Arguments for the existence of an immaterial soul

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#1 3 November, 2013 - 22:14
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Arguments for the existence of an immaterial soul


Many people believe that their body is connected to an immaterial soul. If you are one of these people, please share why you believe that is so. Also, please say if you believe that the soul survives the death of the body, and if so, how long it survives.

30 January, 2014 - 03:28
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The silence in this thread is deafening and very telling. I don't believe there really are any arguments; their belief is not based in reason, it's based in a deep-seated need to believe. I wish there was an afterlife or a soul, but there is no reason to believe there is one.

Bateman

Edit: the closest thing to an argument for a soul that I've seen comes from Plato. Basically he postulates that men must have came from somewhere before, how are they already born with skills to learn language or do anything else? He proposed that a soul must pass information to the new generation. They didn't know about genetics yet. He expanded to say, if something came into an organism with information before it was born, it must also leave when the organism dies.

Pardon me if I said it wrong, If anyone can say it better, please do. It's been a long time since I read Plato.

30 January, 2014 - 04:41
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4 April, 2014 - 20:01
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Note: Comment was apparently removed.

I didn't read your whole comment, I saw Pascal's wager and was about to congratulate you for including it.

You however seem to agree with Pascal's wager. It's one of the most asinine and malicious arguments for religion out there. It is also wrong on every conceivable level.

- It's a false dichotomy; it ignores all other possible religions, other possible hells and heavens.

- It makes the claim that believing something false costs nothing, while in reality a false belief would waste a lot of time and money, plus give you a distorted view of reality. If you only have one life, every minute, every dollar you spend worshiping a false god is wasted. That's not a no loss scenario.

- Just because you believe in one god, doesn't mean you escape the hell of another. One could make the same argument about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. "Unless you worship FSM, you will be boiled forever, so in case you are wrong, you should accept FSM as your lord and savior."

- It presumes that you can choose your beliefs based on logic(even faulty logic). Even if you accept the ridiculous proposition that maybe one should accept a specific god just in case there is a hell, doesn't mean you actually believe it. Also, wouldn't an omniscient being KNOW thats what you are doing? Wouldn't your god just see through you "believing" in a "just in case" scenario?

- If all it takes for you to believe in something is that there is a possibility for you to be wrong and be punished, how do you distinguish truth from fantasy? You would be forced to apply that logic to every god, even those in direct opposition to one another.

- It's an insidious scare tactic designed to trap people before they can think for themselves(Children). "You better believe in this, love jesus christ with all your heart, or you will be tortured forever." Apply that logic equally. Just switch out "God" with a parent. "You better love your dad with all your heart, or he will take you to the basement and torture you". The words sick and twisted are not enough to fully convey this malevolence.

Your "Counter-Objections":
1. Such as? Keep in mind that hearsay is not evidence. (Ie: my friend's dad was dying of cancer and we prayed and he lived)
2. I don't think you have the slightest understanding of statistics. It's like saying playing the lottery is a 50/50 shot; you either win or lose.
3. So say I "tried" to believe in Mormonism for a weekend. It failed to convince me. I'm safe.
I don't even see what point you are trying to make here. In the real world, we don't need(and cannot achieve) absolute certainty. We figure out what is most likely based on evidence. For example, in science, a hypothesis (testable and falsifiable) is developed. Someone tests it, tries to disprove it. He shows it to a lot of other people, who independently also try to disprove it. After a long period of this, it turns to a theory, which is the best current explanation based on the given evidence. For example, the theory of evolution, or the theory of gravity.

I tried to remain as civil and polite as possible. This was not intended as a personal attack of any sort. It's simply addressing the arguments themselves. You are most likely quite an average person. At least this thread is getting some attention again..

Just going by Pascal's Wager once more; what if there is a god who rewards those who use logic and reason before believing things? He of course does not require belief in himself(as that would violate logic and reason), but he punishes gullibility. Wouldn't it be in your best interest to stop believing in all gods and potentially not get punished by this one?

4 April, 2014 - 21:58
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I think we should probably stay away from debates about religion and politics on this site, because many people are likely to have strong differing opinions, and I've found that no one ever changes their mind at the end. :)

I think it's safer to focus on specific memorization techniques in general. Examples:

  • "Bible memorization" is a safe topic, since that is the discussion of memorizing verbatim text that could have either religious or non-religious purposes. People can come to their own conclusions about what they read there.
  • Talking about why a certain religion is true or not true will probably only lead to arguments in the end...

You can try it if you would like, but this has just been my experience after running many forums over the years. :)

5 April, 2014 - 07:00
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1. The rest of my post talks about evidence that is very hard to explain by coincidence. There is evidence for and against.

2. I actually have not taken statistics yet, so you are probably right. My reasoning merely was, it cannot be proved or disproved so without evidence against or for, or with equal evidences for and against, the probability is 50/50.

3. I actually don't see how you'r wrong there. For me, I believe that absolute knowledge can be gained, because since I believe that A is true and B follows A, then B is probably true. Essentially that is what the Church preaches and from existing evidence that the Church is true I assume that knowledge can be gained, maybe through an angelic visitation? I don't know. This has never made sense to me either.

Your counter-objections are right, I think there were just some misunderstandings in the content I posted, sorry I didn't make myself clear. Basically I agree with you for the most part.

I'll stop posting now, sorry Josh! You can counter me again guys and I won't respond! Probably shouldn't have posted anyways. Honestly though, I'm probably no match for you Bateman if you're well versed in these subjects. I definitely haven't read everything and my assessments of the Church are still constantly changing. Maybe in the future I will decide that it is illogical. For now though, that is not the case.

5 April, 2014 - 07:58
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Thanks for agreeing. Josh did say though that we could try it. I discussed it with him, he does think it usually leads to conflict.

Josh Cohen wrote:

You can try it if you would like

But as long as we remain polite, it should be fine.

2. No. When something has no evidence for or against it, the rational thing to do is not believe it until there is any evidence. This is called the null hypothesis. The default position is to disbelieve a claim until there is evidence that it is true. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Can you prove that there aren't giant invisible unicorns on the moon? No, but it doesn't matter, because there isn't any evidence that they actually exist.

3. (Regarding the virgin birth) David Hume: "Which is more likely, that the whole natural order is suspended or that a Jewish minx should tell a lie?" I'm not certain what the beliefs of Mormons specifically are, and am aware there is a lot of misconception about it, for example about polygamy.

Did you agree with me that Pascal's wager is at most a bad argument?

I looked at the first link. "These ideas, while nonscientific, are natural and deep-seated". I agree with the website, people from all different cultures are likely to share the same ideas about certain topics. We as humans are a very close species genetically compared to other species(if we were dogs, we would all be the same breed). It's the same thing as "Near-death experiences", we are all the same species, we produce the same hormones when we are near death that cause massive and similar hallucinations(don't remember which hormones exactly, but they are similar to those in psychedelic mushrooms(DMT?)).

