Indeed, atheists are just as susceptible as the next person to “group-think” and other non-rational forms of cognition. For example, religious and nonreligious people alike can end up following charismatic individuals without questioning them. And our minds often prefer righteousness over truth, as the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has explored.

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Even atheist beliefs themselves have much less to do with rational inquiry than atheists often think. We now know, for example, that nonreligious children of religious parents cast off their beliefs for reasons that have little to do with intellectual reasoning. The latest cognitive research shows that the decisive factor is learning from what parents do rather than from what they say. So if a parent says that they’re Christian, but they’ve fallen out of the habit of doing the things they say should matter—such as praying or going to church—their kids simply don’t buy the idea that religion makes sense.

This is perfectly rational in a sense, but children aren’t processing this on a cognitive level. Throughout our evolutionary history, humans have often lacked the time to scrutinize and weigh up the evidence—needing to make quick assessments. That means that children to some extent just absorb the crucial information, which in this case is that religious belief doesn’t appear to matter in the way that parents are saying it does.

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Even older children and adolescents who actually ponder the topic of religion may not be approaching it as independently as they think. Emerging research is demonstrating that atheist parents (and others) pass on their beliefs to their children in a similar way to religious parents—through sharing their culture as much as their arguments.

Some parents take the view that their children should choose their beliefs for themselves, but what they then do is pass on certain ways of thinking about religion, like the idea that religion is a matter of choice rather than divine truth. It’s not surprising that almost all of these children—95%—end up “choosing” to be atheist.

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Science versus beliefs

But are atheists more likely to embrace science than religious people? Many belief systems can be more or less closely integrated with scientific knowledge. Some belief systems are openly critical of science, and think it has far too much sway over our lives, while other belief systems are hugely concerned to learn about and respond to scientific knowledge.

But this difference doesn’t neatly map onto whether you are religious or not. Some Protestant traditions, for example, see rationality or scientific thinking as central to their religious lives. Meanwhile, a new generation of postmodern atheists highlight the limits of human knowledge, and see scientific knowledge as hugely limited, problematic even, especially when it comes to existential and ethical questions. These atheists might, for example, follow thinkers like Charles Baudelaire in the view that true knowledge is only found in artistic expression.

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And while many atheists do like to think of themselves as pro-science, science and technology itself can sometimes be the basis of religious thinking or beliefs, or something very much like it. For example, the rise of the transhumanist movement, which centers on the belief that humans can and should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technology, is an example of how technological innovation is driving the emergence of new movements that have much in common with religiosity.

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Even for those atheists skeptical of transhumanism, the role of science isn’t only about rationality—it can provide the philosophical, ethical, mythical and aesthetic fulfillments that religious beliefs do for others. The science of the biological world, for example, is much more than a topic of intellectual curiosity—for some atheists, it provides meaning and comfort in much the same way that belief in God can for theists. Psychologists show that belief in science increases in the face of stress and existential anxiety, just as religious beliefs intensify for theists in these situations.

Clearly, the idea that being atheist is down to rationality alone is starting to look distinctly irrational. But the good news for all concerned is that rationality is overrated. Human ingenuity rests on a lot more than rational thinking. As Haidt says of “the righteous mind”, we are actually “designed to ‘do’ morality”—even if we’re not doing it in the rational way we think we are. The ability to make quick decisions, follow our passions and act on intuition are also important human qualities and crucial for our success.

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It is helpful that we have invented something that, unlike our minds, is rational and evidence-based: science. When we need proper evidence, science can very often provide it—as long as the topic is testable. Importantly, the scientific evidence does not tend to support the view that atheism is about rational thought and theism is about existential fulfillments. The truth is that humans are not like science—none of us get by without irrational action, nor without sources of existential meaning and comfort. Fortunately, though, nobody has to.”

 

 

Atheism, not God, is an Illusion

First, some perspectives from the 3 Mormons:

John Lennox is a master.

Lennox mentions world-famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, around the 3:45 mark.  Dawkins best-selling books is “The God Delusion.”

Lennox draws on experts in psychiatry who shares all the benefits of belief in God.  Atheism, in John’s estimation, is the illusion.

Evidence for God and What about the “New” Atheists?

