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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mitt Romney: A Mormon President?


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As an atheist, I’m leery of any presidential candidate who makes much of his/her faith.  While I certainly respect the right to believe, I also don’t want religious beliefs about how the world works clouding the judgment of public officials.  A president who believes that God is talking directly to him/her scares me.  When presidents affirm their faith, I always hope they’re not such fervent believers that some religious book will be dictating public decisions.

Mitt Romney is a fervent believer in Mormonism from all accounts of his life, and, frankly, that bothers me for many reasons.  Mormons must do exactly what the Church demands or face expulsion, and the President of the Church is considered a prophet who receives revelations directly from God, which, while not infallible, are determinative.  These “revelations” have sometimes been steered by political concerns, as when the Church abandoned bigamy in 1890 (in order for Utah to become a state), or finally allowed blacks to be full-fledged members of the Church in 1978. 

There is much about Mormonism to be admired.  Its members eschew alcohol, tobacco, and other unsavory lifestyles, and promote health, strong family ties, and concern and care for the poor (particularly destitute Mormons, who receive extraordinary aid from the Church).  The Mormons I’ve known and counted among my friends have uniformly been intelligent and admirable people.


But when dealing with Mormons I usually bite my lip to keep from asking questions which, while very offensive, ought to be fair matters to explore.  The only time I do ask these questions is when Mormons approach me.  In one case it was a student of mine (see “A Mormon Loses His Faith,” below), but usually it’s when the young missionaries ring my doorbell and explain they want to tell me all about the wonders of Mormonism.  Normally I politely send them away, but if the mood strikes me, I invite them in, listen to their standard pitch, and then turn into a law professor engaging in a Socratic dialogue designed to find the truth.  My primary question to these youths is whether they have read any of the books written about Mormonism that are not approved by the church.  The answer is invariably “no,” since doing so is forbidden.  I then tell them that I’m an atheist and therefore suspect of all religions, but that I certainly think it’s unconscionable to go from door to door proselytizing for a religion when you haven’t even explored the truth of its teachings.  If those teachings are wrong aren’t you doing something bad, not praiseworthy?  And further aren’t you wasting your time and much of your life supporting something that’s unsupportable?   That does bother them.  I then—evilly?—ask them what they would be doing if they weren’t missionaries.  One of them laughed and said he’d spend a lot more time on his motorcycle.  [One time the missionaries called me on the phone a day or so after they left, saying they had spoken to their leader who told them I couldn’t really be an atheist, but at most was an agnostic, and were confused when I assured them that was not the case.]

I think all religions are founded on wrong assumptions and over-reliance on fantastical tales.  Humankind invented gods because they feared death and therefore would accept any explanation—no matter how improbable—allowing them to conquer death and continue living in some altered state. Thus mighty Jove could throw thunderbolts from the heavens, snakes give epicurean advice about apples, slain prophets rise from the dead and float up to heaven (or ride there on a horse), and Joseph Smith could peer into a hat and dictate the meaning of golden plates unfortunately recalled before their data could be backed-up. If you’re not a member of a particular religion, the myths of that particular religion seem ridiculous. Everyone is an atheist as to religions other than their own.

But Mormonism (with which I’ve been fascinated for most of my life because its success is so improbable) faces a difficulty that most religions can avoid: it’s history can be documented as based on provable fraud.  The slightest impartial investigation of Mormonism and how it developed demonstrates that Joseph Smith, a charming and charismatic man, created his religion from whole cloth and duped his followers into ingesting his fantastic dreams.  The leading biography is No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (1945, updated in 1970) by Fawn Brodie (for her efforts, Brodie, who began life as a Mormon, was excommunicated).  In it we learn of a young Joseph Smith, who created a new religion in the 1820s in upstate New York when doing so was practically a cottage industry.  Four years before claiming to have been given golden plates by an angel that told the story of Jesus in the New World, Smith had been convicted of fraud in claiming an ability to find gold by using a magic stone.  Smith (who could read a little, but not write) dictated the contents of the plates (which he would not let anyone see) to others, though he had to disavow his first attempt when the manuscript was stolen—causing major troubles because Smith couldn’t, of course, recreate his dictation from memory. Fawn Brodie comments:

But none of Joseph’s secretaries knew the rudiments of punctuation, and when the manuscript finally went to press there was scarcely a capital letter, comma, or period in the whole.  The typesetters broke up the clauses as they saw fit, with the result that of the first two hundred sentences one hundred and forty began with “And.”

The resulting book is badly written, though it does have some thrilling moments, but it’s hard slogging to get through it.  I tried once and failed.  Mark Twain famously called it “chloroform in print.”  It tells the story of a lost tribe of Israel who made it to North America and became the American Indians (!).  Jesus paid the tribe a visit after his resurrection (!).
 
 

Joseph Smith
The sad history of the Mormons as they faced adversity on many fronts and bravely persevered makes for a tremendous story, but Joseph Smith’s part in it is not so admirable.  He flouted his own rules, drinking wine and smoking the occasional cigar, and when he wanted to do something he did it even if it was outrageous.  Desiring other women sexually, he created polygamy and said that it was commanded by God.  He even married women already married to other men, all the while lying to his long-suffering wife Emma about what he was doing.  When in financial difficulty he stole from his own flock, and was guilty of counterfeiting, which got him into trouble with the federal government.  There is good evidence that he ordered the murder of the governor of Missouri, before being himself shot to death by an angry mob in an Illinois prison.

