movie review – American Mormon
Assumption: American’s are ignorant.
Premise: I belong to a small religion, Mormonism, the members of which make up about 1% of the US population.
Proposition: Because American’s are ignorant and I belong to a small religion, I bet Americans who don’t belong to my religion will be ignorant of my religion.
I could test this proposition with any religion that’s about the same size as my own (e.g., Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Churches of Christ). I could even test this proposition by making members of my own religion look stupid by asking them about Episcopalians, Churches of Christ, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, I bet you could even interview people about their own religion and you’d find out how little they know about it. (NOTE: I have some data comparing Mormons vs. ex-Mormons on what they know about Mormon history and ex-Mormons win. Surprise!) But I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to try to affirm my misguided assumption that Americans are ignorant about my religion by interviewing non-Mormons about my religion.
So, I get together a camera, a microphone, a car, a buddy who can use a camera, and enough money to travel around the US then hit the road, randomly approaching people on the street to ask them a bunch of questions about my religion. I even ask them if they’ve heard Mormon rumors not realizing only Mormons would have heard of these (e.g., Is Steve Martin or Alice Cooper a Mormon?). Periodically I do things during these impromptu interviews to illustrate to people that they don’t know much about my religion, which affirms my original assumption. BUT… It turns out that people actually know a surprising amount about my religion. What’s more, most people are really, really nice (which, unfortunately, surprises me). In fact, most of the people I interview know someone who is Mormon and they respect them. And when I reveal at the end of the interviews that I’m Mormon, they don’t attack me, they don’t run away, and they don’t try to convert me; they actually just seem genuinely interested in Mormonism.
Ergo,my original assumption isn’t all that accurate: All people are ignorant about some things, but most people have at least some information about a lot of things (whether accurate or not). Of course, what I don’t mention during the video is that my buddy and I who are making the video don’t know anything about the religions or irreligious views of the people we interviewed. But we’re kind of knowledgeable about our own religion, which makes us better than the people we interviewed. Oh, and we are not at all interested in your beliefs, because we know we’re right and we see no reason to educate ourselves about anyone else’s religion.
Of course, it never dawned on us that non-Mormons may have far more important things to do with their lives then spend time learning about Mormonism. Ergo, the fact that they know anything about Mormonism is kind of surprising.
Once I’m done trying to make people seem ignorant, I then reveal my own ignorance by providing a commentary to the 30 minute video. In the commentary we reveal that the only people we think can know a lot about Mormonism are people who belong to the religion. We also reveal that we’re shocked that atheists are nice people, willing to talk about religion, and are knowledgeable about religions.
Finally, while we don’t explicitly say it, we do basically suggest that if people knew more about Mormonism, they would convert. So, in the commentary and at the end of the film we tell the only people who are going to watch this (i.e., members of our religion), that they should: (1) buy lots of copies so we can waste more time making movies like this, and (2) share their beliefs with more people, because, surprise, surprise, people are generally considerate enough to be willing to listen to someone talk about what they believe, even if they think it’s absurd.