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Monday, February 27, 2012

SL Letters of the Day: Feedback, We Get Feedback...

Posted by on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 3:35 PM

I am a long time weekly reader, as well as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I grew up with your column. I can’t tell you how many times you’ve put something into words that I couldn’t figure out how to say myself. I have always looked to you as someone who, above all else, strives to spread love and acceptance. So, you could understand how I was upset by the end of your column this week regarding baptism of the dead. There are inaccuracies in your representation of this LDS practice that have the potential to alienate readers who, like me, come from within dogmatically charged faith communities, but still look to you for wisdom and guidance. These baptisms aren’t conducted to “choose Mormonism for the deceased,” but to offer them the option, should they be interested. Really, it’s all very democratic. Feel free to disagree with us about what we actually believe. Please, do not help idiots spread stereotypes. There is enough of that already.—Lame, Dan Savage

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First, thanks for all the great advice over the years. Even if I don't agree with you all the time, it's always entertaining and informative. This week's column really hit home, as two of the letters could've been written by me. I was stuck in a sexless marriage for quite a few years. She gave the same "promises" that LOST's wife gave him, and after we were married she decided she was asexual. A somewhat expensive divorce later, and I'm MUCH happier. And I agree 100% with what you said to LAME—he needs to forget that girl.—Hope He Listens

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I am married to a great women who was a little boring sexually. Her idea of trying something new was to try a new position. For a couple of years I have been curious about pegging. Lately it has been more of an obsession. However, I couldn't think of a way to talk to my wife about it without her reacting negatively. That all changed one day when she was reading your column and someone mentioned pegging in a question. She asked me if I knew what it was. I said no, but let's look it up. We did and she asked me point blank if I would be interested in trying that. I couldn't believe my good fortune. I said I would be willing to try it if she wanted. Well she did, so we did. It was unbelieveable for both of us. Thank you so much for bringing a topic up that I was to scared to. I know now that my wife is up for new things, and that she isn't boring sexually, and I owe it all to you. Thank you again.—Happy to be Pegged

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Hi Dan. Big fan. I came up with this limerick this afternoon while I was wanking about:

A frothy and slippery mixture
Was named for a Republican fixture.
When he finally comes out
There can be no doubt
That some guy will say, "Wipe off your dick, sir."

You and Ellen are my favorite fags.—Squishies

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Thank you for putting "Christian" in quotation marks when you mentioned the bigots lobbying against protections for LGBTs in Anchorage. It doesn't seem like much, but it really does mean a lot to me that you know we're not all awful people. On behalf of those of us who voted no on 8, love our gay, trans, and kinky neighbors, lobby for a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices, AND love Jesus Christ (and live by HIS words, not those of commentators who lived and wrote hundreds of years later...)—The Only Sexy Acronyms I Could Think Of Didn't Make Sense

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My latest political song parody, "Santorum Sings His Stump Speech" is now on YouTube, and if you have a few minutes you might enjoy it.—Ken

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My name is Mr. Felix Daniel, the principal treasury in Cote d Ivoire am contacting you based on a business proposal get back to me for more info.—Mr. Felix Daniel

 

Comments (81) RSS

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Sargon Bighorn 1
Dead people are baptized to give them the option to accept or refuse the faith? WTF! Given the option while alive and saying no, then when they're "dead" (but still alive enough to say Yes or No) they are given the option AGAIN? That's not democracy that's coercion. LEAVE THE DEAD ALONE.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on February 27, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
2
I love the fact that the LDS writer thinks there could be some profound difference in the minds of non-Mormons between "baptizing the dead into Mormonism" and "baptizing the dead so their spirits can choose Mormonism". Yeah, I'm sure the families of Holocaust victims feel so much better about that and don't feel like you're desecrating their dead at all.

Being an atheist, I'm not terribly concerned, since all the available evidence says I end when my brain dies. I do find it vaguely sweet how Mormons want to find some way to let people who found their frankly kooky religion unconvincing in life a second try in death. On the other hand, I don't enjoy the notion of being included in religious ceremonies against my will, so I'm going to fall on the "fuck off and baptize living adults who can give informed consent" side of this.
Posted by Lynx on February 27, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Report this
3
Elie Wiesel has complained about the practice of baptizing dead Jews, so I'm sure the Mormons will be only too happy to NOT baptize him by proxy after he dies. Right?!?!?!?
Posted by trow125 on February 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
4
Hey Day, I see Mr. Felix Daniel is apparently a mutual friend. I got the same e-mail. Small world.
Posted by SeattleKim on February 27, 2012 at 3:54 PM · Report this
5
Wow, the Nigerian prince scam is still around? I hate to think how many people must fall for it, to keep it going this long.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on February 27, 2012 at 4:01 PM · Report this
balderdash 6
Man, HtbP sure lucked out that his wife pushed him into what he wanted in spite of his apparent enormous reluctance.

Don't wait for that, the rest of you. Just ask for what you want, and maybe it won't take years of waiting and a freak chance before you get it.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on February 27, 2012 at 4:05 PM · Report this
7
@6, I know, right? I love that he started with this: "I am married to a great woman who was a little boring sexually," with no awareness that, as far as she can tell, she had to twist his arm to get him to try pegging. That should be: "I am married to a great woman, with whom I have trouble communicating honestly, especially about sex."
Posted by EricaP on February 27, 2012 at 4:14 PM · Report this
8
What Erica said.
Posted by Dan Savage on February 27, 2012 at 4:28 PM · Report this
9
Hey, that Santorum parody song wasn't half bad. Too bad about Poe's Law, though. It'll probably end up as his real campaign theme song.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on February 27, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
10
If Jews, atheists, and every other posthumously baptized person didn't choose Mormonism when they were alive, why would they choose it when they're dead?

