There is no such thing as killing in my name.

Crossposted from Says God


Aug. 8th, 2013 09:33 am
All this will someday be your children's.

Crossposted from Says God


Aug. 1st, 2013 09:32 am
If you didn't hear it straight from my lips, take it with a grain of salt.

Crossposted from Says God
I like to kick things off with a bang. A Big Bang.

Crossposted from Says God


Jul. 18th, 2013 09:30 am
I don't blame video games or rap music when my children start shooting each other.

Crossposted from Says God

Time limit

Jul. 11th, 2013 09:29 am
If you don't clean this place up, you won't get another millennium.

Crossposted from Says God
Stop smirking, America. I'm talking to you, too.

Crossposted from Says God


Jun. 27th, 2013 09:28 am
Want to know how old the earth is? Ask the earth, not the Bible.

Crossposted from Says God


Jun. 20th, 2013 09:27 am
I gave you a bigger brain for a reason. Start using it.

Crossposted from Says God


Jun. 13th, 2013 09:23 am
I love Marilyn Manson, too. Maybe more than I love you.

Crossposted from Says God
I've been playing around quite a bit with the new Vine app, which lets you post six-second looping videos to your Twitter stream or other social media service. You can create animations or employ other goofy effects, but everything must be shot in order. No after-the-fact editing is possible.

Something else that doesn't seem to be possible, as many disgruntled users are discovering, is reuploading a Vine that fails to upload in the first place. If your upload fails, it looks like you're shit out of luck. I found this out on Saturday morning when a Vine I'd been planning in my head for days failed to upload. If I could have taken the Vine app out of my iPhone and smashed the code on the sidewalk, that's just what I would have done.

Rather than trying to reshoot my video, though, I found a workaround. Vine does save your little square video to your phone, and from there it can of course be uploaded to other video-sharing services. YouTube doesn't seem to allow embedded videos to loop, but Vimeo does, so that's where my lost Vine now lives:

Take that, Vine.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
To follow up on my post from Friday, the latest issue of Rolling Stone features an article by Mikal Gilmore called "Mitt Romney and the Ghosts of Mormon History." It provides an excellent overview of how the Mormon Church has drifted away and distanced itself from its founding philosophical ideals, and how Romney has done the same with his own family's legacy. Here's a great passage:

When Romney veers from liberal to conservative to moderate stands, what he makes plain is that the world he is in, but not truly part of, is the political world. The shifting is a sleight of hand, like Joseph Smith's magic, a means to an end. That end is higher attainment in the big payoff, the eternal world. As a result, expecting Romney to be accountable to a secular morality is to misunderstand him. That's part of the Mormon hubris, and it's what grants him the right to withhold specifics about both his political vision and his deeper beliefs. But if you hold yourself apart from the world, how can you understand those who do not? And how can they ever understand you?
Gilmore was born into a troubled Mormon famly, and his grasp of the church's history is incisive. I'll link to the article if it ever appears online, which I hope it will in the next couple of weeks.

Mikal Gilmore also wrote the excellent memoir Shot in the Heart, about his relationship with his brother Gary, the executed murderer, and their relationship with the church and its murky doctrine of blood atonement. Dark, dark, dark, but highly recommended.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
Referring to his fluid political positions, a number of commentators of late have been making statements to the effect that the only thing Mitt Romney seems to believe in is that he should be president. That got me thinking about how such a belief might have arisen, and how it might explain all the shifty flip-flopping we've seen over the course of the presidential campaign—and, in fact, the whole of Romney's political career.

Mormons believe that God has an individual plan for every one of us. This is not to say that they believe in predestination, an idea that would play havoc with their crucial belief in free will. Mormons instead believe in the doctrine of foreordination, in which God has specific tasks in mind for each of us to accomplish in this life, but with the actual accomplishment of them being dependent upon our own faith and diligence.

romney-cross.jpg Another thing Mormons believe in is personal revelation. This means that if we have a problem or a question or a goal, we can turn to God in prayer after sincere consideration and ask for direction. God, we are told, will answer either by causing a confusion to come upon us that makes us forget the thing that is wrong or by affirming through a burning in the bosom that the thing is right. (See Doctrine & Covenants 9:7-9.) No good Latter-day Saint should undertake any major pursuit without having gone through this process of spiritual confirmation.

But this is a tricky doctrine. When I was growing up, I myself was able to convince myself that God approved of many different courses of action that probably weren't so good for me, simply by praying about them persistently and feverishly enough. And this is where Romney's belief that he should be president comes in. I have no doubt that, being a faithful Mormon and in fact a Mormon leader, he prayed long and hard about whether or not to pursue this office. The fact that he threw his hat so firmly into the ring is proof that he received his spiritual confirmation.

In other words, Romney must believe that running for president is what God wants him to do, that it is in fact God's plan for him. This belief could trump any need to have a detailed and specific policy plan. He'll say whatever it takes to get into office because that is where God needs him to be.

One of the great heroes of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi (either a fictional character or a real human being, depending on your point of view on these things), who was charged by God with obtaining certain scriptural records from the keeping of a bad old fellow named Laban. God needed Nephi to get those records, and anything Nephi had to do to accomplish this was fine—up to an including lying and murder. (See The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3 & 4, and specifically this passage.) (By the way, the same sort of anything-is-okay-because-I'm-righteous philosophy justifies every horrible action committed by another fictional character created by a prominent Mormon—Ender Wiggin of Ender's Game.)

