I'm A Mormon: Pop Culture Often Mocks My Faith, But Fallout Treated It Right

I'm a 31-year-old, fifth-generation Mormon (member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from Salt Lake City, Utah and I love video games. I've been playing since my parents brought home the original NES with Track & Field, Duck Hunt, and The Legend of Zelda. Unlike most of my friends I never "grew out" of video games and love them today as much or more than I did as a kid.

Among my many loves (Demon's Souls, Half-Life 2, Total Annihilation, Mass Effect) stand two games I just can't get enough of: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. I must say that I was surprised how my religion was featured in the most recent Fallout I played.

I had never heard of Fallout until 2010 when I noticed my friend's little brother had logged over 125 hours in Fallout 3 on his Steam account. Intrigued, I rented Fallout 3 and was instantly hooked in that rare and wonderful way that happens when you experience something truly new and wholly captivating. I ploughed through it on my PS3. I would get up at 5am to play before the kids woke up and the work day started, logging some 40 hours in the 10 or so days it took me to complete the main story. When I returned the game I was dogged by how many locations and quests I had to leave unexplored and unfulfilled due to my limited rental window.

After building a gaming desktop for my birthday and getting both New Vegas and Fallout 3: GOTY on the Steam Summer Sale, I knew I was in for a pair of very special treats. I have since logged over 200 hours in Fallout 3 and another 130 in Fallout: New Vegas.

Mormons of the Wasteland

As a Mormon, I am much more accustomed to seeing my religion portrayed in unflattering and even disrespectful ways in entertainment media ("Fort Joe Smith" in Starship Troopers comes to mind, as does The Book of Mormon Broadway musical and HBO's Big Love series) than to seeing any positive or deferential representations. Hence, when I came across The Old Mormon Fort outside New Vegas it naturally piqued my curiosity as to how it would be featured. Would the game's developers at Obsidian take the well-worn road of clichéd irony by making The Old Mormon Fort some den of hypocritical debauchery or zealous extremism, or would they do something different?

I wasn't expecting anything necessarily pro-religion, let alone reverent. This is a Fallout game, after all.

Picture: via DesertUSA.com; screenshot by the author.

I was nevertheless surprised and impressed by what I found inside The Old Mormon Fort: a struggling but hopeful sanctuary for the lost and ill-fated souls of the Mojave wasteland. I found a people whose purpose very much in harmony with the aspirations of Mormonism and Christianity generally. (For those who may have heard otherwise, we Mormons worship Jesus Christ and consider ourselves Christians.) While Mormons weren't the ones running the show — it was the Followers of the Apocalypse who had set up shop there — their noble goals and purpose, connected as they were (at least nominally) to the Mormons, gave me a strong feeling of appreciation. They intrigued me.

I wanted to find out if there were more Mormon references in the Fallout universe, and were they as curiously sympathetic and respectful as this? Thanks to the exceptional collection of Fallout resources at falloutwiki.com — including numerous leaked documents from the pre-Obsidian studio Black Isle's cancelled alternate Fallout 3 project in which the Mormons of Vault 70 were going to figure rather prominently — I have been able to analyse Obsidian's Fallout Mormons from the perspective of a lifelong member, and am pleased to share what I found.

Some minor Fallout: New Vegas spoilers will follow.

Joshua Graham: The Prodigal Son

Clearly the most significant Mormon character in the Fallout universe is Joshua Graham, also known as Malpais Legate and The Burned Man.

For those who don't know the lore, Joshua Graham was a Mormon missionary sent from New Canaan (post-apocalyptic Ogden, Utah) to preach to the tribes of Arizona. Like most real-life Mormon missionaries, Graham had to learn a new language in order to preach to the Arizona tribals and, like most real-life Mormon missionaries, was able to do so. I myself served a Spanish-speaking mission to the Mojave wastelands of San Bernardino county, California. And Utah boasts one of the highest concentrations of US-born polyglots — speakers of more than one language — in the country due to the Church's foreign missionary efforts, with 30 per cent of Utah's male population and up to 75 per cent of the students of the Church's Brigham Young University speaking a foreign tongue.

