In this multi-part interview, Dan Wotherspoon interviews Tyson Jacobsen and Randy Snyder about their transition from devout Mormonism to atheism.
Tags: Atheism, Faith Promoting Stories, God, LDS, Mormon, science, skepticism
This video that you referred me to was so not apropos to my experiences. Perhaps the confusion is one of semantics. Perhaps it would be better to say, “Still, small message.” The “voice” is a voice only in so far as *it* bore a message, i.e., content that was quite remarkable. If indeed I had generated this (these) message(s) that would have been even more remarkable.
Like I said, this issue is completely moot, notwithstanding that there are schizophrenics, trauma induced phenomena, etc. You don’t know what or how I experienced what I did, and to be quite frank, you don’t need to because it had nothing whatsoever to do with you, so why should you know. This may come across as an arrogant assertion, but it’s not meant to be. It just is what it is and “it ain’t no isser.” Again, as I mentioned previously, I still walk by faith notwithstanding certain metaphysical experiences for which I perceived (and still do) as having come from a Divine source.
Might I also add, your perception of this matter may score high on your scale of reality, but it bears no resemblance to mine. In fact, your perception may very well not bear anything at all in regards to the real truth of this matter in the sense it would be like you saying (to quote someone), “There is a spoon, but I can’t use it because it has the curved side upward.”
In any event, we can at least agree to disagree peaceably; that might be the most important ‘message’ of all in our ideologically fractured and polarized world.
I think your point with respect to your individual experiences is valid. I did not experience them, nor do venture a specific explanation for them. I simply referenced a video where a citizen scientist has published possible explanations for similar circumstances. Where we diverge is 1) that I will look for a natural explanation for the experience, and 2) I cannot see how your experience is evidence for the truth claims of the LDS or any other religion. e.g. I may say that I have experience pure intelligence flow into my mind but that doesn’t mean Appolonius of Tyana was a miracle worker, as was recorded in antiquity.
Where did DNA come from? Hint, It didn’t magically appear from a mud hole. There is a God and He created all things including you and me. Jesus Christ came to earth to suffer and die for your sins and mine because of His great love for us all. No religion or church can save you. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can save you. Romans 6:23 says,”For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” Put your trust in Jesus Christ, not in man, religion, or a church. God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.
I’m testing a new comment system for Mormon Stories. Bear with me…the old comments are still there…you just can’t see them.
I haven’t read any other comments, hope this is not repetetive.
I absolutely love Mormon Stories, and have listened to each podcast (most of them multiple times). I was excited for this one, but found it very hard to sit through. I understand Tysen and Randy are just trying to get their thoughts across, but the tone of this podcast felt to me very condescending, angry, and completely intolerant of those with a different view. I’m not here to be converted to other viewpoints, I’m here to understand them. But I was so put off by the tone that it was hard for me to hear past the tone to their actual beliefs (not talking about their apparent beliefs that non-atheists are morons, but their beliefs about God, or the lack thereof). I appreciated Dan calling them out on a few questions that they didn’t answer in lieu of prothelytizing. That said, I do appreciate these guys sharing their stories as best they can (can’t be easy to put it all out there!)
I have not read all the comments, so sorry if this has been said. Is anyone else struck by the irony of saying to an atheist, from a faithful perspective, that they made this decision in haste after mere months (weeks, years, whatever)? Is that the approach the faithful take with investigators of the church? Sorry Brother Lopez, we cannot baptize you. We want you to really be sure this is the direction you want to go with your life before abandoning 40 plus years of Catholicism. Come back in a few months.
I’m late to the scene here, but could anyone post all the books (and their respective authors) that they remembered hearing throughout the podcast?
Jason, They’re here. Look for Tyson and Randy’s posts from about 5 days ago. Sorry we don’t have links to individual posts. I’m trying to figure out this new software. Thanks for stopping by!
@Sandra: I assure you your comment was not repetitive because you are the first person, whether by email or through this message board, that said we came across on the podcast as “condescending, angry, and intolerant.” I have no idea why you perceived the podcast in that manner. Perhaps you are projecting because we reject and criticize your cherished beliefs? However, if you found us condescending, angry and intolerant and still listened to all 6+ hours of this podcast, I commend you for your stamina.
@Joe: I concede that the video Tyson linked to was too snarky in its tone but is there a naturalistic alternative explanation of your cherished “spiritual experiences” that wouldn’t be insulting to you? I doubt it. Also, to make an ad hominem attack on our position by saying if Christ himself appeared to us we would deny it, is just silly. It implies that we, for some reason, don’t want there to be a god or afterlife and will deny even conclusive evidence of its existence because of some a priori blind prejudice (why would we NOT want to be immortal???). We simply take the stance that the naturalistic explanations of subjective religious experiences are more likely and satisfying to answering all the hard questions out there. “Atheist” literally means in Greek, “without belief in God” not “there absolutely is no god no matter what evidence comes to light.”
@Matthew: Excellent point. I was trained to get people to be baptized within a 2 week period as the ideal. Ironic indeed.
@Jerry: I was wondering if a born again Christian troll would show up to tell both the believing Mormons and the atheists they are going to hell. And thanks for going right to the top of the born again Christian playbook of logical fallacies to defend your position: argument from ignorance, argument from personal incredulity, and circular reasoning of the Bible being evidence of itself. Did I miss any? You guys are nothing if not consistent so you have that going for you…
Loving all of this… Thanks to Randy, Tyson, Dan, and John for these great segments. (Not a huge deal – but the mic breathing can be a little distracting.)
I appreciated the tenor of both Tyson’s and Randy’s responses to Dan’s (and listeners’) questions as well the discipline Dan exercised in his counter-responses.
