I Love Talking To Ex-Mormon Atheists

I did not expect to meet so many atheists when I moved to Utah seven years ago. But I should have known better: America as a whole is secularizing, and Mormonism itself has a “scorched earth policy.” My Mormon girlfriend in high school once essentially said, “If the LDS Church isn’t true, I don’t know that I could ever believe in God.” Mormonism already is a form of atheism: it denies the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, first, most high God, and instead teaches a kind of naturalism or materialism: everything is matter, even spirits, and everything is subject to eternal laws of ultimate nature, even the gods. It feeds its people conspiracy theories about the corruption of the Bible, and it scares the heck out of Mormons over non-Mormon churches: if you don’t stay with the One True Church, you’ll have to settle for an abominable evangelical church with a corrupt pastor who is a minister of Satan.

That is a colorful way of putting it, but you get the point.

It is depressing that so many people leave Mormonism only to become agnostics or atheists. Fortunately, atheists have a hard time staying atheists. Their children are probably much more open to the Biblical gospel than Mormons are. I suspect God is up to something — he has multi-generational plans we’ve never dreamed of. If giving people the truth about Mormonism’s history and the truth about the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ statistically increases the odds of a person becoming a self-confessed agnostic or atheist, then so be it. God is sovereign and I am not here to be a social engineer or to play God. My job as an ambassador of Jesus is to preach the word of truth in love, and let the chips fall where they may. Fortunately, there is the fruit of ex-Mormon Christians to celebrate.

I used to be intimidated to talk to atheists. They are, in my experience, generally confident about their atheism and have tough questions. But over time I discovered that the average atheist hasn’t read a substantive book defending atheism or theism, and gets his intellectual prowess from… image memes and YouTube. Today, I like to start off conversations with atheists by asking, “Have you ever read a good book defending atheism or theism?” Usually they haven’t. “Have you ever heard any good arguments for the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus?” Usually they haven’t. “What are the strongest arguments for theism or Christianity, and what about them do you find lacking?” Blank stare. “What do you think are some of the most difficult questions for atheism to answer?” Ughhh…

These are great introductory teaching moments. “Would you mind if I shared a few good arguments for the existence of God and for the resurrection of Jesus?” What an awesome opportunity, especially when it culminates in a presentation of the most beautiful (and true) story in the world: God, yes, God, became a man, suffered with us and for us, and paid our penalty on the humiliating and shameful cross, and showed us the best display of sacrificial love there has ever been, simultaneously vindicating the righteousness of God, raising three days letter, showing us that the Lord Jesus Christ has all authority under heaven and earth and infinite power to keep his promises.

My favorite argument for the existence of God is the “moral argument for God.” I push it really hard:

1. If there is no God, there are no objective moral values or duties.
2. There are objective moral values and duties.
3. Therefore, God exists.

The really interesting thing about this argument is that atheists disagree with each other and don’t know it. Some affirm both premises and simply haven’t followed them through to the conclusion. Some affirm premise #1 and disaffirm premise #2, others disaffirm premise #1 and affirm premise #2. Call me a rascal, but when I’m being dog-piled by atheists, I love to get them arguing with each other. The argument is a great way to simultaneously engage someone’s intellect, spiritual intuitions, and suppressed presuppositions, all at the same time.

You can hear more about the moral argument for God here. But don’t let YouTube suffice: read a good book. Some of you are, like me, at times utterly sick of reading about, thinking about, and discussing Mormonism. Take the opportunity to read some good literature that both engages atheism and supports the basics of Biblical Christianity. The ironic thing is that you can take what you learn and share it with not only your atheist neighbors, but also your Mormon neighbors. I dare say that all of the evidences, arguments, and Biblical declarations that atheists need to hear are things that Mormons equally need to hear. Mormons are atheists in embryo. As Mormons are, ex-Mormon atheists once were; as ex-Mormon atheists are, Mormons may be. To quote The Dark Knight Rises out of context: “There is a storm coming.” Mormon parents need to stop asking themselves, “Will my children remain in the LDS Church?”, and start asking, “When my children leave the LDS Church, will they believe in Jesus?” Not if, but when. It’s happening in Utah, and it’s happening fast. Mormons have a hard time imagining what being a Christian theist would be like outside of Mormonism. I want to help start this process of imagination.

Addendum: Ten Discussion Questions for Atheists and Agnostics

  1. Is there anything you reasonably believe to be true, yet can’t empirically demonstrate?
  2. Are there any objective moral values or duties?
    1. Is torturing babies for fun morally objectively wrong?
    2. Does atheism have a ‘problem of evil’?
  3. Does every effect have a sufficient cause?
  4. Do you trust your cognitive faculties?
    1. To what extent and why?
  5. Is an infinite regress possible?
  6. Is it possible that God exists?
  7. Is truth important for its own sake?
  8. Is the question of God’s existence important?
  9. Do you feel angst or sorrow over the absurdity of life?
  10. What do you think of the person of Jesus?
    1. Have you ever heard of the “trilemma”?

