The Buried Lede: “This will be unpopular: The Bible and the Koran and the like are the original “fake news” sources.”
“Facts” are extremely complex things; to understand that is to begin to think about philosophy and theories of mind.
The vast majority of advances in knowledge are going to tech. And tech can only build tools, it can’t navigate ethics and meaning and justice.
And despite what the tech focused world says, or the religious focused world, there can be expertise in things like ethics, meaning and justice. In law and economics and statecraft. Those things can be studied, understood, improved.
We’ve assumed that religion would fill that role; but religion is dead, it isn’t growing. And the very inability we have to point out errors in religion, the rewards we give out to bad thinking by labeling it a “Right” has, in my estimation, set the foundation for a world where “facts” can be anything you choose.
And lest I pick solely on religion, the same holds true in any communally reinforced grouping of ideas. Progressivism, Conservatism, Socialism, Energy Healers, Reiki, etc.
If the very foundations of existence can’t be questioned, if we must accept as valid all beliefs, if we are unwilling to point out bad thinking in the core beliefs of individuals, is it any surprise that we now have a population, Right, Left and Center, who are woefully unskilled at detecting bullshit? Both from others, but more importantly from self?
This will be unpopular: the Bible and the Koran and the like are the original “fake news” sources. But we don’t call it out, and therefore, the vast majority of humanity’s foundation of knowledge is based in fake news.
So, tech built the internet which disseminates vast quantities of information, but humanity doesn’t yet understand the foundational issues of knowledge. Opinion isn’t knowledge. Belief isn’t knowledge. But information is now in the hands of everyone, and everyone believes they are right, that they have knowledge. But knowledge, facts, truth…these are complex topics.
The idea that knowledge acquisition isn’t considered a skill, that it’s simply thought of as the discovery of new information, freely available to any and all, and that the opinions of any and all have merit, has brought natural human division to new depths. We now have burger flippers and hairstylists and Lawyers who think they are experts in global trade and economics and politics and race-relations, and they are driving the world. Into a ditch.
The internet brings this all together in a mirror image of the primordial soup from which we arose, into which we now descend.
During my exit from Mormonism and for a few years after, I engaged in intensive discussion and study on the questions of God, Faith, Religion and Philosophy. One of the more influential thinkers I encountered in that journey is a man named Lincoln Cannon. Mr. Cannon remains committed to the LDS Church and Mormonism, and provided a foil by which many of my views of mormonism specifically and religion generally could be tested. He pushed me to learn and to grow.
In the ensuing years, Mr. Cannon has founded The Mormon Transhumanist Association. In that effort, Cannon seeks to find common ground between secular technologists who seek after The Singularity and his chosen faith.
Seemingly to that end, Mr. Cannon produced what he calls The New God Argument. It’s purported to be a logical argument for faith in God. The form of the argument leans heavily on The Simulation Argument by Nick Bostrom. I’ve watched this argument develop over the years, and noted as Cannon presented it in various forums, and published it in various journals.
I’ve long wanted to do an analytical review of the argument. And now I have.
The “New God Argument” by Lincoln Cannon purports to be a logical argument for faith in God. It is modeled after Nick Bostrom’s Simulation Argument. In this paper I do an analytical review of the New God Argument including the sub-arguments: The Faith Assumption, The Compassion Argument, The Creation Argument and The God Conclusion. I analyze the logical structure of the arguments and seek to determine if they are valid and sound. Finally, I make a determination as to whether or not the entirety of the New God Argument holds. I have analyzed version 3.3 of The New God Argument.
Read it here:
“As for when “life” begins: The gametes that join to form the zygote that becomes the embryo are all alive. Life is no longer something that “begins.” It is something that is transferred from one living thing to another. You carry within your cells a genetic code that connects you with every other living thing on the planet—as well as every other dead thing that was once alive. Plants, trees, bacteria, human embryos, etc., they carry remnants of the same genetic markers that you do because you are all related by a common ancestor (or several). Life began on this planet over a billion years ago—it hasn’t begun since.”
