Mormon theology and Mr. Deity

I’ve been reading a bit about Mormon theology for my book, and that theology is not only plenty weird, but a major part of it has been decisively disproven by modern genetics, archaeology, and linguistics. (One of my theories, which is mine, is that the closer in time to the present day a theology arose, the weirder it looks. Really, Mormon theology is no weirder than Christian or Hindu theology, and Scientology seems ridiculous largely because we were alive when it was made up.)

An important part of Mormon theology is the contention that the ancestors of Native Americans were in fact Israelites who migrated to the Americas from the Middle East about 2,600 years ago in the form of two tribes: the Nephites and the Lamanites.  About a millennium later, their descendants had a big war, with the Lamanites wiping out every Nephite but one. That survivor was Moroni, who helped write the book of Mormon, buried the golden plates in upstate New York, and then reappeared as an angel in 1827 to tell Joseph Smith where the plates were. (These, supposedly written in a hieroglypic language, were read by Smith using “peepstones” and gazing into a hat, as lampooned in the video below.) The Lamanites, by the way, had been cursed by God because they ignored prophetic teachings. Their curse was to become dark-skinned, or, as the Book of Mormon says, God “did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” That’s one of the reasons why, until 1978, blacks weren’t allowed to be lay priests in the Mormon church. A convenient and timely “revelation” by Mormon elders—the church was expanding into South America—did away with that policy.

But science shows that the Middle Eastern origin of Native Americans is a total fiction (duhhh!). The data are clear: Native Americans, and all native peoples in the New World, descended from east Asians who migrated over the Bering Strait about 15,000—not 2,600—years ago.  This comes not only from dating of settlements, but from other archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence.  Native American languages are more similar to Siberian ones than to Hebrew, and the genetics is dispositive: Native Americans from throughout the New World show a close genetic affinity to east Asians, and are far more genetically removed from inhabitants of the Middle East.

Mormon accommodationists have tried the usual tactics, including moving the migration from the Middle East to Central America (that doesn’t work, because Central American are also closely related to East Asians), or positing interbreeding of the “Israeli” Native Americans with others, an interbreeding that effaced their Hebrew ancestry. That doesn’t seem likely, either.

As far as I know, the Mormon Church still supports the fiction of the Book of Mormon, and can’t even admit that the “Middle East” migration was fictional. And it would be hard to make that into a metaphor! (By the way, the Book of Mormon also claims that Jesus visited North America.)

But enough Mormon theology. The latest Mr. Deity, a good one, shows how the whole fraudulent beginning of the church took place, including the fabled hat. The last few minutes of the video are an interesting disquisition on skepticism.

207 Comments

  1. Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Mormonism is a scam that went viral. Many of their rituals, if not all, were copied by con man J. Smith jr. from the free masons (who had stolen these rituals from others in their turn).

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      Same story as every other religion.

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        Yes.

        Including Christianity and Islam.

        (Though, to be fair, they didn’t steal from the Masons but from the extant religions of the day.)

        b&

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          “Though, to be fair, they didn’t steal from the Masons but from the extant religions of the day.”

          In case of christianity, the stolen elements are mainly from mithraism, stoicism and neo-platonism.

          • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

            That’s where they got the rituals (especially the Eucharist) and the philosophy from — though, more precisely, they got the philosophy from the Greeks by way of Philo.

            But Jesus’s biography is pure Greco-Roman Paganism. Justin Martyr’s First Apology (written in the early part of the second century):

            Chapter 21. Analogies to the history of Christ

            And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; sculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Csar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it anhonourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.

            Chapter 22. Analogies to the sonship of Christ

            Moreover, the Son of God called Jesus, even if only a man by ordinary generation, yet, on account of His wisdom, is worthy to be called the Son of God; for all writers call God the Father of men and gods. And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God. But if any one objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours, who suffered as we have now enumerated. For their sufferings at death are recorded to have been not all alike, but diverse; so that not even by the peculiarity of His sufferings does He seem to be inferior to them; but, on the contrary, as we promised in the preceding part of this discourse, we will now prove Him superior or rather have already proved Him to be so for the superior is revealed by His actions. And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by sculapius.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Nick
              Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

              It wasn’t the rapid draining of Lake Bonneville (which is in present day Utah) that formed the channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington. It was the prehistoric Lake Missoula which was located in what is now Montana.

              • Nick
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, this was supposed to be in response to 02generate’s claim.

        • Reginald Selkirk
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          Judaism stole too. Where do you think they got that Noah’s ark story from?

          • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Gilgamesh

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

              Noah’s Ark and “The Flood” may have some really ancient basis. Lake Bonneville in western North America, a huge lake from the last Ice Age, broke through a blocked exit to the sea, and drained dramatically (so the landscapes in Eastern Washington State seem to indicate.) It was such an enormous volume of water, that worldwide, sea levels rose. The area now under the western portion of the Persian Gulf waters, very very flat, became inundated, flooded, for many hundreds of square miles. Seemed like the entire planet, if you were in the middle of it!
              Probably some lucky family survived by some odd set of circumstances (e.g. a flat-roofed animal shed acted as a raft, and the family plus livestock climbed on top, and drifted to land.) And so a story was born, embellished, and canonized.

              Note: The Lake Bonneville phenomenon, plus Persian Gulf, is currently a hypothesis, headed toward theory.

              • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

                “Seemed like the entire planet, if you were in the middle of it!”

                Indeed.

              • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

                No need to invoke extraordinary events from tens of millennia ago — whether Bonneville or the flooding of the Mediterranean basin or whatever. Plain ol’ regular flooding is ample to make it seem like the whole world is drowning. People whose imaginations can turn volcanic eruptions into Hades and invent a team of leopards pulling the Sun in a chariot across the sky each day don’t need any sort of especially cataclysmic flood to come up with either Noah’s or Gilgamesh’s floods.

                b&

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Strangely, Mormon apologists who acknowledge the similarities between the Temple ceremonies and Masonic rituals (and there are clear similarities — I’ve been though Mormon temples) say the Mason rituals must be a corrupt form of the original temple rituals. I can’t remember who they pretend performed temple rituals — maybe all the way back to the characters in Genesis.

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Not strange at all. It’s the exact same argument Justin Martyr (and others) used to explain away the overwhelming parallels between Christianity and the other extant Pagan religions of the day — and this was early in the second century!

        La plus a change, la plus c’st la mme merde….

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. And muslims claim that the bible is actually a corrupted version of the koran.

          • Marella
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

            More than a bit of Islam was adapted from Zorastrianism. Islam was on the rise about the same time the Zoroastrian temples were all being destroyed by Arab invaders and many of the priests appear to have simply moved from the worship of Ahura Mazda to Allah. That is why the Koran says you have to pray three times a day and Muslims actually pray 5 times a day: Zoroastrians prayed five times per day. See book below.

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          You seem to be having troubles with ç, ê, again…

          (The “e” in “est” is unaccented, non?)

          /@

          • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            Damn. I’m just typing the characters normally in Mac OX X Mail. I wonder if WördPrëss will interpret inline HTML character entity escape sequences…?

            b&

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

              Wow — it will! Whodathunit?

              b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            Muphry is punishing him for saying, “merde” instead of “chose”

            • Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:10 am | Permalink

              He chose the wrong werde…

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      All religions are like that. Mix and match of current beliefs. I think this is just a case of evolutionary memes.
      To be accepted by masses, it has to be somewhat familiar, but at the same time some added spices.

      Judaism is a variation from ancient Sumerian beliefs, plus Egyptian god-concepts. It had a strong tribal advantage for its strict disciplines.

      Jesus movements is actually jewish sect, with added spice of some love rather than all ritual and disciplines.

      Christianity (Pauline) is actually combination of Jesus-Mov plus Greek godism and Roman Sol-invictus (a Persian sect).

      Islam is a variant of Judaism for the Arabs. All basic judaism is used in islam, somewhat exaggerated. Daily prayers 5x rather than 3x, holy day Friday one day advanced than sabbath, qibla (direction of prayers) to Jerusalem changed to Mecca. While rituals, circumcision and koshers are basically intact.

      We see the same in Indian Hindu Buddhism, chinese customs/religions, and european old-beliefs.

      In the past, all of these religions are forced down the masses by force, by trickeries, by psychological traps, by any means like a proper evolutionary advantage they were / are.

      Maybe the Spaghetti Gods are the gods of the future, reflect the fact that we can be funny about them (and finally ignore them).

      • Craig Miller
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        Syncretism

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        “Maybe the Spaghetti Gods are the gods of the future, reflect the fact that we can be funny about them (and finally ignore them).”

        Yeah, indeed!

  2. Larry Gay
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    It frightens me that a recent close contender for the US presidency actually subscribed to this load of bull pucky. What else could he believe?

    • Gary W
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      As opposed to the Presidents who subscribe to the load of bull pucky that is conventional protestant Christianity, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. What else could they believe?

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair

      I think this is where the rubber meets the road. Romney gains nothing, and loses any validity to his upbringing and time proselytizing, if he discards the Mormon “faith”. Few people understand what we are discussing here. Most people think Mormon=Methodist=Protestant or variations on that. It’s simply “unseemly” to grill a candidate about his religious beliefs, to the wider culture of Americans.

      • Gary W
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        If Mormon candidates for President should be grilled about their religious beliefs, then so should candidates belonging to any other religion. Otherwise, you’re applying a double standard. This was famously done to JFK fifty years ago. He was forced to make a speech declaring his political independence from the Vatican and his commitment to the separation of church and state. No similar pressure was applied to protestant candidates.

        I don’t really understand the relevance of your Sinclair quote either. I don’t think Romney had any particular financial incentive to refuse to discard his religion. His decision may or may not have involved a political calculation. A Gallup poll last year found that 18% of respondents said that if their party nominated “a generally well-qualified person for President who happened to be Mormon,” they would not vote for that person.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          ‘from the Vatican’

          Yes. The Vatican is a sovereign state, and the pope is an absolute arbiter of truth both for that state and for the Catholic faithful around the world, who are enjoined to accept whatever notions come down from him ‘ex cathedra.’ Who among the non-catholic citizens of the U. S. wouldn’t have wanted assurance that JFK’s catholicism was trumped by his fidelity to the Constitution? No such test of faith among Protestant politicians held then or holds now an equally deep ramification for the politics of the United States.

          • Gary W
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            No such test of faith among Protestant politicians held then or holds now an equally deep ramification for the politics of the United States.

            So you think all Catholic politicians should be expected to make an explicit public declaration of political independence from the teachings of their religion, but no such expectation should apply to protestant politicians? Based on what evidence? Which other religions do you think your special test should be applied to? Or is it just Catholics?

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

              well, perhaps fundamentalists of any religious stripe should be tested as JFK was. They certainly seemed to want to cram their beliefs down every voter’s throat in the last election! Frankly, I don’t trust ‘em.

              • Gary W
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think either JFK or Romney could reasonably be described as a a “fundamentalist.” I don’t think that term has any clear meaning in popular usage. It would be an awfully vague standard for a special religious test. Any candidate who talks a lot about his religion on the campaign trail is likely to be asked by reporters about potential conflicts between those beliefs and his duties as a public official. But the Constitution explicitly prohibits religious tests for public office.

              • Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

                But the Constitution explicitly prohibits religious tests for public office.

                The Constitution explicitly forbids governmental religious tests for public office. Citizens in the voting booth — or on their soapboxes — are free to apply any tests they care to choose, most especially including religious ones, when deciding whom they want to see in office.

                So, the registrar of elections cannot make decisions about who is and isn’t eligible to appear on the ballot based on any sort of religious doctrine. But the candidates are free to debate nothing but religion, and the voters are free to vote based solely on their religious beliefs.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

                Of course voters are free to vote on the basis of their religious beliefs. But if they vote for law that imposes a religious test for public office, the law will most likely be struck down by the courts.

          • sailor1031
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

            A common misunderstanding, even among some catholics, is that the pope is always “infallible”. In fact, as you point out, he has to be speaking ‘ex cathedra’ – from his papal throne as the leader of all catholics and then only if it is a matter of faith or morals.

            In fact there has only been one ex cathedra pronouncement since this ‘infallibility’ was announced in 1870 by Vatican I. That pronouncement was that the BVM was assumed bodily into heaven at her death. There haven’t been any other pronouncements. Given how this one looks from a factual standpoint in the early C21, it’s not surprising there have been no others.

  3. Northcoastin
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    You might want to compare Joseph Smith’s Sacred Grove story with some of the writings of the Seneca religious leader Handsome Lake. Two Upstate NY religious traditions that share many similarities.

  4. eveysolara
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The last few minutes was very clever for obvious reasons.

    • sailor1031
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately Mr Deity is now, by some, regarded as a rape-apologist for supposedly defending a ‘known’ sexual harasser and rapist against ‘well founded’ accusations. And is being severely slagged for it by the usual suspects. I suppose I shall now be added to that list myself for daring to write this……

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

        Meh. I thought it was a smart piece and I’ve said so all over the place.

  5. jesperbothpedersen1
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    sub

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I liked that Horus came to Mr Deity’s super bowl party and that Mr Deity calls Smith on anachronistically using King James language for a 19th C text.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Yes.

    • John Moore
      Posted August 17, 2013 at 1:00 am | Permalink

      It was even anachronistic in 1611, for the very same reason – they thought it sounded cool. People weren’t saying thee and thou anymore when the King James Bible was written.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 17, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        You made me scour my Jacobean comedies, restoration plays & Marlowe before I remembered that the King James was written in the Elizabethan period so they talked like that then (Marlow & Bill did). Even later in Jacobean times they still talked that way.

  7. Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    The actual practice of Mormonism seems to have almost nothing to do with the Book of Mormon or the other supposed ancient scriptures to which they subscribe. While Mormons do spend a lot of time studying these books, their interpretation is highly dynamic, constantly evolving under the influence of continuing revelation through the Church Presidency. Entire sections of scripture can be turned on their head or rendered irrelevant by updated information from God. This all makes sense within the Mormon cosmology, because God is supposedly revealing information and interpretation based on the contextual needs of His followers. The Word isn’t taken as necessarily true, rather it is considered to be “the truth you need for now,” like the way we might conveniently deceive a young child to avoid complicated explanations. Most Mormons prefer not to acknowledge the slipperiness of “truth” within their church, but it has been confirmed for me time and again. This is how Mormonism adapts to changing times and new social attitudes. It is a concept that is almost unique amongst fundamentalist groups, that God’s truth is simultaneously absolute, literal and also subject to change.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      I encountered the “the truth you need for now” bit recently in an exchange with a Mormon business colleague who had discovered my atheism after starting to follow my Facebook postings. It turned out to be impossible to discuss Mormon history, or really much of anything, when the turned into an almost post-modernist. He simply denied that things happened for which there is a boatload of evidence.

      And then he accused me of persecution. Sigh.

  8. Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    ..

  9. Rebecca Harbison
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I suspect there’s also an element of culture. A lot of Scientology’s ‘cosmology’* reads a lot like openly fictional ‘cosmologies’ written about at the time. I imagine a lot of Smith’s work reads like fiction exploring what 1800s anglophones thought of as good stories that didn’t seem too implausible.

    But, go back to when some of the major religions were branching off, and we don’t have as much preserved about story-telling traditions that aren’t enshrined in religion: some Greek and Roman tall tales enshrined in their writings from what I recall. I don’t think humans suddenly gained the ability to make weird shit up for entertainment, but we didn’t keep those stories around in a form we could read millennia later unless you had a culture that wrote them down or they became elements of religion.

    * In a ‘this is how we think the universe works’ sense, not in the scientific sense. Does anyone have a better word?

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      I think most in the skeptical community would agree with your anthropological assessment of religious practices and mindsets.

      I did a panel a couple of days ago on the same theme: http://pictoraltheology.blogspot.com/2013/08/lemonade.html

      I think Jerry may be right as well. The filter of time probably takes care of many of the most extreme practices (Shakers, anyone?) But there still seem to be some pretty odd practices that show little sign of abating (Islam and Catholicism, for example.) Is it all because of indoctrination and immersive experiences?

      Between the examples of the Internet and religion there seem to be few limits on what people will believe.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        A factor that seems like it may contribute significantly to the staying power of a religion, or the lack there of, is the accumulation of power and wealth. For example catholicism and the major islamic sects have historically been very successful at maintaining enormous temporal power.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      As a former Mormon, my take on the Book of Mormon is that it’s an expression of Smith’s religiosity (theologically, the book is one long fingerwag at nice clothes and secularism), purports to account for how Native American’s came to inhabit the Americas (they were Hebrews), and lays the foundation for Smith to become a prophet, seer, and revelator.

      Like all authors, Smith was inspired by what he saw and knew, so there are likely sources of inspiration for the Book of Mormon besides Smith’s own creative impulses.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Cosmogony?

      It’s a synonym for cosmology, but rarely if ever used in scientific contexts, afaik.

      (I first came across it in Patrick Woodroffe’s The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony, with music by Dave Greenslade, a fictional – duh! – alien religious creation story.)

      /@

      • Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

        Not always:

        Sometimes it means the actual process (the way in which “the cosmos” formed, etc.) whereas cosmology would be the *study* of such and other matters related to “the cosmos”.

        (I put “the cosmos” in quotation marks since the phrase has many many meanings in different cosmologies and cosmogonies.)

        • Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          Surely “the cosmos” has a very well-known meaning: “All that ever was, or is, or will be.” ;-)

          Ah, I see. More like “cosmogenesis”. Not quite what Rebecca was looking for.

          /@

          • Posted August 16, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            Yeah, except historically that wasn’t always true. Democritus seems to have held that there were many kosmoi, where each one was a system of sun, stars, what we we’d now call “an earth”, etc. (Think an infinite number of geocentric systems)

            • Posted August 16, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

              Sorry, I didn’t realised we were conversing in Classical Greek.

              /@

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

                Then you have to say κόσμος :D

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          But how is this all related to cosmetology? ;)

          • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

            Isn’t that just made up?

            /@

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

              How embarrassing! It makes me blush!

              • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

                You rouge, you….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

                I know, the masquara-aid is over!

  10. Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Mrs Brown has a her own ‘special’ way of dealing with Mormons.

    • Kevin Henderson
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Brilliant. I love this. Many thanks.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      There’s a second point here beyond the comedy. When Mormons invade your turf you have every right to be large and in charge, just like Mrs Brown.

  11. Alektorophile
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    As an archaeologist working in Latin America, mormon missionary activity in that part of the world always pissed me off. There I am encouraging my local workmen to feel pride in their prehistory and their ancestors’ accomplishments, and then these white US kids show up telling them how it wasn’t their evil ancestors but the white Nephites who built all those mounds and civilizations. The Book of Mormon has been disproved by every single archaeological dig ever carried out in the Americas, and yet seemingly intelligent people still believe in that nonsense.

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      …and yet seemingly intelligent people still believe in that nonsense.

