Mr. Winters Needs to do Some Research

In a recent opinion column in the USU Statesman Richard Winters showed us what happens when uneducated religious bias tries to write a column called Common Sense. I would like to walk through this column piece by piece.

It starts off with this 

Amidst the fantastic coverage of news and sports published in The Utah Statesman, there has always come shockingly to my attention certain opinion columns which have promoted promiscuity, homosexuality, premarital sex, the viewing of pornography and a general disdain for anything virtuous or wholesome in society.

For anyone familiar with the Statesman this is clearly in reference to the many columns done by Liz Emery (Liz has also done a rebuttal to this column and it can be found here )

Can you imagine if the norm was to openly view pornography?

Viewing porn seems to be the normal thing in Utah and for conservatives.  Blaming the increase in porn consumption on Atheist seems to be against the evidence. Mr. Winters needs to do a little more research on this before he writes on it.

Do you have any idea the rate of sexual crimes and deviances that begin with pornography? Sometime when you have a spare half hour, why don’t you Youtube “Ted Bundy last interview” and see what pornography did to inspire this particular serial killer of more than 30 women including a little girl from Utah.

Really? Really?!?!? I guess its a just a matter of time before I go crazy and kill everyone. . . Or until the 15,504* of Utah porn consumers turn into crazy mass killers. There is absolutely no evidence that pornography increases crime, in fact there has been a decrease in rape and sexual assault as porn usage have go up.  

What about another issue previously discussed in this very newspaper — premarital sex and promiscuity? This is increasingly becoming the norm in our society.

Okay I’ll give you that sex is becoming more acceptable in society. Mr. Winters even went on to give a generic example of a superhero having sex with a girl he just meet. Okay Mr. Winters still with you.

What’s incredible to me is that women in our world will fight tooth and nail for feminist movements and “women’s rights,” particularly to “their own bodies,” but they aren’t disgusted and mortified by the fact that those same bodies are increasingly treated like playthings on the big screen. And yes, we as a world are accepting it more and more.

Wow. You seem to have no understanding on the feminist movement, which has been outraged over this very thing for years. But what angers me more, Mr. Winters is the use of quotes around “women’s rights” and  “their own bodies.” Does Mr. Winters believe that women’s rights don’t exist? That they don’t have the right to their own bodies. Your sexism is clear here Mr. Winters

Another idea which we heard from a previous author’s column platform is that we should embrace homosexuality.

If by embrace you mean give equal rights, then yes.

Can you imagine if homosexuality were the norm? We would die out as a race in a single generation.

Wait when did supporting the LGBTQ community mean that we all have to be gay? Oh but it gets worse.

Interestingly enough, if you track the rise and fall of Rome, Pompeii or any other major civilization in history, sexual promiscuity and homosexuality do become the norm right before they destroy themselves.

Apparently I have been misinformed about history my whole life * sarcasm*! Pompeii didn’t have a raging gay problem they had a raging lava problem; Rome didn’t have a sexual promiscuity problem they had a Gaul and Christian problem.

Mr. Winters goes on to say we need to “start using some common sense” something he doesn’t have.

Richard, or should I call you Dick, you need to do some research before you open your mouth and spew hate and ignorance.

* Number was found by taking the Population of Utah multiplying by the 5.43/1000 (The ratio of Utahans who subscribe to porn)

[Edit for 18:49 2/7/2012 for Typo]

The Origins of the Earth and Moon w/ Professor Carol

What

Professor Carol of the geology department will be joining us to talk about the formation of early earth and our moon. Please bring any questions you have as well as friends. This will be out last speaker of the semester and we’re hoping to get as large a turnout as possible.

When

Wednesday, November 28, 2012. 6:30pm

Where

Merril-Cazier Library, Room 302

 

Get more info and stay in the lop at http://www.facebook.com/events/245537212242711/

Big Bang Theory Discussion With Dr. David Peak

What: Big bang theory discussion with Dr. David Peak

When: Wednesday October 24, 2012 6:30pm

Where: Merrill-Cazier Library, Room 302

Come space out with USU REASON! Dr. David Peak of the physics department will be joining us to discuss the Big Bang Theory and its implications. The event is open to whoever you’d like to invite as we’d like to get as big of a turnout as possible. Hope to see you there!

