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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am posting this here for those who are interested in Philosophy. If you aren't, feel free to skip this post. If you are, I would appreciate your respectful feedback (pro or con).

I am currently taking a Personal Ethics class and one of my assignments is to write a philosophical paper regarding morality/ethics. In considering what I will write I was reminded of a similar paper that I wrote in 2006 for another class I was taking at the time. I am thinking that I would like to re-write that paper and perhaps expound on it, including a few quotes from some Phil's I respect such as Aristotle or Rand or perhaps Mentzer.

Having said that, I thought it might be good to get some feedback from you guys here... I thought perhaps it would help provide me with new meat to chew on and help get me going.

Before I post my paper, I would like to post a cover-letter that I had attached to it and addressed to my instructor. If you are LDS, or particularly devout to any other religion, I would ask that you read the letter first so that you understand my paper in the "right spirit"... I'm certainly not trying to be misunderstood and create enemies here! :)

So, the next post will be my letter that I originally wrote to my Prof.
The post that follows it is my paper.

I hope you enjoy the reading. I look forward to your feedback.
I want to up-front emphasize that my paper is *NOT* an assault on RELIGION, but only a challenge to the principle of FAITH. I see much good in many religions, especially in the LDS community; however, I see little value in faith.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
[To the Reader],

I feel a need to preface this assignment with a personal letter of explanation so that there is no misunderstanding of malice or of any intentional insult. Thus I feel a need to provide you with a brief synopsis of why I have arrived at these ideas. I hope and trust that this project comes across as I intend it, a thought-provoking explanation of something that I feel very strongly about, and not as anything personal against you or anyone in this class or outside it.
I realize, of course, that you are LDS. This paper is not meant as anything anti-LDS, though it is an argument primarily against 1 element common to all religions that I think is very incorrect. I did not choose this topic intentionally to provoke you but rather because the assignment was about a topic that I feel very strongly about and for which there are 2 clear-cut sides to the issue. Moreover this topic is currently a central area of my life because it has only been recently that I have arrived at these conclusions and I still have questions regarding these views that I face every day to try and clarify my views.
This topic has touched me deeply in recent years. Until just a little over a year ago, I too was LDS. I was baptized a year late, at age 9, but otherwise followed a fairly standard LDS life (full of my own set of failures and successes, especially during the teenage years). I went on a mission to Brazil and successfully completed it in 1995. I was sealed to my wife in the Timpanogas Temple in 2001. However, I won’t deny that most of my life I have had my share of deep questions regarding my faith. That being said, I was always seeking to understand my faith better and not trying to find fault with it. I was seeking answers, not arguments.
On September 11th, 2001, a group of people of a different (but in many ways similar) religion committed the grievous act of murdering thousands of innocent people. Regardless of who the true designers of the plan were, the fact remains that there are large numbers of otherwise pious people who feel happy about what happened that day. This disturbed me a great deal and shook the foundations of MY faith.
For a lot of people life continued fairly normal after the first few weeks. For me, life was focused and emphasized on this day in time. I was currently active-duty Navy and began to be deployed in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) so frequently that during the last 4 years I spent approximately 75% of my nights away from my home. I deployed 3 times around the world in support of GWOT. For the last 4 years I was focused on the aftermath of 9/11; and from my perspective, FAITH plays a big role in what motivates terrorists. Shaken, but still LDS, I performed my duties and still continued to try and develop my faith.
Eventually I found answers to quite a few of my hardest questions. One of the results of my search was the loss of my faith. I had arrived at a position where I could personally no longer accept a teaching in my life that drove others to commit such grievous errors and sins against humanity.
But this is not to say that I am anti-LDS, per-se. While I disagree with some teachings, I do not seek to be ANTAGONISTIC to any religion, nor especially towards the LDS. Most of my family are active members, my wife remains an active member, and I am very happy that her and I are Sealed, considering it a special and beautiful thing between us. Just as I have found fault with some of the doctrines, I also appreciate the good that the Church offers people.
In conclusion I want to reiterate that the position of this paper is not one of antagonism but one of intellectually examining a sole and single doctrine. I hope that we can understand each other fairly even if we can’t see eye-to-eye on everything. I certainly don’t think that anyone should agree with anyone on any matter for any reason other than truth and validity.

[Respectfully Yours]
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
THE IMMORALITY OF FAITH
[By Bane]

It has been said in many different ways that Religion (no, not money!) has been the cause of all of the great atrocities committed throughout history. Obviously, not everyone agrees. In fact, most people consider themselves religious and find value in leading a religious life. Most people have never even stopped to seriously consider how central a role religion has played in the world’s worst moments in time. Whether one agrees that religion is evil, or not, the average American can look around and see loads of religious people who make valid attempts to follow their religion in an effort to become better fathers and mothers, better neighbors, better employees, better citizens, and better people. You just don’t see a whole lot of religious people who walk around intentionally using their religion to try and foment evil. And yet, if you look back through history, many of the worst evils committed have been centered on religion. Why then the seeming contradiction???
It is my view that there are a few central tenets inherent in virtually all religions that form the power base of the religious system and are the primary reason why religion tends to go off track from it’s stated purpose and to become involved in so much suffering. Those common elements are: Mysticism, Faith, Religious Ritual, and Altruism. The refutations to these doctrines are: Reason, Hope, Spiritual Introspection, and Selfishness. I regret that I do not have space in this paper to talk about all four elements. I will have to concentrate my discussion to the one element central to all the others, the one that I feel is most immoral and thus mostly responsible when religion deviates from it’s original course. And that is the idea of Faith.
To start the discussion it is necessary to demonstrate what faith is by definition and then contrast it with an alternative way to handle the issues related to it in order to demonstrate where it goes wrong.
Faith is a commonly used word that carries many different meanings and can be confused from one person to another as to PRECISELY what is meant. Therefore, for the purposes of this paper, when we talk of faith we mean:

(a)“Acceptance of ideals, beliefs, etc., which are not necessarily demonstrable through experimentation or reason”i
(b)“Firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust”ii
(c)“The confusion of premises for conclusions”iii

From these definitions we see that the central element of faith is having a firm belief in something that cannot be demonstrated. Initially a person generally subscribes to faith in something as having an idea that they value and HOPE for; that is, something about which they have a feeling that might be true yet can’t quite seem to find the logic or evidence needed to close the gap and demonstrate it as true. However, it is common to observe that after some time passes, their faith tends to grow and become stronger until eventually the individual will oftentimes mistakenly switch their premises for their conclusion; that is, they inadvertently place their original OPINION (their premises, that which they originally had hoped for) in the position of FACT (their conclusion, the truth that previously they could not quite reach). At this juncture in the development of their faith they bridge the gap between the object they originally had HOPED for and the elusive former goal of TRUTH. This is the point where they mistakenly commit a grievous error in judgment. Nothing changed except time, yet they have now found themselves in a position of complete trust in a thing that they originally had merely hoped for.
The antithesis to faith is hope. Hope is frequently used interchangeably with faith, but as we shall see, faith and hope are not the same. Hope, while not an exact contradiction to faith, approaches one’s opinion from a totally different angle; and thus, a totally different conclusion is reached when the tool of hope is used instead of faith. Hope is defined here as:

(a)“Intent with some possibility of fulfillment.”iv
(b)“Desire accompanied by expectation”v

From these definitions we see that hope is much the other side of the same coin as faith. However, to have hope is to have a full awareness and understanding that what one hopes for may or may not come to be true (or come to fruition). Nearly everyone who develops some form of faith in something first started out having hope. Hope is the rational and logical position of believing in something for which there is some evidence but which also cannot be fully demonstrated. Hope, then, is the proper positioning of one’s desires and opinions in relation to one’s ability to reason and demonstrate them. Everyone who has a hope in something also has the natural understanding that they may be wrong in what they hope for. Of course, no one who merely hopes for something will come to the conclusion that their hope is so strong that surely it then follows that the thing they hope for is in fact true. (In the absence of evidence, faith is required in order to bridge that gap.)
Thus we can see that the primary difference between faith and hope is that the former often-times leads us to believe that with enough conviction the thing we desire can become quasi-fact sans proof; hope, however, stands ever vigilant reminding us that the thing we desire is not solid enough to approach fact and can turn out to be wrong.
Why is it important for us to so clearly distinguish between the two? Why should we always take care to have hope in things while shunning the development of faith in anything? It is common in society to use both terms nearly interchangeably; why not just maintain the modus operandi? I’ll tell you why: because it is primarily FAITH, and not religion, that has historically led humanity to commit the greatest atrocities.
By faith we learn to blindly accept something as near-fact. And once that thing is accepted “by faith” it slowly begins to take on a life of it’s own and grows closer and closer to actual fact in the mind of the individual. Eventually the individual becomes so convinced of the truthfulness of the thing he has faith in, that he can no longer be persuaded to see any possible error in his view regardless of how daunting the evidence. That is, he now accepts the thing he desires as actual fact, no longer demanding any kind of demonstration as to its truthfulness. Once that line is crossed and the individual reaches this point in his development of faith, anything is possible.
This is why there is such a dichotomy between the stated purpose of religion and the common observation that religions seem to exist in order to accentuate the differences between various cultures. This is why, regardless of the fact that nearly all religions teach some form of pacifism, they all have had moments in history tainted with grave wrongdoing. This is why every religion is at the virtual throat of every other religion. Faith is the antagonist, not religion per-se. It is faith that drives a man to commit an act that under normal circumstances he would consider to be in direct violation of his religion â€" but since he has FELT so strongly for so long that what he is going to do is the right thing in the eyes of God, he FEELS that somehow he is vindicated in what he will do, irregardless of any evidence to the contrary. Our feelings are what enable faith to bridge the divide between desire and reality.
Faith is what causes entire subcultures to commit mass-suicide. Faith is what causes men to think they are the select few of God and fly planes into buildings. Faith is what causes a religious body to determine that another religious body believes in a doctrine so opposed to the true doctrine of God that they are vindicated in converting the other group to the truth by threat of the sword. It is faith that causes one nation to so strongly believe that they are the superior race and that all other races are not only inferior but must be dominated and in some cases annihilated. It is faith that leads to a situation where a small group of men believe that the rest of humanity is not intelligent enough to learn correctly and thus they must lock-up or burn every instrument of knowledge to keep the less intelligent from corrupting themselves. It is faith that drives a man who has spent his entire life teaching “thou shalt not [murder]”vi but many years later feels justified in preaching that his people should enter the land of another nation and should attack it and should “utterly [destroy] the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, [and leave] none to remain.”vii This is what faith brings.
People often say that it isn’t the gun that kills, but the person behind the gun. In this context I argue that it isn’t religion that causes evil, but rather a person of faith.

