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.