Why You Should Vote; Even if you live in Utah

So right off the bat i’m going to give a disclaimer. I am a highly political person, and a political junky. I will try to keep my political preferences out of this except for a few exceptions at the very end, namely gay marriage and abortion. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, and i respect that you have your opinions, as long as you have factual source for your basises; You are more than welcome to them. But the moment you use the bible as a source I will laugh at you and call you a bigot, though I won’t censor you. I encourage debating at all times and as long as its kept respectful and does not result to personal attacks I will let you say about anything. Any questions? Good! lets begin

When people find out that I plan to vote for Gary Johnson in the upcoming presidential election I get one of two responses. The first “Who in science name is Jerry Johnson?” and yes 75% of the time they do mess up his name. The second is “Why are you wasting your vote?”. Now as much as I would love to talk about the man who is Gary Johnson, i’m going to focus on the last one – although at the end I will explain a little bit about who Gary is and why I support him.

So why am I “wasting” my vote on Gary? Simple, I could not say it any better than Gary himself. “If you all waste your vote on me, I will be the next president.” Now I hold no illusions that Gary has a long long long way to go if he is going to be president but I wouldn’t feel right about supporting a candidate who doesn’t represent my values, and neither should you.

I know several Democrats and Liberals in Utah who won’t vote, because “It won’t matter.” Wrong! 34% of Utahns voted for Obama in 2008; What if that jumped to 36%? The GOP would shit themselves that a Mormon candidate got fewer votes in a mormon state than their previous candidate! Also this bump in Democratic turnout would make sure that the Democratic party paid more attention to Utah, hell you think that the reddest state in the nation sending a Democrat congressmen to Washington year after year would have already did that.

And if Democrats think they have it bad look at us Libertarians. 0.7% of Utahns voted for our candidate in 2008! Yet we still try every year. “Why?” you may ask. Because we wouldn’t feel right about voting for someone who doesn’t support our values. For us voting for the lesser of two evils is not an option, if I didn’t agree with 90% of Gary’s platform I wouldn’t vote for him. Not voting because “Romney is going to win” is the same as saying “I’m going to let Romney win”. And that is the key issue, if your don’t get out and vote for what you believe in, then you’re saying that you don’t care if the challenger wins. So no matter who you support get out and vote; no matter how unlikely it is that your candidate will win, show the challenger that you don’t want him.

Now as promised here is why I support Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico, for president.

Johnson has taken a stance on Gay Marriage, and I agree with him. Your right to happiness is guarded by the constitution, and if for you to be happy you need to marry someone of the same sex, then go right ahead. The Government should have no say in what legal agreement (because that’s really all marriage is) two consenting adult enter into.

Abortion is something that I don’t like, but also something that I believe to be a personal choice, Gary takes a similar stance. He believes that women have a right to chose what happens to their body. I PERSONALLY believe that the number one cause of abortion is religious intolerance or frowning appone birth control.

Gary is a fiscal conservative. Hell his budget makes Ryan’s extreme budget cuts look bloated with spending. Do I believe that congress would go with Gary’s budget? Not fraken likely! But that doesn’t mean its a bad idea.

Gary was the New Mexico Governor in the late 1990’s he was a republican who was elected in a state 2-1 democrat. Why? Because he made sense.

Oh and he is the only candidate calling an end to marijuana prohibition – and had been doing so since in the 1990′s.

So go vote! Seriously do it, because the religious nut jobs are coming out of the woodwork and really want to turn us into a christian theocracy. ( I may have got those links backwards, but they really say the same thing which is “These Masticating sons of women are bat crap insane!”)