All that link is basically saying is kids have similar thoughts on what happens before they are born. If that's not an argumentum ad populum, I don't know what is.

Second link- Thoughts could be on a deeper level than just neurons? Ok?

Third- Benefits of being Christian: "Religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure."

Sure, why not. I myself eat very healthy, never smoke, and rarely consume alcohol. I'm also as atheist as you can reasonably get. I agree, prayer could have effects akin to meditation, calming you down, lowering blood pressure and such.

I'm not sure what these are trying to prove, but I'm done for now. But please, do respond, I am interested in polite debate.

5 April, 2014 - 09:00
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Very pertinent video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDcZkrl-eoY
*Can't get the video to embed for some reason

5 April, 2014 - 10:42
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2. Cool got it.
3. Agreed unless the natural order acting is so unbelievably improbable that it is more likely that God had intervened. This is my reasoning pertaining to the Book of Mormon. The book is so long and layered with so many types of analyzable evidence (poetic parallelisms, singular geographic landmarks, cultural evidences, writing style analysis evidences, Hebrewisms, etc.) that I usually view it as more probable that God intervened than the natural order was involved. Usually I view the natural order as fully responsible for most things, however.
4. As far as Pascals argument being a bad one. I agree with you unless there is a high probability of a specific church or belief system being true according to reasonable academic conclusions. Then I would take the wager. Otherwise, you are correct.
5. Again, the idea that it is purely a built-in tendency is one explanation, but there are others such as that the children are actually remembering events. I'm merely stating that it is possible that there is a pre-mortal existence and it is possible if the built-in tendency is ruled out that it is actual memory. A good study would be to compare different descriptions of the place before life that the children are referring to. If they are remembering they will give the same/similar descriptions probably. Then the question becomes natural, built-in memory vs actual experience
6. All the quantum thing shows is that it is possible that free-will exists and that there is more to consciousness than purely classical properties. The quantum world is much more subject to that interpretation than the Classical world. A primary tenet of Mormonism is free will.
7. Benefits of being Christian - I'm merely showing that it is beneficial to be religious. This is not evidence for or against and this is not saying that it is
8. With near death experiences, I am not very studied on the subject. So i'll assume you and Sam Harris are right.
9. My point with these articles was that it is plausible that it is true according to science and if one assumes that it is true by other evidences, there are hints of possibilities for new studies to see exactly what's going on. Most actual evidence comes from Archaeology, Anthropology, etc.

Very interesting discussing this with you and good video! You make some interesting points that I had never thought of before. I hope that didn't seem too argumentative or uncivil. Did you go to an Ivy league school? You seem smart enough to have :|

5 April, 2014 - 11:33
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There wasn't a single thing in your response that appeared the slightest bit uncivil or argumentative to me.

You flatter me. I just read a lot of different books, watch lectures from people a lot more intelligent than I am and think often.

Sam Harris was referring to the afterlife, and how neuroscience basically can change everything about a person by changing their brain. You can become a totally different person if there is damage to the frontal lobe(Phineas Gage), you can lose the ability to recognize patterns as faces if there's damage to other parts of the brain, etc. Basically, everything that defines YOU, can be manipulated by changing the brain. Interesting thing, there are now studies showing how simple electromagnetic waves applied to specific brain parts can manipulate your learning speed, or manipulate your emotional responses and such. Here is one such example.

5. Even if they described the same exact place, that could be explained by simply the way the brain forms during childhood.

6. Christopher Hitchens once said that we have no choice but to have free will. Free will has always confused me. Technically, we are all products of both nature and nurture; our DNA and all the conditions and events that occurred. If someone had the exact same DNA(with the same parts activated), had the exact same environment, they would "choose" the exact same answers. Notice the word exact. Twins don't have the exact same, but they are close.

Someone once said, if they knew the position and velocity of every particle in the universe(which we know is impossible) they could predict the future. It's basically the same thing. I always felt the future is already written, but there's no possible way to predict it, at least in humans. Only thing really opposing that is that on the atomic level, there is no way to predict what happens, except for statistics. We know how fast a radioactive isotope will decay on average, but we don't know when each individual atom will.

I always found it interesting to look at it from the point of view of religion though. Assuming god exists, if god is omniscient(knows everything), then there is no free will, since he knew when he made you exactly what choices you would make, which path you would go. He would also know exactly how much evidence you yourself would need to believe in him.

3.

Intelligent Introvert wrote:

a. Poetic parallelisms, b. singular geographic landmarks, c. cultural evidences, d. writing style analysis evidences, e. Hebrewisms

I haven't heard of a couple of these, so I looked them up.
a. I may not be understanding it correctly, but basically some parts of the Book of Mormon are written like poetry???
b. You could say that about any holy book. Just because it includes some places that actually exist has no bearing on the truth of it's words. Harry Potter begins in England, in a train station that actually exists(if I remember correctly).
c. Couldn't find anything for this. But I'm assuming it refers to the fact that many different cultures independently came to the conclusion that there is a god? Again, argument from popularity. Please clarify if it's something else.
d. You could use that to prove the Bible was written by a multitude of people over different time periods, with different agendas. I am not sure how that applies to the Book of Mormon though.
e. "Hebraism is the identification of a usage, trait, or characteristic of the Hebrew language. By successive extension it is often applied to the Jewish people, their faith, national ideology, or culture..... There exist in the Hebrew language numerous idiomatic terms that don't translate easily"(Wikipedia). I truly cannot see any possible way that this can apply. Unless you were seeking to prove it was originally written in Hebrew, and mistranslated.

I do not see how any of the above are intended as evidence for the Book of Mormon. What am I missing?

Bateman

5 April, 2014 - 14:44
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Intelligent Introvert wrote:

It appears from your questions that you aren't very well versed in Mormon theology and anti-mormon ideas. That's ok, I wouldn't be either probably if I hadn't been born in the Church. We're a very small religious group and everybody can only know so much. I'll summarize the anti-mormon and Mormon views.

Anyways, I understand that you're probably not well versed on these issues, so if its hard for you to counter them, then anyone reading this should note that that doesn't mean Bateman is wrong. I'd encourage everyone to do a lot of research and then come to their own academic conclusions.

You would be correct. I know the most about the christian Bible, since that's what I encounter the most. But the arguments for different religions are almost always the same, regardless of which religion it is.

Wow, you might be the first to actually admit the possibility you are wrong in such a way. Well done.

I tried looking up some arguments against Mormonism, or the accuracy of the Book of Mormon, but have so far only seen them from the point of view of Christians, ie: The Bible is the only book we need, or the Book of Mormon doesn't match up with the Bible, which does not help....

I have to admit, this is harder than it usually is. I just have to find something to grasp, and not get caught up in secondary issues...

Just do clarify; as I understand it, the main denomination within Mormonism is LDS. Do you subscribe to that?

Usually I point out several absurdities within the Bible, such as the flood, point out things that are contradictory to reality such as age of the earth, and then address several moral issues within the Bible. Eventually we get to the cosmological and moral arguments, usually there is clear logical fallacies, sometimes combined into Pascal's Wager and such...