      The cognitive dissonans must be strong in those afflicted with that particular religious bug.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Within the Mormon community, there is an astonishing level of coordinated social pressure that makes it extremely difficult to leave the church. In Utah, the local wards log new neighbors and cross reference their names with church records, to see if they are lapsed members. Those who leave the church experience social ostracism and years of sustained harassment about their religious choices, often from people they don’t even know. A similar degree of pressure is placed on young boys to become missionaries. Some families will disinherit children who refuse missionary work. In that environment, “proof” and “disproof” and even “belief” have nothing to do with it. It is entirely about membership.

      • jesperbothpedersen1
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        That explains why I had the pleasure of running into preaching American teenage boys on several occasions back when I lived next to a mormon church.

        Very polite but a bit nervous. Poor kids.

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        I myself define a social system as “religious” if the penalty for apostasy is severe. The Church of the LDS certainly qualifies. Islam certainly qualifies (death is the penalty for apostasy). Unitarianism, eh….not really a religion IMO, but a social club with a bit of Supernatural. Now, the Pol Pot regime, Nazi Party, Stalin’s USSR, North Korean…these are all theocracies, though the “deity” is the leader. And, for those theocracies, apostasy was typically punished by death. Don’t call them “secular”…those regimes were just as rule-bound as the Catholic church (which has loosened up on the stake-burning, Inquisition, etc for apostates.)

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Same as in many moslem nations today, and I believe christianity Europe a few hundred years ago.

        Religion is mostly enforced, through rituals and social constraints mostly (because these are the cheapest and self-sustaining), other times by force or trickeries.

        Anything that work, the creed of evolutionary memes.

        • Posted August 15, 2013 at 12:29 am | Permalink

          As an “evolutionary meme,” I think Mormonism has the capacity for extremely rapid adaptation. The enforcement culture is only supportable when the population is relatively isolated and the religion dominates in delivering peoples’ social needs. But that isolation is steadily eroding in Utah, and the church is visibly responding.

          Over the past five years, the church’s attitude toward gays and lesbians (for example) has evolved drastically. Their attitude was one of denial, repression and reform. Today it is rapidly morphing into an official message of acceptance, love and inclusion. It has been truly amazing to see the church members shift their thinking along with the leadership. Even local politicians reversed their policy stances instantly in response to new statements from church authorities. (This last point may sound alarming, but it resulted in state-wide passage of local anti-discrimination laws).

          The Mormons have a deep need to be respected as mainstream, and they have a willingness to rearrange all their theological furniture to avoid collective embarrassment. Eventually I think they will evolve into something like a liberal protestant group.

  12. tony bryant
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Mormons believe that God lives in human form on a planet called Kolob which no astronomer has ever seen. Their beliefs appear to be able to be modified by their elders. Just as well I suppose.

    • Lee
      Posted August 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

      Maybe just a technicality, but Mormon doctrine is that God lives close to Kolob, not on Kolob. Your mormon friends will be impressed if you know the difference. :)

  13. Greg Esres
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    “closer in time to the present day a theology arose, the weirder it looks”

    Just a version of the Outsider Test.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      I can understand why christianity & judaism could have been believable thousands of years ago, but modern religious newbies like mormonism & scientology require a lot of suspension of disbelief.

      For instance, if science can locate galaxies zillions of light years away, but hasn’t been able to spot the Mormon’s Kolub, I see a huge red flag about the claim that it exists.

      Not only that, but aren’t these folk supposed to each get his or her own planet upon death? (well, maybe not “her”). I think the Mormons, like every other religion, are prone to value their women mostly as breeding machines, rather than souls with rights equal to those enjoyed by male souls.

      And Scientology seems to be mostly a scheme to relieve the gullible of funds via the e-meter.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        Yes, my thoughts too – it doesn’t take much to disprove a lot of the wackier beliefs of these new religions because they are so specific – can’t these folks use google?

  14. Gary W
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The last few minutes of the video are an interesting disquisition on skepticism.

    +1

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      I was really disappointed in the begging part (which is usually my favorite part of his videos). The gospels are not analogous to the reports of sexual abuse circulating now on many atheist blogs. The letter that sparked the segment was not anonymous, PZ Myers knows her. It was not second-hand, either; it was a first-hand account. Of course it might be false, but to assume this automatically is as bad as assuming the reverse.

      Some of the allegations in the whole mess were supported by other accounts. These reports of perceived sexual abuse are evidence for something, though not proof. If a woman wakes up the next day and feels she’s been raped, then the guy is doing something wrong. She may also share some responsibility, but then again we don’t know the details, so jumping to the conclusion that it was all her fault is as unacceptable as the reverse.

      Skeptics can’t reflexively deny everything that is not proven. If we did that, we’d deny virtually all of science. Shouldn’t we take in all the evidence, judge its quality carefully, and provisionally consider the hypothesis best supported by the evidence? And then look for additional confirming or disconfirming evidence, and be open to changing our earlier provisional hypothesis?

      If personal testimony is not acceptable evidence for something, virtually all reports of sexual abuse would be discarded a priori. That’s unfair to at least half the people on the planet. Yes, the evidence could be better, and is susceptible to abuse. As good skeptics, we should be able to wade through the mess and come to some reasonable (but provisional) conclusions.

      • Gary W
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        The letter that sparked the segment was not anonymous, PZ Myers knows her.

        There’s no evidence other than Myers’s word that the woman exists at all. For all we know, he’s making the whole thing up. Even if she does exist, since he did not name her she’s anonymous. Anonymity is a way of making a false accusation with impunity.

        Of course it might be false, but to assume this automatically is as bad as assuming the reverse.

        Mr Deity didn’t assume it’s false. He’s criticizing the practise of making anonymous accusations of serious wrongdoing without supporting evidence.

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          That’s right, he could have made it up. But there are bits of supporting evidence (again, not proof). Mr Deity is completely dismissive of the claims. His bit about the woman being to blame for drinking too much suggests that he is not arguing that it didn’t happen, but rather that it was her fault.

          • Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

            I suppose it is remotely possible that the begging segment was a spoof…..

      • Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        +1

        See here.

        A better place to have this conversation, perhaps… 

        /@

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

          Oh, Jesus.

          The allegations are of serious felonies — felonies one step below murder.

          When arrest warrants have been issued, I’ll pay attention. Until that time…I’m sorry. Either the accusers aren’t willing to file charges (and thus are failing miserably in their civic duty, perhaps even to the point of being accomplices after the fact) or the accusations are without merit (and thus reprehensible).

          Either way, this has no business being played out in the blogosphere. At the very least, not until after a police report has been filed.

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I was very upset reading it all yesterday.

          • Prof.Pedant
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

            Indeed, if no police report is filed nothing bad happened. Nothing bad ever happens until the police get involved. Which is a very useful thing – if you experience something bad happened to you all you have to do to keep the bad thing from being really-real is not file a police report. Now if only all I had to do to not get sick is never see a doctor….

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

              That’s not at all what I wrote.

              The TL/DR version would be, “If you’re going to accuse somebody of a violent felony, make the accusations to the police. If it’s not worth going to the police about, you have no business making the accusations in public. If the police are corrupt or incompetent, that’s an even bigger story.”

              Making your accusations of violent felonies only to the blogosphere and not bothering to call the police gets you put on my antisocial jerkwad lame loser list.

              b&

              • Prof.Pedant
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

                None of the accusations have suggested that violence was used.

              • Prof.Pedant
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

                None of the accusations have alleged violence.

              • Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

                Some of the accusations I read included descriptions of people being drugged, kidnapped, and raped. It’s hard to get more violent than that, even if no visible marks resulted.

                b&

              • pulseteresa
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

                Seriously Ben? A possible rape victim who revealed what happened to her so that other women can protect themselves from the same fate and who is afraid to reveal her identity lest she suffer retaliation from a Really Big Name in organized skepticism who can, because of his status, friends, and financial resources, make her life miserable is an “antisocial jerkwad lame loser”?

                You apparently cannot put yourself in this woman’s shoes.

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

                Either the woman was raped or not; either she’s truthful or a liar.

                If a liar, no more need be writ.

                But if she was raped, her failure to get immediate medical attention and file a police report combined with her subsequent decision to try the case in the court of public opinion could not have been better calculated to be ineffective at protecting potential future victims and to ensure that justice is not done.

                Yes, I understand that rape is a horrible crime — apparently, I understand this much better than you do. But, horrible as rape is, this alleged victim is supposedly a competent adult, and competent adults have crystal-clear duties when witnessing violent crimes, including as a victim. Merely being victimized does not absolve you of those responsibilities — else, by definition, the responsibilities wouldn’t exist. As soon as the immediate threat has passed, you call the police (or your own lawyer to speak to the police on your behalf). Period, full stop, end of story. The only exception is police corruption or complicity, which I’ve yet to hear alleged.

                Failure to report violent crime makes you an accomplice, and accomplices are practically the archetypes of antisocial jerkwad lame losers. And, oh-by-the-way, they’re also criminals, with the same criminal responsibility as the perpetrator.

                Rape is no different from any other violent crime. Attempts by the pseudo-feminist crowd such as the A+ movement epitomizes to somehow differentiate it by excusing victims from the civic responsibility of reporting it to the police and fully engaging in the prosecution of perpetrators (because, gee, the poor widdle girl was too scared somebody might hurt her fweewings) are about as antisocial — and, in particular anti-woman — as it gets.

                Let’s say PZ sincerely believes the woman’s allegations. He also failed in his own civic duties. He should have told the woman that this needs to be reported to the police this very instant, and have offered to acted as her champion in that process. As an undergraduate professor at a public university, and somebody who therefore should be expected through training or experience to know how to deal with reports by vulnerable young women of sexual assault, PZ’s decisions to report the allegations to the blogosphere rather than the police are even more reprehensible than the woman’s own failures in her civic duties. And, of course, if PZ doesn’t sincerely believe the allegations, then he really deserves the legal reaming he’s likely about to get.

