10 December 2011

I don't understand anti-Mormon bigotry

As I follow the Romney candidacy and the endless parade of "anybody-but-Romney" candidates, I often puzzle over the deeply-felt and sometimes vicious bias against Mormons held by some Christians. 

I'm aware that anti-Mormon bias was expressed by Conan Doyle when he wrote "A Study in Scarlet," and this summer I did read The Mountain Meadows Massacre book, which details an incident that would have justified anti-Mormon sentiment a century ago, but why it persists nowadays I find a bit baffling.  I spent a decade in Kentucky, where snake-handlers were considered to be devout Christians - so why not Mormons?

James Fallows addressed the question in October:
The great majority of messages came from people who said: You're wrong, Mormons are an outright menace, and that's because they are Mormon. What they believe is either (a) dangerous in its essence, or (b) an indication of  deeper intellectual or character flaws in the candidate, because no sane person could believe the elements of the Mormon faith. Or (c) both...

The only thing I'll add for now is that while I am no fan of Mitt Romney's, I don't envy him having to deal with this sort of thing -- which of course is stronger in the Republican primary electorate than in the population as a whole. Most white people have an idea of what anti-black (or Latino or Asian) prejudice sounds like. Most goyim have an idea of what an anti-Semitic rant sounds like. But even having grown up in an area with lots of Mormons and had LDS friends all my life, I hadn't been fully exposed to the intensity of anti-Mormon views [example at the link]...
The most humorous comments I've heard were on the December 2 "Mel and Floyd" program broadcast on WORT radio. To paraphrase their banter, evangelical Christians hate Romney because he believes that when you die, you go to another planet and become a god.  But this is actually more moderate than that of some other Republican candidates... and perhaps more plausible, because at least we know there ARE other planets.

They asked the question:  If during a debate, Romney shakes hands with an anti-Romney, might that result in a huge explosion?


  1. The reason for the dislike is that doctrinally, Mormons deny the Deity of Christ. They teach that he was a man who became a god. Christianity (which is based on eye witness accounts of Jesus's own words) teaches that Jesus is God then became a man and there by rose from the dead because he is God. They claim to get their religion from a man who used magic glasses to translate golden tablets. They basically teach the lie that theserpent usedto deceive Eve into sin in the first place, that "ye shall be gods". Mormonism is therefor anti-Christian.

  2. As an atheist I find the morman beliefs are no stranger that any other religious beliefs, especially the evangelicals. What I do find more that strange is that seemingly moderately sane humans can believe this hokum.

  3. Don't know if Anonymous (first one)is correct or not. Waiting for a Mormon to weigh in) I do know that I roomed with a friend who was Mormon for a few months and we used to discuss theology. He told me that the core belief of LDS was Pantheistic. John 10:34 can be used to support that.

  4. Living in Salt Lake, I have nothing personally against Mormons, as a group or individually. But when they get into running a government, they fundamentally have trouble with the idea of separation of church and state. Their church connections are all about preferment for those of their own faith. I have the same difficulty with an LDS president as I would with a Catholic one (I grew up Catholic) or an evangelical Christian - extreme beliefs inconsistent with a strictly secular government.

  5. Perhaps Mormonism provides Christians an uncomfortable opportunity to question the provenance of their own religion. If one religion is so obviously pulled straight from someone's ass, what does that say about their own?

    Religion equals fairy tales plus time.

  6. Sorry Anonymous #1, but we believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, not a man who became God. We do believe, however, that as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become. After all, the righteous "will gain all their father hath." This is, I believe, the source of your confusion.

    I don't want to hijack Minnesotastan's comments for religious discussion, so feel free to talk to your local missionaries, or head over to mormon.org for more information.

  7. "Christianity (which is based on eye witness accounts of Jesus's own words) teaches that Jesus is God then became a man and there by rose from the dead because he is God."

    Because eyewitness accounts are completely infallible....


  8. If during a debate, Romney shakes hands with an anti-Romney, might that result in a huge explosion?

    Heh. I'm surprised he hasn't exploded already, considering how many times he's contradicted himself...

  9. Very entertaining book about Mormons is "Under the Banner of Heaven" by John Krakauer.

    It's a well-documented religion from its inception as a cult to a full-blown religion.
    What I love is that the treatment Romney and Huntsman are receiving as presidential candidates shoves the bigotry, hypocrisy and shallowness of the republican electorate right into everybody's faces.
    Seems to me the Mormons should switch to the Democratic party.

