Mormonism – The Sect.

I’m going to write more on religious sects, but today I want to focus on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism).

Before I start, I would like to point out that everything below is supported by and documented in official Mormon Documentation, which Mormons hold sacred, namely, The BOOK OF MORMON, THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, and THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS, as well as official Mormon articles in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets, and Revelations of the Prophets/Presidents of the Mormon Church. As well as reliable outside and ex-Mormon sources.

As a shortcut, people use LDS to denote the cult/religion, so I will follow that convention.

As an atheist, I do not believe in any gods and that includes the god or holy trinity of Christians, or the other Abrahamic traditions. I have no reason to do so. But even within that ‘limitation’, LDS stand out as a particularly ridiculous belief system.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was invented by a character called Joseph Smith, a convicted fraudster who pretended to predict people’s future or tell the the location of hidden treasure by gazing into a seer stone.

A fool and his money are soon parted, as the old saying accurately has it.

There is no evidence that Joseph Smith ever once found the location of hidden treasure, and if there were such evidence the LDS Church would be citing that as evidence of his prophetic qualities. Instead they don’t talk about such things, and play down or deny his convictions. Some members do not even know about them. Many leave the church when they discover previously hidden facts about Joseph Smith’s background.

So where to start? I could start with a list of Joseph Smith’s criminal convictions, his holier than thou character, even as a boy, his claim to have done more than Jesus, his blatant polytheism, his wholesale adoption of masonic rituals into LDS temples, his inconsistencies and lies, his racist policies, his entirely fictitious Book of Abraham, his piss-taking, (where the greatest prophet in the Book of Mormon is called Moron! ) – yes, he had a sense of humour, or with some of the absurd statements of the so-called line of living prophets. But I have to start somewhere, so here goes. And I think this is a good place to start, because a single false prophecy from a so-called living prophet of god gives the lie to the whole affair.

Some people have put a lot more research into this than I have, so forgive me for using extensive quotes in this article. I don’t usually do much quoting in my articles, my belief being that simple reasoning and a basic knowledge of science and logic can usually point out the errors in most religious belief systems, but in the case of religious sects, there is not a lot of  point in that way of writing because most of what applies to the main monotheistic religions and others, also applies to Mormonism, and I’ve made my point about what is wrong about most religions in many other articles on this website, so there is little point in covering old ground.

Mormonism is a particular case where my thoughts on the subject have already been extensively researched by others. However, despite the extensive research out there, many faithful mormons are not aware of much of the content covered in this article, because they are encouraged not to read anything critical to their belief system, that could challenge their faith. I don’t know if it is worth my while saying this, but if you are a Mormon, let your faith be tested. If you still hold onto your faith after reading this article and following the embedded links, you must have a very strong faith. Good for you. If you are afraid to test your faith that means that you are insecure in your belief system, and you may as well admit that you are a coward, just holding on to something because it’s all you’ve got. In that case, you are like the coward who is too afraid to challenge an unfaithful wife in case you lose her.

From Carm.org

False prophecies of Joseph Smith:

History of the Church

  • Prophecy about Jesus’ return within 56 years–“President Smith then stated that the meeting had been called, because God had commanded it; and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. He then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion–our trials, sufferings; and said God had not designed all this for nothing, but He had it in remembrance yet; and it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, for the coming of the Lord, which was nigh–even fifty-six years should wind up the scene,” (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 189). See context.

Jesus did not return within fifty-six years when 1891 arrived!

Doctrine and Covenants:

  • Prophecy that the temple would be built in Missouri within Smith’s Generation–“Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion,i which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith, Jun., and others with whom the Lord was well pleased. Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house . . . Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed,” (Doctrines and Covenants 84:2-5, 31). See context
      1. The Mormons were driven out of Jackson County in 1833. They were not gathered there in accordance to this prophecy dealing with building the temple.
      2. The prophecy clearly states that the generation present when the prophecy was given would not pass away until the temple was built at the western boundaries of the state of Missouri which is in Independence. This clearly failed.
  • All Nations would be involved in the American Civil War–“Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls; And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place. For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations,” (Doctrine and Covenants 87:1-3).  See context

This is clearly another false prophecy since all nations did not get involved in the American Civil War!

Apologists say, “Ah, maybe he was not referring to that war, but in a future war, they will be.”

