Thursday, December 13, 2007

Can We Please Get Past This Religion Test?

The link on the title post takes you to an article on the Huffington Post written by Ryan Davis. In this, he castigates another Huffington Post writer, Jason Linkins, for writing a criticism of another writer who posts on The Huffington Post, Lawrence O'Donnell, who may be better known to you as a sometimes character actor (Big Love, West Wing), sometimes producer (West Wing), sometimes political pundit (McLaughlin Group, MSNBC) for "losing his ever loving mind" about Mormonism.

The catalyst for the two articles was a passionate castigation of the Mormon faith by Mr. O'Donnell on the aforementioned show The McLaughlin Group, where he declared that Mitt Romney (the reason why Mormonism is now top of mind) should be held to task for a religion he proudly proclaims as his faith that until 1978 had declared black people unworthy of the faith because they were the decedents of Ham and Cain. Whew, what a mouthful, and also, what a pant load. Mr. O'Donnell was right regarding the views of the Mormon faith and the timeline of when a "divine revelation" was given to a Mormon elder that said it's OK for blacks to join the church.

Mormonism is also top of mind because one of the other devoutly religious presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee, made an off-hand comment that Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil were once brothers. This stirred up a hornet's nest of rebuttal, indignant statements that Mitt was being persecuted because of his faith, etc. etc. Huckabee is/was a Southern Baptist Minister (I don't know if you can ever stop being a minister once you've had the calling. How does that work? "Hey, God, I quit! or, Hey God, I need a sabbatical to run for public office, cause you know, the stress of this job is just too much). Anyway, I digress. Huckabee is also a very shrewd politician, and knows this plays well in Iowa and pretty much anywhere south of the Mason - Dixon Line. He's not making off-hand comments without a purpose. He knows, this will make a few of the "true-believers" stop and think about Mitt Romney and his crazy religious beliefs being in the White House. "Holy Smokes!", they'll say, "we can't have someone that nutso with their finger on the button. Let's vote for the other guy who believes in a virgin birth, a resurrection, and the idea that someone died for every one's sins, past, present and future, and if you just believe in him, when you die, you'll live forever". Yeah, that makes much more sense.

OK, I'm sure I've just pissed off every fundamentalist Christian and Mormon who bothers to read this blog (all 2 of them I'm sure). But, you know, I don't care. I'm tired of this nonsense. It's the 21st century A.D., not the 21st century B.C. If you want to be spiritual, and think there's something out there that binds us all together, and that we will be better people by maintain a belief in treating others as we want to be treated, then great. I'm all for it. However, the minute one of you (you know who you are) ask me to believe the hocus-pocus, you lose me. I don't need to believe that God made the earth in 7 days to think that there's some greater force out there. I don't need to believe that Moses talked to a burning bush to believe that people can be inspired to great things. You guys (same you guys again) try too hard. As a result, you miss the point. See if you can match the following "Wow, did that really happen?" to the person and the faith. If you know all of this, then you've either gotten very curious about religion overall, or are a religious studies scholar, or are a nut job. (Note: answers at the bottom of the post)

1. Man receives revelation from God in the Form of Golden Tablets. Has to sit separated by a curtain in a small house dictating the message to a friend to write it down otherwise the friend would be struck dead if he gazed on the tablets or the person dictating the message.

This is either:
A. Jesus - Christianity
B. Joseph Smith - Mormonism
C. Elijah - Judaism
D. Muhammad - Islam

2. Man strikes the River Jordan with his clothing, the water divides and he and a companion start to cross when a chariot picks him up and he ascends into heaven

This is either:
A. Jesus - Christianity
B. Joseph Smith - Mormonism
C. Elijah - Judaism
D. Muhammad - Islam

3. Man gets executed by the Romans, is taken to a tomb and three days later walks out of the tomb alive, spends some time with his friends, and then ascends into heaven.

This is either:
A. Jesus - Christianity
B. Joseph Smith - Mormonism
C. Elijah - Judaism
D. Muhammad - Islam

4. Man has a conversation with the Angel Gabriel, visits his church farthest away from home, tours heaven and hell, and speaks to Abraham, Moses and Jesus. He also ascends into heaven.

This is either:
A. Jesus - Christianity
B. Joseph Smith - Mormonism
C. Elijah - Judaism
D. Muhammad - Islam

OK, the point of this rant is that we need to "Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar's, and Render unto God that which is Gods". Or, in a less ecclesiastical form, separate church and state. The founders knew what the hell they were thinking when they created the establishment clause guaranteeing freedom of worship and freedom from worship. It's worked fairly well over the last couple of hundred years and I say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The evangelical movement of the late 1970's and early 1980's through groups like the Moral Majority have attempted to push theology into the public square for some time and have been remarkably successful in two ways. First, we have a "religious test" of national candidates. There is absolutely no way that any acknowledged atheist or agnostic would every seriously be considered for the office of the president. Additionally, I would find it remarkable if a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or even a Jew would be seriously considered for president.

Secondly, they have effectively turned a national debate on serious issues around health-care, security, education and charity into a religious argument. Don't think so? Then, please, by all means tell me that Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, the Moral Majority, Operation Rescue, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, are not political action groups. Anyone who takes issue with these people winds up on the ash-heap of political has-beens. Don't believe me? Then I give you one John McCain, war hero, pragmatist, conservative (fiscally), and Senator from the great state of Arizona. He was Barry Goldwater's legacy. In 2000, when Mr. McCain was running for president, he made the terrible mistake of castigating these fundamentalist groups (not Christians mind you, but the groups I've mentioned above) as "voices of intolerance". He was arguing that perhaps there was a better way to use their influence. Just to prove him wrong, they mounted a vicious campaign against him and helped fund a smear attack in South Carolina alleging he had an (gasp!) illegitimate black child. This, and the fact that his chief rival for the Republican nomination, that bastion of piety himself, George W. Bush, went out of his way (Bob Jones University kiss-ass) to declare himself a born-again Christian and help the offended groups chop McCain off at the knees. So much for John McCain the "straight talking pragmatist". Mr. McCain has been re-born as the fealty swearing, feet washing, oil anointing, holy roller that goes to Liberty University to give a commencement address and basically reinvents himself to align with the Christian Right.

Look, if you want to worship Jesus, Moses, Mohammad, or any of the other literally thousands of deities that human kind has at one time or another decided was the real God, then fine, be my guest. However, don't expect me or anyone else who is devoutly sceptical to line up with you when you tell me that only your God and the Presidential Candidate who worships him/her/it are the right choice. I'm not buying it.

Tell me what you think,

Regards,


Dennis


ps. the answers are (1b, 2c, 3a, 4d) If you got them all correct, please go see a movie or something.

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