Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mormon vs. secular - human origins

When it comes to the big questions, Latter-day Saints think they're particularly blessed with satisfactory answers, especially because (and we all agree on this) science doesn't have the answers to big the questions. So let's compare and answers a bit. Once again the questions are:

1. Who am I and where do I come from?
2. Why am I here?
3. Where am I going?

To the first question Mormons answer that you are a child of Heavenly Father - he begot your spirit the same way your parents here on earth begot you (sexual intercourse) - and as a child of a god, you have the potential to become a god. Actually, Mormons dig back even farther than that. They believe that before we were spiritually begotten of the Father we existed as intelligences. Intelligences are understood to be eternal and (obviously) capable of being organized into spirits and spirits into people and people into gods. In fact, God the Father, according to Mormon understanding, was once a mortal man, who was previously a mere spirit child (one of billions or trillions?) of another God, who had begotten him at some point through a very mysterious manipulation of intelligences (sex). What this all means is that we are all "gods in embryo", as we say in the Church. THAT'S WHO YOU ARE!

But saying you're a god is little more than a statement of fact with no sustaining evidence. It's equally logical to say we're all potential vampires waiting for our big bite. I have no evidence for vampires other than the numerous testimonies offered by others and I consequently have no material understanding of what vampires are either. A more sustainable claim made by scripture is that we are dust waiting to happen. This is a material fact. We make dust constantly by shedding skin cells and when we die our bodies will dry and crumble and be spread in part as dust. The knowledge that you are a future pile of dust is much more meaningful than imagining you might one day be a god because you actually have references for what death and dust are. We have little to no reference for understanding what a god is or where one comes from, only a few arcane verses from a very questionable book of scripture.

It's also important to note that most of what the LDS Church focuses on is not so much who you are as what you are. You are a child of God. Whatever that means exactly is essentially left up to you to decide. Science on the other hand is much more concrete. We are members of the only remaining hominid species on the planet, we're very closely related to great apes, but we likely share a common ancestor with all life on earth. Science connects us all with billions of years of genealogy, not a trite affirmation that God's your Daddy. It gives us something concrete to hold onto (DNA). But it still doesn't tell us who we are.

When it comes to discussing the question of who we might be, the Church prefers to state (without much by way of explanation) that we are all unique consciousnesses (a spirit) that will exist forever and ever. The secular world, instead of blowing off the question with a simple dogmatic sentence, has considered various possibilities for millennia and ask for more time to careful explore this complicated subject.

Which answers do we prefer? Which ones feel more genuine? Which ones most deserve serious contemplation? Religious conjectures? Or ideas based on material fact?

"My face? I was born like this. Or maybe Satan did it..."

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