Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Book of Mormon

THE BOOK OF MORMON

Reviewed by Richard Packham

First published in 1830, the Book of Mormon has been continuously in print since then, for over 170 years. It has been translated into dozens of foreign languages. Millions of people have read it, many receiving free copies from Mormon missionaries (the LDS church – the largest of the Mormon churches – has a full-time missionary corps of over 50,000). Many of those have accepted its claims and joined one of the many Mormon sects which accept it as divinely revealed scripture. Many others – probably the great majority – have read it and recognized it as a fantasy tale written in the early nineteenth century. And now (2004), through arrangements with the LDS church, Doubleday has published a “trade” edition.

The book purports to be a translation – made by Joseph Smith with divine assistance – of gold plates on which the ancient inhabitants of America wrote their own religious and secular history. It describes these inhabitants as Israelites, having been divinely led to America at the time of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem six centuries before Christ. It describes their culture, their prophets, their many wars, a supposed post-resurrection visit by Jesus to America, and the final destruction of the more civilized inhabitants about 400 C.E. by the more savage ones, who are the ancestors of the American Indians.

No non-Mormon historian, anthropologist, archaeologist or other expert in pre-Columbian America accepts the Book of Mormon’s (non-religious) claims. Rather than being an accurate description of ancient American culture, it describes what a relatively uneducated person in the time of Joseph Smith might suppose it to be – similar to his own American, European-based culture, with steel, horses, chariots, glass, compasses, coins, wheat, cattle, flocks, and so on. None of these things were known to the ancient Americans. Nor does it accurately reflect how Jewish immigrants to America might have lived, since it shows a great ignorance of Jewish religion and culture. More than that, the book shows no indication of familiarity with genuine ancient American life or history.

The book is filled with many other anachronisms. Much of its religious material is merely copied almost word-for-word from the King James English Bible translation, even putting many words of the New Testament writers into the mouths of American prophets who lived supposedly hundreds of years before Christ. The supposed historical material is largely a reflection of commonly held ideas in Smith’s time about the origins of the American Indians, and mostly based on a book published by a New England pastor just a few years before Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, called A View of the Hebrews, by Rev. Ethan Smith (no relation), first published in 1823, with a second edition in 1825. (See David Persuitte’s book Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, McFarland & Company; 2nd edition, October, 2000). That notion – that the Indians are descendants of ancient Israelites – has been so thoroughly disproved by science that even many Mormon scholars now admit that Joseph Smith’s claims on that issue were wrong. (See Simon Southerton’s bookLosing A Lost Tribe, Signature Books, Salt Lake City 2004.)

Hundreds of books have been written by Mormons to support the claims made in the Book of Mormon. Hundreds of others have been written to expose the book as a work of fiction. Interestingly, the defenders of the book’s claims generally urge readers of the book not to read anything about the book – especially anything negative – but rather they urge the reader simply to pray to God and ask whether its claims are true. Unfortunately, it seems that God occasionally tells readers that it is true, but apparently he tells many other readers that it is a hoax. Why else would one find dozens of copies in the ten-cent bin at every thrift store in the country? Or perhaps most people feel that they do not need God’s help in confirming that they are reading a fantasy tale – however religious it may sound – and not a description of real life or real events in a real place.

 Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

The Book of Mormon

THE BOOK OF MORMON

Reviewed by Richard Packham

First published in 1830, the Book of Mormon has been continuously in print since then, for over 170 years. It has been translated into dozens of foreign languages. Millions of people have read it, many receiving free copies from Mormon missionaries (the LDS church – the largest of the Mormon churches – has a full-time missionary corps of over 50,000). Many of those have accepted its claims and joined one of the many Mormon sects which accept it as divinely revealed scripture. Many others – probably the great majority – have read it and recognized it as a fantasy tale written in the early nineteenth century. And now (2004), through arrangements with the LDS church, Doubleday has published a “trade” edition.

The book purports to be a translation – made by Joseph Smith with divine assistance – of gold plates on which the ancient inhabitants of America wrote their own religious and secular history. It describes these inhabitants as Israelites, having been divinely led to America at the time of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem six centuries before Christ. It describes their culture, their prophets, their many wars, a supposed post-resurrection visit by Jesus to America, and the final destruction of the more civilized inhabitants about 400 C.E. by the more savage ones, who are the ancestors of the American Indians.

No non-Mormon historian, anthropologist, archaeologist or other expert in pre-Columbian America accepts the Book of Mormon’s (non-religious) claims. Rather than being an accurate description of ancient American culture, it describes what a relatively uneducated person in the time of Joseph Smith might suppose it to be – similar to his own American, European-based culture, with steel, horses, chariots, glass, compasses, coins, wheat, cattle, flocks, and so on. None of these things were known to the ancient Americans. Nor does it accurately reflect how Jewish immigrants to America might have lived, since it shows a great ignorance of Jewish religion and culture. More than that, the book shows no indication of familiarity with genuine ancient American life or history.

The book is filled with many other anachronisms. Much of its religious material is merely copied almost word-for-word from the King James English Bible translation, even putting many words of the New Testament writers into the mouths of American prophets who lived supposedly hundreds of years before Christ. The supposed historical material is largely a reflection of commonly held ideas in Smith’s time about the origins of the American Indians, and mostly based on a book published by a New England pastor just a few years before Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, called A View of the Hebrews, by Rev. Ethan Smith (no relation), first published in 1823, with a second edition in 1825. (See David Persuitte’s book Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon, McFarland & Company; 2nd edition, October, 2000). That notion – that the Indians are descendants of ancient Israelites – has been so thoroughly disproved by science that even many Mormon scholars now admit that Joseph Smith’s claims on that issue were wrong. (See Simon Southerton’s bookLosing A Lost Tribe, Signature Books, Salt Lake City 2004.)

Hundreds of books have been written by Mormons to support the claims made in the Book of Mormon. Hundreds of others have been written to expose the book as a work of fiction. Interestingly, the defenders of the book’s claims generally urge readers of the book not to read anything about the book – especially anything negative – but rather they urge the reader simply to pray to God and ask whether its claims are true. Unfortunately, it seems that God occasionally tells readers that it is true, but apparently he tells many other readers that it is a hoax. Why else would one find dozens of copies in the ten-cent bin at every thrift store in the country? Or perhaps most people feel that they do not need God’s help in confirming that they are reading a fantasy tale – however religious it may sound – and not a description of real life or real events in a real place.

 Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

Mormon Temples

Links About Mormonism

4/16/2013 added:Book review of Book of Mormon Book of Lies by Meredith R. Sheets and Kendal M. Sheets (2012)

9/24/2012 added:To Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals a link to a video of the entire endowment ceremony, made with a hidden camera during 2012.

6/20/2012 added:FAQ: “Is Mormonism a cult?”: Examining Mormonism, using a standard “cult” checklist

6/5/2012 added:Book review of Charles R. Harrell, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology

Book review of No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light On Sensitive Issues Robert L. Millet, ed.     A major collection of Mormon apologetic essays

2/26/2012 – added:“Romney’s Mormon Secrets”:     Why doesn’t Romney want to discuss his faith? Because it is secret!

10/26/2011 – added:“The Everlasting Gospel In The Ever-changing Church”: Text of a talk presented at the annual conference of the Exmormon Foundation, October 15, 2011, in Salt Lake City.

10/13/2011 – added:Questions for Presidential Aspirant Mitt Romney: Most Christians and most non-Mormon journalists don’t know enough about Romney’s religion to ask the most important questions. Here they are.

3/3/2011 – added:“or, in other words”: A collection of Book of Mormon passages which show that it cannot be a translation of engravings on metal plates (a supplement to “Linguistic Problems of Mormonism”)

Translations of German Poetry     My translations of a few of my favorite German poems (and a few of my own German poems, with English translations).

Fruitcake Recipes: several good recipes for this holiday treat (make in October!)

2/4/2011 – added:Critique of an article by Mormon apologist William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon”   Hamblin’s article suffers from most of the problems he accuses the “anti-Mormons” of – a case of the pot calling the kettle black

7/22/10 – added:Links to audio recordings of the temple endowment ceremony

6/9/10 – added:How To Divide Up Fairly The Personal Property In A Decedent Estate   Suggestions, based on my personal and legal experience, for avoiding the almost inevitable conflicts upon the death of the last parent.

“The Ties That Bind” – a trilogy of original one-act plays by Richard Packham:

“Just Like Old Times” – Two lovers are reunited after many years
“What Goes Around” – A married couple learn about their past
“Your Soul, My Soul” – A wife makes an effort to save her husband’s soul

6/5/10 – added:FAQ: “Help! The Mormons have my child!”   Suggestions in response to many pleas from non-Mormon parents whose children (usually teen or young adult) have gotten involved with the Mormons.

5/20/10 – added:My Testimony   Response to a request for a submission to the website Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify. (23K)

“Is The Book Of Mormon Historical?”   Submission for an online debate at the website Public Square, which wants to conduct a debate on Mormon issues.   (16K)   (As of this writing, the debate is not yet online there.)

10/20/09 – major revision:Linguistic Problems of Mormonism   (now 151K) revised and expanded to include materials used in a presentation at the 2009 annual Exmormon Foundation Conference in Salt Lake City.   A video of that presentation can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_LBzEsTlbk

9/06/09 – added:Problems With The Brass Plates”   An examination of the role of the Brass Plates of Laban in the Book of Mormon, with questions about the believability of the story. (15K)

8/04/09 – added:Freemasonry and the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony   A tabular listing of similarities between the three degrees of 1830s Masonry and the early Mormon Endowment ritual (19K)

6/28/09 – added:Romans and Nephites   A listing of similarities between the ancient Romans and their contemporaries in America, the Nephites

1/11/09 – added:Review of The Mormon Conspiracy by Charles L. Wood, LLC, San Diego 2001

12/15/08 – added:Review of The William E. McLellin Papers, edited by Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey, 2007 (review originally appeared in the April 2008 “The New Expositor,” the newsletter of the Exmormon Foundation)

12/8/08 – added:Mormonism Quiz     A series of interactive multiple-choice quizzes to test your knowledge of Mormon history, doctrine and scripture.

11/11/08 – updated“Mormon Prophets After Joseph Smith”     to add the Summum group in Salt Lake City, based on revelations to Amun Ra (nee Corky Nowell)

10/07/08 – added:“The Jerusalem Temple vs the Mormon Temples”     Mormons claim that their temples are in the tradition of the ancient Jewish temple. A brief comparison shows that this claim has no basis.

9/21/08 – added:“Mormon Prophets After Joseph Smith”     Unlike the presidents of the mainstream Mormon church since Joseph Smith, who rarely have visions or revelations, and do not translate ancient documents or produce new scripture, as Smith did, there have arisen many prophets from Mormonism who have claimed to perform those divine functions, just like Smith. A brief listing and description of some of these real prophets. (26K)

8/21/08 – addedResponse to LDS Church’s Explanation of its Opposition to Gay Marriage   The church has launched a massive campaign supporting California’s Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constutition to bar gay marriage (36K)

– expanded: Linguistic Problems of Mormonism to include a discussion of the ungrammatical use of King James English in Mormon scripture (thanks to a suggestion from Dr. Kent Ponder)

7/4/08 – added (offsite)Video of a lecture based on the article Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals, recorded in 2001, on Google Video or on YouTube; both versions are identical, but the YouTube copy allows comments. (75 minutes)

3/30/08 – added:Successful Weight Loss Plan   How I permanently lost 25% of my (overweight) body’s weight.

2/1/08 – added:Home-made Salad Dressings, including several low-calorie versions

7/17/07 – added:How Many Ex-Mormons Are There?   An analysis of membership numbers shows that there are more Ex-Mormons than there are Mormons.

– updated:The temple recommend   A bar code has been added to the recommend.

12/19/06 – addedIs the United States a “Christian” Nation?   Some people contend that America was “founded on Christian principles.” What then are those principles?   (14 K)

12/9/06 – addedFAQ: “Do the Mormon leaders know that their church is false?”     There is so much evidence showing that Mormon claims are false. Don’t the leaders realize it?

11/13/06 – updatedThe temple recommend     The newer recommend form has a space for the member’s “record number,” and validity is for two years rather than one, as it was before. This is the image of a blank recommend.

11/05/06 – addedQuestions for Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney     Romney is trying to convince religious leaders that his religious beliefs are like theirs, and thus he should have their support. Those people do not know what they should be asking the governor – here are some suggestions, not only for religious leaders, but for journalists.

8/02/06 – added:Comments Received, Summer 2006 – E-mail comments on my Mormon materials, received in June and July, 2006 (typical in volume and tone of what I receive year-round)   (25 K)

7/2/06 – added:101 Reasonable Doubts about Mormonism – Mormon claims should be supported by evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Is there a “reasonable doubt”? Yes, not just one, but over a hundred.   (45 K)

4/15/06 – added:Review of the book by Walter J. Veith The Genesis Conflict: Putting the Pieces Together   – Dr. Veith is a former evolutionist, a scientist who became a “young earth” creationist and biblical inerrantist.   (64 K)

3/28/06 – added:Jaredite Shipbuilding Technology by Kent Ponder, Ph. D. – a detailed analysis of the account in the Book of Mormon about the Jaredite ships: Does it really make sense?   (23 K)

Prayer – a critique of this essential element of most religions   (19 K)

Traditional Baby Bootees – The pattern for the baby bootees that have been knitted in my family for several generations for our family’s newborns.

1/16/06 – added:FAQ: Are Mormons Christian?   Many Christians insist that Mormons are not Christian.   Is this an accurate assessment?   (14 K)

1/2/06 – added:Animal Resurrection in the Teachings of Mormon Prophets – compiled by “Deconstructor” with commentary by Richard Packham   (11 K)

12/28/05 – added:The Articles of Faith – with my commentary   (25 K)

FAQ: “Married to a Mormon Spouse – What can I do?”   (23 K)

– updated:
Book List on Mormonism (eleven books added)

10/28/05 – added:Spanish translation of the “investigator’s tract” To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism, translated by Jarom Smith.   (92 K)

“Reflections of an Old Apostate”:   Text of my address to the conference of the Exmormon Foundation, October 22, 2005, in Salt Lake City, Utah.   (45 K)

10/15/05 – added:“Lehi In The Pacific: Powerful New Evidence for the Historicity of the Book of Mormon” by L. Dwayne Samuelson   (13 K)

10/10/05 – added:To Sourdough Recipes: “Mike’s Quick Blender Sourdough Waffles”, a recipe developed by my brother Michael, who is becoming an enthusiastic sourdough baker.

My own Recipe for home-made dog biscuits, quick, easy, and cheap.

FAQ: “How can I answer questions about my leaving the Mormon church?”:   Questions often asked of new Exmormons by their Mormon friends and relatives, with suggested answers.   (14 K)

10/1/05 – updated:Growth of Mormonism with quotes from a recent Salt Lake Tribune article debunking the Mormon church’s claim to be “the fastest growing religion in the world”   (40 K)

8/03/05 – added:The Book of Mormon vs Mormonism     Many people assume that by reading the Book of Mormon one can learn about the Mormon religion. But Mormon doctrine is not based on this book, which often ignores or even contradicts what Mormons believe today, as this overview shows.

7/31/05 – added:The Mormon Church vs The New Testament Church     Mormons claim that the Mormon church is a restoration of the church established by Jesus and his apostles, and cite their similarities as proof. However there are more differences than similarities.     (11K)

7/30/05 – added:A Visit With A Perfect Mormon Family     A non-Mormon woman reports on her three-week visit with her childhood friend, the mother of a “perfect” Mormon family.    (24K)

7/17/05 – added:Twelve Step Program For Recovery from Mormonism   An adaptation of the famous Alcoholics Anonymous “Twelve Steps” for use by recovering Mormons; by Matthew P. Barnson and Richard Packham

FMA: “Describe the taste of salt!”   Mormons often assert that their testimony cannot be described, like salt.

6/9/05 – added:“How can we know when information is from Satan?”   Devout Mormons often reject any criticism of Mormonism by saying that the criticism comes from Satan, who is trying to defeat God’s work (Mormonism). Is that a valid argument? How can we tell when the source of information is Satan?    (18K)

3/21/05 – added:“Unasked Questions About Mormonism”    A few puzzling questions about Mormonism that nobody seems to have asked.

1/28/05 – added:Text of the January 2005 changes in the secret Mormon temple ceremony
(the article on Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals has also been updated to reflect the changes

1/20/05 – added:FAQ: “What about faith?”    A response to religionists’ arguments that religious faith is no different from our “faith” in science or history     (18K)

12/14/04 – added:Review of Natalie R. Collins novel Wives and Sisters, set in present-day Utah

My review of the Book of Mormon on the occasion of the publication of a “trade edition” by Doubleday

8/07/04 – available off-site:An ITALIAN translation.of the “investigator’s tract” (“To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism”), translated by Eduardo Calabrese.

6/17/04 – added:The Oliver Granger Prophecy   An article by Mormon apologist Stan Barker and my rebuttal.

 Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

Richard Packham

Richard Packham

MIRROR SITES and ARCHIVES: This site has occasionally become temporarily unavailable because of heavy traffic.   Therefore, I have created a few mirror sites.   If you bookmark this page, you may wish to bookmark the mirror sites as well: http://packham.110mb.comhttp://packham.n4m.org/ and http://home.teleport.com/~packham.   Since I am the webmaster at these sites, they will always be the latest versions.
This site is also archived at http://web.archive.org.   I apologize for the inconvenience.

To search this site or the web:

Google
 Web  packham.n4m.org

For a short introduction about who I am, click here.

Check “What’s New Here” for changes since your last visit.

Email me at   packham@teleport.com   with your comments. (But, please, no testimonies, preaching or hate mail.)

TOPICS ON THIS PAGE:

PERSONAL  |  MY FICTION & POETRY  |  RECIPESBIBLE & CHRISTIANITY  |  MORMONISM  |  REVIEWS, CRITIQUES, REBUTTALS
OTHER STUFF

PERSONAL:

A Short Personal Introduction.

My Autobiography    Only my dearest friends or most fervent enemies would want to know this much about me.    (109K – It’s so long because I’m so old!)

Stories From My Childhood    Stories that I heard as a child about my parents and grandparents, and stories that happened to me as a child. Some of them are funny.

How I Became an Atheist:   My reasons for not accepting a belief in any kind of god.

Growing Up In The Mortuary:    Thoughts on Death (not at all grim)

Why I Left the Mormon Church:    My story of how I came to realize that the faith of my fathers was false.     *sp*

My First Temple Experience (1952)    My receiving the Mormon “endowment” on my wedding day.

Tribute to Howard Packham:    The eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral.

Tribute to Delmar Packham:    The eulogy I gave at my mother’s funeral.

Traditional Baby Bootees – The pattern for the baby bootees that have been knitted in my family for several generations for our family’s newborns.

MY FICTION & POETRY:

Red Roses, White Roses: A Family Portrait;  An original drama, by Richard Packham. The premiere was in Roseburg, Oregon, November 1997.

Read the preview and the review of Red Roses published in the News-Review (the Roseburg, Oregon, newspaper) by its drama critic Tricia Jones (© 1997 Oregon News Network; reproduced with permission).

“The Ties That Bind” – a trilogy of original one-act plays by Richard Packham:

“Just Like Old Times” – Two lovers are reunited after many years (.PDF version)
“What Goes Around” – A married couple learn about their past (.PDF version)
“Your Soul, My Soul” – A wife makes an effort to save her husband’s soul (.PDF version)

Selected Sonnets    Everyone’s a poet, including me – I like the sonnet form.

A Parable:    The Man Who Bought A House.    Some people would rather not know the truth.    *sp*

Another Parable:    The Great Ship.    How many “explanations” are enough?

My Lucky Rabbit’s Foot:    A gentle parody on superstition, including religious superstition.

“Gus And His Friends, A Parable Drama”:    Gus is such a great guy – he wants everyone to be his friend, and he’ll kill you if you aren’t.

Translations of German Poetry     My translations of a few of my favorite German poems (and a few of my own German poems, with English translations).

RECIPES:

About Sourdough    An introduction to using sourdough starter in baking (includes easy instructions for making a starter).

Sourdough Recipes    A selection of about a dozen recipes for using sourdough: bread, muffins, pizza, French bread, hamburger buns, even flaky croissants.

Homemade Granola    A delicious, easy, and inexpensive dry cereal – the only one we eat at our house.

Pecan Pie    My own recipe for a nuttier, less rich version of this wonderful dessert.

Prune Bar Recipe The family recipe for our favorite “granola bar” type cookie, quick, delicious and easy (made available in response to popular request)

My own Recipe for home-made dog biscuits, quick, easy, and cheap.

Home-made Salad Dressings, including several low-calorie versions

Successful Weight Loss Plan   How I permanently lost 25% of my (overweight) body’s weight.

Fruitcake Recipes: several good recipes for this holiday treat (make in October!)

BIBLE & CHRISTIANITY:

How I Became an Atheist:   My reasons for not accepting a belief in any kind of god.

What Is An Atheist?:   To say that someone is an atheist is not an affirmative statement, because atheists are not a definable class.

Atheist Spirituality:    Can one be an atheist and still be “spiritual”?

Morality and Religion: Can we raise moral children without religion?

“Can Atheists Be Ethical?”     John Quinley’s rebuttal of an article on the Christian Apologetics website, which argued that atheists cannot be ethical.

FAQ: “What is the meaning or purpose of life for an atheist?”    As a Christian minister asked me: “Why not just kill yourself now?”

FAQ: “What about faith?”    A response to religionists’ arguments that religious faith is no different from our “faith” in science or history

“A New Baby – God’s Miracle?”     Brent Allsop argues that the miracle of a new baby shows the real cynicism of believers in God.

Bible Notes:    My research notes about the problems, contradictions, immoralities, and absurdities in the Bible (about 70 pages).

My Favorite Quotations on Religion:    a growing collection     (54K   – frequently updated)

God:  An Abusive Parent:    How the Christian/Bible God is like an abusive parent.

“Some Thoughts On Violence”, by Doug Ward; although written shortly after the Columbine school shootings in Spring 1999, the topic is timeless – published here for the first time with permission of the author.

Who Causes Disasters?:    Disasters are caused by God, according to the Bible.

Probabilities:    Using the favorite Christian device of estimates of probabilities, the chances that the Bible is true are almost zero.

Miracles:    Is it really so difficult to prove a miracle?   “The Man With No Heart: Miracles and Evidence

Prayer:    A critique of this essential element of most religions

The Evidence for Christianity:    Can Christianity’s claims withstand examination using the ordinary rules for evidence?

“The Truth Shall Make You Free: Proof, Evidence, and Lies” Text of the keynote address delivered at the seventh annual Exmormon Conference, Arlington, Virginia, April 2002

FAQ: What about Jesus?    “If Jesus wasn’t what he claimed to be, he must have been a madman, and he certainly wasn’t that!”

Martyrs: What Do They Prove?    FMA: “The martyrdom of Jesus’ apostles proves that Christianity is true.” No, martyrdom proves nothing.

Critique of John Warwick Montgomery’s Legal Evidences For Christianity:    Montgomery asserts that Christianity’s claims survive examination using the legal tests for evidence. He does this only by misstating and twisting the rules of evidence and the facts.

Christmas: a Christian Holiday?:    The pagan origins of “Christmas” – Let’s bring back its true meaning!

Easter – A Pagan Festival: The true meaning of Easter.

Is the United States a “Christian” Nation?   Some people contend that America was “founded on Christian principles.” What then are those principles?

Headline:   GOVERNMENT APPROVES FAITH: Did you miss this news story?

My Lucky Rabbit’s Foot:    A gentle parody on superstition, including religious superstition.

“Gus And His Friends, A Parable Drama”;    Gus is such a great guy – he wants everyone to be his friend, and he’ll kill you if you aren’t.

Critique of Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Christ

Books & Web Links:    Books and links to other web sites dealing with the Bible and Christianity.

MORMONISM:

Brodie Award:“Best Static Website
on LDS Issues in 2009”

Some of the following materials on Mormonism are being translated into Spanish. Spanish versions are indexed here and marked below with *sp*. Click on the *sp* to see the Spanish version. Portuguese translations (all offsite) of some articles are also available, marked with *po*. Click on the *po* for Portuguese.

Collected Comments on my Mormonism materials:    I receive a lot of comments, both favorable and unfavorable. These are comments that I have received during the year 2000.

Comments Received, Summer 2006 – E-mail comments on my Mormon materials, received in June and July, 2006 (typical in volume and tone of what I receive year-round)

Why I Left the Mormon Church:    My story of how I came to realize that the faith of my fathers was false.     *sp*

My Testimony   Response to a request for a submission to the website Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify.

Mormonism in a Nutshell:    A very concise (and blunt) introduction to Mormonism. *sp*

An Introduction to Mormonism:    To Those Who Are Investigating Mormonism: What the Missionaries Won’t Tell You. This is an excellent summary of basic Mormon beliefs, with links to many websites showing the contradictions in Mormon history and doctrine.     *sp*

For a German translation of this tract (offsite), click here.
For a Finnish version (offsite), click here.
For a Portuguese version (offsite), click here.
For a Russian version (offsite), click here.
For an Italian version (offsite), click here.
For a Danish version (offsite), click here.
For a Spanish version, click here.
For a Chinese version (offsite), click here for traditional Chinese, or here for simplified Chinese
A Korean version is available here (offsite)

A Glossary of Mormonism    Many non-Mormons have difficulty in reading about Mormonism because of the many unusual terms used by Mormons. Mormons also use familiar terms in unusual ways. This listing is intended to explain the special Mormon meanings of these terms. *po*

Leaving the Mormon Church: How to Get Out:    For Mormons who have come to realize they cannot continue – options available; detailed suggestions about how to write an effective “exit letter”

Mormonism Quiz     A series of interactive multiple-choice quizzes to test your knowledge of Mormon history, doctrine and scripture.

101 Reasonable Doubts about Mormonism – Mormon claims should be supported by evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Is there a “reasonable doubt”? Yes, not just one, but over a hundred.

“Is The Book Of Mormon Historical?”   Submission for an online debate at the website Public Square, which wants to conduct a debate on Mormon issues.

FAQs and FMAs on Mormonism:    Frequently Asked Questions and Frequently Made Arguments.

“All your anti-Mormon claims are lies!”:    My challenge to Mormons who say that my Mormon materials are misleading. *sp*

Are Mormons Christian?   Many Christians insist that Mormons are not Christian.   Is this an accurate assessment?

“Do the Mormon leaders know that their church is false?”     There is so much evidence showing that Mormon claims are false. Don’t the leaders realize it?

“Why don’t you pray and ask GOD?”    – Mormons claim that you should not reject Mormonism and the Book of Mormon unless you ask God.

“I’m in love with a Mormon!”:    “I’m not Mormon, but I am in love with this wonderful Mormon! What should I do?”

“Help! The Mormons have my child!”   Suggestions in response to many pleas from non-Mormon parents whose children (usually teen or young adult) have gotten involved with the Mormons.

“I am married to a Mormon spouse – What can I do?”

– Examining Mormonism using a standard ‘cult’ checklist.

“Can I Sue The Church?”    When Mormons leave the church, they soon remember all the time and money they spent, and they feel defrauded. Why not sue?

“Why do you attack the Mormons?”    “Why not just leave the Mormons alone? It’s not right to disparage someone else’s religion.” *po*

“Why are you breaking your sacred covenants?”:    Mormons believe that a “covenant-breaker” (apostate) should not be trusted.

“Even if Mormonism isn’t true, it makes me a better person!”    *sp*

“Isn’t Mormonism a good way to raise children, whether it’s true or not?”    *sp*

“Why do you mock sacred things?”    The re-enactment of parts of the Mormon temple ritual at an exmormon conference raises this question.

