Mormons in the Mythical Mainstream

The problematic “m” word in this week’s question is not “Mormonism” but “mainstream”: If you tell me where the mainstream … Continued

The problematic “m” word in this week’s question is not “Mormonism” but “mainstream”: If you tell me where the mainstream is, I’ll tell you if the Mormons are in it.

There are surely more people who call themselves Christians in America than there are anything else, but the spectrum of their far more than 57 different varieties is so diverse, and there are now so many other religions in America, that it is hard to be certain precisely where the Mormons fit in. All that most Americans know about Mormons is that the men have lots and lots of wives, which isn’t true; but then, what most people know about most religions, including their own, isn’t true.

Most people have a mental map of the religious landscape of America just as screwy as the map that Saul Steinberg constructed his famous view of the world looking West from Manhattan, with New Jersey and points beyond it an increasingly distorted brown blur; on this map, the Mormons occupy roughly the space that Steinberg allotted to, say, Utah. Peripheral people such as Jews, not to mention American Muslims, probably have a more realistic map in their heads than “mainstream” Christians have, for they are at least well aware that, whoever it is that occupies the Archimedean point from which the Steinberg snap-shot is taken, it’s not them.

For there really is no mainstream; there are just larger or smaller by-waters. And among those by-waters the Mormons might be grouped with the religions whom most Americans generally define, theologically speaking, as “those-people-who-knock-on-your-door-and-give-you-pamphlets,” or locate somewhere between the horse-drawn Amish and the covens of New-Age Pagans. Indeed, most people probably regard Mormons as closer to the imaginary epicenter of the unofficial ecclesiastical map than some of the even more exotic religions like Zen Buddhism or Tantrism.

So, on the one hand, Americans think that Mormons are a lot weirder than they really are, but, on the other hand, Americans have become more accepting of religions that they regard as weird (there’s a word for this: pluralism). But, alas, the two options posed by the question are hardly mutually exclusive: if Mormonism has in fact come to be regarded as a part of the mythical mainstream, that might make people all the more suspicious of it.

The history of religions has demonstrated time and time again that dominant religions that are disdainfully tolerant of small religious movements as long as they remain small become vengeful, jealous gods when the movements become fruitful and multiply. It’s more peaceful back in the by-waters.

Wendy Doniger
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  • John D the First

    Dr. Doniger, Thank you for the insightful piece.I think this is the most insightful piece here. “Mainstream” is a construction not a reality. Being perceived as “mainstream” or moving towards mainstream can make things worst for a movement. I never wanted to be considered mainstream as a Mormon, now I don’t even more.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Mormonism vs. Buddhism in relation to the mainstream:I think most Americans are more comfortable with Buddhism than with Mormonism and I’m not sure they regard Mormonism as being closer to the center of the mainstream than Buddhism. Certainly Mormonism is more problematic for “average Americans” than Buddhism.My take is that Americans view Buddhism as a solid, long-established, Eastern Religion, which has nothing to do with them, has no weird doctrines that they know of, seems peaceable and poses no political or other threat to anything they’re concerned with. Everyone likes the Dalai Lama as a wise, benign uncle.I think most Americans aren’t at all sure about Mormonism. They think it may have weird doctrines, demands 10% of your pay, is secretive, still has polygamy, and they wonder what golden plates in upstate New York in recent history have to do with anything.Americans’ uncertainty about Mormonism leads to suspicions that it may not be entirely up to good things. Mormons are also active politically, which Buddhists generally haven’t been in this country. Religion + politics arouses unease in many people. Americans don’t fear Buddhists politically. They’re not sure about the Mormons.

  • Roy

    The history of Mormonism, as the dominant religion in Utah, has been that of disdainfull intolerance of other religions. In the early days of Utah history, this intolerance manifested itself as violence like the Meadow Mountian Massacre and attacks on Catholic and Protestant clergy. In the latter days (pun intended) this intolerance has included mistreatment of gays and contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-gay political movements. Mormons are mainstream all right – mainstream right wing Christian extremists.

