Final thought September 22, 2008

Final thought

Subject: An Editorial on Mormons – Santa Clarita, CA newspaper editor.

“I have heard and seen enough! I have lived in the West all my life. I have worked around them. They have worked for me and I for them. When I was young, I dated their daughters. When I got married they came to my wedding. Now that I have daughters of my own, some of their boys have dated my daughters. I would be privileged if one of them were to be my son-in-law.

I’m talking about the Mormons. They are some of the most honest, hard-working people I have ever known. They are spiritual, probably more than most other so-called religious people I have encountered. They study the Bible and teach from it as much as any Christian church ever has. They serve their religion without pay in every conceivable capacity. Not one of their leaders, teachers, counselors, Bishops or music directors receive one dime for the hours of labor they put in. The Mormons have a non-paid ministry – a fact that is not generally known. I have heard many times from the pulpits of others how evil and non-Christian they are and that they will not go to heaven. I decided recently to attend one of their services near my home to see for myself. What a surprise! What I heard and saw was just the opposite from what the religious ministers of the day were telling me.

I found a very simple service with no fanfare. I found a people with a great sense of humor and a well balanced spiritual side. There was no loud music. Just a simple service, with the members themselves giving the several short sermons. They urge their youth to be morally clean and live a good life. They teach the gospel of Christ, as they understand it.

The name of their church is ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints’. Does that sound like a non-Christian church to you? I asked them many questions about what they treach and why. I got answers that in most cases were from the New Testament. Their ideas and doctrines did not seem too far fetched for my understanding. When I read their ‘Book of Mormon’ I was also very surprised to find just the opposite from what I had been told I would find.

Then I went to another church’s pastor to ask him some of the same questions about doctrine. To my surprise, when he found out that I was in some way investigating the Mormons, he became hostile. He referred to them as a non-Christian cult. I received what sounded to me like evil propaganda against those people. He stated bluntly that they were not Christian and that they did not fit into the Christian mold. He also told me that they don’t really believe the Bible. He gave me a pile of anti-Mormon literature. He began to rant that the Mormons were not telling me the truth about what they stand for. He didn’t want to hear anything good about them. At first I was surprised and then again, I wasn’t. I began to wonder. I have never known of a cult that supports the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Boy Scouts, over a third of all the Boy Scout troops in the United States are Mormon. What cult do you know of that has a welfare system second to none in this country? They have farms, canneries and cattle ranches to help take care of the unfortunate ones who might be down and out and in need of a little help. The Mormon church has donated millions to welfare causes around the world without a word of credit. They have donated thousands to help rebuild Baptist churches that were burned a few years ago. They have donated tons of medical supplies to countries ravaged by earthquakes. You never see them on TV begging for money. What cult do you know that instills in its members to obey the law, pay their taxes, serve in the military if asked and be a good Christian by living high moral standards?

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of Mormon youth get up before high school starts in the morning to attend a religious training class? They have basketball and softball leagues and supervised youth dances every month. They are recruited by the FBI, the State Department and every police department in the country, because they are trustworthy. They are taught not to drink nor take drugs. They are in the Secret Service – those who protect the President. They serve in high leadership positions from both parties in Congress and in the U.S. Senate, and have been governors of several states other than Utah. They serve with distinction and honor.

If you have Mormons living near, you will probably find them to be your best friends and neighbors. They are Christians who try to live what they preach. They are not perfect and they are the first to admit this. I have known some of them who could not live their religion, just like many of us.

The rhetoric which is spread around against them is nothing more than evil propaganda founded in untruths. (Others) had successfully demonized them to the point that the general public has no idea what they actually believe and teach. If you really want to know the truth, go see for yourself. You also will be surprised. When I first moved here some 25 years ago there were five Mormon wards in Santa Clarita. Now there are 15. They must be doing something right.”

Paul Allen – Santa Clarita, CA


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  • Gullwatcher

    My favorite sister-in-law is a Mormon, so is one of my favorite co-workers. Yep, nice people. That doesn’t mean that their religion isn’t incredibly stupid and deserves all the ridicule it gets.

    Is there anger here? No, but I bet I’m going to be told there is. It’s a sterotype, and I’m incredibly tired of it. Think of that next time you’re annoyed when someone brings up underwear.

    Lindsey, if you can’t differentiate between people calling your faith on its idiocies and genuine anger, you are going to find a lot of ‘anger’ here. But honestly, that’s all in your head, not in our hearts.

  • “I am 100% fine with people not liking me. It’s having to constantly defend the God, the church, and the religion that I love and believe in that is causing me unnecessary stress”

    I’m not sure I understand this; if you’re on an atheist blog, I would think the least you would expect to do would be to defend your faith (by which I mean present your reasoning for accepting it as true, as opposed to having to respond to or defend against anger or personal attacks). What’s the point of entering a dialog with atheists if you have no interest in responding to criticism of your religion? To me, if it’s stressful or difficult for me to defend something I believe in, I’m inclined to question those beliefs, rather than become frustrated with those challenging them.

    I don’t think people should respond to you with anger or insults, but I think it is very reasonable for people to challenge your beliefs; otherwise, what constructive dialog can be had here?

  • I think it is very reasonable for people to challenge your beliefs; otherwise, what constructive dialog can be had here?

    Absolutely! I agree, and that’s why I’m here!
    But some of the e-mails I’ve gotten are not constructive in the least. I just want a few of them to know that they can go right ahead and ignore my posts in the future, because I’d rather not put up with the genuine insults that I have been recieving, whether Gullwatcher likes it or not!

  • Jenn

    I know this is probably neither here nor there, but that editorial is not from the Paul Allen, owner of the Seahawks.
    http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/paulallen.asp

  • I doubt that’s the Paul Allen of the NBA Trailblazers, NFL Seahawks, and Microsoft.

  • Snopes says it’s not.

  • A Paul Allen is a Paul Allen.
    All I know is, it’s nice.

  • It’s having to constantly defend the God, the church, and the religion that I love and believe in that is causing me unnecessary stress and the desire to throttle multiple people and then unceremoniously dump their bodies in a lake.

    Good. You should have to constantly defend your beliefs. Everyone should.

    It’s unfortunate that defending your beliefs stresses you out. It is probably because it is actually *impossible* to honestly and convincingly defend your beliefs against the completely fair rational scrutiny people have put out. Trying to do the impossible is no doubt stressful!