                The mere fact that we’re learning of the allegations from some random squid blog rather than from the publication of an arrest warrant (or, better yet, an actual arrest) tells you all that you need to know: this has nothing whatsoever to do with crime and justice. What it actually has to do with should be obvious, but is best left as an exercise for the reader to discern.

                b&

          • Posted August 16, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

            This is extraordinarily naïve and lacking in empathy, Ben. Rape is notoriously under-reported, for a variety of reasons that the victims evidently considered sound (see, e.g., here (pdf; pp. 2-3). (Although, it seems, not to the same degree in Phoenix as in other cities of similar size (p. 1).)

            But I’m sure all the hundreds of thousands of U.S. men and women who haven’t reported their being raped are hanging their heads in shame now that they realise they failed miserably in their civic duty…

            /@

            • Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

              Ant, you should be ashamed of yourself for trivializing rape like that.

              There is no more excuse for failing to report violent crime, especially rape, than there is for driving drunk.

              Sure, it can be embarrassing to admit that you can’t hold your liquor. And it can be inconvenient and expensive to call a cab. It might even get you in trouble with your spouse when you come home drunk, and more trouble the next day when you’re late to work because your car was still at the bar. But none of that is a valid excuse for driving drunk.

              Failure to report rape is actually significantly worse. Statistically, it takes a pattern and practice of drunk driving before the odds are such that you’ll wind up in a crash. But, statistically, it’s very likely that a rapist will rape again. When you drive drunk, you significantly add to a slight risk of harm (see today’s XKCD), though you do so in a way that makes you the worst public safety hazard most people are likely to face. But when you fail to report a rape, you all but guarantee that somebody else will be raped.

              Your “oh, but everybody else does it” excuse falls just as flat for failure to report rape as for drunk driving.

              And, again, it’s worse. By making it socially acceptable — nay, even expected — for people to fail to report rape to the police, you’re making it clear that, to you at least, rape just isn’t that big of a deal. Somebody beats you over the head with a baseball bat, of course you’re going to the police. Duh! But rape? Meh. Report it if you really feel like it, but it’s not like it’s anything worth going through the hassle of a police report. And, besides, having a doctor examine you (which everybody knows is totally unnecessary since there’s no chance of harm) and a police officer get your statement (because they’re all way more interested in finding out if you’re an easy fuck than doing police work) and other medical and mental health professionals give you ongoing support and assistance (only pussies need that shit) is way worse than merely being raped, so it’s totally understandable why you wouldn’t want to put yourself through that.

              For shame, Ant. For shame.

              It is not acceptable for people to fail to report violent crime, especially rape. There is no valid excuse for such a failure, any more than there are valid excuses for drunk driving.

              And it’s long since past time we stopped belittling victims by suggesting their rapes aren’t serious enough to report and that they’re too weak to deal with the stress of reporting, and it’s especially long since past time we stopped giving rapists carte blanche to rape because they know it’s not a serious enough crime for anybody to bother reporting it.

              b&

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think Torquemada would have made a great rape counsellor.

                /@

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

                Where the Hell did Torquemada come from?

                Are you suggesting that rape counselors (or, perhaps, ER physicians or police detectives) are no better than infamous Mediaeval torturers, or that their practices are comparable to being stretched on the rack for weeks or burned at the stake?

                I don’t see any other sensical interpretation of that comment, and it’s a horrible libel against some of the most noble members of our society. Methinks you owe them, as well as the rest of us, an unambiguous clarification.

                b&

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                Yes, it was cryptic, but I thought you’d be sharp enough to recognise a reference to one of your own comments on another thread. Even though you didn’t, I’m not sure how you managed to read “I don’t think Torquemada would have made a great rape counsellor” as being defamatory toward that profession…

                I do not trivialise rape; neither do I trivialise the victims’ autonomy.

                I do think, and broadly for the reasons that you set out, that it is desirable for victims to report rape, and for others to advise victims to report rape and to facilitate this. But I think you are wrong to vilify victims that choose to remain silent and I think you are wrong to mock their reasons for doing so. Insisting that they report rape abrogates their right to make their own decisions. (In the UK, there is certainly no legal responsibility for anyone to report a crime; others will know better than I what the fact or the matter is in the U.S.)

                /@

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

                I’m sorry, but I’m completely spacing on any recent references I might have made to Torquemada, especially ones apropos to the conversions. But never mind that.

                The alleged victim in this case has most emphatically not chosen to remain silent. She has, instead, decided to try her private prosecution in the court of public opinion.

                If you look into your heart, I think you’ll agree with me that you wouldn’t suggest it’s okay for victims of any other brutal violent crime to remain silent, except possibly in places where the police themselves are corrupt. Some dude beats you bloody with a baseball bat when you’re too slow handing over your wallet and your watch, you’re going to the police even if you could hide all the wounds. And nobody’s going to have any sympathy for you if you don’t.

                So you owe it to yourself to question why rape is such an exception…and, if you’re honest with yourself, I think you’ll see that the misogyny it reveals is not at all in line with your self-image. Either rape isn’t so bad which is why it’s not such a big deal when it goes unreported, or rape victims are so fragile that they’re incapable of going through the same process as any other victim of violence goes through. If I’m anywhere close to the mark, you should recognize this as the source of some serious cognitive dissonance, and, again, you owe it to yourself to face it head-on.

                Lastly…I’m not a lawyer. But it’s my understanding that those with knowledge of a criminal act who fail to inform the police of the crime are generally considered accomplices, and I’m pretty sure the law doesn’t make any exceptions for victims — though a prosecutor would certainly only choose to prosecute in extraordinary circumstances. I would also suspect that these sorts of conspiracy cases in general tend towards being uncommon, except as cudgels to persuade reluctant witnesses to testify.

                b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                There should be a legal requirement for anyone reporting a rape to do so at the very first opportunity, if they’re going to (and if they fail to, this should be an extremely strong presumption-of-innocence in favour of the accused). Why? Forensics. If reported immediately, the police can get DNA (or absence of) which is very strong evidence as to whether intercourse actually occurred. (Whether it was consensual is of course a quite different argument).

                I can think of several cases I know of where the presumed victim didn’t report it for some time and this led to serious miscarriages of justice. (And in that I include cases where the accused has been found not guilty but has had to live with it hanging over his head for months).

                I also think anyone deliberately making a false accusation (and this happens on a few occasions) should be sentenced to a jail term equal to what the accused would have got if convicted. (I hasten to add, this would have to apply only where it was proved beyond doubt that the accusation was false and the accuser knew it). This would apply to any false accusation of any sort, but I can’t think of any other crime where someone can face many years in prison on the unsupported word of one other person and no forensic evidence at all…

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 2:28 am | Permalink

                @ Ben

                “If you look into your heart…” Kind of religious, dontcha think? ;-)

                But I’m not going to agree with you. There are clearly circumstances where it is “okay” to remain silent. Again, in the UK at least, there is no legal responsibility to report a crime. Perhaps you might ponder why that is so.

                Regarding rape, I’ll leave the last word to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network:

                What if I decide not to report?

                Reporting is a very personal decision, and you should make the decision that’s right for you. While we encourage you to report, if you decide not to, for whatever reason, that’s perfectly understandable and there’s no reason to feel bad about your decision.

                /@

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

                I think that official statement from the UK police actually sums it up quite well:

                Whilst there is no legal requirement to report a crime, there is a moral duty on everyone of us to report to the police any crime or anything we suspect may be a crime.

                Not only has this woman failed in her moral duty, she’s committed a worse offense against the body public — on that I’ll address in my response to Lou.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted August 17, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Moral duty, as perceived by policing authorities, may not represent a compete moral spectrum, Ben.

                I’m with Ant, here. It is a good thing for society as a whole when molesters and rapists are held to account. But failing to recognize the range of circumstances that surround these sorts of offenses strikes me as willful blindness. I’m making no assertion as to this particular case since I’m ignorant of the facts. But blaming, for example, a 13 year old kid for not going to police to report a rape in Pakistan (or Saudi Arabia) would be cruel in the extreme. Abuse that happens in domestic situations would always, ideally, be reported but depending on circumstances this might not be in the best interest of the victim.

                To frame this problem simply as the failure of victims is to do a grave disservice.

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                We’re not discussing children being raped in primitive barbaric societies.

                We’re discussing allegedly-competent adults in the United States.

                And we’re not discussing somebody who fears repercussions if her accusations become known. We’re discussing somebody who’s trumpeting her accusations.

                If she really wants to keep her mouth shut, that’d be one thing. But she’s not — she’s singing like a canary. Indeed, she’s telling everybody but the police what happened, and that’s just not kosher. Not in the slightest.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted August 17, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

                We’re discussing the fact that these sorts of offenses occur over a broad range of conditions and for you to represent this as a stark example of the failure of victims to do their civic duty is, frankly, ridiculous.

                We, at least some of us, are talking about a general problem, not this particular incident. You seem to be unable or unwilling to distinguish the two conversations.

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

                The general problem in the civilized world IS the under-reporting of rape. Period, full stop.

                And it will continue to be the problem so long as the woman-denigrating pseudo-feminists keep telling women that oh so many of them are understandably too weak and fragile to be able to handle the terrible strain of dialing 9-1-1, and, besides, rape really isn’t serious enough to warrant reporting anyway.

                Bullshit.

