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Evolution of Religion

06 February 2012, 08:54

Mitt Romney is a Mormon. So you ask – what does that mean to me? – who is Mitt and what’s a Mormon? Well the first question is easy to answer – Mitt is the man most likely to be elected as the next President of the United States if the current momentum he is building in the election race continues. The second question is also easy to answer – the Mormons are members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Now to get to the actual question – what does this mean to me? - and now things become a bit more complicated.

We first need to look at the beliefs of the Mormons. Mormons are expected to believe that their first prophet, Joseph Smith, discovered golden plates, inscribed in an unknown ancient script, in a hillside in upstate New York in the 1820s. He then translated them with the help of magic stones, discovering that they contained an alternative Bible. Smith published a translation of these plates in March 1830 as the Book of Mormon, named after Mormon, the ancient prophet-historian who compiled the book. According to this book, Jesus visited America after the crucifixion for the purpose of taking his message to the descendants of ancient Israelite tribes who had lived there for centuries, forgotten by history and unknown to modern archaeology. The Garden of Eden was actually in Missouri. They believe that a man can have many wives (maybe Mitt will also need a shadow plane like our own President for all the extra wives?). The Mormons were shunned by the other pioneering Americans and finally settled in Salt Lake City in Utah where the Church of the Latter Day Saints still has its headquarters today. 
 
Rick Perry (one of the other Republican Presidential Candidates), claimed that Romney was "not a Christian" and that his election would "give credibility to a cult". Nowadays the Church of the Latter Day Saints is considered too large to be classified as a cult, but it’s certainly very far removed from the beliefs of mainstream Christian Churches. Mitt was born a Mormon, and has remained active in the church and has contributed millions of dollars to the church – his current donations for 2010 and 2011 are in the order of $2 million a year. 

And that’s why I say that we should be aware of whom Mitt Romney is and what a Mormon believes. Now the questions that needs to be answered is, can a man who believes in, and follows the crazy teachings of Joseph Smith, be considered a suitable candidate to lead the largest and most powerful nation on earth?
 
But to answer that question we need to look at some of the beliefs of the mainstream religions. It took 300 years for Christianity to go from an obscure cult to being the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. Surely to the Romans it would have sounded as crazy as what the Mormons beliefs sound to us today? A guy being swallowed by a giant fish – and then living inside it? A huge boat that carried two of every living creature on the planet during a flood that covered everything? Magic bread that turn into the body of your God when you eat it? Forbidden fruit that ruined the lives of all your descendants? A virgin giving birth – after being conceived by God? A planet that was created only 6,000 years ago, despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary from every relevant scientific field? A God who sacrifices his Son to himself to save the world from the punishment he himself is planning to deliver?  And it’s not only Christianity that has these crazy beliefs.

But – with time these beliefs are altered to suit a more rational way of thinking – call this evolution. Time means some of the more crazy ideas are adapted and modified. Thus "Our Savoir is returning within a generation" turns into "Our Savoir is returning one of these days." (A concept that the Jehovah Witnesses are only considering now at their founding fathers forecast dates keep passing and no Savoir appears). Even the fundamental concept of creation goes from “God created the entire universe out of nothing in six day” turns into ‘’God created matter and energy and the laws of physics and let them unfold into life as we know it.” So is Mormonism (or Jehovah's Witnesses, or Scientology, or any other relatively new religion) really any crazier than the mainstream varieties of Catholicism or Baptism, Hinduism or Buddhism, Judaism or Islam?
 
This process of evolution is continuing in religion. Think how views on homosexuality have changed in the last few years. In our parents’ generation – no church would have accepted any form of homosexual relationship as it’s specifically been listed in the Bible as a sin – and yet nowadays it’s normal to see homosexual couples attending church openly together. There are even openly homosexual people practicing as ordained ministers. Even the church accepting heterosexual couples living together out of wedlock would have been unheard just a couple of decades ago. A child born out of wedlock would not be allowed to be baptised – forever banishing that child to hell as they had not been protected by the magical waters administered by a priest. The Catholic Church is even considering allowing their priests to get married and lead a normal sexual life, much of the debate as a result of the recent exposure of priests being found expressing their sexual needs in unnatural relationships with underage congregational members. How can people claim to follow the Bible if they change the rules every few years to adapt to the changes in society? In the end it comes down to business – a church which has lost touch with its people will loose its source of income and be forced to close. People are always looking for more comfortable ways to express their faith – and thus we see the rise of the Charismatic Churches with their hip music and realise that they are satisfying a need in the modern TV generation to be entertained. The more traditional Churches are thus also adapting their service orders to fit in to the more modern world.
 
So should we trust Mitt Romney to the keys to the nuclear arsenal? Well if we consider that all the previous US Presidents have considered themselves to be Christian – then I think it’s safe to assume that Mitt Romney is no crazier than other man that has previously held that position. 

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