    It has been a fascinating conversation, though. I didn’t know about the Book of Abraham. Quite hilarious.

  • Daniel

    I doubt it’s that people don’t like you. You seem like a fun, cool girl and you write very well. I think a lot of us are confused as to why you are on _this_ particular site. I know you were invited, I’m just confused about the overall plan, and that’s not your problem. Cheers to you for having the guts to post in a potentially hostile environment.

    If the goal is to expose atheists to fun, cool people of all faiths, where are the other representatives? And why continue with the Friendly Atheist moniker? How about this instead: “The Friendly Multi-Faith Blog, Rah Rah Obama!” Because that’s mostly what I’m getting from the posts.

  • Adrian

    Well, I’m going to be the stick-in-the-mud.

    She mindlessly cites one authority and when challenged, cites another mindless authority. Might as well keep silent.

    Mormons are the nicest, most spiritual people you can find? What a pile of platitudinous crap. It isn’t even a well-reasoned authority.

    We saw with her earlier answers that she’s a mormon ’cause she was born in the right place & the right time and hasn’t spend a lick of time considering alternatives. That’s about as close to an admission of error that you can get from a theist.

  • Looks like someone already separated the Paul Allens. Still, I’ve read that letter before.

    Lindsey, thanks for clearing up a bit of your background. That explains a lot. You’ve got a lot of life ahead of you, especially as a Mormon.

    Personally, I would be most interested in hearing about your temple experience (not in detail, obviously, as I understand even though I’d be more than happy to discuss it now as a former Mormon to anyone that asks).

    I’ve always been curious to hear people’s first impressions and how they try to explain in vagueness with anyone, especially so with those that have already been through multiple times. It’s like two people that have seen the same movie but yet neither of them talk about any details, just simple phrases like “it was so special” I understand the sacred part, but it seems odd that two people can’t discuss something they both experienced. Even parents and spouses get all freaked out and apologetic about talking about what they experienced. To me, that’s called fear.

    Regardless, I welcome you here, so long as your statement about not trying to convert anyone (which is one of the top mantras of the LDS church) is true and sincere. Otherwise, you’ll see some well deserved backlash.

    Debate, questioning isn’t just non-religious against religious. It’s human in nature. As a college student, that’s key to learning. Especially if you take any humanities class.

  • SarahH

    I’m a bit late to this conversation, but I think it’s important to remember that your main audience on this blog won’t be interested in converting or even just saying “Oh, how nice!” when you outline your beliefs. Most atheists grew up taught religion in differing degrees of sincerity, and we’ve found reasons to reject it as not worth believing, now that we’re adults (or teens).

    Being friendly doesn’t mean refraining from questioning the beliefs of others, given appropriate timing/setting. It’s rude to insult someone, but it’s not rude to point out perceived flaws in their reasoning. You aren’t going to find many people here who’ll accept emotional responses to books as evidence, for example. Religion should not be immune from criticism.

    I’m sorry that you’ve received some rude e-mails, but I think it might be better to respond to them individually (or ignore them) than to use the blog to reply to them. We understand that this is the internet – posting anything anywhere is bound to get you hatemail.

    It would be nice to see you do a sort of co-hosted post with Hemant, where you both talk about what your role is on this blog, for those of us who are a bit confused about it.

  • BJ

    I’m impressed that you post anything on this site. I have told people that show up at my door, “You can stick around and we might have a really interesting conversation, but I am an atheist so really that is as far as the conversation will go. Good luck and I have a lot of respect for your ability to talk to complete strangers about what you believe in.”

    Everyone I have told that to has treated me very respectfully and went on their way. One time when I was washing the car a fatherly figure and a teenage girl came up to me and you should have seen the look and smile on her face after I told them that. It was priceless and I think she learned something that day about others outside of her religion.

  • Ok, I wanted to go back and look at the first post, and it’s gone. Now parts of this post are gone. That’s really bugging me…

  • “Whoo boy! Not everyone can say that they’ve ever pissed off a whole teeming slew of atheists all at the same time, but it looks like I get to cross that right off the list of Things To Do Before I Die! And trust me, it was right up there with ’skydiving’ and ‘getting bashed about the face by multiple sumo wrestlers all at once.’
    To be completely fair, there are a whole bunch of you who have been very tolerant (if not accepting) of me and my beliefs and that’s really all I can ask. So, I thank you.
    But for everyone else (many of whom sent personal e-mails instead of going the comment route, so don’t be all ‘no one was mean, you big baby’), get a grip! I’m a 22 year old college student, not a damn mormon scholar, which I think is the exact reason I’m on this website. I’m not here to preach to you about all the ins and outs of mormonism and try to convert you and all that bull shit, I’m not a missionary. What I am is a girl who’s prayed to a god SHE believes in about a book that SHE read and felt was true. And I’m not trying to push that on anyone else, I don’t care if you all end up in the telestial kingdom. I am 100% fine with people not liking me. It’s having to constantly defend the God, the church, and the religion that I love and believe in that is causing me unnecessary stress and the desire to throttle multiple people and then unceremoniously dump their bodies in a lake. And that is against the ten commandments.

    But a reader did send me the following article (hi, Jon!) and I’d like to share it with all of you. So here’s an example of a positive impression that a non-LDS person had of mormons.”

    I think one thing that people here may enjoy is if you could talk about the good and bad things you enjoy about growing up as a Mormon, and not talk to much about theology, which atheists will rip apart.

  • JohnB

    Hey, what happened to Lindsey’s other recent post?

  • I’m afraid I can’t think friendly thoughts about Mormonism or Mormons right now. Many of them are engaged in a full frontal assault on marriage equality in CA and AZ (Proposition 8 and Proposition 102, respectively). Some of them are doing it merely because their church ordered them too. Others are doing it because they’ve swallowed the church dogma that gay/lesbian individuals are “sinners” and accordingly do not deserve equal rights. Thankfully a few are doing what is right and standing up for equality, even at the risk of getting excommunicated.

    People have the right to believe whatever they want. But when they use those beliefs to infringe on the rights of others and/or cause harm, that’s where the line must be drawn.

  • Gadren

    The Santa Clarita editorial is nice, but you have to understand that its audience is not your audience. It works in the context of showing that the LDS Church is another normal religion and not the weird cult that other Christian denominations may think.

