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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Religions: People Will Believe Anything

Recently, I did a post on Scientology. This religion was founded by the science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard. Its teachings are bizarre yet they have a number of faithful followers including many Hollywood celebrities.

Mormonism seems a lot like science fiction as well. Yet, it has millions of followers including some otherwise intelligent people. When I lived in Arizona, I knew a number of Mormons who were intelligent people including lawyers, doctors, and other professionals. I wondered how could they believe the nonsense that their religion teaches. See below:

Many Evangelical Christians will mock the teachings of Mormonism and Scientology as ridiculous absurdities. However, one could make the case that Evangelical Christianity is also absurd.


  1. That was actually very interesting. Why is it banned by the Mormon Church?

    I have a friend who thinks he's a god and has connections with spirits or aliens in his dreams. At least that's what I think he's saying. It gets very confusing. Anyway, all the different religions seem to have a story that we're attracted to or born into.

    Then we're all trying to attain some kind of special status that happens after we die. So our life here is a test or something.

    I guess to a Mormon their story sounds plausible cause they've heard it since childhood. Same with Christians, etc.

    But back to the film-is the film portraying their beliefs incorrectly or what?

  2. Lynn,

    Mormon theology is like every other theology--its goes through changes. Most Mormons probably don't know some of the more ridiculous things there prophets taught. However, the prophet is supposed to speak for God, so it is part of their corpus of revelation.

  3. Rational Choice theory gives an interesting angle from which to view these seemingly nonsense bits of religion. IIRC, agreeing to go along with (X - something requiring at least the pretense of intellectual assent) is calculated in the cost of receiving the benefits a particular community provides. In a way this assent counts as an entrance fee into the club. If you value what the club provides you'll pay admission fee. Whether people actually believe X or whether X is True is not as important (in this theory) as people's commitment to X which stands in for the community from which "goods" are received. It weeds out the freeloaders, if you will, resulting in a stronger community, which in turn strengthens that community's ability to provide the "goods" etc.

  4. Quinoa, that's a fascinating way of viewing the weird-belief phenomenon. It does seem to be the case. With orthodox Christianity, the Trinity dogma may serve that function.

  5. South Park did the definitive satires on both of those religions, but on closer examination they're no more ridiculous than believing that an immortal god-man ritualistically sacrificed himself to himself to fulfill a covenant he created to free us from a curse he put on us, and if you believe it you'll live in paradise for eternity.

  6. Exmormon here!

    That cartoon, I believe, is made by an "anti-mormon" named Ed Decker in his movie, "The God Makers." The LDS Church hasn't banned it, but the video poster claims that many Mormons were successful in getting it banned on youtube - which doesn't sound true to me. However, in the Mormon church you are often counseled not to view any kind of "anti" mormon literature or videos. The God Makers is one of them.

    Mormon apologists will claim that the video isn't entirely accurate and they are right in some sense of the word. As a mormon, I never was taught that Elohim (the father of Jesus) had multiple wives. Also mormon apologists will claim that Elohim was once a mortal man isn't official doctrine. But most lay mormons actually do believe this.

    Also, I was never taught that the neutral pre-mortal spirits were cursed with black skin. However, you can find statements by past LDS authorities that say this.

    Again, the Adam-God theory was something that Brigham Young taught and pretty much all Mormons don't believe and many have never even heard of it. Apologists will claim that they just don't know what Brigham Young was talking about and that he was speaking "as a man" and not "as a prophet."

    Again, it's not taught in the Church (like sunday school) that Elohim had physical sex with Mary. However, you can find statements that make it seem like the Church has taught this. Again you'll often hear, "so and so was speaking as a man and not as a prophet."

    Again, I don't think it's official doctrine that Jesus was married but many, many Mormons would not object to this idea. Entering into the "New and Everlasting Covenant" (ie eternal marriage) is a pre-requisite to getting into the Celestial Kingdom (ie heaven). Orson Pratt was probably just conveniently speaking "as a man and not as a prophet/apostle."

    Of course, Mormons really do believe that Jesus visited a certain part of the american indians. But now after some DNA research, the Church now claims that only some american indians descended from israelites - that there were already american indians on the continent when the Book of Mormon people already arrived in 600 BC. Thus, the interbreeding could have happened and the gene pool got all conveniently messed up. Google: "book of mormon change principal ancestors"

    Another thing, I don't remember being taught that polygamy will absolutely be practiced by everyone in the celestial kingdom. However, you can find statements from authorities like I've said earlier...

    The only thing that I can see that's outright untrue is when the cartoon claims Joseph Smith did more for mankind including Jesus. This isn't true. Mormons don't claim this. In the D&C, it says that Joseph Smith did more for mankind than any other man except for Jesus.

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  9. Chris,

    Thanks for the insight. Of course Mormon theology has evolved as all theologies do. In 1978, when they decided to allow blacks into the priesthood, the notion of blacks being cursed was either revised or just no longer talked about. With regards to polygamy, my understanding, and correct me if I am wrong, is that spiritual unions still take place with multiple wives in the temple. These people do not live together as man and wife but they are spiritually married. I have heard this is because on judgment day, the husband must call his wife up from the grave or else she stays in the grave.

  10. Yes indeed Mormonism has evolved. What's interesting though is that some of the ideas are vehemently proclaimed to be "unofficial" doctrine by "professional" Mormon apologists. But if you ask most lay-mormons, usually they would agree with the doctrine - for example the idea that God was once a man (but probably a Savior/Christ).

    Polygamy still occurs but only if the previous wife has died. You can be sealed (ie married) to more than one woman but not at the same time while "on earth." Many older men will remarry in the temple (with another woman) after their wife has passed away. In the celestial kingdom, this man will have both women as his wives.

    The practice of polygamy stopped in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Many mormons will point to the manifesto of 1890 where the Church said it will stop practicing polygamy. But there actually was an additional decree in 1904 because some mormons were still horny.