I spotted this article in the Deseret news which referenced Mormonvoices.org’s article naming 2011’s “Top” Anti-Mormon statements. I will quote the entire list and explanation here because the original does not allow for comments.
1. “By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion.” Bill Maher, October 15, 2011, George Washington University, as reported by Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, October 18, 2011.
2. “[Mormonism is] one of the most egregious groups operating on American soil.” Christopher Hitchens, Slate, October 17, 2011.
3. “The theology comes across as totally barmy. We can become gods with our own planets! And the practices strike me as creepy. No coffee and tea is bad enough. But the underwear!” Michael Ruse, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 30, 2011.
4. “The current head of the Mormon Church, Thomas S. Monson, known to his followers as ‘prophet, seer and revelator,’ is indistinguishable from the secular plutocratic oligarchs who exercise power in our supposed democracy…” Harold Bloom, The New York Times, November 12, 2011.
5. “That is a mainstream view, that Mormonism is a cult…Every true, born again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” Robert Jeffress, Values Voter Summit, October 7, 2011.
6. “I believe a candidate who either by intent or effect promotes a false and dangerous religion is unfit to serve. Mitt Romney has said it is not his intent to promote Mormonism. Yet there can be little doubt that the effect of his candidacy—whether or not this is his intent—will be to promote Mormonism.” Warren Cole Smith, Patheos.com, May 24, 2011.
7. “Yes, it is my opinion that an indoctrinated Mormon should never be elected as President of the United States of America.” Tricia Erickson, CNN.com, July 7, 2011.
8. “Mormonism is not an orthodox Christian faith. It just is not…it’s very clear that the founding fathers did not intend to preserve automatically religious liberty for non-Christian faiths.” Bryan Fischer, Focal Point radio show, September 2011.
9. “Can you name the candidate that’s running for president that believes that if he’s a good person in his religion he will receive his own planet?…Would you vote for someone for president who believes in their religion, if he’s a good person, he’ll get his own planet?…Do you want to get your own planet?” Ben Ferguson, Fox 13 News, Memphis TN, July 6, 2011.
10. “The Christian coalition, I think [another candidate] could get a lot of money from that, because Romney, obviously, not being a Christian…” Ainsley Earhart, Fox and Friends, July 17, 2011.
Explanation and references for the items above:
2. This obvious hyperbole slanders 6 million American and 14 million worldwide Mormons.
3. Mormons believe in theosis, not in becoming “gods of their own planets.” Mormons who have been through the temple do wear sacred garments as a reminder of the covenants that they make with God.
4. Only a few Mormon leaders who serve full-time receive modest stipends; all other Mormon clergy are unpaid.
5. Mormonism is not a cult.
6. Calling Mormonism “dangerous” and Mormons “unfit to serve” is plainly false and bigoted. Responsible journalists have recognized that Mormons are thoroughly mainstream in their modes of living and ideas.
7. Mormons are no more “indoctrinated” than any adherent of any other mainstream system of belief.
8. Again, Mormons are Christian. The dangerous fallacy of Mr. Fischer’s legal argument speaks for itself.
9. Mormons believe in theosis, not the gods-of-planets fiction as discussed by Mr. Ferguson.
10. Again, Mormons are Christian.
Does anyone take issue with this list?
As far as Anti-Mormon statements go- I am not too worried about the statements by 1. Maher (bad comedy, not threatening) , 3. Michael Ruse (See Maher), 4. Bloom (an insightful academic view) , 7.Trickson’s, 8. Fischer’s (His legal argument is preposterous but his reasoning on Mormons is fine) or 10. Earhart’s. They don’t seem to really misrepresent the Church or spread unfounded fear or prejudice.
Overall, if these are the top 10 I think Mormons are doing pretty well in the PR battle.
I think that 1-3 and 5-9 are, indeed, anti-Mormon sentiments. I’m especially unsympathetic to people who make arguments to the effect of, “But Mormonism is so much crazier than other religions!” It really isn’t.
4 was part of a thoughtful scholarly critique, and the MormonVoices response is rather asinine. Are they going to post some statistics on whether or not Monson is one of the recipients of these “modest stipends” and how much these “modest stipends” amount to? No? Then what exactly have they refuted? I’m well aware that the folks at MV are unable to post such information because it hasn’t been made public, but that’s precisely why this argument is the rhetorical equivalent of shooting blanks and hoping to frighten someone with the mere sound of gunfire.
Re: 10, I don’t think that it’s inherently anti-Mormon for someone to regard Mormonism as non-Christian. One can make a pretty robust case to that extent and it’s a valid opinion to hold, even if it isn’t my own.
