Back to church

I got a phone call yesterday (Sunday) from a Young Man in the ward of whom I really think very highly.
He is just one of those really neat kids who already has had to face some real challenges in his life but seems to be able to handle them graciously and maturely (much to the credit of his great mom, I believe).

He called me to invite me to come to Sacrament meeting. He said he was giving a talk and it would really mean a lot to him if I came to listen to him. I haven’t talked to him in a while, so I have to admit I was caught by surprise.
So, after more than 2 years enjoying my Sundays outside, I went against my better judgment and got my nice clothes on (no, I didn’t wear a suit… it looks like one way God has punished me for leaving church is by adding some fat around my waist).

We walked in to Sacrament a little late, which felt very familiar. I received a few welcoming looks from some familiar faces, but soon realized I didn’t recognize about half of the ward.
My boys quickly got busy with their toys on the floor and my wife seemed mildly interested in the talks while she fumbled around with her class material and toys and snacks.

I quickly realized that most of the ones invited to give talks were youth returning from various camps and sharing their experiences and bearing their testimonies. My young friend similarly stood up and followed suit and seemed especially passionate about his testimony, nearing a mild insult (and I’m sure unintentionally) when he said those without the spirit are empty inside.

He came up to me afterward to thank me for coming and a small army of people followed after him, some genuinely excited to see me and some disturbingly overreaching in making me feel welcome and needed.
At times I felt compelled to sincerely answer the “Why don’t you come to church anymore?” questions, but the grown men around me with tears still lingering in their eyes would most definitely unwelcome my telling them I believe the whole thing to be a huge, fat lie.

In the midst of handshakes, my wife was gone to her class, my youngest took his girlfriend’s hand into nursery, and my 6-year-old would most definitely be found sitting in the back of the Primary class, next to the leaders.
Part of me wanted to go home and watch Brazil beat the US for the Confederation Cup in an amazing come-back in the second half, but part of me (the not-so-wise part, I guess) decided to go hang out at Primary to see what my boy was being taught.
The lesson today was about forgiveness. A great topic, I admit, and one with which we all struggle from time to time. After they break for class, I decided I had had enough and went home to discover the game had not been recorded in my dvr (God’s punishment?) and I had missed it completely.

All in all, it was an uncomfortable experience and I figured I’m good for at least 2 more years or more.
It was different seeing the day unfold through the eyes of reason and reality. Without the lenses of blind belief, most of what was said seemed very empty and misguided.

I think I would have got more out of the football match.

16 comments to Back to church

  • It is interesting to see church through that lens. The weeks that I’m obliged to go, I pass my time by counting biases and logical fallacies, well that and doodling. It’s so odd, that something that’s so familiar to me, is now so absurd, and it’s so easy to see how absurd it is now. The emotionalism really bugs me in church though, I’m sorry you had to endure a fair share of that.

  • I remember being an atheist who had to attend Sunday service, and youth group.
    I really never was accepted (I never made many friends there). The day I left was one of my happiest moments.

    …Sometimes, though, I wonder whatever became of the people who went there. And, was I missed? After all, to them, I was another Christian. Nobody knew, and frankly, I wish I wasn’t as much of a coward back then to let them know of my convictions and disbelief. Oh, the boredom I endured…

  • […] on Mormon-Evangelical dialogue. Living with Mormons reports on a highly uncomfortable visit back to church. Marcus tells his deconversion story — with themes that echo Andrew’s post here — […]

  • admin

    Counting biases… highly LOL!!!

    I’m glad I’m at a point now where my going to church (any church for that matter) is purely optional, unlike for some of my close friends.
    Not only it would be difficult to sit through some of those meetings weekly, it would be even harder to do it so quietly, without being able to truly raise questions and have an honest debate about certain topics.

  • Joe

    Well, I’m interested in hearing your real story. All you’ve really said is that you are reasonable for leaving the Church, but you don’t explain why. Well, you don’t scare me, and I really want to know. Unlike the lens of “blind belief” you cite, there are some who have there eyes wide open to shortcomings, yet still find the truth in the Church. I’ll check back in a bit. Anxious to see what great reasons you have.

  • John Adams

    Joe,

    Please explain to me why people that believe in and talk to imaginary gods always try to put the burden of proof on those who don’t? “Blind Belief” is a valid description. You have no truth to back you. Truth is something that can be proved. Don’t confuse faith with truth. They are not interchangeable. If they were, we would still live on a flat earth and ride horses. . .

