Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire
A common phrase I hear from the religious or agnostic is that “religion is beautiful”, often paired with, “there’s truth in many religions” when coming from Mormons. I’m surprised by how many ex-Mormons seem to think there’s some inherent beauty in the beliefs of Mormonism, even when they’re well aware that Joseph Smith was a conman, hebephile, and all-round sucky guy.
I received a message from a Christian family member recently (who rarely talks to anyone in our family unless he’s trying to save our souls), calling me to repentance. Bear in mind that his idea of being a “sinner” is not believing in Christianity like he does. His ideas about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior have, over the years, caused a lot of heartache in our family. When my elderly uncle (one of the most loving people ever) died, he sent a passive aggressive card to his sons, “praying” that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes as their now-dead father and be lead down to hell. In the mind of the hyper-religious, this is the kind of behavior that’s acceptable. It’s what God wants, so it’s ok! Never mind the additional grief it inflicts on the already mourning.
It doesn’t end there. Because our upbringing plays a huge role in the type of people we become, said hyper-religious douchey family member’s grandchildren are growing up in an abusive home. They are homeschooled, socially inept, denied basic education if their chores aren’t up to scratch, and other things I don’t care to mention in this post. These children are being raised in the most “Christian” home you can imagine, and social services have been called multiple times as a result. (Getting locked in a bathroom because you aren’t spiritual enough at FOUR? Jesus has a weird agenda.)
Some religious people would argue that in the situation I just described, the parents weren’t exhibiting Christian love and kindness. But there are thousands of different types of Christianity, each one claiming to have some more accurate idea of what the Bible ACTUALLY means, or what God ACTUALLY wants (illegal polygamous marriages to teenagers, anyone?), or how some obscure scripture should change others’ entire approach to Christianity. The Old Testament would be considered hate speech if it came out today, and even the gentler New Testament does a poor job making things right.
None of these religions have any exclusive claim to truth, unless we’re throwing all logic out of the window and deciding that a religion can be true just because we want it to be and it MIGHT be in some bizarre universe. (Tim Minchin did a good job highlighting how insane the arguments of the religious usually are.)
When children growing up in an abusive home can’t even be kept safe by those trained to protect children from abuse because of “religious freedom”, there’s a problem. I’m fine with allowing people to believe whatever insane ideas they want to believe — you can’t make ignorance illegal — but children shouldn’t suffer. That’s not freedom, that’s coercing the young and vulnerable. (Something Joseph Smith was very adept at doing, as evidenced by his marriage to 14-year-old Helen Marr Kimball and others.)
I’m currently reading, “I Am Malala“, the story of a girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. In it, she describes her father, who grew up devoutly Muslim. Despite being an amazing guy who encouraged his daughter to stand up for her rights to education, Malala’s father admitted that he would have become a terrorist had it been a strong religious teaching in his youth. He says he just wanted to do what’s right and please God.
We’re all just the product of our genetics and experiences, and if we’re taught that something is right by everyone we love and trust, we tend to believe it. I think we’d be surprised how well-intentioned (though completely deluded) many terrorists, and others who commit terrible acts in the name of religion, are.
It’s hard to believe that in privileged 21st-century America, where information is readily available to us all, a son was beaten to death by his parents for wanting to leave their church, but it’s still happening.
To the religious reading this, I want to ask you: if your beliefs were wrong, how would you know? How would you expect those like the parents who killed their own son in the name of religion to figure it out? If we are taught by our parents (who we love) from a young age what it means to be moral, what’s going to stop us from accepting that? Now add the weight of all of your friends, and all of your friends’ parents, and all of your ecclesiastical leaders, and the religious materials you’re given to study, and every lesson you’ve ever heard about right and wrong, and everyone you ever interact with, if you’re from a small Utah town. Do you think it would be obvious what’s right and wrong, or do you think it might be kind of tricky to discern conditioning and other psychological factors from what’s actually right? Oh, the “Holy Ghost” your specific religion believes in can tell is what’s true, you say? He only takes the day off when a prophet decides to teach blood atonement or something “unimportant to my salvation”?
Murder isn’t ok in our species and society, most religious people in developed nations realize that. But if you want to be a critical thinker, you have to think about the implications of things like the religion-induced murder of a child. You have to think about why those things occur, and where your own line is. In Mormonism, you are taught that following the prophet is the most noble, moral thing you can do. Never mind the fact that LDS prophets have taught things like blood atonement, polygamy, polyandry, “lying for the Lord“, blacks being an inferior race, interracial marriage being an eternal sin, and so on and so forth. You need to realize that the same unquestioning spirit your church considers a virtue is used by many, many religions to control membership and encourage people to do awful things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Religion helped our species evolve, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s now a poison to our society. We no longer need tribe leaders claiming they have a divine connection to deity in order to keep their people controlled and united. We don’t need useless priesthood blessings to access the placebo effect anymore. (Learn how to feed yourselves, Mormons. It’ll work way better than your fake magical powers and illogical Word of Wisdom rules, I promise.)
It’s 2016. Most people aren’t killed for refusing to believe in their culture’s religion anymore, but they are still shunned by their families, bullied into silence, and ridiculed by those who can’t escape the chains their upbringing put around their own brains.
Religion isn’t beautiful to me, it’s terrifying. Like Voltaire emphasized, when you have to believe in something without evidence (or in the face of a LOT of evidence to the contrary, in the case of newer religions like Mormonism), you can do terrible things without legitimate justification. You can justify anything when you slap “God told me to” on it. Joseph Smith did it to marry young girls. So did Warren Jeffs. Time is the only real difference between the two, and if you think the difference between beauty and evil is a couple of hundred years, you’re a fool. Hold yourself to the same standard you hold other religions to, and see if your mind opens up.
The Earth is beautiful. The unconditional love of a mother is beautiful. Blake Lively’s hair is beautiful. All of those things are also, conveniently, real! (Maybe not Blake’s hair, who knows.) You don’t have to justify loving your child, but I imagine a fair amount of justification went into priesthood holders offering their children to Joseph Smith as illegal polygamous brides, just like my mother-in-law probably has to justify her detachment from her own son.
You can love people without Mormonism. You can have a happy (often happier) family without Mormonism. You can do charity work without Mormonism (and have 10% more to give to actual causes rather than the building of opulent temples and malls that cost $1.5 billion.) You can have all the benefits of prayer and more through meditation. And guess what?! You don’t have to shun anyone or believe any dogma or justify any disgusting practices!
That which is unique about the LDS church is not good, and that which is good is definitely not unique. It’s an ethnocentric little religion founded on lies and polygamy, that grew because it escaped the rest of society and taught people to have a bunch of children. Logically, scientifically, archeologically, historically, and Egyptologically (that’s not a word, I just needed to highlight that it’s not compatible with Egyptology), and in most other “-allys” I can think of, it’s a joke. And a terrible one at that.
Read more about the LDS church’s dishonesty and inconsistencies: www.CESLetter.com
Watch this for laughs: