The Problem of Evil – Part 1

Panel Discussion

Posted October 19th, 2014

Randy is joined by his older brother Jimmy and fellow infant Scott to get to know Mike and David, two post-Mormon Christians who explain how they deal with the problem of evil as believing Christians.

  • Matthew Vernon

    Great episode. Though, like many IoT listeners, I don’t really agree with all the still-Christian parts, it’s nice to hear the perspective of exmos who have taken a critical approach to belief, regardless of the conclusions drawn at the end of their examination.

    Actually one of the parts that resonated with me most was connecting with Grant Palmer’s book helping my spouse out of Mormonism, as well as other parts of Mike’s and David’s exit stories that paralleled my own. I was also an early morning seminary teacher, found mormonthink and Mormon Enigma first, then the BoA stuff really put the nail in the coffin.

  • JT

    This was very interesting. Thank you Michael and David for sharing your experiences. Thanks to Randy, Jimmy and Scott for putting this together. I’m looking forward to the next part.

    I found Mike’s description of getting no answers from GAs to his open questions about potential concerns particularly affecting.

    A few weeks ago I listened to Brent Metcalf’s interview on the Mormon Stories podcast. Brent referred to Hugh Nibley’s apologetic work on the Book of Abraham as “bewildering” and “grossly wrong.”

    That stirred up old feelings of anger and betrayal. Nibley was the authority I metaphorically “sat across” seeking reassurance of the truth of Mormonism when that was being tested by feelings of “underwhelment” and a disconcerting temple experience.

    I knew next to nothing of scholarship then (c 1985) and my critical thinking was self-restricted to my scientific work. When I tried to get through his Abraham in Egypt I remember getting bogged down and feeling daunted by its esoterica. And so, I expediently slipped into second-guessing myself and trusting his erudition and honesty. When I put the unfinished book aside I never imagined he might also be deluded. But I do remember something not “smelling” right – it just didn’t take the form of overt doubt.

    This gets to the trust Michael described. I realize now that I trusted Nibley like I trusted the authors/authorities of my advanced mathematics text, whose final chapters I also never scaled. The significance of the difference between getting published by John Wiley & Sons and Deseret Books did not register at the time.

    We sure can pay for our ignorance, trust, and wishful thinking.

  • mindog

    I love how Christians love to pick and choose their Bible fantasies. Water to wine, healing the blind, and fishes are loaves are fantasies, but being raised from the dead after three days and the perpetual torment of the pains of sin, totally believable…

    • Mike B.

      Hey mindog, That’s the beauty of life, isn’t it? Especially life outside of Mormonism. We are not required to follow some person, who claims to have authority and ‘speak for God’. You are being sarcastic in your first sentence, but, I will say the same thing in all sincerity, but, using a few of my own words. I love how everyone is able to pick and choose their fantasies, beliefs, and convictions. In Mormonism, we were told that it was all concrete, literal truth and if we doubted the Mormon authority, WE were in the wrong. I don’t know anything about you, but, I know you are a human being. A very fallible one, who has to navigate life, picking and choosing what is real and what is not. In that podcast, I didn’t have the opportunity, to express how great it is to be able to have FULL fellowship at a Christian church, without any requirements of belief, payment, etc. I hope that you are not so dogmatic in your lack of belief that you desire to generalize about Christians, in a manner that still sounds very Mormon, in principle.

