Savage’s Anti-Christian Comments Don’t Pass BS Test

Sex advice columnist, journalist, and newspape...

Dan Savage. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Liberal columnist and homosexual rights advocate Dan Savage recently called the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality “bullsh*t,” then had the nerve to write in a blog post Sunday that his words were “being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue.”

I’ve heard Mr. Savage before, in CNN segments regarding the issue of so-called “homosexual rights” (as if homosexuals don’t have the same political freedoms as the rest of us), and I feel confident in saying he’s a jerk—pompous and loud, not to mention the obvious vulgarity.

First, his initial comment came during a conference for the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. Umm, what exactly does homosexuality have to do with the profession of journalism? Oh, and this was a gathering of high school students, so I’d just like to say thanks to whomever was responsible for exposing high school kids to this clown.

After several Christian students walked out of Savage’s presentation—and congratulations to those young people for taking a stand—Savage said, “It’s funny to someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansya**ed people react when you push back.” He later apologized for that remark, but not for the first one, and this entire situation just shows how classless this guy is. I’m not privy to precisely what Mr. Savage has experienced in his life, but speaking for myself, I’ve never used the Bible to “beat” anybody, only to tell others what God has said, and I’ve also discovered that it’s common practice for advocates of the homosexual movement to label any criticism of homosexuality as bigoted, homophobic hate speech, thereby demonizing anyone who dares oppose them.

I’m sure that there are some people, such as the despicable folks of the Westboro Baptist Church, who have used the Bible as a pretext for truly hateful behavior, but those people aren’t real Christians, and such behavior is not the norm for Christians. The Bible’s message, contrary to what cherry-picking critics say, is of true love, and I’m so sick of people misrepresenting God, the Bible, Christianity and Christians. Mr. Savage says the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality are BS, and I’m sure he truly feels that way, but I’m also sure his reasoning is based purely on emotion and the fact that he wants to be able to do what he wants without regard to what God thinks about it, not because there’s anything objectively right with homosexuality (there isn’t).

The fact is that advocates of the homosexual movement, by and large, don’t want to have a reason-based discussion about this issue, because they realize that they’d lose such a debate—nature and nature’s God stand in opposition to their wishes—and because they mostly don’t care about what “the other side” thinks; they care only about their desires. Thus their appeal to “love” for justification, but their idea of love is much different from the love that God is, the love that the Bible preaches—their “love,” in fact, is anything but. So what argument are they left with?

Nothing, I guess, except for calling us pansya**es and our beliefs bullsh*t.

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Religion, Cults, and Why I Believe What I Believe

Antonio Ciseri's depiction of Pontius Pilate p...

Who do YOU say this man is? ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s Note: Fellow WordPress blogger Bluepearlgirl’s World recently started a conversation about religion, with a special emphasis on religions vs. cults. She reblogged my post “Joseph Smith, Con Man Extraordinaire” on her site, for which I’m grateful, and I told her that I’d like to join her conversation with a post on my site. Plus, my wife recently made the great suggestion that in addition to all the posts I’ve been writing about other faiths and how they compare to Christianity, it would be nice for me to write a post explaining what I believe and why. So consider this a “two-birds-one-stone” type of post.

To give just a brief background of my “faith history”: I was born and raised in an American Baptist church and gave my life to Christ at a young age, but I didn’t really make the faith my own, apart from my parents’ or anyone else’s wishes, until my early 20s. Since then, I’ve continued to learn and grow and serve as a Christian, these days as a member of a Presbyterian congregation.

As someone who’s spent a lot of time studying other belief systems as well as my own, a couple of things immediately come to mind regarding the issue of religions vs. cults, and whether there’s a difference between the two.

1) Cults are secretive. For example, non-Mormons are not allowed at Mormon weddings. I went through this experience twice; two of my friends from high school were Mormons, and I was invited only to their receptions—not because they didn’t want me at their weddings, but because I wasn’t allowed. There are many things, in fact, that Mormons are told to not share with the outside world, and some Mormons get quite angry when ex-Mormons write about any of these things. Scientology also seems to keep a lot of its practices on the down-low. … On the other hand, my current church and my former church have nothing to hide: you can attend our services, participate in any of our activities, read our reports, even sit in on meetings of the congregation and various church boards—in fact, the only thing a nonmember can’t do is vote, but the reasons for that, I think, should be obvious.

2) Cults TAKE your money, literally. The only way to advance in Scientology is to pay ever-increasing amounts of money—this is why most Scientologists are celebrities: they’re about the only ones who can afford to belong. And to be a member in good standing of the Mormon church, you HAVE to give 10% of your income to the church—church officials even check your financial records to confirm that you’ve paid done your duty. … On the other hand, at the two churches I’ve been a part of, giving (whether money, time, or other resources) is 100% voluntary, and you’re not penalized if you don’t give, or if you give less than others.

Regarding the issue of religion more generally, and why I believe it’s necessary …

Yes, I was born and raised in a church. Yes, I was told what was true and what wasn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong. Yes, my parents hoped, even if they didn’t expect, that I would follow in their faith footsteps. And yes, I’m glad for all these things, and each of them surely had an impact on me … but none of them is the primary reason why, as an independent adult, I choose to still have this faith in Jesus.

And make no mistake: it is a choice. However you’re brought up, you have to take ownership of your decisions at some point, for they are yours alone. And what I’ve chosen is based on what I have gone through in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I accepted Jesus into my life as my savior and lord at a young age, around 8 or 10 (my memory’s a little fuzzy), but I didn’t fully embrace this faith as my own, didn’t really enter into a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, until my early 20s. The catalysts for this transformation were a couple little things called anxiety disorder and depression; to make a long story short (if you care to know more details, just ask), I suddenly found myself, through no wish of my own, in a very dark place, and though I was confused and hurt and scared nearly to death, one thing seemed clear: God was telling me that after I’d spent years of being a “cruise-control” Christian—not taking my faith as seriously as I should, and not being all that intentional in my relationship with God—I needed to make a choice: Was I going to live for God? Yes or no? That part of it, at least, was that simple.

It was clear to me, through this experience and through other, less-traumatic ones in my earlier years, that God was real. I had seen Him move in my life, seen Him take actions that were designed to bring me closer to being whole (as in “healthy”), as He’d always intended me to be. I’d also seen Him move in the lives of others. I’d seen Him prove His faithfulness, confirming what I read in the Bible. In other words: I’d seen more than enough.

Which sort of leads to my next point: Whatever is true in life, I want to follow it. It seems to me that the wise and life-giving thing to do is to go after whatever is true, whatever is real; if there’s Someone out there who gave us life, who’s the author of our existence, then He’s what’s real and true. And why would I want to follow after something that’s a lie, anyway? I don’t want my life to be a lie, and I don’t want to pattern my existence after a lie. In much the same way that mechanical devices don’t work properly unless they’re operated and maintained according to how their designers intended them to be operated and maintained, no one’s life is going to “work properly” unless it’s patterned after the One who designed it. Obviously, I believe that Jesus is what He called Himself: The Way, The Truth, and The Life. So that’s another reason why I follow Him.

I also follow Him because I believe that I really have offended Him with several of my behaviors but that He nonetheless gave His life in exchange for mine, paying the penalty I deserve, and so He’s worthy of my gratitude for what He’s done for me, and the best way to “pay Him back” is to pledge my life to Him. This is in addition to the fact that if He is God (which I believe He is), and if He brought me into existence (which I believe He did), those two things alone make Him worthy of my devotion and allegiance.

And now, just a bit more concerning what I believe about God and Jesus. In short, I believe what the Bible says about them, and only what the Bible says about them—because I also believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, delivered to us through men but coming directly from Him by the inspiration of His Spirit working in these men. I also adhere to what Christians have adhered to for two millennia: The Apostles’ Creed, which is as follows:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

I also believe in the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit, and that these are three representations, or three modes of being, of the same God. I realize that this is one of the hardest doctrines for nonbelievers to grapple with, and I don’t claim to fully understand it—I’m not sure anyone does this side of Heaven—but I feel I understand it enough to know that it’s not only possible but true.

