testimonies and the internet and the ensign

The new ensign came today.
Since living at home again this summer I have enjoyed reading the Ensign each month, though it only contributes to my lack of belief.
(I am amused sometimes at the surprise people express when I comment that attending Church meetings, reading Church Scripture or other publications, serves to strengthen my disbelief in 'The Gospel' rather than propel me towards a renewal of faith.
I suppose their surprise is understandable. Since these people are, as was I, consistently taught that the best way to not lose one's testimony is surrounding themselves with things church related; and that distancing oneself from the Church deprives one of the Holy Spirit, which will lead to the confused and deluded state of disbelief. [While I believe brainwashing to be a near useless term, in the same cult is nearly useless: 'Brainwashing' goes on constantly and only when it is about something we disagree with do we label it such. Aren't we, as modern Americans brainwashed to not be racist(or to follow our hearts)? To even think certain thoughts or use certain words is a taboo emphasized constantly. Think of what is by far the most taboo word in our culture today. Which is okay. {And when the president of one of the country's most respected learning institutions is forced from his position for suggesting that maybe men and women have different aptitudes in some areas, does this not fit the qualifications of brainwashing? Institutionally forbidding certain ideas to be spoken or alluded to? I believe it does.} I believe teaching people they must only surround themselves with whatever idea is trying to be enforced, and that it's wrong of a person to take a step outside and try and see the idea objectively, or from a distance, which is the same as what I was describing above, qualifies as a tactic of brainwashing.]
Because when I allow myself some distance from The Church I tend not think about the parts I dislike and mostly remember the rosier elements, but when I expose myself to The Church directly I am forced to remember and confront all that I disagree with, which is the great majority. When I was in the final years of decided what path I should take, I would go a couple months trying to be as active as possible, and go a few other months living however I wished. It was always during those highly active times that my disbelief increased, and during the inactive times I questioned more if disbelief was the correct course. Until, of course, I reached a breaking point where I became consistently confident in my acknowledgment that I could not truthfully maintain any belief in the Church.)

I noticed the cover article is about being young and single with a photograph of an attractive girl decorating the cover. An issue in the news not too long ago.
Recently at a news conference the sky rocketing rates of inactivity among single women between, (I don't have the article in front of me so the specific numbers might be a little off) 18 and 30, was brought up by a reporter. I believe the rate was something sky high like 80%(possibly higher, but I don't believe lower), though I would be very surprised if this applies to Utah County.

Last month's cover was about Church Members creating a positive presence for The Church on the internet. Something else that had recently been in the news.(Issues regarding all the negative info about The Church online.)

I don't remember The Ensign being so topical and relevant before. I wonder if this has been a recent and conscious move, or perhaps just a coincidence of two months. Or perhaps this has always been the case and I had just never noticed.

But speaking of The Church and the internet, I believe that The Church's slowing of growth as well as the increase in people leaving The Church is primarily due to the rise of the internet.

There is so much negative information about The Church online, and in an age where people do most of their fact checking on the internet.com, it is no wonder that the damning information which had before been hidden in books would now be able to see the light of day and have its influence. (The same appears true, seemingly even more so, for Scientology,)

When reflecting on myself, while what ultimately caused my disbelief came from books and my own thinking, I believe the internet sped the process by at least a couple years. Online I became aware of what books were available and discussion groups spurred many ideas and pointed me towards information I may not have found otherwise.

It seems The Church is aware of this as well. I remember not too long ago the call came to Church Members to try and counter balance the overwhelming majority of negative info about The Church.

Ever since I have noticed a huge difference. Almost immediately there is much more positive information about The Church in nearly every arena. On Youtube many members have started accounts dedicated to countering anti-mormon sentiments. Even The Church itself started a Youtube account, with nearly all the videos being direct replies to common criticisms against The Church, several by General Authorities, particularly Elder Ballard. I will be interested to see how much of an effect this will have.


warming hearts from coast to coast

One fairly common sight I probably used to view with some negativity but now see as heart warming: When I am at a gas station (or a grocery store, but it seems a more common sight at gas stations), particularly around late afternoon early evening, and I see two dudes,buddies, buying a six pack of beer.
It makes me think of sitting on the front porch watching the sunset with a best friend, sipping lime flavored beers, eating Dorritos and 'shooting the shit' (for some reason I feel silly using that term, but putting it in quotations makes it okay?) And sharing a six pack, its not like you get drunk or even tipsy, (especially with utah beer) but just a little chilled out. Good for conversation.

