Jacob Weisberg on Romney and the Mormons: raising the stakes, yet missing the point

HT to Jon Keller, who notes a Slate article by Jacob Weisberg that aggressively questions whether anyone who really believes in the Mormon Church’s doctrine is fit to be President (emphasis mine):

I wouldn’t vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism. The LDS church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, unearthed a book of golden plates buried in a hillside in Western New York in 1827. The plates were inscribed in “reformed” Egyptian hieroglyphics-a nonexistent version of the ancient language that had yet to be decoded. If you don’t know the story, it’s worth spending some time with Fawn Brodie’s wonderful biography No Man Knows My History. Smith was able to dictate his “translation” of the Book of Mormon first by looking through diamond-encrusted decoder glasses and then by burying his face in a hat with a brown rock at the bottom of it. He was an obvious con man. Romney has every right to believe in con men, but I want to know if he does, and if so, I don’t want him running the country.

Don’t hold back, Jacob, tell us what you really think!  Anticipating the obvious response, Weisberg tries to inoculate himself against the charge that he doesn’t trust anyone who’s religious.  But here his argument starts to fall apart.

One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational – what’s the difference between Smith’s “seer stone” and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea? But Mormonism is different because it is based on such a transparent and recent fraud.

Right, the fact that it’s “recent” is important, because, what, the laws of physics have changed over the last few thousand years, so the virgin birth and the parting of the Red Sea were more likely to “really happen” back then?  I don’t think so.  And as for the “fraud” being “transparent,” well, that one’s in the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world’s greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor.

“Turn their myths into metaphor” and “moderate” are, it seems to me, nice ways of saying that reasonable people don’t actually believe any of this stuff; rather, says Weisberg, reasonable people see biblical stories of miracles as interesting ways of discussing moral and ethical issues.  I’m guessing that a lot of people wouldn’t go along with that.  As for “splinter,” it’s not obvious to me why a religion that can boast of more than one sect is necessarily better suited to a President.  In any event, to say that the Mormon church doesn’t have splinter groups is not accurate

As for Weisberg’s claim that “a few eons make a big difference,” doesn’t that imply that Christians should not have been taken seriously until, what, 500 A.D.?  1000 A.D.?  What’s the cutoff date at which a particular religion’s adherents graduate from Tom Cruise to Thomas Aquinas?

The Church of Latter-day Saints is expanding rapidly and liberalizing in various ways, but it remains fundamentally an orthodox creed with no visible reform wing.

I’m not sure what this means.  As everyone knows, the mainstream Mormon Church has abandoned its earlier embrace of polygamy, and much more recently (1978) abandoned its original racially discriminatory tenets.  Sounds like “reform” to me.  So … what is Weisberg looking for?  Neither Reform nor Conservative Judaism is much older than the Mormon Church.  Would Weisberg so easily write off religious Jews from before the mid-19th century, when those movements took shape?

All of which is to say that, as “exotic” as Mormonism may seem, it’s not as easy as Weisberg apparently thinks to write it off as a cult born of a con man’s wild imagination — as, in his words, “Scientology plus 125 years.”  But this point is worth considering:

It may be that Mitt Romney doesn’t take Mormon theology at face value. His flip-flopping on gay rights and abortion to suit the alternative demands of a Massachusetts gubernatorial election and a Republican presidential primary suggests that he’s a man of flexible principles – which in this context might be regarded as encouraging.

Leaving aside whether Romney’s unfortunate resemblance to a chameleon can in any context be considered “encouraging,” the question whether Romney “really believes” Mormon theology is interesting.  In the past, he’s been quite cagey on the subject:

I finally asked Romney, “How Mormon are you?”

“How Mormon am I?” he said. “You know, the principles and values taught to me by faith are values I aspire to live by and are as American as motherhood and apple pie. My faith believes in family, believes in Jesus Christ. It believes in serving one’s neighbor and one’s community. It believes in military service. It believes in patriotism; it actually believes this nation had an inspired founding. It is in some respects a quintessentially American faith, and those values are values I aspire to live by. And I’m not perfect, but I’m one aspiring to be a good person as defined by the biblical Judeo-Christian standards that our society would recognize.”

“Do you wear the temple garments?” I asked uncomfortably, referring to the special undergarments worn by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (The underwear has markings denoting the covenants of the Mormon faith, and is meant to serve as a reminder of the high standards Mormons are expected to uphold. The rules governing its wear and disposal seem as complex as those pertaining to, say, the American flag.)

He answered, “I’ll just say those sorts of things I’ll keep private.”

What to make of this?  Although Romney is routinely described by others as a “devout Mormon,” I could not find (via a couple of Google searches) an instance where he has described himself that way.  So, is that description of him truth, or truthiness?  Like everything else about what Mitt Romney actually believes, it’s hard to tell.

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159 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Historic Prspective

    John Wesley, founder of Methodism, felt his heart 'strangely warmed' in 1735.  Booth founded the Salvation Army in 1865.  We have had presidents from both denominations.

    The 17360's to the 1880's was a period of great religious revival in this country, and many new denominations were founded then.  They all have one thing in common.

    They are all Christian, and regard Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Which makes the Mormon faith more like 2,000 years old.  Is THAT enough eons?

    • Just how Christian are the Mormons?

      and, does that question even make sense?

      • Depends on who you ask.

        The folks who say Mormons are not Christian are by-and-large the same folks who say that Catholics are not Christian.

        And of course, you know that Jack Chick would have something to say about it.

        But, Mormons do consider themselves Christian.

        • Flat out wrong

          No Christian denomination or group regards Mormons as Christians, in any way, shape or form.

          • My humble opinion...

            ...if you self identify as a Christian, you are a Christian.  Niether you nor I nor the Pope nor Ted Haggard can identify what lies within a person's heart.

            • We're not talking about people's $quot;hearts$quot;

              The question was, "Are Mormons Christians?"

              So if the question is, is a given individual Mormon also a Christian, the answer is, Who knows? And who cares?

              But if the question is, is Mormonism a Christian denomination, then the answer is no. Mormons deny the basic, fundamental beliefs and practices that define Christianity across all its flavors, from Orthodoxy to tent revivalism. For instance, Mormonism is not really even monotheistic.

              Words do have meanings.

              • Some people say Catholics are not Christians...

                ...which is rubbish.

                The only way that labeling some one Christian or not is self identifying.  No one has a monopoly on the definition of Christian.  There is no certifing body that gives one accreditation for Christians. 

                Also, some would also argue that Christianity was not monotheistic (I would not say this).  The trinity, the Father, the Son, and The Holy Ghost? Isn't that three figures in the God head? But they are all the same thing.  How can Jesus be Lord and the Son of God?

                I don't want answers; the questions are rhetorical.  I just want to illustrate that people labeling or commenting on the credence of other religions is largely arbitrary.

                • I'm not so sure I agree with your main point...

                  The only way that labeling some one Christian or not is self identifying.

                  Surely theologists have pretty standard terminology and definitions, no?  To claim that religion is so fuzzy that anyone can self-identify the name of their collection of beliefs to be anything he or she wants seems to be a bit of a stretch.

                  • Theologists

                    I don't think theologists are subjective bystanders, meaning that there are Catholic theologists, Presbertyrian theologists, Evangelical theologists, Mormon theologists.

                    I am guessing that a Mormon theologist would call his or her self Christian while certain fundemental Christian theologist would not call a Mormon a christian.

                    • We're getting into extreme PC-land here

                      Your argument seems to assume that "Christian" means "good" and you think it's just "mean" to say Mormons aren't Christian.

                      It isn't.

                      Now, you can pretend that the overwhelming majority of various Christian churches accept Mormonism as a form of Christianity, if it makes you feel better. Sadly, I don't think the factual history of either religion is going to cooperate with you. The Mormons, in fact, don't recognize Christian Churches, so it's bizarre to defend their "right" to call themselves Christian. And neither the Pope nor Billy Graham would recognize much in common with people who think God has a physical body and lives on the planet Kolob.

                    • Cutting to the chase...

                      ...Who died and made you Pope? That is to say, what makes you or anyone else so special that they get to decide who is in the Christianity Club or not?

                      I believe religious freedom means that you get to call yourself whatever the hell you like, and there is nothing you or I can do about it.

                    • Who cares what you believe?

                      I mean, really?

                      We're discussing an empirical fact: what Christian Churches think of Mormonism--and vice-versa.

                      Your subjective beliefs about what people "ought" to feel aren't relevant.

                      But these quotes from famous Mormons just might be:

                        "I was answered that I must join none of them (Christian churches), for they were all wrong?their creeds were an abomination in [God's] sight; that those professors were all corrupt" (Joseph Smith-History 1:19).

