Author Topic: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous  (Read 2950 times)

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Offline theseoafs

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Here's a performance of a song from the musical The Book of Mormon from last year's Tonys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHEqCXY2B-w

I imagine many of you are familiar with the musical or have seen this performance. (Don't spoil anything for me! I'm seeing it in January and have avoided plot spoilers thus far.) Basically, this song is about a Mormon missionary coming to terms with his faith and realizing he has to blindly accept everything the Church has taught him.

However, I find this video interesting from a sociological standpoint. Pay careful attention to the audience's various reactions, particularly during the chorus, whose lyrics summarize a few of the central tenets of the Mormon faith.  As expected, the audience finds it hilarious that Mormons believe God and Jesus live on their own planets, but is deathly silent when the more traditionally Christian aspects of Mormonism are discussed, including that Christ died for everybody's sins, and that God and Satan are directly impacting the lives of the missionary and the Africans respectively.

The Mormons believe, for instance, that the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri. I hear this belief getting made fun of often, and that's always confused me. It's like it's perfectly normal to claim the Garden of Eden existed, but it's unusual and hilarious to pinpoint its historical location.

So, what are your thoughts? Are the beliefs of the Mormons objectively sillier than those of more traditional religions? Or have we as a culture simply built up a tolerance to certain outrageous beliefs, while recognizing others with which we are less familiar for what they are?
« Last Edit: July 03, 2012, 11:42:37 PM by theseoafs »

Offline bosk1

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2012, 11:47:30 PM »
It's like it's perfectly normal to claim the Garden of Eden existed

It did.

...but it's unusual and hilarious to pinpoint its historical location.

Because we don't know where it was.

I'm really having trouble seeing your point here.
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Offline theseoafs

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2012, 12:06:05 AM »
bosk, my main thesis is that the vast majority of religious beliefs are outrageous, but we become desensitized to them. For example, let's take a look at the Garden of Eden:

-In the Garden, God created Adam from dust. He created a lot of other stuff too like animals and plants.
-Then, wanting to make a helper for Adam, God took one of Adam's ribs to make Eve, because I guess the dirt thing wouldn't work a second time.
-God set some rules, the most important of which was that you couldn't eat a fruit which inexplicably gave you knowledge of good and evil.
-A talking snake convinced Eve to eat that very fruit, and she convinced Adam to eat it.
-Eating the fruit revealed to Adam and Eve that they were naked, and nakedness is bad, so they covered up.
-God saw this and cursed the human race forever. Among these curses are that childbirth will now be painful, because pushing a baby out of a vagina felt great up to this point for some reason.

The Mormon mythos adds another point:

-This garden was in Jackson County, Missouri.

Now, to me - and keep in mind that I am one of DTF's more vocal and strong atheists - but the Mormon addition doesn't necessarily seem any more unlikely or unprovable or silly than anything else in the story to me, because objectively, it was already a pretty crazy story. So what's the difference? I think that the Jackson County bit is funny to Christians because they're unfamiliar with it, and not necessarily because it's an inherently funny thing to believe.

You're free to disagree with me, of course. That's why I started the discussion.

If you don't want to respond to that question, I could perhaps word it a bit more diplomatically: Is there any circumstance under which we can mock the religious beliefs of others?
« Last Edit: July 04, 2012, 12:45:12 AM by theseoafs »

Offline Rathma

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2012, 12:12:33 AM »
Genesis 1 or 2 (probably 2) mentions the nearby rivers, which are in the Middle East. Therefore saying it was in North America is kind of strange.

Offline Phantasmatron

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2012, 12:13:22 AM »
I think maybe a big part of the reason people find it amusing that the Garden of Eden was supposedly in Jackson County, Missouri is because that's not a particularly glamorous place.

It's like if a religion taught that Christ's first name was actually Bob.  It doesn't change a whole lot as far as actual doctrine goes, but it's an odd little contrast to the "epic" scope of the Christian story and it would seem funny.

Offline adace

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2012, 02:34:07 AM »
Too lazy to watch the vid, but I assume that it presents Mormonism in a humorous/witty way as opposed to, say, the seriousness of the Wikipedia article on Mormonism so there's a bias built into it since it's a piece of entertainment rather than a scholarly treatment of the subject.

Also, I think the "silliness" of any religion depends on how literally one interprets that religion's sacred text and/or the words of that religion's prophet(s). More specifically, if one focuses on the faith of a religion to the detriment of the actions/ethical code that religion requires or if one pushes aside all other interpretations besides one's own then extreme/silly behavior can result. Of course, if one were to completely remove faith from the picture then it wouldn't be a religion but a culture.

