Being a Mormon Doesn't Matter

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

There are people out there who won’t vote for Mitt Romney just because he’s a Mormon. Which is really unfortunate. Well, actually, it’s more like dopey. While there are certainly plenty of good reasons to not vote for Romney, the fact that he’s a Mormon just isn’t one of them. After all, the Founding Fathers were quite clear that there should be no religious test for public office — and flunking someone simply because he is a Mormon pretty much counts as a religious test.

It’s also dumb because of the numbers. Since there are so many distinctly different sets of religious beliefs in this country and around the world — and if any one of them is actually what you might call “right” — then most of the other people in the world must be “wrong.” So at an absolute minimum, two-thirds of all the people living today must be “wrong” about religion. And since being “wrong” is statistically so common, the self-righteous zealots should really consider giving an earnest guy like Romney a little bit of slack.

According to ReligiousTolerance.org:

“… there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world.”

The likelihood of very large numbers of people being dead wrong increases dramatically if one widely held assumption is true: that there’s one “right” sub-group within one of the larger religions. Remember, there are 34,000 separate groups in the Christian religion alone. If only Southern Baptists or only Seventh Day Adventists go to heaven, the odds of winning the Mass Mega Millions look pretty good by comparison.

But despite fact that the math tells us that most people are “wrong,” people throughout history have been willing to do absolutely awful things because they thought the other guys were wrong about religion. And they can be even more cruel than usual over fairly minor differences in dogma — differences that those outside the religion hardly consider differences at all.

Most Americans can’t tell you the difference between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, even after 10 years of watching sectarian war on TV news. And most of the rest of the world really couldn’t give you a cogent explanation of the differences between the Catholic Church and the Church of England. And yet my people back in Ireland were killing each other for decades with that difference at the core of the mayhem.

There are strong disagreements within Christian groups and denominations. Episcopalians are going at it hammer and tong over gay Bishops. Most American Catholics don’t seem to agree with their own Church on things like contraception. One study recently found that 98 percent of sexually active women of child-bearing age who identify themselves as Catholic have used birth control.

And a Gallup poll found that:

Despite the Roman Catholic Church’s official opposition to abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, a Gallup analysis finds almost no difference between rank-and-file American Catholics and American non-Catholics in terms of finding the two issues morally acceptable.

Gallup found that a slim majority of those who identified themselves as Catholic — but were “non-regular” in their church attendance — said that they found abortion to be morally acceptable.

I once talked to a devout Catholic about transubstantiation. She attends Mass every Sunday. Her faith was very important to her, but she didn’t know what transubstantiation was. When I explained to her that it’s the Catholic belief that through the mystery of the Mass, the bread and wine are transformed, not just symbolically, but actually and literally into the body and blood of Jesus. She thought I was kidding. She made a “pffft!” sound, smiled, and waved her hand like “well, that’s a lot of silly nonsense.” And yet according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, transubstantiation is official Catholic dogma. Either my friend is wrong, or all of the Cardinals in Rome are wrong. They can’t both be right. But I say we should give each other a little slack; one of us is wrong, but both of us are sincere.

So go ahead and don’t vote for Mitt Romney for any reason you see fit, except for that dopey, religiously bigoted reason of his Mormonism. Because the chances are, you and most of the other people in the world are totally wrong. And you can trust me on that — because I know I’m right.

  • Cl. Fontaine

    Actually Barry most people who vote for the current “president” have no clue why they are doing so…. They are probably voting to continue getting handouts. So many more unemployed and those not counted in unemployment numbers because they are using my money to take it easy for a while. There are too numerous to count reasons not to vote for Hussein Obama. He’ll undoubtedly go down as the worst President EVER. You and the rest of the system mouchers will be left saying “hey where’s this months handout?”

    • Mindys Mom

      CL. Fontaine—Your comments are disgusting and racisit. Comment when you have some something intelligent to contribute.

  • Barry

    Dear CL,
    It never ceases to amaze me the contempt that Republicans have for working people. The folks that tend to support Obama are the folks who work in factories and and put up skyscrapers – who harvest your food – take care of your loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes, prepare your meals and make your cars. And yet you hold them in contempt – and would instead suck up to the likes of those at Goldman Sack – the Giant Vampire Squid with its feeding tube wrapped around the face of humanity.

    If you are interested in actual facts about how hard it is for people to find work – instead of Rush Limbaugh style rants – check the JOLTS data -at the BLS web site. JOLTS stands for Job openings and Labor Turnover Survey. You can see that now there are still about 4 people looking for work for every job opening that’s out there. Even if every job in America was filled – 3/4′s of the unemployed would still be out of a job. And so many people are out of a job because on the day Obama took office – the economy was shedding jobs at the rate of 750,000 jobs a month. If you look at the charts available on the Joint Economic Committee web site – you can see how deep the problem was in Jan of 2009 and how far we have come. But I suppose it is much easier to listen to hate radio – and continue to blame the lazy working people – who built America

    Barry Nolan

    • Mindys Mom

      Mr. Nolan,
      Thank you for a reasoned, intelligent, fact filled response. But truth and facts will not work on a mind set that has an agenda in a hateful posting.