Late in the interviews Dan’s questions addressed the possibility of Tyson and Randy rejecting a supra-scientific epistemology that might reveal God’s existence. The word “scientism” never came up, but I sensed its suggestion – particularly when Dan hinted that naturalists appeal to authority in the same way theists do.
I offer a few comments relating to this.
1. Indeed, a person can attribute unwarranted authority, certainty, and finality to scientific facts and theories. However, that points to that person’s naive understanding of science and, more likely, his or her psychological need to get metaphysically settled. Indeed, what seems so remarkable about being human is that such a need produces such elaborate, diverse, and imaginative lines of metaphysical reasoning.
2. All people need to base their beliefs on some degree on evidence-based reason. Joseph Smith may not have needed the gold plates to translate them, but his followers needed the plausibility their existence to exercise their faith. Indeed, most religions have some form of “gold plates” that invite people to use their reason to move them to an edge from which they feel good about stepping into to a metaphysical realm. This includes a naturalistic metaphysics.
3. Point 2 leads toward questions that I think are more interesting to explore than the theist/atheist dichotomy. These questions include: (1) What factors determine the amount of evidence-based reasoning a person engages in before stepping off the evidentiary edge? (2) Is this even a conscious choice? (3) What is the ethical responsibility of a religious institution in terms of the empirical claims when a potential convert is making her way to this edge? (Note that full disclosure of information is the fundamental ethic of science), (4) What determines whether a person’s metaphysical step is of a religious or irreligious character? (5) Is option of NOT taking a metaphysical stance possible? And if so, is that the most justifiable?
Some people reach their evidentiary edge on little more than a hunch. Others work the evidence very hard. I’ve noticed that the hard-working theists often move away from their orthodox roots. Which is to say that science informs their deeper view of reality. On the other hand, while the hard-working metaphysical naturalists quickly note how many religious explanations have gotten squeezed into ever-narrowing gaps, they may not recognize how many of their positions may be premature and overreaching.
Gaps are funny things. Sophisticated theists will admit that God need not be the cause of tsunamis or the origin of species. And naturalists may be blind to how wide some existent scientific gaps are, such as between quantum mechanics and psychology. I think it is interesting to stop and think about gaps, how they make us feel, and what we do with those feelings.
I think it is important to confront the best evidence – not so much because we’ll get to the final truth – but because our human life is affirmed by the striving for it. I think insights can come from both theistic and naturalistic metaphysical stances – and from holding back from both.
Dan, Randy and Tyson – I think you moved in this direction with these podcasts. Thanks.
You are kind of doing the same thing as Tyson now. “Cherished spiritual experiences…”? Come on!
Okay. Maybe I am misreading Tyson and you. But I’m not doubting my instincts. And my instincts are saying there is a great deal of sarcasm/antagonism in your (and Tyson’s) wording.
Anyway, I do not dismiss naturalistic alternative explanations. But for several of my experiences, the naturalistic alternative explanations don’t provide increased clarity… nor do they provide a better explanation. Furthermore, I had many of these experiences as an agnostic (an agnostic that was pretty darn close to atheistic). I had done the regression tests and understood many of the problems with Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, etc. I was probably pretty close to where you are right now.
But in this state, I had several “spiritual” experiences that were so profound that I can’t explain them using naturalistic means (at least not completely). Again, these were not “warm fuzzy” or “hallucinated” events. And there were tangible components to these events. The events were profound enough that I “converted” and served an LDS mission.
That said, I see real problems with the LDS Church. The LDS Church continues to be on the wrong side of history (time and time again) when it comes to the important moralistic events of our day. Many believers are leaving because of intellectual dishonesty. The law of “common consent” appears to have gone by the wayside. The Sunday curriculum/services are boring as hell. And the LDS Church appears to make decisions based upon preservation, not inspiration.
So what does a person do when their morality isn’t aligned with their faith?
At the risk of sounding snarky…this is the 3rd time you have used “regression tests.” I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Regression is a statistical technique. What, exactly, were the data that you were testing quantitatively about God?
I don’t know if this has anything to do with this podcast: But it would seem from the perspective of any non-believer in Mormonism, that people of African descent that are members of the LDS church, have more of a “reason” to leave the church and then to top it all off, become atheist. I mean here you have blacks that are in the church and are well aware of the church’s troubled history concerning blacks, yet believe in the church and of course in a God. Is it that beliefs have more to do with personality and how that correlates with personal experiences, than anything “intellectual?” If that question makes sense. Ah well. Interesting stuff. I can’t wait to graduate then I can write a book about being Black, female, and Mormon and it’s challenges. Yippie!
Lori-Ann, the fact that some blacks, who have more reason to be offended than me about the priesthood ban, still stay in the church and maintain testimonies has about as much effect on my thinking as people that are just as informed and smarter than me but still maintain a testimony. I don’t base my thinking on how other people behave or process the same information. For me, truth is truth and I’m going to base my conclusions on the evidence. Is personality a part of it? No doubt. But it is only one factor in what I think is a very complicated discussion, why people believe.
I think some great answers come in the books by Shermer and Gilovich cited above in my book list, but I”m sure people like Sandra, Joe, Paul, and Dan Wotherspoon would disagree and even take issue with these ideas. You’re right and as John Larsen from Mormon Expression likes to say, “That’s a ‘hole ‘nother podcast.”
Both of you are totally missing my point. My problem hasn’t necessarily been with your message. I have had a problem with your delivery. You two have come across as fairly abrasive… to the point of appearing arrogant and disrespectful. Perhaps this has been unintentional?
Nonetheless, I appreciate your Mormon Story. Thank you for your responses. And let me apologize if you think I have treated you rudely or unfairly.
Best wished to you and yours. And good luck in your personal journeys.
