The Priesthood, Power, and the Rule of Law

In light of the sensationalist press coverage of Mormon fundamentalism, the LDS Church is eager to disassociate itself from more traditional forms of Mormonism.

Whatever the historical and theological relationship between mainstream and fundamentalist Mormonism may be, there is, of course, a big difference between the LDS and the FLDS churches: The LDS Church submits to the sovereignty of the American people.

That’s why mainstream Mormons do no longer practice polygamy, which allows LDS Mormons to participate in American social life and reap the benefits of the market economy.

Hobbled by the laws of a liberal democracy, the LDS Church is much more mellow and less abusive. By contrast, the FLDS Church models what Mormonism might be like if it had been left to its own devices: a community controlled by the whims of semi-educated men who isolate their followers and interfere in intimate family affairs.

Recognizing the difference in the daily lives of mainstream and fundamentalist Mormons, gives me a measure of appreciation of the federal government’s influence on our religion. The greatest presidents for Mormonism were not Joseph Smith and Brigham Young but Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Republican party emerged to confront the “twin evils of barbarism” slavery and polygamy. Eliminating the cornerstone of female subjugation in Mormonism, Lincoln’s agenda would ultimately subjugate the Mormon prophet to the rule of law.

This web site shows that many members enjoyed a modicum of protection from priesthood abuse, Mormonism became more humane and the Mormon leadership became more effective.

Although LDS leaders like Heber Grant aggressively opposed the New Deal, the LDS Church would not have become an organization of such wealth had it not been for the resurrection of the middle class, which rested on the progressive income tax, public investment into infrastructure, and the right of employees to organize unions.

Thanks to Franklin Roosevelt, Mormons could afford to pay tithing during the fifties and sixties, which would finance the LDS Church’s consolidation and expansion. Reaganism, by contrast, characterizes an era where convert retention would collapse because we are now reduced to targeting primarily poor people for conversion. There is more to missionary work than American political economy but upward mobility, clearly, provides special opportunities for a missionary church.

Finally, had Roosevelt not united the American people to assert American power globally, Mormon outreach efforts abroad would have been much less privileged.

If one looks at the big picture, it becomes clear that Mormonism prospered to a large degree because the United States government imposed its blessings against the will of our leaders.

To appreciate the consequences, one only needs to compare LDS social life with that of our fundamentalist cousins.

Lord Acton’s response to papal claims of infallibility applies equally to Mormonism: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

While Mormon prophets have never invoked infallibility, they have expected and enforced compliance. More often than not, such campaigns have done more damage than benefit to Mormonism, on occasion at the expense of basic decency and humanity.

Thanks to Abraham Lincoln and his Republican heirs, the rule of law shields mainstream Mormonism from its worst self-destructive and abusive aspects.

The Brethren deserve credit for acknowledging the sovereignty of the American people, which bestows the benefits of the rule of law on Mormons. Most of the credit belongs, however, to the United States Constitution, which empowers secular government to spare us the worst implications of our theology.

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71 Responses

  1. profxm says:

    Brilliant! I had never thought of some of these influences on Mormonism directly like this. Great post, Hellmut.

  2. Matt says:

    Yes, a fresh perspective. Thank you, Hellmut.

    A famous bit of LDS spin would suggest that this then is all the will of god and the US government his modern pharaoh in delivering his people. Most modern members who have difficulty finding the FLDS story in the LDS Church’s past would probably reluctantly agree.

    I guess we should be thankful that “This is the place!” turned out to be smack in the middle of the American expansion. You know, ’cause if it had been in the land southward there could very well have been a nation of Deseret to make Muslim nations appear the progressive one.

    Speculatiev fiction, yes, but fun to think about.

  3. Michael says:

    Very thought-provoking and original, to the best of my knowledge. A very interesting post!

  4. mermaid says:

    ohmygosh, this is an AWESOME post. Thank you Hellmut – you hit the nail directly on the head with some perspective I never thought of before. This post ought to go all over the bloggernacle in my opinion – too good for one blog.

  5. Hellmut says:

    Thanks a lot for the compliments, profxm, Matthew, and Mermaid. If you would run an ad on your blogs or send an e-mail to your friends, I would appreciate it and your wish might just come true.

  6. Kullervo says:

    I’m skeptical about attributing too much of the prosperity of the fifties and sixties to the New Deal. Certainly it laid a foundation for the 20th-century economy, but there wer eother factors.