I'm with @2 - as an atheist, I'm not terribly concerned that sprinkling water over my name when I'm dead will have much of an effect. But why fuck with the families of the dead? I'm sure my living atheist relatives would feel much the same way Elie Wiesel did. Just another way to impose religion on others.
Posted by Boston Savage Fan on February 27, 2012 at 4:37 PM · Report this
11
The very sweet LDS member can spin it any way she wants to, but people who've had the opportunity to "choose" to be Mormon in life and rejected it don't need to be given a second opportunity. What the LDS sect does in this regard is incredibly disrespectful. I plan to give many, many members of the LDS cult the opportunity to "choose" to be gay for the everafter, by proxy, whether they "chose" to be gay in the here-and-now or not. After all, it's just an opportunity, right? Anyone want to join me? http://alldeadmormonsarenowgay.com/
Posted by Calpete on February 27, 2012 at 4:39 PM · Report this
undead ayn rand 12
"These baptisms aren’t conducted to “choose Mormonism for the deceased,” but to offer them the option, should they be interested."

Congratulations for not understanding how baptism works. Call it something else if you want it to be something else.
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM · Report this
13
How about phrasing it a bit more succinctly?

Keep our names out of your religious rites.
We did not ask to be part of your rites.

If all that stands between God and me is a rite that I did not even participate in, I'm sure God will understand.
Posted by fairly.unbalanced on February 27, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this
Aly 14
I'm confused... How do people who are already dead give consent to baptism?
Posted by Aly on February 27, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this
KingofQueenAnne 15
How does this member of the LDS church not know that it's "Latter-day Saints," not "Latter-Day Saints?"
Posted by KingofQueenAnne http://blingeejesus.blogspot.com on February 27, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this
16
"Please, do not help idiots spread stereotypes."

This from someone defending posthumous baptism as offering a deceased person (as in, you know, no longer alive) "the option, should they be interested".

Given your credentials, I'd be a little more circumspect about throwing around the "idiot" tag if I was you LDS...
Posted by Bandit on February 27, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
seatackled 17
I figure the end of the Savage Love column is simply giving dead Mormons the option to be gay, should they choose.

But Mormons should nevertheless stop desecrating the dead.
Posted by seatackled on February 27, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
18
I don't know. I'm an atheist and assume that when I die there is no more me, no more anything. But if I turn out to be wrong and find myself in Limbo or purgatory or whatever when I die, then I just might want that second chance to choose heaven over eternal suffering. If I'm right and the Mormons are wrong, my absent being won't give a crap what some living people are trying to do with my nonexistent soul.
Posted by nordica on February 27, 2012 at 5:13 PM · Report this
OuterCow 20
Hey, c'mon fellow atheists, give this Mormon moron a break. Since they already believe souls are real things, I don't think it's that silly to assume these soul things that no one has ever provided any good evidence for existing, retain the ability to make choices after death. If you're fucking stupid enough to assume souls exist w/o any evidence (like all Christians) is it that much more fucking stupid to think they wear hats too?
Posted by OuterCow on February 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM · Report this
21
i'll just put it out here, for once i'm gone:

i don't like god, the concept of god, or the institutions that sprung for the purpose of gettin' down with god. say what you want about me once i'm gone, but if you think giving my casket a hug and wishing it gets nearer your god helps me or you or your cause, you are WAY FUCKING WRONG.

fuck god, and specifically your god, whichever one it may be.
Posted by deepconcentration on February 27, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
22
@20: "..is it that much more fucking stupid to think they wear hats too?"

Yes, actually. Like everything, there are degrees. I am an athiest, but there remain very big gaps in our scientific knowledge about the origins of the universe. Those gaps leave open the possibility for there being some, as yet unidentified, force behind the big bang. I do not think it's completely irrational to postulate the existence of some kind of physical force which has so far not been measured or detected by science.

What is irrational is the specificity of the postulation. Some religions take this to absurd lengths, such as the eternal "soul" postulated by Mormonism, to which they are able to ascribe such detail. That really is "much more fucking stupid" than a vague sense of post-corporeal survival that many who identify as Christians might relate to.
Posted by Bandit on February 27, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
23
The lost souls shouldn't be limited to the choices of Mormonism or gay in the hereafter. What about the chance to experience galactically orgasmic alien mind sex once they leave behind their mortal body, should they be interested? Shouldn't we, like, symbolically bukkake on their coffins or urns or death certificates to allow them that possibility?
Posted by ravished on February 27, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
24
Wow lots of angry atheists on here....

I find that a world inhabited by souls, synchronicities, and spiritual energies is a lot more exciting and meaningful than a world inhabited by happenstance collections of atoms. I don't have hard scientific proof, but I have enough evidence to be convinced myself.

Just writing to say that spirituality is more than a dichotomy between atheists and devout followers.
Posted by luminara on February 27, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
Noadi 25
As an atheist I don't care what happens to me after death, I'll be gone. However I certainly care a lot how people make my loved ones feel due to my death and anyone who makes it harder for them had better hope I'm right because I will come back and haunt them if they make my family feel worse. Baptizing or otherwise pushing mystical mumbo jumbo on my non-existent soul would count as making things harder for my loved ones.
Posted by Noadi http://noadi.net on February 27, 2012 at 6:27 PM · Report this
28
Another atheist here. Who would have suspected there were so many?

I think Mormons posthumously baptizing people is more funny that offensive.

I'd rather having them spending their time on that than running around trying to inflict their beliefs on live people.
Posted by SLCamper on February 27, 2012 at 7:10 PM · Report this
29
Of course I meant "More funny THAN offensive". Editing fail.
Posted by SLCamper on February 27, 2012 at 7:11 PM · Report this
32
@28 SLCamper, another atheist here who agrees with you!