    You are the one that has a belief in something that we don’t believe. You are the one with the burden of proof to explain your belief. Why is your god any different then Zeus or Isis or any of the hundreds of other gods throughout history that we learn about in a subject called Mythology and shake our heads at how foolish they were to believe in them?

    You have the claim you can’t Prove as true. So you try to shift the burden of proof on Atheists to disprove your claim. But just like people who believe in the Big Foot or the Loc Ness Monster, there is no way to absolutely prove they don’t exist. So they continue to believe no matter what. They have “Faith”!!!

    I don’t have to prove to you why I don’t believe in Big Foot, Santa Clause, Zeus, or your god. It is up to you to show me the proof that they do exist. . .But you have none, so you invent the concept of faith to replace it with.

    So, show me the “Truth” in the church!! I’ll check back in a bit. I am VERY anxious to see what great proof you have. . .

  • Joe

    Whoa, John, let’s begin our civil dialog with defining terms. This way we can at least understand each other. First, I didn’t ask for proof of anything. I asked for the history of the individual who wrote the post. Nothing can be proven! Science and all those who use scientific thought understand that there are theories, but never proof: there can always be another explanation that we may discover with more research. Second, you have compared truth and faith. I’m going to perhaps make a terrible assumption and that is that most individuals would like to know the truth, to not just believe. It sounds pretty weak, does it not? Faith is real, however, and please let me explain: faith is simply a believe/trust in something one cannot see yet. For example, I have faith that when I wake in the morning, I can get out of bed, therefore, I put forth the effort physically to move. If I didn’t believe that my car would start when I got in it, then I wouldn’t! I would go about getting it fixed. Faith is what I have when I use my mind, conscious or sub-conscious, to act. Hence, faith without works isn’t true faith. Faith is only shown through acts: back to the example of waking up: I believe/have faith that I can do something, so I do it. If I persist laying in bed without moving, and only say that I have the faith to get up and never do it, I would be believing without having faith.

    So, there you have it, the burden of proof is on none of us. If anyone has the burden of proof it would be Heavenly Father, as I call him, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t go by any of the names you stated. Continuing on and if I may ask you a question, John, do you consider it rational to expect that at any one point in your life you know enough? In other words, are you satisfied that you can quit observing and learning? I would venture to say that you will find it isn’t rational. In the course of history, if we use history as our guide, people have always found themselves mistaken when they refused to have an open mind.

    Thank you for the stimulating conversation!

  • Joe

    …and I’m back! Well, I noticed that you asked me to do something: ‘show me the “Truth” in the church!!’. Again, back to the language thing: I can’t show you anything, you may always decide I’m full of it, referring back to your examples of Big Foot, Nessie, etc. If the person doesn’t want to believe that they don’t exist, no amount of evidence will convince them. Evidence seems to be on both sides of each question. To the truth, however, like you said:

    Truth is unchangeable. Truth is the same for everyone: there aren’t separate versions, only parts of a whole. If we see different versions, we just need to know how they fit together. Maybe you’ve heard of the blind men describing the elephant, each touching one part of the elephant and describing it differently. I believe this closely approximates us, mankind, explaining pretty much anything.

    What truth is there in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? It was founded by one Joseph Smith. I could recount facts such as this, that are generally accepted by believer and non-believer alike. As far as the truth goes, however, I would venture that I can only describe the part I have experienced, like a blind man! It goes something like this, in part: There is an all-powerful God. He is a being of truth, all truth. He created (organized) all of us spiritually. He has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as ours. He then created us physically (organized us physically). His purpose is for us to receive everything he has. A gradient exists ranging from those who will receive truth, all truth, to those who will not receive truth, those who “have enough”. We are here to show how much we’ll receive. If God were to prove the truth to us, all of it instantly, he would be compelling those who don’t want it. There would be someone more powerful than He, who could complete the task without compulsion. In other words, the reason for our not being able to see Him is because he protects our agency.