                      "Orthodox Christian views of God are pagan rather than Christian" (Mormon Doctrine of Deity, B. H. Roberts [General Authority], 116).

                      "Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast" (Journal of Discourses, John Taylor [3rd Mormon President], 13:225).

                    • If a Mormon were to state $quot;I am a Christian$quot;...

                      ...would reply, "No, you are not?"

                    • Of course not

                      I couldn't care less what an individual calls himself.  Anyway, I don't knowingly get into religious conversation with Mormons.

                      However, that has nothing to do with sweeping and completely untrue statements about what various Christian churches and denominations have objectively said, and say, about Mormonism. Nor does it preclude any rational examination of religious history or theology or phenomenology.

                      The crazed idea that, in this country, as soon as you talk about religion you are morally entitled to be completely irrational--a very modern notion, by the way--is probably why we have so many religious nutjobs to contend with. No one has ever engaged them in argument or forced them to back up their assertions.

                    • Thank God tblade is around to force BMG posters to back up their assertions

                      Or who knows where we would be. ;-) If you have links to the Mormon quotations you cite Steverino, that would be helpful in future.

                    • Theologists?

                      Where the heck did that come from? The ones I've heard of are called Theologians. It is not a science.

                    • Theology is also an academic curriculum

                      and as such there are conventional standards, terminology, definitions, etc.

                      I'm not talking about Billy Graham as a theologist.  I'm talking about people who teach at places like The Harvard Divinity School, a nonsectarian school of theology and religious studies.

                      So, in short, I think that there are plenty of academic theologists who, their own religious interests notwithstanding, are writing peer reviewed articles which consider these types of theological questions from an academic perspective.

                    • Harvard Divinity School...

                      ...has always been Christian-centric.  It is not as if they are an independent, all encompassing school of religion.  I would also guess that BYU and Mormon scholars have plenty of works staking their claim to Christianity. 

                      Theology is an academic curriculum, but it is hevily shaded by the institutions religious affiliations. 

          • And YOUR church would be....?

            Mine does.  And no, I am NOT a Mormon.

          • steverino is pretty close to right....

            At least, according to some links from the Institute for Religious Research, a Christian organization.

            This page gives a large list of scripture-based reasons why Mormons are not Christian, and then they link to five churches' statements proclaiming that these churches don't consider Mormons to be Christian:  * The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod  * The Presbyterian Church (USA)  * The Roman Catholic Church  * The Southern Baptist Convention  * The United Methodist Church

            So, those aren't all Christians, but it represents a really large percentage of Christian churches within the United States.  The Lutheran (MO Synod), Presbyterian (USA), Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and United Methodist Churches do not consider Mormons to be Christian.

            P.S.  The Presbyterian link was broken.  This link does work though, and expresses the same reservations that the other churches listed.

            So, could the folks who 4'ed steverino kindly revise their rating, and could the folks who jumped him for his admittedly curt, perhaps over-reaching, and certainly citation-less claim consider chilling out?

            • If steverino had posted something like this...

              I wouldn't have given him low ratings.  There's a big difference between saying "I'm right" and "I'm right because xyz and here are some links."  One boosts the rheotric, and the other brings it down.

            • Quesion?

              Thanks for the info it's helpful.

              How many of the above religions, or how many religions that deny that Mormons are Christians, also claim to be 'the one true faith' or 'the one true path to God/Heaven'?

              I think one religion determining the validity of another religion is a little like poop telling vomit it stinks (to steal a line from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).

              So churches X,Y,Z say that Mormons are not Christians?  It doesn't make it so. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) could certainly provide scripture that would explain why they are Christian. 

              • Well, no.

                The fact is, a religion isn't Christian just because it says it is -- just as I don't have big feet just because I say I do.

                There's a community standard.  Who sets the standard?  Well, Christians were calling themselves Christians before Smith was alive, and Christianity is monotheistic.  The LDS Godhead is easily interpreted as tritheism.  Merely putting the man/prophet/God Jesus' name in your religion doesn't make your religion a Christian religion.

                To answer your "how many" question, I don't know.  However, AFAIK, they don't accuse the others of being non-Christian (except the occasional Baptist claim that RC's worship the Pope and/or the Virgin Mary, which is quite false).  So, if they (almost!) all consider the other four to be Christian religions, even if they do each consider their own religion to be "the one true faith."  Why would they treat Mormons differently -- unless they really did consider them to be different?

                The fact is, a whole bunch of really big American religions that the community (both general and theological) considers to be Christian all universally consider Mormons to be "un"Christian.

            • at least,

              steverino's posts were at least more detailed than Pope John Paul II's:

              Question:  Wheter the baptism conferred by the community «The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints», called «Mormons» in the vernacular, is valid.

              Response: Negative.

    • One thing that makes Mormons vastly different...

      ...from other Christian denominations is they believe that there existed an acient tribe of Jews in America, with a civilization that remarkably resembled the Jewish civilizations of ancient Palestine/Isreal, and that Jesus visited this American Jewish civilization.  And, as the article stated, one prophet was able to divine this story via ancient tablets left in the hills of New York.  I has been mentioned before, but there is absolutely zero archealogical evidence to support Smith's claim. 

      Does the LDS Church not hold the Book of Mormon in higher regard than the canonical scriptures of the more mainstream Christian sects? (I'm not asking rhetorically, I am intersted in learning the answer.)

      In truth, the Mormon faith cannot be considered a 2,000-year-old faith.

      • Any more than...

        In truth, the Mormon faith cannot be considered a 2,000-year-old faith.

        any more than Christianity can consider itself a 4000 year old religion (covenant between God and Abraham roughly 2000 BC).

        Is that the idea of your claim?  I don't have any idea -- I don't know enough about LDS.

    • Restoration movement

      The Mormon church comes out of roughly the same idea as the Campbellite movement, which gave us the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, and the Church of Christ (the church in which I grew up - surprised?). I can discuss the reasons for the separation of the three branches of Restorationism later; now's not the place. They all seem fixated on getting back to the earliest interpretations of Christianity. Mormon theology used that idea, but instead of trying to recreate 1st century Christianity (like the Restoration movement) as found in the New Testament, they used a different source.

      I don't have trouble with anyone's religious beliefs. I don't even have a problem with someone's faith informing their political actions. I DO have a problem with someone's faith being used to limit rights (and no, those great leaders of the civil rights movement weren't doing that, unless you count the ability and desire to keep a chunk of the population in second-class citizenry as a "right").

      The Restoration movement has produced two Presidents: James A. Garfield (before the schisms that yielded the three separate branches) and LBJ (from the Disciples of Christ). Reagan was brought up DoC, but spent most of his life as a Presbyterian.


    • Which president was SA?

      Peter -- I didn't see any reference to a Salvation Army president here and I don't know who you're thinking of.  It says that Eisenhower grew up as a Jehovah's Witness before he left that pacifist denomination on entering the military.  This would make your general point, since the JW's started in the mid-late 1800's.

      As far as whether Mormons are Christians, it depends on how you define "Christian".  I'm a Unitarian Universalist, a Christian-derived denomination that broke with the Congregationalists over the divinity of Jesus and has welcomed ideas and members from non-Christian faiths including secularism.  I might still call myself a Christian because my religious tradition comes from Christianity and I think of Christ as perhaps the greatest moral teacher, but as I don't think he was divine most Christian groups would classify me as non-Christian.  The status of Jesus in Mormon theology is complicated but could rule them out in the same way.  I think steverino overstates the case, though, when he says that "no" Christian group would accept them as Christian, unless he's using a particularly narrow definition of "Christian" himself.

      The political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals is a recent development, and the "family values" conservatives seem to be happy to include the Mormons in their alliance.  Some Protestants are going to have theological problems with a Mormon president, but I can't begin to guess how many.  More than would now object to a Catholic, I'd think.

      • You're right - I had remembered Eisenhower as a SA rather than a Mennonite...

        ...althoguh there was a lot of 'cross pollination' there, esp. during the Depression, serving the poor.

    • Godhood for all

      "They are all Christian", you say.  Not really.  That is, Mormons have some doctrines that are patently un-Christian and upsetting to Christians, such as the Godhood Doctrine.

      Speaking in the Tabernacle on August 8, 1852, Brigham Young stated, "The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is" (Journal of Discourses 3:93).

      source here

      So to put the vanilla icing of Christianity on Mormonism is patently misleading.

      • Not sure about that

        I always thought that there is one element of Christainity: belief that Jesus was the Messiah. 

        All else is denominational squabbling.  Though the teaching you cite is pretty far outside most other traditions, it isn't necessarily any more abhorrent than the papacy, sainthood, or the treatment of Jesus' mother is top many of the more fundamentalist Protestant denominations.