    I grew up as an atheist, then converted over to NOTHING after revelation(nothing first, science second). As a child, the mormons, baptists and catholics I knew thought nothing of telling me I was going to "burn in hell forever". Luckily I heard them telling each other the same thing, so it was easy to spot as some sort of brainwashing fear tactic.
    What I like about religions is that they hold each other somewhat in check, allowing people like me, with a bit of luck, to live without being subjected to some sort of inquisition.

  10. I've never run int a Mormon (even the backsliding Mormons who woke up and smelled the coffee one morning) who weren't the nicest, friendliest, hardest working, tea-totaling, best citizens you can ever imagine. I think people stay in that faith for the same reason anyone stays with anything - it works for them and Mormons are probably much better adjusted than non-Mormons - look up Mormon food kitchens, for example. Plus, compared to the Jehova's Witnesses, their religion looks pretty reasonable.

    Having said that, Romney's religion is a deal killer for me.

  11. I am an active and believing Mormon who works quite a bit with anti-mormons. I recently made a blog entry on the three differences between so-called traditional Christianity and the LDS belief in Christ. The three differences are basicly that God is our Father, that you must have authority to act in Gods name, and that revelation by way of the Holy Ghost still exists. Link: http://mormonexpression.com/blogs/2011/11/27/the-mormon-christ/

  12. My theory is that they mock the Mormons as being "out there" or "nonsense" or whatever because the "nonsense" of Mormonism (talking snakes, gold discs) is not all that different than the "nonsense" of the Bible (burning bushes, stone tablets) and by ridiculing the Mormons it makes them feel more secure about their own faith.

  13. To counter what N.Normal added, the anti-mormon bigotry I've encountered has come solely from so-called "progressives". It's usually based around the idea that mormonism = polygamy = subjugation of women. Each of those steps is huge logical leap, however.

    I actually empathize with Romney and mormon politicians; they're probably one of the few subgroups that experiences serious bigotry from both sides of the aisle. Are there any others?

    As an agnostic, I don't begrudge anyone their personal belief systems, whether it revolves around religion, spirituality, or politics.

  14. I agree with Bub, that Mormons are the nicest people you ever want to know. But their religion is batshit crazy (as they all are, to me at least) and if they're experiencing prejudice, perhaps it's karma. (Not that I believe in that, either.) Mormons, up until the late 1970's, believed that black skin was the mark of the devil. And they recently fought hard to overturn marriage equality in California. So when you're bigoted against blacks and gays, maybe you have to expect that other people will be bigoted against you.

  15. What I don't understand is that an active Mormon, Harry Reid, ascends to the majority leader of the Senate without the slightest agonizing by the media. And, despite the fact that Harry Reid is Democrat and seems to possess rather strong liberal/progressive credentials folks like N. Normal make comments that imply that Mormons are all Republicans. This makes me wonder if all the kerfuffle about Romney's religion is simply a ploy to damage a candidate.

  16. I used to date an evangelical, and I went to some of their services. Basically, we were told that Mormonism was a cult invented by Joseph Smith in order to allow him to marry his mistress. Plus, we were told they preach that their man think that they will a god after death, which conflicts with monotheism.

    As a left-leaning Christian, I still have conflicted feelings about them, in spite of my best efforts. As the South Park parody suggests, they really are the nicest people.

  17. J. Brian, that's interesting about Reid - I hadn't even known it. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:

    "Reid (who was raised agnostic) and his wife (who was born to Jewish immigrant parents and grew up in Henderson), converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon or LDS Church) while he was a college student. In a 2001 interview he said, "I think it is much easier to be a good member of the Church and a Democrat than a good member of the Church and a Republican." He went on to say that the Democrats' emphasis on helping others, as opposed to what he considers Republican dogma to the contrary, is the reason he's a Democrat. He delivered a speech at Brigham Young University to about 20,000 students on October 9, 2007, in which he expressed his opinion that Democratic values mirror Mormon values. Several Republican Mormons in Utah have contested his faith because of his politics, such as his statements that the church's backing of California's Proposition 8 wasted resources."

  18. Similar to what some have said, I'm of the theory that Christians demonize Mormons precisely because the two belief systems are so similar. More distant religions (Islam, for instance) can be summarily dismissed as the work of the devil and there's no point ever discussing the details.

    But mormonism is so close to mainstream xianity that christians really feel the need to make the distinction clear-cut. This involves critiquing the details ferociously and splitting hairs infinitesimally small. ("Jesus became a God? How ridiculous! Obviously, Jesus WAS God, and that makes total sense.")

    (Similar to the fundamentalist obsession with Catholicism.)