  • Prophesy that the earth will tremble and the sun be hidden in “not many days”: “For not many days hence and the earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man; and the sun shall hide his face, and shall refuse to give light; and the moon shall be bathed in blood; and the stars shall become exceedingly angry, and shall cast themselves down as a fig that falleth from off a fig-tree,” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:87). See context
    1. The sun hasn’t yet been hidden nor has the moon hidden its face.
    2. This prophecy was given on 12/27/1832. “Not many days hence”? Since the writing of this article on 6/22/06, it has been 63,364 days or 173 years, 5 months, 26 days. I think that 63,364 days is more than “not many days.”
    3. For reference to January 1, 2000, it was 61,000 days (even) or 167 years, 5 days.

From “The Pearl of Great Price”

  • Prophecy that Isaiah 11 was about to be fulfilled–“In addition to these, he quoted the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, s aying that it was about to be fulfilled. He quoted also the third chapter of Acts, twenty-second and twenty-third verses, precisely as they stand in our New Testament. He said that that prophet was Christ; but the day had not yet come when ‘they who would not hear his voice should be cut off from among the people,’ but soon would come,” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, History, verse 40). See context
    1. Isaiah 11:6-9 says, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the kid, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze; Their young will lie down together; And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea.”This has not yet been fulfilled. The wolf is not dwelling with the lamb, the calf and the lion are not together, nor are the cow and bear grazing together. The lion is not eating straw like an ox. Nursing children are not playing in the dens of cobras.

Not exactly the story of someone truthfully inspired by his god, is it? Continued false prophecies simply do not point to inspiration from God, and that cannot be argued with except by duplicitious and perfidious means.

Time to let an ex-bishop of the LDS Church have a say:

I’m Lee Baker, an Ex-Mormon and Former Bishop – YouTube  Thisn guy is a Christian, but he makes good points.

On the origin of the Book of Mormon

What seems more likely, that angels should repeatedly appear to a convicted con-artist called Joseph Smith or that The Book of Mormon was a work constructed partly from Joseph Smith’s vivid imagination and partly copied from other works.

Again, from Wikipedia:

“In the early 20th century, Mormon apologist B. H. Roberts authored a manuscript titled Studies of the Book of Mormon, in which he compared the content of the Book of Mormon with View of the Hebrews. Roberts’s conclusion was that, assuming a hemispheric geography theory for the Book of Mormon, sufficient parallels existed that future critics could claim that View of the Hebrews could have provided a structural foundation for the Book of Mormon story… Roberts’s manuscript was private and shared only with church leadership at the time he did the analysis. Publicly, Roberts continued to support the miraculous origin theory of the Book of Mormon…

Roberts’s list of parallels included:

  • extensive quotation from the prophecies of Isaiah in the Old Testament;
  • the Israelite origin of the American Indian;
  • the future gathering of Israel and restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes;
  • the peopling of the New World from the Old via a long journey northward which encountered “seas” of “many waters;”
  • a religious motive for the migration;
  • the division of the migrants into civilized and uncivilized groups with long wars between them and the eventual destruction of the civilized by the uncivilized;
  • the assumption that all native peoples were descended from Israelites and their languages from Hebrew;
  • the burial of a “lost book” with “yellow leaves;”
  • the description of extensive military fortifications with military observatories or “watch towers” overlooking them;
  • a change from monarchy to republican forms of government; and
  • the preaching of the gospel in ancient America.

David Persuitte has presented a large number of parallels between passages in View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, but notes that there are no instances of direct copying. The parallels between the two books that Persuitte presents cover a broad range of topics, including religious ideas about the responsibility of the American people in convincing the Indians of their “Israelite” origins and converting them to Christianity. Persuitte quotes from View of the Hebrews Ethan Smith’s theory about what happened to the ancient Israelites after they arrived in America. That theory is also essentially a summary of the basic story line of the Book of Mormon, including the idea that the ancient Israelite immigrants to America split into two factions: a civilized group and a savage group that subsequently exterminated the civilized group. Persuitte also quotes from the two books several similar descriptions of structures built by the civilized faction and wars that were fought between the two factions, as well as numerous other similarities. According to Persuitte, the ideas that can be found in View of the Hebrews are sufficient to have “inspired” Joseph Smith to have written the Book of Mormon had he read it. Joseph Smith himself mentioned Ethan Smith and cited passages from View of the Hebrews in an article published in the Times and Seasons in June 1842.”