The wonderful 3 Mormons:

 

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Let’s start with this series of short, 5-minute videos from Prager University. 21 videos total are available in Prager’s Religion/Philosophy section.  Consider subscribing to this YouTube channel.

Dennis Mark Prager is an American conservative and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, columnist, author, and public speaker.

He’s also a believing Jew.  Of course, LDS people don’t share all specific beliefs with Dennis.  However, we do have much in common.  Including most of the following beliefs about God, evil, morality, free will, etc.

 

Blake Ostler, an LDS attorney and philosopher, shares many of his insights relative to the nature of God in over 20 podcasts found here at “Exploring Mormon Thought”.

One is linked below.  Please review all his others.  They’re awesome and insightful!

Ostler explains how one can know truth from spiritual experiences:

 

Alvin Plantinga, perhaps the world’s leading religious philosopher, discusses the position that all religions can’t logically be simultaneously true.  Alvin is not LDS.

John Lennox articulates the differences between faiths, especially between the 3 major monotheistic religions.

Judaism believes Jesus died, but didn’t rise.  Islam believes Jesus didn’t die.  And Christianity believes Jesus both died and rose.  1 of these 3 (or none) is correct.  All 3 are not correct.

Thoughtful Ravi discusses why he believes Christianity is the true faith.

Ravi is great in a question-and-answer format:

New Atheism

In my experience, the climate today with strident new atheists makes people who leave faith feel more supported, trendy, and smarter. It’s ridiculous, but seems to be the case.

The atheists arguments are no different (and in many cases worse) than in C.S. Lewis’ day. Yet, most people have no idea.

They usually haven’t gotten to the bottom of things till years into their journey at which time things look pretty bleak.

Classical atheists were sad that God didn’t exist and owned that the outlook was completely miserable. New atheists are strangely glib and sometimes ecstatic in their claim that there’s no God. They seem to forget that — according to all previous atheists — life is bleak and meaningless in the absence of God.

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No ultimate meaning, despite finding meaning week to week in subjective and personal choices month to month. New atheism is a pop-cultural phenomenon.

Richard Dawkins (perhaps the most famous atheist in the world today), outside the pop culture, is ridiculed by academics for his poor arguments and avoidance of past obstacles. But your cousin who left faith doesn’t understand any of this. He thinks he’s smarter than you, you dummie!

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I have an atheist/agnostic friend who used to be a full-on LDS-hating atheist. Now, after a few years of cooling down, kinda hopes for God, but still rails against the Church. He just can’t let go of his critical interpretations. Most (85%) of our doubts are emotional doubts.

This fellow, William Lane Craig, is a wonderful creedal Christian defender comments on new atheism:

Discussing the most significant cultural challenges to belief in our society:

Scientism and the Faith of an Atheist

Science doesn’t answer big questions. The why questions.

However, Science does demonstrate very long odds that all this “just happened by chance.”

Life on this planet in a rare event.  That the universe to exist at all is amazing.  The four forces.  These issues of fine tuning of all variables in our universe — varying any one of which would throw life and the Universe out of existence — provides credibility that God exists in and created the Universe.

 

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Two points from scientific naturalism (atheism):

1.  The natural world is all there is.

This claim is consistent logically equivalent to atheism.  One can’t logically prove atheism or that the natural world is all there is.  How could one prove that there is nothing beyond the natural world, when all they can study is the natural world (and nothing more)?

The only way the naturalists could hold this claim #1 is by faith.  But then the naturalists would contradict claim #2.   Indeed, claim #1 is internally incoherent.

2.  We should only believe what can be scientifically proven.

This second point is far too narrow.  In fact, we accept many intuitive truths that can’t be proven.

Can’t prove these truths:

1) Ethics:  can’t prove good and evil.  2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty.  3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past.  4) Science itself has unproveable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths:  Science presupposes logic and math.

Even statement #2 itself can’t be proven scientifically.  Statement #2 is an opinion or statement of philosophy.  #2 is self-refuting and cannot be true.

