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Old 02-20-2013, 11:25 PM
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kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Yelm, Washington
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Well to understand my perspective, you must be aware that I was raised a staunch Mormon, without a lot of choices and with immense family/social pressure to believe in the church's teachings. I would say I was a faithful believer for 25 years (1970-1995), went through some heavy-duty personal changes (1995-2005), and have been an atheist ever since.

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"I'm not entirely sure what a Mormon is. Are they the ones that think Jesus came to America?"
Good shot, that's exactly what they think (among other things). The technical name of that church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," often abbreviated as LDS (e.g., the LDS church).

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"I wonder just how many are pretending for their own sakes and for the sakes of their families/friends."
One of my friends is largely atheist but keeps it on the down-low because he doesn't want to upset his family members. I believe he goes to church and that.

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"The area you live in sounds really claustrophobic."
Well luckily for me, I don't live in Utah anymore, haven't since 1987. When I did live there, the town I lived in -- Highland -- was essentially a small farming town. Today, however, Highland is quite claustrophobic. Mormon doctrine and culture highly encourages having a lot of kids, and the consequences of that meme is catching up to Utahns and to Highlanders. Just about every square inch is occupied by a road, house, or yard, and the farms are gone. It is quite the posh place to live. Property values have soared.

But it doesn't matter to me as much now where I live. (Currently I fancy Seattle, but.) I don't feel the same pressure I used to to be a participating member in the church. Albuquerque has a lot of church buildings, covering quite a range of religions (including Mormon), but I just kind of smile as I ride past, and don't give it much further thought.

Re: my oldest brother (who remains a staunch believer and participant in the Mormon church) ... he is a mixed package. Basically, he's easy to get along with. He never loses his temper, and addresses people in the most positive, polite way possible. I don't have to tread on eggshells with him ... however, I do try to speak to him with care when it comes to the church, as I like him and don't want to hurt his feelings.

Now, my youngest brother (who is agnostic with an atheist bent) has kind of thrown down the gauntlet with my oldest brother, and challenged him to defend his beliefs. There has been an email debate (though my youngest brother insists it's not a debate) going on with me, my brothers, and a few of our friends. My oldest brother seems to avoid the direct questions that are put to him, but he preaches a bit, and sends apologetic articles with his emails.

One of these articles was pretty bold, in basically saying that any persistent atheist is living a lie. However, my oldest brother avoided responsibility for that strong statement by saying ahead of time that he didn't agree with everything the article said. So he had plausable deniability. However, he also said that none of the article should be ignored, so he simultaneously advocated the whole article as well. That's my oldest brother. He's rather a passive-aggressive type, and you'd never guess he had any aggressive in him until you ran smack into it. Actually passive-irritating would be a better word.

Re: church organist ... I mention it because I used to be a church organist, for several churches. It used to be a good fit. It's not a good fit now, but it's a job and a way to make money so I think about it wistfully sometimes.

The 1%/3% I cite for my belief in God and an afterlife are really based on the first numbers that sprang to my mind. There's little to no evidence of the existence of any God, and in my opinion no signs of life from the "afterlife." Recently my youngest brother stated that if there is a God, then He/She/It/They is a purely spiritual God, and does not interact with the physical world at all. I agreed with him. If there is a spiritual plane, then we are completely separated from it. (Which makes no sense if we say that we have a spirit, and "spiritual experiences.")

I believe in what I experience through my physical senses, but I admit that I can't be 100% sure that my physical senses are true indicators of my environment. Maybe I am just a brain in a vat, with electrodes attached to my brain to send "physical sensations" to it and make me believe I live in the apparent physical world.

I have just one friend who cites 0% for his belief in God and an afterlife. Other friends/brothers range around 15-25%. My oldest brother ranges around 95%, as he believes he'd be able to work mighty miracles if his belief level was 100%.

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"What do you mean by a soul?"
A spirit, a metaphysical being, a "mind" that lurks behind the physical circuitry of our brain.

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"What is its function?"
It contains our thoughts and true existence. Our bodies are a mere "shadow" of our soul.

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"What evidence is there for its existence and how did you come to the 3%?"
Ah, now we come to it. I bascially thought up 3% on a whim, based on the idea that I believe slightly more in a soul than I do in a God. That said, I don't have much belief in a soul. The only evidence in its favor are our thoughts, dreams, and emotions, things which could just as easily (or more easily) spring from our glands and our brain.

One big evidence against a soul's existence is our brain. Why do we humans have such a big, complicated brain, if our soul is what does the real thinking? Also, why do our thoughts cease if we have a blackout, a seizure, or are put under anesthesia?

Of course, there are many published tales of "returning from the world of the dead." I highly doubt these tales. Even if the person thinks that's what happened to them, oxygen deprivation to the brain and altered memory could easily account for it. But, tales such as that, and of the existence of God, may be contributing to my 1% and 3%.

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"It seems that if we want heaven to exist and for life everlasting, we have to make it happen in this existence and we can't do that with our heads buried in our own asses."
Indeed.

Eventually, I believe that humans will invent life extension. Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen during my lifetime. Sigh.
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