Deconstructing Mormonism  : RfM
A discussion of Tom Riskas' book "Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith." 
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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: June 13, 2013 03:36PM

To kick things off, I offer below for your thoughtful consideration and engagement a "perspective" piece I just wrote that isolates what I consider to be the primary justification for the use of the "strong version" of (a priori) Atheism I advocate and employ in my book, as set forth in the FP and Chs. 1 and 2.

Here it is, inclusive of notes:

(Title) "On the 'Wondrous Spiritual Blessings' of ‘True’ Religious Belief."

As a testament of their faith in ‘God’, as well as justification for it (and for sharing it with others), “True” believers in ‘God’ (in this case TBMs) claim to enjoy an array of “wondrous, spiritual blessings”. These “wondrous spiritual blessings” allegedly include a profound feeling “spiritual confirmation” of the ‘Truthfulness’ of the ‘Gospel’ and of their ‘God’s’ existence, as well as perhaps the felt experience of personal transformation, or “spiritual re-birth”. Relatedly, or alternatively, such “blessings” also allegedly include a felt sense of supernal happiness, joy, love, purpose, meaning, belonging, security, hope and peace – particularly when they are in worshipful communion with their ‘God’, or ponder in wonder and awe the glorious Truths of his “Gospel”.

But what is such “faith” that accounts for the receipt and enjoyment of such “wondrous spiritual blessings”? And what exactly is the object of such “faith”?

Herein lays the problem.

If the object of such faith is conceived of as an eternal, exalted supernatural being (more specifically, the “Heavenly Father” or “Savior”) in the shape of a man who is sufficiently knowledgeable and powerful to ensure the salvation, deliverance and eternal life of man, then such “faith in ‘God’” would merely be:

“…the [desired, yearned for blessings] hoped for, and the [imagined, contrived] evidence of [‘God’s presence and workings] not seen [, or not even possibly confirmable, disconfirmable or falsifiable as conceived and believed]” (Hebrews 11:1, bracketed interpolations mine)*

This characterization of “faith” brings us, or so it seems, to the conclusion that believers have said nothing of any substance or import at all when they speak of the alleged personal benefits of their belief and faith in gods. For if their felt and believed “wondrous spiritual blessings” from ‘God’ are gone when the truth about the nature and source of such “blessings” is known**, then there never were any such “wondrous spiritual blessings” from ‘God’ to begin with.***

Instead, such alleged “blessings” from ‘God’ would be – beyond the natural human emotions or other sensations experienced through interaction and sensory contact with others and the physical world – indicative of something else entirely.

But what could that “something else” be?

In its weak form, such believed “blessings” of belief would most likely be indicative of re-experiencing the affects of our “basic biological situation” as human beings, and of the regressive bonding and magical, wishful thinking related to it.

And in its strong form as ‘unshakable’ conviction and certainty of ‘God’s’ existence or ‘Truth’ based on personal
“revelations”, “visions”, “dreams” and celestial “visitations”, such believed “blessings” of belief would most likely be indicative of a regressed, self-deceived and, at times, if not entirely, dissociated and delusional state of mind.

In any case, such alleged affects, experiences or states of mind would not be indicative of “spiritual blessings” from ‘God’, whatever such could actually mean, if anything. This is particularly so if it is determined that the “revealed” or conceived nature of such ‘God’ is false and/or incoherent, making such ‘God’ a factual non-reality as ‘revealed,” conceived and believed.

Nor are such alleged affects or experiences necessarily indicative of salutary psychological benefits or mental health. Indeed, even experienced “happiness, joy, love, purpose, meaning, guidance, belonging, security, hope and peace”, etc. can be detrimental to well-being if they are manifestations of a regressed (infantilized), dissociated and/or delusional mental state built on an imagined relationship or distorted reality. This would be particularly so if such imagined relationship or reality is the effect of authoritarian indoctrination, and the conditional love and acceptance from god, family and community that typically (and/or “doctrinally”) attend it.


