Sunday, April 27, 2008

Religion vs. Athiesm

Every once in a while, the argument comes up about how religious people believe in God and that makes them better. The irreligious retorts, 'but do you think I am a bad person because I do not believe in God?' Often the irreligious will provide many examples of evil things done in the name of religion, but there are also many examples of evil done against religion.

After Mitt Romney gave his "Faith in America" speech, there were complaints that he essentially gave the shaft to atheists in the United States. I have thought since his withdrawal from the presidential race about his speech at CPAC. He very subtly addressed the accusations against his Faith speech. He said, "Americans love God, and those who don't have faith, typically believe in something greater than themselves."

That is the key to everyone. If the religionist or atheist is a good person, it is because they believe in something. Many who claim to be religious really believe in satisfying themselves (or as we sometimes say - pride), and many who are atheist have a strong sense of right and wrong which leads them to live exemplary lives. So really, everyone has guiding principles no matter the belief system.

But then that gets back to faith. What is it good for? Why bother with all these rules, the guilt of sin, and the impossibility of a God who is the Father of all nations hearing and answering each prayer?

Well, we have already seen that everyone believes in something. For some it is no deeper than themselves. For others it expands to their families, communities, or nations. For others still, they believe in God.

Truth matters. Each person has a responsibility to find and accept and live by as much truth as possible. The danger lies in feeling you have all the truth. The faithful and faithless who have nothing to learn are the most intolerant people on the planet. Joseph Smith asked, "Why be so certain that you comprehend the things of God, when all things with you are so uncertain?" (TPJS 320).

It is easy to turn religion into a club. Someone could quote John 3:16 and say, God loves the world... therefore you should do such and such. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi warns that "many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible" (2 Nephi 29:3). (I was a little too fond of that verse as a missionary. I don't know that I read it to anyone, but when I read it to myself, I only saw others not accepting more scripture.)

If God were really concerned with the Gentiles hearing this warning, the Book of Mormon was a terrible place to hide it! I think we in the Church sometimes forget that whatever Israelite blood we have from the lost tribes, we are still Gentiles from Nephi's perspective. His warning was directed more towards the Latter-day Saints. We can feel we have the Book of Mormon and don't need any more, or that the Doctrine and Covenants has all we need.

The Restoration came to give us continuous revelation. Joseph Smith lamented, "there has been a great difficulty in getting anything in the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand" (TPJS 331). How much more could we have revealed to us if we were ready to recieve it?

The whole point of Nephi's warning is that we can never become complacent about our knowledge of the truth. If we are satisfied that we have all the truth, we will begin to use it as a weapon to beat others into the image we think they should conform to. The truth gives us no right to treat others with anything other than love and respect. Instead, we "are without affection, and [we] hate [our] own blood" (Moses 7:33).

To address some of my questions from earlier: the rules of the Gospel are revealed from heaven and are given to provide us with safety. Guilt serves a purpose: "when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon" (Neal A. Maxwell, October 1976 Conference). Perhaps I will take up faith and prayers some other day.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More on the Ethanol Boondoggle

This is too important not to post in full. David Freddoso Reports in NRO:
Saving the world is cheaper than free

I'm not the first to comment on Deroy's Murdock's piece today, but it is just such a devastating and sad story that it cannot be repeated too often. Our government's negligence and perhaps even malicious misdirection of societal resources toward a worthless, unwanted product — ethanol — will cause millions of people to go hungry tonight.

This anecdote from today's editorial is truly eye-catching:

Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club has started limiting sales of rice because immigrants are buying all the rice they can and sending it to relatives in countries suffering from food shortages.
Deroy sums up:
If scientists can develop ethanol that neither starves people nor rapes the Earth, splendid. However, this enterprise must not rest upon morally repugnant, ecologically counterproductive, economically devastating, government-ordered distortions.
The way things are going, this could become the worst chapter yet in the sad, ruinous history of our bipartisan agricultural welfare programs. For those who write in and protest that free-market capitalism is an uncompassionate, un-Christian economic system, I submit that you are currently witnessing the alternative.

A simple repeal of the ethanol mandate would cost nothing, and it would benefit everyone everywhere except for a farm lobby that is currently profiting from the kind of human suffering that most Americans have never experienced. Read Deroy's piece for several poignant examples.
The Deroy Murdock piece is incredibly important. He links to a Financial Times peice that says that due to shortages, wheat exporting countries have sealed their borders and 1/3 of the worldwide market is closed. Another tidbit from Murdock:
As farmers turn forests into corn fields, they expend energy uprooting trees that produce oxygen, absorb CO2, and store carbon. Princeton University researchers calculate that this ethanol-driven arboricide has spawned a “carbon debt” that already will take 167 years to reverse.
As Princeton’s Tim Searchinger said in the February 8 Washington Post, “We can’t get to a result, no matter how heroically we make assumptions on behalf of corn ethanol, where it will actually generate greenhouse-gas benefits.”
Government ethanol subsidies are going to kill people.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Knew It!

Last spring I attended the coldest game ever played at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Opening Day. Now this proves it! Global cooling is the greatest threat to humanity!

