All things denote that there is a God

Stephen MarshMormon 43 Comments

According to the recent lesson manuals, the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, were inspired.  All things denote (not connote) that there is a God, and, to quote Mr. Franklin, beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Discuss how your discussion of the first lesson in the manual went.

Did you discuss how almost all astronomers are atheists, the difference between denotation and connotation or that beer is probably from God, even thought it tastes terrible?

What would you like to say over at: but would rather say here?

Comments 43

  1. We did not discuss this particular issue but I think Richard Dawkins is correct when he says that the same things which denote to a religious person that there is a God also show him (and other scientists) that there is not a God. I suspect therefore that we are all speaking of connotation rather than denotation.

  2. Hmm, not *all* astronomers are atheists. In my department, I think 5 out of 25 believe in God, and at least a few more believe in a ‘good positive feeling in the sky’ (for want of a better word). Out of the faculty, though, I think only 1 (of 14) is religious, and one more is from India and definitely believes in Karma and is very spiritual, just not religious. I think most astronomers believe in the awe of creation, even if they don’t believe it denotes a God. So, for a total of 6 out of 39, that is 15%.

    And, if beer tastes as bad as it smells, I fail to see how anyone likes it.

  3. Well, my last name is Beer, and on good days, my wife might agree with Mr. Franklin.

    The dictionary I just consulted says a definition of “denote” is to signify or indicate. I think either of those words could replace denote in the quotation from Alma.

    As for the discussion — I taught this lesson in Gospel Principles the week before I heard it taught in Priesthood. Frankly, the priesthood discussion was rather weak, is it was a “Ready, Aim, Read” approach, which I have never enjoyed. The lesson I taught in GP was more discussion, less reading.

    Interestingly, we had Lesson Two twice in the ward I’m visiting while traveling because of a snafu among teachers and quorum leaders; the second time the only one not prepare to teach (because he hadn’t sat through the first time) was the counselor in the presidency who taught… Fortunately, he allowed for a rather free flowing discussion which was kind of interesting.

  4. In response to the point that many people look at the world as evidence that there is no God, our teacher went on the common path of saying that while science may be able to show ‘how’ the world is, it cannot show ‘why’ it is. He then jumped into the next part of his planned lesson, pulling out a photo of a solar eclipse and talking about the unlikelihood of the diameters of the sun and moon (and the distance between them and the earth) being such that we on earth experience the eclipses that we do. He said that this for him was undeniable proof that there was a God.

    When I asked him ‘Why?’ he didn’t have an answer.

  5. I think that so often, things are like rorschach tests. Do rorschach tests “denote” the images that people see in them, or do they “denote” mere ink blots with our filling in the rest?

  6. I agree with Rico – it’s connote, not denote, but to someone who is rabid in their conviction, connotations become verifiable facts. That doesn’t make it so. It just draws up boundaries between two arguments.

  7. When I look at cosmology, I am always less interested in using it to prove whether there is a God than in using it to understand what that God must be like. Twenty-first century science paints a different picture than 19th Century theology, and a picture that is even more radically different than the picture of 1st Century theology, and so on.

  8. The cosmological argument in the lesson and Alma 30 is seriously weak. Either the universe came from something, or it came from nothing. We have no way of calculating the odds of either, so to say that the existence of the universe proves that there must be a creator God — and specifically, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph Smith — is not good logic.

    I will give the cosmological argument this: Because we observe that it exists, and by the fact that we are doing the observing, discover that *we* exist — we get started on the way back from Descartes’ radical skepticism, and can reason our way to a point where we can ask the question that we may rationally answer by faith: Is what we observe, by the channels of ordinary experience, all that exists?

    And if not, is that which may exist beyond experience worth the while of our seeking to discover?

    I’ve found this line of thinking to lead inevitably to a conclusion the only deity worth hypothetizing by faith, is one more or less congruent with the God of the New Testament — one who is for humanity, and whose conditions for his reaching out into our lives (if any) involve our joining with Him in being for humanity, and seeking Truth.

    So yes, in a sense, all things “denote” there is a God — if only because the mere fact of the observable existence of all things may put us on a path of inquiry that can place before us the ultimate decision whether or not to exercise Faith.