"The anti-Mormon genre continues to claim that those three men..... no evidence that there were more than three or four people"- I don't know what you are saying here. The opposition is saying those 3 people wrote it, and you say there is no evidence that there were more than 3 or 4. So you agree with them? Also, which wife?

A through E- You are saying the book is complex, has obvious roots in Hebrew, and points to a strong knowledge of the Middle East geography. I have absolutely no clue of how true or untrue that is.

Even if it's completely true, people can gain all that knowledge. There were limited libraries and such, but there were still people studying other cultures, books written about all those things. Is there anything in the Book of Mormon that would HAVE to be divinely inspired? As in, some knowledge that was not known to people yet? A specific prophecy?

Second comment: I'm pretty sure I've read (could be misinformation) that the plates dissipated as soon as he went to touch them. I don't think there were any plates. IMHO They could have written it without them. If you look for something, such as literary parallelisms, you will find it.

Good for you for being happier as a believer. I wish I could say the same, but I never really changed my opinion. I just gained more knowledge that confirmed the skepticism I had since my youth. I do feel more free, and life seems more valuable with the knowledge that you can only be sure that this one exists. I wish there was an afterlife, or a loving god, but I see no reason to believe that there is. Might as well make the best out of the only life I know for sure I have.

Sorry about the unsatisfactory counters, I really cannot think of anything solid at the moment. I'll probably look up more stuff about Mormonism.

5 April, 2014 - 17:24
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I'll try to accurately summarize your argument. Tell me if I messed up.

The Book of Mormon contains many idioms and such that indicate it was translated from either Egyptian or Hebrew. If it was translated, he needed to have help, and it was highly unlikely that anyone knew Egyptian. It was also very intelligently written, too complex for a simple man like Joseph. He was poor, and didn't stand to benefit from creating a religion.

I clearly still am missing some points of the argument, I can't figure out how to express them though.

I found this wikipedia article on the golden plates interesting.

A "little bit" of alcohol, particularly dry red wine, is actually healthy.

6 April, 2014 - 09:02
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Ok. I'm glad we reached an agreement on the summary of your argument. That helps things a lot.

Sure, I'll respond in a couple days.

6 April, 2014 - 10:42
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kk

6 April, 2014 - 10:47
tom
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LociInTheSky wrote:

Many people believe that their body is connected to an immaterial soul. If you are one of these people, please share why you believe that is so. Also, please say if you believe that the soul survives the death of the body, and if so, how long it survives.

Sadly I neither have the knowledge nor time to defend this idea in an appropriate way but let me give you a few general hints:

Your question presupposes a substance dualist understanding of the term soul, meaning that you think of the soul as some kind of substance that inhabits the body like a ghost in the machine. This is a widespread but rather modern idea. It is being defended by philosopher of religion Richard Swinburne for example.

The traditional aristotelian/thomistic conception rejects the view that soul and body are two different substances. It defines the soul as the form of the living body (anima forma corporis). This concept has been defended by many (often catholic) philosophers throughout history, today especially by neoscholastics like Edward Feser. His books "Philosophy of Mind" or "Aquinas" may be of help to you, especially the chapters about hylemorphism. He also recently blogged about the topic of what a soul is here, here, here and here. Another resource that could be of interest to you is New Apologetics, a catholic apologetics organization. In response to someone named Brendan Quinn they wrote:

Quote:

You wrote: So the afterlife must be a myth since there are not yet any proven scientific theories about it?

We reply: The afterlife can be demonstrated with more certainty than any proposition of natural science. You would have to be willing to follow a complex proof in order to see how the conclusion is sure.

Best regards!

Tom

6 April, 2014 - 12:31
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Intelligent Introvert wrote:

This isn't exactly a fair debate and I've got tendinitis...

Be very careful with that... I had some hand pain a few years ago and didn't take care of it correctly, and now it appears to be a permanent problem. I would have been a musician (guitar/lute), but now I can't do that anymore.

At the moment I'm writing this with speech to text software called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which I recommend.

If the hand pain is an ongoing problem, send me a message and I might be able to offer some more tips and warnings. My situation happened partly because no one ever told me how dangerous it can be not to take care of it in the early stages... :/

10 April, 2014 - 17:36
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Will do Josh and thanks for the concern.

Tom: I have a lot of respect for Catholics and the Catholic church (Its full of intellectuals so I will be considering it.) Thanks for the starting resources. I will definitely look at those sites.

All readers: I will be updating my inferences, many of which were done on the fly while I was writing. New edits soon.

Bateman: I forgot to mention this earlier, but I would ask you to not talk about temple specific things here. As a faithful 16-year-old member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I try to avoid all knowledge of temple specific rituals/practices etc. Whenever I see the word temple on an anti-mormon website (they don't respect our beliefs concerning the matter) I immediately exit the browser and avoid all pages that are title with things that are indicative of the temple like "magic underwear." (See Magic Underwear explanation if you've payed attention to politics at all. There are many media misrepresentations of this.) Until I turn 18 and go to the temple for the first time (currently I only am able to do Baptisms for the Dead and Confirmations for the Dead) I will not know of those things and in those cases it is considered extremely disrespectful, irreverent, and sinful to discus those things out of the temple, because the temple is considered so sacred. I'm happy to say that I know nothing more than you can get from LDS.org on the matter and I hope it stays that way until I do go to the temple. At that time I will be able to complete my objective analysis (although there seems to be so much evidence that I doubt even something completely absurd in the temple could shake my beliefs.) Anyways I hope you will respect my beliefs on the matter and not discuss temple ordinances, rituals, etc. I would also hope that you avoid it the same way, but I cannot expect or coerce you to do this.Thanks.

Intelligent Introvert

11 April, 2014 - 12:15
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The only question that needs to be asked here in my not-so-humble, but always mnemonic opinion, is this:

If either party gains traction and is able to demonstrate that even an iota of a single claim is true ... what changes?

The answer, not shockingly, is very little.

Hitchens, we could argue, managed to interpret and change the world in measurable ways (forgive my pun on Marx that I'm sure Hitch would appreciate).

The people Hitch debated on the other hand ... not so much.

In sum, the decisive question is and likely shall always remain, if what one claims is true, what changes?

11 April, 2014 - 14:31
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Intelligent Introvert:
I most likely will not mention those things. It is pretty irrelevant to the arguments what the actual believers do(except in taking the moral argument).

I don't however like this :"in those cases it is considered extremely disrespectful, irreverent, and sinful to discus those things out of the temple, because the temple is considered so sacred." Reminds me too much of things like the Catholic priests raping little boys and girls, and the Catholic church protecting them, hiding them, moving them to other areas etc. I highly oppose the idea that anything is beyond scrutiny, that you shouldn't discuss something just because some people would consider it "offensive", "sinful", or "sacred". As I've said however, I won't discuss them because they are mostly irrelevant.

