Sunday, June 10, 2007

The War on Religion

What do the following men have in common?

Jim Quigley, CEO Deloitte and Touche
Kevin Rollins, CEO Dell Computers
Kim Clark, President Harvard Business School
Gary Crittendon, CFO American Express
David Neeleman, CEO JetBlue

All have obviously successful careers. They are leaders.

Admired. Respected. Mormon.

And for that reason alone Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, thinks they exhibit a "basic failure to think for himself."

Last December Weisberg, apparently full of the "holiday" spirit, wrote a column about presidential candidate Mitt Romney in which he argued that no one should vote for a Mormon. In asking the question, "are you a religious bigot if you wouldn't cast a ballot for a believing Mormon?", Weisberg explains that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a woman or being black, but that there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you are a Mormon.

As I recently noted, people taking shots at Mormons is old hat. What makes Weisberg's piece remarkable is the following statement:

"Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage."


For Weisberg, it's ok if you are a Mormon, a Methodist, or a Jew, so long as you don't actually believe in the tenets of your faith. You can claim a "religious heritage" and be alright, just be careful what you have faith in. Weisberg realizes that Mormons are not alone in their requirement of faith, and so explains that, unlike other religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints simply hasn't had the time yet to stop believing in Jesus.

To Weisberg, the only good religion is the "liberalized" one. The only good religious person is the "rational" one that has cast aside the fairy tales of scripture- tales like Jesus being born of a virgin, healing the sick, raising the dead, and being resurrected. If you've had time to "splinter, moderate, and turn your myths into metaphor" then you can be forgiven your religious folly. But if you actually believe in Jesus, then you will get no grace from the omniscient Jacob Weisberg.

Unfortunately, he is not alone. This attitude, this disdain, this prejudice towards people of faith is growing. In an interview on msnbc, Bill Maher said that "religion is a neurological disorder." He said that because religions in this country teach that there is a heaven and that there is a devil, that makes them on par with Iran. To this anti-religion movement, simply believing there is a heaven equates you with the country that currently supplies the means to create the roadside bombs that kill Americans and Iraqis every day.

This anti-religion sentiment has largely gone unchecked. Granted, various groups have pushed back- the "War on Christmas" activities being the most noticeable, but most of the time when blatantly prejudicial statements are directed toward those of faith, nothing is done. Conversely, think of what would have happened if Maher, instead of saying religion, had said that homosexuality is a neurological disorder. Therein lies the irony of it all. People like Bill Maher and Jacob Weisberg are often heard preaching the virtues of diversity and acceptance. But if you're religious, those ideals somehow don't apply.

20 comments:

Parklife said...

First the article is about a guy running for president. Not the CEO of a corporation.

Second, I think your mischaracterizing Weisberg just a bit there. Or, at the very least the term "liberalized". His concern seems to be that Mormons show little interest in the 21st century and little to do with Jesus. After all, Christians, I think, believe in JC and he doesnt go after them.

Rather, he seems to go after the Joseph Smith thing. And, like it or not, there are many people who have concerns over this issue. To be honest, I dont really care about Mr. Smith or the tenants of any religion. It all seems a bit hokey to me.

“religion is a neurological disorder”.. to be fair, I don’t think Maher really means that. I think he’s trying to make a joke. This joke seems to be of the variety of being a bit of an extreme hyperbole. But, your point is well taken. It’s a distasteful “joke” with no basis in reality. His comments about heaven and hell seem to be relating to seeing the world in good and evil. Some people think it is o.k. to create something like Guantanamo or that torture is acceptable. They think to fight evil it is o.k. to engage in these acts. This is similar thinking to terrorist groups. These terror groups justify their wrong doings with what they see as American atrocities. But, its hard to understand what Maher really said because there is no link to the text.

The real irony is that Maher never said that homosexuality is a neurological disorder. Rather, it’s the religious factions that make those claims. How funny is that?

Ashlee said...

I missed you. Where did you go?