    But here, on this site, it really doesn’t do anything to place the LDS Church among a global community of churches, since pretty much all of us have rejected that community of religions.

    I was raised as a Mormon. I remember hearing about the various demographics of those in the Church (less drug use, healthier lives, etc.), and even now I can look and be glad that people are living better lives. I understand the powerful draw of “by their fruits shall ye know them.”

    But — at the risk of sounding blunt — the good deeds of those in the Church are irrelevant to many here, including me. I see the Church’s doctrine, just like all theistic doctrines, to be based on unsupported assertions and claims that, particularly in the case of the LDS Church, go against our knowledge.

    I respect you; you seem to be a pretty sensible person. I respect your right to have your belief, and your strength of will in posting about it here. But I can’t respect those beliefs in the way you seem to want me to: to let your responses go unchallenged.

    Let me finish by giving my own experience in the LDS Church, and why it mirrors what I’ve seen here. I became an atheist about a year and a half ago, and during the years leading up to it, I asked all sorts of questions to my Church leaders. The previous post you gave wasn’t bad, but they were the same answers they gave me. I found their answers insufficient (as many readers here found yours insufficient), but no matter how hard I tried to reason, all I got back were repetitions of the same “official answers” and a bearing of their testimonies.

    Just keep in mind that your audience here contains those who have already heard similar things, and is willing to have the back-and-forth persist beyond the first “official answer.”

  • Well Lindsay, you are venturing outside the approved boundaries of intellectual inquiry set forth by your faith, and I say good for you.

    I’m ex-Mormon myself, been to the temple and all that. Like some others said, I’d be curious about how you perceive Mormonism affects you – the cons as well as the pros.

  • One more thing for Lindsay. I noticed that quite a few of the answers you wrote to questions were inaccurate, some were grossly inaccurate. It was interesting to take note of your answers and see how you’ve been misled about certain things in your church’s history.

    For example, as someone who can remember when the priesthood ban on blacks was lifted, I can tell you most assuredly that for most of Mormonism’s existence that dark skin has been seen as a curse and that it was taught by GAs for many years that people who were born black were being punished for their behavior in the pre-existence. There are many older Mormons who still hold these views, which makes sense because that’s what they were taught in their youth.

  • Rat Bastard

    You could substitute the word “atheist” in nearly every instance above for “Mormon” in this editorial.

  • Aj

    It’s a good sell to some Christians, but a lot of atheists don’t think Christianity is so great. The boy scouts is a horrible organisation in no small part because it’s infested with Mormons. How can he not mention the unsolicited visits? So anoying.

    It’s a bit strange to have a Mormon here talking about ridiculous stuff like people travelling from the Middle East to America before Christ, and Noah’s Ark. In the next post Hemant is saying that someone else is “too smart” to believe that bollocks. He always mocks the ignorant false versions of history. I’m getting mixed messages.

  • Why has Lindsey’s previous post been deleted?

  • Gullwatcher

    I’d rather not put up with the genuine insults that I have been recieving, whether Gullwatcher likes it or not!

    And I would rather not be mischaracterized as one of a bunch of angry atheists without visible cause.

    I haven’t seen the emails you received, I was only commenting on what others posted and your response, and now you’ve pulled the plug on those so what I was responding to is gone.

    Let me shortcut the learning curve on this – anytime you explain your beliefs here, the same way you did, you will get probably pretty much the same response. If, on the other hand, you simply say “this is what I believe, and it doesn’t have to make sense to you and I’m not going to try to justify it”, you will get a lot fewer rebuttals pointing out the logical flaws and historical inaccuracies.

    What you put out will partly control what you get back.

    About the Boy Scouts – donating large sums of money to an organization is a good way to get control of them. Everywhere else in the world, the Boy Scouts are a tolerant bunch who have no trouble with atheists and gay people. It’s only here in the US, where the Mormons (and to a lesser extent the Catholics) hold the purse strings, that this discrimination occurs.

  • SarahH

    Why has Lindsey’s previous post been deleted?

    My guess is that Lindsey deleted it, or asked Hemant to delete it (and the original commentary in this post) for reasons of her own. It seems regrettable that so many reader comments were deleted with the first post as well, but I think there are several understandable reasons that could have led to this decision.

    Hopefully we’ll hear from Hemant or Lindsey about these developments soon.

  • Shane

    I am thoroughly unimpressed. Wow, some Mormons are nice people. They get up early, eat their Wheaties, participate in team sports, and are trusted with government jobs. And, gosh darn it, they’re nice people.

    *slow clap*

    What they believe is still wrong. Full stop. And any marginally objective examination of their beliefs will confirm this. Furthermore, their beliefs aren’t interesting or of much historical significance (except, I suppose, to Mormons). Thus, my apathy towards Mormonism continues to grow…

  • I’m not entirely sure what Lindsey’s argument is here. She seems to be defending Mormonism by pointing out that they are good people. Okay. I’ve known some Mormons. They’re good people. But, the major issue for me and religion is not “are religious people good people”, and it’s not “the Mormons/Christians/Muslims are good – therefore they must be doing something right” (and the “something right” ends up being justification for belief). Rather, the problem for me is the question, “Is it true?” My answer is “No”. There’s plenty of evidence that their religions are not true.

    And if they are good people, where does that leave us in relation to our views on religion? Well, there are plenty of religions and cults with good people. If being good is justification for belief, then why isn’t Lindsey joining one of the countless cults in the world? If “religion X has nice followers” equals “the religion is right”, well, you’ve got an awful lot of religions and cults you can join – and they hold mutually contradictory beliefs, so obviously 99% (if not 100%) of them are wrong. What makes Mormonism the “right one”?

    Additionally, I think Lindsey is personalizing critiques of Mormonism. It seems like she thinks atheists don’t like her (note the URL of this entry: the-atheists-dont-like-me). And, she will probably decide that Mormonism is right because atheists don’t like her or are “mean”. Again, that’s not really a good argument, it’s an emotional reaction. I’d hate to think Lindsey is going to escape back to the illusion of Mormonism because she thinks the people “out there” are mean and the Mormonism is right because it’s safe and comfortable and they accept her.

  • When talking with Mormons, there was this sense of an us versus them philosophy. Missionaries venture outside Zion to Babylon to visit the Gentiles.