“How can I answer questions about my leaving the Mormon church?”:   Questions often asked of new Exmormons by their Mormon friends and relatives, with suggested answers.

Mormon Growth:    Does the rapid growth of Mormonism show that Mormonism is God’s church?

How Many Ex-Mormons Are There?   An analysis of membership numbers shows that there are more Ex-Mormons than there are Mormons.

Persecution of Mormonism:    “The True Church has always been persecuted, and your persecution of Mormonism is just evidence of its truth” *sp* (This material appeared previously under FMA: Growth of the Mormon Church

Joseph Smith as Author of the Book of Mormon:    “I can’t explain how Joseph Smith could have written the Book of Mormon; therefore it must be divine!”

The “Three Witnesses” To The Book of Mormon:    Three men solemnly testified that an angel appeared to them and showed them the gold plates. Even though they all later left the church, they never denied that vision. *sp*

Books For Mormons    FAQ: “What can I give my Mormon friends or relatives to read that will start them thinking? They refuse to read anything ‘anti-Mormon'”: A suggested list of books that Mormons might be willing to read: they are not forbidden “anti-Mormon” books.

Critiques of Other Religions    “Why don’t you criticize other religions besides Mormonism?” A response, with links to critiques of other “true” religions.

“How can we know when information is from Satan?”   Devout Mormons often reject any criticism of Mormonism by saying that the criticism comes from Satan, who is trying to defeat God’s work (Mormonism). Is that a valid argument? How can we tell when the source of information is Satan?

FMA: “Describe the taste of salt!”   Mormons often assert that their testimony cannot be described, like salt.

Joseph Smith as a Prophet:    Mormons believe he was a “prophet of God.” Examine the record for yourself.     *po* *sp*

Mormon Prophets After Joseph Smith     Unlike the presidents of the mainstream Mormon church since Joseph Smith, who rarely have visions or revelations, and do not translate ancient documents or produce new scripture, as Smith did, there have arisen many prophets from Mormonism who have claimed to perform those divine functions, just like Smith. A brief listing and description of some of thesereal prophets.

The Articles of Faith – with my commentary

The Book of Mormon vs Mormonism     Many people assume that by reading the Book of Mormon one can learn about the Mormon religion. But Mormon doctrine is not based on this book, which often ignores or even contradicts what Mormons believe today, as this overview shows.

Teachings of Brigham Young:    The LDS church’s official study manual on Brigham Young’s teachings is a gross distortion of his life and his beliefs. This is a supplement to that official manual, with quotations from Brigham Young that the church did not include, for obvious reasons.

Mormon Lying:    Lying by Mormon leaders and official Mormon publications has characterized this church from its beginnings. Some very clear and indisputable examples, comparing the Lie and the Truth (factual, not theological).    *po* *sp*

Major Contradictions in Mormonism:    A sampling of contradictory scriptures and statements by Mormon prophets. Which one is “true”? *po*

A Linguist Looks At Mormonism: Notes on Linguistic Problems in Mormonism.

“or, in other words”: A collection of Book of Mormon passages which show that it cannot be a translation of engravings on metal plates (a supplement to the above article)

The Mormon Church vs The New Testament Church     Mormons claim that the Mormon church is a restoration of the church established by Jesus and his apostles, and cite their similarities as proof. However there are more differences than similarities.

“The Jerusalem Temple vs the Mormon Temples”     Mormons claim that their temples are in the tradition of the ancient Jewish temple. A brief comparison shows that this claim has no basis.

Jaredite Shipbuilding Technology by Kent Ponder, Ph. D. – a detailed analysis of the account in the Book of Mormon about the Jaredite ships: Does it really make sense?

Romans and Nephites   A listing of similarities between the ancient Romans and their contemporaries in America, the Nephites

Problems With “The Brass Plates”   An examination of the role of the Brass Plates of Laban in the Book of Mormon, with questions about the believability of the story.

Unasked Questions About Mormonism    A few puzzling questions about Mormonism that nobody seems to have asked.

Twelve Step Program For Recovery from Mormonism   An adaptation of the famous Alcoholics Anonymous “Twelve Steps” for use by recovering Mormons; by Matthew P. Barnson and Richard Packham

Response to Orson Scott Card’s article on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon (“The Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?”)    Although Card is a devout Mormon (and well-known author), he unwittingly gives us the very tools to recognize the Book of Mormon as a work of fiction.

Critique of an article by Mormon apologist William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon”   Hamblin’s article suffers from most of the problems he accuses the “anti-Mormons” of – a case of the pot calling the kettle black

The Mormon Church In Prophecy.    Mormons claim that their church was seen in Biblical prophecy. Here are some prophecies of Mormonism that the Mormons won’t mention.

Mormon Temples and Temple Rituals:    An overview of the secret Mormon temple rituals, including all the secret passwords, handclasps and oaths needed for entrance into the presence of God.    *sp*

A lecture based on this article was videotaped and can be viewed either here (on Google Video) or here (on YouTube).

Freemasonry and the Mormon Temple Endowment Ceremony   A tabular listing of similarities between the three degrees of 1830s Masonry and the early Mormon Endowment ritual

Mormon Temples: Facts The Mormons Probably Don’t Want You To Know.    The text of a brochure prepared for distribution at the open house for the Medford (Oregon) temple, March 2000. This can be modified and printed for distribution at any temple open house. (A shorter introduction to temples than the previous article)

My First Temple Experience (1952)    My receiving the Mormon “endowment” on my wedding day.

My Temple Experience, by a Former Temple Worker: A first-hand account by a devout Mormon (a guest author) whose disillusionment with Mormonism began when he worked in the Manti temple.    *sp*

Adventure in the Temple: Five people attend an endowment session in a Mormon Temple. All are apostates, and therefore “unworthy.” How? Why?

“Why do you mock sacred things?”    The re-enactment of parts of the Mormon temple ritual at an exmormon conference raises this question.

The 1978 Revelation on Blacks and the Priesthood:    Now published! The 1978 revelation to the Mormon prophet, changing the church policy on blacks, is here published for the first time!    (13K, in three parts)

The Ex-Mormon’s Skeptical Heritage:    Those who leave Mormonism are in a great tradition:  the tradition of the doubters and skeptics, who have given us our intellectual heritage. From a workshop at the annual Recovery From Mormonism convention, February 1999

Gordon B. Hinckley as a Prophet:    Mormons believe that the late president of the LDS church was a prophet, just like Joseph Smith. Hinckley seems to disagree with Smith.

Voices of Former Mormons:    A collection of comments made by former Mormons in e-mail discussions about their experiences; very candid.        More at Voices 2     Voices 3    Voices 4    Voices 5  andVoices 6.

Cause of Death:  Mormonism   a very moving story by a young woman whose husband was literally killed by his devout belief in Mormonism.

A Mormon Scientist Looks At The Solar System:    A review of John Heinerman’s People in Space, with supporting quotations from Mormon prophets and scriptures.

Welcome To The Celestial Kingdom!    Mormons believe that in heaven they will become gods and create their own worlds; this is (perhaps) the welcoming message they will receive when they get there (gently satiric).

Mormon Thinking: An Example of How Mormons Justify their Faith, by Linda Heinsohn

Animal Resurrection in the Teachings of Mormon Prophets – compiled by “Deconstructor” with commentary by Richard Packham

Correspondence With a Mormon Bishop:   A Mormon bishop who found my website takes the opportunity to bait me ‘to show [my] true colors.’ He dares me to post our correspondence. Of course, I do, with my comments. An interesting example of how Mormons react when their religion is challenged.

“The Seventeen Points of the True Church”:    An effective missionary tool of the Mormon church is this list of characteristics of the church established by Jesus.

A Parable:    The Man Who Bought A House.    Some people would rather not know the truth.

Another Parable:    The Great Ship.    Mormons can “explain” many of the critics’ objections to Mormon history and doctrine. Are all the “explanations” enough?

My Lucky Rabbit’s Foot:    A gentle parody on superstition, including religious superstition.

A Mormon Warning: A Story from Early Utah – an authentic piece of oral history, published here for the first time.

A Letter to a Mormon Bishop:   A dear friend of mine who is a Mormon bishop (pastor) asks me for advice on how he can prevent apostasy among his members. And I, the apostate, try to help him!

“Mormon Women, Prozac, and Therapy” by Kent Ponder, Ph.D.    A report based on several years’ research and numerous interviews with Mormon women, social workers and doctors. Dr. Ponder, a life-long Mormon, vividly shows the emotional damage which Mormonism can inflict on women, and why.

Families Held Hostage by Arza Evans: the false pro-family claims of the Mormon church

Response to LDS Church’s Explanation of its Opposition to Gay Marriage   The church launched a massive campaign supporting California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constutition to bar gay marriage

A Visit With A Perfect Mormon Family     A non-Mormon woman reports on her three-week visit with her childhood friend, the mother of a “perfect” Mormon family.

Odyssey: The Journey Continues    My keynote address at the fifth annual Exmormon conference, held February 24, 2001, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“The Truth Shall Make You Free: Proof, Evidence, and Lies”    Text of my keynote address delivered at the seventh annual Exmormon Conference, Arlington, Virginia, April 2002.

“Reflections of an Old Apostate”    Text of my address delivered at the annual Conference of the Exmormon Foundation, October 22, 2005, Salt Lake City, Utah.

“The Everlasting Gospel In The Ever-changing Church”: Text of a talk Ipresented at the annual conference of the Exmormon Foundation, October 15, 2011, in Salt Lake City.

Visiting The Sacred Sites of Mormonism:    My visit to Carthage, Nauvoo, Independence and Salt Lake City; including a report about the Ex-Mormon General Conference held in Salt Lake City in October 2001, as well as a message from God.

Suggested Books On Mormonism For Library Donations:    For those who want to help others out of Mormonism, a relatively small donation to a local library can make a large difference.

Review of Sharon Banister’s book For Any Latter-day SaintOne Investigator’s Unanswered Questions –    highly recommended as the best one-volume tool for demonstrating the contradictions of Mormonism.

Review of The William E. McLellin Papers, edited by Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey, 2007 (review originally appeared in the April 2008 “The New Expositor,” the newsletter of the Exmormon Foundation)

Review of Charles R. Harrell, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology

Review of No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light On Sensitive Issues Robert L. Millet, ed.     A major collection of Mormon apologetic essays

Critique of Craig Foster’s article on ‘Understanding’ Exmormons in the on-line Mormon magazine Meridian Magazine

Book review of Book of Mormon Book of Lies by Meredith R. Sheets and Kendal M. Sheets (2012)

“Lehi In The Pacific: Powerful New Evidence for the Historicity of the Book of Mormon” by L. Dwayne Samuelson, with my commentary

Questions for Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney     Romney is trying to convince Christians that his religious beliefs are like theirs, and thus he should have their support. Those people do not know what they should be asking the Mr. Romney – here are some suggestions, not only for Christians, but for journalists.

“Romney’s Mormon Secrets”:     Why doesn’t Romney want to discuss his faith? Because it is secret!

“Recovery from Mormonism”:    (off-site) Eric Kettunen’s excellent site for Mormons who are beginning to wonder what they are doing in this church, and for former Mormons who are trying to adjust to using their own minds and controlling their own lives.

For a similar site in German, click here.
For a Finnish language site, click here
For a Japanese language site, click here
For a Korean language site, click here.

Books and Links on Mormonism.

For a very complete list of other websites critical of Mormonism, see Google’s ranked listing HERE.

REVIEWS, CRITIQUES, REBUTTALS:

The Five Thousand Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen. Skousen claims that the basic principles of good government (and the American system) are derived from God and the Bible. I show how he fails to make his case.

Critique of John Warwick Montgomery’s Legal Evidences For Christianity:    Montgomery asserts that Christianity’s claims survive examination using the legal tests for evidence. He does this only by misstating and twisting the rules of evidence and the facts.

The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel

People in Space:    by John Heinerman. A Mormon scientist looks at the solar system, with supporting quotations from Mormon prophets and scriptures.

Science Speaks by Peter Stoner.    Stoner makes much of estimates of probabilities to support the miracles of the Bible. Applying the same technique, I show that the chances that the Bible is true are almost zero.

Creationist Videos: My notes on three videos lent to me by a Christian friend to convince me that “creationism,” the “young earth” view, and a literal belief in the biblical Flood are all scientifically valid.

Review of the book by Walter J. Veith The Genesis Conflict: Putting the Pieces Together   – Dr. Veith is a former evolutionist, a scientist who became a “young earth” creationist and biblical inerrantist.

For Any Latter-day Saint: One Investigator’s Unanswered Questions by Sharon Banister –    highly recommended as the best one-volume tool for demonstrating the contradictions of Mormonism.

Review of The William E. McLellin Papers, edited by Stan Larson and Samuel J. Passey, 2007 (review originally appeared in the April 2008 “The New Expositor,” the newsletter of the Exmormon Foundation)

Review of Charles R. Harrell, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology

Review of No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light On Sensitive Issues Robert L. Millet, ed.     A major collection of Mormon apologetic essays

Critique of Craig Foster’s article on ‘Understanding’ Exmormons in the on-line Mormon magazine Meridian Magazine

Review of The Mormon Conspiracy by Charles L. Wood, LLC, San Diego 2001 (not recommended!)

Book review of Book of Mormon Book of Lies by Meredith R. Sheets and Kendal M. Sheets (2012)

Response to Orson Scott Card’s article on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon (“The Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?”)    Although Card is a devout Mormon (and well-known author), he unwittingly gives us the very tools to recognize the Book of Mormon as a work of fiction.

Critique of an article by Mormon apologist William J. Hamblin, “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon”   Hamblin’s article suffers from most of the problems he accuses the “anti-Mormons” of – a case of the pot calling the kettle black

Response to LDS Church’s Explanation of its Opposition to Gay Marriage   The church launched a massive campaign supporting California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California Constutition to bar gay marriage

Review of Natalie R. Collins’ novel Wives and Sisters, set in present-day Utah

My review of the Book of Mormon on the occasion of the publication of a “trade edition” by Doubleday

My reviews of other books relating to Mormonism (reviews which I wrote for the Association For Mormon Letters) can be found on their website, where I am listed in their “reviewer” index.

OTHER STUFF

Traditional Baby Bootees – The pattern for the baby bootees that have been knitted in my family for several generations for our family’s newborns.

How To Divide Up Fairly The Personal Property In A Decedent Estate   Suggestions, based on my personal and legal experience, for avoiding the almost inevitable conflicts upon the death of the last parent.

 Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

Exmormon Conference

Exmormon Foundation 2012 Conference

“DISSIDENTS IN DESERET”

“As the healing continued, I found a new person hiding beneath the splintered diamonds of my personality. Integrating the facets of these troubled pieces of myself came as I understood that I no longer had to walk the trail of tears from the past. I could at last be free to choose my path. It was all such a marvelous discovery-this freedom of mind, this tranquility, this peace.” –Carol Rutz

October 19-21, 2012
Double Tree Suites (formerly Embassy Suites)
Salt Lake City, Utah

Please join us for our annual Exmormon Foundation Conference. The Conference will start at 6:30 on Friday evening, and finish at 1:00 PM on Sunday.

Conference Program

Friday

  • 4:30-6:30PM Registration, dinner on your own
  • 6:30-7:30PM Social Hour, Cash Bar
  • 7:30-8:00PM Welcome, Introduction and Greetings: Sue Emmett, Foundation President; Conference Chair
  • 8:00-10:00PM Open Mic for Conference Attendees
  • 10:00-1:00AM Hospitality Room and Socializing Time

Saturday

Sunday

Mormon Stories

Los Angeles Mensa Discusses Temples and Family History Centers

Remember when I was asked to speak to Mensa in the Los Angeles area about topics related to Mormonism?

Last year, I wrote about that experience and posted recordings from that presentation to this website. Well, that talk was such a success that they asked me to come back and speak to them again, and rather than trying to cover the entire playing field like I did the year before, this time I focused on temples and family history, which is something I barely mentioned in the talk from 2006.

The talk, incidentally, took place on Saturday, February 17, 2007 in Los Angeles. Shortly before that, Simon Wiesenthal’s name had appeared in the IGI, and was subsequently removed, and I used that event as a springboard for the presentation I gave.

Before I go much further, I should reiterate that Mensa does not endorse The Exmormon Foundation, and officially holds no opinions, and that neither Mensa nor the Foundation is responsible for my remarks at the Mensa gathering. I am solely responsible for what I said there.

Once again, I recorded the whole presentation. The recording of the main presentation is available here:

I also have a recording of the question and answer period which followed, which lasts for about 45 minutes. That recording isn’t on this website, so if you’re anxious to hear it, please contact me directly.

While preparing and presenting this talk, I felt that it was important to respect the beliefs of our Mormon believing friends and family members by not revealing keywords, signs and tokens, although I did mention that the purpose of the endowment is to present those things to participants so that they can pass by the angels who stand as sentinels in heaven. I mention this so that you’ll know in advance the level of detail that you’ll get from this recording. I don’t want you to be surprised, listening to this talk, that I don’t spell out the keywords, signs and tokens, in case that’s what you were expecting, because that wasn’t my intent.

A number of web addresses were mentioned in that presentation. For reference, here they are again:

  • The article “Mormons ‘baptize’ Simon Wiesenthal” was at http://jta.org/ at the time I gave the presentation, but I don’t see it there now.
  • “Mormons remove Wiesenthal from baptism database” by K. Connie Kang appeared in the Los Angeles Times on December 19, 2006; however, now that it’s been archived, you have to register to read it.
  • “Wiesenthal’s name is off LDS database” by Elaine Jarvik and Wendy Leonard appeared in the Deseret News on the same day.
  • “The Mormon/Jewish Controversy: What Really Happened” by Gary Mokotoff appears onhttp://www.avotaynu.com/mormon.htm and is fascinating reading and highly recommended.
  • One member of the audience asked me for Richard Packham’s article on the growth statistics of the Mormon Church. I wasn’t expecting that to come up during the presentation, so I didn’t have it readily at hand, but it’s available at http://packham.n4m.org/growth.htm
  • Like I say, I didn’t go into much detail about the content of the endowment, although I mentioned that people who are interested in those details can find them on the Internet. One such source is at http://lds-mormon.com/compare.shtml.

I also briefly presented a number of web addresses in my PowerPoint slides:

As before, I welcome questions, comments and corrections regarding anything I had to say in that recording. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you’ll let me know what you thought of it.

Brian Madsen, Treasurer

How to Resign from the Mormon Church

A frequently-searched term here on exmormonfoundation.org is “resign from church” or “resigning from the church”. Here are some resources to help you in your quest to leave the Mormon church.

By linking to a site, we are not promoting or endorsing the content therein. Often, sites educating about Mormonism are also promoting a competing religious agenda. As a non-sectarian Foundation, we are not promoting any religion, philosophy, or political standpoint.

Dear Readers,

We’re trying something new out here at the Exmormon Foundation: presenting articles and stories of general interest to the community of people in transition from Mormonism. This is the first in the series.

I originally wrote these twelve steps as a bit of a joke. Then, as I re-wrote them, distributed them, and Richard published them on his web site, I realized that they had become something more: some good, non-sectarian advice for struggling through recovery. Those familiar with the twelve-step program of other organizations will notice something missing from these steps. There is no assertion of any particular religion. I found that directly adapting existing suggestions failed when approached in a non-sectarian fashion, and I think this is, at this point, a pretty good summary of some of the steps people go through when recovering.

I hope you enjoy them. Suggestions of changes are welcome.

Talking points:

  • Do you think all of the twelve steps are essential for recovery?
  • Do you think you experience these steps once, or repeatedly?
  • What do you think are the differences between recovering from Mormonism and recovering from addictions?

Twelve-Step Program For Recovery From Mormonism

Thousands of people suffering from the devastation of alcoholism have been helped by following the “Twelve Steps” developed by Alcoholics Anonymous. Many other programs dealing with recovery from drug addiction, over-eating, and other addictive behaviors have adapted AA’s Twelve Steps. Those leaving Mormonism usually are dealing with similar problems of recovery, and the following is an adaptation of the Twelve Steps for help in recovering from Mormonism.

 

  1. I admit that I am powerless to change the fact that I have been Mormon for a good part of my life, whether because I was born to Mormon parents, or because I voluntarily converted.
  2. I realize that I have within me the power to free myself from the harmful part of my Mormon past (with the help of a higher power if I believe in one), and that I am no longer bound by promises or covenants which I was induced to make based on the false promises of Mormonism.
  3. I make to myself a firm promise to listen in the future only to reason, rationality, and factual evidence in making decisions about how I should live my life, rejecting all emotional appeals, guilt-inducing threats, myths, pretty stories, promises of castles in the air, and superstition.
  4. I make a searching and fearless moral and intellectual inventory of myself with the purpose of recognizing in myself those weaknesses which induced me to remain Mormon for so long.
  5. I itemize (preferably in writing) to myself and to a trusted loved one (and to a higher power if I believe in one) the specific reasons why I can no longer be Mormon.
  6. I make the decision to do what is right, and to accept whatever the consequences may be for acknowledging the truth and living accordingly.
  7. I begin working through each of my Mormonism-related problems of mind, body, relationships, and (if I believe in such a thing) spirit.
  8. I make a list of those for whom it would be important to know of my decision and the changes I am making in my life, and prepare myself emotionally to discuss my decision with them all, realizing that many may react with hurt, anger, emotional outbursts, or other unpleasantness.
  9. I discuss my decision with them (except in those cases where I think it would cause greater harm to do so than not) in a calm, friendly and loving way, without argument.
  10. I continue to take personal inventory, and where I find artifacts of Mormonism, I carefully consider whether they should continue to be a part of my life, or whether I should discard them.
  11. I seek out truth wherever I can find it, whether religious or secular.
  12. Having had an awakening and renewal as the result of these steps, I try to be helpful to other recovering or doubting Mormons, and to practice these principles in all of my affairs.

-By Matt B and Richard Packham

The Big Lie by Richard Packham

A recent newspaper article in the Sacramento [California] Bee reporting on the groundbreaking for the new Mormon temple there mentioned that the church is “among the fastest-growing religions” in America. Another recent article in the Wall Street Journal about the open house at the new temple in Manhattan also referred to the growth of the church in similar terms.

It seems to be a pattern.

I did an internet search for the term “fastest growing church” with “mormon” and got 837 hits, roughly half of them from pro-Mormon sites (the other half seemed to be trying to disprove the Mormon claim). But a search for “fastest growing church” produced almost twice as many hits. Does this mean that people can talk about the “fastest growing church” and NOT mention the Mormons?

Where do journalists get the idea that the Mormon church is “among the fastest-growing religions” in America? From the church, of course. A visit to the official website of the church at http://www.lds.org, and a click on “For the media”, followed by a search for the phrase “fastest growing” will produce the numerous press releases from the church itself where this claim is made. Unfortunately, journalists apparently assume that the church is telling the truth.

What are the facts?

According to figures published by the U.S. Census Bureau reporting the number of Americans who identify themselves as adherents to the various religions in 2001, and comparing those figures with data from 1990, the Mormon church in America had a growth of 12% during that period. That rate was the same rate as the growth of the Presbyterians (who do not have a full-time missionary force proselytizing in the U.S.). The Roman Catholic church increased at almost the same rate, at 11%, also without a massive American missionary effort.

But the Mormon growth rate pales into insignificance compared to the increase during that period of some other religions: Church of Christ 48%, Assembly of God 68%, Eastern Orthodox 28%, Mennonite 47%,
Unitarian-Universalist 25%, Scientology 22%.

The real “fastest growing religions” in America? Not the Mormons! How about the Disciples of Christ at 242%, Quakers 223%, Bahai 200%? Even the category “no religion” beats out the Mormons, increasing by 109%. The truly fastest growing religion in America? The Wiccans, at 1575%!

But the church obviously follows the advice of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister: If you tell a big enough lie and tell it often enough, soon it will be accepted as the truth.

One of the important goals of the Exmormon Foundation is to counter such Mormon myths. Unfortunately, the Mormon church has the funds to pay an outside public relations firm. The Foundation must rely entirely on membership dues and donations. We may be the David against the Goliath, but we have to fight the Big Lie.

A Review of Julia Sweeney’s Production, Letting Go of God

The beauty of this world, the complex nature of man and the intricacies of our human experience were masterfully encapsulated in a recent performance by Julia Sweeney in her now famous, “Letting Go of God.” I had wanted to see this production for some time, and when word came to me that she was going to be performing in the nearby Sodom and Gomorrah of Utah, even Park City, I had to go.

Finding my seat next to a very dear friend, the performance began, and I found myself engrossed in Julia’s journey from ardent believer to a rejecter of all things metaphysical, better known in faith-filled circles as an atheist. Her story was poignant, touching and thought provoking, leaving me feeling very connected to her story and journey. It was hard not to notice the many parallels in my own life, which led her from her faith and firm conviction of deity to expressing a rejection of her former heavenly friend and constant companion.

Hers was not an easy journey. It was not a simple renouncement and moving on to other views and opinions, it was a journey fraught with challenge, difficulty, sadness, uncertainty, courage and humor. However, in the end, she dared to go where few are willing to tread. She looked outside of herself, her faith and community and into the world and minds and faiths of others and found her own path despite the personal cost to her family, faith and personal comfort.

I revel in the courage of those who forge their own paths in life. I draw encouragement and comfort from the experiences of those who have gone before into the unknown and returned colored with the patina of experience, wisdom and growth. Julia in her own way conveyed that message through humor and passion which left me feeling confident and comforted in our shared experiences on the path of independence and mental liberty.

In a final segment of Julia’s monologue, she comes to the realization that there may not be a god in charge of this world, and through her fear of that notion began to question what that meant for her and for the world at large. “No one is in charge!” “No one is minding the store!” “We are on our own!!” were just some of the thoughts she expressed regarding this new found concept. She then turned her thoughts to her own existence and the very real possibility that when she dies, there will be nothing more of her that goes on following this existence. There would be no more Julia, she would cease to be and that was that.

My companion turned to me and said, “This is very hard for me to hear. I don’t know what to think of this. It’s just so hard to comprehend and accept that when I’m dead, there will be no more me.” The pain of dissonance on this issue has bothered me as well, but in the end, we are left with the understanding that there is nothing we can do to know one way or the other on this subject until we find ourselves staring out into the great beyond where a further existence awaits or that nothing more than the comforting silence of oblivion. Either way at that time, we will be certain one way or another.

Julia further expressed, “Life is so cheap and so precious” which struck me as the most important statement of her performance. Life is so very fleeting. So very brief, so incredibly precious and rare. The beautiful and profound words of Carl Sagan come to mind which he expressed regarding this little oasis of life we call earth,

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

A picture of the Pale Blue Dot can be found here:http://www.humanistsofutah.org/images/PaleBlueDot.jpg

Tears well up in my eyes as I read those words. The profundity of that statement and the weight it carries should not be ignored in my opinion.

I find myself in the non-religious camp of agnosticism. I feel most comfortable with that approach to life, leaving all ideas and concepts open for scrutiny and observation. My world is far different from those perceived sun filled days of my Mormon existence, where thought, debate and inquiry were not required. Where a life on autopilot was celebrated, and deceptions were actively embraced.

Now I comfortably stand at the edge, peering into the depths and feeling peace.

– by Chad Spjut

Free Speech and Excommunication

The Dichotomy of two Mormon Values

by Ray Anderson – November 2007

It is somewhat ironic that the LDS church, whose membership overwhelmingly embraces democratic ideals, especially the freedom of speech, would excommunicate a member for expressing dissenting views or writing on controversial issues concerning church history or doctrine. Even at church-owned BYU, students are introduced to the scientific process and are taught to weigh evidence, consider alternative view points, think clearly, communicate effectively, and argue persuasively. Though these students will use these critical thinking skills throughout their lives to examine and make sense of the world around them, they will likely never apply them to their own religion. Sadly, seeking truth aboutthe church and seeking the “church’s truth” have proven to be two different things.

