Mormonism & Islam

Brigham Young University has its first non-Mormon student body president.  He’s a Muslim.  This is being reported like it’s an example of Mormon tolerance, but is it really so unusual?  I mean this with all due respect to both religions, but isn’t Mormonism much closer to Islam than to Christianity?

Both Mormonism and Islam reportedly had their origins in a prophet receiving a supernatural book from an angel.  Both involve elaborate systems of laws, including dietary rules and regulation of virtually every facet of life.  Both have practiced or currently practice polygamy.  Both promise an afterlife that includes sex and sensual pleasure.  Both recognize Jesus but consider Him as being less than true God.  Both reject the Trinity.  Both believe in salvation by works-righteousness.

Shouldn’t Mormonism and Islam be classified together as very similar religions?  Aren’t they both together on the other end of the extreme from Christianity, which is about God’s incarnation, grace, and redemption from the Law?

Muslim becomes BYU-Hawaii’s first non-Mormon student president | Following Faith | The Salt Lake Tribune.

What the “nones” believe

Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger discusses the phenomena of the “nones,” the growing demographic–currently 19% of the American population– that is unaffiliated with any religion.  Some say this group represents the secular elite, a wave of atheism, the sexually-liberated young people reacting against the sexual restrictions of religion.  But, says Berger, the evidence suggests otherwise:

The “nones” are most strongly represented among people with an income under $30,000, with high school graduation or less, who are married but (interestingly) without children. I am enough of a sociologist to think that class comes in somewhere in this matter, but it is unlikely to be a major factor.

I find most intriguing the Pew data on the religious beliefs and behavior of the “nones”. Let us stipulate that the “nones”, especially if they are young, are repelled by the neo-Puritanism of religious conservatives. But does this mean that they have decided (in the words of the authors) “to opt out of religion altogether”? I am strongly inclined to say no. Back to Pew data: 60% of “nones” say that they believe in God, as against 22% who say not. 41% say that religion is important in their lives, a minority as against the 57% who say that religion is not important—but a minority large enough to contradict the assertion that the “nones” have turned against religion altogether. What they have clearly turned away from is participation in institutional worship: 72% say that they seldom or never attend church services.

Let me, with all due respect for Campbell and Putnam [authors of a book on the subject that Berger is reviewing], suggest a hypothesis of my own: Most “nones” have not opted out of religion as such, but have opted out of affiliation with organized religion. Among Christians (the great majority of all survey respondents) there are different reasons for this disaffection. The two authors are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped). But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left-of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.

What then do these people believe? There is very likely a number (in America a relatively small one) of “nones” who are really without religion—agnostics or (even fewer) outright atheists. The latter have been encouraged by the advocates of the so-called “new atheism”—which is not new at all, but rather a reiteration of a tired 19th-century rationalism, pushed by a handful of writers who have been misrepresented as an important cultural movement. Presumably it is committed atheists who spark litigation over allegations that, for instance, a Christmas tree in a public park is a violation of the constitution. The bulk of the “nones” probably consist of a mix of two categories of unaffiliated believers—in the words of the British sociologist Grace Davie, people who “believe without belonging”. There are those who have put together an idiosyncratic personal creed, putting together bits and pieces of their own tradition with other components. Robert Wuthnow, the most productive and insightful sociologist of American religion, has called this “patchwork religion”. This includes the kind of people who will say “I am Catholic, but…”, followed by a list of items where they differ from the teachings of the church. The other category are the children—by now, grandchildren—of the counter-culture. They will most often say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. The “spirituality” is typically an expression of what Colin Campbell, another British sociologist, has called “Easternization”—an invasion of Western civilization by beliefs and practices from Asia. A few of these are organized, for instance by the various Buddhist schools. But most are diffused in an informal manner—such as belief in reincarnation or the spiritual continuity between humans and nature, and practices like yoga or martial arts.

via The Religiously Unaffiliated in America | Religion and Other Curiosities.

So 60% of those who belong to no religion believe in God, and 41% say religion is important to them, even though they don’t have one.  I agree with Berger that the privatization of religion–the anti-institutionalism that rejects churches and “organized religion” and the impulse to devise one’s own personal theology–accounts for much of this.

That’s a useful term:  “secularization from within.”  That is, the way churches have embraced secular values, thus rendering themselves superfluous.

What other observations can you make about the “nones”?

Are any of you readers “nones,” and if so does any of this ring true?

HT:  Matthew Cantirino

How to deal with Christian-baiting

Well-played, San Antonio Christians!  You basically ignored this, making the atheists look bad!

A small group of students at the University of Texas at San Antonio spent two days last week sitting in the middle of campus next to bright red signs covered in large black letters. One said “Free Porn.” The other offered “Smut for Smut.”

The students, all members of Atheist Agenda, hoped to entice their classmates to turn in their Bibles in exchange for pornographic magazines – a provocative offer designed to shock and attract attention.

“The point is not to hand out porn, but rather the primary purpose is to get people to come talk to us so we can get our message out,” Kyle Bush, the group’s president, said. “We want to spread atheism and bring it more to the spotlight. We offer another alternative to people who might not fit in anywhere else.”

The event caused an uproar on campus in 2008 and made headlines around the world. But this year, few students took notice. During the four hours Atheist Agenda members spent next to their signs each day, only about 30 people stopped by to get information about the club or start a debate.

In addition to Bibles, the group offered to collect other religious texts, including the Quran, and any books written by prominent pastors, including Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. During the event, Atheist Agenda collected five Bibles, one Encyclopedia of Islam, and one Quran. The group plans to donate the books to a local library.

Despite the event’s ability in previous years to attract attention for atheism, Bush said the group didn’t have any financial backers outside its student members. The group raised all of the money needed to put on the event themselves, he said. One of the group’s fundraisers included selling popsicles.

“A lot of the money comes from members,” Bush said. “Like if we need posters, somebody will go and buy posters.”

The group purchased 140 pounds of pornographic magazines for $30 from a seller on Craigslist.

via Atheists offer porn in exchange for Bibles | World on Campus: news for college students from a Christian perspective..

In other words, the event fizzled.  The atheists looked pathetic, and the Christians were above the fray.  That’s the way to handle this sort of thing.  The thing is, the general public doesn’t much like it when Christians proselytize, but they don’t like it when atheists do it either!  The atheists are slow to realize that. And there is still shame in pornography, which is why people use it in secret on the internet and why the atheists could buy 140 pounds of pornographic magazines for $30.  Though we can be outraged at the blasphemy, we can note how few takers there were and how the atheists are so clueless about how to get their message across.

The 50 top persecutors of Christians

Take a look at this list of the top 50 countries that persecute Christians:  World Watch List Countries | World Watch List.

By my count, 37 of them are Islamic.  8 are Communist or recently-Communist that have kept their persecuting habits.  3 are Buddhist.  1 is Hindu.

The worst is North Korea.  The next worse is our client state of Afghanistan.  Then our close personal friend Saudi Arabia.  Then Somalia.  Then Iran.

Just about all of the Muslim states are somewhere on the list.  I can’t think of a single Muslim nation that doesn’t persecute Christians to some extent.  That includes Turkey, which comes in at #31.

No predominantly Christian society persecutes Christians of different persuasions, with the possible exception of Belarus, where the Orthodox Church is the only one permitted, though I chalk this one up to former Communist habits.

In some of the countries, such as India (#32), the persecution is not legally sanctioned but happens from mobs and cultural practices.

Can you draw any other conclusions from this list?

HT:   Doug Bandow, one of my writers in my old editing days at WORLD, who offers some good discussion of the list at the American Spectator.

New Agers get ready for the end on Dec. 21

Harold Camping has repented of his dating of doomsday, but Christian types are not the only ones who fall for end times predictions.  The Mayan calendar runs out on December 21, 2012.  So quite a few people think that will be the end of time.  (I’m not sure why they think the ancient Mayans would know that information.)  In France, people are already gathering at a mysterious mountain where they believe they will be saved when time runs out:

A mountain looming over a French commune with a population of just 200 is being touted as a modern Noah’s Ark when doomsday arrives – supposedly less than nine months from now.

