transcript is an e-mail dialogue between a former believing
Mormon Bishop, Bob McCue, and a True Believing Mormon.
devout Mormon believer started by asking Bob how he could
be certain that Satan was not deceiving him.
exchange proceeds as follows:
Mr. McCue, I was browsing the Internet and came across your
letter to Apostle Holland. You sound like a pretty good
guy. I don't have anything shocking to say, but I am a member
of the church and have been smashed so many times, that
at times, I feel lifeless. I say that so you know that I
understand the way you feel. I think the issue you are facing
is a test of integrity to God's church/truth. So, even though
you are being labeled as something you are not, just put
up with it like Christ did in his time. Come back to church
and show over time that nothing can break you down.
other day, I was criticized for something so stupid at church,
it has happened so many times. I just blow it off and most
of the time I do what I must to keep the peace. I can see
that in your case it makes sense to do something, but at
the expense of your membership? There must be a better way.
Just show them that you just will not quit the church. Get
back into the race.
you really intend to make a difference, and want it to be
effective, it will take a long time. If you want immediate
results, it will be messy, and will not be effective.
I wish someone would care enough to respond to my concerns,
someone I don't know, and that is the reason I responded
innovative message deserves a response in kind. The reason
that I won't be "going back" is that an entire
world I did not know existed has opened up for me since
I left Mormonism. To go back would be a big step backwards
I have a positive influence? Perhaps, but I think it would
be minimal. I am far better off going in a direction that
seems more healthy for both me and those closest to me.
That direction does not involve Mormonism. However, if due
to some miracle Mormonism were to radically change along
the lines I indicated to Holland, I would consider coming
back. But never on the fully committed basis I used to participate.
There are simply too many other worthwhile things in this
world to do for me to ever do that again.
much do you know about how the world looks to someone who
does not have the Mormon worldview? Let me suggest that
until you get outside Mormonisms (to an extent at least)
this is not something you can possibly understand.
the other hand, understand quite well what things look like
on the inside. This leads me to suggest that you have more
to gain and learn by trying to experience what I am than
I do by returning to what I already understand.
more of our perception of things like "truth"
and "reality" are determined by our social influences
than most of us like to admit.
you the best,
you considered the possibility that you have been fooled
by Satan? He is powerful, and can fool even the best of
us. Even you!
make the same assumptions about reality that I used to make.
Most of them are not justified, in my view, if you are prepared
to look at the evidence.
by Satan? On what basis do you suggest that Satan exists?
You "know" Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?
How do you know that? Mankind has a long history of coming
to conclusions about reality based on emotional experience.
If there is one thing that history makes clear it is the
folly of doing that.
not writing essays that point out flaws in the Mormon Church.
I am exploring the ways in which the Mormon Church uses
the same thought and perspective-controlling tools to cause
people to believe precisely what you do that have been used
by everyone from Hebrew prophets to Egyptian pharaohs, to
European kings, to Hitler, to fundamentalist religious leaders
of all stripes.
easiest way to approach Joseph Smith is to simply ask if
he was reliable. Was he trustworthy? Once you consider the
evidence, the answer in my view is clearly "No."
a time line drawn from a source that most faithful Mormon
scholars accept as solid history, Michael Quinn's The
Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. You can see my other
thoughts on this point in my
essay where I question if religious faith is enlightening
prepared to dialogue with you. But, I will not swap "I
believe" statements with anyone. I deal in the world
of evidence, probabilities and belief justified by same.
Again, if history teaches anything it is the folly of using
any system other than the one I just outlined. The various
sordid chapters of the Mormon story are a tiny fraction
of the evidence to support my position.
are talking to someone who is very logical, but I separate
logic from faith completely because you are right--believing
because you have faith and no real solid logical proof is
not convincing. I still think that there is a place in life
for believing even though it doesn't totally make logical
have a bifurcated mind. I used to have one. Life has become
much more enjoyable since I unified faith and logic. I invite
you to try that approach out and see what you think of it.
In general, I would suggest you read Carl Sagan's book "Demon
Haunted World", and Michael Shermer's "Why
People Believe Weird Things". You may be a logical
person. However, logic leads us down the path defined by
the premises we accept. The things that separate the sheep
from those who find their own way is the ability and willingness
to question premises. The lights will come on for you when
you start to do that.
read your comments and some of them were very insightful.
Your insights give a person control over life's reality,
it seems to me. It sparked a question that I wanted to ask
you: What do you suppose is the whole goal in human existence?
