Putting God in a Box

The more time I spent discussing religion with the faithful, the more I see the box they put their particular God in.

I blame it on our human decency for the most part, with a dash of reason tossed into the mix. Let me explain.

Some people look at evolution and say, yep that happened. But still somewhere along the way God tweaked things just so and we’d all turn out like we did. You know, in his image and all.

Still others declare no! Evolution is bunk! The earth is 6000 years old and all that evolution science is baloney! Often times these two types of people even go to the same church.

But if you keep exploring enough you will find the edges of the box each person has put their God in. Somewhere you will find that the miraculous answer ‘God did it’ just isn’t the case. They will tell you without reservation what God really meant by very specific words in ancient texts rather than explain it in a miraculous way.

Because you see, the miracle would offend either that believers sense of decency, or their sense of reason and logic. So they box God in. They limit his power over their morality and reason.

It’s a good think too, because when you look around, the people that let their God run amuck with very few limits are the ones we call extremists. They start wars and kill doctors in the name of their God. Rather that impose personal morality on scripture by declaring that passage should not be taken literally… they take it literally.

I think we Fridgidarian’s should promote boxing God in with sound moral judgment and reason. So next time you hear your friend substitute their own moral values in place of scripture or prophetic decree. I say give them a high five for at least in this one instance, of thinking for themselves.


P.S. Do you think it is just coincidence that your Fridge comes in a box? Well now you know! ūüôā

 

The Decency of Humanity

Today’s sermon on the door of the Fridge is about decency. More specifically do people need religion to be decent? Then the follow up question: Is it possible that religion actually suppresses the natural decency and morality that we humans seem to portray in every culture and medium we have created? 

Personally I think most people can be moral and decent all on their own. Sure there are some that need threats of hell to be nice to others, but honestly I don’t think that is typical the case. 


Along the same vein, it doesn’t take much research to discover that the ‘divinely appointed sources’ didn’t get it any better than people who relied on their own judgment. 

Even worse, in some cases dogma takes on a life of its own. Keeping things like racism embedded in a culture way past the time the rest of society realized keeping slaves is NOT a nice thing to do.
Case in point. The bible bans shellfish…. but on slavery, that’s all good. God made sure we knew shrimp was bad to eat, and that we should kill homosexuals ‘n all. But on slavery? The nicest thing we get out of the bible about that is:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

Thus is the value of divinely appointed sources that we are supposed to put our faith in and act on. Slaves are supposed to obey, and you are supposed to kill gay people.

The ‘truth’ of these sources is so bad that most of humanity already ignores it. Just read the part of the Old Testament where God kills a guy for spilling his seed on the ground instead of getting his brothers wife pregnant to any Christian you know. I’ll bet most won’t know it’s in there, then a few will say that part of the Bible doesn’t count anymore. (except the 10 commandments, for some reason those are still ok.) 

That’s why I have a lot more faith in humanity than the dude that is presumably filling all these books up with stuff we should apparently be paying more attention to. 

Because most of humanity already ignores all the bad stuff, even as they claim to believe in their books or leaders as giving us the inerrant word of God.

In the long run I believe humanity is winning this battle. While over and over again churches are losing due to their own greed, lies, illogic and awful dogma. Which thanks to modern information technology is exposed at the touch of a screen.  

It’s almost like the vision of the Fridge is true no matter what my voice has to do with it! 

Humanity is domesticating religion all on it’s own. Humanity is making these myths bow to their own sense of morality. Even disavowing their own scriptures and dogma. 

And that brings me hope!

The Crazy Logic of Belief

Imagine for a moment that you are a backyard scientist and you are running an experiment on gravity. Your hypothesis presumes that a roll of quarters will fall faster than a marble. Your logical reasoning for this happening is because the roll of quarters is heavier by about 10 times than the marble.

You set up the experiment and discover they fall at exactly the same rate. What do you do? Do you realize your hypothesis is false? Or do you come up with a reason for why the data didn’t match your prediction?