        • Messiah is not a catholic thing

          You may be unaware but catholics number about one billion around the world ( only surpassed by muslim religion)

          Mormons number about 12 million, other sects are smaller

          who knows what the startup religions believe in maybe the messiah maybe craven images who knows but you should chech oth the luterans, episcopalians, methodists, and see their take on the messiah thing.

        • saints are gods?

          I think regular people becoming gods is much different than elevating people to sainthood, etc.  Gods are, well, gods.  WHat are saints?  People who have special god-given gifts?  But they aren't gods and no one claims them to be.  So I think this godhood business is in a different ballpark than the sorts of "closer to god than the average fellow" type positions you are referring to.

          • No

            The pint was not that saints are Gods in the Catholic Church; they are not.  The point is that a good many Proestatnts find the saints to be, um, anathema.  Many Caholics particularly revere the Virgin mary; many Protestants find this practice to be anathema.  Denominational squabbling, but doesn't make one side or the other something fall outside of the broad umbrella of Christianity.  It means that one is Catholic and one is not. Likewise the unusual Mormon beliefs.

        • Messiah

          That is an interetsing point/question, CMD.  Maybe an actual Mormon will answer it for us.  I did find this site that claims to demonstrrate that Mormons have some very non-Biblical notions about the conception (not so immaculate) and Jesus's lifestyle.  So, if they do believe Jesus was Messiah but also believ he was conceived via Mary having sex with god and that he had multiple wives, would the "non-Messiah" points matter to a non-Mormon Christian?  Just a rhetorical question.  It doesn;t matter to me, really, because I'm neither Mormon nor Christian.  And when it all comes back to ROmney, it's a pretty silly thread.  He's proven himself of poor character not only by Mormon and Christian standards, but by standards of common decency (as in hypocrites and skalawags are not desirable prez material).

          • There is a lot of dispute on the details

            Among the various denominations. 

            Sheesh, the very core of Calvinist Protestantism is that much Catholic theology (saints, reverence of the BVM, the pope, the bishops, indulgences, mortal vs venial sins, the need for a priesthood, etc., etc., etc.) is non-Biblical, and thereofre in need of reformation and focus on the fundamental Scriptures (hence "fundamentalist").

            That is why there was a split forming the different denominations in the first place.  Most Christian churches accept the Nicene Creed, an ancient formulation of Christian belief.  More than a few don't, including the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, along with a variety of Pentecostal churches.  While I may find these Churches to be awfully far from my own tradition, it is a bit much to call them un-Christian.

            Anyway, I find this particular line of attack to be singularly ugly.  No different than an attack on Obama because he is black. There is plenty of poop to sling on Mitt Romney without stooping to that.

      • $quot;The vanilla icing of Christianity$quot;?

        What's that supposed to mean?  People are trying to cover up some secret about Mormonism?  I'm sorry if Mormon beliefs are "upsetting to Christians," but the rhetoric you use there implies some pretty ugly attitudes toward another faith.

        • You misunderstand me

          I was not making a value judgement on either religion.  I was making a value judgement on PP referring to a religion that many CHristians are wary about (Mormonism) as 'Chriatian'.  She was effectively saying to the wary Christians, "it's not a wolf - look, it's wearing granny's dress - so its sweet 'n cuddly like granny."  I think it's called sugar coating.  But again, I'm not saying I think Mormonism needs sugar coating.  But for mass Christian consumption, PP and others apparently do.  Have you asked her/them why?

          • Interesting metaphor again

            Aren't you basically implying here that Mormonism is "a wolf," and a deceptive one at that?  That's some pretty ugly rhetoric.

            • not at all

              WHat I'm saying is that PP and others think mainstream Christians suspect Mormonism to be a wolf, and so she dresses it up to look like something more familiar and comforting - granny (Christianity).

              By the way, I just rated your comment at the bottom of the thread with a 6.  Perhaps you don't realize it, but we agree.  My sense is that people are looking for anything to knock the  pegs from beneath Romney becasue he was detestible as governor.  If it's hypocracy concerning any religious claims he's made, some will find that fair game.  But as you say below, that is a dangerous game, since it can too easily morph into an attach on less-popular religions themsleves rather than the positions of an individual who claims to be an adherent of that religion.

              • good to know

                Thanks for the 6--always a nice ego boost.  :)

                My sense is that people are looking for anything to knock the  pegs from beneath Romney becasue he was detestible as governor...But as you say below, that is a dangerous game, since it can too easily morph into an attach on less-popular religions themsleves rather than the positions of an individual who claims to be an adherent of that religion.

                I certainly agree with that, and if we're on the same page, that's great.  My goal was not to read things that weren't there into your metaphors.  I do find that metaphors are important--sometimes because they reveal what the author really means, but also because of the tone others will read into them, sometimes subconciously.  So I can scrutinize them at time.  And I'm a grad student--which may be 'nuff said right there!

                • grad students

                  glad to have another critical thinker & reader here.  the more the merrier.  my metaphore was messily tossed up on the page. your critical reading made me reform it into (hopefully) a better statement of my thoughts.  thanks.

    • I don't think Mormons believe in Divinity of Christ

      it is my understanding.

      If you do not believe in the divinity of Christ you are not a christian.

      • From the Atlantic Monthly

        "You know, the principles and values taught to me by faith are values I aspire to live by. [They] are as American as motherhood and apple pie. My faith believes in family, believes in Jesus Christ. It believes in serving one's neighbor and one's community." - Mitt Romney

        • is he lying now?was he lying then no one believes Mitt

          Mormons have some interpretation of the god, Jesus Christ but it is not as a divinity.  Therefore mormons are not christians.  And tht is for starters.

          They can and should be happy to be a religious sect. There is nothing wrong with that and many people belong to sects.

          Wasn't it Mitt Romney who told the good people of massachusetts that he supported the platform as put forward by the gay community in 1994 while running for senante; and wasn't it the same Mitt Romney who just last month changed is position 180 degrees on that same issue?

          When should we believe Mitt?

          PS Mormons had to renounce polygamy before Utah could be admitted to statehood.

          • Pretty sure that is dead wrong

            If you look to Jesus Christ for your salvation-- that is, if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you are Christian.  The divinity of Jesus is a different matter; manny nontrinitarian churches reject it, or the divinity of the Holy Spirit.  Your belief on this matter sorts you out into a more specific grouping than 'Christian."

            Moslems believe in Jesus, but that he was a prophet, not the Messiah.  I believe that some Jews may agree with that.  Doesn't make them Christians, because they do not look to Jesus Christ for their salvation.

            For what it is worth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,  the major Mormon sect, does accept the divinity of Jesus.  Pretty sure this is Romney's church.

            I think your use of the term "sect" is really just an attempt to belittle and marginalize, and therefore offensive.  This is the sort of super-heated rhetoric used by certain wild-eyed fundamentalists to denounce anything other than their own church, including mine.

            As I have said before, if you don't like Romney, you have plenty of ammunition that isn't an forthright appeal to bigotry.

          • Publicola - that quote appears in the same article David cited in his original post...

            ...which asks, How Mormon are you?

            Perhaps get an Atlantic and read the entire article before calling him a liar.

      • More accuracte

        It might be more accurate to state that Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah; not all Christian denominations accept the trinity.  Indeed, the degree of Jesus' divinity has been at the core of Christian theological controversy since the very beginning of what is now Christianity.

        • ir is best to state one's denomination

          Catholics, the first christians for 1500 years believe in the divinity of Christ hence the name christians.

          I believe major protestant religions believe as well but I am not sure.

          I am nto sure that messiah is the right word and catholics might agree with me.

          The growth of religions that call themselves christians in the last 200 years really need to be specific as to what the are by name. 

          the concern I have with Mormons is really how they understand the constitution, rights under the constitution, where rights come from, and whehter they support the whole idea of civil government.

          • Eastern Orthodox

            Don't forget about the Eastern Orthodox Christians...the Catholics did not have a monopoly on earliy Christianity

          • Sounds familiar...

            the concern I have with Mormons is really how they understand the constitution, rights under the constitution, where rights come from, and whehter they support the whole idea of civil government.

            Publicola, that's been said about Jews, Muslims, and yes, even Catholics in the not-very distant past.  Every religion has its fundamentalists who reject church/state separation.  Every religion has people who are ignorant of the constitution.  And every religion has people who are brilliant, engaged, and can be fabulous public servants.

            The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, is a Mormon.  Do you question his support for civlil government?

        • Mormonism teaches

          God was a man of flesh and blood who was born an average person, became "exalted" and now lives on the planet Kolob. This God is the God of the earth, but there are supposedly other gods of other worlds, and each Mormon can eventually become the God of his own planet.