I get your point, I’m just unapologetic if the evidence is offensive, I’m not sure how we can be otherwise (e.g. telling someone that ALS isn’t really going to kill them, doesn’t change the fact that ALS is a terminal disease, unless your an atheistic astrophysicist). I think both Randy and I were entirely respectful of individuals, but that doesn’t mean we owe every idea respect, and I don’t know anyone who actually lives their life in such a fashion. However, there are some fun responses to the criticism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_2xGIwQfik
I don’t know why you feel I have been arrogant, abrasive, and disrespectful. You didn’t say this until I referred to your experiences as cherished “spiritual experiences.” Is it the quotation marks that makes it arrogant? Is it simply the word “spiritual” or “cherished” you find abrasive? How, then, should I refer to these experiences that will be acceptable to you? Is it the books I referred to in my reply to Lori-Ann that makes me condescending?
Honestly, I feel like I am at a library, speaking in hushed whispers, and suddenly the librarian shouts, “Hey loudmouth! Keep it down will you???”
And Tyson has only posted a video that actually had some good stuff in it but was delivered in a snarky tone but he, himself, has not been arrogant, abrasive, and condescending in my estimation. We are both naturalists after having been true believers well into our adulthoods. We understand what it’s like to be on both sides and we try to be respectful to people on the other side (of which side many loved ones and people I revere currently reside) but that doesn’t mean we will offer deference to claims of the supernatural.
I don’t know where you live but if ever you want to get together in person and enjoy a burger and a pint (or a diet coke if you don’t drink), we can talk and I’ll show you I’m not a jerk. You have my email address (at the beginning of the thread). Or, if you are going to the BoM musical opening weekend, Tyson and I will be there and we can get together and Tyson will pay for dinner.
Now who’s being snarky!! LOL
To anyone here, I’m curious as to how you handle morality as an atheist. I understand that the notion of a God in the traditional systems may have plenty of moments where the morality seemed strange or even absolutely off (Bible stories such as Job, Abraham and Issac, Lot’s Wife, Noah’s Ark, Israelite’s taking the promised land, etc.) but I do think that the moralist argument for any sort of religion is fairly convincing. That is to say, that God institutes a moral law and failure to follow that moral law results in suffering. This helps the notion of hell as well because people in Hell are not being punished by God, but are not willing to follow the moral law and are thus separated from God. From reading atheist literature(I’ve read Dawkins. Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand and Nieztsche) there seems to be a lack of discussion on the issue of morality and the treatment of ethical dilemnas are usually used to point ethical inconsintency within the Christian canon and the historical Christian church and other religious systems. So what are people’s thoughts on morality? Is it a relativistic idea, where each situation deserves a different treatment from others? Is there a general morality for all humans that get’s tweaked to fit the situation? Is there a constant moral law despite there being no God and if so what are the consequences of breaking the moral law?
Have you listened to part 5 yet? I think they cover what you are asking here in that one.
Bryce, so can I summarize the morality of god as one who is interested in who wins a football game but not when little children are killed in car accidents, or hundreds of thousands swept away by a tsunami? This is the problem of theodicy, and since the time of the enlightenment, men have sought ways to define and defend higher, self defined, morals. I am surprised how you can cite enlightened philosophers and not credit work on the subject. It was Shaw who reiterated earlier minds when he said “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same”, Rawls suggested a veil of ignorance to “imagine that societal roles were completely re-fashioned and redistributed, and that from behind the veil of ignorance, one does not know what role they will be reassigned. Only then can one truly consider the morality of an issue.” Or Kant’s categorical imperative of “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”. In the podcast I personally draw heavily from Harris’ new book “The moral landscape” and have offered free copies to all who ask. Clearly, the issue of morality without god is a smokescreen, we evolved and share with our primate cousins, an inherent need for morality, and, I will argue, science is charting the best path towards a better morality.
Carson. I haven’t listened to part 5, I’ll try to do that And Tyson, I enjoyed your comments and will definitely seek out Harris’ new book. And citing the philosophers was just to show that I had read thoughts on this matter other than religious ones and my initial reactions to them, especially Dawkins who seems at least in the God Delusion to answer this problem with pointing out Christian issues. I was rather shocked at his quick treatment of Thomas Aquinas’ 5 proofs. Additionally, I very well could have just read the works by these authors who do not address this specific issue and if you know of any works by them that does, let me know! For instance, I have read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian but not his later works on defining morality separate from a religious backround. Thanks for your quick response by the way
Also sorry for the lack of formatting in the previous post and thanks to John for letting Mormon Stories be a place where dialogue can be about traditional Mormonism to Christianity to atheism and everything in between. I also think it might be interesting if you could get an interview with Carolyn Tanner Irish, who was one of the first women bishop in the Episcopalian church, was part of the archdiocese in Utah and was raised Mormon. Just a thought!
Ok I”ll admit it…I LOVED this series of interviews…does that mean I suffer from comfirmation bias? Anyway I would LOVE to have a list of books that Dan and Tyson would recommend. I have already read Sam Harris and Carl Sagan, but what else would you recommend reading.
Just scroll up, Randy and I both have listed books, podcasts and videos that are germane to this podcast.
Thanks for the lengthy interview, Dan, of Tyson and Randy’s journey into atheism. As a TBM, RM, Atheist, and now Born-Again Christian, I found it deeply interesting and revealing.
There are evidences that Near Death Experiences are more than just brain chemistry or lack of oxygen. Betty J. Eadie’s “Embraced by the Light” documents her NDE where she saw things that she could not have seen had she not been out of her body. Other person’s NDE’s that I know of personally substantiate Betty’s claims. Not only did they die and return, but some were dead for hours with no brain activity.
It is interesting to note that this is one of the longest Mormon Stories Podcast. Maybe it just seemed that way. Is that because Atheism from Mormonism is hard to explain, or because Dan decided to take Tyson and Randy down different areas affected by that transition? Paraphrasing the Queen in Hamlet, “Tyson and Randy doth protest too much, methinks”.
