MATTERS OF FAITH

I spend my days at work looking through vast quantities of public opinion data. Nothing I see is surprising anymore, and most of it is, if not predictable, easily explainable. A throwaway poll from the South Carolina primary, however, left me scratching my head. Among voters who stated that religion matters "a great deal", 46% voted for thrice-married serial adulterer and pretend Catholic Newt Gingrich compared to only 10% for Mitt the Mormon.

Not being a practitioner of any organized religion, I understand the factionalism and various interdenominational rivalries adequately but not completely. I get it that evangelical Christians (let's safely assume they made up the vast majority of religiously inclined South Carolina GOP primary voters) have extremely negative views of Mormonism. It was clear that this would be an issue with his candidacy from the outset, but I never really processed it or attempted to understand it.

All religion is based on faith, and specifically the belief in miraculous events. Don't flip out here. What I mean is, Christians believe that Jesus performed miracles and rose from the dead. As people cannot rise from the dead (or, in the case of lucky Lazarus, be risen) one can only base a belief that such things occurred on considerable faith in a higher power. I'm not making fun of anyone. This is simply the reality of believing in something that can't be empirically validated. As such every religion, logically speaking, is equally plausible. The only reason Mormonism gets more crap is because the miraculous events upon which it is based occurred more recently and thus are treated with a greater degree of skepticism. Mohammed and the Buddha and Jesus and the gang were lucky to exist before photography, the telegram, and newspapers. Not so for ol' Joseph Smith.

My point here is that while the core beliefs of Mormonism may appear silly to the non-religious or merely the non-Mormon, they're no sillier (or less plausible) than the stories of the Old Testament or the Bhagavad Gita. It all requires the willing suspension of the laws of physical reality and a belief in a supernatural power. Fine. So why do born-again Christians have such fanatical hostility toward Mormonism? While Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and other major religious groups in the U.S. may not be Bestest Buddies with the LDS church, they seem to be tolerant and not openly hostile.

Recently it hit me that the issue is not based in religious dogma (Mormons do not, as Evangelicals often claim, reject the divinity of Jesus) or in codes of conduct (Mormons reject most of the same behaviors rejected by Christians, including polygamy, gay marriage, and other hot-button political issues). It's about competition. The megachurch dwellers hate Mormons because Mormonsism is a proselytizing religion, one that has been phenomenally successful in the past few decades. When George Romney ran for president or governor in the 1950s and 1960s nobody cared that he was a Mormon because Mormons were as common as Zoroastrians. Now there are over 14 million Mormons and LDS missionaries (Sound familiar?) in 167 countries according to the church.

In competing for the same customer, if you will, Mormons have the distinct advantage of being almost absurdly friendly and outwardly tolerant of other belief systems, whereas the average ultraconservative Christian Bible-banger has a mouth like a puckered asshole and uses Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards as a blueprint for spreading the word. Mormonism has slick ad campaigns (they have billboards all over Atlanta, commercials on every TV network, and a sponsored YouTube channel that pops up at least once daily for yours truly) and they distance themselves from the anti-intellectualism of the Christian right. It's the kind of thing that middle class people – particularly Hispanics – appear to find appealing, based on the number of new recruits. And like other parts of the Republican base, the Christian right is terrified at the prospect of losing the Hispanics as a potential recruiting pool.

This isn't Ed's Ringing Endorsement of Mormonism. To me it is no better or worse than any other religion. The point is that the Pat Robertson crowd is scared shitless of the success and polished appeal of the LDS church, not any particular aspect of its dogma. Since so many religions differ wildly from evangelical Protestantism, I can't think of a more plausible explanation for why Mormonism is singled out for such intense hatred. Why not Gingrich's Catholicism, with its blasphemous Roman popery? Why not Judaism? Why not Islam? Oh wait, I guess they do hate that last one. Different reason, though.

I am not the world's most open minded person. I detest Scientologists, Juggalos, and the Irish. OK, just the first two. But my reasons are rooted in their beliefs and practices. I'm becoming convinced that the anti-Mormon sentiment on the right is based on something entirely different. Megachurches are in constant competition with each other and with other religions to put more butts in seats. And they're getting very worried that this new kid on the block, Mormonism, is to Evangelical Christianity what digital photography was to Kodak film.

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86 Responses to “MATTERS OF FAITH”

  1. J. Dryden Says:

    I always enjoy a good laugh when conventionally-minded Christians mock the lunacy of Mormonism, especially the charlatanism of Joseph Smith ("The guy claimed to be guided by golden plates buried in Rochester that no one else ever saw!"), because they never seem to have a comeback to "So *that's* utterly improbable, but a guy taking orders from a burning bush while alone on a mountainside is, what, logical? And don't get me started on the 'Of course he rose from the dead when nobody was looking' stuff."

    Mormonism is deeply silly, but, as Ed points out, its silliness is equivalent to the silliness of most religions–"Really? Mohammed went out into the middle of nowhere and came back with the Quran and told you it was dictated from God and you guys just…went with that?"–and thus other religions don't like it because it leads the intellect to recognize that all the other silliness is merely justified by antiquity. Mormonism is the loud guy you hang out with who can't help bragging to passing strangers about all the date rape and animal porn you all are into.

    It was also fodder for a damn good musical, though.

  2. wetcasements Says:

    Brigham Young (and plenty of 'em).

  3. jgalt Says:

    The flood is my favorite. Everyone else was killed except one of us, who saved all of Earths creatures in his giant ark made of gopher wood. Oh, the sinners, they laughed, but the joke was on them!

  4. Middle Seaman Says:

    We don't have solid data to conclude that South Carolinians preferred Newt on Mitt due to Mormonism.

    Religions today emphasis hate to bolster dedication and support among the fanatics. Sunnis and Shiats hate and kill each other. The orthodox rabbi of Britain didn't attend his best friend's funeral the reform rabbi of Britain. There are endless christian sub-denominations and the relations among them is not great. (E.g. John Kennedy will follow the pope.) This can go on forever.

    There are way too many fanatics. They hate non fanatics, which Mitt is. After all, he is filthy rich (2nd generation), prudent, gray, smiling candidate who angers fanatics. Newt pretend not to be rich (he got rich the old fashion way, he stole it), hardly smiles, the opposite of prudent, colorful (?), and fanatic. Fanatics feel at home with Newt. They are fanatics and not dedicated followers of there sect's dogma. Thrice married is not important enough when compared a fellow nut.

    In simple terms, most dedicated religious people are fanatics first and morally adhering last.

  5. buckyblue Says:

    No, it's the dogma. They hate him for the dogma, not the competition. Maybe some megachurch pastors and televangelists don't like the competition, but your normal three-days-a-week church goer worries about what he believes. Does he claim that Jesus Christ is his personal savior? Nope. And any more, it's only what he believes, no behavior qualifications whatsoeva, much to Newt's delight. I sat in plenty of Sunday night services that decried Mormonism as a cult. Catholics have only recently been accepted as being able to go to heaven. If they're a 'good Catholic'. Meaning that they don't do all of the idolatry stuff.

  6. Seth Says:

    I grew up Jewish in Atlanta, but in an enclave of Orthodox Jews that was very cloistered (pun intended). So I never really thought twice about religious intolerance until after I'd graduated college (at the just-detached-from-the-Southern-Baptist-Convention Wake Forest University). Even Wake was a hotbed of religious tolerance since everybody was so happy to be out from under the Convention's jackboots.

    But my first spouse grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Chicago and moved to NC when she started college. The stories she and her friends told me about the vitriol they got–as Catholics–at UNC-Charlotte were hair-raising.

    All that's to say, I don't think the Evangelics hate Mormons more than anybody else. Fear? Compete with? Maybe. And I think they give Newt a free pass because they know he's just the same kind of opportunistic looney that their leaders are.

  7. Xynzee Says:

    Let me see if I can find a secular analogy for you. You're a Chicagoan. Cubs v Sox? Or how about Man City v Man U. Now there's a rivalry that can go lethal.

