The American Taliban would like nothing better than to impose their on xtian form of sharia law upon the country, all in the name of religious freedom. SOB
re-posted from Tim’s Reflection Connection
The Actual State of Marriage in the US
Today, an interesting article appeared in my news feed that made me curious enough to do more reading about marriage and divorce. The facts, when isolated from a conservative or liberal agenda, are sobering, fascinating, and not at all what one might think given media coverage of the same. Here is an encapsulated version of the information I found.
- Conservative, self-defined, born-again Christians have the highest divorce rate by far in the nation—a whopping 13% higher than atheists! (The old saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” just isn’t true.)
- People living in the “Bible belt” have the highest divorce rate in the nation.
- Less educated people have a higher divorce rate while more educated people have a lower divorce rate.
- Married couples who argue about money once or more per week are 30 percent more likely to divorce.
- Atheists and Agnostics have the lowest divorce rate.
- One year after Massachusetts legalized marriage equality for same-sex couples, their already low divorce rate actually dropped.
- If you live in a red state, you’re 27 percent more likely to get divorced than if you live in a blue state.
- If only one partner in your marriage is a smoker, you’re 75 to 91 percent more likely to divorce than smokers who are married to fellow smokers.
- Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago. Between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce.
- The bible belt has the highest rates of: divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. (Yet, they believe that being obese is genetic and being gay is a lifestyle choice. Huh?!)
- The average length of time a couple in the US remains married is only 11 years.
Divorce rates by faith group:
- Non-denominational (Independent, conservative fundamentalists): 34%
- Baptists 29%
- Mainline Protestants 25%
- Mormons 24%
- Catholics 21%
- Lutherans 21%
- Atheists and Agnostics 21%
Failure to Help
If Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council actually, sincerely, wanted to support family values and maintain a truly special place (the actual definition of “sanctity”) for marriage in this nation, he and his organization would stop wasting their time babbling on and on ad nauseam about marriage equality being a “war on marriage,” and focus on what really is causing marriage to fall apart in this country. Religious fundamentalism is probably strongest in the very places in this country where divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates are the highest. This fact speaks to the outrageous level of ineffectiveness of what religious leadership is actually doing in those areas. Is what the religious extremists are doing actually hurting the institution of marriage. Is their “cure” (raising hell about gay people all of the time) really a level of indifference to the real issues and actually making the state of marriage worse! I have come to the conclusion that they themselves are the ones defeating their own self-proclaimed mission!
To claim an interest, no, more than an interest: a singular focus, a mission, a calling to preserve a very special place for marriage and do little of nothing except ranting on and on about gay people is, at its very best, disingenuous. Why isn’t the Family Research Council grappling deeply with the actual real causes for divorce in the places where the dissolution of marriage has reached the highest levels?!
Instead, the church chooses to ignore real people with real needs, perhaps because the church has presently demonstrated a real inability to provide real people with anything of substantive value to address their needs and reduce their failed marriages. This inaction or misplaced action on the part of the church is not just an outrage, it’s a moral outrage. Devoting so much of their attention, financial resources, and talk time to decrying marriage equality is perhaps their strategy of choice to obscure the absolute failure of their faith practice to provide critically needed care and support to real people in need: to reduce divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates. Instead, their “support” is nothing more than turning the very people who are in need of their support away through self-righteous judgement and condemnation!
While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”
Source: George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group
Don’t miss these important facts as I suspect they are all deeply correlated:
- The Bible belt is the poorest area of the nation. (Arguing about money increases divorce.)
- The Bible belt is the least educated area of the nation. (Less education is associated with divorce.)
- The Bible belt is filled with Conservative, self-defined, born-again Christians. (This is the religious group with the highest divorce rate.)
- The Bible belt significantly trends to “red states.” (Red states have a higher divorce rate.)
- The Bible belt has the highest rates of, among other things, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, and infant mortality.
A Plan that Would Work
Shouldn’t Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher really be focusing their efforts on getting the people in the Bible belt higher paying jobs, better and more education, and more progressive and liberal religious and political ideology. I mean, hello! The data indicates that effort would actually pay long term dividends in their self-proclaimed mission to protect the special place of marriage!
Clearly, we are once again witnessing a failure of leadership! Shame on them! Shame, shame, shame on them!!
Enslaving people in ignorance is the cruelest form of imprisonment!
I say that everyone should utterly reject organized faith practice that hurts people!
I say that everyone should utterly reject government policy (and those who make it) that hurts people!
I am personally fed up with religious and political liars whose lies promote only themselves and end up hurting people. America: Stop supporting the people that are hurting you!
- Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009
- Marriage in the United States
- 15 Ways to Predict Divorce
- Hey Fox, What About This “War on Marriage?” Divorce Rates Are Highest Among Evangelicals is the article that sparked my curiosity.
- U.S. Divorce Rates for Various Faith Groups, Age Groups, & Geographic Areas This article provided these very informative resources below:
- “Christians are more likely to experience divorce than are non-Christians,” Barna Research Group, 1999-DEC-21, at:
(Barna no longer has this report online. However, a review of the report is at:
- AANews, Posting #699, issued by American Atheists on 2000-JAN-2.
