I believe in some crazy stuff. Stuff I won’t share with people unless I am sure that they both likely to believe it as well, and will keep it to themselves. You know, stuff like the nature of reality, and the afterlife. I think most people have some things that they believe that they share with their tribe, and it is all great. With that in mind, I can’t ever really criticize a person’s or group’s beliefs… and then there is the Latter Day Saint movement.
Now hear me out! I am not advocating that they are any more bat-shit crazy than the next group. I am actually quite fascinated with the movement as a whole, and then specifically a few of the sects that have become in/famous over the last century. I mean, if you were to just look at the highlights… founder of the movement murdered by a mob, constant struggle to find a “home”, a war, their own brand of even crazier fundamentalists, car bombings… the list goes on, and that isn’t even getting to their beliefs, yet!
All that aside, the beliefs are actually what I wanted to get to, as well as providing some commentary on secretive religions.
The documents that constitute the religious canon for many of the sects read like the corniest fantasy novels, written by the offspring of a DC comic-book writer. But a lot of religions have those. I mean, the sacrifice story is kinda cool, which makes Jesus, and all the other figures he represents pretty bad-ass. Not many people would willingly be tortured and die for the sins of humankind, I suppose… actually, it really depends on fore-knowledge and all that, but I digress, very cool story. And then you can look back to even older mythologies, Hercules, that guy was cool (according to the TV show). The Valkyrie? Tingles!
We have all this great literature from the ancient world, and some people choose to believe in some form of it. Whatever. I think it is because most people who subscribe to a religion don’t know much about it, say compared to those who have left their religious organization or have an interest in such things (though apparently not Latter Day Saints; they are well read). I will get to that later, but my point here is that we have this huge body of work from ancient times where people had excruciatingly limited access to the methods of scientific deduction that we have today.
Joseph Smith, Jr. met an angel, translated Reformed Egyptian from mystical golden plates, and told people that God used to be just this guy, you know, and that we can all get into the celestial ponzi/pyramid scheme by marrying lots of ladies (sorry ladies, you have less say in this), and then we are all chilling in a galaxy far, far away. In the 19th century. In the United States of America. And people ate it up!
Again, I want to reiterate, I am no judge of religious truth. But damn, that is crazy! How much? Even Junior thought so.
I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.
But that is not-quite-so-ancient history. It happened over a hundred years ago. I can let that slide. However, I can’t let the secrecy and cult behavior go, and that is all modern.
If you look at the Church of Christ, you will see that there are two large demographics in their world view, members and non-members. I am calling upon personal experience here, but I think that is worth a lot, because it has been validated by others’ from both of those groups. I am obviously a non-member, so there is a lot about that church that I don’t know, things that happen during temple services and whatever other secrets they keep to themselves. That is bad. That is a sign of a cult. It is also hard to believe that this level of secrecy is passed down by God, given that whatever entity God is, they are probably beyond the control-freak phase of cosmic life (or maybe we never outgrow that).
Let’s bring this together. It isn’t like the Church of Christ is particularly more secretive than any other religious group (and their fundamentalists have their own cults going, as well). Catholics have set the bar for politicizing “faith” and running puppet states, while protecting their clergy. Unfortunately, I am not very educated on how Islam groups are organized, but it is a human organization, no matter how divinely-inspired, so like all of these groups, surely they have some traditions that elicit, if not actively encourages, separation between “us” and “them”.
So why am I focusing on Latter Day Saints? Because they take all the trappings of the old world religions, and encapsulate it around Harry Potter and Tron. And it bums me out.
When I was active in a Wiccan community, I often bumped heads with the leadership. Of course I would, I do that. However, after having been away for a while, and reconciling my actions back then, I still have major disagreements with how sects of Wicca operate. There are vows and secret codes, some of which are explained. Even when they are, they don’t make sense to me, and despite how much I disagree with them, until I have made more effort to discuss this within that community, I won’t even describe the explanations (see how ridiculous my beliefs can be ^_^).
Wicca is also a very, very, very very very new religion. It draws on everything we have learned from the past, but Wicca in your living room is completely different from sympathetic magic practiced by peasants, indigenous folks and women. We’ve never hunted witches, we hunted the already exploited. That is why I give Wicca a pass. For one, it a counter-cultural reaction to mainstream faith, which is important to remember, since it still touches on our human needs to belong in a community with like-minded individuals, many of whom are looking for spiritual meaning. And secondly, there are movements within Wicca to open it up, some of which tickle me in particular ways.
The reason I can write so much about this subject is because I really like the Latter Day Saint movement. I think it is as interesting as it is hilarious. I wish they were more relaxed, but no doubt they suffer from the human condition in which it is easier to see differences than similarities, and I am very different from them. I want to know more about their inner workings.
I also want every religion in the world to make a concerted effort to have their congregations critically think about their religion. I think your deity can stand up to that, but I doubt your religious “leaders” can.