But I'm glad somebody took enough offense to create that website, because I'm delighted to be able to tell my friends that I converted two of my own direct (Mormon) ancestors to homosexuality.
Posted by LiveAndLet on February 27, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
sirkowski 33
Mormons do a pretty good job proving Mormons are assholes by themselves.
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on February 27, 2012 at 8:05 PM · Report this
balderdash 34
@24, you can believe whatever you like if it makes you happy. It's just that hard, materialistic science is how we get things like medicine, and space shuttles, and the very sort of personal computer you're posting from.

So, I mean, if that's too boring for you, by all means spice it up with some mathematically illiterate misapprehension of coincidences and a poor but optimistic understanding of neurology. That's your privilege.
Posted by balderdash http://introverse.blogspot.com on February 27, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
35
Well, I'm not an atheist. I'm a Unitarian, which is pretty close. I stand by my life and my choices and I don't want anyone "giving me another chance". If there is a life after death, I do not want to have Mormon evangelists bothering me in it just because I was baptized without my consent. Heaven (if it exists) knows I don't want them coming to me every day to remind me that I have "another chance" in whatever comes after just to build up their numbers. Besides, I don't want my name associated in any way, shape or form with a church that hates gays and believes that women are not as good as men. Plus, I love my caffeine and alcohol. I'll face God or whatever as who I am. Besides, I signed up for the reincarnation track, if there is any life after death.

Look, I really believe that the baptism after death thing is the Mormon church trying to play a numbers game. They can tell ALL the other churches how many baptized members they have and look really important to those that believe that heaven is only for one type of religion and the church with the most souls wins.

Posted by percysowner on February 27, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
36
I find posthumous baptisms offensive because it makes the assumption that someone chose wrong in life. Holocaust victims don't need that kind of judgment and neither does anyone else.
Posted by PenguinGirl on February 27, 2012 at 9:21 PM · Report this
venomlash 37
If I want to become a Mormon, I'll get around to it before I'm in the ground. If I die a Jew, that should be a hint that maybe I'm fine being Jewish.
Posted by venomlash on February 27, 2012 at 9:49 PM · Report this
seandr 39
@6, @7: Yup.

To be fair, I think it's difficult for a lot of men to work up the courage to ask their wives for sex that falls off the beaten path, especially if it's an otherwise vanilla relationship.

A guy's fantasies/fetishes are a core part of his sexual identity. At the same time, let's face it, most of these kinks are kind of random and silly. So, it's not hard for your average guy to imagine the shameful experience of laying it all out there, only to have his woman wrinkle her nose and reply "Are you serious?"

I assume there are plenty of women out there who actually would react like this, but it's probably a lot less common than men think. In any case, the bottom line is that the guy has to ask.
Posted by seandr on February 27, 2012 at 10:12 PM · Report this
seandr 40
I don't get the uproar over post-humous baptizing.

If someone wants to perform some meaningless magical ritual on behalf of a dead person, even if it's your dead person and not theirs, who gives a flying fuck? It's not like the magic is actually going to work.

But whatever, just because I'm a nice guy, I will now perform an ancient and powerful religious ritual that will reverse all Mormon baptisms, post-humous and otherwise, thereby guaranteeing millions of souls a seat in hell. You're welcome.
Posted by seandr on February 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM · Report this
41
40- alright that cracked me up.

I'm an agnostic because I don't believe you can't be 100 percent sure whether there is a god or not. Anyway, I'm much more offended by the dumb beotch who said "thanks atheists" on the news of the school shooting today on huffpo. She seems to think atheists are responsible for the ban on prayer in public schools and if everyone just prayed it would never have happened.

I doubt these kinds of posters would think much of kids praying towards the direction of mecca five times a day in public school. She be begging for a secular country, maybe she should try to see what a theocracy is like. Alright rant over.
Posted by arachnar on February 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM · Report this
42
Typo that should be "can" I should have fixed it as I was right to start with.
Posted by arachnar on February 27, 2012 at 10:56 PM · Report this
43
@35, your comment brought to mind a mental image of a ghost floating about in the afterlife only to see two virtually identical 19 year-old boys in short sleaved white shirts, black pants and Bible bags marching smartly towards them and saying, with identical smiles "Hi! We're from The Church of Latter-day Saints. Do you have a few minutes?"

So even in the afterlife, they won't let you sleep in.

I'm guessing you're right it's a numbers game. I live in a predominantly Catholic country and the church makes it all but impossible to erase your name from church rolls, where anyone who has been baptized is, because much of their priviledge comes from claiming that upwards of 80% of the country is Catholic, even though millions upon millions never set foot in a church after baptism or (at most) first communion.
It's probably also a way to make believers feel like they are warriors for people's souls without actually having to do anything.
Posted by Lynx on February 28, 2012 at 12:53 AM · Report this
44
Mormon person, if you're reading this, you have to understand that you are seriously deluded by your cult. I know it's
virtually impossible when you are that brainwashed to grasp, but the fact that you are reading these columns means there is a glimmer of hope.
Posted by JJinAus on February 28, 2012 at 2:18 AM · Report this
45
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LOL, I love it how mormons and other superstitionists expect people to respect their idiotic thoroughly debunked beliefs just because they have them due to childhood indoctrination.
Posted by Mattyx on February 28, 2012 at 2:19 AM · Report this
46
A guy's fantasies/fetishes are a core part of his sexual identity. At the same time, let's face it, most of these kinks are kind of random and silly. So, it's not hard for your average guy to imagine the shameful experience of laying it all out there, only to have his woman wrinkle her nose and reply "Are you serious?"
Seandr @39 raises not only his own interesting point, but a second, linked one: adolescence.