Mormonism is steeped in this idea. What I really worry about, to get right down to it, is that Romney believes not only that God wants him to be president, but that there is some specific crisis coming which he is the only leader capable of meeting. It doesn't matter what this crisis may be. Mitt himself probably has no inkling yet of that. But when the time comes he will recognize it, or will think he does, and he will do what he thinks God wills.

That's what really scares me—that where Mitt Romney himself may have no plan, his God surely does. And there's no way for us as voters to know what that may turn out to be.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill
shunn: (Elder Shunn)
As the Republican National Convention gets into full swing today, one of the topics that probably won't be talked about very much is Mitt Romney's religion. It's odd that this has become such a non-issue during the campaign, given that a) Romney is the first Mormon ever to receive a major-party presidential nomination, and b) the Mormon Church is the fourth largest church in America.

mitt-romney.jpg Wait, what? The fourth largest?

Yes, I too was startled by that statistic, which I've been hearing time and again from various outlets—for instance, in an "On the Media" story from late last year about the LDS Church's "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign. I was catching up on that episode via podcast when this statement from LDS Internet and Advertising Senior Manager Ron Wilson caught my ear:

"Even though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the fourth largest church, fifty percent of the population didn't really know who we were."
The fourth largest church. I was raised Mormon, which means I was raised with the Mormon inferiority complex. Somehow that assertion didn't strike me as quite right. It sounded like a small man reporting his height in inches, not feet. I decided to do some digging.

In the strictest sense, I discovered, the statistic turns out to be absolutely true. The Mormon Church is the fourth largest church in America. Thing is, that number on its own doesn't mean quite what it seems to imply. Calling something the fourth largest of anything is a good way to make it sound significant, but of course its significance depends entirely on a) the sizes of the larger somethings, and b) the method you use for counting.

So let's examine the numbers. You'd expect the fourth largest church in the country to represent a significant fraction of the population. According to the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, the Mormon Church reported a total of 6,157,238 members in the United States in the year 2011. That's a lot of people, no doubt, but out of an estimated 311,800,000 Americans, that's just a hair under 2% of the population, or about 1 in every 50.

By contrast, the largest church in the country, the Catholic Church, reported 68,202,492 members. That's nearly 22% of the population, and more than 11 times the American membership of the Mormon Church. Running a distant second is the Southern Baptist Convention, with 16,136,044 members (5.2%), followed by the United Methodist Church at 7,679,850 members (2.5%).

But this begs the question of how a "church" is defined. In the case of the 2012 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, what we're talking about is organized religions. This means that the Southern Baptist Convention is counted separately from the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (5,197,512), which is itself counted separately from the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. (3,500,000), and from the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (2,500,000).

In all, there are six different Baptist denominations listed in the Yearbook's top 25, with a combined membership of 29,651,610 (over 9.5% of U.S. population). Similarly, the three Methodist denominations listed in the top 25 total 11,579,850 members (3.7%).

Moving on down the list, we realize that when we ask which has the larger membership, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (4,274,855), the answer is the LDS Church. But if we ask whether there are more Mormons or Lutherans (6,553,441) in the country, the answer is Lutherans. And mind you, I'm only looking at the top 25 denominations, which account for a little under half the population of the country!

(And yes, I know there are other Mormon sects—notably the Community of Christ, with about 250,000 members worldwide. It's hard to get an accurate count, but altogether these sects would appear to number less than 350,000 throughout the entire world, so they don't really change the math by much.)

slctemple.jpg So far, our analysis has dropped Mormons down to fifth place, if we're talking about broad families of denominations. But what about the Evangelical movement? According to a 2008 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 26.3% of Americans, or more than a quarter of the population, identified themselves as Evangelical. Though countless small churches make up that number, taken as a whole the Evangelicals form the largest religious movement in the country, larger even than Catholicism. This drops Mormons to an ever more distant sixth place in the national standings.

The point is, simply saying that the Mormon Church is the fourth largest in the country, while technically true, implies that it's far more significant a player than it actually is. Out of every 100 people in the United States, 26 are Evangelical, 22 are Catholic, nearly 10 are Baptist, almost 4 are Methodist, more than 2 are Lutheran, and a bit fewer than 2 are Mormon.

By pointing this out, I'm not saying there aren't a lot of Mormons in America. Six million is clearly a large number. It's just not nearly as large as you might expect from the oft-repeated statistic. In fact, the figure of one Mormon in every 50 Americans pretty much implies that, out of 50 states, we have exactly one state's worth of Mormons in the country. Which we all pretty much knew anyway.

So let the Mormon Church continue to aggrandize itself with a misleading statistic. We've had a Quaker president in the past, and Quakers don't even come close to making the top 25. The truth is, maybe Mitt Romney's religion isn't all that big a story after all.

UPDATE: Thanks to Eleanor Lang for pointing out that Herbert Hoover was also a Quaker. That's two past U.S. presidents from a denomination that's about 18 times smaller than Mormonism.

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

Class size

Mar. 12th, 2012 11:23 am
I'm concerned about children's education. I favor lower child-to-parent ratios.

Crossposted from Says God


Mar. 9th, 2012 11:17 am
I'm flattered you liked my book so much. Now why don't you read something different for a change?

Crossposted from Says God


Mar. 7th, 2012 11:17 am
Here's a clue--if they say they're doing it in my name, they're either misinformed or lying.

Crossposted from Says God


Mar. 5th, 2012 11:14 am
Just look at this planet! What, do you expect me to clean this up?

Crossposted from Says God


Mar. 2nd, 2012 11:13 am
Only six thousand years old? Oh, that's a good one.

Crossposted from Says God


Feb. 29th, 2012 11:12 am
Excuse me? Where exactly on the front of the Bible do you see my name?

Crossposted from Says God

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