Thursday, November 13, 2008

An Atheist in the Land of Mormons

The continuing saga of my trip to Utah...

We hadn't been in Utah for a half hour when Mormonism smacked me in the face. We stopped for dinner at the Chuck-A-Rama buffet (in spite of the name, the food was fabulous), and I swear, I've never seen so many kids in my life. The family in front of us in line: 5 little girls and a pregnant mother. After I paid, I heard the guy behind me say, "One adult and five kids." Kids everywhere.

As we drove through Saint George, my wife pointed out the Mormon Temple, one of the oldest, and told me that the city doesn't allow any taller buildings near it.

I know that Utah is a Mormon state, but seeing it in real life is something of a shock to my rationalist brain.

I have a certain degree of respect for most religions, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) baffles me. Unlike Judaism, Christianity, Islam, even Baha'i, the sordid history of the LDS church's founders is modern, extensively documented, and available for anyone to read. There are hundreds of books exposing the fraud, the abusive beliefs, the racism, sexism, the power struggles, and anything else you'd care to name. There are web sites by the thousands from disillusioned former members.

With the history of the LDS church such an open book, why are there any Mormons at all?

I'm reminded of an experiment that I read about years ago, I believe it was in one of James Randi's essays. A college class saw a demonstration by a man who claimed to have paranormal powers - ESP, spoon bending, and so forth. He demonstrated about a dozen tricks, and convinced many of the students that it was for real. Then someone else came in, and loudly proclaimed, "This man is a fraud!" He proceeded to demonstrate how half of the "paranormal" feats were nothing more than ordinary magician's sleight-of-hand.

Now to my way of thinking, if a man had even one genuine paranormal power, that would be truly amazing, and he'd have no reason to resort to fraud. What did these college students think? Many of them decided that even though half the tricks were fraudulent, they still believed that the man had paranormal powers!

To me, that's like discovering that your accountant embezzled from one of your accounts, yet you still trust him with the rest of your money. After all, he didn't steal from those other accounts, right? So he's only dishonest when it comes to that one account, and the rest of our money is safe.

Does that make sense to you? No, nor to me. And that's why Mormonism is so baffling to me.


  1. My parents are Mormon and I'm glad they stopped at three kids. Being in Utah, surrounded by Mormons would be just overwhelming for me.

    It's very easy for Mormons to believe what they do. Just like a successful cult (which, arguably, they are), members are encouraged never to listen to outside sources regarding their church. What we take to be facts, they see as anti-Mormon propaganda. It's difficult trying to feed facts to these people whose beliefs are just about entirely based in emotion.

  2. I moved to Salt Lake City from San Diego two years ago and it's really not that bad once you spend some time here.

    I promise... lol

  3. I have mot several Mormons in my short time here on this planet. First off, Mormons call themselves the Later Day Saints, or LDS. The group I was with Was accepting of my differences in beliefs, and generally tried to better themselves. As far as my experiences with Churches, this was one of the Best I have ever been to.

    fiberglassdolphin, all churches can be considered a cult, and at one point in time has been.

  4. White Wizard you missed the point. Mormons may be the nicest people in the world, but that doesn't make the religion's founders any more honest. They weren't – the were frauds. They just came up with a scam that seems to attract nice people. Nothing more.

  5. Out of interst you say you have read many books on the sordid history of the LDs church. I have too. But have you ever actually read the bible and the book of Mormon? if you really want to make an informed unbiased opinion, don't you think you should?

  6. Anon- Perhaps. Frankly, knowing the history of charlatanism of your founders, it would be pretty pointless. Have you read L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology books? Or Reverend Moon's claims to be Christ? Or any one of thousands of other writings by men who claimed to be a messiah? No? Why not?

    That's what I face with the Book of Mormon. It's just one of a thousand claims by men who are either deluded or charlatans. There are too many, and they all look alike after a while.

    The only difference between the Book of Mormon and all those others is that more people have fallen for it.

    If there is wisdom in the Book of Mormon, it's a real shame. I admire The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran because he wrote down his personal wisdom with no pretentions of being a messiah. Too bad the Book of Mormon wasn't written that way - I might have read it.

  7. Well Mr. Craig James you summed it all up right there in your closing statement. "Too bad the Book of Mormon wasn't written that way- I might have read it." You sure have a lot of negative words to say on a topic you obviously have no personal information of. Do you have an original thought in your head? Just something to ponder...

  8. Sure, Cath, and I suppose you've read every book ever written by every "prophet" who ever claimed to be talking to God, right?

    What is the difference between the Book of Mormon and all those others? Honestly, I can't figure it out. Just because you and a few million others believe it doesn't make it any more true than some other "prophecy" that an unknown wrote.

    As to your claim that I have "no personal information," clearly you didn't do your research.

  9. WOW... What strong opinion but haven't read the Book? I know I form rational opinion based only on opposition research. Wonder what could possibly be attracting so many to a fraud? Perhaps we should look more closely and take the challenge.

  10. momo ... So how do you know which book is right? The only logical thing to do would be to read EVERY book by EVERY author who claimed to be a prophet. Start with the Bible (there are thousands of versions...), then the holy books of the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Rastafarians, ... once you're done with those, move on to the various minor prophets and people you might consider "nutjobs," and ONLY THEN can you make a rational choice from among all these religions.

    Or, you can look around at the universe and decide it's a fascinating place, study chemistry, physics, biology, anthropology and evolution, and in the end you'll realize that the old superstitions from the past are pretty much irrelevant. There's no need to read any of these books, because they're all based on a foundation of faith – accepting magical explanations for things that are not mysterious at all. The foundation has nothing to support it, so there's no need to look at the rest of the building, however beautifully crafted it is, to know that it won't stand.

  11. Craig, perhaps you should post some links showing the proven fraudulence of Joseph Smith, or to something showing how 8 out of the 12 who said the original book existed eventually admitted they had lied.

  12. he answer to your bafflement is almost shown in the conversation here. You havent read every book, and neither have most mormons.

    There are not large amounts of people on the street handing out flyers showing people how to find the flaws in christianity or mormonism, so what would take their attention there?

    We only read what our attention is taken on to, and in a world with more to read than you could ever hope to read in a lifetime, its easy to understand why people dont read things showing facts rebutting their beliefs.

  13. How to start a reply to the above comments...Ok I have read the bible, the book of Mormon and many other of the books from the worlds various religions. I personally think that they are all full of crap. I am and always will be a atheist. I don't understand people's need to believe in a god but i do respect their choices. If believing in something can make them feel better about themselves and be better people then good for them. Who cares what religion they chose to follow. The LDS church is out there for sure but no different than many others. They all have dark and mysterious beginnings.

  14. It's kind of funny being an atheist seems to be one of the hardest religions/non-religions there is. I am not a very religious person but I think Atheism is out due to the fact I would have to spend all my time debunking what everyone else believes in just so I could always be right. Science doesn't always seem to be the answer either due the fact it is always evolving in one way or another. Who knows what you need to believe in to be right. As long as it makes you happy and you are not hurting anyone who really cares....The funny part is I found this blog by typing in"How to go crazy" in my browser...I guess being an atheist is a start.

  15. Anon - Yeah, right. Christians persecute us, then say, "Gosh, it really sucks to be you, doesn't it? Maybe you should give up and become one of us, then we'd leave you alone." Anon, you totally fell into the trap.

    As to science "evolving in one way or another," you need to read Asimov's The Relativity of Wrong.

  16. Just wondering -- in Salt Lake City, do atheists go around knocking on people's doors and asking them if they'd like to see a preeee-sentASHun on why there is no god?



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