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    FireTag, that is a good point.

    Hawkgrrrl, I think it is denotes — i.e. points directly to rather than connotes — i.e. implies. Everything has multiple connotations, but it is all tied directly to God.

    At least that is where we wen in my High Priest group before we got to discussing beer.

    Over at the Church’s website, where they are looking for feedback on the new manual, it is pretty negative right now.

    Things like:

    This is easily the worst Church manual I have experienced. While it may have removed the references to McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, the teachings itself are often just as non-reflective, unscriptural, simplistic, and speculative. As a missionary, I was uncomfortable with new converts having to be subjected to this material. Now I must admit that I am dreading having to attend elders’ quorum for the next two years and am hoping for a calling that will give me a reason to not attend.

    So far, in my personal experience, there is a lot of freedom in the manual to develop things as deeply or as shallowly as you want, but it is interesting to see other takes on the manual.

    AndrewJDavis “almost” the study I read said 95%. Which is not all, but far more than “most”

  10. In the lesson in my ward, the instructor posed the question, “What evidence do you see that God exists?” I expected a couple people to pipe in and say that everything is evidence of God. But there was a pause and then I raised my hand and gave my answer. I can imagine an explanation for most of what I experience without needing deity to exist. But I have spiritual experiences that I cannot easily explain without the existence of something divine. And based on those experiences I choose to believe that God exists.

    After my comment, there were a couple other people that basically said they agreed with what I said. I thought it was great that the question was asked and I was happy that I answered it. I have a very optimistic attitude about the lesson manual as a whole. It can be great as long as open questions are posed and thoughtful responses are offered.

  11. connote = “to suggest.” denote = “to indicate” (as in evidence). I think my only point was that what is evidence to one person (a believer) is suggestive to another and subject to multiple interpretations.

  12. Stephen,

    that was my comment that you just cited. I just wrote some clarification on that site which I am reproducing here:

    Let me explain my comment above a little better. One of the problems I see with the book is that it repeatedly makes claims and teaches thing as matters-of-fact without providing any scriptural basis or giving any indication that for most of these teachings, there have been different views and interpretations from various Church leaders and prophets. Instead of showing that there are many ways to see things (and encouraging thoughtful discussion and reflection), it instead pretends that for these so-called basics, there is only one view and one answer.

    For example, the very first chapter says that all things denote there is a God and implies that by merely looking at the world around us, we can come to the conclusion of God’s existence. The fact is that for many people, this simply isn’t the case. Many scientists will say quit the oppositely that the world (and what they see in it) is evidence that there is no God. By encompassing the existence of God in a cosmological argument that the manual does, it alienates those who do not succumb to the simplistic reasoning and, even more importantly, ignores the subjective and personal experiences that are usually the most important factor of a believer’s faith.

    The chapter then evokes traditional Christian language of God (which while contained in the scriptures), are ultimately problematic when trying to discuss the beautiful and complex beliefs that we as Latter-day Saints have.

    The first chapter finally ends with a step-by-step answer to teach us how we might come to know God, while ignoring the very and explicit means by which God and Jesus taught that we might come to know them–by serving others.

    The second chapter has similar problems. For example, it teaches that: “[God] has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.” What is the scriptural (or authoritative) basis for this? While this may be uplifting to some, it equally opens up the problematic views that a persons station in this life is a direct result of their previous life–leading to racialist folk beliefs about black and the priesthood, and other potentially oppressive and/or suppressive views. All of this, of course, ignores the huge problems that it creates with our belief in free agency.

    The ultimate challenge that this manual creates though results from our essentially lay ministry and lack of trained teachers. This is further problematized when many Bishops (and quorum/group leaders) seem to want to specifically not call those who actually are trained to teach. While a skillful (and spiritually-guided) teacher may take cues from the manual while creating and offering a good lesson with productive and thoughtful discussion, this is often not the case with less skillful teachers. Without good teaching skills, this manual ultimately sets up the teacher to fail.

  13. #13: “For example, the very first chapter says that all things denote there is a God and implies that by merely looking at the world around us, we can come to the conclusion of God’s existence.”