If you are a bit of a science history nut, you will recognize this as a popularized experiment where Galileo proved the previous ideas about gravity wrong. It was a big enough deal for the progress of experimentation and scientific method that astronauts even repeated the experiment on the moon.

Now given the hammer and feather example in the video you can see how it might seem like lighter objects fall slower than heavy ones, a result that also happens to make sense and be a little more intuitive. Changing the object shape but not changing the weight produces every different results as also seen in the video. So what gives?

Well these days it’s all pretty well known, the difference is air. Gravity without any air resistance pulls ¬†on all objects with a constant acceleration.[1, technically a mutual force that includes both bodies mass but since the earth is so much bigger percentage-wise it’s mass is all that matters, even more technically there are some more effects that show up with more mass that are explained via Einsteins work.] Since air can get in the way and mess with the results so much it turns out in your backyard experiment it is quite possible you could totally miss the underlying law of falling objects. Especially the result showing that without air getting in the way a hammer and a feather fall at the same rate.

This happens because it is counter-intuitive. A person having dropped a lot of feathers expects them to fall slower than a hammer. Their experience builds up an expectation that is not representative of the core reality. But sometimes our intuition is wrong.

Intuition is not necessarily a rational process, it’s something that is trained by repeated observation. It’s often very useful because we can quickly jump to a conclusion when needed. That very skill helped our ancestors not get eaten by tigers when they noticed that rustling grass meant there were bad things sneaking up on them. The guy that took time to logically deduce if it really was a tiger typically ended up as lunch though. So we didn’t get as healthy a dose of his genes.

My point isn’t to say intuition is a bad thing. Just that sometimes it can be wrong.1 That’s why sometimes results are counter intuitive.

Say for example you and a friend were debating this falling object phenomena and he insisted that the weight of the object was related to the speed at which if fell. He kept pointing at the feather and the hammer results to confirm his point.

You try to show him a result using a bouncing ball and a cannon ball and he dismisses your example out of hand, even refuses to run his own test because he has already ran the hammer and feather test and ‘knowns’ without a shadow of a doubt the feather falls slower. When you get him to discuss it he comes up with a theory that your balls are shaped such that air pushes down harder on the bouncy ball making it catch up to the cannon ball. He even produces complex equations that explain your result and allow him to keep believing that lighter objects fall slower.

What gives? Is it possible that someone would be so stubborn to not let go of their intuitive understanding and accept a new idea, in this case the law of gravity?

To us it seems silly right? Yet exactly this kind of bizarre reasoning justifying ones own belief happens all the time when it comes to religious discussions. 2

The fundamental logical flaw that occurs when a person takes the apologetic route for justifying their beliefs is simple, they don’t weigh evidence the same.¬†Evidence that supports belief gets all sorts of rationalizations while the same kind of evidence¬†that would negate the validity of their belief is dissmissed out of hand.

This is a human flaw that knows no bounds of intelligence or education, in fact in a lot of cases a smart person is quite capable of coming up with such complex reasoning that you can hardly follow it. The great Randi points out in this clip its precisely because of their education smart people are sometimes the easiest to fool.

All this came to mind as I recently debated the historicity of the Book of Mormon with several LDS apologists. Their best proffered evidence of authenticity was the NHM = Nahom idea. Proving that Nephi’s bountiful is a really place in the old world was the best actual proof for the book.

Ignore the fact that things like smelted steel, swords, elephants, coins, chariots, horses and even DNA, are completely lacking in the new world… Oh, look over there! It’s is a place that shares 3 letters and some grass and trees in the description! That MUST be proof!

I pointed out to these guys the Vern Holley maps that were part of what collapsed my own shelf. They dismissed by my evidence out of hand just like the gravity example above.

The 30+ correlations with names from that area and time meant nothing to them. I had spent a bunch of time digging through old geography maps to make sure they names were there so I knew they existed in the past and I said as much. But the apologists still insisted it was a meaningless correlation.