No one, viewing the issue with a determination to find out the truth, can read Brodie’s book, or the many others exposing the discrepancies in Mormonism [see particularly Robert Linsey’s “A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder, and Deceit, Laytane C. Scott’s “The Mormon Mirage”] without coming to the conclusion that Mormonism is based on fraud committed by its founder, who made up the whole religion out of thin  air. The ex-Mormon forums are also illuminating; see http://www.exmormonforums.com/.

When asked to copy some of the writings from the golden plates so that its Hebrew could be examined, Smith replied that for simplicity’s sake the golden plates were written (by God) in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and he supplied a sample.  In Smith’s time the meanings of such hieroglyphics were a mystery, but subsequent discoveries and translations of real Egyptian hieroglyphics make it clear that Smith’s imitations are not connected in any way with Egypt.  Even more embarrassing, DNA tests show that Native Americans are descended from Asians, not Jews.  The list of facts demonstrating the impossibilities of Smith’s story and the incidents in the Book of Mormon goes on and on.
Smith translating the golden plates
So Mitt Romney, like all devout Mormons, is a person who takes his faith without exploring its validity, knowing that any investigation of that validity would be condemned by the church.  Phrased another way, he’s been brainwashed since birth and has never surfaced to explore reality.  When Mormonism is called a cult, there’s something valid in that accusation.  If Mormons deviate in any way from the dictates of the church, they must leave.  Much about Mormonism, as I said above, is admirable, but this lockstep adherence to its dictates is not.  Nor is the way it treats women, apostates, or those who acknowledge being gay (who are told they can stay in the church only if they never have sex).  When their children come out of the closet, many Mormon parents abandon them instantly. Salt Lake City has a disgraceful history of gay children living in the sewers! [If you think I'm overstating this, watch the DVD "The Mormon Proposition," the last 30 minutes of which deals with this very issue in footage that will make you squirm.]  Mitt Romney may say that he believes marriage is ordained by God to be only  between one man and one woman, but coming from a Mormon that sounds like a joke.
One Man, One Woman?
 
So here’s my conclusion.  The election of Mitt Romney will put into office a man who’s belief system is based on a fraudulent premise that he has either (a) never investigated, or (b) investigated and decided to keep quiet about the disturbing things he found (thus leading a life that’s duplicitous).  As I also said above, I don’t want any American president to be very religious, and this is particularly true when that religion itself is so easily revealed to be founded on a sham.
 
The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City
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Related Posts:
“Catholicism and Me (Part One),” March 13, 2010
“Superstitions,”March 21, 2010
“Catholicism and Me (Part Two),” April 18, 2010
“How To Become an Atheist,” May 16, 2010
“Imaginary Friend,” June 22, 2010
“I Don’t Do Science,” July 2, 2010
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium,” October 9, 2010 (Chapter 1 of my novel)
“When Atheists Die,” October 17, 2010
"Escape From Ohio Stadium," November 2, 2010 (Chapter 2)
"Open Mouth, Insert Foot," November 21, 2010 (Chapter 3)
"Rock Around the Sun," December 31, 2010
"Muslim Atheist," March 16, 2011
"An Atheist Interviews God," May 20, 2011
"A Mormon Loses His Faith," June 13, 2011
"Is Evolution True?" July 13, 2011
"Atheists, Christmas, and Public Prayers," December 9, 2011
"An Atheist's Christmas Card," December 23, 2011
" Urban Meyer and the Christian Buckeye Football Team," February 19, 2012
"Intelligent Design, Unintelligent Designer?", May 12, 2012
"My Atheist Thriller: Another Book Reading," May 17, 2012
"'The God Particle' and the Vanishing Role of God," July 5, 2012
“Update: Urban Meyer and the NON-Christian Buckeye Football Team,” August 24, 2012
“Atheists Visit the Creation Museum,” October 4, 2012
“The End of the World: Mayans, Jesus, and Others,” December 17, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


2 comments:

  1. Your ignorance is only exceeded by your hypocrisy. You laud Fawn Brodie and condemn missionaries for not having read her book (fyi, the suspect nature of her methods are well documented, see the reviews of her biography of Jefferson), while admitting that you have never completed the Book of Mormon. That, my friend, is hypocrisy. You admit your ignorance further by advocating the opinions of embittered former members of the LDS church and falsely state that active members of the church, out of fear of excommunication, never review anti-Mormon literature (most Missionaries haven't read it and shouldn't read it when on their Missions for good reason that should be apparent. Christ's advice on milk and meat should be familiar to you). There are many highly educated apologists and educators who refute the specious assertions in anti-Mormon writings.

    Ultimately, I believe you are entitled to your opinions. I do not object to your atheism. Faith or absence of faith is and individual choice. I do object to extremely flawed research and what amounts to bigotry directed at the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Your political bias and apparent disdain for people of faith are collectively coloring your analysis. I suggest your acquire some objectivity before being hateful in the future.

    ReplyDelete