— from an internet post by BreakerBaker (Andrew).
I grew up with an ideologically pure belief system. For years, good/evil were pure concepts for me. Defined by this belief system, I could categorize anyone very quickly, and place them on a neatly defined spectrum.
That all came crashing down, as do many notions of purity, once the reality of the world beats us up a bit.
“Democracy” gets thrown about by all sides in American politics. But for all the accolades we heap upon it, there’s one thing we rarely talk about: Democracy is NOT pure. Pledging to be in community with We The People means pledging to be in community with people you not only dislike, but people you loathe. It means working with those same people in a system of give and take. It means a life-long commitment to compromise and persuasion.
Hillary Clinton is a politician. Of course she has an ideology. But she’s chosen to sacrifice a bit of her purity in order to work in this system. So, when she gets asked about things like gay marriage or even war, she analyzes her answer in terms of what is politically possible. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an opinion about what is “right” or “wrong”, but she recognizes that few swords are worth falling on in such a system.
This, to me, is strength of its own kind. This is sacrifice of a particular nature.
You may hate this “system” of governance. But the irony is, absent electing a dictator, absent supporting an authoritarian model of government, there’s no substantive alternative to it.
I don’t “hold my nose” to vote for Hillary, even though my personal political opinions are well to the left of hers; I admire her for the hard work of placing herself in a viable position to help move this Country ever so slightly to the left. Because 3 degrees in the Left direction for the next 8 years is extremely valuable.
Meanwhile…I support Pramila Jayapal for Congress in the 7th. The real work of Revolution is built from the ground up; not the top down.
“I know that most men [people], including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” — Tolstoy
This is as predictable in the newly blessed as it is dangerous to them.
The faith of such individuals can cause them to cling so tightly to their knowledge they fail to recognize it as a key. This key, depending on which side of the door they choose to use it in, can seal them into a small box, or open them to an ever expanding world of wonder.
While researching Mitt Romney’s family history for a future post, I happened upon this most interesting thing today. According to Mitt’s listing at the Ancestry.com, Willard Mitt Romney died about 2005!
So, consider me a “Deather!” Mitt, I demand to see your death certificate!
Now, in line with a good conspiracy, I expect this information to be scrubbed of all evidence quickly. But, I’ve got the proof! It’s right there in my screen capture. Mitt Romney is dead!
Update! @ 9:50 am
In attempting to verify this, I went to the Mormon church owned familysearch.org. There’s no record of Willard Mitt Romney there at all! It’s all been scrubbed! So, while I’m not naive enough to present the conspiracy that Mr. Romney NEVER existed, I do wonder WHAT the LDS Church is hiding!
Mr. Romney, just produce your death certificate!
Want Something More Substantial?
Ask: Could a woman ever be appointed to lead your religion? Should they?
Mitt Romney is sexist. He adheres to a philosophy, Mormonism, which denies women equal rights. Mormon women are not allowed to hold leadership positions within the church and forbidden ordination into the priesthood.
Similarly, before 1978, the Mormon church did not allow black men to hold the priesthood. Had they not changed that position, Mitt Romney would have no chance to run for President; he’d rightly be branded as racist; that he’s not being asked to reconcile his sexism in a similar fashion reveals a troubling double standard.
Sexism isn’t sexy, it appears. Racism? That’s hot. Homophobia? Get a room. However, when it comes to the most dominant form of inequality, many seem complacent.
The foundational Mormon treatise “The Family, A Proclamation To The World” holds:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.
Mitt Romney’s vision of a healthy society puts men in the boardroom and women in the bedroom
Here’s how the Mormon Church practices this: Women are not allowed to hold the priesthood. Women are not allowed to hold any position of leadership over men. Even within the Mormon organization for women, they are not allowed to set their own budgets or to structure their own teaching materials. Women are not allowed to bless their babies, or even to hold their babies while they are being blessed.
