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Mormons in Politics
Posted: 11 September 2012 02:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 07 September 2012 10:14 PM

Full disclosure: I am an atheist who was raised as a Mormon.  I don’t believe in God because a serious commitment to reason precludes the acceptance of propositions on insufficient evidence, or faith.  The believer must accept exactly two such propositions.  They are as follows: 1) there is an all powerful being that created the universe and has an interest in how people behave, and 2) there is a particular scripture and/or prophet through which we can be informed of the opinions and wishes of said creator.  Those who subscribe to only the first proposition are deists.  Those who subscribe to the second as well are theists and usually members of a religion.  The choice of scripture and prophet will depend on the tradition with which a believer associates. 

 
We can understand why Evangelical Christians have such animosity towards Mormons.  They disagree on the choices made in the second proposition and (as is so often the case between religions) the incompatibility of these choices leads to irresolvable conflict.  This conflict has been amplified by Mitt Romney’s recent selection as a major party candidate for President.  This argument should be meaningless to atheists since they never even got to the first proposition.  Secularists should be adverse to either group’s claims with identical zeal and for identical reasons.  But this has not been happening.  They have lately been joining with Christians in an intellectually bankrupt attack on the Mormons. 


Men whose intellects I admire have been debasing themselves in their rush to join the chorus of anti-Mormon sentiment in our public discourse.  My eyebrow was first raised while I was watching a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher.  Maher, a noted atheist, said of the Mormon Church “It does take crazy to a whole new level.  I mean, all religions are magic tricks, Mormonism is just a particularly bad, novelty shop level, intelligence insulting magic trick.  This religion is so ridiculous Tom Cruise would not join it and Glenn Beck did.” Now, this is funny, and Maher is a politically oriented comedian, so I dismissed the comment.  However I couldn’t shake my perception that the delivery of this line was such that Maher believed it to be one of his show’s insightful moments.  I just couldn’t accept that an atheist would find anything particularly offensive about LDS beliefs compared with, say, Catholic or Muslim beliefs.


But as is so often the case, once the mind is open to an idea it finds examples everywhere.  Noted atheistic intellectual and evolutionary expert Richard Dawkins had this to say “The Mormon religion is so obviously fake, founded by a transparent charlatan in the nineteenth century, Joseph Smith. Nothing could be more obvious than that that man was a fake and a charlatan and a liar, and yet now we have a Presidential candidate who is prepared to say that he believes in this mountebank.”  Dawkins is right to be incredulous that only faithful men are acceptable candidates for President, but wrong in thinking this is made worse by the presence of a Mormon candidate. 


In another conversation which Dawkins had with Astrophysicist and really smart guy Lawrence Krauss, Krauss added the following on the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith “We also read that the biblical stories are equally ridiculous, but the difference is we don’t know they were written by known conmen, but in fact he was a known felon.” Krauss misses the point, in that it doesn’t matter the source of the beliefs people adopt on faith, only the content. 


Finally, Sam Harris, perhaps the world’s most articulate living anti-theist, said “Mormonism, it seems to me—objectively— is just a little bit more idiotic than Christianity is. It has to be: it is Christianity plus some very stupid ideas.”  He later added, “We can make common cause with our Christian brothers and sisters on this point.” Contrary to Harris’s assertion, the content of Mormon beliefs is not more idiotic than any other Christian faith.  If one is going to accept the Bible as the word of God, there is absolutely no scientific ground left on which to mount a stand against the Book of Mormon. 


Harris has written a book entitled the Moral Landscape in which he argued that we do not need religion to have a sense of morality.  The crux of his argument is that morality amounts to the sum of the well being of conscious creatures and that there are knowable ways of moving upwards or downwards on that scale which constitute an objective ‘playing field’ for moral behavior.  It seems to me, that that is the only arena from which secularists can attack one religion more than another and maintain intellectual honesty.  Therefore, he can say (and has) that Muslims are worse than, say, Jainists since the former are more likely to engage in suicide bombing attacks, but he cannot say that Mormons are worse than Catholics since they believe in the story of Nephi in addition to the stories of Noah and Moses.  Would he criticize a person who plays the lottery and picks the same number 5 times in a row by arguing that they are therefore less likely to win?  In truth, their chances are identical and infinitesimally small in both cases.


Moreover, Mormons pass Harris’s moral landscape test with flying colors.  They live clean, drug free lives with an emphasis on family cohesion and usually in close knit communities that have perfected the art and the spirit of charity to a degree that puts all other Christians to shame.  I don’t mean to dote on the Mormons who leave themselves open to serious criticism from a secular perspective.  They refuse to say that polygamy was always wrong, even when their founders practiced it; they were embarrassingly late to recognize the equality of all races; and they must still hang their heads in shame based on their dogma concerning women and homosexuals.  However, these offenses are no more or less damning than those which can be charged to any religion. 


