O’Donnell on Mormonism

All, Mark has been busy becoming a Dr. and I’ve been busy doing end-of-semester stuff at UC-B. So, sorry for the absenteeism. Maybe when Mark recovers from his hangover we’ll have more good content here. But until then, check out Lawrence O’Donnell (who is on HBO’s Big Love) rant on Mormonism. Ouch!

I can’t resist. South Park, All About the Morons.


  1. Perfututum

    He should have made the point that Romney was either telling the truth about his beliefs, or he was lying. If he was truthful, then he is truly dastardly. If not, why would he be lying about his religion.

    No person of good, or fair, character would ever take a position like Romney did. Now we have real insight into the content of his character.

  2. Lawrence O’Donnell’s arguments are risible. Plenty of other faiths condoned slavery – Christianity, Judaism, Islam (read Segal’s Islam’s Black Slaves). Many Christian sects had ludicrous explanations for racial differences – variably involving Babel, Adam and Eve, polygenesis and so on.

    No one who believes in the literal truth of the doctrines of any Abrahamic faith – nor of any other faith I can think of – can mock Mormonism for being silly with any intellectual consistency. Mormonism makes historical and cosmological claims which are demonstrably false. Well, welcome to the theological club. Sure, its prophets and miracles don’t have the patina of ancient history.

    Mormonism is anti-American? Tell that to Harry Reid or Jon Heder. Or better yet, don’t, because it’s a disgraceful thing to say.

    Those who define Mormons by the worst of them are like those who would slam Keith Ellison or Zalmay Khalilzad on the basis of 9/11 (I know, the Mormons had their own 9/11), or would bash all Christians on the basis of the Inquisition, or would identify all Jews with the terrorist Baruch Goldstein.

    How many of us atheists and agnostics think of ourselves as being in a tradition of freethought, and take some pride in our progressive freethinker intellectual ancestors? Do we really want to dwell on what a good number of those “ancestors” thought of nonwhites or of the lower classes, or their views on eugenics?

  3. While I like seeing religion bashed relentlessly, I’ll begrudgingly concede Colugo’s points here. Strictly speaking I can’t see how O’Donnell’s arguments wouldn’t apply to any other religion.

  4. Mormonism is more than racist it’s also identifies homosexual, feminists and intellectuals as the three biggest threats to itself. It’s not the only racist religion, nor the only one that is afraid of people who think or feel.

  5. Ex-drone

    It was like a religion laundromat — all the dirty laundry was getting piled up on the floor.

  6. I would disagree with Colugo on one point. The timing of racism in Mormonism is still pretty bad. O’Donnel brings up a valid point, as recently as 30 years ago, blacks were viewed as sub-human in the eyes of this church, and, like many churches, they have problems with tolerance in other respects. Fundamentalist members of this church still enslave women, marrying them off as teenagers to their male relatives by the dozen. If Romney were smart he’d say he believes in the tenets of his faith except were they have conflicted with human decency, and the practice of polygamy, racism etc. Say the church, like many churches, evolves towards greater truth, godliness blah blah blah. Defending Mormonism, which is exceptional as one of the few truly historically falsifiable religions might be an error, especially given how little people think of it.

  7. Is Mormonism really uniquely heinous on race, even at such a late date?

    Southern Baptist segregation

    “By November 1968 a survey research by the Home Mission Board revealed that only eleven percent of Southern Baptist churches would admit African-Americans. Later that month the SBC Crisis Statement was reaffirmed by only eight state Baptist conventions, none of them in the Deep South.

    After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, desegregation began to become a reality in the South. Most white Southerners, Baptists included, gradually but grudgingly came to accept it. Yet those with strong misgivings rapidly developed segregated private schools, many of which were called “Christian Academies” and utilized church facilities, especially among Baptist churches.”

    The history of Mormon attitudes and policies regarding race – while inarguably shameful – is more complex than some are suggesting, with reversals in both directions and contradictions; see the Wikipedia article ‘Blacks and the Latter Day Saint Movement.’

    And did you know that the Catholic Church to this day refuses to admit women to the priesthood? Racial discrimination is not the same as sex discrimination. But these are still arbitrary restrictions on participation and diminished status based on circumstances of birth.

    There is no justification for conflating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the mainstream Mormon denomination, with contemporary sects that still practice polygny and other practices that incur excommunication from Romney’s LDS.