Asking whether one believes in God is a nonsensical, and ultimately, meaningless question. One would not ask “Do you believe in King?” God, like King, is a title, a political office. What matters is not belief in the existence of a being who claims the title, but rather, agreement with the political philosophy of any being who would assert power over us.
What is Post-Atheism?
I’ve coined the term Post-Atheist to convey moving beyond our current understanding of the title of god and our relationship to it. The common questions about god are nonsensical (do you believe) and impossible for finite beings to rationally consider (e.g. debating the attributes of god). Further, belief in a being is a simplistic calculation; more important is agreement with that being on fundamental governing principles.
Would the existence of an all-powerful creator automatically bestow a right to authoritarian rule? Of course not, just as my power to create a child does not bestow upon me a moral right to authoritarian rule.
Rather than our being defined by a best-guess at the existence of a powerful being (atheist, agnostic, believer), it is more important to define what is and is not acceptable behavior from any being who would seek our participation in their community.
Do you believe in God?
This question is nonsensical.
“God” is a title. Titles are descriptive appellations which convey rank, office, or status. For example, “king” is the title of a person holding a political office. A king may also have a personal name; e.g, King George.
Like king, god is a title. Defined generally as “the one supreme being, the creator and ruler of the universe,”1 the title of god conveys rank, office and status.
“When people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. Suddenly it became crucially important to know where your field ended and your neighbor’s began. — Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. in Sex At Dawn”
Whosoever Looketh On A Woman
As we closed our eyes for the congregational prayer, I could feel the closeness of her skin, electricity arcing as from one lead to another. Right hand folded tightly under left arm, index finger extended slightly. A hoped for inadvertent touch.
That act, however innocent it may seem, had the potential to cost me everything.
Three weeks previous, my mission companion and I were shopping at Sears in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I needed another white short-sleeved shirt, having lost one to bicycle grease.
As I turned to the counter, a moment cliches are made of: Eyes locked, time slowed. She smiled, I blushed.
It was easy to imagine that I had never seen a more beautiful woman.
In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.
Ask: Was the Mormon Church wrong to deny priesthood to black members before 1978?
The official policy of the LDS Church is that the racist practice was commanded by God, and not a result of racism among its leadership.
The Church has never apologized for the practice nor specifically repudiated racist teachings by LDS prophets.
Mitt Romney is skilled at evading this point, aided by general misunderstanding of the LDS Church.
He should be able to unequivocally denounce the racism of his church and of his past. He hasn’t.
During his 2008 campaign, Mitt Romney appeared on Meet The Press with Tim Russert. This specific question arose, and Russert came close to getting it right. Watch the clip:
At the end of that section, Russert asked:
“But it was wrong for your faith to [deny priesthood to blacks]?”
“I’ve told you exactly where I stand. My view is there’s no discrimination in the eyes of God and I could not have been more pleased than to see the change that occurred.”
What’s critical here is to note what Romney did not say; Russert asked “was it wrong?” Romney evaded. No apology. No repudiation of the Church or its racist practice.
Earlier in the interview, Romney states:
“I’m very proud of my faith, and of the faith of my fathers. And I certainly believe it is a faith, uh, well it’s True and I love my faith. And I’m not going to distance myself in any way from my faith.”
He will not separate his position and the position of the Church. The church has not apologized for the racist practice, nor will he.
This is an issue that just won’t go away, darn it! That’s frustrating to those mormons who don’t like the implications of racism in past (and current!) prophets of the LDS church. The LDS Church, in 1978, became the last major religion to fully integrate all races into it’s priesthood (though, still, women are left out).
The tactic taken by the Church over the past few years has been to remain silent on the racist priesthood ban for black members. Liberal mormons think that this speaks well on the issue; that the silence equals some semblance of admission of wrongdoing. Silence rarely means that, in any context, and especially in matters of church doctrine and official positions. More popularly, silence equals complicity.