- Michael Inglis, “Survey of the Unification Church 1982 marriages,” at:
- “Bible belt has nation’s worse divorce rate,” CNN.com, 1999-NOV-12. Online at:
(Cache copy as of 2000-FEB-11. The page has since expired.) A similar report is at:
- David Crary, “Deep in the Bible Belt, a counterattack on the nation’s worst divorce rate,” Detroit News, 1999-NOV-11, at:
- “Survey provides profile of Protestant Pastors,” 1998-JAN-6, at:
- “Divorce statistics collection: Summary of findings so far,” Americans for Divorce Reform, at:
- “Fresh Thinking Needed on Divorce Issues,” Jesus Journal, at:
- John Rossomando, “Born-Again Christians No More Immune to Divorce Than Others, Says Author,” CNSNews, 2002-JAN-21, at:
- Donald Hughes, “The Divorce Reality.” 109 pages. This is an eBook written from a positive, conservative Christian. It can be purchased and then downloaded from Theatron Media at: www.Bookstore.TheatronMedia.com
- William V. D’Antonio, “Walking the walk on family values,” The Boston Globe, 2004-OCT-31, at:
- James Veverka, “The moral hypocrisy of the Bible Belt,” Stop The Religious Right, undated, at:
- Arland Thornton, “Children and Marital Stability,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 39, #3, 1977-AUG, Pages 531-539. Abstract at:
- Aandrew Cherlin, “The effect of children on marital dissolution,” Demography©, Vol. 14, #3, 1977-AUG, Pages 265 to 272. Abstract at:
- “Bible Belt Leads U.S. In Divorces,” National Center for Policy Analysis, 1999-NOV-19, at:
- “U.S. state divorce rates…including 2004 data.” Divorce Reform, at:
The efforts of GOP legislators and various religious entities to insert themselves into women’s personal heath decisions and to do everything they can to keep women down and to roll back the clock on all strides previously taken towards women’s equality in our society are well known to us all. The following data graph illustrates what may be the most serious and dangerous front in the “War On Women. SOB
I’ve bee reading Atheist Camel for a while and I found this post particularly enlightening as I’ve had similar experiences with theists. Read and enjoy then book mark Atheist Camel. SOB
Thanks to The Tumblr Atheist
Here’s chapter and verse on a more-or-less comprehensive list of things banned in the Leviticus book of the bible. A decent number of them are punishable by death.
1. Burning any yeast or honey in offerings to God (2:11)
2. Failing to include salt in offerings to God (2:13)
3. Eating fat (3:17)
4. Eating blood (3:17)
5. Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve witnessed (5:1)
6. Failing to testify against any wrongdoing you’ve been told about (5:1)
7. Touching an unclean animal (5:2)
8. Carelessly making an oath (5:4)
9. Deceiving a neighbour about something trusted to them (6:2)
10. Finding lost property and lying about it (6:3)
11. Bringing unauthorised fire before God (10:1)
12. Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)
13. Tearing your clothes (10:6)
14. Drinking alcohol in holy places (10:9)
15. Eating an animal which doesn’t both chew cud and has a divided hoof (11:4-7)
16. Touching the carcass of any of the above (11:8)
17. Eating – or touching the carcass of – any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12)
18. Eating – or touching the carcass of – eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat. (11:13-19)
19. Eating – or touching the carcass of – flying insects with four legs, unless those legs are jointed (11:20-22)
20. Eating any animal which walks on all four and has paws (11:27)
21. Eating – or touching the carcass of – the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon (11:29)
22. Eating – or touching the carcass of – any creature which crawls on many legs, or its belly (11:41-42)
23. Going to church within 33 days after giving birth to a boy (12:4)
24. Going to church within 66 days after giving birth to a girl (12:5)
25. Having sex with your mother (18:7)
26. Having sex with your father’s wife (18:8)
27. Having sex with your sister (18:9)
28. Having sex with your granddaughter (18:10)
29. Having sex with your half-sister (18:11)
30. Having sex with your biological aunt (18:12-13)
31. Having sex with your uncle’s wife (18:14)
32. Having sex with your daughter-in-law (18:15)
33. Having sex with your sister-in-law (18:16)
34. Having sex with a woman and also having sex with her daughter or granddaughter (18:17)
35. Marrying your wife’s sister while your wife still lives (18:18)
36. Having sex with a woman during her period (18:19)
37. Having sex with your neighbour’s wife (18:20)
38. Giving your children to be sacrificed to Molek (18:21)
39. Having sex with a man “as one does with a woman” (18:22)
40. Having sex with an animal (18:23)
41. Making idols or “metal gods” (19:4)
42. Reaping to the very edges of a field (19:9)
43. Picking up grapes that have fallen in your vineyard (19:10)
44. Stealing (19:11)
45. Lying (19:11)
46. Swearing falsely on God’s name (19:12)
47. Defrauding your neighbour (19:13)
48. Holding back the wages of an employee overnight (19:13)
49. Cursing the deaf or abusing the blind (19:14)
50. Perverting justice, showing partiality to either the poor or the rich (19:15)
51. Spreading slander (19:16)
52. Doing anything to endanger a neighbour’s life (19:16)
53. Seeking revenge or bearing a grudge (19:18)
54. Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)
55. Cross-breeding animals (19:19)
56. Planting different seeds in the same field (19:19)
57. Sleeping with another man’s slave (19:20)
58. Eating fruit from a tree within four years of planting it (19:23)
59. Practising divination or seeking omens (tut, tut astrology) (19:26)
60. Trimming your beard (19:27)
61. Cutting your hair at the sides (19:27)
62. Getting tattoos (19:28)
63. Making your daughter prostitute herself (19:29)
64. Turning to mediums or spiritualists (19:31)
65. Not standing in the presence of the elderly (19:32)
66. Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born” (19:33-34)
67. Using dishonest weights and scales (19:35-36)
68. Cursing your father or mother (punishable by death) (20:9)
69. Marrying a prostitute, divorcee or widow if you are a priest (21:7,13)
70. Entering a place where there’s a dead body as a priest (21:11)
71. Slaughtering a cow/sheep and its young on the same day (22:28)
72. Working on the Sabbath (23:3)
73. Blasphemy (punishable by stoning to death) (24:14)
74. Inflicting an injury; killing someone else’s animal; killing a person must be punished in kind (24:17-22)
75. Selling land permanently (25:23)
76. Selling an Israelite as a slave (25:42)
- Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13 “Is everything detestable to these people?” (queerlandia.com)
- The Cherry-Pickers of Leviticus (blinkutopia.com)
- Slideshow: 10 things the Bible bans that most people ignore (thegrio.com)
- Rick’s Cafe: Ron Brown, Tim Tebow and the war on secularism in sports – NBCSports.com (offthebench.nbcsports.com)
What is this New Atheism? New atheism is a type of Atheism — if we can even call it that — that is criticized for being outspoken. Furthermore, it is shunned upon by so called old Atheists for scientifically testing religion and for its anti-theistic undertone. However, new Atheism is a concoction of haughty-minded Atheists who pride themselves in near total silence and read the philosophy of Baron d’Holbach, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine, Mark Twain and Karl Marx; just to name a few.