  • Bob D

    My personal definition of a religion is “a cult that has gained political power over time.”The Mormons definitely qualify by that standard. They are now powerful enough that professors feel compelled to avoid laughing at Mormon doctrines, practices and beliefs that, even by religious standards, are an absolute three-ring circus.Don’t get me wrong. I’m “tolerant” of Mormons. But that doesn’t stop me from regarding the religion as weird and foolish. Joseph Smith was a classic 19th Century con man who cobbled together his “Book of Mormon” from three prior history books, and the religion’s doctrines (such as they are) are outright laughable.These days very few people will say this because the Mormon church has become rich and therefore powerful. So we treat them as a religion on a plane with the Abrahamic faiths, Buddhism and Hinduism, and the ethical canons of Confucianism. And that’s just ridiculous, given that none of the Mormon claims stand up to even semi-serious scrutiny.It’s hard to pick out the weirdest Mormon claim, but I think of all of them the idea of Mormons as Christians is the most ridiculous. At best, they’re a heretic faction, and we’re not talking small heresy either. This isn’t, say, an issue of saints or icons or popes.Mormon theoology holds that Christ physically took a detour to North America — what is now the United States. And the nature of the relationship between God and man set forth by the Mormons is completely different than in Christianity, as is the nature of heaven.Calling Mormons a Christian denomination would be like calling the Scientologists a branch of the Southern Baptists. But no professor of religion wants to say any of that, because the Mormons have gained enough clout to prevent it.

  • Henry James

    John DBeing in Cambridge, I can tell you tht very few things are so Wacko that they can be considered out of the mainstream.BUT, Mormonism is NOT as strange as some people think.1. It is clearly a Christian religionTakes a few hundred years for people to get used to a new religion.

  • mr_blutarsky

    Christ visiting America and Indians were decendants of Jews were “mainstream” views in the 19th century? OK, so what about today? It’s not “mainstream” anymore, but apparently is still held as true to Mormons, correct?



  • Yockel

    I am sorry that you are upset, Marilyn. It is certainly true that there are many Mormons who are great neighbors. It is also true that many Mormons are fearful of outsiders and are only too ready to discriminate against people who do not share their faith.From personal observation, I can tell you that it is probably easier being Mormon in many European countries than being non-Mormon in Utah.I think Gordon Hinckley recognized that. One of the first events in the new Conference Center was dedicated to better relationships with our non-Mormon neighbors. If there would not be a problem, that would not have been necessary.With respect to persecution, I am concerned how we Mormons are treating religious dissent. It is certainly not a mainstream value to excommunicate historians, women’s and children’s rights activists. Yet in Mormonism that is routine.Roy also has a point about the treatment of homosexuals. LDS leaders are coordinating a nation wide effort to deprive gays and lesbians of their rights. I agree with you that such efforts hurt Mormons in terms of reputation and safety. One more reason to quit scapegoating gays.

  • L. Leopold

    The history of religions has demonstrated time and time again that dominant religions that are disdainfully tolerant of small religious movements as long as they remain small become vengeful, jealous gods when the movements become fruitful and multiply.Say what?

  • Lorna Boot

    Jake, A lot of negative opinions there without facts. Here is a fact about The “testimonies…that came straight from compatriots of…Smith” How do you account for the fact that these men who saw and handled the plates for themselves all left the church for one reason or another and NEVER recounted or denied this experience? and why wouldn’t they if it was a fabrication? David Whitmer even published a personal statement in his home town paper in 1881 to say that he had “never at any time denied that testimony, or any part thereof…as one of the three witnesses.” There was no reason for him to continue a purported lie, since he had left the church and never returned. He said that he saw and handled those plates till his dying day. None of the other witnesses ever recanted either…even after leaving the faith. WHY? Maybe they wouldn’t lie about what they had seen and experienced. Now those ARE historical facts….not opinions….nor religious bigotry.

  • Bill Kilpatrick

    Personally, I’m sick of the debate over whether Mormons are “in the mainstream.” To me, it’s not just the careless tossing around of something as vague and indefinite as “the mainstream.” It’s the very idea of arguing about whether some group fits within it. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this is the kind of conversation had when people are debating – within their own heads – whether to accept a group as neighbors or whether to continue ostracizing them.I vote with leaving the Mormons alone.