      • mindog

        The beauty of life is that we can find out truth to whatever extent it’s available to us, not that we can pick a popular lie to guide our lives by. It is not a matter of closed mindedness to be open to reality, it is the exact opposite. The approach you take is actually close minded, because at some point there is a border of reality that you will be unwilling to cross. If it were every provable that modern wishy washy Christianity were true or that Islam or whatever else were an accurate description of metaphysics, then I would accept. If you believe that any portion of Christian dogma is true at all, then you are making a dogmatic statement of what is real without regard for any kind of testable reality. You may be able to comfort yourself by rationalizing away certain things you don’t find probable or doctrines you don’t find acceptable and grant those that do. But that rationale has no foundation in any kind of experience or information that can be given to another. I know lots of Mormons who do that same thing with their faith and all they are really doing is avoiding the creeping cognitive dissonance between their real experience and the one that they’d like to have. It doesn’t really matter which miracle or metaphysics you select, if that’s the unintellectual approach you take. I was wrong for nearly all of my life about so many things that were important, because of the training in magical thinking I received at the feet of well intentioned people, that I find it horrifying that others would wake up to the truth of that situation only to select another set of arbitrary magic to guide their lives by. I’m not making any sort of claim for a total knowledge of truth in my own mind, but I do recognize that making leaps of faith are unnecessary when it’s been revealed again and again through experience and experiment, that truth is actually identifiable. That there is no big bandaid fix at the end to make it all better. That it’s really just us, down here, now and that we can choose individually what we can do based on the spectrum of available and arbitrary opportunities that come our way. I don’t get to choose what is real, none of us do. But we can negatively impact our lives by confusing the connection between our interactions in a real world, with a fantasy one. Creating false patterns out of a misunderstood nothing to make concrete a reality that does not exist sets us on an unfirm foundation that destroys real possibilities to create a better world in the here and now.

        • Mike B.

          I don’t know you and have no issue with you. And, I promise you, that I hear what you are saying. However, you are making multiple false assumptions about me and many other people who choose a form Christianity as a viable ‘moral compass’ and community. The biggest false assumption I see among ex-Mormon atheists is that Mormonism and Christianity can be deconstructed in the same manner. If this were the case, then I would have naturally deconstructed Christianity as part of my exit from Mormonism. This is not the place for me to detail why I am not basing my current belief system on lies and false patterns. And, to be clear, I do not turn to Christianity ‘to comfort myself’ or rationalize away anything. Additionally, I am confident you do not know me at all because if you did, you would clearly see just how open minded I am. I love all schools of thought and recognize the fallibility of the human mind. Therefore, all of us embrace theories as our truth. Beyond that, you and I would agree on observable facts. Finally, to address your final sentence. Whether or not you believe Christianity is a fantasy or a ‘misunderstood nothing’ has zero bearing on my own life reality. I am compelled to feed the poor, cloth the naked, find homes for the homeless, comfort people, mourn with people, and love people every day, as a Christian. That is my ‘here and now’ and whether or not someone believes Jesus is the author of these types of foundational human-connecting experiences, I hope everyone joins me in making a better world this way, which, I believe, is Christ’s way.

          • mindog

            You’re right, I don’t know you beyond how you’ve presented yourself here and the podcast, so any assumptions I may have are based on that and what were likely our previously shared and cherished collective fantasy. So I certainly do empathize. But you did put your opinion forward as an acceptable approach to the contemporary Christian concept of evil and suffering and therefore worth commenting on in this forum.

            To say that I and others like me are operating on false assumptions, that I should be satisfied that your answers are really great, and then to decline to describe them is to fail to engage in any reasonable discourse. It’s reminiscent of the Swedish Rescue event where the LDS reps said that there were clear answers in their briefcase and then refused to present them to those who were asking legitimate questions. The fact is, there aren’t any to theirs’ or to yours. Faith of any kind, by definition, is not a rational position. At some point the leap comes, no matter how much else has been pushed back or rationalized away. And you appear to have accepted that which to your mind provides sufficient balance to quiet the cognitive dissonance.

            As to living our lives by theories, you may want to check how science views a viable theory and their utility in describing the world and how theory gets used by those operating outside those bounds. I’m also not sure how my beliefs about your beliefs would have any bearing in your life? The very modern interpretation of christ’s way leaves out his apocalyptic views, his violence and threats against his detractors, and other disconcerting statements and actions scattered throughout the New Testament.