Why did they mean nothing you ask? (Because I did ask.) We’ll geez you know just because some letters match up with other words it just isn’t proof!

Really? Like NHM = Nahom? I postulated. That lead to them accusing me of  being a horrible anti-mormon.  The idea that I would challenge their expertise showed my lack of knowledge and or intellect. Then they ejected me from their group.

Later, following up on some of the references presented by these guys. I found some more of the arguments promoting the idea that Vern Holley correlation is meaningless. Here are a few:

  • These names are only 11% of the BoM. (using the same calculation the NHM = Nahom correlation is 0.2%) Are you starting to see what I mean about not weighing the evidence equally?
  • These places don’t show up in a google search as existing back in the 1800’s. Seriously, that is fundamentally the point of this guy on the topic. You’d think a PHD in physics would realize that the internet wasn’t a thing back then! Seems obvious to me that not ALL the worlds information is on the web, you might need to go beyond Google. ūüôā 3
  • Not all the names match up so therefore none of it is valid.¬†Are you willing to reject your entire NHM = Nahom theory out on a single failure or mistake?

It becomes pretty apparent, pretty fast that we humans are far more likely to confirm our bias than we are to willing to challenge the status quo.

My point in this post to the Fridge door today… I’m not really sure. The more I think about it just doesn’t seem all that effective to try and teach critical thinking post commitment. People need a reason to change their mind about something, an emotional one for the most part. You just can’t logic someone out of a crazy belief. Trust me, they will just come up with crazier logic that makes complete sense to them. I honestly ¬†doubt I seriously affected the apologists position with my reasoning at all.

So maybe this post is for the select few that think its worth looking behind the curtain to see what Oz really is. There has to be a half a dozen or so of you out there right?

  1. Side note; if you want to be a particularly effective problem solver, use experimentation to repeat known counter intuitive results. By doing it you can effectively retrain your intuition to more accurately depict reality. That is a hugely useful skill in any complex field. I personally did it in electronics, my chosen profession, and it repeatedly helps me solve problems quickly and accurately. A very employable skill!
  2. I don’t think it is a small coincidence that the Fridge inspired me to use Galileo’s example for this post, after all the guys that tried to prove him wrong were none other than the Catholic church itself.
  3. But¬†a lot is if you dig deep enough. There are some really old maps of the area that have been scanned into the system that ¬†can be searched out and looked up to find the existence of them. It’s just a huge pain in the ass, took me several days of eyeballing old maps on my own. Drop me a line if you want me to point you to them.

The Real Mormon Mafia

 

So #mormonmafia became a thing this week as our country is nearing the end of an election cycle like none other. More than ever before it’s becoming obvious that we humans tend to make our choices emotionally and rationalize them logically.

This particular hashtag has taken on a life of it’s own especially among those sympathetic to the faith. Better watch out or the #mormonmafia might show up and mow your lawn in white shirts and ties. They might bring you a jello salad and invite you to church of all things! Take a look at¬†the¬†twitter feed¬†for more funny quips.

However, under the light hearted fun of it all, I think it might come as a surprise to most Mormon’s. (Especially the super nice ones out there mowing your lawn.) That there is a kernel of truth to the mafia tag that recently made headlines.

To understand we need to go back in history to the foundation of the LDS church. To a political movement called the Council of Fifty.

 

 

This organization formed by Joseph Smith was supposed to become Christ’s government on earth. They very much considered the return of Jesus to be imminent at the time. Here’s some words from BYU on this because I’m pretty sure the average Mormon is saying, ‘No way!’ right about now:

The Church already had a well-developed apocalyptic outlook, including belief in the latter-day collapse of existing governments before Christ’s return. In this framework, the Council of Fifty was viewed as the seed of a new political order that would rule, under Christ, following the prophesied cataclysmic events of the last days. (source)

The Council of Fifty was¬†supposed to¬†get Joseph Smith elected president of the USA. I think it’s kind of ironic1 that this #mormonmafia hashtag coincides with another guy vying for election that like old Joe uses his position of power and prestige to get the ladies to do his bidding. I will say this for Trump though, He seems to at least steer clear of the 14 year olds… sorry, I mean¬†nearly 15 year olds.