    To me they're all just a bunch of meatheads paid stupid amounts of money to no real purpose. Yet step into the wrong pub on a given Saturday night and that's the end of you. Why?

  8. c u n d gulag Says:

    Ed has a good point.
    It's all about marketing, having people purchase the brand, and then remain brand-loyal.
    I'll use cars as an analogy.
    What religious people do, is pick and buy a car model, or be "born-into" buying one, and argue over Owners Manuals.

    We all know what a car does, and can do, for you – and what it can't. Whether it's a Ford, a Chevy, a Lexus, a Honda, a Maserati, etc…
    They'll all get you to where you want to go (of course, I don't believe in any Heaven, so let's us Vegas instead) in about the same way – with differing degrees of comfort. And mileage, of course, will also vary.

    So, if some sort of life after death (Vegas) is your goal, you could follow any religious figure, because they all pretty much tell you the same thing:
    "Buy my book about my Las Vegas! It'll tell you how you, the buyer, will get all sorts of neat rewards and points, and be a favorite of mine after yo die – but you have to believe what I say unquestionably.
    And people who don't buy my book about my Vegas at all, or buy some other prophet's book, will burn in everlasting Hell because they don't believe in what you do – ME! YOU HAVE TO LOVE ME – AND MY LAS VEGAS!!!"

    And so, the the owner of a Chevy wants to kill the owner of the Ford, because the owners manual he/she reads, tells him the ignition is in a different place, or the window controls are on the center console, rather than the windows themselves.
    You see – that shit's important!
    What could be more important if you want to get to Las Vegas than where the fucking window controls are!!!
    On the doors? YOU MUST DIE!!!

    And so, you must kill the people who buy other brands of cars, because their owners manuals don't agree with yours. And certainly, only Chevy owners get their rewards after this life, while Ford owners must suffer everlasting Hell for buying the wrong car. Or, for not owning a car at all, because they don't believe in Las Vegas.

    And so, it's all in the marketing, when you're trying to keep and get more rubes – er, uhm… sorry – customers. PAYING customers!

    Hey, it ain't a great analogy, but what do you expect at 7am?

  9. bb in GA Says:

    Your brush is a little broad about 'All religion is based on faith.' Not all religions are based and practiced on the belief in things that cannot be verified. I think that a broad segment of Jews, for instance, would not subscribe to your 'faith' definition. Buddhists, if I understand them correctly, require no belief in supernatural anything.

    How about that nifty study that just came out which could explain Ed's dilemma – if you have a low IQ and you have socially conservative values -they concluded that you would more likely be prejudiced.

    Doesn't that fit y'all's stereotype of Southern Evangelicals?

    I believe we have a WINNAH.

    //bb

  10. eau Says:

    I'm with Dryden.

    "…other religions don't like it because it leads the intellect to recognize that all the other silliness is merely justified by antiquity."

    Yes. This.

  11. Hazy Davy Says:

    Yes, it's about competition. (And other religions, I'm sure, also oppose the LDS church. But they choose to combat it differently—in the education system, or through mass media, or through manufacturing, even…rather than by being complaining consumers.)

    Of course, I wonder how Newt and Mitt fared against Rick, with the Phariseeic faithful.

  12. Hazy Davy Says:

    [Note---to understand the competition thing, look no further than the 1st commandment. "You shall have no other God but me." It doesn't say "there is no other God"...]

  13. bb in GA Says:

    @Hazy Davy

    Your biblical analysis is a little on the reductionist side. If you read the entire Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) you will find that there is no God but YHWH. All the rest are 'gods' – that are not really deities.

    I am not giving you a sectarian view here, this is a straight ahead reading of the texts.

    //bb

  14. JazzBumpa Says:

    A very religious friend of mine, in a moment of lucid candor, explained that, "all religions are, by their very nature, exclusive."

    I think you can limit that to monotheistic religions, which I think he was implicitly doing, anyway.

    There may be something to Ed's marketing theory, but that is not the whole story, by a long shot. My friend's theory dominates. It's not the purpose of religion, but rather a resultant. However, the us-vs-them aspect of religious affiliation is very powerful. It gives group association, and an object for hatred.

    And don't kid yourself. the fundamentalist hatred for Catholics and Jews has not gone away.

    bb – there are plenty of smart conservatives. But – political affiliation is not an intellectually derived reaction for most people. And by most I mean way over 90%. Like religion, it resides in an emotional comfort zone.

    But religion and intelligence are not orthogonal. Stupid people are in fact far, far more likely to be conservative. That has do do with the overlap between the stupid comfort zone and the conservative comfort zone.

    I will refer again to Russell Kirk's paean to conservatism, The Conservative Mind. In the first two chapters he demonstrates that ignorance and prejudice are the first two pillars of conservatism.

    That's a reality you just can't run away from.

    Cheers!
    JzB

  15. Tim H. Says:

    These days there's a lot of tolerance for the followers of Joseph Smith, read Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet" for an idea of what was.

  16. Coffeeman Says:

    I think it was Marx that said religion is the opiate of the masses. It's all about control. Take a simple desire of someone to believe something, turn it into a moneymaking venture, make a bunch of rules to keep the peeps under your thumb, and tell the peeps that the "other" is after their stuff. Oh, and collect a lot of money. As George Carlin noted, god is not good with money.

    It's not a coincidence that the expansion of the European empires was done in concert with the church.

    Sorry, but it's always about the money…e g The Vatican.

  17. Coffeeman Says:

    btw, what would happen to religions in the US if there were no personal tax deductions for contributions, and churches were taxed like other enterprises?

    How about taxing them and using the proceeds to feed and house the poor, which most of them claim to care about?

    Just askin'

  18. Grumpygradstudent Says:

    It may be hard for somebody who was not raised in a religious household to grasp the concept of orthodoxy (right belief). The history of protestantism, from Luther on down, is the process of schisms forming based on differing interpretations of orthodoxy. For those people, it was essential to believe in a certain way, or else they would risk losing their salvation. And we're not talking about big issues like whether Jesus was divine or not; we're talking about things like when kids should be baptized! When the fate of one's eternal soul is dependent on exactly what one believes about eating crackers and wine, one can get pretty worked up.

    I think Ed is onto something with the competition idea. The reason evangelicals openly condemn mormons but not, say, Buddhists, is that Buddhism is not really a heterodox belief system. It's simply and obviously non-Christian. But the LDS belief system is a version of Christianity and is thus an actual dogmatic option; it's plausible that people could buy into it as the "true" version of Christianity. So it's worth their time, in their mind, to tell their kids to avoid it, while it wouldn't even be an option with a completely different religion. It's about competition, yes, but it's competition over orthodoxy and salvation.

    The problem with this theory is that evangelicals do seem to have made nice with Catholics over the last couple of decades, despite having very different versions of orthodoxy. I think they found the pro-life alliance so appealing that they could mask their religious differences in public, while still condemning them behind closed doors. Or maybe it's just that they KNOW what a Catholic is, whereas they still see Mormons as this shadowy group who may actually be sacrificing goats for all they know.

  19. TomW Says:

    The marketing theory might explain the actions of evangelical/fundamentalist leaders, but that's not how ordinary evangelicals think. I grew up in a rural area in the south east, not South Carolina, but culturally pretty close.

    I think you are underestimating the importance of the cult-status of Mormonism in the minds of many people and the us vs. them dynamic that JazzBumpa is talking about.

    In the mindset I grew up around there is a huge divide between Christians and Not-Christians. Christians are further subdivided into Christians-doing-it-right (i.e. whatever group I belong to) and Christians-doing-it-wrong. A person's status as a Christian is SUPER important, people talk about it all the time in all sorts of contexts. Christians-doing-it-right are better than Christians-doing-it-wrong, but Christians-doing-it-wrong are still FAR better than Not-Christians. There's hope for Christians-doing-it-wrong, their hearts are in the right place, they are just a little misguided.

    Newt as a Catholic is a Christian-doing-it-wrong
    Romney as a Morman is a Not-Christian.

