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Letter from a Christian Citizen
Posted: 08 May 2008 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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If this has already been done, please just direct me to the correct thread.  A friend of mine and I are reading both books.  I mentioned Mr. Harris’ book and he brought in Mr. Wilson’s.  Ok, so I finished LtaCN quickly and found basically my opinion on the matter.  I am now reading LfaCC and find errors, but I do not know how to sufficiently voice the concerns. 

I need to preface this with the fact that I was Mormon for 18 years and just left the church after a two year struggle with my faith.  The result left me an atheist since I don’t buy the dogma.  This leaves me with a vacuum to fill with real morality and the reason for it.

OK, that being said.  I find most of LfaCC is filled with more questions than answers.  The one that sticks with me though, is “why should it matter?”  I know I love my life and children.  I know I don’t want people to suffer, but if pressed to say why, I can only say, I just do.  To the mormon, this is the “light of christ” or conscience that lets you know right from wrong and how to define right from wrong.  The problem with religion is that is does a poor job of defining these as well, but rather than show the inherent weakness in that position, I’d rather show the strength of mine. 

So, for the atheist, how do you define right and wrong?  In LtaCN, Mr. Harris puts it down to pleasure and suffering.  Presumably, what ever causes suffering is wrong and pleasure is right.  So, what ever course leads to the greatest pleasure for the greatest number of people, with the least amount of suffering should be the right choice.

I’m not sure how that fits with say the death of a whole family.  The loss of one of my children would cause untold suffering.  While they may not be suffering any more, I certainly would be.  Not project that to a family lost to a cyclone (Myanmar).  I feel pain at the loss, but none of those people are now suffering.  If both parent and child are lost, why should it matter to me?  I’m not sure, but it does.  any one have some insights for a newbie?

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Posted: 08 May 2008 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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justjames - 08 May 2008 12:27 PM

I find most of LfaCC is filled with more questions than answers.  The one that sticks with me though, is “why should it matter?”  I know I love my life and children.  I know I don’t want people to suffer, but if pressed to say why, I can only say, I just do.  To the mormon, this is the “light of christ” or conscience that lets you know right from wrong and how to define right from wrong.  The problem with religion is that is does a poor job of defining these as well, but rather than show the inherent weakness in that position, I’d rather show the strength of mine.

Whether it’s called “Light of Christ,” “Compassion,” or “Loving Kindness” (Buddhist), or whatever, the experience is your proof. If people start getting on your case for leaving your Church you can quote Omar Khayyam:

“Fools, with damnation as your destiny,
Sentenced to fuel the eternal fires of Hell,
How long will you still plead for Omar’s pardon,
Nudging his mercy from the Merciful?”

“Though pearls in praise of God I never strung,
Though dust of sin lies clotted on my brow,
Yet I will not despair of mercy,
When did Omar ever claim that One was Two.”

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Posted: 08 May 2008 05:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Why must a person need any religion to be moral and ethical? While I cannot precisely define either good or bad behavior, I know the difference. I can easily live a moral life without the ancient dogma and its inherent hatred.

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Real honesty is accepting the theories that best explain the actual data even if those explanations contradict our cherished beliefs.-Scotty

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Posted: 08 May 2008 08:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I’m not sure how that fits with say the death of a whole family.  The loss of one of my children would cause untold suffering.  While they may not be suffering any more, I certainly would be.  Not project that to a family lost to a cyclone (Myanmar).  I feel pain at the loss, but none of those people are now suffering.  If both parent and child are lost, why should it matter to me?  I’m not sure, but it does.  any one have some insights for a newbie?

The death of a whole family is terrible becasue all of their hopes and dreams and potential happiness they might have had are now gone forever. At least in this life. Even without sufffering potential happiness a family might have shared togather is not only decreased by wiped out completely.

This is much different than say, stem cells, which do hold a poetential for future human life, but have no hopes and dreams and feelings at all. Stem cells should have moral consideration far above that of rocks, which have no such potential. But wieghed agasinst the suffering of those already with is,those who think and feel, and desire to live fulfilled lives, the moral status of stem cells is much diminished.

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...it has to put into the equation: the possibility that there is no God and nothing works for the best. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view, but I don’t know what I do subscribe to. Why do I have to have a world view? I mean, when I wrote Cujo, I wasn’t even old enough to be president. Maybe when I’m frty or forty-five, but I don’t now. I’m just trying on all these hats.
-Stephen King

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Posted: 08 May 2008 11:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Welcome to the dark side, justjames.  If you just left your faith then you may have a rough next couple of months or years, depending on a lot of factors.  I wandered aimlessly (but not hopelessly) for 10 years until stumbling on something which made sense to me.  Knowing that religion isn’t the only arbiter of right and wrong was a big help, too.  So. . . without religion you want to know the difference between right and wrong?  If you gave up religion then you should already know something about the difference.  Are you looking for someone or a book to tell you the difference?  It seems like you’re reaching out for something to cling to again.  Being an atheist doesn’t mean you don’t care about others, it mostly means you do so without the threat of a god.