  • Anonymous

    Six Islamic militants from Yugoslavia and the Middle East were arrested on charges of plotting to attack the Fort Dix Army post and “kill as many soldiers as possible,” authorities said Tuesday.In conversations secretly recorded by an FBI informant over the past year, the men talked about killing in the name of Allah and attacking U.S. warships that might dock in Philadelphia, according an FBI criminal complaint….”It doesn’t matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away,” a suspect identified as Serdar Tatar said in another recorded conversation. “Or I die, it doesn’t matter. I’m doing it in the name of Allah.”Another suspect, Eljvir Duka, was recorded saying: “In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad.”…The FBI was tipped off in January 2006 when a shopkeeper alerted agents about a “disturbing” video he had been asked to copy onto a DVD, according to court documents. The video showed 10 men in their early 20s “shooting assault weapons at a firing range … while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great),” the complaint said…”If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented many of the detainees. “But when the government says ‘Islamic militants,’ it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous.””Don’t equate actions with religion,” he said. THE END AND WHAT A LAUGH

  • Kristyn M

    While I appreciate the comments by Bob D. that mormon theology is “ridiculous” I think the same can be said for most any religion. That is because faith is the opposite of facts. Is the story of Joseph Smith any more proposterous than that of Moses and the burning bush? Is the belief in additional scripture in our day any different than the “new law” brought about by the teachings of Christ in the New Testament? Faith is not facts–it is the act of believing in something not seen. Our church teaches that we must find out for ourselves if “Mormonism” is true. That is, we must pray, with a sincere heart and real intent to ask if it’s true. I’ve done that and received my answer and am grateful for that.

  • scientist1

    Lorna, it may be a historical fact that no “witnesses” recanted their stories, but that doesn’t make the golden plates a historical fact. And witnesses, of course, can be corrupted or intimidated. Of course, all religions have their mythologies.

  • Margaret

    So the mountain meadows massacre had nothing to do with the wagon train being one of the wealthiest to pass through Utah? And the Mormons didn’t try to blame the Indians? And the Mormons didn’t kidnap the children left alive, and keep the wealth of the dead? It would behoove the Mormon Church to be honest about the massacre … and maybe even apologize.

  • Brent

    Dear Bob D.

  • The Mormon

    It is very interesting that people will speak so strongly about a topic about which they know very little. Mormonism is open for investigation.Do your research before you discuss Mormons. Mormons do not like ignorance.

  • Henry James

    THE MORMONS tells usTO The Contrary:The Church Officially Endorses IgnoranceMany pronouncements by the general Authorities say that Historians shouldThat is, history that bolsters the faith of the members,AS OPPOSED to

  • Jake Means

    To The Mormon:”Mormonism is open for investigation”I encourage you to investigate. Take an unbiased look at non-Mormon sources of information in addition to Mormon Church sources. Take a look at the original writings of Joe Smith – not the ones that have been heavily edited by the church over its short lifespan. Take a look – a good hard look – at the life and actions of Joe Smith. You’ll find a complete fraud.

  • Burgone

    I think one’s faith and subsequent “truths” should be based on that which can only be pondered as in the timeless questions of existence and such like. Fantasy, like Winnie the Pooh, King Arthur, Moses and the Ten Commandments, Noah, the Bhagavad Gita, and all other pantheistic mythology are really attempts to point in that direction. The notion that faith makes things true or that faith can stand up as reality is quite modern and errant. Abide by what can be known for truth, and let faith lay the foundation of hope. I see mainstream religion as accepting the errant promotion of faith as truth. In this way Mormonism is the very essence of mainstream.

  • Jody

    The mormon religion is a cult it is not a religion. It was founded around 180 years ago by a boy with “visions.” This boy grew into a man with strong sexual desires, magic tricks and a desire to run his own nation. While Joseph Smith attempted to form his own town of Navoo-by forming his own political, economical, and social infrastructure he failed. He was a renegade, liar, thief, polygamist and had other Gods before him. Mormons will never be mythical or otherwise mainstream.

  • Secret

    I know four Mormons very well. One is a close friend. At least three of them appear to be good, decent people. The other may be something of a racist. One of them is an umpteenth generation Mormon, has a high position in the Mormon church, and is a closet atheist. The point, if there is one, is that society demands that people profess to have “faith.” If your family is from Utah, that faith best be Mormon. Not everyone actually believes it.