Instead of welcoming debate and embracing honest dialogue concerning its rich history, the modern LDS Church has been conspicuously quiet about anything controversial. For many devout but conflicted members, the silence is deafening. There is no official forum for such discussion – no publication where the church openly confronts, confirms, or refutes information that challenges the historical and doctrinal underpinnings of its faith. The church provides its members with no tangible defenses against the steady flow of evidence against its claims. Instead, it endeavors to comfort questioning members with all-to-familiar platitudes, such as “answers to any question can be found in the scriptures,” or “these things are ultimately a matter of faith, and require fasting and prayer to work through.” It is not uncommon to hear assurances from priesthood leadership that “anti-Mormon” publications should be avoided as they have no merit and will only deflate and discourage. Besides, they are the products of bitter, disaffected ex-Mormons with “axes to grind.”

True, we have ancillary organizations like the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies at BYU that confront controversial academic issues. They do not speak for the church, however. After wading through volumes of apologetic rhetoric from university scholars, the questioning member is still left to wonder what the brethren have to say about the issue at hand. He must be content with scholarly conjecture and hypothesis when what he needs is an official, definitive, and even inspired position from the church itself. Even so, FARMS offers the investigating mind years worth of reading material, but even a cursory examination of its publications will reveal a “defense of the faith” that is often transparently polemical in nature. Many of its book reviews are replete with character assassination and diversion while failing to adequately confront core arguments posited by the authors. Daniel C. Peterson, a highly respected representative of FARMS, has acknowledged and defended the use of polemics, exclaiming that he and his fellow scholars in the faith are engaged in a war for souls.

The Church may not defend itself through words, but it does try to protect itself through action. The most lethal tool the church has is excommunication, and although it is a procedure intended to be administered discreetly and locally, it has at times had all the stealth of a sonic boom. This was certainly the case as news leaked out about the many carefully coordinated, high-profile excommunications of Mormon scholars in the early nineties. This very public show of rigidity and intolerance left the press with no shortage of provocative material to write about. Their suspicions and outrage were only fueled further by the church’s move to restrict access to highly sensitive documents in the archives and to require certain patrons to sign agreements that gave the church the right to censor any materials leaving the property. Certainly, this was not only repugnant to a 1st Amendment-loving press, but also disconcerting for many members that for the first time began to wonder if the church actually had something to hide. If, as Boyd K. Packer has pointed out, the Lord’s hand has been felt at every turn in the church’s history, why not continue the open-door policy and let the past speak for itself? What could we possibly find down there that we could be ashamed of?

Apparently, that’s a question the church would rather not explore. Refusing to confront and addresscontent, it remains fixated on conduct. Excommunication for apostasy is the only real self-defense mechanism that the church seems to employ. It matters not if what the dissident is writing or saying rings true. He is a dissenter and that is enough! It is quite paradoxical that a membership whose social and civic values have been shaped largely by democratic institutions and processes would tolerate such authoritarian tactics. In any other setting, a typical Mormon would emphatically denounce this kind of abuse of power. For instance, he would likely be familiar with a legal system that allows its citizens to appeal a judge’s decision on the grounds that a law applied in his case is unconstitutional. The case would then be weighed in a court of appeals, and those judges would examine the constitutionality of the law itself and decide whether to uphold or reverse the original decision. In short, the citizen can confess that he is “out of line,” but also argue that the line should not be drawn where it is.

In a church court, however, the lines are drawn in concrete. The doctrines and narratives handed down to us from a string of inspired prophets and apostles are beyond reproach. There is no middle ground for the individual that challenges the historicity of the Book of Mormon but believes it to be inspired 19th century literature, for instance. If he dares to talk or write about his rebellious ideology, ecclesiastical scrutiny is sure to follow. He will no doubt be called into an interview and be enjoined from further digging, speaking, or writing. The fact that he might have a legitimate argument with mountains of evidence is irrelevant. The church simply won’t budge on his behalf. The decision is his – move in concert or move on.

To be fair, the LDS Church is a private organization and should have control over its own rules for membership. The church has the right to remove whom it will. Likewise, if members disapprove of anything at all, they should be free to leave, as they are. The problem is that many of its dissenting historians, scholars, and lay members don’t want to leave. They love the church, both for what it is and what it could be, and are fully integrated into its cultural and social structure. They still adhere to many of its values and beliefs, and wish to be active in its many worthwhile programs. But these members are forced to make a tough choice: Report the truth as they discover it and risk being cut off, or endure the disquieting effects of self-censorship and preserve full fellowship.

The church clearly allows the individual in question to make his choice. Ironically, though, the church has not granted itself this same freedom – the freedom to critically examine or redefine itself, even as waves of historical and scientific discovery beat at its door. Sadly, the church has backed itself into a corner and allowed little room for accommodation – 175 years of prophets and apostles have drawn their lines in the concrete! Simply put, the church has presented itself as a giant monolithic pillar of truth to be either wholly accepted or entirely rejected. As a result, it is not prepared to deal with members who view its history as a dynamic, intricate web of stories, developments, circumstances, conflicts, and flawed personalities that is both an inspiring piece of art and a mangled mess at the same time.

For the most part, the church is not willing to ask its members what they want their church to be (with the exception of the breakthrough temple survey in 1990 which resulted in the removal of several controversial elements in the endowment ceremony). Instead, members are constantly reminded that it is not their church – it’s the Lord’s church. He stands at the head of it, and he is an “unchangeable” being. An astute member may point out as many historical “changes,” embellishments, inconsistencies, misrepresentations, and outright fabrications as he wants, but if he is not careful, he may soon be doing so without his priesthood. The choice is his.

Other Articles by Ray Anderson

Evidence of Christianity?

To: [....]
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Evidence for Christianity
Cc: 
Bcc: 
X-Attachments: C:\TEMP\ANKRBERG.HTM;

Dear friends, 

  Some time ago a Christian friend forwarded to me, with copies
to some other Christian friends of mine, an excerpt from an
article at <http://www.ankerberg.com/>, called "The Quality of
Evidence for the Truth of Christianity."  I had already written
briefly about evidence (as it pertains to questions of religious
historicity) in an article that was published in the January
issue of "The Skeptical Review", at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/98/1/> under the
title "The Man With No Heart."

  I responded to my friend - he is good about disseminating
material, but not very good about responding to arguments -
saying that I would send him my response to the Ankerberg's
article if I could expect a response from him to my criticisms of
it.  He did not reply, but two others to whom he had sent the
article did volunteer rebuttals to my critique.  Because of their
courtesy, I am writing this evaluation of Ankerberg's article.  I
must apologize for its length, but I did not want to neglect any
of Ankerberg's main points.

  Rather than repeat the entire article here, I have attached it
in its original .HTM format.  Although my friend only sent me an
excerpt, I will deal with the entire part of the article that
discusses the evidence for Christianity (the first part of
Ankerberg's article deals with other matters).  

  I agree wholeheartedly with Ankerberg's initials premises,
which I will summarize:

  - If Christianity is God's religion, we can expect superior
evidence of its truth.   - The truth of Christianity must rest
"squarely on certain historical facts, open to ordinary
investigation"...   - ...based on a "jurisprudential approach"
using "legal standards of evidence" which have developed "as
essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in
society."   - [if God exists,] God "desires men to find him."

  My agreement with Ankerberg (and the Christian apologists whom
he quotes in support of his statements) is based on my own
training and experience in American and English law, and the laws
of evidence as used in all English-speaking jurisdictions.  (I am
a lawyer by training.  I also did graduate studies in ancient
literature and linguistics.)

  From that point on, however, Ankerberg begins to be in trouble
with the principles he outlined above, both the principles of
legal evidence and the principles of logical argument.

  He argues that the place to start, in examining the evidence
for the truth of various religions, is with Christianity, because
no other religion has "sustainable evidence" in its favor.  Not
only is the term "sustainable evidence" meaningless, either in
legal or logical terms, but his statement is a fallacious begging
of the question.  No matter - I am perfectly willing to begin
with Christianity.

  Ankerberg cites the following as evidence of the truth of "the
Bible and the Christianity based on it" (already making an
unwarranted conclusion which he has not yet established: that
Christianity is the only and necessary religion derived from the
Bible):

  - accurate and detailed prophecy in the Bible
  - scientific knowledge in the Bible as verified by later
scientific knowledge   
  - historical accuracy of the Bible as verified by later
historical research   
  - archaeological accuracy
  - philosophical and logical consistency
  - lack of internal contradiction despite multiple authorship

  My comments:

  PROPHECY:  Ankerberg discusses prophecy later in the article,
and I will delay my comments until then.

  SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE:  Ankerberg does not say what scientific
knowledge he is referring to here.  Most Christian apologists
acknowledge that the Bible must be forgiven great lapses in
scientific accuracy:  the age of the universe, the order of
creation of the universe (earth before stars), the geocentric
view, the contradictory order of creation of plants and animals
as described in Genesis, the causes of disease... to mention only
a few out of hundreds.  This is not the kind of scientific
knowledge which lends great weight to the evidence for the
scientific accuracy of the Bible.  For most people, the
scientific statements in the Bible indicate its origin in a
primitive, non-scientific mind, not in the mind of God.

  HISTORICAL ACCURACY and ARCHAOLOGICAL ACCURACY (the same
objection applies to both):  Although there is much historically
accurate information in the Bible, it cannot claim to be more
accurate than many other ancient records which make no claim to
divine origin.  And the Bible's accuracy in history and
archaeology is not perfect.  It contradicts itself frequently in
many facts; many of its historical statements are absurd and
unverified; and archaeology has contradicted a significant number
of its statements.  For examples (of many), consider the plagues
of Egypt, the presence of two million people in Sinai for forty
years, the destruction of Ai, the massacre of the innocents by
Herod, the contradictions in the censuses and genealogies, the
impossible increase in the number of Israelites during the
relatively brief time in Egypt, the mass emptying of the graves
of Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and many others. 
None of these have been confirmed, and many have been
contradicted, by historical and archaeological evidence.  I am
aware that Christian apologists have explanations for all these
(and other) apparent inaccuracies, but the mere fact that they
must be explained at all is weighty testimony that the evidence
is not the "superior evidence" that Ankerberg promised us.

  Even if the Bible's historical record - of kings' reigns,
battles, movements of peoples, etc., were accurate, and all the
places could be positively identified by archaeology, that is NOT
evidence that the miraculous events upon which Christianity is
based (e.g., the resurrection) actually occurred.  There is no
reason to accept the discovery of Lazarus' tomb or the City of Ur
as evidence that Lazarus rose from the dead or that Abraham was
visited by an angel of Jehovah.  Let me illustrate.

  If you visit Palmyra, New York, you will be shown the actual
grove where Joseph Smith had the vision of God the Father and God
the Son.  You will see the very Hill Cumorah where the Golden
Plates were buried, and the very bedroom in which Moroni appeared
to the Mormon Prophet.  These places have been identified
archaeologically and historically with close to 100% accuracy. 
Is that fact acceptable evidence to you that the events Smith
described actually occurred?  I think not.  Why not?  The
archaeological and historical evidence is exactly the same, or
even better, than the archaeological and historical evidence of
the Biblical events which are the basis for Christianity, and, I
submit, of just as little relevance.

  In other words, the historical and archaeological evidence for
the Bible's accuracy cannot, by its very nature, substantiate the
truth of any religion founded on it.  It is not the historically
verified fact that Pilate was procurator which is the basis for
Christianity, but the claim that Jesus rose from the dead and
ascended to heaven.

  The fallacy in the Christian claims which are based on this
assertion is an inversion of a valid objection to the Book of
Mormon:  there is no historical or archaeological substantiation
for the historicity of the Book of Mormon, therefore the Book of
Mormon must be false (a logically valid statement).  There ARE
evidences for the accuracy of some Biblical historical
statements, therefore the Bible (and all that it states) is true
(a logically fallacious statement).

  Although Ankerberg does not say this, I have heard other
Christian apologists say, "Much of the Bible has been proven
historically accurate, so therefore we can assume that it is 100%
accurate [including its absurd and miraculous elements]."  This
is a perversion of a very valid rule of evidence, namely, that we
may assume that a witness whose testimony is found false in any
one material matter may also be false in other parts, and we are
justified in discounting his testimony.  The rule as fallaciously
formulated by Christians seems to be that if the testimony is
true in some particulars, then we can assume that it is entirely
true.  If the logical absurdity of that formulation is not
obvious to you, then you and I are using different kinds of
thinking mechanisms.

  Because this kind of argument is so prevalent among Christian
apologists, let me illustrate with a hypothetical example. 
Suppose we have an ancient text, a chronicle of the kingdom of
Glog.  It lists the kings of Glog, the lengths of their reigns,
their wars with neighboring nations, the building of their
cities, over a period of several hundreds of years.  From the
chronicles of neighboring nations and from examining of
archaeological remains we are able to confirm some of these
mundane facts.  We are justified, then, in assuming that other,
similar, still unconfirmed statements are likely accurate.

  However, the chronicle also states that king Blik II of Glog,
in a war with the king of Moog, slew with his own hand, with no
aid from anyone else, between sun-up and sun-down, 50,000 Moogian
warriors.  Should we doubt the accuracy of that statement?  Of
course!  Even in light of the accuracy of other events which have
been confirmed from independent sources?  From our knowledge of
warfare we know that this is a physical impossibility.  We also
know that such "tall tales" are often invented to enhance the
fame of historical figures.  Of course we should doubt it.  We
should disbelieve it.  Would it help us to accept the story as
true if we were told that king Blik was aided in this superhuman
feat by the appearance of the great god Gamion?  No, that would
simply convince us that this event is a fictional exaggeration. 
Suppose this chronicle were offered to you as evidence of the
existence and power of the god Gamion.  Would you accept it then? 
I doubt it.  Then why should we accept similar tall tales in the
Bible as evidence of the existence and power of Jehovah?

  Suppose the chronicle also says that king Blik was so exhausted
that he died, and his body was embalmed and placed in its tomb,
but that, with ten thousand Glogians watching in awe, a host of a
thousand divine messengers descended from the sky, riding winged
elephants, and carried his body to heaven in a great light. 
Would you have the temerity to doubt the accuracy of that
account?  Even in light of the accuracy of other events which
have been confirmed from independent sources?  I would hope so! 
And yet Christians accept similar Bible tales because the Bible
contains other historically confirmed events.

  CONSISTENCY (Ankerberg lists consistency and lack of
contradiction as two items; I fail to see the difference, so I
will treat them together):  Here, again, the Christian apologist
makes the mistake of taking the reverse of a valid rule of
evidence and creating a new (but invalid) rule.  A valid rule of
evidence is that contradiction indicates falsity (or: lack of
consistency indicates falsity).  The reverse of that statement
(consistency indicates truth) is NOT a valid rule of evidence.  I
have some personal experience dealing with witnesses at trial who
told very complex stories that were very consistent. 
Nevertheless, the witnesses were lying.  The valid rule of
evidence, as I stated it above (contradiction indicates falsity),
is put to use with such lying witnesses by trying to get them to
make more and more statements in the hope that they contradict
themselves.  It is their contradiction that proves them to be
liars.  And only a few contradictions are enough to show that
they are lying.  If you cannot make them contradict themselves,
it does not prove they are telling the truth.  It only shows that
you have been unable to unmask them as liars.  In other words,
consistency in the Bible would not prove its truth.

  However, contradictions in the Bible would certainly indicate
its falsity.  This is even a test sanctioned by the Bible itself
(Mark 14:59).  And the Bible is full of contradictions -
numerical, genealogical, factual, and doctrinal.  Many of the
contradictions are not trivial, but deal with the basic claims
and doctrines of Christianity.  If there were no contradictions
and inconsistencies, as Ankerberg asserts, and if the Bible tells
a single, unified and obvious message, which should be clear to
any open-minded reader, then why, one may ask, is it necessary
for Christian apologists to write so many books that try to
explain the apparent contradictions?  There are dozens of such
books, listing thousands of apparent contradictions.  And why,
one may also ask, are there so many different interpretations of
Biblical statements, giving rise to hundreds of different
Christian sects?  Christianity itself refutes Ankerberg's claim
that that Bible's message is consistent and non-contradictory.

THE EVIDENCE

  Ankerberg selects two "lines of evidence" to support
Christianity:  prophecy and the resurrection.  He claims that
these two areas of evidence "meet the burden of proof necessary
to say 'This religion alone is fully true.'"  Let us turn to this
evidence.

PROPHECY: 

  A threshold objection is that even if several prophecies
reported in the Bible were verified, there is no logical reason
to conclude that the entire collection of Biblical books is of
divine origin.  If I found a record of a verified prophecy in a
book in the county library, that would not be grounds for
assuming that every book in the county library is divine. 
Ankerberg is arguing by assuming the conclusion (which is a
common fallacy among Christian apologists, namely, begging the
question):  the canon of the Bible is divinely inspired,
therefore if one book can be proven divine (or one event, or one
prophecy), that is evidence that the entire collection is divine. 

  Ankerberg also makes the false assertion that the only basis
possible for objecting to the validity of the Bible's prophecies
is a "philosophical (anti-supernatural) bias."  This is not an
accurate charge.  Although I can't presume to speak for all who
do not accept the validity of the Bible's prophecies, I'm sure I
speak for many when I say that I have no problem with recognizing
a truly valid prophecy, if there are any.  However, every
prophecy suggested by Christians (and other alleged prophecies)
fails to fulfill the criteria for what a valid prophecy should
look like.  The following criteria would seem to be fairly
reasonable:  

  A valid prophecy, it seems, would:

  - be uttered in such a way that its meaning is clearly intended
as a prophecy of the future; 

  - be verifiable beyond reasonable doubt as to the time of its
utterance (i.e. before the events which are claimed to be its
fulfillment);

  - be specific enough and unusual enough that its alleged
fulfillment could not have been reasonably guessed;

  - have some non-trivial purpose;

  - (especially if prophesying of more than one event) be
fulfilled in every particular by verifiable events.

  The problem for most of us critics of Bible prophecy is that we
have yet to have any Biblical prophecy confirmed as fulfilling
all those criteria.  Furthermore, Bible apologists seem to ignore
the many prophecies in the Bible which were NOT fulfilled, and
which cannot now be fulfilled.  As to unfulfilled prophecies,
apologists often suggest that "God's time is not man's time," and
that "someday" every prophecy will be fulfilled.  Not only is
that suggestion inapplicable to many unfulfilled prophecies,
which prophesied concerning people and places which no longer
exist, but it also allows every false prophet (like Joseph Smith,
for example) to claim the same courtesy of "wait and see"
regarding his own false prophecies.  To ask for validating
evidence (and to reject evidence which is not valid) is not anti-
supernatural bias, as Ankerberg suggests.  That is simply good
sense and good method.

  Ankerberg lists (but does not attempt to validate) the
following alleged prophecies, as evidence of the divine nature of
the Bible:

  - Isaiah 44:28-45:6, prophesying of Cyrus
  - Isaiah 9:6, 53:1-12, prophesying of the "specific nature and
death of the Messiah"   
  - Isaiah 39:5-7, the Babylonian captivity
  - Deuteronomy 28:64-66, a "1400 BC" prophecy which "hints at"
the Captivity   
  - Daniel's prophecies of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman
empires, which are prophesied "so clearly" that critics are
"forced" to date the book in 165 BC, "against all the evidence."  
  - I Kings 13:1-2, prophecy of King Josiah
  - Micah 5:2, prophecy of the birthplace of Jesus

  None of these listed prophecies satisfies the criteria for a
valid prophecy.  I will discuss each only briefly, and refer the
reader to the generally accepted reference works on the Bible for
details of the evidence *against* Ankerberg's acceptance of these
prophecies as valid, such as The Interpreters' Bible, The Anchor
Bible, Funk & Wagnall's New Concise Dictionary of the Bible, or
any general encyclopedia, such as Brittanica or Americana - all
of whose articles on these biblical topics, by the way, are
written by Christian scholars of the highest reputation.  The
primary problem with all of these prophecies is establishing an
accurate dating.  In no case is there documentary evidence of the
date of their first writing.

  Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesies of a future king who would sit on the
throne of David and rule Israel.  Jesus never sat on a throne nor
did he reign over Israel.  This prophecy was thus not fulfilled
in Jesus.  

  The later chapters of Isaiah, cited above, are overwhelmingly
dated as post-exile, and not simply because they speak of the
exile, but based on other evidence as well.  The events they
"prophesy" had already occurred or were then occurring.  Can
Ankerberg (or anyone) establish conclusively that Deutero-Isaiah
was written before the Captivity?  No, he cannot.

  Deuteronomy and Kings are dated by most scholars as post-
Josiah, based on extensive internal evidence.  Can anyone
establish conclusively that they were written so much earlier? 
No, they cannot.

  Daniel, as Ankerberg points out, is dated by most scholars at
around 165 BC, but not, as he suggests, "against all the
evidence," but rather *based* on the evidence.  It is Ankerberg
and his fellow believers who ignore the evidence, not only the
evidence which shows the 165 BC dating to be accurate to within a
year or two, but also the evidence which shows that the author of
Daniel was totally unfamiliar with affairs in sixth century
Babylon.  An excellent summary of the evidence for the 165 BC
dating is at <http://www.danielprophecy.com/chap2.htm>.

  With all of the above Old Testament books mentioned above, we
have the same question:  what is the more likely explanation for
these apparently fulfilled prophecies?  In light of the fact that
they cannot be dated with any degree of certainty before the
events which are claimed to be the fulfillment, is it more likely
that 1) a miraculous prophecy has been fulfilled? or 2) pious
writers or editors have been at work to lend credence to their
own faith by attributing their writing to earlier prophets?  

  Should we be skeptical?  Of course we should.  Let me
illustrate:  I have in my possession a copy of a letter which my
great-grandfather wrote in 1899.  He claimed that he was a
prophet of God.  In that letter he prophesied that within a
hundred years a man named Clinton would be the President of the
United States, as well as many other events which perfectly
describe America in the 1990's.  In the same letter he outlined
God's wishes for what the human race should do in order to please
God.  By the way, the original letter has been lost, but I have a
typed copy.  It was also my great-grandfather's wish that no one
know of his prophecy until it had been fulfilled (as it now has
been, miraculously).  Do you accept my great-grandfather as a
prophet?  If not, why not?

  If you answer that his prophecy is not in the biblical canon,
then you are arguing in a circle.  Ankerberg's (and, generally,
Christians') reason for accepting Isaiah's prophecies is not
because they are in the canon, but because they were valid
prophecies that were fulfilled.  And that is also the reason,
presumably, why they are in the canon.  After all, when Isaiah
supposedly made the prophecies there was no canon, and yet they
are claimed to be valid prophecies, their validity arising at the
time they were made, not centuries later when they were admitted
into the canon.

  You do not accept my great-grandfather's prophecy as valid for
a very good reason:  it is too obvious, with no tangible proof of
the 1899 letter, that there was no such prophecy made in 1899. 
It is simply too easy to create an 1899 "prophecy" in 1998 and
say that the original has been lost.  And that is very likely
what happened in the case of the Old Testament prophecies
mentioned above.  We would be abrogating our critical judgment to
make any other conclusion based on the evidence that has been
presented.

  As to the Micah prophecy (5:2), Ankerberg is very careless in
his reference to this.  It is not given as a prophecy of "the
very birthplace of Jesus," as Ankerberg says, but is rather a
prophecy that from "Bethlehem-Ephratah" will "come forth" one who
will be "ruler in Israel."  This cannot be taken to be more than
a prophecy that the future king of Israel will be of the same
tribe as David (David was from the clan/town Bethlehem).  It says
nothing about a birthplace.  And of course it says nothing about
Jesus.  The suspicion is justifiable that Matthew and Luke,
knowing of this prophecy, simply reported Jesus' birth in
Bethlehem in order to "fulfill" the prophecy.  Since that would
be a very natural explanation, it is the burden of those claiming
miraculous prophecy fulfillment to negate that possibility
conclusively.  

  Also, those who tout this passage as a prophecy of Jesus are
committing the same kind of reversal that has been pointed out
above:  at most, the passage sets up a minimum requirement for
the Messiah, namely, he must come from Bethlehem-Ephratah.  If
someone claims to come from someplace else, we could say that he
is definitely not the Messiah.  But that cannot mean that anybody
who DOES come from Bethlehem IS the Messiah!

THE RESURRECTION:

  The "historical resurrection of Christ" is the second area of
evidence which Ankerberg selects.  He begins with an assertion
which I have diffulty understanding - not a difficulty in
agreeing with it, but in simply understanding what he is saying: 
"...the historical resurrection of Christ cannot logically be
doubted..."  Does this mean that the resurrection is logical?  He
fails to say how.  Does it mean that one who doubts it is not
logical?  That doubt is illogical?  

  Let us examine Ankerberg's presentation of the evidence.  He
says (I paraphrase):

  - New Testament documents have been shown to be reliable;
  - New Testament writers have never been proven dishonest or
deceived;   
  - Jesus claimed to be God, acted like God, and performed many
miracles, including his resurrection;   
  - The resurrection is minutely described in each Gospel;
  - The resurrection has never been disproved;
  - Rejection of the resurrection as an impossible miracle is
possible only if you define a miracle as impossible; a miracle
must be judged on the cumulative weight of the evidence for it;  
  - In a two-day debate, advocates for the resurrection won the
debate;   
  - Early Christians believed in the resurrection; it was
essential to Christianity;   
  - A retired clergyman who lost his faith in the resurrection
committed suicide.

  Ankerberg then draws some conclusions from what he feels he has
proved, which I will discuss later.  I will now discuss each of
these "evidences" for the historicity of the resurrection.

NEW TESTAMENT DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN SHOWN TO BE RELIABLE

  That this kind of general statement is not evidence for any
particular particular event, especially any supernatural event,
has been shown above.  We may well be willing to accept the fact
that the Gospels are sufficient evidence to prove that Jesus of
Nazareth preached in Palestine and was executed (even though in
relating the precise details, the Gospels are extremely
contradictory of each other).  But any reliability in
establishing the occurrence of ordinary events cannot be used as
evidence to establish the actual occurrence of an event so
extraordinary as the rising of someone from the dead.

NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS HAVE NEVER BEEN SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN
DISHONEST OR DECEIVED

  On the contrary, there is a great deal of evidence to show that
the Gospel writers wrote much that is fiction (perhaps with pious
intent, but still fictional; see the excellent recent book by
Randel Helms, "Gospel Fictions"), that some of the epistles are
forgeries (i.e., not written by those disciples whose names
appear on them), and to say that they were not deceived is to beg
the question.  Only by proving that the resurrection did in fact
occur can one say that they were not deceived in believing that
it did.  ("Begging the Question" is a favorite Christian
apologetic tactic, I have noticed.  I sometimes wonder if it is
not a semester-long course at evangelical theology schools: 
'Begging the Question 101')

JESUS CLAIMED TO BE, AND ACTED LIKE, GOD

  Claiming something and acting "as if" cannot reasonably
accepted as evidence.  At best, the reverse could be taken as
negative evidence:  we would know he was not divine if he did not
act divine.  However, to take the reverse of that is fallacious. 
That would mean that I can offer as evidence of my own divinity
the fact that I claim to be God and act as if I am God?  I
scarcely think so.  The famous Emperor Norton of 19th century San
Francisco claimed he was Emperor of the United States and Mexico. 
He behaved consistently with that claim, and the San Franciscans
humored him.  Does that prove that he was really Emperor?  No. 
He was insane.  Jesus may have thought that he was the Messiah,
the promised King who would save the Jews.  Perhaps he was also
insane.  That is certainly a more likely explanation of his
behavior than to say he really must have been God.