  7. Hellmut says:

    In a sense, that’s a good point, Kullervo. Here is a quick attempt to specify what exactly I am talking about.

    Strictly speaking, I attributed the middle class rather than prosperity to the New Deal. In my opinion, the middle class in the United States would have been very narrow without Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policies.

    If you mean that there was more required to build and sustain the middle class than the New Deal, then I would agree with you.

    I do attribute the prosperity of the LDS Church as a corporation to the New Deal. If Mormons had not been able to move up into the middle class then tithing collections would have remained meager.

  8. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    It’s all a pack of Lies anyway. However regretfully, it seems lately that lies matter as much as the truth.

  9. Kullervo says:

    Well, here’s the thing, Guy Noir. Whether it’s a pack of lies or not isn’t always the whole story. I mean, in determining whether to be a member of the Church, sure. “Pack of lies” is pretty much the end of the conversation.

    But there’s more to religion than whether they’re true or not. Like it or not, religion is an integral part of culture, society, and the human experience. Even if you’re not religious, you still live in a world that is partly shaped by the different varieties of religious worship, belief, and experience.

    Thus, in order to really understand what we’re talking about here, it’s necessary to get beyond “is it a lie or not.”

    Evaluating the veracity of religion’s truth claims is certainly a central part of examining religion and society. But past that, religion has a lot of effects and ramifications–economic, social, psychological, cultural–that are worth taking a closer look at than say, Christopher Hitchens does. Not to decide whether you want to be religious or not, but to really understand what it is you’re talking about. Hitchens claims religion poisons everything, but that’s a pretty broad statement to make without actually examining everything to see what effect religion has on it.

    and that’s essentially what Hellmut is doing here. Whether or not religion is a pack of lies is irrelevant to the discussion this time. Hellmut’s talking about the interplay between religion and mainstream society, and he’s pointed out that comparing the LDS and FLDS churches is a fantastic way to see how the two interplay, because we essentially have a control group–the kind of thing you almost never get in religious studies and sociology since actually setting those kind of experiments tends to border on the unethical, and they rarely happen in such a serendiptious fashion as they have here.

    And it’s fair to make evaluative statements about his conclusions, too. Hellmut, after making more objective observations, moves on to conclude in an evaluative sense that religion’s worst excesses seem to be tempered by the interplay with wider society, which is something we can be thankful for. Certainly it is significant that the LDS church has grown whereas the FLDS has not–which is due to many factors but almost all of them are connected to the fact that the LDS church has generally allowed itself to have contact with and be affected by secular society.

  10. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    i just don’t need ppl or organizations that deliberately Lie to me, then try to bounce it back in my face when I catch them at it.
    sorry if that hurts, but the ppl at the top of LDS, Inc. care more about the tribe than any of the individuals in it -or- in telling the truth.
    They’ve put ‘church’ clearly ahead of (Christian) values, and that will NEVER set well with me, even it was was Buddhist or Islam; VALUES FIRST, organization later.

  11. Hellmut says:

    Yes, Guy, but that’s not the topic of this post.

  12. Kullervo says:

    Bingo. Not anywhere near the topic. And how would it hurt for you to say it? I’m not Mormon. I’m not religious.

  13. mermaid says:

    So Hellmut, how would you respond to those who state that the RLDS being so small (relative to LDS) is due to their rejection of polygamy. I mean some say that polygamy caused not only JS death but the ejection of mormons to Utah where they consolidated, became a peculiar people, and then the rest of your story. But RLDS were never persecuted and ostracised so did not have those pressures.

  14. Hellmut says:

    To me, size is really a secondary indicator, Mermaid. It’s more interesting to me that mainstream Mormonism is more individualistic and humane and less authoritarian and abusive than fundamentalist Mormonism.

    With respect to numbers, the Brighamites have several advantages over the Smithites. First, the RLDS Church was not organized between 1844 and 1860. Second, the LDS Church dominated Deseret and Utah politically. In many neighborhoods, Mormon communities exercise social hegemony.

    Political dominance makes it a lot easier to extract contributions from members.

    The RLDS Church, by contrast, always remained within the jurisdiction of non-Mormon state governments. There was less of an opportunity (or temptation) for RLDS leaders to impose their will.

    The respective leaders varying leverage over members will presumably have made a considerable diifference to the amount of resources that the organizations could dedicate to their missionary programs.

