Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?


The New Mormon Challenge - comparing the Mormon and the Christian God

The New Mormon Challenge is edited by Francis J Beckwith, Carl Mosser, Paul Owen (Zondervan).

The Mormon faith is an example of a truly ludicrous religion being so divorced from reality that it seems to be a cult.  Whatever one thinks of Mormonism's truth claims, it shows that a false religion can have immense power over its people and be immune to refutation and disproof.  If Mormonism has one million devotees that is the same as some other religion having ten million for Mormonism's devotees live eat and drink their faith more than you would see any other faith doing.

The book, The New Mormon Challenge, seeks to give scholarly reasons why this faith is not only untrue but implausible.

What kind of good is God?


..means that God is the being who has the best collection of great-making properties that any being can possibly have, not that he has every possible great-making property one may think of. For example, choosing good over evil is a great-making property, but being necessarily good is also a great-making property. Yet no being can both have the ability to choose good over evil and necessarily always choose good (i.e., not have the ability to choose good over evil). Thus, these are not compossible great-making properties—for no being can have both of them together. Consequently, the fact that God “lacks” the ability to do evil does not count against his moral character .... even though God is necessarily good, it does not follow that he is not a free moral agent. Granted, his actions must be consistent with true moral principles, but he is free to choose what actions to engage in, including actions that are not necessitated by his goodness.

Comment: "Choosing good over evil is a great-making property, but being necessarily good is also a great-making property."  If you had a choice between being one or the other which one then?  There is something better about having the power to do evil but using it to do good than having the property of being just good as if you could be nothing else.  God then is an intrinsically false idea and evil for it denies true goodness in favour of an inferior goodness.  Being necessarily good does not mean it is the best way to be good.  It only means it is what it is.  You cannot create good unless you can create evil.  God is programmed to be good so his goodness is good but not virtuous.

If God is good simply because he chooses either x or y when both are good why are we not made like that as well?  What do we need the power to do evil for?

Did God create and use nothing at all to do so?

A core Mormon teaching is that anything creating something where there is nothing to make it from is false.  Mormons think God did not create all things.  The matter comprising the universe just exists as a brute fact and there is no creator.  God himself is part of all that and he shapes the universe with his power.  He does not call it into existence.  Creation is too often seen as God starting things off in the past but in fact the doctrine is not about that so much as something called creatio continua.  Creation is not an event in the past and is happening now.  God continually creates.  Making something and keeping it in existence is creation right now.

The New Mormon Challenge admits that the notion that the past and the universe must have had a start is unproven.  It answers the arguments of St Thomas Aquinas.  It goes, "Aquinas thought to evade the implications of this position for the finitude of the past by asserting that the temporal series of past events is merely potentially, but not actually, infinite. But this claim is plainly false, for in order to be potentially infinite, the past would have to be finite but growing in a backward direction, which is absurd. Moreover, Ostler overlooks the fact, pointed out by Kretzmann, whom he cites, that Aquinas did in fact accept these arguments as probability arguments for the finitude of the past, even if he thought they fell short of absolute proof."

Comment: Good. But it does argue based on the notion that God is sovereign as in being in control, "An infinite regress of sovereigns would mean that no sovereign in the series would ever be the sufficient condition for the authority passed on to the sovereign who follows him."  The logic is that authority can only come from a God who is the origin of all things and who alone needs to exist.

The New Mormon Handbook: What is creation?  We know it is making something not out of anything but maybe it becomes clearer if we list what it is not.  The book does that.

The New Mormon Challenge: The doctrine of creation assumes that God’s word alone is what brings the universe about—not simply God’s word acting on previously existing matter. Psalm 33 declares that it was simply “by the word of the Lord [tô logô tou kyriou]” and “the breath of his mouth” that “the heavens were made”; he “spoke” or “commanded,” and it was “created/established [ektisthêsen]” (6, 9).105 There are simply no preexisting conditions to which God is subject; it is God’s commanding word that brings creation into being.  As Bruce Waltke states, the Old Testament does not present an “eternal dualism” of God and primordial matter.