THE RESURRECTION IS MINUTELY DESCRIBED IN EACH GOSPEL

  This evidence - the reports in the Gospels - is, in fact, the
very best evidence available for the Resurrection.  All other
evidences - as I have shown or will show - are irrelevant,
immaterial, or illogical when viewed by the very rules of
evidence which Ankerberg insists on applying to them (and with
which I agree).  Therefore I will discuss this evidence more
thoroughly, because ultimately it, too, fails as evidence.

  It is often claimed that the Gospel authors were "eye-
witnesses" to the resurrection.  Simply reading their reports
shows that the authors themselves were not eye-witnesses.  Their
reports show on their face that they are reporting events based
on what they have been told by others who, at best, were
*perhaps* eye-witnesses.  In fact, the Gospel authors do not
indicate the sources for their information.  It is only hopeful
Christian apologists who assume that they "must" have gotten
their information from eye-witnesses.  Where else?  Since it has
been generally accepted that the Gospels were written several
decades after the events, they can have been based on anything
ranging from eye-witness written accounts (now lost) through eye-
witness oral accounts to tenth-hand accounts to pious legends
that had developed in the intervening years.

  Ankerberg claims too much when he says that "the resurrection"
is described in the Gospels.  The crucifixion is described, and
the burial, and the discovery of the empty tomb.  Various
sightings of Jesus after his entombment, and conversations with
him, are described.  But not the actual resurrection.  No one
describes that.

  The most striking thing about the minute detail in the four
accounts is that all the details differ!  They contradict each
other in their minute details and in their major details.  They
are contradictory in the times, the places, the people present,
the chronology of the events, the statements made, the reactions
of those involved.  Whereas in other arguments Christian
apologists insist that historical accuracy shows authenticity,
here, where the accuracy is very suspect, Christian apologists
usually say that it doesn't matter - it's still true.  The usual
arguments in explaining the discrepancies are that each author
emphasized his own "point of view."  No, that is not a valid
explanation.  Even Mark says (Mark 14:56) that witnesses whose
stories don't agree are false.  

  Mark is right:  witnesses testifying to the same events but
whose stories differ in details cannot be accepted.  All but one
must either be mistaken, deceived or lying, and perhaps they all
are.  We are not talking here about the often used example of
multiple witnesses to an automobile accident, some of whom see
one thing, and some of whom see something else.  We are talking
here of writers who clearly intend to tell the whole story, and,
furthermore, writers who are claimed to be inspired by God. 
Christians tell us that these writers are writing God's book, the
message that God wants us to hear in order to save our souls. 
How can it contain contradictions between its various versions?

  We do not even know with certainty who these Gospel writers
were.  We cannot be sure that the versions of their stories are
exactly the way they wrote them (there are no autographs extant,
and there is reason to suspect that the Gospels may have been
edited and altered in important features in the 4th century; our
earliest relatively complete manuscripts are from the fourth
century, three hundred years [!] after the events).

  Thus, the very best evidence for the resurrection is by no
means as conclusive as Ankerberg suggests.  None of the Gospels
would be accepted as evidence in any civil court.

THE RESURRECTION HAS NEVER BEEN DISPROVED

  A statement like this can only be made by someone who has
absolutely no notion of the rules of evidence, of logic, or of
the scientific method.  The burden of proof is on the proponents
of the resurrection to prove that it occurred.  The fact that
some assertion has "never been disproved" has absolutely NO
weight as evidence.

MIRACLES MUST BE JUDGED ON THE CUMULATIVE WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE, NOT
REJECTED OUT OF HAND AS IMPOSSIBLE

  I agree that one should not reject evidence of a miracle simply
by arguing that miracles are impossible.  I discussed the problem
above.  I for one do not reject miracles as impossible.  I simply
wish to see sufficient evidence to prove that one happened. 
Until that evidence appears, I feel morally and intellectually
obligated to reject the claim of the miracle.  I suspect that
Christians would take the same attitude to claims of miracles
offered by believers in any non-Christian religion as evidence of
the truth of their religion.

  However, "cumulative evidence" will not necessarily help to
prove a miracle.  A mass of relatively weak evidence, especially
when all of it is circumstantial, is not persuasive when faced
with the burden of convincing us that something so unusual as a
resurrection has occurred.  And most of the evidence as presented
in support of the resurrection is not acceptable evidence at all. 
Mathematically, 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 still equals 0.

IN A DEBATE ON THE RESURRECTION, THE RESURRECTIONISTS WON THE
DEBATE

  This is not evidence.  It is cheerleading:  Our side won a
game!  Rah! Rah!

EARLY CHRISTIANS BELIEVED IN THE RESURRECTION AS ESSENTIAL TO
CHRISTIANITY

  This is not evidence that the resurrection actually occurred. 
What people believed - or even what they were willing to die for -
 is not evidence that what they believed was true.  Christians
who use this argument seem to believe that no one has ever been
mistaken about a religious belief, or that no one has ever given
his life for something that was not true.  Most Christians do not
accept the martyrdom of hundreds of early Gnostics at the hands
of the Christian authorities as evidence of the truth of Gnostic
beliefs, for example.

A RETIRED CLERGYMAN WHO LOST HIS FAITH COMMITTED SUICIDE

  This is very sad, but I cannot see how it proves that the
resurrection occurred.

FINAL ARGUMENTS

  Ankerberg concludes with some final arguments, of which I shall
only deal with one, simply because Christian apologists seem to
make much of it:  Christianity is unique.

  Of course it is unique.  Every religion is unique.  How could
this be evidence of its truth?  But at the same time,
Christianity is much like many other religions.  So it is not
that unique at all.  This is non-evidence, a non-argument.

CONCLUSION

  Ankerberg's article does not really discuss and evaluate the
evidence for the resurrection.  It is not intended to convince
anyone who is not already convinced.  It is cheerleading. 
Sermonizing.  Like much Christian apologetic writing, it simply
ignores the weighty scholarship which disproves its claims.  It
ignores it with such self-serving statements as "The resurrection
has never been disproven!"  "Scholars have tried to disprove the
Bible's validity as God's word, but have failed!"  Says who?  The
countless honest, rational, thinking people who have examined the
Bible's and Christianity's claims, and not accepted them, would
disagree that those claims have not been disproven.  Countless
Christians have examined those claims and found them disproven,
and left their Christian beliefs behind.  To these people, the
claims of the resurrection have been disproven.

  Christian apologists such as Ankerberg, who insist on the
ability of Christianity's claims to stand up under examination
using accepted rules of history, evidence and logic would do well
to reexamine what those rules are.  They do not seem to be very
familiar with them at first hand.

Richard Packham

==============================================================
To: John F.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

[quotations to which response is being made begin with the ">"
character]

Dear John,

  Thank you for taking the time to comment on my objections to
John Ankerberg's article on the "Quality of the Evidence for
Christianity."  My responses are interspersed with your comments
below.

  I am sending by bcc your comments and my responses to each of
the people to whom I sent my original rebuttal.  I will do the
same for any other comments I get.

>At 04:46 PM 7/1/98 -0400, you wrote:
> Have you sent Ankergerg your comments?

  Yes, to <atri@ankerberg.com>, but I have not received any
reply.

>    Just skimming through I quickly I noted one glaring error. 
>The original room and the cabin that Smith  allegedly was in
when
>the angel Moroni visited him is long gone. I know for sure that
>it has not been there since 1975 when I first got interested in
>Mormonism.  I don't have a date for when it was gone.  A replica
>was just built on the supposed site late in 1997 and early 1998.

>My wife and I visited it abut 2 months ago.

  Well, my face is very red.  Thank you for that information.  I
feel like the devout Christian lady who had visited Jerusalem and
seen the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, but who later found out
that that isn't necessarily the place where Jesus was buried.

  Even though I used a factually incorrect example, I think my
point is still correct (and I could give other examples, if you
like):  archaeology cannot prove a miraculous claim.  You would
not accept archaeological evidence as proof of Joseph Smith's
claims of the appearance of God or angels.  Why should Biblical
archaeological evidence be accepted as evidence of miraculous
events?

>    You dispute the historical and archaeological accuracy of
the >Bible and provide no references to support what you say. I
agree though,  >that even if  there was >100% support for these
items it would not prove the miraculous >events. 

  That's my point, and I'm glad you agree.  Ankerberg does not
seem to see that.

  As to references, any standard Biblical reference work will
refer you to the sources:  look up "Ai,"  "Jericho,"  "Sinai," 
look for historical corroboration of the plagues of Egypt or the
parting of the Red Sea (or the Reed Sea) - 

>But they do add credence.  

  No, they do not and cannot add credence.  They are not evidence
of what the claims are claiming.  It is in the very nature of
archaeological and historical evidence that it cannot in any way
substantiate a miraculous claim.  I think you are perhaps falling
again into the fallacious thinking, that if absence of any
archaeological or historical evidence shows falsity, then the
presence of such evidence tends to show truth.  Explain to me
exactly how the archaeological discovery of the very tomb in
which Jesus was laid, and the authentication of the shroud, etc.,
would be evidence that Jesus was resurrected.  When you do that,
I will be able to show you that the exact identification of the
spot in the sacred grove where Joseph Smith knelt, and the very
spot where God and Jesus stood during the vision will prove the
authenticity of Josephs Smith's first vision claim.

>Dr. Norman L. Geisler makes
>your point in his book, "Christian Apologetics." I suggest you
>read chapters 16-17 of this book.  He gives a good defense of
>Christianity.
>    You dispute some of the miracles as if they were impossible
>but you provide none of the logic to make your point, like
>population growth of the Hebrews in Egypt.  

  I didn't really think I needed to explain how many of the
miraculous events in the Bible are impossible.  I thought that
Christians called them miracles precisely because they are
impossible under the ordinary everyday understanding of how
things work.  If they weren't impossible, they wouldn't be
miracles, would they?

  As to the population growth in Egypt, from the time Jacob's
family went there until the conquest of Canaan, consider the
following: 

  The population of Israel at the time of the Conquest must have
been two to three million (Ex 12:37, Num 1:45-46).  They had all
descended in about four generations from 70 (or 75) individuals
(Ex 6:16-20) who had gone to Egypt.  This rate of population
increase is impossible for that time, requiring an annual rate of
increase of over two percent - a rate which never was even
approached until modern times, and then only in highly
technological cultures (see references cited by John C. Kunich in
"Multiply Exceedingly," _New Approaches to the Book of Mormon_
pp. 240-243).

  Dan had one son (Gen 46:23), but three generations later there
are 62,700 Danites of military age (Num 1:39; Num 26:43 gives the
number as 64,400). 

  Levi's descendants: three sons, first generation (Gen 46:11, Ex
6:16); eight grandsons, second generation (Ex 6:17-19); eight (or
a few more) great-grandsons, third generation.  The fourth
generation numbers 8580 males (Num 4:34-48).

  I suppose I should have included this kind of substantiation,
but I did not want to make my article even longer, and I assumed
that everyone was aware of this problem with the miraculous
growth in population size.

>And you don't give
>the biblical chapter and verse you are disputing. This then
makes
>it easier for you to perhaps erect a straw man that is then easy
>to tear down.  I am not saying you did this, but you have not
>left a trail that can be checked and examined.
>    Under the scientific area you dispute in a general way, but
>do not even quote the chapter and verse in the Bible you say is
>wrong.  You are condemning put are not specific enough.

  I was objecting to Ankerberg's claim of biblical accuracy in
scientific matters, which he did also not substantiate by citing
chapter and verse.  I am happy to provide you something of a list
(which does not include any alleged miracles, which are also, by
definition, contrary to science as we now understand it):

All of the following assertions made in the Bible are
scientifically false or impossible:

  - The earth is the center of the solar system.  See any good
Bible reference work under "Hebrew Cosmology"; that this was
considered dogma by all good Christians - assumedly based on the
authority of the Bible, remember the words of Cardinal Bellarmine
(1615, during the trial of Galileo):  "To assert that the earth
revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus
was not born of a virgin."

  - Earth is about 6000 years old, as calculated from the
genealogies in Gen and Luke 3.

  - Earth was created in seven days (Gen 1).

  - Earth rests on the seas (Ps 24:2).

  - Sun and stars were created after the earth was created (Gen
1:16).

  - There was "night" and "day" and "light" on the earth before
sun was created (Gen 1:3-5, 14-18).

  - Plant life existed before sunlight existed (Gen 1:11-18).

  - Birds were created before land animals (Gen 1:20, 24).

  - Heaven is above, earth below (Jer 10:11, 31:37, 1 Thess 4:16-
17).

  - The sky is solid, a "firmament" (Gen 1:6, Job 22:14, Isa
40:22).  It has windows through which the rain falls (Gen 7:11).

  - Earth has four corners, floating on water (Isa 11:12, Ps
24:2, 136:6, Rev 7:1).

  - Earth is a circular disk (Isa 40:22).

  - Earth is flat (Dan 4:10-11, Zech 9:10, Matt 4:8).

  - Earth does not move (Ps 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, 1 Chr 16:30).

  - Death or illness is a punishment for sin (Gen 2:17, Lev
26:16, 21, 25, Deut 7:15, 28:21, 27, James 1:15).

  - Disease and mental illness are caused by an "evil spirit" or
"possession" (Mark 1:21-34, 2:6-9, 1 Sam 16:23, 18:10, 19:9).

  - Leprosy can be cured by following the instructions in Lev 13,
14.

  - Seed must "die" before it grows (John 12:24, 1 Cor 15:36).

  - Snakes eat dust (Gen 3:14, Isa 65:25).

  - Every beast shall fear man (Gen 9:2). 

  - The ostrich abandons her eggs (Job 39:13-16).

  - A river divides into four rivers and they flow in different
directions (Gen 2:10).

  - There was no rainbow before Noah's time (Gen 9:11-17).

  - Thunder is God's voice (Ps 77:18).

  - Earthquakes are caused by God's anger (Job 9:5, Ps 18:7,
77:18, 97:4, Isa 2:19, 24:20, 29:6, Jer 10:10, Ezek 38:20, Nah
1:5).  Or by his voice (Heb 12:26).  Or by Lucifer (Isa 14:16).

  - Earthquakes can occur in heaven (Heb 12:26).

  - Rainwater does not return to the sky (Isa 55:10).

  - Blood is "life" (Deut 12:23).  Breath is "life" (Gen 2:7).

  - Value of pi = 3 (1 Kings 7:23, 2 Chron 4:2).

  - Moon will turn to blood (Acts 2:20).

  - The moon has a light of its own (Isa 13:10, Matt 24:29).

  - The stars can be made to fall (Matt 24:29, Mark 13:25).

  - The bat is a bird (Lev 11:13,19, Deut 14:11, 18).

  - The whale is a fish (Jonah 1:17, Matt 12:40).

  - Whales were created before insects (Gen 1:21-24).

  - Jonah is able to survive three days and nights in the belly
of the fish without oxygen and without being digested (Jonah
1:17, 2:10).

  - The hare chews the cud (Lev 11:5-6).

  - Some fowl and insects have four legs (Lev 11:20-23).

  - Levi existed as a person in the loins of his great-
grandfather (Heb 7:9-10).

  - Cattle will produce striped offspring if they see striped
poles when breeding (Gen 30:37-41).

  - Bees will build a hive in a dead carcass (Judg 14:8).

  - Eagles will be attracted by a dead carcass (Matt 24:28).  

  - Salt can lose its saltiness (Matt 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke
14:34).

  - Jesus expects the fig tree to bear fruit at Passover
(March/April), when it cannot do so in Palestine until May (Matt
21:19-21, Mark 11:13-21).

  - A good tree always produces good fruit, a corrupt tree cannot
(Matt 7:17-20).

  I realize that Christians explain away all these false notions
as being 1) figurative or metaphorical, or 2) merely an
expression of the imperfect human knowledge of the time.  But
they don't seem to have been understood merely metaphorically by
Christians until modern science proved them wrong, and what is
imperfect human knowledge doing in a book that is supposed to be
from God.  Are these statements really the kind of superior
evidence for divine origin that Ankerberg promised us?

  Christians also say that the Bible is not "intended as a
textbook of science."  Perhaps not, but can't one expect that a
divine book, when it makes a statement of scientific fact, be
correct and not misleading?  Ankerberg's assertion was that it's
scientific statements "demonstrated scientific knowledge"
generally unknown at the time of its writing.  Hardly!

> In your example with the King of Moog, if the culture allowed
the >king to take credit for what his solders did, then it really
was >not impossible.  The cultural context cannot be ignored. 
There >is also the use of hyperbole.  Is this an accepted usage
in the >culture?     

  That's exactly my point.  Shouldn't we take the exaggeration
and hyperbole and make-believe in the Bible in the same way?  Did
the King of Moog kill all those enemies?  No.  Did the graves
empty in Jerusalem when Jesus was executed?  No.  Both are
examples of the kind of typical miracle tales common to those
cultures.

>In the section about the resurrection stories, you
>were not very specific. Are you saying there are
>contradictions between the 4 descriptions?  I think I can show
>there are not. 

  Are you really not aware of the contradictions?  You seem to be
surprised that I would suggest that there are.  And yet your
statement that you can show me that there are NOT contradictions
implies that I would need your help to see the absence of
contradictions.  Here again, the mere fact that you (or some
other Christian apologist) must take the trouble to convince me
that what is apparent to me (contradictions) is something other
than that, is a powerful argument against Ankerberg's claim that
the Bible is consistent and not contradictory.  If it's so
obvious, why does it have to be explained?  Why can't the Bible
speak for itself to a normal, open-minded, rational, sincere
human being such as I?

  I would include a list of about forty of the most obvious
contraditions, but that would make this e-mail even longer than
it is.  

  John, I am familiar with quite a few Christian attempts to
harmonize the obvious differences in the four accounts.  I say
obvious, because anyone who opens up four copies of the Bible,
one to each of the four gospels, and reads them verse by verse,
cannot help but wonder if these accounts are describing the same
thing.

  All of the attempted harmonizations I have seen overlook
several basic points:

  - A witness (e.g. Mark or John) is supposed to tell the *whole*
truth.

  - Witnesses who don't agree in their details can be presumed
not to know the truth (or to be lying), as Mark 14:59 says.

  - It does not seem to be a great indication of the inspiration
of God at work, when God has to have four different versions of
the story, none of them complete (according to the harmonists),
in order to convince mankind that Jesus was resurrected.

  - The common explanation by Christians for the omissions and
contradictions is that each gospel author was speaking from his
own point of view, to a particular audience, for a particular
purpose.  That is a very poor argument.  It seems strange that
two of them (Matthew and John) do not even mention the Ascension,
for example.  Can we really believe that they didn't consider it
important for their particular audiences, that it was irrelevant
to the story they were telling, that they had a different point
of view that did not include the Ascension?  What do you think,
if I had been living in Matthew's day and had just read his
gospel, and asked him, "Matthew, did Jesus ever ascend into
Heaven?" he would have said, "Oh, I didn't think I needed to tell
you that.  You want to know about that?  Go read Mark's Gospel,
which I based a lot of my gospel on, and which I wrote because I
didn't think Mark told enough of the details."....?  By the way,
I think it's ironic that Mormons use the same argument to explain
the differing versions of Joseph Smith's first vision.  Do you
accept those arguments as valid? 

  - If it takes a modern Christian apologist to synthesize and
harmonize the apparently contradictory gospel accounts, why
didn't God simply inspire someone to do that originally, so that
we would have one, single, correct report?

  Again, John, thanks for your comments.

Richard

==========================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence

Dear Pat,

At 08:41 AM 7/4/98 -0400, you wrote:

>   I looked over you exchange with John.  I may have asked you this before -  
>what if all four gospel accounts agreed in every single detail. Wouldn't 
>this give rise to the suggestion that the four authors got together and 
>collaborated on their story?

  If the four gospels were absolutely identical, word for word,
it would appear that three of them copied it from the first. 
Copies are of no evidentiary value.

  I am not suggesting that four true accounts of the same events
would agree in every single detail.  I am suggesting that, if
they are true, then 1) none of them should contradict the other
in any detail; and 2) none of them should omit any essential
elements.

  Actually, Matthew and Luke both contain passages that are
identical, almost word for word, with passage in Mark.  Look at
any harmony of the synoptic gospels, where the three are printed
side by side, in three columns (or put three open Bibles side by
side).  Most scholars (including many devout Christian scholars)
take that fact to be an indication that Matthew and Luke used
Mark as a source.  Matthew and Luke also contain common material
which is not in Mark, which almost all scholars attribute to
another source, now lost, commonly called "Q".  

  The argument that we should *expect* the gospels to contradict
each other, because that shows that they did not collaborate
(i.e., they are being honest with us), is a very poor argument,
it seems to me, although it seems to be made often by Christians
trying to defend the gospel contradictions.  Does that really
make sense?  That they are telling the truth because they
contradict each other and can't keep the story straight?

  If they are all telling the truth, we would expect they would
tell the same story, even in the details.  A lying witness in a
courtroom is caught by even one little detail that does not fit
with what is known or with what other witnesses have said.  Each
gospel has many such details which contradict the others.

  Witnesses in a courtroom who are consciously lying, but are
telling the same story because they collaborated, will usually
tell the major elements of the story the same, sometimes even
using the same words.  But when the cross-examination asks them
about details which were not covered in their preparation for
lying, they have to make something up.  It makes sense when they
tell it.  It sounds plausible.  No reason to disbelieve it.  But
when another collaborating witness is asked the same question, he
is unaware of how his partner answered.  He makes up an equally
plausible detail.  Unfortunately, it contradicts what his partner
just said.  Both can't be true.

  The unfortunate attorney who has put on these false witnesses
tries to "explain" how the testimony of both witnesses can be
true.

  Doesn't this sound just like the four gospel authors and their
evangelical Christian apologists?  If not, why not?

>   Also, have you ever looked at the four accounts from the viewpoint 
>of listing what things they agree upon?

  Yes, and many historians find, in those points in which they
agree, a possibility that certain events are historical:

  - a man named Jesus preached in Palestine about 30 A.D.
  - he may have claimed to be the Messiah predicted in Jewish
scripture
  - he gained followers
  - he preached doctrines which were attractive to the common
Jews 
  - he predicted that he would establish a Jewish kingdom
  - he was executed by crucifixion by the Roman authorities,
probably for sedition   
  - some of his followers later believed that he rose from the
dead and ascended to heaven

  Remember, though, that under the rules of evidence, if a
witness has been in error (or lied) about any material thing, we
can disregard the remainder of his testimony.  Since the gospel
authors (whose identity cannot even be established with
certainty) have contradicted each other in many respects, we
should be skeptical about accepting even the bare historical
facts from them.  (There are those who make a very good case that
Jesus did not even live; that he is merely a legendary figure.) 
We should be even more skeptical in accepting what the gospels
report in the way of miracles (such as the resurrection), which
can so easily be explained as mere legend, manufactured by
faithful followers who are dealing with massive cognitive
dissonance, and invented as propaganda material to substantiate
their case.

  Any Christian apologist should become knowledgeable about two
areas of psychology/sociology:  cognitive dissonance and urban
legends.  Both fields have been developed only relatively
recently, but they explain much of what probably happened in the
days and years following Jesus' execution, and they explain it in
very ordinary terms, and very satisfactorily, leaving nothing
out.  Remember the principle of parsimony (also called "Occam's
[or Ockham's] Razor"):  the simpler, more ordinary explanation is
probably true.  The Gospels, the stories of the resurrection...
all are really very ordinary legends.

Best wishes,

Richard
===================================================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

At 06:41 PM 7/7/98 -0400, Pat wrote:
>>...[snip passage from Richard regarding growth of Israel's
population]...
> 
>Richard,
>   In doing genealogy, I was told to consider the average generation to be
>30 years.  Weren't the Hebrews in Egypt for 400 years between the time of
>Joseph and Moses?  Wouldn't that be a little over 13 generations?
> 
>Pat

Richard comments:

  That rule of thumb is handy for rough calculation when you
don't have exact figures to go on.  But the Bible is much more
precise.  It's that attempt at precision that causes the
problems, whether it's the number of years or the number of
generations.

  The length of the sojourn in Egypt is hard to determine
exactly:  Gen. 15:13 says that Abraham's descendants will be
strangers in a foreign land and afflicted "four hundred years." 
This passage is cited also in Acts 7:6.  That passage is a
prophecy, not a statement of history, one could say, since Ex
12:40 says that the sojourn in Egypt was 430 years, and states it
as history.  (This makes the prophecy rather inexact for a book
so highly praised as containing so many prophecies that are
"precisely fulfilled".)

  The descendants of Jacob were not in Egypt for 12 or 13
generations, because several passages indicate that it was only
three or four.  The descendants of Levi (who was among those
going to Egypt) are given in Ex 6:16-20.  Moses and Aaron are
descended from Levi on two lines; on the one line they are in the
third generation from Levi, and on the other in the fourth
generation:

  Levi > Kohath > Amram > Moses   and
  Levi > Jochebed > Moses.

  If you read Ex 6 carefully, it will be apparent that the
listing is intended as complete; it is quite specific.  There is
no hint that eight or ten generations have been left unmentioned.

  Kohath, in fact was born before the departure for Egypt (Gen
46:8-11) and died at age 133 (Ex 6:18).  Amram, his son, died at
age 137 (Ex 6:20).  Amram's son Moses was 80 at the start of the
exodus (Ex 7:7).  Even if Kohath were born immediately before the
departure, and even if he sired Amram in the last year of his
life, and Amram sired Moses in the last year of his life, the
sojourn in Egypt cannot have been over 350 years long:     
  Kohath's life 133 + Amram's life 137 + 80 years of Moses 

  If you calculated Jochebed into this, she must have been a
great deal older than her husband, making it all the more
unlikely that she could have borne a child sired by him in the
last year of his life.

  So, which of these passages will we accept as accurate and
which as incorrect?  The shorter the stay in Egypt, the more
unbelievable the growth of the population.

  And, as I pointed out originally, even over 400 or 430 years,
the population growth indicated would be unbelievable, unless you
consider it to be a miracle.  That rate of growth is found
nowhere in the world except in highly developed countries of the
last century or two.

  So, again we have confusing and contradictory evidence from the
"source book" that Ankerberg said would give us such "superior
evidence" "open to ordinary investigation."

Best wishes,

Richard

=============================================
To: Rhondda C.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity  

Dear friends,

Following is a response from Rhondda C.  My comments are at the
end.