Didn’t these men write publications? Weren’t they as outspoken as possible when considering that some of them were at risk of persecution, censorship, or even execution? Please, do tell, were they able to rely on science? Definitely not in the manner in which we are able to rely on it. The major scientific findings that undermine what was previously regarded as religious truths came after most of these men. For instance, even after the publication of The Origin of Species, the evidence for Evolution wasn’t nearly as strong as it is today. Therefore, the only real difference between some of today’s Atheists and Atheists in the past is a reliance on science. However, one can argue that there’s no difference there either:
Science is the true theology.
Thomas Paine, quoted in Emerson, The Mind on Fire pg 153
There is scarcely any part of science, or anything in nature, which those imposters and blasphemers of science, called priests, as well Christians as Jews, have not, at some time or other, perverted, or sought to pervert to the purpose of superstition and falsehood.
Thomas Paine, as quoted by Joseph Lewis in Inspiration and Wisdom from the Writings of Thomas Paine
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
How about anti-theism as defined by Oxford: opposition to the belief in the existence of a God or as some interpret it, opposition to religion?
The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion.
Thomas Paine, as quoted by Joseph Lewis in Inspiration and Wisdom from the Writings of Thomas Paine
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.
Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.
All religious notions are uniformly founded on authority; all the religions the world forbid examination, and are not disposed that men should reason upon them.
Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.
David Hume, A Treatise Of Human Nature
Note: none of these quotes specifically mention a particular religion; thus, demonstrating anti-religious views.
A reliance on science existed prior to new Atheism. Anti-theism also existed prior to new Atheism; let us ignore the fact that most old Atheists conveniently disregard the alternative definition of anti-theism: disbelief in gods. Thus, that implies that some old Atheists rely on science to some degree. Moreover, some of them also subscribe to anti-theism.
I ask again, what exactly is the difference? Let us forget the negative connotations of the label. Let us forget the air of condescension implied by individuals who call fellow Atheists ‘new’ Atheists. Thankfully, I live in a country that grants freedom of speech; therefore, I am outspoken. However, let us not forget the many around the world who hide in anonymity. Let us not forget them who are at risk of penalty and death. They harbor many of our sentiments; some are fortunate enough to express their ideas, albeit anonymously. All Atheists share a disbelief in gods. Some choose to reserve their views either because of imagined pride or the risk of penalty and death. The former has no reason to criticize the approach of another Atheist. The latter has no choice but to hide in darkness. Ultimately, there is no new Atheism. Whoever thinks there’s a such term is severely misinformed, especially when considering that the ideas they subscribe to came about via the writings of authors who held similar views to today’s ‘new’ Atheists.
The warning, given to me 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global, Christian empire. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.
He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He was in Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi church, known as The Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States . It was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed portraits of Adolph Hitler placed over the contents inside his suitcase to hide the rolls of home movie film he took of the so-called German Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who defied them, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the top of the suitcases, saw the portraits of the Fuhrer and closed them up again. I watched hours of the grainy black and white films as he narrated in his apartment in Cambridge .
He saw in the Christian Right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists, under the guise of religion, rise to dismantle the open society. He despaired of liberals, who he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil nor the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand wringing by Democrats in the wake of the election, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them “demonic” and “satanic,” would not have surprised Adams . Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the Biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.
His critique of the prominent research universities, along with the media, was no less withering. These institutions, self-absorbed, compromised by their close relationship with government and corporations, given enough of the pie to be complacent, were unwilling to deal with the fundamental moral questions and inequities of the age. They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their prestige and comfort. He told me that if the Nazis took over America “60 percent of the Harvard faculty would begin their lectures with the Nazi salute.” This too was not an abstraction. He had watched academics at the University of Heidelberg , including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, raise their arms stiffly to students before class.
Two decades later, even in the face of the growing reach of the Christian Right, his prediction seems apocalyptic. And yet the powerbrokers in the Christian Right have moved from the fringes of society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Christian fundamentalists now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities in 81 percent of the rest of the states. Forty-five Senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives earned between an 80 to100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups – The Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma , has included in his campaign to end abortion a call to impose the death penalty on doctors that carry out abortions once the ban goes into place. Another new senator, John Thune, believes in Creationism. Jim DeMint, the new senator elected from South Carolina , wants to ban single mothers from teaching in schools. The Election Day exit polls found that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as evangelical Christians and Bush won 77 percent of their vote. The polls found that a plurality of voters said that the most important issue in the campaign had been “moral values.”
President Bush must further these important objectives, including the march to turn education and social welfare over to the churches with his faith-based initiative, as well as chip away at the wall between church and state with his judicial appointments, if he does not want to face a revolt within his core constituency.
Jim Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, who held weekly telephone conversations with K arl Rove during the campaign, has put the President on notice. He told ABC’s “This Week” that “this president has two years, or more broadly the Republican Party has two years, to implement these policies, or certainly four, or I believe they’ll pay a price in the next election.”
