Is Mormonism Weirder Than Other Religions?


Andrew Sullivan, who has been having interesting thoughts on Mormonism -- specifically, whether it has cult-like qualities (he thinks not, and I don't think so as well) -- has posted a thoughtful reader response who questions whether we are right to argue that Mormonism isn't that much weirder than other religions:

While your attempt to find "a few non-doctrinal yardsticks" to think about a religion's legitimacy is worthwhile, Jeffrey Goldberg's comment that started all this has been gnawing at me for a few days now. His line (that you seemed to agree with) was "What Mormons suffer from more than any other major religion is proximity." The take-away is that, well, all religions are pretty weird and LDS beliefs are just weird in a novel way, so they seem more strange than usual to us.

Reading about Mormonism's origins, history, and doctrines certainly makes you reflect on that possibility. It has made me ask questions about my own (Christian) faith, about the absurdity of what I believe. I've asked myself, if I were hearing or reading the Gospel narratives for the first time, what would I make of them? Would they be "weird" or "ridiculous"? Its a useful question for any person who persists in their attachment to a religious tradition. And it can be unsettling.

The more I've thought about this, though, the more I do think there are real doctrinal -- not just sociological -- reasons Mormonism really is more weird than at least my Christian faith (I'll leave others out of this, for now). All religious traditions ask us to take certain beliefs on faith; they are not, in the narrow sense, empirical. I can't prove that Jesus was the Son of God or that he rose from the dead. I can't prove his miracles. I fully admit all this, and imagine a variety of religious believers from different backgrounds would admit to similar core propositions that elude rational justification.
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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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