          Yeah, this is just another "Christian theological controversy."

          • My religion teaches that Jesus Christ

            was God, dies, and was resurected, and ascended bodily into heaven.  As did his mother.

            Perhaps they are floating around up there somewhere, awaiting Captain Kirk.  Maybe they're on Kolob.

            I don't find this to be all that bizarre.  other Mormon beliefs, yes, but not this one.

    • John Wesley

      did not begin his theological journey by starting a fraud "bank" whose assets consisted of trunks of bricks topped with a single layer of gold, nor did he subsequently put his assets in other people's name and declare bankruptcy to escape judgment.

  2. Willard is a devout Self-Server

    That is his key attribute.  As such, he will use his LDS connections to his fullest advantage, whether he is a true believer or not.

    • Likely true

      And likely true of a number of Kennedys with respect to the Catholic Church, at least until 1973.

      • Why stop with the Kennedys?

        Bush comes to mind.  I'm not sure he mined Methodists roles for points of contact or contributions, but he sure did use his christian creds (such as they are) to get elected, didn't he?

        • Absolutely correct

          I'm sure this is true of every successful politician with regard to any organization in which s/he is a member.

          I'm mostly offended at this particular attack on Romney-- eww, he's a Mormon, they're wierd-- to have a rank odor coming from the left, which ought to be above such tactics.  This is the sort of thing one expects from the Falwells and Robertsons, and to see it coming from the left is truly disappointing.

          • not all BMGers are on the Left

            You should know that, Dad. ;)

            • Ha, ha! And here I live

              out in middle moderate land, but to the left of no one save demolisher and Peter Porcupine, and the occasional drive by troll, and I am known in BMG parlance as "regressive.".

              I thought everyone else on BMG is to my left!

              I will say that many of the posts on this thread that I found to be beyond the pale were not made by the regular "progressive" posters.

  3. I don't get the point of this Posting?

    Do you agree with the article? not agree?

    Should religion make any difference at all in who is elected as President?

    A religeous person does show that he is humbled by the point that there is more than himself... and I consider that good.

    I think it has always been wrong to bring someone's religion into the race. As far as I'm concerned, its like bringing race into it.

    The topic just brings out all the bigots and extremists, and adds little to nothing to the issues at hand.

    People can have faith in many different ways. Some take the stories and mythos as literal, others as symbolic and metaphorical. How someone adhere's to their own religion is no one's business.

    Otherwise, how would we not judge Ted Kennedy or Bill Clinton?

    People of faith come from all political sides.. I would just let it go.

    Is it not true that every President since Carter has been a Born-again Christian?

    • To answer the last question, sort of...

      Reagan was a Presbyterian George HW Bush is Episcopalian Clinton's a Baptist G W Bush is a United Methodist.

      Which are "born again?"  I don't have any freaking idea.

      • um, isn't dubya a born-again?

        Didn't he go from the crutch of drug & alcohol abuse to the crutch of a strict religious belief?

      • Born again?

        The Wikipedia article on affiliations of US presidents quotes Reagan as saying that he considered himself to be a born-again Christian, although he rarely attended church.  For Clinton and GWB it's pretty solid.  Episcopalians don't usually use the "born again" language in my experience, but they have a wide variety of perspectives and GHWB might well have said that he was born again.

        A useful question to separate one version of "Christians" from others is "do you consider yourself to have a personal relationship with Jesus?"  But many people who consider themselves Christians would answer "no" to this.

    • Faith is relevant...

      ...In cases where the elected official would exclude scientific or rational evidence and use only faith to make important decisions.

      For example, I believe 'abstinance only' sex education is child abuse.  Some religious-minded politicians ignore the fact that teen pregnancy and STD rates are much higher in 'abstanence only' communities, ignore the scientific data, and base their support for such programs on faith alone.

      We also see religious values creeping into the school system via 'intelligent design' and crationism. Al Gore's "An Inconvineint Truth" is being fought in on Washington state school system because, as one parent put it "The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD." This person may not be a politician, but there are politicians who probably believe the same thing.

      For me, it is an issue of progress.  Pray to whomever you like, but please leave whatever it is you think your god would want you to do, and whatever it is that you think your scripture says out of the process.

    • agree/not agree

      isn't the point.  The point is that Weisberg's "con man" argument is weak.  Romney's religion is going to be talked about a lot, like it or not, if his campaign gets any traction.  So we'd better figure out useful ways of doing so.

      • I like your question, David

        However, given that religion is often time beyond critical reproach and discussion, it is hard for me to imagine a way in which the [non-mainstream] ideas of the LDS church can be handled in a manner to be percieved as both intellectually honest and respectful to 'believers' in the LDS church. 

        I'll say it. If any politician really believes the story of Joseph Smith in a literal sense, I do not want them as my elected official. It shows me they lack critical thinking and an open mind.

        • $quot;in a literal sense$quot;

          So, just to push the point a bit, do you feel the same way about politicians who believe in the virgin birth, or in Christ's resurrection from the dead, "in a literal sense"?

          • It still bothers me...

            But I would say that there is a significant amount of 'evidence' corroborating those stories than Joseph Smith.

            If a politician literally believed other parts of the bible, (God is against homosexuality, the rapture, etc..) then they start to creep back into the Joe Smith category for me.

            The religious politicians who, regardelss of religious affiliation, can show an intellectual independence from his or her faith, can make decsions that are best for the constituency at large, even if they conflict with their faith, are OK in my book.

            • Evidence

              There, with respect, we part company. I think the evidence for the miracles that accompanied the foundation of the Mormon church is just as strong, or weak, as the evidence that corroborates the Biblical miracles, for example. Do you have any specific examples you can cite?

              • I put 'evidence' in quotation marks...

                ...because I used the term loosely.  Not that you could have read my mind.

                I agree that the evidence for the Biblical miricles are much weaker than most people are willing to admit.  If, as an adult with a fair capacity for reason, one was inroduced for the first time to both Mormon and mainstream belief sets simultaneously, I would guess that one would see that the are both equally unlikely.

                The evidence to which I refer is that America is so overwhelmingly (Judeo)Christian or quasi-Christian, and much of our population is taught from birth the stories of the bible, that it is out of the mainstream to even be agnostic about the life of Christ and the stories of the bible.

                The evidence for many people is, "Well, so many other people believe it, it must have some truth."

                • Well, shucks, then--let's all forgot about physics and start walking on water.

                  Sorry to be snarky out of the gate, but it is dangerous to be complacent about equating beliefs with facts. And this is not a personal attack--just a disagreement about statements.

                  For example:

                  "much of our population is taught from birth the stories of the bible, that it is out of the mainstream to even be agnostic about the life of Christ and the stories of the bible."

                  You are right, but do you know how scary that is??? That kind of unexamined statement is why we don't get along with most other countries--we can't believe/respect/tolerate their belief systems, their cultures, and we arrogantly act as if having Western ideas/culture is the only right way.

                  We need to be fighting against that casual acceptance that unless you believe in one of the "correct" gods, you are out of the mainstream. Out of the mainstream implies and usually means being discrimated against, being picked on, being left out. Not necessarily in illegal ways, but in myriads of subtle cultural differences that put targets on the "out of the mainstream" people's backs.

                  We shouldn't accept the status quo of Judeo-Christian = winning the lottery.

                  The evidence for many people is, "Well, so many other people believe it, it must have some truth."

                  I will assume you don't believe this personally. But to not state that with some sort of horror or at least distaste or sadness is, again, scary.

                  Just because a lot of people believe something does not at all make it true. The earth is flat. The earth is the center of the galaxy. All arguments to the contrary against those two statements were heretical in their day. I hope we get to the day, in this world, when saying a religion = truth is finally seen as just as wrong.

                  • Exactly!

                    Karen, we are on the same page here.

                    A definition of faith is believing in something despite evidence to the contrary. I don't like that a lot of people "simoly have faith" and refuse to approach the faith in whch they were brought up in a critical manner, but that is what happens.

            • oh, ho, now you've got me--$quot;significant amount of 'evidence'$quot;?

              Other people saw the angel Moroni with a big book of gold? Do you have links to this?

              I do agree that a person's religious faith, while it makes me wary, passes inspection as long as they believe in the separation of church and state, and understand that faith is a belief, not a fact.

              Mitt, however, is another story--I don't believe that he believes anything strongly unless the polls are favorable. Look how many times he's flipped on social issues.

          • I do.

            If someone believes in the legitimacy of Christian magic, then unless they believe in the legitimacy of all religious magic (including wicca, voodoo, various aboriginal tribal beliefs), they make me nervous. There's no difference in my mind between believing in the loaves and fishes and believing in gods and goddesses of nature, or using likenesses to cast spells. Oh, there is one difference--Christians killed and subdued more people, so they "won" the ability to claim the "right" magic.

