Archive for the ‘Joshua Valentine’ Category

by Joshua Valentine
While it does not mirror the atheist worldview as the previous points, the LDS epistemology sets its members up to turn against faith and thus embrace atheistic rationalism. While Mormonism is not strictly speaking a fideistic religion, it relies heavily upon some principles of fideism. For members of the LDS Church, ultimate truth is not discovered, recognized, or even approached by study, evidence, logic, or history. These are only an optional means ultimately to lead a person to pray about the Book of Mormon and the current LDS prophet to learn that the LDS Church is true. Once this testimony is gained by prayer, it is regarded as transcendent or invulnerable to any and all evidence against the object of faith – the LDS Church and its gospel. LDS religious epistemology is fideistic in that this prayer-testimony experience, like faith received in fideism, is independent of the world as it actually is. Investigation into the facts is not required to learn Ultimate Truth; it is not encouraged and may even be discouraged. Once the testimony is received it is independent of evidence and argument; all other concerns and issues are viewed as irrelevant.

It usually takes a lot of time, study, and heartache before all that is left between the member and the exit is that prayer experience. Every ex-member, before they leave the LDS Church, has to reevaluate their testimony and its origin. When the evidence makes it impossible for the member to have faith in that prayer experience, members come to realize that the LDS epistemology of prayer for ultimate truth is woefully insufficient. Ex-members conclude that staking their whole life and the lives of their loved ones on blind faith in a prayer experience is unreliable, irresponsible, and dangerous.

By poor reasoning (e.g. “Wouldn’t God answer a sincere prayer?”) the ex-member made the poor decision to join the religion. By better reasoning, they leave it. Unfortunately, faith and this prayer experience are so strongly tied together by LDS teaching that when the prayer-testimony experience is found wanting and dangerous, so too is faith in general. The improved reasoning that led to leaving the church may only evaluate faith based on a limited form of it as propagated by the LDS Church. When they realize the LDS Church is false, they blame their dependence on that experience which, by the teachings of their church, was precipitated by an initial faithful act and was the foundation of their continued faith. Because the idea of faith taught by their church is so simplistic they don’t even realize that they were “duped” by a bad version of faith, but, instead, believe that faith itself betrayed them. The undiscerning faith espoused by their church that led to accepting the prayer experience as truth is found to be gullible, and, if not re-evaluated, all faith is judged as gullible. Shunning all faith, the ex-LDS member is left only with atheistic rationalism.

Mormonism also shuns all mystery. If a religious truth is mysterious, it is because of the ignorance of man. If it is confusing, it is because it is of Satan. Mormonism assumes that truth is simple and understandable to the mind of man. If it is not understandable to the human mind, it is not true. LDS show these assumptions in the way they discuss topics that most people realize will be difficult to understand, like the nature of God.

When Mormons are presented with an issue in their doctrine by critics, no matter the issue and its improbability, Mormons are often quick to claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is more confusing. Mormons also latch onto the word “incomprehensible” when it is used by Christians to describe God. Christians are simply admitting that God’s nature transcends complete understanding by the human mind. But Mormons argue that this is proof that the Christian teaching of God is false – as if all truth about God should be well within the human mind’s powers of comprehension. They believe that God as a glorified man is easier to understand than that God is three persons in one being. They believe that Jesus is obviously a separate being from God from the fact that he prayed to the Father. Any explanation that hints at complexity or mystery are immediately written off as false.

This shunning of transcendent mystery and insistence that the world makes sense to the human mind is mirrored in atheistic scientism. If it is beyond reason or cannot be tested scientifically, then it cannot be known or considered true or real.

While there is no reason to believe that all spiritual experiences of all Mormons are inauthentic or are insignificant, much of what is described as “feeling the Spirit” indicates a shallow experience of emotion mistaken as spiritual revelation. When church talks, church-produced videos, or even secular movies are described as experiences of “feeling the Spirit,” or criticized as “didn’t feel the Spirit,” it becomes difficult to see how these spiritual experiences differ from any other manufactured emotional event. Many former members have come to the conclusion that these experiences were only that.

Much like the reevaluation of their acceptance of faith based on what was taught by the LDS Church, members who leave also re-evaluate these experiences of “feeling the Spirit.” And as many throw out faith altogether, so too, is all spiritual experience disregarded as only emotional experiences brought about by natural environmental stimulus, psychological states, and manipulation. Because the LDS Church and its culture teaches spiritual experience as being so mundane and so often related to performances that include dramatic techniques, they are easily dismissed and, as with faith, all spiritual experience is discarded because what they experienced as a member is determined to have been inauthentic.