At 10:02 PM 7/8/98 +1200, Rhondda wrote:
>To Whom shall we go?
> 
>There was a time in my life when I too walked away from Jesus.
> 
>I was 19 and at university.
> 
>My philosophy professor was a brilliant man, a one-time Christian  who had
>given it all  away and whose declared aim was to destroy the Christian
>faith of his students.
> 
>I was a Christian, but I began to realise that so many clever men are
>unbelievers.
> 
>It was then that that horrible monster, doubt, began to rear its ugly head. 
> 
>I gave up attending church.
> 
>I went to the public library and made a careful study of the many atheistic 
>books stocked there, searching for a satisfying philosophy to replace my
>Christian one.
> 
>I was away from Jesus for nine months.  The this verse came to me as a
>revelation from heaven.  "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of 
>eternal life."
> 
>I asked myself, "To whom shall I go?  What can these atheistic philosophies 
>offer me in return for not following Jesus?
> 
>The answer was - nothing.  A cynical emptiness.  An everlasting vacuum in
>the place of everlasting life.
> 
>So I went back to Jesus and with great joy rejoined His disciples.
> 
>..................
> 
>I  have majored in philosophy and taught comparative religion.
> 
>More than that I have lived among Buddhists in China, Muslims in Pakistan
>and Hindus in India.
> 
>I tell you there is nothing in other philosophies or in other religions
>that can satisfy the soul.
> 
>Only Jesus can do that.
> 
>Only Jesus has the answers.
> 
>(Challenge Weekly p.12 June 30 1998)
> 
>"Difficulties in the Bible"    R. A Torrey
>Important "Contradictions"  p 85
> 
>"All the other apparent contradictions in the four accounts of the
>resurrection, and they are quite numerous, also disappear on  careful study. 
> But these apparent contradictions are themselves
> 
>           PROOF OF THE TRUTH AND THE ACCURACY
> 
>of the accounts.  It is evident that these four accounts are separate and
>independent accounts.  If four different persons had sat down to make up a
>story in collusion of a resurrection that never occurred, they would have
>made their four acounts appear to agree, at least on the surface.  Whatever  
>of contradictions there might be in the four accounts would only come out
>after minute and careful study.  But just the opposite is the case here. It 
>is all on the surface that the apparent contradictions occur. It is only by 
>careful and protracted study that the real agreement shines forth.  It is
>just such a harmony as would not exist between four accounts fabricated in 
>collusion.  It is just such an agreement as would exist in four independent 
>accounts of substantially the same circumstances, each narrator telling the 
>same story from his own standpoint, relating such details as impressed him, 
>omitting other details which did not impress him but which did impress
>another narrator and which the other narrator related. Sometimes two
>accounts would seem to contradict one another, but the third account would
>come in and unintentionally reconcile the apparent descrepancies between
>the two.  This is precisely what we have in the four accounts of the
>resurrection of Jesus Christ.
> 
>-------------
>from "Biblical Basis for Modern Science"  Henry M. Morris
> 
>Queen of the Sciences p. 30
> 
>"figure 1 Christian Founders of Key Scietific Disciplines
> 
>"The humanistic claim that scientists cannot believe the Bible is refuted
>by the factthat many of the greates scientists of the past were
>Bible-believing Christians.  See appendix 1 for an extensive listing of
>these men.
> 
>"Founders or Primary Developers of the Scientific Dissiplines Below.
> 
>"Isaac Newton -   Dynamics               Johann Kepler  -  astronomy
>"Robert Boyle - chemistry                Lord Kelvin - thermodynamics
>"Louis Pasteur - Bacteriology            Matthew Maury  -  oceanography
>"Michael Faraday - Electro-magnetics           John Ray  -  biology
>"Clerk Maxwell - Electro-dynamics        
>"Carolus Linnaeus - taxonomy
> 
> 
==========================
Comments from Richard:

Re:  "To Whom Shall We Go?"

  To say - no matter how sincerely one says it - that only a
belief in Jesus satisfies the soul is testimony-bearing, not
evidence.  It is the intellectual equivalent of saying "I feel
good by believing this, therefore it must be true."  Feeling good
about something, rather than examining it in the cold light of
reason, is the motto of the fool, which is perhaps why Paul
called himself a fool for Christ, and why the Bible contains so
many warnings against the worldly wise.  Christians often
criticize Mormons for basing a faith in Mormonism on a "burning
in the bosom," but how does that differ from having a feeling of
satisfaction in one's soul?

  Ankerberg's article, on the other hand, confidently stated that
he was going to present evidence - "superior evidence" - of the
the "historical facts" on which Christianity firmly rests.  

  I also find such statements ("Only in Jesus can one find
[peace, etc.]") to be extremely arrogant, because they assume
that they know that others, with other philosophies or religions,
have no peace or contentment.  It is like comparing orgasms:  how
can I possibly know what yours is like in order to say that mine
is better?

Re:  "Proof of the truth and accuracy of the accounts"

  This is similar to the argument John Farkas made (which I have
not yet responded to).

  The version of the argument here sets up a fallacious "false
dilemma":  it assumes there are only two possible explanations
for the creation of the gospels, either 1) the four authors sat
down and collaborated, or 2) the gospels must be authentic and
correct, especially as to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

  There is at least one other possible explanation, which is very
straightforward:  each author was writing a fictionalized account
built around what he believed was a historical event, namely, the
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  None of the authors claim
to have actually seen the resurrected Jesus, or even to have been
eye-witness to the events.  They are clearly telling of events
they have heard from others.  There is no question that each
author believed that Jesus had been crucified and resurrected and
that during his life he had done miracles and preached certain
things.  But their accounts are *hearsay*.  They are third-person
(or even more remote) accounts.  We have no way of determining
their accuracy, or of judging the critical abilities of the
authors to distinguish fact from non-fact, or of judging their
willingness to accept wild stories on someone else's sayso.

  Hearsay is not admissible evidence, based on the "legal
standards of evidence" on which Ankerberg is willing to rely.

Re:  Scientists Who Believe The Bible

  Such lists are meaningless as evidence.  I can also provide you
with a long list of scientists who do NOT believe the Bible.  The
evidence should speak for itself, and each of us has an
obligation to examine it thoroughly for ourselves, and not simply
say, "Well, if Isaac Newton believed the Bible, I guess it must
be true!"

  Notice that we are not told how thorough a study each of these
scientists made of the Bible, or whether they accepted it as the
"inerrant word of God" or as some sort of nice "handbook of
morality" or with some other reservations.

  It is also misleading to cite scientists who lived and worked
before modern Bible criticism had begun to call into question the
accuracy of the Bible.  Newton, for example, lived in an age when
it would have been very difficult for a scientist to say that he
didn't believe in the Bible.

  This discussion is supposed to be about evidence.  Testimonials
and appeals to emotion - although they may make converts - are
not evidence.  Rather, they tend to conceal the evidence.

Best wishes,

Richard
==============================================
To: Pat V.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity  

Pat wrote, in response to Richard:

>> [Richard had written:]
>>  There is at least one other possible explanation, which is
very
>>straightforward: [...snip...]

Pat's question:

> 
>Richard,
>    Are you stating that none of accounts were given by eyewitnesses, or are 
>you saying that this is a third alternative?

  I'm saying that none of the accounts we have (the gospels) are
by eyewitnesses AND that this is a third - and much more
plausible - alternative than the two cited by Rhondda (i.e., 1.
the gospel authors colluded; OR 2. the gospels must be true).  

  My point was that Rhondda's source relies upon a false dilemma: 
"There are only two possibilities, and since the first one is
obviously false, the other must be true."  That is a good example
of this fallacy of logic.   

  Reports that are not by eyewitnesses (especially reports of
extraordinary events, like a UFO landing, or an appearance of the
Blessed Virgin, or a dead man coming back to life after three
days in a tomb) cannot be relied on.  

  Fallacious reasoning cannot be relied on.  

Richard

================================================
To: Dan N.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Re: Evidence for Christianity

Dan N. wrote:
>Hi Richard,
> 
>It was written:
> 
>>>This discussion is supposed to be about evidence. 
Testimonials and
>appeals to emotion - although they may make converts - are not
evidence.
> 
>Rather, they tend to conceal the evidence.<<
> 
>I decided I wasn't going to go through the tail chasing and hair
>splitting of discussing the generations and offering theories as
>conclusions.  However, if you would like to discuss some of the
>evidences, I would like to point you to a couple of book titles and one
>author in specific.  "The Verdict of History," "Evidence That Demands A
>Verdict" are two in particular.  The author for evidential apologetics
>and a wealth of information on probably every topic you decide to bring
>up is Dr. John Warwick Montgomery.  Some of his works include "Faith
>Founded On Fact," "Christianity For The Tough Minded," "Evidence For
>Faith," and others.  If you would like to correspond with him, I can
>forward his London address to you.
> 
>In Christ Jesus,
>Dan

Dear Dan,

  Thanks for your comments.

  The discussion on population arose because Ankerberg claimed
the Bible is historically accurate, and John Farkas wanted me to
give him some examples, when I disputed Ankerberg's claim.  I
used the incredible population growth during the sojourn in Egypt
as an example.  There are hundreds of others.  All it takes is
one, and Christians' claim that the Bible is 100% reliable and
historically accurate is gone.  

  Many Christians have referred me to Josh McDowell's book
"Evidence that Demands a Verdict,"  and one friend lent me a
copy.  I read it and was extremely disappointed.  I started to
write a rebuttal for my Christian friend, but discovered that a
very lengthy rebuttal already exists.  It is online, at The Jury
is In" at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/>.  I
highly recommend it.  There are links there to rerebuttals by
defenders of McDowell.

  McDowell's fundamental problem (Ankerberg's, too) is that he
does not understand what "evidence" is, what qualifies as
evidence, or what the limitations are as to what evidence can
establish.  It is a general problem in Christian apologetics, I
am beginning to believe.  Just a couple of examples (I am giving
these from memory - I don't have my notes in front of me): 
McDowell presents the following as evidence for Christianity:

  - Christianity is unique
  - Jesus said he was God
  - Millions of people are Christian
  - Many famous people believed Christianity
  - There are many copies of Bible manuscripts
  - The canon of the Bible is inspired because it includes only
inspired books
  - No one has been able to disprove the Bible
  - ...and so on

  None of these statements, even if true, are evidence for the
truth of Christianity, under any generally accepted rules of
evidence.  They are useless as evidence.  They are "feel-good"
statements which have importance only for those who already
believe, and logically fallacious.

  Thank you for the reference to Montgomery.  I am not familiar
with his books.  I will try to get one or two through
interlibrary loan.  I hope he knows more about evidence than
McDowell or Ankerberg.

  Meanwhile, I heartily recommend that you check out "The Jury is
In" at the URL I mentioned above.

Best wishes,

Richard

------------------------
Pat V. asked:

>> [Richard had said:]
>>  Reports that are not by eyewitnesses (especially reports of extraordinary >>events, like a UFO landing, or an appearance of the Blessed Virgin, or a
>>dead man coming back to life after three days in a tomb) cannot be relied
>on.

>Richard,
>    And by eyewitnesses are you referring to the fact that no one saw Jesus 
>get up and come out of the tomb, or are you including eyewitnesses in the
>category of those who say that they saw the resurrected Jesus after the
>three days?
> 
>Pat

  I am saying that we have no eyewitness reports of any of those
events.  They are all hearsay reports.  

  An eyewitness report says something like "I was there. I saw
such-and-such."  At best, the gospels are hearsay, that is,
reports of what the gospel writer may have heard were eyewitness
reports.  But since the gospel writers do not identify their
sources (e.g., none of them say "Mary *told* me herself that..."
one can only *assume* what those sources were.  That is not
acceptable evidence, especially when trying to substantiate
incredible claims like the resurrection.

  I might also add that even an eyewitness report "I saw the
resurrected Jesus" would be suspect (e.g. Paul's vision), unless
you would care also to accept Joseph Smith's eyewitness report of
his vision?

Richard
=================================
To: Rauni H.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: RE: Evidence for Christianity  

Rauni H. wrote (Richard's response is at the end):

>Richard,
>I may not be understanding this correctly, but let me quess:
>You are saying that NONE of the Gospels were written by
eyewitnesses?  Mark's gospel was dictated by Peter, an
eyewitness. That is same as "written by an eyewitness", IMO. John
was an eyewitness. He was known as "the beloved apostle" of
Jesus, and who was very close to Him - and His cousin even. There
are many first century Christians who had that knowledge - i.e.
Polycarp (A.D. 60-155)
>Luke was a companion of Mark on some of his missionary journeys,
and thus was familiar through him (and Peter) of the happenings.
Matthew's gospel is the only one that we are not that sure of,
but it could have been written by Jesus' disciple by the same
name, since Matthew's Gospel does show that he was very familiar
of keeping records of money (as he was a taxcollector), he was
also obviously a Jew and very familiar with laws, customs, area
etc.  There are more details in this gospel that point to him as
its writer than not.
>You are quoting those who are skeptics on everything and who say
that it is possible that Matthew did not write this gospel etc.
They are only possibilities that you choose to pick.  The much
stronger possibilities are the ones I am quoting above.  I have
read a lot pro and con and I have come to this conclusion. It
does not matter that much what I believe, but it matters that
many, many very prominent Bible scholars agree with this
conclusion also.
>Rauni 

Richard responds:

  Ankerberg's article, which was the start of this discussion,
claimed that the truth of Christianity rested on "superior
evidence", "not just some evidence, or inferior evidence," on the
"very reasoning employed in the law to determine questions of
fact...," using "legal standards of evidence."

  Here are the standards that Ankerberg is relying on, quoted
from standard works on English and American common law (my
emphasis in caps):

  From "Handbook of the Law of Evidence" by John Evarts Tracy,
professor of law, Univeristy of Michigan, New York,
Prentice-Hall, 1952, page 218:

  "Hearsay.  There is no more thoroughly established rule of
evidence than the one prohibiting the use of hearsay.  A witness
must tell what he knows himself, not what he has heard from
others...
  "...the hearsay rule bars a written statement of a third party
just as much as an oral one....
  "An affidavit [writing sworn to under oath] of a third person
is no more admissible than would be his oral statement.
  "...the real reason for the rule is the lack of opportunity for
cross-examination."

From "Summary of American Law" by Robert T. Kimbrough, Former
Editor-in-Chief of the Lawyer's Co-operative Publishing Company,
member of Kentucky and New York bars, Rochester and San
Francisco, 1974, p. 296 (this book is a summary of one of the
standard legal encyclopedias, American Jurisprudence 2d Edition,
available in your county law library):

  "It is a general rule that hearsay evidence is not competent or
admissible in judicial proceedings.  'Hearsay' may be defined ...
as evidence which derives its value not solely from the credit to
be given the witness on the stand, but in part from the veracity
and competency of some other person."

  Thus, if we are reading what Mark says he learned from Peter,
what Mark says is hearsay, and NOT admissible evidence.  We have
Mark's words, but not Peter's (or any other supposed
eye-witness's).  Thus we must discard Mark's gospel without even
coming to the other issues, namely, that Mark never even says
that what he is writing is based on information from Peter... he
does not even say how he knows what he is reporting.  And add to
this the somewhat uncertain identity of the author (it cannot be
established), the whole gospel by Mark is suspect on several
grounds.  

  The same objections can be made of Luke's gospel, which, as
Rauni admits, at best is even one more step removed from an
eyewitness if Luke depends on Mark (and/or Q).  Matthew even
Rauni concedes is uncertain.

  The author of John's Gospel cannot be established with any
certainty.  Whether the "John" of its title is the same as the
apostle or as Jesus' brother is conjecture.  Many facts (e.g. the
late date, the late style) speak against it.  It is not presented
as an eye-witness account.  The author never speaks in the first
person.  The author never identifies himself or places himself in
the events.  At best, it is not the "superior evidence", "not
just some evidence, or inferior evidence," that Ankerberg claims,
but rather very tenuous and objectionable evidence.

  From Kimbrough, op.cit. p. 289-290:

  "Weight and sufficiency of evidence.  ... The testimony of a
disinterested witness which is in no way discredited, or
contradicted by other evidence, to a fact WITHIN HIS KNOWLEDGE,
WHICH IS NOT IN ITSELF IMPROBABLE or in conflict with other
evidence, must usually be accepted...  It does not necessarily
follow, however, that a verdict or finding must be made in favor
of the party introducing such evidence, where the issue remains
in dispute and doubt.  Although the testimony of a disinterested
witness is not directly contradicted by other witnesses, if there
are circumstances which controvert it or explain it away, or IF
THE TESTIMONY IS CLOUDED WITH UNCERTAINTY OR IMPROBABILITY, or if
it otherwise APPEARS TO BE UNWORTHY OF BELIEF, the [jury] is not
bound to accept it.  WHERE THE TESTIMONY IS ON ITS FACE
INCREDIBLE, CONTRARY TO PHYSICAL FACTS, SETTLED SCIENTIFIC
PRINCIPLES, OR THE LAWS OF NATURE, it may properly be
disregarded, even though it is not controverted by other
testimony....

  "The degree of proof required depends upon the nature of the
case [ordinary cases require a mere preponderance of the
evidence, but where more is at stake, e.g. a criminal case, the
evidence must establish guild 'beyond a reasonable doubt']"

  "Where circumstantial evidence is relied upon in a [case
requiring a higher degree of proof], ... the circumstances must
not only concur to show [the prosecution's claim] ... but also
that they be INCONSISTENT WITH OR EXCLUDE EVERY REASONABLE
HYPOTHESIS [opposing that claim]."

  The claim that Jesus was dead and then rose again is precisely
the kind of claim for which a witness's testimony may be
disregarded IN ADDITION to its hearsay nature.

  So, the gospels are hearsay, and thus inadmissible as evidence. 
Even if they were eyewitness reports, the testimony that a man
rose from the dead is of such an incredible nature and so
contrary to the laws of nature that it could be disregarded. 
However inspiring they may be, however much people may regard
them as... "gospel," they are NOT the kind of evidence that
Ankerberg promised.  

  Lest anybody suppose that these rules of evidence, which
Ankerberg accepts, absolutely prevent evidence of any miraculous
event, let me say that they do not, and humbly refer you to my
article on evidence for miracles which was published recently in
the Skeptical Review, and is online at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/1/981heart.ht
ml>, "The Man With No Heart."

---------
Barry has pointed out, in response to my response about the
"false dilemma" that there is at least one more possible
alternative than the one which I mentioned, and referred me to a
series of articles by Earl Doherty at
<http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus.html> which point out the
paucity of evidence that Jesus even actually existed.  I'm just
passing that on without endorsement or argument.

Richard
======================================
To: John F., Rauni H.
From: Richard Packham <packham@teleport.com>
Subject: Evidence for Christianity

Dear friends,

  Below are my responses to comments by John F.  Because Rauni H.
made similar comments in a private post to me, I am combining my
comments into one post.  I forwarded John's complete post
earlier.  Some of Rauni's comments are excerpted because they
were in a private post.

  (BTW, John, best wishes for success in your efforts at
Cumorah!)

  I had asserted that archaeological evidence cannot substantiate
miraculous claims.

John wrote:

>>>But they do add credence.

Richard wrote:

>>   No, they do not and cannot add credence.  They are not
evidence of what >< the claims are claiming.

John responded:

>    I don't agree. While credence is not proof it does say to me that if 
the writters were correct in what I could check then what I
cannot check may be correct also.  For me, the writters
reliability is built by what I can check. I agree it is not
proof.

Rauni wrote a similar comment:

> Naturally we cannot prove miracles, but if there were nothing
found archealogically, we had a real reason to doubt the rest of
the story. Now we don't have a reason to question the historical
part, so the miracles could be possible also - after all they
were recorded by the same people who told the truth about things
that leave physical evidences.  If we know a person who always
has told the truth about things that can be proven to be so, and
then he tells about his experience, somewhat "far-out-type of a
thing" that cannot be proven one way or the other, we'd tend to
believe that too, since he has demonstrated that he is a truthful
person. We could not insult him by doubting him, could we?  But
if he has told "tall tales" of treasures he is hunting and
finding of gold plates that tell a story of ancient peoples, and
only he can see the plates - and that angel takes them to heaven
afterwards...but nothing provable ever has shown up - then the
miracles, experiences etc. told by that man are more than likely
also false. Woud you agree?

Richard comments:

  Let me remind you of my hypothetical ancient chronicle of the
kingdom of Glog.  Would you lend credence to the incredible and
miraculous parts of that chronicle simply because you found a
good deal of archaeological evidence for the mundane facts of
Glogian history?

  Suppose that you are a jury member at a court trial.  The issue
is a dispute over certain facts about family matters, land
ownership, boundaries, etc.  One side puts a witness on the stand
who very calmly and with assurance testifies to all the matters
in dispute.  His testimony is corroborated by documents and other
witnesses.  It makes sense.  It appears that side has won the
case.  As the witness is about to step down from the witness box,
the attorney asks, "You are certainly knowledgeable about many
historical and family matters in this area... were you born
here?"  And the witness says, "No... actually I was born on the
planet Pluto.  My father was a great king there, and he sent me
here in a space ship when I was a baby.  A kind family here took
me in and raised me as their own."

  Now, as a member of the jury, how do you now view this witness? 
Is your reaction perhaps the same as Rauni's, and John's?  "Well,
everything else he said was true and correct... He probably is
also correct about being born on Pluto."  Or would you doubt this
fact?  You don't have to suggest that the poor man is not telling
what he believes to be the truth.  He likely does believe it to
be the truth.  But do YOU believe it?

  That's what we have with the Bible.  Jerusalem's history is
written in its stones.  We can corroborate the Bible's record of
its ruling dynasties from non-biblical records.  Pilate, Herod
governed in Palestine.  All of that appears accurate, more or
less.  So we therefore should accept its testimony that Jesus
rose from the dead?  Would you believe that our witness was
actually born on Pluto?  I have no doubt that the authors of the
gospels believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and that they
believed they were telling the truth (just like our witness from
Pluto).  But just because they believed it, should we?  Is it
completely impossible that they were deluded, deceived, mistaken,
gullible?

  Rauni will probably argue (forgive me if I make such an
assumption) that "we have hundreds of manuscripts of the Bible." 
Does an error (or a legend, or a myth, or a lie) become more
correct because we have more copies of it?  Or because more
people are duped by it?  If so, why?  

John objected to my suggesting that the opening of the graves at
Jesus' crucifixion is an incredible hyperbole and should be
rejected as fact:

>> Richard:
>>   That's exactly my point.  Shouldn't we take the exaggeration and hyperbole 
>> and make-believe in the Bible in the same way?  Did the King of Moog kill 
>> all those enemies?  No.  Did the graves empty in Jerusalem when Jesus was 
>> executed?  No.  Both are examples of the kind of typical miracle tales
>> common to those cultures.
> 
> John:
>    Let us read what the verse says,
> 
>Matthew 27:52
> 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, >From verse 51 we learn there was an earthquake which would open graves.  
>But note it asays,
>"many bodies of the saints".  So it is not saying all in the graves arose, just some of 
>the saints.

Richard:

  So, if just some of the saints came out of their graves, it is
more believable?  

Re:  The four Easter Morning narratives

[..John's proposed scenario is omitted..]

  John presented a "possible" scenario for Easter morning,
piecing together bits from all four gospels.  This is a
challenging exercise which many have attempted, but, like all
such attempts, fundamental questions remain:

  - If one reads only one gospel account, whichever one, then one
is struck immediately by the smooth flow of events, the
conciseness of the story, the unity of point of view.  Obviously
the author has a clear picture of the events.  One is convinced
that - if the author knows what he is talking about and is
telling the truth - this is a moving story!  But as soon as you
read a second gospel account, you realize that you are reading a
*different* story.  The theme is the same, but the characters are
different, the events are different, the details are different. 
It is like four Hollywood scriptwriters who are given an
assignment to "write a screenplay based on the life of [some
historical person]."  They may have a few basic facts, but most
of it is made up.  Like the Gospels.  The Gospels are obviously
fictionalized history, with all the characteristics of
fictionalized history, legendary tales.

  - If God intended us to know the facts, why would we have such
a mish-mash that needs so much explanation?  These gospel writers
are not ordinary witnesses, but they are supposed to be
"inspired" by the Holy Ghost to know the truth and to tell it so
that we can save our souls by the knowledge they give us.

  When I made a similar statement previously, John responded:

>    As I said you are trying to tell God how to run his
business.

And then again,

> You are trying to cast God into the way you would do it, using
>human logic.

And

>..you are trying to play God and demand it be done your way.  I
suggest you read Prov 14:12.

  Such statements are examples of the logical fallacy of "begging
the question":

  Ankerberg says that the Bible contains no contradictions and
stands as evidence for Christianity, "open to ordinary
investigation."  I point out what seem to be obvious
contradictions, discoverable by ordinary investigation, and
thoroughly explicable by a theory that the Bible is simply a
human product.  

  Ankerberg's reasoning seems to be:

     - The Bible contains no contradictions
     - Only a divinely inspired work would contain no
contradictions
     - Therefore the Bible is inspired by God

  (The second premise is false, by the way - many uninspired
works are free of contradiction.)

  My comments tried to show that the Bible DOES contain
contradictions.  John seems to be saying:

    - The Bible is inspired
    - An inspired work cannot contain contradictions
    - Therefore the Bible contains no contradictions

  But by reasoning like that, John has placed the very question
at issue ("Is the Bible inspired?/Is the Bible trustworthy as
evidence for Christianity?) as his basic premise.  That is the
common fallacy of "begging the question," that is, using the
desired conclusion as a presumption on which your reasoning is
based.  Fallacious reasoning is dangerous and unreliable.

  Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a
man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

  Rauni also suggested to me that what may seem right to the
human mind should be suspicious:

>We are talking about close to 2000 years old documents and you
are trying to apply 20th century, and American, legal
requirements into it. It is a bit ridiculous, IMO. 

  Well, it appears that both John and Rauni soundly disagree with
Ankerberg (and his source Dr. John Warwick Montgomery), who
started this whole discussion by insisting that the evidence for
Christianity CAN be judged by our modern rules for evidence, and
"Not just some evidence, or inferior evidence... but superior
evidence." (Ankerberg)  Montgomery (as cited by Ankerberg)
insists that its correctness can be shown by "the very reasoning
employed in the law to determine questions of fact" and praises
the "advantage of a jurisprudential approach" because of the
"legal standards of evidence developed as essential means of
resolving the most intractable disputes in society."

  Now, Rauni, John, I am citing here two of the great defenders
and apologists for Christianity.  You seem to be saying they are
walking the "way of death" and are "ridiculous."  

  Rauni cautions:

>It was quite common during those days that someone gave a report
and the other, perhaps more capable for writing, took it down. 
It is not uncommon in even our day - as a Mormon you and I knew
that Joseph Smith himself wrote very little, even the things that
were written in first person were taken down by Oliver Cowdrey or
William Clayton et.al.. >Richard, before you go on judging
writings that are 2000 years old and written in an other culture,
far different from ours, you'd need to know more about those
times and that culture. Your reasoning failed.

  First of all, Rauni seems to be confusing "facts" and
"reasoning."  She criticizes my facts, but says my "reasoning" is
what failed.

  Rauni fails to see the difference between Clayton's acting
simply as an amanuensis, writing something which Joseph dictated
with "The Lord said to me...  I prophesy..., etc." and Mark's
Gospel, which does not appear to be dictated by anybody, let
alone by Peter.  The Gospel of Mark does not purport to be
Peter's words (the Apocryphal Gospel of Peter does, however -
would Rauni accept that as authentic?)  But that's a minor
quibble, I think.  (Rauni also points out that I misquoted her as
saying John was a brother of Jesus... she had said he was a
cousin.  I apologize for the misquote.)

  I thoroughly agree that one should be familiar with the culture
from which a document comes.  Here are some things I suggest one
should remember about the culture in the near East in the time of
Jesus and the following century or two:

  - The people were extremely superstitious and credulous. 
Miracle workers, magicians, faith healers, prophets of all
persuasions and religions abounded.

  - Accounts of miracles and stupendous marvels proliferated -
old pagan, Christian, Mithraic, Zoroastrian, mystery cults.

  - It was common practice for proponents of a religion, a cult,
or a school of philosophy, to write fictitious works or pseudo-
history to authenticate the author's claims (some of these
writings even have crept into the Bible!).

  - It was common practice for an author to attribute his writing
to someone else, to lend authenticity to it (e.g. the Gospel of
Peter, the Gospel of Thomas).

  In sum, we have no way of knowing whether the miraculous events
portrayed in the canonical gospels are accurate reports.  Not by
any ordinary historical or archaeological or evidentiary test
available to us.  

  Lacking that evidence, why should one believe those accounts? 
Why should I believe those particular accounts, but doubt other
similar ancient accounts of miracles as told of other characters
which even Christians label as mythical?

  If one wishes to believe something without evidence that can be
demonstrated, that is an individual choice.  I choose not to do
so.  Others choose to do so.  My argument is not with those who
say "I wish to believe it, whether there is evidence for it or
not," but with those who say, as Ankerberg does, that the
evidence is there, "open to ordinary investigation," and thus
imply that I am stupid, stubborn or sinful if I am not willing to
be credulous.

