Friday, December 22, 2006

Give Me That Old Time Religion (No Others Need Apply)

Slate's editor Jacob Weisberg isn't ready for a Mormon President. The problem is the theology, you see.

There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president, because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country. Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is.

By the same token, I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism. The LDS church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, unearthed a book of golden plates buried in a hillside in Western New York in 1827. The plates were inscribed in "reformed" Egyptian hieroglyphics—a nonexistent version of the ancient language that had yet to be decoded. If you don't know the story, it's worth spending some time with Fawn Brodie's wonderful biography No Man Knows My History. Smith was able to dictate his "translation" of the Book of Mormon first by looking through diamond-encrusted decoder glasses and then by burying his face in a hat with a brown rock at the bottom of it. He was an obvious con man. Romney has every right to believe in con men, but I want to know if he does, and if so, I don't want him running the country.

Weisberg is ready for those who might think a lot of our other popular religions are based on equally implausible miracles.
Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference.

To a Yalie, I guess. Age that grape juice a millenium or two and it's darn good wine.

I take a slightly different view: "by their works ye shall judge them."

Because there just aren't enough Unitarians running for President.