            Any acceptance of a faith-based metaphysics requires the same cognitive leaps at some point. Whether those are multiple lives, gods in embryo, jihad, or salvation by grace alone, the dogmatic wall remains. Something is required, whether it’s the full load of mormon works or the sacrifice of a rational mind at the alter of grace, demands are made and met. At some point the observable real world must give way to your favored dogma.

            Whether or not religious or philosophical traditions can inspire giving acts in the real world is without a doubt true and I’m happy that people participate in them for any reason as long is the underlying intent isn’t to manipulate or coerce. I participate in my own here in HK, because of interests and experiences inherent in myself.

          • Mike B.

            Until now, I didn’t realize you responded again. I haven’t been back to this board since last night. Since it is hard to decipher tone, when writing, let me establish, again, that I have no issues with you and am sitting on my couch, relaxed, with one agenda in writing this. Civil discourse and mutual understanding. Since I don’t want to read in to your tone, I will assume the same from you. In that spirit, I will briefly address each paragraph.

            Listening to me engage in a 5-person podcast, focused on one general topic and reading a few short comments, from me, gives you very little to go on. So, my false assumptions comment was not meant to be divisive, just descriptive. I don’t know you, so, I am going to refrain from jumping to any swift conclusions about you. Generalizing about people will mean we are going to be wrong about them often. People are unique individuals. So, I try to avoid generalizations.

            I am not a ‘typical Christian’. And, yes, I did put my opinion forward. But, that was by invitation and not in any desire to convince anyone to think like me. When I left Mormonism, I also left all desire to proselyte ‘my way of thinking’. When invited, I share. But, I’m much more concerned about living an authentic/meaningful life than trying to persuade anyone to think like me.

            Your second paragraph comes across condescending, but, I’m going to assume that was unintentional. I want to have civil discourse and certainly do not avoid answers. What have I not addressed? I am happy to directly address anything. I may have missed something you addressed, but not purposefully. To compare me to the Swedish Rescue frankly isn’t even ‘apples to oranges’. It’s apples to meatloaf. I am not even in the same universe as the silly Mormon apologists. 1) I do not claim to be the keeper of the ‘one true church’. 2) I am not the paid historian of a claimed ‘divine institution’, hiding obvious lies 3) I do not care whether or not people think like me 4) I don’t ever avoid answering questions, intentionally to cover up nonsense-like they did. 5) I don’t pretend to have evidence about anything ever, with some future promise to reveal it. 6) I’m not trying to rescue anyone.

            Ironically, after polyandry and the Book of Abraham/papryi, my next issue that opened my eyes was the Swedish Rescue. We would probably agree on every reason why that was a terrible event. Comparing anything I do to that, is a clear indication that you do not yet know me at all. And, that’s fair enough. You really couldn’t know me with so little information.

            My cognitive dissonance disappeared when I uncovered the false nature of Mormonism.

            Your beliefs about my beliefs do not matter to me at all. What matters is a good discussion, with a fellow former Mormon, who most likely is on the same page with me about Mormonism, science, etc. Yet, is an atheist, while I still believe in God. There is not a huge chasm between you and me. I do not fall prey to the notion that it is either science or God. I love science. I embrace it and study it consistently.

            The ‘very modern interpretation of Christianity’ isn’t my view. That’s just it. My view is simply, my view. No more and no less. I do not believe that the Bible is infallible. Nor do I ignore the views you mentioned. Yes, there are very troubling things scattered throughout the Bible. AND, there are incredible concepts, founded in the core teachings of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, hope, healing, etc. It is only men claiming to speak for God that REQUIRE me to accept it all. But, the Bible has no such requirement within. And, so far, God has not directly manifest Himself to me, in any form, saying what I can and cannot believe, as a Christian.

            Do you accept 100% of the words of your favorite scholars, philosophers, and books? I hope not. Neither do I. And, like you, I do not ignore or diminish empirical evidence about anything.