    Third, the states that would include parts of Deseret remained open for settlement until the early twentieth century, which must have been attractive to European converts. Polygamy, on the other hand, repelled most potential converts but we do have a plethora of reports that the missionaries simply denied the practice of polygamy.

    Finally, the most spectacular growth of Mormonism occurred during the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century. Although, mainstream Mormons could not overcome the racist aspects of their theology during that time, according to Armand Mauss that era was more liberal than Mormonism has been lately.

    I find it interesting that eras of sustainable growth and relative authoritarianism roughly overlap in Mormon history. If one were to take a close look, I would expect a lag of multiple years where growth rates initially endure authoritarian retrenchment of leadership practices.

  15. aerin says:

    I don’t know a great deal (aside from being descended from polygamous ancestors myself) about polygamy and when it was officially ended. I have read (repeatedly) about the manifesto to end polygamy, and I know that some polygamists moved to other countries (Mexico and Canada, for example) to continue the practice.

    But for some reason, although there were still technically brighamites practicing polygamy into the twentieth century, for some reason it fell out of favor with the larger, US church.

    Do we know if these Canadian/Mexican groups were ex’d? I do know descendants from one of the groups (Canadian) where the families remain active LDS (brighamite) and haven’t been polygamous for generations.

    So – I’m not sure it’s only a matter of the U.S. government and its policies which prevented the larger brighamite LDS church from turning into the fLDS.

    I’m not sure what the other reasons might be – but much of what you mention is possible.

    I disagree about the New Deal – I think there were other factors that promoted the U.S. economic boom in those decades. But the connection between that boom and LDS baptisms is probably valid.

  16. Guy Noir Private Eye says:

    I have seen it represented (with plausible documentation) that there was a second manifesto.
    the first was more focused on marriages as weddings (start of the relationship); it did not directly say or suggest that existing relationships were ended ‘automatically’ by the content or intent of the decree.

  17. Hellmut says:

    I disagree about the New Deal – I think there were other factors that promoted the U.S. economic boom in those decades. But the connection between that boom and LDS baptisms is probably valid.

    That’s true but I am not saying that the New Deal led to economic gains. I am saying that the New Deal distributed economic gains in such a way that recreated the American middle class.

  18. Kullervo says:

    I don’t know that I always believe everything that Armand Mauss says.

  19. Hellmut says:

    Neither do I, Kullervo, but it appears to be clear that mainstream Mormonism has become more authoritarian since the days of David O. McKay.

  20. Kullervo says:

    You’re probably right, but McKay was anomalous, I think.

  21. Hellmut says:

    I don’t know why McKay was different but it might have something to do with the fact that he grew up in an age where the LDS Church was on the brink of bankruptcy.

    You need to respect potential donors before you can activate them.

    Today’s leadership has only ever experienced full coffers. That’s why they do not need to be considerate of the members’ needs, especially since so many of us fork over cash regardless of the leadership’s behavior.

  22. mermaid says:

    So what do you think the future holds for mormonism? They certainly have become more authoritarian (witness all those exed for publishing truthful history and speaking their minds up about women’s issues, etc.). At the same time all that stuff is well publicezed on the net at this point, and there is evidence that growth is at least stagnant in the US – also that baptisms per missionary worldwide are declining. Do you think the net spells the beginning of the end for mormon expansion in anyplace where people get it? Is it possible for the church to bypass the net and get quality converts (I mean tithe paying educated converts) in the first world? My own take on this is that the net is going to eventually be the end of authoritarianism both in governments and in religion – free passage of information is the enemy of authoritarianism. china is certainly worried about this, hence their attempts to censor the net.

  23. Seth R. says:

    Oh come on Hellmut!

    McKay was just a gentler hand only because he wanted Mormons to fork over extra cash?

    Are you serious?

  24. Seth R. says:

    I mean, could it just be that he had a more laid back personal style. Possibly? Maybe?

    Geez. You’re starting to sound like Guy.

    Not everything has to have a sinister explanation you know.

  25. Matt says:

    Hmm, did Hellmut say that McKay was nice just to sweet the tithing base? I don’t recall that.

  26. Matt says:

    Kullervo wrote:

    Hellmut, after making more objective observations, moves on to conclude in an evaluative sense that religion’s worst excesses seem to be tempered by the interplay with wider society, which is something we can be thankful for.

