Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Religious belief and the story of Fred

As a Christian, I'd think of how loving God was on a personal level with me. I'd say or think how great God was for giving me such a beautiful day, great friends, etc. I associated all my "blessings" to Him. And I did so completely without reason.

Imagine I propped up a friend of mine, I'll call him Fred. Fred is an overall great person, I think--highly intelligent, very compassionate, became a multi-millionaire by following in his Dad's high-dollar successful footsteps. But I owed Fred a huge financial debt. He lent me money to start a business of my own, and I just knew it would be successful some day. I'd become educated at a decent business program and etc.

But after two years, the cash wasn't coming in as quickly as I'd hoped it would. The debt was racking up big time. Fred knew it, too. And my deadline for repaying my loan was a month from now. The situation was horribly grim--my financial well-being was entirely on the line, let alone my family's.

The month passes, and I've made only marginal improvement. Not enough to prevent my business from defaulting on this loan by a long shot.

Fred, observing the hopeless situation from above, comes up with a plan. He buys my business and takes on all my debt (yes, I'm great at being subtle. Bear with me).

Fred is an incredibly, generously wonderful person, and it becomes clear to me that I owe my life to him. In return, he says, I need to live a financially respectable life by not borrowing more than I could return. He tells me exactly how to do just that. What a teacher, giving me the "secrets" to financial well-being. I go on living life in an abundance of wealth, happily knowing that even my grand children will have college paid for. All because Fred saved me from crushing debt and then taught me how to avoid getting into debt ever again.

Who could disagree that Fred is just a completely great person? He lifted me up when I was weak, he took on my debt--likely at the sacrifice of some asset of his, and he even taught me how to achieve financial well-being. What a man he is to pass down the lessons he learned from his own father to us!

We all know the story isn't true. I don't have financial debt like this. I completely made up the part where I was in debt. But if I was the speaker at a conference and told this story like it was true, the people would hold Fred in really high esteem. They'd probably want to know more about what this financial genius thought good money management was. Perhaps they'd see some improvement in their own financial lives and think "Oh wow, that advice actually works! Fred is so great, I hope he writes a new book soon" and so on. I'd hold seminars that'd make me rich--just so I could donate the money to charity, right? Gotta spread the good news so people are better off themselves.

This is completely analogous to God and sin. However, whereas money and financial debt convey value for the use of exchange, sin is just a mental construct. We assign sins value, but how?

Take a look at Islam. Their equivalent of the Standard Works says that it's a sin to associate anything with Allah (like drawing pictures of Mohammad).

It's obvious to anyone outside Islam that this sin is entirely false according to our own religious realities.

That sin's value was man-made.

What makes Islam's sins any different from Christianity, Judaism, or, in particular, Mormonism?

Why is your religion's definition of sin from God, but not Islam's?

Fred is an authority in finance to the people of my hypothetical conference. And I'll find you a real-world example if you think the story doesn't portray human nature at all. But Fred doesn't exist. Being well-off financially takes sacrifice and not spending more than you own. This is a timeless principle, and anyone could say some legendary Fred guy saved them from debt and taught them how to be wealthy; only to provide advice associated with him that really just came from me.

Why should you believe me when I say those financial principles are from Fred? And when you come up for reasons why not, then how do those answers relate to God?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Is the Mormon church heading towards apostasy?

A post by a Mormon thoroughly details how the Mormon church is following in the footsteps of early Christianity's eventual apostasy. He does so to instill a sense of urgency in changing the direction things are going in: one that includes a change in scripture, a self-corruption that attempts to make the church seem normal to the world, a disgusting amount of money not spent on the poor (and goes instead, of course, to the shopping malls and grand temples), a complete lack of revelation (you're challenged to find a revelation from post-late-1800's), and so on. He did a great job on the post, though, so don't think that summary did the work proper justice!

Another blog posts an article from Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought about a kid who unwittingly reveals the same pattern while conversing with his dad about something he heard from his Primary teacher(read it here). Here's a fun sample of it:
“What do you mean ‘proud,’ Daddy?” 
“Well, [the "evil" people in a story from the BoM] would talk about how they were ‘a chosen and holy people.’” 
“My Primary teach said Mormons are the chosen people and we’re a special generation.” 
“Yes, honey, but that’s different.” 
“Because we are.” 
Of course, to me it seems inevitable that the church would decline. It's run by people who, I believe, don't have supernatural anything. And these people, like everyone else, can become corrupted by other people's interests, by groupthink, by mob mentality, and on and on. Of course the church had to reverse its position on blacks not getting the priesthood, and why was that a practice in the first place? Why were the Hoffman forgeries not found out before the apologist themselves started defending them? From what I remember, it was the most infamous "anti-Mormon" duo in recent times that revealed the truth! They didn't even have the Spirit to help guide their actions (or did they?).

The church allowed the Nazis their genealogy records to help determine who was Aryan or part Jewish (terribly useful moment of revelation) (also, a starting place for personal research)

It put a lot of money and organizational effort into going against Proposition 8, which failed (and backfired).

There has been a large decrease in the number of active Mormons, and people still wonder why?

I'm glad to see posts from Mormons who can see what's happening in the church and voice a criticism while seeing that criticism can, in fact, be useful and necessary.

But it's obvious to everyone else what's going on here and in the religious world as a whole: nothing is adding up.

Churches are presenting to their members the Truth they should believe--associating the belief and following of this Truth to the almighty supernatural; to this all-knowing and all-powerful, father-creator figure that blesses us accordingly. And everything is beautiful about it.

 People say they get job offers because they converted to a new religion. They were blessed financially because they tithed to God's Church. They found their wonderful spouse because God guided them to each other after joining His church.

And everyone who leaves or criticizes this beautiful interaction is lost, hopeless, and probably led astray by the Devil.

Meanwhile, big things have happened in my life after I stopped praying about them. I've found social circles that will stand the test of time. I've found that my blessings aren't so much a supernatural occurrence, but a by-product of self-confidence, a strong personal identity, and living in a goddamn first world country.

"Life is good", I said as a straight white male born into an upper-middle class family located in the Bible belt.

Riiiiight. Wonder why.