REFERENCES

i The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (http://www.carm.org/atheism/terms.htm, see “faith”).

ii Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, copyright © 1991 by Merriam-Webster Inc. (as referenced by http://tangents.home.att.net/data/rlgdef.htm, see “faith”).

iii “The Really Good News: Toward a personal atheist apologia.” (http://www.angelfire.com/pa/ebrownle2/, see “faith” in the glossary).

iv WordNet by the Princeton University (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=hope, see verb (3) ).

v Innvista’s Theological Dictionary (http://www.innvista.com/culture/religion/diction.htm, see “hope”).

vi The Bible, King James Translation; Exodus 20:13.

vii The Bible, King James Translation; Deuteronomy 2:34.
 

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I might have thought this was an interesting philosophy about Faith had you not put in the disclaimer letter Overly stating that it was not Anti-LDS. Because of the disclaimer, I'm swayed to think your paper does have to do with being Anti-LDS...
jmo, leave the disclaimer out. Let your philosophy stand on its own.

Erik
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Huh. Interesting you thought that way. Do you *REALLY* think that, or are you just saying that you think my Prof. MIGHT read it that way??? I think I made a very solid demonstration of NON-LDS case-studies regarding the harm of religious-faith... do you think I was weak on that, or are you simply stating that my letter overstates the unnecessary?

I guess the reason I wrote the letter is b/c of the culture we live in and the wish to not be viewed as a Mormon-basher. It probably stems from my family's initial response to my changed religious views... to this day they ask my wife in hushed tones if doing things like having a family prayer might offend me. So, yeah, I worry. But, really, I'm not an antagonist.
 

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This is an interesting concept, however I do not believe faith is the problem. The jump between faith and fact you make leaves some room for error. While I am sure this does happen on a regular basis, there is a causing factor that is missing. What causes Faith to move to Fact? You state: “Eventually the individual becomes so convinced of the truthfulness of the thing he has faith in, that he can no longer be persuaded to see any possible error in his view regardless of how daunting the evidence”. You see this in habitual liars, trauma case like kidnappings, and even in relationships where a person reaches a point that they can no longer distinguish between fact and fantasy but high levels of stress are usually involved. Religion tends to ostracize those who turn away from the beliefs of the collective. In Utah this is the LDS church, but the churches vary as much as the area.
Speaking locally how many LDS families do you know who refuse to let their children play with non-LDS kids? How many times are you frowned upon due to your choice to pursue your personal beliefs once you left the local LDS norm? I believe it is this peer pressure and stress that both force people away and force them into the religious extremes.
I personally am an active member of the LDS church, but due to my job I rarely make it to Sunday services, because of this fact my family and I are shunned in our ward. We do not get invited to parties, have callings, or even are on a first name basis with our next door neighbors. I do not fit the mold, and so I must be bad.
I believe it is this stress that breaks many people and in turn bridges the gap between faith and fact.
 

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xmirage2kx said:
Speaking locally how many LDS families do you know who refuse to let their children play with non-LDS kids?
None. If I did, I'd give them a piece of my mind.

xmirage2kx said:
I personally am an active member of the LDS church, but due to my job I rarely make it to Sunday services, because of this fact my family and I are shunned in our ward. We do not get invited to parties, have callings, or even are on a first name basis with our next door neighbors. I do not fit the mold, and so I must be bad. I believe it is this stress that breaks many people and in turn bridges the gap between faith and fact.
Wow, I am sorry you have to go through that. Most unfortunate. However, if you are not on a first name basis with your next door neighbor, that is a problem caused by both of you. Takes 2 to tango! I go out of my way to know my neighbors and get involved with their lives. If the relationships aren't legitimate, how could they feel comfortable about calling on me in a time of need? THAT'S what a true neighbor is, I think. A friend.

Anyway....interesting thoughts, bane. I, however, have a totally different definition of faith, that I will share shortly.
 

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bane said:
Huh. Interesting you thought that way. Do you *REALLY* think that, or are you just saying that you think my Prof. MIGHT read it that way??? I think I made a very solid demonstration of NON-LDS case-studies regarding the harm of religious-faith... do you think I was weak on that, or are you simply stating that my letter overstates the unnecessary?
...
As I read your article, I kept questioning the term 'Religion', wondering if you were actually referring to the Mormon faith. I think this was simply caused by the disclaimer Adamantly denying the article as being 'Anti-LDS'. I think as a teacher, I would probably question the true intentions of your article Based on what you said in the disclaimer.

btw - Although I disagree with some of your philosophies, I thought it was a good article.
 

