Archive for July, 2009

The LDS Church Not Good for Families

July 21, 2009

I’m in a de facto mixed marriage and it ain’t fun. My wife’s pretty cool about it; she knows I’m not a big believer (we’re both converts; none of our parents are Morg), but I still go through the motions of church attendance and haven’t formally resigned yet. There are so many strings the Church ties you with. You can read details about my situation at an older post and a recent post about my view of the Church at my blog.

The responses at on that particular thread were quite helpful and will probably be useful to you too. The advice seemed to be to go slow, but not super slow. Detox gradually for yourself and your family.

The more recent post at my blog was started over discussions at two different sites listing Top Ten Cults. The LDS Church is not listed in the top ten, but it seems to be in a number of folks’ top twenty because the two sites’ threads I contributed to each had people talking about the cultic qualities of the Church and suggesting it for inclusion in the Top Ten.

The definitions on what makes a cult “a cult” get tricky and allow LDS apologists like Jeff Lindsay to point speciously to early Christian church behavior and say, “See, they were a ‘cult’–and the Church is no different: So if the Church is a ‘cult,’ then it is in good company.” (See his cult page).   Of course, he’s being disingenuous by clinging to a particular, sociological definition of cult and ignoring how the Church busts up families (even while it hypocritically talks about “strengthening families”).

The Church is a cult in the destructive sense (not Jim Jones or Charles Manson destructive, but also not merely in the strictest, neutral academic sense of being simply a harmless splinter group either: The Church damages, often enough irreparably, the FAMILY relationships of those newly “inactive members” who choose not to buy into it). Look at all the folks like us on these ex-Mormon sites trying to cope with keeping their families intact (or having their families demolished) because, as you put it, they do not want to play ball with the Church anymore. You don’t see this kind of stress put on people in mainstream protestant religions. My folks were Baptist and Methodist, and went to each others’ churches, changed churches, went through alternating periods of inactivity, etc., and never dreamed of divorcing over a #@$@% church or denomination affiliation! My wife’s parents were on again, off again Disciples of Christ, and her Mom’s family were lukewarm Presbyterians.  These religious differences never caused any parents to miss children’s weddings or to have awful or non-existent relationships with their kids (or to be depressed, suicidal, driven to drink, or divorce, etc.).  Organizations that do those things to departing members on a routine basis cannot be benign.  Again, check the hundreds or thousands of exit stories posted from former Mormons–people are obviously wounded deeply when they leave this group and in part because the church’s organization is coercive.

See original post here.


Linux fights in the consumer desktop arena with one hand tied behind its back

July 13, 2009

I’ve recently been getting back into Linux, which has matured a lot in the last ten years since I was installing Debian and Redhat on 386 and 486 machines. Ubuntu (and the Ubuntu variants, most notably Crunchbang), OpenSUSE, Puppy, Mandrake, and Go-OS are all more or less ready for the average user who wants to access the Internet, “cloud,” and web 2.0 apps.

An emphasis on ease of accessing the net or automating networking activities still needs to be high priority. If Grandma can’t easily get online to share flickr photos, Youtube vids, email, IM, and webcam with the grandkids, she’s not going to use her Linux box for much else. Expecting her to scour the Ubuntu support boards and piece together diffuse clues about her lack of internet access (chicken and egg, I know) is expecting too much.

If you only want computer hobbyists, professional tech support people, and CS majors to mess around with their Conky configs, their Compiz themes, their triple boot, multi-partitioned boxes, and their frackin’ GNU/Linux sound systems, that’s one thing, and the Linux community already provides a great haven for various and sundry geeks, but the average user has other more immediate needs and interests.

These basic needs and interests include word processing, internet browsing and communication, multimedia support, and software upgrade and installation. The Open Office software is quite adequate for everyday user needs. The Ubuntu Applications > Accessories, > Games, and > Graphics offerings should do for most users. Media access, however, is still problematic: music players linking with digital portable players is rough, and watching DVD’s, doing video editing, and just using Adobe web apps (Flash) can still be a challenge in Linux. Installing anything non-Synaptic packaged in Ubuntu (and mutatis mutandis for the other distros) is a chore and a crapshoot.

The Debian and Ubuntu software repositories are filled with all sorts of good but also many specialized applications. These should be categorized not just by function but also by expertise or specialized interest: games are popular little apps and should be top level, readily visible, but why clutter an average user’s experience with stuff like aylet.gtk or basilisk2? If Joe Sixpack is trying to find a good game for his cheap Ubuntu box (that his geek neighbor set up for him), Synaptic handles that pretty well (although more high quality, good looking games and amusements are important to the average user experience). But Joe should not have to wade through selections for bastille or zssh or other technically specific programs. If he actually develops an interest for a Mac emulator, he can ask his geek buddy for help or start Googling for information, though that’s not a likely scenario in any case.