Not heart warming: Seeing one person with a shopping cart entirely full of beer and a look that makes you think it probably isn't for a party.


I finally got a new power supply for my macbook! I am so happy! It broke nearly...a month ago? Time is blurry when I have no date specific obligations! I can use the internet on something other than my phone or borrowing my mom's laptop again! I knew I loved Macs, but did not realize how much more I preferred them till having to use a pc for a while. I am baaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!! Watch out!!!!! Criminals!!! I am going to put you in jaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiillllll!!!


Dr Jekyl and frankenstienhyde.

I am prescribed a sleeping pill I need on occasion to help me be strong. I joke, it is to help me sleep.
It is not that I am the sort who normally has trouble sleeping. I have no trouble quieting my mind enough to rest. But one medicine I take, Cymbalta, which is very effective for its purpose, also has the side effect of making it difficult to fall asleep. Not always, but occasionally.

The sleeping pill works great, and even has a slight hang-over effect lasting most of the next day that is pleasant. Warm and calm.

But the sleeping pill has its own side effects that can cause me trouble.

One, is that if I don't go to bed right after taking it, I tend to get a incredible and insatiable hunger. I can easily eat as much or more as all I had eaten the entire day.
(I notice a lot of things that slow one down tend to increase the appetite. Which makes sense. If your tired it is an indicator to the body that you are in some sort of down time, such as winter, so it is a good opportunity to stock up on energy, by eating a lot and storing it as fat. If that were correct it would follow that things which increase energy inhibit appetite. Which is the case (meth, coke, caffeine, etc.). And makes sense because when you are on the move you don't need extra fat or food slowing you down.)

Not only will I Garfield myself just before falling asleep, but I will hardly remember it the next day. The pill inhibits somewhat the formation of new memories, leaving whatever I do under its influence a haze in my memory . Not only that but it tends to cause my dreams to be extra vivid.

With my last moments before falling asleep being fuzzy, and my dreams while sleeping being extra vivid, a certain amount of confusion can occur within me: 'Did i really eat three quesadilla's last night or was that a dream?' Looking in the sink shows that often it was not a dream.

But the effect I least appreciate is the behavior it tends to cause if I am using a computer when I take the pill. I will have a tendency to send long rambling emails, that may or may not reflect my actual thoughts. Sometimes I will receive an email reply to a message I have no memory of sending. When I read what I had written I sometimes feel a little embarassed about what I wrote. Sometimes I may be more open than I would have preferred in that situation with that person. And sometimes I will even say something that isn't true at all. Since I can scarcely recall having sent the message in the first place, I have little hope of remembering what was going through my mind while composing. Maybe my thinking had become so altered I thought at the time that whatever it was i had said was true. Or maybe I was making some weird joke only I understood.

As far as I know it has never caused any real trouble. I only seem to write close friends or family members.

But it is an unpleasant feeling realizing that I have what is almost like another person living within me whose motivations are not mine. And as much as I may plan so that the alternate me won't get his ways, sometimes he still prevails.

I guess It is like I'm doctor Jekyll and Mr hyde, except instead of becoming evil I just become goofy, sometimes embarassingly affectionate.


police. bumper sticker. dreamsicle.

I recently bought a bumper sticker which reads 'Fight Patriotism'.

I have been wanting a bumper sticker like this for a couple years. I did not necessarily have those two words in mind, rather something that expressed my feelings about how destructive a force I believe patriotism to be.

After I put the sticker on my car I was thinking of how it may raise the eyebrows of my Uber conservative neighbors. Then I thought how the same process which would cause my neighbors eyebrows to raise would cause police officers to want an excuse for pulling me over.

