Monday, October 10, 2011

Mormons, Fundamentalists, and Critics

Various people of late have been going back and forth over claims that Mormons are a cult and are not Christians. What strikes me is how much better press Mormons get, in the political context, than evangelical fundamentalists. If you look at the actual beliefs of the two groups, the official doctrines of the Church of Latter Day Saints are at least as nutty as those of fundamentalist groups that deny evolution, believe humans and dinosaurs coexisted ten thousand years or so back, and get routinely mocked for those beliefs. 

The LDS claims that if you live a good life you will eventually become a god with a universe of your own to run, or that your ancestors can be converted post-mortem and so saved, are a bit odd, but there is no way of proving they are false, any more than one can prove false the beliefs of those who expect the second coming of Christ real soon now. But the belief that there was a lively civilization in the New World long before Columbus, and one that fits the description in LDS scripture, is inconsistent with what archaeology tells us about the relevant history. That surely ranks with the more direct versions of creationism as a denial of accepted scientific views.

The odd beliefs of fundamentalist Christians are an issue at the moment for Republican political candidates, many of whom sound as though they agree with them, raising the question of whether they actually believe or only pretend to. But I have not noticed any of the people who pick on candidates such as Palin or Bachmann for their religious views asking whether Romney and Huntsman really believe in the pre-Columbian "history" that their church proclaims or are being prudently silent on the subject.


P.S. some days later. A British newspaper asks the same question.


At 3:40 PM, October 10, 2011, Blogger Gordon said...

Perhaps because the number of Mormons calling for the teaching of their views in the history classes of public schools has not reached any significant proportion?

At 9:48 PM, October 10, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, no! The LDS claims that you should give your money to them because....

At 4:16 AM, October 11, 2011, Anonymous Simon said...

One possibility is that the critics really want to harm politicians that advocate smaller government - but have to use other issues instead, like creationism or accusations of racism, since smaller government is arguably a both rational and popular idea. According to this hypothesis, the Mormon guys get spared because they happen to be 'moderate' on economic issues.

At 5:31 AM, October 11, 2011, Blogger Adam Zur said...

The media is concentrating their fire on the Right Wing Christians because that is the greatest threat to the Democratic Socialist party.
This is a strategic move.

At 7:12 AM, October 11, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The LDS specifically targets media organizations for its members to join. This reduces the flack that they get.

At 7:57 AM, October 11, 2011, Blogger Leonard said...

Agree with Adam Zur. Right now, the goal for the media is to discredit the most threatening (to them) candidates: Bachmann and Paul. Only once they've done that, and Romney is the nominee, will they start probing his crazy beliefs.

At 6:02 PM, October 11, 2011, Anonymous Jim Rose said...

What is new about sectarianism and heresy being in the eye of the beholder?

Catholics and Protestants were well convinced that each other were heretics.

The Westminster Confession of Faith in the Calvinist theological tradition states that the Pope is the Antichrist, that the Roman Catholic mass is a form of idolatry, that the civil magistrates have divine authority to punish heresy, and rules out marriage with non-Christians.

These formulations were repudiated by the various bodies which adopted the confession (for instance, the Church of Scotland, though its ministers are still free to adhere to the full confession and some do), but the confession remains part of the official doctrine of some other Presbyterian churches.

In 1988, when Pope John Paul II delivered a speech to the European Parliament, Norther irelaand protestant MEP Iain Paisley shouted "I denounce you as the Antichrist!" and held up a red poster reading "Pope John Paul II ANTICHRIST" in black letters.

The act of settlement 1701 still prohibits all and every Person and Persons that then were or afterwards should be reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome or should professe the Popish Religion or marry a Papist should be excluded and are by that Act made for ever to inherit possess or enjoy the Crown and Government of the UK.

At 7:22 AM, October 12, 2011, Blogger Scott said...

The most damning black spot on the LDS church's record is the fact that it was an officially racist organization until 1978. Mormon theology dictated that blacks were the accursed descendents of the angels who remained neutral in the war in Heaven and were punished with dark skin.

It's perfectly fair to ask Mormons who were adult members of the church before 1978 how they justified their membership.

At 10:29 AM, October 12, 2011, Blogger AIG said...

It might be also that few people know what Mormons really do. They are very secretive, and therefore give the impression of a "cult" (and I think they are). Also their theology is wildly different from Judeo-Christian theology. I'm an atheist, but even I was shocked when I heard some of what they believed in.

I don't think its a "media conspiracy" to go after Christian fundamentalists etc. Nor do I believe that the Christian fundamentalists are necessarily the "small government" types. If they were, the only answer they should give about their personal beliefs on sexuality, abortion, evolution etc etc...would be "it has nothing to do with the job I'm running for". They're not running for judge, they're not running for governor, nor are they running for school board member. Its frustrating that the best candidates also happen to be religious fundamentalists who can't keep their personal beliefs to themselves.

At 11:24 AM, October 12, 2011, Blogger Neolibertarian said...

Fundamentalists of all stripes (Catholic, Evangelical, Mormon, Muslim, Jewish, etc...) should be strongly criticized and ridiculed for their views. That Mormon Fundamentalism gets "better press" is just a matter of them getting less press.

As Gordon noted, squeaky wheels get the oil. If the nation had a large contingent of politically active Fundamentalist Mormons trying to rewrite science and history, I'm pretty sure they would get more negative press.

At 12:56 PM, October 12, 2011, Blogger jimbino said...

