A “Free Thinker” Is Kicked Out Of The Vegetarian Church

SATIRE

Stake President: Welcome, Brother X, thank you, please come in.

Brother X: Thanks, president.  OK, let’s get this over with.  How does this thing go?

Stake (“steak”?  Better try “carrot”) President: Brother X, we need to meet in order to discuss some things you’ve been publicly advocating that are contrary to the established doctrine of the church.

Bro. X: Fine.  I’ve got nothing to hide or be ashamed of.  My ideas are just as valid as yours, and I believe this church is big enough to fit all the ideas in it that anybody wants. 

Stake Carrot President: But Brother X, this is the Church of Latter-day Vegetarians, and you insist on teaching people that they should eat meat instead of vegetables!

Bro. X: Of course!  Look, I totally have a testimony of the whole vegetable thing, I just also feel strongly that you can eat meat and still be a faithful, active vegetarian.  I don’t see the problem here.

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Ten Best Atheist Arguments?

Presented here for your convenience, for the first time ever and after countless hours of painstaking research by eavesdropping on actual cafe conversations and Internet chat rooms, are the top ten reasons I overheard secular Americans give for dismissing faith.

Well, not really, but it sounds about right.

 

10. “If there truly is an infinitely powerful and all-knowing God, then why can’t I easily understand him right away? He may well be an omnipotent and eternal deity ruling over a universe larger and more complicated than the mortal mind could ever possibly envision, much less comprehend… but I do read The New York Times, you know.”

 

9. “Why are all Christians such closed-minded morons? Their attitude towards atheism is marked by perpetuating generalized misconceptions about honest seekers of truth like me… often in the form of pitifully sterile insults. They should celebrate those whose opinions differ from their own, like we do. Stupid Christians.”

 

8. “Completely unlike us, Christians never demand any more evidence for the validity of their belief than bandwagon appeals to common knowledge. Everybody knows this is true. How could anybody even entertain conclusions drawn about an opposing point of view from such ridiculous ignorance? Hypocrites!”

 

7. “And what about the Bible? If there is a God, reason dictates that the Bible should have compelling, dynamic theological and ethical innovations unlikely to be conceived by human beings alone. It should also offer strong circumstantial support for divine inspiration. Of course it does not. I know this because I heard somebody quote a verse from it once.”

 

6. “The Bible has been proven many times through scholarly critical analysis to be nothing more than a biased collection of fairy tales written for the sole purpose of subjecting the superstitious masses under a code of moral liberty and civil enlightenment. This conspiracy is what allows monsters like Mother Teresa to rule as the despicable despots they are, breaking the spirits of proactive altruists everywhere.”

 

5. “Why is there any degree of disorder and injustice in the world? It’s not like a perfectly black and white world would make the existence of God obvious, thus removing our crucial need to develop faith in God and would reduce us to mindless automatons forced into conformity!”

 

4. “The complex worldview that Christianity posits suggests that humanity is an intricate tapestry of interdependence working towards a fundamentally greater collective good. That selfishness cannot distract us from the more neutral, objective conclusion that life is simply a series of random events, the inevitable result of a physical system that developed completely by chance and that ends in death, rendering life ultimately pointless and devoid of any obligation to improve ourselves or the world in general. I know how ennobling this sounds, but it is merely a fact, unadulterated by any ulterior motive.”

 

3. “‘By their fruits you will know them?’ So has anyone ever abandoned a materially abundant lifestyle or altered behavior inconsistent with their beliefs because of religious conviction? Nobody that I know of! This is because religion is only a selfish delusion of convenience, not a vigorous and vital dimension of life whose empirical validity empowers adherents to make vastly positive personal change. Their wanton mental self-indulgence is starkly revealed when placed in contrast with those of us who so stoically bear the Spartan torch of atheism.”

 

2. “I read this in the correspondence of a European philosopher and scientist to his brother in 1895: ‘If there were in existence some Supreme Being, why has he then withheld from his own children that most natural of blessings, automated wheeled transportation? For, as any fool can see, such a marvel absolutely must be commensurate with the existence of God. If not for this insurmountable flaw, however, I would gladly become a Christian.’ This perfectly logical query was never satisfactorily addressed, and he died a happy atheist in 1948.”

 

1. “Clearly, belief in God amounts to no more than wishful thinking. Simply put, while those of us who accept atheism only do so after the most stringent open-minded research into every possibility, and then often reluctantly, those who embrace any faith-based belief system always do so blindly. The more they explain their opinion, the more they reveal their fundamental ignorance.”

 

Dialogue On The Richard Dawkins Forum

I was raised Catholic but, by the time I was a teenager, I considered myself agnostic.  I felt like there was something out there, but I wasn’t sure what it was or where to find it.  Frankly, if I hadn’t ever studied the Book of Mormon, I’d probably be an atheist today.  So I actually have a lot of respect for agnostics (and to a slightly lesser degree, atheists); I applaud them for insisting that the rational mind not be held hostage to superstition and tradition (a view which is wholly compatible with the LDS Church).  In a way, these are my people, and I enjoy interacting with them.

Last December (ironically, right around the time that Elder Ballard first gave his now-landmark address about using the Internet to share the gospel), I tried to engage people on Richard Dawkins’ pro-atheist forum about evidences for the Book of Mormon (Dawkins, of course, is the world-famous author of The God Delusion).  As I explained in my first post, my goal wasn’t to convince any readers of the veracity of any of our church’s supernatural claims (though they are), but rather to introduce them to information about this important topic with which they probably hadn’t been familiar, and to ask them to rationally evaluate the arguments for and against the Book of Mormon, to see which theory for the text’s origin is best supported by artifacts and logic. 

I approached them this way not because I feel my faith is lacking or that bearing testimony is inappropriate (quite to the contrary), but only because I knew that those were the parameters of discussion on the Dawkins site, and I didn’t want to offend.  I do feel, though, that an examination of the physical evidence for such a text is a valuable part of developing a powerful witness of its truth, and an essential part of understanding it deeply and getting as much out of it as we can. 

The response to my post was overwhelming.  By the time the thread ran down about a month later (I had long since written–twice–everything pertinent that could be said), it had been viewed over 3,400 times.  It was in danger of being hijacked a few times by ex-members with an axe to grind, but I was most worried about novice readers being poisoned by the seemingly-simple answers of anti’s.  I did my best to explain the problems with these theories, while politely reiterating the facts behind my thesis–that the Book of Mormon is, according to an objective analysis of the available evidence, most likely authentic. 

To see the series of posts in my “Reason, Evidence, and the Book of Mormon” thread, please click here.  You might have to register on their site to make the connection, but it’s quick and free and, in my ever-so-very-humble opinion, worth it.  

Even if nobody ever becomes converted to Christ through that post (though it would be wonderful if they did!), I hope that some of the prejudice and disrespect which people often hold about the Book of Mormon is ameliorated because of it.  I only wish I had some way of knowing if it did that, or any good at all.

Rebuttal To A Snide Swipe At Religion

As is so fashionable these days, a British article I came across this morning breezily dismissed religion as, shall we say, “the effect of a frenzied mind” and “silly traditions” (Alma 30:16, 31).  Here’s a quote:

People say they believe in life after death but still grieve when people die. Christians try to get rich and Muslims gamble. The state of mind here is unaccountable in the same way as that of the child who pretends that the tree stump is a bear and then becomes genuinely frightened of it, while knowing all the time that it is a tree stump. Like the child’s game, the grown-up one deserves no special respect, but provided it keeps away from the serious side of life it can remain harmless enough.

My response is posted (by “Huston”) in the comments section near the bottom of the page: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=401547&c=1

Back And Forth With A Critic Of My Church

On the opinion page of today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, a reader named “Joe” posted a comment very critical of my church.  I responded by correcting some factual errors in his piece, which sparked a bit of a warm debate.  Follow this link and scroll to the bottom, then read the posts by “Joe” and “Huston” (me). 

http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/18168569.html?numComments=41

Letter To A News Columnist About The Book Of Mormon

I sent the following this afternoon:

 

Dear ___________:

After several years of enjoying your column in _______, I’m sorry that my first email to you is to quibble. In your current piece, about the Texas child-seizure debacle, you begin by dismissing The Book of Mormon as “the literary and religious equivalent of L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth.”

The vague commingling of The Book of Mormon with Scientology aside, your judgment smacks of something that I’ve never seen in your work before: lack of sufficient information. No doubt you’re familiar with The Book of Mormon; you may have even read it (or parts of it); I’m sure you’ve read more than the average person has on the subject.

But do you really know enough about it to warrant a final verdict? Are you adequately well-versed in the burgeoning field of Book of Mormon research, both secular and spiritual, to have an educated opinion?