    To perhaps better illustrate this point, look at the U.S. The laws and the enforcement of those laws are designed (generally speaking) to maximize personal liberty. When compared to other countries, those countries whose citizens generally follow the law are safer. Why do they follow the laws? Either they are not criminally minded or they are afraid of the punishment. Are there criminals here? Yes. Are there those who would do wrong, in other words invade/destroy others’ personal liberty, if they could avoid the punishment? Yes. Now imagine that in order to really find out who are the evil-natured, we have to remove the apparent subjugation to governmental authority. We are in this situation on this Earth. The apparent higher authority has been removed. What will we do? If the punishment was immediate and swift, evil-natured people would blend in with those who respect personal liberty. This is the reason behind unfairness, behind crime, behind the destruction of personal liberty that is so rampant in our world. An atheist describes the truth, but as just another blind man, it is only a part.

  • admin

    Wow, I leave you guys alone for one minute….

    Joe, Thanks for the post.
    Let me start by quickly addressing your first question (I’ll try not to hurry, but I’m in the middle of packing to leave town for Turkey Day).
    My real story for leaving the Church is lightly and sparingly being written in this blog. Initially I had many questions about the Church’s history and doctrine, like many members and non-members alike, and I found no convincing answers to these questions.
    Then it was down the rabbit hole (or out of it, from my point of view) from there. I questioned Christianity and its scriptures; I questioned other religions and beliefs; I questioned belief itself (more on that shortly) and realized we’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Gods are not new. Your God the least of all (2,000 years is a wisp, really, when it comes to believing in the supernatural).
    So, here I am now: a skeptic until proven otherwise. An atheist, if you will, to the true sense of the word, without belief in deities.

    As far as your “explanation” of truth, I’m afraid it falls way short of satisfactory. I’ve talked and listened to many people make the same argument (in a much more convincing way, by the way) and it still doesn’t fly.
    In your first post you are quick to say “nothing can be proven” and then you contradict yourself in stating your church is true. So which one is it? And if one can be proven, then how do you prove it?
    You also get science and the scientific method all wrong. The reason you “believe” your car will start in the morning is NOT based on pure blind faith. You use your rational mind to make that decision based on “evidence”. Evidence that you’ve gained from owning that car for a certain period of time. The same reason I “believe” the sun will rise tomorrow.

    Also, let’s define something quickly here: a “theory” is NOT a guess. In scientific terms, a theory is “a hypothesis that has withstood extensive testing by a variety of methods, and in which a higher degree of certainty may be placed. A theory is NEVER a fact, but instead is an attempt to explain one or more facts.”

    Since you seem to like analogies, let’s pretend you walk into your kitchen and you find your milk bottled toppled over on the floor and the refrigerator door open wide.
    How do you find out the “truth” of what happened? Well, at my house, I’d start by asking the kids. If you don’t have kids, then your wife or your roommate might be the culprit. If you have neither, I’d call 911 (a food burglar, perhaps) or a doctor (you might be suffering from amnesia). However, it seems like it would be perfectly acceptable for YOU to assume that a little green leprechaun who lives in the vegetable shelf in your fridge had a spasm, knocked the milk bottle out of the fridge, and ran away, leaving you with the mess. This is the same truth you’re referring to when it comes to much bigger questions about the natural world.

    Now, you seem to be trying to downplay scientific discoveries and research as guesswork. The “we don’t really know anything” babble.

    Science makes predictions.

    It makes predictions based on theories that have withstood the test of times and rigid scrutiny. The reason we can sit here and have this lovely conversation over electronic means isn’t because we “think” we understand electricity and circuit boards and electromagnetic radiation! It’s because we KNOW, with a very high degree of certainty, how things work. The same reason we KNOW evolution happened, and the Big Bang, and how conception works, and eclipses, and on and on.
    It’s the reason you call a doctor, and not a witch, when you need your tonsils removed. Science WORKS!!!

    Faith gets you nothing, really. You said you have faith when you wake up in the morning, that you can get out of bed. Well, let’s pretend you’re paraplegic for a second and see how far faith will get you in the morning. I “believe” you won’t be able to walk!

    Faith is believing when there is zero reason to believe. It’s futile, childish, and may be no longer necessary.

    Cheers.

  • Joe

    Ok. Here is some clarification for when we all get back from Thanksgiving…

    “You also get science and the scientific method all wrong. The reason you “believe” your car will start in the morning is NOT based on pure blind faith. You use your rational mind to make that decision based on “evidence”. Evidence that you’ve gained from owning that car for a certain period of time. The same reason I “believe” the sun will rise tomorrow.
    Also, let’s define something quickly here: a “theory” is NOT a guess. In scientific terms, a theory is “a hypothesis that has withstood extensive testing by a variety of methods, and in which a higher degree of certainty may be placed. A theory is NEVER a fact, but instead is an attempt to explain one or more facts.” Instead of repeating what you have said, I will state that I totally agree with this.