The Last Question

I love to read; history, fantasy, novels, or scientific journals it does not matter but I have always especially loved short stories. Today  I read a short story by Isaac Asimov called The Last Question (go read it so that your know where this post is coming from). I know we have had the simulated reality discussion , but what about god was created by an earlier advanced intelligent race discussion? Maybe even a race of beings not even from our own universal-timeline (honestly I can think of no better way to explain that). Asimov story is interesting in that as a computer scientist  I can see us building a computer so advanced that it would answer all question. Some have come to call this point the singularity. I am curious to hear of others thoughts on this. Could we be the results of a super-advanced race from a different universal-timeline super-advanced computer restarting their dead universe, or one day will we create the god of a new universe with our super computers?

My Sunstone talk

Good morning, everyone. My name is Jon Adams, and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to discuss with you two passions of mine: Mormonism and the internet. While I am a student of both subjects, I must confess that I am an expert in neither. There are people at this conference who are better acquainted than I with the various ex-Mormon communities that exist online, and I’m honored to share the stage with many of them.

In preparing for this panel, I struggled to think of what novel sociological insights I could contribute. I wanted this talk to have all the academic trappings of a typical Sunstone talk. But again, I’m no expert, and ultimately I only feel comfortable talking about that which I know best: my story. And I think that’s especially appropriate given that our topic concerns ex-Mormons and their personal narratives.

I’ll begin by sharing why I left the LDS Church, and then briefly explain how I became involved with the ex-Mormon “blogosphere”.

For much of my formative teenage years, I considered myself a devout Mormon. Having been born and raised in a faithful Mormon family, I read my scriptures, said my prayers daily, went to church, and anxiously awaited serving an LDS mission. I was a bonafide paragon of piety.

Today, I identify as an agnostic atheist and secular humanist. But the transition from belief to disbelief did not happen overnight; it was the gradual culmination of several factors. The seeds of my doubt were sown as early as sophomore year of high school, when I joined the debate team.

Debate taught me to analyze ideas with a critical eye. And when that eye was trained inward on my faith, I discovered some disconcerting facts about both church history and doctrine. Initially, I attempted to use my debate skills in the service of Mormon apologetics. I wanted to defend my faith against anti-Mormon lies. So I took to the internet, which was then emerging as the front-line in the debate about Mormonism.

My testimony, sincere though it was, did not prepare me for what I would discover. I stumbled upon a site that featured a list of racist quotes from LDS Church leaders. Confident that the quotes were fabrications or taken out of context, I decided to go straight to the original sources. I noticed that a number of the more embarrassing quotes came from a book my family happened to own. That book was Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine.

For those familiar with the book, you’ll no doubt understand why my reading it proved problematic. As I thumbed through Mormon Doctrine, I came across a section entitled “Negroes.” In it, McConkie asserted that blacks were a cursed race who were spiritually inferior due to their actions in the premortal existence. He also argued that racial segregation in marriage and other institutions was divinely ordained.

The significance of what I read was not that it disproved Mormonism. McConkie, after all, wasn’t writing in any official capacity for the church. Rather, its significance was in showing me that not everything critical of Mormonism was false.

To be sure, the internet is replete with nonsense about Mormonism. And looking back at some old things I’ve written, I was sometimes unwittingly a purveyor of that nonsense myself. But I was quicker to forgive the critics for their falsehoods than I was to forgive Mormonism for its falsehoods because I held the latter to a higher standard. The critics didn’t have to be right 100% of the time, but the church did.

The further I researched the LDS Church, the more disillusioned I became. I learned that the Book of Mormon had little to no archeological evidence, that the Book of Abraham was not a literal translation of ancient Egyptian papyri, that as a young man Joseph Smith was intimately involved in magic and treasure-digging, and that he secretly married dozens of women, a third of whom already had husbands.

I know this is the cliched litany of reasons people recite when sharing their deconversion story, but at the time these facts were revelatory and faith-shattering to me. The church—at least how I understood it—appeared to be a lie.

When people lose something they love, they tend to respond either with sadness or anger. I loved Mormonism, and when I lost my testimony, I was admittedly a bit angry. My emotions were tame relative to others, but I don’t blame those who experience a more visceral anger; they often have legitimate grievances. I mean, who wouldn’t be upset to learn that the church for which you’ve sacrificed so much—in time, money, and freedom—wasn’t true?