Thinking, logic and reason are only a small amount of the “intelligence” of humans. When someone says that the Brain is the sole source of intelligence of humans who espouses science and logic as paramount, I wonder how much biology and physiology they have studied. There is a lot of intelligence in the structures of any part of the body and a lot of “data processing” in the eyes and ears of humans alone.
The debate over free-will vs. determinism goes away without concept of sequential time and so has no meaning except in relationship to space-time as indicated in the Special Theory of Relativity. Perhaps there is no time in heaven. Also foreknowledge does not require determinism because of space-time compression.
Randy and Tyson, you seemed a bit dogmatic when answering the question whether your beliefs could change. Just remember your journey is not over, guys, and keep the possibility open that it might not be over even after you die! May God bless you in your pursuit of truth.
Wow Glen. So much to go after in this post I’m not sure where to begin. Maybe just one paragraph at a time. I won’t worry about being snarky since your post oozed with smug condescension. Does claiming to be a recovered atheist give you “street cred” amongst your born again buddies?
Anyway, one thing that believers typically don’t understand is what really counts for evidence. You can prove anything, and I mean anything using anecdotal evidence. You display as the top evidence that NDE’s point to an afterlife a single anecdote turned into a book. Seriously? As a born again Christian how do you reconcile the fact that many who have NDE’s experience seeing Mohammed, Krishna, elves, giants, etc? Could it be possible that these NDE’s are merely a product of the brain since the brain can only draw from experience, therefore this leads to the fact that visitation from others ALWAYS manifests with a cultural familiarity? Ketamine is a drug that can reproduce all the tell tale signs of NDE’s. That doesn’t prove there is no afterlife, but it does render NDE’s as not very compelling evidence for one either. Also, regarding the patient recounting things that happened while they were being revived, is it not possible that the brain is actually processing information while in this state and then reconstructing a memory because that’s what our brains do?
Let’s see, second paragraph, quoting Hamlet. This is typical. Just like another tired cliche, “there are no atheist in a foxhole.” Why is it that believers always question the sincerity of an atheist’s convictions? Is it a sign of insecurity? I have absolutely no doubt Glen that you really do believe what you claim. Why is it so hard to wrap your material brain around the fact that atheists also have convictions? And how, exactly, did we “protest too much” in that podcast? Examples please?
Thinking, logic, and reason are only a small part of intelligence? For you maybe…
And you smugly act like you are making some excellent point about data processing outside the brain by citing vision and hearing? Are you that clueless? You question other’s knowledge on biology and completely reveal your complete and utter ignorance. Guess where vision and hearing are actually processed into sight and sound? THE BRAIN. LMAO!!!!
Next paragraph you dismiss determinism using a logical fallacy called special pleading. Google it.
A born again Christian calling me dogmatic. Perfect ending. Thanks Glen. That was fun. I’m serious.
It’s sorta funny to read Randy’s reply and understand that HE is accusing SOMEONE ELSE of “smug condescension.” And to think that the fellow who goes on and on and on (for, what, nearly an hour?) about what a terrific Mormon he used to be accuses someone else, who mentions a past foray into atheism, as searching for street cred. What part of “look in the mirror” did this guy miss?
I’m listening to the podcast trying to understand something. I’m not there yet, but maybe someone can offer some insight. I think it’s one thing to (as the song goes) lose your religion. To put that another way, I think it’s one thing to move from one set of beliefs to another, to move from religion to atheism, or to go the other way. These are what are called spiritual journeys. But it’s something different to make a point of criticizing – as we can see, not just criticizing but doing so caustically, in personal terms, and without provocation – the former belief and those who hold them.
My own feeling is that simple self-respect would lead one to be respectful toward a belief that one once held. After all, if I used to believe “X,” I should not condemn all believers of “X” as cretinous dunces, lest someone figure out that the criticism applies equally to me! I should rather think of someone who holds a belief I used to hold as every bit as thoughtful and reasonable as I am, despite the error in logic, judgment or reason to which we were both subject until I discovered the mistake.
But I see the nastiness here and I’ve read more than my fill of Tyson’s smug – well, strike “smug” – more than my fill of Tyson’s pretentious unpleasantness on other boards. He claimed on the podcast to have an affinity for members of the LDS church, but I think that’s obviously phony. Affinity just doesn’t express itself that way.
So it’s a bit of a puzzle. I’m not sure if this is warranted, but I want to say that we see this kind of thing in ex-Mormons than ex-other things. I mean, there is almost a subculture of these newly intellectually aggressive atheists, so perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree if I suggest there is something special or more severe about the subculture of ex-Mormons. But I think that this fellow McCraney (different podcast) is another, but non-atheist, example of the same phenomenon. It seems to me that at bottom there is a hostility to, we might even say rebellion against, the rigors of Mormon practice (not so much belief as practice) which then expresses itself in the various forms of intellectual opposition. In other words, it seems to me that there is a sense of anger, self-justification or both that needs to be expressed aggressively.
Both interviewees mentioned Prop 22/Prop 8, and Tyson made a point to refer to the suicide of his gay brother (while denying in his next breath that the suicide had anything to do with anything), so perhaps that was a trigger for them.
Trytoseeitmyway, if that is your real name, did you even read this line at the BEGINNING of my response to Glen? ”I won’t worry about being snarky since your post oozed with smug condescension.” Dude, I called my shot saying I was going to be snarky. I relished being snarky because Glen’s post was filled with arrogant ignorance which is supremely annoying to me. I responded with arrogance but not ignorance. If you think the latter is inaccurate, show me how because I am fully willing to change my mind on something when faced with better arguments or evidence. I believe people deserve respect but ideas do not. They have to earn it.