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tapehoser said:
Wow, I am sorry you have to go through that. Most unfortunate. However, if you are not on a first name basis with your next door neighbor, that is a problem caused by both of you. Takes 2 to tango! I go out of my way to know my neighbors and get involved with their lives. If the relationships aren't legitimate, how could they feel comfortable about calling on me in a time of need? THAT'S what a true neighbor is, I think. A friend.
I would agree with you except I was told that my lifestyle was not in harmony with his and to try not to associate with him or his family unless necessary. Upon further questioning I was told that if I truly believed the things the church taught I would quit my job and attend church every Sunday.
Most my neighbors are not that way, but they do exist. I figure even if he didn't have a problem with me he is not the type of person who I would be buddies with anyways so it is his loss.
 

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bane,

I am LDS and a returned missionary (returned in 97) and active in my church. I personally have no problem with anything in your essay and actually agree with the majority of it.

A couple of things that came to my mind as I read your essay. I teach the Priest's in my ward and a month or so ago we were having a lesson on something and I felt prompted to talk about FAITH -vs- KNOWLEDGE. I told them that when I was their age I never really understood and almost had a problem with people standing up and saying "I KNOW this, or I KNOW that." I told them that when I bore my testimony, I said "I believe this or I believe that." I couldn't bring myself to say I KNOW because I didn't know. I didn't really care (and never have cared) what others thought of me. For me what mattered is how I felt about myself. And I simply couldn't stand there and LIE to myself by saying the words "I KNOW." Without going into detail, I will say that there are some things which I now "KNOW." There are still many things which I can only say "I BELIEVE" in however. Maybe someday they will become "I KNOW's" but for now and for me I am just fine with "I BELIEVES" because I have enough "I KNOWS" that I feel very strongly in the "I BELIEVES"... I have hope that the "I BELIEVES" are true and may some day become "I KNOWS." I also know that the "I BELIEVES" make me happy. (hope this made sense...)

On my mission I also decided that much of religion is simply about things that have nothing to do with religion. IE: entertainment, emotion, power, money, a feeling of self-worth, the feeling of acceptance, etc. I agree with you 100% that the vast majority of evil in the world has happened in the name of religion. I however don't have a problem with that. I agree that if you tell yourself enough that something is true, you very well may start to accept is as true without KNOWING and without it being a FACT. However, I feel that this is simply a person choosing to be dishonest with themselves for whatever reason they choose. I'm sure we have all been dishonest with ourselves for some reason at some point in our lives, whether with religion or anything else for that matter. It's pretty easy to do and eventually you just accept the fact that you are lying to yourself and you live with it. These are the faults of man though. Everything in this world can be used for GOOD or BAD including FAITH.

My question is then, Imagine a world WITHOUT faith? Where would we be then? I would propose that the world would be a much worse place to live in. Yes FAITH has led to tremendous evil at times, but it has also led to a much greater GOOD. Everything can be used for good or evil so why should anyone be surprised that something that would generally be considered GOOD (faith) can also be used for EVIL? Again, people choose to do things for all sorts of reasons and we don't really know why but in many instances the results of their choice are obviously GOOD or BAD but that can also depend on your perspective.

I also would say that there are absolute ignorant jerks in all religions. I guess I just have never really cared what the jerks thought or placed much stock in their attitudes or opinions. I met plently of jerks on my mission!!! (mostly other missionaries) I met enough ignorant jerks on my mission to decide then and there that I would never judge any religion solely by the actions of some of the members.

I guess my other question, which you certainly don't have to answer is this. I couldn't really figure out how your thinking led to leaving the church. Have you simply decided that FAITH (all FAITH) is bad? So what does all of this essay have to do with bane? I for one can read your essay and walk away saying boy he nailed that. I don't feel that your essay in any way is anti-Mormon or bashes my faith or any other faith for that matter. I think it is a very well thought out arguement. I am just left wondering so what now? And how did this thinking led to you forsake the "I BELIEVES" in your life?

As far as for a school paper, I also would ditch the "This isn't anti-Mormon" disclaimer. It adds nothing to the essay and there is nothing in the essay that anyone of any faith should find offensive....unless of course they question their faith....at which point having someone point out the misuse of faith and the incorrect use at times of faith may cause some discomfort in a reader. But again, so what....thats their problem, and pointing out that they have been lying to themselves is certainly not the writers problem.

When I finished my lesson to my Priest's (that I talked about in the first paragraph) I asked them how many of them KNEW. Nobody answered me. They all looked intentlly at the floor. I asked them one by one personally in front of the class if they knew and they all said NO. (I think there were 4 in the class.) I then told them that this was OK and a much better answer than a dishonest YES I KNOW. I would have been looking at the floor when I was their age also. I then told them a few of my "I KNOWS" and a bunch of my "I BELIEVES" and told them that I believed they could also have their I belives turn into I knows just like some of mine had. It was the best lesson we had had in months and one that I KNOW they will remember.....
 
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Well I am no fun but here goes.

I started writing a point my point attack on your logical fallacies but I got bored so I will just poke a small hole.

Religion cannot exist without faith. There is no proof of God; nor can there be as proof of God would eliminate free will. Without free will one cannot be morally culpable thus eliminating sin and absolution of sin. Without sin and absolution there can be no Heaven and no ****. Without sin, absolution, Heaven, and **** there can be no religion. Faith is an essential component of religion; decrying faith is decrying religion. But instead of attacking one you hit all of them, good work!