The bulk of my anger, however, wasn’t directed at the church. Perhaps more than anything, I was disappointed with myself for having believed in it. So I didn’t just lose faith in the church, I lost faith in myself. And that for me was equally painful.

The “angry apostate” stereotype does reflect an actual phenomenon, but the vast majority of those who disaffect do so quietly and unceremoniously. Just look at the widespread inactivity of members across Latin America. They don’t broadcast their disbelief online or at symposia like Sunstone. You see, many of us belong to a vocal minority of apostates.

Mormons tolerate private doubts, but not public criticism. A lot of Mormons can sympathize with having questions, but they don’t understand why some are almost evangelical in their disbelief. “They can leave the church, but they can’t leave it alone,” goes the popular aphorism.

For one, it’d be easier to leave the church alone were it to leave us alone. Mormonism in Utah is virtually omnipresent—its influence extends to every facet of society here, from the home to the government. Even little things like the occasional impulse to bless the food before a meal can remind you of your former faith. Other manifestations of the church’s influence are less benign, however.

Another reason why some ex-Mormons speak out is to preempt and rebut misconceptions about why they left. It’s often assumed by the faithful that people leave the church because they were offended by something petty, wanted to lead a life of sin, or are in the employ of Satan. I didn’t want those things said of me because they weren’t true, so I made a conscious effort to convince my friends and family that I had logical reasons for leaving. My goal wasn’t to disabuse them of their faith so much as it was to earn their respect and understanding.

But I think a more positive account can be made for why ex-Mormons like myself are so vocal. I view criticism not as a sign of hate, but respect. Secular philosopher Austin Dacey said, “The way you respect a person is not by agreeing with everything he or she says, but by holding that person to the same intellectual/moral standards to which you hold yourself. Anything less is not respect, it’s indifference. So sometimes in order to respect religion’s peoples, we must critique people’s religions.” That’s why I object to the casual labeling of anyone who criticizes the church as “anti-Mormon”.

Being evangelical about one’s beliefs is actually a value I inherited from Mormonism. Countless Mormons spend two years of their lives proselytizing. And why? It’s not because they hate other religions, but because they sincerely want to share with people “the good news.” The truth is a gift; it would be selfish to keep it to oneself. Likewise, I don’t try to dissuade people from Mormonism in order to win debates or provoke a “spirit of contention”. As a matter of principle, I simply believe that people deserve the truth.

Church leaders frequently warn members that doubt leads to unhappiness. On balance, that hasn’t been my experience. I’m happy, and I’m living a more authentic life than I was as a gay Mormon. But let there be no mistake: Leaving the LDS Church can be a terribly painful ordeal—one that jeopardizes relationships and uproots your existential anchors. Yet there is something liberating about the truth, about seeing the world as it really is.

I can’t promise that everyone will find my philosophy as life-affirming as I do, but people ought to be exposed to different perspectives so that they can make informed choices.

This is why in 2008 I co-founded a secular student club at Utah State University named SHAFT, which stood for “Secular Humanists, Atheists and Free Thinkers”. It was first club of its kind in Utah. Unsurprisingly, the majority of club members were ex-Mormons, and on a predominantly LDS campus, SHAFT served an important social function. The same is true for a lot of online ex-Mormon communities.

But I had different aspirations for SHAFT. I didn’t need a support group of like-minded individuals. As a debater in high school and now as a debate coach, I’ve always enjoyed the company of those with whom is disagree. My hope for SHAFT was that it would inspire intelligent and civil discussions about religion, science, and philosophy.

To that end, I helped launch the SHAFT blog. Since 2009, I have written over 300 posts and the blog has won many awards including “Best New Blog” by Main Street Plaza. I think that as an online forum where Mormonism and other issues are debated, it has largely succeeded.

If you visit the SHAFT blog today at usureason.com, you’ll notice a dearth of recent activity. My previously prolific self could produce nearly a post a day. Contrast that with this year: In all of 2012, I’ve managed to write just one solitary post!