            However, I do leave room for a metaphysical world. I am not opposed to having faith. You feel different and I respect that. But, do you respect people like me who embrace a world of both the seen and unseen? Keep in mind, when the seen conclusively proves something unseen, I am always willing to change my viewpoint. The obvious example of this, is leaving Mormonism, as a 6th generation LDS who dedicated decades to the church. I will, never again, allow anyone to tell me what I can and cannot think, believe, etc.

            I resonate with your last paragraph especially. I will join hands with anyone (theist or atheist, etc) in making this world a better place, one person at a time. While these discussions are interesting for the brain. I really care much more about living life to its fullest. Like you, I do not like manipulation or coercion.

            Finally, on a personal note. I love Hong Kong! I was there for two years, as a missionary. Now that I’m out of the church, I really want to go back and see it from a different paradigm. I hope you are enjoying life there!

          • mindog

            As far as I can tell, none of your responses actually answer much of anything that I’m asking about or pointing out.

            The difference between accepting Jesus as God and listening to what fallible humans have to say about philosophy, politics, science etc are very different modes of thinking. One is via God choosing to interact with man, the other is man feeling out into the world and trying to understand what is actually there. I am free to choose what I accept from the evolving sciences and philosophies around me, but once the voice of a god speaks, that’s a whole different line of thinking. If I do not accept any little thing that God has to say, then I do not believe him. Which was why, as an active Mormon, I never understood those who would play around the edges of doctrines and practices. It was either true or it was not. It either was a description of reality revealed by god that was completely reliable or it was not. Turned out it wasn’t. Turned out I should have realized it much sooner, but in retrospect I now recognize the cultural pressures that had been built up around me to prevent me from seeing it. I imagine those cultural barriers have moved for you but are still there, hence the vague Christianity that you espouse.

            Much of what you say is evasive. You say you have beliefs, but they are so vaguely ephemeral as to be entirely insubstantial. That is, unstated. That may be because stating your beliefs concretely makes you uncomfortable. Which is why I mention the cogDis. Saying what you are not like or that you disagree with my descriptions without qualifying them and then redirecting them, reminds me of the tactics I was engrained with as a missionary to find a way to relate to others by coating what are harsh beliefs in sweet sugary wholesomeness. These are things I can’t know with certainty, but appear likely to me based on your tone and your statements.

            “However, you are making multiple false assumptions about me and many
            other people who choose a form Christianity as a viable ‘moral compass’
            and community. The biggest false assumption I see among ex-Mormon
            atheists is that Mormonism and Christianity can be deconstructed in the
            same manner. If this were the case, then I would have naturally
            deconstructed Christianity as part of my exit from Mormonism. This is
            not the place for me to detail why I am not basing my current belief
            system on lies and false patterns.” – This was the initial evasion that I noticed after you took issue with my general criticism of both of the guests about their cafeteria Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Christians have rationalized away most of their dogmas. I’d hate to live in world where they believed every intended literal event and doctrine was followed carefully, but it also goes to show how much faith has eroded in the face of knowledge and how little Christians actually believe their creed. You lump me in with other atheistic exMos (nonbelief isn’t necessarily a positive position), which is the same thing you accuse me of doing because I believe that Christians have specific, though varied beliefs. The only false assumption you give is that Mormonism and Christianity can’t be deconstructed in the same way, which at best is only partially true. And in reality is probably not true at all, at least in the general sense.

            “Whether or not you believe Christianity is a fantasy or a ‘misunderstood nothing’ has zero bearing on my own life reality.” I have no idea what this response has to do with anything at all. My point was that the concepts found in the believing mind have a negative impact on those believing lives because those minds are making false assumptions about the real nature of the world. Your beliefs impact your life, I have no idea how mine would affect yours. The better, more accurately, and precisely I can perceive the real world and the real opportunities that exist in it, the better choices I can make. Because we make some nice choices due to a false reality, doesn’t excuse all the negative ones that we willfully set aside or resist.