  • And, the anti-homosexual streak in Mormonism makes me sad. There are Mormons who have no problem with homosexuality, and others who do. What seems to happen, is that there is a groundswell of social pressure to change, then Mormons change. Polygamy, and allowing blacks into the priesthood are examples of bowing to social pressure. But, I’m sure there was such a push back from Mormons in both cases, even though the change was right. The equality of women in the church will be next, but the differences in the sexes is so great, I bet there will be female Catholic priests before there will be Mormon priests.

  • “…According to the Boy Scouts, over a third of all the Boy Scout troops in the United States are Mormon”

    And none of them are openly gay or atheist anymore, which is a real tragedy. An organization that teaches bigotry and intolerance to our youth should not be referenced in positive terms.

  • I’d hate to think Lindsey is going to escape back to the illusion of Mormonism because she thinks the people “out there” are mean and the Mormonism is right because it’s safe and comfortable and they accept her.

    Oh, PLEASE!
    I’m officially really irritated.
    Like I’m some sheltered little princess who’s never been ‘OUT THERE’ in the
    ‘REAL WORLD’ and has to hide behind mormons because I’m scared?! Bull shit! You can go right ahead and talk about how the belief system for mormons is flawed (because you’re CLEARLY the one to go to when it comes to mormons and what they believe), but don’t act like you know me or ANY of what I’ve done or where I’ve been or the experiences I’ve had.
    I’ve stated on this website that I was entirely agnostic for 2 years and I went to a LOT of different church services, read up on a LOT of religions and found that the LDS religion was the one for me and it had nothing to do with feeling ‘accepted’ and everything to do with my own personal choice. Get over it.

    And, she will probably decide that Mormonism is right because atheists don’t like her or are “mean”.

    Don’t give yourself so much credit. I couldn’t care less what you believe (or DON’T believe), especially when you sound like such a judgemental moron when you say it.
    Thanks for commenting.

  • I’d hate to think Lindsey is going to escape back to the illusion of Mormonism because she thinks the people “out there” are mean and the Mormonism is right because it’s safe and comfortable and they accept her.

    Me too.

    But I’m really annoyed that the previous post got taken down. Isn’t that bad blog etiquette? And it was a good discussion.

    Hopefully she’s preparing a new reply, or at the very least we’ll get some explanation.

  • I’ve stated on this website that I was entirely agnostic for 2 years and I went to a LOT of different church services, read up on a LOT of religions and found that the LDS religion was the one for me and it had nothing to do with feeling ‘accepted’ and everything to do with my own personal choice.

    Before you were agnostic, were you Mormon? Please say yes- please say you were brainwashed into it from birth. Then it’s not really your fault, and I can’t blame you for retreating back into it.

    But if you *chose* Mormonism when you were old enough to know better, you ain’t getting any slack 😛

  • Oh, PLEASE!
    I’m officially really irritated.
    Like I’m some sheltered little princess who’s never been ‘OUT THERE’ in the
    ‘REAL WORLD’ and has to hide behind mormons because I’m scared?! Bull shit!

    I mean, seriously, the girl’s got chops. I was wondering how long it would take her to get pissed off with all this.

    I still don’t get it (the arguments for Mormonism, that is). And I still think that Mormonism, along with all other religions are complete crap. I don’t think you are complete crap, Lindsey, just your religion. My former religion (evangelical christianity) is complete crap too. I’m an equal opportunity crap designator… not that you’re losing any sleep over it… 🙂

    But again, no glass jaw on this girl. Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin.

  • Don’t give yourself so much credit. I couldn’t care less what you believe (or DON’T believe), especially when you sound like such a judgemental moron when you say it.
    Thanks for commenting.

    Hey wait. I’m supposed to be the rude, evil, name-calling jerk, not you. (And, yet, I forgot to call you names!) You’re clearly trying to flip the script to reverse our predefined, stereotyped roles, aren’t you? (smile) Kind of ironic given that the original point of your post was that Mormons are all such great people.

  • “Great” people can still stand up for themselves.

  • By the way, you can still read all of her deleted posts on Google cache.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site:friendlyatheist.com+%22Lindsey+Fay+Kirth%22

    I do find it odd when people delete whole slews of posts from a website.

  • Aj

    Abbie,

    But if you *chose* Mormonism when you were old enough to know better, you ain’t getting any slack

    These door-to-door religions pick vulnerable people, it’s more recruitment for the long con. Scientologists, Jehovahs, etc… Religions don’t pray, they prey. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to go from bibical literalist to Mormon, they’ve already rejected the necessary science to accommodate the Old Testament. I suspect she was brought up to be a Mormon and I’m skeptical about the agnosticism, it doesn’t really describe someone’s position well.

  • Cait

    True enough, some of the nicest people I know are Mormons. And they can believe whatever they want about things that happened in Mesoamerica back in the day or revelations to prophets, etc, it’s their choice.

    What scares me, though, are the attitudes towards gender inequality and sex/purity that so many of the Mormons that I’ve met have. Because nice people really shouldn’t go around saying that half of the population lives to serve/support the other half, and that all these natural impulses are wrong, without any real proof. And while alot of people can live with that, I’ve seen that lead to a fair bit of depression and guilt in a couple of my Mormon friends (for not being able to live up to the ideal, etc).

    Lindsey, you seem fairly liberal for a Mormon, so that probably won’t apply to you. But while people should appreciate some of the things that Mormons do, by no means does that apply to every belief that they hold – outdated bullshit opinions need to be challenged, and that’s kind of one of the main points of this site, right?

  • mariesala7

    Where are your previous posts? We had an intelligent discussion going on. Can we get an explanation here?

  • Pseudonym

    I have another question for Lindsey if she’s care to respond. I’m not sure that I’m going to explain this well, so bear with me.

    The LDS church and the Book of Mormon are very American.

    There’s a cultural vibe in the United States that everything is about them. This is certainly a strong undercurrent of this in the LDS movement (e.g. Joseph Smith being of the opinion that Jackson Country, MO). While over half of all Mormons do live outside the United States, very few live outside the Americas.

    So, Lindsey, I was wondering what you think of that. The LDS movement is surely international, and it does speak more than one language, but as 19th century restorationist movements go (e.g. compared to Adventists or Jehovah’s Witnesses), it seems extremely geographically confined. Do you think this might have to do with how American it all is?