Benjamin said...

parklife-that's not the issue. The issue is that a man is claiming that anyone who believes in a religion as hokey as the mormon faith is obviously brainwashed, or at best, a lemming. The point that I saw from the author is two-fold. First, business leaders of some renown are also mormons. If they're dumb, I'd like to learn some of their stupidity. Second, and more important, many claim that mormons are odd and their beliefs are a little "too hokey" too allow them to vote for a mormon. Well, Jew, Muslim, Christian, or Mormon, you all think men lived till they were nine-hundred, one of them built a really big boat when the whole world flooded, and a jewish man made food come from heaven, after splitting the red sea.

There's nothing wrong with saying that mormonism's tenets are a little odd. But judge all religions the same: a christian and a mormon both believe that a man from Nazareth came back to life.

As for Maher, he's a cynic, and likes to make people mad. I personally don't have time to spend on people who enjoy irritating more than encouraging thoughtful discussion.

Lastly, the line "(mormons have) little to do with Jesus." I'll bet you'd be surprised how animated some mormons would get if you told them that. I'd check your research.

Hava said...

The name of this blog caught my eye, and so I checked it out. Great blog you have going here! I graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1999, so I know all about the Magic Valley. ;-) My father actually works at a car dealership in Jerome - can't remember the name, but anyway, it's one of the big car dealerships there. I live in Blackfoot now, so I'm on the other side of the state. :-)

I am, of course, a huge Mitt Romney fan, and so I was glad to see your blog supporting him. Mitt will do some amazing things for this country if he gets elected.

Go Mitt Go!

Hava
mittforpresident.wordpress.com

Parklife said...

Benjamin,
Honestly, I dont think that we disagree all that much. I do think that you miss my intentions.

I think we agree that all religions should be judged equally and not demonized like the Mormon faith is. This faith seems to suffer from extra, unwarranted criticism that seems to escape other (more established, is that the right term?) religions.

Additionally, we seem to agree on Maher just filling air to improve ratings or make a joke.

I think we disagree about CEOs being qualified to run the country. Personally, I would rather have somebody with knowledge of policy and how govt. works. There is a big diff. between govt. and private enterprise.

Finally, you appear to be guilty of misinterpretation yourself:

"(Mormons have) little to do with Jesus."

I never said that. And, please, dont put words in my mouth. My point is that Weisberg does not attack the Jesus side of the Mormon faith. Rather he goes after the Smith side of the faith. This is contrary to the tact used by Cameron:

But if you actually believe in Jesus, then you will get no grace from the omniscient Jacob Weisberg.

Weisberg does not go after Jesus. He goes after Smith. This sentence should read:

But if you actually believe in Smith..

Such is life. It seems Cameron is throwing all Christianity and Mormons into the same basket, which isnt necessarily true. And, certainly not true to Weisberg, who clearly states the differences in his article.

In the end, I dont like editorial pages. That includes Slate, the WSJ and any other paper you can think of. I see little value in them. They tend to cherry pick data and misrepresent facts. In the end you something like the Weisberg column is actually "printed".

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Cameron, first of all, it is nice to see you are still breathing, or at least typing.
Second, I couldn't agree more with your sentiment concerning attacks on Mormons being "old hat". I had a professor in grad school - at very conservative and non-LDS Catholic University of America - say that the Mormons were the one religious group in the US who had suffered consistent official attack and persecution. The record is pretty clear.
Now then, as to the comments of Weisberg (I do not take Bill Maher seriously at all, even when I agree with him), I believe that anti-Mormon bigotry is, alas, one of the few remaining "safe" bigotries to express. After all, you all seem so different, and all that business with families, and the history of polygamy - people just can't get enough of that. Don't even get me started on Joseph Smith and the Palmyra vision!
While I have theological questions about the tenets of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, I will never nor would I ever gainsay the seriousness of an adherents faith, his or her commitment thereto, nor will I nor would I raise questions about a person based solely upon his or her adherence to any religious belief.
My own feeling, and you may take this with however many grains of salt you wish, is that much of the hysteria and vehemence of the attacks upon religion in general by non-believers - not just upon your church, but upon the very idea of religious belief - flow from a basic misunderstanding of the nature of religious belief, combined with a fear that grows out of a skewed perception of the nature of the religious life, a perception that is not helped by holding up people not necessarily representative of the great stream of American religious life.
On a personal note, I grew up in north-central New York State, on the PA border. About an hour-and-a-half away was Palmyra, where they hold a festival each year to commemorate the vision Joseph Smith received. For my part, I neither believe nor disbelieve the event, in the same way I would never question Muhammed's report of his encounter with Gabriel and the ensuing dictation of the Holy Q'uran. I do believe, in both cases, the resulting success speak for themselves. While I consider myself a pretty orthodox mainstream Christian, I also would never limit God and God's power to a single manifestation.
I do not believe you should be so defensive. It is incumbent upon those who make charges such as those you highlight to provide some evidence for their statements. You should just sit back and allow them to tie themselves in to intellectual knots as supposed liberals defend indefensible bigotry.