Philosophical discussion important, but secondary and supplemental to direct preaching. People are not only emotional and spiritual beings, but also intellectual beings, so I consider it a respectful and loving thing to engage a person intellectually.

We are all fools for something. I choose to be a fool for Jesus. “If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise.” (1 Corinthians 3:18) Be a “fool” with me and preach the ridiculous gospel of Jesus Christ. Self-confessed atheists are no different than the rest of us inadvertent “practical atheists” who sin as though God does not exist. We need to repent of trusting ourselves and cry out to Jesus in brokenhearted, child-like faith.

God is good, and Jesus has risen,

Aaron

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176 Responses to I Love Talking To Ex-Mormon Atheists

  1. Brewed says:

    Lee, Lee, Lee…
    Are you really saying that the trinity came from a story about a goddess having sex with her husbands reassembled body (including a penis she herself made) to create a son? Sounds like you’ve been hanging around FAIR too much..
    Also you mentioned something about not worshiping Jesus?
    I think it is time for you to pick up your Bible my friend.. There are many places where people fall to the feet of Jesus and worship him. He allows them to worship him. This is something unique to Jesus because Jesus is fully God and fully human. Phillipians 2:5 is my favorite verse on the subject. Also Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, John 1:1, 1:14, 1 Timothy 3:16, Micah 5:2, John 8:58, John 20:28, 2 Peter 1:1, Colossians 1:16, John 8:24, John 10:30-33, John 14:9-11 , John 20:28 , Titus 2:13 , Revelation 1:8 all speak of Jesus Christ’s deity.
    Holy! Holy! Holy is the lamb!
    Who is the lamb, Lee? Jesus.

  2. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    Maybe you should try to actually read and understand what I am saying before you go around making your false accusations. Personally, I get rather tired of that.
    Just to point it out, as I doubt you will go back and read it again, I stated, rather plainly, that you claimed a faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet proved Christ failed. Thus, if you were actually paying attention, rather than just being your usual arrogant self, you would have realized that I was simply restating your insistence that our doctrine teaches he failed. Please, try to get things right.

    As to everything else you say, you make absolutely no sense. If Christ really did all of it, than what is the point in calling anyone after him to the ministry? Why did he call Paul to preach to the gentiles. Why did he set up Peter and the other Apostles and command them to preach the word?

    Now, the real problem is that you have no understanding, and I say that because it is true. We do not teach that Joseph Smith carried on Christ’s work, and only one ignorant or our doctrine would ever say we did. Christ work is finished, and no one else could have ever done that work. It was his and his alone. However, after his work was done he gave a work to his Apostles, and it is that work that Joseph Smith was carried to carry on. Until you get that through your head there is little else to be said on the subject.

    Now, as to other accusations you make I will say this: I accept all truth taught in the scriptures, but I reject your interpretation of their words. I accept the testimony of all the ancient apostles, but reject your testimony concerning their meaning. I accept every claim that Christ ever made concerning himself, but I reject many claims that you make concerning him.

    Paul teaches the need for prophets (Ephesians 4: 11-12, 1 Corinthians 12: 28). I know you reject these passages, trying to explain them away as simply “Inspired speakers,” but the context does not agree with this. Paul declares that in Ephesians 2: 20 that the church must be founded on apostles and prophets, and in 4: 11 that these church callings were given for our benefit. You claim that Hebrews 1: 1-2 proves that prophets are no longer used, and yet Paul declares in Ephesians 3: 5 that God was still revealing mysteries to prophets at that time.
    Then, of course, you are faced with the idea that an unchanging God has somehow changed the way he operates, as once he used prophets, but doesn’t anymore. I am sorry, but what you claim as scriptural truth is so against scripture that there is no truth in it.

  3. Old man says:

    “Maybe you should try to actually read and understand what I am saying before you go around making your false accusations. Personally, I get rather tired of that.
    Just to point it out, as I doubt you will go back and read it again, I stated, rather plainly, that you claimed a faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet proved Christ failed. Thus, if you were actually paying attention, rather than just being your usual arrogant self, you would have realized that I was simply restating your insistence that our doctrine teaches he failed. Please, try to get things right.”

    Perhaps it’s you who should go back to read what I said. I did not throw any false accusations your way. What I said was this, if you claim that Joseph Smith was a Prophet called by God then you must also believe that Christ failed, that is so obvious to anyone apart from dyed in the wool Mormons that it shouldn’t need explaining.

    “Faith in Joseph Smith” Show me where I said that, perhaps it was a Freudian slip on your part.

    You said

    “Now, the real problem is that you have no understanding, and I say that because it is true. We do not teach that Joseph Smith carried on Christ’s work, and only one ignorant or our doctrine would ever say we did.”

    Yes you do teach that! Christs work was not just in His atonement & nothing else, His work was also in establishing His Church, the body of Christ. By claiming that Joseph Smith was needed to restore the Church because of total apostasy you teach that Joseph Smith carried on Christs work, not in the sense of His atonement but in the sense that Christ MUST have failed to establish His Church. Why else would another prophet be needed? Therefore the atonement was without meaning for nearly 2000 years until God called Joseph Smith.
    Smith claimed to do what Christ could not do & I quote.

    “I have more to boast of than any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I (History of the Church, Vol.6, pp. 408-09).”

    Joseph Smith taught his followers that Christ failed, are you going to argue with your prophet?

  4. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    Oh, you have false accusations. Like this
    “We’ve had this discussion before & I’m beginning to get a little tired of the continual distortion by Mormons of the things I say, I did NOT say that Christ failed,”

    This is, quite obviously, you accusing my of claiming that you said Christ failed. That accusation was false. So, you are now trying to cover this false accusation with a false statement when you say “[you] did not throw any false accusations [my] way.” And you have the nerve to accuse us?

    Now, you again fail to make any real sense. First you say we “teach that Joseph Smith carried on Christs work, not in the sense of His atonement but in the sense that Christ MUST have failed to establish His Church.” But then you say that this would prove “the atonement was without meaning for nearly 2000 years.”
    Which is it? Does our doctrine say that he failed in the atonement, or in setting up the church, or are you claiming both?

    Now, just to educate you a little, if Christ established the church, and nothing was needed after, then there was also no need for him to call Paul, or Luke, or anyone else to the ministry. If the church was already established why was there the need for this further ministry?
    Of course, the truth is that the church was established, but was never strong as a body. Even in the days of Christ many who followed fell away (John 6: 66). A simple reading of the New Testament should prove that corruption was already working its way into the body of the church during the time of the Apostles. Christ established a church, but he left it to men to build it up and keep it strong. After the apostles died the men who held the care of the church failed and the body fell into darkness through their carelessness.
    Joseph Smith, through the direction of Christ, re-established the church that other men had let fall. Just as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and all the great prophets have done throughout history. God revealed his will to them, and through them established a church. However, because it was left to the care of men each one eventually fell away, and thus a new prophet was called to once again establish the church of God.
    Christ failed at nothing, and there is no logic in any attempt to claim our doctrine teaches otherwise. He fulfilled the atonement, which has been the hope of all men of true faith from the time of Adam to the present. He also acted as the prophet of restoration for the generation in which He lived, establishing again the church of God. However, just like at all time before, that church was given over to other men, and through there carelessness and wickedness the church fell, and waited to be restored again.
    There is nothing in the Bible that contradicts this. Your illogical claim that if the church failed then the atonement was meaningless is ridiculous. The atonement never lost its meaning, nor its power to save men. It was the church that became meaningless and lost is power to guide men to Christ, because it was the church that failed.

  5. Old man says:

    Shem said
    “Your illogical claim that if the church failed then the atonement was meaningless is ridiculous. The atonement never lost its meaning, nor its power to save men. It was the church that became meaningless and lost is power to guide men to Christ, because it was the church that failed.”

    Be good enough to stop quoting me out of context & explain to me why it’s ridiculous. I said that for nearly 2000 years the atonement was meaningless if JOSEPH SMITH WAS NEEDED TO RESTORE THE CHURCH. For all that time, according to the Corporation there was no true Church & hence the atonement had no meaning for anyone.

    “Now, you again fail to make any real sense. First you say we “teach that Joseph Smith carried on Christs work, not in the sense of His atonement but in the sense that Christ MUST have failed to establish His Church.” But then you say that this would prove “the atonement was without meaning for nearly 2000 years.”
    ”Which is it? Does our doctrine say that he failed in the atonement, or in setting up the church, or are you claiming both?”

