In case you missed it, a former post from this very blog that you're reading right now, edited slightly for length and clarity, has been published in the latest edition of an online magazine called Magnets & Ladders. It is available here. It's the turtle story, if any of you remember that.
This is my first attempt at getting something published and also my first successful attempt at getting something published. It makes me happy enough to stop caring about the five hundred things going wrong with my life. For that I have my friend Adrienne Rouse to thank. She made me aware of this opportunity and I figured I may as well go for it since it might behoove me to actually start publishing things at some point. I suppose if I do manage to leverage this as a stepping stone that eventually leads me to my dream career as a bestselling novelist, I'll be forever in her debt and obligated to let her visit my mansion whenever she wants. Well played.
First, a completely out of character uplifting story. This week I tried to pay the utility bill online (ouch) and I forgot to put my credit card back in my wallet and it fell in the couch. I discovered this last night when I got to the register at Panda Express. Yes, I was eating somewhere fancy and expensive even though I'll probably regret it later because it's fall break and I wanted to do something special like everyone else, dang it. Feeling just slightly embarrassed, I asked if they could hold onto my food while I went and got my card, which would have taken at least forty minutes but was my only option. And the guy behind me in line whom I had never met before was like, "Nah, I'll just pay for it." And I was like, "Are you sure?" And that was a stupid thing to say, because what was he going to say, "On second thought, no"? But you know, you have to say something like that in these situations. So he did, and his little act of kindness made me not care that Russians are getting arrested for meddling in our elections. Normally I'd be outraged, because only Americans are allowed to meddle with other countries' governments, but I'm focusing on the positive now.
Now, on to what the title promised:
To recap: serial killer abortionist Kermit Gosnell violated several laws, operated in disgusting conditions, murdered babies that were born alive, and wasn't investigated by the authorities for nearly two decades despite multiple complaints. And everyone, regardless of their views on abortion, hates him. Yet for some reason most of the media refused to cover his trial until they were called out on it by this thing called "the internet" that they apparently didn't count on, and many people tried to stop this movie from getting made or released, and now most of the media is refusing to review it despite it doing reasonably well at the box office and Facebook is literally blocking its ads for some bullcrap reason. I don't know why. I guess Kermit Gosnell just makes abortion look bad. I'm not able to see this movie because it's not playing anywhere near me, but I support its mission to get the truth out.
Jane & Emma
I did manage to see this one. Weird story. So I'm in this Facebook group "Black Latter-day Saints" despite not being black, and someone there said to text this number for free tickets to this movie, and I did, and I only asked for one, but this happened:
So on my sixth try, I found someone willing and able to go with me on such short notice. After I kicked a couple seats in front of me until they took a hint and turned off their obnoxiously bright phones (Pro tip: if you can't go without looking at your phone for an hour and a half, something's wrong with you), I was able to enjoy the movie. It's not really my type of movie and the chronology was a little confusing at first, but it was decent. The movie, of course, is about the sisterhood between LDS prophet Joseph Smith's first wife Emma and black LDS convert Jane Manning James, a sisterhood far ahead of its time. This movie has been praised for "having a public conversation everyone else should be having". As someone with more than a passing interest in black Latter-day Saint history, of course I had to see it and I'm glad I did.
Tomorrow: another post because I missed a week somewhere
I was at the laundromat messing around on my phone a few days ago, and I wrote this, and I'm reposting it with a few edits to save myself precious time. I don't usually do homework on Sundays but today I went to six hours of church and a linger-longer and a nursing home, and after this I would like to read some Legend of Zelda fan fiction before bed. So I'm not lazy, I'm efficient.
This week I read part of a really dumb article by some guy claiming to be a professor about "5 Conflicts Between Science and Religion". I won't show the undue respect of repeating his name or linking to his article, but you can easily Google it if your heart so desires. It's several months old but showed up in my phone suggestions amid the Star Wars and Legend of Zelda stuff for some reason. Since clicking on it, I've gotten several more (fortunately less dumb) articles on the topic. This author rightly condemns creationism and intelligent design as pseudoscience, but that's as much as I agreed with, as the rest of what I read is shockingly ignorant.