  • DaveB

    Jody, I fail to see any real distinction between the “visions” of Joseph Smith and those of Saul, a.k.a. Paul. Both are equally unbelievable and absurd to the unindoctrinated.

  • Jody


  • Jody

    Dave B,

  • Anonymous

    Hello Eclati-on’s. The “Light Bringer” is Come for You [US] to Usher in the “Healing Of Nations” & More peophecy will be revealed, But only for a Time Brother(s) Sister(s) et al. The LORD is NEAR!

  • Henry James

    Believing in God? What Does That MeanSecret tells an important secret.Many (most) people who say they believe in GodThey do what everyone else in their social/family circle does.Theologically speaking a great number have no idea why they are doing it or what kind of God they believe in.Statistic I saw was something like:

  • Heraclitus

    Paul/Saul’s Vision, and Joseph’sI had a Vision I know that I am right.Joseph Smith’s vision was at first actually a Dream. then it became something he said happened in a Grove.If so many people didn’t go along with him, we would all agree that he was either psychotic or a Treasure Hunter. If he was psychotic, he was a VERY highly functioning psychotic, so the odds are he was a Treasure Hunter. As people impolitely say, a Charlatan.Hey, I Just had a Vision myself. An Angel appeared to me and told me that Life is a River.What do you think? Do I have a religion?

  • DaveB

    Jake Means, explain to me why the Mormon stories are any less believable than the stories in the Christian bible. They are all utterly preposterous. People who were raised Mormon tend to believe the Mormon stories. People who were raised mainstream Christian believe the new testament stories.

  • Jake Means

    Brent, you seem to equate disagreement with “bigotry and intolerance”.Bob D. has a right to his opinions, is absolutely right in his assertions, and it doesn’t mean he is an intolerant bigot for speaking out. If you define anyone who disagrees with you as an intolerant bigot, you have effectively ended the debate.It is true that you can look at any religion and find accounts of unexplainable phenomena. But Mormonism is unique in that the events took place so recently and have been so thoroughly debunked. Joe Smith was a con man who claimed to interpret “modified Egyptian” golden tablets by looking at them through rocks in his hat (which was a treasure hunting con game of the era). The fabled tablets were seen only by him and no one else. The various attempts by Mormonism (personal testimonies) to verify anything Smith said come straight from compatriots of…Smith. The events described in his writings are so completely ridiculous (great civilizations in North America, domesticated elephants, battles between warring lost tribes of Israel) it’s hard to imagine anyone believing them. Then this same guy who pours out heaps of the above mentioned baloney is going to tell you all about Jesus and God? And give you a new revelation? You’ve got to be kidding.

  • Secret

    I have mixed feelings about coming out of the closet as a non-believer. If someone is stuck in Utah or Idaho for some reason, it is hard for me to criticize them for not making themselves into an outcast. One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh. [Robert Heinlein]

  • Henry James

    Right On DaveB, My Main ManAs a great fiction writer I should know.Mormon beliefs/stories are NOT any crazier and unbelievable than those of most other religions (Unitarian Stories are pretty realistic).Virgin Births. Parting REd Seas. Burning Bushes, Abduction by Aliens, oops, excuse me, Risen Saviors ascending up into heaven in the prescence of witnesses so we know it happened cuz the Bible tells us so.But everyone has a right to believe whatever the Dad-Blame Heck they want. And I respect all of those beliefs.

  • DaveB

    John Degel, why do you need to believe in ghosts and fables to give up alcohol, promiscuity, and all that? I quit drinking without resorting to superstition six years ago. I practice the golden rule. Very few “people of faith” do that.I can see how the Mormon community could lend moral support. My problem is that in order for them to do that, they require that you fool yourself into believing nonsense. I am frightened of slippery slopes.

  • DaveB

    Why thank you, Mr. James. I must say, you are particularly eloquent for someone who has been dead for 81 years. Keep the flattery coming.

  • Jody

    Secret, DaveB, Henry James,Hercalitus,

  • DaveB

    Sure Jody, no problem. Here’s the Cliff Notes version: I believe religion is bunk. I live by the golden rule.

