William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alma, Korrihor, and objective evidence for God's existence

One person asked:

"'But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.' Is this really a sound argument? Should Korihor be persuaded by this argument? Would any atheist be persuaded by this argument?"

To which I responded:
These arguments are not scientific arguments, and are virtually certain to fall on deaf ears of anyone looking for objective proof of God's existence. However, I have always liked the reference to the observable universe as being a witness that there is a Supreme Creator, because I believe that this highlights one of the important characteristics of religious faith- willingness to believe in something colors our perception of the objective evidence. When viewed through the lens of faith, the universe does witness God's existence. Who has ever stared at the heavens and not contemplated its infinite vastness, complexity, and beauty? Who can do so and not feel a connection to something greater and more eternal than ourselves? I believe there is divinity in each one of us, which prompts us and enables us to have faith and perceive more than what our physical senses are capable of sensing. But for various reasons, these spiritual tendencies in each of us are overpowered by other powerful factors, not all of which are bad per se, such as skepticism, discouragement, grief, fear, stubbornness, ignorance, prejudices, mistrust, etc. Can I blame an atheist for refusing to believe in God? Only to the extent that he betrays his spirit telling him to give faith a chance. But I am incapable of judging the extent to which this occurs in the case of each individual atheist, and so I believe I should refrain from passing judgment on individuals.
The question was put: "I am not really sure about this but in order for a man to make it to the highest degree in the celestial kingdom does he have to be practicing polygamy there?"

To which I responded:

In my opnion, the short answer is, "Of course not!"

But the more important question, in my opinion, is not whether God does or does not require it, but rather why he would or wouldn't. I do not believe that God generally commands anyone to marry anyone else. I believe he leaves it up to us to decide. By the same token, I believe God neither commands polygyny, nor does he prohibit it among fully consenting adults. The decision of whom to marry is highly personal and intimate, and in this matter, God can give us a certain amount of inspiration to sense the degree of compatability of a prospective mate, but he does not generally tell us we must or must not marry that person.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On LDS Church history and its relationship to faith in Christ

The question was put to me: "One thing I hear constantly is that LDS don't teach church history in SS because the members are there to draw closer to Christ and that doesn't draw them closer. Fair enough. But, do you believe that the history would move most members further from Christ?"

I answered:

To the extent that one's faith is based upon false assurances rooted in misleading or incomplete historical fact, it rests on a very shaky foundation. An ignorant person might feel a stronger conviction about Christ and their own religious belief, but any conviction unaccompanied by honest inquiry and a willingness to hear all of the evidence and arguments in opposition to that conviction, is of little worth. The proper initial inquiry, in my opinion, is NOT whether awareness of various evidence would move us closer to or further away from Christ, but rather, whether our beliefs are reasonably consistent with the evidence and arguments available to us. The minute we decide to limit our inquiry into the truth to the consideration of evidence and arguments which affirm our existing beliefs, we have stopped being honest with ourselves.

All of that said, there is a place for exercising faith, and we cannot demand or expect that the truth will always be apparent through empirical or objective evidence. And my personal belief is that, as we honestly seek after the truth, we are much more likely to develop a mature faith in Christ and the example of love he set for us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Introduction to this blog and purpose

The purpose of this blog is for me to express my thoughts on philosophy, politics, and religion in a non-threatening setting without fearing the consequences which would likely result if I were to openly discuss my views in my private social circles.

I do not purport to have the right answer to every question. But I do claim the privilege of stating my opinions and conclusions based on the evidences and experiences I have had in my own life. One of the great life lessons I have learned can be summed up by a a bit of wisdom from the philosopher William James:

We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.