Comment: Interesting!  This is not creating at all but using magic words!

Against the notion that God is just a big magician, the book says,

Corresponding to the mythological conception of deity is the magical character of the pagan cultus. Magic is an art whose purpose is to move occult powers to act in a desired manner. It utilizes means which are automatically efficient, irrespective of the will of the gods…The power of magic transcends the gods: they themselves employ it, for they too are in need of this almighty instrument which is independent of them and their will. The gods are great magicians, and there are even skilled specialists in this art among them."  So in creating, "God does not employ magic but simply issues his decree."

Comment: It is strange that turning an acorn into an oak in seconds is magic and turning nothing into something is not.  Magic on the acorn is less magic than using nothing to make something.  "God does not employ magic but simply issues his decree" is messing with words.  Commanding something to appear and it appearing when no power is used is magic.  Magic uses magic words and so it assumes you can command things to happen.
The New Mormon Challenge: In the Bible God uses the image of fire when he comes down at Sinai.  This is to tell people that there must be no images.  Nobody wants to make images of fire and worship them.  This implies a rejection of the magical belief that magic somehow can make an image the actual god or goddess.  Magic in The New Mormon Challenge is a way of bypassing the gods and controlling even them!

Against the Mormon doctrine that create in the Bible does not imply that God makes anything out of nothing The New Mormon Challenge says:

The Jewish Encyclopedia says that the etymological meaning of the verb (“create”) is ‘to cut out and [to] put into shape’ [fashion], and thus presupposes the use of material.”  He* then extrapolates the theological point that God’s creation involved a fashioning “out of pre-existent material.”  He adds later: “The etymology of the verb ‘create’ implies creation from pre-existing materials.” Modern linguists and exegetes have repeatedly shown that using etymology to establish word meaning is misguided.

*The writer of the Encyclopedia article Claus Westermann agrees: Genesis 1:1 does not refer to “the beginning of something, but simply The Beginning. Everything began with God.”

Another Old Testament scholar, R. K. Harrison, asserts that while creatio ex nihilo was “too abstract for the [Hebrew] mind to entertain” and is not stated explicitly in Genesis 1, “it is certainly implicit in the narrative.” 

John 1:3 unambiguously states that all things—that is, “the material world”—came into being through the Word.  The implication is that all things (which would include preexistent matter, if that were applicable to the creative process) exist through God’s agent, who is the originator of everything.  This is borne out by the fact that though the Word was (ên), the creation came to be (egeneto).   Raymond Brown comments: “Thus the material world has been created by God and is good.”My comment on this is that creation from nothing is only clear in Christianity. That is suspect. Why would God wait until Jesus to preach such a doctrine? It is a core doctrine and why would God not explain it to the Jews? Judaism and Christianity are supposed to be the same religion with the latter being the valid update of Judaism. That cannot be with such glaring "continuity errors".

The New Mormon Challenge: 2 Peter 3:5, which speaks of God creating “from water” and “by water.”  If matter were not itself created ex nihilo by God, then there would be something over which he lacked power, which contradicts his omnipotence.

Comment: Why not read the verse as denying creation from nothing?  Is it hinting that all things were made from water?

Does Evil refute the love of God or his existence?

The New Mormon Challenge: Inevitably, when the atheist concludes that evil and the existence of God are logically incompatible, it is because the atheist has made some assumption about the nature of God or evil that the theist is free to reject.

Comment:  Why are they not saying that the Christian is making assumptions too that make God and evil seem to fit?  If there is no fit and you need guesses and assumptions to make a fit then that is evil.  You are using evil as a means to forge a religious belief!

The New Mormon Challenge: The book points out the Mormon assertion that "the doctrine of creation ex nihilo exacerbates the problem of evil by making God an accessory before the fact" but argues against this thus, "Only an omnipotent Creator can solve the problem of evil."