There were also a number of other contemporary but preceding works with parallels in the Book of Mormon. It seems therefore to have been a compilation of other works, but with many of Joseph Smith’s own ideas incorporated.

To turn to other matters, first have a look at http://americablog.com/2014/11/the-mormon-churchs-odd-explanation-for-joseph-smiths-polygamy.html.

Not only did Joseph Smith have many wives, he publicly lied about it, and to members of his own church.

The graphic below is from:

http://www.mormoninfographics.com/2012/09/the-many-wives-of-joseph-smith.html

The Many Wives of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith’s Criminal Record

I think I’ve done enough quoting in this article but I want to point readers to the fact that Joseph Smith was a convicted criminal, and was charged many time for everything from fraudulently taking money from people by pretending that he could tell them where buried treasure was, to setting up a fraudulent bank and issuing fraudulent bank notes, to treason, which he would almost certainly have been sentenced to death for had not a furious mob broken into his jail cell and killed his brother (Joseph Smith shot three of the assaulters, killing two) before trying to escape through a window when he himself was shot and killed by people outside on the ground floor.

Please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith_and_the_criminal_justice_system

You can read more about his criminal convictions here:

http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon430.htm

Racism in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith Condoning Slavery Until that Position became Untenable, Denial until Recently of Black People  to Positions of Power in the LDS Church, and the Assertion by Brigham Young that Black People could Receive Exaltation but Would be Servants of White People in Heaven.

See the link below for information one these subjects.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds_race1.htm

Magic Underwear and Getting your own Planet when you Die

Unbelievably, (and there are genuine Mormon Sources for these beliefs, some Mormons believe that the special underwear can protect them from bullets, fire, and many other physical assaults.

See this piece from “The Mormon Curtain”

http://www.mormoncurtain.com/topic_garments_section1.html

Also see the YouTube videos below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9J31oBEdkvg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BqLZ8UoZk


Mormon Temple Rituals

It is interesting to note that Mormon Temple Rituals have very much in common with Freemasonry rituals and symbols, these having been introduced to the Mormon Church just two weeks after Joseph Smith was initiated into the Freemasons. They even have a special handshake.

See the below website for more details.

http://packham.n4m.org/temples.htm

All of the above covers perhaps a quarter of the problems I see with the Mormon Church. It is a religion that expects believers to become very involved, it demands a tithe, (a tenth of all your income plus generous payments over and above that for ‘special circumstances’. And this is taken so seriously that if you miss tithing for a period, you must pay it back.

It is said by some Mormons that it is better to go hungry than miss paying your tithe. It is a very wealthy religion which does not release its financial record in the USA for inspection by the authorities or public. It owns everything from huge shopping malls to Business and private properties that they rent out.

Time magazine estimated in 1996 that the church’s assets exceeded $30 billion. It’s fair to assume that quite a few billion have been added to to those assets by now.

Mormonism also takes up a lot of an individual’s free time. Mormons are expected to be part of the Mormon community where they live, visit people and take part in converting them to Mormonism. They are encouraged not to read anything that would test their faith. Watching television is forbidden to Missionaries, and I believe discouraged in other Mormons because ignorance is the basis on which the church/cult operates best. They don’t want you knowing too much about the world, history, facts, astronomy, science, or anything else that might cause you to doubt their statements.

Is it little wonder that, almost alone amongst religions, no Mormon has ever gained a Nobel Prize? (Although one ex-Mormon did after leaving the church allowing his mind to work properly again…)

From http://packham.n4m.org/cult.htm

Please visit the website to see much more:

“Leadership uses deception, both to the public and to its own members.

From the beginning, and continuing to the present, the Mormon leaders have used all kinds of deception, both with their own members and with the public at large. They have stated falsehoods as truth, they have concealed crucial information, they have altered documents, “doctored” their history, and continue to practice the art of “plausible denial.” Their principle seems to be that such actions are justified if it “furthers the work.” It is frequently referred to as “lying for the Lord.” For a long listing of examples, see “Mormon Lying”. ”

Enough for now. I hope this has been an informative article. If you are thinking of or being encouraged to join the Mormon Church, I do hope the above gives you pause for thought.