"People often say that it isn't the gun that kills, but the person behind the gun."
In the light of my argument this metaphor isn't fitting, comparing and object to its ancillary (man to gun) is inaccurate as faith is inseparable from religion. "People often say that it isn't the body that kills, but the person." would be more fitting and yes it is a statement equally as ridiculous as the claim that you aren't attacking religion.

Perhaps you haven't figured this out yet but I will let you in on a little something. Faith and religion are as one of your references put it "Religious faith is a matter of personal faith. It is not demonstrable, it is not objective. It is subjective." It is personal; and thus there is no possible discourse, you can't have an argument with a single premise. That is to say you cannot win. Your faith or lack of is yours alone. Faith is the willful rejection of reason. Why try to employee reason; a simple "I love God or I hate God" is as good an argument as any.

As to your assignment "I am currently taking a Personal Ethics class and one of my assignments is to write a philosophical paper regarding morality/ethics."

An attack on religion doesn't appear to be addressing morality or ethics. You know morality and ethics do exist outside of religion. I am a non believer and a deeply moral man; although my morality probably isn't yours, because you know, it’s subjective.

Wow auto editing H ell... thats just...... wow. I guess we are really limited in any discourse about the mating behavior of chickens too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Got quite a bit of interesting feedback -- Thanks to all! While I cannot take the time to reply to everyone all at once, I will parse through them in the order they were posted and reply to each of the original replies. Obviously there is likely to reach a point where no new points are being made and disagreement still exists (such is human nature, right?) and at that point I will refrain from replying at all so as not to turn this into nothing more than a flame-thread. But as long as new points are being made, I will consider the material and attempt to respond or, who knows, alter my position.

That being said... here goes:

XMIRAGE:

I think you bring up a good point regarding social pressures. It's one I often consider (and experience either directly or indirectly here in Utah, as you pointed out) but honestly one I failed to consider while writing my paper. I think it's a valid ASPECT of this discussion.

However, I'm not sure that it renders my argument invalid. The way I read your argument is that when religion ostracizes it's less-mainstream members those members are pressured into making the leaps of faith I discussed which leads them to commit great wrongs. To put it in another way, it isn't FAITH that drives the individual to go wrong but rather SOCIAL PRESSURE -- also, these wrong applications of faith are committed by individuals not by groups.

I certainly think there is SOME truth to your points. Many of us have experienced the aspects of religious social life you refer to. And many of us have seen individuals respond the way you described.

But I don't think your argument is complete.

Because wrong acts of faith are not always caused by ostracized INDIVIDUALS. They are very often created by entire cultures. Take the Nazi party, for example. While they were a godless culture, they certainly had a religious-like faith in their cause and in their supreme leader. This blind faith caused them to commit some very heinous sins against all reason and science. Many have even said they previously would not have agreed to the course of action they chose but that at some point the party and Hitler somehow convinced them. That movement's committed fervor to their unreasonable and unprovable tenets is pretty hard to separate from the traditional view of religious faith. Now, I'm not saying most religiously faithful are similar to the Nazi's... I hope I'm not misunderstood there. I'm simply commenting on the similarity of their LEVEL OF COMMITMENT to UNREASONABLE/UNPROVABLE IDEAS. (BTW, this example is a good defense against those who have challenged/questioned the integrity of my statement that my argument is not an attack on religion per-se. I find equal fault with non-religious groups who utilize faith. And, in another vein which I will address in one of my later posts, it is entirely possible to have a religious view on life WITHOUT resorting to faith. Contrary to popular opinion, religion, though commonly entertwined with faith, does not of necessity depend on it. Thus my statement that I am attacking faith, not religion. Again, the Nazi party is a good example of an a-religious faith system.)

Another example of an entire culture committing this type of error of faith was the medieval religious wars. Where an entire culture's faith was SO STRONG and SO COMMITTED that their religion was the voice of God that they felt justified in holding an entire other religion and culture at threat of the sword (and no, I'm not taking sides here... the Christians were certainly wrong, but the Muslims committed plenty of their own wrongs too).

Another, very modern, example of faith gone wrong in entire civilizations would be modern terrorists. I have not read a single case of the modern-day extremist-muslim terrrorist movement (excepting the fringe cases such as the wacko American/British folks who somehow identify with that movement) where one of those terrorists had felt socially ostracized, and thus pressured into extremism. Quite to the contrary, all of the individuals I have read about were very much respected members of their religious cultures and the members of their cultures were often surprised to find out that they had such terrorist views.

Similarly, I refer to this very enlightening video that made a VERY POWERFUL impression on me regarding "The Power of Faith":
-- If you pay very careful attention to the similarities between the different societies being portrayed, you can't miss the argument.