Most of our programming for dealing sexually with the opposite sex is laid down in our teens, and we all know how hard it is to change that programming or the expectations or default settings that arise from it. (Don't programmers always say that it's easier to write a lot of good code than fix a smaller amount of bad code?) Despite a lot of progress we still live in a fairly reactionary sexual world where "men approach" and "women approve or reject", which means that women are still what Marcotte calls "gatekeepers of the pussy". That means that pretty much every non-Adonis straight man out there has had more than a few times where his perfectly ordinary non-kink requests have been greeted with the wrinkled nose and "are you serious?" response (in some form or other). If you've been drilled to be gun-shy about asking for vanilla sex then think about how gun-shy you are about asking for kink. And then double that for people who have a religious upbringing, which treats ALL non-marital sexuality as wrong.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 28, 2012 at 3:32 AM · Report this
47
"I find that a world inhabited by souls, synchronicities, and spiritual energies is a lot more exciting and meaningful than a world inhabited by happenstance collections of atoms."

And this statement, of course, encapsulates the entire outlook of magical thinking. If you change the name of a thing, you have changed the thing, without actually doing anything to all those boring, messy atoms.

The world is exactly as exciting and meaningful as you make it, in living your life. It's arrogant and stupid to say that your life is more "meaningful" than an athiest's because of the way you describe the world, without reference to anything you actually do, particularly in interaction with other people.
Posted by Fairness Doctrine on February 28, 2012 at 3:43 AM · Report this
48
@46, that is indeed true, but note that it is generalizable even to a non-traditional view of gender roles. After all, the problem is one of offer and demand: even in a society with perfectly equalitarian gender roles, with both men and women approaching and/or accepting, most non-Adonis guys (and non-Venus gals -- they're out there, too) will certainly have the experience of someone saying "no" to them. Since two people have to agree in order for this sex thing to get started, being turned down is going to continue to be a frequent experience no matter what.

And as long as kink is non-mainstream, it will be met with raised eyebrows and some surprise (as women who are into being spanked or rape fantasies can certainly also tell). Hell, looking at kink-positive people like Dan Savage, who still harbors bad feelings for some kinks (scat), and given that GGG is not yet an official mainstream position... this one is also going to take a long time.

So we're problably going to have to be resilient and deal rejection for a very long time still...
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 4:57 AM · Report this
49
On the mormon thing... I'm not really an atheist (a hi! to luminara@24 above), but since the difference between me and an atheist is probably a bit too esoteric even for those who like esoteric topics, you could probably round me up (down?) to atheism. And I agree that "offering the possibility to ender the LDS church" to dead people, even though it has no effect on the dead people themselves, is nevertheless unkind to their surviving family members -- and I'm sorry that the LDS church doesn't see that.

Still... these points can be made without the vehemence of some of the atheist posts above. I will never cease to marvel at how people who vituperate against their enemies tend to imitate some of the worst attitudes of said enemies. As in many political/social spectra, one is dealing with a circle, not a straight line, and the extremes meet: there isn't much difference between an angry fundamentalist and an angry atheist, since both are angry at the fact that there are people out there who just don't want to follow their lead.

Quite frankly: you can be against the LDS "baptizing" (really a misnomer, if the author of the e-mail to Dan is right) dead people without having to go all "you are scum and your beliefs are drivel" on people who might otherwise be and feel just like you do. Is the fight against bigotry forever condemned to foster new bigotry?
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 5:04 AM · Report this
50
The Mormon thing is due to the typical arrogance of religions in general. Every religion thinks that they have THE ANSWER. The point of these baptisms is that once a person gets to the afterlife and discovers how it really is (told ya so!), then their posthumous baptism will offer them a chance to get with the program.
Posted by Mr. J on February 28, 2012 at 5:49 AM · Report this
51
@32 No No NO, you didn't convert them to gay - you gave them the choice to be gay in the after life 8-{D

See that makes it all better.
Posted by frankdawg on February 28, 2012 at 5:58 AM · Report this
52
Why does anyone need religion to make things shiny and magical. Take a look around you.The world is freaking AMAZING on its own. That it just kind of happened out of nowhere over billions of years makes it even more incredible.

Reality, bitches. It's awesome.
Posted by blah on February 28, 2012 at 6:14 AM · Report this
Fortunate 53
The thing about the Mormon baptism thing is that sure, it doesn't really do anything because like virtually all religions it is just bullshit. But it is the lack of respect it implies.

These post mortem baptisms are the LDS last ditch effort to force participation in their cult voodoo. They couldn't get these people to participate in their little magical rituals during life, so they are going to impose their witchcraft on them after death. That's what it really is about. To force all people, at least once in their "existence" to participate in their religions magical rites.

That is why it is offensive to me. As I have said before, it is no different than pissing on someone's grave. It isn't going to effect the dead person, but it is still an offensive gesture just the same and it doesn't take a stretch to understand why the families of the deceased would be upset by it.

However since we can't stop them from doing this then lets treat it like what it is. Since religions are really just live action fantasy role playing, like a LARP version of Dungeons and Dragons, then we should respond in kind. When I die I want to be buried with a 20 sided die so that when they cast their Baptism spell I can make a saving throw. It's only fair. And I should get an anti batshit crazy modifier on my roll.
Posted by Fortunate on February 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM · Report this
Fortunate 54
I'm with Blah @52. I find it sad that people need to resort to magical thinking in order to see the universe as wondrous. The physical universe is absolutely amazing. And what is more, there is at least the potential for us to really understand it some day.

We know a little now, and we are learning more every day, and each new thing we learn is more fantastic and wondrous than the last. But we are not coming to understand all this fantastic stuff through mysticism and magic. We learned it through science.

In order to actually learn the secrets of the universe we need to observe, and experiment, and use math. Math can be hard. But you need math to understand the universe. But if you want to understand the universe from a scientific point of view you need to work and use the hard skills that allow us to discover these things, you can't just make shit up.

Magical thinking allows you to make shit up. It is easy and it lets you convince yourself that you have discovered some deep truth about reality when all you are doing is mental masturbation.