  Edmund Way Teale in his 1950 book Circle of the Seasons said: 
"It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not,
so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you
got your money as long as you have got it."

  W. K. Clifford said, "It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for
everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."  

  I submit that those statements are just as God-inspired as
Proverbs 14:12, and belong in the canon of any one's scripture.

Richard
===========================================

Pat wrote:
> 
>...[snip quote of Richard's objections to viewing the gospels as
written by eyewitnesses]..
> 
> 
>1 John 1:1-3 "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which
>we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have
>touched - this we proclaim concerning the word of life..."
> 
>Acts 2:22 - "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man
>accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among
>you through him, as you yourselves know."  Peter speaking in Jerusalem
> 
>Acts 2:32  "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of
>the fact."   Peter speaking.
> 
>Acts 3:14-15 "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a
>murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised
>him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this."    Peter again.
> 
>Acts 4:19-20  "But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it
>is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God.  For we cannot help
>speaking about what we have seen and heard.'"
> 
>Acts 10:39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews
>and in Jerusalem."   Peter again.
> 
>The Gospel of John refers several times to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" :
>(13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20,24)  John 21:24 says, "This is the disciple
>(author) who testifies to these things and who arote them down.  We know
>that his testimony is true."  While true that John does not identify himself
>as the author, he writes as one who was there.  The other 3 gospels name
>John a number of times, since he was a prominent disciple. However, the
>Gospel of John does not , which makes sense if the author is John, writing
>about himself in the third person.
>   Also, as Rauni has pointed out several times, we have Polycarp, the
>disciple of John who was acquainted with many of the disciples.  And
>Irenaeas, the disciple of Polycarp, testified on Ploycarp's behalf that John
>wrote the gospel in Ephesus ("Against Heresies" 2:22.5; 3.1.1)
> 
>Pat
> 

Richard responds:

Re: 1 John - 1) It is by no means certain that the author of this
epistle is identical with the author of the gospel of John.  2)
The epistle does not identify *what* it is that the author has
seen and "handled."  For all we know, he may simply be saying
that he saw and knew Jesus, and that he believes that Jesus was
"from the beginning."  Here I think Christians need to be
reminded of one of their own "first principles" of biblical
interpretation:  don't read into a text something that isn't
there, but that you would like to be there.

Re:  Acts -  I thought I had made clear what is testimony of an
eyewitness.  It is when we have the eyewitness speaking to us
directly.  Acts was not written by Peter.  Most Christians accept
its attribution to the author of the gospel of Luke.  If that is
true, any quotations from Peter are hearsay under the rules of
evidence.  (There are exceptions to the rules of evidence, under
which some kinds of hearsay may be considered as evidence, but
none of those exceptions apply here.)  We have no way of knowing
how the author of Acts knows Peter's exact words.  If the author
was Luke, then we have no reason to believe that Luke was able to
know Peter.  On the contrary - following Rauni's admonition that
we must consider the customs of the culture of the time - we know
that writers of history at that time did not hesitate at all to
invent appropriate words to put in the mouths of the characters
they are writing about.

Re: Gospel of John - Pat quotes:

> "This is the disciple
>(author) who testifies to these things and who arote them down. We know
>that his testimony is true."

  This sentence (into which Pat *presumes* to insert the word
"author" - an insertion which is by no means 100% justified)
already begins to cast doubt on the authorship of this gospel: 
certainly John did not write these words, since they refer to
John in the third person.  Scholars generally assume, based on
such evidence, that chapter 21 (and perhaps chapter 1) were, in
fact, NOT written by the same person who wrote the rest of the
Gospel.  

  Who is it then, who is stating "we know that his testimony is
true"?  Is this an example of the "I'll vouch for him" story?  (A
rag-tag man comes into the bank and asks to borrow a huge amount
of money.  The banker objects that he does not know the man.  The
man says he will bring in his friend Mike, who will vouch for
him.  The banker objects, "But I don't know Mike!"   The man
says, "I'll vouch for him!")  

  Pat also says (using an argument often used by Christian
apologists):

> While true that John does not identify himself
>as the author, he writes as one who was there.

  I have on my bookshelves a large number of historical novels -
a genre I am very fond of.  I happen to know that the authors of
none of these books were actual witnesses to the events they are
describing.  But they write *as one who was there*.  That does
not for a moment make be believe that they were eyewitnesses to
those events.  Many of them are even written from the point of
view of an eyewitness.  But still I do not assume from that that
the author was an eyewitness.

  In summary, as to the gospel of John, it *may* be that it was
written by the apostle of that name, but we do not have the kind
of clear and convincing evidence to establish conclusively that
it was.  We cannot establish that the only explanation for the
existence of this book is that the apostle John wrote it.  It can
just as possibly be fictionalized history, propaganda material.  

Re: Polycarp - Polycarp was the bishop of Smyrna 110 - 155 AD. 
He was martyred by being burned alive when he was 86 years old
(giving us a birthdate of ca. 69 AD), and the account of his
martyrdom is recorded in a letter from the church at Smyrna. 
Polycarp himself wrote very little.  The connection between
Polycarp and John is derived solely from Irenaeus, who writes of
his own memories of his youth, when he heard Polycarp (an old
man) telling of Polycarp's association with John, when Polycarp
himself was a very young man.  Irenaeus gives us no details of
what Polycarp said, but only generalities:  
  "... he [Polycarp] used to speak of his intercourse with John
and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord, and how he
would relate their words.  And everything that he had heard from
them about the Lord, about His miracles and about His teaching,
Polycarp used to tell us as one who had received it from those
who had seen the Word of Life with their own eyes..."  (cited in
Encycl. Britannica, 11th ed, 22:21)

  It has been argued also that the "John" whose disciple Polycarp
was, was not the apostle, but John Presbyter.

  So, that seems to indicate that Polycarp may have known John
the apostle.  What can that signify as to whether the gospel
according to John is an eyewitness account?

  The evidence is extremely tenuous, it would seem.  Please
remember that the quality and weight of evidence depends on what
must be proved, what objections must be overcome.

  If I tell you that I ran into Phil Phoot downtown yesterday and
had a nice chat with him, my saying so is probably sufficient
evidence to you that what I said is true.  If, however, you know
that Phil left town day before yesterday and flew to London,
intending to stay for a month, you will not be so likely to
accept my statement.  I will have to come up with some evidence,
more than my mere statement, in order to convince you that I did,
in fact, see Phil yesterday.  

  But let us say that you know that Phil died two weeks ago, and
you attended his funeral, and saw him lying in his casket, you
are not going to believe even my "eyewitness testimony" that I
saw Phil downtown yesterday and chatted with him.  You will think
of any number of likely explanations for my insistence that I saw
him, and none of those will consider that Phil has risen from the
dead.  I suspect that even if you *can't* think of an explanation
you will not believe that I saw him.

  Suppose that I also tell you that Phil told me that he has,
indeed, risen from the dead, and that he told me to tell you that
he now knows that your religion is false, and that you should
listen to what I will tell you is the true religion.  And that
the money he owed you when he died, you should give it to me. 
What kind of evidence would you want me to give you, to prove
that what I am saying is true?

  Whatever evidence you would want from me, that is the kind of
evidence I expect from Christians.  They don't have that kind of
evidence.

  One general comment:  we must discount all the NT writings to a
certain extent as testimony simply because they are not
disinterested.  None of the evidence is from disinterested
non-Christians.  The NT authors are writing for the sole purpose
of converting the reader to their beliefs.  It is propaganda.  It
is only natural that writers of propaganda embellish, "spin,"
invent, omit contrary evidence, put everything in the best light. 
We have seen the Mormons do it repeatedly, and we have recognized
it.  Being as charitable as possible, one could say that most
Mormons who exaggerate in their propaganda do so out of a sincere
belief that they are only telling what is the truth (or should be
the truth) in spreading a good message.  That is also, I think,
what the early Christians and NT authors did.

  That does not make it any less fictional.

Best wishes,

Richard
===========================================

Rauni wrote:
>Richard,
>I read your argument with amazement!
>I would suggest that we'd change a subject for a short while and
let you explain to me and others why you believe, if you believe,
that, lets say, Alexander the Great existed, fought the wars etc.
He did not write anything himself, so how do we know anything
about him - or any other person for that matter? Do the writings
of a history of the world be then all a fiction, because the
people who's lives the history describes, did not write about
these things themselves.  How do we really know that Abraham
Lincoln did what we have been told he did - and said what is
attributed to him? Is the entire human history a fiction, a
hearsay in your opinion?  I'd like you to apply same critique to
ALL history as you do to the Biblical record. And in all fearness
you should. If you do, honestly, then nothing is reliable.
>Maybe it is all in illusion! Maybe there is no such a thing as
>a accurate history. Maybe none of the people who we have
>learned about throughout our lives really existed at all,
>but somebody just made them up - maybe the people who made them
up were not real either.  Maybe everything is a hearsay - because
we do not have records that would pass "Richard's Court and
Jury".  Would you like to enlighten me on these?  History has
always been my favorite subject.
>It was my father's also.  He told me many war stories of
Russia-Finland wars. He used to say that the generation that
forgets or doesn't know, will repeat the horrors. He was there,
fighting those wars.  He did not write them down though.  If I
wrote them down, they would only be hearsay, not reliable record
at all - after all, I was very young (17) when he died - and he
had told me those stories many years prior to that. I am at loss,
Richard! And amazed! There is nothing in the past then, that we
can trust or count on as being true, really true. Maybe I am not
even here either... It's all an illusion.
>You have broken my bubble, Richard!
>Rauni
> 

Dear Rauni,

  First of all, please calm down and take a couple of deep
breaths!

  I have tried often enough to have discussions with you on these
issues, and I always seem to have the same difficulty with you. 
You try to put words into my mouth, you misinterpret what I say
(I assume unintentionally), and you paint things with too broad a
brush.

  I DO apply the same test to all historical claims as I do to
the biblical record.  If a historical record claims something
contrary to human experience or scientific knowledge, I assume
that it is myth or legend.  And so do you (or do you believe in
the literal truth of the reports of appearances of the Olympic
gods to characters in Greek and Roman history, or the miraculous
events told of in most ancient histories in all cultures?)  Do
you believe that Caesar's body was carried to heaven in a fiery
chariot, as reported by Suetonius the historian?  Do you believe
that the god Krishna rode with Arjuna in his chariot at the great
battle as recorded in the Baghavad-Gita?  If not, why not?  Do
you believe that Rama was helped by the Monkey King in the wars
recorded in the Ramayana?  If not, why not?  Explain to me,
Rauni, how you recognize when something is a myth or legend, and
when it is not.

  Because I do not find convincing evidence for an alleged
historical event which contradicts all human experience before
and since (the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus), that does
not mean that I call into question evidence for historical events
which do not claim to be miraculous.  Please go back and read
about King Blik II in a previous post.

  Have you been following the general discussion about evidence
at all?  I thought I had given you my position on all these
points already.  An eyewitness is an eyewitness.  Direct evidence
is direct evidence.  Hearsay evidence is NOT eyewitness evidence. 
Circumstantial evidence is NOT direct evidence.  

  One may be justified in accepting hearsay or circumstantial
evidence to establish that King Blik II of Glog ascended to the
throne at the age of 42 and immediately went to war against Moog. 
But to believe that the king single-handedly slew 50,000 enemy
warriors based on that sort of evidence surely calls upon us to
be skeptical.  It's obviously a myth.  If the same sort of
evidence tells us that the king's body was carried to heaven by a
thousand angels riding winged elephants - we have a report from
someone whose grandfather actually witnessed this spectacle -
would you believe it?

  Do you believe the "Testimony of Three Witnesses" printed in
the front of the Book of Mormon?  Those are eyewitness reports. 
There are millions of copies of that report in print.  If you
don't believe it, and accept it as valid eyewitness evidence, why
not?

  Do you believe that Alexander the Great existed?  I do.  His
life and campaigns are recorded by numerous historians, and we
have physical artifacts and abundant archaeological evidence of
his life.   Legend has it that Alexander was sired by Zeus, who
appeared in the form of a dragon (probably an early version of
the Holy Ghost) and impregnated his mother.  I don't believe
that.  Do you believe that?  If not, why not?  

  The letter from the church at Smyrna reporting Polycarp's
martyrdom reports that the fire would not consume Polycarp's
body, so an executioner stepped up to Polycarp to kill him with a
dagger.  And when he plunged the dagger into the body, out came a
live dove and so much blood that the fire was quenched.  And all
the multitude were *eyewitnesses* to this marvel, according to
the letter.  Do you believe this *eyewitness* account, word for
word?  If not, why not?  If so, then do you believe the
testimonies of the eyewitnesses to the great manifestations that
occurred at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple?  If not, why
not?  If your answer is not the same to both questions, please
explain how the evidence is different.  Actually, it would seem
that the evidence for the angelic manifestations at Kirtland is
considerably better than the evidence for the dove emerging from
Polycarp's body.

  You perhaps have misunderstood a statement I made in an earlier
post, when I commented that some scholars make a good case that
an actual person Jesus never existed.  I personally think that
the evidence is sufficient to show that a man Jesus did exist,
that he was a popular teacher, and that he was executed by the
Romans for treason.  He may also have believed that he was the
messiah promised in the Jewish scriptures, and his followers
almost certainly believed it.  (Remember however that just
because people believe something does not mean that it is true!)

  Now, here is where you usually say something like, "That's what
the gospels say!  That Jesus was executed by the Romans!  That's
true, and you admit that.  Now, everything else the gospel writes
said must be true, too, and they said that he rose from the dead! 
Q.E.D.!"   That is, "if part of it is true, then all of it is
probably true."  If you can see that such a conclusion is not
warranted (John F. seems to be having something of the same
problem), then fine.  Because it is not warranted.  I think I
showed you that already.  (Remember the witness who said he was
born on Pluto?)

  I guess what I am trying to do with this whole discussion is to
subject the NT story to examination in light of the concept of
the nature and the weight of evidence.  What  facts are
sufficient to establish something with enough certainty that we
should accept it as a fact?  Why should we not be as demanding of
the evidence presented for Christianity as we are with the
evidence presented for Mormonism, or for Islam, or for any other
religious claims?

  There is another aspect to this whole question which is not
often mentioned, but it is crucial.  If I accept the reports of
the deeds of Alexander the Great or Abraham Lincoln as relatively
correct, or if I reject them as unbelievable, there is relatively
little harm done.  My life is not immediately affected (unless I
insist at a cocktail party that there was no such person as
Abraham Lincoln - I might be labeled a nut).  But those who
insist (like Ankerberg, and most Christians) that if I do not
accept their story of Jesus' resurrection and give up my present
religion (or lack of religion) my soul will burn in hell for all
eternity, I think I am entitled to more evidence than that
ordinarily used to determine a merely academic question such as
what Lincoln actually said at Gettysburg, don't you think? 
Suppose my religion teaches me (as does Islam) that if I *accept*
the Christian story my soul will burn in hell for all eternity,
don't you think I have a right - an obligation - to demand that
the Christian story have sufficient evidence to remove all doubt
from my mind that it happened the way they say it happened, if I
am to change my whole life? 

  The world is full - and has probably always been full - of
false prophets and false saviors.  How does one recognize a true
one from all the false ones?  Give me a test!  I have asked that
question of hundreds of Christians and Mormons, and I have yet to
get an answer.  Give me a test that I can apply to the evidence
offered on behalf of any religion or system of belief that will
clearly show that all the others are false, but that the one you
are promoting is true.  (Be careful - no question-begging tests,
such as "If it follows the teachings of the Bible, it's true!" or
"If its God died for your sins and was resurrected, it's true!") 

Best wishes to all,

Richard
===========================================

Neville wrote (Richard's comments are interspersed):

>Dear Richard,
>Thanks for sending these letters on the evidence for Christianty to me. I
>liked what Pat wrote. Do you know where in the Bible it claims to be the
>Word of God? And where Jesus said the scripture is God's Word. If Jesus was
>telling lies, how could he be the sinless savour?

Richard comments:
  I can't tell from the way you ask, Neville, whether you want me
to point out to you where the Bible claims to be the Word of God,
or whether you are checking to see whether I already know that. 
I presume the latter.  Yes, I am familiar with about twenty
passages that Christians use to show that the Bible claims to be
the Word of God.  None of them use the word "Bible," of course,
because there was nothing called the "Bible" until several
centuries after Jesus.  There were only many individual books,
some of which were held by the Jews to be sacred, to varying
degrees.

  So you can't strictly say that the *Bible* "claims to be the
Word of God."  Various authors of different books which later
came to be included in the Bible said that various things in
their own books they got from God, and several made reference to
"scripture" as being "given by inspiration of God" (e.g. 2 Tim
3:16).  But how does this help us?  What did Paul mean by
"scripture"?  At the time he was writing, much of the New
Testament (particularly the gospels and Revelation) had not yet
been written.  How can Paul be referring to works which are still
unwritten?  Does Paul include 2 Timothy under "scripture" as he
is writing it?  You would have to suggest that Paul meant
"Whatever is later decided by the councils of the church to be
included in the Bible canon, a couple of hundred years from now,
that is inspired by God"?  How could Timothy know, as he reads
this letter from Paul, that it is "scripture"?  And yet
Christians accept it as scripture.  

  There are also passages by Paul where Paul seems to be saying
specifically that what he is writing is NOT from God, but just
his opinion (1 Cor 7:6, 12, 25; 2 Cor 11:17).  Paul even corrects
himself at one point (1 Cor 1:14, 16).  Both his original
statement and his correction are now "scripture" and "inspired of
God"?

  What about materials in the Bible which can be shown to be
quotations from pagan sources.  Are they also "inspired of God"?

  What about the words which were spoken by prophets of God and
written in books which are NOT in the Bible (there are quite a
few).  Does this mean that they are NOT "scripture"?

  The biggest problem in any inference that the Bible's claim to
be the "Word of God" should itself be taken as any evidence of
the truth of the claim is:  it is so clearly a case of circular
reasoning:  To prove that the Bible is the Word of God, you quote
the Bible, which says that it is the Word of God.  Don't you see
how this is meaningless?

  The Koran also says that it is the Word of God.  The Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants says that it is the Word of God.  Do you
accept those claims as even a hint that those books are, in fact,
the Word of God?  (Or, to paraphrase John Farkas, Do those claims
"lend credence" to the inspiration of those books?)  Of course
not!  And rightly so.  So why then should we lend any more weight
to the same claim as made in the Bible?  (If you are tempted to
reply, "Because I believe the Bible because it is the Word of
God!" then you have succumbed again to that common problem of
Christian apologetics:  circular reasoning. 

>I read the Bible so God can speak to me, and when I do what the Bible says,
>I am helped.

Richard comments:

  I am glad that you can find help in doing what the Bible says,
that you find it a useful guide in your life.  I hope you don't
take it too literally, though, and stone apostates (Ex 22:20,
Deut 17:2-5), or kill your rebellious children (Lev 20:9, Ex
21:17, Deut 21:18-21, affirmed by Jesus Matt 15:3-9).  I hope you
don't take the advice of the Bible at Matt 5:29-30, Matt
19:16-21, Luke 6:36 (if you do, please send me $1000), Luke
14:33), Matt 6:25-34 (do you not have anything "put away" for a
rainy day?), etc.

  But whether you follow the Bible's advice literally and
completely, or whether you only do those things that seem right
to you and disregard the rest, even though it is "inspired by
God," any help that the Bible gives you in leading your life is
NOT evidence that it is from God, is it?  I get a lot of good
advice for my life by following the suggestions of many wise
writers - philosophers, poets, psychologists, thinkers - and very
few of them are Christian.  But they help me.  Is that evidence
that their advice is inspired of God?  

  So I'm afraid that even though you find great comfort in what
you interpret the Bible to be saying to you, I'm afraid it is NOT
evidence that the Bible is inspired.

  And, Neville, when you say "I read the Bible so God can speak
to me," you are again assuming the very thing that you and
Christians like Ankerberg are trying to prove.  If the Bible is
NOT in fact the Word of God, then it isn't God speaking to you
when you read it, is it?  No matter how wise or lovely or
inspiring those words may be, and however helpful they may be. 
How do you know that you are not being misled, that there would
not be better advice, greater wisdom, more knowledge, from some
other source which your devotion to the Bible now forces you to
exclude from consideration?

>I hope you don't mind this little Bible study, but these are some of the
>verses that have been a help to me.
> 
>Here are some verses that helped me to believe in Christ:
> 
>John 12:10-11, "But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus
>also to death; 
> 11  Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed
>on Jesus."
> 
>Why did the chief priests want to put Lazarus to death?
> 
>John 20:29-31, "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me,
>thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
>believed. 
> 30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples,
>which are not written in this book: 
> 31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ,
>the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name."
> 
>Why did Thomas believe?
> 
>The Bible is not against reason, we have a reason for the hope that is in
>us. 1Peter 3:15, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready
>always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope
>that is in you with meekness and fear:"
> 
>Proverbs 10:21, "The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for
>want of wisdom."

Richard comments:

  I am not surprised that if you read the Christian propaganda
material, which were written specifically to convince the reader
that Christianity is God's religion, and if you read it without
questioning it, you will believe it.  Of course.  That is true of
any religious propaganda.  

  What would you say to a Mormon who used the same argument to
you:  "Here are passages from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine
and Covenants that have helped me to believe that Joseph Smith
was a prophet of God:..."?  With the implication, of course, that
if YOU will read them and accept them, you will also believe that
Joseph Smith was a prophet?  And yet that is exactly what you are
doing with your citation of Bible verses.  Of course if I
accepted those verses and believed them and acknowledged them as
"inspired of God" I would become a Christian.  But why should I? 
That is the whole point of this discussion:  What evidence is
there to convince me to believe it?

> 
>Have you seen this web site?
> 
>>> 
>Index to Biblical Contradictions
>http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/~werdna/contradictions/cindex.html

Richard comments:

  No, I was not aware of this site.  Thanks for the URL.  I'll
take a look at it.

  Right now I'm occupied with the Habermas/Flew debate, referred
to by Ankerberg in his article.  I'm about 30 pages into it. 
I'll post some brief (I hope) comments when I've finished it.

>1. God is satisfied/unsatisfied with his works
>2. God dwells/dwells not in chosen temples
>3. God dwells in light/darkness
>4. God is seen/unseen and heard/unheard
><< 
> 
>Kind Regards,
> 
>Neville
> 
>...[snip quote from Pat 7/18/98, presenting NT eyewitness
claims]...
====================================

Sharon writes, responding to Richard, whose comments are
interspersed:

>Richard,
> 
>I read with interest your various correspondences.  Thanks for sharing
>them.  I gave my friend Charles everything you sent me and I think he will
>write to you--not to engage in a long discussion as he has no  time for that
>now--but mainly to share his story with you.  He says you  two share
>similar things. 
> 
>> don't you think I have a right - an obligation - 
>>to demand that the Christian story have sufficient evidence to remove all
>>doubt from my mind that it happened the way they say it happened, if I am to
>>change my whole life? 
>> 
>Yes.
> 
>>  The world is full - and has probably always been full - of false prophets
>>and false saviors.  How does one recognize a true one from all the false
>>ones?  Give me a test! 
> 
>"HOW can we KNOW when a message has not been spoken by the
Lord?...  
> 
>Richard, your question was asked thousands of years ago already! Here's
>your test:
> 
>...If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord DOES NOT TAKE PLACE
>or COME TRUE, that is a message the Lord has not spoken."  Deut. 18
> 
>"...a prophet...will be recognized as one truely sent by the Lord ONLY if
>his prediction COMES TRUE."  Jer. 28
> 
>Richard, in my estimation, prophecy is one of the strongest evidences that
>we have been given.

Richard responds:

  The test in Deuteronomy 18 is a fine test, and a good test. 
However, if you read it carefully, it is not just a test of
whether the prophecy is false, but whether the prophet is false: 
the penalty for the supposed prophet who utters a false prophecy
is death (Deut 18:20).  That is, one false prophecy - one
unfulfilled prophecy, however many fulfilled prophecies the man
may have uttered - condemns him.  The implication is that a
prophecy should be fulfilled within a normal lifetime -
otherwise, how could the false prophet be punished?  Ezek
12:21-28 specifically deals with this problem (the false
prophecies the fulfillment of which is claimed to be yet "far
off") by the Lord saying that no more will the fulfillment of
prophecy be "prolonged."

  One of the problems with testing the fulfillment of ancient
prophecies is that we can rarely be certain that the prophecy was
actually made and recorded before the fulfilling event.  The
prophecy of Josiah which Ankerberg mentioned, for example, is
recorded in the Book of Kings, which is generally dated from
Josiah's time.  

  Even disregarding that, however, the fulfillment record of
Biblical prophecy is not very impressive.  The last few years I
have been making a list of Biblical prophecies for my own notes,
and there are an awful lot of them that were not fulfilled and
never can be fulfilled.  The list is pretty long.  What I find
interesting is that Christian apologists who try to explain why
all these prophecies were not fulfilled use exactly the same
arguments that Mormons use to explain the failure of practically
all of Joseph Smith's prophecies.  So, if you can make excuses
for the nonfulfillment of all these Biblical prophecies, are you
willing to allow Joseph Smith the same latitude?

  (I debated with myself about including a list of failed Bible
prophecies here, but it would make this post too long.  I'll send
it to anybody who wants it.)

>"...the basic reality of God is plain enough.... By taking a long and
>thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to
>see what their eyes as such can't see:  eternal power, for instance and the
>mystery of his divine being."  Rom. 1

Richard comments:

  I think we see some circular reasoning here:  If we look at
what God has created, we will realize that God created it? 
Merely by choosing the transitive verb "create" you have biased
the statement.  I can just as easily (and just as justifiably)
say:  "By taking a long and thoughtful look at what exists, all
by itself, and has existed by itself as long as we can tell, we
can see how existence simply exists, without any outside force,
whether we understand all the details of it or not."
> 
>A strong evidence with me is birds.  Yep.  Birds.
> 

  Well, I'll bite, Sharon!  :-)  Does it have anything to do with
the Holy Ghost appearing in the form of a dove?

>I assume you are knowledgable of F.F. Bruce's "The NT Documents--Are They
>Reliable?"  and "The Defense of the Gospel in the NT"?

  No, I'm afraid I am not.  Are you familiar with Randell Helms'
book "Gospel Fictions" which shows the fictional nature of the
gospels?

> 
>Sharon    
> 
> 
==============================================================
Pat writes:

>Richard,
>   We have been trying to tell you that we think we have sufficient evidence
>for the claims of Christianity, but what we present is not acceptable to
>you.

  And I have been trying to tell you that your evidence does not
meet the standards of the ordinary rules of evidence, which was
the standard Ankerberg claimed he was using.

>    Earlier in you post you said, "If a historical record claims something
>contrary to human experience or scientific knowledge, I assume that it is a
>myth or legend."  Why so?  That is the only option, or the only one that you
>will accept? 
>    And you said, "Because I do not find convicing evidence for an alleged
>historical event which contradicts all human experience before and since
>(the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus), that does not mean that I call
>into question evidence for historical events which do not claim to be
>miraculous."  So it is the miracle part that you object to?
>    If you are going to take the position that there can be no miracles,
>then hasn't your bias (against miracles) arbitrarily eliminated options up
>front?
>   A Christian, on the other hand, can believe in the laws of nature, but
>also be open to the possibilty of God's intervention.  Both can be
>consistent with his world view.
>    Can you tell me with absolute certainty that miracles cannot happen?
>Wouldn't you have to know everything about the way the universe works; how
>reality itself works?  Isn't the idea that miracles cannot or do not happen
>an article of faith in itself?

Richard responds:

  I think I referred you to my article on this issue at
<http://www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1998/1/981heart.ht
ml>.  The "bias against miracles" argument is often used by
Christian apologists to deflate criticism of biblical miracles,
and particularly the resurrection and virgin birth.  I think it's
a false issue, and it is misused by both sides of the debate.  