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Atheist Ethics and Abortion

Some atheists seem to have strongly held beliefs about a whole host of things that have nothing to do with the existence or non-existence any deity/god/supreme being. And they are not always as clear about the evidence behind  those beliefs as they could be.

 For example, there is the ‘supernatural’. Most atheists do not believe in any form of telepathy, extra sensory perception, reincarnation, out of the body experiences, (except where that feeling has been induced by science) or any form of life after death. The reason is that there appears to be little or no evidence to support such beliefs. 

And I say the same thing – show me the evidence. 

But there are other areas where atheists are expected (or perhaps more respected within scientific circles for a particular attitude), to have certain views as a part of their atheistic ‘persona’, such as being pro-abortion.

Says who? Just because most churches are anti-abortion does not mean that atheists should automatically take the opposite point of view. Let’s take it from the women’s health point of view. Women should have control over their own body, and that’s not in doubt, but the growing body inside them is a separate entity. The argument can be made that an unwanted child would not have a good life and would have been better not to have been born. The mother may have to interrupt her career. The rest of the family may have a bit less in terms of material comforts. The unwanted child may be treated badly (although surely death is the worst form of child abuse) or grow up in a deprived environment. The parents may be able to save up less towards their first house. 

All this is true, of course, and yet there is still the fact that the growing body inside the pregnant mother-to-be is not a part of the mother’s body it is a separate (but dependant) entity, and if given the chance to live would no doubt be grateful for being alive unless so badly abused that it were suicidal, or (and this does not follow) so badly brought up that the child grew into a criminal providing no contribution to our society. 

The fact is that most of us are grateful to be alive and are a productive part of our society. And who knows what an aborted child (or whatever you want to call it at various stages of development) would have grown up to be? Sure, it could have been a couch potato spending its most productive years in front of the TV, scrounging on benefits. But it could have become a doctor or nurse. Or a physicist teaching us about the universe that surrounds us. Imagine the test were available to Steven Hawkins’ parents to diagnose that the child would grow up to have Motor Neurone Disease. The advice would probably be to have an abortion. And yet Hawkins has proved to be one of the most important thinkers of the 20th and 21st centuries. A contributor whose unique mind has given us insights into sub-atomic physics, astrophysics, time, space, gravity, black holes, and many other areas of science which he has popularised through his painstakingly written books. The world would be a much poorer place without him. Should he have been aborted before birth to save him the pain that the illness that started to strike him down whilst he was still a student would bring him? I think most people would answer ‘no’. He is, incidentally, an atheist. And glad to be alive.

How many brilliant minds has the world lost through abortion? How many chemical engineers, doctors, physicists, inventors, researchers, architects, humanitarians, Nobel Prize winners, and ordinary people who nevertheless would have played some part in this world, have we lost through abortion?

So back to women’s health. It is definitely a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. HER BODY. But I don’t see how it can possibly be her right to choose what she does with little James or Sareem growing inside her. 

And what harm does the abortion cause to the woman having the abortion?

Women’s Health after Abortion

www.deveber.org/text/whealth.html

Some short extracts:

  • Abortion increases a woman’s overall risk of breast cancer by 30 per cent.
  • The risk is likely much higher in women who have a first abortion at a young age, or who have a family history of breast cancer.
  • Since 1957, 23 of 37 worldwide studies show an increased breast cancer risk with abortion, a risk as high as 310 per cent.
  • Ten of fifteen U.S. studies confirm the abortion-breast cancer link.
  • The biological rationale for breast cancer development is related to the woman’s unprotected internal exposure to estrogen when a pregnancy is abruptly terminated early in gestation.
  • The magnitude of the risk has, until recently, been hidden by studies of poor quality, many of which have failed to separate induced abortion from low-risk spontaneous miscarriage.
  • The medical establishment is often slow to accept and respond to emerging data, slowed further, in this case, by the conflicting politics of abortion.
  • Recent studies have connected a higher risk of cervical and ovarian cancers to previous abortions, though the degree of risk varies from study to study.
  • A consistent finding has been the protective effect of full-term pregnancies against the onset of cancers of the reproductive system.
  • Researchers have found a connection between abortion and rectal cancer.
  • With reproductive and rectal cancers on the increase in women, more studies are needed, specifically to examine the connection between abortion and cancer.
  • A large-scale, authoritative Scandinavian study establishes post-pregnancy death rates within one year that are nearly four times greater among women who abort their pregnancies than among women who bear their babies. The suicide rate is nearly six times greater among aborting women than among women who give birth. These findings refute the oft-heard claim that induced abortion is safer than childbirth.
  • There is an urgent need for independent studies of maternal mortality related to abortion, and medical facilities should be required to keep more accurate and informative records so that women may be better served in this area.
  • Women report pain levels that are usually much worse than suggested in pre-abortion counseling.
  • Severe pain after abortion is strongly linked to depression before and after abortion.
  • Pain can be a key indicator of serious medical complications, a fact not often told to women.
  • Pain levels reported by women may be dismissed or minimized in surveys conducted by abortion practitioners.
  • There need to be more independent studies on the connection of abortion to pain.
  • After an abortion, women are more likely to display self-destructive behaviors including suicide and attempts at suicide; mutilation and various forms of punishment (including repeat abortions and sterilization); drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse; and eating disorders as a way of denying or minimizing the guilt, pain and numbness they feel. 
  • Women who abort often have trouble bonding with the children of future pregnancies and have a higher chance of eventually abusing them, which leads to a cyclical pattern of abuse-abortion- abuse.
  • It seems clear, given the frequency of negative behavioral outcomes for women after abortion, that more thought needs to be given to appropriate therapy for women (and their children) who are at risk.

——————

How abortion hurts women | NRL News Today

www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2013/…/how-abortion-hurts-women/

Aug 23, 2013 – In addition to its risks to a woman’s physical healthabortion can have …  with her partner and others and can adversely affect men and children.

A short extract:

Psychological risks of abortion

In addition to its risks to a woman’s physical health, abortion can have negative psycho-social consequences. A 2011 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems among women who had undergone abortions; nearly 10 percent of the incidence of psychological problems was directly attributable to abortion. These problems included anxiety, depression, alcohol use, drug use and suicidal behavior.

A large-scale Finnish study found that the suicide rate following abortion was nearly six times greater than the suicide rate following childbirth. Conversely, although abortion is sometimes justified on the basis of mental health, a 2013 study concluded that the termination of unintended pregnancies had no therapeutic psychological benefit.

Abortion can also damage a woman’s relationships with her partner and others and can adversely affect men and children. Many women and men now regret their decision to procure or encourage an abortion, and many seek support and help to deal with their grief.

Dangers should not be ignored

————–

To go on, A Woman’s Right to Choose is the most common pro-abortion statement. However, what has become clear is that women are not being given the full right to choose because the majority of women who have abortions are not aware of the risks, both short-term and long term. It seems fairly clear that in particular private abortion clinics would be going against their own self-interest to fully inform abortion candidates of the risks involved. They’d lose money. A Swedish study on the first link above, shows that the majority of women given pre-abortion counselling and informed of the risks, chose not to go ahead with the abortion. So yes, give women the right to choose, but ensure that they are fully informed of the risks involved.

I’ve made the point here that abortion is a matter of women’s rights, but the right to choose should lead to a fully informed choice, not simply a choice that is made and carried out without being fully informed of the risks and the latest research, and that abortion may harm a woman far more than carrying on with the pregnancy. This is a matter of fact that every candidate for abortion should be made aware of.

Finally, you may want to read www.easyabortion.com

John Bremner

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Fundamentalist Islam

Today Islamic fundamentalists once again proved that they have no place in civilised society. Free speech is a basic human right in the west and we must fight to defend it. So while nobody likes the idea of the state monitoring all our emails our telephone calls our twitter messages, text messages and other communications, I’ve come to believe that we have to give up the right to that privacy in order to allow fundamentalists and the radicalised to be identified.

I think anyway there is a basic misunderstanding involved. Nobody is listening to the sweet nothings you whisper to your lover on the telephone. It would take millions of people to monitor millions of people. It must be done by software identifying patterns of behaviour or trigger words keywords and codewords. So if you’re doing nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about, on the other hand if someone is planning an atrocity it can only be a good thing that the authorities have some way of finding out beforehand and stopping it before it happens.