He claims, for example, that interpreting the "days" in Genesis as hundreds of millions of years is a recent interpretation "forced into existence by science". Um, no, the Hebrew word translated as "day" literally means an unspecified period of time. This book, vastly removed from us in time and culture, was written to be largely allegorical, and many Christian thinkers for several centuries up to and including today recognized that. For example, St. Augustine (who predated Darwin by a few years, if I recall correctly), wrote that parts of Genesis that seem to be "at variance with the perceptions of [one's] own rational faculties... are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures". The absurdly literal fundamentalist interpretation, notwithstanding its spurious claim to represent "traditional" Christianity, is the actual recent one, dating to a retrenchment in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anyone who isn't aware of that has no business writing about it. Today, creationism is still very much an American phenomenon and far more limited than its proponents try to pretend.
The "professor" also claims that religion has historically suppressed science by refusing to investigate things so it could continue believing in "miracles". Um, excuse me, but what the crap? Is he trying to be funny? For most of civilization's history, virtually all scientists believed in God. They were scientists because they believed in God and wanted to learn more about Him by studying His creations. In other words, literally the opposite of what this guy is saying (and the oft-misrepresented incident with Galileo notwithstanding). Darwin himself believed in God, and saw "no reason why the views given in this volume ['On the Origin of Species'] should shock the religious views of anyone", and struggled with his faith later in life for philosophical reasons related to the suffering in the natural world rather than organic evolution or anything scientific per se. Again, Christians who argue from a "God of the gaps" mentality and try to stifle science by saying "God did it" are a loud, obnoxious, and increasingly irrelevant minority.
For some unfathomable reason this author also cites the Big Bang - not the obnoxious TV show that now takes up the entire first page of Google results last time I checked, but the well-supported scientific theory that was first proposed by, oh, what's this, it couldn't be, a Catholic priest? And the Pope at the time was such a huge fan of this theory that his advisers asked him to tone down his enthusiasm? You don't say? Why anyone on either side regards this theory as a threat to religious belief is quite beyond my meager powers of comprehension, as is why he doesn't realize he undercuts his own argument with this.
Nonexistent miracles, he thinks, are the entire basis of religious belief. "In history lies the realization that religion is nothing but a collection of assumptions about the unknown that disappear with the advancement of human knowledge." Ah yes, the tactic of pretending that you're so much smarter than and superior to billions of people who disagree with you never gets old and definitely doesn't make you an unlikable jackass at all. (The same principle applies to politics.) As if explaining how the physical world works were even remotely the primary purpose of any major religion. Maybe when scientists cure death and the unfairness of life (spoiler alert: they won't), people will stop looking for the higher purpose that most of their brains are hard-wired to look for. He also tries to pretend that confirmation bias is exclusive to religious people. That's cute.
I didn't bother to finish reading because the shameless lies reduced my interest. Of course, in today's climate you can write any garbage you want attacking religion and thousands of idiots will applaud you for validating their bigotry. No need to waste your time with silly details like accurate facts. The late and unlamented Christopher Hitchens lied on virtually every page of his book "God is Not Great" (or at least I charitably assume his copious inaccuracies were deliberate rather than a result of impossibly shoddy research and a mental disorder compelling him to fabricate nonexistent quotes) and it became an instant bestseller, so I guess that's the standard we're aspiring to now. And I guess they're giving out PhDs in Cracker Jack boxes now. I respect intellectually honest atheists and I respect legitimate scientists and scholars, but this man has shown himself to be neither. It's just too bad that most of his readers won't see that.
"I will say with regard to miracles, there is no such thing save to the ignorant - that is, there never was a result wrought out by God or by any of His creatures without there being a cause for it. There may be results, the causes of which we do not see or understand, and what we call miracles are no more than this - they are the results or effects of causes hidden from our understandings." - Brigham Young
"Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized. In the contemplation of the miracles wrought by Christ, we must of necessity recognize the operation of a power transcending our present human understanding. In this field, science has not yet advanced far enough to analyze and explain. To deny the actuality of miracles on the ground that, because we cannot comprehend the means, the reported results are fictitious, is to arrogate to the human mind the attribute of omniscience, by implying that what man cannot comprehend cannot be, and that therefore he is able to comprehend all that is." - James E. Talmage
tl;dr: Science and religion are not in conflict.
The latest General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter never again to be called the LDS Church, the Mormon Church, or any of the less flattering names that internet trolls like to copy-paste in hopes that someone will mistakenly think they're clever) has been, as usual, a much-needed refuge from the stupid crap going on in the world and in my life. Although I've had more trouble than usual sleeping lately and especially last night, and was only semi-conscious for today's sessions, it was still a calming and uplifting and faith-building experience. I believe so strongly in this church and its mission and feel very blessed to be a part of it. This is my first attempt at writing about General Conference right after it happens instead of a week later, and I'm playing around with the format and trying to do something other than just comment on a bunch of talks that people just watched, so we'll see how it goes. In my preemptive defense let me point out that I'm still only semi-conscious.