  • Jody

    DaveB,You undoubtly know that by making the comment that religion is bunk is going to make some sparks fly-correct?For someone who feels that way you appear to have done your share of theological study.

  • Patricia R. Sweeney

    Seems like most of these comments come from young people who are mystified by how someone who “believes” certain doctrines can be a good person or a good neighbor, etc. It’s finally dawned on me at the age of 68 that most followers of a religion have no idea what that religion “requires” in the way of belief & don’t care when you point out that certain of these required beliefs are irrational. Case in point, Harry Reid, now the Democratic leader of the Senate, says he & his wife chose Mormonism as their religion because they had noticed that the nicest, kindest people they knew were Mormons. He doesn’t say anything about the beliefs “required” to join the LDS church or whether any of them presented stumbling blocks. Nor does he state why it wasn’t possible to be a kind, decent person outside the framework of any religion–which surely it is (or I’m in trouble).

  • DaveB

    You are right. I am a young person. Only 60 years old.

  • DaveB

    Jody, whether sparks fly or not, it’s still bunk.

  • Jody


  • Jody


  • DaveB

    Jody asks, “Is it religion or God?” Is what religion or God? Bunk?In contemporary parlance, the two are synonymous: “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” There is an obsolete defintion: “scrupulous conformity.” Finally there is, “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” [Merriam Webster]So, ignoring the obsolete definition, the answer to your question is, “Either and both.”

  • Henry James

    JodyWith all due respect, my friend,you don’t know what you are talking about.Atheists like me are just as decent, honorable, kind, fair, and full of integrity as believers.Hundreds of scientific studies show this. Don’t just rely on what mommy taught you.Read a book. Moral Minds by Marc Hauser of Harvard.Come out of the dark ages and open your beautiful eyes that God gave you.Love

  • Jody

    DaveB-Let me mirror what you just wrote to see if I heard what you said.

  • DaveB

    Sorry Jody, I can’t figure out what you are saying in that last message. Here’s what I meant: Religion is bunk. God is bunk.

  • Jody


  • Jody


  • Henry James

    Jody Bright EyesYou are certainly as free to believe in God as I am free to NOT believe in her.Neither of us can prove the other wrong.I can, however, prove to you that atheists in general are just as moral as believers, and that morality is not at all dependent on Religion.Man’s Moral sensibility and reasoning and values evolved Millenia before Monotheism ever appeared on the earth.

  • DaveB

    I am a fellow. I can’t speak for Henry, him being dead and all.

  • Jody

    My Dear Henry,

  • DaveB

    Jody, can we at least agree that the object of a preposition takes the objective case?

  • Jody

    Dave B

  • DaveB

    Jody, I am not evading anything. I have no idea what you are asking me. You asked if Henry and I were fellow atheists. I made a joke, saying I am a fellow, but I could not speak for Henry. I am also an atheist.

  • Henry james

    Thanks Yockel for your Humanity and WisdomLike any religion, there are good things about Mormonism and things that are worthy of criticism.I admire you for being able to both admire and advocate for change and justice. Over and over again.

  • Anonymous

    HJ,I’m curious of your argument. Can you elaborate a little more on this statement:”Man’s Moral sensibility and reasoning and values evolved Millenia before Monotheism ever appeared on the earth.”As someone who believes that God created the Earth and man, I believe that monotheism came before all things on earth through Adam and Eve. So given my point of view for you to work with, I am not implying your thesis is incorrect nor am I trying to invoke criticism, I am truly interested in your statement from your point of view.Thanks.