So, why bring this up now? Well, in 2003, I was involved in some online discussions concerning this topic, and in the course of my research, I wrote some letters to LDS Public Affairs, and received some interesting responses from the Church. Those letters have been circulated around the net since, and I get occasional requests for copies of the letters. To make it easy, I’m posting copies of the letters here, on my blog, for all to see, copy and distribute. I only ask that you reference this post if you use the letters.
So, here they are:
My Original Letter to LDS Public Affairs, Aug. 4, 2003
Response from LDS Public Affairs, Aug. 14, 2003
Response “Envelope” from LDS Public Affairs
My follow-up letter
The follow-up response
The follow-up envelope
The primary question that I was teasing out in these letters was the question of attribution of the source of the racist ban. Is it the position of the LDS Church that this racist policy has its origin with God or fallible men? The historical position of the LDS Church has always been that the source of the racist ban was with God. And, my 2003 letters show that the LDS Church, still, maintains that position.
As I was taught clearly in LDS Sunday School, the first step to repentance is confession of guilt. I’m still waiting for the LDS Church to begin the process of repenting. By remaining silent, by maintaining the position that God is the source of the racist ban, mormon’s are still teaching racist doctrines to their membership, still contributing in a material way to racism within the world.
In other words, according to them, mormons aren’t racist, God is!
In relation to my recent entry LDS Male Feminists? Where your heart lies… I have been asked to define what a feminist is.
A person whose beliefs and behavior are based on feminism.
Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
The movement organized around this belief.
The relevant question is “can an active Mormon (Latter-day Saint) consider themselves a feminist?” In most cases, I believe the answer is no; at the very least, such a label would be disingenuous. I think it is possible to simultaneously be a feminist and a member of the LDS Church, but I have never met anyone who I think fits the definition as I have it in mind. What’s more, I’m confident that such a person would find their membership quickly revoked if they held true to their professed beliefs in feminism and, more importantly, acted upon those beliefs.
In short, I think a feminist is defined by their actions more than their stated beliefs. This follows from the mantra “if you want to know what a person believes, watch what they do.”
In the LDS Temple Recommend Interview, members are asked the following question:
Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
In essence, the LDS Church wants to know whether one supports causes or groups whose aims run counter to LDS Mormonism. Fair enough. I think that calling oneself a “feminist” requires a similar level of commitment to the ideals of feminism, and one measure of that commitment would be a denunciation of organizations that are actively fighting against feminist ideals.
The LDS Church is near the top of the list of organizations that are at war with feminist ideals. There aren’t many organizations still in existence that so obviously place women into a role of inferiority. What’s more, the LDS Church has been actively working against feminism and feminist ideals for decades.
To sum up, if one has dedicated their time, talents and energies to the furtherance of the LDS Church, then I think it disingenous to call oneself a feminist.
However, as I stated, I think it might be possible, and here are the minimum steps that I think one would need to take to qualify.
1) Stop paying tithing to the LDS Church.
The LDS Church has become a political organization that spends money to influence in the political arena. Specifically, the LDS Church has been fighting the rights of individuals, including the feminist movement and the gay-rights movement. Tithing money goes directly to support these causes, both directly and indirectly, and I think it inconsistent to financially support such an effort. At the very least, if one found this step too difficult, then one should donate at least as much money to causes of feminism as one donates to the LDS Church.
2) Don’t Participate in Patriarchal and Authoritarian Rituals
…such as the Temple ceremony. Can one claim to hold feminist ideals and yet further the acts and actions of patriarchal oppression? The two are incompatible. Specifically in the LDS Temple Ceremony, participants are asked to donate all of their time and talents to support the anti-feminist authoritarian regime. Additionally, in this ritual, men are placed in positions of superiority above women. It is inconsistent to take such an oath and yet to call oneself a feminist.
3) Renouce membership in the Priesthood
If one is male, then they should renounce membership in the Patriarchal Priesthood. That one would recognize the exclusiveness of the Club of the all-male LDS Leadership and privilege, and yet still participate in it, reveals the nature of one’s commitment to feminist ideals. It is inconsistent with feminist ideals to knowingly benefit from the very structure that subjugates women.