    Catholics are probably the "wrongest" of the Christians-doing-it-wrong, but they still fall on the Christian side of the main divide. And Mormons are particularly objectionable Not-Christians from this perspective because they are Not-Christians who run around all over the place claiming to be Christians. There's all sorts of trickery and deceit in that.

  20. Sarah Says:

    Your biblical analysis is a little on the reductionist side. If you read the entire Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) you will find that there is no God but YHWH. All the rest are 'gods' – that are not really deities.

    I am not giving you a sectarian view here, this is a straight ahead reading of the texts.

    Are you sure you are reading that right? Because I saw an interpretation from the original Aramaic (years and years ago, I doubt I could find it again) that invoked the "gods" you speak of as Elohim, who created humans simultaneously as male and female. Yahweh was the one who was doing his own thing on the side, creating Adam and then using Adam's rib to create Eve. This is one answer to the question of where Cain's wife came from–after he was banished for murdering his brother, one of the women from the tribe created by Elohim felt sorry for him and took him on as a spouse.

    OTOH, there's also the story of Judith, Adam's "first wife" from yet another interpretation, who wanted to be his equal and was banished and condemned as a succubus, thus giving us the world's first Evil Feminazi.

  21. bb in GA Says:

    @coffeeman

    Your Constitutional and historical threads are showing…You need to be working on a Constitutional amendment if you want the Church to be subject to the State in the way you describe

    Just sayin'

    //bb

  22. bb in GA Says:

    @Sarah

    Yes, my feeble understanding (from using a concordance) of Hebrew is that 'elohim' is a plural form. But that doesn't discount what the texts say. Without citations (which nobody here wants) the Book says that YHWH is onliest God…in multiple places throught the OT.

    The account you're talking about is Lilith, supposedly Adam's on-the-side woman based on other Jewish traditions.

    //bb

  23. Mo Says:

    "Mormonism is the loud guy you hang out with who can't help bragging to passing strangers about all the date rape and animal porn you all are into."

    Yeah, it's all about validation of irrational belief. The Mormons show the religious mind parasite for what it is.

    But you said it so-o-o-o much more deliciously…

  24. xynzee Says:

    For the record Buddhism does *not* believe in the same thing as Judaism, Christianity and/or Islam. It's *not* an interchangeable ideal all roads lead to the same place. If you spent any time reading their texts you'd realise this.

    The easiest way to explain Buddhism is organised nihilism. The goal of Buddhism is to free oneself from being. Nirvana is the state of no longer being ie nihilism. Hinduism to a greater or lesser extent believes something like this – given that it's an offshoot of Hinduism it's not surprising. This is a completely different view of Heaven and Hell.

    In a nut shell:
    Judaism, Christianity and to some extent Islam believe that "matter" (stuff, things, people, you, your "self") *matter*, and they mean something *very* important to God. These things are of interest to God because He created them into being. Read a brief "History of Time" now tell me where did this stuff come from that launched from Hawking's Great Singularity, what was before it?

    So the story goes like this:
    God Created everything. People were the bride and groom on the top of the icing on the cake.
    People pissed in the pool and ruined the party for everyone (read Fido and the humming birds, etc).
    God was rather annoyed about having to drain the pool after he'd spent so much time getting the balance right.
    However, God has a plan to set things right.

    To **simplify** it's at this point that the three start splitting:
    Judaism is still awaiting a Promised Messiah to come and set everything straight.
    Christians believe that this Promised Messiah *has* come — as God incarnate in Jesus — and started the Beginning of the End.
    Islam believes that Judaism and Christianity dropped the ball and that Mohammed is the final prophet, and that following the teachings one can achieve Heaven.

    Judaism believes that by following the Law (Torah) one can achieve salvation. The most common concept is the Pharisaic Jew of Jesus' time.

    Christians believe that there's jack-all we can do to achieve our salvation as the bar is so far out of reach that it can't be reached. So God cheats. He can't lower the bar, but anyone who shows up cap in hand and says, "Please Sir…" is lifted up so all they have to do is step over the crack in the pavement. Life is then to be lived with a sense of gratitude *and* humility. Where one serves God out of Love not fear. Where we get these hating, urban terrorist types from really isn't reading the texts closely, and we find a return of the Pharisees and their works based religion.

    Islam requires that people to follow the Q'ran in order to achieve salvation. Ie. a return to a works based system.

    As Jzb's friend pointed out, "All religions are exclusive." How about the religion of Atheism. Many atheists reject just as vociferously and with as much hostility those who ascribe to a religion as do those who ascribe to a religion other religions.

  25. bill Says:

    What bb and xynzee said re: Buddhism. Not really
    comparable.

  26. Hazy Davy Says:

    לא יהיה־לך אלהים אחרים על־פני

    [Exodus 20:3 & Deuteronomy 5:7]

    The first word (Lo – לא) means "no"

    "יהיה" is a Hebrew way of saying "God" (it's supposed to be unpronouncable, I think, but I'd say it 'yhyh'), and presumably, the "Lach" suffix means "before")

    "אלהים " is Elohim. And yes, it's plural (and masculine, if it matters). But it's also singular, to refer to God. Let's assume that, since ther's already that unpronouncable version, this refers to "other gods".

    Nevermind, I withdraw the add-on comment. You're right, bb, I haven't read the whole thing. And, not being fluent in biblical Hebrew, or even, really, conversant, I might not have it right.

    The fact remains that the Judeo-Christian God is a jealous one, who fears competition. Thus, as well, the prohibition on "false idols".

    All of which is to say, I think Ed's thesis is right:
    The religious right distrusts those who claim to be faithful, but who threaten to influence the market acceptance of competitor faiths.

    [And Newt's capitalizing on it, by claiming, in a "AWOL W loves the military more than Purple-heart Kerry"-sort-of attack-the-strength way, that Romney is anti-religion. I'm so sad, right now.]

  27. JohnR Says:

    "..and the Irish"

    ".., but we don't want the Irish!" [/Olson Johnson]

    I'm another one who disagrees about the whole "competition" thing. You're trying to logic out something that's rooted in the hindbrain – it's not competition, it's fear and hatred of the Other, whipped up by the leaders. It was the Jews and the Catholics; now it's the Mormons and the Muslims. And just for the record, calling the run-of-the-mill Southern Evangelical a "Christian" is not only a gross disservice to Jesus of Nazareth, but by rights ought to be considered heretical if not blasphemy.

  28. Major Kong Says:

    I actually find it rather humorous to watch Southern Evangelicals having to pick between a Catholic (Eeek!) or a Mormon (Eeeeeek!!!!!).

  29. mike Says:

    The sociologist Rodney Stark made the argument several years back that Mormons were multiplying at roughly the same rate as early Christians in the Roman Empire and that that rate of increase then was more responsible for Constantine's flip to Christianity than any sudden conversion. He needed their numbers because they had become half or more of his empire. You can draw your own conclusions from that. Just adding it to the discussion.

  30. Elle Says:

    It's about competition, yes, but it's competition over orthodoxy and salvation.

    The problem with this theory is that evangelicals do seem to have made nice with Catholics over the last couple of decades, despite having very different versions of orthodoxy. I think they found the pro-life alliance so appealing that they could mask their religious differences in public, while still condemning them behind closed doors.

    As an atheist who was an evangelical Christian until I read my way out of it in my late teens, I think that Grumpygradstudent nails it with this.

    LDS theology, as I understand it (and please correct me if this is wrong), describes a Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother (although the concept of the Heavenly Mother is controversial), Jesus, and a Holy Spirit who are all separate; there is no Trinity. Salvation is by human atonement as well as by the atonement of Christ crucified, and there is no predestination. Baptism of the dead (effecting their salvation) is possible. Women do not receive the full measure of heaven, unless they are 'pulled through' by their temple husbands.

    Leaving aside the culturally unfamiliar practices (sacred undergarments, temple sealings, etc.) any of these would be enough to give rise to the suspicion that an individual LDS believer did not understand the grace and substitutionary atonement at the heart of the evangelical faith. In these circumstances, it would be impossible to be saved.