How do I know the Bible is trustworthy? I’ve read it a lot, and I know that what critics often refer to as “internal inconsistencies” in the Biblical text are, upon close inspection, perfectly reconcilable. I’ve also done a fair amount of studying regarding the historical facts of Biblical texts—who wrote them, and when, and whether their motives were valid, and whether these people were in a position to speak authoritatively about the events described in the Bible. As you no doubt surmised, I believe that the factual, historical evidence points to the Biblical texts being authentic, reliable witnesses to the story of God and of Jesus Christ.

And even though God requires us to have faith, He also gave us brains and logic and the capacity to reason, and I believe that it is perfectly possible for a sane, reasonable person to follow the Christian faith and believe what I believe. I see no reason, in fact, why reason, science, or “rational thought” hinder someone from coming to faith in Christ.

A Few Other Points

There were a few specific points in the Bluepearlgirl’s World (BW) post that I want to address. First, she shares a quote from Yahoo! Answers that basically says the only difference between religions and cults is that religions are old and cults are new, so anything now considered a religion is just a cult that’s been around a long time, and anything now considered a cult will one day, if it lasts long enough, be considered a religion. I think, however, that the person who wrote this is guilty of two things: 1) believing the lie that only so-called “religious people” are religious; and 2) failing to realize that for people such as myself, “religion” is not a matter of following a certain set of principles or a certain list of do’s and don’ts, but is instead about figuring out what the truth of reality is and following that (it’s not that religion is a compartment of my life, but that following the truth is my life). I addressed the latter part earlier, and as for the former, it’s my contention that every person has a set of beliefs about life and existence, and that set of beliefs, whatever its constitution and however it’s labeled, is that person’s religion. Religion doesn’t have to be an organized affair such as Christianity; if you worship nature and believe that aliens seeded life on Earth, then that is your religion.

BW also addressed the idea of morality, that she is not without a values system and that she doesn’t need a church to instill morals in her. I see a lot of atheists and other liberals these days making a similar claim, essentially saying that people can be moral without God. I disagree. In a Godless scenario, there can be no other legitimate arbiter of morality than the individual, with each person deciding for him/herself what’s right and wrong; in such a situation, there can be no objective, universal standard of right and wrong, and thus no morality—every belief, every action, simply is, and if you don’t like what I do or say or believe, oh well. Tough luck for you. So even though today’s liberals say that they can be moral without God, what they are in fact doing is living Godless lives while borrowing quite a lot from the Judeo-Christian moral ethic. Otherwise, they could make no claims about morality; they could make no statement about what people should or shouldn’t do. Should or shouldn’t according to whom? is what I’d like to ask them. If I tell you that abortion is wrong, I can at least point to the Bible and God’s emphasis on valuing innocent life, but when the atheist or other liberal tells me that “what women do with their bodies” is none of my business, on what authority are they saying that? None but their own, and since they choose to live apart from God, their claims are nothing more than opinions with no foundation, and thus worthless.

BW believes that an entity such as a church can be dangerous if it has too much power … but so can anything else. I think Barack Obama is dangerous and has too much power. And certainly there are plenty of individuals and corporate entities outside of churches that have too much power and are thus dangerous. As I’ve said elsewhere, religion, like anything (money, fame, etc.), is a tool that can be used for good or evil, and the real problem with people is not religion but the corrupt human heart. So you’ve known Christians who did you wrong—hey, as much as we’re supposed to be examples of Christ, even the most sincere Christian sometimes falls, and there are many people who aren’t Christians but merely call themselves that. You should really be looking at Christ, not at fallen man, because ultimately you’ll be judged based not on what you think about Christians, but on what you believe about Christ.

BW questions whether Jesus even existed. Obviously I believe He did, and as I stated earlier, I believe that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), not to mention Acts and the letters of Paul and other apostles, are legitimate, accurate, authoritative texts, and thus constitute plenty of evidence that Jesus did exist (not to mention that Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about Christ).

Some Quick Hitters

Comments from BW, followed by my short responses.

“There has been more death, bloodshed and abuse thanks to the untouchable-ness of organized religion.” … The 20th century was the bloodiest in the history of mankind, and nearly all of it was due to the horrible acts of atheistic tyrants such as Stalin and Pol Pot. And I would argue that even a lot of the deaths in so-called “religous wars” throughout history were at the hands of people who didn’t really care about any particular religion but were simply using religion as a tool to gain the domination they sought.

