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Category: foolishness (page 1 of 14)

About that rock…

Last week, the LDS Church released photos of a small brown rock belonging to Mormon founder Joseph Smith. Here it is, on a tasteful mat.

The LDS Church, most notably through its artwork, has promoted the idea that founder Joseph Smith translated the book from gold plates, but the story now is that words would appear on the stone in English, and Smith would dictate these to a scribe. Apparently, he didn’t need to use the gold plates in the translation process at all — and Moroni and Nephi are not happy about this.

So what’s going on here? Why is the church promoting this strange artefact, essentially admitting that a small brown rock was instrumental to the Restoration? And what effect will this have on Latter-day Saints?

First, let me lay down a theoretical framework that helped me. It’s from a post by redditor ShemL.

The church contains not one gospel, but two. There’s Gospel A and Gospel B. Gospel A is the one missionaries teach. It’s lovely, inspiring, and uncomplicated. It’s the one where Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus in the Sacred Grove, he translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates, and only had one wife.

Then you find inconsistencies in the story, and unsavoury things about church history, and you transition to Gospel B. Gospel B is difficult and tangled, and there’s so much to explain away! It involves a lot of mental gymnastics. Nobody feels the Spirit from Gospel B. If you’re here, you might say that you have a “complex faith”.

The weird thing is that when you go to church, you have to pretend that Gospel A is the real one. There’s no acknowledgement of the complexity.

Now back to this rock. The rock is part of Gospel B. It’s a weird thing, the rock is. People are loath to believe that you can translate a document using a magic rock in a hat, and for good reason. It just screams fraud.

So why is the church publicising this? My answer: it has problems that are even worse than I thought.

It used to be easy for the church to keep everyone in Gospel A. Information about the church was reasonably scarce, except from the church itself — that was plentiful, but wrong. Anything that would divert people into Gospel B was dismissed as an anti-Mormon lie. Some people were in Gospel B because they knew about the rock and Joseph’s sex partners and so forth, but they had to find their own ways of dealing with that. In church, it was all Gospel A.

Then, with more information, people learned the information that the church was trying to control. It moved some people into Gospel B, but it moved a lot of people out of the church entirely. The church noticed this, and they figured that at least having people in Gospel B (and paying tithing) is better than having them leave. As a response, the church tried opening up a little by releasing unannounced (and uncredited) essays onto their website in the dead of night.

The secretive strategy didn’t work, and people found out about the weirdness anyway. So now it seems that the church is trying to roll out all the weird stuff at once, and I think they’re hoping that if they can just get it all out there, and weather the resulting exodus of members for a couple of weeks, whoever else is still in the church will be in for good. No more unpleasant discoveries for anyone, or if there are, it won’t be the church’s fault; they’ve disclosed.

Is it going to work? I doubt it.

First of all, if they’re hoping that they can dig down to bedrock lunacy and hope everyone copes from there, they’re going to be disappointed. It’s all lunacy. The nonsense goes down to the core. Reveal all the weird stuff? It’s all weird stuff! And fabrications.

Second, by opening up about its history, the church has effectively transitioned everyone into Gospel B! How is that supposed to work? How is the Gospel-A illusion supposed to work in church, when everyone is aware of Gospel B?

As for the apologists, they’re working overtime. Right now, they’re doing two things:

  • Trying to boost plausibility by describing the magic rock as anything but a magic rock. Some people are trying to explain that having a physical object around to channel spiritual powers is not weird — it’s like technology! It’s like an iPad!

(If someone really thinks this rock is like an iPad, I don’t know how I can help them. A rock is not an iPad. iPads work reliably and predictably for more than just one person. A rock is a rock.)

  • Some apologists are going for gas-lighting, blaming members for not knowing about this stuff when the information was supposedly out there — perhaps in a locked filing cabinet in a room with a sign that said “Beware of the leopard.” Consider this article, entitled “It’s Not the Church’s Job to Teach Me Church History”. Oh, really? This is disingenuous; if person could have a lifetime of church attendance, four years of Seminary, and years of Institute without running across any of this stuff, then how forward could the church have been about teaching it?

So what will happen? My seer stone is a little rusty (it’s iron pyrite), but I think the church is in uncharted waters here. Owning up to its magical past in the scientific age is going to highlight the implausibility for many members. Some people will stay in no matter what, but with the Gospel-A narrative tarnished, more members are going to wonder: why am I cleaning the chapel toilets again? What is this all for? Some people say, “Even if the church weren’t true, I’d stay in because it’s a good way of life.” But how good is it looking, now that its absurdities and obfuscations are manifest? This is a major discontinuity in the church narrative, and it will make the church story really different for those who remain. If people are freaking out, I don’t blame them.