    From an outsider (atheist) POV, Mormonism is clearly an idiosyncratic American offshoot of Christianity that just had the poor fortune of having its entire evolution documented. I don't think it's any weirder than mainstream Christianity, or any other religion, just newer. Kind of neat to see a major religion in its infancy. If it grows, eventually it will have the political power to suppress embarrassing details, and the march of time will make stuff like "he read magic stones with magic glasses" sound as profound as the crazy magic stuff in the OT.

  19. While we're here, I hope everyone has heard the Book of Mormon musical soundtrack. It's more respectful of Mormonism and faith in general than you would guess.


  20. Any faith will hate a new offshoot. Divide a faith, divide the faithful, divide the power for those at the top.

    I don't hate any faith; I just can't believe anybody could believe what they do. Mormonism stands out to us mostly due to unfamiliarity. We're left scratching our heads— "Kolob? Really?" Sounds about as probable as Xenu and the volcano. But tease out the talking snakes and risen dead of more familiar faiths and they don't stand up to scrutiny so well, either.

  21. Bub - Romney, and other practising Mormons can't be expected to wake up and smell the coffee, as coffee, tea and alcohol is forbidden in Mormonism.

    There is a saying, that people vote for the guy they want to go have a beer with. I guess this means Romney might be able to get the "milk for breakfast" vote.

  22. Most likely it's because, for those who know about Mormonism in some detail, it's clear that it's a separate religion, not just a variant of Christianity. Concepts like "as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become", God living on a physical planet, ancient Hebrews living in North America, etc. are not any crazier than orthodox Christian ideas, but they're sufficiently alien to orthodox Christianity as to demand that Mormonism be classified as a separate religion (more alien than Islamic doctrine is, really). And the thought of a non-Christian becoming President gives fundamentalists the willies.

    I can't say I much care. Mormonism has done so much to promote anti-gay bigotry that it's fine with me if they get a dose of their own medicine. I do hope it will wake them up out of their loyalty to the Republican party, though.

  23. Well, it could be because he is perceived as a RINO and because evangelicals detest Mormonism.

    Maybe the reason Harry Reid gets a break is because evangelicals despise liberalism worse than they despise heresy. Which is interesting, if it is true.

  24. i will ask you to watch 8: The Mormon Proposition http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1484522/ to know why so many hate the morons...

  25. The problem mormonism has is that it is just like when your coworker ascends to management: You know too much about his beginnings to take him seriously. Like all religions, if you were raised KNOWING the truth because your loving family fed you the same dogfood they were raised on your ready to fight for what you know...
    Here is my perspective:
    - I am a straight white male, described as 'news anchor' material in appearance(clean cut, etc.) this sets my perspective:
    - had no qualms with Mormonism in California (I was agnostic at the time and figured what ever helps you cope with mortality is none of my business)
    - married into a mormon family and later moved to SLC. My wife's mother is/was the 'black sheep' but acceptance and love by her kin was observed and had made an impression on me (this went South later when we stood up for Prop 8).
    - ANY good deed I did(ex. roadside assistance) was percieved as either a. me being mormon or b.god manipulating a heathen to help his sheep. Glad to be of service?
    - quickly learned that 'Utah mormons' and mormons outside Utah are completely different. How I DRESSED would cause me to be treated as an insider or outsider. Example - during the summer I would wear shorts and a tank top (think clean cut military look) - a tank top clearly announces that you are not mormon because you are not wearing the magic underwear. Doors will be held open for the person in front of you, then eyes meet, door is released in your face. If you do not have a Deseret News mailbox, your residence is clearly marked as a nonbeliever: Expect visitors often and strange interactions with neigbors whose households make 100+ a year but are dirt poor because of their 5 children (who you are not allowed to talk to).
    - Expect to be measured by how many children you have (we have none).
    - the church RUNS SLC. From selling a full city block of Main St to the church for a measely 12 million, and I am saying THE STREET, which runs the entire length of the valley, was shut down forever more, diverting traffic both physically and psychologically around the church, you can not go to the capital on main or view the valley from the capital without noticing this. (Side note, there is a huge cross on the lawn that you can see for yourself from google maps - well played)
    - hypocracy. Every so often is a conference (big meeting with many out of town mormons) and thoughout that weekend, the clubs are FILLED with drinking, partying, and promiscous activities both straight and gay.
    - add to that baptism by proxy, the explanation of dark skinned people (a curse?), and the final straw, polital activities to block prop 8. I was done. We moved to Texas where there was less open racism (sadly, by only a small margin, but it is worth noting).

  26. Another reason certain groups IN power are having a cow is that they have thrown out the constitution in order to do THEIR bidding. The idea that an outsider might have access to these new powers sans checks and balances scares the crap out of 'THEM'.