This fact is bittersweet. On the one hand, it belies the claim that ex-Mormons can’t leave the church alone. That I can go months without giving serious attention to Mormonism signals to me something rather healthy: I no longer live in the church’s shadow. But on the other hand, I miss Mormonism. I miss being in company like yours discussing topics like this. In short, I’m not quite ready to be “post-Mormon”. To totally divorce myself from Mormonism would be like amputating an arm—I could probably live without it, but I don’t want to.

My friend Andrew of the blog Irresistible Disgrace put it this way: “I am avoiding a possible future where I am completely severed from or am “beyond” Mormonism, because I feel like if I ever reach that point, then I become someone with no history …”

I’m flattered that despite my hiatus from the ex-Mormon blogosphere I was still invited to participate on this panel today. I hope that this experience not only rekindles my interest in Mormonism, but also helps me reclaim a part of myself I feared I was losing.

I’m grateful to all of you for giving up your Saturday morning to be here with us, and I look forward to your questions!

Thank you.

Dealing with Death for Nonbelievers

This was original writen by Liz Emery, and with her permison I am posting it here. Today one of my friends, a fellow soldier committed suicide. War brings people close, in someways closer than family. I would have happily given my life to save his, and its hard to deal with the fact that I should have seen the signs. Being an atheist its hard for me to be comforted in losing someone so close But life goes on, as I now search for ways to comfort his family and my others brothers and sisters in arms. I can only look to the future and help keep others from making the same mistake.

Dealing with Death for Nonbelievers
By Liz Emery

When I was sixteen, a very good friend’s young mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and died four months later. This was the first time I really had to confront the idea of death—until that point, dying had been something that happened to unlucky pets, great grandparents, and strangers on the news. At the time, my religion was a great source of comfort for me and gave me the answers I needed to justify a tragedy that was otherwise unjustifiable.

Just a few weeks ago, another good friend’s even younger mother was diagnosed with the same disease. This time, neither I nor my friend have a religion to buffer the ugly reality of death. This drove me to ask the question: How do you comfort a nonbeliever who’s grieving?

Although everyone deals with loss in their own way, there are some guidelines to remember and respect when you’re comforting someone you love who does not believe in an afterlife.

The most important is that, even though a religious worldview may bring you consolation, it can come off as arrogant and insulting. This may sound strange, but if you’re religious, imagine a nonbeliever trying to comfort you by saying, “I know you’ll never see them again.” You’d feel awful, right? The same idea works conversely by saying, “I know you’ll see them again,” to a nonbelieving person.

A woman named Torrie shared with me her reaction when her brother committed suicide and a congregation member trying to comfort her told her, “He is not in a happy place right now. He is still suffering.”

“I wanted to slap the woman,” Torrie told me, even though she knew the woman meant well. “But you know what? I didn’t, because I knew my brother was dead. He was gone. And he wasn’t sad; he wasn’t happy. He wasn’t in a better place; he wasn’t in a worse place. The matter that made my brother was no longer functioning in the form that I knew as Dave.” Continue reading

There Are No Atheists in Fox-holes

“There are no atheists in fox-holes,” it is a phrase I have heard throughout my basic training, my AIT (advanced individual training), and from the handful of chaplains I have been required to talk to. During my basic training I had to fill out a survey that went to the chaplains’ office. Most of the questions on this survey had to do with our mental and physical well-being, as suicide rates in the military are higher than the rest of the nation. I answered every question truthfully, I am use to being away from family, and I never had an issue, or thoughts of suicide while at basic. The last question on the survey asked for your religious affiliation, we were told that the reason for this question was to get numbers for setting up religious services. I knew that there was a stigma to being an atheist in the Army so my first instinct was to mark LDS for this question, but my Army values training – that we had spent the morning drilling – took over. I thought to myself “a soldier has Integrity, not only to his unit and his command, but to himself.” If I marked LDS on the survey I would be lying to the chaplain, and not being true to myself. I marked atheist on the survey. In my mind the issue was settled, over the next few weeks I embraced my atheism and “came out”, while some of the other soldiers were supportive, or at least indifferent,  most came back with the “there are no atheist in fox-holes” line.

