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  • Thanks for continuing the conversation.

    I can understand that you enjoy practicing your faith. I can tell from your attitude and tone that it gives you a sense of fulfillment. I would like to live forever, too. It's just that it doesn't ring true for me. My mind refuses to accept the contradictions of the God that I was raised to believe in. The revelation I tossed out above was intended to be an example of something that a big-picture God would probably just leave up to his free-will-possessing creatures, you know? Consider for a moment, that to be an American in good standing is a lot more relaxed set of rules than to be LDS in good standing. To be an Iranian in good standing, on the other hand, I am told is more restrictive than LDS. As an American, I wouldn't want to move to Iran (even if I spoke Arabic) because I like having the freedom to do lots of things that may not be good for me. God apparently also gives us freedoms to do whatever we want, but if we want to be in good standing (like I would) then really you have to conform to a very strict set of rules. Not as bad as the Iranians have it, but still, less free than an American.

    For me to worship a God, my heart tells me that God has to value Freedom at least as much as our mortal, imperfect founding fathers did. He ought not to mind if my wife wears a pretty summer dress (no sleeves) as is the custom in our culture. He ought not to mind if I use some of his creations (coffee beans) to make a tasty beverage (or heck, a Frappuccino or a coffee jelly bean). He ought not to want my money. He ought to grant women the same privileges I enjoy, and responsibilities I bear, as a man. He ought to never have been okay with human slavery, nor stoning as punishment for victimless crimes. (Ok, on slavery the founding fathers lost a point there too, huh. But still, I'd expect better from Almighty God.)

    On to the tax point:

    I agree that the ability to tax something is also the ability to kill something (although smoking doesn't seem to have died out yet)... But by that logic, the governments of every country are trying to kill all business by taxing them. I'm just saying that a church is a business. (I'm not singling out the LDS at all, I mean in general) Churches sell the service of soul-saving and enlightenment, most churches sell it on a friendly sliding scale like yours does--'Please pay whatever you can afford,' suggested donation 10% of your income. They also do two other things most businesses do: Lobby politically, and give charitable donations.

    I have a warm spot in my heart for Mormons, because of how many of you guys I count as close friends, and the last thing I want to do is kill off your church because I know that it does a lot of good and the people all seem to mean well. But if Mom & Pop's Store can do just fine being taxed as a business, then why couldn't churches? Churches didn't used to be tax-exempt and they did just fine. In fact some (libertarian-type) people argue that granting that status itself was a dastardly deed because that put Uncle Sam in the business of telling you who is and is not a valid church. For example, the lobbying thing. Churches have to be careful with their political activities because if they overtly do things in support of a candidate or issue, they can lose their tax-exempt status. Isn't this itself a violation of the church members' rights? If you want to form a church that preaches overtly "Vote for Quimby" and donates part of the tithe to the Quimby campaign, why should you be treated differently from Church B which says "Vote for, uh, family values please" and donates to the "Family Values PAC."

    Churches that do any real charitable donations would probably not turn much of a "profit" when classified as regular businesses, and I don't think that would hurt them at all. In fact I bet most churches run pretty much break-even.

    The other fair alternative is to grant tax-exempt status to all churches, including the ones who are overtly political lobbying organizations, so basically every PAC or campaign out there -- both conservative and liberal -- would suddenly be a tax-exempt "Church" to avoid taxes and campaign finance law. Surely we don't want that, but is the current system that much better? Where Uncle Sam says "Sure, preach whatever you want but if we think it's too political we'll yank your tax exempt status"?

    We might be getting too off-topic, so feel free to respond on my Journal. I've created a new post for this purpose. I do enjoy discussing this issue with someone who is rational and friendly such as yourself.

    • by Zordak (123132)

      For me to worship a God, my heart tells me that God has to value Freedom at least as much as our mortal, imperfect founding fathers did. He ought not to mind if my wife wears a pretty summer dress (no sleeves) as is the custom in our culture. He ought not to mind if I use some of his creations (coffee beans) to make a tasty beverage (or heck, a Frappuccino or a coffee jelly bean). He ought not to want my money. He ought to grant women the same privileges I enjoy, and responsibilities I bear, as a man. He ought to never have been okay with human slavery, nor stoning as punishment for victimless crimes. (Ok, on slavery the founding fathers lost a point there too, huh. But still, I'd expect better from Almighty God.)

      Here is where the misunderstanding is. God does value agency ("freedom" as you call it). Like I said, I could not worship a god who is not bound by the same laws of nature as I am. God is free to choose what He will do, and I expect Him to give me the same freedom. What you are missing is that God does not give us commandments, advice, or directions because He gets an ego rush out of telling us what to do.

      Follow me on a thought experiment this time. Assume that there really is a God, and He is both om

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