    Thanks.

  • So, Lindsey, since you take offense to my critique, how about this question:

    There are thousands of bizarre beliefs around the world. Many of them held by knowledgeable, educated people. There’s UFO cults (Scientology, Raelians, Heaven’s Gate, etc). There’s Aum Shinryko in Japan and Sun Cults in Europe. There’s numerous “I am Jesus Christ” cults (David Koresh, Strong City cult, Rev. Moon, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, and several in Russia, etc). These are just a tiny, tiny fraction of the religions and cults in the world. So, there seems to be no end to the crazy stuff people will believe in the name of religion. I think it’s self-evident that these religions are not true, and despite that fact – their followers have somehow convinced themselves that it’s true, and many of them continue to grow in membership. How is this possible to explain it – except to say that it’s an emotionally-based belief, not one arrived at logically? A number of years ago, I was reading a book by someone who studied cults. The author said that one of the interesting things about cults is that it seems that the more bizarre the beliefs, the more loving and accepting the members were. Many cults were involved in a practice the author termed “love bombing”. What this means is that new members were shown lots and lots of love and acceptance by the existing followers. This seems to be an effective recruitment technique. So, The question to you is this: other than explaining belief via emotional mechanisms (which is what I claimed you would do, and you were so offended by) how do you explain everyone else’s false beliefs? How do you explain normal people accepting the most outlandish ideas? (I do not accept the explanation that all cult followers are ‘crazy’.) How do you explain the effectiveness of “love bombing”? Additionally, can you possibly explain it in terms that would not be offensive to them? Because if you can only explain it in “offensive” ways (like emotional, rather than logical pathways), then can you really fault me for using similar explanations for other people’s belief in Mormonism?

  • and it had nothing to do with feeling ‘accepted’ and everything to do with my own personal choice. Get over it.

    See, that makes no sense to me. How is religion a “choice”? Either you believe it or you don’t. I can’t choose to believe I god. I just don’t. I don’t choose to be an atheist. I just am. Try as I might, I can’t make myself believe in something. If your religion is a choice, I can’t imagine it being very sincere.

  • Sorry Lindsey – by deleting all your previous posts as well as apparently crippling this one, you’ve lost what respect I had for you. If you had simply said “I’m sorry, but I wasn’t prepared for this and I can’t do it”, fine. Sad, but your choice. By deleting everything and not even offering an explanation as to why, you come off as a censoring coward. This irritates me because I was actually looking forward to a REAL discussion with you. 🙁

    (As for mormons being nice people, sure many of them are. I lived with a mormon family in Orem for two weeks and they were very pleasant. But the faith is still, well, idiotic.)

  • Jon

    I’m afraid this whole thing has gone in a direction that no one, especially Lindsey, intended. I think her posts were meant to be nothing more than, “Here, let me tell you a little bit about a particular faith that many of you probably don’t know much about.” It was meant to be educational and informative.

    But it quickly turned into a lot of (justified!) criticism of that religion, all aimed squarely at it’s single representative and defender here.

    I think Lindsey was almost backed into a corner when instead of a discussion about the religion, it became a discussion about HER. (Something that may have been unavoidable, I’m not sure.)

    Someone else already mentioned that if the intention here was to open up some exposure to the beliefs of others, we really should have had a larger panel. Representatives from other faiths giving us the “insider” view of various denominations. Instead, Lindsey became the only one to wear a big “I’m a believer!” sign.

    Lindsey’s smart, and she’s got balls. She isn’t stupid or crazy or anything like that. I can certainly understand her frustration here.

    I think what it all boils down to is this:

    We reject the idea that something feeling true is the same thing as something being true.

    My honest impression is that she simply hasn’t looked into much of this very far. Some of her responses indicate that she’s just repeating answers that others have given her, rather than actually digging into the real material herself.

    This isn’t a personal criticism or an insult, it just means that there is more information out there in the history books that she simply hasn’t encountered yet.

    I say this having been born and raised LDS, hearing those answers, and then spending the better part of a year going through the church’s history and concluding that those answers were wrong or misleading.

    Lindsey, I’m sorry to hear that others have insulted you directly. That’s a shame.

  • Spork

    Doesn’t make ’em any less crazy for believing in words “translated” through magic, disappearing, rocks.

    By the way, why has the giant answer post been deleted?

  • Ned

    Maybe the author would like to go into detail about how mormon women are treated.

  • You can go right ahead and talk about how the belief system for mormons is flawed (because you’re CLEARLY the one to go to when it comes to mormons and what they believe), but don’t act like you know me or ANY of what I’ve done or where I’ve been or the experiences I’ve had.

    I really don’t like this argument when it’s used. Only experts in ones own specific theology are allowed to talk about problems with the doctrines.

    I think many people aren’t attacking, they just want explanations. We’d like to better understand, but a problem with religion is that it’s hard to separate the personal aspects of faith. When we say Mormonism is nuts, we’re not calling you nuts.

    Many people on this site have been there with you. Many people have had deeply meaningful spiritual experiences and felt a closeness to God. It took some people a long time to realize that the material world of dirt and trees and stars and squirrels does a more convincing job of explaining how things work. When you make claims about the Book of Mormon’s view of American colonization, and we want evidence, you can’t provide an answer. You don’t need to provide an answer to those questions. That’s one of the biggest faults I found with Mormonism. I wanted even a taste of compelling material evidence, and I couldn’t find any. I was just told to pray, and if I got a burning in my bosom, the whole kit and kaboodle was true.

  • penn

    Bad form on deleting the previous entry. If people were being idiots then leave their idiocy for all to see, or delete the offending comments. Did you really not expect their to be at least a couple of jerks? Welcome to the internet.

  • Spork

    I would really like Hemant to explain how Lindsey’s actions, and reactions, are any different from that of your average forum troll.

  • I have two questions that have been asked many times already:

    – why has this post been edited? Editing for minor spelling corrections is acceptable. Deleting entire paragraphs doesn’t bode well for showing the collective that you are standing firm on your positions, regardless who likes them or not.