The discoveries of science are wondrous and the universe is inherently amazing. You don't need anything else, but to participate and appreciate this wondrousness you need to put in a little bit of hard work to learn about it.
Posted by Fortunate on February 28, 2012 at 7:49 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 55
@52: "Why does anyone need religion to make things shiny and magical. Take a look around you.The world is freaking AMAZING on its own. That it just kind of happened out of nowhere over billions of years makes it even more incredible."

Yup. It's like bawling your eyes out as a grown adult that Harry Potter and spellcasting isn't "real".

Life is awesome! All fiction is awesome! I don't need to pretend that fiction is reality to be happy and fulfilled, and in full awe of nature.

Why spend my time feeling forsaken when I could be mountain-climbing?
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 28, 2012 at 8:44 AM · Report this
56
@49 Beautifully written.
Posted by DanFan503 on February 28, 2012 at 9:39 AM · Report this
kim in portland 57
@49: I agree, ankylosaur. Fanaticism is scary. If we aren't careful we can become the mirror image of what we strive to eliminate by fostering new bigotry.
Posted by kim in portland http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/11/fast-paced_video_provides_a_fu.html on February 28, 2012 at 10:04 AM · Report this
58
@49: You said it better than I could. I feel just as threatened by evangelistic atheists as I do by evangelistic Christians. The former tell me emphatically that there is no higher power and I'm stupid to believe in one. The latter support bigoted rules and tell me I'm going to hell if I don't believe their version of the story.

@47: I said I find life more meaningful if I believe as I do; I didn't say my life is somehow more meaningful than yours. That said I don't hold beliefs simply because they make life more comfortable, and as a scientist myself I don't accept that my beliefs are incompatible with modern science.

To me, there is no one truth. Many people search for truth, and we all find our own answers. Some people don't search and simply accept what they are told; that is how bigotry is born. Do not belittle those whose search has brought them to a different truth than your own.
Posted by luminara on February 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
59
The doctrine of baptism for the dead is based on the following beliefs of Mormons:
Everyone (mormon and non-mormon), when they die, goes to a sort of nebulous spirit plane to await final judgement. During this time, they can totally hang out with each other, talk and so on and so forth. Mormons are required to spend this time missionizing to other dead souls, which is great, because on this spirit plane you have full understanding of the nature of the Universe and so you know that the Mormons were right.

The problem is that baptisms can't be performed by the dead: only living Mormon men have the priesthood necessary to perform the ritual. So, just in case you converted during the afterlife, they perform it on dead people. The ritual doesn't work on non-willing participants (you can't be coerced into it) so if you didn't convert in the afterlife, no harm no foul.

This is bugfucking strange but it's, like, one of the least offensive of the Mormon beliefs. Like, it is way, way worse that the polygamy and the racism and the homophobia and the misogyny and so on and so forth.
Posted by Ben Lehman on February 28, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
60
Ankylosaur-that's the most incisive comment about the problem with this debate that I've read, anywhere.

The middle paragraph is getting printed out and going on my wall. Thank-you!
Posted by somanynights on February 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM · Report this
61
@49, @56 and @57:
Sure, as long as we recognize that there's questions of frequency and provocation. Put by means of a Mormon analogy: it would be rude and socially unacceptable and an overreaction to yell obscenities at Mormon proselytizers. It is none of these things to do so if they have rung my doorbell for the umpteenth time, and after I've told them not to do so, and if they ignore a sign by the doorbell that says "no proselytizing".

Mormon persistence in acts universally regarded by all non-Mormons as socially appalling and perhaps grossly offensive negates the rights of Mormons to complain about the reaction. I've never quite understood that very modern North American that provoking somebody beyond measure is forgivable, but being provoked beyond measure is not.
Posted by seeker6079 on February 28, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
62
@49 Beautifully written.
Posted by DanFan503 on February 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
63
@49. Here we go with that false equivalence again.

These beliefs are so patently ludicrous that they really do deserve ridicule. What attracts the vehemence is the smug arrogance of the religious zealots. Sometimes it really is ok to tell people to fuck off if they're in your face threatening you about what to believe and who to go to bed with, or messing with your family's or community's grief. If you honestly assess that as being demonstrative of the "worst attributes" of religious zealots then you simply do not understand what those on the receiving end of religious bigotry are dealing with. But I suspect you do, if you thought about it carefully, and are simply guilty of lazy rhetorical hyperbole.
Posted by Bandit on February 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM · Report this
ShifterCat 64
To the Mormon letter-writer: there are lots of people who have had the opportunity to be baptized in life, and have specifically and categorically REFUSED. Take, for example, the Quakers -- they believed that baptism by water imperilled their immortal souls. They refused baptism during times when lack of baptismal records meant that you couldn't legally marry, inherit, occupy land, etc.

Just saying, "Oh, well, they don't have to accept the baptism" dismisses the fact that by posthumously baptizing such folk, you have, at the very least, gravely insulted their memory.

(Copied and pasted from the other thread, since I think this bears repeating.)
Posted by ShifterCat on February 28, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
AFinch 65
Interesting comments...I've been touched by his noodly appendage, and my comments should be seen in that light.

I heard a compelling argument once: the only difference between a 'religion' and a 'cult' is longevity...if Joseph Smith were alive today, and founding his new religion, he'd be roundly laughed off as a huckster and fraud and people would talk about deprogramming his followers. The LDS Church is new enough - it's inception takes place in recent (and well documented enough) history that the majority of it's original scriptural claims don't hold up under even casual examination. The same is true of Christianity, but given that it's much older and it's history is dimmer, it's gained status as an official "religion" and not a "cult" (sure, plenty debate and disagree).

This entire business of the baptisms is the way the LDS attempts to deal with a problem which bedeviled Christianity as well: how do you treat great people who lived before salvation (Christ) was available to them? Does this mean that all pre-christians were automatically condemned to hell since the 'one true God' and 'one true church' didn't exist? How do you square that with a fair, forgiving and just God? The LDS approach is like cutting the Gordian Knot: just make it available retroactively.