No, Dr. Harris, we cannot make common cause with our Christian brothers and sisters on this point. They attack the Latter Day Saints because they believe that the Bible tells them that the Book of Mormon is evil.  They enlist incredulity on the evidence supporting the Mormon faith with great hypocrisy, since they suspend that incredulity when they learn third hand that Jesus raised the dead and walked upon the water.  We on the other hand must convict them equally on these points.  We can make judgments only on objective criteria.  The Mormons are worse than Christians who have learned to embrace women in the priesthood and homosexuals in matrimony, but they are better than those which teach that one imperils her eternal soul through the use of contraceptives.

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

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Posted: 11 September 2012 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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Ice Monkey - 11 September 2012 02:03 AM

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

Point well taken.  Nevertheless, my argument stands unless you can name me a religion which is not equally guilty of that fault.

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Posted: 11 September 2012 12:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 08 September 2012 04:40 PM
Skipshot - 08 September 2012 12:31 PM

A bit long winded but well made, TheCoolinator.  No religion may declare another religion wrong or false if each assumes gods exist.  Skipping that first step and going straight to the nature and desires of the gods is a crucial mistaken assumption over which wars are fought.

You seem to have missed the point.  Dr. Harris has adequately described the problem with mutually incompatible truth claims.  This explains the differences between Evangelicals and Mormons, and I understand it.  I don’t like it, but I get it.  What I don’t understand, is why atheists are picking on Mormons.  I understand the motive to single out Islam and even Catholicism, but apart from their anti-gay agenda, I don’t understand singling out the Mormons.  Unfortunately, their anti-gay political activism is not the source (so far as I have seen) of the atheistic singling out of Mormons which I cited at such length above.

 

Perhaps there is such a deeper disdain towards Mormonism because of it’s such a new religion in comparison to the other monotheistic ones. Mormonism is not inherently any more “wacky” than Islam or Christianity—it is more Atheists singling out the absurdity of believing in a faith that was created only a mere few hundred years ago.

In a way,  Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have more of a semblance of credibility through their history and generations of cultural traditions/identity. This in itself makes the 3 much more difficult to refute, rendering Mormonism an easy target.

 

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Posted: 11 September 2012 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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existentialista - 11 September 2012 12:57 PM
TheCoolinator - 08 September 2012 04:40 PM
Skipshot - 08 September 2012 12:31 PM

A bit long winded but well made, TheCoolinator.  No religion may declare another religion wrong or false if each assumes gods exist.  Skipping that first step and going straight to the nature and desires of the gods is a crucial mistaken assumption over which wars are fought.

You seem to have missed the point.  Dr. Harris has adequately described the problem with mutually incompatible truth claims.  This explains the differences between Evangelicals and Mormons, and I understand it.  I don’t like it, but I get it.  What I don’t understand, is why atheists are picking on Mormons.  I understand the motive to single out Islam and even Catholicism, but apart from their anti-gay agenda, I don’t understand singling out the Mormons.  Unfortunately, their anti-gay political activism is not the source (so far as I have seen) of the atheistic singling out of Mormons which I cited at such length above.

 

Perhaps there is such a deeper disdain towards Mormonism because of it’s such a new religion in comparison to the other monotheistic ones. Mormonism is not inherently any more “wacky” than Islam or Christianity—it is more Atheists singling out the absurdity of believing in a faith that was created only a mere few hundred years ago.

In a way,  Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have more of a semblance of credibility through their history and generations of cultural traditions/identity. This in itself makes the 3 much more difficult to refute, rendering Mormonism an easy target.

 

 

Good point.
Traditionally religions insulate themselves with a don’t ask- don’t tell cocoon.
Everyone know that it is impolite to point out the lunacy upon which all supernatural thinking is based.
“Don’t question my God and I won’t question yours”.
That’s freedom of religion.
Any religion is free to be as goofy as they want.
Mormons are fair game for wearing magic underwear but Jews are rarely ridiculed for the little cap on top of their head and Catholics seldom are shunned for their cannibalism.

It’s almost like being in a poorly run mental hospital where even the doctors are delusional.

 

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Posted: 11 September 2012 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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existentialista - 11 September 2012 12:57 PM

Perhaps there is such a deeper disdain towards Mormonism because of it’s such a new religion in comparison to the other monotheistic ones. Mormonism is not inherently any more “wacky” than Islam or Christianity—it is more Atheists singling out the absurdity of believing in a faith that was created only a mere few hundred years ago.