            Nothing in my initial statement put a target on you as an individual, but rather on this pick and choose ambiguity among those that see themselves as liberal Christian believers. My other criticisms and statements were based on your responses. So, I don’t really understand why you keep phrasing your openings with beef… You, specifically weren’t my target, your specifically vague beliefs only became an issue because you chose to engage in the conversation. You seem to take every statement as a personal one, which was well outside of my interest, other than to point out that the guests in this episode really had little value, because they don’t really represent much of anything, and apparently, especially yours. In your statements here you say that your personal beliefs are outside the bounds of most Christians, that you find the Bible to be a fallible source, that you have no interest in proselyting, and that your beliefs switch as you get more information from non godly sources. That doesn’t represent any traditional Christian viewpoint and is at best Christianesque. You say you have no interest in proselyting, but you still put yourself forward as a reliable Christian source as to what you believe about what certain Christian dogmas represent about humanity’s afterlife. You also have posited twice about proving negatives, which is a basic logical fallacy. Science cannot prove the non-existance of anything. It doesn’t even make any sense to even think about that.

            As for how I deal with others who do not share my worldview. I respect people for who they are and how they treat myself and others. If they want to know my opinion, then I will. If they want to share their opinion and state it as fact, then I don’t mind sharing my views back at them. My views may disagree with theirs. Civil discourse is not the avoidance of potentially controversial subjects, but rather the capacity to discuss them peacefully. If someone says they are going to church on sunday, or here…getting acupuncture, I don’t say they shouldn’t. If they tell me that I should go too or start making false declarations about their effectiveness in an effort to convince me of their opinion, then I feel free to calmly state my views. I try to state things as clearly as I know how and it is possible that I am a bit too harsh in the use of terminology. I’ve been actively trying to remove any passive aggressive tendencies that I developed due to being raised in the LDS faith. In doing so, some of the softness that I had trained in the Church has eroded away. I respect my fellow human travelers to state things as clearly as I know how, while recognizing that argument and discussion rarely convince anyone. Remember that it was you that chose to engage with me, I was just putting my sarcastic flippancy out into the general IoT community and did not actually expect a response. Though it certainly has been interesting and reaffirming.

            As for Hong Kong, it’s great. I’ve been here for a couple years now and
            have largely settled into it. I pass through the Kowloon Tong station regularly and spot missionaries from time to time, including one very cute one the other day. I learned two very complicated and not
            directly related European languages on my mission, one in a very very
            short period of time, yet this Cantonese thing is tremendously
            complicated. While I am finally beginning to understand what people say
            and am finally starting to be able to communicate, it’s still
            frustratingly difficult. All for reasons I’m sure you’re familiar with. At least
            Mandarin should be much easier after this.

          • Mike B.