                Failure to report rape is as reprehensible as failure to report any other violent crime. If you’re enough of a responsible adult to report to the police when somebody mugs you in an alley, then you’re damned well for sure enough of an adult to report to the police when somebody rapes you in an alley or a motel room or wherever.

                Women don’t deserve to be trivialized and denigrated like this. They’re every bit as responsible and capable as any man, and it’s sexist of you in the extreme to suggest otherwise. Plus, it plays right into the rapists’s hands. What have they to worry for? You’ve already done everything you can to ensure that they’ll get off scott free.

                b&

                P.S. If you really and sincerely think that women face insurmountable problems or undue burdens in reporting rape, then the answer most emphatically is not to tell them it’s okay if they don’t go to the police — it’s to immediately reform that particular corrupt police department. But, in the real world, virtually all police officers in the civilized world are more than qualified to accept a report of rape, and they’re professional enough to do so seriously and with civility and dignity. b&

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

                “The general problem in the civilized world IS the under-reporting of rape. Period, full stop.”

                You’re oversimplifying by a light year. Reporting rape exposes the survivor to potentially high social and professional costs, and poses a risk of further injuries (physical, emotional and financial). The probability that the survivor receives justice or compensation from the legal system is extremely small. Hence one may quite reasonably argue that the most rational decision (in terms of risk vs payoff) is to remain silent. If we had a just system, then this wouldn’t be the case. But you can’t just throw “civic duty” at a person as an excuse to force them into a decision that may be very bad for them, entirely as a consequence of someone else’s choices.

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

                Oh, please. Any employer who even hints at discriminating against a rape victim deserves and should expect the multimillion dollar judgment even a barely-competent litigant would be able to secure against them — not to mention the incredibly bad publicity. “And, in other news today, a jury has awarded rape victim Jane Doe $13.7M in her wrongful termination suit against ACME, Inc. Lawyers for ACME refused to comment, but a spokesperson for the NLRB again expressed surprise that ACME chose to take such an obviously weak case to trial.”

                And the whole point of going to the police is to get the rapist off the streets. How on Earth else do you expect the victim to get the rapist out of circulation? How is the victim supposed to be safe from reprisals from her attacker unless he’s behind bars?

                And you know why prosecutors have such a hard time winning cases?

                Because the anti-woman force is shouting from the rooftops, “Don’t you dare go to the police, you poor fragile helpless little thing!”

                God damn.

                b&

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

                Please calibrate your numbers:

                http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates

                Unless it is a slam-dunk case with a high likelihood of payoff (either financial or emotional), then reporting it is a bad statistical decision. Most rapists are not wealthy CEOs, and even wealthy CEOs require a high standard of proof not only of the fact that the act occurred, but also of the state of consent at the time. If it were me, I would need to seriously consider whether its worth it to become a martyr for a struggling cause (even one that I believe in) that lacks sufficient buy-in from the society at large. If you want to help the situation, look at ways to re-balance this statistical decision — how can we decrease the costs or increase the payoff? Don’t expect rape survivors to give up a huge part of their lives to fight a grand moral battle. Most people have busy lives and don’t want to abandon them to chase after justice or revenge.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 17, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

                The general problem in the civilized world IS the under-reporting of rape. Period, full stop

                Unbelievable. Or, in the vernacular, Bullshit.

                The problem, and this may surprise you, is the rape itself and the misogynistic social environment in which it occurs. Full stop.

                Rape is on one end of a range of anti-social behavior mostly engaged in by men and mostly committed against women. Your hyper-simplified representation of this problem is unworthy of you, Ben. I’d expect it from someone else whose name I will not honor by use. And I’m surprised at your simplistic characterization of this problem and your purported solution. Shame.

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

                The problem, and this may surprise you, is the rape itself and the misogynistic social environment in which it occurs. Full stop.

                Yes.

                And you are, right here, right now, in this very thread, perpetrating that exact misogynistic social environment by telling women that they’re too weak and fragile to be able to handle talking to the police because, besides, the rape isn’t a serious enough crime to go to the police about.

                Only misogynistic societies — such as Saudi Arabia — treat rape as a second-class crime, something best dealt with by shaming the woman into thinking it’s her fault, that she shouldn’t go to the police, that it’s nothing that serious, that even trying to do something about it will be even worse than the rape itself was.

                Again again: bullshit.

                Rape is violent assault.

                If you’ve been raped, contact the police as soon as possible. Even if years have passed since the rape, it’s not too late to file a police report. It might be too late for them to do anything about your case, but the police need your information if they are to have even a theoretical chance at investigating your rapist. Chances are good that your rapist has raped somebody else, and you may well be able to supply the missing piece of the puzzle that puts the criminal behind bars.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted August 17, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

                I’m not telling women anything, Ben. You are. Shame on your mischaracterizations.

          • Posted August 17, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

            Ben, there could be many reasons why the woman could not press charges. She may have been too poor, she may have lacked high-quality forensic evidence, or there may have been other reasons we don’t know about.

            I think it is a welcome development that women (and some men) are now coming forward and naming names, to alert the community. The community will weigh the evidence (not just the first-person accounts of the alleged victims but also the past writings and behavior of the alleged abuser) and perhaps arrive at useful conclusions that minimize future sexual abuse. I commend the women who have come forward.

            I agree with you on one thing–it would be even better if women who have been assaulted actually press charges.

            • Posted August 17, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

              Lou, I know the US has its share of social and legal disfunction, but give us some credit. Not only do the police not charge for their services, but offering money to them is a serious offense. This woman could not only have no cash but be homeless, hopelessly in debt, unemployed, and unemployable, and the police would still welcome her report and prosecute the case — assuming, of course, the case has merit.

              But that goes right to the second point.

              There’s a reason why we try crimes in courts of law and not in the “court” of public opinion. Many reasons, and good ones. It’s far more effective at stopping and deterring crime, for one, and it offers much superior protections for everybody involved.

              Even if we assume that the accuser is as honest as the day is long, by choosing to make her accusations not to the police but to the press (or, rather, a particularly clueless undergraduate professor in this case), she’s set herself and everybody else up for the worst of all possible outcomes. Had she gone to the police, even if there wasn’t enough for a prosecution it would at the very least ensure that there’d be a foundation for prosecution of other crimes; more likely, it would have provided an opportunity for an investigation which would have had a good chance of turning up something — again, assuming that there’s something there to turn up.

              But, instead, all that’s happened is the community has been polarized, and a man who is most emphatically legally innocent has had his reputation unjustly tarnished. Yes, unjustly, even if he raped her — for, in a civilized society, it is up to the courts to determine guilt and innocence and to mete out punishment.

              For that’s really what Shermer’s accuser and PZ and the rest of the A+ mob are doing here: engaging in vigilantism. What they’re doing is, thankfully, less violent than hanging a suspected horse thief — but it’s no less reprehensible, irresponsible, or uncivilized.

              Women who have been assaulted most emphatically should come forward and name names — but to the police, not to the press. And, as with all other victims of crime, they have a responsibility — sadly, all too often ignored — to say nothing to the press until the legal system has finished its process.

              (If the police fail in holding up their responsibilities, that’s a separate matter that generally should be addressed by going up the chain — the FBI, for example, would likely take a keen interest in a local police department that protected rapists. But, again, there have been no allegations here of police corruption.)

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I’m surprised you interpreted my comment as a claim that the police are corrupt and needed bribes in order to prosecute. There are other costs to bring a case to trial. She might not live in that town so travel could be costly (she’ll have to appear at the trial, I imagine, and it could drag on), she might have a job with limited freedom to miss days, etc. And what about my second point? What if there is no good forensic evidence? It is, after all, not like a bank robbery or other crime with clear physical evidence. She thinks she knows what happened. Even if she can’t prove it to others, she has a moral duty to do something. She now has done that. We’ll take this information not as proof but as a heads-up, one more data point.

              • Posted August 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

                Lou, whether sincerely misguided or whatever, everything you just wrote is nothing pure rape apologist disinformation.

                If it weren’t for people like you driving women away from the police, there is evidence, practically iron-clad bulletproof evidence, to be had in cases of rape that are reported as promptly as is typical of all other violent crimes. Prosecutors are more than happy (and quite able) to work with out-of-jurisdiction victims, especially if it’s what’ll make the difference between conviction and acquittal — and that includes conducting most of the business by telephone or email and providing travel accommodations when it comes time to testify. And anybody — especially including an employer — who even hints at discouraging a witness from testifying at a criminal trial is looking at some of the most serious criminal charges there are; what idiot would be stupid enough to set himself up for hard time for felonious witness tampering?

                And, you know what? If her case really is as spectacularly weak as you’re now suggesting it is, to the point that she’s not even sure if she actually was raped, then, I’m sorry, but her accusations are false — which is exactly the problem with the vigilantism you’re proposing: that people’s lives are devastated over false accusations. That’s the whole reason why civilized people try these sorts of things in court. Because, once again, you’re trivializing rape. With your system, anybody can make up any story they like about rape and use it to bludgeon people they don’t like for whatever reason. Fact or fiction, doesn’t matter; just hang the sonofabitch. Rape stops being about violent assault and instead becomes a put-the-bastard-into-jail-free card — and, suddenly, everybody starts questioning every alleged rape victim, and generally supposing that they’re all crying wolf. Which, obviously, is exactly what rapists and those who support the rape culture want to see happen.

                So, please, I beg you. STOP TRIVIALIZING RAPE. STOP PROMOTING RAPE CULTURE. START TREATING WOMEN AS RESPONSIBLE ADULTS. Really. Trust me. They can handle it — and, honestly, they can handle it a whole hell of a lot better than you’re demonstrating you could.