    Catholics, on the other hand, can and did (in my youth) participate in the ecumenical worship that invariably involved some version of a sinner's prayer. Although their own religious practices were deeply suspect, with regard to their idolatry of the saints and of Mary, and probably insufficient to keep them walking right with the Lord, the 'good' (i.e. like us in a very specific narrow way) ones were likely enough saved.

    I have no doubt that some powerful Pastors don't, in their heart of hearts, believe, but I very much doubt that the rank and file see the LDS Church as a financial threat, so much as a threat to carrying out the Great Commission, and a collection of false prophets.

  31. My Axe Is My Buddy Says:

    How long before the first Juggalo is elected to public office?? Whoop Whoop!!

  32. SA Says:

    Gingrich has a "fall from grace/salvation" story. Evangelicals live for that shit.

    Romney lacks that essential narrative, the Tabasco on the grits of faith, because he's always been squeaky. (Except when he's violating all the Mormulan narratives about service to the poor, collective community responsibility, etc. etc. because SOCIALISM.)

  33. Alan C Says:

    Elle makes very well one of the points I was going to make: that Protestantism and Catholicism are much closer to each other theologically than either one is to Mormonism. Mormons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but understand the concept in a way that sets them apart from more mainstream forms of Christianity and mark Mormonism as a counterfeit form of Christianity in many people's eyes.

    I'd also like to point out that, although believing that many of the things in the Bible happened, we know *where* many of them happened (or didn't), which cannot be said of the Book of Mormon. We know where Jerusalem and Bethlehem were because they're still there; we know there was a kingdom of Israel, etc. As far as I know there's no archaeological evidence that anything in the B of M is anything but fiction.

  34. unclemike Says:

    "Many atheists reject just as vociferously and with as much hostility those who ascribe to a religion as do those who ascribe to a religion other religions."

    I have an issue with comparing this to religion's exclusiveness. Yes, many atheists *as individuals* don't hang with religious people. I find this a little different than religions building temples to their gods where other people who believe like-wise are welcome and form social ties.

    A small point, perhaps.

  35. Ellie Says:

    @ Tom W:

    "Catholics are probably the "wrongest" of the Christians-doing-it-wrong"

    Worse than the mostly liberal, egalitarian, pacifist, gay-marrying Society of Friends? Or are they just not really Christians?

  36. Zeb Says:

    @Xynzee

    The difference, of course, is that atheists don't condemn those who disagree with even minor tenets of their belief system to an eternity of suffering.

    And in this world, we tend not to slaughter each other over varying interpretations of a cracker. (Hey, at one time being on the wrong side of the transsubstantiation vs consubstantiation debate could get you tortured and publicly executed!)

  37. Elle Says:

    Hey, at one time being on the wrong side of the transsubstantiation vs consubstantiation debate could get you tortured and publicly executed!

    The most vicious (in the most veiled of ways) row I ever witnessed at cell group was over the relative holiness (because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit) of drinking decaffeinated tea (a process using harmful chemicals) or caffeinated tea (addictive!).

    There is no passive aggressiveness like a Christian woman (or man) saying "I'm sure you if you take a prayerful look at the Scripture, your heart will be convicted that drinking caffeinated tea is hurting your walk."

  38. DS Says:

    I saw two American Mormons on a train up in the French Alps once doing their thing. They barely spoke French and were as annoying as they are here. I bet that went over well in an intensely Catholic or non-practicing area. For the life of me I cannot understand what possesses someone to move to another country and force your own personal beliefs on strangers.

  39. eau Says:

    @Xynzee – "How about the religion of Atheism. Many atheists reject just as vociferously and with as much hostility those who ascribe to a religion as do those who ascribe to a religion other religions."

    This again? We're already A-Theists, defined entirely by what we lack. Now we have to cop to being theists, just theists who fail to understand either your point of view OR ours? Nice.

    Andalsoadditionallytoo, hostility and exclusivity are far from the same thing. We atheists would LOVE to include any and all of the faithful in our world of facts and data and evidence. I tell you, most of us are only complaining because our society penalises us daily for what we believe, or don't believe, despite this being explicitly outlawed in your country and mine for quite some time now. This is where the hostility comes from.

    As an atheist my entire adult life, I swear, I *can't* believe. I don't have it in me. I don't get a tax break, or a pat on the head from the atheists in charge of my brand of atheism, or even eternal salvation, for being a non-believer (hey look, another negative definition!). It's just that whatever allows others believe in miracles and transubstantiation and harp-playing cloud-loungers remains a mystery to me. If it makes sense to you, cool, just please leave my (figurative) ovaries out of it.

  40. Major Kong Says:

    I was thinking of converting to Buddhism – just because I'm starting to look like him.

  41. samiam Says:

    I grew up in the south as an evangelical Christian (my parents put the "mental" in "fundamentalist"…I eventually grew up, got out of the house, and got better), and I can tell you that TomW's interpretation is EXACTLY what I got out of having seen/experienced that side of the coin. My parents, who I use as pretty strong canaries in the evangelical Christian coalmine, will never, ever vote for Mitt Romney, whether or not the polls say he could beat Obama, because he is a Mormon.

    Oh, and he's too liberal. But mostly the Mormon thing.

  42. Noskilz Says:

    The competition notion sounds like a fairly plausible angle – it may not be the whole of it, but I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't a significant contributing factor. There was a wave of Jesusdome building in Tennessee and there often seemed to be quite a bit of acrimony generated when this church or that went on a building spree – and that was between churches of the same denomination. Flashy new churches aren't cheap, and my understanding is that the economic turndown has gone some way toward demonstrating that the lord does not always provide, and that a church can be foreclosed on like any other building.

  43. bb in GA Says:

    The evangelical anti-mormon proposition is taking a beating in the late breaking (reported @ 7:00 pm EST) exit polling in Fla. Gingrich 40% Romney 36% and I don't know if there is an MOE stated.

    If there were tremedous anti-mormon stuff going, it wouldn't be that close to even.

    //bb

  44. Rob Says:

    Just to add another voice, Buddhism – possibly the most pragmatic of all "religions" – really has no place in this post. Otherwise though, a good read.

  45. Bernard Says:

    i consider Budhism to not be a religion, period. a way of thinking that does't even go near the concept of God. don't ever remember seeing anything like God in it. not in the sense of God being a mean ole MF'er who makes the rules, and i brook no disagreements.

    the image of God as a man created idol is a "get out of Jail" escape "card" used to "get over" those who disagree with "My God." The Golden Calf is a great symbol for me. So descriptive of what God is as far as i understand religions.

    I do bet very few of the Southerners will "gladly" vote for Romney, maybe they will vote against the "Muslim Usurper". i just doubt they would vote for a " False Christian". there's just too much money involved to vote for a Fake Christian.

    Too bad we can't tax all religions after all the BS they force upon the non believers. eh!! Money talks and the Mormons are not going to be left out.

    Mormonism is just the latest version of the "My God is better than Your God" scam. That Golden Calf is too strong for the scared Shitless Sheep to deny.

    or maybe Socialism will get ya!! who knows.lol

  46. ladiesbane Says:

    No, sorry, it's not competition. The closest sentiment that applies is the minor aspect of offense. Low-church Christianity considered itself the final, perfect incarnation of the church, absolutely the last word needed on the subject. The idea of a younger, newer version implies that their own brand was flawed enough to need improvements. But that's just a bit of aroma hovering over the dogpile.

    There are many reasons Evangelicals consider Mormonism to be a cult. Does anyone remember reading about the massacres in Missouri? Has anyone read about the "theodemocracy" under the early LDS leaders? Many people in the Bible Belt learn more about these things, as part of local history, and they just uglify the Mormon orthodoxy, which is already enweirdened by their funny undies, bizarre afterlife, enshrinement of their early leaders, their baptism of dead people (including Jews!), and other wackiness.

    But even though an orthodoxy of racism, sexism, and planning for the apocalypse sounds as if it would dovetail nicely with the Bible Belt, Mormons utterly crossed the line when they added another testament, the Book of Mormon, as a sequel to the Bible.