Comment:  The idea is that in Mormonism, God did not create matter for it always existed.  God cannot be an accessory before the fact if it is creatures that freely make evil.  He is not to blame if he did all he could to ensure they would be good.  Nearly everybody thinks it is obvious there is no effort made to help us be good - quite the contrary.  So the believers argue that God has offered that help but we have managed to eclipse it with our evil so we are to blame not only for evil but for making the sea suitable for evil to swim in.

Mormons believe in free will.  The concept is full of rubbish and contradictions and so it is a superstition.  So you might say God is an accessory before the fact for giving us such a ridiculous "free" will.

The idea that God gave us free will so that it is us who sin not him does nothing at all to refute the assertion, "If God created all from nothing then he is an accessory before the fact."  Being such an accessory is compatible with the agents making their own bad choices.  It depends on whether God had a good intention or not or did not care either way.  If God had an intention this intention by default is unlikely to be good because the good is outnumbered.  Bad or indifferent outnumber it.  2 versus 1.

God and Morality

Mormons undermine the Christian belief that morality is only morality for God decrees it and grounds it and in a way IS it.  The Christian God is not a creature in any sense but the absolute.  The Mormon God is just a superhuman person and Christians say that no being just because it is good or powerful can be equated with morality.  Suppose a god does claim to be morality?  Why should we believe him? Why not believe somebody else?  The being is just trying but failing to equate himself with morality.  That is the sign of an arrogant tyrant.   

The New Mormon Challenge:  Socrates, probably a religion sceptic, asked if the Gods could create morality by commanding it or do they just discover it meaning that morality is a standard that is just there and nobody not even a god or God can do anything about that.  The book asks if morality is dependent on what God commands (DCT - Divine Command Theory) or independent?  The book goes:

This is called the Euthyphro Dilemma, because it seems that whichever option of the two one chooses, one chooses an undesirable answer. For if one answers the question by saying that something is good because God loves it, then “goodness” is merely the result of God’s power and will and is thus arbitrary. In other words, if God says that child torture is right, it’s right; but if God says that child torture is wrong, it’s wrong. On the other hand, if one embraces the second horn of the dilemma—God loves it because it is good—then there is a standard of goodness outside of God to which even he is subject. But this would mean that God’s commands are not the foundation of morality.

But even if DCT is an option for classical Christians, it cannot be so for Mormons. For the LDS God is not the Creator of the universe on whom all reality depends. The LDS God is in precisely the same position as the gods whose moral authority Socrates thought problematic...

The book tells us that the Mormon God cannot claim the right to command us and that Mormon assertions that he can and should amount to saying that we must obey him because he has great power and is progressing in power: As political philosopher Hadley Arkes has pointed out, “The young boy who loses his first fight understands instantly that the success of his opponents cannot itself establish that they were ‘right’ or ‘justified’ in beating him up.” That is, “power cannot be the source of its own justification: the fact that some men may have been successful in seizing and holding power over others cannot itself establish that they were justified in imposing their rule.”

Like many classical Christians, I do not find DCT (or its modified version defended by Adams) to be an adequate justification for the moral law.

But that does not mean that God is not the ground of the moral law. It simply means that it is not his commanding that gives the moral law its authority. In other words, the moral law does depend on God, but not because God issues moral commands and is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. Rather, it is because God’s nature (or character) is such that it is eternally and perfectly good. That is, God’s commands are good, not because God commands but because God is good.  Thus, God is not subject to a moral order outside of himself, and neither are God's moral commands arbitrary.  God's commands are issued by a perfect being who is the source of all goodness."

Comment: The way God is dictates to him what is good.  That does not amount to God having any say. Quite the contrary!  It is still luck not God that grounds morality.  As bad as this grounding of morality in what God is may be, grounding it in commands or having a God grounding morality who simply cannot do it for he is only a creature himself is worse.  The Christian view is terrible but the Mormon view is off the scale terrible.  It is just a recipe for divine tyranny - its God is unworthy of worship for what gives him the right to say he grounds morality?