Do you have anything interesting to say about the arguments or do you just want to focus on how you think I am just an angry meanie that drones on and on and on about myself (I did spend about 40 minutes talking about my story but I don’t remember the part where I claimed, implied, or emphasized I was a “terrific Mormon”; only that I was a fully believing Mormon). If it makes you feel better about your own views, whatever the hell they are, to paint me and Tyson and other ex-Mo atheists as merely angry at the church, as you were.
Wow. Sort of a delayed reaction. But since I was commenting on an exchange of 11 months earlier (it says here), I guess it’s fair.
The complaint as I understand it is that I was supposed to understand that an attitude of smug condescension was intended as a response to someone else, whom Randy accused of exhibiting that same attitude. Frankly, that doesn’t invalidate my criticism at all, but in any event, here we see atheist morality at work. My morality is entirely my own invention, the atheist proclaims, and that makes me my own sole judge.
I realize that this is implied in your beliefs, Randy, but it is instructive to have the example.
You want to know if I have anything interesting to say about the arguments. It’s hard for me to answer that, since whether anything I say is of interest to others is of course for others to say. I did mention the sense I have that at
bottom there is a hostility to, we might even say rebellion against,
the rigors of Mormon practice (not so much belief as practice) which
then expresses itself in the various forms of intellectual opposition.
In other words, I said that that there seems to me that there is a sense of anger,
self-justification or both that needs to be expressed aggressively.
That sense, by the way, is reinforced by your response to me today.
Both you and Tyson mentioned Prop 22/Prop 8, and Tyson made a point to refer
to the suicide of his gay brother (while curiously denying in his next breath that
the suicide had anything to do with anything), so perhaps that was a
trigger? As I’ve listened to other podcasts (there is obviously an extensive amount of material here, and I doubt I’ve listened to more than a tiny fraction) that same issue seems to pop up fairly often.
In the Jared Anderson podcast series, he suggested (I won’t even be able to paraphrase him, but this is somewhere in the ballpark) that the self-declared atheists are not always the brightest people, but they have a strong desire to SEEM to be the brightest people. I think that this goes a long way toward explaining the aggressive style you exhibit.
Yes, a delayed response because this message thread had been dead for months. I hadn’t checked it for at least 6 months or longer but Glen had annoyed some friends of mine recently and it reminded me of this post so I came back to check it out and found your response.
Anyway, you seem to think that your version of passive aggressive insults is somehow on the moral high ground above my more direct snarkiness. That is typical of believing Mormons (I am assuming you are one but you keep everything, including your name, very guarded it seems) where you mistake manners for morality. There are more important issues of morality than manners like bigotry against homosexuals in the name of god, for instance. You take exception with my tone towards Glen but have, through passive aggression, essentially called my intelligence in question, referred to me basically as a verbose, insecure, narcissistic nihilist of sorts.
And you can’t just invent stuff and pretend it’s real. There is no such thing as “atheist morality.” Atheism has absolutely no moral implications whatsoever. It simply is a very narrow definition dealing with only one issue, belief in a personal god. Much work has been done on the topic of morality without god dating back to Aristotle, continuing through Hume, Kant, etc that would behoove you to read some on. But I don’t know any atheists that subscribe to your straw man characterization of “I create my own morality and I’m the judge of my own morality.” Applying critical thinking is the best judge of the merits of a moral action, not an appeal to authority.
You also seem bent on focusing on the one making arguments and not the arguments themselves. You are applying the typical go to method of believing Mormons where you want to paint the ex-Mo in such a light where you can dismiss their arguments without even dealing with them (just angry or bitter or in need of self-justification). In other words, you are applying an ad hominem argument. The church is very skilled at creating this mentality for it cannot possibly be the church that’s wrong, right?
And lastly, it’s funny you mention Jared. He’s a friend of mine and last month we did a podcast with John Larsen on Mormon Expression on the Mormon god called God of the Lost Keys. Check it out. Hopefully, since you seem to like Jared, his voice will balance out my droning one.
It’s difficult to have a conversation when you want to conduct it this way. If you can’t find anything in what I wrote other than things that trigger a rant, well, there you go. But I do like Jared, so please tell him hi. You might ask him to contrast your respective styles for you; that would be an interesting response.
You are such a hypocrite. You claim foul then refer to my response as a “rant”. You have dealt with nothing I’ve said. Peace.
Insulting to the last, eh? Peace to you too.
Religion really is a pernicious meme. Thank you for reminding me trytoseeitmyway. There are only a few items of note to add to Randy’s comments below, his positions are articulated well, and I do wish you had the courage to address them. I will, for my part, defend my positions in this and other posts which you have interpreted as ‘pretentious unpleasantness’. If I may correct you, and you are amenable to ceding your mind to evidence and reason, I prefer to be characterized as intolerant.
To borrow a phrase from a man I once considered wise “evil even calls itself good, and often gets away with it” My dear tytoseeitmyway, your positions are empirically evil. Obviously, I’m borrowing some language here for effect, since there is no evidence for a supernatural evil, or good for that matter, but we both know what I mean when I use the word, for I know no better use of the word than describing the ideas of those who defend (to name but a few)…
1) Child abuse
3) Repression and subjugation of women
4) Discrimination of people because of their race, gender, and sexual orientation.
5) Deception and willful misrepresentation.
Each of these ‘evils’ are empirical statements with numerous examples contained within your theology, and I am guilty of being intolerant of them. I generally tend to be harsh to those who espouse them, but I like to avoid personal attacks, seeing as ideas are independent of individuals, however there is one character flaw I should like to point out which you should consider adopting. Courage.
A final note. I truly wish the suicide of my brother had an impact on me at the time and not over a decade later. If I were a more rational and critical thinker I may have been quick enough to cast off the meme of religion even earlier, and had the courage to take a stand, and perhaps convince my brother the stupidity of the guilt and bad ideas that convinced him to end his life. It’s a decision that haunts only my past, because I will not stand for it in my future, and neither should you.