In the game, it appears that Graham's linguistic abilities may have been pivotal in the formation of Caesar's Legion. Graham had been sent from New Canaan to preach to the tribes of Arizona and had managed to master a number of the tribal dialects. Meanwhile, The Followers of the Apocalypse dispatched a research party from California to study the tribal languages that were emerging in the east. They met Graham along their way and enlisted his help as a translator.

Shortly thereafter, Graham and the Followers were captured by the Blackfoot tribe, one of the weakest of eight warring tribes in the region. Fearing they would be killed along with their captors, a Follower named Edward Sallow determined that to survive they needed to remake the tribals into a capable fighting force. With his knowledge of ancient Rome, Sallow enlisted Graham's linguistic talents to help him train the Blackfoot tribe in the ways of total war.

Sallow and Graham went on to lead the tribe in conquest after conquest, with both men ultimately forgetting or abandoning their humble and humanitarian beginnings and getting caught up in the violent rise to power of their new nation.

I take no offence at the story of Graham becoming Caesar's first Legate and actually thought it was exciting to have a Mormon figure so prominently in the history of one of Fallout's principal factions. One big reason for this was because his fall was precipitated by very human failings (fear of death, lust for power, pride, etc.), not a failing specific to his religion. Consequently, Graham becoming a ruthless villain doesn't feel like an attack on Mormonism any more than Caesar forming the Legion feels like an attack on the Followers of the Apocalypse (which it doesn't).

But it is Graham's life after the Legion that sheds light on another reason why I appreciate Obsidian's handling of Mormonism so much.

Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant.

After failing at the first battle of Hoover Dam, Caesar has Graham covered in pitch, set on fire, and thrown into the Grand Canyon. Graham, already renowned for his resilience as much as for his cruelty, survives. Stripped of power, title, and purpose, he returns to New Canaan filled with remorse for what he had become and for the shame he brought to his people.

Here again, Obsidian avoids the lazy cliché of religious people being hypocritically unforgiving and intolerant and has the Mormons of New Canaan forgiving the penitent Graham, embracing him as a returning prodigal.

I'm not sure if Obsidian was touching on the general theme of sin, repentance, and redemption common in most all of Christianity or if they looked more specifically at Mormon history, but this type of story played out repeatedly in the early history of the Mormon church. There were multiple times that high-ranking Church members betrayed Church leaders by swearing false affidavits (i.e. Mormons planned to overthrow the government) which resulted in repeated imprisonments and even near execution, only to later have the traitors return seeking forgiveness and finding it extended by a magnanimous prophet and people (see W. W. Phelps, Thomas B. Marsh, Oliver Cowdery).

Regardless of what inspired the plotline, once again I appreciated that the core Christian tenet of repentance, forgiveness and redemption figured so prominently in the story of saint-turned-sinner-turned-saint, Joshua Graham.

As a fun side note regarding the fictional Graham and a famous real-life Mormon, Fallout: New Vegas project lead J. E. Sawyer said in an online Q&A that one interesting aspect of Mormon history is that John Browning, inventor of the M1911 pistol, BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), and M2 .50 Cal Machine Gun, was a Mormon from Ogden, Utah. Joshua Graham, perhaps in a show of hometown pride and religious camaraderie, seems to be quite a fan of Browning's M1911 .45 calibre pistols.

"Elder" Bert Gunnarsson & Driver Nephi

Until I started writing this I had overlooked that Bert Gunnarsson was a Mormon (probably due to most of the Mormon-related dialogue not making the final cut of the game), but I certainly had my suspicions about Driver Nephi.

While the name Nephi will not likely carry any significance to anyone outside Utah or the Mormon Church, to those in the Church Nephi is the first author of The Book of Mormon. For Fallout players, however, Nephi is one of the three fiend leaders that NCR Major Dhatri asks The Courier to kill in the Three-Card Bounty quest.

Bert Gunnarsson, on the other hand, is a ghoul medic and Mormon working with the Followers of the Apocalypse. He can be found helping NCR Captain Parker care for the poor and needy of New Vegas at the Aerotech Office Park.