Anonymous said...

The difference between a 'believer' and 'nonbeliever' regardless of religion is faith. There are those with no faith who rely on the merits of men and those with faith who rely on the merits of God. We live in the greatest country of all where we can express our opinions and while we may disagree, we are free to choose what we believe in. There are some who would take that freedom away from you if they could because they want to impose their own belief system on others without regard to freedom. Regardless of race, religion, gender, etc, we all have the same freedom of religion. Let's just remember that we are Americans regardless what we believe and that's what makes America great. Religious bigotry of any sort is intolerant and I laude Romney for having a belief system that works for him. I find it more important to look at his voting record than what church he goes to. I'm sure there will be those that disagree with that statement, but again, that's what makes America great....you can have an opinion!

Democracy Lover said...

dCameron, welcome back!

First of all, as I have mentioned elsewhere, I don't think we should judge candidates for political office on their religious beliefs or lack thereof. The only exception I would make is if a candidate simply did not understand or believe in the separation of church and state and the importance of keeping government out of religion and vice versa.

I do find your comment that " anti-religion sentiment has largely gone unchecked" to be amusing. There sure has been a lot of pro-religion sentiment unchecked and there's a lot of anti-atheist sentiment around as well. For every Bill Maher who publicly expresses his negative feelings about religion on TV, there are a dozen preachers yapping on other channels.

I would not defend Maher particularly, but he has every right to his beliefs about religion. Unlike homosexuality, religion is not something we are born with but something we choose. There's a difference between making fun of a person's freely chosen beliefs and their biological makeup.

Cameron said...

Weisberg attacked Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon for being too unbelievable to believe. However, he recognizes that pretty much every religion believes in miraculous things- he points to Moses parting the Red Sea as an example. How he then segregates Mormon beliefs into the "unable to think for himself" category is the crux of my post. Weisberg says it's ok to vote for a candidate who claims a "religious heritage", and then he tells us what that means. Namely, the candidate must have "turned myth into metaphor". Perhaps I misunderstand him, but to me, Weisberg is saying that in order to be "president-worthy" you cannot believe that Jesus rose Lazerus from the dead. You cannot believe that the Red Sea was parted. You have to believe that those things are simply "metaphors". To Jacob Weisberg, miracles do not happen, and if you are the unfortunate soul that actually believes in miracles, then you are either stupid, naive, or both.

The second point of the post is to spotlight what people are allowed to say about Christianity, but not about any other group. Bill Maher can share Hitler's view of religion and no one notices. He can say religion is a neurological disorder and it's ok (Parklife, I've added the link). Perhaps he was just joking. But then, so was Don Imus.

What if Weisberg had written a colum about how no one should vote for a Muslim because they beleive Muhammed was sqeezed by an angel until the words to the Koran came out? How would that be received?

If Weisberg's column had been limited to making fun of Mormons, I might not have given it a second thought. But it wasn't. He simply used Mormon-bashing as a cover for a much broader point.

Parklife-

I think Benjamin answered your comments fairly well. "If those guys are dumb, I'd like to learn some of their stupidity" pretty much sums up the use of the CEO's in the post.