            Personally, I wouldn't want to, and don't like to, vote for any candidate who wears their religion on their sleeve. I don't want to hear any references to higher powers making success possible. In using religion to connect to people, these candidates exclude me. I'm not part of the group they want, and I don't want to be governed by someone who is either (a) using belief cynically, like Mitt; or (b) seriously believes the various accepted mythologies of major religious beliefs.

            The only good thing about these candidates is that by being so obviously doctrinaire and dogmatic, it's easy to see how that would translate to similar intransigence in legislative matters.

            Obviously I am pretty much always forced to compromise, even with Deval. At least his message of "together we can" was backed up with positive actions of inclusion, so I've never felt left out by his references to his belief.

            • Well said.

              As a rather annoyed and frustrated atheist, I have absolutely no use for the co-mingling, if you will, of religion and governing.  I am confident that disaster is waiting down the line, as we don't seem to be capable of outgrowing our infatuation with superstition and god figures.  I don't respect belief based on faith and am wary of anyone who is willing to suspend the rules of reason that normally inform our pragmatic decision-making in favor of fantastic ideas and myths arising out of the Iron Age. 

            • Contrariwise

              I prefer a small nod to the fact that the majority of us are in fact, religious.

              I prefer the reference to a vague "Providence" as favored by the founding fathers and Lincoln, among others, as a suitable compromise.

              We are quite in agreement that religiosity --which I distinguish from religion-- has been a bit excessive in the executive branch for oh, about 6 years now.

              FWIW, I think I probably call "religioisity" what you call "wearing it on your sleeve."

              • Fair enough. I can accept $quot;vague.$quot;

                Vague references to some sort of all-inclusive providence or higher power (personally I prefer the Force) are a fine compromise.

          • You are confused

            by the distinction between claims of miracles that can be neither proven nor disproven by empirical inquiry, and claims of fact that must pass such a test.

            Science has little to say about resurrections or visions of angels, since no one claims such things are susceptible of proof.

            However, certain religions--the Abrahamic religions and their offspring--also make claims of fact. In theory, if one could somehow prove, say, by undiscovered documentary evidence, that Jesus, or Moses, or Mohammed never existed, the religions that honor them would be completely upended.

            As it turns out, the historical record does not, in fact, contradict at least the most basic factual claims of these axial religions. The outlines of Jesus's life and preachings are not inconsistent with the history of first-century Palestine. Islam did in fact spread quickly, uniting warring Arab tribes during the time frame claimed by Muslims. And so on.

            The historical record is much, much less kind to those who claim to have discovered unknown Egyptian hieroglyphs or a lost tribe of Jews in pre-Colombian America. Much less kind indeed.

            • What does the historical record (outside of scripture) say about the miricles?

              Even if the historical record does state that a man named Jesus was born in Nazereth 2,007 years ago, it doen't mean that he was the son of god or was reurected from the dead.  If this is true, then the historical record cannot be used to justify Christianity and discount Mormonism, since the basis of Christianity is not based on "basic factual claims" but on the resurection, etc.

              That means that, ain terms of the historical record, there is an equal chance of the miracles of Christ and the story Joeseph Smith as being true.

              • You need to reread my post

                As I said above, I think you have stopped reading and responding to actual content here, because you are determined to be PC about Mormonism, no matter what.

                If this is true, then the historical record cannot be used to justify Christianity and discount Mormonism, since the basis of Christianity is not based on "basic factual claims" but on the resurection, etc.

                You are saying, "Since we cannot disprove that which cannot be disproved, we cannot disprove that which can be disproved." This is absurd.

                History has nothing to say about transcendant events, one way or another. But it has a lot to say about facts. And both Mormonism and Christianity make claims of fact in addition to claims of miracles.

                Christianity's most essential empirically verifiable facts are at least consistent with (not "justified by"--who said that?!) the historical record. Mormonism's are not.

                I know many are in favor of rigorously suppressing facts or logic whenever they might offend somebody. I'm not.

                • You implied...

                  ...that historical facts showed Christianity to be more viable than Mormonism.

                  What are "Christianity's most essential empirically verifiable facts" and how are they relevant to the conversation, or how does it make Christianity more likely to be true than Mormonism?

                  • I suggest you acquiant yourself

                    better with the (often-changing) assertions of Mormonism and its extremely well-documented history. I can assure you, you will drop this nonsensical line of argument very quickly.

                    • The onus is not on me

                      I am skeptical of "Christianity's most essential empirically verifiable facts" of which you speak. I doubt these facts exist.  You do not provide said facts.  Since I currently see no historical evidence outside of the scripture to verify the life of Abraham, Mosses, Jesus, etc, it seems to me there exists a near equal amount of extra-scriptual evidence (read: virtually none) for historically verifying the life of Jesus in both Palestine and North America. Many theologists, even devout theologists, agree that much of the Bible is metaphor, allegory, and parable.

                      Also, if you want us to be acquainted with the Mormonism that claims that "young women who are raped are better off dead is noteworth", you should really cite some reliable sources. 

      • Useful to whom?

        Romney's religion is going to be talked about a lot, like it or not, if his campaign gets any traction.  So we'd better figure out useful ways of doing so.
    • Why not bring religion into it?

      I think it has always been wrong to bring someone's religion into the race. As far as I'm concerned, its like bringing race into it.

      Not exactly. A person has no control over his own race. Religion, at least for adults in this country, is ultimately a matter of choice. A baby who is baptised as a Catholic, can grow up to re-evaluate his beliefs and convert to Islam, or "born-again" Christianity.

      Although we live in an era where we strive for equal rights and try to hold respect for others' faiths, the religious beliefs of a candidate for public office should not be ignored out of some misguided sense of open-mindedness, any more than a canidate's political ideology or philosophical beliefs should be ignored. As distasteful as this all sounds, if a person holds himself out to be a deeply religious individual, than it only makes sense to examine that person's religious beliefs- otherwise we are left with an incomplete picture as to the character of the candidate.

      It's definitely a conundrum; on the one hand, we have an inherent instinct, and public interest, to want to treat all people equally, regardless of race, sex, or religion.  On the other hand, do we as voters, or as a society want to simply ignore others' religious beliefs, in the name of fairness, thereby validating belief systems which range from the lethal- Heaven's Gate or Jim Jones' Peoples' Temple- to the outright vile- Church of Jesus Christ-Christian?

      A discussion about a candidate's religion or religious beliefs should not be considered inherently discriminatory or bigoted, if it is part of a larger discussion on what comprises a candidate's core values and beliefs as a person. 

      • This is an opinion I hold

        But ShillelaghLaw articualted it better than I could have.

        Just to piggy back on the above idea, it is impossible to have a bianary here, one in which we give automatic respect and dignity to certain religions but call other belief sets 'cults'.

        What is the criteria to be used when decideing on which religious sects deserve our respect and which ones are to be sharply criticised or decried?

        • I assume you are joking

          it is impossible to have a bianary here, one in which we give automatic respect and dignity to certain religions but call other belief sets 'cults'.

          If you are asking me to treat the Dalai Lhama, Presbyterians, Moonies and devoted followers of Jim Jones with equal intellectual seriousness, you are doomed to disappointment.

          • That's my point...

            ...when does a religion go from a.) 'OK, it's not what I beleive but it deserves my full respect' to b.) 'those people are whack jobs!'?

            As a general rule, a Methodist might put a United Church of Christ congregation in category a. and Scientology in category b.

            How do we decide who's beliefs are respectable and who's belief are delusionary?

        • Potter Stewart

          What is the criteria to be used when decideing on which religious sects deserve our respect and which ones are to be sharply criticised or decried? 

          I'm only half-joking when I quote Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart- "I know it when I see it."

  4. One thing that scares me

    [Mormonism] actually believes this nation had an inspired founding.

    Inspired by whom? God, one would presume. 

    This statement scares me, it sounds a little like God telling George W. to invade Iraq.  It sounds like Manifest Destiny and a justifaction for brutalizing and murdering indigeonous American peoples, no?

    • John Adams and Benjamin Franklin thought the same thing.

      • True

        But I don't know if that is relevent.  The same argument could be used to justify slavery, denying women the vote, etc...

      • Yeah, but John Adams was a UU.

        • The Universalists did not merge with the Unitarians until 1961

          and when John Adams was alive the Unitarians still celebrated the Eucharist.

      • But They Were Personal Guesses

        Not a system of beliefs that they were trying to foist on others. They were Deists, not Christians (well I'm sure that Franklin wasn't a Christian - I'm not positive about Adams).