  • bot

    Mormons would have been extremely mainstream Christians during the First through Third Centuries:Could members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) be more “Christian” than Evangelicals or Catholics? . . Oral traditions of Jewish and early Christian temple worship and portions of the Apocrypha referred to “mysteries”:An early Christian Church has been re-constructed at the Israel Museum, and the above can be verified. A literal reading of the New Testament points to God and Jesus Christ being separate, divine beings, united in purpose. . To whom was Jesus praying in Gethsemane, and Who was speaking to Him and his apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration?The Nicene Creed”s definition of the Trinity was influenced by scribes translating the Greek manuscripts into Latin. The scribes embellished on a passage explaining the Trinity, which is the Catholic and Protestant belief that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The oldest versions of the epistle of 1 John, read: “There are three that bear witness: the Spirit, the water and the blood and these three are one.” Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) have concern for their ancestors” spiritual welfare, so they practice proxy baptism. (1 Corinthians 15:29 & Malachi 4:5-6). Only members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) continue these practices of First Century Christians. The Cross became popular in the Fifth Century A.D. But Mormons don”t term Catholics and Protestants “non-Christian”. The dictionary definition of a Christian is “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to a religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”:. All of the above denominations are followers of Christ, and consider him divine, and the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament.It”s important to understand the difference between Reformation and Restoration when we consider who might be the more authentic Christian. If members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) embrace early Christian theology, they are likely more “Christian” than their detractors.* * *

  • Henry James

    Anon: thanks for the question.Leaving aside the Adam and Eve story:There is anthropological and archeological evidence of human tribal groups going back thousands of years before the first appearance of a Monotheistic Religion (Judaism).All the evidence suggests that those groups were generally just as moral, and had essentially the same moral principles, as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.In fact many scientists’ research suggests that higher primates often have the same kind of moral behaviors and sanctions that human groups have.So, Morality predates Monotheism. We don’t need Montheistic teachings to be Moral. And current studies have consistently shown that Atheists (and polytheistic Hindus) are just as good at moral reasoning and behavior as Monotheists are.Sources for you: google “moral behavior religion atheism” and you’ll get Millions of hits.Google “Hauser Singer ethics” and you will get areally good article.Read a book called “The Science of Good and Evil”, and “Moral Minds” by Marc Hauser of Harvard.Hauser believes we have innate Moral reasoning abilities in the same way we have innate ability to learn languages. That it evolved.

  • Betty

    RoyI think your analysis/conclusion is exactly correct, and your statistics show the absurdity of Evangelicals saying they are More Christian than Mormons or anyone else, except perhaps Ax Murderers.Thanks. Smart post.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks HJ for the explanation. I will look into those books. For the time being, I am still confused at the comment of “evidence of human tribal groups going back thousands of years before the first appearance of a Monotheistic Religion (Judaism).”I guess what I am trying to ask is this. (I appreciate your patience with me as I’m not as eloquent as others with words) What are these researchers considering the first appearance of a Monotheistic Religion? What timeframe and artifacts are they referring to?

  • HJ

    AnonOf the 3 major monotheistic religions, Judaism is of course the first.again: google “monotheistic religion origin history”also Morality without REligion

  • daveescaped

    Yockel:You said, “Roy also has a point about the treatment of homosexuals. LDS leaders are coordinating a nation wide effort to deprive gays and lesbians of their rights.”Mormons have no interest in taking rights away from Gays. What right do Gays currently have that Mormons are trying to take away? We are against giving rights to Gays such as marriage and non-spousal benefits. These would be new rights. I have no interest in extending these rights to Gays. But I am perfectluy happy to allow them any and all rights they currently have. As I would assume others are willing to allow me my rights.

  • daveescaped

    This is indeed a good article. As a Mormon I can’t exactly say where I feel more comfortable, being called “mainstream”, or “outside-of-the mainstream”. Outside of it you are special but weird, inside you are normal but not special. What I find a more interesting distiction, is that to many social-liberal/seculars, I am absolutely part of mainstream christianity and as a result suspect. To many social-conservative-/evangelicals I am not Christian and as a result suspect. If I need a tennis partner, my only choice is a social-moderate-agnostic. As much as evangelicals want to be the keepers of the term Christianity, I think that ship has sailed. As a follower of Christ, I think my self-definition will prove more robust to the many in this country who don’t distinguish a difference.

  • Jody

    Hi Henry James,

  • Jody

    DaveB, Okay! Perhaps we can continue our discussion tomorrow.