That however does not mean that we can afford to be complacent. Terrorists, unless they are particularly stupid terrorists, have ways of hiding what they are planning. But it must be the case that someone or some people outside the terrorist group will suspect that something bad is being planned so it is up to ordinary people to report that to the authorities. If you’re wrong no harm done if you’re right you may save lives.

The concept of neighbourhood watch should now include watching for suspicious behaviour. If everyone does that we can stop the terrorists in their tracks.

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Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is one of the toughest psychological effects to overcome because the internal conflicts that it creates can have social, cultural and life-altering implications. In other words, the effects of cognitive dissonance can disrupt every aspect of life. And it does. Soldiers who believe in the cause they are fighting for experience cognitive dissonance when they begin to see injustices in how their ‘enemy’ is being treated. People who get caught committing adultery experience cognitive dissonance when they have to try to bring together the hidden aspects of their life with the person they project themselves to be to others. Religious followers experience cognitive dissonance when their scientific education shows them that most claims of their religious books are scientifically false to the point of being absurdities.

Wikipedia says the following:

Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. When inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed. His basic hypotheses are listed below:

“The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance.”
“When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance.”

Cognitive dissonance is therefore one important reason why people will cling to existing belief systems rather than allowing fresh information to change their minds. It is such a powerful force that people will fight and die rather than bear the psychological stress of realising they have been under a false apprehension. And of course people have different levels of self-awareness, with more intelligent people generally being more self-aware. But intelligence does not always help – we can fool ourselves easier than others can fool us, no matter how intelligent we are, and we tend to fool ourselves a lot to avoid cognitive dissonance. We fool ourselves about who loves us, about who is good for us, and about most of the things we care about. This effectively means that we are wrong about most of the things we think we are right about.

As Einstein said famously, “We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know.”

So where does that leave us in our constant battle against cognitive dissonance? I believe we can learn something from Einstein and the others whose giant shoulders he stood on. Accept that we know next to nothing for certain. Question everything. Be a sceptic. Do not believe others without finding out for ourselves. And accept that there is a kind of war going on between those who would rather close their eyes and ears than subject themselves to a cognitive dissonance that they would have to deal with. Some people have the courage to face reality, and others do not, and that is probably why religion perpetuates itself in our technological world. And why religious people will kill for their particular version of reality to be the one that comes out top.

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The Spirit of Enquiry

Doubt is the basis of all scientific progress. Without doubt, there is no enquiry, and without enquiry, there is no progress. Every scientific advance we have made is because of the spirit of enquiry.

We have to question ourselves constantly. Even with an expected result in an experiment, the scientist thinks, “Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps I should investigate… Let me find something wrong, maybe an inconsistency, and look for another answer.”

Imagine if things were different. Imagine if scientists just had faith in their results. Imagine vehicles built by engineers who put them out to the public without any testing because they had faith in their designs. Without questioning, without doubt, without the spirit of enquiry, there can be no progress.

Assume you believe in one or other religion. The same questions should be on your mind. What you have assumed to be true may not be true at all no matter how much faith you have.

The worst that can happen when questioning any belief is that we find we were previously wrong. Ask the same questions as the scientist. “Perhaps this is not true. Perhaps I should investigate… Let me find something wrong, maybe an inconsistency, and look for another answer.”

In a scientist, this involves perhaps submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed magazine where people will look sceptically at the conclusions of the scientist, follow the data sets and follow the reasoning before deciding whether to recommend rejection or publishing.

For someone questioning their own religious beliefs, perhaps they should start by reading the works of people who can expose the fallacies behind religious belief systems, not merely reading reinforcing works by others of the same faith. Tough questions are needed.

Of course, some people are scared to ask themselves those questions because deep in their hearts they know that their beliefs have no basis in reality, but to quote Socrates, who took great pleasure in exposing people who pretended to know things that they could not possibly know, such as the mind of a god, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living”.

All I know is that I know nothing. Socrates

But those with the courage to question themselves, to question their beliefs, to question what other people say, may be surprised by the light that comes into their lives.

John Bremner

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Ricky Gervais on Atheism – You must see this!

This is worth watching. Both Ricky and his commenter make great points. You just can’t argue with them.