A rapidly increasing stream of New Age believers – or esoterics, as locals call them – have descended in their camper van-loads on the usually picturesque and tranquil Pyrenean village of Bugarach. They believe that when apocalypse strikes on 21 December this year, the aliens waiting in their spacecraft inside Pic de Bugarach will save all the humans near by and beam them off to the next age.

As the cataclysmic date – which, according to eschatological beliefs and predicted astrological alignments, concludes a 5,125-year cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar – nears, the goings-on around the peak have become more bizarre and ritualistic.

For decades, there has been a belief that Pic de Bugarach, which, at 1,230 metres, is the highest in the Corbières mountain range, possesses an eery power. Often called the “upside-down mountain” – geologists think that it exploded after its formation and the top landed the wrong way up – it is thought to have inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since the 1960s, it has attracted New Agers, who insist that it emits special magnetic waves.

Further, rumours persist that the country’s late president François Mitterrand was transported by helicopter on to the peak, while the Nazis, and, later, Israel’s Mossad, performed mysterious digs there. Now the nearby village is awash with New Agers, who have boosted the local economy, though their naked group climbs up to the peak have raised concerns as well as eyebrows. Among other oddities, some hikers have been spotted scaling the mountain carrying a ball with a golden ring, strung together by a single thread. . . .

Upwards of 100,000 people are thought to be planning a trip to the mountain, 30 miles west of Perpignan, in time for 21 December, and opportunistic entrepreneurs are shamelessly cashing in on the phenomenon. While American travel agents have been offering special, one-way deals to witness the end of the world, a neighbouring village, Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, has produced a wine to celebrate the occasion.

via Hippies head for Noah’s Ark: Queue here for rescue aboard alien spaceship – Europe – World – The Independent.

D.C.’s atheist rally

In our nation’s capital on Saturday, some 20,000 atheists demonstrated on the national mall for the  “Reason Rally” protesting religion.  Here is an account:

A full pantheon of demigods of unbelief — British scientists and full-time atheism rabble-rouser Richard Dawkins was the headliner — kept a crowd of all ages on their feet for more than six hours (and counting — I left before the band Bad Religion was set to play).

Dawkins didn’t appear until five hours into the event, but few seemed discouraged by the near-constant rain or drizzle. They whistled and cheered for his familiar lines such as:

I don’t despise religious people. I despise what they stand for …

Evolution is not just true, it’s beautiful …

Then Dawkins got to the part where he calls on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to “ridicule and show contempt” for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist, which Catholics believe becomes the body of Christ during Mass. . . .

Outrage was the parlance of the day. . .for many speakers, including Reason Rally organizer and American Atheists president David Silverman.

He reveled in their reputation as the marines of atheism, as the people who storm the faith barricades and bring “unpopular but necessary” lawsuits.

Silverman may have gone a bit further in his rhetoric than he intended. In a thundering call for “zero tolerance” for anyone who disagrees with or insults atheism, Silverman proclaimed, “Stand your ground!”

Unfortunately, of course, the phrase “stand your ground,” is in the news this week as the legal cover for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last week. Under Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law, George Zimmerman could claim he feared Martin, a teen armed with iced tea and Skittles, would harm him.

Silverman meant a verbal, not a literal, call to arms here. Still, the line didn’t draw applause as his other take-no-insults charges did.

Several of the featured names were famous folks who sent in videos: Penn Jillette, Bill Maher and U.S. Rep. Pete Stark. Others, popular in the Internet niche of skeptics, free-thinkers and atheists, came to the microphone to address the soggy crowds in person. A sampling:

Friendly Atheist blogger Hement Mehta urged people to run for office, any post from school board to Congress to dogcatcher.

Greta Christina, author of “Why are you atheists so angry” attacked every major faith, even the teachings of the dalai lama. In a long litany of what makes her angry, she got all the way back to Galileo (overlooking the modern Catholic Church’s restoration of his reputation.)

Adam Savage, co-host of Mythbusters, said there really is someone who loves and protects him and watches over his actions — “It’s me!”

via Richard Dawkins to atheist rally: ‘Show contempt’ for faith.


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