The New Mormon Challenge: There are at least three important truths about objective ethics. First, they are necessarily person-related. That is, moral laws have only to do with persons (humans and angels are persons, as would be Klingons if they existed). It is silly to say that nonpersonal things can act morally or immorally (e.g., no one would seriously propose that a rock is acting immorally if it falls on someone’s head). Second, ethical laws are necessary. That is, they could not have been otherwise. It is not the case that it just happens to be wrong to torture innocent people for fun but that it might have been the case that it was right. Objective ethical laws are necessary laws.

[I give the third one immediately after - it merely says we intuit that evil is just the wrong good].

Comment: It says that objective morals are always and inevitably and intrinsically about persons.  But if you are you and I am I what right has anybody else to tell me what to do with my body or life if it hurts nobody else?  How can I have a moral obligation towards myself if morals are about person to person?  It amounts to altruism which says morality is about the other person and all you are is an instrument to help them.

Is morality being personal or person related as important as morality being necessary?  What does morality being necessary mean?  It means that we cannot get away from it and have to learn to live with it.  Nothing we do changes the fact for example that stealing is wrong - it is necessarily wrong.

What if both are equally vital and important?  It does not change the fact that you can have one without the other.  In that case if you had to choose one it would not matter which one.  The trouble is we need to think.  If the necessity point can be dropped then morality is not necessary at all.

Love and justice are just facts even for God.  Even he cannot alter them for they are his nature. That is what Christian doctrine holds.   If love and justice are God's nature then it is only luck if he is happy with them for they mean he is going to be just and fair whether he likes it or not or consents or not.  They are not gifts to God and they cannot be gifts from God.  Giving is giving out of the abundance you have.  But what is forced on you is not really what you have.  It is what is shoved on you.  Even if he likes justice and love they are not gifts for they are not concerned with what he wants.  They are not about his will though he can use his will to exercise them.  If morality is a fact for us it is a bigger fact for God! 

We know that we cannot get away from making moral judgements: to say that morality is nonsense is to call it immoral so it follows that everybody is a moral judge.  Morality is a fact that we have to live with so it is not a gift from God.  Love or justice is no more a gift than breathing when you have to breathe is a gift to your lungs.

God supposedly gives us gifts of love and justice.  That is where the God idea gets its appeal.  A gift that God is forced to give is not a gift. A gift forced on us is not a gift at all.  A gift that forces itself by default like morality does is not a gift for that reason either.  It is degrading to call it a gift and it is degrading to receive it.  It even degrades God the giver!  Or actually God is not a giver but a victim. 

A baby supposedly has the gift of life.  But it has no say in the matter so how can it be a gift?   Christian morality as one of its core principles assumes that as God has given us the gift of existence we owe it to him to be moral as in loving and just.  That does not follow at all. 

Attempts to ground morality in God not only fail to succeed they end up contradicting morality.

The New Mormon Challenge: We have an intuitive sense that there is a way that things are supposed to be, a good that should prevail. We also sense that evil is a parasite on this; it is something that perverts, twists, and soils the good. This intuitive sense about the priority of good to evil is best accounted for by the intentions of a wholly good and transcendent Creator.

Reply: That is remarkable!  This book claims to speak for people who do not think good necessarily prevails or who think that by the time it does it is not worth it.  Most of us see evil as something that at times twists good but other times does not and is just shamelessly bad.  Augustine who argued that evil is just faulty good and that in the end only good is real used reason to argue that not intuition!  The book is giving one of the worst arguments for God ever!  If God exists and he wants to be personally connected to us then he will implant intuition in us for that creates such a connection.  But he has not done this so he does not want a relationship with us either because he is too impersonal or does not exist.

To tell us that we sense that evil is not real but just a parasite on good and twists it and soils it is a strange thing to say.  Evil can be a real power and still be a parasite.  Evil can distort whether it is a negative thing or not.  If your reason for saying evil is just defective good is intuition then that is a terrible and cruel reason even if you are right that evil is corrupted good.