Also, my response coming soon.

Metivier: Just to clarify, the only party making claims is the theist party, they claim there is a god, they have to demonstrate their reasoning for it, and their evidence. Innocent of the truth until proven guilty in other words. Some definitions of atheism are inaccurate though. Mine is: "Lack of belief in a god."

What changes when one stops believing something of such scale? I would say quite a lot. Their entire worldview. Their morality, logic... They start living their life as if it's the only life they are going to have. Instead of focusing on pleasing some heavenly overlord, focusing on making sure they follow arbitrary rules to get into some special place, they start focusing on the problems in the real world. Instead of praying, they might actually do something to help. This depends on their level of belief of course.

Bateman

11 April, 2014 - 16:05
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K, Thanks

11 April, 2014 - 18:45
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Josh Cohen wrote:

Be very careful with that... I had some hand pain a few years ago and didn't take care of it correctly, and now it appears to be a permanent problem. I would have been a musician (guitar/lute), but now I can't do that anymore.

Ditto. Was a music major in college and my major instrument was piano. After one summer of over-practicing and not addressing the pain early on, I had to switch my major instrument to voice instead. Still can't play piano for more than a few minutes without sad results. Seems to be permanent.

And believe it or not, doctors have no clue how to deal with tendonitis. It's incredible but true. Don't ignore the pain. Get it taken care of.

12 April, 2014 - 02:56
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Intelligent Introvert wrote:

This isn't exactly a fair debate and I've got tendinitis...

Best investment I ever made for typing (of which I do a daily metric ton):

http://safetype.com

Plus, it looks pretty badass when you're clattering away with the thing on your lap.

Bateman wrote:

Metivier: Just to clarify, the only party making claims is the theist party, they claim there is a god, they have to demonstrate their reasoning for it, and their evidence.

It is good to point this out, and I take full responsibility if my grounding in the non-claim department wasn't entirely clear.

Bateman wrote:

Some definitions of atheism are inaccurate though. Mine is: "Lack of belief in a god."

I've always rather liked a quip that Sam Harris gave during a talk I heard on NPR while driving cross-country once upon a time. Something like: Is the "atheism" label really necessary? Who could call themselves a "nonstrologist" in order to add debunking power to their position against the obvious lack of validity behind astrology?

Bateman wrote:

What changes when one stops believing something of such scale? I would say quite a lot. Their entire worldview. Their morality, logic... They start living their life as if it's the only life they are going to have. Instead of focusing on pleasing some heavenly overlord, focusing on making sure they follow arbitrary rules to get into some special place, they start focusing on the problems in the real world. Instead of praying, they might actually do something to help. This depends on their level of belief of course.

Agreed to a certain extent, but I do not think that shedding belief automatically leads to one instantly experiencing these pleasures or somehow becoming an activist. First off, although "believers" may say that they follow the rules (which are often not actually arbitrary but deeply grounded in falsely rationalized positions that can be made to make sense through group hypnosis), the extent to which they actually follow those rules is suspect.

From a Nietzschean perspective (taking caution to avoid labeling myself Nietzschean or even committing to what I'm about to point), we will always be guided by a myth of one sort or another. The question is simply, how potent, how moral, how ethical is that myth?

Myths, incidentally, needn't be fantasy. There are the guiding myths of mnemonics, for example, in which it is completely irrelevant whether or not Simonides survived the collapse of a building. What matters is that the story is memorable because it incorporates a location, action and implicit violence. In other words, the myth of Simonides contains all of the essential elements of mnemonics.

Do you need it to be good at mnemonics? Of course not, but it's there.

Same goes for the world memory championships, the things that Foer does in M with E. He even goes so far as to great a legendary, mythical, mastermind criminal in the form of Daniel Tammet.

In fact, in terms of how the book is structured, there's a classic, albeit subtle, psychomachia, which is to say a battle of the soul, where Buzan stands on one shoulder, Tammet on the other. Foer no doubt has no idea he's got this mythical structure in the book, but it should be as clear as daylight to any narratologist and undoubtedly explains at least some of the huge success of the book.

Then there's the "straw man" of mnemonics, Kevin Trudeau. My opinion is that Mega Memory is well-worth going through, but the more important thing to notice is how people scapegoat him and claim that his memory training is no good because he has legal issues and is involved in quackery on other fronts. His status as criminal may be valid, but his position as villain fulfills a deep cultural need for such characters in the larger palette of the mnemonic myth. It's a shame that it's used to draw attention away from a perfectly useful memory training.

All of which leads back to the question of an immaterial soul.

Of course there are immaterial things in the form of concepts and ideas. These guide and shape our behaviors in positive and negative ways.

If it is true that we will always have myths (and I think that must be true as long as humans exist), then it behooves us to choose the best possible myths.

So far, I reckon that the myth of mnemonics is pretty dang cool, especially since, unlike so many others, it enables you to do cool stuff. Why walk on water when you can memorize the name of every sea, not to mention a handful of digits smaller than a grain of sand?

Perhaps an unusual figure to choose given the topic, the references to Pascal and the like, but why not end with a little Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

...

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the World we safely go.

12 April, 2014 - 05:12
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I would also like to point out that Mormon's and other Christians are extremely active in humanitarian work. Despite our time praying (which isn't that much time at all) devout Christians and Mormons often give out far larger percentages of their pay to charity than average. Also the activism is witnessed in the countless humanitarian efforts that have shaped countless lives. Mormons were the first group to get food to post-World War II Europe in order to help feed all people there, not just the members. After hurricane Katrina, we were there; in fact, members from the surrounding states dropped what they were doing and came to help those in Louisiana. In my ward there is generally one or two service projects a month, whether doing service non-members or members and there is almost always a turn-out enough to get the work done. So I don't think its fair to say that going to Atheism makes one more charitable or active in the community. I've always thought that it was the other way around personally, but perhaps its more equal than that.

Bateman: If you do end up posting about the temple could you post it in a new topic and link it? Or say "temple" press enter a few times to give me warning?

12 April, 2014 - 07:51
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Intelligent Introvert wrote:

I would also like to point out that Mormon's and other Christians are extremely active in humanitarian work.

So I don't think its fair to say that going to Atheism makes one more charitable or active in the community.

Bateman: If you do end up posting about the temple could you post it in a new topic and link it? Or say "temple" press enter a few times to give me warning?

I agree with you on those two sentences. There is quite a lot of things going into charity, it's hard to say who gives how much, whether you count giving to the church as charity for example. They (mostly thinking of the catholic church) do seem to misuse a lot of the money in my opinion though. Building giant monuments, handing out bibles, telling people in Africa that condoms are worse than AIDS... Sorry if that does not apply to Mormon's, I'm finding it difficult to find information about them.