It is my argument that FAITH (not HOPE, but FAITH -- the holding as FACT something which cannot be rationally reasoned, proven, and demonstrated) is the fuel behind all of these sorts of atrocities. Social pressure, as you correctly point out, plays a pivotal role... but what is social pressure built on??? Societies are not animals in and of themselves, they are built on INDIVIDUALS. What is fueling each of those individuals??? I hold it is faith. Again, not HOPE. I am a big fan of hope. Hope is like faith, but recognizes that the thing HOPED FOR is not necessarily true b/c it has not yet been proven. It is my belief that a VERY MANY religious people here in America hold religious views in the light of HOPE, which is why this is not an attack on religion. Most American Catholics, for example, hold something closer to hope than faith. So, too, a lot of LDS people hold the majority of their views from a position of hope rather than outright faith (even if they call it faith). If we read the definitions of faith vs. hope that I provided in my paper and reflect on our own religious views in our minds we will realize that most of us hold our religious views from a HOPEFUL position rather than a FAITHFUL position. Case in point: Do you believe the BoM is the absolute irrefutable word of God? I'm sure your off-the-cuff answer would normally be yes. But on considering these definitions I think you will admit that you do not actually accept that statement as a FACT which you cannot prove. Since you cannot prove it, I believe you will admit that you cannot admit it as a FACTUAL position. Thus, you do not believe that statement from a position of FAITH (since, by definition, faith admits NON-facts *AS* FACTS, merely based on FEELINGS). I think you instead will admit that your belief in the BOM comes more from a position of HOPE. You *FEEL* the BoM is true, but since you cannot prove it you recognize that you cannot hold it as literal actual fact. Thus you practice your belief from a position of hope (even if you mistakenly label your hope as faith).

But faith is the acceptance of a non-fact as a fact. Which is a fallacy. The fallacy is committed by FEELINGS (which is where your social-pressures come into play). Feelings cause us to equate a non-fact as a fact, and this process is called faith.

Hope is the acceptance that we like an idea that cannot be proven, and thus we recognize it MIGHT not be correct. With hope we allow our feelings only to help us enjoy the thing we hope for. But with hope we don't allow our feelings to bridge the gap and create a faith in a non-fact.

This is my argument. That religion is very good and constructive when it argues from a position of HOPE, but that it goes seriously wrong when it moves it's argument to a position of FAITH. Feelings are certainly pivotal, as you mentioned because feelings (social pressures, etc) are what cause the jump to faith. BUT that doesn't invalidate that the destination, faith, is wrong.

Sorry for all the words... hopefully you can wade through it all! :)
 

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TMG:

I would be interested to hear some of your disagreements! :)

As far as the "disclaimer letter"... I would like to add 2 more reasons that I wrote it to the reason I already provided:

1) This wasn't a typical University professor that simply lectures to 300 students and leaves and you never really talk to or otherwise get to know them. This was at SLCC where most classes number no more than 20-30 students. This particular class had about 15-20 that attended regularly. Almost every day I would show up 10-15min. early and the instructor was already there as well. We would frequently get into personal discussions about life and got to know each other somewhat. In fact, we got so "chummy" that I ended up getting him into contact with a good friend of mine and together they worked on a multi-million $$$ real estate deal. So, from my point of view, a personal letter of "disclaimer" was appropriate and perhaps even warranted; whereas in a typical University setting, I think you are right to state that the disclaimer would have been a bad idea.

2) I believe no philosophy happens in a vaccuum. I personally really hate reading someone's philosophy and not know at least a little bit about the background from whence it comes. The background behind the formation of a philosophy is the CONTEXT of the philosophy. In any other context (read: any other person's life) the philosophy presented may not stand; however, knowing the context the philosophy comes from may go a long way to explaining how the philosophy MIGHT BE valid. I have noticed that every time my philosophy teacher gets up to lecture on a particular philosopher he spends several minutes just discussing the larger points of that person's life. I have also noticed that most philosophy books either do the same or intersperse the discussion with such information. What they are doing is adding context to the argument... which is really what I was doing with my letter. Again, in a University setting doing so may be viewed as inappropriate. That doesn't mean it really is, it just means that's THEIR expectation.

I think to read someone's "disclaimer" and dismiss it out-of-hand merely because it is a disclaimer is disingenuous and is a way of finding fault with their argument prior to even having to read their argument. Why assume a person is lying until they are actually demonstrated as lying???

Just my $0.02.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
PW:

In response to your teaching a distinction between KNOWING and BELIEVING (which, BTW, I admire your teaching your youth about that... I don't recall getting enough of THOSE types of discussions when I was growing up in Church, but I think they are actually more important than the constant "Don't do this" rhetoric) the only thing I would like to clarify is that I think BELIEVING in an unprovable can be just fine (after all, I believe in God, a Higher Power, Providence, Divine Nature, or whatever it is you want to call it -- I usually just use God, even though it has a strong Judeo/Christian definition usually attached to it that I don't particularly accept -- but I think it pretty unlikely that I can ever PROVE God) and good. What I disagree with is thinking we can KNOW an unprovable. That is the distinction I was trying to draw in my paper. To argue it from an LDS perspective I would say that one can certainly BELIEVE the BoM is true and live their life accordingly and gain a whole lot of benefit from that belief... but, absent any new scientifically objective evidential findings, I don't believe one can ever achieve the ability to state that they KNOW the BoM is true (except, of course, in the next life).

So, BELIEF is good and doesn't require solid evidence while KNOWLEDGE (in these things) can be a dangerous statement and DOES REQUIRE EVIDENCE. The move between the two in almost all religious things typically cannot occur justifiably. When it DOES occur we commit the sin of faith by accepting an idea AS fact without factual evidence.

What I am saying is that I appreciate your distinction for your youth, that was good... I would just have stressed that typically you cannot KNOW most religious ideas you can merely BELIEVE in them and enjoy the benefits of that BELIEF.