                If ever there were a case of “You’re Not Helping,” this bloody well is it.

                b&

              • Posted August 18, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

                For further reading:

                D. Allen, “The reporting and underreporting of rape,” Southern Economic Journal, Jan. 2007.

                From the abstract:
                “A rape victim possesses a scarce resource: information about the crime. Thus, a victim’s decision to report the crime to police, to allocate that resource, becomes an economic choice. A victim cannot receive social support or legal justice without revealing such information, but doing so creates real costs—social recrimination and lost privacy—with no guarantee of offender apprehension. This article explores the economics of the reporting and chronic nonreporting of rape in the context of this information-allocation problem.”

              • Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

                Ben, I pointed out that there might be good financial, personal, or forensic reasons for the woman involved not to press charges. Who are you to condemn her without knowing anything at all about her reasons?

                Perhaps you are right that it would not cost her anything for travel, accommodation, and lost work. Maybe she had other, better reasons. WE DON’T KNOW.

                You responded to me with this: “If it weren’t for people like you driving women away from the police, there is evidence, practically iron-clad bulletproof evidence, to be had in cases of rape that are reported as promptly as is typical of all other violent crimes.” Nothing I said could be interpreted as driving women away from the police. I agreed with you that generally speaking, the best outcome is that abused women should go to the police. But what sort of “practically iron-clad bulletproof evidence” might there be in this case? YOU DON’T KNOW. She does not allege a fight or brawl.

                You continue on your rhetorical roller-coaster with this: “If her case really is as spectacularly weak as you’re now suggesting it is, to the point that she’s not even sure if she actually was raped, then, I’m sorry, but her accusations are false”. I never suggested she was unsure if she was raped, nor that her case was “spectacularly weak”. However, there might not have been physical evidence. This does NOT make her accusation false. I can’t believe you said that.

                I also can’t believe you are accusing me of “promoting rape culture”!!!!

                If there was no physical evidence, and the incident happened as reported, then she did the best thing possible under the circumstances to warn other women.

        • mordacious1
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

          @Ant That particular blog is not known for allowing dissenting opinions. You disagree with the groupthink, you’re history. So no, it’s not a good place to discuss this (though you’re right, WEIT isn’t the right place either…maybe go to the Pyt).

        • jeremyp
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 3:39 am | Permalink

          FTB is a very bad place to have any conversation unless you agree with the FTB “zeitgeist”.

          Also, this conversation is about a serious allegation against a well known sceptic and none of us know what really happened and the lawyers are involved already, so so I think no place is a good place to have this conversation.

          • Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

            I find it hard to take seriously any comments that bandy around terms like “groupthink” and “zeitgeist”. Sure, FtB has a certain ethos, but there are actually many bloggers there with diverse styles and opinions. And if not allowing dissenting opinions means telling misogynistic yahoos to get the frack of the lawn, that seems perfectly reasonable to me. JAC is equally punitive with folks that break his roolz. YMMV.

            /@

            • mordacious1
              Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

              Jerry has rules and good rules they are, but he allows for dissent, in fact, he encourages it. I don’t remember anyone here getting banned for merely disagreeing with the host.

              • Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                Well, I haven’t seen that on FtB. But I guess it depends on your interpretation of “merely”. And Jerry certainly vaporises some dissenting comments before they’re even posted here (see some of the comments below referring to one such), although you can still see them in email updates.

                /@

            • jeremyp
              Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

              Why don’t you try going on there and pointing out that accusing somebody of rape, which is a very serious crime, without any substantial evidence is a bad thing. Then you’ll find out about the “ethos”.

      • sailor1031
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

        “Shouldn’t we take in all the evidence, judge its quality carefully, and provisionally consider the hypothesis best supported by the evidence?”

        Precisely. Exactly what is not happening. When I consider the source of this so-called evidence and quality thereof I am unconvinced.

        • pulseteresa
          Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:18 am | Permalink

          Yes, because PZ is going to make up a story that could end up with him on the receiving end of a defamation lawsuit.

          • jeremyp
            Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

            He has published a story that will put him on the end of a defamation suit. So we must conclude that either he is stupid (naive wrt the law), he can prove the truth of his story or he thinks he can prove his story but is mistaken.

            With the evidence we have, we can’t evaluate which of those is the correct option and only the middle one forces us to conclude Shermer is a rapist.

            • Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

              Even the middle option is really, really bad for PZ. If he can prove the story, his failure to go to the police with it is itself possibly criminal. It’s certainly an abuse of his position of trust, and one that the alleged rape victim could probably successfully sue him for.

              Because that’s another possibility: that Shermer did everything he was accused of, but that’s now irrelevant because of how PZ and his A+ friends have completely and totally fucked over any chances of an actual police investigation.

              At this point, one of the best possible future outcomes would be obstruction of justice charges filed against PZ at about the same time as the alleged victim files her breach of trust case against him. And that’s regardless of whether or not Shermer is or isn’t a rapist.

              PZ’s failure to act properly in response to these charges makes me seriously question his competence and trustworthiness as an undergraduate professor. If you’re one of his students or if you know anybody who’s one of his students, make sure that you don’t approach him for help with any challenging situations, because he’s just demonstrated that he really has no clue at how to handle them.

              b&

  15. Ed
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Three things I know re Mormons:
    1. You don’t have to believe the theology to be a “good” Mormon. I learned this from Sterling McMurrin, philosopher, Dean of the Graduate School, University of Utah, US Commssioner of Education under John F. Kennedy.
    2. Established Mormons are big believers in education. However, education to them primarily means business school, medical school, law school, engineering school, and the like, not liberal arts such as history, philosophy, sociology, psychology, where critical thinking skills are taught.
    3. Most converts to Mormonism, especially abroad, are drawn, and always have been, from the ranks of the uneducated lower or lower-middle classes. These are people who often want to better their lives socially and economically and often do after converting. Speaking sociologically, the theological part of the package is just not very important to most Mormons.

  16. Sameer
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed the first part of the video. The afterword… not so much. Dalton seems to have internalized the worst attributes of the “deity” he portrays – misogyny, condescension towards women and victim blaming. “Ladies, if you get drunk and then get raped, it’s your fault – so say no to that second glass”. Another celebrity skeptic/atheist turns out to be a run of the mill sexist and misogynist. Not surprised anymore.

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Another celebrity skeptic/atheist turns out to be a run of the mill sexist and misogynist.

      I may be a bit new to the scence, but is that supposed to be a common feature amongst celebrity atheists/skeptics?

      • Sameer
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        It’s not supposed to be and I certainly was hoping it wouldn’t be – or maybe I was hoping that it would be less common than the average. Turns out it isn’t.

        • jesperbothpedersen1
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

          Having just briefly read up on the story and I’m honestly curious if this is a recurring problem amongst the skeptics/atheist “movement”?
          I’ve never heard of it being a problem before.

          If any crime has been commited, I of course hope the guilty will face justice.

          • gbjames
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            It is a problem everywhere in society. Many of us would like to think it would be less of a problem in the skeptic/atheist movement. Many of us might be wrong.

            • jesperbothpedersen1
              Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

              Well tough nuggies to us then. ;-)

              If we can dish it out, we gotta be able to suck it up….if you catch my drift.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink

              I don’t know how one could predict anything else than the null hypothesis (average frequency). These movements are mainly concerned with rationality, not behavior as such (despite what PZ et cetera supporters would wish).*

              I glanced through the link stack linked to through Ant’s link, and I happened to note a reference to a census showing that the harassment frequency in the skeptic/atheist movement (in US) likely is no better and no worse than average. (I haven’t checked that survey, mind.)

              I’m only familiar with the legal side locally [Sweden]. The law states that education and work places must have policies against sexual harassment.

              But it is also usual that organisations that employ people have such policies throughout, i.e. they would cover their meetings and conferences too.

              *My fully unsupported opinion after seeing anecdotal behavior of diverse people is that intelligence affords you more resources to make messes, not less. :-/

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

                Yes, well said!

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      +1 to Sameer

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      How did you get that out of the video? Not saying it isn’t there, but I didn’t see any “misogyny, condescension towards women and victim blaming”. That discussion could have been about drinking – and in fact it was.

    • Posted August 15, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      “Ladies, if you get drunk and then get raped, it’s your fault – so say no to that second glass”.

      The video suggested nothing of the sort. Mr. Deity was referencing the update to PZ’s Grenade post where a woman made the fairly absurd suggestion that Shermer was responsible for her higher-than-usual alcohol intake at a conference. The anecdote was apparently supposed to serve as ‘evidence’ that Shermer has a history of coercive or skeevy behavior, but there is nothing intrinsically coercive about keeping a wine glass full. Furthermore, there was nothing preventing her from refusing refills, or simply not drinking what was in her glass.

      No woman is responsible for her rape, but, by her own account, the woman with the conference story was not raped. She got drunk, that’s all, and it seems that unless Shermer broke out a five gallon jug of Zinfandel and a funnel and forced her to consume it, that is nobody’s responsibility but her own.

      It’s not a difficult concept: Women (and men) ARE responsible for their state of intoxication, as a general rule. Women (and men) ARE NOT responsible for being raped under any circumstances, drunk or sober. These statements are not contradictory. Mr. Deity was suggesting that he remained unimpressed by this woman’s effort to transfer responsibility for her drinking to Shermer, and that her anecdote was not terribly persuasive as evidence for a history of predatory behavior. The coercive, ‘he-forced-me-to’ element is conspicuously absent.

      My apologies for this post being more than a little repetitive, but I try to cut down on ambiguity when dealing with loaded topics like this.