    Are you being deliberately obtuse? Christ DID not fail in the work of atonement & I DID not say that LDS doctrine claims that. Yet again you twist what I said, you really are a master at the art of distotortion. What I have said & what I will continue to say is that by claiming Smith to be a prophet called to restore the Church the LDS are claiming that for 2000 years the atonement had no meaning for all of Mankind. See above. You tell me I need educating, you constantly tell me that I have no understanding & that I’m arrogant. Now let me tell you something about yourself, it is apparent from your attitude that you understand almost nothing of what I have been saying. Your prophet is the one claiming that Christ failed to establish the Church; he quite openly says that Christ could not keep His church together.
    “I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam.”
    He is the one claiming to have done more than Christ,
    “no man ever did such work as I”
    Take your distortions to Smith & argue with him.
    And finally
    “He fulfilled the atonement, which has been the hope of all men of true faith from the time of Adam to the present. He also acted as the prophet of restoration for the generation in which He lived, establishing again the church of God. However, just like at all time before, that church was given over to other men, and through there carelessness and wickedness the church fell, and waited to be restored again.”
    With that one comment you have finally, albeit inadvertently, admitted you have no understanding of who Christ is or what he accomplished & you contradict what you said previously

    “for the generation in which He lived”
    Kindly tell me what will happen when another prophet comes along to tell you the LDS is apostate & God has called him to restore the one true church?

  6. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    I know exactly what you are saying, and it makes no sense. If the Atonement had no meaning than it failed. Yet you are claiming that this is not the case, which makes no sense, making your statement illogical and ridiculous.
    If the Atonement did not fail than there has always been meaning in it for those of true faith. If there was ever a time when there was no meaning than it failed.

    As to Joseph Smith, I know the quote very well. It is frequently used by people like you who have no understanding.
    Notice first that he reads the eleventh chapter in second Corinthians, in which Paul is also boasting, and states “As Paul boasted, I have suffered more than Paul did I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions.” Notice also that in all this he frequently refers back to Christ, as it is Christ’s doctrine that we teach, and his glory that we seek. In fact, he credits Christ with his own ability to make the statements he is making. He states “The Lord has constituted me so curiously that I glory in persecution.”
    Joseph Smith never claimed to do more than Christ, or even to do what Christ couldn’t. He is claiming to have done something that Christ didn’t do, and he is very accurate in that claim. Christ established a church, but that church did not remain faithful. It fell away, as I pointed out, in Christ’s own lifetime. But even with this Joseph Smith still credits his success to the blessings that Christ has given him.
    I know you will ignore what Joseph Smith is actually saying, as you will always prefer your distortions to the truth, but this is what he said, and there is nothing wrong with it.

    “With that one comment you have finally admitted you have no understanding of who Christ is”
    I have admitted nothing of the kind. I have shown, as I have done in the past, that the truth of Christ and his mission is not the false doctrine that you adhere to. It is you that have the false understanding, not me.

    “you contradict what you said previously”
    I contradicted nothing.

  7. Old man says:

    Shem said
    “Joseph Smith never claimed to do more than Christ, or even to do what Christ couldn’t. He is claiming to have done something that Christ didn’t do, and he is very accurate in that claim. Christ established a church, but that church did not remain faithful. It fell away, as I pointed out, in Christ’s own lifetime.”
    Let’s take another look at what Smith said.

    “God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”

    You can spin that any way you like, but Smiths meaning is clear. I find it hard to take you seriously as you’re are now telling me that Smith never claimed to do more than Christ when Smith said exactly that. Did he say this or not?

    “I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam.” And “I boast that no man ever did such a work as I.”

    If those are his words then he is claiming to have done more than Christ.

    “I have suffered more than Paul did I should be like a fish out of water, if I were out of persecutions.”
    Where on earth did Smith, or you for that matter, get the idea that he suffered more than Paul? Smith wasn’t persecuted for his beliefs, he was persecuted because he lied, he manipulated, he stole from his followers, he committed adultery many times & he was guilty of polygamy & polyandry. Finally he paid for his crimes, one month after his blasphemous boasting he was dead.

    “If the Atonement did not fail than there has always been meaning in it for those of true faith. If there was ever a time when there was no meaning than it failed.”

    I said previously that you contradict yourself & you have just done it again, on the one hand the LDS proclaims to the world that there was a total apostasy hence the need for another prophet, & on the other hand you’re telling me that the atonement was meaningful because there were true believers. Make up your mind Shem, there was total apostasy in which case the atonement meant nothing until the time of Joseph Smith or there wasn’t total apostasy in which case Joseph Smith wasn’t needed!

  8. fightinglee says:

    Ahhh. Having returned from a long extended vacation, I will try to get back to this conversation, but i can see that it has gone quite a ways in different ways since I left.

    Again, sorry I wont get to everyone. This wont be long.

    Can anyone tell me if posting an email address is allowed here? The address is a throw away one i have used for some time. I find with some conversations, it is easier to have it via email than on a board where you keep getting sidetracked by 8 or so different people.

    KATE,
    If we can post an email address, would you continue a discussion with me via email? If not, then that’s fine. If no, then just tell me. If yes, I will post my address here (if allowed) and you can shoot me an email.