In a way,  Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have more of a semblance of credibility through their history and generations of cultural traditions/identity. This in itself makes the 3 much more difficult to refute, rendering Mormonism an easy target.

 

I think you hit the nail on the head here.  There is no other explanation I’ve heard that comes close to explaining the issue I compalined about in my initial essay. 


However, I must still petulantly stamp my feet and whine that it isn’t logical.  Longevity substitutes for respectibility under the same exchange rate at which repetition substitutes for truth. 

 

[ Edited: 11 September 2012 04:37 PM by TheCoolinator]
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Posted: 11 September 2012 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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toombaru - 11 September 2012 02:45 PM

Good point.
Traditionally religions insulate themselves with a don’t ask- don’t tell cocoon.
Everyone know that it is impolite to point out the lunacy upon which all supernatural thinking is based.
“Don’t question my God and I won’t question yours”.
That’s freedom of religion.
Any religion is free to be as goofy as they want.
Mormons are fair game for wearing magic underwear but Jews are rarely ridiculed for the little cap on top of their head and Catholics seldom are shunned for their cannibalism.

It’s almost like being in a poorly run mental hospital where even the doctors are delusional.

Here you’ve touched on the differences between other faiths and Mormons - which I have no trouble understanding.  This is a historically interesting situation which I think Mormons left themselves open to by refusing to go along with the so called ‘Protestant Pact.’  In all of Christianity, only Catholics are allowed to claim that their baptisms have exclusive efficacy, but the Mormons vocally break this treaty and lay claim to the same right. 


However, I know how you rightly eschew arguing over the merits of cherubim versus angels and how many of each can be located on pinheads, so it probably isn’t a point worth belaboring.


It is worth positing whether an alternative explanation for the atheistic vitriol towards Mormons is, at least in part, borrowed from “our Christian brothers and sisters.”  Perhaps some atheists are just so excited to finally see some believers engaging in a (sometimes) credible and rational attack on a faith that they can’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm.  Faiths normally hold solidarity with one another, but almost never with Mormons.

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Posted: 11 September 2012 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 04:36 PM
toombaru - 11 September 2012 02:45 PM

Good point.
Traditionally religions insulate themselves with a don’t ask- don’t tell cocoon.
Everyone know that it is impolite to point out the lunacy upon which all supernatural thinking is based.
“Don’t question my God and I won’t question yours”.
That’s freedom of religion.
Any religion is free to be as goofy as they want.
Mormons are fair game for wearing magic underwear but Jews are rarely ridiculed for the little cap on top of their head and Catholics seldom are shunned for their cannibalism.

It’s almost like being in a poorly run mental hospital where even the doctors are delusional.

Here you’ve touched on the differences between other faiths and Mormons - which I have no trouble understanding.  This is a historically interesting situation which I think Mormons left themselves open to by refusing to go along with the so called ‘Protestant Pact.’  In all of Christianity, only Catholics are allowed to claim that their baptisms have exclusive efficacy, but the Mormons vocally break this treaty and lay claim to the same right. 


However, I know how you rightly eschew arguing over the merits of cherubim versus angels and how many of each can be located on pinheads, so it probably isn’t a point worth belaboring.


It is worth positing whether an alternative explanation for the atheistic vitriol towards Mormons is, at least in part, borrowed from “our Christian brothers and sisters.”  Perhaps some atheists are just so excited to finally see some believers engaging in a (sometimes) credible and rational attack on a faith that they can’t help but get swept up in the enthusiasm.  Faiths normally hold solidarity with one another, but almost never with Mormons.


As mentioned by existentialista, Mormonism is the new hen in the coup and this makes its unique form of craziness fair game for established theologies.
The other religions are just as goofy but they have had hundreds of years to create imaginary territories and tenuous truces.
Whenever a new form of craziness is introduced into the metaphysical realm it is singled out and hunted down much like a lone chimp and symbolically killed by pseudo-intellectual attacks.
Scientology is pretty much ignored by Christians probably because (unlike Mormonism) it doesn’t threaten the traditional views of Jebus and the band.

 

[ Edited: 11 September 2012 08:27 PM by toombaru]
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Posted: 12 September 2012 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 07:51 AM
Ice Monkey - 11 September 2012 02:03 AM

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

Point well taken.  Nevertheless, my argument stands unless you can name me a religion which is not equally guilty of that fault.

The Protestants in my family.

It’s not even close.