    – why doesn’t Hemant make reply comments in these posts? (i’ve yet to see one, so if he does, then correct me if I’m wrong)

  • Steven

    Well, Ms. Kirth sure has gotten us atheists “all fired up”. It seems odd that so much interest, passion, and outright hostility has been generated by a young lady whose beliefs are no more bizarre than any other modern religion.
    It also puzzles me that she would feel any need to “defend” her faith. After all, if she truly believes then no defense is necessary or even possible. Why would a human being need to defend their belief in an omnipotent God if that God is real?
    If Ms. Kirth is losing any sleep over the fate that awaits unbelievers (and I doubt she is, she sounds pretty pissed off at the lot of us)then why would she choose to believe in a God that will cast off the faithless?
    I do hope that she sticks around and I think that she’s thick-skinned enough to do so but I sure would like to see more constructive dialogue and less “your religion is sooo stupid, nah-nah-nah-na-na”.
    I see this as a real chance for me to understand better why someone would accept and passionately believe in something that in other circumstances their rational mind would utterly reject.

  • It seems odd that so much interest, passion, and outright hostility has been generated by a young lady whose beliefs are no more bizarre than any other modern religion.

    I have yet to see anyone explain where all this purported “hostility” and “anger” is. Calling something stupid isn’t hostile – it may be undiplomatic but it doesn’t imply you’re angry. Just that you think something’s stupid.

    Of course, now that Lindsey has censored the discussion, it’s impossible to find out what offended her so much. And that’s why some of us are turning hostile now. We wanted an open, interesting discussion, called for one, and instead the discussion was removed in its entirety. I’m just waiting for this post to disappear as well.

    The whole thing is stupid, to be honest. I would very much like Hemant to explain his own take on it.

  • penn

    Of course, now that Lindsey has censored the discussion, it’s impossible to find out what offended her so much. And that’s why some of us are turning hostile now.

    That’s my thoughts exactly. Controversial discussions on the internet will always bring out some douchebags. Intelligent people need to be able to ignore the bullshit and engage those who are looking for reasonable dialogue. I find little redeeming value in Mormonism or any religion, but I respect Lindsey’s right to believe something I don’t. I don’t respect her “I’m taking my ball and going home” attitude, though. It’s just childish.

  • I didn’t realize that the entire first mormon Q&A post Lindsey posted was deleted.

    Lindsey, I know some of replies and comments out here may have been harsh to you, but this is real world debate, especially so in an atheist blog coming from someone that’s defending her choice of organized religion. Even as you said you were agnostic at one point, you found something comfortable in the LDS church. And regardless of what anyone says, that’s your choice.

    But I think the hostility came from the vague answers that almost all mormons use in any public settings. The “have faith” “because this is how it is” and “not everything has been revealed” are all answers that I, and anyone else that was mormon for any period of time, were given when we asked questions that seemed logical to us.

    I think what people here were looking for wasn’t for you to cave in and get irritated at others for asking or questioning your choice of religion. They were looking for a good and honest debate. And to see answers that didn’t have any substance to them made them disappointed.

    The reason I am out here is to challenge my thought process. Am I atheist? I’m pretty sure, but I also like to be challenged… get my brain to think of the options. Granted, none of my options the last 12 years and for the rest of my life include joining an organized religion, but I like to see how the other side thinks and acts. And we like to question and ask the other side how they feel and are hoping to spur some intelligent dialouge.

    I’m sorry you felt you had to delete your post (or was it Hemant that deleted it) and edit this one (will this one be deleted soon, too?). But quality answers with some depth are what most of us are looking for here.

    Personally, I would like to see you stay with the discussion, but if you feel otherwise, then I have to respect that as your choice. Word of advise: don’t post something than retract it. This is the internet and words and text can live forever in various forms.

  • Ha! I just thought of something. When I was talking to missionaries, and a member from a local ward, I brought up the concern about not finding relics from the civilizations in America that the Book of Mormon mentions. His answer was, “You underestimate the ability for things to completely disappear.” Now we have a witness! The former blog post is no more!

    Maybe some years in the future, there may be some Google Cache copy in reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics stuck in some server closet in Palmyra, NY that someone can translate.

    Yeah, that’s only funny to me.,.

  • TheDeadEye

    Here’s the deleted Q&A post:

    ———
    The Giant Answer Post (that took me 3 hours to research, compile and make semi-coherent)

    Posted by Lindsey Fay in Lindsey Fay Kirth on 09 21st, 2008 |

    Lets just dive right in, shall we?

    –”Nowoo” asked:

    I’m curious how many Mormons know about Lucy Harris and her test of whether or not Joseph Smith could re-dictate the 116 missing pages from the Book of Mormon. Apparently he couldn’t. That would make me very skeptical of his claims to divine knowledge, but maybe believers have ways of explaining away this problem. Is there an official explanation that’s more plausible than the obvious conclusion: He couldn’t dictate the text again because he wasn’t really using magic stones to read buried plates of Reformed Egyptian text?

    The only explanation is that he was not supposed to. I know that this sounds like a cop-out, but bear with me. Joseph was commanded not to re-translate the missing 116 pages because if the original manuscript somehow fell into the wrong hands, whoever had it could screw with it and then claim that Joseph was making HIS version (the real version) up. But God, in his infinite wisdom knew that this was going to happen and provided a way for the story of Lehi and his family to be written anyway, by his son Nephi. (D&C 10:8–14)

    –”Korinthian” asked 3 questions:

    Do mormons believe that darker skin color is a punishment from god?

    No. Goodness, no. In the Bible, it said that Cain, as his punishment for killing poor Abel, was given a ‘mark of blackness’. The Lamanites also received a mark of blackness, but it was only to differentiate between the people who were ‘with’ god and those who weren’t. This clearly has nothing to do with race and skin color TODAY, Mormons are not racist in any way. Dark skin is also in no way a reflection of spirituality and closeness of God, and Mormons don’t believe it is.

    Is pylogamy sanctioned by the book of mormon?

    In Jacob 2:27, it is said that ’unathorized’ polygamy is condemned by god, but it certainly has been commanded in the past (examples include Abraham and Jacob) for the purpose of ’rising up righteous seed’. But when it was commanded to be stopped, it stopped. It was then later commanded again for specific reasons in the earlier days of the church (Joseph Smith days), but that was considered authorized. And it’s not like every man practiced polygamy, only the certain men who could help support the widows and children of the men who had lost their lives crossing the plains and fighting with the Mormon battalion. It has never been about sex in the least, it has always been more about helping those who didn’t have as much.

    and What kind of power do Mormon prophets have (especially regarding editing holy books and traditions)?