    You asked me why I chose the LDS religion, and not the FLDS religion, or some other. I would love to explain all this to you, and my experience if you really care to know. But I dont really care to discuss it here in a slightly hostile environment. I do not think you are hostile, nor do I believe you will be insulting or mocking. I also dont feel the “need” to defend Joseph, as much i feel the need to not have lies propagated and history invented. You are right, the polygamy is weird enough. We dont also need to mix in third party testimony and accusations without evidence.

    Rick,

    I can see why you think I am avoiding your “hard” questions, but I promise you I am not trying. To be honest, I cant keep everyone’s different comments straight because there are so many. We could deal with them one by one. I offer you the same thing if you want with an email discussion. Sometimes things just go better one on one in discussion than they do on these sites. If you dont want to do that, then will you post your FIRST hard question that you want to address and we can go from there. If it’s the hell scripture and interpretation, then that’s fine. Just let me know and I will respond. i honestly dont think of it as a hard question for me, but sorry i didnt continue down that road enough.

    Sometimes i feel like these types of discussions dont go anywhere, because we can’t find a common starting ground at all. Like with that questions, you said, well the scriptures cant be interpreted, they should just be read. But the bible is not self-interpreting. That is why you find so many different teachings out there. Just go between different denominations and you will find many different views on scripture. What denomination you attend, really can be seen as the lens of the bible. I have seen a lot of different views by different christian denominations over the years. Reading without interpretation is impossible because the bible can be outright contradictory at times, unless you apply an interpretation. I tried to to explain this in one of my comments back, but then we just jumped to a new discussion. And perhaps I got sidetracked with another poster too.

  9. Fightinglee, thanks for wanting to understand Mormon Coffee’s comment policy before posting an email address. To answer your question, posting your own email address is fine, but if you would like to limit its public exposure I can serve as a go-between in getting your email address to specific people in the Mormon Coffee community. Please let me know if I can help by emailing me at moderators[at]mrm[dot]org.

  10. fightinglee says:

    Thank you, Sharon! I really don’t mind sharing it here publicly. Its not an email address I use other than for having discussions I dont want in my work or personal email address.

    [email protected]

    If anyone wants to have a discussion through email, there it is. I will be upfront that if your email is hostile, I will probably just delete it, but if you really want to have a discussion, then I will be happy to, and I think it can go better one on one.

    I particularly invite Kate and Rick. I know Rick has answers he thinks are being dodged, and that is not my intent, but with so many comments coming from all directions, I have a hard time sticking to one discussion, I admit, and I might miss something, or move on when I think I have addressed it. Thanks guys. I will still check in the site and make comments when I can.

  11. Old man says:

    Fightinglee

    I mean no disrespect in saying the following, as I have no interest in private debates, it makes little difference to me. However, whilst respecting your wish to have a “civilised” one on one discussion, the purpose of this site, as I understand it, is for discussion, debate, argument, call it what you will, to be in the open for all to see. If I’m wrong then I’m sure someone will correct me. Believe me I do understand the difficulty in replying to several different posts, I, like others in here, have had to cope with simultaneous attacks from 2 or 3 different people at a time on 2 or 3 separate topics so I know it’s not easy. If arguments are settled by email then what will casual browsers to this site ever know of them or the points made? Please don’t take offence with anything I have said; it’s just my observation & opinion.

    Ps. could you explain to me the criteria you use as a basis for your invitations? I’m just wondering, nothing more than that.

  12. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    You still have no understanding, and seem to fail to even grasp basic language.
    Yes, Joseph Smith claimed to do more in holding a church together than Christ. Yes, he actually did do more in this particular area.
    I can honestly claim that I have traveled farther than Christ did in his life time. Between Jerusalem and Galilee it is less then 100 miles. Thus, Christ lived in a very small area throughout his mortal life. I, on the other hand, have traversed the entire Continental United states, which is near 3,000 miles E-W and 1,500 N-S. Thus I have traveled more extensively than Christ did.
    Have I blasphemed yet?

    Joseph Smith never claimed to do more than Christ in total. No one has ever done more than Christ has done. However, in certain aspects or activities many people have done more, because those things were never part of Christ’s ministry, or were a secondary to his primary work.
    Joseph Smith held this church together more successfully than anyone else, including Christ, as is proved in the fact that many of the followers of Christ left him while he was still alive. This does not mean that Joseph Smith ever claimed to have done more in total than Christ.

    Now, I know you will claim that since he said he has more to boast of than any man that I am wrong. Just remember that Jesus is not a man, he is God. Joseph Smith was not including him in that statement.

    However careless the statement was, and regardless of whether or not he should have said it is meaningless. He was very honest in his statement, and though it may ruffle the feathers, it changes nothing as to prophetic calling.