    This is exactly what you said and we are saying the same thing about truth, I’m just using different language. Now, as to faith, you have to have evidence to have faith. For example, I have faith in a God because of evidence. And yes, I am not saying that theories are less than what you have cited them as, I am assuming that we all understand what a theory is. As far as this section:

    “As far as your “explanation” of truth, I’m afraid it falls way short of satisfactory. I’ve talked and listened to many people make the same argument (in a much more convincing way, by the way) and it still doesn’t fly.
    In your first post you are quick to say “nothing can be proven” and then you contradict yourself in stating your church is true. So which one is it? And if one can be proven, then how do you prove it?”

    Well, truth doesn’t change, only our perception, and I only claimed to state my perception, not prove anything. In addressing John, I was stating simply that there isn’t a “burden” of proof. I am saying that I perceive truth to be this. I admit I am fallible, but I have evidence that supports my faith. Faith grows stronger with more evidence. But faith only works when it is based on something that is true. When you use faith as mere belief, then you are talking about belief, not faith. Is shown by the evidence. I saw a lady in my clinic, she had been talking herself into having low blood pressure for two weeks, and guess what? It was extremely high. So, she didn’t have faith, she had a false belief. Faith to have low blood pressure would only include acting on true principles, like taking her medication. I hope this clears up what I am saying.

    As far as truth goes, I only intended to state that none of us can know until we know from evidence. If I close my mind to evidence, then I’m not interested in seeking truth. To be continued…

  • Joe

    …I hope I’m not ruining your intention for this site, it seemed you were open to dialog from both sides and not just people with the same beliefs as you reinforcing each other…

  • John Adams

    Response to Joe,

    There is a reason the scientific method does not use the term faith. You keep redefining faith towards your own purpose. From an Atheist point of view, your “faith” in any god you choose and the “faith” of the lady in your example trying to lower her blood pressure are the same. There is no rational reason, no scientific method, no “proof”, and no evidence. Both you and the lady have faith in something you cannot see, hear, touch, test, measure, anything. . . Studies have been done on prayer groups praying for sick people, and they had the same results as the lady in your example. So, using your language, they also had a false belief.

    You make a claim that there is a god. You state that there exists a “Heavenly Father”. But you have no rational evidence that that is true. No test, study, observational effect this “Heavenly Father” has in our world that can be measured. So, again from my Atheist point of view, this “Heavenly Father” of yours is tossed into the same category of all the other fanciful beings that people believe in or did believe in at one time. Your “Heavenly Father” is in the same box as Santa Clause, Big Foot, Isis, Osiris, Zeus, Nessy because people believe or did believe in them with no rational reason behind their “faith”

    so to use an example like yours, I “believe” in the theory of electricity. Why, Because I have seen the results, used products based on the theory and they work, studied and learned the theory and applied it myself to projects I have built. I “believe” my motorcycle will start in the morning because is does start almost all the time, and since I am a machinist, I understand the principles behind it and how it was build and why it works or why it doesn’t. I could build one myself if I wanted/needed to. My “belief” is based on my knowledge and proven results.

    I don’t “believe” in the theory of gods because there is nothing to support that belief. The only good and bad in this world I see is from people, not gods and devils. I can see what my work accomplishes, but can’t see what any god has accomplished.

  • Joe

    You can see here the limitations of language: there are two different definitions of faith, and I think that faith is the evidence of things not seen, whereas you all consider it “blind belief”. John you go on to describe the scientific method well, and you say there is no evidence of Heavenly Father. I propose there is evidence. I have had my own prayers answered. I have directly questioned principles, even the ones I’ve said above. I have received answers to my prayers. I believe I am not the only one, that there are many others. In fact, atheism, if I’m not mistaken, is a minority “belief”, most people believe in a higher power. It is very possible there is a God, and I have not heard any evidence, ever, that lead me to believe that all of the evidence I had received was false. Well, in the Church, there have been those who have seen Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And what about there testimonies? It would be blind belief just to trust them without testing it myself in some way. So, when I pray and receive an answer, how is that not evidence. Of course it isn’t evidence for you! It was just for me because I asked! And I didn’t believe first. There is only one time I have to trust someone else’s information before asking a question of Deity and that’s the first time I ask! After that, if I receive an answer satisfactory to myself, then I am relying in part on my own past evidence.