Bush may turn out to be a transition figure, our version of Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck used “values” to energize his base at the end of the 19 th century and launched “Kulturkampt”, the word from which we get “culture wars,” against Catholics and Jews. Bismarck ‘s attacks split the country, made the discrediting of whole segments of the society an acceptable part of the civil discourse and paved the way for the more virulent racism of the Nazis. This, I suspect, will be George Bush’s contribution to our democracy.
DOMINIONISTS AND RECONSTRUCTIONISTS
The Reconstructionist movement, founded in 1973 by Rousas Rushdooney, is the intellectual foundation for the most politically active element within the Christian Right. Rushdooney’s 1,600 page three-volume work, Institutes of Biblical Law, argued that American society should be governed according to the Biblical precepts in the Ten Commandments. He wrote that the elect, like Adam and Noah, were given dominion over the earth by God and must subdue the earth, along with all non-believers, so the Messiah could return.
This was a radically new interpretation for many in the evangelical movement. The Messiah, it was traditionally taught, would return in an event called “the Rapture” where there would be wars and chaos. The non-believers would be tormented and killed and the elect would be lifted to heaven. The Rapture was not something that could be manipulated or influenced, although believers often interpreted catastrophes and wars as portents of the imminent Second Coming.
Rushdooney promoted an ideology that advocated violence to create the Christian state. His ideology was the mirror image of Liberation Theology, which came into vogue at about the same time. While the Liberation Theologians crammed the Bible into the box of Marxism, Rushdooney crammed it into the equally distorting box of classical fascism. This clash was first played out in Latin America when I was there as a reporter two decades ago. In El Salvador leftist priests endorsed and even traveled with the rebel movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador, while Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, along with conservative Latin American clerics, backed the Contras fighting against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the murderous military regimes in El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile and Argentina.
The Institutes of Biblical Law called for a Christian society that was harsh, unforgiving and violent. Offenses such as adultery, witchcraft, blasphemy and homosexuality, merited the death penalty. The world was to be subdued and ruled by a Christian United States. Rushdooney dismissed the number of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust as an inflated figure and his theories on race echoed Nazi Eugenics.
“The white man has behind him centuries of Christian culture and the discipline and selective breeding this faith requires…,” he wrote. “The Negro is a product of a radically different past, and his heredity has been governed by radically different considerations.”
“The background of Negro culture is African and magic, and the purposes of the magic are control and power over God, man, nature, and society. Voodoo, or magic, was the religion and life of American Negroes. Voodoo songs underlie jazz, and old voodoo, with its power goal, has been merely replaced with revolutionary voodoo, a modernized power drive.” (see The Religious Right , a publication of the ADL, pg. 124.)
Rushdooney was deeply antagonistic to the federal government. He believed the federal government should concern itself with little more than national defense. Education and social welfare should be handed over to the churches. Biblical law must replace the secular legal code. This ideology remains at the heart of the movement. It is being enacted through school vouchers, with federal dollars now going into Christian schools, and the assault against the federal agencies that deal with poverty and human services. The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is currently channeling millions in federal funds to groups such Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing , and National Right to Life, as well as to fundamentalist religious charity organizations and programs promoting sexual abstinence.
Rushdooney laid the groundwork for a new way of thinking about political involvement. The Christian state would come about not only through signs and wonders, as those who believed in the rapture believed? , but also through theestablishment of the Christian nation. But he remained, even within the Christian Right, a deeply controversial figure.
Dr. Tony Evans, the minister of a Dallas church and the founder of Promise Keepers, articulated Rushdooney’s extremism in a more palatable form. He called on believers, often during emotional gatherings at football stadiums, to commit to Christ and exercise power within the society as agents of Christ. He also called for a Christian state. But he did not advocate the return of slavery, as Rushdooney did, nor list a string of offenses such as adultery punishable by death, nor did he espouse the Nazi-like race theories. It was through Evans, who was a spiritual mentor to George Bush that Dominionism came to dominate the politically active wing of the Christian Right.The religious utterances from political leaders such as George Bush, Tom Delay, Pat Robertson and Zell Miller are only understandable in light of Rushdooney and Dominionism. These leaders believe that God has selected them to battle the forces of evil, embodied in “secular humanism,” to create a Christian nation. Pat Robertson frequently tells believers “our aim is to gain dominion over society.” Delay has told supporters, such as at a gathering two years ago at the First Baptist Church in Pearland , Texas , “He [God] is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for biblical worldview in everything I do and everywhere I am. He is training me, He is working with me.” Delay went on to tell followers “If we stay inside the church, the culture won’t change.”
Pat Robertson, who changed the name of his university to Regent University , says he is training his students to rule when the Christian regents take power, part of the reign leading to the return of Christ. Robertson resigned as the head of the Christian Coalition when Bush took office, a sign many took to signal the ascendancy of the first regent. This battle is not rhetorical but one that followers are told will ultimately involve violence. And the enemy is clearly defined and marked for destruction.
“Secular Humanists,” the popular Christian Right theologian Francis Schaeffer wrote in one of numerous diatribes, “are the greatest threat to Christianity the world has ever known.”
One of the most enlightening books that exposes the ultimate goals of movement is America’s Providential History , the standard textbook used in many Christian schools and a staple of the Christian home schooling movement. It sites Genesis 26, which calls for mankind to “ .have dominnion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” as evidence that the Bible callls for “Bible believing Christians” to take dominion of America.
“When God brings Noah through the flood to a new earth, He reestablished the Dominion Mandate but now delegates to man the responsibility for governing other men.” (page 19). The authors write that God has called the United States to become “the first truly Christian nation” (page 184) and “make disciples of all nations.” The book denounces income tax as “idolatry,” property tax as “theft” and calls for an abolish of inheritance taxes in the chapter entitled Christian Economics. The loss of such tax revenues will bring about the withering away of the federal government and the empowerment of the authoritarian church, although this is not explict in the text.