    Romney and his church’s policy on race and the priesthood (David D. Kirkpatrick, NYT, 11/15/07):

    “Civil rights became an even more insistent issue, when boycotts and violent protests over the university’s virtually all-white sports teams broke out at away games. The Mormon Church at the time excluded blacks from full membership, considering them spiritually unfit as results of a biblical curse on the descendants of Noah’s son Ham. (During their training, a fellow missionary of Mr. Romney took notes that read: “All men were created equal — No,” followed by “Sons of Ham. ”)

    A handful of students and prominent Mormons — including the Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall and his brother Stewart, then secretary of the interior — called for an end to the doctrine. Some Mormons hoped the pressure would persuade the church to abandon its exclusion of blacks, just as it had stopped endorsing polygamy.

    Mitt Romney had walked in civil rights marches with his father and said he shared his concern for racial equality. But neither publicly questioned the church’s teachings.

    “I hoped that the time would come when the leaders of the church would receive the inspiration to change the policy,” Mr. Romney said. When he heard over a car radio in 1978 that the church would offer blacks full membership, he said, he pulled over and cried.

    But until then, he deferred to church leaders, he said. “The way things are achieved in my church, as I believe in other great faiths, is through inspiration from God and not through protests and letters to the editor.””

    MarkH: “If Romney were smart he’d say he believes in the tenets of his faith except were they have conflicted with human decency, and the practice of polygamy, racism etc. Say the church, like many churches, evolves towards greater truth”

    That would be nice. But how many US Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Muslim public officials have done the same? (In fact, I think us science-minded non-theists would do well to recount the sins of our intellectual ancestors while acknowledging that our understanding of the world and our ethics evolve towards a greater truth. Perhaps we can lead by example.)

    By the way, Mark, congratulations on a successful dissertation defense.

  8. The Mormons have plenty to be ashamed of. Including but not limited to raiding passing wagon trains for women, labelling any women as “Heifers”, denigrating women and non-whites . . .
    Do I need to go on ? The history is out there.

  9. Sure, let’s call out ALL bigoted/hateful/idiotic religion for what it is. But let’s remember, the McLaughlin Group is a topical program and O’Donnell was merely using the occasion to jump on Romney – and courageously rip into the absurd LDS faith. God bless him for it (sorry atheist/agnostic readers)!

  10. I’m going to have to second Colugos point that you can’t justifiably conflate the “normal” LDS church (wretched as they are) with the various polygymous sects of mormonism. The LDS church has more than enough problems with it without pointing out that its splitters are even worse.

    Its biggest problem is right at the beginning: it was founded by a known con man. How can you trust anything after that?

  11. Hey, at least they can prove that Joseph Smith existed. That is more than Christians can say about their namesake.

  12. Lance: Except mormons are christians, unless you only think certain brands of christian are christian.

  13. jba,

    I guess any person that claims to follow the teachings of “Jesus Christ” can be called a Christian, but being an ex-Mormon I can tell you that Mormon doctrine is only parenthetically related to main stream Christianity. (Protestantism, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholicism etc.)

  14. @jba, “Hey, at least they can prove that Joseph Smith existed. That is more than Christians can say about their namesake.”

    The Mormons are called either the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints or Mormons, named after either Jesus Christ or the prophet Mormon, who as we are told by Joseph Smith’s translation of Egyptian Gold Plates he found buried in his yard in upstate New York and translated with magical stones, was a 4th century AD prophet historian of the Nephite people (white and delightsome native Americans who came over on a boat from Israel). So if we’re going with namesake here…

    Mormons believe more absurd things than normal Christians.
    Mormons believe everything Christians believe and X.
    X is absurd.
    Ergo, Mormons believe more absurd things than other Christian groups.

    Mormons not only believe they can telepathically communicate with a first century wish granting zombie Jew who sacrificed himself to himself, they also believe he came to America!

  15. Lance: Well, now. I’m an ex-mormon too. So there! 😛 But you are right, they are very differant from many other xian sects. But a lot of the sects are very differant from each other, often the only common themes are the divinity of Jesus and the bible. And even then which bible is correct is a huge point of debate. I was really just nitpicking, it’s a bad habit I have. Plus I’ve found very little gets under the skin of certain types of xian as saying everyone who claims to be christian, is. 🙂

    Tartarize: I think you meant to direct that at Lance…

  16. Tatarize and jba,

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Mormon’s fairytales are any more idiotic than the “gospels” of other followers of the alleged “god/man”. They are just more easily debunked because they are not yet obscured by centuries of pseudo-scholarship, forgery and societal acceptance.