If you speak to Gunnarsson he reveals that he is ministering to the poor and needy of New Vegas and that he has some medical training from the Followers. However, the GECK (mod tool) reveals a number of lines of unused dialogue that more fully flesh out his character. In one of Bert's lines he explains that in the Church people call him "Elder Gunnarsson," the title borne by full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, implying that Bert is a Mormon missionary.

Also cut from the final game was an option that allowed The Courier to ask Bert what brought him out of Utah, to which he replies, "Following a lost cause, I'm afraid. My old friend Nephi fell in with a bad crowd. Drug runners, raiders, probably worse things it's better not to dwell on. When his gang headed west, I followed. I thought perhaps I could turn him back to the Church." This obviously implies that the golf-club wielding fiend Driver Nephi is also a Mormon, albeit a seriously lapsed one.

Again, I find much to appreciate in these two characters and their stories. First of all, Bert Gunnarsson is a Swedish name. Scandanavia was the second most successful foreign mission in the early days of the Mormon church with 23,000 Scandanavian converts emigrating to Utah between 1852 and 1905. Consequently, Elder Gunnarsson may be a seventh- or eighth-generation Mormon, his ancestors perhaps dating back to those early Swedish converts. Did Obsidian know this historical tid-bit? I don't know, but their research into Mormonism so far seems to reflect a much deeper level of effort than is typically evidenced in entertainment media, so maybe they did.

Another way in which I feel Obsidian avoided a tired anti-religious cliché is in making Gunnarsson a ghoul.

In many media depictions, religious people are xenophobic and intolerant of the "other". In the Fallout universe, the group that most fits the persecuted "other" is the ghouls.

As Three Dog reminds us in Fallout 3, "For all you would-be bigots out there, ghouls are people too. See children, ghouls are simply humans who have been exposed to an ungodly amount of radiation and haven't had the good fortune to die... So if you meet one of the wasteland's many ghouls, leave your prejudice at the door, and your pistol in its holster." Three Dog reminds his listeners continuously about the unfair and apparently wide-spread anti-ghoul prejudice that exists among the humans of the wasteland. In this sense it is encouraging to see one of the only explicitly religious characters depicted as both a Mormon and a ghoul. This seems to indicate to me that the Fallout Mormons are not the xenophobic other-hating religious stereotypes featured in some media: Not only do they accept ghouls among their ranks but send them out as official representatives of the faith.

Lastly, it is poignant to me to think of this ghoul missionary following his wayward friend over 640km into the desert in the hopes that he might turn him from his self-destructive path.

It is poignant to me to think of this ghoul missionary following his wayward friend over 640km into the desert in the hopes that he might turn him from his self-destructive path.

In cut dialogue, Driver Nephi speaks ungenerously of his old friend and tells The Courier to tell Bert that he's never coming back to "his little cult". Bert admits to The Courier in another piece of cut dialogue that he was "never able to reach" Nephi, and that "drugs and hatred" have consumed him. In spite of this, it seems that Bert is determined to wait and hope for a change of heart that may lead his friend away from the fiends and toward redemption. Given that Bert is a ghoul and does not have an NCR bounty on his head, he likely knows he will outlive Nephi and seems willing to give as many of his long ghoul years as he must to offer his friend a lifeline back.

When death inevitably comes to Driver Nephi, likely at the hands of The Courier, if the player speaks to him Bert laments Nephi's passing (oddly, it would seem, given that all of the related dialog was cut) and expresses the hope that Nephi's soul is at peace.

"Elder" Bert Gunnarsson exemplifies the Mormon belief in the power of repentance and forgiveness, and that even someone as lost and sinful as the murderous Driver Nephi can be redeemed.

If you might indulge a film-based redemption analogy to further illustrate the point (*Pulp Fiction spoiler ahead*), it is as though Joshua Graham is Jules Winfield and Driver Nephi is Vincent Vega, with each of the former surviving a near-death experience and turning from their wicked ways to find forgiveness, and each of the latter persisting in their wicked ways and finding death.

Obsidian not only thoughtfully presents the concepts of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption in connection with Mormons but also the self-sacrifice, patience, and hope of the people seeking to extend those gifts to others as Mormon missionaries, like Elder Gunnarsson, work to do the world (or wasteland) over every day.