Rushdooney’s son-in-law, Gary North, a popular writer and founder of the Institute for Christian Economics, laid out the aims of the Christian Right.
“So let’s be blunt about it: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.” (Christianity and Civilization, Spring, 1982)
Dominionists have to operate, for now, in the contaminated environment of the secular, liberal state. They have learned, therefore, to speak in code. The code they use is the key to understanding the dichotomy of the movement, one that has a public and a private face. In this they are no different from the vanguard, as described by Lenin, or the Islamic terrorists who shave off their beards, adopt western dress and watch pay-for-view pornographic movies in their hotel rooms the night before hijacking a plane for a suicide attack.
Joan Bokaer, the Director of Theocracy Watch, a project of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social Policy at Cornell University , who runs the encyclopedic web site theocracywatch.org, was on a speaking tour a few years ago in Iowa . She obtained a copy of a memo Pat Robertson handed out to followers at the Iowa Republican County Caucus. It was titled, “How to Participate in a Political Party” and read:
“Rule the world for God.”
“Give the impression that you are there to work for the party, not push an ideology.
“Hide your strength.
“Don’t flaunt your Christianity.
“Christians need to take leadership positions. Party officers control political parties and so it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership whenever possible, God willing.”
President Bush sends frequent coded messages to the faithful. In his address to the nation on the night of September 11, for example, he lifted a line directly from the Gospel of John when he said “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.” He often uses the sentence “when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law,” words taken directly from a pro-life manifesto entitled “A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern.” He quotes from hymns, prayers, tracts and Biblical passages without attribution. These phrases reassure the elect. They are lost on the uninitiated.
CHRIST THE AVENGER
The Christian Right finds its ideological justification in a narrow segment of the Gospel, in particular the letters of the Apostle Paul, especially the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus in the Book of Acts. It draws heavily from the book of Revelations and the Gospel of John. These books share an apocalyptic theology. The Book of Revelations is the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, offering up a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. Martin Luther found the God portrayed in Revelations so hateful and cruel he put the book in the appendix of his German translation of the Bible.
These books rarely speak about Christ’s message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They focus on the doom and destruction that will befall unbelievers and the urgent need for personal salvation. The world is divided between good and evil, between those who act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The Jesus of the other three Gospels, the Jesus who turned the other cheek and embraced his enemies, an idea that was radical and startling in the ancient Roman world, is purged in the narrative selected by the Christian Right.
The cult of masculinity pervades the ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are social forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus is portrayed as a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. This cult of masculinity brings with it the glorification of strength, violence and vengeance. It turns Christ into a Rambo-like figure; indeed depictions of Jesus within the movement often show a powerfully built man wielding a huge sword.
This image of Christ as warrior is appealing to many within the movement. The loss of manufacturing jobs, lack of affordable health care, negligible opportunities for education and poor job security has left many millions of Americans locked out. This ideology is attractive because it offers them the hope of power and revenge. It sanctifies their rage. It stokes the paranoia about the outside world maintained through bizarre conspiracy theories, many on display in Pat Robertson’s book The New World Order . The book is a xenophobic rant that includes vicious attacks against the United Nations and numerous other international organizations. The abandonment of the working class has been crucial to the success of the movement. Only by reintegrating the working class into society through job creation, access to good education and health care can the Christian Right be effectively blunted. Revolutionary movements are built on the backs of an angry, disenfranchised laboring class. This one is no exception.
The depictions of violence that will befall non-believers are detailed, gruesome and brutal. It speaks to the rage many believers harbor and the thirst for revenge. This, in large part, accounts for the huge sales of the apocalyptic series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. In their novel, Glorious Appearing , based on LaHaye’s interpretation of Biblical Prophecies about the Second Coming, Christ eviscerates the flesh of millions of non-believers with the mere sound of his voice. There are long descriptions of horror, of how “the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.” Eyes disintegrate. Tongues melt. Flesh dissolves. The novel, part of The Left Behind series, are the best selling adult novels in the country. They preach holy war.
“Any teaching of peace prior to [Christ's] return is heresy.” said televangelist James Robinson.
Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, instability in Israel and even the fighting of Iraq are seen as signposts. The war in Iraq was predicted according to believers in the 9 th chapter of the Book of Revelations where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of men.” The march towards global war, even nuclear war, is not to be feared but welcomed as the harbinger of the Second Coming. And leading the avenging armies is an angry, violent Messiah who dooms millions of non-believers to a horrible and painful death.
THE CORRUPTION OF SCIENCE AND LAW
The movement seeks the imprint of law and science. It must discredit the rational disciplines that are the pillars of the Enlightenment to abolish the liberal polity of the Enlightenment. This corruption of science and law is vital in promoting the doctrine. Creationism, or “intelligent design,” like Eugenics for the Nazis, must be introduced into the mainstream as a valid scientific discipline to destroy the discipline of science itself. This is why the Christian Right is working to bring test cases to ensure that school textbooks include “intelligent design” and condemn gay marriage.
The drive by the Christian Right to include crackpot theories in scientific or legal debate is part of the campaign to destroy dispassionate and honest intellectual inquiry. Facts become interchangeable with opinions. An understanding of reality is not to be based on the elaborate gathering of facts and evidence. The ideology alone is true. Facts that get in the way of the ideology can be altered. Lies, in this worldview, become true. Hannah Arendt called this effort “nihilistic relativism” although a better phrase might be collective insanity.