    Most deeply devout folks that I've known (including relatives and neighbors) consider discussion of the editorial aspects of canonical inclusion to be utterly taboo, but they have extremely strong feelings about the sanctity of the Bible as they know it. Certainly no one questions the canon, which is absolute and final.

    The Book of Revelations (rejected by many scholars) curses anyone who preaches any other gospel, which is why it's the last book in the Bible for most Christians. The Bible Belt, more than most, doesn't question or doubt that which it holds sacred; the Bible and God and all that goes with it gets wrapped in glossy ribbon and marked "Do Not Disturb." And any religion that tries to change the perfect and eternal word of God, such as Islam or Mormonism, is considered an idolatrous cult. Period.

  47. Bears Fan Says:

    Fundies would love to hate any denomination that wasn't their own. But even they recognize how little difference there is between them and the others from an actual doctrine stand-point. Strip away each Christian religion's particular nuance and they all agree on who Jesus was and What he did. The Mormons however believe in a "different" Jesus. Get rid of the ridiculous magic undies, and the magic stones, the underlying fact is that the Mormons Jesus is not the same as the Jesus that the rest of the Christians believe in. Consider this analogy, Paul Ryan's plan has something it calls medicare, and some elements might be like Medicare, but it ain't medicare.

  48. Elle Says:

    But even though an orthodoxy of racism, sexism, and planning for the apocalypse sounds as if it would dovetail nicely with the Bible Belt, Mormons utterly crossed the line when they added another testament, the Book of Mormon, as a sequel to the Bible.

    Most deeply devout folks that I've known (including relatives and neighbors) consider discussion of the editorial aspects of canonical inclusion to be utterly taboo, but they have extremely strong feelings about the sanctity of the Bible as they know it. Certainly no one questions the canon, which is absolute and final.

    Exactly, ladiesbane.

    There are warnings against false prophets and other [erroneous] gospels scattered through the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. These are preached on extensively in evangelical churches, because of the primacy of the inerrant Bible, and the belief in its inspiration by God.

    I remember, as a child, learning that Catholics had 'extra' books in their Bibles, and feeling totally destabilised. I had had a picture of the Bible emerging whole, bathed in a heavenly light, but it was clearly a lot more complicated than that, even in the truncated version we were told about. The youth pastor was clear that the Catholics and Orthodox had been misled by Satan, who clearly dug the idea of confusing God's people with tales of dragons, but I was terrified that it therefore seemed so easy to misunderstand God.

  49. TomW Says:

    Responding to Ellie's question:
    "Catholics are probably the "wrongest" of the Christians-doing-it-wrong"
    Worse than the mostly liberal, egalitarian, pacifist, gay-marrying Society of Friends? Or are they just not really Christians?

    The Pope and the importance of Mary and the many saints (idol worship!!!) are VERY big strikes against Catholics. I suspect Society of Friends fall pretty far to the wrong side of things, but I don't think they are really on the Evangelical radar, partly due to the small size of the Friends and different geographic concentrations. Friends are more northeast/midwest and are barely present in the rural south.

  50. Elle Says:

    Worse than the mostly liberal, egalitarian, pacifist, gay-marrying Society of Friends? Or are they just not really Christians?

    My two cents, based on previous worldview.

    I agree with TomW, and I also think that the Friends ranked above the Catholics, because whatever their current backslidden perspective (if a denomination can be backslidden), at one time God poured out the Spirit on them to induce the quaking that gave them their nickname.

  51. Alan C Says:

    I think Ed is right about competition, but I'm sure it's especially galling to evangelicals to have to compete with a (in their eyes) counterfeit version of Christianity.

  52. Southern Beale Says:

    No, you're wrong, it's not about competition. It's doctrinal. On both sides. Evangelical Christianity is based on the idea of redemption from sin and salvation in Jesus Christ. Newt could have as many wives as he did as long as he told a somewhat believable tale of redemption. Every single fundiegelical has their "story" about how they were "saved," and this is Newt's. It's not a very good one — he certainly hasn't won over all evangelicals with it — but it was sufficient to pull the "values voters" to his side from Mitt the Mormon, a religion the church folks have always looked at as a cult.

    Evangelical protestants of the Southern Baptist variety which predominate in the South do not now nor have they ever believed that Mormonism is a Christian religion. They just don't. They are given that Kool-Aid from their earliest Bible study. Mormons have their own Bible, and you just don't DO that, if you beleive every single word of the Bible is the inerrant word of God then there's no "adding on" — not with a Catholic catechism and not with any of this Book of Mormon crap.

    And that's just the most obvious no-no. The Mormon faith is secretive and their rituals are based on things like Freemasonry, which strict religious folks have always viewed as Satan's work. Mormon temple rituals involve blood oaths, another huge no-no in Fundiegelical world. And then their whole theology denies the basic divinity of Jesus, it says Jesus was Adam's brother or some shit like that. Again, if you believe in Biblical inerrancy, than that is just way too much editing of the Word of God for these folks.

    You know, as I drove past the huge Southern Baptist church up the street from me this weekend I saw a giant "Divorce Care" billboard and I thought, "Baptists understand divorce. Their theology can embrace divorce: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, there is healing through Christ," blabbedy blah. But weird shit like the Melchizedek Priesthood? No way.

  53. Ed Says:

    Oh, it's doctrinal? So southern evangelical protestants know and understand the tenets of Mormonism?

    I find that highly, highly implausible.

  54. Major Kong Says:

    Southern evangelical protestants know that everyone else is wrong wrong wrong.

    After that it's only a matter of degree.

  55. Bernard Says:

    wonderful comments!!!

  56. Xynzee Says:

    @Southern, Ladies and Tom:
    Well said. Very well said.

    @Ed: reread Southern's post, as well as Tom's post. They're pretty much some up everything. Especially about the "secret" stuff. In your mainline orthodox christian churches they should be open to view, nothing hidden that your average visitor couldn't see on a given Sunday. The "hidden" stuff happens in the "spiritual realm". Eg. during the Eucharist to the Catholics and Orthodoxi (is that the correct plural?) the bread and wine *become* flesh and blood in the spiritual world. If you were to taste them, your observation would be closer to that of one of the Plinys, that they were just bread and wine. Whatever, these happen in the open though the Orthodox churches have the screen they go behind. The history of which was as a political (theological) solution, as ppl were wasting time arguing about how the priest broke the bread (people will argue over anything). Other than that the only hidden stuff in these churches is either political or financial.

    @Ladies and Ellie: the main reason the English Protestant churches dropped the non-canonicals was actually a pragmatic reason. High quality ultra thin Bible paper didn't exist. Printing cost a bomb and a half. To reduce size and cost something had to go. The catechism for the Anglican Communion references them for learning, but not for deriving doctrine. Therefore to an Elizabethan era theatre goer, Polonius' advice to Laertes would have been recognised as a direct quote from Sirach particularly to the Über rich of the day. I believe that the Continental churches dropped those books for the same reason, but Dutch, German and French reform history aside being very bloody isn't my strong suit.

  57. TomW Says:

    Ed writes:
    "Oh, it's doctrinal? So southern evangelical protestants know and understand the tenets of Mormonism?

    I find that highly, highly implausible."

    You are assuming that they need to think about this stuff in nuanced terms the way that you do. They don't NEED to understand any complex tenets of Mormonism to decide that Mormons are not Christians. A few basic bits of Mormonism are more than enough to label them not-Christians.

    They have a sacred book IN ADDITION to the Bible, they baptize the dead, they don't believe in the Trinity, they think Jesus visited the Native Americans. They are not Christians, they are a cult that pretends to be Christian. Case closed.

    Honestly, the mere existence of the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible is probably enough evidence for most evangelicals that they are definitely not-Christians. The rest of the screwy Mormon stuff is just icing on the cake.

  58. bb in GA Says:

    So…after all the opining here, the exit polls (if believable) say that Romney, the Mormon, got 38% of the evangelicals, Gingrich got 37%, Santorum got 18%, and Paul got 5% and apparently 2% of the evangelicals got lost :-)

    I didn't see an MOE attached to these data.

