It’s often said that religion and politics are the taboo subjects that one should never discuss at a party or in the workplace. Fortunately this is neither, so what do you think I’m going to talk about?
The reason these subjects are such a no-no is obvious. People are very passionate about their politics and more so about their religion. People are often willing to die, and worse: kill, when directed by their deeply held religious beliefs. If there are any of the deeply faithful reading this now I urge you to click away because I may well become your Salman Rushdie.
You see, I happen to be an athiest. I’m not a “devout” athiest like Christopher Hitchens or Bill Maher; you’ll never hear me say out loud something as inflammatory as “people who believe in god are stupid” (although talking snakes, burning bushes, and virgin births are pretty silly when you really think about it) as these men are likely to do, but you’re not going to win any points with me if you knock on my door and start pitching me the path to Heavenly Father’s Celestial Kingdom.
I wasn’t always an athiest, and I really don’t hate religion to be honest with you. I think it causes far more harm than good and I think it should be gone from this world, but I don’t hate it. In fact it fascinates me. And, as such, I’ve studied it for some time. While the general dogmas and practices of the “big three” religions in our world (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) are old news to most and therefore rather mundane, a number of the “smaller” religions and certain Christian denominations and sects are really quite interesting.
Those Wacky Mormons
Mormonism, for example, is especially bizarre in some of its traditions. On the one hand, these are some of the most giving people you will ever meet. Support of the less fortunate and the community in general is one of the the things Mormons most expect of each other. Food drives and clothing drives to benefit the Homeless don’t just happen around the holidays in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In light of this, maybe Mitt Romney wouldn’t be such a bad choice for President?
Egad! Did I say that out loud? Perhaps I should remind myself that, if Romney were elected, he’d be giving his inauguration speech while wearing magic underwear. From Wikipedia:
A Temple garment (also referred to as garments, or Mormon underwear) is a type of underwear worn by members of some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, after they have taken part in the Endowment ceremony. Garments are worn both day and night and are required for any previously endowed adult to enter a church temple. The undergarments are viewed as a symbolic reminder of the covenants made in temple ceremonies, and are viewed as either a symbolic or literal source of protection from the evils of the world.
The garment is given as part of the washing and anointing portion of the endowment. Today, the temple garment is worn primarily by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and by members of some Mormon fundamentalist churches. Adherents consider them to be sacred and not suitable for public display. Anti-Mormon activists have occasionally publicly displayed or defaced temple garments to show their opposition to the LDS Church.
Magic underwear! How about that? I wonder if the Mormon Wives have some kind of a special store (Brigham’s of Sandy, perhaps?) where they can get sexy lingerie versions of these garments? It would certainly make that procreation stipulation of theirs a little easier for the husbands to live up to.
Another interesting, but little known Mormon tradition is what they call the Baptism of the Dead. This is not nearly as creepy as it sounds, since they dunk the deceased by proxy, but it is an interesting concept. You see, if you die without having been baptized, you can’t go to Heaven (or so the reasoning states). Baptism of the dead is just an extension of the Mormon spirit of community support; making sure their fellow man can enter god’s glory, no matter what heathen faith he may have followed while alive.
To be fair, Baptism of the Dead is actually not unique to Mormonism; it has been practiced across numerous Christian denominations over the years, however you’d be hard pressed to find it anywhere but Salt Lake City these days. In fact, it was forbidden as a heretical act in the 4th Century by the Catholic church.
The Church of Jesus Christ of latter Day Saints’ official stance on the practice is that church members are urged to submit only the names of ancestors for the practice, however as recently as 2002 the church’s database included as many as 19,000 people who had a “40 to 50 percent chance” of having been Holocaust victims” and that a number of famous Jews had been vicariously baptized without family permission. These names include the likes of Albert Einstein and Irving Berlin, among others. Jewish groups have long taken issue with the practice, citing it as insensitive to the living and the dead. The church has insisted that it does all it can to prevent the vicarious baptism of names which would cause this kind of grief and has, in fact, removed over 300,000 names of Jewish Holocaust victims from its databases in accordance with an agreement the church made in 1995 to remove such names. This information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism_of_the_dead.
Christian Science: An Oxymoron?
The first thing that many think of when they hear the term Christian Science is science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and his rather bizarre “church” which includes several celebrities (such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta) among its members. This is the Church of Scientology which is not at all a branch of Christian Science, but a different belief system altogether. Don’t worry, I’ll get to them soon enough. Christian Science is a belief system based upon the writings of Mary Baker Eddy (July 16, 1821 – December 3, 1910), primarily her textbook entitled Science & Health With Key to the Scriptures. These are the folks who believe that all illnesses can be healed through prayer and that the practice of medicine is unnecessary. They’re the ones you may have heard about in the past who will refuse important medical procedures such as blood transfusions in favor of the healing power of prayer. Not surprisingly, they have a far higher mortality rate than most other religious groups.
Christian Scientists believe that all things created by god are spiritual rather than material and that the fact that we live in a material world (and I am a material girl?) is merely an illusion. They also believe that the accounts in the Bible are symbolic stories meant to teach us of our spiritual nature rather than literal accounts of specific events. As such they are a Christian group which does not oppose the teaching of the theory of evolution in schools and does not demand that an alternate account (such as “intelligent design” – a fancy way to say creation) also be presented. They also take no official stance on other popular Christian positions such as the actual age of the Earth (a full six thousand years by some accounts). It’s refreshing. They may be crazy, but at least they’re not hell bent on imposing their dogma on the rest of the world.
Watch for Part Two of this post which is doubtless going to send me directly to Hell, coming in a few days or so…