I heard the rumor about church changing from three to two hours and thought it was ridiculous. Shows how much I know. Of course, I'm one of those who's excited about it for all the wrong reasons. I'm sort of an elitist jerk whose tendency is to zone out the moment I don't feel intellectually stimulated by what I'm hearing, instead of listening to the Spirit and yadda yadda yadda. And for the past few months I've been going to the family history room during the third hour instead of Elders' Quorum, which I find difficult to sit through. Traditionally I much prefer the mixed groups in sacrament meeting and Sunday school to the monolith of men. Lately I've been better at fostering meaningful platonic relationships with men, but traditionally it's been awkward. Someone helpfully pointed out the issue years ago: "I know you're uncomfortable hanging out with guys because you don't want people to think you're gay, but actually, hanging out with girls all the time is what will make people think that." And I was freaked out at first, but then I realized that if she had actually read my mind, she would have gone mad.
Anyway. The proper reason to get excited about two-hour church is that the focus of gospel learning is being shifted more into the home, for me and my two inactive roommates to deal with. I'm glad everyone else in the Church is qualified for these "higher law" changes. I still haven't done anything with "ministering". The monthly visits were out of my comfort zone already, and I got to doing them consistently anyway, and them bam, this more vague mandate that I still have no idea what to do with. I don't have a ton of experience making friends, okay?
I've been grappling lately with the realization that I can't have and don't want a family, and the discomfort that causes me in such a fundamentally family-centric religion. From my vantage point it looks more often than not as though God built me to be incompatible with His plan for ostensibly the entire human race. And I'm positive that not one person in the church's leadership understands my unique challenges. I don't think there ever has been or ever will be an Aspie ace Apostle. May people throughout the world could undoubtedly say the same about the things they're dealing with. So naturally, I zone out whenever conference talks are about marriage or raising children. But... I feel encouraged in my personal relationship with God, and encouraged that He does understand and care. And that's enough for now. I must say the positives of my membership in this church and my testimony of most of its teachings far outweigh the discomfort, or of course I wouldn't still be here. I hope my experience is comforting to some who deal with similar awkwardness.
Another talk about forgiveness. I'm not a forgiving person. How can I forgive someone who inflicted damage on me that I will have to deal with until I die? I'm not that humble or that strong. I hope they talk about forgiveness again for at least the next twenty years so I'll have a chance to get it right.
I've developed sort of an unhealthy obsession with diversity, and get an extra thrill when anyone who isn't white and/or American speaks. Don't get me wrong, most of my best friends are white and/or American, but the diversity of God's garden - and I hate myself for being so sappy, but honestly - is such a breath of fresh air. The Deseret News ran an article last week about how the number and percentage of General Authorities from outside the United States have increased in the last forty years. The actual membership as a whole is quite a bit more diverse, but that diversity is of course trickling up at an exponential rate and it's wonderful to see. The more skin colors and nations and walks of life I see represented, the more my heart burns with love for all my brothers and sisters of varying skin colors and nations and walks of life. In the words of the great preacher Emo Philips, "Why be prejudiced against anyone because of their race or nationality or creed... when there are so many real reasons to hate others?" I kid, I kid.
Nonetheless, I love President Russell M. Nelson the most. I never expected him to capture my heart like this when I had little opinion on him prior to his current calling. Maybe it's his sense of humor, maybe it's just an ineffable charisma, maybe it's that he has far more energy than me despite being sixty-nine years older, but I love and sustain him one way or another. It's always easier to follow the prophet when he's already likeable as a person.
And I actually appreciate that he's moved the temple announcements to the end, instead of putting the best part at the beginning and going downhill from there given the pace he's set, I wasn't at all surprised when today he set the new record for most temples to be announced at one time (twelve) despite already announcing seven more six months ago. I'm so happy for myself now getting to look at more dots on a map, and I'm so happy for the Latter-day Saints in and near Mendoza, Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington County, Utah; which is less lame than it sounds because it's outside the Wasatch Front. It seems wev'e crossed a threshold of dotting the Earth with temples and will only go further from here, and I personally know some people who will be affected by these. Speaking of temples, Rick Satterfield's website is back online with a facelift and well worth the wait.
Tune in next week for something that I haven't decided yet.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.