More Mormons of the Wasteland

There are a few other fair-minded Mormon Easter eggs in the Fallout universe, but they would take too long to explain and are relatively trivial compared to those presented here (but for those that are interested, see Jeremiah Rigdon, the rise and fall of New Jerusalem, Caesar's extermination order and Missouri Executive Order 44, Daniel from Honest Hearts and Ammon from The Book of Mormon).

I as a Mormon feel a deep sense of appreciation for the time and energy Obsidian clearly spent researching Mormonism historically, culturally and spiritually.

Rather than taking the safe route in the entertainment industry of making Christianity, and especially Mormon Christianity, a punching bag or the butt of a string of jokes, Obsidian has shown that at least in post-apocalyptia, Mormons can get a fair shake.


Skip Cameron plays video games and goes to church in Boise, Idaho, and has to make time to game before the sun and his kids are up. He posts screenshots of his adventures through the wasteland at viewfromravenrock.blogspot.com


Comments

    I'm sorry, I couldn't get past your name being Skip Cameron. That is awesome.

      As a person whose first name is "Cameron", I do not want to be skipped.

    Right, I'm just going to get this started - someone's got to.

    As a Mormon, I am much more accustomed to seeing my religion portrayed in unflattering and even disrespectful ways in entertainment media (“Fort Joe Smith” in Starship Troopers comes to mind, as does The Book of Mormon Broadway musical and HBO’s Big Love series) than to seeing any positive or deferential representations.

    Every single one of my beliefs are subject to critique and rational argument. Yet, because your beliefs are religious, you believe that you should somehow be free from 'disrespectful' portrayals in entertainment?

    Your beliefs are homophobic, bigoted, misogynistic, and anti-abortionist, and you also oppose pre-marital sex, pornography, alcohol, tea & coffee, and gambling.

    Your beliefs are deserving of being critiqued - which you will most likely call 'mocking'.

      Don't remember him saying they shouldn't be, just that he is more used to it being that way.

      Last edited 07/03/13 1:33 pm

        In fairness, neither Matt Stone and Trey Parker's works and Big Love are completely one-way criticisms.

        In Big Love, the main characters are devoted Mormons from start to finish (I didn't watch the last couple of seasons but I think they did). The bigamy, which may or not be a part of some Mormons' culture (they indicated it was more on a church-by-church basis) was celebrated in most of it and the only bad portrayal of Mormons themselves were the extremists led by that guy who looked a little like Al Pacino.

        In South Park, they ridicule the Mormon beliefs (which is fair enough - they are a bit hard to believe. Not that they're on their own, but South Park also goes for other religions) but they repeatedly compliment Mormons themselves as being very kind and tolerant people. They even criticize people who are intolerant of Mormonism. In Orgazmo, the protagonist is a Mormon - which is played for laughs, but he is still a decent bloke. I haven't seen the Book of Mormons but I assume it's just a live-action version of the South Park episode that looked at the religion.

        I can't remember the Mormons in Starship Troopers but I don't think it was that big a deal.

        I get that there isn't a straight drama with people who are Mormon, and have a close family, etc. like there is for Christians but I don't think I've ever seen one of those for any other religion either on telly.

          Yeah, using Matt And Trey's stuff as an example of being disrespectful isn't the right way to go about it. If you actually look past what's being shoved right at you (which is where most people get stuck, admittedly), the purpose is not to be disrespectful or rude at all. Matt and Trey are very smart people, they know what works and they know what's acceptable.

          The point of the Mormon episode is to show what they put up with, and what mormons are actually like. Just as you said, it's about them being kind and tolerant people, even if the origin story is silly.

          The Book of Mormon is more about the innocence and naivety of Mormons, and finding who they are. They said themselves it's not about mocking them, and most mormons aren't offended by it. Hell, there's an ad for the actual Book of Mormon in the shows little booklet.

      yeh dont think he's actually saying he should be free from such disrespect just saying that he is accustomed to it..