Sure enough just a few days after putting applying the sticker to my car I was pulled over for the first time in years.

The cop ran my plates and saw they have been reported as 'sold' (I bought the car from Jeff, but haven't had the $ to register it nor have I had the car actually signed over to me by Jeff). Why this cop decided to run my plates would be a total mystery, unless I factor in that sticker. I wasn't speeding nor anything else illegal. He mentioned no other reason for pulling me over than that he had ran my plates.

He then tried to confiscate the plates when my bad luck turned slightly less so upon our discovery of the plates being bolted to the car and he not having the appropriate tools. He told me to take them off as soon as I got home but I honestly can't figure out how. The bolt is flat on top and smooth all the way around.

An awkward moment happened a few moments later when I decided to drive to my studio and the same officer was parked a block from my house. I decided to park my car, get out, go tell the officer I couldn't figure out how to remove the plates, explain I really needed to drive that day and had no other transportation. I figured that might win his sympathies and save me his wrath, allowing me to continue driving with the plates. Which it did.

Since then, each night I have dream of me interacting with authority figures like policemen, but not always policemen, and then doing something revolutionary to overcome them. This morning I woke up disappointed realizing the great revolutionary struggle I had been having all night long was only make believe.

Church property

Next door to my art studio is a Church. The Church is Christian but I'm realizing now i've never noticed what denomination.

The Church is, at nearly all times rife with homeless people. Camped out in the doorways and the courtyard in the back in the evenings, or just lounging or reading in the day time.

Seeing this pretty site I'm often struck by how I could not imagine seeing this on the grounds of an Lds chapel, Temple or other church property.*

Even sitting too long on a bench in the Church's main street plaza after nightfall can get one asked to leave.

The site of a church surrounded by the homeless is about a thousand billion (trillion?) times more attractive to me than the well manicured lawns of LDS owned property.

I can understand their motives. Probably want to create a place that appears clean, inviting, holy, sacred, fit for religious worship etc. Perhaps there are even safety and insurance concerns.
They may worry potential investegators may be turned away by the sight of homeless.

But I believe any of these reasons to be at odds with the Message of Jesus. And I have decided I will begin attending this Church on sundays, because of how impressed I am by their treatment of the homeless.(I am still a Baha'i, but part of being a Baha'i is attending all variety of religious services. Besides, it is closer than the Baha'i meetings in Slc. Even though I go to Slc about once a week)

*I tend to pick on the Mormon church a disporportionate amount. This only because I know it so well and am constantly surrounded by it. Not because I think is so much worse than other denominations, have some one to pick with it, or feel any bitterness because of my previous membership. Though not to long ago I came to realize that I dislike the church more than I like it.

P.s. I really like Pimp my ride. I would LOVE to have my old Volkswagon pimped out. I'm just sayin' is all


Dreaming dreams. Visioning visions.

In the most recent ensign there is a story of Henry Eyring's grandfather having a dream where Elder Erastus Snow, whome he would not meet until later commanded him to be baptized. He had another dream of Brigham Young before he had ever met him.

I find stories like this interesting and compelling. Mormon Church history is full of them. But should this be seen as evidence that the Church is true? I don't think so.

Baha'i History is also full of similar stories. Even more so than Mormon history. People dreaming early in their life they will meet the 'Son of Man' and he will be wearing a green hat and say a certain phrase, then later in their life they meet Baha'ullah wearing a green hat and saying the exact phrase.

But what's more, I read a book earlier this year called "Fifty Jewish Messiahs". A very interesting book of 50 people who since about the time of Christ have claimed to be the expected Jewish Messiah and developed a following. Almost all fell into something similar to Joseph Smith where they became drunk on their religious authority and started taking numerous wives, or hosting orgies. One even ended up converting to Islam.

ANYWAY, why I mention this is that many of these Messiah's had similar stories. People dreaming dreams then meeting them and becoming a follower or having visions etc.