        "The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes." --- John Adams, letter to John Taylor

        "I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it." --- Benjamin Franklin, from "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion", Nov. 20, 1728

  5. There are a lot of legitimate questions

    I'm probably not the best person to talk about whether a Mormon should be president in the context of Willard, who I don't think should be president for a host of reasons that don't involve his Mormonism.  But I have had some contact with Mormons here and there.  As Weisberg points out, they officially believe some totally stupid things.  I was just thinking this morning looking at the NYT article about Pentecostals and their children that once exposed to critical thinking, those children have to weigh their parents' bizarre beliefs against what they love about those parents and their culture.  There is much that is attractive about Mormon culture -- putting family and community ahead of everything else, for example -- and much that I don't like.  They are totally committed to traditional sex roles in principle.  The idea is that men are told that devotion to their family is a religious duty, so that they are the high priests of their families.  If you think the purpose of religion is to civilize males, this is a promising way to do it.  The hierarchical nature of the church winds up giving great theoretical power to some local used-car salesman, which can lead to some very sloppy and heavy-handed treatment of dissent.  (By the way, Willard is often correctly referred to as a "former bishop of the Mormon church", but "bishop" is a relatively minor office in their system, being in charge only of a "ward" or single congregation.  (They don't have professional clergy at all.)

    An educated, critically-thinking Mormon has to question a lot of the central doctrine, just as many Catholics do.  There is official freedom of conscience, though if you go too far in public you get excommunicated just as in Catholicism.  I expect Willard loves the culture and would prefer to keep his own counsel about theology as well as about his underwear.  One can ask whether this "doublethink" made it easier to become the weasel that we know him to be, but I'm not sure it's fair to pin that on Mormonism when it's only a more extreme case of what most politicians have to do to reconcile public and private beliefs.  Weisberg ignores what is obviously a modernizing trend in Mormonism through history, as was pointed out above.

    Damon Linker raised a different critique of the notion of a Mormon president in The New Republic.  Some Protestants worried in 1960 that JFK would place his loyalty to the Pope above his oath to the constitution.  Linker says that unlike Catholicism, Mormonism philospophically offers the member no basis for rejecting immoral orders from their church superiors. This is pretty stupid, IMHO, because Mormons are nothing if not Americans and Americans are pretty resistant to argument from authority whether it's labeled God's prophecy or not.  The guy debating Linker pretty well destroyed his argument by pointing out that the LDS establishment showed no inclination to dictate Willard's behavior as governor, or Harry Reid's as senator, or the Udalls', or anyone since Joseph Smith himself ran for president.

    Would I vote for a Mormon president?  If the Democratic candidate were Harry Reid, anti-choice views and all, I'd vote for him over almost any imaginable GOP candidate.  There are Mormons and Mormons, and there are weasels and weasels, from many religious traditions.

  6. If there are 'Mormons and Mormons', then you forfeit the right to complain about one or the other.

    The Rabbi (and isn't it ironic that Mitt was the first governor to have a Rabbi preside at his inauguration?) is trying to argue that Mormons per se are the problem.

    As Stomv said - what the heck IS born again?  I would answer - anyone who so self-identifies.

    It's interesting that Deval Patrick is a Presbetyrian, same as Ronald Reagan, yet had the evangelical tradition of 'laying on of hands' on his inaguration eve.  To me, that would have him be more of a born-again than Reagan.

    I am ordained by the Methodist church, but consider myself far more plain vanilla than George Bush, who saw a light on the road to Damascus.  Again - self identification.

    I have never heard Mitt identify himself in that way, and would suspect he is a vanilla Mormon in the way I am a vanilla Methodist.  But, I have no inside info, and I'm sur this will be asked.  Over and over.  With ever-smarmier bigotry as time goes by.

    Kudos to David for his excellent commentary.

  7. Hurray for Freedom of Religion

    Excellent Post, David! Romney should not be judged on his Mormonism. He should be judged on his policies. Religion is, or should be, a matter of personal belief. To argue that simply because Romney is a Mormon he should not be President is like arguing that just because JFK was Catholic he should not be President, or just Lieberman is Jewish one should not vote for him.

    • Please

      This diary post has done an excellent job of lending a hand to the right-wing echo chamber.

      The entire faux "debate" over Romney's Mormonism is part of his campaign strategy.

      Romney should not be judged on his Mormonism.

      He certainly hopes not to be. After all, he's pinning his hopes on positioning himself as a right-wing Christian--a George Bush clone.

      But he has a problem: he's actually a Mormon.

      And as off-putting as some Mormon beliefs might be to average Americans, they are outright anathema to the rightie evangelicals he hopes to court.

      The solution? Make sure the evangelicals don't hear too much about those beliefs during the campaign--by staging a kerfuffle that paints Romney as the victim of...wait for it...anti-Christian bigotry.

      Ta-da! Nobody can discuss Mormonism in public any more. And Romney gets to take advantage of his religion without being answerable for it.

      Brilliant in its simplicity, audacious in its mandacity, and highly effective in luring liberals in to help.

      • if it works that way.

        on the other hand, i'm guessing lots of previously unknown bits of info about what Mormonism really is is going to come to light.  people will gobble it up like they do any celebrity trash talk.  so this prememptive "kerfuffle" you talk about might just explode into and orgy of factual (or not) anti-Mormin gossip that'll sink Romney but good.  With all due respect, I think you are wrong about talk of Mromonism being off the table.  If it was some form of Christianity or Judiasm, probably would be.  But it isn;t a 'popular' religion and so the hyprcritical rules we live by come into full swing. 

        • Contrariwise

          This may be the very best time for His Ex to have all this stuff aired, so that it will become "old news" later.

          • old news

            I'd agree if this were about a ticket for running a red light.  But I doubt this is going away any time soon with certain Christian purists.  I mean, look at how fast they gave up on marriage equality, for example.  Ha!  No, they have a death grip on certain biases, and whatever they consider as non-Christian is not going to waft away on a gentle breeze.

      • Please

        With respect, Steverino, since when do you speak for the right-wing echo chamber -- I always thought you were sort of a liberal type. More generally, since when is it advantageous to run from discussions for fear someone with an ulterior motive may be listening. Sounds like a Kerry-esque rather than Kennedy-esque approach to me. I think the Slate piece was an ugly bit of religion-baiting. David was right to call the author out. It is healthy to have this discussion. Indeed, it would be unhealthy to shrink from it and pretend that Willard's Mormonism is one reason he should not be President. As other posters have noted, there are many good policy reasons why he should not be President.

        • Hugh Hewitt

          speaks for the right-wing echo chamber.

          Look who is giving this story legs: It's mostly the Right. Do they ever gang up stories like this "accidentially?" No; it's part of an agenda.

          And that agenda really has little to do with centrist or liberal Americans being scared off about Romney's beliefs. Most of us couldn't care less. It's all about the evangelicals.

      • This is an interesting thought

        I'm not sure they are that smart.

        • The word on the street

          is that the Romney campaign itself "leaked" the videos of his pro-gay comments now, so that they would not make a splash at a more critical time later.

          If he is responsible for the Mormon kerfuffle, it wouldn't be without precedent.

  8. 63% of Americans would not vote for an atheist

    ...and only 37 percent said they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for president. (That's down from 49 percent in a 1999 Gallup poll-which also found that more Americans would vote for a homosexual than an atheist.)

    Via Newsweek.

    Ha! What if you are a gay atheist?

    People do vote based on religious beliefs.  At first glance, this says to me the very people preaching that religion shouldn't be a factor in choosing a cndidate allow religion to play a factor in choosing a candidate.

  9. as long as we are wondering about Mitt's Mormonism

    I think it is interesting that the Mormons are the only religious people specifically mentioned as having "merged their beliefs" with Transhumanism on the Wikipedia entry on Transhumanism

    As far as I am aware, there is no "Baptist Transhumanist Association" or even "UU Transhumanist Association", but there is a "Mormon Transhumanist Association."

    If you ask me, we won't get anywhere by asking Mitt if he thinks the diamond encrusted decoder glasses really existed or not.  You can consider him crazy, but it doesn't really matter as to how he governs.  But whether or not he is a Mormon Transhumanist, or just has transhumanist beliefs, has real importance for the our future.

    This is the conclusion of the MTA's "learn more" pdf file:

    Mormonism and Transhumanism present parallel and complementary views of the future.

    They are parallel in their perspectives on the following: the present progress in knowledge; an imminent fundamental change in our nature and that of our world; and the possibility of dramatically transcending our current limitations. The Dispensation of the Fullness of Times parallels the Fourth Epoch. The Millennium and immortality parallel the Singularity and transhumans. Heavens and Gods parallel simulations and posthumans.

    The Transhumanist view complements the Mormon view by providing a rational basis for belief, promoting a more active faith, and encouraging an optimistic expectation for the near future. The Mormon view complements the Transhumanist view by providing a spiritual justification for desire, encouraging respect for tradition, and positing a moral imperative for universal salvation.

    The friends had found a way to change. They had found a way to work with others to act on and promote their faith in a Mormon view of the future. On 3 March 2006, they established the Mormon Transhumanist Association.

    Mormon Transhumanist Affirmation

      1 We seek the spiritual and physical exaltation of individuals and their anatomies, as well as communities and their environments, according to their wills, desires and laws, to the extent they are not oppressive.   2 We believe that scientific knowledge and technological power are among the means ordained of God to enable such exaltation, including realization of diverse prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end.   3 We feel a duty to use science and technology according to wisdom and inspiration, to identify and prepare for risks and responsibilities associated with future advances, and to persuade others to do likewise.

    • Heck, John - according to the Mayans, it's theoretical after 2012 anyways!

      • I know it

        But just in case...

        Seriously, have you ever heard of transhumanists?  They're all seriously crazy people who believe that we will achieve immortality in our lifetime (they truly don't believe they will die), that we will be able to upload our consciousnesses into computers, that technology will advance so fast that it will achieve some sort of "singularity" (perhaps in 2012?) and like, time will stop or something, and that gender and sex will become optional accessories.  It's a serious mental defect, and I think we should know if Romney believes any of this stuff.

    • There is no evidence of connection with the LDS church

      I doubt the hierarchy in Salt Lake City sanctions this.  This would be like trying to connect GWB to David Koresh because the are both from Texas.

      • Does Mitt?

        We're not talking about the LDS church.

        • No Evidence

          There is no reason to suspect that Mitt is a Transhumanist other than the fact that you saw the words 'Mormon' and 'Transhumanist' in the same sentence in Wikipedia.  If you are really that curious, fire off an email to his campaign.

          • Association

            It's a little more than that.  As that MTA pdf says, Mormonism and Transhumanism parallel and compliment each other.  Mormons seems to have core beliefs and teachings that lend themselves to transhumanist beliefs, even if most Mormons don't go to "H+ meetups" and know the H+ lexicon, and even if most transhumanists are not Mormons.  Remember, Orin Hatch was one of the few Republican candidates in 2000 to be strangely in favor of stem cell research, and since he was so devout in other respects in his Mormonism, it implies that Mormons really are different from other religions about genetic research.  They also have the huge geneology database and really care about genes, and let's not forget, believe in the diamond encrusted decoder glasses.  I don't see any reason not to believe what that pdf says, that Mormons have "prophetic visions of transfiguration, immortality, resurrection, renewal of this world, and the discovery and creation of worlds without end."

            And I've emailed and even snail mailed letters to Romney before, I don't think he will answer me.  Let's just assume he is a lunatic transhumanist who believes in immoratility and resurrection unless he tells us otherwise.  "Otherwise" being, that he believes we should enact an egg and sperm law to prohibit genetic engineering.

            • Dude...

              ...you make me long for the reasoned arguments of Peter Porcupine and even Mitt Romney himself.

              "Let's just assume [Romney] is a lunatic transhumanist who believes in immoratility and resurrection unless he tells us otherwise."

              Let's not assume anything that isn't suggested by real evidence and a rational argument. 

              • Let's assume

                No, I say we assume the article is telling the truth, and that Mormonism and Transhumanism are parallel and complementary, and that if one is a Mormon, then one is likely to have transhumanist beliefs.

                What evidence do we have that Mitt is not a Transhumanist?  I sent him lots of emails and pestered his staff for months, including people like Eric Fernstrohm, and these people assured me that they had made him aware of the advancing technology to enable same-sex conception.  If he was against it, he would have said he was against it, he wouldn't have acted exactly like a transhumanist would act.  I have a strong suspicion that he would never have been our governor if he wasn't a transhumanist.

                He is a transhumanist unless he takes a stand against genetic engineering by supporting the egg and sperm law.

    • Let's look at the Wikipedia entry then

      The wikipedia entry you cite specifically states:

      A minority, however, follow liberal forms of Eastern philosophical traditions or, as with Mormon transhumanists, have merged their beliefs with established Western religions.

      It seems rather clear that you're referencing a minority of transhumanists and of Mormons.  It may help to contradict the author's assertion that there aren't splits in Mormonism, but it says pretty much nothing about Romney or the vast majority of Mormons.

  10. Bashing a (minority) religion is not okay

    I have to say that as a Jew (and a Reconstructionist Jew at that--a stream that originated in the 20th century), I find this article disturbing.  Most religions are built on stories that could easily be considered irrational if read literally, particularly if one is not raised with those religious beliefs as guiding narratives.  The author seems to recognize this, but then he rationalizes it with verbiage about the age of the beliefs, which, as David points out, only raise more questions.  I'd argue that the issue isn't so much the age of the beliefs (imagine the author's reaction to a group that believed in pantheon of ancient Greece), but with the power that faith holds in society.  Christian stories are established, as well as many  Jewish stories, particularly those that overlap with Christianity.  So he gives these a pass.

    But Mormonism is still quite marginalized.  Many right-wing Christians consider Mormonism satanic.  So apparently, for the author, their stories are fair game for ridicule.

    Now, one's relationship with religious doctrines connected to the public sphere are certainly relevant questions for a political candidate.  But one's religion doesn't mean that one strictly adheres to religious doctrine.  I would think that in a state with many Catholic legislators who support same-sex marriage and abortion choice would recognize that.  People can make those choices.  That makes Romney a perfectly appropriate target of criticism when he CHOOSES to take reactionary views--for those views, not for his religion.

    In that light, I found the last block of quoted text particularly galling.  "How Mormon are you" is a very different question from, "Where do you stand on the Mormon belief in issue x?"  I have to guess that Jarrett Barrios or Father Drinan would say "Very!" if asked, "How Catholic are you?"  But if asked for their stands on Church positions on abortion or same-sex marriage, they'd voice their independent positions.

    And y'know what?  Not only do I not want to hear about what Romney wears beneath his suit, ridiculing him for wearing Mormon temple garments is about as legit as as ridiculing an observant Jew for wearing tzitzit, a Sikh for wearing a kirpan, or a Muslim for wearing a hijab. Would we approve of that?

    • This raises two questions for me...

      ...(and this goes back to David's question - "Romney's religion is going to be talked about a lot, like it or not, if his campaign gets any traction.  So we'd better figure out useful ways of doing so."):

      Where is the line between bashing a religion and critical study of a religion?

      Question two: Given, as I commented above, a poll shows that 63% of Americans would not vote for an athiest president, how many politicians are CINO (Christians in Name Only) or JINOs or MINOs, etc?

      Perhaps there are Mass legislators (or US Congressmen) who are pro-choice, pro SSM in part because they are atheist or agnostic, but feel they need to claim they are Christian to maintain electability.

      • Consider Drinan

        Perhaps there are Mass legislators (or US Congressmen) who are pro-choice, pro SSM in part because they are atheist or agnostic, but feel they need to claim they are Christian to maintain electability.

        Perhaps there are some, but I think that there are many who are quite religious.  Religious identity is complex!  I know that within my own community, there are plenty of Orthodox Jews who are LGBT.  They work hard and wrestle with it, but they're not going to deny their Jewish identity.  And to call them JINO's would be, frankly, dismissive and offensive.

        And again, i'd point to the example of Drinan...he wasn't wearing that collar for style.

        • Again, who am I to judge

          "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." ~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

          Above I said one needs only to self-identify as a Christian (and by extension a Jew) to be called a Jew.  If a LGBT told me s/he was a Jew, a Christian, etc, I would never doubt that person's spititual beliefs.

          I am not saying that everyone who publically disagrees with his or her religious doctrine are C/JINOs.  I am saying that some politicians, and even average people, hide there atheism/agnosticism because they are affraid of the backlash or for reasons of electability. I am unaware of any US Congressman/Senator that identifies as atheist/agnostic.  By shear probability, there is at least on member of Congress who is not being truthful.

          I understand that identity is complex. And it is OK to contradict onself.  But isn't a little paradoxical that, in a political culture that demands honesty from its candidates, forces many to conceal their true beliefs on religion?

          • Honesty and deceit

            But isn't a little paradoxical that, in a political culture that demands honesty from its candidates, forces many to conceal their true beliefs on religion?

            Sad, perhaps.  But there's so much deception throughout our society and political system that it frankly seems right in line.  I wish that it weren't.