            Mindog, you said:“As far as I can tell, none of your responses actually answer much of anything that I’m asking about or pointing out.” –As I said, this is unintentional. So, I am going to try again, by directly quoting you and answering directly, which is something I value, as a former Mormon, frustrated about how LDS leaders and apologists do not answer.
            mindog: “The difference between accepting Jesus as God and listening to what fallible humans have to say about philosophy, politics, science etc are very different modes of thinking. One is via God choosing to interact with man, the other isman feeling out into the world and trying to understand what is actually there. I am free to choose what I accept from the evolving sciences and philosophies around me, but once the voice of a god speaks, that’s a whole different line of thinking. If I do not accept any little thing that God has to say, then I donot believe him.”
            –Christianity is crucially different from Mormonism in this area. In Mormonism, to be an authentic believer, you had to accept that the leaders literally speak for God. Christianity has no requirement of
            belief. Only men, throughout the ages,
            trying to interpret what God has to say.
            However, one thing I LOVE about being a former Mormon, is the freedom to
            believe and reject whatever is placed before me.
            Mindog: “Which was why, as an active Mormon, I never understood those who would play around the edges of doctrines and practices. It was either true or it was not. It either was a description of reality revealed by god that was completely
            reliable or it was not. Turned out it wasn’t. Turned out I should have realized
            it much sooner, but in retrospect I now recognize the cultural pressures that
            had been built up around me to prevent me from seeing it.”
            –I agree with this 100% and feel the same as you do.
            Mindog: “I imagine those cultural barriers have moved for you but are still there,”
            –That’s just it. Christianity is culturally
            vast, diverse, and allows for numerous practical interpretations. That is the beauty of unraveling Mormonism. I thought, as a Mormon, that I had to have all the answers and I worked hard to live by everything taught by the leadership. Being a Christian, has no such requirement. Just like being a humanist, atheist, etc has no set requirement of belief.
            Mindog: “hence the vague Christianity that you espouse.”
            –Honestly, there is nothing vague about it, which I will address below.
            Mindog: “Much of what you say is evasive. You say you have beliefs, but they are so vaguely ephemeral as to be entirely insubstantial. That is, unstated. That may be because stating your beliefs concretely makes you uncomfortable. Which is why Imention the cogDis.”
            –You seem to think there are only two options: 1) Lay it all out in detail with precision and commitment or 2) Be evasive and vague. This is a false dichotomy. I am happy to lay it all out in detail, with precision and commitment. The only reason I have not, is either 1) I honestly thought I did and obviously missed something or 2) I didn’t want to take up more space on here than I already have. Because I value transparency, I am no longer worrying about taking space here.
            So, I am not uncomfortable with firmly stating that I am a Christian. Beyond that, I am not required to define what that means and it is ok for that to be unorthodox. I don’t answer to anyone. This is not me evading anything. Just being me. ln Mormonism, we had to always answer to everyone in authority (both overtly and between us and the Mormon God). Therefore, the cog dis that existed, in Mormonism, is gone for me.
            Mindog: “Saying what you are not like or that you disagree with my descriptions without qualifying them and then redirecting them, reminds me of the tactics I was engrained with as a missionary to find a way to relate to others by coating what are harsh beliefs in sweet sugary wholesomeness. These are things I can’t know with certainty, but appear likely to me based on your tone and your statements. “However,
            you are making multiple false assumptions about me and many
            other people who choose a form Christianity as a viable ‘moral compass’
            and community. The biggest false assumption I see among ex-Mormon
            atheists is that Mormonism and Christianity can be deconstructed in the
            same manner. If this were the case, then I would have naturally deconstructed
            Christianity as part of my exit from Mormonism. This is not the place for me to detail why I am not basing my current belief system on lies and false patterns.” This was the initial evasion that I noticed
            after you took issue with my general criticism of both of the guests about
            their cafeteria Christianity.”
            –My desire was and is to establish positive tone because I care more about connecting with people than I do about trying to prove my opinion. This was not evasion, but, rather a giant pause on the content, with a desire to establish tone. In reality, I would prefer that you and I were sitting down for a nice dinner, at one of those amazing Hong Kong restaurants and connecting on all the things only exMos understand and learning from our
            different belief systems post-Mormonism.
            That’s all. I’m just a friendly guy, who wants to make it clear to anyone I talk to that I mean to be friends, no matter how much we disagree. That’s all I meant.
            Mindog: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Christians have rationalized away most of their dogmas. I’d hate to live in world where they believed every intended literal event and doctrine was followed carefully, but it also goes to show how much faith has eroded in the face of knowledge and how little Christians actually believe their creed.”
            –I really like what you said here and this is a necessary reality, about Christianity, that enables me to embrace a form of it, without any cog dis.
            Mindog: “You lump me in with other atheistic exMos (nonbelief isn’t necessarily a positive position), which is the same thing you accuse me of doing because I believe that Christians have specific, though varied beliefs.”
            –This was not intended and I apologize if I came across this way.
            Mindog: “The only false assumption you give is that Mormonism and Christianity can’t be deconstructed in the same way, which at best is only partially true. And in
            reality is probably not true at all, at least in the general sense.”
            –Let me elaborate then. I am the direct
            descendant of William Clayton. I have
            read his journals that contradict the current Mormon teachings on history, doctrine, etc. And, the list of original sources, beyond him, is extensive to factually disprove almost every claim Joseph Smith made. In contrast, we do not have the same verifiable, first hand accounts, to refute that Yeshua existed and is God. Another example is; I have traveled all over North America and find zero archeological evidence of anything in the Book of Mormon. I have also traveled to Israel and spent weeks seeing all kinds of archeological evidence for the Bible. All I’m saying, is Mormonism