I'll try not to end up posting about the temple. I was just pointing out that I dislike the idea that something can be so "sacred" that it cannot be discussed. Plus, there can only be one line of space between text, that was changed a couple months ago.

metivier wrote:

I've always rather liked a quip that Sam Harris gave during a talk I heard on NPR while driving cross-country once upon a time. Something like: Is the "atheism" label really necessary? Who could call themselves a "nonstrologist" in order to add debunking power to their position against the obvious lack of validity behind astrology?

I agree with him there. Do you call yourself a-unicornist if you don't believe in unicorns? It is the default position, the null hypothesis, you don't have to prove anything. But it serves the purpose of clearly identifying us.

Bateman

12 April, 2014 - 13:27
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Bateman wrote:

Plus, there can only be one line of space between text, that was changed a couple months ago.

Did I do that? I can't er... remember changing anything, unless it was due to a new plug-in that I added like a spam filter.

12 April, 2014 - 20:34
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Oh, also. I forgot to explain my exact logic.

According to existing evidence (at least as far as I have determined) Joseph Smith cannot have written the Book of Mormon. The next most reasonable conclusion would be that he stumbled upon it (improbable) then translated it without God's help (improbable since he was no scholar and wouldn't have been able to read those languages, let alone translate them) all the while not selling the plates (improbable since he was dirt poor.) All in a short, about a decade long amount of time (improbable.) Or that he found two scholars, Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery and used them to translate it (improbable since there is no evidence that they had had any opportunities to learn to read/write in these languages or get educated in that area or that they spent any time doing so. (At least as far as I've been able to determine.) So therefore, since those are the only conceivable options for how this occurred besides divine intervention (improbable, but in my estimation more probable) there is a high probability that Mormonism is true; therefore, I will take the wager. Also if Joseph Smith was telling the absolute truth about the translations and his visitations then it is highly likely that he told the truth about other things as well. Also it really isn't a bad wager even if i'm wrong. I'm far happier than I was when I was an unbeliever (for most of my life I've had no actual faith or belief) and it feels easier to control impulses and work through tedious schoolwork. I've even felt smarter since I've gained my faith. Perhaps I'm wrong, but anyways that's my logic chain.

Edit: God isn't shown to be likely to exist from my logic here. I'm merely proving that there is a supernatural explanation with these evidences. I have other reasons for believing that it is in fact God (which I define as a perfect alien, an alien being an imperfect alien. God created the earth; therefore, he is not of the earth; therefore, he is an alien.)

Hope I haven't offended anyone :|

12 April, 2014 - 20:47
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Your summation is essentially correct. I view it as more probable that divine help was involved than the natural order simply because of the impossibility of man doing it. (Edit: that supernatural help was involved than the natural order.)

Correction: The language that would have been translated was a compound of Hebrew and Egyptian. It was Hebrew written on Egyptian script. This could have been an entirely new form invented after Lehi left Jerusalem in order to make the plates more compact. This would have made it much harder for Joseph to translate them. (Edit: I'll update this argument after we get to the point where it is more relevant. There are some logical fallacies in this one posted.)

Looked up the red wine thing and actually you are correct (although it is probably far more healthy to drink grape juice and do some meditation, which would be the Mormon alternative.) From what I read its not the alcohol itself that's healthy (except for the relaxation benefits, which can come other ways.)

This isn't exactly a fair debate and I've got tendinitis, so do you want to take a 2-day break? That'll give you time to do more research and I can heal up. We could even make the debate break longer if you want, like 3, 4, 5, 6, or even 7 days long. Let me know.

13 April, 2014 - 07:51
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Some interesting articles

On Pre-mortal existence (A primary tenet of Mormon Beliefs.)
- This is evidence because the possibility of remembering, not assuming because of attitude, has been discounted.
Quantum Vibrations in the Brain
Benefits of Being Christian
Benefits of Being Christian 1
Benefits of not watching rated R movies. It is against Mormon beliefs to do so (and only Mormon beliefs from what I've heard.).
Intellectual Benefits of Church
Religion helps workers cope with stress

Pascal's Wager
- Evidence that it is worth trying out

Counter Objection for Objection 1: Other rational evidence shows that the Mormon church is most likely the true one.
Counter Objection for Objection 2: Not true, even if there was no evidence, there would be a 50/50 probability since God can be placed before every equation and not discounted through science. Science's methods don't allow complete knowledge of the truth of God, it just helps establish probabilities.
Counter Objection for Objection 3: There will always be a degree of uncertainty in faith. That is why it is called faith, at least until absolute knowledge is gained through revelation(perhaps that will never be gained in this life.) The process goes Hope -- Faith -- Knowledge. If you gain Pascal's hope, but retain your rationality, then you will analyze the evidence for and against, because you will have the motivation to do so because of your hope. This will then lead you to realize that their is a high probability as I have after examining the evidence. Final proof will come when you receive revelation that cannot be explained by coincidences. Then you will begin to trust the emotions (the spirit) you feel as you do the right things and listen to it confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and related things.

If you try to believe but simply cannot, then God will not punish you for it according to Mormon beliefs. Effort is the ultimate determining factor in your salvation.

On the Holy Ghost or ESP (They are different names for the same thing)
On ESP
- No real proof against or for. You'll have to have your own experiences. They will happen.

Rapid Evolution of Human Brain due to Snakes
- On the validity of evolution and how the Bible actually tells the evolutionary story without creationists or many scientists realizing it. (I am not a creationist at all.) Moses just had to explain it very figuratively, otherwise he would have been considered a loon by his people.

More about Creation

Human Family Tree mapping
I think it talks about Scientific Adam and Scientific Eve in this article, but maybe it doesn't. Scientific Adam and Eve were in the video form of the article.

More from National Geographic

Moses parting the red sea plausibility
Interesting article about Noah's ark, although not very conclusive or convincing.
Moses parting the Red sea plausibility

Book of Mormon Plausibility Confirmed
- On the plausibility of the Book of Mormon

When reading Genesis remember that create gives the implication that God used magic. Technically we "create" iPhones. It doesn't say how in the creation story, it just says that it did. The implication could come from translations of the bible between languages or from originals by translators that didn't quite understand the subtle implications of the languages they were translating from. There's also the possibility of catholic church corruption. People also spoke differently throughout the periods where the bible was being written in.

Some interesting books

Mormon Codex
- An analysis of the geography in the Book of Mormon compared to actual Mesoamerican geography.

Some of these are a little outdated, but still worth reading...
Great Hugh Nibley Book

Old Testament and the Book of Mormon
This author is really good

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon
+The rest of the 7 volumes.

Essays on Belief

Voices from the Dust

Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon

Interesting Periodicals and Article Source:
Maxwell Institute
LDS.org
Mormon Voices

Always look at the other side too. Some good Anti-Mormon think tanks are.

Mormon Think, My Favorite Anti-Mormon Think tank
- They claim to be objective, but they really aren't. They don't have enough counter arguments and objections to be objective and they always conclude against the Mormon church even though not all evidence has been presented.
Ex Mormon.org
Divorce Rates Higher among Evangelicals
Christians not loving of everyone
Minority groups don't feel as comfortable in religious congregations
Hypnosis and God Gene in Religion
Anti-Mormon book and author

Anyways, I'm getting sooo tired of typing. So i'll conclude.