Here's what I find interesting: all of these Abrahamic religions are proselytizing, evangelizing religions - to wit: the Mormon missionary horde. They all depend on pushing their belief structure on to everyone else. Meanwhile, the Buddhists - officially the 3rd largest, but certainly bigger than Mormonism and Evangelicalism, avoid all proselytizing and evangelizing. They leave people to come to the religion for themselves.
Posted by AFinch on February 28, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
66
I wish the Catholic Church would take some time off from protecting child molesters and launching assaults on women's health, and instead start baptizing- excuse me- offering dead Mormons the opportunity to become Catholic (through baptism-by-proxy). I suspect the first LW would then take a very different view on posthumous baptism.
Posted by Lmlk813 on February 28, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
67
@51 frankdawg, thanks for the correction! I don't want to sound like I'm bullying my dead ancestors... I only mean to be nice.
Posted by LiveAndLet on February 28, 2012 at 2:29 PM · Report this
68
I don't understand how anyone could give a flying phuck about this.

If you're an atheist who cares about what someone does after you die.

If you're not, and believe that Mormonism is "wrong" compared to your religion, then what affect could it possibly have on your "soul"?
Posted by Doot on February 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
69
@59 Ben Lehman

Aha! Light is shed. Now the Mormon LW's letter makes sense :-) Intellesting, velly intellesting.
Posted by LiveAndLet on February 28, 2012 at 3:20 PM · Report this
70
@63, my point is simply that the discourse of angry atheists is so full of unnecessary emotionality that one cannot but feel that, to them, the truth (or lack thereof) of their very claims is less important than the amount of offenses they can throw at the other side. To them -- just like to their mirror image, the angry religious fundamentalist -- it's all big mud fight. To them -- just like to their mirror image, the angry religious fundamentalist -- words like "ridiculous" or "ludicrous" or (mutatis mutandis) "fuck off" -- are more important than words like "right", "wrong", and "truth"; and that, even though both them and the angry religious fundamentalist will profess a deeply felt respect for 'the truth.'

You claim, for instance, to be simply dismayed at the smug arrogance of religious zealots, without realizing that the person whose letter Dan printed did not write like a religious zealot. Do you consider 'religious' and 'zealot' synonyms? If so, do you realize how smug and arrogant your opinion sounds?

You write that it is sometimes OK to tell people to fuck off if they're in your face threatening you about what you believe and who to go to bed with. Which is indeed true, but suggests that you have experienced, and perhaps been traumatized, by such people; and indeed it is true that a lot of the angry anti-religious reactions out there come from traumas ultimately caused by unthinking/uncaring religious people.

This doesn't change the fact that it's not their beliefs, right or wrong as they may be, but the lack of tolerance they show for others, the lack of empathy they have for people who disagree with them but still are people, that caused this trauma. Their beliefs could be the exact opposite, but their effect would be the same if they remained intolerant. There are also similarly intolerant atheists, and they are no more fun to be around than your typical angry fundamentalist. (The only difference is that religious fundamentalists have more often had power to oppress others than atheists. But I see no reason why angry intolerant atheists wouldn't go about the business of oppressing those they don't like with as much gusto as your beastliest god-driven fundie.)

Please discuss their beliefs as much as you want. Please discuss those people among them who did bad things as much as you want. But don't forget the others, the people, the ones who are like you. By this, I mean: keep the anger away from the rationality. Remember that those you're talking to are also people. Just like you wished religious fundamentalists would not forget that atheists are also people with hearts and minds and goals and dreams, not just "damn sinners on their way to hell."

Why imitate the zealots, if you truly fight against them? Because, you know, what makes a zealot a zealot is not his religious belief, but his intolerance. "Atheist zealot" is, alas, not an oxymoron.
More...
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
71
@61, sure. But I don't think you can say that the e-mail Dan posted and which we're commenting here qualifies as "hav[ing] rung my doorbell for the umpteenth time, and after I've told them not to do so, and if they ignore a sign by the doorbell that says "no proselytizing"". It looks to me like a letter complaining (rightly or wrongly) about what the LW thinks are misinterpretations and misunderstandings about his faith made by people who don't know it.

If someone does what you describe, by all means react to them. But if they don't, why react to them as if they were someone else? Just saying "he belongs to the same church, he is just as guilty" is an oversimplification, not an opening for dialogue. For all I know, the LW may be against baptzing dead people if this offends their living descendants; he didn't say anything about his own personal take on it. Up until now, he has not behaved as a stupid proselytizer. Maybe he will later, but up until now he hasn't.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
72
@68, very simple. Because even if we don't believe in an afterlife (or if we have non-Mormon beliefs about an afterlife), we do believe in honoring the memory of the people we loved and who have died. Just as someone who publicly offended, say, Martin Luther King, would hurt those who care about him, even though Dr King is no longer alive and will presumably not be affected in the least by anything said or done about him after his death, those who remember him fondly feel saddened if offensive words are hurled against him. It's a psychological phenomenon.

Likewise, even though you may not believe that posthumously baptizing someone is going to have any effect on this dead person, the fact that some people want to do this -- therefore not respecting the memory of someone who did not choose that religion -- feels instinctively offensive.

Does that make more sense to you now? Or do you not believe in respecting someone's memory?
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
73
@59, thanks for the clarification. It does indeed make the practice look much less offensive. (But to follow the same implicit logic, shouldn't then the Mormons posthumously "baptize" every single person who died, perhaps in a big ceremnoy? That would give everybody in this intermediate spiritual plane a chance to be converted, now that their full metaphysical knowledge has shown them the Mormons were right, wouldn't it? Mormon theologists should be working on a way to do that.)