    How do we spin this?

    I guess we could opine that when you add Gingrich and Santorum together you get 55% out of 93% or about 60% of the evangelical vote among those three candidates was anti-Romney and perhaps anti-Mormon.

    60/40 is a pretty good whuppin' but I submit that it is anti-Mormon only at the margins.

    I think I could arm wave effectively that it easily an anti-Taxachussetts moderate vote (and "Oh BTW he's a damn Mormon too…") or I could break positive and say it was a 'pro' vote for the more conservative candidates.

    //bb

  59. Southern Beale Says:

    "How do we spin this?"

    Well, I also read that said Florida's turnout was something like 200,000 less than in 2008. I think it's safe to say Republicans are not excited about any of their options.

  60. Elle Says:

    @Ladies and Ellie: the main reason the English Protestant churches dropped the non-canonicals was actually a pragmatic reason. High quality ultra thin Bible paper didn't exist.

    Do you mean me? Or Ellie? (We are confusing with our nearly identical names, I know.)

    Yes, I was posting from the perspective of early teenage me. When I was in my late teens I read a huge amount about the history of the Bible. I'm not sure I would entirely agree that it was all about printing, but it's certainly part of the story of how the Protestant and Catholic canons came to be settled. I think Luther's Bible was the first to feature an inter-testamental apocrypha, and that was read as a commentary on its suitability for inclusion, rather than anything to do with manufacture.

    Be still my heart, on the link between Hamlet and the Bible. I wrote an (awful, no doubt) undergraduate essay on the influence of the language of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer on Shakespeare, with reference to King Lear.

  61. Elle Says:

    60/40 is a pretty good whuppin' but I submit that it is anti-Mormon only at the margins.

    How did everyone else (is there an everyone else?) indicate they'd voted.

    I'm extremely heartened by this. Does this mean it might one day be possible to get an atheist elected President? As long as they hate women and poor people enough?

  62. xynzee Says:

    @Elle: Sorry yes I did mean you. My understanding of the pragmatics comes from a fair minded – read liberal by relative comparison – Sydney Anglican minister – and as you seem to know your BCP you may know about how open minded Sydney can be. A connection between King Lear and the BCP? Really, tell me more…
    But yes, I'd heard that Shakespeare was apocryphally connected to the writing of the KJV, but didn't really believe it. However, after reading those passages in Sirach, it was I've read this before and lo and behold.

    @Ed: I think I've got another analogy for you. Imagine two types of ball games. Both involve someone throwing the ball, someone trying to bash it to the next post code, some running and people trying to catch the runner out.
    Now the older one for argument's sake we'll call cricket.
    The newer one we'll call baseball.
    Imagine if for some weird reason, the supporters of baseball wanted to call themselves cricket and wanted to be accepted by those into cricket. Now while baseball is younger and seems to be growing faster, cricket has a bigger following and greater acceptance.
    So no matter how hard you try to spin it. Baseball just isn't cricket, nor will it ever be. Anyone who tries to force the issue will be shot down immediately. So yes, without knowing too much about the rules of baseball, a cricket fan can tell you at a glance that it's not cricket and unless baseball makes huge changes to its structure in order to be considered even a form of cricket. This isn't comparing Test cricket to one day or Twenty-20. Baseball is to cricket what Mormonism is to Christianity. So are these games about market share? Find yourself an Indian, Pakistani, W. Indies, Pom, Aussie or S.Afer and ask them if they consider baseball just another form of cricket or mutually exchangeable activities.

    How to explain Test Cricket (a game that goes 5 days and can end in a draw) to you. Imagine a beautiful summer's day. You and a couple of mates take a slab (case) of beer to a local park and drink the lot. No harm in that, and perfectly acceptable behaviour right?
    Imagine doing that same act 5 days in a row. People would start to wonder about you.
    Now consider doing that same activity for 25 non-consecutive days. You'd lose your job, you'd most likely lose your job and your family.
    However, same activity while watching the cricket? Now it's perfectly acceptable behaviour.

  63. David R Says:

    TomW, LadiesBane, buckyblue and whomever else—-

    Mormons do believe in the trinity (but treat it differently than Christians do).
    Mormons do not do blood oaths.
    Mormonism has no connection to Freemasonry. (And Freemasonry is not Satanic.)
    Most Mormons do not claim to be Christian.
    Mitt Romney HAS claimed Jesus as his lord and savior, publicly and openly, and all other Mormons do the same.

    And no, I'm not Mormon, but I have attended a lot of Mormon services and ceremonies with Mormon friends. (Who let me into said events because THEY'RE NOT SECRET). I'm not Christian either, but was raised Evangelical. Thus, I ALSO know firsthand that your ignorance of Mormonism is rooted in hatred, fear, and rooted in fear and yes— jealousy. It must burn you up to see a faith that has all of your core moral values, less believable doctrine, and is somehow converting people at a massive rate that you can't reach.

    I felt the same hatred toward Mormons when I was an Evangelical. Then I grew up; no offense.

  64. Elle Says:

    (Who let me into said events because THEY'RE NOT SECRET).

    You can't go through the temple without a temple recommend. You can't attend a sealing, even if you are the mother of the bride, or the sister of the groom, without one.

    Most Mormons do not claim to be Christian.

    From Mormon,org, the website of the LDS Church, in answer to the question (first in the FAQ), "Are Mormons Christian?"

    Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1995-2008), said:

    “We are Christians in a very real sense and that is coming to be more and more widely recognized. Once upon a time people everywhere said we are not Christians. They have come to recognize that we are, and that we have a very vital and dynamic religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. We, of course, accept Jesus Christ as our Leader, our King, our Savior…the dominant figure in the history of the world, the only perfect Man who ever walked the earth, the living Son of the living God. He is our Savior and our Redeemer through whose atoning sacrifice has come the opportunity of eternal life. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pray and worship in the name of Jesus Christ. He is the center of our faith and the head of our Church. The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ and witnesses of His divinity, His life, and His Atonement.”

    Mormons do not do blood oaths.
    Mormonism has no connection to Freemasonry. (And Freemasonry is not Satanic.)

    Both of these things are linked to the Nauvoo Endowment, as developed by Joseph Smith Jr in 1843. Specifically, the Endowment ritual bore some similarities to a particular set of Masonic rituals practiced at the time, and included a blood oath. As of 1990, reportedly, none of this symbolism remains.

  65. Xynzee Says:

    @David R: "Mormons do believe in the trinity (but treat it differently than Christians do)."

    Again, tell me *are* cricket and baseball the same sport yes/no?
    Are helium and argon the same yes/no?

    In orthodox Christianity there is no other treatment of christology and trinitarian theology than: (John 1: 1,14) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    In other words Jesus = God incarnate. Anything different is heresy.

  66. DavidR Says:

    "You can't go through the temple without a temple recommend. You can't attend a sealing, even if you are the mother of the bride, or the sister of the groom, without one. "

    Have you tried to do this? I've walked into both a temple and a wedding without getting a "recommend," and have never even heard the term "recommend" before.

    I guess the Mormons do officially claim to be Christian now though; my bad.

    @ Xynzee—- the passage quoted by Elle above seems to indicate that the Mormons to consider Jesus to be something amounting to God Incarnate. And cricket/baseball do both have a ball and a bat. Not disagreeing with you, as I don't consider Mormonism to be Christianity either. Just saying that if you're going to point out why that is, get at least one or two facts right.

  67. Mackeyser Says:

    And see, I brought up the Insane Clown Posse and Juggalos in a response post a few months back while attempting to be clever (i thought it worked… heh). Dare I dream that I had any influence on a rant?

    Dare to dream…

  68. ladiesbane Says:

    Oh, David R, I understand how you misconstrued my remarks, but I despise the LDS church for reasons that have nothing to do with my Evangelical roots or long standing apostasy. My mother, who had never been churchy, married a Mormon (sounds like a Wifetime Network movie, doesn't it?) and we dove headfirst into it to prove our (her) commitment. I was just explaining the low church bias against Mormonism, and why it has nothing, really, to do with competition. (Which may have been intended as a joke, anyway; I'm not sure.)