“I have to listen to all of the “god” talk that permeates my every day life” … No offense meant, BW, but you live in San Francisco; how much God talk really goes on there?

“No memorizing scripture that is redundant to curent society.  I think maybe cults have figured out that their teaching needs to fit into the times.” … If something is true, then it’s timeless. The Bible is not a dusty relic but a word picture of reality—a reality that’s never changed and never will. Times have changed, yes, but people are as fickle and corrupt as ever, and as much in need of the Truth as ever.

“I think Jesus Christ must have been an incredible speaker with a lot of chrisma and taking people who feel disenfranchised to join his cause.  …But that IS how most cult leaders are seen by their disciples.  Jesus WOULD have been a cult leader back in his time.” … No doubt some people in Jesus’s time thought he was whacko, a cult leader, but Jesus and His original followers were not isolated, cut off, from the rest of the world like cults are, nor did the Apostles relinquish every earthly article or cease living the lives God gave them—we know, for example, that Peter still owned a home, and that he and Andrew and James and John continued their vocations as fishermen.

I do agree, however, with Christian author Josh McDowell’s statement that when it comes to Jesus, you really have only three choices about what to believe: He was a liar, He was a lunatic, or He really was (and is) the Son of God. Well, He had nothing to gain by lying (His horrible death and empty bank account proved that), and if He was a lunatic, none of what He said should be believed (including his moral teachings, which even many liberals call “good”), so I can see only one possibility: He’s the Truth.

To whoever has hung in there with me thus far, thanks for reading. Like BW, I mean no disrespect to anyone, but I gotta say what’s on my heart. =)

One and the Same

Typebars in a 1920s typewriter

Language Lessons. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clark Kent. Superman. Two identities, same guy—they are one and the same.

Not one in the same.

I can see how people would get this mixed up: Oftentimes the and gets phonetically shorthanded, sounding like (think rock ‘n’ roll), which sounds like in—ergo, we often end up with one in the same.

But now you have no excuse, so go out there and get it right!

Class dismissed. =)

A Thing Greatly Feared, Postlude

Phi

Mr. Hallum began reading the new Gazette as he and his chauffeur cruised down Main Street. Mr. Hallum chuckled – a grim, rumbling chuckle.

“What is it, sir?” said the chauffeur.

“I love seeing my victories in print: My competition elimina

ted, his sheriff put in

prison, the land soon to be mine. My plan worked perfectly.”

“Just like you said it would, sir.”

The black chuckle rolled again as Mr. Hallum folded the paper and set it next to the large, shadowy, orange-eyed creature beside him.

“Yes. Just like I said it would.”

A Thing Greatly Feared, Chapter 34

Explosive paintings

Darrell's encounter with Vernon ends in explosive fashion ... but does Darrell survive it? ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It was a clever idea of you, Mr. Daley, coming up here. Too bad for you I thought of it, too.”

Jesus, please! “So what now?” said Darrell.

“Now – you’re going to throw your gun down onto the ground, as far as you can; then you’re going to climb down right where you are, and back away; then I’m going to climb down.”

“And then?”

“Then? Well, as they say, that’s all she wrote. Now throw the gun.”

Darrell started his windup.

Asfar – as you can … or else I’ll put a bullet through you right now.”

Why wait? thought Darrell, but as he reared back to throw his gun, he again took notice of the flames, which were spreading in their direction.

He hurled the gun.

“Good arm, Mr. Daley. Now climb down.”

Darrell did.

“Now move back. … Back. … More. … That’s good.”

Darrell was forty feet from the house – and so close to his truck yet so far away. Desperation coursed through his mind, panic swelling in his chest.

Lord, please help me.

Silence.

Lord. Please.

* * *

James looked up and saw Hank running towards him around the fire.

“James! It’s comin’!”

Hank swooped around by James, and then James’s attention was drawn above – two orange eyes came sailing into view over the top of the fire.

Scooching on one knee with a thick, flaming branch in his hands, James had but one simple move to make … and only one shot at it.

“Yaaahh!”

“Grrowrrrow!”

His quick upward thrust buried the torch in the creature’s chest.

* * *

“Alright. I’m coming down now; you just stay there.”