And in conjunction with that goal, what exactly do you believe
in? Do you even believe in God or that there is an adversarial
figure? Have you decided that the Bible is not the word
are the big questions, aren't they? I don't have answers
for them, but some of my thoughts can be found in my
draft essay on faith starting about p. 127. The same
essay has some good comments at about page 58 regarding
how spirituality develops in many people throughout their
lives, and how Mormonism and similar belief systems restrict
speaking, the things that make my life worth living relate
to learning, helping other people, experiencing love and
beauty, etc. Evolution seems to have equipped us with appetites
for these things. And our self-awareness enables us to decide
what is important to us, figure out the cause and effect
relationships connected to that, and then take action to
bring that into being. That is how, for example, the United
Stated was formed. Its founders did just what I indicated
and had a belief in God that is in many ways similar to
mine. When we do the same, we become metaphorically at least,
as gods - we conceptualize and then by our actions we create.
Einstein, by the way, had a belief in God that is similar
to mine, as do many other well-known scientists. And I developed
my belief before I found out about theirs. Wrestling at
the same time with our spiritual leanings and reality tends
to do that to a lot of thoughtful people.
Bible seems quite clearly to be mostly mythic - that is,
not based in real history. Most religious scholars and the
members of many mainstream religions accept it as such.
The Book of Mormon is completely mythic, in my view.
of useful things can be learned from both. But to take them
literally will create serious problems for most people.
See the same essay at about page 36 on the importance of
mythology and harmful nature of literalism.
more literalistic a faith, the more harm it does in general.
Think of the Ultra-Orthodox Jews; the Taliban; the Amish;
the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. You can see the ill
effects in other literalist groups, but not in your own.
And they can see it in yours, but not in their own. That
is how human perception works - we see ourselves much less
accurately than we see others.
in some kind of higher power, but it seems to me that much
more harm than good has come of basing decisions on any
particular conception of him/her/it. The founders of the
United Stated felt the same way. Religious leaders who posit
a clear conception of God usually also purport to speak
for him, and to use their alleged special connection to
God for the purpose of controlling other people.
the admission of uncertainty and ignorance has been the
most empowering, enlightening thing in my life.
you good luck on your journey.
really like what you said about the importance of outside
groups being able to see more clearly the faults in groups
other than themselves. The last thing you said, about the
admission of uncertainty and ignorance as empowering - how
has that been empowering to you?
are certain we have the answer, we stop asking questions.
That is much of the point of the sacred in most societies
- to prevent questions from being asked and so to cause
premises to be accepted. Then a form of logic can be used
to work from those premises to the conclusions the leaders
want. That is how Mormonism works. Knock out the premises
(Joseph Smith spoke with God; the Book of Mormon is literal
history; church leaders speak for God; etc.) And the whole
book on the importance of asking questions is Nobel Prize
winner Richard Feynman's "The
Pleasure of Finding Things Out". That is a great
book on many levels actually. Once I admitted uncertainty
(and rejected Mormonism) I began to burn with questions
and a need to learn more about what was relevant to them.
I have experienced this as a new surge of life the like
of which I had never known. Certainty kills the spirit and
retards growth of all kinds.
you let go of the idea that the Mormon faith is the "only"
truth, but uncertainty is empowering to you, so would you
consider Mormonism to be a topic of uncertainty as well?
Or have you decided that the idea that uncertainty or multiple
truths are a certainty?
is certain except circular logic (which is how the logic
to support Mormonism works - see my
article on this starting at page 26). So my mind is
still open to the possibility that aspects of Mormonism
are as true as anything empirical can be. We cannot prove,
for example, that the earth is not flat. But, the evidence
indicates a high degree of probability that it is not flat.
Mormonism, in my view, has roughly the same chance of being
"true" as the earth does of being flat. And I
am still open to evidence that could chance my view of the
probabilities on either of those points.
you feel that uncertainty is empowering, are you certain
that Satan has not fooled even you in this case?
me repeat - nothing is certain. I have said this at least
half a dozen times, and yet you continue to return to it.
So no, I am not certain. But the evidence causes me to believe
that it is highly improbable that either Satan exists or
that he has fooled me. Metaphorically, however, the notion
of evil is useful as its embodiment as Satan.
the Book of Mormon is only stories to you, the whole issue
with Korihor in Alma 30, who preached pleasing words to
the carnal mind, and had many of the same ideas as you,
seems to be pretty relevant in your case here.
you heard of the "Texas Sharp-Shooter Fallacy"
in logic? It works like this. A Texas rancher wanted to
demonstrate to his friends that he was a great marksman.
So he fired a number of shots at a barn wall and then drew
targets around them that showed each bullet going into a
bull's eye. That is, by drawing the targets after firing
the bullets, he controlled the appearance of the evidence
he present to his friends. Their theory (that good marksmen
shoot bullets into bull's eyes) would cause them to assume
based on the evidence he produced that he was a good marksman.
“prophets of God” are usually supported by what
scripture says, and sometimes are even themselves predicted
by prior prophets (or so the scriptures say). Wouldn't it
be a wonderful thing if you could make up some scripture
that supported what you had to say, or better yet, predicted
that someone like you was going to be a prophet?
am Joseph Smith and either making up a book, or feeling
inspired to write something, it is likely that it will support
my point of view. To assume that Joseph Smith miraculously
discovered ancient writings that told everyone just what
Joseph Smith wanted them to hear (including that a great
prophet named Joseph would be raised up in the last days
- hmmmm) is naive in light of the other possibilities. You
likely have not heard that parts of the Bible are thought
by many scholars to have been written on the same basis.