    • Orin

      With Mr. Romney, Article 6 obviously protects his qualification to run for office. However, it seems the issue – at least for me – is the potential for breaching the wall of separation of church and state for the following reason:

      He a High Priest in a church that proclaims itself the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. It proclaims itself the bearer of the true and “restored” priesthood of God and, as such, has the only body of authorized servants on earth for administering the laws and ordinances of God. Thus, they believe all other Christian sects are wrong – along with their different creeds, which are an abomination in the sight of God.

      He is a presidential candidate who is known to have sworn an oath of loyalty, consecrating all that he has (his time, talent and resources) to the Mormon church, and has done so as a covenant made with God in the holiest of places, the temple.

      As a voter, it seems to me we need to better understand this candidate’s worldview before casting a vote.

      • Barry

        Dear Orin,
        Do you believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old? Do you believe in evolution? Some of our Christian Presidential candidates said that they did not. I would be far more concerned about someone who said all the scientists in the world are wrong than I would of Mr. Romney saying that all the other Christians are wrong.
        Barry Nolan

  • Mindys Mom

    There are many reasons to NOT vote for Romney. I choose a countless number, but religion never entered the thought process.

  • KD

    It is dumb to vote for someone solely because of their religion, but equally dumb to not give faith any weight, or dismiss the whole subject through Death by Statistics.

    A person’s faith ought to indicate core values, such as an opposition to murder, lying, stealing. If a person ascribes to a given faith, but is ignorant or outright dismissive of its teachings, that’s more telling about the person in question than it is about the validity of the faith, isn’t it?

    Governor Romney appears to have been a loyal and unwavering Mormon all his life. Doesn’t that contrast with the caricature of him as an opportunist? Shouldn’t voters look to those beliefs, which he holds fast to, as a way to better understand the man, rather than solely study his public positions, which appear to have evolved? If you are unsure about where he will stand in six months on public issues, where else to look but to those two things we know haven’t changed about him throughout his life: his belief in the business world and his belief in the Mormon Church.

    Lastly, why is half of a post purportedly about Mormonism and politics specifically critical of Catholicism? At last check, Catholicism has historically been as denigrated by mainstream American voters as much as Mormonism, if not more. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on denominations that historically represent the vast majority of people who have risen to the presidency? The position of the post seems to change at that point from “Religions disagree with each other,” which is one thing, to “Catholics struggle with their doctrines,” which is a horse of a different color. The writer’s own link referencing the erroneous “98 percent” study brings up a very good fact check that actually invalidates the study. To quote the Internet: RTFA.

  • Barry

    Dear KD,
    The folks that are making noise about maybe not voting for Mr. Romney because he is a mormon – are not me – not the liberals – and not the Democrats. Heck, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a Mormon. Take a look at the link provided – it is the Republicans who have been saying – they may not support him simply because he is a Mormon.
    And the whole point of the piece – is that – mathematically speaking – no matter what you may believe – most people in the world disagree with you.
    And I am not sure where you get the impression that the last half is critical of the Catholic Church – the last few paragraphs point out that even within coherent religious groups – people disagree with the dogma of the church – Catholics are a good example. Not that they are bad – or wrong – but that they don’t even agree with each other – let alone the Mormons.

    And you clearly didn’t carefully read the Washington Post article about the 98% study. The language that I used to characterize the findings of the study – came from the article – which was a fact finding article about the study. It gave a a Pinnochio rating to those who used a sort of shorthand to describe the findings – such as:”98 percent of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lifetimes.” That is in fact not accurate. I used the language that the fact finder approved of which is: 98 percent of sexually active women of child-bearing age who identify themselves as Catholic have used birth control. Perhaps before you rant at people to RTFA – you should RTFA
    Regards,
    Barry Nolan

    • KD

      Barry,

      I’ll heartily concede the 98 percent line, which you did use more correctly than most any other reporting I’ve seen. (The statisticians in the article say “sexually experienced,” as in women who have ever in their lives had sex before, rather than “sexually active.”) My point was that the WaPo piece strongly indicates that to use that stat at all muddies the discussion rather than illuminates. If you want to make a point about discrepancy between practice and preaching, it isn’t the place to go. From the article: “In other words, a woman may have sex only once, or she may have had a partner who only used a condom once, and then she would be placed in the 98 percent category.”

      I apologize for the RTFA line; I’ve just always wanted to use that in a comment! It was uncalled for, and your reply was certainly deserved.

      I still stand by my initial argument. As people try to understand this man, they come to appreciate that his faith life is one of his most defining characteristics. It simply has to enter into the conversation. Now, of course, a candidate’s religion should not qualify or disqualify him, but for overly religious candidates like Romney, it is an inescapable subject. And I do believe some liberal people will not vote for Romney because he is Mormon. Not because they think Mormonism is incompatible with Evangelical Christianity but because in their minds they are two kinds of the same thing. Prop 8 comes to mind.

  • Barry

    Dear KD,
    Always a pleasure to exchange views with a reasonable and thoughtful person – and thank you for introducing me to the shorthand of RTFA – I had not seen it before and am glad to make its acquaintance.
    Regards,
    Barry Nolan