Saints Indeed

I heard a terrific story tonight at institute. There is a little ward in our stake (I don't think I should share the exact location). At the local university, a Christian fraternity decided they needed to call those crazy Mormons to repentance. A group of them decided to attend the sacrament meeting.

Halfway through the meeting, they stood up and started making a scene while trying to save the Mormons. These good Saints responded in an inspired way. They began singing "Come, Come Ye Saints." What a good example of Christlike response to what could have been an ugly situation!

(This has always been one of my favorite Hymns, so here is MoTab singing it. Enjoy:)

Admittedly, the sequel is pretty satisfying as well. The provost of the unmentioned university was a member of the bishopric and had the fraternity disbanded and removed from the campus.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Give Me Food or Give Me Death!

I just noticed this item about ethanol and food prices. Ethanol would not exist if it were not for government subsidies. Producing ethanol consumes at least as much energy as it saves in fuel usage. It is interesting that the same people who "care" co much about the poor of the world are turning their food into fuel.

Any time the government wants to get involved in anything I start getting scared.

(h/t NRO)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ever Been Bowfishing?

Not like this, I bet.

(h/t NRO)

God and Guns, What Liberals and Europeans Don't Understand

This is quite the article, which I will quote extensively.
Our lesson today comes from the songwriter Frank Loesser:
"Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition."
In the book "America Alone," Mark Steyn
...note[s] a global survey on optimism: 61 percent of Americans were optimistic about the future, 29 percent of the French, 15 percent of Germans. Take it from a foreigner: In my experience, Americans are the least "bitter" people in the developed world. Secular, gun-free big-government Europe doesn't seem to have done anything for people's happiness.
I sometimes hear politicians - even ones I generally agree with - talking about restoring Americans' trust in the government. I think it is part of American DNA to distrust the government. The further removed it is from me and my control, the less I want it involved in my life. On the other hand...
Europeans did "vote for their own best interests" – i.e., cradle-to-grave welfare, 35-hour workweeks, six weeks of paid vacation, etc. – and as a result they now face a perfect storm of unsustainable entitlements, economic stagnation and declining human capital that's left them so demographically beholden to unassimilable levels of immigration that they're being remorselessly Islamized with every passing day.
Europeans voted away their personal responsibility in favor of security and leisure and in the process have given away their very identity. We are a generation away from the Germans and the French being minorities in their own countries.

In stark contrast to Europe
...large numbers of Americans tote guns because they're assertive, self-reliant citizens, not docile subjects of a permanent governing class. The Second Amendment is philosophically consistent with the First Amendment...
The Second Amendment provides the citizenry with the means to protect themselves from government infringement of the rights in the First Amendment.

Baracky Balboa

Due to my Philadelphia connection, I had a good laugh at this clever YouTube clip.

Of course Rocky lost, so what is this saying?
(h/t NRO)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Obama has become a spectacle

I haven't said much about Barack Obama since I decided I couldn't support him, but this is bad. He straight up lied about what John McCain said about the economy. So much for change and a new way of operating.

The Greatest Play in Baseball

I have seen this before, but wanted to pass it on.
(h/t NRO)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On Marriage And Divorce

I think people intuitively realize that divorce is bad, certainly for the pain it brings into children's lives. It is not always easy to find things quantified. Here is a great interview that does just that. Being interviewed is Michael McManus, coauthor of Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers.

Some of the key points are that cohabitation and premarital sex greatly increase the likelihood of divorce and abuse. A key quote
:...even though most people see nothing wrong with premarital sex, research shows they are wrong. Those couples who married in the 1960s who were virgins were much less likely to divorce than the sexually active — only 30 percent of virgins divorced, while 50 percent of the sexually active divorced. The same pattern can be seen of those who married in the early 1980s. By 1988, 14 percent of virgins had divorced, but 24 percent of the sexually active. That’s 71 percent higher. St. Paul wrote, “Flee fornication.”
I have been taught this all my life, but is is nice to see others who teach and believe the same things. I especially appreciate the empirical evidence. Of course, empirical evidence should not be why someone lives a chaste life. We should just live our lives with real love, because real love never uses another person for physical enjoyment without genuine lifelong commitment.

Romney's Top Ten

I hope everyone saw this: I tried to embed the video, but the best I could do was a link.

Update: Here is the embed:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Debt, Consecration, and Freedom

I try to find connections between different parts of the Gospel. One that I have noticed is that personal debt is related to consecration. The scriptures tell us to sacrifice all we have for the Kingdom of God. Modern Chruch leaders constantly tell us to avoid debt for everything except a house and an education.

It is self evident that personal debt, especially consumer debt, places us in a kind of bondage. We become slaves to our creditors. Because we are not free, we are unable to consecrate all things to the Lord. There may come a time when more couples will be called to serve as missionaries and their personal finances will prevent them from serving, despite a high income or nice lifestyle.

Being a slave steals our agency. When we don't choose our life's path, we will never become the son or daughter of God that we should. It is the same with the Word of Wisdom; addictions steal our agency. God wants us to be free, even at the cost of bumping our heads - severely sometimes. That explains His commandments. They really offer protection.