* Those who would argue that their “faith” is not as alternatively characterized must, to be credible as “witnesses for ‘God’ (or ‘Christ’), intelligibly and coherently specify – along with truth-conditions that can, in principle, be confirmed or disconfirmed as being true (or probably true) or false (or probably) false – what the “substance” and “things” hoped for are exactly, what it is exactly that they have “faith” in, and why, given the believed ‘eternal’ stakes involved, such faith (and related ‘faith-testing’) would even be necessary. (Chs. 1, 3 and 6)

**The truth about the nature of such “spiritual blessings” is known through the vast, confirmed findings of the psycho-social sciences. And the truth about the non-existent source of such “blessings” (i.e. the believer’s ‘God’) is known, beyond I think a reasonable doubt, through its determined lack of: (1) any coherent and factually intelligible attributes; (2) its utter lack of possibly confirmable or disconfirmable truth-conditions as a claimed existent; and (3) the irresolvable contradictions of its existence in relation to the empirical facts on the ground, i.e. the existence of (a) gratuitous evil and suffering, (b) the requirement of faith and faith-testing, (c) the existence of non-belief and wrong belief, (d) the multiplicity of conflicting beliefs, (e) the problem of unanswered prayer and the impossibility of definitively proven or isolated and exact ‘prayer-outcome’ correspondence, (f) the fact of vague, contradictory or conflicting revelation, and the existence of amended revelation. (Chs. 7 and 8)

*** This conclusion was inspired by the following exchange between the fictional Dr. Gregory House and his patient in Episode 408 of the TV series “House MD”:

The magician/patient (MP) dazzles House (H) with a trick he can't explain. House wants to know how he did it but the patient refuses.

(MP) "Oh, if I explain it becomes mundane, and you lose the actual magic.

(H) "What do you mean the actual magic? Think you're actually sawing woman in
half? ...Magic is cool. Actual magic is oxymoronic. Might not even be oxy...."

(MP) "The fun is in not knowing."

(H) "The fun is in knowing...." (House demonstrates a little magic while saying this and then later demonstrates his own abilities, saying "You eat a lot of beets, you have an electric toothbrush, and you sleep less than six hours a night."

(MP) "That's impressive."

(H) "The red betamine from the beets stains the plaque deposits on your teeth, which are then swirled by your spinning toothbrush. Your heavy lids and your prematurely aging skin tell me that you're carrying a major sleep debt."

(MP) "That was way cooler before you explained it."

(H) "It was meaningless until I explained it."

(MP) "People come to my show because they want a sense of wonder. They want to experience something that they can't explain."

(H) "If the wonder's gone when the truth is known, there never was any wonder. You have tularemia from your rabbits. I've put you on antibiotics, you'll be better in a couple of days. Sorry to spoil the mystery.”

Comments? Thoughts? Reactions? Questions?

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: June 17, 2013 10:52AM

A bit about my background. I am a BYU graduate, RM, married in temple with 4 adult children. I have an undergraduate degree in math and graduate degrees in finance, so although I am more numerate than your average bear, I am not familiar with a lot of the analytic tools you rely on.
Since chucking in the towel on Mormonism, I have been engaged in introspection and trying to figure out what I DO know and believe. I have reached some conclusions

• First, the anthropomorphic God of Mormonism is incoherent, impossible to test, and frankly, silly; I reject this God.
• Second, I see a world around me that could have sprung up out of chance, and while this is possible, it strikes me as improbable. It is not inconsistent to imagine an ill-defined, nameless creative force imposed its will in some way to “kick things off”
• Third, independent of all that, the overwhelming evidence leads me to believe that there is nothing “up there” that hears or answers prayers.

The tools being used in the first few chapters seem to take Mormon God, annihilate him, and them conclude “ergo, no God!”

Many math and finance proofs start out with axioms, that is to say, things that are neither provable nor disprovable within the logic system in which they are embedded. We link axioms together and derive theorems via proofs, which can take on many forms.

I am inclined to think “the world was deliberately created” is an axiom. It skirts around this issue of “who”, “how”, and “why”

I think it is possible to decouple a creative force from the Mormon God. Your analysis does a great job of discrediting the latter; I am not persuaded about the former.

Maybe, like Charlton Heston and his guns, I am simply clinging to something that I am unwilling to let go and will ultimately need to be pried from my cold dead hands.

Look forward to hearing from the smart people on this group, to hear their insights.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: June 17, 2013 02:18PM

Thanks for the comment.

Not sure I qualify as one of the "smart people," but I would like to share a few thoughts.

First, as corrective for context, I would characterize the Mormon God as a "quasi-anthropomorphic being," as I do in Ch. 3, not merely as the anthropomorphic being that you rightly reject. This broader characterization makes the Mormon God not only a "Holy Man in the shape of a man, with body, parts and passions" like a man, but, significant to your alternative, as "the Ultimate Source of the universe, and the Creator of this world and worlds without end." Such a "quasi-anthropomorphic" conception, as I call it, is not only false as anthropomorphically conceived and believed, but incoherent and factually empty as non-anthropomorphically conceived. Anthropomorphic conceptions of 'God' are false, non-anthropomorphic conceptions of 'God'are metaphysical nonsense.

