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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