      Whilst I don't really care too much about an individual humans superstitious beliefs, I have to say I agree with your sentiment on the grounds that I find it down right evil that these large institutions continuously promote the violation of human rights and promote the persecution of individuals who do not share their superstitions. A case in point - they have spent millions of dollars actively attempting to suppress the right of homosexuals to recieve equal treatment under the law and to further the ability of the state to control a womans reproduction - all so that it aligns with their unfounded superstitious teachings. In fact, I view this group and others like them to be ultimately traitors to the United States (for the record, I am a natural born citizen of the US) and their continous opposition to the 14th ammendment of said constitution puts them historically speaking in the same light as other much despised groups such as segregationists and the KKK.

      Make no mistake, these groups and the people who follow them are perpretrating evil and injustice and they need to be opposed at every corner.

      Haaaaaaaaang on, hang on, hang on... Big Love, but no mention of South Park?? Hmmmmm. And from what I understand, The Book of Mormon got a pretty decent response from the Mormon community in general. A bit of an "Okay, it's not quite what Mormon faith is about, but it's pretty funny, just don't take it seriously" kind of thing...

        The book of mormon's message in the end actually ends up being religion, even if it'a all made up bs, can be good for certain people.

        Its also hilarious.

    I never found the mormons in Starship Troopers to be mocked. I just saw them as a group of mormons who decided to settle a planet and were wrong and all died.

      The movie referred to them as "Mormon Extremists" who "disregarded Federal warnings".

      Not entirely sure it was mocking the entire denomination itself, though, as there are extremists in every religion - and more often than not, extremists are frowned upon by their maintstream counterparts.

        But given the tone of Starship troopers, I always figured the 'extremist' label was probably just propaganda.

          The mormon part always just seemed like a Random Denomination, it was the extremist part that was more relevant. It could also be because extremist mormons NOW are known to go off in somewhere without much civilisation and band together in a compound. It's easy enough to see that expanded into space. I didn't think it was any direct dig at Mormonism itself. And since I rather detest the church (Happily married trans lesbian, so they more or less want me dead or at least institutionalised) I would probably have cheered if it were direct mocking.

    Why is he stalking his friends -little brother - on steam?

      I dunno about you, but my youngest little brothers' friends are my friends on steam and in WoW, because they play together and I play with them, it's not just convenient, they're cool people. We chat and hang out, would it be weird for one of them to comment on their friends' older brother's games? Family and related social circles, man. It's actually normal. Were you an only child or something?

      When you hear 'little brother', you might be thinking of a kid. This guy is in his 30s, like me. My little brother is in his mid-20s. There's nothing creepy or weird here except your projection.

        Yes I do read little brother - which implies child..I am not an only child and I am friends only with adults on steam. Do you scan the use of yours friends little brothers accounts? Why not call him friend? Your brothers friends would seem to be your friends. Are they little?

          Yeah. I think you probably don't get it. 'little brother' is a term for denoting an age relationship. It doesn't imply infancy or childhood at all. My coworkers ask me about my little brother all the time. They talk about theirs. Size has nothing to do with it. The 'my little brother's friend' thing means that my little brother is the lynchpin in that relationship. If he were to lose touch with them, I probably would too. You can't have been oblivious to this social convention, can you?

          You've surely encountered the concept of when a couple are together, they still refer to each others' friends as being 'my girlfriend's friends', even though they hang out together and do things together? It's a descriptor of origin or closeness - and, in the event of a breakup, usually a good indicator of who 'gets' which friends. "Hey babe, are you going to invite your friend Kira over?" "You mean OUR friend?" "Sure. What was I thinking."
          This is not new. I'm pretty sure there's even been a Seinfeld episode about it.

          The point is, checking out what people on your friend list are up to and seeing what everyone's playing so you can invite them if it's similar is part of the net-savvy relationship matrix.

          Going looking for something sinister like 'stalking' in a perfectly innocuous interaction within a healthy, normal social circle is a little creepy and weird.

            No. I think you don't get it. A - I mentioned it as an aside as the phrase was odd. It was peculiar and specific. B - When taken in conjunction with the fact that the author is clearly delusional - his belief system is ridiculous - it is creepy. C - I don't give a f.. What you think. D - Are you really going to whine about my observation all night. E - I STILL DON'T GIVE A F WHAT U THINK. F - Duck you missed the joke - it just went over your head. G - I don't want to hear about your friends - little or otherwise H. It is not normal to tell others what is normal or describe your social connections to strangers. Finally you are creepy.