    In Hitchen’s defense (as you know I’m inclined) this does not diminish the observation that “religion poisons everything”, rather further observes that the poison is diluted.

  27. Seth R. says:


    “I don’t know why McKay was different but it might have something to do with the fact that he grew up in an age where the LDS Church was on the brink of bankruptcy.

    You need to respect potential donors before you can activate them.”

  28. Matt says:

    You’re confusing causation with motive.

  29. Seth R. says:

    How so? Hellmut seems to be saying that McKay was less authoritarian because he was hard-up for cash and was kissing-up to the tithing base.

    Seemed pretty clear to me.

  30. Matt says:

    No, he says explicitly that McKay’s background might have made him more sympathetic to the tithing base and therefore more able to activate it. You’ve twisted this to say that McKay’s motive for being nice was simply to activate the tithing base. See the diff?

  31. Matt says:

    Mermaid wrote:

    My own take on this is that the net is going to eventually be the end of authoritarianism both in governments and in religion – free passage of information is the enemy of authoritarianism. china is certainly worried about this, hence their attempts to censor the net.

    I think this is what we hope for and have good reason to believe. But also note that religion’s strength has always been the authoritarian insistence on faith … the more difficult in the face of worldly pressures the better. If orgs like the LDS play their cards right (and listening to this past GC suggests that they at least know the game) then an ever growing environment of skepticism and contrary information is a prime one for a a resurgence of faith.

    If I understand the history correctly, it was in the environment of Enlightenment philosophy and science most of our 19th Centuery-born sects arose. You know, like Mormonism.

  32. Kullervo says:

    1. I think that “religion poisons everything” is so facially un-nuanced that it cannot possibly reflect reality in any way.

    2. I seriously question whether Hitchens has sufficient knowledge of what religion actually does to things to enable him to make any kind of generalization about it that amounts to anything but vitriolic rhetoric. A whole lot of people have been carefully studying and talking about what religion actually does to everything–from what is typically a non-believing outsider’s perspective–and Hitchens ignores them completely. There’s simply no possible way Hitchens is in a position to make the kind of assertions he makes. He just hasn’t done the research, and hasn’t read the research that other people have done.

  33. Kullervo says:

    Whoops. I didn’t do that right.

  34. Seth R. says:

    OK, I suppose I can see that…

    Hopefully Hellmut can clarify what exactly he was saying there.

  35. Hellmut says:

    Seth, Matt got it. Like any other organism, human beings have to adapt to their environment. The possibilities of satisfying needs shape personalities and behaviors.

    Survival is a powerful motivator and because of the Edmunds Tucker Act, David O. McKay and his generation still experienced a church at the brink of bankruptcy.

    Of course, there are any number of ways an individual might respond to such exigencies. However, on average, it is possible to identify trends.

    It is probably no accident that the era of fiscal exigency generated apostles like James Talmage and John Widtsoe who would be willing to entertain matters such as evolution favorably while today’s quorum contains neither rationalists nor humanists.

    I am advancing the hypothesis that the patterns of fundamentalist retrenchment and rationalist openness can in part be explained in terms of Mormonism’s political economy, which builds on the reasoning of the Scottish enlightenment philosophers such as David Hume and Adam Smith and has been broadened to all life sciences by Charles Darwin.

  36. Matt says:

    Actually, Kullervo, I think it’s safe to say that “religion poisons everything” is no less meaningful than saying that “religion is the salt of the earth”. What’s really lacking here is the willingness to see the nuance in the expression.

  37. Kullervo says:

    I tend to disagree with you. The connotation of “poison” is too pejorative to do anything other than obscure nuance. And my point really is that Hitchens is writing the exam without having done the reading.

  38. Matt says:

    Yeah, I know. It’s the argument that without becoming a scholar in a subject you have no basis for criticizing. That you must study in depth to see the nuanced truth in it. I’ve been told similar things about my criticisms of the LDS scriptures. Doesn’t really hold water.

    And the word ‘poison’ is only too pejorative if you insist on the most un-nuanced interpretation of its use.

  39. Seth R. says:

    Matt, if you are going to go on the national scene, write a book and mouth-off about it, yeah… You probably should have your ducks in a row.

    Hitchens doesn’t seem to. Mostly, he just seems like a guy who is good at making cute phrases that make any reasoned response sound weak and boring (even if the response is actually stronger).

    I’d like to see him and Dinesh D’Souza go the rounds together. Of course, D’Souza is pretty-much a jerk to debate with – and great at playing the gotcha game in debates.