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on

The Star Child from “2001: A Space Odyssey”

by Joshua Valentine
Why do so many Mormons become atheists? Whatever the validity of the observation, online discussions of this topic usually only revolve around the answers of not wanting to be fooled again, burnout, and that the same things that deconstruct Mormonism deconstruct all religions. All of these look outside for an answer, but what about Mormonism, itself?  The very doctrines, teachings, and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only directs its members toward atheism but actually gives them atheistic beliefs and atheistic perspectives such that, upon exiting the LDS faith, they find themselves closer to atheism on the spectrum of worldviews than to anything else.

In fact, it is Mormon doctrine that actually provides much of the content of an atheist worldview. Mormonism is the most materialistic worldview next to atheism. In Mormon doctrine, it is not the Mormon God or Gods, but Matter, itself, which is truly eternal, having existed from everlasting to everlasting.  With Matter are Eternal Laws or Principles as well. These exist before and independently of the Mormon God. In fact, the Mormon God, like all Gods before him, is himself made up of this eternal matter and subject to these eternal laws or principles.  Joseph Smith taught that spirit was actually matter, just a more “fine” form of it. God, according to Mormonism, had to obey these Eternal Principles in order to progress from eternal fine matter, or “intelligence,” to a god. This is in stark contrast to many religions that assume that independence from, and being the source of, all creation is definitive of what it means to be “God” or the “Ultimate.” However, in LDS cosmology, Matter and Eternal Law are the true Ultimate, not God.

Thus, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides its members an understanding of the universe that is nearly identical to that of naturalistic atheism, where matter and its inherent properties that are described by humans as universal physical laws are ultimately all there is. When a member realizes that the Mormon God does not exist, when this deity is removed from the materialist LDS worldview, they are left with a materialist atheist worldview already in place, provided by the LDS Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the Plan of Happiness.  One of the main purposes of the Mormon God is to bring about the eternal life and happiness of mankind.  The LDS Church teaches that traditional family is critical to this happiness. Mormons are known for holding the family in high regard.  Outsiders who study the religion find it difficult not to conclude that Mormons practically deify their family by their devotion to it, and how it plays such a prominent role in the purpose of existence, and the definition of happiness, and even heaven, itself. In fact, the Mormon God is subsumed into the human family as the literal physical father of all spirits.  Mormons are also known for their service to others. With the exalted doctrine of family and the principles of greatest good being service to humans and family, the ex-member has already embraced the highest good in atheist practice – loved ones and humankind.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also teaches that God and humans are of the same kind or species. It teaches that God used to be a regular human and that humans can become Gods.  All Gods and humans started as “intelligences,” or fine spirit matter. By an unknown process, this intelligence is embodied in a spirit body provided by a previous God and Goddess’ reproductive activity. The resultant “spirit child” may eventually obtain a physical body, living on a world as a human.  The human may, upon dying and an unknown number of millennia in the afterlife, attain “exaltation” and become another God, and the process repeats. In this way, the LDS Church teaches that humans are the highest form of life in the universe and that our development as individuals and the continuation of our posterity is the highest good. This is strongly analogous to the closest thing to purpose in atheism, the development and continuation of species and, the highest form of life, in particular, humankind.

The primacy and essentiality of the family in the LDS conception of purpose and eternal happiness does not simply give a sense of idolatry but the “eternal round” of gods making spirit babies, who become humans, who become gods, and repeat endlessly is also a sacralizing of reproduction and genetic continuance. The LDS Church teaches that the glory of God is this eternal increase of his posterity. This increase is also only possible through the most worthy members, those who have overcome the challenges of life and flourished in the LDS gospel of laws and ordinances. One could say that Mormonism is a religion of not only individual evolution from spirit to human to god but also a religion of the exaltation of the fittest. Upon leaving the LDS Church and relinquishing belief in its transcendent dimensions of God and afterlife, ex-members are by default evolutionary atheists whose highest good and reason for what they do is their own happiness, which in its greatest form is found in benefiting and continuing the human race.

A scene from the “Stargate” sequence in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

(This article was originally published on the Mormon Coffee website on