William Lane Craig at his best in under 3 minutes:

Great points in 1.5 minutes:

Less than 2.5 minutes:

Awesome demolition in a little over 5 minutes:

Elder Holland, attending the 50th anniversary celebration of discovering chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, gave this talk on evidence:

John Lennox (see video below) has debated the biggest names among today’s atheists.

Christians should have an evidence base for belief in Christ.  John told us of Jesus’ actions so that we might believe.

John 20 : 30-31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

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Lennox makes several points from atheist debates:

1) Belief in Christianity is based in evidence — not blind faith.  Review John 20: 30-31 again.

2) Atheists claim to not have faith, but Lennox has challenged many atheists this way: “I’m sorry, but I thought you believed your atheism.”

3) Dawkins believes in or has faith in stuff, including his wife.  Evidence-based faith is still faith.

4) Traditional Christians don’t believe God was created (Mormons theology involves progression).  Dawkins constantly teases, “Who created your Creator?”  Lennox says nobody. Dawkins believes the Universe created him.  So, Lennox asked Dawkins, “Who created your (Dawkins’) creator?”  Still waiting for an answer.

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Top issues:

1) We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps.

2) Science and God are compatible and complimentary:

  •  To say you don’t believe in God, but rather you believe in Science is analogous to saying you don’t believe in Henry Ford, but instead you believe in the laws of internal combustion.  The God explanation is not the same as the Science explanation.  You, obviously, should believe in both.
  • Why is the kettle boiling?  There are 2 explanations: a scientific one about molecules.  And a personal agent explanation:  it’s boiling because I want a cup of tea.

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3) The Law of Gravity describes gravity, but descriptive laws do not create anything.  Ever.  We don’t even know what what gravity is.  However, Steven Hawking and other secular scientists would have you believe laws daily create matter and the entire Universe.  Not true.

4)  God created the world good.  God could have created a perfect world, but none of us would have been in it.  A world without hate will have no love.  Robotic worlds lack sin and many other problems, but they have no humans.  Bringing humans into the world is a risky business.  God’s children can grow up and say no.  Just like our kids.

Another discussion with John Lennox on faith and reason.  Faith of believers.  Faith of atheists.  What is the evidence?  What of blind faith?

Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan (Christian, former Jew) discuss the limits of Science and atheism.

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At the 5:10 mark in the video below, Bill says when someone says “I believe in Science” you immediately know they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Science is a tool.  Like a hammer.  So, when they exclaim, “I believe in Science,” they’re really saying, “I believe in a hammer.”

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Science is not a philosophy.  It’s not a world view.   It’s a method.  It’s a series of questions, processes, and procedures to isolate variables and extract something out of nature.

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Scientism or Trans-science:  popularized by the new atheists, such as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett.  An arrogant belief in objectivism — won’t believe anything other than Science — that itself becomes a religion.

What of Philosophy, Art, Ethics, and other obvious truths we can’t prove?

We can’t understand infinity or eternity.  We simply lack the neurons.

Worth 12 minutes of your time.

More from William Lane Craig:

Scientism is not Science.  It’s a theory.  It’s a philosophy.

The statement itself — one should only believe in what can be scientifically proven — is self-refuting.  One can’t prove one should believe this.  It’s a philosophy statement or belief — not something that itself can be proven.

Can’t prove these truths:

1) Ethics:  can’t prove good and evil.  2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty.  3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past.  4) Science itself has unprovable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths:  Science presupposes logic and math.

Fun interchange.  William Lane Craig (on the left) is a skilled debater.  Too bad he’s not LDS.

Another gem by WLC on God.  Now, I don’t agree with all of Craig’s arguments, but the discussion is wonderful.

