Will Liberals Prove to Be the Real Anti-Mormons?

When the potential for anti-Mormonism harming Mitt Romney's candidacy is discussed, it's usually evangelical Christians we're talking about, since they have traditionally had the greatest antipathy toward Mormonism (some of them, at least). But what about liberals? Peter Beinart argues that by the time this election is over, they're going to evince more anti-Mormonism:

One reason Democrats may be more anti-Mormon than Republicans is that Democrats, on average, are more secular. Devout Protestants, Catholics, and Jews may be more tolerant of Mormonism because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings. Many secular Democrats, by contrast, may start with the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance.

I'm a little skeptical that devout believers of other religions are going to be more tolerant of Mormonism "because they understand from firsthand experience the comfort and strength that religious commitment brings." If that were the case, we would never have had any religious conflicts at all. As for secular Democrats turning against Mormonism because of "the assumption that religious orthodoxy produces irrationality and intolerance," well, sure. But secular people think most, if not all religions produce irrationality (usually) and intolerance (often). Mormonism is nothing special there. And those of us who don't believe in any gods long ago made peace with the fact that our only choices for president will be believers of one religion or another.

I'm sure that every once in a while during this campaign, a Democrat is going to say something mean about Mormonism in general or Mitt Romney's Mormonism in particular (it has already happened). And I wouldn't be surprised if over time more liberals begin to answer poll questions about Mormon candidates more negatively, and conservatives begin answering more positively. Because now, when respondents are asked, "Would you vote for a Mormon for president?", the first image that pops into their minds will be Mitt Romney. The answers they give may say as much about their feelings about him as about their feelings about his religion.

Beinart argues that individual Mormons should bear no more responsibility for their church's views on things like gay rights than individual Catholics should bear for the Vatican's views. Which is true enough, but Mormons are less familiar to Americans than adherents of other faiths. You probably know a dozen different kind of Catholics: some who long ago rejected the Vatican, some who go to mass but disagree with the church on lots of things, some who take the Pope's word on faith, etc. But since most of us don't know lots of kinds of Mormons, many will conclude that there must only be two types: those who are still tied to the church and are therefore supportive of all of its beliefs and activities, and those who have left it behind. If those were the only two choices, Mitt Romney would be the first kind. As one liberal Mormon described it in a Boston Globe article from last year, "Normally it's either all in or all out - that's both how Mormons view themselves, and that's how people view Mormons."

Mitt Romney is now basically the ambassador to America from the LDS church, for better or worse. But he's going to stay pretty quiet about the particulars of his beliefs and practices, which means that his candidacy won't tell people much about his faith. One big question is whether the feelings people project onto the religion from their feelings about Romney persist after this campaign.

Comments

I think most liberals would like to know more about Mormonism. Now that the Mormons are having their moment in the Spotlight. Would you please consider doing a series of articles?
Of particular interest:
A) The Book of Abraham / Joseph Smith Papyrus
B) Discrepancies in the first revelation story. (Was it a Spanish Pirate or a Host of Angels or God and Jesus)
C) Joseph Smith's Magic Rock in a Hat Trick (How did he write that "Chloroform in Print"?)
D) The plethora of other problems with the Book of Mormon - Like Plagiarism from the KJV Bible - translation errors, scribe notes and all. Or perhaps the complete lack of Archaeological and Scientific evidence?
E) The Kinderhook Plates
F) Introduction of Polygamy (Anything to do with the Maid in the Barn?)
G) Racism - With a living breathing prophet receiving direct revelation from God. Why did it take until 1978 to stop the discrimination and segregation of Black people? (14 Years after the Civil Rights act of 1964 banning discrimination of Black people and yet just days before the Deadline President Carter gave which threatened to remove the Church's tax exempt status)
H) Sacred Temple Ceremonies - lifted directly from the Free Masons.

The list is endless. You could certainly fill a few pages between now and November.

The American people need to know all about Mitt Romney's religion. After all he did swear a sacred Oath to give his time, talents, and means to the Lord’s work as called upon by his leaders.

The authors of the book American Grace are social scientists at Harvard and Notre Dame who have conducted extensive research about the state of religious belief in America and how it relates to politics and other aspects of society. Their conclusion about the Romney election campaign is that the part where his religion was a disadvantage is largely behind him, in the primary contests. They think that in the general election, the Evangelicals who would not prefer a Mormon will nevertheless support him against Obama, who is considered much more threatening to their values, and recent polling has shown that to be the case. In the general election, the secularists who have strong negative feelings about a Mormon candidate would have the same feelings about an Evangelical Christian candidate or a conservative Catholuc candidate (Santorum) who acts like an Evangelical. Being Mormon will not make any essential difference for them, and it will be a contest over public policy rather than religious identity.

The Obama campaign says it is not gping to attack Romney's religion, which is wise because it is the same religion as Obama's main ally in Congress, Harry Reid, who is also a devout Mormon. Reid and his Jewish wife converted when they were in college. Obama also does not want people thinking about the fact that his father was a Muslim polygamist in Kenya and his stepfather was a Muslim in Indonesia who believed you should eat (endangered) tiger to acquire its characteristics.

There's a lot any non mormon could say negatively about the LDS church, but it would mostly be about their beliefs being non main stream christian(?). Having lived in Utah for a couple of decades I have found mormons to be generous with the poor ( often in exchange for work), fiscally smart without resorting to hacking social services, and mostly good stewards of the land. They have some bad things in their past but mostly those have been corrected.

I have been told by more devout "Christians" that Mormons are dangerous than any liberal has. While one can question whether or not they are true Christians, they do have a right to practice their beliefs. Some would think worshiping a carpenter who lived 2000 years ago a bit silly.

I wonder what the reaction would be if more people realized two of the "teachings" of mormonism, which show that it is clearly a racist sect: 1) mormons believe that the "negro" race (yes, "negro") is the "mark of Cain;" and 2) according to the book of mormon, American Indians rejected Jesus when He appeared before them some 2,000 years ago. As a result, neither race is asked to go on "missions" for this highly fabricated church. Would you consider such people "latter day saints?"

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