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Journal Entries from 2006 – Part 2

April 12, 2006

Releasing myself from what I thought I knew about God and Satan has empowered me.

I was taught to be in perpetual combat with my adversary, Satan. This colored my life and perceptions with a tone of crisis. Putting down my weapons of war has given me the calm, inner clarity to see that the evil that I do comes from within, not without. I have the power to direct my actions, not an immaterial tempter. I alone bear responsibility.

Releasing my hope for a life beyond what I can see has made this life more precious. I do not know whether I will live beyond my death or whether my consciousness is a function of the biological processes of my body. I can no longer see injustice and pain and excuse it in the hope that it will be rectified in an afterlife. My best hope is to improve the human situation today, now.

Strangely, Alma the Younger’s word have more meaning to me today than I can ever remember:

“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.”

My heart swelled with peace and confidence when I finally accepted the evidence that has been before my eyes my entire life. Still there lingers some shame for being disloyal to the community that nurtured me. If anything, the Mormon faith has taught me virtuous principles and a loyalty to the truth above all else. For that I am grateful.

[It is true that I learned the importance of truth from Mormonism. However, the LDS church for all its talk about the truth has a stilted, awkward relationship with it. Where I learned to value the truth from Mormonism, I learned how to find it from scientists, skeptics, and freethinkers.]

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Skillful vs. Unskillful

I wonder what would happen if we stopped thinking in terms of Good and Evil, replacing that with skillful and unskillful.

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Permeability of Good and Evil

I you believe that the world is divided into the good people and the bad people, don’t miss Philip Zimbardo discuss how good people become evil.

Put us in the right situation, and anyone can become evil.

  • Mindlessly taking the first small [evil] step
  • Dehumanization of others
  • De-individuation of self (anonymity)
  • Diffusion of personal responsibility
  • Blind obedience to authority
  • Uncritical conformity to group norms
  • Passive tolerance of evil through inaction or indifference

Conversely, put us in a different situation, and any ordinary person can be a hero.

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Banality of Evil

The Death of Yugoslavia is an excellent BBC documentary on the causes and course of the wars in the former republics of Yugoslavia. It is primarily told through extraordinary interviews with those in power. I am amazed that they got so many leaders to speak so candidly about the war. It reminds me that the power to do great evil is in the banal hands of democratically elected political leaders. (via

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I’m currently unable to reach Google which holds in its ambiguously not-evil hands an inordinate amount of my life.

First thought when I couldn’t open my feed reader: Crap! Am I going to have to check my blogs by hand? By typing in their web addresses? How last millennium!

First thought upon realizing that I couldn’t remember those blog addresses: Double crap! Am I going to have to actually work?

Signs of the times.

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