I don't think you'll have trouble finding many more anti-mormon websites or books. There are far more of them than pro-mormon websites. (Edit: There is far more anti-mormon sentiment on the web, not official think tanks or books.) Just be sure to fact check both. I think you'll know most the objections to religion (not Mormonism thought. Much like with Islam there are so many myths about us Mormons that it still amazes me after years of being a Mormon and having to clear them up.) Some of the Mormon think tanks will (Exmormon.org is really bad sometimes) will make false doctrinal claims. Be sure to check if we actually believe what they are saying we believe before you drop your search. Be sure to fact check the Mormon books and articles too. I'd recommend examining all religions and all evidence against and for while coming up with your own counter-objections and objections. Someday, if you are objective, I think you'll probably come to the same conclusions I have. You'll just have to real a lot, and I mean a lot.

Good luck, and if you have any questions, PM me or reply.

13 April, 2014 - 17:35
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5. True, that does seem unlikely though, to me at least.
6. As far as Free Will goes, that has been hard for me to understand as well. If it has laws, then it is governed, and if it is governed by laws it is predictable. There could be several explanations to the existence of Free Will.
a. Free will doesn't exist
b. God lied to us over the existence of free will because it makes for better societies. So then it would be a worthy lie.
c. It is incomprehensible to the mind, a little bit like Quantum Mechanics, although I its possible to understand Quantum Mechanics (from what I've heard.)
d. God doesn't even understand it. Basically God lives in a state of Maximum knowledge, not perfect knowledge and he has birthed a stone too big to lift or comprehend even for him and he is a stone too big to lift or comprehend. Perfect is a very vague term.
e. I'm sure there are other viewpoints on the subject.
-
Yeah, sorry I'll be more clear about the evidences.

a. Poetic Parallelisms: Basically complex rhetorical techniques are used in the Book of Mormon. This basically adds another layer of skill and information required to write it. Here' s a link to the PDF. I had no idea they had this online! It would have saved me a lot of money. Poetic Parallelisms
b. Agreed, but in order for Joseph Smith to have written the book he would have had to have either gone to all those places (he didn't) or one of his two co-conspirators would have had to have gone there (they didn't from what I can tell from my research.) or they would have had to have read a long book on the Geography of Israel and the Americas (I say a long book because many of these places are very remote. It just adds complexity to the story and makes it less probable that he did write it. They may not have even had access to a book like that at the time. Remember, this is the early 1800s. There is no internet, kindle, and not even very many libraries, not to mention libraries with random things like a book on Palestinian geography.

Edit: I recently read that there are pieces of the Geographical puzzle that would have been impossible for Joseph to know. I'm not sure if this is true and will work on confirming this. The "Place called Nahom" (NHM) is the primary part of this belief. Apparently it wasn't on any maps during Joseph's day? Idk I'll have to confirm.

c. What I mean by that is that there's a very interesting depth to the history and cultural attributes of Jerusalem as described in the Book of Mormon at the time that Lehi was leaving it (The First chapter of the Book of Mormon is when Lehi left Jerusalem) and good correlations between Book of Mormon civilizations and Meso-american civilizations (most of these are found later as culture evolved and became more like what it is today.) For example. The Book of Mormon begins with I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents etc. The first two books are in autobiographical form as were just about all of the books of the period making it consistent with other literary texts. The Greek poet Sappho for example had all her poems in autobiographical form. Just more things that Joseph and his Co-conspirators would have had to have known. There are hundreds more things like this in the Book.
d. As far as writing style analysis evidences. The anti-Mormon genre continues to claim that those three men (Joseph, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris) wrote the book of Mormon. After using FBI software to analyze the writing styles there's good evidence that there many writers in the Book of Mormon, which indicates that it was a translated record not a written story since there is no evidence that there were more than three or four people (Perhaps his Wife?) involved in the process.

Edit: Add Sidney Rigdon to the mix as well. The anti-mormon Spalding theory suggests his involvement, although from what I've read most anti-mormon's have dumped that theory down the drain due to its in-feasibility.

e. If Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon he would have had to have had a vast knowledge of Hebraisms, because there are so many and southern hicks (Edit: Not really southern, but definitely a rural hick) didn't really speak with them. One example of a Hebraism in the Book of Mormon is when Lehi (or was it Nephi? I'm pretty sure it was Lehi) said "I dreamed a dream." That's not proper English at all, but rather a Hebraism. Some of these might be fine to explain with coincidence if Joseph Smith had written the Book of Mormon, but there are so many.

It appears from your questions that you aren't very well versed in Mormon theology and anti-mormon ideas. That's ok, I wouldn't be either probably if I hadn't been born in the Church. We're a very small religious group and everybody can only know so much. I'll summarize the anti-mormon and Mormon views.

Mormons believe that when he was 14, Joseph Smith was reading James 1:5 in the Bible, where it says "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, for he giveth liberally to all men... etc." So Joseph went out into the forest and prayed. He was visited by God the father and his son Jesus Christ, two separate entities according to his vision. He asked which of the Churches were true (this was during the Second Great Awakening and religion was on almost everyone's mind.) God told him that none were and that he needed to bring to back the original true church. After three years (I think it was three years) he was told by an angel to go and get the Brass plates from the Hill Cumorah, which is in Pennsylvania, or New York (can't remember which.) He went and got them and with them found the Urim and Thumum, which were seer stones that he used to translate it (Edit: Or seer spectacles, there's quite a controversy over it all.) In 1829 or 1830 (pretty sure it was 1829) the Book of Mormon was published. Through this he had scribes (because he was an uneducated southern hick, (at the time he was in the south, not its the north.) These scribes were Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery.

Anti-Mormons (Anti-Mormon think tank believers and followers) believe that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon with Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris and that he did not see angels or God.

To give credit to their view, the length of the Book of Mormon and it's complexity at first glance aren't that impressive. Mark Twain noted this after reading it. It might take a year or two for an accomplished novelist to write such a thing at a full time pace. The problem with this view, in my opinion, is the layered information. If you look at the Book of Mormon from an anthropological and archaeological perspective, it is shown to be amazingly complex and even twenty years would seem to be too short to write it by an educated genius, even at a full time pace (None of them had a full time pace. Joseph worked on the farm and Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris at other jobs.) Also, Smith may have been genius (I don't know) but he was not educated (Edit: At least well educated. There is some debate over his level of education.) although Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris were both educated. It seems like it would be hard to gather three geniuses in the same place. Basically, my view is that it would have been impossible to write the Book of Mormon in the given time frame,

Anyways, I understand that you're probably not well versed on these issues, so if its hard for you to counter them, then anyone reading this should note that that doesn't mean Bateman is wrong. I'd encourage everyone to do a lot of research and then come to their own academic conclusions. I'm still haven't concluded my search yet, I have a lot more to do. Oh, and if there are any Anti-Mormon think-tank followers on here, I hope I didn't misrepresent you.You can go ahead and yell at me if I did :|

Be sure to tell me if I ever start displaying a lack of civility too. This is a really interesting discussion!