    As to your supposed contradiction, you simply do not understand what the apostasy is. You are making the false claim that apostasy means a loss of all faith, or basically, anything connected to the truth. This is a false understanding. Apostasy is the loss of the power of the priesthood, and the resulting loss of the ordinances of salvation. When the leaders of the church turned from the true gospel and began to teach false doctrine and change the ordinances, the church lost the priesthood, and thus all power to perform the ordinances.
    This does not mean that people lost their faith. It means they were never able to act on their faith. They still had faith, and that faith was in Christ and his atonement. Now, they were taught many false things by corrupt leaders, but they still believed in the atonement. Thus it still held meaning. They were in darkness, unable to fully grasp that meaning, but it was still there. It was because of this meaning that Martin Luther opposed the Catholic church and the rest of the leaders of the Reformation followed. If it had no meaning, than the reformation would never have happened. If it had no meaning than Joseph Smith would never had been searching for the truth of Christ.
    The atonement has always had meaning, and has been working in the lives of men from the days of Adam. One only seeks the atonement when it has meaning. If it had no meaning you would have ended up as the pagans, never seeking it because no one wants something that is meaningless.
    Beyond this, there is of course the preaching to the dead that went on during the centuries of darkness on the Earth, in which it was again the atonement that carried the power to save men. I know you deny this doctrine, but you can’t makes claims about our doctrine without considering it.

    So, I contradicted nothing. It is merely you that does not have a sufficient understanding of things to see the truth.

  13. Old man says:

    Shem

    It’s impossible to argue with you, I’m sure you make things up as you go along. Now you’re telling me that apostasy means “Apostasy is the loss of the power of the priesthood” I assume that’s from the Mormon dictionary that is rather different to every other.

    Here’s the real definition from the Oxford English Dictionary
    Renunciation of a belief or faith

    “Now, I know you will claim that since he said he has more to boast of than any man that I am wrong. Just remember that Jesus is not a man, he is God. Joseph Smith was not including him in that statement.”

    He wasn’t? You could have fooled me, try reading it again
    ““I have more to boast of than any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such work as I”

    Reading your posts is like reading from the latest edition of the apologists manual & very little of what you say makes any sense at all. In typical apologist fashion you don’t engage in reasoned debate but use distortion & obfuscation. You cannot defend your doctrinal stance so you dissemble you use facile arguments. Almost your entire post is a circular argument, don’t you realise you cannot defend LDS doctrines by quoting from them?

    As you cannot prove your case using scripture & your only defence appears to be that of expressing LDS (circular reasoning) doctrine there is no point in taking this any further..

  14. fightinglee says:

    Old man,

    I appreciate the question. I said if ANYONE wants to write me one on one, they can. As I said, however, if the tone is hostile, I will ignore it and move on. I am too busy to get into little spats. My criteria? Well, when i first came to this site, i began to address Kate specifically because I found her point of view to be close to my own initially (since then i take that back completely) so I thought we could have a conversation. I now realize that she is mad at the church for feeling lied to, but chooses to believe random accusations against church leaders that have no source and many times, really faulty ones. I think the real issue with this mindset is, once you have determined to leave something, you believe anything that confirms your decision. I will research the information that supports me, as well as the information that is against me, and sources are important. Anyone can say anything in this world, but I am a pretty big stickler for hard evidence. There are too many ulterior motivations behind the actions of humans to take words and accusations at face value.

    And that is basically it. Rick keeps claiming Mormons never answer anything, and I am happy to answer any question, but I need them one at a time so I am not all over the place. So I invited Rick as well specifically. Through email, i can, and have, had lasting discussions with many people that i have developed good friendships with. I doubt I will come back here for long. Threads close, threads move on.

    I have an individual I conversed with through exmormon that we ended up having some great conversations. He was pretty hostile on the site, but we found that one on one, we both shared a lot of common ground and were able to get along pretty well. He was able to share some things that he wasnt willing to share on exmormon for fear of getting hammered and was actually in a lot of pain. Its not easy losing ones faith, no matter what that faith is, it is downright excruciating. I like having more meaningful conversation than some random back and forth banter over what the bible might mean in this case and what it might mean in another case. Some of my email discussions with people of other faiths have been, and are, an incredible experience that i just dont think will be had here in this forum, at least i haven’t found that so far.

    I understand this sites intent, and so do you. I also understand the mob mentality, and i know how that changes one on one. I have been a member of the mob probably in my life, and i have been its victim. I prefer to see people for who they really are, and I find, in those cases of private conversation, they are more sincere and they are awesome.

    If you want to email me Old man, then feel free. If not, forget it. From a few of your original posts, I just didnt see much common ground we could strike in order to have good discussion. Your tone left me less than eager to engage with you. Maybe I was wrong. There is a first time for everything. 🙂

  15. fightinglee says:

    Old man,

    In regards to your discussion with Shem, this is why i didnt initially ever engage with you. Old man, if every word you ever spoke were recorded, can you think of any that might be incriminating if taken out of context, or even in context, or depending on your audience.