    The president and prophet is revered by it’s members as a prophet, seer, and revelator, acting as a mouthpiece for God on earth, and communicating His will to the people of the Lord. The prophet of God holds the priesthood and receives revelation from the Lord as to how to lead the people. Joseph Smith had a different work to do than the prophets of today, as each prophet has a calling (Joseph Smith’s was, obviously, to reorganize the church while President Gordon B. Hinckley’s was so build more temples all over the world). Joseph Smith was commanded to make inspired clarifications to the King James version of the Bible to help the people of the LDS religion understand doctrines and clarify things that had been ‘lost in translation,’ so to speak. The Book of Mormon wasn’t printed IN PLACE OF the original bible, just used as clarifications to the bible. D&C 37: 1; D&C 45: 60-61; D&C 76: 15-18; D&C 90: 13; D&C 94: 10; D&C 104: 58; D&C 124: 89.

    –”Jet” asked:

    What are some unique Mormon legends us Gentiles in Babylon know nothing of? Like, where is the Liahona and the Sword of Leban?

    Ok, if you don’t know, the Liahona and the Sword of Laban are items mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The Liahona was a divine compass that guided Lehi and his family to the promised land and the Sword of Laban was obtained by Nephi, son of Lehi, from Jerusalem and brought to America. As for where they are…? No idea. Doesn’t matter. Along those same lines… where the hell is Noah’s Ark? Because that would be cool to see.

    – About five thousand million people asked me about the “underwear thing.” I’ll be addressing all of them at once.

    What’s the deal with the Mormon underwear thing?

    The Mormon underwear are referred to as the Garments of the Holy Priesthood, or just ‘garments’ or (for us hip mo’s) G’s. They’re worn by the adult members who have gone through the temple (before going on missions or getting married) and are simply there to remind us of the covenants we’ve made. I was asked a few times why they’re kept such a secret, but they’re not! There’s nothing secret about them, just sacred.

    –”Spork” asked:

    Why do you believe in a religion founded by a fraud who claims to have lost the magic glasses that allowed him to translate, incorrectly, a dead language permitting him multiple wives of very young ages?

    – Oh, hello again! The answer to this question is pretty easy, actually. The Book of Mormon. It’s evidence enough to me that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I have read it, studied it, benefited from the blessings of it and prayed about it. And just to clarify, the LDS religion wasn’t founded by Joseph Smith, but restoredby him. He was called by God to restore the gospel in it’s fullness back to the earth, because it had been lost after the death of the apostles in ancient days. As part of the restoration, Joseph Smith was called to translate an ancient record of God’s dealings with the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. He was given the Urum and Thummim (which were stones, not eyeglasses) which helped him translate the ancient record. They were taken back (along with the ancient record written on the gold plates) by the angel Moroni because they were no longer needed. We must go by faith as to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. And besides, even if we did have the original gold plates and the Urum and Thummim, people would write it off as simply being really old rocks and a really old book written by a bunch of really old schizophrenics.

    –”Autumnal Harvest” asked a few questions as well:

    Are there important messages and basic principles in the Book of Mormon that are not found in the standard Christian canon? If so, what are they? Of not, is there any reason that Christians should read the BOM?

    – First of all, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, which testifies along with the Bible of the divinity of Jesus Christ. It compliments, not competes with, the Bible and helps lead it’s readers to Christ. There are things in the Book of Mormon that aren’t found in the canonized scriptures, but really its main purpose is to be an evidence of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of God were taken (lost) from the earth after the death of the apostles of Christ and it wasn’t on the earth again until God called Joseph Smith to be an instrument to restore the gospel. It’s important for a few reasons, but mostly because now that the gospel has been restored, things like baptism and confirmation can be performed properly and with the correct authority. It’s important for anyone who is genuinely curious to read from, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon and the message it contains. If one prays and asks God about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, he or she will receive a witness from the holy ghost about it’s truthfulness. There was a time when I could not have cared less about religion. I was raised in the church and lived soley on my mother’s testimony of it, so when the time came for me to make my own decision about it, I blew it off and did my own thing. For upwards of 2 years. But I discovered that I was not happy. I didn’t like who I was, and I didn’t like the things I’d been doing and participating in. So I turned back to my family. And in doing so, I turned back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I read (not skimmed because I was being forced to) and sincerely studied the Book of Mormon and the feeling I got was that of utter peace and serenity. I knew that it was true. That Joseph Smith wasn’t some psycho cult leader, but a true prophet of God. The Book of Mormon is truly amazing and I know that there are so many good people and Christians in the world looking for the truth. The Bible is such a big part of it, but there’s also so much more.

    Do you believe the events in the BOM to have literally occurred? If so, why has modern archaeology not found evidence of the domesticated animals (horses, cows, pigs, etc. . .) described in the BOM existing before European contact with America? Why isn’t there evidence of cultural, linguistic, or genetic connections between Native Americans and Jews?

    Yes, they’re literal. I’m not 100% sure, but I know they have found evidence of like, horses that existed pre-European times in the California area or something. The LDS people aren’t descendants of Jews, but Manasa and Ephraim. As for all the other stuff, I have no idea why. I guess I just feel that if we had physical evidence for everything, there would be no need for faith.

    Suppose you met an agnostic who thought that there might be one or more gods, and was interested in doing some reading to figure out which, if any, might be the “one true religion.” What would you say to convince him/her to spend his/her limited time reading the Book of Mormon, rather than one of the myriad other religious texts available (e.g. the Rig Veda, Dhammapadha, Koran, etc. . .)?

    I wouldn’t have to convince them! No one has to take my word for it! There are seriously, direct promises made in Book of Mormon that we can pray about. And if you discover that it is, then what a domino effect that will be! I’ve seen the way that the Book of Mormon and its truth has blessed the lives of my family, friends and myself so greatly. I want that for everyone.

    –”Laterose” asked:

    What’s your stance on coffee?

    Ah, coffee. The Word of Wisdom (which is essentially a code of health type of thing) advises against coffee. It also advised against cigarettes and alcohol and all that other stuff even before we knew for a fact that they were bad. Coffee isn’t really a huge deal, it just contains tanic acids (same stuff they tan leather with) and massive amounts of caffeine. We’re taught that anything in excess is bad. And I know that tons of LDS people will turn their noses up at coffee but will drink gallons upon gallons of Pepsi (which I just know someone is going to bring up), but all I have to say about that is… let’s tell their bishops.