Probably the biggest disappointment for Linux enthusiasts in the last year has been the widely reported 4X greater customer returns of Linux netbooks over WinXP netbooks. To me that is still a puzzle. Users want something familiar, and yet average users are constantly confronting new OS schemes on cell phones and other digital devices. Why balk at a sweet looking, very recent looking, Linux netbook for not being some teletubby colored, nine-year old piece of software that’s still visible design roots go back even further to 1995 (Win95)?

Linux fights in the consumer desktop arena with one hand tied behind its back: Linux’s great strengths (multi-user support, networking, radical configurability, and scalability) are lost on the average desktop user. (Of course, some commentators don’t even think Linux should try to compete on the desktop.) What’s left is its stability, inherent security, design potential (interface and theme designers have to work harder to capture users’ imaginations–brown may not cut it), its large, free software repositories, and the inexpensiveness of the OS itself.

(See the original post at the Ubuntu Support Forum.)

The cultish character of the LDS Church

July 11, 2009

Mormonism is cultish for sure. To clear up some of the FUD from previous comments: Just as with Catholics and other groups, Mormon Bishops and Stake Presidents have been in the news before for sexual abuse crimes (@Sarah, Comment 104).

As a converted Mormon (plus eight years now), my opinion is that “the Church”–such is how it is called by its “members,” itself another common appellation among the LDS to refer to those on the rolls of the Church–is cultish at the least.

Note: Jan Shipps, one of the foremost non-LDS historians of the LDS Church, also refers to it in its origins as a “cult” (Shipps, Mormonism, pp. 47-51). Unfortunately, Shipps’ definition of “cult” is entirely academic, sociological, and external: She sees successful cults as those that develop and become dominant or mainstream traditions (”good” in the parlance of this thread), a fate she sees as shared by the LDS Church. Thus she refuses to judge her subject and proceeds with her narrative with archival pleasure.

However, living the faith is another matter: Being in a “part-member” family really brings the cultish character of the faith into relief. If children are involved, then one parent not being “active,” i.e., going to church regularly, can easily end a marriage and divide a family. (This seems more destructive to me than what one finds in mainstream Christianity.)

The whole emphasis on being “sealed for all time and eternity” to one’s spouse and children (creating “forever families”), and the heavy indoctrination of youth through all manner of expected activities outside of the three regular Sunday church hours, lends great force to the bind that the Church keeps “weak” members in: to split from the Church creates a serious threat to one’s family and great pain and confusion to one’s children for not having a parent of “integrity”–I’m quoting all the buzz words here.

Add to this the expected annual “tithing settlement” with the Bishop (he–always he–is like the head preacher of a given “ward” or church community–usually numbering from 300-400 people). One must go with one’s family to answer the Bishop’s question, “Do you pay a full tithe?” As invasive as this may sound to mainstream protestants, this “interview” setting is quite common in the Church, extending to regular “worthiness” or “Temple” interviews with youth and adults. Waywardness is watched for vigilantly, and to me this seems cultish. In fact, now the Church puts barcodes on “Temple recommends” and the Bishop of each ward gets a weekly report of who in the ward has been faithful in going to the Temple (another expected outside-regular-Sunday Church meeting activity from “active members”).

Connected to “Temple worthiness” (imagine being a member of a church where you are formally considered a less “worthy member” than someone else), there also are levels of acceptance and prestige in the Church as well: If one has a genealogy that goes back to the original members of the Church (1830s), that is quite special (and this is a mark of a cult–setting off some people for special consideration over the “converts”).

If one has ancestors who were part of the 19th century “Pioneers” who traveled across the US to Utah, then one is certainly pedigreed. Being a relative of one of the Church leaders in Salt Lake is certainly a way into the Church aristocracy, and there are various other ways to ascend in this informal Church hierarchy, the principle one begin the attending of BYU or one of its satellite campuses in Idaho or Hawaii, and most certainly serving a full-time mission when between the ages of 18 and 25: a very large percentage of church leaders from the local level all the way to Salt Lake went to BYU and served missions, not all, but a large percentage.

The time outside of Sunday activities deserves special mention, including home teaching, visiting teaching, service projects, weekly activity night for the youth, various “assignments” one might be tapped to do…. I don’t have time presently to talk about the importance of “sacrifice” and “service” in the Church. Suffice to say that the emphasis on these can be quite overwhelming in terms of (voluntary) time commitments from the faithful. (If you refuse a calling or to serve, then that is a mark against you and you are considered “selfish” and as someone who is “not progressing.”)

See a version of this post at  Also see a later version at

Linux Action Show

July 8, 2009

One of the smartest Linux guys on the web: Great nerdometry podcasts.

Is anxiety the true path to freedom?

July 8, 2009

Simon Critchley thinks so:  See his articles at the Guardian.

Hello world!

July 8, 2009

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Doubting Mark

An atheist's adventures in a land of faith

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