    Mormons dont care if you think Joseph was a prophet or not. It doesnt change our testimony. Likewise, we dont care if you think Joseph thought he did more than Christ himself because of one statement in which he was specifically talking about church organization. I can find you a million others where he speaks of the infintessimal greatness of Christ’s work, and how small he (Joseph) is in comparison. It’s frustrating, because you are more concerned with wordsmithing everything everyone says than you are in context. Just like the word apostasy. Apostasy means more than just a one line definition in the dictionary. Shem gave you his definition, as most mormons see it. You can see it differently, fine. But if you want to argue, argue the content of his message, not merely the word choice you disagree with and then discount all of his ideas.

  16. Old man says:

    fightinglee

    It may have escaped your notice but I did argue the content of Shems message, as neither of you are able to mount a sensible defence you either ignore what I say or you redefine the accepted meaning of the words I use to make them fit your beliefs.

  17. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    Your argument wasn’t sensible, as I pointed out. You said we don’t teach that Joseph Smith continued the atonement, but then you said that if he continued the church, then the atonement was without meaning, thus proving that he did continue the atonement.
    You have an argument that has no logic to it. Of course you never bothered addressing that contradiction in your logic, preferring to divert things away from yourself.

  18. shematwater says:

    Old Man

    Apostasy
    Oxford English Dictionary (http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/9399?redirectedFrom=apostasy#eid)
    “Abandonment or renunciation of one’s religious faith or moral allegiance.”
    It also gives this in the time progression.
    “1726 J. Ayliffe Parergon Juris Canonici Anglicani 85 The Canon Law defines Apostacy to be a rash and wilful Departure from that State of Faith, Obedience or Religion, which any Person has profess’d himself to hold in the Christian Church.”

    Now, let us understand a few things first. This definition speaks of the act of apostasy. When one apostatizes from the church this is what they are doing. This occurred among the leaders of the Early church. As they altered the ordinances and laws of the gospel of Christ they willfully and rashly departed from that state of faith and obedience which was the gospel Christ taught. This resulted in them loosing the Priesthood authority and eventually lead to the entire world being in a state in which the true religion was no longer had among them. Remnants of that religion remained, however, such as a belief in the atonement of Christ. This state of darkness, having resulted from the apostasy of wicked men, is referred to by the LDS church as the Great Apostasy, because it is the result of the act of apostasy.
    So, when we talk of the Great Apostasy, we are not talking about the direct acts of those wicked men. We are talking about the time in which their acts caused a loss of Priesthood authority. There is nothing in this that goes contrary to the English Language or the definition of Apostasy as given in the Oxford English Dictionary.

  19. lasthop says:

    Aaron,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I think that your assessment of why ex-mormons become atheists and agnostics is spot on. I’m also inclined to agree that many atheists have not read much in depth on the subject of atheism/theism, though I would expect that outcome: If you haven’t come across a good reason to believe in , I would expect you to be only passingly familiar with the literature and arguments surrounding . I think this holds true for most any belief.

    I am a little surprised that you find it curious that atheists differ on their rejection of the moral argument for god. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god, and is not a good indicator of *other* beliefs, in the same way that Christianity is not a good indicator of a belief in hell, or original sin etc.

    As for me, I’m inclined to reject both premise 1 and premise 2. In short, I’ve not come across either

    A) A coherent definition of objective moral values (that does not already entail a god) or
    B) A demonstration that said values actually exist.

    Most commonly we see Craig and others appeal to extreme examples of moral behavior, such as rape, murder and genocide, but this only establishes (if anything) a subjective standard – most people agree that murder and rape are wrong. Modern cultures and history paint a more complex history, however. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” vs today’s prohibition of corporal punishment, for example.

    So, before I can really assess the argument, I’d need to see what you think “objective” means, and what “moral values” are, and what evidence we have to believe that objective moral values exist. On the face of it, however, I’d have to echo Laplace: I have “no need of that hypothesis.” It seems to me that the human capacity for empathy, disgust, compassion, and reason, combined with our social nature and psychology account fairly well for the moral state of the world from the time of recorded history until now.

    I’ll see if I can put together responses to your discussion questions.

  20. lasthop says:

    Aaron,

    Here’s a quick set of responses. I wonder if you get similar responses from other atheists?

    1. Is there anything you reasonably believe to be true, yet can’t empirically demonstrate?
    I think there are some logical truths, such as A = A, A != !A, etc. that are possibly impossible to demonstrate, yet I accept as true. There are probably others.