4) Openly espouse Feminist ideals and denounce anti-feminist ideals
In sacrament meeting talks, in bearing one’s testimony, in leading and participating in sunday school lessons, in teaching children. The feminist should speak openly and boldly for ideals of feminism, and be willing to renounce those teachings and leaders that support anti-feminist ideals. This transcends a mere statement of “doubts” towards the anti-feminist leanings of the organization, and becomes an affirmative defense of feminist ideals.
5) Spend more time arguing with Anti-feminists than with feminists
If one finds themselves engaged in battle more often with those who are fighting the anti-feminism of the LDS Church than with the authoritarian and anti-feminist movements within the Church, then the commitment to feminist ideals is suspect. If these argumenst tend to cause one to be more angry at the critics of the Church than with the actions of the Church itself, then this reveals, to me, where the fundamental commitment lies.
6) Be willing to pay a price for your convictions *
The summation of all of this is that the LDS Feminist must value feminism more than they value the perpetuation of the very institutional organization that devalues women. If one professes feminist values, and yet is unwilling to pay the price that may be required to fight for those values, then the label of “feminist” is meaningless.
This list is not exhaustive.
I recently attended the Sunstone conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. This conference is focused on Mormon philosophy and culture. Sunstone has become the sole alternative voice in LDS Mormonism. Amazingly, in a Church that boasts 12 million members, the largest alternate-voice-publication has a subscription base of less than 5000. The Church, obviously, has done a masterful job at squelching dissent, going so far as to state that there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.”
As a result, those who have real and sincere questions about their faith, about the Church, must do a delicate dance to both remain loyal to the church, and yet answer their own natural and justified questions of doubt, all without appearing to oppose the church.
As an example of this, I attended a symposium panel discussion at Sunstone of so-called “male feminists” in the LDS Church, wherein they discussed their efforts to support the cause of feminism from within the Church. This is a church that openly discriminates against women, that is blatantly sexist, and that not only does not apologize for this position, but rather, lays the charge of their sexist attitudes and behavior on the shoulders of God. That’s right; the Church is not sexist, many members will respond, they are just following God’s will. Or, in my parlance, the Church is not sexist, God is.
Imagine for a moment that you were a mormon male. You are granted power and status that is denied to your wife. Imagine that your wife perceived real harm being done to her, was sincerely troubled by the actions of the Church, and confided with you regarding her discomfort.
The men on this panel, I have no doubt, are trying very hard to do the right thing, the ethical thing, the just thing. But, in the end, the overriding principle, for them, was to support the church, to remain within the fold, no matter the harm being caused to their wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and others.
In an oligarchical organization, where all policy comes from above, where there is no formal recognition of the desires of the membership, where nobody has recourse to petition for change, the only option left, if one desires to oppose the policies of the Church, is to leave.
And yet, despite the injustice being done to the women in their lives, these men value membership in this exclusive club to a greater degree than they value justice for women. Feminists? I think these men, though of good intention and in many ways equal victims of an oppressive organization, need to reanalyze their value system, and for now, drop any pretense of calling themselves feminists.
To them I ask: what is it that you value more than justice? Fairness? Equality? What god do you worship that would have you place these ideals behind others? What are the ideals that trump these things? What message do you send to your wife, daughters, and other women when you tell them, by your actions, that you value your membership in this male-centric social club more than you value their status and the injustice that this club is perpetuating upon them?
Where is your heart? There is your treasure.
As science continues to erode the viable realm of religion, apologists for religion seem to cling to the life-vest of “meaning” as the last stand for the value of religion.
In other words, religionists claim that science is unable to answer the “why’s” of an issue (which, I think is a tenuous claim, but which I’ll put on hold for now), and that these questions are best left in the hands of religion.
OK. If this is the case, then let’s discuss it directly. This posting is meant to solicit responses and ideas.
Can anyone give me some examples of “why” answers that religion does well? If this is the realm in which religion excels, then let’s have a listing of those answers it provides.