[ Edited: 20 May 2008 01:53 AM by Skipshot]
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Posted: 09 May 2008 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Justjames.  You bring up a very good point in where does a human get the moral values when they are taught from childhood that values come from God.  I too left the LDS when I took an academic look at the laws that basically removed my own values, being a woman. 

Here’s what I did with my own children.  We talked and then wrote down what we all felt were wrong actions.  Someone stealing from a store, or a bike from school; you know we took it to their level of locating morals.  In every case we follow it up with the right actions.  We had been involved in training horses when I was younger and we now trained dogs.  I used the same method except with words.  Even in the books we read, we could locate bad choices and good ones.  This made the kids aware of the fact we all have choices and we must develop instincts for the good ones.

My childen did not have to pray for help when faced with all the choices they would have to make as they were growing up. 

Christians often do not stop and think before they act as they know whatever they do will be forgiven.  This is the most dangerous lesson we give our kids.  They develop no sense of right versus wrong. 

We all have developed brains but have been trained to allow a superstitious entity to guide us.  You would do your kids and yourself enormous guidance if you pointed out right from wrong immediately.  This also will start a new level of thought with your kids. 

We lived where if we weren’t shaking we were running from the fires in the Santa Monica mountains.  Part of the right choices was to get the people out of any building and then get the animals out.  Animals have instincts on saving themselves and yet humans need training.  We saw that with the tsunami after the Indonesian earthquake.  The animals fled to high ground and the humans did not.

We have the developed brains to live as individuals within society without the fear of hell and damnation.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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Beam_Me_Up - 08 May 2008 09:59 PM

Why must a person need any religion to be moral and ethical? While I cannot precisely define either good or bad behavior, I know the difference. I can easily live a moral life without the ancient dogma and its inherent hatred.

I agree.  I don’t need the threat of punishment or promise of reward to do what is right.  I think I am just trying to define what that “right” is.  I don’t think it can be comprehensive since each situation may have it’s own answers.  But how would one decide whose version of “good or right” is the correct one?

Just an example: The law states polygamy is wrong.  I have no person desire to have more than one wife as the one I have is a handful grin But there are couples who feel that type of family arrangement works for them.  So, who is right and why?  The law says it’s wrong, but its arbitrary since adultery is not illegal.  The religious will point to their various holy books.  I look at it like other lifestyle choices; if it works for them that’s fine.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 06:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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A recommendation for justjames

Read ‘The Science of Good and Evil’ by Michael Shermer. It deals extensively with morals without God and moral objectism. It is really not as complex as you think. You will be shaking your head in agreement in no time, once you understand a few simple things. Regards.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Skipshot - 09 May 2008 03:38 AM

So. . . without religion you want to know the difference between right and wrong?  If you gave up religion then you should already know something about the difference.  Are you looking for someone or a book to tell you the difference?  It seems like you’re reaching out for something to cling to again.  Being an atheist doesn’t mean you don’t care about others, it mostly means you do without the threat of a god to do so.

Thanks for the welcome.  The transition has not been all that hard for me.  I was a convert so I had a background in humanism and atheism.  I guess I was just looking for something at the time and I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a while.  I don’t think I’m looking for any particular thing to hold onto, more trying to be able to define what I believe and why. 

My main point is what make one “right” better than another.  I use an example of polygamy in another post, but there are others.  Most of the time, I think our morals overlap, but there are bound to be times when they don’t.  How do you decide whose is better?  On a personal level, this should not be all that hard, but nationally or globally it is.  I hate to bring up the tired example of the nazis, but in their own demented way they were trying to do the “right” thing for their people.  How do we judge their version to our own?

Just a note.  I know these are philosophical issues that have been debated for centuries, so I can see that it it unlikely to get anything solid.  I’m just exploring the ideas.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 06:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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justjames.  The States across America have declared that polygamy is illegal.  Utah would never have been accepted as a state had they not stopped the multiple marriages.  We have our states telling us what is right and what is wrong.  We can always move if we do not respect the laws.  It is the same with drugs, abortions, the death penalty and many other laws accepted at the time of the incorporation of that state.  It is true that many Mormons live by the old Joseph Smith laws and they are breaking the law. 

There are many people who claim we do not have to pay our income taxes but we have many who chose not to and are in federal prison.  We have a Constitutional Republic in America and our Constitution is very clear about the 10th Amendment which gives the states their rights and laws. 

This polygamy has hurt many people including those people from Texas as the mother’s do not know who the fathers of their children are.  They have had to get DNA on the kids, the women and the men.  We are not animals, we are homosapiens with highly developed brains.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Sandy - 09 May 2008 09:36 AM

Justjames.  You bring up a very good point in where does a human get the moral values when they are taught from childhood that values come from God.  I too left the LDS when I took an academic look at the laws that basically removed my own values, being a woman.

 

Congrats on getting out.  This is one of the harder ones to leave.  I think you are right about teaching our children between right and wrong.  Religion tries to deal in absolutes, but when you get down to it, it’s just pick and choose.  I was impressed at least that Mr. Wilson fully embraces the “evil” of god in the Calvinist view.  He was at least consistent.