    My parents were converted to Mormonism when I was eight years old. By the time I was twelve I had read the Book of Mormon and decided the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a pathetic con game. My favorite part of the Book of Mormon is in the book of “Ether” where the story of the “Jaredite’s” journey to the new world in wooden submarines illuminated by glowing stones is told.

    Even at age twelve, desperately trying to believe this “sacred” book, I laughed out loud when I read some of the poorly written and ludicrous fabrications in Joseph Smith’s “Holy Book”.

    Of course subsequent readings of the Bible and Qur’an have proven equally amusing and disturbing.

  17. Lance: On the off chance you haven’t seen it, you should check out skepticsannotatedbible.com (sorry, dont know how to tag links..) its awesome. One of my favorite things from the BoM was when the bronze age folk were described as using iron. I asked a sunday school teacher about it and she said it was a typo. Seriously.

  18. You know, I wish that South Park episode in the link did the “They actually believe this” note like they did with Scientology.

    Mormons do actually believe that stuff, right?

  19. Lawrence O’Donnell is not so outspoken when it comes to some of the faithful.

    Transcript from Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, 12/11/07:

    HH: Okay. And do you believe, would you say the same things about Mohammed as you just said about Joseph Smith?

    LO’D: Oh, well, I’m afraid of what the…that’s where I’m really afraid. I would like to criticize Islam much more than I do publicly, but I’m afraid for my life if I do.

    HH: Well, that’s candid.

    LO’D: Mormons are the nicest people in the world. They’re not going to ever…

    HH: So you can be bigoted towards Mormons, because they’ll just send you a strudel.

    LO’D: They’ll never take a shot at me. Those other people, I’m not going to say a word about them.

  20. Bronze Dog: “Mormons do actually believe that stuff, right?”

    Oh yes. And much much more. I haven’t seen that episode in a while, but I remember thinking that they left out some choice nonsense. Of course, it’s only a half hour show. They could fill an entire season with the ridiculousness that is the LDS church.

  21. Julie Flack

    I have not read one accurate description of Mormon beliefs here. Lies and propaganda about our beliefs and history are so common, most Latter-day Saints/Mormons hardly blink at it anymore. The LDS church was never pro-slavery, in fact it was ardently abolitionist. The church has never taught that any race was subhuman or inferior. Such beliefs are antithetical to our wholehearted belief that we are all children of a loving God. We believe in the Bible as scripture and regularly read and study it. There are no “fundamentalist” members of our church. Any who name themselves such are part of their own belief structure that parted company with the LDS church long ago (HBO clearly states that “Big Love” is not about the LDS church! The idea that L O’Donnell plays a Mormon on TV is laughable.). Their beliefs and practices are patently against those of the LDS church. That being said, people attack what they fear. I’m just not sure what is so scary about Mormons–we are normal people trying to be good Christians, good neighbors and good citizens. Sometimes we fall short, but show me anyone who doesn’t.

    If you really want to know the truth about what Mormons believe–ask your practicing Mormon neighbor. We don’t mind.

  22. Bronze Dog,

    The nice young men that come to your door won’t tell you all the crazy nonsense that’s in the Book of Mormon. In fact most Mormons have never read it, except for selected passages pre-sorted by church authorities. Much as most people who call themselves Christians have never read most of the ridiculous fairy tales in their bible, such as the Lord sending bears to maul children for taunting a bald patriarch (2 Kings 2:23-24).


    It sounds as though Hugh Hewitt considers anyone that points out the irrationality of religious dogma, or questions the validity of self proclaimed prophets, a “bigot”. This is typical of the societal free pass that the religious grant to each other. Most believers understand that they should forbid stone throwing since they all live in glass houses.

  23. Julie:

    Did you watch the South Park episode? What they show (although from a skeptical standpoint I will grant) is what I was taught in sunday school while a child in the LDS church(yes, the actual LDS church. Arlington ward, Boston stake). Have you read the entire Book of Mormon? If so, how do you reconcile the anachronisms, plagerisms of the Bible and complete lack of any archeological evidence for the things Jospeh Smith claims? If not, why not? I’m not trying to attack your beliefs, I just want to understand where you are coming from.

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