My theology? You know what my theology is, do you? Or are you just being smug and pretentious.
But you prefer the term “intolerant,” you say. Hmmm. I think that they all fit. At least, that’s the impression you left for me as I listened to the podcast. It is possible that others had different impressions but that was mine anyway.
My original comment expressed interest in the deliberate unpleasantness that you and Randy (among others) exhibit. Your comments today don’t to anything to alter those perceptions – quite the opposite in fact. You want me to have the “courage” to address Randy’s arguments, but I was just hoping that someone would have the courage or insight to address my questions. Instead, the responses have just been abusive. It’s interesting that you try to bait me into the discussion that YOU want to have … by accusing me of cowardice. “Chicken,” the bully taunts. “I dare ya, you chicken.”
Maybe we can get at my issue this way: your reply says, “I truly wish the suicide of my brother had an impact on me at the time and not over a decade later.” Now, let me be sure to say that anyone’s suicide, at any time for any reason, is a very sad thing, and I would want to be clear about my very sincere sympathy for you and your family despite the passage of time. And I feel sure that the suicide DID have an impact on you at the time, even though your words here seem to say otherwise. I realize that your choice of words was perhaps unfortunate and that the event truly did have an “impact” even though not the impact we’re now discussing, which was a loss of faith. Even so, it seemed to me from the podcast (it has now been some time since I listened, so I need to disclaim even a moderate degree of accuracy now) that you do attribute your loss of faith to that event, at least in part, even if the reaction was delayed for over a decade. And, here, you say that your decisions at the time haunt you.
So my question is: How did that work exactly? Did something happen a decade later to trigger the latent hostility? Or are you angry about something else, and just bringing up the suicide as an emotional weapon? I DON’T assume it’s the latter, by the way, because that would reflect very poorly on you. I’m prepared to believe instead that there was some kind of delayed reaction, and I’m curious about how that came to arise and how it influences your evident hostility to those who adhere to your former religion.
All of this is in the context of my original questions which you or anyone are welcome to address.
The primary reason why Mormons who become disaffected with the church do not maintain their Christian beliefs and affiliate with other Christian sects is the same reasons why the Mormon missionary program is so unsuccessful: generally speaking, people will not consciously abandon their religious or cultural heritage. Given a choice, they will walk away quietly. It takes a lot of time, energy, and fortitude to be a convert to a sect that requires you to adopt a new cultural paradigm and, by default, requires that you abandon your prior faith heritage. Since Mormonism is as much a lifestyle as it is a faith, the barrier to adopting another faith is even higher.
One might take the view that the rate at which disaffected Mormons exit Christianity is evidence that Mormons are not truly Christian and I think that assertion has some validity. It is very common for Christians to move around between sects and denominations. Their beliefs in Christ are weighted more heavily than their social connections and the culture of their particular denomination. Mormons, on the other hand, are not wedded as much to Christ as they are to the cultural norms and lifestyle of being “Mormon”. Academically speaking, Mormons are Christian but the disaffected experience, although broader than faith itself, indicates that Mormons are or were more tightly bound to being Mormon than they are to being Christian.
former convert to Mormonism (20 years) and current atheist
I finished the final episode yesterday, and just wanted to say “well done.” Overall I was impressed with the level of discourse and the patience exhibited on both sides. I suppose the only weakness might be the last hour, when I feel like Dan, IMO, got a little long-winded in his attempt to extract some kind of confession from Randy and Tyson about the possibilities of a spiritual realm. Any person who claims to believe in the scientific method should never make absolute predictions about what they will or will not believe in the future. As an atheist myself, I would be more than happy to be convinced by the evidence or experience of a “spiritual” extra-natural realm. But I believe the tool set that will be used to determine whether such realm exists will still be based in science – evidence, experiment, and rational examination.
I think the comments that the guests were condescending and/or abrasive are unwarrented, but not surprising. It seemed to me that the guests were bending over backwards to couch their language in personal experience terms and avoid sweeping generalizations or condemnations. But it has been my experience when speaking with some believers that any attempt to point out the fundamental problems (as I see them) with religious thought receives a defensive reaction, I’ve been accused of arrogance and abrasiveness, too, no matter how hard you try. I suppose it is because religious belief is tightly bound with self identity, and any attempt to critique the issues is taken as a personal attack. Given that, I don’t know how one ever discusses these issues without coming across as abrasive to someone.
Again, thanks for taking the time to do these interviews, guests and host!
In episode #226, several references to evolution need updating. One assumption of organic evolution is that mutations are entirely random. They are not. Johnjoe McFadden’s book, Quantum Evolution, offers a good layman’s perspective on the notion of non-random mutations, and how nature might use them to rapidly shape the genome. http://amzn.to/idMJgH
2010 has been a landmark year for a number of scientific advances showing that nature has engineered many biological systems right to the edge of the classical-quantum worlds. In late 2010, Google convened a workshop on Quantum Biology at their Mountain View headquarters, bringing together scientists from around the world to present their latest findings. A summary of the workshop is here, including 8 hours of recorded Google TechTalks. http://bit.ly/cTZRGX
Given these advances, Penrose-Hameroff’s notion of quantum consciousness is still very much alive. Stuart Hameroff has done a good job of pulling together presenters from the Google workshop for a conference on consciousness, which will be held in Stockholm next May. Should be fun. http://consciousness.arizona.edu/
Along these lines, Stuart Kauffman’s book, Reinventing the Sacred (http://amzn.to/efJHvd), offers a kinder, gentler approach to the Four Horsemen. Kauffman has also written a number of interesting blog entries on the NPR 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog, suggesting that he is open to whatever informed human spirituality may emerge from the new sciences. (http://n.pr/eWj0KL)
Dave, I feel you overstated something in your post. You implied, first, that it was stated in the podcast that mutations are “entirely random.” I don’t believe it was stated quite that strongly. However, if you asked 100 evolutionary biologists of the world if genetic mutations are random, probably 95 or more would say “almost entirely random.” They are not completely random, but it is close. An example is that UV radiation selectively affects Thiamine stronger than the other nucleotides so that is not completely random, but almost. So to bring up McFadden’s book as if it represents the scientific consensus regarding the randomness of mutations is misleading. Therefore, saying our evolutionary info needs “updating” doesn’t quite hit the mark. It may not agree with your opinion, but “updating” is a little strong.