Is this evidence of some sort of collective unconscious, that when a powerful spirit is around they influence those around them causing them to dream dreams and see visions? Or some sort of mass delusion? OR is it people just reworking their memories to fit in with what they now believe? Someone has a dream a while back that stuck with them, then they meet a charismatic figure, and we all know how slippery and false memories can be(if you don't, memories are very slippery and easily false. Memories have been shown in studies to be easily implanted, often showing a person a photoshopped photo of them as a child somewhere they had never actually been will cause them to 'remember' having gone on that vacatioin the next day), they end associating the dream with the charismatic figure and create a new memory where the dream had actually been of that person.

My mother once had an extremely vivid and powerful dream she has mentioned to me several times. In it her neighbor, whom she did not know well, was pregnant. My mother told her neighbor about the dream the next time she saw her and the neighbor confirmed she had recently learned she was pregnant and had not yet told anyone. The neighbor also told my mother that similar experiences happened to her often. That during times of high emotion in her life people around her will dream about it.

This dream is interesting but likely didn't contribute much to either my mother or her neighbors life. It is as if a powerful energy was floating around in the ether that happened to cross paths my mother that night. Perhaps through some spiritual dimension or something more natural.

Perhaps something similar is the case with these charismatic leaders. These men and women have such strong emotional vibrations or whatever it can influence those around them, perhaps even in to the past (since at the quantum level the forward arrow of time doesn't seem to apply, this past dreaming could be an entirely natural phenomenon)

I think it is often felt that spiritual encounters are either directed from God or the Devil. (I don't believe in a Devil, and am dubious about God) But it seems more likely to me, based on the numerous and even conflicting spiritual encounters people report, that if their is a spirit dimension, it is much like earth. With people of all different types with different beliefs and agendas who are able to access us to varying degrees. They need not be directed by anyone in authority over them. So a man who dies a Mormon may send his granddaughter a vision confirming Mormonism while a woman who died a Hindu may contact her grandson and confirm to him the truthfulness of Hinduism. Such an after life doesn't even require a God at all. But would not exclude one.


the connection between extroversion and religiousity

While I believe that elements of religion can, in and of themselves cause on average, an increase of happiness, I also suspect that happier people are inclined towards religion, and fundamentalism.

Aside from what I wrote about two entries ago, recent interesting studies have been done about happiness and religion. The study participants would document periodically throughout the day how they were feeling. The studies showed that the more religious and conservative people were the more likely they were to enjoy whatever activities they engaged in as well as be more inclined towards and more likely to enjoy interacting with people.

Studies regarding introversion and extroversion go back a long way and there is little controversy and much consensus about the nature of introverts vs extroverts. Of course, it is too simplistic to split people among only two groups, and there are always exceptions but in general certain rules apply.

Extroverts are overwhelmingly happier than introverts. Extroverts are more social (obviously), tend to have more friends, more full of energy and confidence. However, just as with most aspects of human life, our positive traits are not always appropriate for all circumstances and can have a negative side, so while can be to the extrovert may benefit from being full of energy and optimism this leads them to far more inclined towards reckless behavior, addiction, and a lack of introspection.

Introverts tend to be more introspective, more inclined towards intellectual pursuits, but also have less energy and are far more prone towards depression.

While there are certain environmental factors, particularly in a person's early stages of development that may nudge one towards introversion or extroversion, it appears genetics exert the strongest influence in determining a persons position on the introversion extroversion spectrum.

What the studies mentioned above illustrate is the more conservative and religious a person is, the more inclined they are to be happy,and outgoing. Happy and outgoing = Extrovert. Extroversion = result of genetic predisposition(in general).
It makes sense that an extroverted person, who is not given to introspection, would be far less likely to question their religion. As well, the extrovert would be more likely to feel comfortable as a member of their group, and more prone to be influenced by social pressures, and feel a desire towards conformity.

It would also make sense that an introverted person, already inclined towards depression, inclined towards introspection, which leads to questioning of beliefs and authority. The introverted person is less likely to feel apart of the group, and be persuaded by social pressures towards conformity. Given these factors it would make sense for the introvert to have a lower probability of fundamentalist of conservative behavior and beliefs.