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What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
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I prefer the full-on embrace of reality to the spiritual masturbation that is religion.
~ S.A. Ladoucier

I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people
~ M. Teresa, Fruitcake of Calcutta

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Posted: 12 September 2012 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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Ice Monkey - 12 September 2012 04:50 AM
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 07:51 AM
Ice Monkey - 11 September 2012 02:03 AM

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

Point well taken.  Nevertheless, my argument stands unless you can name me a religion which is not equally guilty of that fault.

The Protestants in my family.

It’s not even close.

If you are going to make an assertion and found it upon an anecdote, I suggest you find a new signature for your forum profile. 

I could refute you with my own anecdotal evidence, but that is a waste of time.  Let us consider instead the polls Dr. Harris is fond of quoting in which we learn that a dominant majority of Americans are Christian and that almost none of them would support an atheist for President.  This is good evidence for a strong anti-apostate strain throughout American Christendom.  I think we can agree that the amount of such intolerance will vary among faiths, and that we should expect to see more tolerance from Unitarians and moderate Protestants than we do from Mormons or Catholics, but this only supports my argument that Mormons are an unexceptional variety of American Christianity.  I will grant you that they among the less theistically moderate faiths we will find and that we should expect to find them appropriately placed along the continuum of apostate tolerance by virtue of that, but again, all of this bolsters my argument. 

If the criticism against Mormons was that they are too fundamentalist, you would get no objection from me.  Instead, it has been that they are less rational even than that; and I see only irrational out group hatred as an explanation for that attack. 

 

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Posted: 12 September 2012 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 12 September 2012 08:11 AM
Ice Monkey - 12 September 2012 04:50 AM
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 07:51 AM
Ice Monkey - 11 September 2012 02:03 AM

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

Point well taken.  Nevertheless, my argument stands unless you can name me a religion which is not equally guilty of that fault.

The Protestants in my family.

It’s not even close.

If you are going to make an assertion and found it upon an anecdote, I suggest you find a new signature for your forum profile. 

I could refute you with my own anecdotal evidence, but that is a waste of time.  Let us consider instead the polls Dr. Harris is fond of quoting in which we learn that a dominant majority of Americans are Christian and that almost none of them would support an atheist for President.  This is good evidence for a strong anti-apostate strain throughout American Christendom.  I think we can agree that the amount of such intolerance will vary among faiths, and that we should expect to see more tolerance from Unitarians and moderate Protestants than we do from Mormons or Catholics, but this only supports my argument that Mormons are an unexceptional variety of American Christianity.  I will grant you that they among the less theistically moderate faiths we will find and that we should expect to find them appropriately placed along the continuum of apostate tolerance by virtue of that, but again, all of this bolsters my argument. 

If the criticism against Mormons was that they are too fundamentalist, you would get no objection from me.  Instead, it has been that they are less rational even than that; and I see only irrational out group hatred as an explanation for that attack.

 


Here we are trying to make sense out of non-sense.
All religion is crazy.
We can observe…......but never grasp what’s really going on.
The attempt to understand minds engulfed in magical thinking and consensus delusion is like herding bats.

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Posted: 13 September 2012 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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I think the newer the religion, the crazier.  For instance, I understand why religion was created, especially in the stone age.  Based on truly limited knowledge, it is logical to look up to the sun as the center of creation or life.  After the age of science and reason, any supernatural, crackpot belief or religion is just ridiculous and an insult to man’s capacity to reason.  So, to me, mormonism is wackier than the three traditional wack-job religions.  New age stuff is even nuttier than mormonism to me because its really new, made up stuff.  Does that make sense?  After ancient religions and advanced science, this nonsense should just stop.

[ Edited: 13 September 2012 11:32 AM by mormovies]
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Posted: 13 September 2012 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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mormovies - 13 September 2012 11:13 AM

I think the newer the religion, the crazier.

I think your logic may be flawed on this assertion.  No one rationally adopts their religion, they accept if from their social environment on faith.  Therefore, I think you are right to fault a person who drops their existing religion in favor some other one (and that does describe many Mormons if we are to believe their assertions on their conversion rate) but as long as you are accepting the tradition that was handed down to you by your parents, I simply can’t see where we can allow for the weight of this historical tradition.


As a person who received a thorough religious indoctrination as a child, I can assure you that the Mormons begin at Genesis just like everybody else.  As a skeptic looking inward, Joseph Smith certainly has less credibilty than Mohammed or Jesus or Moses, but as a child learning ‘history’ you are at the mercy of your instructors.  But we are really splitting hairs here, because the outside skeptic looking in has to do a lot of work to describe the differences in the historical probablities of these several religious stories.  They are are so laughably improbable, we’re just weighing grains of sand at this point. 