            is easy to disprove when you know where to look. Not the same for Christianity.
            Mindog: “”Whether or not you believe Christianity is a fantasy or a ‘misunderstood nothing’ has zero bearing on my own life reality.” I have no idea what this response has to do with anything at all. My point was that the concepts found in the believing mind have a negative impact on those believing lives because those minds are making false assumptions about the real nature of the world. Your beliefs impact your life, I have no idea how mine would affect yours. The better, more accurately, and precisely I can perceive the real world and the real opportunities that exist in it, the better choices I can make. Because we make some nice choices due to a false reality, doesn’t excuse all the negative ones that we willfully set aside or resist.”
            –I think I’m a little confused about what I meant in that statement, as well. But, I completely agree with everything you
            have said in this paragraph.
            Mindog: “Nothing in my initial statement put a target on you as an individual, but rather on this pick and choose ambiguity among those that see themselves as liberal Christian believers. My other criticisms and statements were based on your responses. So, I don’t really understand why you keep phrasing your openings with beef… You, specifically weren’t my target, your specifically vague
            beliefs only became an issue because you chose to engage in the conversation.
            You seem to take every statement as a personal one, which was well outside of
            my interest, other than to point out that the guests in this episode really had
            little value, because they don’t really represent much of anything, and
            apparently, especially yours.”
            –Fair enough. Looks like I misread you, at first. But, looks like we ended up locking in a discussion anyways. Ha ha.
            Mindog: “In your statements here you say that your personal beliefs are outside the bounds of most Christians, that you find the Bible to be a fallible source, that you
            have no interest in proselyting, and that your beliefs switch as you get more
            information from non godly sources. That doesn’t represent any traditional
            Christian viewpoint and is at best Christianesque.”
            –I have actually found a large community of friends, who resonate with me and none of us consider ourselves ‘Christianesque’. Christianity, throughout the past 2000 years has changed many, many times. For any group or person to say that they have the best definition of what it means to be a Christian, is false and not historically accurate. You might be surprised at how many 21st Century
            Christians are out there, like me.
            However, as a former Mormon, I love not caring what other people think of my beliefs. I enjoy discussion because I enjoy interacting with people. And, I seek no approval from any self appointed Christian authority, like we all used to do as Mormons.
            Mindog: “You say you have no interest in proselyting, but you still put yourself forward as a reliable Christian source as to what you believe about what certain Christian dogmas represent about humanity’s afterlife.”
            –Once again, the IoT guys invited me on to discuss a book. I guess I didn’t make it clear enough, so, for the record, I do not consider myself a reliable Christian source. I am only a reliable source for what I believe and I fully own my beliefs, with conviction. Yet, I learned (painfully from my experience in ant then out of Mormonism) that I will always be better off, if I am willing to change, even
            firm conviction, if it goes against empirical evidence.
            Mindog: “You also have posited twice about proving negatives, which is a basic logical fallacy. Science cannot prove the non-existance of anything. It doesn’t even make any sense to even think about that.”
            –Not my intention. I will have to look back at what I’ve said and see if I can figure out what you are referring to here.
            Mindog: “As for how I deal with others who do not share my worldview. I respect people for who they are and how they treat myself and others. If they want to know my opinion, then I will. If they want to share their opinion and state it as fact,
            then I don’t mind sharing my views back at them. My views may disagree with
            theirs. Civil discourse is not the avoidance of potentially controversial
            subjects, but rather the capacity to discuss them peacefully. If someone says
            they are going to church on sunday, or here…getting acupuncture, I don’t say
            they shouldn’t. If they tell me that I should go too or start making false declarations about their effectiveness in an effort to convince me of their opinion, then I feel free to calmly state my views. I try to state things as clearly as I know how and it is possible that I am a bit too harsh in the use of terminology. I’ve been actively trying to remove any passive aggressive
            tendencies that I developed due to being raised in the LDS faith. In doing so,
            some of the softness that I had trained in the Church has eroded away. I respect my fellow human travelers to state things as clearly as I know how, while recognizing that argument and discussion rarely convince anyone.”
            –Good on you. I agree with your philosophy here and you are using different vernacular to describe some of the things I was trying to establish in having dialogue. Glad we are on the same page, even if we have a different style of communication.
            Mindog: “Remember
            that it was you that chose to engage with me, I was just putting my sarcastic
            flippancy out into the general IoT community and did not actually expect a
            response. Though it certainly has been interesting and reaffirming.”
            –You are right! And, then, you chose to engage with me based upon my choice to engage.
            mindog: “As for Hong Kong, it’s great. I’ve been here for a couple years now and have largely settled into it. I pass through the Kowloon Tong station regularly and spot missionaries from time to time,
            including one very cute one the other day. I learned two very complicated and
            not directly related European languages on my mission, one in a very very short
            period of time, yet this Cantonese thing is tremendously complicated. While I
            am finally beginning to understand what people say and am finally starting to
            be able to communicate, it’s still frustratingly difficult. All for reasons I’m
            sure you’re familiar with. At least
            Mandarin should be much easier after this.”
            –Glad to hear you are enjoying it there! And, yes, Cantonese is super complicated. The challenge of learning that language was probably the hardest part of being a missionary there. You are only a month or so away from the only time the weather is nice over there.