On the MormonVoices refutations list, #9 is just wrong and also somewhat misleading. Mormons do not and never have referred to their deification beliefs as “theosis.” To call it that conflates it with what the Eastern Orthodox church teaches and believes, when the two are in fact quite different. You don’t have to take my word for it though:
“I have addressed the issue of theosis (or I should say deification) in the last three chapters of vol. 3 of Exploring Mormon Thought. ‘Theosis’ is really a fairly technical term that ought to be reserved for the Eastern Orthodox theologians beginning about the 5th century.” – Blake Ostler, March 14, 2009.
Also, on the “planets” thing, the Achieving a Celestial Marriage manual talked about exalted Mormon men and women “creating worlds.” Saying “Mormons believe in becoming gods and getting their own planets” is a bit of a caricature, but it’s a caricature based on something that the church has actually taught. Contra MV, other Christians are not ridiculed for believing in theosis or other forms of deification because their beliefs in this regard have never included creating worlds in the same sense that God created ours.
I’m wondering if anyone outside of Mormonism is aware or interested in this list. Given that Christians (and perhaps Mormons) are currently being beaten, imprisoned and killed because of their faith, I’m not all that worked up over what amounts to a list of rhetorical jabs.
There’s a certain form of irony in calling out hyperbole while at the same time using those membership numbers.
Given that Christians (and perhaps Mormons) are currently being beaten, imprisoned and killed because of their faith, I’m not all that worked up over what amounts to a list of rhetorical jabs.
Good point, Tim. I don’t even think Christians pay much attention to anti-Christian sentiments in the media anymore.
BTW, no. Mormons don’t proselyte in countries where Christianity is illegal, so there are few (if any) Mormons being beaten, imprisoned, or killed because of their faith. The perils that LDS missionaries face are generally about the same as those faced by any tourist in those countries. They sometimes die due to things like muggings and car accidents. Not much else.
There’s a certain form of irony in calling out hyperbole while at the same time using those membership numbers.
I agree with the sentiment that this list is not all that worrying. I’m more worried that stupidity is allowed to parade as cleverness (e.g., Bill Maher) than any specific slight against Mormons.
That said, just because I don’t think the anti-Mormon comments are big deals, doesn’t mean that I think they’re okay. So while I can agree with Tim, what’s the point of making the comparison to beatings and murders? Somewhere that line of reasoning takes us away from any and all cares (including this very blog) that don’t involve protecting Christians from being murdered.
(But I did enjoy Tim’s irony comment!)
I also agree that some of the responses by MV are as bad as what they try to refute.
I’m not saying that we should stop caring about everything but Christian persecution. Just that if you’re going to claim persecution, talk about persecution.
Agreed that Mormon mishies don’t put themselves in as much danger today – as other Christians (for example). Still, if this is the worst of anti Mormonism for the year, I’ll take it (and our ancestors are currently rolling their eyes).
Also, even if the planet thing is taught on some level, its certainly not spoken of as a well developed teaching (you’ve heard this defense before of course). The point is that when attacking a religion(or anything really), for it to be a legit critique, it really needs to hit at the heart for me to respect it. If you’re aiming for fingers, you obviously don’t have much fire power.
The late Christopher Hitchens was particularly good at this hitting at the heart – comparing the idea that God knows us and is always watching us, to living in North Korea. Or the time that he said that loving your enemy is against our national security interests. I mostly disagreed with the man of course, but at least he was willing to swing at you where you’re strongest.
Tim: I don’t believe that the article mentioned persecution. Rather, the author wrote: “Religious bigotry is unacceptable. Statements which distort and belittle Mormon belief in order to marginalize Mormons are evidence of such bigotry.”
The whole “getting your own planet” thing is interesting. As a believing Mormon I find the caricature scriptural and limiting of our actual beliefs.
Excuse me, “un-scriptural”!
Uh, we do a great many things that are un-scriptural – right pwaldrop2?
Hi Jack. That’s true, but african americans pay a great deal of attention to anti-black sentiments expressed. Jews pay a great deal of attention to anti-semitism. Female voters pay a great of attention to sentiments hostile to women. In general the powerful don’t care what the less powerful think about them, but the less powerful are very focused on the powerful.
I don’t think there is any reason for Mormons not to focus on anti-Mormon sentiment. They believe that they should be accepted as essentially “just another evangelical church” while evangelicals have a more negative view. And this negative view does have practical impact.
For example I don’t think Jarod picked the context for the quote from Tricia Erickson. Let me pick a different one: For the first time in history, we could see a Mormon President at the helm. Do you have any idea what this possible next President believes? Why should his religious beliefs matter to you? This is NOT a Kennedy Catholic moment. Mitt Romney’s beliefs and convictions are so uncanny that you will most assuredly question his judgment to be in charge of the highest office in the land.
Hi CD-Host ~ Female voters pay a great of attention to sentiments hostile to women.
Actually, they don’t, and those of us who do get called “whiny,” “bitchy,” and smacked down quite a bit by the “I’m a woman and that didn’t bother me” crowd. But I agree that Jews and blacks tend to pay attention to anti-semitic and anti-black sentiments.