This said, "Possibility" is a field of thought open to imaginative, creative musings, and motivated variably by curiosity and desire, as well as, in some cases, vested interest, anxiety and perhaps even desperation. It is also a convenient, evasive strategy for theists and those who want to exempt their thoughts and beliefs from critical scrutiny by invoking "possibility" while stating it as a proposed fact. (More on the latter below.)

The stated "possibility" of "chance creation" isn't much, if anything to "cling to," if that's what in fact what you are doing, and if you in fact regard such as merely a possibility as stated.

Moreover, I think there is wide consensus, at least within the "legitimate" scientific community, that "chance creation" as presently theorized in physics is more than mere "possibility." While renowned scientists in this discipline would certainly agree that they (and all scientists) are fallible, and that current theories are provisional and historically contextual, they would, I'm sure, also likely agree that the "big bang," as basically theorized, is more than merely the "possible" origin, or (non-deliberating) creation, of this Universe, and therefore all "worlds" in it.

Beyond this, your proposed "axiom" as stated necessarily presumes the existence of a "deliberating," and therefore conscious and intentional, as well as well as volitional,
"creative force," not merely a random, non-deliberating
"creative force."

If so, it's not much of a leap I think to to suggest that such a "creative force" that "deliberately (i.e. consciously, intentionally) created the world," also necessarily did so purposefully, thereby modifying your axiom to: "...the world was deliberatively [and therefore purposefully] created."

This logical extension of your "axiom" (based on the common use of the word "deliberately") is, to me, significant, as well as perhaps revealing in relation to your turn to a "possible" alternative to the existence of the "Mormon God."

It would seem on this basis that your "creative force" is a sentient, purposeful "creator." I'm not sure if that's what you consciously mean or intend to say, but your language perhaps unconsciously betrays as much, as well as what you already seem to be entertaining, i.e. that "Maybe...I am clinging to something I am unwilling to let go [of]." Just a thought.

That aside for now, such an extension of your stated "axiom" also creates another problem. For if your "axiom" is, in fact, a "belief" or suggested "factual proposition" that "the world was deliberately, and therefore purposefully, created by a creative force," ("factual" in virtue of the implied 'that clause' in both your stated and the extended axiom; see "Fundamental Premises" section in Ch. 1, pp. 44-48) then such a suggested or proposed belief (even if tacit) or factual proposition is subject to the same critical analysis proposed and used in the book, and arguably cannot "skirt [the] issue" of "what" without employing the "evasive possibility strategies" theists employ, as presented in Ch. 2 of the book.

Hope this helps.


Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 06/17/2013 03:26PM by tomriskas.

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: June 17, 2013 05:30PM

Thank you for the reply Tom; A lot to chew on there.

Have just started chapter 2, since I am a bit slower than most.

I will re-read p 44-48 on fundamental premises.

I will return and report.

Just want to clarify that this is the spot where you want to engage in discussion. Since I am the only poster so far, I am hoping that "this is the right place"

For the record, I accept the existance of a big bang; just trying to understand if it was spontaneous or "nudged"

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/17/2013 05:31PM by wowbagger.

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Posted by: tomriskas ( )
Date: June 17, 2013 06:15PM

You're in the right place WB, thanks for asking. And thanks for participating.

So, after you've done some more reading (and re-reading) I'll be interested in your "report". ;)

Meanwhile, glad to hear you accept the existence of the big bang.

And as for "spontaneous" vs. "nudged", the initial questions from me would be "nudged" by "what" exactly and, if "deliberate," by who and why, or for what conceivable purpose, other than to merely and exclusively create worlds, in which case what would be the difference that would make a difference worth even thinking about, much less believing (if you do), between "creation by chance" and "deliberate creation" (whatever such could possibly entail, if anything)?

The "god virus" takes many forms and dies hard, as does the felt need to believe in the existence of some 'higher power' and 'purpose' to quell our existential angst.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/17/2013 06:16PM by tomriskas.

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Posted by: jesustheway ( )
Date: June 04, 2016 01:21PM

Genesis 1:1 in the beginning God created

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Posted by: jesustheway ( )
Date: June 04, 2016 01:19PM

watch Micah Wilder interview

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Posted by: jesustheway ( )
Date: June 04, 2016 01:18PM

the bible totally contradicts the book of Mormon..they carry around but don't many Christians,,,which is why when they come knocking at your don't let them in cuz you know they are well prepared and you are not...after all they have to be...cuz they afraid they wont make it in and converting you depends agreat deal on their salvation..Christians ..well were lazy cuz we know Jesus is the way...but we must be concerned about others souls...get to know their false beliefs and refute it with Gods word

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Posted by: foggy2 ( )
Date: December 01, 2017 11:24PM

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