Mormons should probably do their best to spread the knowledge that the consent of the deceased is necessary, so that the baptisms don't work if the deceased did not convert in this spiritual plane.

And still... even though this is their belief, does it seem strange to Mormons that other people should be offended? Why not include the whole families of the deceased in the decision process leading to the baptism? (The information I have is that consent of living family members is not necessary.) I understand they may feel it would be short-sighted for the family to not allow their deceased family member to have this option, but the very essence of respect for others is to allow them to do stupid things if they think they should. Not showing this respect does indeed seem a little arrogant.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
74
@58(luminara), you're welcome! I also feel in principle threatened by both atheist and religious extremism in the way you described, though I must admit the threat from religious extremism seems more serious and actual in this day and age. Yet given the vehemence of extreme atheists, I feel quite sure they would be capable of oppressing those they don't like just as much as religious extremists do.

Because the problem is not the belief system a person has, but how capable s/he is of empathy with those who don't have this belief system (vs. how metaphysically threatened s/he feels by the very existence of people who don't have their belief system).

I'm also a scientist, and I don't think I believe in a higher power (to give a rough sketch, I believe that a higher power, or better a higher level of consciousness, is a potential possibility that may or may not be ever actualized during the existence of the Universe; and we may be, or not be, part of this process).

But I'm perfectly fine with people who have different beliefs. After all, who knows -- I may be wrong. As long as they can be friends with me without being terrified by my beliefs (or lack of beliefs), as long as they don't want to legislate people like me out of existence, I'm fine with them. In fact, I've often had interesting and enlightening conversations with them -- which I'd recommend to any atheists, agnostics, or theists who are interested in belief systems.

Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 3:59 PM · Report this
75
@65, as for me, I'm a devout of the invisible pink unicorn (chapter of the SubGenius). And indeed, one cool thing about Indian religious in general (except for Islam, which is a newcomer) is the lack of proselytism. (Even though Buddhism did get from India to China, and finally to Japan...). If you add to it that Buddhism, in its inception, was basically an atheist faith, and one that considered "paradise" equivalent with total annihiliation (escaping from the wheel of karma)... you do get a quite cool recipe.

Posted by ankylosaur on February 28, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Report this
76
@70, I really don't mind what people believe. Really really. It's their call. Just don't expect me not to laugh at it if I, personally, find it laughable. But I'm not going to oppress anyone. I'm not going to insist that they abandon their beliefs. I'm a staunch defender and advocate of and for religious freedom. If it comes up in conversation, I'm happy to offer calm and rational arguments as to why abandoning those beliefs might be more sensible, but I don't want to seek out those conversations and I'm not about to metaphorically slap upside anyone's head about it.

But where their beliefs incite them to trespass upon the freedoms of others to live their lives openly and honestly pursuing their loves and dreams without suffering the infringements of prejudice, or upon the freedoms of others to mourn their loved ones with respect and dignity, well, I lose my taste for civility.

Is my lack of civility in this context equivalent to their lack of civility? Perhaps. But their lack of civility is not one of their "worst attributes". I reserve that tag for such behaviours as making gay kids feel so loathsome and disgusted about themselves that they commit suicide. Nothing I do or say in my irreverent ridicule of religious dogmatism comes close to that. I'm sorry if you don't like my anger, but this stuff is harmful. As Dan is wont to say, people are dying.

And no, I'm not ascribing those attributes to the poster. The poster seems harmless enough, albeit smugly arrogant with the "idiots" jibe, and my origial comment to the poster was, I thought, quite mild. My criticism of your false equivalence was in the context of a broader discussion of those "worst attributes" you referenced.

But really, I think we're on the same side, so peace and love to you comrade, sincerely.
More...
Posted by Bandit on February 28, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
77
Religion is all weird fantasy and playacting - why does this particular weird belief or weird ritual/rite bother people so much right now? I guess it's just politics?
Posted by pffft on February 28, 2012 at 9:50 PM · Report this
78
@76, that puts you way above some atheists I have met and debated with, which is a good thing. And indeed, your original post was not the one I was reacting to (though I would claim that the level of slightly arrogant smugness of the original letter and the one in your post are similar.)

Now, as for laughing at beliefs that you find ridiculous, by all means. But don't forget that others may also find your beliefs ridiculous, and laugh at you for them. (Think there's nothing laughable in the foundations of science? Check out the history of Logical Positivism / Vienna Circle, especially the inherent self-contradictions in the principle of falsifiability that Popper so fully embraced.) As long as you're OK with that, I don't see why you shouldn't be entitled to your opinion (or your amusement) on other people's belief systems -- as long as you also allow them to have their fun with yours. No holy cows, right?

I agree 100% with what you wrote:

But where their beliefs incite them to trespass upon the freedoms of others to live their lives openly and honestly pursuing their loves and dreams without suffering the infringements of prejudice, or upon the freedoms of others to mourn their loved ones with respect and dignity, well, I lose my taste for civility.


I merely point out that there are atheists out there who similarly make me lose my taste for civility. Your paragraph applies perfectly to them, too.

Ah! wouldn't this be a simpler world if only those who disagree with our belief system could be assholes?

Posted by ankylosaur on February 29, 2012 at 12:09 AM · Report this
79
@77, any belief that doesn't tolerate others is going to end up in politics, be it religious/atheist, moral, political, cultural... It's not what fairy tales they believe in -- after all, you also believe in some fairy tales, and you're not out there oppressing others, are you? It's the level of tolerance, the capacity to accept those who think differently as humans equal to you.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 80
@77: "why does this particular weird belief or weird ritual/rite bother people so much right now?"

Because it "invasively" affects other people? The same reason why any weird rites/rituals bother others?
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 29, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
81
"Or do you not believe in respecting someone's memory?"

