Many atheists believe that all religions are equally crazy and all believers equally deluded. I tend to disagree. I think it is less intellectually excusable to be part of a modern religion, such as Scientology or Mormonism.
The advantage of older religions is that their foundations are veiled by the shadow of time. This implies a founder, so I am generally speaking about the popular religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We can surmise a bit about their founding, but a lot of guesswork is involved. Unfortunately, this provides a scapegoat for many believers. It works similarly to the claim that atheists should prove God does not exist.
For the two newer religions, on the other hand, we know much about their founders and church formation. The believers will often deny the information, but we have it nontheless. I will treat each in turn, with more focus on Mormonism because it seems to be more accepted.
People are pretty well aware by now that L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, was a science fiction writer. It is not coincidental, then, that his church sounds like a bad sci-fi movie. Scientology contradicts modern science about numerous events (by the way, this is because Xenu is tricking us, kind of like when the devil hides really old dinosaur bones). It also is a fairly obvious cash cow for those in control. It seems more than a bit odd that you have to pay your way up the levels within the church. The farther up you go, the more you pay, and the more brainwashed you’ve been along the way. They won’t allow analysis of their precious e-meters and they desperately guard their secret upper level teachings. This is because both would expose them. We know much about these areas because brave individuals have left the church and spoken about its inner dealings. They have a whole group, the Sea Org, just to derail anyone who attempts this.
Hubbard was, of course, as much of a fraud as his church. Prior to starting the church he spoke about founding a religion as a way to get really rich. He made many claims that he could not support, the most telling of which was that he could not die. He died in 1986 under questionable circumstances. Is there really any other way to go in the upper echelon of Scientology? There are many interesting things about Hubbard’s life that cast extreme doubt on his sovereignty, but I won’t go into all the allegations here. If you want to know more about him, L.Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? would be a great place to start.
Latter Day Saints
Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church, is another interesting character. The Mormons, similarly have some rather odd beliefs to have come from a modern age. I’ll recount a few of my favorites here:
- The Garden of Eden was in Missouri
- God lives on or near the planet Kolob
- Magical underwear can prevent physical harm to your body
- They have a prophet who can receive infallible teachings from God (that sounds like trouble)
But we can pick on any religion’s silly beliefs. Why are the Mormons special? Well, I’ll give you two reasons. The first is a matter of simple arithmetic. The Mormons consider themselves a kind of Christianity 2.0 – a modern, corrected remix. So they take all the crazy beliefs of Jews and Christians and add even more on top of them. That could make the case alone, but my second concern is their founder. I’ll tell two anecdotes about his life.
Thanks to South Park, many people now know that Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon from golden plates that he had the special power to see using magical seeing stones. No one else had been granted this power – only him. This seems to be a recurring theme among prophets and founders. Prior to founding his religion, Joseph Smith lived in New York State. He made his living there as a treasure seeker. People would pay him money to look through magical seeing stones and similar devices to reveal hidden treasures. Of course, he could not really accomplish this because the stones didn’t really contain magical powers nor did he. So, he was arrested and convicted of fraud in New York using the same methods that would later start his religion.
Another well-known feature of the religion is its teaching about multiple wives. This came to Smith as a conveniently timed prophecy from God. Allegedly, Smith was having an affair and his wife confronted him. He told her about his prophecy and she said she didn’t believe a word of it. That didn’t seem to matter, though, since many historians believe he went on to take over 30 wives. I imagine the conversation as something like this:
Honey, thouest think I would cheat on you? You are mistaken for thine…wait, hold on, I’m receiving a transmission from God. Ok, this is ironic but He seriously just told me that He wants the men to sleep with many women. What? No, not you. Don’t be ridiculous; only the men.
Speaking of prophecies, Smith, like Jesus, said Zion would be built in his own generation. They were both wrong, and there were many Smith prophecies that did not come to pass. If you want to know more, I would point you toward No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith. This is a scholarly, unbiased work.
When those of us who are not Scientologists or Mormons look at the mounting, damning evidence we see clearly these two men sought only money and power (and sex). I’ve only laid out a few items here due to the brief nature of blogs. There is much more evidence out there, and none of it is positive for the believers. Are they committing more of an error than, say, Christians? Yes, I think they are.
- None Found