Pillsbury started to walk down from the roof’s ridge against a backdrop of billowing flames.

And a sudden, single thought was planted in Darrell’s mind.

Oil tank.

Darrell turned and dove to the ground in one motion.

FFWA-BOOOOM!

Sara’s house went sky high and in every direction. Bits of wood and glass shot everywhere, some raining down in broad arcs, others torpedoing across the yard. Darrell lay on the ground with his head covered, hoping desperately that no flaming shards landed on the gas cans in his nearby truck. A few seconds later, when there seemed to be a moment’s break in the hailstorm of debris, Darrell scrambled on hands and knees to a tree that was close by, its thick trunk providing a safety screen against the showering house … and his truck, if it should go.

* * *

James kept the shadowy creature balanced in midair on the end of the branch for a moment, then let it fall, shifting his grip on the stick as it went, and staked the creature to the ground with a hard stab. The creature writhed with desperation. James, though desperate enough himself, had all he could do to keep it pinned to the ground, and he knew he couldn’t hold it much longer. Amid the scrambling and growling, and his own grunts of exertion, James searched for an answer, disappointed and confused that the fiery stick hadn’t finished it off.

MORE FIRE.

He looked at theirs.

He shifted himself into position, leveraging the stick, and with a last mighty strain that took everything he had, James lifted the creature and lobbed it into the fire. It landed with a crash that brought half the pile down on top of it, and the screams it made were the most pain-filled and horrible that James and Hank had ever heard. Half a minute later, however, it was done. It was gone. It was finished.

* * *

The air had cleared of all shrapnel. Darrell rose from behind the tree and took in the sight as he walked across the driveway.

His truck was fine. What had been the house, though, was now nothing but a pile of splinters and ashes in the basement.

And if there was anything left of Vernon Pillsbury, it was going to take a microscope to find it.

* * *

Two flashlights shone through the trees; Hank and James were going home.

“James, I– ”

“I know.” They stopped. “Forget about it.”

* * *

Darrell let himself slide out of his truck, the warm yellow light of his livingroom making him eager to get inside, and Wade and Sara spilled out the front door, eager to bring him in.

“Dad!”

“Wade!”

He fell onto his son’s shoulder, arms wrapped around him.

“You guys alright?” said Darrell.

“Yeah. The sheriff came here but we got him.”

“You got him?”

“Yeah, I, uh … knocked him out with a shovel.”

Darrell’s eyebrows went as high as they could go.

“He kept his composure quite well,” said Sara.

“Where is he?” said Darrell.

“Tied up in the basement,” said Wade.

“Well … I guess I’ll say ‘good job’ and leave it at that.”

“How … how did it go with you?” said Sara.

Darrell tensed up and sighed.

“Your uncle was there when I got there, waiting for me. Or waiting for whoever showed up, which was me.” Darrell’s eyes met Sara’s. “He’s dead, Sara.”

She lowered her head and took a deep breath. Water glistened in their eyes.

“Come on,” said Darrell. “Let’s go inside.”

* * *

Sara, Darrell and Wade – all sleeping in the livingroom, where they had plunked themselves down hours earlier after locking the sheriff up in the jail – came to at the sound of thumping on the front steps. Darrell bounded to the kitchen in the dark and grabbed his gun, then stood to one side of the door and flung it open while flicking on the front light.

“Hank! James!”

“Hey, Darrell,” said Hank as James helped him up the steps.

“You guys alright?”

“Yeah,” said James. “Hank’s just got a sprained ankle, coupla bumps and bruises.” Hank gave him an inconspicuous glance. “Nothin’ more.”

James winked at Hank, who smiled in reply.

“Did you– did you get it?”

“Yeah. We got it.”

* * *

A week later …

“Congratulations, Wade.” Sara plunked his report down on the kitchen table. “You got an A.”

“Thanks, Sar– uh, Miss Kremshaw.”

“So how’d it go in town, Sara?” said Darrell.

“Oh – great. Mr. Schaeffer has agreed to rent me the space above his office.” She turned to Wade. “Only I’d better not see you climbing on my roof.”

They laughed.

“Well I hope you like it,” said Darrell. “Just remember: it’s only temporary. We’ll have your new house done before snow flies.”