Responses to the CES Letter: the most recent installment of anti-Mormon claims

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The LDS Church has had its critics since day one.  Note the date of Mormonism Unvailed, published soon after the Church was established.  The author could have interviewed many prominent Latter-day Saints, but did not. 
Instead, he largely chose to provide misinformation and exaggerations.  The book when read today isn’t taken seriously.  But what about his uninformed readers in 1834?  Did they believe Mr. Howe?
Other churches and individuals for a variety of reasons publish(ed) a range of criticisms against our faith.  Some accurate, some much less so.  Is it any surprise our critics continue to publish and circulate information about us? 
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What is the best approach when facing material from your critics?  Be methodical.  Review any criticism on any topic the same way:  one item at a time, try to understand the critic’s motivation, and adapt your beliefs according to the new truthful material you learn. 
One, however, shouldn’t expect that one’s critics, especially if they’re dogmatic, partisan, rigid, assign only bad motive, etc. — whether in sports, politics, and certainly religion — to give you the benefit of the doubt.   That would be naive. 
Neither should one expect one’s religious critics to present your faith in the best light possible.  That would also be naive.  Critics giving the LDS position the benefit of the doubt and praising our leaders for the much good they’ve done in the past, in fact, rarely happens.
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The Interpreter Radio Show can be heard Sunday evenings from 7 to 8 PM (MST) on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com. Call in to 801-254-1640 with your questions and comments during the live show.
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You might want to tune in weekly.
 
On Sunday, 3/11/18, they talked about the CES Letter and compared this to the anti-Mormons in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.
https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-march-11-2018/
 
The new format of the CES Letter with a huge laundry list has affected some people, unfortunately.  

This video shows how many people feel during their first brush with anti-Mormon material:

Growing up in the 1980s and graduating from high school in the early 90s, I remember hearing about Ed Decker’s production, “The God Makers.”

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More than a few times I visited Christian bookstores and read their book chapters on Mormons, usually in the “CULT” section.  Sometimes I laughed.  Sometimes I didn’t know what they were talking about.

In the early 2000s, during a break in  school — about 1/4 mile from the Mormon Handcart Park in Iowa City, IA — I decided to see what “The God Makers” was all about.

Our home teacher had many books on the topic, including “The Truth About the God Makers”, published in 1986.  He gave me a stack of books and I dove right in.

I probably read 10-12 books cover to cover.  Some of the material was brand new.  Other stuff I had heard from my parents.  All of the issues were a lot to cover in a few weeks of summer break, but I’m glad I tacked the material then, and have revisited the critical arguments since.

I first heard of the CES Letter in the summer of 2015.  I chat with all kinds of people around me.  On a plane trip — among lots of other topics — the woman to my left told me her LDS faith had been rocked by the CES Letter.  She said she had never heard of any of this stuff before.  I told her nothing was new that she was telling me.

It’s true.  Those who’ve reviewed the CES Letter, feel free to review “The Truth About the God Makers.”  The author, Gilbert W. Scharffs, responds to each each scene and claim Ed Decker presents in his awful, over-the-top movie.   

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Sadly, people left in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, in part as a result of the God Makers.  Surely, lots of other issues were involved.  It’s never 1 single issue. They left in the 60s and 70s, due in part to work by the Tanners and earlier critics.

They’ll, unfortunately, consider leaving today over material found in the CES Letter.  Interestingly, however, it’s all the same material with very few exceptions.  No longer in VHS, today’s critics use PDFs.  No longer hyped over radio, today’s critics share via email and podcast.

Style and method of dissemination is different, but the core arguments are almost identical. Ed Decker’s style was inflammatory, mocking, and sensational.  Jeremy presents as a victim.  Nobody told him all this stuff.  On that topic — nobody told me! — consider listening to this podcast.

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From his podcast:  “Geoff Biddulph is a convert to the Church of just over 15 years. Before joining he read a lot of anti-Mormon literature. However, it was the Spirit that converted him and helped him be open to being baptized. Since then, Geoff has read the book of Mormon more than 10 times and have read the entire Bible at least five times.

He has a large library of Church-related material from which he draws upon as he writes for the Millennial Star blog—where he has contributed for nearly a decade. He his wife Cindy were married in the Denver temple nearly 11 years ago and they now have five kids. He is joining us by phone today from Denver, CO. Geoff is here to talk about an article he wrote for the Millennial Star Blog entitled, “Why Didn’t the Church Teach Me This Stuff”

Jeff at Latter-day Q & A shares his insight:

Many people had heard of and debated these issues for decades.  I’m a member of the John Whitmer Historical Association.  Of course, many don’t know about most of these details.  For those who don’t please start where you are.   I’d encourage a line-upon-line approach.  That’s what I had to do when I read “The Truth about the God Makers” around 18 years ago.