    The only other thing I’ll say is that in the Church, it isn’t easy to get in and go through the temple. One is constantly asked about one’s beliefs, one’s testimony, the evidence received by one. So if the author of this website got all the way through the temple, either they did have evidence acceptable to them at the time, or they lied when questioned. Either way, to be convinced a person has only to ask. I have participated in and heard many debates back and forth between Christianity and atheism. Although both sides produce “convincing” points, they don’t convince each other, and both sides walk away feeling the winner. I would propose as my best evidence that there is a God the following accomplishment: people accomplish greater good when motivated by their belief. Atheism inspires only selfishness. Even when there are a few who see this and try to show that despite their belief that there is no higher power and we are alone, they still admit that life is hopeless, that we don’t continue on, and if that were true, what good reason is there for moral behavior? And how about all of the research that people are born with moral direction no matter their background? At any rate, it doesn’t do much to state evidence to those who refuse to see it. Only the individual can decide to accept evidence. I feel I have been shown countless reasons, all things that are created around me, the feelings of my heart, etc, that show that there is a God. Can you prove that all of this is something else? That I am deceived? You cannot. But you would reject all those who trust such sources as loony. In fact, if someone does claim to see God, as Joseph Smith did, they seem only to heap upon themselves the worst persecution. People came from far and wide to see an ignominious young teenager to tell him he was wrong and a liar, etc. He died for his belief. In fact many have died because of their belief. What atheist has sacrificed everything because of his/her devotion to the cause? No, each atheist thinks because they question everything and accept only answers of plain sight or proof through reason, they are the elite, looking upon all the remainder as uneducated, unenlightened, etc. Ha! :) Well, all I can say is that eventually you will know. Eventually you will see for yourself that the truth wasn’t what you thought. Life is short, and it will pass like a dream. Then you will find yourself in the presence of God. He really needs no defense from the likes of me, He can defend Himself!

    I was merely hoping that there maybe some actual challenge to the existence of God could be presented here, but it’s the same drivel, nothing new. Cheers.

  • John Adams

    Joe,

    First, as a whole, religion has done more hurt and damage than any other institution on this earth. More people have been murdered in the name of god than anything else. That is the biggest impact organized religion has given us. So i don’t see the good it has done. Even if it does some good, the evil it has brought us is sooooo much worse.

    Second, Many religious people have been murdered for what they believe, by other religious people. Religion, and here I am thinking of Christan and Muslim, have executed many Atheists for not believing. We are shunned in public, cannot be elected to public office ( because many states it is actually against the state constitution for an Atheist to hold office, specifically AR)

    Third, Being a majority is not evidence that you are right! And in this country you are a majority, but worldwide you are a minority. Especially if you count yourself as a Mormon with only what now 11 to 12 million members. . .

    Fourth, Every devout religious person can say they have had prayers/chants/wishes answered. It is just when you look at it statistically, there is no evidence that that is true. Members of every faith from christian to Buddhist to Muslim to Hinduism can say they have evidence in their feelings that their belief is the true belief.

    Fifth, I have been where you are now!! You don’t have to recount to me the history of “The Church” to me. It was started on my ancestor’s farm. . . I just wish I could convey to you better how I was able to find out that “The Church” was no different then the thousands of other Theist beliefs.

    Sixth, I belief that I now have a better moral structure then when I was mormon. Since I now believe that this, here, is all we have it makes it that much more important to effect the world in a positive way. Since I believe there is no afterlife with a god that hands out eternal rewards or punishments, we have to do all we can right here and now to make this a better world for everyone. There is no saying to myself “They will be rewarded after this life for their suffering in this life” or “they will have eternal punishment for what they did here” No, it is up to me to do all I can to help people not starve in this world, not suffer any more then they have to. So please don’t try to hold a moral ground over me just because you believe in a god.

    Honestly, I hurt for you. I don’t think I am smarter then you. I don’t think I am an elite because I don’t believe in a god anymore. I just know how it is to be in a religion, go on a mission, go through the temple, and I know how much happier I am to be out of that. Atheism is a lonely belief. If you think you are hounded for being mormon, you have no idea how much more you get for being Atheist. EVERYBODY hates a godless heathen. You have no comfort of eternal life, no god that can help you, no church to lean on if you need help.