Also, we did debate significantly in the podcast the notion of quantum consciousness as Dan is a fervent supporter of this hypothesis. However, it was edited out after much deliberation and much to Dan’s disappointment as this is the center of his philosophy and world view. I, for the record, am not compelled by this hypothesis but that’s a ‘hole ‘nother podcast.
I was listening to the podcast, and heard the guests describe several times how life was so beautiful and meaningful on its own. They don’t need God or the supernatural, or hope in a more pleasant afterlife. That is all unprovable nonsense, and causes so much harm and distraction from the real problems, and mostly gets in the way of appreciating what we have in this life — which is so amazing!
That delusion is exactly the point for the vast majority of people who traverse this mortal coil — escape from the nihilistic “reality.”
So what do we say to the other 75% of the people on this planet who’s lives are brutal and short, highlighted with the occasional violent spasm of pointless war, and the constant search for a scrap of food or some momentary comfort? Your pathetic dreams of a beautiful afterlife are a delusion my friend. Sorry about that, so just focus on your wretch of a life and be done with it. God is dead, and you will join him in the blackness soon enough.
Atheism totally rocks for those of us who “won the cosmic lottery,” the prize of living in the most affluent culture that has ever existed on the face of the earth. Our most pressing problem is trying desperately not to eat so much it kills us. For everyone else, there’s MasterCard, or a pointless existence and then the void.
I am so glad we got smart enough and evolved to figure this out — silly religions!
Geez Brian, tell us how you really feel.
I was not aware that it was my job to cover the combined human experience for all 6 billion humans on the planet. I was asked to share my personal experience and journey. I gave an honest description of what it felt like to shuck religious belief and endeavor on a different journey of learning using science, philosophy, and literature instead of religious texts as my guide. For me, it was liberating and exhilarating. I did not mean to presume that it is the only way to think or even the best way to think for every single member of the planet.
I understand there is way too many people on the earth that live miserable lives. I completely empathize with their need to look to a better afterlife to cope with the miseries and injustices of this life. I don’t hold that against them at all.
But my point is this, we should strive to alleviate the suffering in the world. We, who have “won the cosmic lottery”, should use our privileged position to reach out to the unfortunate in the world and seek a more equitable situation for the human race. But, how is the best way for us lucky ones to achieve this goal? Religious dogma that teaches 3rd world people to fear hell if using a condom thereby spreading STDs and producing children that can’t be supported? Or the religious intolerance of gays in Uganda? Or the dogmatic theocracies oppressing women in the name of god?
My assertion is that the best path to the goal of a more equitable situation for the human race is using humanistic values informed with scientific knowledge coupled with an empathetic view of the human condition.
I realize that there are many religiously inspired entities out there doing good for the unfortunate of the world. I applaud their efforts, especially when their efforts aren’t conditional to accepting their preferred god which may come with some unnecessary baggage (ie; religious intolerance). However, I maintain that it is my OPINION that the best path going forward is through humanistic values.
Sorry Randy, I apologize because I think I really came across too strong. I actually understand where you are coming from, and have the same criticism of dysfunctional religion. I put a little too much passion and “poetry” in my comment above.
I was picturing a scenario like this: I find myself in some terrible place on the planet. A poor child, an orphan perhaps who steals food or searches garbage dumps approaches me and asks “Hey Mister, Is there really a God and a beautiful afterlife? Is that where my mother and father are?”
What would I tell her?
… really hard to think about that, for me at least. It’s all great intellectual fun, and I totally agree with jettisoning poor religious baggage from my life, but what would I tell someone like that? Yes. Absolutely! God loves you, life will be better, and your mother and father are waiting to embrace you when you are done here.
No problem Brian. I understand what you are saying. It’s similar to how do atheists deal with losing a child. Man, it’s nicer to deal with that using Mormon theology but that simply doesn’t make it real just because it’s comforting. As someone who came closer to that than I ever, ever wish to come, I don’t know how I would have dealt with that. I may have been committed after that.
So, people that use faith to deal with crappy lives that have been dealt to them, I totally am empathetic to that. That is one thing that I think people like Hitchens and Dawkins don’t really understand having had good lives with little religous influence.
To be honest, the part of becoming atheist that was hardest to let go of was the notion of justice. I have a strong notion and sense for justice and to come to grips with the idea that Hitler won’t suffer for being responsible for tens of millions of deaths and associated suffering was so hard to accept. The wrath of God doesn’t await Fidel Castro or Saddam Hussein? That was hard to accept but again, an argument for God from adverse consequences is a logical fallacy no matter how it makes me feel.
So, to respond to your hypothetical, would I disavow a suffering little girl of a notion of a better life to come, probably not.
Wow, it was so cool to hear that there are other ex-mos that are nearly as obsessed as I am with the search for science and learning. Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens and Harris are my favorite reads. Thank you so much for sharing this great series.
Randy and Tyson
Thanks for the very interesting and enlightening podcast. Me I am exploring. Still LDS, certainly not TBM, more NOMish but open to ideas. I have been exploring the roots of Christianity and find many problems there as well. Tyson I have read lots of Ehrman.
What I am interested in in your recommendation of one or two good books to start with on the ideas of Atheism. Dawkins, Hitchin or Harris? The God Delusion or something else? Where should I start?