About two weeks after filling out this survey, my Drill Sergeant came into the bay and called for me. I responded with the “Drill Sergeant moving Drill Sergeant!” that is programmed into you from day one, and ran to my Drill Sergeants Office trying to imagine what I had done to warrant this. Going to the Drill Sergeant’s office was normally a sign of pain and suffering to come. After knocking on his door and identifying myself I was told to enter. In the office there was my Drill Sergeant and the Chaplain. My Drill Sergeant quickly told me that the Chaplain wanted to speak to me, and then stepped out of the office.  Now I don’t remember the conversation word for word – I was running on 4 hours of sleep a night for the past 4 weeks and was in one of the most stressful situations someone could be in- but it went something like this.

Chaplain: “I understand from your survey that you’re an Atheist.”

Me: “Yes sir.” (The Chaplain, being a Major, got the title sir.)

Chaplain: “Well Private, I’m worried about you. Without a strong religious faith to support you through basic, I fear for your safety.”

After this I was starting to see what was going on. This Chaplain believed that me not being religious made it more likely that I would commit suicide. I will admit, it made me angry that I would be singled out for my beliefs, or lack of beliefs, in a nation that was based on secularism and freedom of religion (in this case lack of religion). It felt like a betrayal of what I had sworn to fight and protect. I had sworn to protect the constitution of the United States of America, and this Chaplain was spitting in the face of the most important document of this country. With my anger boiling I bit my tongue and replied.

Me: “You don’t need to worry about me Sir. You may need to worry about the Catholic kid in the bunk next to me. He cries for his mom every night.”

As a lowly just-in-the-service private, a major was a scary person to talk to. I “remember” saying this next part, but I find it hard that I would, so whether or not I actually did say the following is unknown to me. Nevertheless these were, and still are, my feelings and I would like to say that I did in fact present them to the Chaplain.

Me: “As an atheist, I only have one life to live. If I die thats it! There is no resurrection, no halls of Valhalla, no seventy virgins, no reincarnation. when I die I die, why would I want to commit suicide? It makes no sense.”

After our conversation the Chaplain asked if I would like a blessing, which I declined. I have  been to multiple Chaplains since then – it’s required for different things like deployments etc.- and while none have been as upfront as the first with their dislike in my lack of faith, they have all shown alarm and concern over it.

So how does this tie into the phrase “there are no atheist in fox-holes”? I’ve been to war. Now I may not have had people shooting directly at me but; I had mortar and rocket attacks almost daily; I drove one of the most deadly routes in Iraq (route Irish) 4 times a day as a gunner; I drove the 300+ miles from Baghdad Iraq to Ali-al-salem Kuwait. I had tense moments, moments when I was scared, but never once did I thank “God”, or ask for protection from a “higher power”, unless you consider my chain of command a “higher power”. To me “God” was the men and women who operated the CRAM (counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar), the soldiers who manned the towers and checkpoints, the route clearance teams whose sole job was to blow up IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) by driving over them before I did,  the inventors and scientists who developed my body armor, and the engineers who created the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that I drove down the road. These were the people keeping me alive, these were the people who deserve my thanks, not some “God”.

Too many people thank God when something good happens,when a medical treatment works, when a car’s airbags deploy to save their life, or even just when the airplane they were in lands safely. But the real thanks should go to the men and women who developed the technology, who went to school to learn about their fields, who sacrificed their time and energy to make us safe. Too often people forget about thanking these people. The idea of thanking “God” for what these people do never crosses my mind.

I was an Atheist in a fox-hole. I don’t owe thanks to “God” for my survival, I owe thanks to the men and women who came before me, and who developed the technology that kept me safe, and most importantly to the Soldiers who risked their life beside mine everyday. These were my “Gods” my “higher power”, the achievements of the human mind and the strength of my brother and sisters in arms.