  27. Just a quick reply to Anon #1.

    We have no eye witness accounts of Jesus's words. What we have are copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of documents that were mostly written when any eye witnesses to Jesus's life would have been at best old and grey (Mark written about 40 years after the crucifixion) or more likely certainly dead (John written more like 70 years after the crucifixion).

  28. Religion is something no one in their right mind would believe.
    - Archie Bunker

  29. What's underneath the magic Mormon underwear? - Exposed http://www.squidoo.com/mormon-church

  30. "I actually empathize with Romney and mormon politicians; they're probably one of the few subgroups that experiences serious bigotry from both sides of the aisle. Are there any others?"

    Um, atheists?

  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. you think Mormons are different.... just look at the diversity of comments here.

    Intolerance, however is unAmerican...it doesn't matter if its from Republicans on Mormons or Mormons on Gays or Evangelicans on Atheists or Atheists on Christians.

    Look for character, kindness, and reverence. If our belief system does not engender basic compassion and forgiveness then what is it to be human?

    Some rely on faith. Other on the intellect. Others yet the soul, the heart and the still small voice. It all comes from the same source...life.

    Institutions make grave mistakes just as individuals act with greed and guile. We all have our own moments of humanity...good and bad. We have little right to judge others.

  33. WE,the living, have every right to judge others AND to seek justice that we can witness in our lifetimes.
    You see, religeon is a tool to pacify the unhappy:
    "Suffer for your master(s) today and you will be rewarded 10 fold in the next life"
    "Tolerate oppression, seek not revenge as the transgrssor will surely be punished 10 fold later"
    "keep repeating this list of rules and love letters we have provided until it is real to you"
    Dark ages.

  34. Wow! Great videos- entertaining, and educational! Gotta give it to ol' JS- he took a 2,000 yr old cult, added to it whole cloth, and made himself a whole new hierarchical power base.

    Had he lived 150 yrs later he could've wrote The Watchmen!

  35. @Minnesotan: Perhaps this will explain it.

    "A heretic is someone who believes what you do...almost."
    I forget who said it, but it is spot on.

  36. This is a political office we are considering. Does anyone else recall the uproar over Kennedy (a CATHOLIC) running for president? It turned out to be a big to-do about nothing.

    A candidate's religion might affect how they govern, but only if they do not subscribe to the constitutional separation of church and state. We have to look at his political service in the past and see if he governs with his entire constituency and their freedom of religion in mind.

  37. I was in high school, and old enough to appreciate the furor over Kennedy - though I didn't understand what the big deal was.

    OTOH, I was in a family where my Lutheran Norwegian grandfather had been totally outraged that my aunt had married a Lutheran Swede.

    It takes generations for old biases to fade.

  38. despite the fact that Harry Reid is Democrat and seems to possess rather strong liberal/progressive credentials

    Ha ha, as a progressive this made laugh. What exactly are Reid's "progressive" bona fides?

    Also, as somebody who left religion a long time ago it's sad/amusing to see people arguing that their brand of myth is more authentic than some other brand, no matter what that brand may be...

  39. Anonymous (December 11, 2011 1:21 PM) summed things up well - live in SLC for a few years and you, too, will likely have some strong feelings about Mormons.

    Beyond being cliquish, dabbling in the occult, and attempting to rewrite history wherever it suits the church, the more fanatical Mormons aspire to establish a theocracy called "Zion" - given how much hypocrisy exists within the church, that's a truly frightening prospect.

    ... could go on at length about why people should hate the idea of a Mormon president, but if you do a little research (some verifiable matters of public record linked above) you'll figure it out.

    Born, raised, and - thankfully - no longer Mormon.

  40. "This is a political office we are considering. Does anyone else recall the uproar over Kennedy (a CATHOLIC) running for president? It turned out to be a big to-do about nothing. "

    Yes, mostly because Kennedy wasn't a believer - made a remark that because he was labelled 'Catholic' now he'd have to go to church every Sunday if he wanted to get re-elected.

    Mormons don't just believe in their tenets, they have a sort of faith police that come around to your home if you're not toeing the line properly. Your kids don't come to enough services? They come calling. You didn't contribute 10% of your income? They come calling. They tell you how much they want you to donate to whatever cause the church thinks is good.

    I don't want to elect anyone who is so in favor of eliminating the civil rights of a large segment of society - women's right to choose, and gays' right to marry.

  41. The 'Fire insurance' folks trolling the hospices and there was the lore of Angels of somesuch that was brought up now and again (but noone discounted).
    Then there were the old bittys copying down the license plates at the state line (because SOMEONE needs to know whose Utah plates are buying alcohol or gambling or spending the night in a seedy hotel).
    But mormons are not alone in these rediculous things.


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