The front door opened. It was Hank and James.

“Hey, good news, everybody,” said James. “We just got done talkin’ with the lawyer in town: Sara’s aunt doesn’t want any of it – none of the land, none of the business, just enough money to live on. Congratulations, Sara – you now own a loggin’ company, a pile of land, and a whole mountain right here in Foster’s Glen.”

Cheers erupted, and Sara’s mouth hung open, her hands on her face in disbelief. A wellspring of emotions bubbled out of her, manifesting itself in both tears and laughter.

While everyone else celebrated, Darrell merely smiled, remembering a conversation he had with Sara several days ago:

“My Aunt Hilda says she never knew about any of it, never even suspected anything.

“You believe her?”

“Yes. … She’s devastated. Moving back to England. But she might be leaving me the land.

“What land?”

“The land she and my uncle own – all of it.

“Wow.

“But I don’t … dare to hope too much, you know? There’s other people she could give it to. … And I’m happy with what I already have.”

“So how are we gonna celebrate?” said James.

“Ohh, let’s see” said Sara. “How about … dinner at the Friday Nite and then a movie at the Colonial?”

They laughed.

“That works for me,” said James. “So Hank – you don’t mind us sharin’ your date with you?”

“I don’t if she don’t,” said Hank as he looked at Sara.

“Not at all,” she said.

Joseph Smith, Con Man Extraordinaire

Painting by an unknown painter, circa 1842. Th...

Joseph Smith, con man. ... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In judging any worldview or belief system, I think it’s necessary to examine the system’s founder; his character will, in my opinion, tell me everything I need to know about his trustworthiness, and thus about the reliability of what he’s proclaiming.

In the case of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, a close look at his life reveals that he was not only a polygamist but a world-class scam artist who spent most of his life looking for the perfect con, failing at the task several times before, regrettably, striking gold with Mormonism.

Smith was born in Vermont, but his family moved to Palmyra, N.Y., when he was about 12. His career as a con artist began when he was a young man, when he took up work as a “seer,” also known as a “glasslooker,” in the Palmyra area. Smith told people that he, with the help of a special “seerstone,” could locate buried treasure and lost property. As you might’ve guessed, he never found anything, and even though the job didn’t pay much, he nonetheless took people’s money without delivering the promised service, so he was arrested in 1826. Charges were dropped because no one wanted to admit to being a sucker to Smith, but he was nonetheless well on his way as a con man.

With apologies to Lemony Snicket, next came the unfolding of a series of unfortunate events. A hard-up preacher named Solomon Spaulding decided, after several other failed ventures, to try his hand at writing and selling novels. He wrote a story called Manuscript Found at Conneaut Creek but failed to get it published, so he reworked the story and renamed it Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon. He took it to a publisher in Pittsburgh who agreed to publish it if Spaulding could come up with the money, but Spaulding never could find a backer, so the manuscript languished in the publisher’s office.

At some point in the late 1810s-early 1820s, a man named Sidney Rigdon was visiting that same publisher’s office, and he came across Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon. By this time Spaulding had died, so the manuscript had just been collecting dust—so Rigdon took it, supposedly just for curiosity’s sake at first. Rigdon, however, was an adherent of Campbellism, which sought to restore Christianity to its first-century form (at least, what Campbellites believed was its first-century form), and in Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon Rigdon saw an opportunity, a possible way to promote Campbellism and unite the various Christian denominations. He began to hatch an idea, and around 1825 to 1827 Rigdon told his closest friends that soon a new book of scripture would come out that would unite Christian Americans, convert Native Americans, and explain what happened to the people who had built thousands of mounds around the eastern U.S.

During this same period, a man named Oliver Cowdery lived in Rigdon’s area, and likely heard Rigdon’s idea. Cowdery used to live in New York, and was a cousin to Joseph Smith, and at one point went back to New York to visit the Smiths. Joseph Smith, by this time, had cooked up his latest (and ultimately “greatest”) con. Religious revivals were sweeping Smith’s part of the country during this time, and he wanted to capitalize on the fervor; when Cowdery told him of Rigdon’s idea, Smith found a way to do that. Smith had concocted some stories—one in which God the Father and Jesus Christ allegedly appeared to him (known as Smith’s “First Vision”), and one claiming that he had been visited by an angel named Moroni who told Smith about some buried golden plates that contained a record of the ancient Americans and of Jesus’s dealings with them, and that this was the true gospel. So Rigdon and Smith collaborated on a revision of Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon, and thus was born The Book of Mormon, first published in 1829.