Regarding "jerks". Honestly, "jerks" never played into my arguments. I'm much like you, I don't much care about them. Oh, that's not to say that when I hear about a "jerk" story it might not steam me up and add a little fuel to the fire that I already started. It's just to say that I don't typically view "jerks" as foundational material for concepts.

Regarding "how my thinking led me from the Church"... I think it's a fair question though I can honestly say I left the Church before totally formulating this concept. It was in my leaving that I was left with a lot of voids in my views that I had to tackle and address b/c the Church was no longer there to fill in those gaps for me. I knew something inside of me still believed in God, but I didn't know how to understand that. The crux of my "argument" with the Church was primarily based, I would say, on too many variables that contradicted each other throughout the Church's history. I'm not sure I want to go into them here... I have had these questions since I was about 14 and didn't finally decide it was a lost cause until I was about 31... that's an aweful long time of soul-searching (this through an honorable mission and my Temple Sealing) and much too large of a discussion for here. Suffice it to say that my questions were very diverse and wide-reaching, anything from the involvement of the Masons in the early days of the Church to their involvement in the formation of our great Nation by men "raised by God and led by the Spirit" to their involvement in many great and important events of that day such as the French and American Revolutions and the sheer number of inventors linked to them... contrasted with the explicit teachings in the BoM of avoiding Secret Combinations, all of which are "the works of the Devil"... another contradiction I struggled with was the number of very different accounts of the First Vision that don't seem to be reconcilable to each other, despite the official version... another contradiction I struggled with is the number of revisions the BoM has gone through (yes, most typographical, but some were actual re-wordings that altered Doctrine) in it's lifetime... which alterations I don't have a problem with except the book is taught to have been perfect from the beginning. There are also divergences of ideas presented between the BoM and the D&C that I don't think can be justifiably accounted for. These are only a few examples briefly mentioned.... there are many more and many more details. And as I delved into them over the years I also started coming across much of THE SAME TYPES OF PROBLEMS IN OTHER RELIGIONS (Catholicism & the Bible primarily, but also to some extent we are all familiar with the problems of Islam and how the extremists are taking a "religion of peace" and making it into a religion of war... there are other examples too, but these are the primary ones I dealt with). Basically what I started to see is that these religious mistakes just keep getting repeated from one to another across time. Finally I realized that if all the other religions have these mistakes in them and my religion teaches that this is due to the weakness of man directing religion in the absence of God's direct hand, then the same must hold true for my religion as well... in other words, as good as it is in as many areas as it truly is, it is obviously not as perfect as we are oftentimes think and that imperfection (according to my own Church) was apparently due to man's involvement where God's is lacking. The conclusion I was led to: whatever level of spiritual enlightenment led to the formation of the Church, it obviously has not been consistent. Lacking that consistency, how am I to know which of it's teachings are TRULY of God and which are of man in his attempt to plug the holes he was left with? The answer: I cannot know. The response: go with what I know and nothing more. BELIEVE in things that seem likely, but give no weight to things that seem just as unlikely as they are likely. And so, that is the path I chose.

I was left with a lot of gaps. It took me a couple of years to sort the majority of them out, most of the way. But I still have plenty of gaps. I'm fine with that because I know there will always be gaps. What I don't ever want again are CONTRADICTIONS. I'm fine with "I don't knows", what I don't want is "I KNOWS" followed up with "WELL, THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS, JUST ACCEPT IT".

While I was searching for "God" I decided one of the many things Joseph Smith was absolutely correct about was that our nation's forefathers, by and large, absolutely were driven men of God. So I thought I'd find out what religious values THEY held to help me come to a better understanding of my own. When I discovered that most of them were some form of DEISTS and I went on to read about what Deists were and believed (b/c at that point I'd never even heard about a Deist)... well, I knew I had my answer: I was a Deist THROUGH AND THROUGH. It was probably the best day of my life when I realized that. When I realized that I could discard the FAITH that led to CONTRADICTION and still hold a belief in God based on REASON.

At first I thought I could just remain a "Deist Mormon"... subscribing in the Church's teachings from a BELIEF stand-point. But I realized that all the years of searching out these contradictions just wouldn't permit it, FOR ME. The questions had simply taken on a life of their own and I would never be able to sit in Sacrament hearing a discussion with saying "oh come on, you don't KNOW that FOR SURE, there's too much OTHER stuff against it"... it would just be a constant problem. OTOH, my wife is more of a "Deist Mormon" and seems to handle it quite well. There's tons of stuff she realizes may not be true. But b/c she didn't spend years researching it all, she doesn't have the "knee jerk reaction" every time she goes to Church and she just accepts most of what is taught and bites her tongue every-so-often. So, for her, it works. Personally, I think if the Church were less dogmatic and idealistic about it's history and about the infallibility of official Church teachings, the Church would fare much better in most people's lives. In other words, if the Church stressed BELIEF more and FAITH less, I think it would be a big improvement. But that's just my opinion, an ex-member's whose opinion though important is maybe not very relevant.