And I’m grateful I immersed myself on these topics, though I’d argue core faith is actually what is essential — not knowing a bazillion counterarguments.

Topics that “destroyed” Jeremy’s testimony have been debated by scholars and LDS associations members for decades.  Nobody hid this material.  Some unique LDS folks study deeply, in addition to progressing through the Gospel basics in Sunday School.

Online debate and study forums have been hashing out these issues well before the internet.  Most people, however,  — be they Mormons, Catholic, or atheist — don’t study very much.  And that’s OK, too!

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Jeff Lindsay has blogged in defense of the Church since 1994.  Jeremy Runnells is a young man who recently left the Church. Jeremy panicked with (to him) alarming, new information.

Why do these two people — Lindsay and Runnells — come to very different conclusions when facing the same issues? Why is one person’s faith so brittle? Context and framing makes all the difference. Listen below:

I argue that many who leave today would not have left over the same material decades earlier.  Now Christians of all stripes, including Mormons, have an alternative that they never would have considered till recently: agnosticism and atheism.

These are more acceptable than ever.  More popular than ever.  More peer pressure to join these groups than ever.  Sam Harris, the handsome fellow above — one of the “new” atheists — attracts lots of folks to his flock.  These new atheists mock belief and believers, assigning to their followers smart-guy status.

And these followers believe it, despite atheism having no more settled foundation than in the past.  It’s simply a fact that secular is more attractive today than in the past.  But truth shouldn’t be settled on the basis of trends, social acceptance, and political popularity.

Evangelical Christianity or other sects are usually not attractive to doubting Latter-day Saints.  I’ve seen data showing 9 out of 10 former Mormons don’t believe in God.  Decades ago this did not occur.

As they weaken in faith, so many members see no credible option for belief.  But what many don’t initially realize is they’ve started to follow another faith: the faith of atheism/agnosticism.  Indeed, they put their faith in atheist podcasters and thinkers.

John Lennox discusses the faith of atheists:

Lennox schools prominent atheist, Richard Dawkins, on the topic of blind faith.  Even Dawkins operates on the basis of faith, no different than believers.  There’s so much none of us can know.  So we trust.  We have faith.  All of us.  No matter how much atheists hate to admit this.  They do, too.

Returning to the woman on the airplane in 2015.   As I got to know her further, she recently had experienced divorce, had a special relationship with Heavenly Mother, by her own admission didn’t like hierarchies & patriarchal arrangements, and was repulsed by polygamy.

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In my experience, it’s virtually never about the big lists alone.  Other things are inevitably occurring in the lives of those who leave.  I’ve talked to many, many folks about their faith crises.  Nobody leaves who was yesterday in full faith, working at the veil.  It’s always a years-long process.  Often involving other life issues.  We can help with all those variables.  Faith is work.   And worth it!

Many, many people have spent much more time than Jeremy Runnells — the fellow who crowdsourced the CES Letter on the ex-Mormon reddit subgroup — in understanding these issues.

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I learned about these issues decades ago and found virtually nothing new in his document.  Ed Decker, the Tanners, and a long list of critics before them have thrown lots of charges on the wall hoping that some will stick.  Some things we’ll never know.  For many things, however, answers exist.  Study, prayer, and humility are key.

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FAIR Mormon has thousands of pages of answers that can be searched via an internal search engine.  I’ll list four other resources that have responded to each and every criticism within the CES Letter:

#1:  Jim Bennett.  Jim is the son of the late U.S. Senator, Bob Bennett.  Jim is entertaining, bright, articulate, and lots of fun to read.  Jim wrote for the Deseret News for years.  He’s now running to fill an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

http://stallioncornell.com/blog/2016/04/01/a-reply-from-a-former-ces-employee/

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#2:  Brian Hales.  Brian is arguably the single greatest expert on Joseph Smith’s polygamy.  Brian spent much time not only answering polygamy-related questions within the CES Letter, but was very efficient in responding to all other claims.

http://debunking-cesletter.com/

As mentioned above, Brian has built and maintained this incredible resource on Joseph Smith’s polygamy (see JSP link below).  The critics may disagree with Brian, but they generally respect his research and scholarship.

Brian has shown in the linked site below, and Dan Vogel (one of the most prominent LDS critics alive) agrees, that there is no solid evidence of Joseph’s sexual polyandry.  Polygamy?  Yes.  Polyandry?  No.

Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.

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Brian’s wife, Laura Hales, has made significant contributions toward educating Latter-day Saints.  Her book, “A Reason for Faith”  and weekly podcasts are very insightful and impeccably well researched.

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#3:  Michael Ash.  Michael is a life-long defender of the LDS faith.  He has written these books (among others):  “Bamboozled by the CES Letter” and “Shaken Faith Syndrome.

#4:  Brett McDonald.  Brett created the “LDS Truth Claims” YouTube channel in the last year.  He directly responds to every charge found in the CES Letter.

One of my favorite presentations by Brett:

I recently found this blog — Conflict of Justice — that has many good points about the Book of Abraham and seer stones.  Since the Book of Abraham is a topic loved by the critics I thought I’d include this blog in the list.

If one is willing to leave the Church — an institution claiming to be the restored Church of Christ — he/she should consider all the data. Not only the cherrypicked information you’ll find in critical material, such as the CES Letter.  Please review the in-depth responses above and within the above links.

It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 60s, due to materials put forward by the Tanners. It would have been a very poor choice to leave the Church in the 80s, due to materials put forward by Ed Decker.

Image result for ed decker

It is, likewise, a very poor choice to leave the LDS Church today, given this (hardly new) material copied/pasted by Jeremy Runnells and aggregated into the CES Letter.

Our culture is much more accepting of atheism and is increasingly secular. Folks form agnostic groups and support each other in their doubts and new faith online. Though society welcomes these new trends, the facts of the restoration and the divinity of Christ remain the same.

I urge to review all the data. There are reasons to believe.  Study and pray.  No blind faith. Inform your faith. The Gospel was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Atheism: Purpose & Morality

First, some perspectives from the 3 Mormons:

 

William Lane Craig (bearded on left), a traditional Christian, is an incredible debater.  The fellow in the middle can’t clearly articulate why slavery or abusing a child is evil on an atheistic world view or in a purely objective way. Staggering.  But not suprising, given atheism denies objective moral values.

Is anything truly right or wrong?  Atheists want to make value judgments: “God was wrong.  The Nazis were wrong.”  Yet, they also maintain cultural relativism about what is right and wrong.

Can’t have it both ways.  If no God, one can’t assert what is right or wrong.  Nazis weren’t wrong.  They only did socially unacceptable — not wrong — things.

WLC makes his case again.  His debate partner, Wolpert, had some embarrassing moments:

WLC discusses the flaws of Sam Harris’ (and other “new” atheists) view of morality, good, and evil:

Next YouTube with Q and A:

First question to questioner from Ravi: “Do you lock your door at night?”

In a perfect world we shouldn’t be afraid.  But we don’t live in a perfect world.

If everyone believes morality is subjective, look out!  Not everybody wants to be nice.  Russia and China killed 60 million each in the 20th Century.  Stalin, in his final moments, clenched his fist toward heaven.  Worth 5 minutes.

 

Jonh Lennox explains if we’re no different from mold and there’s no final judgment, there’s no basis for morality.

Evolution, society, and other factors don’t provide a consistent, clear morality. Powerful rulers also typically fail magnificently to project and encourage morality.

Ravi answers a question about morality without God.  “Strong” nihilists or atheists, according to the questioner, don’t kill.  “Weak” nihilists may be bad, but not all atheists are evil and seek destruction.

Practically, there is no rational basis for good behavior on atheism — even if the “strong” atheist believes this way.  And how do you reconcile what is occurring in the Middle East: one side insists it’s right and wants to destroy the other.

It’s not nearly as simple as this questioner initially proposed.

 

From Prager University:

 

Ultimate Purpose without God?

Atheist Bertrand Russell:  “Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

From Prager:

 

 

Future of European Civilization

Decline in faith and family have severely weakened Europe. The secular revolutions in Europe occurred decades ago. Faith and families were weakened together. No marriage often results in less faith. The broad trends across entire countries have had less-than-ideal societal and social consequences.

We can do better in America. Maintain faith and family.

Very avoidable.