    So he and Hitchens would probably be a good match. Nasty. But probably a fun debate.

  40. Seth R. says:

    Santa Claus, tithing scrounging, and now poison…

    I’m just not having a great week, am I Matt?

  41. Hellmut says:

    I’d like to see [Christopher Hitchens] and Dinesh D’Souza go the rounds together. Of course, D’Souza is pretty-much a jerk to debate with – and great at playing the gotcha game in debates.
    So he and Hitchens would probably be a good match. Nasty. But probably a fun debate.

    Goodness! It would be the equivalent of a WWF wrestling match.

  42. Matt says:

    Dudes, your wish is my command …

    D’Souza vs. Hitchens

    It wasn’t pretty for D’Souza.

  43. Matt says:

    Don’t sell yourself short, get all nine parts here:

    D’Souza vs. Hitchens (Parts 1-9)

    And anyone who thinks Hitchens is not up to backing-up his convictions has not actually read or listened to what he’s been saying.

  44. Seth R. says:

    Watched the one on #42.

    Jury is out on that one. Maybe if I’m feeling masochistic, I’ll run the gauntlet on the others.

    I’ve never liked D’Souza in debates. I don’t think he really plays fair. Hitchens was more pleasant to listen to. So I suppose that counts for something.

    I should also note that, as a Mormon, I disagree with D’Souza’s creation arguments as a purely doctrinal matter. I don’t think the case for creation ex nihilo is half as strong as most Christians (D’Souza included) seem to think it is.

  45. Kullervo says:

    Yeah, I know. It’s the argument that without becoming a scholar in a subject you have no basis for criticizing. That you must study in depth to see the nuanced truth in it. I’ve been told similar things about my criticisms of the LDS scriptures. Doesn’t really hold water.

    Is that really what I’m saying, or are you just putting words in my mouth to casually knock down a straw man?

    The “argument” you’re talking about is the fallacy that someone is wrong about a topic because they are not a respected scholar in the subject. Qualifications don’t make you right, and lack of qualifications doesn;t make you wrong.

    But that’s not the same thing as what I’m saying, which is to be right about something, you need to know about it. If you want to claim that y comes between z and x, you’re much more likely to be right if you’ve actually checked to see.

    In fact, that’s basic science. Check your hypothesis against reality.

    In this specific instance, we’ve got about a hundred years of scholars who have been putting religion–both specific religions and religion in general–under a microscope, talking about what religion is and is not, looking to see religion’s effects on culture, the human mind, and society and vice versa. It’s still a work in progress, but the research has certainly shown that the topic is not only incredibly complex, but difficult to isolate in the first place.

    Hitchens appears to not be familiar with this rather large, complex, and nuanced body of scholarship. Does he have to be familiar with it to be right? Of course not. He could be right simply by accident, or by his own uncanny and incisive insight. But what are the chances of that? About the same as anyone making claims about a subject they haven’t studied. Really low.

    There is of course a third option: Hitchens could have done his own independent research and drawn conclusions from it. But it doesn’t look like he has. And even if he did, his research, in order to be credible, would have to be subject to the intense scrutiny of peer review. That’s the standard for both the physical and the social sciences, and Religious Studies is an interdisciplinary branch of the social sciences. If Hitchens expects to be taken seriously as an independent researcher, he needs to publish the studies he has done.

    Of course, you can be right without being peer-reviewed. But the fact that Hitchens’ conclusions are painfully simplistic and glib–in stark contrast to the rather nuanced analyses of scholars, leads me to believe he probably doesn’t even understand what the questions really are, much less has figured out the right answers.

    Sure, he could be right, and all of the academy could be gazing at their navels. But if we were talking about, say, particle physics, would you be as inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt? What about evolutionary biology? If Hitchens, without doing any research of his own, were making claims about the origin of life that were simplistic, and contradicted the body of work done by scientists who had done actual research, would you be as inclined to defend him?

    Let me point out that we’re not talking about being a scholar about God, or the supernatural, or anything to which the usual rules do not apply. We’re talking about the study of religious beliefs in the context of human psychology and religious organizations as institutions in human society and culture. This isn’t the study of God, or of elves, or invisible pink unicorns. This is the study of something that can actually be observed.