The Christian Right has fought successfully to have Creationist books sold in national park bookstores in the Grand Canyon , taught as a theory in public schools in states like Alabama and Arkansas . “Intelligent design” is promoted in Christian textbooks. All animal species, or at least their progenitors, students read, fit on Noah’s ark. The Grand Canyon was created a few thousand years ago by the flood that lifted up Noah’s ark, not one billion years ago, as geologists have determined. The earth is only a few thousand years old in line with the literal reading of Genesis. This is not some quaint, homespun view of the world. It is an insidious attempt to undermine rational scientific research and intellectual inquiry.
Tom Delay, following the Columbine shootings, gave voice to this assault when he said that the killings had taken place “because our school systems teach children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial mud.” (speech Delay gave in the House on June 16, 1999 )
“What convinces masses are not facts,” Hannah Arendt wrote in Origins of Totalitarianism, “and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system which they are presumably part. Repetition, somewhat overrated in importance because of the common belief in the “masses” inferior capacity to grasp and remember, is important because it convinces them of consistency in time.” (p.351)
There are more than 6 million elementary and secondary school students attending private schools and 11.5 percent of these students attend schools run by the Christian Right. These “Christian” schools saw an increase of 46 percent in enrollment in the last decade. The 245,000 additional students accounted for 75 percent of the total rise in private school enrollment.
THE LAUNCHING OF THE WAR
Adams told us to watch closely what the Christian Right did to homosexuals. He has seen how the Nazis had used “values” to launch state repression of opponents. Hitler, days after he took power in 1933, imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations. He ordered raids on places where homosexuals gathered culminating with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin . Thousands of volumes from the institute’s library were tossed into a bonfire. Adams said that homosexuals would also be the first “deviants” singled out by the Christian Right. We would be the next.
The ban on same sex marriages, passed by eleven states in the election, was part of this march towards our door. A 1996 federal law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. All of the states with ballot measures, with the exception of Oregon , had outlawed same sex marriages, as do 27 other states. The bans, however, had to be passed, believers were told, to thwart “activist judges” who wanted to overturn them. The Christian family, even the nation, was under threat. The bans served to widen the splits tearing apart the country. The attacks on homosexuals handed to the foot soldiers of the Christian Right an easy target. It gave them a taste of victory. It made them feel empowered. But it is ominous for gays and for us.
All debates with the Christian Right are useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School. These naive attempts to reach out to a movement bent on our destruction, to prove to them that we too have “values,” would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly. They hate us. They hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution. Our opinions do not count.
This movement will not stop until we are ruled by Biblical Law, an authoritarian church intrudes in every aspect of our life, women stay at home and rear children, gays agree to be cured, abortion is considered murder, the press and the schools promote “positive” Christian values, the federal government is gutted, war becomes our primary form of communication with the rest of the world and recalcitrant non-believers see their flesh eviscerated at the sound of the Messiah’s voice.
The spark that could set it ablaze may be lying in the hands of an Islamic terrorist cell, in the hands of the ideological twins of the Christian Right. Another catastrophic terrorist attack could be our Reichstag fire, the excuse used to begin the accelerated dismantling of our open society. The ideology of the Christian Right is not one of love and compassion, the central theme of Christ’s message, but of violence and hatred. It has a strong appeal to many in our society, but it is also aided by our complacency. Let us not stand at the open city gates waiting passively and meekly for the barbarians. They are coming. They are slouching rudely towards Bethlehem . Let us, if nothing else, begin to call them by their name.
Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges’ original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.”
Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City and has taught at Columbia University, New York University and Princeton University. He currently teaches inmates at a correctional facility in New Jersey.
Hedges began his career reporting the war in El Salvador. Following six years in Latin America, he took time off to study Arabic and then went to Jerusalem and later Cairo. He spent seven years in the Middle East, most of them as the bureau chief there for The New York Times. He left the Middle East in 1995 for Sarajevo to cover the war in Bosnia and later reported the war in Kosovo. Afterward, he joined the Times’ investigative team and was based in Paris to cover al-Qaida. He left the Times after being issued a formal reprimand for denouncing the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.
He has written eleven books, including “Death of the Liberal Class” (2010), “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. In 2011, Truthdig and Nation Books published a collection of Hedges’ Truthdig columns called “The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.”
Hedges holds a B.A. in English literature from Colgate University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. Hedges speaks Arabic, French and Spanish and knows ancient Greek and Latin. In addition to writing a weekly original column for Truthdig, he has written for Harper’s Magazine, The New Statesman, The New York Review of Books, Adbusters, Granta, Foreign Affairs and other publications.
- What Many Churches And The SPLC Have In Common (zionistoutrage.com)
- Austin Cline: Third Reich Christianity: Nazi Germany as Implementation of a Christian Agenda (alwaysquestionauthority.com)
- Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System (basicrulesoflife.wordpress.com)
- | Political Analysis from the Heart: Acts of Love! (truthaholics.wordpress.com)
- Chris Hedges Interview (adask.wordpress.com)
- Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander (lrb.co.uk)
This post originally appeared in Away Point.
When religious minorities run for public office, people get worried about whether loyalty to their creed or religious hierarchy may affect their ability to perform elected duties. How might Mitt Romney’s faith affect his social, economic or diplomatic priorities? Should Americans be wary at the prospect of a devout Mormon president? Garrett Amini is a Seattle web developer, a past leader in the secular student movement, and former Mormon. He studied the Mormon religion first as an insider and then as a skeptic.
Valerie Tarico: You grew up Mormon, but left the faith as a young adult.
Garrett Amini: I did. I was raised in a devout Mormon family and was highly active in the church in my youth. I began to doubt after going to the temple prior to serving a mission for the church, and spent the next year studying every aspect of the faith I could, eventually concluding that it was false. I still find it fascinating, however, and spend a significant amount of time reading and researching about the faith.
Tarico: How would you describe Mormonism briefly to your average American who has grown up surrounded by Protestant or Catholic Christianity?