One member explained his acceptance of the weirdness to me with the phrase “Faith is a choice”. That’s true. But now Mormons have many choices. They can stick with Gospel A, but this will be increasingly difficult in the information age. They can go with Gospel B, as the church is pushing them into, but Gospel B is often a last step before ditching the church altogether. And that, I think, is the best choice of all.

Lost him at the end.








If you liked this cartoon, there are stacks of others.

The parallels between gods and aliens are striking

I’ve just rewatched this snippet of a debate between the atheist Christopher Hitchens and the conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza.


Now the argument really comes down to this: the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. In other words, if we don’t know about something we should believe it doesn’t exist. I want to suggest why this is actually an unscientific and very foolish way to think.

We can sort of see it by stepping outside the debate and applying it to some other issue. Let’s consider a simple question that’s a very relevant question today: is there life on other planets? And the answer is: we’re not sure. We don’t know.

Along comes the atheist, who says the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. We have not found life on other planets, so there’s no evidence. Therefore, there is no life on other planets.

Is this an intelligent position? No, it is stupid and premature. Why? Because we may not know how to look. It may be that there is — So the fact that there is no evidence is evidence of nothing! It may be evidence of the poverty of our imagination, the ineffectiveness of our instruments. The bottom line of it ultimately is when we look at the evidence we find the religious believers are right. Thank you very much.

This is a wonderful analogy! But not for the reasons D’Souza thinks it is.

If the god debate were transplanted to the domain of extra-terrestrials, here’s how it would play out.

The atheist — or should I say ‘an-alienist’? — would say, “We can’t prove that aliens don’t exist. But no one has ever shown convincing evidence of their existence, so until we get some, there’s no reason to believe in them. Of course, I’ll change my mind if more evidence becomes available.”

On the other hand, the alien-believer would say, “I know that aliens are real! I know this because I’ve had a personal experience with them. It’s really more of a relationship.

“They left a book which tells all about them. And I am so certain that my understanding of this book is correct that I am prepared to persecute and wage war with other alien-believers whose understanding of the aliens differs slightly from my own.”

Would you believe this person? Or would you simply feel pity for them, and end the conversation as soon as you could?

It’s fine to entertain the notion — even the hope — that life exists on other planets. But to be as certain of it as theists are of god begins to look like madness, and we should recognise both as such.

There’s another similarity between god and aliens. They’re both what Robert Sheaffer calls ‘jealous phenomena‘ — they show a preoccupation with not being discovered by humans, which makes it convenient for their respective apologists. They also both tend to appear to people when they’re alone.

I don’t think it was very smart of D’Souza to push this the god/aliens comparison, but I’m glad he did. It’s one of the few times he’s said something useful.

Pareidolia of the Daylia: God moves in eggplanty ways

It’s not just Christians and Muslims who imagine religious images in food. Now Hindus are getting in on the act.

Believers are flocking to a Leicestershire temple to pray twice a day to a vegetable that looks like a Hindu god.

The divine aubergine was discovered among a box from a wholesalers and has been worshipped by more than 80 people so far.

Hindus: Behold your god!

I’m sure that many Hindus would think this is silly, just as many Christians think that Toast Jesus is silly. But according to the article, about 80 people have come to the restaurant to pray. For every one of those people, their religion has short-circuited the part of their brain that helps them realise that it’s stupid to venerate an eggplant. And that’s a terrible thing.

The danger is that, by worshipping an eggplant, they might accidentally be paying homage to the Eggplant God, and that’d really piss Ganesha off. Tramplings would ensue. You don’t want to make Ganesha mad — he never forgets.

Don’t take the candy

I met this Jesus guy while waiting for a train.

















Lots more cartoons here.

LDS Church is offended by your taking offense at their offensiveness.

The LDS Church has filed a brief with the US Supreme Court, claiming that their involvement with Prop 8 wasn’t motivated by hatred.

“On the contrary, our members supported Proposition 8 based on sincere beliefs in the value of traditional marriage for children, families, society, and our republican form of government.

We don’t hate them! We’re just trying to protect ourselves from them!

And then they whip out a little bit of “shame on you for demeaning our bigoted beliefs”.

Only a demeaning view of religion and religious believers could dismiss our advocacy of Proposition 8 as ignorance, prejudice, or animus.”