  I suggest that the issue is confused by the use of the word
"miracle."  The issue is not whether an event is a "miracle" or
whether a "miracle" has occurred.  The issue is whether a
particular person (Jesus) really died, and then a couple of days
later, after having *really* been dead, came back to life (and
then flew off to heaven with a lot of people watching).  I don't
care what you want to call it.  I just want reliable evidence
that it happened.

  I offered the testimony of a witness who had been born on the
planet Pluto.  That's pretty hard to believe.  Do you believe
what the witness said about his birthplace?  Would you believe it
if you had sufficient evidence?  If so, what would that evidence
be?  (Or are you biased against the idea of people being born on
the planet Pluto and coming to earth?)

  I probably should have stated my position (which you quoted) a
little more precisely:
"If a historical record claims something contrary to human
experience or scientific knowledge, I assume that it is a myth or
legend."  I should have added: "...unless there is a tremendous
amount of evidence which shows that it really did happen, and
there is no other explanation for that evidence."

  You ask whether I can tell you with absolute certainty that
miracles cannot happen.  Let me remind you that the burden of
proof is on the one asserting something, not the one contesting
it.  So, define "miracle" and then prove to me with absolute
certainty that such a thing can happen.  You have the burden of
proof.

>>...[snip of quote from Richard]...
>>...  Give me a test that I can
>>apply to the evidence offered on behalf of any religion or system of belief
>>that will clearly show that all the others are false, but that the one you
>>are promoting is true.  (Be careful - no question-begging tests, such as "If
>>it follows the teachings of the Bible, it's true!" or "If its God died for
>>your sins and was resurrected, it's true!")
> 
>The test of Christianity rests in the resurrection of Jesus.  When you look
>at Islam, the question is, did Mohammed return from the dead, or is he still
>in his grave?  

 No, Pat, you are doing exactly what I warned about:  you are
creating a test that only your religion can satisfy, without
showing us why that should be the test of the "true" religion. 
Why should the death and coming to life of the founder of a
religion be the only possible evidence that it is true?  I think
a much better test would be that the founder never died at all,
but is still alive after 5000 years.  Or that he is still walking
around, visible to anybody, and emptying the hospitals and the
graveyards, 24 hours a day.  I can think of a hundred better
tests than the one that happens to fit the Christians' claims
about Jesus.  

>If he is still in his grave, does he have the power to save
>anyone?  The same goes for any other religious leader.   How many have
>returned from the grave?   By the way, haven't most religious leaders urged
>their followers to follow their teachings as a means of enlightenment, etc.?
>How many claimed to have the power to  raise people from the dead.  

  Claims are easy, Pat.  This discussion is about the EVIDENCE
for claims.  And the issue of whether Jesus returned from the
dead is the VERY ISSUE we are discussing, precisely because you
Christians do not have any reliable evidence that it actually
happened.  You are begging the question terribly here, Pat.

>That is
>the claim that Jesus made - for Himself and eventually for us.  Jesus was
>not just a teacher whe asked people to listen to his teachings. He asked
>people to believe that He is God.

  Pat, you are preaching here, you are bearing your testimony,
not presenting evidence.  (Actually, if I wanted to be flippant,
I would ask you to believe that I am God.  Does that make me
God?)

>    Getting back to miracles.  Actually, there is only one important one
>when  God intervened in human history that we need to mainly concern
>ourselves with.  Paul was convinced of that, for he said,"For what I
>received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our
>sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on
>the third day according to the Scriputres, and that he appeared to Peter,
>and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred
>of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some
>have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally
>born." (1 Cor. 15:3-7)  If this did not actually happen, then Jesus' claims
>to be the only way to God can be dismissed.

  Again, can you prove to me that what Paul claimed actually
happened?  How does his claim have more credibility than the
claim of Joseph Smith?  Claims are easy to make, but hard to
prove.  

>    But, in order to dismiss the resurrection, there are still a lot of
>circumstantial evidence that would have to be explained away.  I guess that
>is the bottom line.  While I don't think that anyone can prove to you
>scientifically, that it actually occurred, ...

  Ah, but that's exactly what Ankerberg claimed:  that the
evidence to prove the resurrection was overwhelming....

>...the question is, what is the most
>reasonable explanation for the outcome of the empty tomb?  All of the
>explanations that I have heard require as much or more credulity than
>believing that Jesus is who He said He is.

  I thought I had posted the evidence rule about circumstantial
evidence.  It must be credible, not contrary to ordinary human
experience or the laws of science and nature, and it must not be
explainable by any other possible theory other than the one which
it is being called upon to support. 

  You also seem to be assuming that we must accept the gospel
reports - contradictory and late and third- or fourth-hand (or
even more remote) - as word-for-word reliable.  I fail to see why
we must do that.

  I really fail to see how the "empty tomb" report is that
important.  I can imagine all kinds of explanations for a report
of an empty grave or tomb which do not require one to assume that
the occupant has come back to life.  We are bound by Ockham's
Razor (the "law of parsimony") to take any of those mundane
explanations in preference to assuming that the body has come
back to life.  And circumstantial evidence won't do it, under the
laws of evidence.

  I have suggested (as have many others) several explanations for
the reports in the New Testament, utilizing what we know about
human psychology, about mass movements, about the culture of the
times, about literary and theological customs of the time, about
how legends develop.  With the evidence that we have, without
being credulous, those events are 100% explainable.  No miracles
occurred, no rising from the dead, nothing which cannot be
explained by what we know from our ordinary experience.  So,
shall we accept a perfectly mundane, ordinary explanation, or
shall we be credulous and take the most outrageous possible
explanation (which is no explanation at all, really, but a "great
mystery of Godliness")?

  The only miracle about the resurrection, it seems to me, is
that so many people insist on believing it with so flimsy
evidence for it.

  The burden of proof is still on those who claim that the
resurrection occurred.  The evidence that Christians have
presented does not pass the test of the ordinary laws of
evidence.  I have pointed out exactly why that is.  You have not
pointed out how my analysis is incorrect.

==============================
Evelyn writes (Richard's comments follow):

>Richard, dear!
> 
>I have to say that I am an eye witness to a vision of the cross right here
>in my living room in broad daylight. This occurred on Sept. 19th at noon in
>1989. I was very much a Mormon. When it faded I made a colored sketch of it
>in every detail my mind's eye remembered. I shared my sketch with a Navajo
>Mormon missionary who was hoping my lovely daughter would wait for him and
>for Christmas that year he made me a wood carving of my vision. Mormons
>don't want to look upon a cross. Yet this fellow had a personal
>relationship with Jesus and he treasured my experience as much as if he had
>it himself. It was one of the puzzle pieces that eventually came together
>to bring me out of Mormonism. Plus a dear friend and I had shared a
>vision/tongues experience in the Celestial room at the Chicago Temple on
>June 13, 1993 at about 3 p.m. This one revealed to us that  the Temple God
>was Satan. Another puzzle piece to add to the whole picture. A dream both
>my friend and I had on the same night-Sept. 26, 1993-where Jesus came to us
>and told us both-she living 25 miles from me-that He came for the whole
>world-not just a select group of people. Another puzzle piece. A Bible
>Study wherein we read in Job 33:14-18, 28-30 why we LDS sisters had our
>visions and dreams. You can read it for yourself. BINGO!!! The puzzle
>pieces finally fit together and formed a clear picture as to why we had to
>resign from the Mormon cult and from there we learned through the Holy
>Spirit what our purpose was and through our witness between us we have
>touched about one thousand people's lives and stopped them from going on to
>get baptized as Mormons (since Nov. 1993 when we finally had the guts to
>stop going to that cult.  
> 
>Two sisters ( I was her visiting teacher for 5 yrs). finding the truth
>through something supernatural. We both experienced it. WE both saw visions
>and had the same dream. I could no more deny what happened to me and Sandra
>than you can deny what happened in your life to cause your decision to
>leave the cult. We personally lived it and witnessed it and I can't deny
>it. I guess if someone threatened to kill me if I didn't change my story
>then they would have to kill me. Because I can't change my story. It really
>happened.
> 
>My minister told me that Constantine also had a vision of the cross and
>very few people in history have had that same vision (that recorded it
>anyway). 
> 
>Well, that's my  eyewitness report!!
>Best wishes,
>Evelyn

Richard comments:

  Dear Evelyn, I hope you know how much I respect you, the
sincerity of your beliefs, the continuing affection you have
shown to such a persistent atheist as I am.  You have shared with
me before (I don't recall whether you posted it on exmormon also)
some of your very moving spiritual experiences, and I find them
very moving.  I understand why you are so firm in the convictions
which you base on those experiences.

  And because of my affection for you, I am reluctant to say
anything about your experiences - which were so profound and so
personal.  But, in order to keep this discussion open, frank and
rational, I'm afraid that I must.

  Let me assure you, right off, that I do not doubt for a single
moment that you experienced what you report.  I am certain that
you did.

  But I must, in my own mind, place your experiences alongside
the experiences of thousands of others who have used similar
words to report similar (and, unfortunately, in some respects not
so similar) experiences.  Human beings have been having religious
experiences - dreams, visions, rapturous visitations, etc. -
through all of recorded history.  William James wrote his classic
"Varieties of Religious Experience" on this subject.  And when
one studies these religious experiences - from all cultures and
religions - one is struck by two things:  their great similarity
and their great dissimilarity.  They are similar in that the
person who has such an experience is profoundly moved by it, it
sometimes changes his life, it is the most real and vivid
experience he has ever had.  They are dissimilar in content,
however.  The experience had by the Muslim testifies of Mohammed
and Allah; the experience by the Christian is "proof" of Christ;
the Mormon sees Joseph Smith in the Celestial Kingdom, etc.  Can
all of these visions and manifestations be from the One God?  Why
- if the true God is Jehovah/Jesus - would a Muslim have a moving
religious experience which confirms his faith in Islam, which
teaches him that he will spend forever in hell if he believes in
the divinity of Jesus?

  Now, you will immediately object that you had a vision of the
Christian cross while you were still a Mormon.  Paul saw a vision
of Jesus while he was persecuting Christians.  Constantine saw
the vision of the cross while he was still pagan.  I think that
is no problem:  an obvious possible explanation is that the
vision involved something already present in the subconscious
mind.  What seems never to happen is that a Tibetan monk who
never heard of Jesus has a moving vision of him (and the monk has
to ask, Who are you? and the vision answers 'Jesus the Christ,'
and the monk has to say, I never heard of you.)

  To use such visions as hard evidence, however, causes immediate
problems.  We have your report of your visions and dreams.  We
also have the reports of the Three Witnesses to the Book of
Mormon.  Shall we give them equal credence?  We have Joseph
Smith's report of his visitation from the Angel Moroni (I'll not
mention the First Vision, since there seems to be contradictions
there in the reporting, just as there is in the reports of Paul's
vision).  Mohammed testifies of his communications with the angel
Gabriel.  And so on.  Either we must accept them all at face
value, or we must look for more solid evidence.  The ultimate
problem, of course, is that a "religious experience" can only be
evidence for the person who experiences it.  Even the Bible warns
us to "test the spirits" - but how do we test them?  If we are
believing something false, wouldn't an evil spirit confirm us in
that false belief?  The testimony of the vision or the spirit
must be tested by some other means.  

  Even if I were to have such an experience, I would have to
remind myself that a hallucination is a hallucination precisely
because it seems so real.

===============================
Bruce writes (Richard's response at the end):

>Dear Friends on this thread,
> 
>Since I last posted I went to Adam's funeral and have been on the road.  I
>have done some real soul searching, yes also prayer..  I wish to share with
>you all some my thoughts and considerations on this topic.  I have no outline
>for what I wish to say so I will simply let the thoughts come as they will and
>hope it is not too fragmented.
> 
>I was thinking how so many exmormons I've seen come the list with their belief
>in God shattered.  It seems common.  I think it is perfectly logical IF one's
>belief in God was based on the man Joseph Smith, Jr.  
> 
>Another thought I had was that if there is a God, it is obviously Its Nature
>to allow false prophets, false claims, false scripture and false religions.  
> 
>It should also be obvious that all religions cannot be true yet many religions
>have huge financial assets and large followings.  Based on this observation I
>must conclude that it is also God's nature to allow false religions to
>flourish and succeed and deceive.
> 
>Other thoughts I will save for another post.  (I just realized I have so
>many!!)
> 
>****
> 
>In the most recent discussion I read on this thread Richard asked Rauni the
>following questions: 
> 
>...[snip of Richard's request for a test to apply to religious
claims]...
> 
>Bruce:  Richard, allow me to answer according to my ability. Please keep in
>mind that most believers believe that God is Invisible and Jesus the same -
>Invisible.  I am not a witness to the resurrection of Jesus nor do I know
>anyone who is.
> 
>Invisible things are VERY real.  The very Love one feels for his or her family
>is very real yet entirely invisible.  I offer this only as one example and I
>could list many other examples of Invisible Realities but I don't feel the
>need to.
> 
>It is not my belief that it’s God's Nature to hide -- on the contrary.  I also
>don't believe that it is our job to "pierce the veil" so to speak and find
>God.  
> 
>In my humble opinion our part is small -- the greater part is His.
> 
>If you would like me to expound what I think "our part" is please ask.
> 
>***
> 
>I won't attempt to answer the other questions because I am not in a position
>to apologize for or defend certain things.
> 
>This thread has been most helpful to me and is very close to me.  I wish to
>thank all contributors.
> 
>Love,
> 
>Bruce

Richard's comment:

  I have no problem admitting that many "real" things are
invisible.  (I might point out that imaginary things are usually
also invisible.)  But the resurrection of Jesus is claimed to be
an actual, non-invisible event, and Ankerberg (and many other
Christians) also claim that the evidence for its having actually
happened is sufficient to convince any open-minded person, using
the ordinary rules of evidence.

  It seems to me, in fact, that one of the most convincing
arguments against the existence of the Christian God is the very
paucity of the evidence for the historicity of the events on
which that religion is based.  It seems utterly inconceivable
that God would make my eternal salvation depend on my acceptance
of certain things as facts, and would provide me with a brain,
yet not provide the evidence to permit me with good conscience to
acknowledge those supposedly essential truths as such, but rather
make them appear contradictory, absurd, and unbelievable.  Why
shouldn't the true religion make sense?

Best wishes to all,

Richard

Comments? (Please, no preaching or hate mail!) Write:  packham@teleport.com

©  1998 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

TO RICHARD PACKHAM’S HOME PAGE


“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”    — John 8:32

The Death of Reason and Freedom

The Death of Reason and Freedom

ORIGINS

I was born into the church by parents whose lineage goes back to the founding of the LDS church. While they had their faults and mistakes, I was raised in a loving home with a very dedicated mother and father. They were wonderful examples to me of faith and endurance in trying circumstances and they tried every day to center their family’s life on the principles of the LDS Gospel.

I was born with a membrane disease in my lungs that nearly took my life at birth. My parents, extended family and several members of their local LDS congregation fasted and prayed many times on my behalf. My parents had already endured the devastation of losing their first-born son two days after his birth and they begged God not to take me. By virtue of the fact that I am writing this, I am there miracle baby. I was spared.

I went through all of the LDS Church rights of passage: Baptism at 8, priesthood at 12, president of my priesthood quorums, Seminary graduate/scripture mastery, mission at 19, marriage at 23 and two beautiful daughters by the age of 28. By all accounts I was on the highway to heaven. I was the good son with the ideal family, budding successful career, faithful service in church callings, and extensive understanding of the LDS gospel.

SHOCK

In January of 1995 I prepare to go through the temple for the first time in preparation for my mission. I have been taught through the years that I would learn all that was necessary to gain my salvation by going through the temple. I believe it to be the pinnacle of true worship. I have expectations of learning great things through the covenants and true order of prayer as these parts of the temple have been quietly intimated to me through the years by my parents and teachers.

My parents, grandparents, various uncles and aunts and myself meet at the Idaho Falls Idaho temple on a bright clear Saturday morning. I am a little nervous about the unknown but tremendously excited that I have reached this point in my life. I have one older sister who had made some serious mistakes and fallen away from the faith during her teen years. I am the first of my parents children to ‘make it’ to the temple and it is the healing balm for their souls to see their oldest son ‘staying the course’.

…Let me take you now through my first experience in the temple…

I get my temple clothing packet from the rental counter. The first two whispering questions surface to my conscious mind… 

~What is this clothing for?

~Why are there moneychangers in the temple?

‘No matter’ I rationalize, I am hear to receive enlightenment and make covenants in the House of the Lord. I go with my father to a small room that serves as some kind of office. There, the temple president explains to me the sacred nature of the Garment and the need to wear it from this point on as a shield and a protection. I go through the Washing and Anointing and New Name ceremony without much concern. I accept these ordinances based on references in the bible regarding the washing and anointing of priests and the periodic assignment of new names to various biblical patriarchs in the Old Testament.

 

I proceeded to the waiting chapel to sit and meditate until the time of the next session. The time has arrived and the company of people assembled in the chapel is ushered into the creation room (the Idaho Falls Temple still has separate creation, garden, telestial and terrestrial rooms with the video and audio segments appropriate for those parts of the ceremony queued up in succession). I sit and wait.

~The company is seated… 

~The lights grow dim… 

~I sit silently in the darkness…

~This is the beginning of the end…

“You will be required to take upon yourselves sacred obligations, the violation of which will bring upon you the judgment of God. For God will not be mocked…”

~I feel fear in the darkness…

“If any of you wish to withdraw rather than receive these covenants of your own free will and choice, you may now make it know by raising your hand…”

~I look around in the darkness…

~I see my family silhouetted in the darkness…

~I feel fear in the darkness… 

~I remain seated in the darkness…

I witness the creation and go into the garden room. The fruit is eaten. The fall has commenced…

“Take some fig leaves and make you aprons. Father will see your nakedness. Quick! Hide!”

“Brothers and Sisters put on your aprons.”

~I obey Satan…

I make my first covenant to obey God’s law and keep his commandments. I see the sisters bow their heads in submission to their husband’s. I am now ready to receive the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with its accompanying name and sign. 

~What is a token?

~What will I do with it?

I receive the first token: A secret handshake.

~A secret handshake…

I make the sign. I make the covenant. “I, Jesse, solemnly covenant before God, Angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that I will never reveal the first token of the Aaronic Priesthood with it’s accompanying name and sign” 

~A secret combination…

All my life I have been taught from the Book of Mormon that secret signs, oaths and societies are from the devil. They are responsible for the destruction of civilizations and untold misery.

~I have joined a secret society…

~I am now a part of a secret combination…

~I feel fear…

Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden. I go into the telestial room. 

~Satan is looking at me…

“I have a word to say concerning these people. If they do not walk up to every covenant that they make at these altars in this temple today, the will be in my power…”

~I feel terror…

Satan is cast out. I receive more tokens and signs. I put on strange clothing.

~I look at my father…

~His face a mask of concentration, staring resolutely ahead…

~I look at my mother…

~Her face devoid of emotion, following by rote…

I look around at all the other patrons following en masse. All dressed in strange ceremonial clothing. All bow their heads and say yes.

~I am in a cult…

~My mind whispers quietly: Please God no…

“Each of you bow your head and say yes.” 

The company chants in unison: “YES”

~I am trapped…

~My mind screams: PLEASE DEAR GOD NO!

“EACH OF YOU BOW YOUR HEAD AND SAY YES.”

~I bow my head…

~I say “yes”…

“Raise both hands high above the head and while lowering the hands, repeating three times the words: O God, hear the words of my mouth”

~Everyone raises their hands…

~I raise my hands…

~Everyone repeats the chant…

~I repeat the chant…

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect…

~I am no longer an individual…

The True order of prayer is introduced. I feel relief. Finally a prayer to sooth my tortured mind. We gather in a circle around the altar. This sisters veil their faces. We do not pray. We make the signs of all the tokens of the priesthood. We each take the hand of the sister to our left in the patriarchal grip, raise our left arms to the square, and rest them on the shoulder of the person to our left.

~The officiator kneels…

~He begins to pray…

“Those in the circle will repeat the words of the prayer”

~We repeat the words of the officiator…

~Our words are a monotone chant…

~I am in a séance…

The sound of many voices as one has a numbing effect…

~I am no longer an individual…

~I feel my mind growing numb…

~I obey…

~I accept…

I pass through the veil after receiving the name of the second token of the Melchizedek Priesthood and go into the celestial room. Family congratulating me in hushed and reverent tones surrounds me. I sit for a moment to ponder.

~I am in a cult…

~Dear God what have I done?

~I am in shock…

~I have learned nothing…

I visit the temple repeatedly to gain more insight. None comes. I just accept it all as I have been taught to do and eventually the questions and doubts are silenced as the euphoria of accomplishment enshrouds me.

~I made it…

~I am one of the elite…

~This is the beginning of the end…

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

After my first time through the temple, I learn from my mother that the ordinances have been changed recently. I simply nodd in acknowledgement of here statement, still too shocked to really respond to this revelation. Looking back, it was the perfect time to broach the subject, as I would not give it another thought for 10 years.

While on my mission I become aware of the existence of the Masonic order. I learn that Joseph Smith was a Mason. I learn of the similarities between the Masonic and Temple ceremonies. I learned that the temple endowment ceremony was introduced within two months of Joseph Smith’s induction into the Masonic Order. I learned that Joseph restored the endowment to its full purity from its ancient and corrupted Masonic origins. I am too indoctrinated as a missionary to even entertain a concern about the whole situation. I accept it all.

In my second year of college in 1999 a fellow student, upon learning that I was a Mormon confides in me that he used to be a Mormon but that he left because of the Book of Abraham. As I listen, he explaines to me that is was nothing more than a common Egyptian funerary text and that Joseph Smith’s translation was completely false. He tells me how everybody told him to ‘read this or read that’ writing written by various apologists to explain away the problem but none of it made any sense. He summarizes by saying that maybe he doesn’t have enough faith. He cannot reconcile the glaring inconsistency. My faith was unwavering. I feel pity for him.

By the end of 2004 I am a traditional believing married Mormon Father of two with a home in the northern Utah suburbs and a college degree completed. I am in the elder’s quorum presidency, working in my field of interest and life is good. Over the last few years, I have encountered and ‘resolved’ to my satisfaction a multitude of evidences and questions that would shed doubt upon the divinity and authenticity of the church. I am a stalwart member. In October of 2004 I get a job offer within my company for a position at the corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. My wife and I prayerfully consider and accept the offer. This is the first big move for us. My wife’s father works at the Bountiful Utah temple and he and his wife are preparing to serve a mission. We sell our home during the Christmas season and move to a small suburb north of Atlanta in January 2005. We are now on our own.

Shortly after our move to Georgia, my wife relates to me a phone conversation she had with her parents (they call usually once a week) in which her father mentioned in passing that the Initiatory ordinance had been changed. The comment passes and the conversation continues. All is well.

~All is not well…

~Deep inside my mind, a thought emerges…

COLLAPSE

~It keeps gnawing at me…

~I can’t seem to shake it…

~I’ll get over it…

I take the time one day to peruse the junk mail and run across an Oprah mail order book club list. I am browsing through the titles when I come across the title: Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith by Martha Beck. I am intrigued and I read the brief description. I am always interested in why people leave the church if only to reinforce the various arguments I have constructed to bolster my faith. I do a search online at work and find that this is the daughter of Hugh Nibley, the most renowned church apologist. I read a few excerpts online…

~There is a crack in the foundation of my fortress of faith…

~The Book of Abraham is back…

~For reasons I know not, I cannot ignore it this time…

I begin to read. I read stories online about why people leave the LDS church. I read for two months. I collect their stories. I laugh with them, cry with them, I sympathize with them.

I am now in violation of question number six in the temple recommend interview: “Do you affiliate 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, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?”

~I bow my head and say yes…

HOPE

~I begin to think…

~I begin to question…

~I begin to doubt…

~I begin to learn…

~I begin to awaken…

I spend every available break time at work reading on the Internet. I revisit all of my concerns with an objective point of view. The evidence is devastating. It has been here all along and I have refused to see it in the light of rational thought. I have forcefully refused to use the brain that God gave me for over 10 years. I drink from the fountains of knowledge like a man dying of thirst. I have never felt so liberated. I ask God if what I am doing is right. I feel an incredible sense of peace and love envelope me and I know in my heart and mind that what I am doing is right. 

~I am an individual! 

~I am alive! 

~I am free!

I am… married to a devout Mormon woman and I have two daughters. I am… in the elder’s quorum presidency. I am… in a large Mormon family that, with only 2 exceptions, is all devout believers. I start to think again. We are on our own now. Family is thousands of miles away. I begin to hope. If I make the information passively available, my wife will listen to the voice of reason. I share my concern of the changing temple ordinances with her. She is shocked but tries to understand and agrees that I need to prayerfully study my concerns to get the answers that I am seeking. I bring ‘By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus’ by Charles Larson home to casually read.

I am reading more and more each day. Finding a special thrill in entertaining serious questions and using my reason and intellect along with inspiration to find the truth. I am learning to love absolute truth without loyalty to any organization. It has truly set me free. I can question anything! I can reach my own carefully thought out conclusions! No information is off limits! I can truly exercise my mind! It is incredibly intoxicating.

~I know the truth now…

~The Mormon Church is a man made institution…

~It has no claim to exclusive authority…

~I know…

~I am so happy…

By this time I have stopped paying tithing. I am getting a better handle on the family finances as a result. I am cultivating a more tolerant and loving worldview. I am less judgmental. I no longer view life through the confining prism of Mormonism. 

~The freedom is intoxicating… 

~I don’t tell my wife… 

~This is my fatal mistake… 

Thursday, July 28th, 2005: we come to an emotional confrontation that lasts until four o’clock in the morning. Because I now hold the church in suspect, my wife tells me that our marriage is based on a lie. She tells me that she wishes that our children had never been born. She tells me that she does not want her daughters raised in a home with an unbeliever.

~I read the writing on the wall…

TRAPPED

Friday, July 29th, 2005: I come home from work and my wife tells me she has come to some conclusions. We sit and talk. She has read ‘By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus’. She tells me that the truth is anti Mormon. She has thrown away the book. She tells me that Satan is tempting me with the facts. She tells me her testimony is unshakable. She tells me that in order for her to support me in my journey, I must do things her way. I must study only the scriptures and approved church scripture study guides alone and with her. She tells me I must put aside the facts and the truth for now. If at the end I still feel that the church is not true, she does not know what she will do. She may go into therapy. She may leave me. She may take my children away. She has called her parents and my parents while I am at work. They have all agreed to open their homes to her immediately if necessary. She tells me that my parents are prepared to come to my home this weekend and if necessary, she will go back with them. She has set an appointment with the bishop for Sunday morning. 

~I am trapped…

DECISION

Saturday, July 30, 2005 – midnight: I cannot sleep. I go to the downstairs living room. I lay on the couch. I talk with God. I know the truth now. I love my family more than life itself. I would rather die than lose my children.

~Truth is irrelevant…

~Truth must be ignored once again…

~Facts must be buried once again…

~Freedom must be surrendered once again…

~I put on the blindfold…

~I put on the shackles…

~I am a voluntary prisoner in my own mind…

~I commit intellectual suicide tonight…

~I commit spiritual suicide tonight…

~I do this willingly, fully aware of the consequences, for the rest of my life…

~Freedom and reason are buried under the crushing weight of the foundation of my prison…

~I cry tonight… 

~My soul dies tonight…

I go to the bishop Sunday morning. I say what is necessary. I will conform. I talk to my parents that night. I will conform. Because I love my family more than life itself I will conform. This is the legacy of Mormonism: conformity. I voluntarily submit myself to the horrifically comforting mental conditioning once again. I close forever the covers of enlightening literature. I will read and understand only what is approved.