Amini: It helps to know a little history. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded by Joseph Smith in the 1820s in upstate New York. As the teachings go, Smith prayed and asked which branch of Christianity was the right one, receiving a vision telling him that none of them were true to God’s plan and that he should start a new denomination. He was also visited by the angel Moroni, who directed him to find a buried record of a lost ancient civilization of Christians living in the Americas. The records were written on golden plates in what Smith described as “reformed Egyptian,” and Smith was given the ability to translate the records into what we now know as the Book of Mormon.
Mormons believe that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are scriptures from God, and focus upon the atonement of Jesus Christ. They are not trinitarian, and believe Christ and the Holy Ghost to be distinct individuals separate from Heavenly Father. They also believe that there is a living prophet on Earth who continues to receive revelation from God.
The early history of the church is tumultuous – the church moved several times in the eastern states to avoid persecution. Eventually, Smith was killed by a mob at Carthage Jail in Illinois in 1844, and Brigham Young led the church westward to Utah Territory. In part because of the early isolation in Utah, they tend to form close knit communities and extended family networks. The Church places a lot of emphasis on service and on proselytizing, and young Mormons often dedicate two years to serve as missionaries.
Tarico: Do Mormons think of themselves as Christians?
Amini: Yes, absolutely. In fact, it may even be offensive to a Mormon to say that they are not Christians. Mormons define their gospel and teachings to be centered around Jesus.
Tarico: How is Mormonism different than Protestant or Catholic Christianity?
Amini: Mormonism was initially very similar to other protestant faiths – the Book of Mormon itself contains little (doctrinally) that would contradict most forms of Christianity. As Mormonism developed, through ongoing revelation through Joseph Smith, the church became increasingly doctrinally unique. Brigham Young’s presidency in Utah near the end of the 19th Century saw some of the most distinctive doctrines take shape.
Since Mormonism has become less isolated in the past 80 years or so, the doctrine has drifted away from some of the more unique doctrines. Modern Mormon leaders now emphasize doctrinal points that are not far from other Protestant Christian views.
One key difference between Mormonism and other forms of Christianity is that Mormonism is highly bureaucratic and centralized in its authority. Modern Mormon teachings are shaped by a group called the Correlation Committee, consisting of the leaders of the church. All written or taught materials are run through the committee, which takes great care to craft the message and tone. These materials have significantly de-emphasized the more controversial doctrines in recent years.
Tarico: So what Mormon teachings would be controversial to other Christians?
Amini: One example is a doctrine known as the God cycle, which was put as a couplet by past Mormon prophet and president Lorenzo Snow: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” In short, God once had a body on an Earth, was tested, and became edified and the God of our world. If we are righteous, we may also be able to fulfill that divine potential. Interestingly enough, while this doctrine was taught and re-taught by Joseph Smith and later prophets, the church has begun to de-emphasize this doctrine. Gordon B. Hinckley, prophet and president of the church last decade, was asked about this doctrine on an interview with Larry King, and replied “I don’t know that we teach that; I don’t know that we emphasize it.”
There are other doctrines that are controversial that are no longer taught, such as polygamy. Polygamy was practiced by Joseph Smith in secret, and Brigham Young solidified the doctrine and made it public, even going so far as to declare that having multiple wives is a prerequisite to attaining the highest level of paradise in the next life, and to become a god.
Young taught a number of unique doctrines, including one called the Adam-God theory. Young taught that God Himself came down to Earth in the form of Adam and started the human race. Christian opponents of Mormonism will often bring up doctrines such as the Adam-God theory, but that hasn’t really been taught since the time of Brigham Young.
The church also officially discriminated against anyone who had “even one drop of Negro blood” until 1979. Prior to that, black men were not allowed to have any authority within the church, interracial marriages were not permitted in the temple, and black people could not lead a prayer in church, among other things.
Tarico: How did it come to be OK to be Black and Mormon?
Amini: In 1979, it was overturned according to a revelation to Spencer Kimball, who was president of the church at that time. I’m actually rather surprised it took place that early – Ezra Taft Benson, who later became president of the church, once said over the pulpit at a church General Conference that the Civil Rights movement was a communist plot.
Tarico: From the outside the beliefs you listed sound strange.
Amini: They do, but I don’t think they’re really that much stranger than any other faith – we’re just used to our own flavors of strange. Mormonism even resolves and answers some of the odder quandaries of Christianity, such as why God would create the world in the first place, what happens in the next life, the issue of hell, and the concept of the Trinity.
Tarico: When we talk about Romney in the presidency, it brings up some of the same fears Kennedy faced—that his first loyalty will be to the Church authorities.
Amini: It is reminiscent of the Kennedy election, but since Mormonism is less well-known than Catholicism, that fear is reinforced by ignorance.
We have a bit of interesting history regarding the Romneys and the authority of the church. George Romney, Mitt Romney’s father, was governor of Michigan in the 1960s, and supported the civil rights movement. He received a letter from Delbert Stapley, a member of the Mormon twelve apostles, asking him to withdraw his support from the movement in accordance with Mormon teachings regarding race. Romney actually defied Stapley, and continued to support the Civil Rights Act.
I think that Mitt Romney is much more in-line with the positions of the church on social issues than his father was, but it does go to show that you can’t predict how an individual would govern merely based on their religious affiliation. Take Rick Santorum and John F. Kennedy, for example. They’re both Catholic, but where JFK said that he believes the separation of church and state to be absolute, Santorum said that the thought of it makes him “want to vomit.”
Tarico: What are the most important things to Americans to understand about the Mormon religion and how it might affect a Romney presidency?
Amini: In the temple ceremony, Mormons do make a covenant to obey the church absolutely if they were ever asked, essentially giving the church veto power over your life. That possibility is scary to people who are looking at Romney as a president, but Roman Catholics essentially give the papacy the same power; and Evangelicals give the Bible (as interpreted by some leaders) the same power.