          • I thought the standard for Jews

            was different--one can be a Jew without believing in God at all, it is an ethnic/national identity as much as a religious one. Anyone can become a Christian or a Muslim, but to become a Jew you would have to marry one and undergo conversion, and even then the Orthodox wouldn't accept you as a "real" Jew. There is the fact that any Jew is automatically a citizen of Israel...they must have to prove they are Jews.

    • I might ridicule tzitzit, too

      if they turned out to be directly swiped from the Freemasons and passed off as the ordinance of God.

      • Right,

        cuz real religions never borrow.

        • Your zeal in defending a church currently

          making headlines by proclaiming that young women who are raped are better off dead is noteworthy.

          Incidentally, Freemasonry is not a religion, so the Mormons borrowing the "secret handshake" that gets you into heaven directly from the Masons is hardly an example of syncretism.

          Perhaps a spending a little less time defending the Mormons, and a little more time learning about them, would be in order. You can trust Hugh Hewitt and the American Spectator to man the ramparts in your absence.

  11. One note for the Mormon-bashers

    Does Jacob Weisberg, and do those who've echoed some of his comments on this thread, have similar concerns about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?  that's right--this hero of the Democratic takeover is a Mormon.

    Sorry--does that complicate your argument that Mormons are all reactionary fundamentalists?

    • Good question.

      I know little about Harry Reid.  I would have to see his record and any statements he may have made regarding his beliefs.  But I would apply the same standard to him as I do to Romney or Brownback or Bush et al when it comes to religion. 

      I look at Deval Patrick, he positions himself as a man of faith, but holds many positions counter to curent mainstream religious positions (gay marriage, abortion) and is in line with many people who would consider themselves secularists. 

      Deval could worship the Sun for all I care, as long as he applied critical reason and rational thought to his governence.  But as soon as he starts to say things like "My Sun Bible says that working at night is wrong, therefore no work shall be performed after Sun down," that's when he goes into un-vote-forable category for me. 

      • That's my point

        If you'd focus on sun-worshipper Deval's policies, then it sounds like we agree, tblade.  But my point is that Weisberg, as well as a few folks on here, aren't doing that.  They're using the fact of Romney's religion--rather than his political positions--as grounds to criticize him.  And I object to that.

        • It seems that...

          ...many politicians religious beliefs dictate their political positions.  If I knew that the Deval was beholden to the Sun God and would make decisions on stem cells, abortions, DNRs, sex education, marriage (or in Bush's case, which countries to invade) according to what he percieved the Sun God's teachings were (as many Christian politicians do) then I would in fact be voting based on his religion. 

          If religion was more like a diet, meaning that if Mitt was vegatarian - he ate only vegetables at home, he shopped only at vegatarian markets, went to vegetarian meetings on Sundays - but did not form any of his policies to pander to the vegetarian lobby - ie, he didn't start trying to restrict the sale of meat, he didn't try to stop vegetarians from marrying carnivores, vegetarianism didn't inform his position on birth control - than this thread would not exist.

          But 'religious right' politicians take positions that affect all of us and base their decisions soley on what their faiths tell them is right and wrong. They are instantly dismissive of any ideas that conflict with their faith.

          It is criminal the number of young Americans and Africans are having unprotected sex because they have 'abstenece only' thrust upon them by relgious politicians. And these politicians, regardless of the rational evidence and scientific and scholarly data presented, will never change thier minds only because because of their religious beliefs.

          Listen, I know there are plenty of things that I am currently wrong about.  But I like to think that a convincing argument and solid evidence would change my mind.  I want the same fom my elected officials.  To me, there is a direct connection between religious devotion to certain sects and closed mindedness. I think it is evident in the Romney and Bushes in the world. 


    • going too far

      asking does that complicate your argument that Mormons are all reactionary fundamentalists? and claiming that some posters are Mormon-bashers is going too far.  Most of the debate has been "is Mormonism a form of CHristianity?".  Debating that point is not bashing.  It is unfair to imply otherwise.

      • Wanna see bashing? Read some of the comments above

        I'm not referring to those who are respectfully debating the relationship between Mormonism and Christianity.  But that argument has also produced such gems as the concern I have with Mormons is really how they understand the constitution, rights under the constitution, where rights come from, and whehter they support the whole idea of civil government.

        If I'm going too far by referring to that as bashing, how would you define bashing?  If someone raised such questions about Jews or Muslims, would you say that the ADL or CAIR was going too far when they referred to that as bashing?

        • Well,

          there are certainly some Jewish, Christian, and Islamic sects that basically don't "support the whole idea of civil government."  So I don't think that asking questions like that is necessarily out of bounds.  Maybe it's unfair to ask the question of all Mormons, but that's probably more a function of the fact that most Americans aren't very familiar with Mormons than anything else.

          • Or a function of prejudice?

            I tend to think that when people can make blanket assertions about a group of millions, particularly when that group involves prominent leaders who disprove their assertion (like Reid), it reflects a level of prejudice.  Don't you?

        • Keep your focus ...

          I think you're right, and I agree with you, but rather than going after the BMG posters I'd suggest trying to keep the focus on the interesting issue: is someone's religion a valid form of political attack in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Personally, I think that is more interesting than whether some posters are or are not bashing Mormonism. But, of course, as always, reasonable people can disagree :-)

          • Actually, I started by discussing the article

            If you look at my comment where I mention Reid, I began by asking whether Jacob Weisberg, the author of the article, had anything to say about Reid's Mormonism.  Seeing how he writes that he could never vote for someone who accepts Mormon beliefs, I think that it's a legit question whether he supports the Senate majority leader.  And the example of Reid proves my overall point, which I made in a long comment a bit earlier--that going after a religion is NOT okay, in part because members of the same religion can have different views, much like Reid and Romney.

            It was not my goal to focus on whether some posters were bashing mormonism.  But at the same time, folks were doing so, and if I was going to criticize Weisberg for it, I wasn't going to ingore the fact that those in this (cyber) community were doing so as well.

          • It almost impacted the 1968 Presidental camaign

            Given the focus of a Mormon running for President in 2008 has generated (I lurck at Redstate...they have some interesting discussions on the topic), imagine if Romney's dad didn't make his brainwashing statement...and became a serious contender for Presidnet?

            Even to have his name mentioned as a possible candidate must have created a buzz about his religion.  Of course without the blogosphere, maybe the buzz would have bounced around the hallways in Washington DC and at the major newspapers and 3 network newsrooms inthe country. 

      • Don't want to sound like a Broken Record...

        ...but what is the line between bashing a religion and critical study of religion?

        I do think some posters have 'bashed' Mormons.  Some may even consider me a 'Mormon Basher' because I stated that I will not vote for someone who believes the whole Joseph Smith story in the literal sense.  And I do believe there are some legitimate concerns about Romney and Mormonism brought up in this thread.

        Central Mass Dad brings up a good point about the Assumption of Mary. Catholics believe that when Mary's life came to a natural end, she didn't die, her body just shot up into Heaven.  This is not in the Bible and is not subscribed to by any Protestant denomination. Although observed, it was not defined as infalible until 1950 by Pope Pius XII (or so says Wikipedia).

        As a non-Catholic, and since I did not find this out until recently, I can only say WTF?!?!?! But, when discusing religion in a setting such as this, WTF is not befiting of proper criticism and does not advance discussion.  Should I just accept that people believe in the assumption of Mary, it sounds harmless, and leave it at that? How should I decide which religious beliefs are indeed harmless and which beliefs are detrimental to progress (e.g. abstinance only sex education)? And once I decide that a certain belief deserves critical attention, how do I criticize something with out bashing it? 

        Would it be possible for me to say that belief in the assumption of Mary (or even the existence of Abraham) is a little nutty whithout being called a biggot or a basher?

        Rational thought and evidence dictates, regardless of your religion, that the whole Joseph Smith story is made up.  And I think what David is getting at is, how do people who have this concern about Romney express it without falling into the biggot trap? 

  12. Holy Roller Batman...

    This thread is amazing... my head is spinning.


  13. How $quot;devout$quot; is Romney?

    Uh, David, do you really think it's possible to be a non-devout Mormon bishop? Besides, if you believe Romney's religion shouldn't disqualify him, then it shouldn't matter whether he's devout or not.

  14. Perhaps some day all religions will be considered bizarre

    Some of you are looking at the founding beliefs of Mormonism with disbelief.

    Consider that some of us look at the founding beliefs of all religions with disbelief.

    As someone above pointed out about the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea -- it's not like the law of physics has changed over the past 2000 years.

    Being an older religion doesn't make is any more likely to be true -- if it were, Thor and Zeus would still be worshipped by millions.

    Some of us consider praying to God to be as rational as praying to Zeus.  Or Shiva.  Or the Angel Moroni.

    (Well, so much for my chance of getting elected ...)

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