Well, that's a pretty loaded phrasing. I don't agree that Mormon posthumous "baptism" is disrespectful to anyone's memory. I think, in fact, that that is total B.S. I'm neither Mormon nor atheist (nor Christian), and I couldn't care less whether Mormons posthumously "baptise" me or anyone I care about. If I could, I would advise any of my friends who may get upset at Mormons hypothetically posthumously baptizing me, I'd tell them to spend the time they were going to spend being upset on "my" behalf doing something they enjoy.

As far as I can see, Mormon posthumous burial is exactly the same as gay marriage: it's not something I have any interest in doing myself, but it makes some people happier and doesn't affect anyone else, so knock yourselves out. And the people here who are complaining soooo much about something that is only "hurting" them because they are nursing thin skins remind me completely of the people who are opposed to gay marriage because... well, they never explained that part in a way that I could understand, but if they want to nurse thin skins and decide to be hurt by the existence of married gays, that would be no different from what you guys are doing.

Or, to give another comparison, it's like a Muslim wishing me "Happy Ramadan". I'd rather people didn't wish me that: I'd much rather people just said "hi" in that situation. But they're trying to be friendly, so it would be a douche move to get pissed off about it. And, afterwards, it's not only the friendly person I responded to civily whose life is better for my not getting pissed off about it, my life is better for it, too. The Mormons are, by their understanding, doing a favour for the people you care about. It's well-meant. It's not an insult. You're being douches when you choose to react to a friendly gesture by insulting the person.
More...
Posted by Old Crow on February 29, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
undead ayn rand 82
@81: "As far as I can see, Mormon posthumous burial is exactly the same as gay marriage:"

What a terrible analogy.

It's closer to "gay marrying" (or "straight marrying", depending) your parents to other partners after they die.
Posted by undead ayn rand on February 29, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Fortunate 83
@81, "The Mormons are, by their understanding, doing a favour for the people you care about. It's well-meant. It's not an insult. You're being douches when you choose to react to a friendly gesture by insulting the person."

But you see, this is where difference of perspective comes in. You see it as a friendly gesture. I see it as them trying one last time to forcibly include someone in their cult rituals. I honestly don't believe they are doing it as a friendly gesture. I fully believe they are doing it for self serving reasons.

Look, here's the thing.

I don't sit around all day seething about Mormon cult practices. I normally don't think about them at all. But when things like this come up it just makes me notice that they can be real assholes when they want to be. But that's as far as that goes. I don't need to think about their insulting and stupid rituals to despise their church. I just need one thing: Prop 8.

Prop 8 is why I have such dislike for the LDS. The baptisms are just a little reminder that many in this church are very polite, smiling, friendly assholes.

I will say this. It may be a bit silly to get upset over a stupid cult ritual, but what is sillier is getting upset at people who get upset at silly cult rituals. If you want to call us douches go ahead, but that doesn't exactly give you the high ground.
Posted by Fortunate on February 29, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Report this
84
@81, I do understand your viewpoint, which is indeed logical, and I think you're entitled to it. If you think that the (probably sincere) good intentions of Mormons who conduct posthumous baptisms are enough to make it non-offensive and disrespectful to the memory of at least some of the deceased they chose to honor, that is certainly your prerrogative.

But see, others may disagree. Especially in cases in which the deceased did have a religious choice which was not Mormonism, the attempt to "offer an alternative" does seem to belittle the choice made by the deceased while he was still alive. Not to the deceased him/herself, who is dead and probably doesn't worry at all about such things (assuming s/he still exists in some sense). But to those who remain, and who would like to honor the deceased's choices, among which the choice not to become a Mormon.

I also have no problem with Muslims wishing me happy Ramadan, and I understand and accept their good intentions as such, because this doesn't imply any belittling or disrespect to any beliefs I may have. But if they offered to make me a Muslim, and actually conducted some ceremony to that effect, I would feel a little offended, even if this ceremony didn't have any effect on me. Because this ceremony would imply that my choice not to be a Muslim is not being respected, that it is being treated as something that can be ignored. Even if no bad consequences follow, this does make me see the people doing it as not really willing to take my own person religious/eschatological choices seriously, which does justify me not liking them.

Posted by ankylosaur on February 29, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
85
@undead ayn rand, who wrote:
Because it "invasively" affects other people? The same reason why any weird rites/rituals bother others?


No, that's not it. People who say that are not bothered by other similarly weird beliefs and behaviors (Flat Earth society, Klingon language learners, etc.), as long as these beliefs don't affect others. Even when they do affect others, if they remain tolerant and respectful (like Buddhism), they also don't elicit the reaction.

It's not the belief system or how crazy it is. It's the intolerance. Believing in something crazy is a dime a dozen. We all believe in something crazy, be it love, Logical Positivism, or the inherent beauty of grammar. The problem only comes when we're assholes about it.
Posted by ankylosaur on February 29, 2012 at 4:01 PM · Report this
86
The only reason the post-death baptism thing is offensive is because it silently implies that our dead loved ones are abandoning their most deeply held beliefs and becoming Mormons now that they see how wrong they were while they were alive.

It's a bit like saying 'I'm giving your dead grandmother who was devoted to her husband the chance to become married to Idi Amin now that she's dead. Maybe she's forgotten that old man she cherished and is ready to trade him in for someone she despised in life."

I don't have any problem with Mormons making these prayers, but if they really cared about the dead they wouldn't need to announce this practice to the living. It's a little rude.
Posted by Yeek on February 29, 2012 at 6:02 PM · Report this
87
The other thing it does is a back-handed way of telling the living, "Your religion is wrong, and your loved ones are in Hell right now." How very thoughtful and comforting and sympathetic of you, fuck you very much.

That, and "We Mormons control your fate. God Himself can't let people in the Pearly Gates without our specific ritual having been administered first."
Posted by avast2006 on March 6, 2012 at 7:04 PM · Report this

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