    –”Steven” said:

    You might want to point out the differences between LDS and what people are seeing on the Showcase series “Big Love”. There is so much focus on the whole polygamy issue (roundly condemned by LDS, I believe ) that many people are ignorant about other aspects of Mormon belief.

    Yeah, there may be some confusion, so let me clear it up…. Mormons. Don’t. Practice. Polygamy. FLDS people might, and Bill Paxton on Big Love might, but Mormons don’t. THE END.

    ————

  • That blog post is dead. It stinketh. Even to me it doth stink.

    Lazarus, come forth!

  • Although it’s nice that the Q&A post was cached, most of the comments weren’t – and personally I’m not very perturbed about rehashed Mormon talking point disappearing as much as the ensuing discussion. It’s one thing for Lindsey to censor herself, another to delete what the rest of us wrote as well. If this had been Lindsey’s own blog, that would’ve been fair enough, but it’s not something I ever imagined happening here on Friendly Atheist.

  • Gullwatcher

    @penn

    I don’t respect her “I’m taking my ball and going home” attitude, though. It’s just childish.

    Over on her blog, the sidebar reads “Discovering that sometimes a violently emotional outburst in front of the whole internet really IS the answer”. So I guess she’s fine with how this has all turned out. Perhaps tomorrow’s quote will be a positive take on censorship.

  • Polly

    I’m afraid I can’t think friendly thoughts about Mormonism or Mormons right now. Many of them are engaged in a full frontal assault on marriage equality in CA and AZ (Proposition 8 and Proposition 102, respectively).

    As you no doubt know, it’s not limited to Mormons. My own mother, Sunday night (presumably as a result of tax-exempt church) said to me straight away:

    “OK, it’s Yes on Prop 8 and McCain/Palin. Got that.”

    Apparently, she’d received her marching orders. Just to cut it short, I lied and said I’d vote for Prop 8. A “NO on prop 8” would translate directly to “I’m an atheist” in her mind. And, I’m not ready, yet.

    However, I gave plenty of reasons why I thought Palin and McCain are morons.

  • Felicia said:

    It’s one thing for Lindsey to censor herself, another to delete what the rest of us wrote as well. If this had been Lindsey’s own blog, that would’ve been fair enough, but it’s not something I ever imagined happening here on Friendly Atheist.

    I agree. I thought most of us had a good discussion going.

  • Did I miss something? How do we know Lindsey deleted the post, and or the comments?

    Maybe I’m just a computer retard, but wouldn’t Lindsey have to have admin rights to do such a thing? Maybe she does, I don’t know.

    While I’m definitely an atheist with respect to Mormonism, I come down solidly on the side of agnostic with regards to who deleted the first post.

    Just sayin…

    ATL-Apostate

  • My guess is that Lindsey has rights to create, modify and delete at least her own posts. My guess is that Hemant, who has a full time job teaching kids how to cipher, on top of grad school, has little time to monkey with the day to day of the site, but rather power blog a whole bunch when time allows, and schedules the release of posts for a later time.

  • Yep, I hadn’t had time to read the comments on Lindsey’s last post, so when this one came up in the ol’ google reader I went back to see what all the fuss was about…but it had magically disappeared.
    I’m disappointed that I don’t even get to decide for myself whether there was discussion or derision going on – or what I think it probably was, a little of both. Siiiigh.

  • To Hemant — I know that you personally have put a lot of effort put into building a dialog with Christians. How would you feel if a major Christian decided to be big enough to show “the atheist perspcetive” by picking some random atheist who has nothing original to say (perhaps just quotes Dawkins or something) and (naturally) sparks fights and bickers with the locals?

    Some of us have been in the trenches for some time trying to build a constructive dialog between Mormons and atheists, and this does not help in the slightest.

    Anyone who’s interested in having a reasonable Mormon/atheist discussion can come visit Main Street Plaza.

  • How would you feel if a major Christian decided to be big enough to show “the atheist perspcetive” by picking some random atheist who has nothing original to say (perhaps just quotes Dawkins or something) and (naturally) sparks fights and bickers with the locals?

    In Hemant’s defense, I don’t think that he picked Lindsey that randomly, nor did he expect her to spout typical Mormon talking points. She certainly was quite willing to make fun of herself and even poke fun at religion to some extent. On the face of it, she looked like she’d fit in here about as well Mike Clawson has. I don’t think that one could have easily expected things to blow up the way that they did.

  • “OK, it’s Yes on Prop 8 and McCain/Palin. Got that.”

    Apparently, she’d received her marching orders. Just to cut it short, I lied and said I’d vote for Prop 8. A “NO on prop 8? would translate directly to “I’m an atheist” in her mind. And, I’m not ready, yet.

    Speaking of marching orders, the LDS church has been reading official letters from their First Presidency over the pulpit, specifically encouraging members to donate their time and money to ensure Proposition 8 passes in California. The church claims this is a “values” issue, not a political one, which is how they justify actively soliciting the efforts of their members for this cause.

    So the “prophet of God”, the leader of this tax-exempt organization, is allowed to tell all Mormons exactly what they should do to support Proposition 8. But an LDS high priest in Nebraska is likely to be excommunicated this Friday because he wrote letters to many church leaders expressing his opposition to Proposition 8. Here’s a link to some news coverage of the story.

    The church claims to be politically neutral, and it claims that members are free to hold their own opinions, but I don’t think either of those things are really true. This case is a fine example.

  • The issue with Mormons and politics, is that they preach on issues, just like many churches. There is nothing illegal about that. The problem comes with endorsing political candidates, or discouraging voting for certain candidates.

  • I do not know any Mormons personally but the ones I have bumped into I have found polite enough. Do I think they are evil? No. Do I consider them Christian? No. Separate issue guys.

    I have never held that Christian have a monopoly on politeness or goodness. I do however hold that one must worship Christ as God incarnate to be considered Christian. Mormons don’t, they are not Trinitarian, they are not even monotheistic as we would understand it, so that raises some identity issues. I would say Mormonism is “Christian” only in the same way Christianity is “Jewish”. They are related, but distinctly different. In saying they are non-Christian am I making a moral claim? No. I am simply making an ontological claim. They are not bad people, they are just not our people.