Christians often do not stop and think before they act as they know whatever they do will be forgiven.  This is the most dangerous lesson we give our kids.  They develop no sense of right versus wrong.

Depends on their brand of faith.  I think (you may disagree) that the LdS did a pretty good job of teaching right and wrong.  They have the same guild ridden ways of enforcing many things and many of the polices on sexuality are just backwards, but over all, they expect to be judged for their own actions.  That being said, how do you decided your (or my) way is better than theirs?  I think it is wrong to teach children the bible is literal or that they need to follow a man called a “prophet” or tell all their “misdeeds” to a man in a suit.  But that’s just me.  If THEY thinks it’s ok, why does my idea trump their’s?

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Posted: 09 May 2008 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Why are you in conflict with a difference of opinion with any religion and your own values?  I figured out my own values by simply writing them down and with time even changed some of them. 

My Great Great Grandfather was Parley Parker Pratt who was an apostle with Brigham Young.  He was the cornerstone of my family’s set values.  I was given a copy (first edition) of his autobiography and in his own words showed me he was deranged with his desire to have more wives for the children they would bring into the church.  I never felt that females were ever brood mares.  He was on many missions and he would pick up new wives from all over the world.  These were for breeding purposes!  It didn’t take me long to realize this sonofabitch was just plain wrong!  I was 9 when I walked out of the baptism and 11 when I refused to attend the ward where my Grandfather was the Bishop. 

James, I am 75 years old and did not own a television until 1983.  I was an addicted reader and my children had the advantage of no television until they went to the University.  There was no conflict of interest or moral values except in the books we read.  Imagine growing up without commercials….We grew up with Shakespeare, live theater, opera, symphonies, and all the classic books and music we could find.  We all were competitive athletes and no prayers were ever needed to help win a game. 

My kids soon developed a great love of Science Fiction where the brain was allowed to flow into many levels of spiritualism and respect for life here and in other universes.  My kids are now 58, 55 and 44 years old and may be the most moral adults I ever met.  They learned right from wrong along with the search for joy in their lives.  We kept lists of things that gave us joy when they were very young and to this day we share new experiences of great joy. Nothing can keep a family together better than sharing joy.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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justjames - 09 May 2008 10:44 AM

My main point is what make one “right” better than another. . .  I know these are philosophical issues that have been debated for centuries, so I can see that it it unlikely to get anything solid.  I’m just exploring the ideas.

Welcome to the world of philosophy, which can be even more confusing than religion.  Read Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha, Shakespeare, Twain, blah, blah, blah. . .  They all have good points on what’s right, but none have all the answers.  I remember, vaguely, learning about Kant’s “categorical imperative”, where he proposed finding the situation where one answer is always correct, and he couldn’t.  Start from there and then ask yourself your question.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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I grew up in a fundamentalist family. I was angry and depressed for quite a while after I lost my faith. Now I live a much fuller and more rewarding life. Most of my Christian friends either treated me differently, or stopped associating with me altogether after I denounced my previous religion. I wish I had other free thinkers to associate with, but otherwise I have no regrets.

There is a plethora of good advice already in this thread and I have little to add to the wisdom here. There are always going to be difficult issues to decide. Religion does not answer everything either.

Often the difference between right and wrong is not black or white. In those cases, one must consider the effect that any given action has on anything that may be affected, living or nonliving. If it is not a decision that you intend to personally make, such as polygamy, then I feel that that is a question for those who wish to consider it. I happen to agree with Sandy on that matter. Nevertheless, I do not feel that I need to decide what is right or wrong for anyone else if their action has no negative consequences on anyone or anything other than those adults who have freely chosen to participate in that behavior. Obviously, children must be protected by society.

For example, it may not seem inherently wrong to use a chemical to kill worms on your tomato plants, but if you consider the totality of effects of this action including environmental effects and even the people in India who are exposed to the chemical during its manufacture, you may decide that the worms are not really causing that much harm after all.

[ Edited: 09 May 2008 10:03 AM by Beam]
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Posted: 09 May 2008 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Beam.  I opened the world choices for my kids.  They wrote what was right and wrong.  I issued no mandates.  By the time they went off to college I trusted them completely to do the right thing.  My God, they went to Berkeley!  They were surrounded with many gurus like Charlie Manson.  I warned them about these gurus and how many young girls followed them when looked and dressed like Jesus Christ.  Several of their friends went off campus and were never seen again.  All Christian kids.

My older girl was street smart but the younger one never took her nose out of a book.  They both made it!  They are both professional women married to professional men and their lives are full of joy.

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Posted: 09 May 2008 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Sandy, I will try to follow your advice. It has apparently worked for your family. My three children are all still young and I try to treat them similarly. I discuss morality and choices with them and let them make the decisions and discuss why they made the choices that they made.

Nevertheless, I often worry about whether or not I am providing adequate preparation. I look at them and feel emotions that I cannot describe with my vocabulary. I can only hope that my kids live emotionally rich and rewarding lives as well. If I worship anything, it is my wonderful family.

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