The big difference between the Mormons and the Christianists is that the Mormons don't have a history of messing big-time with the private sex, drug and R&R lives of the general populace.

While they do exert a lot of control in Utah, and they did try to mess with gays in the Prop 8 controversy, the fact that Octoberfests in the South have had no beer for decades is not because of Mormon influence, for example. The fact that you can die of thirst driving through West Texas is not because of the Mormons. The offensive Ten Commandments on the Texas Capitol site is not due to the Mormons. Offensive pledges, anthems and moments of silence were not forced on us by Mormons.

While indeed the Mormons support the Boy Scouts' oppression of gays and atheists, they didn't start it.

One big thing the Mormons have going for themselves is that their young people on missions almost all learn a foreign language, what clearly sets Romney and Huntsman apart from their competitors, including Obama, is proven fluency in an important world language. That's indication of worldly wisdom, understanding of alien culture, and it's almost enough to get them my vote.

At 6:30 AM, October 13, 2011, Anonymous Brian said...

The word cult has been twisted in meaning. Cult used to mean Sect. So every single Christian denomination was a cult/sect, Shia/Sunni/Sufism/Ahmadiyya are Muslims cults etc. I would call Mormons a pseudoe Christian Religion. Where pretty much everything single mainline Christian denomination is a Christian sect.

It is complete nonsense that LSD tries to portray themselves as Christians who happen to be a different denomination.

At 9:29 AM, October 13, 2011, Blogger AIG said...

Jimbino, why is knowing a foreign language, or "understating of an alien culture", part of the job description? They're not running for ambassador.

As for Mormons not doing what the christian fundamentalists do, thats all about scale. Mormons do it where they are the majority.

At 11:05 AM, October 13, 2011, Anonymous Hammerhead said...

Article VI of the US Constitution states that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to serve in public office. If a candidate is being accused of being unqualified to run for office solely on the basis of his/her religious beliefs that seems to be imposing a kind of religious test on the candidate. The religious beliefs of all the candidate should be put aside IMO (I'm an agnostic with atheist leanings, btw). Equalities and rights that some candidate may question within the framework of their religious belief system cannot be questioned within the legal constitutional system and the candidate will have to recognize and defend those equalities and rights in their role as elected official. If not, they indeed will not be qualified to serve, but their personal religious beliefs are a separate matter.

At 5:17 PM, October 13, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

"Article VI of the US Constitution states that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to serve in public office."

I don't think that's relevant. It's a restriction on the legal rules, not on how people vote.

At 8:45 AM, October 14, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some states still have a religious qualification for public office in their very constitutions.

At 7:45 PM, October 15, 2011, Anonymous Laird said...

South Carolina also has religious qualifications in its constitution. For example, Article IV, Section 2 says "No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being;". I'm not aware that it has ever been enforced, however, if only because this is such as strongly religious state it's doubtful that an atheist could ever be elected!

Anyway, back to the original issue, as Frank Zappa said, "The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own.”

At 12:43 PM, October 16, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

"The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own.”

My preferred version is:

A religion is a heresy with an adequate military.

At 9:36 PM, October 17, 2011, Blogger daryl jensen said...

It is complete nonsense that people who are not mormon claim that mormons are not christian.

At 8:00 AM, October 18, 2011, Blogger David Friedman said...

"It is complete nonsense that people who are not mormon claim that mormons are not christian."

Do you mean they don't make the claim or that the claim is not true? Some Christians certainly do make the claim. Whether it is true depends on how you define "Christian." LDS doctrine is further from the doctrine of other Christian churches than they are from each other, so with a narrow definition of "Christian" they are not Christian, with a broader definition of Christian they are.

And, with a sufficiently broad definition of religions, Muslims are Christians, or at least Jews; they regard Christ as a major prophet, although not quite as major as Mohammed, and Islam incorporates a good deal of Old Testament material into its beliefs.

At 3:31 PM, October 28, 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The beliefs of the Mormons and/or fundamentalist evangelical christians has little or nothing to do with the press treat them currently. As has been said before, it's a strategic move by the Democratic Party to cast negative opinion on their opponents.
As far as how they should be regarded, by press and others, their beliefs are, once again, irrelevant. Clearly, science has 100% disproved many core beliefs in these religions, but what does it matter? Christian culture/Mormon culture is a good one, in that it promotes largely values, such as charity and doing something useful with your life. Some cultures are better than others, and those that benefit society at large are not to be ridiculed, but praised.
Even in the act of building churches, the principles of basic economics dictate that they are creating wealth, as people voluntarily pay for them and receive benefit through their use.
If somebody believes a lie "be a great human being or burn in Hell" and as a result, they go and do just that, then let them believe it. Have them convince as many people as they can that the lie is true.

At 1:12 PM, October 31, 2011, Anonymous Matt said...

Maybe it's because Mormons are pictured as nice people, though a fair bit odd in beliefs. I think Mormons also interpret the bible literally on almost all points(Genesis). But when a Mormon tries to explain things, he knows these ideas sound strange to most, he knows most don't think like him, and he won't speak as if he has a position of authority over you. Fundamentalist Christians Preacher are much more likely to appear as their views are normal, has authority over you, and appear as a giant jerk. Not all Fundamentalist act like this, maybe not even most preachers, but the ones that do are much more known, and so a negative view of Fundamentalist is born.

At 8:04 PM, February 01, 2012, Blogger Baloo said...

Many things can be described as Judeo-Christian, but theology? Don't see how that's possible.


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