      As for the actual rape accusation, I think it is wise to suspend judgment until more information comes out. The only thing I can say for certain is that, whatever comes to light, it will probably be the most depressing train wreck the contemporary A/S community has yet seen.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Nicely put. My thoughts exactly but I was too saddened by this whole ordeal to write down my thoughts.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:33 am | Permalink

      +1 Well said Sameer!

  17. Lee
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Good post. I just have one correction to add: The priesthood ban that was lifted in 1978 only applied to men of African descent, not American Indians. The specific curse involved was the curse of Cain and later Noah’s son Ham, not the darkening of skin among the Lamanites.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that correction; much appreciated.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure that they’ve settled on a desire to be referred to as Native Americans. They consider “Indians” to be something applied to them disrespectfully.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        It actually changes from person to person, like any group individuals have preferences.

        • Notagod
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          All of their events are being labeled as Native American not Indian, as far as I know.

          True, it is impossible to cater to each individual’s preference but, if the issue is fairly well resolved within a community and I think it is in this case, we should respect that.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 15, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

            In these parts it varies and usually the formal PC word is First Nations but there is a department of Indian Affairs here, etc. 

            • Notagod
              Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

              OK then! I don’t know why Canadians always have to be right, next thing you know Canadians will want to be called AMERICANS as if they own the whole continents. ;)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

                LOL, my answer to that (because sometimes Europeans and my relies in New Zealand actually think I’m American) I point out that Mexico is also part of North America. Recently, I’ve started throwing Greenland into the mix. :D

              • jesperbothpedersen1
                Posted August 15, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

                Hey, hands off Greenland! It’s all that’s left of our once great kingdom!!

                *hums the imperial march*

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 5:14 am | Permalink

                @Diana

                That’s OK, you’re allowed to think your rellies from Downunda are Australian… ;)

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:07 am | Permalink

                Ha ha – I just told a joke on the other post about how I did this to a Kiwi! :)

  18. Sameer
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    I think Mormonism and Scientology are very interesting because they give us a chance to study how cults turn into religions. I read somewhere and forget who said this so I may be paraphrasing – “religions are cults that survived and were able to appropriate some instrument of power”. I wonder if increased accessibility to the internet is making it difficult for cults to break out into the full fledged religion status.

    Last month, the podcast The Skeptics Guide to the Universe interviewed an ex-Mormon Randall Snyder about his de-conversion experience. It was an interesting insider’s perspective on present day Mormonism. Among the many things I learned was that the internet has put real drag on the growth of Mormonism in the US and that most of the growth is happening in third world countries and there too retention is a huge problem for the church.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      Yes, like the cargo-cult of Polynesians.

      They are actually the evolution memes at-work, the equivalent of Jerry’s drosophila .. evolution in a petri-dish.

      We will understand these quirky meme-plexes soon.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 12:52 am | Permalink

        Melanesians.

  19. quine001
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    I find Mormon theology helpful when talking to other Christians (especially Catholics) because it shows how ordinary people can be raised inside a cult of millions of other people and not see what is so obvious to all outside, i.e. that it is bat-shit crazy. Unfortunately, as in “mistakes were made, but not by me” religious people will often fail to see that they really have no more claim to truth then the deluded Mormons. Oh well, …

    • jesperbothpedersen1
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I find Mormon theology helpful when talking to other Christians…

      Scientology serves the same purpose for me, albeit with the addition that aliens just might exist.

      • quine001
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I use Scientology as well, but few outside of Scientology know how truly insane it is, whereas, most have heard the Mormon story.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          To me it all sounds really, really crazy so I saw Mormonism as no different than any of the various Christian sects. What I did find ridiculous though is that the Mormon claims (like Natives being Israelites) are so easily proven false with a small bit of education and failing that a little bit of googling (vs Christianity where the tyranny of time forces us to work harder to investigate its historical claims) yet people believe it!

        • jesperbothpedersen1
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

          That’s funny. Around these parts most people have heard some about scientology and almost nothing about mormonism, although the latest U.S. election did do a bit of marketing for them.

          I almost always mix mormonism and JW together….as Diana said; They all sound bonkers anyway. :-)

          • gbjames
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            They are all bonkers! But differently flavored bonkers! ;)

            • jesperbothpedersen1
              Posted August 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

              Hehe. Yeah, I guess as with any other aquired taste, it is all in the detail. I just can’t seem to get the flavour right. :-)

              • tony bryant
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

                My dear wife answered the door recently to some JW’s and told them ‘sorry we don’t andwer the door to Mormons’ , thus irritating both faiths simultaneously.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I use Scientology as well, but few outside of Scientology know how truly insane it is, whereas, most have heard the Mormon story.

          Odd ; without even taking a straw poll, I’d have thought that on this side of the pond, the insanities of Scientology were better-known than the insanities of Mormonism.
          You’re talking from a North American context, I’m assuming ; but I’m very aware that it’s a very dodgy assumption.

  20. MNb
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t checked if someone already has pointed this out. You have missed to most interesting part of Mormon theology: they are 2/3 materialists!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godhead_(Latter_Day_Saints)

    “The Father and Son have perfected, material bodies, while the Holy Spirit is a spirit and does not have a body.”

    It was a Mormon who pointed this out on Chris Hallquist’s site. Of course I asked him to bring over The Father to my lab (my phrasing was much ruder) as I wanted to measure his size and mass/energy (or spin and charge). I never got an answer.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

      Mormons are 3/3 materialists, since Joseph Smith also wrote that spirit is material and has mass. I once got into a bit of trouble for saying that, as an Atheist, I can appreciate that Mormonism shares the fundamental features of my worldview. It wasn’t received as a compliment.

      • Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

        There’s an “American prescedent” for that, oddly. J. Priestley, the famous chemist roughly contemporary with Lavoisier, thought that (the one) god was material too.

        (BTW, thinking that mass is the characteristic of matter is also anchronistic – better to think of energy as such, as it it can be understood as the “degree of changeability” of something.)

  21. ladyatheist
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Ben, you didn’t miss anything that matters.

  22. jh
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    As essentially admitted by Mr Deity, this is an opinion piece about PZ’s controversial post. I noticed most prominent atheist/skeptics have avoided commenting on this like a plague, for obvious reasons. It’s the current elephant in the room that isn’t going away soon.

  23. Larry Smith
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Two brief comments, one general and one specific, on latter-day religions:

    Jerry’s point in the first paragraph, noting that the closer to the present-day a religion’s origin is, the crazier it seems, is well-taken. A favorite quote of mine (I forget where I got it from, maybe from this site) is “the difference between a religion and a cult is 500 years.”

    Secondly, when I was approached by two young Mormon boys out in my front yard, I was asked if they could talk to me about their faith. “No thank you,” I replied, “I’m an atheist.” “Cool,” one of them said, and they walked away. An interesting response.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      I’ve often found the Mormons to be, when out evangelizing, as you described them (for the most part).

      • Gordon
        Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:07 am | Permalink

        re Larry’s quote-the other one, that I think I saw first on this site, is that the difference between a cult and a religion is that the person at the head of a cult knows it’s a con but in a religion the person who knows it’s a con is dead.

    • Craig Miller
      Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      My wife used to give them great bunches of silver beet from the garden, when they came calling. That was fine by me as I hate the stuff. I did wonder what they did with it when out doing the beat.

  24. Nick Evans
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    “the Book of Mormon also claims that Jesus visited North America”.

    This is one of the great things about the Bible story. You can make stuff up about Jesus (or other central characters) visiting any location you like, and it’s by no means the least plausible part of the story.

    • Notagod
      Posted August 15, 2013 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      It might not be the least plausible but it is in the same stew with the least plausible. It didn’t happen, on many levels. There wasn’t any Jebus as described in the holey christian book. The fraud inspired book of mor[m]on gives a false and unsupportable account of human history on the American continent. How could It by any honest means be plausible? I’m sure there are many dishonest means by which to describe it as plausible.

  25. tyrone slothrop
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I’m no linguist, but I think you meant that some Native American languages (an extremely diverse group of languages and language families) are more similar to some Siberian languages (a diverse group of languages and language families) than to Hebrew. Certainly, since “Eskimo-Aleut” languages are spoken both in Siberia and in North America, the languages are very similar since they are linguistically related. And there is also the still tentative connection between Athabaskan languages (and other Dené languages—the Na- has been dropped because Haida no longer appears to be a part of the language family) and Yeniseian languages (like Ket). (And both Dené languages and “Eskimo-Aleut” are not normally seen as part of the earlier migrations based on genetic evidence–among other things. Note also, that Yeniseian and “Eskimo-Aleut”—two Siberian languages—are not linguistically related language families.) After that, I am not exactly sure what you mean by the claim that, “Native American languages are more similar to Siberian ones than to Hebrew.” How, for example, is Tohono O’odham more similar to Russian (a Siberian language) than it is to Hebrew? In fact, how are Mohawk or Cree or Muskogee more similar to Tohono O’odham than they are to Russian or Hebrew? What criteria are you using to make such a comparative claim? Phonology? Morphology? Syntax? Is this based on a suite of typological features? (As is well known, Muskogee, Cree, Mohawk and Tohono O’odham come from four unrelated language families. Or, are you following the rather dated and largely debunked view of “Amerind” that was espoused by Joseph Greenberg? See Lyle Campbell’s (1997) American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America for a number of scathing dismantlings of Greenberg’s “mass inspection” approach. See also the work of Ives Goddard in the Handbook of North American Indians. No. 17, Languages.) Amusingly, of course, Copper Island Aleut (also known as Mednyj Aleut) does bear similarities to Russian since—as a mixed language—there has been an intertwining of elements from both Russian and Aleutian (see also Michif for another example, this time with Cree and French).