    The problem is that the Book of Mormon, in Alma 30, expressly adopts the (weak, I agree) “cosmological argument.” In fact, the evidence of God’s existence from the “orderliness” of creation is supposed to be so darn obvious that Korihor simply must be operating in bad faith in order to deny it, which is why he deserved to get struck dumb and then squished.

    My favorite part in that chapter was the line about how “the many beautiful plants” are evidence of God. So what do the ugly ones evidence? Ergo, God is dead. Sorry, don’t buy that logic.

  14. #14 Given that Korihor lived in a time when atheism would have been both an untenable and unimaginable position, I think the proper reading of Alma’s argument should not be an argument for theism (a god) but an argument for a specific deity (God as a proper name). Or something like that.

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    So what do the ugly ones evidence? That there is no accounting for taste? 😉

    You made some excellent points, which is why I quoted you for an example. I’m really curious to see how this goes.

  16. I don’t think it’s my job to analyse away the good feelings of others.If that’s what they choose to see,who am i to judge their flawed logic?I think our reponsibility to others is to build and bless.For some,their faith is easy and comfortable.It’s my privelege to hear that,and I’m grateful to them for being brave enough in my cynical world to share it.We get to share our own truth at church,and it needs to be a safe place in an unsafe world.

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    wayfarer — good point. We had a great time in my High Priest’s group. Everyone came away having enjoyed the lesson and feeling better. You make an excellent point.

    the narrator — what can I say, I visited your blog, bought your book.

  18. Oh I had a great time in my priesthood meeting. Not only did we discussed how blatantly obvious the existence of God is, but we talked about how stupid and misled atheists are. Apparently entropy proves the existence of God. Also, said by the guy sitting right next to me: “atheism is a philosophically inferior position.”

    The teacher brought up some example of some atheist woman who said that religious people are indoctrinated. He then turned to us and asked, with an anticipating smirk, “So, are we indoctrinated?”

    The temptation to answer that question was almost too great.

  19. Maybe the discussion based on Alma is not whether he was right or not, but what evidence is there that he is right? In other words, even modern readers might find evidences of God’s existence in the world around them (even if non-believers do not), because those evidences, combined with spiritual experiences may in fact indicate that there is a God.

    As for coping with the simplicity of the lessons, I agree that is a burden for teachers in RS & PH to bear (not to mention teachers in GP who have bright pupils in their classes, too).

  20. Yeah, I really wish this chapter came with a sidenote explaining the Church’s officially neutral stance on evolution/Big Bang theory/etc. In both Gospel Essentials and EQ the topic came up and there are swarms of people that find no problem mocking belief in such science.

  21. #22 Vin, yeah the science of Giraffes with extra short, short, medium, long, extra long and the familiar current well known extra extra long neck giraffe. If only somebody could find examples of the extra short, short, medium, long and extra long necked giraffes people probably wouldn’t mock it…

  22. @ #24 Wait, was that actually supposed to be an argument against evolution? There are tomes of scientific literature documenting and supporting literature. They mock it because they refuse to learn about it.

  23. Stephen Marsh – I’m not sure I understand how everything is tied “directly to god.” Are you saying that everything indicates TO YOU that there is a god, or are you asserting that empirically everything points directly to the existence of god?

  24. wait… there’s no medium necked giraffes.. it’s a package deal (to show transition, you know…) darn, narrator you don’t have the medium necked giraffe… Is a vinegaroon a transitionary scorpion?

  25. Hey Kuri, it’s really pretty simple… you’ve got some creature that has a short neck and some features that are sorta like a giraffe from now and then you’ve got the giraffe as we know it with this long freakin neck but what would really be a clincher is this creature that’s like, you know in between those like with a medium long neck or something, I mean that would totally seal the deal huh? Oh and nice chintzy link there… totally not objective… apparently the short necked thing is pretty easy to find but for some strange reason the medium necked one is so dang hard… hmmmm…

  26. Sunn, do you know how rare fossils are to begin with? Remains becoming fossilized is the exception, not the rule. Most species will come and go without leaving any sort of fossil record. So whether or not intermediary fossils can be found is essentially a moot point. The best evidence for evolution is DNA, and this evidence is essentially undeniable. This is most ‘serious’ intelligent-design theorists now posit a type of guided evolution, or shoot even further back to cell structure in a desperate move to maintain their general thesis.