 

 

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Posted: 13 September 2012 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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“No one rationally adopts their religion, they accept if from their social environment on faith.”

This is just not true.  We can reject all, 100% of our culture if we wish to.  Yes, we are born into a specific culture (art, religion, hairstyles, music etc) but it’s not a genetic part of us.  It can feel like it but it isn’t.  We can reject easily or not so easily but it’s not like cutting off a limb.  I know from my own personal experience and others.  I knew a large family of Mormons and some of the kids stuck with it and other fell away and went the opposite direction.  Some people adopt religion in their old age.  Some reject it at a very young age.  I’m sure people who irrationally accept religion do a lot of other irrational things as well.  I’m sure some rational non-religious people do lots of irrational things in other parts of their life.  In 2012, you have to REALLY, REALLY WANT to belief in insane things like religion in the face of advanced science and technology and rampant, blood-thirsty religious fanaticism.  You MUST struggle and FIGHT OFF all impulses of reason, rationality and logic to truly believe in faith and a supernatural being.  I’m sorry, I have no sympathy or respect at this time in history for the religionists.  They cling to a dangerously stone age mentality because they are lazy and refuse to think for themselves.

[ Edited: 13 September 2012 01:28 PM by mormovies]
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Posted: 13 September 2012 02:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 12 September 2012 08:11 AM
Ice Monkey - 12 September 2012 04:50 AM
TheCoolinator - 11 September 2012 07:51 AM
Ice Monkey - 11 September 2012 02:03 AM

Family cohesion, as long as the rest of the family is Mormon.  Otherwise, forget it.

Point well taken.  Nevertheless, my argument stands unless you can name me a religion which is not equally guilty of that fault.

The Protestants in my family.

It’s not even close.

If you are going to make an assertion and found it upon an anecdote, I suggest you find a new signature for your forum profile. 

I could refute you with my own anecdotal evidence, but that is a waste of time.  Let us consider instead the polls Dr. Harris is fond of quoting in which we learn that a dominant majority of Americans are Christian and that almost none of them would support an atheist for President.  This is good evidence for a strong anti-apostate strain throughout American Christendom.  I think we can agree that the amount of such intolerance will vary among faiths, and that we should expect to see more tolerance from Unitarians and moderate Protestants than we do from Mormons or Catholics, but this only supports my argument that Mormons are an unexceptional variety of American Christianity.  I will grant you that they among the less theistically moderate faiths we will find and that we should expect to find them appropriately placed along the continuum of apostate tolerance by virtue of that, but again, all of this bolsters my argument. 

If the criticism against Mormons was that they are too fundamentalist, you would get no objection from me.  Instead, it has been that they are less rational even than that; and I see only irrational out group hatred as an explanation for that attack.

Well, that’s been my distinct experience.  YMMV.

I think that Mormonism appears even more moronic than other religions (no small feat!) because Mormons don’t have the excuse of “tradition” with which to defend their stupidity.

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What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.
~ Hitch

I prefer the full-on embrace of reality to the spiritual masturbation that is religion.
~ S.A. Ladoucier

I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people
~ M. Teresa, Fruitcake of Calcutta

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Posted: 13 September 2012 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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TheCoolinator - 13 September 2012 01:07 PM
mormovies - 13 September 2012 11:13 AM

I think the newer the religion, the crazier.

I think your logic may be flawed on this assertion.  No one rationally adopts their religion, they accept if from their social environment on faith.  Therefore, I think you are right to fault a person who drops their existing religion in favor some other one (and that does describe many Mormons if we are to believe their assertions on their conversion rate) but as long as you are accepting the tradition that was handed down to you by your parents, I simply can’t see where we can allow for the weight of this historical tradition.


As a person who received a thorough religious indoctrination as a child, I can assure you that the Mormons begin at Genesis just like everybody else.  As a skeptic looking inward, Joseph Smith certainly has less credibilty than Mohammed or Jesus or Moses, but as a child learning ‘history’ you are at the mercy of your instructors.  But we are really splitting hairs here, because the outside skeptic looking in has to do a lot of work to describe the differences in the historical probablities of these several religious stories.  They are are so laughably improbable, we’re just weighing grains of sand at this point. 

 

The Cooinator wrote:
“As a skeptic looking inward, Joseph Smith certainly has less credibilty than Mohammed or Jesus or Moses…...”

toombaru:
Actually if you are comparing goofy thought, Joseph Smith is far more credible.
There is a vast amount of evidence that indicates that he was actual person.
There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that Mohammed, Jesus or Moses ever lived.

 

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