Jason, scroll up to the 3 weeks ago section of comments and you can see both Tyson’s and my lists.
I would start with “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Harris. It’s the shortest of the Atheist Apocrypha.
Randy, thanks. I see the lists. Tyson I picked up “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Harris in the book store and started thumbing through it and read a few pages and almost bought it. Looks interesting. I will start with that.
Great podcast, definitely one of my all time favorites. I think Randy is the most like-minded person to me I’ve ever come into (virtual) contact with. In both the podcast and the discussion, his responses were verbatim what I was thinking almost every time. Craig Criddle has also been on my dream guest list for MSP for quite a while now.
Randy, at one point I believe you mentioned you lived in Jacksonville. I recently moved to Jax and would love to meet up with anyone here who may have a similar background. When you have a spouse who is the relief society prez and you are an ex-mo, getting to know people you share anything in common with can be a challenge.
If you know anyone here, forward them my email: email@example.com.
I just stumbled across this site and am pleased with what I have read and heard so far.
I arrived at atheism when I reached the end of my LDS rope, got tired of hanging onto the Gordian knot I found there, and slashed it in half.
I consider myself a “pure” atheist, by which I do not intend any moral valence (i.e., “the one and only true and living brand of atheism”), but simply that, as the word suggests, I lack a belief in the reality of god (in the same way I lack a belief that I am really Brad Pitt dreaming I am me).
Thank you for publishing this, letting some of us know we are not alone.
Not to be biased, but Len Bias was a first round draft pick (2nd one chosen by the Celtics).
I just finished listening to all the segments. It was refreshing hearing your honesty about sensitive topics and difficult choices. Best of luck to you guys.
The passage in part 2 where Dan Wotherspoon, I believe, reacts against previous comments on, or rather against, Islam prompts me to post the following link, right quick: http://islamicexpansionanddecline.blogspot.com/2007/04/theory-of-islamic-expansion-and-decline.html
I could provide much more yet on Islam’s singularly fundamentally parasitic, sadistic, culturally-annihilating, extremism-promoting, etc. nature, but Google is your friend.
Fantastic podcast. As an atheist, I felt very well represented by Tyson and Randy–thank you guys for being articulate and being willing to step out and educate others on non-religious life. I was also very impressed by Dan’s patience and willingness to listen and understand ideas that he didn’t necessarily agree with. Great job guys.
While I have had many exhilarating, joyful, and beautiful moments and experiences in my life, I have never had any that suggest to me in any way that there is an unseen meaning, connection, or conscious deity in the universe. It is truly fascinating to me to hear intelligent, educated, and appropriately skeptical people (like Don) talk about spiritual experiences they have that are so profound and convincing that they trump science. I can hardly start to imagine what such an experience or feeling might be like. I would really like to come to a greater understanding and respect for such experiences, but it is difficult because when I ask people about them they often say that it can’t be put into words, or if they do attempt to convey it it just doesn’t come off as very convincing to me.
For those of you who have had such experiences, can you recommend any reading or material that might help me understand them more? (I am starting by reading William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”, which has been very insightful so far.)
Well, these were very enjoyable podcasts. I admire Mr. Snyder and Mr. Jacobsen for their willingness to share their worldviews, their backgrounds, and where they find themselves now. The topics raised caused me to examine what I hold to be true and to look into some of the concepts that were discussed.
I have heard atheists state that “Evolution is a fact” and “The Flood never happened,” but these sentences need to be clarified. Theists also believe that things change over time (evolution) and there is not only one interpretation of the Flood account within Judaism and Christianity. Also, Mr. Snyder and Mr. Jacobsen do not believe in Heaven and Hell, so I was wondering what their take is on the theory of the multiverse.
From now, I will be spending some time studying more about Determinism because atheists seem to hold to different versions. Like the view of Determinism where we cannot possibly be aware of all the deterministic factors, which would make Determinism (from my understanding) unable to be falsified. Or there is Daniel Dennett’s Determinism, which seems so watered-down that I cannot see where he differs with how theists understand the world. Or the Determinism of Sam Harris and his Mad Scientist illustration, which does not reflect reality at all.
Lastly, Robert Wright and his moral monkeys really do not explain the existence of morality in any way. At best, his assessment describes pre-programmed behaviors and, with a stretch, social mores, but these are not morality. Morality includes a person’s intent/motive and dictates what we are to do in the future, and Mr. Wright is not able to address these. Morality is not about doing what is right for you. Morality is about doing what is right.
Thank you again for the time and effort put into these podcasts!!!!!
If Mormonism is false it means there is no God. Makes perfect logical sense.
I realize this was posted a few years ago but I’m just coming into this new faith journey world which is quite funny given my colorful history of going in and out of the Mormon church already. Anyway, I loved this series on atheism. The first arguments I’ve ever heard about this type of thinking. I’m excited to keep learning and developing my own ideas now that I’ve let go of Mormonism being the all truthful power it claims to be. Wish I could have dinner and a couple bottles of wine with these guys! So fascinating! Keep up this work it’s invaluable.
Thanks to all involved in producing this very informative podcast.
Dan I love ur comparison to a flashlight or spotlight at the end!
Robert Ingersoll–the great agnostic! I was recently introduced to him in Susan Jacoby’s book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. Exceptional read so far.
Tyson, your voice sounds like Jeff Goldblum.
Randy, maybe me and my husband will run in to you at one of the meet ups here in Phoenix–we live in the central corridor. I believe you said you went to Dental School in Florida? Stu, my husband went to med school at Nova Southeastern.
In any case, I wish you all well in your personal journeys.
Once you come to the realization of the finalisest of life, why even continue? And i am serious. I cant see making the leap from “there is nothing after this life” to having anything that is fulfilling. There is just no point in doing anything. All accomplishments are futile. Just be done with it.
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