Several of Spaulding’s relatives who were familiar with Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon swore in affidavits that The Book of Mormon was a ripoff of Solomon’s second, missing manuscript. In fact, they claimed that “Nephites,” “Lamanites,” “Lehi,” “Mormon” and “Moroni”—all key words in The Book of Mormon—had been used in Solomon’s work. So not only did Smith steal various ideas from Christianity and twist them, he also stole someone else’s literary ideas.

The success of Smith’s latest endeavor was not immediate—he tried selling copies of The Book of Mormon but found few takers—but the seed of his future empire was there. In the meantime, Smith, Rigdon and Cowdery went to Ohio and established a bank, but the bank had no charter, so the three men became wanted by state authorities. Cowdery became angry at Smith for the bank’s failure and left for Michigan, while Smith and Rigdon fled to Missouri.

Smith, however, began to accumulate followers around this time, and after Missourians kicked out him and his followers, the Mormons landed in Illinois and founded the town of Nauvoo out of swampland. It was during this time that Smith became a Freemason, and again Smith found it appropriate to “borrow” from others, incorporating many Freemasonry ideas into his new cult, including the idea of “celestial life” (Smith, in fact, fell in love with the word celestial).

By this time Smith was well on his way—he had fame, fortune, power, and an ever-growing following (not to mention whatever women he felt like seducing, and there were many). Though Smith was killed by a mob while he was in jail in Carthage, Ill., in 1844, he had reached his lifelong goal: discovering the perfect way to get people to give him whatever he wanted.

Mormonism: For Those Who Like a Little Sci-Fi With Their Religion

Cover of "The Pearl of Great Price"

Where sci-fi legends are made.

I used to think that Mormonism wasn’t much different from Christianity–Mormons had their polygamy, but other than that it seemed, to my then-uninformed self, that they were pretty much like Christians. As I’ve done more digging, though, I’ve learned that not only are Mormons not Christians, but Mormon doctrine is like a science fiction tale.

My journey with this particular aspect of Mormonism began with a question I had: Mormons say that god was once a man like you or I before exalting himself to godhood—so who and what came before god? It seemed ridiculous to me not only that their god was once a fallible man, but also that, as was obvious to me, there had to have been another god who created their god, so who was this other god? And why don’t Mormons follow that god instead?

The answers I found are, well, interesting. Turns out that all of us, including the Mormon god, were spirit beings in the celestial kingdom (Mormons love the word celestial, by the way) before we became physical beings, and before we were spirit beings we were each an eternal, self-existing intelligence somewhere in the universe. In the case of the Mormon god, we’re never given his human name, but he lived on another planet, and fared so well at living life that a bunch of gods who ruled other planets decided that he, too, was worthy of becoming a god and having his own little fiefdom to rule—the planet Earth, which this group of gods created.

According to James C. Brewster, founder of a breakaway Mormon sect known as the Brewsterites in the mid-1800s, “The Pearl of Great Price makes it very clear that a council of gods helped organize, or create, this earth (Abraham 4, 5). In this council, however, was ‘the Eternal God of all other gods,’ or the Father to whom we should give our obedience (D&C 121:32).”

So Mormons, as it turns out, aren’t monotheistic but polytheistic, and the god they worship isn’t the head honcho—not even close. There are also numerous other inhabited planets, each with its own “subgod,” and you too can become your own god and rule your own planet.

So … other planets, other peoples, other gods, and an “Eternal God of all other gods” (whom, contrary to what Brewster said, is not given his due by Mormons). And that’s not even the half of it. There’s the magic rock (“seerstone”) Smith used to “receive” The Book of Mormon (turns out there weren’t any gold plates involved). There are also, according to Mormonism founder Joseph Smith, people living on the moon, who are dressed like Quakers and live for 1,000 years. And let’s not forget the magic underwear.

Sounds like Joseph Smith was L. Ron Hubbard before there was L. Ron Hubbard.

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