Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cute religion

When referring to religious beliefs, people generally use adjectives such as "ancient", "sacred", "profound", etc. To my mind, the fabulous American belief system known as Mormonism is simply cute. There's no better adjective to describe it. Compared to old religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Mormonism is cute in the same way that babies are cute, in the same way that this old Kodak poster is cute:

And here's a terribly cute video presentation of Mormonism that I found on the web:

I ignore the origins of this video. Was it really produced by the so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If so, they're dauntless folk. There's a French proverb: "Ridicule kills." What it means is that, once somebody has acquired a reputation as an object of ridicule, he's basically dead. It's almost impossible to recover his status as a person to be taken seriously. So, from that point of view, it could be said that the Mormons don't seem to fear death.

I've had two kinds of personal contacts with Mormons. Whenever I visited Jerusalem, back in the '80s and '90s, I invariably ran into small groups of cute Mormon girls from Utah, who were exceptionally friendly. Later, in Grenoble, LDS church members helped me enormously in my genealogical research by lending me precious microfilms of English census data. These days, I continue to use constantly their splendid Family Search website:

If ever a miracle were to occur and the voice of God were to boom out from the heavens above Gamone, informing me that it was time for me to choose a religion and pay up my church membership fees, I think I would become a Mormon. To borrow the language of Some Grey Bloke in my earlier article entitled Nasty stuff, should be censured [display], I like their options. I mean, those laid-back Utah spirit-chicks in Jerusalem were really angelic, in a cute way. Besides, at a deeper spiritual level, if you were to ask me to sum up my impressions of the fabulous theology of Mormonism in a single word, I would not hesitate in saying that it's truly... cute.

Clearly, if I'm going to spend Eternity in nice company, while pursuing my favorite hobby of computer-assisted family-history research, then the Mormons sound like the right people to get mixed up with.


  1. The video was not produced by the LDS Church. Nor is it "banned" by the LDS Church (as the YouTube captions often breathlessly proclaim). For the most part, the LDS Church ignores the video as an unfair caricature.

    The video is based on the book "The Godmakers" authored by one Ed Decker.

    Decker was once a Mormon who ran afoul of the LDS Church when she reported he was emotionally abusing her. He ended up being excommunicated and lives in a world of bitter paranoia - claiming that the Mormons are trying to have him assassinated and other odd little statements.

    He's made it a career to attack the LDS Church ever since.

  2. Dang. That should have read that Decker's wife reported he was abusing her. Ugly custody battle. The local LDS leadership sided with the wife.

    Ed didn't take it well at all.

  3. Thanks for the background information, which fits in well with what I would have imagined. On the other hand, I don't intend to explore this subject any further, because the fabulous beliefs of Mormonism (like those of Judaism, Catholicism, Islam and Creationism) are not one of my many preoccupations.

    Today, we have the fantastic chance of living at a time when brilliant researchers are exploring the macroscopic and microscopic cosmos with all kinds of software and hardware tools. In this splendid environment of intellectual quests of many kinds, it is debasing for humanity that many otherwise smart individuals devote their energy to fairy tales... even though this is preferable to warfare and other kinds of destruction.

  4. To which I can only say - spot on! I sometimes thing that there cannot be anything whackier than Scientolgy or Mormonism - but they are least as soundly based as other more conventional religions - probably more so - the rubbish they use as a basis for it all is more contemporary.

  5. Well, I would posit that scientific discovery is not incompatible with my religious beliefs, but rather that my religious beliefs encourage and motivate my quest for knowledge about the world from many different sources.

    I can only speak for myself, but in my case, I feel that being religious has made me more interested in secular knowledge, not less.

  6. The expression "secular knowledge" (which I like) could be used to designate various non-spiritual domains of religion that continue to interest me. Four quite separate examples spring to mind immediately:

    — Are we any closer to understanding, today, the curious Torah tale of the so-called Nephilim giants who were said to have fornicated with human females, causing them to give birth to children? Besides, what became of these children?

    — How has modern Judaism attempted to integrate the shattering archaeological findings of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman concerning the patriarchal epoch? [See The Bible Unearthed.]

    — How has modern Christianity attempted to integrate the gnostic writings of the Nag Hammadi scriptures and the Gospel of Judas? [See The Nag Hammadi Scriptures edited by Marvin Meyer.]

    — Is it thinkable that the primitive origins of the great Chartreux monastic movement (which started, in the 11th century, not far from where I live) might have been associated with the exploitation of Alpine metallurgical resources, of vital importance for the future Crusaders?

    Secular knowledge concerning questions of this kind is fascinating. But this has little to do with the fundamental scientific preoccupations to which I alluded in my previous comment. Religion can have no bearing upon science. Science, on the other hand, reveals inevitably that religion is an archaic belief system. Time and energy devoted to the alleged spiritual dimensions of religion are wasted for science.

  7. I don't know. Lots of things are worthwhile in life that aren't "hard science."

    Is poetry a waste of time? Music?

    Think of all the scientific discovery we could be making if people just stopped wasting resources on the arts.

  8. Many, many years ago I was passing through Salt Lake City with a friend and we stopped in to see the Tabernacle and surrounding sights. There was a booth with Lost and Found in large letters above it manned by a cute young man. And since we were young and female, we stopped by and, being clever, asked: So, are you lost or found? To which he replied, enthusiastically, "Oh, I'm definitely found!" We suppressed eye rolls and moved on, deciding he was much less cute. Maybe if I didn't live in the Bible Belt, I would find it all a little more cute.

  9. Pursuing my economics-based metaphor, I might say that an individual who invests in supernatural beliefs deprives himself of the possibility of enhancing his awareness of the natural world of science. They are mutually exclusive preoccupations. We can of course imagine an individual who professes his belief in angels and the devil on Sunday, and then spends the rest of the week as a researcher in genetics. To my mind, such a man is behaving incoherently, and this lack of harmony will end up causing his intellectual life to fall apart at the seams. In the case of artists and scientists, there is no comparable opposition. An artist can be an authentic scientist, and a scientist can be an inspired artist. In specific situations, the intensity of a scientific appreciation of certain phenomena can, however, be compared with the depth of a purely artistic approach. In his Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins compares a Newtonian explanation of rainbows to the efforts of poets in this domain. The final sentence of this beautiful little book evokes the Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats: A Keats and a Newton, listening to each other, might hear the galaxies sing. Advocates of the mysterious cosmological theory of strings often call upon musical metaphors in an attempt to get their messages across. But it is most unlikely that such a string theorist and the pope, say, listening to each other, would ever detect in common any music from the Cosmos.

  10. @kbxmas: Kristin, you missed out on an excellent opportunity of telling your Salt Lake Citizen to get lost!

  11. Well, I don't really see much of a conflict.

    I feel that religion and science are basically non-overlapping magisteria. And there is no reason that either needs to get in the way of the other.

    I mean, I'm not a Young-Earth Creationist or anything.

    That brand of religion definitely does seem to be locking horns with science. But I don't feel like the brand of religion I practice does at all.

  12. It seems you've gotten me all worked up on the topic of Mormons and religious inanity and I've gone and written a post on it myself. I put a link back to your site so others will know who's to blame. Thanks for the fodder!