    My comment was simply to point out the fact that ignorant evolution-naysayers such as yourself have no coherent argument, do not know the science, and are simply nitpicking, trying desperately to find justification for their naivete. If mid-length neck giraffe fossils were found, would you suddenly give up your stance? No. Of course not. You don’t care about evidence, you merely care about asserting your position over and over again, without any type of reflection or cognitive thought.

    You obviously know nothing about fossils, evolution, DNA, or anything related to the science of these things. It’s fine for you to have your beliefs–think whatever you want. I’m not going to go Dawkins on you. However, if you want to be a part of a conversation, you have better inform yourself a little instead of jumping in with your ignorance.

    I’m almost starting to wonder if you are actually just troll, pretending to be an ignorant fool, just to get a rise out of people.

  27. I agree that ignorance doesn’t help the church,or the individual to grow,and echo the wish that other ideas not be disrespected.But I don’t think we are going to get to the point where everyone has done the degree in geology,anthropology,particle physics etc.And those of us who may have had such opportunities need to show a little love and tolerance for those who feel unsafe in this big old universe.

    That’s actually why I like these lessons,brings my muddled head back to what really matters.And there’s always the old chesnut for the high priests/RS-what difference has being aware of this teaching made to your life?How has it shaped you and your relationships? that one can keep us going until the second coming.

    I’m really more interested on what we do than in what we know in a worship context.All the other stuff can happen elsewhere.So,I think I’ll keep thinking about God the Artist on my next walk through the park.

  28. Narrator, how do you reconcile being a mormon and the implication of belief in an intelligent design theory that comes with that and scientific evidence that is contrary to the belief? Or do you just melodramatically drop your book all the time?

  29. I’m not a mormon… or even terribly religious for that matter… but it must be quite the predicament having the secret to reconciling two diametrically opposed viewpoints… I wonder if you are maybe more concerned with people who arrive at the “correct” end through incorrect means than you are people who arrive at an incorrect end through “correct” means. That’s usually the result of arrogance or cowardice in my opionion.

  30. Hey Kuri, it’s really pretty simple… you’ve got some creature that has a short neck and some features that are sorta like a giraffe from now and then you’ve got the giraffe as we know it with this long freakin neck but what would really be a clincher is this creature that’s like, you know in between those like with a medium long neck or something, I mean that would totally seal the deal huh?

    I hardly think so that would “seal any deals” for you. Despite the rarity of fossils (just like the Narrator said), there are numerous species for which there are extensive intermediate forms. But you’ll always be able to find some species for which there aren’t any, because that’s the nature of fossils. And you’ll always be able to demand that there must be intermediates between the known intermediates. I’m sure that if there were fossil medium-necked giraffids, you’d ask where are the ones with necks that are long but not quite as long as modern giraffes. If those were found, you’d jump to something else. There will always be an out for denialists.

    Oh and nice chintzy link there…

    It is a nice link, actually. If you were to explore the Talk Origins site, you’d find that it can answer pretty much any question you have about evolution.

    totally not objective…

    “Objectivity” is certainly an interesting demand when deciding whether modern science or Bronze Age religious fables are better suited to answering scientific questions.

    apparently the short necked thing is pretty easy to find but for some strange reason the medium necked one is so dang hard… hmmmm…

    It’s not strange at all. The Narrator explained it for you in quite simple terms.

  31. pretty outrageous huh, what situation could possible cause someone to so blatantly ignore obvious scientific facts? well, it’s your (assuming you’re mormon?) religion among others that cause denialists Kuri. You’d think someone might figure out a way to reconcile the two…

  32. pretty outrageous huh, what situation could possible cause someone to so blatantly ignore obvious scientific facts?

    Religious fundamentalism and/or simple ignorance come to mind.

    well, it’s your (assuming you’re mormon?) religion among others that cause denialists Kuri. You’d think someone might figure out a way to reconcile the two…

    Many people have no problem reconciling evolution and religion. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, generally accepts evolution. Many individual Mormons accept it as well.

  33. believing in the process of evolution isn’t necessary for salvation. Is believing in God necessary? If so, who really needs more help, the ignorant obnoxious fool that does believe in God or Richard Dawkins?

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