I don’t think it’s a power issue, per se; I think anti-Christian sentiment is just so darned common that we’ve become largely desensitized to it. Same with sexism. Mormons and Jews and blacks are all small enough groups (comparatively) that one can make a pretty good attempt at tracking anti behavior and calling it out. And I don’t have a problem with those groups doing just that.
Oh absolutely. Jews and blacks don’t have apologists for anti-semitism and racism in their ranks in large numbers. The closest analogies would be liberal / anti-war Jews not objecting to anti-Zionism that borders on anti-Semitism, and that group is marginal. Women buy into and support their own victimization far more. CBMW churches are still 60% female. If women told Wayne Grudem and co. to go pound sand the TNIV would be the most sexist bible floating around mainstream congregations.
Part of this I think is that conservative women are divided more on what exactly they want. So let me rephrase this and say liberal women. And just to give an example… Larry Summers is not Secretary of the Treasury even though he was Obama’s top choice, because NOW (and women more generally) objected to a few comments that they saw as sexist.
Finally, just to prove my power point let me give you some stuff that you probably relative indifferent too:
a) The high levels of anti-Americanism in the foreign press
b) Anti-white racist rhetoric.
d) Anti proselytization rhetoric from many asian groups.
e) Class envy towards college educated.
Just read the Bloom article:
He actually slams all American Christianity:
ouch…………but not bigotry.
This quote is actually should be considered a bigger slam against the church from the FAIR perpective:
Frankly, since I can’t stand Bill Maher, I kinda like that he hates my Mormon beliefs. It reaffirms my faith in an ordered universe to know that Maher is a consistent northern star, or as I call him a “reverse barometer.” I’d be more worried if he liked the Mormons, as then I’d know we’ve compromised with “the dark side”. I take comfort in Luke 6:26 “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” And on the other side of that coin, for those who think or maybe do know LDS theology, I recall it was the scholars in the Sanhedrin–who knew everything (they thought) about the coming Messiah– who ultimately most totally rejected and condemned the Christ when he stood before them. Even while fulfilling prophecy to the letter, the most learned of the Pharisees were blind to the fulfillment playing out inches from their noses. In other words, knowledge can be more blinding to reality than ignorance sometimes.
Others of the less informed are still happy to opine. Some of these pundits know only just enough about Mormons to make a quick, uninformed “sound-bite” pronouncement about Mormon underwear, or “getting their own planets.” My personal favorite though for “dolt-of-the-year” was #8; “it’s very clear that the founding fathers did not intend to preserve automatically religious liberty for non-Christian faiths.” Hmmm…must have missed that lecture in civics in High School.
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The only thing positive I’ll say about Bill Maher is that his bigotry isn’t reserved for Mormonism. My beef is that the powers that be in our society don’t call his “entertainment” out for for the bigotry it is — actors and similar folks who make anti-gay or racist slurs are often ostracized (or at least compelled to repent), yet Maher gets his own show and numerous guest appearances on others.
That said, I agree with the sentiment already expressed that these comments, in general, aren’t worth getting worked up about. I find some of them to be more indicative of ignorance than of bigotry. We’re not a persecuted minority, not even close.
And with regard to politics, I would also contend, as I have in comments on this blog before, that if a Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann were by some fluke the Republican nominee, his/her religion would become more of an issue than Romney’s Mormonism.
Dear Article VI blog, This post has nothing to do with attacks on Romney. Everything stated here is old news. Your attempt to provide proof of religious attacks against Romney without actually pointing to a legitimate attack is lame.
To quote Tim:
See! Bigotry. (Help! Help! I’m being repressed!)
Let me just point out that is absolutely true that Bill Maher has a successful cable show. On the other hand a guy whose primary claim to fame is ferocious antigay bigotry… not delivered on a comedy stage but rather delivered from the floor of the United States Senate, essentially tied the Iowa caucus. In other words a viable candidate for the presidency of the United States. Conversely the more “liberal” candidate who also tied, has frequently campaigned on wanting a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
So imagine if in a major party primary you had two winning candidates.
A wanted to criminalize the Mormon religion on an individual basis.
B was more liberal and didn’t think the government should actively persecute people practicing Mormonism in secret. He just wanted a constitutional amendment to permanently ban any sort of state cooperation, so for example no tax exemptions for Mormon churches or charities, and no use of public lands for Mormon oriented events.
Both of them agreed that being Mormon made you an obviously unfit parent, and so adoption should be banned.
Then we would be talking about a comparable situation.
Bill Maher is a moron. I am a Mormon (attending the occasional meeting and fulfilling a calling), and I agree with Harold Bloom. (Sorry, church leaders, but when you spend more than $3 billion on a mall in downtown SLC and then keep the books closed, while dishing out only a few million in humanitarian aid, that is what you get. I will be happy to eat my words when you open up and prove Bloom wrong.)
I thought there were some pretty salient comments in this podcast about this article