    2. Are there any objective moral values or duties?
    Without a good definition of OMV/Ds I can’t say for sure, but I see no evidence of such. Most moral philosophers not doing meta-ethics seem to agree that the primary value of morality is human suffering vs human flourishing. Perhaps in the same sense that there’s no answer to hard solipsism, we must presuppose this moral value scale, and when we do, then I think that there are ways to make defensible assertions about moral acts.

    3. Does every effect have a sufficient cause?
    Most do. The Casimir effect apparently does not.

    4. Do you trust your cognitive faculties?
    To what extent and why?

    I trust my sensory and cognitive faculties to the extent that they produce repeatable, consistent, correct results. There are a number of cognitive biases and limitations (confirmation bias, the availability heuristic, fatigue error etc.) that limit them, but in the same way that corrective lenses and telescopes can aid sight, there are cognitive and methodological techniques that aid cognition.

    5. Is an infinite regress possible?
    I am not a mathemetician or a physicist, nor have I studied the matter, so I honestly don’t know.

    6. Is it possible that God exists?
    Which god?

    7. Is truth important for its own sake?
    I’m not sure what is meant by that. I try to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible, because I believe that doing so is in my best interests and the best interests of those around me.

    8. Is the question of God’s existence important?
    It really depends on the god.

    9. Do you feel angst or sorrow over the absurdity of life?
    No.

    10. What do you think of the person of Jesus?
    I think that there was most likely a real person who lived around the first century AD who was the source and focal point of the Christian mythology.

    Have you ever heard of the “trilemma”?
    Looked it up, I’ve heard of it in passing. I think it’s a ‘false trilemma’, if you will. There’s no reason to limit ourselves to three options. We have very little actual evidence of his life and teachings upon which to make such an over-simplified judgement. Most preachers could probably be considered a hybrid of ‘liars’ and ‘lunatics’, though both are unnecessarily crude and pejorative. Would you call the Dalai Llama a liar or a lunatic, or is something more complex going on there?

  21. shematwater says:

    Lasthop

    I like your answers to the questions. Seems very well thought out.

    Just let me say this: The question “Is truth important for its own sake?” seems to be asking if it is okay to ignore some truth in order to further one’s own agenda, or is the truth what is important, despite the agenda.
    In other words, should we accept all truth because it is truth, or should we calculate whether accepting it would be personally beneficial to our goals; and then accept or reject it based on this calculation.

  22. lasthop says:

    shematwater,

    Thank you for clarifying the question. On the proposition that truth should be accepted without consideration of personal benefit or goals, I’d have to say that it seems correct, but mostly because I can’t come up with a case in which rejecting truth would lead to “personal benefit/goal fulfillment”.

    I can imagine some scenarios where it would be beneficial to believe a false thing, or to withhold knowledge of the truth. Most of them are fairly short-term corner-cases.

    I think Dan Dennett mentioned this a few times, and his example was restricting knowledge that could destroy the world: He contends that we should release knowledge of smallpox and/or nuclear weapons. I have to agree that universal knowledge of nuclear weapons is probably very very bad for the continuation of life on the planet.

    These examples are really about dissemination of truth, though, and not necessarily acceptance of truth.

  23. shematwater says:

    Lasthop

    I have to agree with your assessment, even though I think many would criticize us for this opinion. Going on a religious view point, I believe it was Bruce R. McConkie in the LDS church said that while all truth is useful, some is more useful than others, and one must be careful as to just how fast they gain truth. This is not an exact quote, but carries the gist of his words.

    What would you say to this idea?

  24. lasthop says:

    shematwater,

    I wish I had the context for the quote, because I really believe that in the vast majority of cases “truth should be accepted without consideration of personal benefit or goals.” Maybe it would be more correct to say I believe that accepting truth is almost always the best long-term method of achieving personal benefit or goals.

    With that in mind, I would probably reject most arguments for “moderating” the acquisition of truth. On the whole, we should seek to accept as many truths and reject as many falsehoods as fast as we can.

    Of course, the process of reasonably accepting truth or rejecting falsehoods isn’t usually super-fast to begin with, but I think the principle still holds.

  25. shematwater says:

    Lasthop

    The context, if I remember right, was in talking to those who seek out deeper religious truths or historical events before fully understanding the basics; this usually results in misunderstanding the truth of things and thus the person will actually fail to gain the truth they are seeking.
    Kind of like trying to understand advanced calculus without first understanding basic algebra.

    Example: people read where Brigham Young taught the doctrine of Blood Atonement, but since they don’t fully grasp the doctrine of repentance they misunderstand Brigham’s meaning, thus coming to believe a false doctrine rather than the truth.
    So, while it is true that Brigham Young taught this doctrine, it is not a useful truth to those who do not, as yet, understand the truth on which it is supported.

  26. Pingback: How the LDS Church Prepares Its Members for Atheism (Part 5) | Mormon Coffee

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