Many kinds of Christians have managed to govern according to the laws of the land in spite of religious commitments and covenants. At the same time, religious people are definitely influenced by their beliefs. We could ask, for example, whether George Bush’s Evangelical beliefs about the Middle East adversely affected our policies there – or whether a Santorum presidency might adversely affect the health of American families if men and women are less able to choose when to have children.
Tarico: How might the Church leadership seek to affect a Romney presidency?
Amini: Well, again, many kinds of churches seek to influence the presidency. The Catholic Bishops have regular meetings with U.S. presidents, and the Evangelical community is allowed to hold an annual prayer breakfast with the President. The Mormon church, however, rarely takes political stands. They did strongly oppose (and may have caused the defeat of) the ERA, opposed the Civil Rights Act, and now fight against Gay Marriage, but otherwise, the Church is largely silent. The people of the church are generally strongly conservative, though.
Tarico: Why is the culture so conservative?
Amini: The philosophy is in line with a conservative way of thinking. If you are not a Mormon, you must either be ignorant of the faith, or have some personal issue preventing you from belief. There’s no such thing as an honest intellectual disagreement with the Church. It’s a very insular community, and those on the outside aren’t trusted like those on the inside. That kind of hierarchical thinking and tribalism is very resonant with the conservative world view.
It’s also difficult to question the church, or have a nuanced view of its truth claims. Believers encourage education but decry people who “trust to their own understanding” as learned fools. They discourage critical questioning of the Church to the point that any materials that might challenge the truth claims of the church are labeled “anti-Mormon,” and regarded as “spiritual pornography.”
Mormons also have a historical impetus toward patriotism. Having establishing what was nearly an independent country in Utah, they eventually needed to reintegrate to the United States around the turn of the previous century. At this time, they began abandoning some of their distinctive doctrines, and took great steps to portray themselves as deeply patriotic.
Tarico: How about Mormon doctrines and internationalism?
Amini: Mormonism is an American religion, and lends itself strongly to American exceptionalism. The Book of Mormon teaches that the land the United States now occupies was designated a sacred and blessed land from the creation of the Earth. Mormons also believe that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri, and that when Christ returns, Zion will be established there. Mormons see the Founding Fathers as divinely inspired, and the U.S. Constitution as an inspired document nearly to the point of scripture.
Interestingly, the church recently reported that it counts more members outside the U.S. than within.
Tarico: Talk to me about women and reproductive rights.
Amini: Mormons teach that the greatest thing a woman can aspire to be is a loving housewife and mother. It is a divine role to care for children. At the same time, because of the Correlation Committee, these teachings are carefully worded.
The church abhors abortion, but doesn’t take a firm stance on birth control. Most couples I have talked to were not forbidden to use any form. However, Mormons believe that we existed before this life, and that there are souls waiting to come down. Growing up, I often heard stories told by mothers who claimed to see their unborn children in visions, waiting to come down to earth. Also, Adam was told to multiply and replenish the Earth. So while Mormons aren’t instructed directly to have lots of children, it is implicit in the theology and culture.
Tarico: Will the Church continue to resist gay rights or will Mormons adapt?
Amini: That’s hard to speculate on, but we could look at what the church has done in the past. It was inconceivable in the 60’s that the Church would ever allow black people to become full members, but that was reversed. Homosexuality will likely prove more difficult due to the Mormon doctrine of eternal marriage and how heterosexual norms are fundamental to Mormon eschatology. I think it is possible that over time Mormons, will adopt an attitude that is more like mainline Christians. The generation in charge of the church right now still thinks that homosexuality is a choice. Perhaps by the time my generation runs the church, things will change.
Tarico: But right now the Church is actively opposing gay marriage.
Amini: Gay marriage is in more direct conflict with Mormon doctrine than perhaps any other Christian denomination, due to the role gender will play in the Mormon afterlife. Still–this may be a little cynical of me–the Church runs itself like a business, and I believe that the stance they have taken on gay marriage is less of a moral one, and more of a political strategy to ingratiate themselves with the broader Christian community.
Tarico: How would former Mormons tend to look at a Mormon presidency?
Amini: Most ex-Mormons I know are politically liberal. I can’t conceive of a democratic Mormon president. Harry Reid is a paradox – he’s part of the team, but not part of the team. I would bet that a Romney presidency would not be looked at favorably by most ex-Mormons because they’ve rejected the criteria by which he makes decisions.
Tarico: Is the “I’m a Mormon” marketing blitz timed in support of the Mormon Presidency?
Amini: Well, I think the Church leaders recognize that if Romney does well, they will do well. They recognize that they are perceived as odd and that having a mainstream candidate will do good things for their image. My guess is that they’d be pleased if he won, but I don’t believe they are trying to orchestrate it.
I think that the Church is concerned primarily with its own survival. They have a growing problem with what I call ‘evaporative cooling’: as access to a wide variety of information becomes more and more ubiquitous, it becomes harder to isolate the members from information that conflicts the official history and teachings of the church. The more inquisitive, critical, and passionate a member is, the more likely that person is to encounter this information, and that often results in a faith crisis.
For example, most Mormons know that Brigham Young had multiple wives, but far fewer know that Joseph Smith did as well. When a young Mormon discovers through the internet that Joseph Smith had thirty-three wives, some as young as fourteen, and about a dozen who were already married, his or her faith may never recover. The church is just starting to recognize the problem, and some leaders are starting to talk about being more open and honest about church history.
Tarico: Anything else?
Amini: If there is something to fear about a Mitt Romney presidency, I don’t think it’s his faith. He is not going to nudge us toward a Mormon theocracy. If anything, I think the Mormon church would follow Mitt Romney’s lead on political questions before Romney would be led by the church.