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

“… 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.