              You probably could've avoided the embarrassment of displaying yourself the way you have here, by simply admitting, "I was going for a joke, and it clearly fell flat, my bad."

              Maybe next time you could try that. :)

                I am neither embarrassed by my actions or concerned by your observations and assumptions. Ifact I find your continuing commentary both ridiculous and conceited. If - as you say - it was merely a joke - what narcissistic drive prompts you to attack me - personally? Your ranting in comes across as both creepy and pathetic. Further - others did appreciate the comment - both as a joke and as a serious textual observation. The wording IS peculiar. You seem too pre-occupied with what others think of you on an internet forum. If you don't agree with my comment - please don't try to censor me with a rhetorical diatribe of nonsensical idiocy.

        Oh and there most definitely is something creepy and weird going on if the author believes Mormon teachings.

    Wait wait wait... is this a guest article or from a regular gaming journalist? A gaming journalist that had never heard of Fallout before 2010?

    Just curious, I know it happens in other mediums, but has there even been examples Christians, Mormons, Muslims (et al) being punching bags in videogames?? Obviously, not including those 'games' that various White Supremecist media labels put out in the US from time to time.

    I'm not meaning to be a dick about it, I'm just curious because I can't think of any off the top of my head-- at least none where it's little more than an aspect of single character or something.

      Richard Garriott's Ultima VII and the Fellowship cult seemed like a pretty massive prod at organised religion, in general - though no religion was named outright.

      Their will be, but I can't think of any either so it's not common. I know of a fair few RPGs that contest organised religion ideologically and have priests, etc. of fictional churches as enemies but not any specifics.

      How about every enemy in every boring FPS of the last 10 or so years being Muslim (or, if your corporate overlords are scared, Chinese or Russian)

        True, but I don't think they really thought about the religious side so much. They were just supposed to represent people from 'arabic' nations.

        Yeah, fair call. But that's more racial than religious. It's a different beast, but just as ugly...

        The only games I can think of are ones with fictional religions, like Syndicate Wars and Skyrim.

    Reign and Jake

    Its funny that the only hateful and bigoted comments on this page are in your comments.

    The Author stated nothing offensive and the hypocrisy of ridiculing the guy because he doesn't share your beliefs is just plain offensive.

    If he spouted any of the issues you mentioned I could accept your point but many people belong to religious groups without agreeing with every aspect of them.

    I personally don't like religion mainly due to the hypocrisy I have seen so very often and I now I see more and more evangelical atheists spewing the same hatred and bigotry they claim to be railing against.

    Grow up and fight the people who actually promote the views you are so against.

      You sound like butthurt Mormon.
      Nothing in either of the post you mention was hateful or bigoted.
      Were they negative?
      Yes.
      Were they critical?
      Yes.
      Does that is any way invalidate what they have said?
      No.
      Also, I suggest you take a little of your own advice and grow up.
      Come back when you have looked up the definition of "hatred" and "bigotry".

      I agree, Eddy. It's very possible the author has taken what he sees as valuable from his faith, and doesn't subscribe to all of it. It's also possible to be a science buff at the same time. Not all religion is fundamentalism, and religion and science don't have to conflict.

      Saying "yadda yadda yadda because Science" is the same as saying "yadda yadda yadda because God" if the person saying it doesn't actually have a clue about what they're referring to, and is just lazily trying to win an argument. Too many people use both to feel smarter/better than other people. I personally think Dawkins has value, but there are those who blindly preach his word without having actually read it (and use it as a platform to feel superior), just like there are those who twist the Bible's words towards intolerance.

        Can you really just cut and paste what you want to believe and still call yourself a Mormon? I assume the Mormon hierarchy would disagree with you. A physicist can't just overlook certain universally accepted physical laws because they are inconvenient to their hypothesis.

          In my opinion, if you claim membership in a faith who's official opinions include things like extermination and other horrid things like Mormons and Catholics espouse of late, and you don't stand up against them or mention them at all, then I have no obligation to assume you don't believe them. None at all. I give no benefit of the doubt here. If you are a white supremacist, by definition you hate non-white people. If you are a Mormon or Catholic, by definition you hate homosexuals and women. It's advertised on the tin. It's what the official, 'God-ordained' leaders say is your groups views. if you don't believe them, you are either not a true member, or are trying in some way to change it (Which includes denouncing said views).