Some other interesting things about the Council of Fifty:

  • It ordained Joseph to become King of the earth. On 11 April 1844, the council voted to receive JS as ‚Äúour Prophet, Priest & King.”
  • It excommunicated William Law after he balked at practicing polygamy and had issues with Joseph’s efforts to combine church and state.
  • It threatened members with death if they were to reveal the secret council to others.

This council was VERY active in the days leading up to the death of the prophet. They even gave instructions to the Danites to remove political enemies of the church by any means necessary.

The main goal of this council in 1844 was to establish a theocracy in the United States.2 Think about that for a minute and what the state of the Union was back then. The constitution of 1776 guaranteed the separation of church and state. The first amendment (right to free speech) and the 4th amendment (protecting against search and seizure of personal property) were ratified in 1791.

Then along comes Joseph Smith, setting up the city state of Nauvoo, creating a¬†nascent theocracy and crowning himself King. He goes on to lie about his polygamy¬†to the saints while at the same time vilifying William Law for exposing it.3 A few days later as mayor of Nauvoo, he orders the destruction of the¬†Nauvoo Expositor, William’s newspaper.

Yep that’s right Joseph; recently ordained King of God’s new theocracy on earth, general of the Mormon armed forces and Mayor of Navuoo ordered a printing press destroyed for telling the truth about his ‘carefully worded denial’ of polygamy. He was running for president, he had secretly made himself King and he ordered the destruction of private property for exposing his deception. Let that settle in for a minute… Just think about that…

 

The people of this era had recently founded a country with a constitution explicitly preventing a new theocracy from rising. Parents and Grandparents of this generation had fought and died to protect against theocracy, against unwarranted seizure of property and against a government that might destroy their freedom of the press. This history of Joe Smith all happened less than a month before a mob overran a jail and killed him. Had he not clearly shown his disregard for these deeply held rights of a recently born nation of freedom?

This election cycle wether you are voting for Trump or Hillary consider for a moment how you’d react if one of them had just ordered a printing press destroyed. Assume it had just printed an article about what’s really in those emails. Consider the destruction of news station cameras a week after posting footage of some nasty comments about women. Then you might be able to see how the outsiders at the time viewed the Mormon faith of 1844.

What if Hillary or Trump followers considered them to be the King of the last days prepared to take their place at the head of our nation? Is it that hard to understand why a mob might form in this situation? How a group of people could be concerned about a theocracy over taking the free nation they had just established? How they might feel like a need to take matters into their own hands?4

For me this shed some new light on core concepts that have been around since the LDS church was founded. Sure these days we are told the Council of Fifty doesn’t exist anymore. But something called the SCMC certainly does. Sure the church claims to have no political ambitions anymore. And yet they broke the law in funding proposition 8 in California. Sure they say every member chooses politics for themselves, but recently leaked videos show how important it is to them to have¬†‘church broke’ LDS faithful in government positions.

And finally, anyone that has been exposed to the LDS temple knows¬†every stalwart member of the religion takes an oath. They promise to give everything the have to build up of the kingdom of God on earth. Meaning specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sure, these days it isn’t a death oath in the temple like it was pre 1990. But it is an oath none the less. This faith at its very core believes it will save the nation by taking it over in the last days. It has all along, ever since the Council of Fifty.

So amidst all the giggles about the Mormon Mafia taking you out with green jello and cheese salad. Try to consider some of the legitimate fear a non-mormon feels about this institution getting too much power.

  1. Always remember irony is a sign of enlightenment from the Fridge!
  2. JS specifically called it a theo-democracy, a kind of a hybrid church and state if you will. If you look at the sustaining vote in today’s LDS church though you can see how ineffective a dissenting opinion is in practice.¬†Plus reading¬†through the bylaws of the council you discover a dissenting member of the Co50 is essentially ejected from the committee.