13 April, 2014 - 17:36
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1. Mormonism is LDS except for a very, very small group that followed Joseph Smith's son. There was a small schism, but almost all Mormons are LDS. I'm not even sure if the Mormon's that aren't LDS even believe in the Book of Mormon anymore.
2. The wife I am referring to was Emma Smith. She would have been the only one possible at the time, because I'm pretty sure he didn't have any other wives from before the publishing.
3. Not sure about the plates dissapearing. I've never heard that before, but i'm no Mormon Theology Professor so it might be claimed that that occurred.
4. There are actually several things that essentially predict the future.

a. The Dead Sea scrolls bear remarkable resemblance to the Book of Mormon in doctrine. After the Babylonian invasion, in 605 BC many Jews fled Jerusalem to other lands. Some establishing desert communities. Many dwelt in caves in the mountains, some dying from starvation. Huge numbers of ancient Jewish texts were then left in the caves, which were then buried under and lost. From what I've read it seems that for a long time most of the Hebrew scriptures became oral and a lot of it was lost. In the 1950s some of these began to be discovered. They talked about things that only the Mormon religion talks about (eternal progression, eternal families. etc.) These are the Dead Sea Scrolls and they were discovered over 100 years after Smith's "writing of the book of Mormon." They are remarkably consistent with Mormon doctrine. This is just one of the many proofs that he did in fact translate the Book of Mormon. The question is whether he had divine help doing it.
b. The no drugs, smoking, alcohol commandment (Word of Wisdom) could also be seen as a prophecy, although not convincingly so if you're a non-believer. Back in Joseph's time they thought that a little bit, (some people even thought a lot) was good for you. We now know this is completely false scientifically.

Edit: I'm compiling a more complete list of prophetic instances. So far I think I'm up to 15. I definitely will post it when I'm finished.
c. Another thing is why would they have taken so much time to layer in these complex evidences? People believe and have believed far more illogical things. If he wanted a following he didn't have to do that to get it. Some people still believe that the flood mentioned in Noah covered the entire earth (which I view as completely ridiculous.) The fact that there is evidence is evidence in itself.

It would be interesting to do a mathematical study and try to determine whether Joseph, Oliver, Martin, and his wife could have together in the maximum time that they could have had learn, plan, and write a work like the Book of Mormon. It seems not just improbable to me, but rather impossible due to the nature of time. Then add in the fact that he would have had to have known about a text that wasn't discovered until about 100 years later. From what we know all the places that have been discovered with the scrolls have been sealed for 1000s of years. (At least I haven't run into any incidents of opened seals upon discovery while reading.) Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon.

More evidence that he didn't have time to translate on his own without divine help, here's some. I listed a lot in the preceding post though.

a. The language of the Book of Mormon exhibits features typical of a translation from an ancient Near Eastern text as well as the stamp of nineteenth-century English and the style of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. That the language of the Book of Mormon should resemble that of the KJV seems only natural, since in the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the KJV was the most widely read book in America and formed the standard of religious language for most English-speaking people (see CWHN 8:212-18). Furthermore, the Book of Mormon shares certain affinities with the KJV: both include works of ancient prophets of Israel as well as accounts of part of the ministry of Jesus Christ, both are translations into English, and both are to become "one" in God's hand as collections of his word to his children (Ezek. 37:16-17; 1 Ne. 13:41; D&C 42:12).

LANGUAGES USED BY THE NEPHITES. Statements in the Book of Mormon have spawned differing views about the language in which the book was originally written. In approximately 600 B.C., Nephi1-the first Book of Mormon author and one who had spent his youth in Jerusalem-wrote, "I make a record [the small plates of Nephi] in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Ne. 1:2). One thousand years later, Moroni 2, the last Nephite prophet, noted concerning the plates of Mormon that "we have written this record…in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates [metal leaves] had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also…. But the Lord knoweth…that none other people knoweth our language" (Morm. 9:32-34). In light of these two passages, it is evident that Nephite record keepers knew Hebrew and something of Egyptian. It is unknown whether Nephi, Mormon, or Moroni wrote Hebrew in modified Egyptian characters or inscribed their plates in both the Egyptian language and Egyptian characters or whether Nephi wrote in one language and Mormon and Moroni, who lived some nine hundred years later, in another. The mention of "characters" called "reformed Egyptian" tends to support the hypothesis of Hebrew in Egyptian script. Although Nephi's observation (1 Ne. 1:2) is troublesome for that view, the statement is ambiguous and inconclusive for both views.

Nephite authors seem to have patterned their writing after the plates of brass, a record containing biblical texts composed before 600 B.C. that was in the possession of descendants of Joseph of Egypt (1 Ne. 5:11-16). At least portions of this record were written in Egyptian, since knowledge of "the language of the Egyptians" enabled Lehi, father of Nephi, to "read these engravings" (Mosiah 1:2-4). But whether it was the Egyptian language or Hebrew written in Egyptian script is again not clear. Egyptian was widely used in Lehi's day, but because poetic writing are skewed in translation, because prophetic writings were generally esteemed as sacred, and because Hebrew was the language of the Israelites in the seventh century B.C., it would have been unusual for the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah-substantially preserved on the brass plates (1 Ne. 5:13;19:23)-to have been translated from Hebrew into a foreign tongue at this early date. Thus, Hebrew portions written in Hebrew script, Egyptian portions in Egyptian script, and Hebrew portions in Egyptian script are all possibilities. If the brass plates came into being while the Israelites were still in Egypt, then earlier portions (e.g., words of Jeremiah) in Hebrew.

Concerning Book of Mormon composition, Mormon 9:33indicates that limited space on the Gold Plates dictated using Egyptian characters rather than Hebrew. In Lehi's day, both Hebrew and Egyptian were written with consonants only. Unlike Hebrew, Egyptian had bi-consonantal and even triconsonantal signs. Employing such characters-particularly in modified form-would save space.

Written characters were handed down and altered according to Nephite speech (Morm. 9:32). This observation suggests that at least later generations of Nephites used Egyptian characters to write their contemporary spoken language, an altered form of Hebrew. It is extremely unlikely that a people isolated from simultaneous contact with the two languages could have maintained a conversational distinction between, and fluency in the two languages over a thousand-year period. Thus, if Egyptian characters were altered as the living language changed, then the Nephites were probably using such characters to write their spoken language, which was largely Hebrew.