Hopefully my update above answers your comment about Weisberg attacking Joseph Smith and not Christianity.

Benjamin-

Thanks for the comment. It appears you got the point of the post, but when you say "judge all religions the same", I think Weisberg is essentially doing just that. He is judging anyone that believes "that a man from Nazareth came back to life".

Geoffrey-

Yes, still breathing. The typing has been fairly light lately though. Thanks for keeping tabs on me and checking for updates.

My intention was not to be defensive, but to point out the real meaning behind Weisberg's column. I rarely get flustered by derogatory statements directed at Mormons, however I do think it beneficial at times to cast light on them if for no other reason than to display the absurdity of them. I think you have written somewhat of the same type of things for some of the same reasons.

DL-

I appreciate your sentiment concerning religion and holding public office. I have noticed your recent comments concerning judging political candidates based on religion. However I also remember your post from a few months ago which echoed Weisberg quite a bit. I'm not sure where the recent change of heart has come from, but I hope it is genuine.

I thought you might enjoy my "unchecked anti-religion" assertion. I think you misunderstand though. Where was Al Sharpton's outrage when Maher said people like him had a disorder? Where was Rev. Sharpton's outrage when Weisberg said the only electable religious person is the one who doesn't believe Jesus healed anyone? If Maher and Weisberg had been speaking about the color of the skin rather than a religion, I'm pretty sure there would have been repercussions. And frankly, it's not even just "religion". If someone had come out against a Muslim candidate, there would have been swift action. It seems that Christianity is the last safe haven for those that want to make "jokes" like Maher's.

Parklife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Parklife said...

This has to be one of the dumbest arguments I've read in awhile. One of the foundations of an argument seems to be the initial thrust that there is a disagreement somewhere. The larger issue that being Mormon disqualifies somebody from being president is wrong. And everybody here seems to agree to that. So really.. whats the point.

"Perhaps I misunderstand him"
and.. I think you do misunderstand him. But, who cares? Weisberg is clearly wrong in his thinking. And, like many op-eds, the only purpose of his writing is to drum up attention.

And.. the same goes for Maher. Remember, he has a TV show? This is all entertainment, op-ed and TV. This is not serious discussion. Fur God sake.. Maher has people like Carrot Top on his show. Its unfortunate that your "offended" by his comments and dont understand why people like Maher are still around. Here's a hint.. Life's not fair.

Last.. I hate "what ifs..". They prove NOTHING. Rather, just enforce your previous beliefs. In the end, we're all in agreement. I guess we're just going to have to deal with those horrible consequences. Hey, at least we're not in Iraq.. just kidding.

Anonymous said...

Parklife-you are so full of yourself. If this conversation is so dumb then see yourself out if it.
Of course Wiseberg is wrong in his thinking and if Cameron or anyone else doesn't agree then they have a right to say something about it just like you do.
Differing opinions is what brings great discussions.

Cameron said...

Parklife, the disagreement may not have been about Mormon "qualifications" for president, but it certainly seems to be about what Weisberg's real message was. I don't know if I haven't spelled it out carefully enough, or if you are intentionally avoiding it, but Weisberg's column not only disqualifies Mormons from the presidency but also anyone else that believes in the miraculous.

It's not just about Mormons.

Apparently, you don't agree. If you'd like to discuss that, be my guest.

Chancelucky said...

Years ago, a friend of mine who was from some branch of Oliver Cowdery's family that didn't wind up being Church Members (given his excommunication, there apparently are more than a few) confided in me that the family had a letter from Cowdery that essentially admitted that Cowdery considered Joseph Smith's claims to be fraudulent.

I never believed the friend or the claim. When it comes to religion, I've always figured that people are entitled to their beliefs. Many bits of Christian and Moslem church history do look more than a bit suspicious when examined historically, but some things are just a matter of faith.

Cameron, maybe you know. I know there are Mormon archaeologists who look for potential sites or evidence in the western hemisphere of the events described in the Book of Mormon. I imagine they have found a number of at least suggestive artifacts that confirm Smith's find and the events described in the scriptures.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing about what they have found with respect to the golden tablets, etc.
These sorts of things always interest me.

neonprimetime said...

I hate how in America now it almost seems like it's taboo to mention you're a religious man or woman. Cause if you do you risk offending somebody or getting a lawsuit against you. Doesn't something in one of those important documents say freedom of religion? Shouldn't we therefore be able to share our beliefs without being discriminated against?

Everybody cries about the blacks, mexicans, and gays being singled out ... but you fail to realize that the Mormons, Christians, etc. receive the same discrimination if not worse on a daily basis.

Parklife said...

NPT, sorry.. I couldnt make it past the second sentence. Good to see you back though.

"Weisberg's real message was"

The only point I have is... Who Cares. Who cares what his message is or was. Weisberg is off his rocker. He writes an op-ed. He is begging for attention. I'm glad that we all agree he's nuts. But, beyond that, there is no fundamental argument. Other than the crazy guy, nobody is saying that people of any religion (or no religion) can not be successful in their job.

"It's not just about Mormons."

Thats the only point where we differ in regard to Weisberg’s column. But, really.. thats getting down to nit-picking. (Its that second ph from the bottom of the article). Honestly, Chance brings up some interesting questions. And, personally, I would rather read something about the Mormon faith, which I know nothing about, rather than reading complaints about nutty op-ed authors.

Just my $0.02.

Cameron said...

Chancelucky,

Thanks for stopping by. I've never heard of the letter you describe. However, Oliver Cowdrey is a notable person in LDS church history. He assisted Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Mormon. He and others were shown the original plates. After some time he left the church, claiming that Joseph was a "fallen prophet". Years later Oliver returned and was welcomed back to the church. Of note is the fact that despite leaving the church amid much acrimony, and having every reason to, Oliver never denied having seen the plates, nor any of the other "miraculous" events he was a part of.

As for archaeology and the like, yes there are many Mormon scholars out there. Here is one place where some of that information can be found. For a mostly "scholarly" look at Mormon doctrine, the FARMS website is a great resource, as is the "Mormanity" blog I linked to previously.

I have written some "religious" posts in the past, and will probably do so in the future. Most of the time I leave my religious ruminations to one on one conversations, or discussions in small groups. I enjoy religious conversation, but have found that blogs that do so leave much to be desired. However, if there is genuine interest here, I would be happy to discuss my beliefs with those that want to know.

Cameron said...

Parklife,

I finally noticed your mention of my post on your blog. That, coupled with what you have written here, show that you have completely missed the point.

I don't care, nor am I attacking, any group that calls themselves "progressive" or "liberal", and I am not suggesting that all of their arguments are false.

I have pointed out that Jacob Weisberg, an influential editor, thinks that anyone that beleives in miracles is too stupid to be president. I then used Maher as an example that Weisberg is not alone.

You continue to press the point that Weisberg attacked Mormons only. I showed in my post and in my follow up comments that that is not the case. Here it is in his own words:

One may object that all religious beliefs are irrational—what's the difference between Smith's "seer stone" and the virgin birth or the parting of the Red Sea?

Perhaps Christianity and Judaism are merely more venerable and poetic versions of the same. But a few eons makes a big difference. The world's greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor.


That's pretty straight forward. That is what the purpose of my post is. Again, it has nothing to do with Mormon-bashing.

As for your repeated claims that it doesn't matter because it's only an op-ed, that's a pretty weak excuse. Isn't that what every blog is? In this case, a very public figure, who holds no small amount of influence, also holds a very antagonistic view of religion. He tried to hide that view behind his attack on Mormons, but it is plain to all who actually read what he wrote.

Parklife said...

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. But, no matter what you say, Mormons should NOT be discriminated against!

Have a great day Cameron.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know about the LDS religion, attend services on sunday. when you do your research, go to www.lds.org or www.mormon.com. Check it out! To know the truth about something go to the main source. If I want to know about a presidental canidiate I go to him by listening to his debates etc. NEVER ASSUME anything!!!