So what is causing what? I think it makes more sense, given what we know about the biology of happiness that it is a person's biological inclination towards extroversion which leads them to be more conservative and religious, not the other way around. So, while I do feel that religion can be inherently beneficial, and can to a certain level lead a person to feel more outgoing, and satisfied with life, studies that show more religious and conservative people are happier and more outgoing, actually illustrate that happier and more outgoing people are more likely to behave and think in conservative ways.


testimony bony

I remember when I was a part of the church being counciled to (and following the council, at least earlier in my life) when discussing the church with a non-member and the discussion seems be going nowhere or is becoming more contentious than is pleasant, for the member to then bare their testimony. This would then change the tone of the discussion, cause the spirit to be felt and pursuade the non-member by spiritual means and because of the strength of the members belief.

Not until getting to be on the other side did I realize how truly bizzarre it feels to have someone do this to you.

Imagine debating an issue with someone, when suddenly stops debating, then declares with gentle eyes and a soft tone 'I KNOW that I am right, and you are wrong' . I imagine most people would feel confused and probably a bit frustrated.

Somehow I got into a big discussion about the church yesterday. It didn't think it was in anyway contentious & it didn't seem anyone else did either (the issue was basically this: most people I speak w seem to agree that the church outside of utah is preferrable. That when church members become a majority the results are negative. My point: this reflects negatively on an institution that dreams of a world where everyone is a believer).
Towards what felt to be the natural ending of the conversation (because my party was about to leave) the girl essentially bore her testimony. I remember thinking something like 'I can hardly imagine anything less effective she could possibly be saying at this moment'.

I realize I was coming from a very different point of view than most non-members, having once been a member myself, having served a mission, & being intimately familiar with the method. However, having it used on me (not for the first time) helped me see how bizzarre and innefective it is. To suddenly stop the rational discussion and declare yourself correct is unlikely to win many debates. When it happens to me I can't help but for my brain to automatically shut off once I hear their voice change to that testimony tone: 'from this point forward no new information will be said. I may not be able to justify my position but despite that I know I am 100%' correct."

To be sure, I imagine testimony baring has at times been effective. As well, it allows a way to end what may be a heated debate in a peaceful (but bizzarre and often frustrating) way. But I can't imagine what must go through non-members mind's when experiencing the testimony shift mindfuck for the first time. (philospher collin mginn or is it mcgill? just published a book called 'mindfuck' so its been on my mind lately. i didn't mean to sound intense)

an old picture:



atheists mind vs. the theist mind. Dopamine's surprise. BOO!

one of the most interesting things i have read recently was in a book titled 'Why We Believe What We Believe' (one of the better books i have read, and i've marked like a general authority might mark their scriptures. The book is about the neurology of belief. I highly recommend it).
The study I'm writing about now was an attempt to see if atheists and theists(believers) brains operated in different ways and if that influenced their perception of the world.
The studies participants were shown a jumble of letters and a jumble of lines or shapes.
Sometimes the jumbled letters contained actual words sometimes not. Similarly sometimes the jumble of lines and shapes contained faces and sometimes not.
The god believers had a tendency to see words and faces in the jumble when there actually were none. Showing their minds tended to see things they were looking for that did not actually exist.
HOWEVER, when the atheists were shown the jumbles they tended to NOT see the faces and words when they WERE THERE! Indicated their minds had a disinclination to notice certain things that actually existed.
So, both the atheist and the theists had incorrect perceptions.
This gets even more interesting:
When the atheists were given L-Dopa which raises the levels of dopamine in a persons brain, the atheist would then percieve the jumble in the same way theists had.
I am curious how an agnostic would test in such a situation.
I think this shows interesting connections to mania. When manic, a person tends to make connections between everything, nothing ifeels like a coincedence but cennects into an intricate web the deluded mind has created. When manic a persons mind is FLOODED with dopamine .
Also while manic one feels hyper religious, euphoric and has a grandiouse sense of self.
Not unlike the religious person. They feel a sense of peace, a sense of self worh and love, and tend to see god's hand in everything. Kind of like a mild mania.
So it seems that the higher levels of dopamine a person naturally has, determined largely by genetic factors can have a strong impact on whether a person will be a believer or not. and can even influence whether they will be fundamentalist or not. i have a lot more to say about that last paragraph, hopefully will write it all out tomorrow.