Some People trying to reform the Hebrew people at different
times and that "found" a scroll or two "written"
by Moses. These would be much more persuasive than anything
they themselves might say. This kind of thng is thought
to have played a large role in the creation of some parts
of the Pentateuch and the New Testament. Again, we are not
certain of this, but the evidence is compelling. And many
modern religious and political leaders have done similar
things. This is a common human pattern.
Smith and his cronies either did what many other power seeking
people have done, or a miracle happened. And the only people
who seem to believe the miracle are those with a huge investment
in the social group that believes the miracle, another common
human pattern. Outsiders do not find Joseph Smith 's story
even mildly compelling. They react to it the way Mormons
react to the story of Mohammed and the Koran.
are interested in finding reality, you do not listen to
your own group, you listen to as many others as you can
and create a composite on the basis of how credible they
each seem. And you do not yield to the demands of your leaders
not to question the premises they set out for your belief.
That is the huge mistake, because our perception of reality
is controlled by the premises we accept. By never questioning
the basic premises your church leaders insist upon, you
give them the power to manipulate you as they wish.
the attitude of being "opened minded" and trying
to break down the idea that God exists and has chosen representatives
to teach one truth, perhaps it is one of the greatest tactics
Satan uses on the feeble-minded by those of a "hard
But consider what I have already written on that topic.
The Texas Sharp-Shooter Fallacy applies here as well.
much more extreme case it is, but how would you answer the
questions of Alma? Having no real proof that God doesn't
you are willing to accept the idea that you are "open
minded" and willing to admit that you are uncertain,
then how can you assume that this does not include the Book
of Mormon and the teachings therein? Food for thought, no?
above, my beliefs do not preclude the Book of Mormon, etc.
from being true. But they make that highly unlikely. And
at some point, a person is justified in no longer feeling
the need to deal with every argument the faithful make.
That is why you probably don't feel the need to listen over
and again to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Muslims or
Young Earth Creationists. Their position seems so improbable
that you are justified in feeling that your time is best
spent on other matters. That is how I feel about Mormonism.
Nor have I read (and probably will not read) the last few
good books that debunk the Mormon approach (like Simon Sothertons'
A Lost Tribe" regarding DNA and the Book of Mormon).
I am trying to acquaint myself with reality in all of its
forms and if I run into something that makes me seriously
question my point of view in favor of some aspect of Mormon
belief, I will be as interested in that as anything else.
Mormon intellectuals use a form of Post -Modernism to support
their views – i.e. nothing is certain; Mormonism "works";
hence we are justified in following it (even if it isn’t
true - see my
article on this, starting at page 15). And I studied
that carefully with some initial hope that it might work
for me. It did not.
have read your writings and am genuinely impressed by your
ability to see things from an outside perspective, but is
this at the cost of a false reality where you believe you
are now accepting reality but rather have created a logical
way out of it?
I can do is repeat what I have already said. Reality is
what it is. I am trying to understand it. The Mormon position
is highly improbable, based on the best evidence I can gather.
The great physicist Freeman
Dyson said that he felt great relief, freedom and joy
when he let go of his religious beliefs that required reality
to be a certain way, and became able to ask any question
that would help him to see reality more as it is, instead
of as someone hundreds or thousands of years ago said (perhaps
with the best of intent) that it must be. I too, have felt
that great relief, freedom and joy from learning more about
it is clear to me that you are more knowledgeable and intelligent
that me. I see life as a test, created by God, and so any
other explanation can only be founded upon the philosophies
of men, which change constantly, and are usually biased
to the interests of their author.
do you distinguish between the philosophies of men attributed
to men, and those attributed to God? If I want to control
my fellows, am I not better off trying to persuade them
that I speak for God? This is the oldest game on Earth.
fear for you, because I think you are someone of great importance,
for which Satan has put you into a slippery situation. But,
I think there is much to learn from you points of view,
which will not only strengthen my ability to understand
others, but myself and my own testimony. Don't take any
of what I say as offensive, I think there is a lot of truth
in your views. I hope you will continue to explain yourself.
limited time for this kind of thing, and I hope that our
interaction will be of use to you. But I am not set up as
any kind of leader. As you look around more, you will find
many like me who are simply interested in finding out what
is, and are not trying to control anyone. That is one of
the many things that distinguishes us from people like Joseph
Smith. Whether with pure intent or not, they were all about
control. My draft essay regarding Mormonism (See my
article on this here) explains where some of the ideas
that were dominant in their day came from. Thankfully, most
of humanity has left those ideas behind, as I now have.
I wish you good luck on your journey.
More about Bob McCue by visiting his website:
- Post Mormon