    This is not to endorse the pseudohistory of Mormons, but rather to understand the criteria by which you are making the comparison. Nor, I might add, should it be read as an attack on the many excellent historical linguists who also happen to be Mormon.

  26. Posted August 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Interesting, literate discussion in the main. Skeptical acknowledging of all our beliefs, including scientific and materialist views, is required here. Dynamics of empathy, altruism and group belonging work in many helpful and healing ways, and belong to an evolving Mormonism. The insanity of war systems, starving masses, environmental destruction make religious irrationalities seem minor.

  27. Robert Secatore
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more regarding the apparent weirdness of new religions. For years I’ve listened to religious acquaintances ridiculing and laughing about just how weird some newer religion (Mormons and Scientologists are the usual victims) seemed to them and I’ve always come away thinking that they had missed the obvious here: there is no good reason why being extant for a few centuries or millennia should lend any degree of legitimacy to a religion. If there was a news story about some “latter day apostle” from, say, LA going around preaching that he had been witness to a truly remarkable feat of wonderment by a pal whom he had actually seen turn a loaf of Wonder Bread and a bottle of Snapple into ten thousand bagels and a vat of Chivas Regal, we would all be mildly amused and hope the unfortunate individual was being taken care of, but for millions of people reading from an impressive looking cloth-bound book about a similar event happening 2,000 years ago (with a slight alteration in the menu) this is not only credible but a matter of solemn faith.

  28. Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on EllenBeth Wachs and commented:
    This comment deserves highlighting
    Ben Goren
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Either the woman was raped or not; either she’s truthful or a liar.
    If a liar, no more need be writ.

    But if she was raped, her failure to get immediate medical attention and file a police report combined with her subsequent decision to try the case in the court of public opinion could not have been better calculated to be ineffective at protecting potential future victims and to ensure that justice is not done.

    Yes, I understand that rape is a horrible crime — apparently, I understand this much better than you do. But, horrible as rape is, this alleged victim is supposedly a competent adult, and competent adults have crystal-clear duties when witnessing violent crimes, including as a victim. Merely being victimized does not absolve you of those responsibilities — else, by definition, the responsibilities wouldn’t exist. As soon as the immediate threat has passed, you call the police (or your own lawyer to speak to the police on your behalf). Period, full stop, end of story. The only exception is police corruption or complicity, which I’ve yet to hear alleged.

    Failure to report violent crime makes you an accomplice, and accomplices are practically the archetypes of antisocial jerkwad lame losers. And, oh-by-the-way, they’re also criminals, with the same criminal responsibility as the perpetrator.

    Rape is no different from any other violent crime. Attempts by the pseudo-feminist crowd such as the A+ movement epitomizes to somehow differentiate it by excusing victims from the civic responsibility of reporting it to the police and fully engaging in the prosecution of perpetrators (because, gee, the poor widdle girl was too scared somebody might hurt her fweewings) are about as antisocial — and, in particular anti-woman — as it gets.

    Let’s say PZ sincerely believes the woman’s allegations. He also failed in his own civic duties. He should have told the woman that this needs to be reported to the police this very instant, and have offered to acted as her champion in that process. As an undergraduate professor at a public university, and somebody who therefore should be expected through training or experience to know how to deal with reports by vulnerable young women of sexual assault, PZ’s decisions to report the allegations to the blogosphere rather than the police are even more reprehensible than the woman’s own failures in her civic duties. And, of course, if PZ doesn’t sincerely believe the allegations, then he really deserves the legal reaming he’s likely about to get.

    The mere fact that we’re learning of the allegations from some random squid blog rather than from the publication of an arrest warrant (or, better yet, an actual arrest) tells you all that you need to know: this has nothing whatsoever to do with crime and justice. What it actually has to do with should be obvious, but is best left as an exercise for the reader to discern.

  29. Posted August 17, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    I know this is an old post, but I was hesitant to invoke internet hate by calling out Mr Deity, saying that the last part of the video is completely uncalled for. It amounts to little more than victim blaming, and potentially very damaging, should these accusations be true.

    I’ve written a much longer piece here.

    http://furtherthoughtsfortheday.blogspot.com/2013/08/poor-form-mr-deity-very-poor-form.html

  30. Lee
    Posted August 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Back on the topic of Lamanites (i.e. Native Americans — sorry for my earlier misstep): Another mormon belief related to the doctrine that they were cursed with a dark skin is that their skin whitens as they repent and believe. Spencer Kimball (’80s-era prophet) often commented on how native Americans he knew who had adopted mormonism were becoming whiter and whiter. Not something that takes place over generations, but that could in theory occur in an individual’s lifetime. (I wonder why testing of this idea hasn’t been carried out at BYU…) Per both the book of mormon and fairly modern mormon beliefs, skin color and personal wealth really are indicators of righteousness.

  31. Saam
    Posted March 16, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Your history is a little off.

    Mormons were antislavery prior to moving to Missouri, then began excluding individuals of African decent.

    Mormons have always proselytized those who they see as the people of the Book of Mormon with vigor. Polynesians, Latinos, indigenous Americans.

    The statements about ‘darkness’ in the Book of Mormon have fueled a lot of racism in the Church. The policy of refusing the priesthood to blacks was unambiguously racist. But The Mormon approach to race is much more nuanced than European / noneuropean.

  32. Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Wait.

    What?

    Did we watch the same video?

    Because I sure didn’t get anything even vaguely remotely like that from it….

    b&

  33. gbjames
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Brian Dalton (Mr. Deity) is referring to the hubbub regarding PZ/CFI/etc., sexual harassment, and such in a round-about way.

  34. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Yes, did you watch where Brian does his regular chat to the camera after? I loved it! It was very clever. Good for Brian!

  35. gbjames
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Sorry.. that was supposed to be connected to Ben at 15. But I think the post he was responding to was vaporized.

  36. Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s sufficiently roundabout that I didn’t get the reference the first time, and I’m still not sure I get it after a second viewing.

    Either I’m really clueless or somebody’s seeing something that’s not there….

    b&

  37. ladyatheist
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    And well done, too. If you were offline yesterday you’d have no idea what it’s about, but it’s still wise advice.

  38. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Weird that posting thing happened to me too!

  39. gbjames
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It is really there. (Clever, IMO, but reactions to it are likely to be like some we’ve seen.)

  40. Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    It’s actually a very clever and detailed comment on what is going on at Freethought Blogs. No mistaking it. I think it is terribly one-sided, though.

  41. Sines
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t get it the first time. I thought it was just a clever take on the unreliability of the gospels, playing up the “How dare you say such things about the craziness of Jesus,” angle.

    However, having heard of the incident, I can see the connection. It has to do with some Freethought Blogs controversy about Michael Shermer supposedly molesting someone.

    I don’t know much about it, apart from me being rather disinclined to believe it.

    I only heard about it because I’m still subscribed to Thunderf00t and he still makes an occassional video about his drama with FTB.

    Really, I’d stay away. I’m inclined to think FTB is in the wrong here (I parted company with Pharyngula in disgust a while ago, so I’m prejudiced against them), but I really don’t know anything. I can smell drama coming from around the edges, you’ll probably have a hard time getting any real facts on the issue.

  42. Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    oops, that was for Ben at #19.

  43. ladyatheist
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    consider who is friends with whom, though

  44. Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Well, I guess I really am out of the loop, then.

    But I’ve found little desire to pay much attention to FtB since they went the groupthink route with A+.

    If there’s been any actual malfeasance, that’s of course horrible and intolerable. But the A+ crowd has a tendency to define failure to perfectly toe the line as purest douchebaggery, and anonymous accusations don’t inspire much confidence in me. If I’m to get upset — and I’m perfectly happy to do so — I’m afraid I’ll need more, and likely from a more credible source than PZ.

    b&

  45. Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me Ceiling Cat was tempting fate with the coda to that video as the conversation is veering in a direction CC generally deprecates.

    /@

  46. Posted August 16, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    I am not sure what you are referring to here, but Brian Dalton seems to be a friend of Schermer. Dalton co-wrote the previous Mr Deity episode with Schermer, who also acted in the episode.

  47. Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Ben, re-arrange these letters: hiomrsstt.

    /@

  48. Scote
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Yes, phyrangula was a breath of fresh air to me when I first found it. Now I find it to be a place where emotional reaction often comes first rather than reasoned discourse and the party line is enforced via the mob mentality of the comment hoard, who ape PZ’s occasionally apropos profanity, but mistake their own use of it for clever, edgy intellectual superiority.

    If Shermer has done something wrong he should face the consequences, however I object to the idea that I as a skeptic must presume an anonymous claim posted by PZ to be accurate. It may well be, but I’m not going to assume it is until proven.

  49. Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Yes, agreed. The conversation about harassment is liable to blow up, leading to name-calling, and other stuff that I would prefer not to host. It’s been rehashed endlessly (and with rancor) in other places, and perhaps those places are better venues to vent your feelings.

  50. Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Tom Shirts? Miss Short? Hi, Mrs. Tost? Hit Ms. Tors?

    Maybe I need to nag that ram a bit harder….

    b&

  51. Dalai Llama
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    A clue – it’s a word the Germans voted ‘Anglicism of the year’ in 2012.

  52. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Ant’s link is already confused, or maybe I am:

    First the post has a link to a link stack about sexual harassment policies, promoting that above mentioning names because the latter would be a “witch hunt”.

    Then there is a link to another link stack which describes the mentioning of names.

    Agreed, best to stay away.

  53. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    This was a response to Sines @#34.


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