    Spending nights with Mormon friends as a kid was so much fun — lots of cheerful courtesy between siblings, board games and singalongs, and all that stuff I thought was poetic license on the part of Walt Disney. They made the Brady Bunch look like a bunch of vicious hooligans. Even chores were gladly undertaken. And it was all with good heart — none of this "would you like a candle? we make them right here at the compound" nonsense. Even chores were fun.

    But I was just old enough to notice that young mothers looked like old mothers, and a few kids later, looked like dishrags. Their work never ended…while dad sat and smoked a pipe and smiled genially on his wife, who was busting ass like a rented mule. Boys were always given preferential treatment and had more freedom, which pushed the Not Fair button in my head. Then my mother left the blandly obnoxious church, and her husband, and we had long talks over the Book of Mormon. If anything, I was biased in favor of Mormonism. So long as I could be a man.

    Years later, after we left the church, I found out that my former stepfather's dad had claimed my seven year old self as a bride in the afterlife. He wasn't pervy, just usurping the prerogative, like when the church baptized all those dead Jews. That sort of behavior really evokes a "Fuck Them" of absolute metaphysical perfection, which is the shortest prayer in the world, and as much religion as I have, these days.

    But again, it came years later. And it had nothing to do with my Evangelical roots.

  69. Xynzee Says:

  70. KW Says:

    David R
    "I have attended a lot of Mormon services and ceremonies"
    No… you haven't, not unless you somehow obtained a Temple Recommend from a Bishop.
    You may have participated in something at a Stake House or Ward but you will never be allowed into an active Temple. Not even as the Father or Mother of the Bride for a wedding.

  71. Elle Says:

    Have you tried to do this? I've walked into both a temple and a wedding without getting a "recommend," and have never even heard the term "recommend" before.

    You could have gone to an LDS meeting house / chapel, or a wedding that wasn't a temple sealing. There are a specific set of rituals, including endowments and sealings that happen in the temple. Everything else, like what (other) Christians would recognise as 'church' happens in a meeting house / chapel.

    You should google 'temple recommend'. It's pretty interesting.

  72. Elle Says:

    A connection between King Lear and the BCP? Really, tell me more…

    Not that interesting, really. The language of the BCP is just reflected in the language of Shakespeare, which makes sense as the BCP would have been familiar to him and all of his contemporaries. I think my (really bad) essay, which I cannot find, talked about its use and then set out all of the possible borrowings in King Lear.

    Heaven knows a certain desperation sets in to the undergraduate Shakespeare scholar when trying to choose essay titles. Everything possible has been written already.

  73. David R Says:

    @ Elle, others— I just googled "Temple recommend," and you're right— that IS interesting. Not willing to do all the things I officially need to do to "experience temple," but I may ask some Mormon clergy I know if they can get me into the temple via loophole.

    I'm skeptical that this indicates that the Mormon church is truly sinister, especially since Judaism, Catholicism, and some protestant denominations do things along those lines.

    @Ladiesbane— the cold patriarchy and "fuck them" undercurrent in Mormonism is the reason I have not— and will not— convert to it. I guess I just don't see how Mormon patriarchy and chauvinism is really any different— conceptually— than Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian sexism and arrogance. It all seems to be cut from the same cloth. As far as I can see, the only differences is that Mormons are much much nicer to outsiders and prosteletyze more poltiely.

  74. myconfidence Says:

    Am I the only one who could really get behind a grassroots movement to undermine the LDSes by consistently and constantly referring to their schtick as "More-man-ism"?

    Also, "A Study in Scarlet" as recommended by Tim H. as a reflection on historical views of those crazy kooks is seconded. Really a rather chilling–and yet oddly believable–portrayal by Conan Doyle of a cloistered, sinister group of men who liked to get their misogynist tendencies awn…and then some.

  75. ladiesbane Says:

    David R., I grant you that Fundie Evangelicals have a conceptually similar foundation of sexism, but it's not mandatory, enforced, or institutionalized the way it is within Mormonism. It's the practical reality that we live with. Which is not to laud the Evangelicals; I suspect that Mormonism becoming codified at the beginning of the communication age had a lot to do with that; it made change less likely.

    And who knows? A hundred years from now, even Mormonism could make some social progress. After all, they stopped excluding black men from the priesthood in 1978; God apparently changed his mind after the civil rights movement didn't turn out to be a passing fad. And yet somehow I doubt women and gay men will ever stop being second class citizens to them. We'll see.

    But why are the "cold patriarchy", etc., keeping you from converting to Mormonism? If you have a deeply held conviction that Mormonism is the true reality of God and God's will, denying that because it's socially unpalatable is putting God in second place to conventional wisdom. Of course, if you don't believe what they believe, I can't imagine why you'd consider conversion.

    Though I am agnostic by nature and atheist by choice, I don't deny that anyone can have sincerely felt supernatural experiences leading to faith. But it bothers me when people shop for religions to suit beliefs they already hold on various topics. People don't need external authority to be good, or follow any system of behavior; if anything, they look for godly justification to be bad. Having no faith and shopping for a religion to join anyway trumps my cynicism in spades. (Not to imply that you're doing that, but I've seen it many times. It's too cold for my blood.)

  76. Kaleberg Says:

    All seriously religious sorts hate the heretic more than the infidel. It's probably a result of the way humans handle in-group identity. A minor deviation is much more likely to be disconcerting than a serious difference. (Compare a photo of a human and a photo of a wolf as against of photo of a human doctored to have a wolf's eyes. The latter is much eerier.) In-group identity always trumps morality, as in our liberal fairness and harm minimizing liberal sense of the word, so conservative religious sorts are perfectly happy voting for an unfaithful womanizer despite their supposed concern for the sanctity of marriage. Read Lord Jim and try to understand the entire point of the novel, "He was one of us."

  77. Kaleberg Says:

    hazy davy: "yhvh" is just how a Hebrew speaker would write the name of the Roman god Jove (roughly two syllables, Joe-Veh). Hebrew uses a "y" for the "j" sound.

  78. DavidR Says:

    "If you have a deeply held conviction that Mormonism is the true reality of God and God's will, denying that because it's socially unpalatable is putting God in second place to conventional wisdom."

    @ Ladiesbane— I judge a religion by its outcomes rather than the beliefs that lead to the outcomes. If the patriarchy in Mormonism is wrong, then I assume the doctrine leading to that widespread behavior must be wrong. I don't need to even think about whether Jesus visited the Indians, or whether there really is an angel named Moroni, or whether alcohol and caffeine are truly bad. Even if all those things are true, the Mormons obviously got it wrong SOMEWHERE, as evidenced by their institutionalized sexism, homophobia, chauvinism, etc…. This reasoning, incidentally, is something I've explained to my Mormon friends, and they've been much better sports about it than any Evangelical that I've rebuffed.

    I'm not religious either, but if I ever encounter a religion that actually inspires its followers to behave consistently better than non-believers, I'll assume that religion to be true.

    So far, the only belief system I've come across that seems to inspire unusually good behavior in its adherents is agnosticism. So, even though I think there might indeed be a God, I live as an agnostic. If God is good, then surely God wants me to follow the belief system that brings out the best in people.

    In short, I'm not shopping for a religion per se, but if I ever come across one that truly impresses me as good and right, I'd be remiss not to join.