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Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Following the blogs, there has been a lot of discussion lately about the effects of confirmation bias on the thoughts and behaviour of those people of a religious bent. Confirmation bias causes people to seek out information that confirms their world view, and avoid information that conflicts with that view. It is effectively a form of ‘reinforcement’ thinking that can affect even those of us who feel that we are completely open-minded. When, for example, I read a book or watch a YouTube video that supports my opinions on religion and atheism, I feel a certain sense of satisfaction that others think like me, that I am not alone in my views, and that, whether or not I am correct, I am justified in thinking as I do.

Similarly, a scientist searching for a solution to a problem may seek out and find data that confirm his or her theory, ignoring the awkward details that do not match. That is confirmation bias, and the scientific mind is not immune to its effects.

Fortunately in science, every result that is to become part of mainstream science has to be repeatable, peer reviewed, and judged by experts who are non-biased. Faulty conclusions rarely make it through the morass of scientific scrutiny.

In the religious world, though, confirmation bias is not dealt with in the same way. Religious people rarely read the works of those who disagree with them, and may actively seek to have such material banned. They tend to have friends with the same mindset, choose partners who have similar points of view, and oppose, sometimes violently, free-thinking, freedom of speech, and secularism. Nobody within their peer group is going to point out any error in their conclusions about the world, any error of logic in their thinking, or the lack of data on which they based their conclusions.

One has to ask the question: why is this the case? The answer has to be that there is a fundamental difference in the approach of people of science and people of religion. Scientific knowledge is in a constant state of flux, always modifying and changing according to any new evidence that presents itself. Scientific knowledge has to be verifiable and to be able to be proven wrong if it is possible to do so. Some of it proves to be true, and we have thus made progress, bit by bit, learning added to learning, knowledge added to knowledge, with even Newton standing on the shoulders of giants, just to see a little further. That is progress.

Religion, on the other hand, is more or less fixed in opinion and fixed in what religious people think of as knowledge. That ‘knowledge’ generally comes from a book that may be a very disjointed collection of translated, reinterpreted, misinterpreted essays and works of fiction and mushroom enhanced delusions, from people who lived thousands of years ago in the bronze and early iron ages – the ages of superstition and magical thinking.

Science is generally rejected, there is little or no progress, and religious people seek confirmation of their opinions and beliefs from people with the same mind-set who are never going to contradict them. This is their confirmation bias. They sing songs and say prayers and give worship to their gods and prophets. That others do what they do confirms their biased belief that they are not wrong.

And yet, with no way of testing their beliefs, with nobody who within their own religion will challenge them, with no way to verify what they believe, and only reinforcement from their peers, confirmation bias ensures that their beliefs, however deluded, will never be exposed for what they are. Something that is untestable, unproven, unverifiable, and defended against any criticism, can never be knowledge and can only ever be belief. People have died for that belief rather than admit they could be wrong, but the people who have killed them have been those who had similar but slightly different beliefs. Atheists do not have the same mindset. Atheism is not a belief system that seeks to persuasively or violently convert others to the same mindset. Atheists generally don’t care what other people believe so long as they do not try to convert others to their beliefs, if such beliefs cannot be scientifically justified

Science and religion can never be reconciled, despite what religious apologists suggest. Science deals with facts. As religious beliefs are disproven, doctrine by doctrine by science, religious tenets that can be relied upon fade into non-existence. Science and religion are not different domains, because the supernatural is also a domain of science to be investigated and dismissed if there is no evidence for it.

That religion allows confirmation bias to affect the judgement of their followers instead of helping people to think independently and intelligently, is a bad thing about religion.

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So who created the Jesus myth?

I thought readers might be interested in this story…

Jesus is a Roman invention

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The Ten Commandments of Rational Debate

The Ten Commandments of Rational Debate

The Ten Commandments of Rational Debate

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There is nothing wrong with religion…

There is nothing wrong with religion… Except their belief systems, their perpetuation by pedophile preachers, their teachings, bigotry, insane prophets, murders, holy books, (and I mean there are a lot of holes in them), lack of critical thinking and logic, tortuous histories, anti-science outlooks, indoctrination of the young, claims to be any kind of guide to morality, subjugation of women, hypocrisy, misused wealth, sodomising monks, divisive schooling, interference in government, self-righteous holier-than-thou crap, claims to know the answer to everything, the stupidest memes, the big daddy in the sky, and ‘intelligent design’, which really means, ‘It’s too complicated for me to understand, so everything must’ve been done by a supernatural power, using magic.’

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