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Must We Seek the Divine?

(Originally published at Everything-Voluntary.com in January 2015.)

The last time I wrote about my religious beliefs, I said that I was starting over, "rebuilding" my foundation. I intended to get to the bottom of whether or not God exists, and journey forward from there. Two interesting forks occurred along the way. I thought I'd take a moment to share them.

Spiritual Obligations

At some point after I began thinking about the divine and how I should go about discovering it, an important question popped into my head, which was, "What obligation am I under to look for God?" This was immediately followed by questions like, "How can God take away the opportunity of living with him if I don't follow rules in this life that I never knew I was bound by?" And "How can simply hearing 'the word' bind me to rules that must be followed if I am to ever live with God?" And "There are a thousand disparate religions with their own religious…

A Conversation on God

Episode 014 is a conversation on the concept of God. Phil and Skyler also briefly share their own spiritual or intellectual journeys as it concerns religion, to where they are today as two non-religious searchers for truth.

Listen to Episode 014 (1h35m, mp3, 96kbps)


Show Notes

Wikipedia.org, "God"
Skyler's Column, "What I Know and What I Don't Know"
Skyler's Column, "Rebuilding my Foundation"
Skyler's Column, "Down with Conviction!"
Skyler's Blog Post, "On Gods and Rulers"
Skyler's Facebook Post, Considering the Power of God
Skyler's Blog Post, "Receiving God's Law"

Rebuilding My Foundation

(Originally published at Everything-Voluntary.com in June 2013.)

"Resistance," to the Borg, "is futile." It's also human, very human. Particularly the type of resistance given to the changing of one's beliefs. And by "beliefs" I mean everything someone either thinks is true or knows is true with absolute certainty. Often their certainty is based on a very limited amount of experience, and they don't know what they don't know. Faith, the way I see it, is rational belief on the basis of limited experience. What is believed may ultimately prove false, but without faith one will never do anything. Nobody has experienced everything, and everybody wants to remove their "felt uneasiness." Like resistance, to act on the basis of faith is also human. I have performed religious ordinances and made covenants with others (seen and unseen) on the basis of faith. But I now find myself at a point in my life where I am stuck. Some things that I …

What I Know and What I Don't Know

(Originally published at Everything-Voluntary.com in May 2013.)

I've found myself getting frustrated lately due to assumptions I've made regarding my convictions, mostly religious. I've gotten ahead of myself and wound up confused and dissatisfied with where things were going. It's time to take a step back and reassess my knowledge banks; to really dig into my mind and categorize everything (okay, a fraction of everything) into two lists: what I know, and what I don't know.

What I Know

I know that I am alive. I know that I am a male member of my species. I know that I have been alive for almost 30 Earth years. I know that I have two parents and four siblings. I know how long each of them has been alive. I know that I attended every year of public school. I know that I was baptized into the Mormon Church after my eighth birthday. I know that I graduated from a public high school with a 3.0 average. I know that my first job was fast food. I know that I accepted the te…

Religion and Kids

A comment to me in a Facebook group, "I hope your child's participation in religious stuff is voluntary." Indeed, I'm happy to report that it is. I'd be a big fat hypocrite if it wasn't. This brings me to share a few thoughts on the subject.

As a Latter-day Saint, I believe the following scriptures are the word of God:
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:5

"But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth." - D&C 93:40

"Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things (the Plan of Salvation) freely unto your children..." - Moses 6:58

(Here's the full list of scripture references on the raising of children in Latter-day Saint canon.) I don't see anything here commanding us to…

Thoughts on Science & Religion

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I just finished reading a graphical adaptation of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species". Although it was heavily abridged, it covered the basics and did so alongside some interesting graphics. It serves as a great introduction to evolutionary theory, and my kids are sure to enjoy it.

So how can I be a proponent of evolutionary theory and still be a practicing Latter-day Saint? Because I don't see how truth can be incompatible with truth. Don't misquote me now. I'm not claiming that every point in evolutionary theory is true. Actually, my interest is bigger than just evolutionary theory. It's scientific discovery in general.

Science is the observation and discovery of the natural world. That's all it is. Sometimes our perspectives are skewed, but those are sorted out through open dialogue and debate. Progress is made when all sides are free to observe, discover, and share.

There's nothing to be afraid of about scientific research qua scientif…

Are We Exempt From Satan's Promise?

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Let's go back to the time when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. Satan had just gotten Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and Eve in turn got Adam to partake. At this point, God returns to the Garden and is calling for Adam,
And they heard the voice of the Lord God, as they were walking in the garden, in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife went to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And I, the Lord God, called unto Adam, and said unto him: Where goest thou?

And he said: I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I beheld that I was naked, and I hid myself. And I, the Lord God, said unto Adam: Who told thee thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, if so thou shouldst surely die?

And the man said: The woman thou gavest me, and commandest that she should remain with me, she gave me of the fruit of the tree and I did eat. And I, the Lord God, said unto the …

Agency and God's Omniscience, a Self-rejoinder

Alright so, I've had to completely rework my thoughts on agency, or free will, and God's omniscience. I have made a very critical mistake with my definitions. I've followed the lead of, well, most everyone and assumed that "omniscience" means "to know everything". I no longer believe that this is how we should define omniscience when considering the omniscience of God.

I've had some very good help with this. Blake Ostler wrote a piece titled "Mormonism and Determinism" for the Mormon journal Dialogue. It's a response to L. Rex Sear's piece on determinism. I recommend reading the entire Ostler piece, but for the purposes of this short post, I wanted to extract what he had to say on God's omniscience.

Because I've defined omniscience as "to know everything", I took that to mean knowing everything, including the future. Call this foreknowledge, or when it comes to God, call this "divine foreknowledge". But …

Agency and God's Omniscience, Incompatible?

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A puzzle that once perplexed me is the seeming paradox between our having agency, or free will as the secular term goes, the ability to choose, and God's omniscience. This can be a perplexing question when we consider just what God being omniscient means. I understand it to mean that God is all-knowing. That he knows everything, including what choices we are going to make, even before we make them.

I've heard a couple things argued about this: If we make a choice that God was not aware of, then God is not omniscient; Since God is omniscient, and he knows every choice we make, we aren't really making a choice, because the outcome has already been determined; If God is omniscient, and our choices have already been determined through his foreknowledge, ie. a form of predestination, then we don't have agency (free will).

It would seem, then, that the doctrine of free will, or agency, is incompatible with the doctrine of God's omniscience. How have others attempted to s…

Nephi's 3-way Justification for Slaying Laban

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I'm reading Denver Snuffer's "The Second Comforter" and happened upon this footnote that enlightened my understand of the Nephi slaying Laban episode:
Some Saints are troubled by this commandment to kill Laban. It is consistent with Christ's later teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, and consistent with God's dealings with mankind elsewhere. Laban's accusation against Nephi's brother that he was a "robber" (1 Nephi 3:13) was a ruse to justify Laban in killing Laman. A person was justified in killing a robber. (Exodus 22:2) Laban was using this as an excuse to justify his intention to kill Laman. Later, Laban commits the very act which he had earlier accused Laman of committing. In this case, as in the case of David (2 Samuel 12:1-7), Laban has made his own judgment upon his own head. Just as David condemned the thief in Nathan's allegory, Laban condemned the robbery which he was about to commit. As certain as Nathan's proclamation to…