  79. marydem Says:

    as a resident of idaho, i have quite a bit of experience with the mormon religion. (growing up, i spent many a happy evening at Gold & Green Balls)

    it seems to me that while any religion may preach that another is heresy (and most do), it takes a personal, visceral reaction to sustain the bigotry i see exhibited towards mormons. i'd like to suggest that mormons hold that special place in the hearts of the religious fraternity because of their doctrine of superiority. and not just your average, everyday brand of religious superiority…listen up…it's really special.

    i think it was elle that suggested that evangelical believers recognize their place as sinners. mormons do not. from the time that young boys enter the Aaronic priesthood, the males are preparing to rule their own celestial kingdoms after death. it is in this highest order of heaven that these exemplar, temple-married mormons bring their wive(s) to perpetually bear spirit children that will be called to live with an earthly family someday (yes, they do believe in pre-existence…http://mormonbeliefs.org/mormon_beliefs/mormon-beliefs-the-plan-of-salvation/the-plan-of-salvation-the-pre-existence). as a matter of fact, robert, when you hear one of your mormon friends praying to their "heavenly father", they are beseeching who they believe is their actual spirit father who happens to be the God of the bible.

    what's more, they believe that they will rule over the rest of us that have attained differing levels of heaven (terrestial/telestial). remember all that baptising of the dead? this is where we get the chance to accept it or deny it. either way, we end up their servants (but we're happy about it, ok).

    i think it's this that the pious are so insulted by and would explain the animosity towards them. i mean, what pomposity.

    it's just all so silly yet, there it is.

  80. marydem Says:

    maybe i should bring this full-circle…i'm not sure if i explained it clearly enough.

    those spirit children mormons beget in the celestial kingdom…they, ultimately, would be praying to them as their very own "Heavenly Father".

    in other words, mormon men believe they can become gods themselves.

  81. Xynzee Says:

    @marydem: For serious?! I'd heard snippets along that line, but not the full extent. Certainly not the picture painted of Heaven as painted in Revelation, with God at the centre with the Lamb upon the Throne.

    @ladies: checked out the Temple Recommend, I'll stick with my Pauline theology as flawed as its interpretations are. At its core it's a doctrine of Grace. Something more Evangelicals should be focussing on more. Problem with Grace is that you can't put a wall around it, and I'll have to change myself. As Corrie Ten Boom found herself doing when she found herself face to face with the SS Officer who'd killed her sister.

    @kaleburg: that's the first I've ever heard that Yah-vey (The Lord) is a bastardisation of Jove—and I'm someone who nearly did a doctoral study in ancient near Eastern art and symbology— particularly as most of the proof texts are either Greek or Aramaic, and unless one is Catholic the Vulgate is treated as a less reliable source. I've had some very liberal minded instruction too, where I learned that the word for "day" in Gen 1 can either mean a 24hr period *or* and epoch ie a long time. Not saying it couldn't happen, it's news.

  82. marydem Says:

    zyn…but, god is at the center. the only difference is he just happens to be family, that's all.

  83. ladiesbane Says:

    @DavidR: if doing good is what's important to you, why must a supernatural agent be involved? Religions, whatever their other trappings, by definition involve belief, sans evidence, in a supernatural being or beings — i.e., faith. If you crave ethical religion, I'd strongly recommend Liberation Theology (assuming we have similar notions of doing good!) But if you don't have a native faith that god, in some form or other, actually exists, I'd recommend a philosophy instead of a religion.

    @Xynzee: I didn't mention the Temple Recommend, but when you say "doctrine of Grace", are we talking Calvinism? I want to be sure what you mean, but either way: would the (little-d) doctrine of Grace be called for without the presupposition of Original Sin? To me, the idea of the Crucifixion was the solution to a problem that didn't exist. My own study focused on the Tanakh and I never spent much time on Christianity much later than Montanism — 3rd C. or so.

    Personally, I think grace is a practical idea, needing no religious endorsement to make sense. I have high standards for myself, and apply grace to other people; this is similar to believing in karma as a way to be mindful of one's own actions, but not thinking for a minute that it means bad guys will be brought to justice by an unseen agent. I can't judge others, but I can apply wisdom and discernment in judging their deeds. Their souls are their problem.

    But the story of Corrie ten Boom's forgiveness of the SS guard has a key element often overlooked: it began with the guard asking for forgiveness. Asking forgiveness shows repentance, and without a request from the repentant, offering forgiveness is inappropriate. Actually forgiving the unrepentant condones their wrongdoing in a way unhealthy for both parties, giving the abuser license to continue, and cultivating in the victim a sense that he or she may be abused without consequence. Religious coercion to forgive the unforgivable I find appalling, personally. "Moving on" and "getting over it" are not with it means to forgive, and are not dependent on it. Forgiveness is taking the debt off the books, making like it never happened. Sometimes that's the wrong thing to do.

    As an aside: my recollection is that Betsie ten Boom died of her pernicious anemia, worsened by Concentration Camp conditions and prevention of care, rather than murder by a guard. Am I thinking of someone else?

  84. xynzee Says:

    @Ladies: Calvinism (shudders), not sure who has more to answer, for him or his adherents. A friend once noted that almost all of your great systematic theologians started out as lawyers. Explains a lot about him. Calvin may have made a few good points, many of which have influenced the theology that I have grown up with, I sure as heck do not follow his TULIP, nor do I ascribe to Luther's "we're but piles of dung covered in snow". These analogies do not add up, as to why God even bothers, let alone the Crucifixion. To God we are far closer to a porcelain doll that has fallen into disrepair and have been thrown on a trash heap. God picks us up and mends us, gives us new clothes, repairs the cracks and chips and new paint.

    Yes I do believe in the concept of Original Sin. Which is more akin to the story of an English Lord whose ancestor gambled away the family fortune and manse and now he has to toil in the gardens of the family estate as a gardener. He still retains the title, but that doesn't change the fact that he's now a labourer. My personal view is that there's something else going on in the background of what was going on in the Garden than most main line theology seems to acknowledge, for the all powerful, omniscient God to be blindsided by our eating the fruit causing the whole thing to go down the gurgle? Doesn't fall in line with the other items of that theology. So something else was at play. The real issue was that Adam didn't "man up" by either not putting a stop to Eve being deceived, saying "No" to Eve, or by trying to pass the blame on to Eve and God for his own failure. And men in general have proved themselves pretty much like that or worse. However the concept of Sin does explain a whole lot more about what's wrong with the human condition than anything else. Why didn't Adam, put a stop to it early on? Because ultimately, he *wanted* to do wrong.

    Are you talking about forgiveness or the restoration of relationship? One can forgive, as in release the toxic emotions that can consume a person (what Tolle would call "feeding the pain self"), without their asking for it. However, *unless* the person repents (acknowledges their wrong doing *and* changes behaviour), should a relationship be restored. This is more than true for abusive relationships. My current minister would not advise a woman to go back to an abusive relationship unless the husband showed real repentance demonstrated over time. He certainly would not advise a woman go back to husband where the abuse involved children at *any* stage. This is closer to the Biblical concept of forgiveness as demonstrated by Christ, ie God has forgiven, but it's not until someone repents can there be a relationship. Unfortunately, too many ministers are of the stripe that you've encountered.

    Your recollection of Betsie is probably closer to the mark.

    Montanism? Too many things to learn, not enough time :)

  85. ladiesbane Says:

    Ah, Xynzee, were there but worlds enough and time. :-) I appreciate your philosophic take on man's condition (applying to us women as well, of course) but I'm surprised you hold with Original Sin. Were Adam and Eve real people whose history we derive from Gen. 1 and Gen. 2? I don't know that I can go that far, since I hold that the older version is based on perceptions formed by the Enuma Elish, if not swiped outright.

    But if Adam and Eve were not real persons, we are simply making up a story to explain something about man's state of affairs. That does serve a purpose, and is very common in the Tanakh, but a made-up origin story cannot be relied upon as firm ground for logically (or metaphysically) sound extrapolation. If it's not history, it's what we decide we want to believe, no? "It would explain so much" doesn't make it true or factual. I can make up many other stories which would fit just as beautifully.

    As for forgiveness, it's difficult to go too far into the matter without dealing in anecdotes, case by case. So many factors are involved in judging healthy relationships. But while I agree with you (and your minister) on the abusive relationship front, I would say that release of toxic emotions is not forgiveness, it's just letting go and moving on. A victim can be free of grudges and not cling to pain without letting the wrongdoer off the hook for what was done, repentance or no repentance.

    And I just deleted a paragraph of boundary anecdotes. Sorry to continue; religion is a favorite topic of mine, and religious discussions don't get resolved, only interrupted. :-) But I do recommend taking a look at Montanism.

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