I’d say that only a demeaning view of gay people could view their marriages and relationships as antithetical to children, families, society, and government.

People operating under a sense of religious privilege, lifted up by the unquestionable righteousness of their cause, have literally no idea how offensive their actions are. They also have no clue about how ridiculous their umbrage looks to normal people.

God and sports

With the Super Bowl on the TV, it’s a good time to remember that 27 percent of Americans think God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event.

How is that supposed to work? Presumably fans on both sides are praying for their team to win. Does god ignore half the prayers? It recalls John Steinbeck: “Ah, the prayers of the millions, how they must fight and destroy each other on their way to the throne of God.”

It’s also odd to think that some people are sufficiently self-absorbed to think that their god would intervene in the entertainment of affluent North Americans, while ignoring real suffering around the globe.

Maybe he’s just a really intense sports fan.

Last Javan rhino officially extinct

There are no more Javan rhinos.

A large female Javan rhino, estimated to be between 15 and 25 years old, was shot and killed in late April 2010, and had its horn removed by a poacher. Turns out it was the country’s last, as reported by Rachel Nuwer at Take Part, a digital media and advocacy company.

What did the poacher want it for?

Throughout Southeast Asia, animals are vanishing from forests largely due to a renewed demand for their parts in traditional medicine, Nuwer reports. In the rhino’s case, its horn likely ended up in a tonic to cure cancer, treat hangovers or tame fevers, according to Nuwer, who has studied wildlife poaching in Vietnam. But studies have shown that the rhino horn has no medicinal value, and consists mostly of keratin, a major component in human fingernails and hair.

Traditional medicine has its adherents in Western countries, too, but the practitioners don’t seem very concerned about the global effects of the junk they’re selling. I searched in vain for anything on the Australian Traditional Medicine Society website (link to Google) about not using rhino horn, tiger penis, or anything else that would hasten the extinction treadmill.

This is just another reason why people shouldn’t use traditional/Chinese medicine. It doesn’t work, and it’s responsible for wiping out entire species. Let’s get the word out, humans.

A new one

Well, I thought I’d heard all the excuses for why an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god allows horrible things to happen to children. But here’s another: The victims must have done something to deserve it.

It happened in this clip from ‘The Atheist Experience’. The hosts, Matt and Tracie, are discussing god’s continuing non-intervention in child sexual abuse, with caller ‘Shane’.

Tracie starts off with a bracing observation, which has already been made into a meme:

And then?

Shane begins his response by saying, “First of all, you portray that little girl as someone who’s innocent, she’s just as evil as you.” Dillahunty then cuts off the call and spits, “Good-bye, you piece of s**t.”

Here’s the clip.

That’s right; according to this caller, if a child gets raped, we shouldn’t automatically assume that she didn’t deserve it.

But really, isn’t this just the standard answer for Old Testament genocide? The Israelites (allegedly) wiped out entire tribes, and when I’ve pointed this out, Christians have told me something like, well, we don’t know that the Canaanites didn’t deserve it. Richard Dawkins has refused to debate William Lane Craig for this very reason.

It’s a new rhetorical low for the religious: blaming innocent victims for the awful things that people do to them, instead of blaming an (allegedly) all-good and all-powerful god for his tendency to watch and do nothing. Once someone decides that’s acceptable, there’s nowhere else you can go. They’re morally gone.

Education in reverse: Indonesian edition

Indonesia is planning to gut science and social studies in schools. What are they going to focus on instead?

You guessed it.

Millions of children in Indonesian elementary schools may no longer have separate science classes starting in June, the beginning of their next school year, if the government approves a curriculum overhaul that would merge science and social studies with other classes so more time can be devoted to religious education.

Why? What benefit could this provide?

Officials who back the changes say that more religious instruction is needed because a lack of moral development has led to an increase in violence and vandalism among youths, and that could fuel social unrest and corruption in the future.

“Right now many students don’t have character, tolerance for others, empathy for others,” Musliar Kasim, the deputy minister of education, said in an interview in November. He proposed the changes in September.

If the youth lack morality or tolerance, they won’t learn it from any holy books, be they Bibles or Korans. To build character, the kids should be learning from the very classes they’re cutting. Science encourages openness to real-world evidence, critical thinking, and honesty. Social studies gets kids to think about what it takes to live in a society with others. Religion just encourages dependence on imaginary beings.

If Indonesia wants to raise a generation of dummies, they’ve found the way to do it. Religion poisons everything.

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