I, and I believe most people, would consider not revealing all the facts, withholding certain information which may sway a person from believing an idea, a form of dishonesty. A particularly devious one at that, because a person who engages in such an act may be able to claim to others and themselves they were technically honest. Everything they said was true. However, by only revealing one part of the picture, deliberately withholding the other, knowing that would alter one's perception, deception has occurred.

It is for this reason I often feel frustrated when I hear Lds authorities speak of honesty.The Church engages in this behavior constantly, particularly in regard to its history.

I believe this type of deception to frequently be counterproductive. When the curtain is pulled back (which is happening with greater ease and frequency because of www.internet.com) and people do find out what from them, they often feel deceived and confused, not knowing what they can trust from the deceiving source..

The most recent issue of the Ensign had a piece about the Word of Wisdom, listing health issues that can be caused from alcohol, caffeine etc. Perfectly understandable, and a worthy cause, seeking to improve the health of Church members. But could you imagine them ever listing the health BENEFITS of certain things against the Word of Wisdom? For example tea contains anti-oxidants and other health promoting chemicals and has less caffeine than most colas.
(recently I was eating out with my parents, and was struck by the irony when I ordered an iced green tea, and them sugar heavy, nutrient lacking sodas. And I was the one breaking their religious health code. Few things other than religion could create such a situation where the soda drinkers were doing so for 'health' reasons)

Can church members really be expected to make informed decisions when only given one part of the story? How condescending and manipulative to put yourself in a situation where you believe you know what is best for a person, so will only give them information which supports your view. But of course, that is a lot of what religion is about. People who believe god has condescended to show people who are otherwise incapable of figuring out for themselves how to live.

I remember when I first ventured into breaking the word of wisdom. When I smoked my first joint or had my first beer. I was struck by how not big of a deal it was. I didn't feel or act much different like I thought I would. I think that type of thing is common, and unfortunate. I realized that I had been deceived by the Church and and society in general about what drugs were like.

Once you realize your understanding of drugs you received from your church, school or government is severely distorted it becomes hard to trust them about anything they may say on the subject. 'Well, marijuana wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, why should I think shooting up coke and heroin at the same time would be as bad as they say either?'
Once you realize one thing isn't as big a deal as you were told, you no longer have a reliable way to know what really is a big deal, and may get yourself wrapped up in something you would have avoided had people been more upfront with you in the first place.

This is not limited to Mormonism, or even religion, though religion is a great example of it. It isn't always something we do consciously. we tend to avoid facts that contradict our world view. Examples can be found in probably all areas of life. Politics, particularly activism is another good example.

I remember going to a friends house a couple years ago for a video and discussion about globalization. The video was full of information and images about the harm and hurt that stems from globalization. It was filled with images meant to hit people's emotions. Cause them to feel some of the suffering experienced by victims of globalization.

A few weeks earlier I had read an article in 'Scientific American' that highlighted a few recent studies about the effects of globalization.
Surprising to me and the author it was shown that in almost every instance people in areas affected by globalization had their standard of living raised, often considerably.

It is likely that the information in the video and in the magazine was both correct. If we are to seek real solutions to the problems raised by the videos, it would be important to also be aware of the benefits the article pointed out. Considering the two together one might conclude that perhaps globalization is not inherently bad, but it is often done in ways that cause more harm than necessary. If all one knew was the information in the video, it would be difficult to see globalization as anything but pure evil.

This often frustrating me about political activism. People do not educate themselves on the opposing views. Do not fully understand the issues they are fighting for with their entire hearts. Just like religion. And a lot of others stuff.