Though some of Lehi's group that left Jerusalem may have spoken Egyptian, a reading knowledge of the script on the brass plates would have allowed them to "read these engravings" (Mosiah 1:4). But the possibility that Lehi's colony could maintain spoken Egyptian as a second language through a thousand years without merging it with Hebrew or losing it is beyond probability. Therefore, the fact that the Nephites had "altered" the Egyptian characters according to their "manner of speech" underscores the probability that they were writing Hebrew with Egyptian characters. In addition, Moroni's language (c. A.D. 400) was probably different enough from that of Lehi (c. 600 B.C.) that reading Lehi's language may have required as much study in Moroni's day as Old English requires of modern English-speaking people.

This is from Mormon Language

So, if much of the Book of Mormon was written in an Egyptian script, and if Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon without divine help, then that presents a paradox. The first full translation of the Egyptian script was published in 1822 by Jean-François Champollion, spawned by the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Article on Egyptian Translation History.
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830. That would have given Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Emma, and Martin Harris 8 years to:
1. Get the book of translations (In their completely different individual fields it seems unlikely that they would have heard about it, especially immediately.) Shipping time was much greater back then also and it would have been coming from Egypt -- Europe -- America. (Edit: From Europe -- America. He published it in Europe, not Egypt.) That's a long, long time back then. At least a year long.
2. Account for the variations that came as the spoken language changed over time in the Book of Mormon.
3. Translate the Book
4. Learn Hebrew if they didn't already know it. (It is unlikely that they did.)
Edit: (It could have been in a different language, but that would likely have made it harder to translate, because it would have probably been in some less well known, obscure, untranslated native american script. Perhaps it could have been in an easier script however.)
5. Find the book in the first place, which is unlikely.
6. Then also, they'd have to have the willpower to not blurt out that they hadn't actually done it through revelation as they were in prison until they told the "truth." (They were later killed, still without having denied it, after multiple imprisonments.) They must have really believed that they had had divine help in translation.
7. Joseph Smith was also not well educated to begin with, and I'm pretty sure Emma was uneducated as well.
8. He was also dirt poor (if you had an ancient record and you wanted to be sure you had food for the rest of your life what would you do?
9. He didn't meet Martin Harris until 1827 or 1828 (I think it was 1828.) There is no evidence they had come in contact before. Edit: (Perhaps it was Oliver Cowdery, one of the two)
10. Martin Harris would either have had to have known everything to be able to help translate to begin with (unlikely in his profession) thus reducing the number of people who could have helped. Or he could have just helped with the business side of things (also reducing the number of people who could have helped.)
11. Joseph lost contact with Oliver Cowdery for a long period of time also reducing the help that he would have gotten. (Edit: This also happened with Martin Harris)
12. Most everyone in the places he went to had either a rivalry with or hated him so it would have been hard to find help elsewhere and it would have merely proved to those around him that he was a fraud if word began to spread. Everybody he asked for help was another person that could betray him and how would he have known who to ask?
13. He would have had to train them with using the changes in the language and language.
14. What would their motivation be to do so anyways? They weren't going to make money off of it. The Church was dirt poor until Nauvoo and they were forced to leave that. The Book of Mormon wasn't a bestseller or anything. They had to pay to get it published. (Edit: #14 is not a totally substantiated argument. They tried to publish it to make some money and get the Church out of financial problems. They still would have been very poor though.)
Conclusion: He had almost no time, no abilities, and no temporal help, so he must have had divine help. (Edit: He must have had supernatural help.)

b. Also another interesting thing (this is my most minor evidence yet) is Martin Harris's story about the Egyptian Papyri Joseph Smith translated.

In Isiah 29:11-14 It says

11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

13 ¶Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

Essentially Martin Harris went with some of the characters and translations to a professor of Egyptology (I think its Egyptology), although the story the two told are different. (Martin Harris accused the professor of ripping up a certificate of authenticity.The professor said that he never did such a thing a thought it was a fraud from the beginning.) He fulfilled this prophecy in Isiah. This is not a great evidence in itself. Martin Harris was educated and would have known the Bible front and back probably. Its just another time constraint and clever fulfillment that would have taken more time and brains then they had.

Its ok that you aren't well versed in this subject. Considering that you aren't, I find it amazing that your counters are as good as they are. I'll be very interested to hear your opinions after you get more knowledgeable on the subject.

17 April, 2014 - 15:57
tom
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metivier wrote:

In sum, the decisive question is and likely shall always remain, if what one claims is true, what changes?

If you found out that God exists and that he was infinitely good (by your own highest standards of justice) and that you had the possibility to be together with him and anyone you loved in a state of eternal happiness, that wouldn't change anything for you? The hope that all the evil, all the suffering in this world did not have the last word, you wouldn't care about that?

Bateman wrote:

What changes when one stops believing something of such scale? I would say quite a lot. Their entire worldview. Their morality, logic... They start living their life as if it's the only life they are going to have. Instead of focusing on pleasing some heavenly overlord, focusing on making sure they follow arbitrary rules to get into some special place, they start focusing on the problems in the real world. Instead of praying, they might actually do something to help. This depends on their level of belief of course.

If I understand you correctly you are saying the following three things:

1. Religious people are rather focused on their own belief instead of fixing the problems in this world. According to these numbers (point 8.) the catholic church is the largest charitable organization in the world. Now add all the other religious charities and you'll see: Religious people are very engaged in helping others.

2. Atheism leads to moral behaviour. While I salute your humanism, it seems to me that atheism does not by logical necessity lead to such a stance:
a) If this is the only life we have, why help (or even risk your life for) those from whom you cannot gain anything when ultimately everything ends in death?
b) If you'd like to respond "Because it's the right thing to do!", consider that many philosophers (theistic as well as atheistic) come to the conclusion that there is no basis for objective moral values in atheism, meaning that there is no such thing as the (objectively) right thing in this view. I don't know if you are familiar with the debate but as an atheist it's problematic to just suggest that there are objective moral values. [Notice that I'm not saying that atheists cannot behave morally. I know they can and I know lots of them do. I'm just saying that in this view right and wrong are human fictions and nothing more.]
c) The biggest mass murders of the 20th century were caused by atheistic regimes (Mao, Stalin) or other regimes that at least actively fought christianity (Hitler).

3. The only motive of religious people for doing anything is to please their "heavenly overlord" in order to get into heaven. I agree with you that if you only do good in order to get into heaven, then that's a shitty motive. Allthough I can't prove it I'm positively sure, though, that this is not the prevalent motive of most theists. Many of us help because it's the right and good thing to do. I guess the only difference between theists and atheists in this regard is that theists hope that the good they do ultimately isn't in vain but will be completed and perfected by God.
Regarding the relationship between God and humans: In catholic teaching it's actually the other way around: The reason God created man was to communicate his love, so it's him pleasing us in the first place. There are lots of follow-up questions to this: How come then that there is so much evil in this world? What about hell if God only wants our best? There are a many popular misconceptions surrounding these questions. A good place to look for answers would be New Apologetics, the catholic apologetics organization I mentioned earlier. I bet you'd be surprised by many of their views. For example: They actually identify as Christopher Hitchens-Fans: http://newapologetics.com/patrick-reviews-new-apologetics-new-apologetic...

Best regards

tom

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