In short, I believe in God but I base that belief on REASON. There is SOME EVIDENCE that demonstrates there is a Higher Power at work. But what I don't do is to then extract that belief in a Higher Power to pretend that I can know what God looks like, how God works, etc. I can also look around at nature, the Universe, etc, and draw rational conclusions on how God GENERALLY wants me to lead my life but I what I can't do is take those observations and conclude that God also expects me live a certain specific code, such as pay tithing, go to Church, say nightly prayers, give my money to the poor, forgive all infractions against me regardless of the offenders frame of mind, etc. THOSE things I can choose to accept if I see value in them but I no longer pretend to think that I know that God actually expects these things of me. Again, it all comes down to belief vs. faith. But what we choose to put our belief in depends on how we view the arguments for/against a certain thing... which is good, because it means we are thinking things out for ourselves instead of just blindly accepting "that things just are".

Yeah, wordy again, I know. I wanted to be thorough. I hope I succeeded.
Also, specific words I have chosen (such as "pretend to believe") were personally-chosen words as those things applied to me. I do not mean that YOU (or anyone else) is actually PRETENDING to believe in anything. Since I don't know anyone else's frame of mind, I can't honestly draw that conclusion. What I was referring to with these sorts of statements is that I realized much of what I had previously "believed" I didn't actually believe it and to PRETEND to believe it would mean to live a lie... essentially the reason I could not be a "Deist Mormon"... something I believe MANY successfully live b/c they really do BELIEVE those things even if they don't KNOW them to be true or not. Most of our founding fathers, for example, were "closet Deists", practicing specific religions in public but privately ascribing to Deist views. That's fine for them; I just don't think it would work for me.
 
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I woke feeling scrappy so I am here to bang on another issue I have with your work.

Faith is the motive power of humans; it exists with and without social organizations like religion. Faith is power; power to move ourselves, to move other men, to move the world. Faith is not what inspires the hate, fear, or greed which drives men to mass murder; it is simply the motive force to do so.

Nearly everything I do is unproven. I have little evidence that I can make a convincing argument for the case that faith is essential to human existence; but I will try. The previous statement is a statement of faith; I believe I can do it and thus I try.

Perhaps it would be more worthwhile to try and discover the source of inspiration.

The reality is you cannot separate, Isolate, or dispose of, the evil in men's hearts. That which drives us to greatness drives us to evil.

Everything can be justified if you want it to be. If my religion says I shall not eat hats but I really like eating hats I will find a justification to eat hats. It’s not a hat it’s a yamika, nothing says I may not eat a yamika!

Religion, faith, and justification are not the source of inspiration for these crimes they are enablers.

I have my own theories on what inspires men to commit evil but it would offend the religious sensibilities of some of the thinner skinned members of this forum and really is no place to discuss it so shall relent.

Certainly if you removed faith from men’s hearts there would be no murder; there would also be no computer on which to type this message, nor would I exist to type it or you to read it.

Edit to add:

Bane I really hope you bother reading this; I feel your position of faith is sophistic and would benefit you to reexamine.
 

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Eukatae said:
I have my own theories on what inspires men to commit evil but it would offend the religious sensibilities of some of the thinner skinned members of this forum and really is no place to discuss it so shall relent.
If I may, I'd like to jump off on a slight digression at this point:
As an active member of a number of forums covering various interests I have, there is little doubt that this discussion would have degenerated into name-calling and other gratuitous personal attacks by now on each and every one of those forums. Indeed, many forums ban the discussion of religious matters due to the inevitability of degeneration into a free-for-all. As I've watched this discussion progress, I've been impressed by the maturity, thoughtfulness and control exhibited by both the members who have chosen to participate in the discussion and those who are just reading along. I'm proud to be associated, even in such a peripheral manner as this forum, with the members of UCC.com!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...
 

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Car Knocker said:
Eukatae said:
I have my own theories on what inspires men to commit evil but it would offend the religious sensibilities of some of the thinner skinned members of this forum and really is no place to discuss it so shall relent.
If I may, I'd like to jump off on a slight digression at this point:
As an active member of a number of forums covering various interests I have, there is little doubt that this discussion would have degenerated into name-calling and other gratuitous personal attacks by now on each and every one of those forums. Indeed, many forums ban the discussion of religious matters due to the inevitability of degeneration into a free-for-all. As I've watched this discussion progress, I've been impressed by the maturity, thoughtfulness and control exhibited by both the members who have chosen to participate in the discussion and those who are just reading along. I'm proud to be associated, even in such a peripheral manner as this forum, with the members of UCC.com!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...
+1. Thats why I enjoy this forum so much!!!
 

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Count me in on the kudos to everyone for keeping this discussion mature and thoughtful.

I have to say as for myself, I tend to identify mostly with the views of PW. (Boy, you saved me a lot of typing. Thanks!)

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread. It's very similar to the discussions I have with my sister in Atlanta. She would identify totally with Bane. We have had some great conversations regarding the same things. I think they've tended to be somewhat eye-opening for each of us in different ways.

In the end, we each realize that we need to discover our Happy Places. (Think Happy Gilmore here folks... lingerie, slot machines and tricycles. I love that movie.) What works for me may not work for her or vice versa. Mostly, I think we need to find what gives us peace in our own lives and understand that it may be different for each of us, and that it's ok that it's different.
 

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Bane, I would like to offer my thanks for your wonderful and thoughtful insights. You've truly done an incredible job of putting things in perspective while not insulting anyone! Simply, a fantastic read!

I am where you are!

Rick
 
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