  • CSB

    I always thought that a witness from the Holy Ghost was unique to Mormonism. I thought this was our secret weapon of truth detection. Since I left Mormonism I’ve opened myself up to more mainstream Christian influences and I’ve realized Christians use many of the same tools and techniques to re-enforce their beliefs. The spirit test ‘works’ for everyone, not just Mormons. Core Christian beliefs are no less extraordinary than the super set of Mormon beliefs. To maintain either belief system there is a point at which you find yourself saying:

    “Well, that’s what I believe! I choose to believe it because the Holy Ghost spoke truth to my heart.”

    This is the last bastion of irrationality.

    • mindog

      Whatever it takes to get me out of bed in the morning, like my fresh weekly steaming IoT!

  • I was scared of this one because I was a little afraid of what folks on “Team Christian” might say, but I really enjoyed Part 1. (I haven’t listened to Part 2 yet.) I really enjoyed both Mike and David’s stories. Very earnest, great conversation.

  • Orrin Dayne

    I’m going through Randy’s 27-part “Understanding Atheism” interview on Mormon Stories for the first time. It’s great stuff. But I must say that it’s crazy not to hear f-bombs.

  • B.Russ

    Mike, I just listened to the podcast.
    I went to Box Elder High and Jr. High and went through the seminary program (1995-2000).
    What years did you teach there and at which grade level? I imagine that I went through before your time, but still curious.

    • Mike B.

      Hey B. Russ! Yeah, I just missed you. I did Grades 10-12, there at Box Elder High. It was 2002-2004. I still keep in touch with several people there. I probably know your former Sem teachers, though! Who did you have?

  • Preston

    Hey, Mike, I think thats your name…where were you an EFY counselor?