    Personally I can’t see any legitimate democracy in this theocracy. Feel free to disagree in the comments though, I will just pretend you didn’t :).

  3. Not long before that William was the second elder of the church. It would be like Monson calling Erying liar in general conference. History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412
  4. Don’t forget that Joseph had been in jail several times and had also started a fraudulent bank called the Kirtland Safety Society. Non believers would trust him about as much as a republican trusts Hillary given the background.

Tribal Loyalty 

So today I had an epiphany. Well actually it was a few days ago, today I figured out how to write it down.

Our human default wiring is set to “tribal loyalty.”

That means we tend to cherish those of our own tribe more and those that aren’t part of it not so much.

I have even noted that those that break ranks with the tribe are often most vilified because of this natural default setting.

This came to me after a discussion with a friend. He was very upset by poor Chinese people willing to work for less money just to put rice on the table and thus steal the job from a poor American with a Fridge and a cell phone. Clearly America is in his tribe.

I personally only see poor people in these two groups now, some clearly worse off than others. It dawned on me I have been going to China a LOT lately for work. I realized by getting to know them and their families and their lives that my ‘tribe’ was now bigger than it used to be.

So moral of the story?

-> Try to expand your tribe <-

Get to know someone you wouldn’t normally know. It leads to great epiphanies and just might change that natural default setting a notch or two!

Pure Morality is Beyond Belief 

A common defense of religious faith is that without it humanity wouldn’t be as moral as it is with it. This is a tune that is being increasingly sung in the battle to demean those that leave the faith. Thanks to the inspiration of the divine chiller in the kitchen I think I know why.

As the rise of the nones in the US, not to mention the world at large increases. Religion, particularly organized religion feels under attack. Churches in America are experiencing an exit of faithful believers unprecedented in its history. 

Non-belief is categorized as a religion as believers are so want to do it accounts for nearly 23% the people in the US. Here is some data from Pew Research


If you lump Protestant Christianity together as a whole that makes the secular nones the second largest religion in the US. 


This is creating an interesting phenomenon. Organized religions are cooperating like never before. They are banding together to dismiss the people that are vocal in thier non-belief. I have noticed that even the non religious who say they are spiritual and still believe in God but just not the Christian one thier parents do are demonized right along side the atheist and agnostics.  

Most of these organizations have cannonized scriptures that doctrinally assert thier faith is the only true one. Divine revelation saying all other churches are a pale imitation or even an abomination in the eyes of thier particular God. 

The worlds religions don’t have a history of getting along. Jihad, crusades and so on prove that. But these differences are being set aside to battle the biggest threat to thier existence yet. People losing thier faith in faith.  

To do battle though, the amalgamation of organized religion needs to create criticism from a position of common ground. You can’t look dumb calling out your  Muslim buddy for not believing in Jesus when you are both attacking the atheist.  

To me it’s no surprise that religion as a source of morality is held up as a major benefit of belief and a reason for organized faith.  And they do have a point. Moral instruction is a common theme in most churches. 

But why is that? Is it because God gave each faith a for the most part slightly different version of moral rules? Or is it possible that morality was a divinely human trait before religion came into the picture to sell it to us? 

Organized religion with its tithes and collection plate would have you believe without thier moral instruction the world would go to hell in a hand basket. So you need to belong and pay up to keep the faith viable.  

This is why the religious criticism is as equally focused on the spiritual but not religious as it is on the secular atheist. For all the rhetoric about needing to believe in God it’s really not. It’s about the loss of money cause you don’t believe in thier God.  

The idea you can’t be moral without faith is a smokescreen at best and a damnable lie at the worst. I have met person after person that feels more concerned about being kind, about loving thier fellow man, about truly treating others as you would like to be treated after they left thier religion. Something changes when you realize how good the world is is all on you.  You can’t wait for sky daddy to sort it all out later.  It’s up to you to do something now. You become more responsible for the part you play in the human race.  And I’d say that makes a pure morality something that happens after you move beyond religious belief.