The Telegraph is outraged because Richard Dawkins had the temerity to say that Mormonism has ridiculous stuff in it. It uses loaded language to convey its outrage.
Richard Dawkins on Sunday accused Mitt Romney of being a “massively gullible fool” as he launched into a furious tirade against the Republican’s Mormon faith.
Britain’s most prominent atheist attacked the core tenets of Mr Romney’s religion, saying that the Church of Latter Day Saints’ founding prophet was “a fraud” and that the presidential contender was “too stupid to see it”.
“No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours. [emphasis added]
So? Mormonism does have ridiculous stuff in it. We need to know if candidates for public office believe ridiculous stuff. (In the US they almost all do, but that’s no reason not to point it out when they do.)
The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church’s belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill.
Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden.
Well exactly – and that’s ridiculous!
Dawkins expanded on his “outburst” in a couple of comments at RDF. He addressed the claim that Mormonism is no more absurd than the other religions.
Christianity, even fundamentalist Christianity, is substantially less ridiculous than Mormonism…Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient and the language of its alleged “translation” is ludicrously anachronistic. It was dictated by Joseph Smith, a man with a track record of charlatanry, purporting to translate it from “Reformed Egyptian” with the aid of a magic stone in a magic hat (Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish is not less plausible). The English in which Smith dictated it is not the English of his own time (1830) but the English of more than two centuries earlier. As Mark Twain cuttingly observed, if you remove all occurrences of “It came to pass” the book would be reduced to a pamphlet. The language in which it is written proclaims it to be a palpable fake – as if Smith’s cock-and-bull story of golden plates hadn’t already given the game away. Smith obviously was steeped in the King James Bible, and he made up a whole new set of “scriptures” in the same style of English.
Which is so…rube-like. It depends on not realizing that the King James language is 17th century English, not goddy or holy English. Mind you, it worked, so perhaps I shouldn’t laugh. But I do.
Setting aside the mountebankery of Smith’s English style, many of the core beliefs of Mormonism run counter to everything we now know for certain about the colonisation of America. DNA evidence, for example, utterly refutes the claim that native Americans are “a remnant of the House of Israel”. The idea that Jesus visited America is preposterous, and the idea the Adam and Eve did too is even worse (it is at least arguable that Jesus existed). The traditional Mormon belief in the inferiority of black people (only lately renounced for reasons of political expediency) is as scientifically inaccurate as it is obnoxious.The great “prophet” Brigham Young even prescribed the death penalty for inter-racial marriage.
Yes but it doesn’t do to say so!
And then there’s the no religion test retort.
The other main retort to my Mormon tweets is an important one. It is that a candidate’s religion should be ignored unless he allows it to impinge on his policy. The principle of this was laid out by J F Kennedy, when his Catholicism was counting against him. It appears to some readers to be enshrined in Article VI of the Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Of course that is right. There should never be any law barring a person of any particular faith (or none) from holding office (as the law of England, for example, prohibits a Roman Catholic from occupying the throne). But of course that admirable constitutional clause doesn’t prohibit individual voters from taking the religion of a candidate into account when they make up their own minds in the voting booth.
Yes and not just individual voters; also observers and commentators…and bloggers and tweeters. We all get to point out the problems and discuss them and form opinions because of them.
Even if Romney, like Kennedy (but unlike G W Bush) scrupulously kept his religion out of his politics, a voter would still be entitled to take account of his religious beliefs in deciding whether he had the intellect and the judgment to be a good president. It is rational to say something like this: Never mind whether Romney’s taxation policy, foreign policy, education policy etc is completely free of Mormon influence, I am still entitled to say that a man sufficiently gullible to believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet, and sufficiently unscientific to believe Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, is not qualified to be president of the world’s most powerful country.
Yes indeed. (But never forget – it doesn’t do to say so.)