~It is so easy…

~It is so simple…

~Yes…

~I understand…

~I bow my head and say yes…

~But…

~Buried in the recesses of my conscience, there will always be a bright spark of pure truth…

~Lingering…

~I know…

REMEMBER US…

To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.

I will always hold out hope that one day, perhaps within my lifetime though not likely, that pure truth will prevail. I hope someday that the desire to understand the truth at all costs will override the desire to maintain tradition and conformity. Until that day I will try to find some grain of happiness somewhere, anywhere, in the spiritual abyss that I have willingly entered into.

~I bid farewell to progress…

~I bid farewell to truth…

~I bid farewell to reason…

~I bid farewell to freedom…

To those of you on the outside, I thank you. I thank you for your courage. I thank you for your wisdom and insight. I thank you for your compassion and understanding. I thank you for your stories. I thank you for showing me the truth and allowing me to bask in its warmth, even if for a small moment. I love you all. I hope that truth will ultimately prevail. I hope that you and I will live to see it. 

Until that time, I go, quietly, shackled and blinded once more into the prison that awaits me. I bid you all farewell.

Remember me…

Remember us…

~I feel myself submerge once again into the group…

~I feel the darkness close around my mind…

~Strange…

~It feels so comfortable…

~So familiar…

~It doesn’t hurt very much anymore…

~I feel my identity slipping quietly away…

~I am no longer and individual…

~I bow my head and say yes…

Richard Packham Story

by Richard Packham

I left the Mormon church in 1958, when I was 25 years old.

That was a long time ago: David O. McKay was the prophet, seer and revelator. There were only eight temples, and none of them owned a movie projector. Every ward had its own meeting house, Sunday school was at 10:30 a.m, and sacrament meeting was at 7:00 p.m. There were no black people in the church (at least none were visible). Garments were in a single piece. The temple endowment ceremony still had the death penalties, the minister, the five points of fellowship. The Book of Abraham papyrus scrolls were still missing. New missionaries learned the language of the country they were assigned to by arriving there two weeks early.

Why, after all these years, would I still be concerned, then, about Mormonism? Why have I not yet come to terms with that distant part of my past and left it behind?

There are several reasons:

First, I am descended from a long line of faithful Mormons. All of my ancestors in every branch of my family, for four, five and six generations, were Mormons. The Mormons and their history are my heritage. It is my only heritage. It is where I come from. None of my Mormon ancestors were great or famous, but I have read their stories, and they were good people. They were faithful, hard working, and deserving of my respect. The history of my family is inevitably intertwined with the history of the Mormons, their migration to Utah and the settlement of the mountain West. I cannot ignore Mormonism and Mormon history without forgetting my past.

Second, my family are still faithful Mormons, almost all, including my parents, my brothers and sisters, my older children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews. Their lives are permeated by their Mormon beliefs. Their day-to-day existence is intertwined with the activities of the busywork-making church, their friends are all Mormons, their hopes and fears are Mormon hopes and fears. I cannot ignore Mormonism without ignoring the lives of those I love.

Third, the Mormon church is becoming more prominent and more powerful in our society. In my state (which, unlike Utah, is not thought of as a “Mormon” state) it is now the second-largest religious denomination. Our present U.S. Senator is a devout Mormon. Mormons are occupying influential positions in our state and national governments far out of proportion to their population in the United States. The church has become a mega-wealthy financial enterprise, with billions of dollars worth of money-making businesses and property all over the country – a fact of which most non-Mormons are unaware – with wide-ranging (and usually unseen) influence on many aspects of American life. Its income has been reliably estimated to be millions of dollars per day, not only from its thousands of businesses but also from its faithful members, who are required to donate a minimum of ten percent of their entire income to the church.

The Mormon church boasts of its rapid growth. This growth, in addition to its stance in favor of large families, is because it maintains a large voluntary corps of full-time missionaries who are a well-trained and thoroughly indoctrinated sales force whose sole purpose is to bring more people into the church. Their goal is not to convert, but to enroll, not to enrich lives, but to baptize, not to save sinners’ souls, but to enlarge membership rolls. This missionary force is not directed by caring clergymen, but by successful businessmen, because the Mormon missionary effort is a business, and a very successful business, when judged by business standards.

But the ultimate goal of the church, as stated publicly by its early leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (but not mentioned so publicly by more recent Mormon leaders), is to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America, and to govern the world as God’s appointed representatives. The church is already influential in the making of secular policy, as was proven not so long ago when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated with decisive help from the Mormon church.

To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect.

Those are some of the more important reasons why I am still vitally interested in Mormonism and the LDS church.

Mormons will tell you that Mormonism is a wonderful way of life, bringing happiness in this mortal existence and, if we earn it by our faith and obedience, ultimate joy (and “power and dominion”) in the next. The promises and hopes it gives to its believers are very attractive and inspiring. Why, then, did I reject that? Here is the story of my own particular journey through (and, eventually, out of) Mormonism.

My Mormon childhood was very happy, with loving and nurturing parents and family. We were “special” because we had the “Gospel,” meaning Mormonism. In my small town in southern Idaho we Mormons easily were the dominant social and political group. We felt sorry for those not so fortunate, for whatever reason, that they were not blessed with the gospel. Our lives centered around the church. We had perfect attendance records at all our meetings. We studied our lesson manuals. It was a wonderful life. Wonderful because we had the Gospel, for which we thanked God several times a day, in every prayer and every blessing pronounced over our food.

We Mormon teenagers participated in school activities, of course, with non-Mormons, but we also had our own church-sponsored events, which were just as good, or better. Really good Mormon teenagers did not date non-Mormons, because of the danger of “getting involved seriously” with a non-Mormon, which would lead to the tragedy of a “mixed marriage” which could not be solemnized in the temple, and which would thus ultimately mean the eternal loss of the possibility of entering the highest degree of heaven, the celestial kingdom. None of us dared to risk that.

So my high school sweetheart was a good and faithful Mormon girl. We fell deeply in love and were devoted to each other without risking any immoral physical activity beyond long kisses and hugs (no touching of body skin or of any area below the waist or around her breasts, etc.). When she graduated from high school and I was in my third year at Brigham Young University, we two virgins got married in a beautiful ceremony in the Idaho Falls temple, and started to have babies. We were the ideal young Mormon couple.

I enjoyed my four years at BYU, being surrounded by devout fellow- students and being taught by devout and educated teachers. One professor of geology was also a member of our ward. I was just learning about the age of the earth as most geologists taught it. I asked him one Sunday at church how he reconciled the teachings of his science with the teachings of the church (which said that the earth was created about 6000 years ago). He replied that he had two compartments in his brain: one for geology and one for the gospel. They were entirely separate, and he did not let the one influence the other. This bothered me, but I didn’t think more about it.

After my graduation from Brigham Young University I was offered a scholarship at Northwestern University to work on a master’s degree. So my young wife and I with our two (at that time) babies moved to Evanston, Illinois, and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by non-Mormons. I was the only Mormon in my university program. This did not intimidate me in the least. I felt that I was intelligent enough, knowledgeable enough about religion, and skillful enough in debating skills (I had been a champion debater in high school) to discuss, defend and promote my religion with anybody. I soon found takers. Since it was no secret that I had graduated from BYU, many of my fellow graduate students had questions about Mormonism. They were friendly questions, but challenging. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to spread the gospel. It was exhilarating. We had some wonderful discussions. Even my professors were willing to listen, and so I educated my linguistics professor about the Deseret Alphabet and my German literature professor about the similarities between Goethe’s worldview and Joseph Smith’s.

Some of my fellow students, however, had tracts and other literature about the Mormons which they had obtained from their own churches. They asked me questions that I was unable to answer satisfactorily because they were based on facts I was unfamiliar with. I had never heard about the Danite enforcer gangs, about the Blood Atonement Doctrine or the Adam-God Doctrine. Where did these horrible allegations come from?

I realized that in order for me to defend Mormonism I would have to know what its enemies were saying about it, so that I could be prepared with the proper facts. I had never been an avid student of the history of the church, although I had earned the highest grades in the third year high-school seminary course in church history. I mean, what was there important to know about church history, beyond the story of how Joseph had his visions, got the plates, translated them, and how Satan had persecuted the Saints until they got to Utah? I was more interested in doctrine: the Truth, as taught by the prophets. The Truth, eternal and unchanging.

But now I began to read church history, both the authentic histories published by the church and the awful lies and distortions published by its enemies. How different they were! It was almost as if the authors in each camp were writing about different events. And the university library, where I spent a good deal of time, seemed to have more of the latter than the former.

After one year I got my master’s degree in German and accepted a teaching job in Ogden, Utah. We returned to Zion and had our third child.

In Ogden I encountered for the first time the writings of the Mormon fundamentalists, who believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets, but that the church since then – especially since the abandonment of the practice of polygamy – is in apostasy. At the time I was studying the doctrines and history of the church extensively, and it seemed that the fundamentalists had a lot of historical information that was not otherwise available. For instance, they relied heavily on the Journal of Discourses, a multi-volume work containing practically all the sermons preached by the church leaders in the first thirty or forty years after coming to Utah. Many years ago, I learned, every Mormon home had a copy of this work. But then the church leaders decided that it wasn’t necessary for the members to have it, and ordered all copies to be turned in. It became a rarity. Why? Every anti-Mormon work I had read relied heavily on quotations from the sermons in the Journal of Discourses. But the present-day church leaders almost never referred to it. Why? It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

While I was living in Ogden, a fundamentalist publisher brought out a photographic reprint of the entire Journal of Discourses, in hard binding, for $250. If I had not been a poor schoolteacher I would have bought it, because I yearned to be able to read the wise words of the early leaders. But the question of why this work was suppressed by the church still bothered me. I put the thought aside.

One of the accusations made by anti-Mormon works I had read was that Brigham Young had taught that God had revealed to him that Adam was, in fact, God the Father. To substantiate this, they quoted Brigham’s sermons in the Journal of Discourses. If only I could check for myself! I was reminded of a strange comment made after class one day by Sidney B. Sperry, the BYU professor and authority on Book of Mormon and Bible studies. I had taken a Book of Mormon class from him, and admired him greatly. One day he said mysteriously to a small group of students who had stayed after class, “I think, when you get to the Celestial Kingdom, you may be greatly surprised to find out who God really is!” Wow! That implied that Dr. Sperry knew some secret that not many people knew; that we students didn’t really know all there was to be known about this; that the prophets had not told all. What could that secret be?

As I researched this more, and found again and again the same words quoted from Brigham Young’s Journal of Discourses sermons, it began to fit together: Adam was really God!

After two years teaching high school in Zion, I was offered a scholarship to continue my graduate studies in Baltimore. We accepted. Again we were surrounded by Gentiles, and again I had a large research library available.

Certain events in church history really began to bother me. Why had Zion’s Camp failed? Why had the Kirtland Bank failed? Both of these enterprises were organized for the benefit of the church by God’s prophet, who promised that they would succeed. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that God was not doing much to direct the affairs of his church. And, as I thought about it, the same could be said for the experiments in the United Order (holding all property in common), plural marriage, the Deseret Alphabet – all projects begun with great promise, directed by God’s anointed leaders, and all of which failed and were soon abandoned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

What began to bother me most was that the church did not seem to be telling the entire truth about many events in its past. The evidence I read seemed to leave no doubt that the church had encouraged, if not organized, the enforcer gangs called the Danites or the Avenging Angels. Too many independent and primary sources testified of their activities. At that time in my researches the true story of the Mountain Meadows massacre was becoming known, an atrocity which the official church history passed off as the work of Indians, whereas it was becoming clear that the primary blame was on the church. The massacre itself was bad enough, but to me the subsequent whitewash by the church was worse, so far as the divine nature of the church was concerned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

Among the papers of my grandfather, who had served a mission to England in 1910, I found a number of tracts and pamphlets that he had used on his mission. One was the transcript of a debate in 1850 between John Taylor (then an apostle, and on a mission in England) and a Methodist minister. Among the topics discussed in the debate was the rumor, common at the time, that the Mormons were practicing plural marriage. Taylor vigorously denied the rumors as a vicious lie, and firmly asserted on his honor that Mormons were good monogamists. At that very time, however, Taylor himself was married to twelve living wives. All of the top men in the church also had multiple wives at that time. How could a prophet of God lie so blatantly? It bothered me, but I tried to put the thought aside.

The Adam-God problem continued to occupy my mind. I finally decided to try to settle the matter. If the doctrine were true, I was willing, as a faithful member of the church, to accept it. If it were not true, I needed some explanation about the apparent fact that Brigham Young (and other church authorities of his time) vigorously taught it. So I composed a letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, whom I respected very much, and who at the time was the Church Historian and the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If he would only answer my letter! I spelled out to President Smith my dilemma: the evidence seemed to be clear and uncontroverted that Brigham Young had taught that Adam is God the Father. But the present church does not teach this. What is the truth?

I secretly thought (and perhaps hoped) that President Smith would write back and say something like: “Dear Brother, your diligence and faith in searching for the truth has led you to a precious secret, not known to many; yes, you can be assured that President Young taught the truth: Adam is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to deal. The church does not proclaim this precious truth because we do not wish to expose the mysteries of God to the mockery of the world. Preserve this secret truth as you do the secrets of your temple endowment.”

I received a short and clear answer to my letter from President Smith. It was quite different from what I had expected. He wrote that such an idea was unscriptural and untrue, and completely false. He did not deal with the evidence that Brigham Young had taught it. He ignored the whole problem as if it didn’t exist. It bothered me, but I tried to put it out of my mind.

At the time I was auditing a class at the university in the history of philosophy. It was fascinating. I had no idea that ordinary human beings had given such thought to some of these questions. It occurred to me that my religion had plenty of answers and explanations, but it provided those answers without even really realizing what the questions were. The answers my church gave seemed rather flimsy and superficial, not even dealing with the really basic problems. I was introduced to the study of ethics, and was surprised to find the same thing: my religion, which claimed to be the ultimate, final and complete answer, was not even an introductory primer to the great ethical problems with which great thinkers had been dealing for hundreds of years.

However, I remained a faithful member of the church, fulfilling all my church obligations, attending meetings, observing the Word of Wisdom, wearing my temple garments. But I was struggling mightily to reconcile the church’s inconsistencies, lies, and dubious past with my faith in its divinity.

It was at a single moment one day in the university library when I was pondering this problem. I was suddenly struck with the thought, “All of these problems disappear as soon as you realize that the Mormon church is just another man-made institution. Everything then is easily explained.” It was like a revelation. The weight suddenly lifted from me and I was filled with a feeling of joy and exhilaration. Of course! Why hadn’t I seen it before?

I rushed home to share with my wife the great discovery I had made. I told her what I had learned: the church isn’t true!

She turned away and stomped up the stairs. She refused to accept anything I said critical about the church. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

I tried to continue my church responsibilities, primarily as ward organist. But I found it more and more difficult to sound sincere in public speaking, public prayer, or participation in class discussions. During the next summer my wife took the children back to Utah for a visit, and I felt it was silly for me to continue to wear the temple garments. And why shouldn’t I have a cup of coffee with the other students, or have a glass of wine at a party? I had never tasted coffee or alcohol in my life, but there was no reason now, I felt, to deprive myself of those pleasant things. The next year was an armed truce in my marriage.

My wife left me suddenly, with no warning, taking the children. Her friends at church helped her escape, and she returned to Zion and divorced me. A last-ditch attempt at reconciliation failed when she said that her return would be conditioned upon my returning to the faith. I realized that I could not do it, however much I wanted to keep my family. Of course she got custody of the children. She remarried four years later, her new husband a faithful priesthood holder whose wife had left the church. (How ironic, that a church which places such a high value on family ties actually destroys the very thing it claims to promote!)

In the years since leaving the church I have never regretted my decision for a moment (other than the fact that it caused me to lose my wife and children). Subsequent study has given me a hundred times as much damning information about the church and its history as I had at the time of my original decision to leave it. Many Mormon friends and family members have tried to convince me that I made a mistake, but when I insist that they also listen to what I have to say about my reasons for believing the church to be false, they soon abandon the attempt, even though I assure them that my mind is open to any evidence or reasoning I may have overlooked. They are convinced that I apostatized because of sin, lack of faith, stubbornness, pride, hurt feelings, lack of knowledge or understanding, depravity, desire to do evil or live a life of debauchery. None of those reasons is correct. I left for one reason, and one reason only: the Mormon church is not led by God, and it never has been. It is a religion of 100% human origin.

My wife believed, I think, that since the church had taught me to be honest, loving, faithful, hard-working and a good husband, my leaving the church would mean I would soon become just the opposite. She was probably not alone in believing that I would soon be a shiftless, godless, miserable bum, dead at an early age of syphilis and alcoholism.

However, my life since leaving the church has been a rich and rewarding one. I have been successful in my profession. I married a lovely girl with beliefs similar to mine, and we now have two fine adult sons whom we raised with no religious training whatsoever, and who are as admirable human beings as one could ever want their children to be. We have prospered materially (probably more than most of my good Mormon relatives), and our life has been rich in many other ways as well, rich in good friends, in appreciation of the beauty to be found in our world. We have explored all the intellectual and spiritual riches of our human heritage and profited from it all.

And as I am getting older I also realize that I have no fear of death, even though I have no idea what to expect when it comes. In that regard I find I am unlike many Mormons, who are desperately worried that they have not been sufficiently “valiant” in their devotion to the church to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Again, how ironic it is that a church which begins by promising its members such joy and happiness actually causes them such worry and despair!

I am still proud of my Mormon heritage. I still enjoy doing genealogy work (I have more complete records than most of my Mormon family members). I still love to play and sing some of the stirring old Mormon hymns. I still keep a good supply of food on hand. And I still believe in eternal progression: things just keep getting better and better.

As a postscript: Apostle Bruce R. McConkie admitted that Brigham Young did teach that Adam was God, and that the church has indeed lied about its own history. (read his letter here) He says that Brigham Young was wrong, but he has gone to the Celestial Kingdom; but if you believe what Brigham Young taught about that, you will go to hell. The fact that the church can put a “positive spin” on these admissions is truly mind-boggling.

My Story

If you’ve been hanging around cyberspace awhile, like me, and frequent places like RfM you’ve probably seem me around. I used to be Koriwhore on RfM, but have not been contributing to that forum for about a year. I’ve moved on to PostMormon.org, which is far more civil and less snide and cynical. It has it’s fair share of criticism, and critical thinking, but it’s just not deeply committed to enabling a victim mentality, the way I think RfM is. It’s more aimed at providing support for those going through the difficult process of disengaging from Mormonism, which is something I’ve been trying to do for the better part of a decade. According to my therapist, I need to shrink the relevance of Mormonism in my life.

Over on PostMormon.org, I’ve dropped the “whore” from Koriwhore and now I’m just Kori.

The reason I chose the name Koriwhore in the first place was because over the years since my awakening to reality, I’ve come to identify more and more with the secular humanist character of “Korihor” in the Book of Mormon, whom Joseph’s Myth obviously modeled after Thomas Paine, (the author of “Common Sense” and “The Age of Reason”) who was the inspiration for Jefferson, Adams and Franklin (all of whom embodied the humanist enlightenment principles to which I can only aspire) when they collaborated on the Declaration of Independence. Koriwhore is the most reasonable character in all of scripture and presents an existentialist philosophy on a par with Fredrich Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, who is another one of my intellectual and spiritual heroes. Korihor also seems a whole lot like another one of my heroes from Mormon history, William Law, who was apparently the one man in Nauvoo with a shred of integrity in the 1840’s, and was responsible for seeing to it that Joseph’s Myth got exposed for what he was, an adulterer and a fraud, which led to a whole series of events that culminated in Joseph’s death, unfortunately, before he was brought to justice for his serious crimes.

I started out at a relatively realistic and well educated TBM, mostly defending the faith on the internet, first at Alt.Religion.Mormonism, which is totally unmoderated and ends up being completely contentious, hostile and just plain nutty. Thankfully somebody over there told me about New Order Mormons, which was like a breath of fresh air for me. I couldn’t believe there was actually a place where people spoke honestly about the doctrines I had problems with, mainly racism, but also all other forms of bigotry that I found to be a complete contradiction of Christ’s commandment to love our fellow man (and presumably women) as ourselves.

Personally I’m a BIG believer in the concept that relationships are far more important than religion, any religion.

I’ve been officially out of the Mormon church since 9-11-02, exactly a year after my faith was shattered by the events of 9-11, which convinced me that the god I believed in prior to 9-11, the loving interventionist great white gawd / “Father in Heaven” of Mormonism, didn’t really exist.

If he had, he would have intervened to prevent the senseless death of 3,000 innocent people on 9/11.

I had one question after 9-11, “Where was god?” I went to listen to the man I considered to be the prophet of god at the time, Gordon B. Hinkley and he had nothing meaningful to say, at all.

I told this to a former missionary companion of mine who wanted all the details of my departure. He said, “Well, what did you expect him to say in response to 9-11?”

How about something, anything, meaningful? How about anything to put this in perspective? How about, we’re not alone. God is in charge. God knows why this happened, even though we may not understand the ways of God.

But no, nothing. He was completely devoid of anything meaningful to say after 9-11. When I turned to him or to god, I felt like I was looking into an abyss.

The real confirmation for me was the General Conference following 9-11, where GBH just seemed morally ambivalent about the war against those who carried out 9-11. What kind of a prophet is morally ambivalent? Where’s the righteous indignation? Where’s the fire and brimstone, the doomsday predictions, the call to repentance like you’d expect from a real prophet? Instead he expressed his disappointment in the direction the youth were headed in and his response was to demand that women limit their earrings to one per ear and men should have no earrings and neither should have tattoos.

“OMG! Here 3,000 innocent people have just been senselessly killed by religious fanatics and God’s biggest concern is fashion accessories?”

That just seemed like the most trivial and superficial thing a prophet could have said in light of the state of humanity.

To me it became apparent in light of the events of 9-11 that religion was used to dehumanize others in order to justify inhumanity and self preservation. What I witnessed on 9-11 was the most barbaric kind of tribalism and religion was a major part of the inhumanity. I had to seriously question my religious beliefs after 9-11 as a former Muslim and convert to Mormonism. I rejected religion after 9-11.

I felt like Ellie Weisel in “Night” when he witnessed the execution of an angelic child during the holocaust and believed that he’d just witnessed the execution of god.

For the first time in my life Nihilism seemed more tenable than my previous world view.

Fortunately for me that hopeless state of dark, hopeless despair didn’t last long.

From the smoldering ashes of 9-11 heroes started emerging.

Common men and women who knew full well that there was a good chance they’d be sacrificing their lives as they went into the smoldering ruins of ground zero. Undeterred, they went in anyway, simply because they loved their fellow men and women.

They cared more about rescuing their fallen comrades than they did about preserving their own lives. That was one of the most beautiful and ironic moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I recognized that bravery and courage. It was the same kind of humanity I’d seen on the faces of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, knowing full well there was a good chance they wouldn’t survive, but that their sacrifice was worth securing freedom from tyranny.

I realized after 9-11 that we were alone in this world to solve the problems we’d created, which was a little terrifying at first. For the first time in my life I had this overwhelming feeling that there was no God who was going to intervene on our behalf.

If we were going to overcome the worst aspects of ourselves, it was up to us to do so, individually and collectively. We each had a choice to make, am I going to be governed by the worst aspects of myself, fear, hatred and dogma that leads to the kind of inhumanity of 9-11, the holocaust and MMM or am I going to be governed by the best aspects of my self, compassion, love, conscience, respect, responsibility and common human decency?

I knew what choice I had to make. Not only for my own good, but for the good of my children and of future generations and civilization and the evolution of mankind.

In the interest of survival, I had to reject anything barbaric, tribal and unkind.

Years later, recently in fact, I found this, message from the Dali Lama in response to 9-11.

“Today the human soul asks the question: What can I do to preserve the beauty and the wonder of our world and to eliminate the anger and hatred-and the disparity that inevitably causes it – in that part of the world which I touch? Please seek to answer that question today, with all the magnificence that is You.

What can you do TODAY…this very moment? A central teaching in most spiritual traditions is: What you wish to experience, provide for another. Look to see, now, what it is you wish to experience – in your own life, and in the world. Then see if there is another for whom you may be the source of that.

If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. If you wish to know that you are safe, cause another to know that they are safe. If you wish to better understand seemingly incomprehensible things, help another to better understand. If you wish to heal your own sadness or anger, seek to heal the sadness or anger of another.

Those others are waiting for you now. They are looking to you for guidance, for help, for courage, for strength, for understanding, and for assurance at this hour. Most of all, they are looking to you for love. My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

That works for me. That’s the kind of thing I would expect a real prophet to say, but this guy doesn’t even claim to be a prophet.

Like the Dali Lama, my religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.

Now I can answer that question for myself and for my children, “Where was God on 9-11?”

God was in the hearts of those who responded out of love for their fellow man. God is love. Love is divine. We’re all kindred people. We’re in this together. This is the only world we’ve got and its not up to God to save us, it’s up to us, each one of us individually.

It’s like Carl Sagan said here

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It’s been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known. ”

and like Einstein said here

“A human being is part of a whole called by us “Universe”, a part limited in space and time. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison to us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.”

Carl Sagan, again, “A religion that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by traditional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”

And Christopher Hitchens, “Consider for just a moment what it means to be the first generation to receive the images we’ve received from the Hubbel Space Telescope and to unravel the human genetic code. The awe, wonder and meaning you derive from considering the implication of those two things for just a moment in time, will prove more profoundly powerful than what you could derive from a lifetime of considering the simplistic fairy tale myths of religion.” from his lecture on “The Moral Necessity of Atheism”

That works for me.

It’s like Einstein’s friend, Max Planck said, after Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was proven by an astronomy experiment 17 years after he developed the theory, “You have never doubted what the result would be, but it is beneficial, nonetheless, if now this fact is indubitably established for others as well. The intimate union between the beautiful, the true and the real has again been proven.”

This for me is a much more tenable and useful world view than the one I inherited and hopefully it will serve me and my children and future generations well as a guide for their lives, how to interact with their fellow men and respect themselves, life, and the lives of their fellow men and other life forms and the source of life, nature, in all its forms.

If not, then hopefully they will at least free their minds from the mental slavery of dogmatism in the free thought tradition of great men like Socrates, Plato, Lao Tsu, Copernicus, Newton, Darwin, Paine, Jefferson, Lincoln, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Einstein, Sagan, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchins.

Although I consider myself more of a pantheist than an atheist, I tend to identify with the natural world view currently being described by guys like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris far more than any theist (supernatural) world view I’ve been exposed to, although I’m not as convinced as those three that religion is as evil as they claim it is.

But I do agree with them that religion, like all other forms of tribalism, does far more harm than good because it actually inhibits progress and the evolution of mankind by conserving the anachronistic traditions we inherited, long past their usefulness.

Mormon racism, homophobia and misogyny make a great case in point.

They do far more to dehumanize others than they do to accomplish the kindness Christ commanded.

Any kind of elitist, patriarchal, caste system, like Mormonism, violates Christ’s main commandment to us, to love our fellow man as ourselves.

We’re all kin, kindred people, the same kind, genial spirits, genius, 99.9% genetically identical, yet somehow we still manage to blow that .1% that makes us superficially different, completely out of proportion and wage war over it, over and over again, endlessly and we’re running out of time for devoting our precious resources to destroying ourselves and our planet instead of progressing, nurturing and healing the true source of our sustenance, nature and our living, breathing planet.

If we, individually and collectively, simply remember what the Dali Lama claims humanity has forgotten, that, “We are all one.” we can realize the authentic utopian dream, here, now, in real life, realizing our authentic connection to each other and to the larger universe/nature/cosmos.

© 1998 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included.

Richard Packham