    Nevertheless, you are willing to accept Hitchens’ claims about religion and society–claims that he doesn’t properly substantiate and claims about a subject about which he appears to not be well-versed, and about which he does not appear to have done any legitimate research, other than his own anecdotal observations. Really? I’m not saying that atheism is a religion, but I am saying that this kind of defensive devotion to unsubstiated truth-claims is exactly what Hitchens et al take religious people to taks for.

    Pot, meet kettle.

  46. Matt says:

    You’ve made my point. Apparently Hitch isn’t sufficiently familiar “with this rather large, complex, and nuanced body of scholarship” which you then make very clear can only be over-ridden if not by intimate familiarity then only by “accident or by his own uncanny and incisive insight” which you yourself limit to the the very unlikely. In other words, this is no strawman but your actual position — fallacious as it is.

    I think the ultimate problem here is that you want the only qualifying arguments to come from within religious studies and for these to be scientific and peer reviewed. But if you can make the case for religious studies as science (and I don’t mean social science which we all know is not really science) then I’ll be damned.

    Nevertheless, to suggest that Hitchens is not qualified to see poison flowing from religion merely because he is not full versed in all the vicissitudes of religious studies is akin to claiming that I cannot diagnose the warming of the earth’s surface as coming significantly from the sun without first mastering the “rather large, complex, and nuanced body of scholarship” around the development and history of thermal dynamics.

    Finally, let’s not confuse rhetorical devices with religious truth claims or with science for that matter.

  47. Kullervo says:

    Nobody’s talking about religious truth claims here.

    And if you’re completely dismissive of the social sciences, then it’s no surprise to me that you would think Hitchens is valid, since he completely ignored them.

    You do realize that the social sciences have methodology and peer review, right?

    Anyway, I’m not so sure I’ve made your point at all. I conceded that degrees don;t make you right, but that’s not something I was ever arguing.

    Once more, for the record: The simplicity of Hitchens’s diatribe in light of the complex analysis of actual scholars who really do the research indicates to me that Hitchens probably is too ignorant to be making a valid point.

    Hitchens hasn’t done the reading and he hasn’t done the research. His answers are too simplistic to have a very good chance of being right. In this, he is much like young earth creationists. They could be right, after all (six thousand years ago, God might have made the earth to look exactly like it was billions of years old), but since they base their knowledge on baseless claims rather than on actual observation, the chances of them coming to the right answer entirely by accident is pretty slim. Especially considering the complexities of physics.

    The fact that you believe what he says in spite of his total lack of basis for saying them does not speak well for your own intellectual vigor. You are essentially giving blind faith to this man, despite the fact that he is universally disdained by the academy–not religious people, but the atheistic post-modern academy. You think they might know something he doesn;t know?

    And what basis do you have for comparison, anyway? I’m willing to bet you’re not up on all the latest scholarship. No, you take Hitchens at his word because it appeals to your common sense. Do you realize how disgustingly hypocritical that is?

    Tell me this, and only this: why are you completely dismissing Religious Studies? Why choose to believe Hitchens instead of academic scholarship?

  48. Seth R. says:

    And unlike Joseph Smith, Hitchens didn’t even marry a 14 year old.

    At least my guy did interesting stuff.

  49. Matt says:

    I’m not completely dismissive of the social sciences just saying that it as a well known fact that social science is not science. Please don’t misinterpret. Methodology and peer review are part of what science does but these do not define science.

    So let me get this straight: the social science of religious studies has not found that religion poisons everything, therefore, Hitchens is clearly talking out of his ass. You know, like creationists (who, it should be noted, also claim to have a methodology and peer review process).

    And to answer your question again … I’m not dismissing Religious Studies just your claim that it is scientific and furthermore that it is the equivalent authority on all things religion as the physical sciences are to physics. I find this absurd. And furthermore, your choice to turn this into a personal attack on my character or intellect, well that does take the cake. Accusing me of having blind faith in a man just because I agree with him on this one point that religion has an influence on all aspects of human life and not a benign one? Good god man.

    Do me a favor. Take your “I’m a religious studies scholar and therefore what anyone else says about religion that conflicts with my chosen field of esoterica is strictly common sense and disgustingly hypocritical” … well you know where you can take it.

  50. mermaid says:

    Seth R. Says:
    April 21st, 2008 at 7:16 pm
    And unlike Joseph Smith, Hitchens didn’t even marry a 14 year old.

    At least my guy did interesting stuff.

    I find this comment extremely tasteless, and not funny at all.

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