    I might have sounded a little snappy at times in my responses. And for that I am sorry. I am naturally defensive because i have to be. My purpose was just to make you think a little bit. Help you step outside and look back in, so to speak. There is much good in this world that has nothing to do with religion.

    Anyway, today is “Black Friday” and I must go. . . Busy day ahead!! So I hope we can “shake hands” with no hard feelings and both come away from this and look at it as a good discussion.

  • StyxUT

    Joe,

    First, regarding your assertion that, “Atheism inspires only selfishness.” – I find this statement utterly offensive, but not because of its content but because with just a modicum of effort on your part, you would be able to find ample evidence to expose your assertion as false. I generally refuse to do people’s homework for them, but look here: http://www.kiva.org/community. I find it telling that you count this among, “[your] best evidence that there is a God”.

    Second, your assertion that “…to be convinced a person has only to ask.” I have asked, and on more than on occasion. Having received no answer in any form whatsoever with the single exception of utter silence. I can attest that your assertion is false.

    You pose the question, without a god, “…what good reason is there for moral behavior? And how about all of the research that people are born with moral direction no matter their background?” This is one of my favorite topics. I’ll assume your question was at least somewhat genuine and not purely rhetorical. I think we can agree that a large portion of moral behavior can also be described as ethical. Where ethical behavior and moral behavior overlap, there is ample “reason” for its existence without the need cite a god. Unfortunately, understanding these reasons takes effort. To my knowledge, the most accessible and strongly evidence based arguments can be found in the first several chapters of this book: http://www.amazon.com/Selfish-Gene-Richard-Dawkins/dp/0192860925. If you are truly interested in the topic, I’d be more than willing to mail you my copy.
    Moral behavior that cannot also be considered ethical, such as wearing garments, wearing a burka, praying before eating, or going to church, exist only as a result of religion. These “moral” behaviors are not universal but rather learned behaviors that can be attributed to religious dogma.

    I may add more later, but his will have to do for now.

    -Eric

  • admin

    Joe,
    You sure make a lot of handwaving and it seems you like to redefine your argument as you go along, but I’ll try to hit a few points.

    “So if the author of this website got all the way through the temple, either they did have evidence acceptable to them at the time, or they lied when questioned”

    I didn’t lie when questioned. I was a tithe-paying, Primary teacher and Scout Leader when I attended the Temple. It was also a time when the questions regarding church history and certain doctrines were mounting. Let’s make something clear here. The reason I started reading up and questioning the church wasn’t because I wanted to prove in wrong, at least initially. It was because I genuinely wanted it to be true and just couldn’t believe all the horrible things I was learning about it. I really wanted to hear what the church had to say for its defense and I read an immense amount of material put out by FARMS and church scholars alike. You talk about drivel…. THIS was drivel. The church just has not good answers to many issues in its dark past.
    Eventually I grew tired of banging my head against the wall and realized (reluctantly at first) that there was a lot of bullshit being fed to members.

    I think your posts are sincere, but you’re being disingenuous when you repeatedly state that “there’s no burden of proof.” In your own words, you came here “hoping that there maybe some actual challenge to the existence of God,” but you (nor anyone) has provided any convincing evidence to his existence, so yes, the burden of proof does exist, and it’s on believers such as yourself.

    Your personal interpretation of unexplained events such as your private prayers being answered or a perceived healing of the sick due to a blessing does not constitute as evidence when it can’t be tested in any reasonable way. I have also had amazing personal experiences which, within the context of belief, seemed miraculous. But they do not perform statistically better than chance itself.

    Most importantly, I would like to address your following assumption:
    “people accomplish greater good when motivated by their belief”
    I would concede this to you and say that people are motivated by religion. But there are a couple of important points to make here.

    Firstly, at which cost?
    You’re completely focused in your beliefs, but you’re arguing for belief in general. So a person may be motivated to help the needy based on scriptural teachings and to kill a hundred infidels based on another.

    Secondly, what is the true motivator here? Is it better to do good deeds for the sake of being good, or because you have a Big Brother in the sky watching over you? You claim a high moral ground, but religion only inspires fear and promises of grandeur for the individual. Something you proudly tout in your last paragraphs, almost in a condescending way.

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