  • Henry James`

    Hi JodyHow would we test the Hypothesis you posit:”Religion helps to provide or maintain a honorable, respectful,decent and even fair society”My counter Hypothesis isWe can look at this on two levels:if you Google “atheism moral behavior” you will get about a million references, beyond Hauser, though he and the prominent ethicist Peter Singer have done some important work on this (add Singer to your Google).The SOCIETAL level: a recent article by G Paul in the Journal of Religion and Society (google it) has gotten lots of notice lately.His conclusion: not only is there NO Evidence that societies with High Religiousity (belief and church attendance) are more decent than Atheistic Godless societies, the evidence points to the opposite conclusion, though we are far from causality in these early investigations.

  • silvrwlf

    Hi, Jody. I just wanted to touch on something with you. You keep saying that religion is necessary for society, yet you say at the bottom of your last post that the society must follow the SAME religion to be strong and if it follows many it will be weak. But the problem is, in a society that is forced to follow only one religion, the society isn’t decent or fair. I don’t think there will ever be a time when EVERYONE finds the same path to truth, so – according to your claims – there will never be a strong society because those bonds can’t be made. So, making religion actually the stumbling block to a unified society.I agree with what others have said, morality and right and wrong are not inventions of monotheists. I don’t believe that religion is a stumbling block of society, I believe that people’s insistance that their way is the RIGHT way is the stumbling block of society. Until we can stop looking at our differences (religion, color, creed, sexuality, whatever) and see our similarities, we won’t have a strong society.Don’t mistake me, I have faith in the Divine and have found a path that fulfills me – I am a Pagan. But I don’t put my faith as the reason that I’m a good person. In fact, I have found that when faith and belief are left out of the equation, you find connections and bonds to people much more easily. I have friends who are Christians, Hindus, Athiest, and all manner of Pagans and we get along and have deep bonds that have absolutely nothing to do with what god (or goddess) we do or don’t worship.

  • Dreamweaver

    I lived in Salt Lake City for five years. I can honestly say that I saw more of an open religious diversity than I have in many other parts of the country. I lived in a neighborhood where within a small distance there was a Muslim meeting house (I don’t think it qualified as a full-blown mosque, but I might be wrong), a Buddhist temple, a Greek Orthodox church, a Catholic church, a Unitarian church, a Synagogue, the local Mormon church, and a community of openly practicing Pagans (myself included) who were treated well by the neighbors and were populous enough to support several shops and a couple coffeehouses without it putting a strain on our pocketbooks. We actually had rituals in public parks without being harrassed. When I was ill with meningitis and got behind on my bills, the local Mormon church gave us food and put us in touch with the government departments to get help with the rent until I could work again. They never once proselytized to either me or my partner when we came to them for help, and they were always polite and friendly. I have seen far more intolerance of minority religions in other parts of the country than I did living in Salt Lake City. The dominant form of Christianity in the area where I lived for 12 years before moving to Chicagoland was very intolerant of minority religions, including Judaism, and being openly Pagan was not even something I thought of with anything other than a shudder. This was not a small town, this was a good sized city with a diverse ethnic population and a decent number of members of minority religions. There just seems to be this Christian idea of entitlement to being the only valid religion in an area, even when there are broad population groups who are not Christian. In this sense, I would say that Mormons are not Christian, though they certainly practiced Christian love and charity far more than I have ever seen from real Christians.

  • Steve

    The reason why mainstream Christians have a problem with Mormon is that they, Mormons, believe that they are going to become Gods…like Jesus. Jesus did not die on the cross for their sins, but to fulfil the laws of eternal progression where man can become God.Christian’s don’t believe in the planet Kolab, they don’t believe they are going to become God, they don’t believe that secret handshakes, secret names, special underware, or reading anti-church material, plays a roll in getting you into Heaven.Christian’s have no problem with Mormons. They do though, have a problem with a faith that lables themselves Christian, when their beliefs are by far…Christian.

  • Pete Jennings

    I speak as a UK based Pagan. To a certain extent, we Pagans are better accepted here now than many Mormons. I have a relative who was a Mormon, and she detailed how a local directory of Christian churches refused to make an entry for them, since they ‘did not believe they were actually Christians.’

  • Daniel

    Why do u believe in a false hope, when u should only believe in yourself and your capabilities??HEY GUYS LETS NOT FORGET THE MOUNTAIN MEADOW MASSACRE.

  • Anonymous

    As a Mormon how would you answer the question: “Why is there only one church?”

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