          Both the Catholic and Mormon churches explicitly state that the Word of God is to hate and destroy homosexuals, and return women to their rightful place secondary to men. It's not wrong to assume that someone who says 'I am X' believes what they claim to believe.

            Mmm, I see your point but I still disagree about making those assumptions. Saying "Catholicism is this" and "Catholics are this" are different things, in my book. One has clear policies, the other is a group of individuals. Everyone engages with the church on different levels, and within one congregation will be many different beliefs. It's why people sit in circles and talk about a passage in terms of "what it means to me". I guess these days a lot more people are using qualifiers like "independent-thinking" Christian, not wanting to be lumped in with churches with hateful stances or organisations like the ACL.

              To be clear, there are some sects that are more and less centralised. I specify Mormons and Catholicism as they have very strong central leadership and core tenants requiring agreement with them. I'm not talking about 'X random pastor in Boston preaches something different to Y preacher in Philadelphia'. But when the leader of your religion, who speaks infallibly for god (ie, the pope for example) stands up and says 'Yeah, Uganda has the right idea on how to fix homosexuality, death is the best option'... If you are a Catholic, by definition he speaks for you. It's not a bug, it's a feature. So if you disagree, you better do so in a way people can say, or it is just sense to assume you actually follow the tenants of your proposed religion.

              I think this is something a lot more Christians SHOULD be doing. I think that the entire concept of 'Christian' is being tarnished because we only really here from the extreme conservative factions. I know there are some very public Christian leaders speaking against them, but not nearly as many as is needed. I believe most Christians to be decent people who think equality is a good thing. And the polls back this up. But most seem content to let the lunatic fringe be their face in the world, and I don't get why. But the fact remains that some sects are more centralised than others. Those sects especially need to be making their views known to the leadership and the world, because their mouthpieces are pretty horrible people.

                Yeah I can agree with that. It's a shame it has become necessary for Catholics to distance themselves in such a way, but it has. I think using the broader "Christian" term is another way we can do that, though in many peoples' eyes that term carries the same stigma.

                Part of the problem is the media too, I think. Local example, the gaming media is guilty across the board for giving nutjobs like the ACL a mouthpiece, in the name of false objectivity and a nice, quick, inflammatory paragraph or two. The sensible ones don't get the calls from journalists, because there needs to be two sides, even if one side is incorrect. I saw a Q&A with Dawkins and Pell a while ago, which I thought was pointless. Sure, it'll get ratings and there'll be a lively debate, but they just ended up bashing heads together. I think a much more constructive, educational discussion would come from someone like John Shelby Spong, with a foot in both camps and a level head. But I guess that won't generate the same numbers or discussion.

                  I agree entirely. It is frustrating to everyone involved, really.

          Absolutely. Anything else is fundamentalism. In some cases, you kind of have to. I haven't studied as much about Mormonism, but many Christians accept that the Bible was written by men, with the political and social agendas of men, at different times. Some of the writings might conflict. Churches concentrate on the passages they find will help in their daily lives, so you'll rarely hear the hateful passages dug up by militant atheists read out in a church. It's even common for people to disagree with what's being said on certain points. People take what they want from it, enjoy the community aspect and try to live a better life.

          I can imagine some other organised religions have more of a sense of "unless you do this, you're not a 'real' member". That said, I call myself Christian because I think Christ's teachings are great, and if a church wanted to say I'm not a "real" Christian, well, firstly that would be hard because "Christian" isn't an actual religion, but secondly I wouldn't give a rat's ass.

        "Religion and science don't have to conflict."

        Yes they do.

        Science is based on evidence and testing.

        Religion is based on faith. The denial of evidence, testing and reality.

        There is a reason people feel smarter and better than other people when they use science - it's backed up by evidence and peer reviews.

        Until religion is a thing of the past and people can live freely, you will always have people like me taking issues with religion.