For example, regarding the large body of research that rationally places the Book of Mormon text in an authentically ancient locale, consider the survey given here: www.MormonEvidence.com. Such an overview of the facts may not convince someone, even a logical type with an open mind, that the text truly is authentic, but it shows that it may very well be, that the evidence tends to suggest the plausibility of that theory, and that it is not to be dismissed.

Or perhaps you’re given to denigrate The Book of Mormon because you feel it doesn’t measure up as literature or as a Christian document. The tip of the iceberg in correcting those erroneous assumptions would include these two essays by University of North Carolina English professor Richard Rust: http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=62&chapid=710 and http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=62&chapid=712 , as introductions to its under appreciated literary value; and this essay, by a man I know to have been a prophet of God, is deeply rooted in the Christ-centric nature of The Book of Mormon: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=024644f8f206c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=2a9682178cb9b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1.

Also, I must point out the technical inaccuracy of referring to members of the FLDS church as “Mormons.” That word has always been understood to refer to members of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not to any splinter group that may have broken off from it. The FLDS themselves would also agree with this. Calling them Mormons would be like labeling people in Brazil as Portuguese, because they may have common ancestors many generations ago and because Brazilians speak a version of the Portuguese language. Can you see the problem with this identification?

I hope this note is taken in a gracious spirit of respect for you and your work, and I do hope your references to The Book of Mormon in the future are grounded in a better understanding of it. Thank you for your time and your continued writing, which I find irascible yet erudite; in short, blissful!

God bless you!

Sincerely,

Jamie Huston

American Literature Honors, Centennial High School

Composition and World Literature, University of Nevada Las Vegas

 

 

gentlyhewstone.wordpress.com

 

Jamie Huston

“may the tussocks grow quickly under your trampthickets and the daisies trip lightly over your battercops.” — James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, 428:26-27.
 

Letter to local radio station about Mormon comments

Last night, my wife and I were listening to a Christian radio station that she especially likes, when a caller started a long segment about Mormons.  It was friendly but, we felt, condescending.  This morning, I sent the following email to the on-air personality at the station:

Dear Mr. _____:

My wife and I have been avid fans of your excellent radio station for about a year. Thank you for the fine music, comments, and teachings you air. Our lives have been blessed by your work.

I wish that’s all I was writing to say. However, during last night’s program, you spoke with a caller who discussed finding Christ after having left Mormonism. Clearly, this on-air conversation was full of love for Mormons and based on good faith; no ill-will was intended, and we felt none.

But we were bothered by the repeated implication that, as Mormons, we still need to find Christ. Mr. ______, I assure you that we have! I’m so sorry that your caller had bad experiences with the LDS Church growing up, only knowing a half-baked version that she herself called “Jack Mormonism,” and I’m happy that she’s found sincere faith in the Lord now. I’d rather that someone felt God’s love outside of my church than feel burdened by sin in it.

But that’s just the thing. I don’t question the value of your faith. We certainly have major doctrinal differences, and we might each feel we have things to teach the other…we might even each believe that the other will be mildly surprised by some of what he learns after this life (though I would never suggest that anyone would suffer punishment because they didn’t join the LDS church in this life—I don’t believe that teaching is Biblical), but I know that you know Christ, and I know that He blesses your life and that you feel His spirit. I only ask for the same good courtesy.

I don’t want you to think I’m upset or offended. I’m truly not; only disappointed that so much lack of understanding still persists between our communities. For example, your caller last night made a point about being saved by grace, without any good works being involved, perhaps implying that Mormons believe otherwise. I assure you, that’s not the case. We would say that the Lord absolutely requires us to make an effort to live by His commandments in order to make His great atoning sacrifice effective for us personally, but that salvation itself is 100% a gift from God. Do you see that we may not be in exact agreement there, but we’re closer than you might think?

Yes, we Mormons love to share our faith and invite others to investigate it, but we hope nobody feels like that’s an insult to the power of all the truth they already have (and, again, I know that you have a whole lot of truth!). If you’d like to learn more about your many LDS neighbors and listeners (besides my wife, I know at least two other people in my area congregation who love your station), I’d encourage you to visit www.mormon.org and www.jesuschrist.lds.org. I’m sure you’ll feel the spirit when you see how Christian our belief and worship truly are.

Thank you again for your wonderful ministry on ______, and thanks for reading this long note. My wife and I plan to keep listening to ______  to be enriched by it, but we do hope and pray that our communities will be able to communicate better in the future.

With love in Christ,

Jamie Huston
  • Incidentally, this DJ really is a great guy.  He sent me a reply that, though it didn’t address the substance of my comments, was still very gracious.  Hooray for mainstream Christians!