          To me you sound as closed-minded as a religious fundamentalist. "My way is the only way." You're painting all of religion with the same brush, and seeing everyone as the type who believes the world is thousands of years old. Yes, science conflicts with that type of fundamentalist belief, but it doesn't conflict with Jesus' core teachings of tolerance, forgiveness, and living for others.

          A true scientific mind, one that cared about accuracy, wouldn't oversimplify the problem - it would recognise that there are billions of individual belief systems, and with every categorisation and sub-categorisation, accuracy is lost. Our minds naturally want to simplify and categorise, but in this case it's lazy.

          If you want to criticise a specific church, and their stated policies, that can be an accurate criticism. I'd probably agree with you on a lot of points about organised religion. But even Dawkins will frustratingly take 10 paragraphs to say what could have been said in one, because he cares about accuracy. And even the most outspoken atheists like Bill Maher will make the distinction between "organised religion" and the more vague "religion".

          Even if you think it's all hogwash, there's much that society can learn from religion. That's something Alain de Botton writes about in his book, Religion for Atheists. It's a shame more atheists don't follow his example, and instead mimic the inflammatory attitude of Dawkins, which gains atheism no friends or converts. IMHO, if you think you're smarter just because you aren't religious, you're having a wank.

            But why worship a god that created you - to worship them? That's what I don't understand.

              I can't answer that for other people, but for me, it's more about tools we can take away to help us do things like forgive - which can be very hard, but very necessary in hard times. Plus, I know it can be comforting to know there's an entity out there that loves you, even in times when you don't feel a lot of love for yourself. Whether you see that entity as an invisible bearded man in the sky, or a simple interconnectivity in the universe, or a metaphor for self.

    Don't worry, I mock all religion equally

      Even atheism? =P

        I *think* you're being facetious but in case you're not:

        Atheism is fundamentally not a religion. It is simply a lack of belief or faith. "Religion" is "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods."

        i.e. by their nature, they're incongruous concepts. :)

        http://i556.photobucket.com/albums/ss2/spuppet/b%204chan/dont-know-if-trolling-or-just-very-stupid.jpg

        Last edited 07/03/13 10:16 pm

    That's cool that he digs it I guess, power to him.

    I still think religion is stupid and a waste of time.

    Your faith is often mocked because it is a joke. Learn how to think or get used to it.

    maybe because reasons like the Mountain Meadows massacre? Why pick a religion that its god allows things like that?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Meadows_massacre

      Yeah, let's not go the whole 'examples of crazy followers means the cause they follow is flawed' angle, because then every single cause in history is equal.
      They ALL have loonies. Or are you saying the Civil Rights movement was wrong and worthy of derision because it had some loony, militant advocates?

        I wasn't aware that Mormonism was defined as a cause.
        I'm pretty sure, and feel free to correct me here if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Mormonism is a religion with a tax free status and huge, opulent glass temples dedicated to their imaginary friend.

          Using 'cause' to signify anything that people feel strongly about, religion included. Because if you were to say, "By that reasoning, ALL religions are stupid," numerous people would probably agree with you because they don't like religion very much. But if you broaden the same logical reasoning to =causes= and political movements, which people feel similarly strongly about, you can see that nutjobs exist who do not represent the views, creeds, or beliefs of others who rally under a similar banner.

          Eg: Just be cause a Ku Klux Klan member says something, the fact that he's a Klan nutjob doesn't automatically mean that whatever he's saying will be incorrect. (It just reallly ramps up the odds.)

            Fair enough.
            All I was curious about was defining a religious organization as a cause.

        Skip the loonies, the official Church leadership has spent the last years pouring /tonnes/ of money, contributed by believers like the OP, into directly restricting basic human decency to people like me. I don't need to point to the crazies when their leaders are actively preaching exterminationism.

    Joseph Smith invented the mormon religion dum dum dum dum dum

    To be fair, Mormons are easy to mock because they dont threaten to blow you up over a joke, and there really arent that many of them. Personally i dont find their beliefs any crazier than any other religion.

      What about their magic underwear?

        No more crazy than Wine being the literal blood of Jesus for Catholics or Mohammad killing every dog in the city of Medina. And who doesnt want magic underwear? Boxer shorts with +2 Magic and Willpower? Nice.

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