From a rational perspective, I think that "silliness" might be applicable to religions/cults like Nuwaubianism (google that for some lulz) or to religious sects like the Westboro Baptist Church. The first mixes pseudoscience with religion whereas most practitioners of mainstream religions accept most findings of modern science and don't try to rewrite it. For the WBC, see my 2nd paragraph. On the whole though, I feel very uncomfortable with the term "silliness" in relation to religion. I think it assumes too much about human reason. What some call "silly" or "irrational," others call spiritually fulfilling and/or a way of life.

« Last Edit: July 04, 2012, 02:47:50 AM by adace »

Offline Zook

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2012, 02:43:16 AM »
It's like it's perfectly normal to claim the Garden of Eden existed

It did.

...but it's unusual and hilarious to pinpoint its historical location.

Because we don't know where it was.

I'm really having trouble seeing your point here.


It existed, but you don't know where? ... So how do you know it existed?

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #7 on: July 04, 2012, 03:15:22 AM »
Because it's not in the Bible. If it were in the Bible that the garden of Eden was in Jackson county, it would be so for Christians.

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Offline hefdaddy42

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #8 on: July 04, 2012, 04:45:41 AM »
Genesis 1 or 2 (probably 2) mentions the nearby rivers, which are in the Middle East. Therefore saying it was in North America is kind of strange.
This.  If you take the Bible seriously and literally, then it's hard to go along with the suggestion that Eden was in Missouri.

But whatever.
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Offline yeshaberto

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #9 on: July 04, 2012, 05:02:37 AM »
while I think the things that were laughed at during the video are rationally illogical, I agree with the premise that it is not cool (at least for a Christian) to mock the beliefs of others.  It is human nature (Christian or not) to mock those things that are different than are own perspective, but it is not an appropriate nature.

Offline GuineaPig

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2012, 08:11:26 AM »
As much as people make fun of Scientology, I don't think it's any more outrageous than any other major religions.  Evil alien warlords exist somewhere out there.  I doubt any gods do.
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Offline theseoafs

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #11 on: July 04, 2012, 10:21:27 AM »
Too lazy to watch the vid, but I assume that it presents Mormonism in a humorous/witty way as opposed to, say, the seriousness of the Wikipedia article on Mormonism so there's a bias built into it since it's a piece of entertainment rather than a scholarly treatment of the subject.

You're right! The lyrics are worded in a particularly forward way which does come off as humorous. However, my greater point isn't just about the video, but about a tendency I've noticed even among my religious friends to mock the beliefs of Mormons and, as GuineaPig brought up, Scientologists, in spite of their own objectively far-fetched beliefs.

while I think the things that were laughed at during the video are rationally illogical, I agree with the premise that it is not cool (at least for a Christian) to mock the beliefs of others.  It is human nature (Christian or not) to mock those things that are different than are own perspective, but it is not an appropriate nature.

I agree. :tup

Offline Vivace

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #12 on: July 04, 2012, 12:22:15 PM »
bosk, my main thesis is that the vast majority of religious beliefs are outrageous, but we become desensitized to them. For example, let's take a look at the Garden of Eden:

If you don't want to respond to that question, I could perhaps word it a bit more diplomatically: Is there any circumstance under which we can mock the religious beliefs of others?

I have always thought of a person who isn't religious mocking someone who is religious and their beliefs to be as ridiculous. It's like an American mocking the traditions of Muslims. There is a difference between a critical discussion or argument and just plain mocking, however most of the time, I find people tend to mock than have a critical discussion.
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Offline Nick

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2012, 11:07:34 AM »
Two starting points. I think that we can be just as certain that the Garden existed as we can that it was in Missouri. Secondly I think we all believe irrational things, religiously based or not. Of course if you believe the word of a traditional Christian bible is irrefutable, then there is really no point in reading my post past this point as we've already crossed the point where we'll have to agree to disagree.

It's human nature to go after the irrationalities we see in others, but we are hardly amused when our own irrationalities are questioned. What you have is a clip of people laughing at the former and being less amused at the latter. Without spoiling anything, I will say that this sociological point you've found in this clip is found elsewhere in the play, and that it's fucking fantastic so enjoy the show.
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Offline theseoafs

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2012, 11:42:39 AM »
Nick, thank you for elucidating everything I could only word awkwardly. :lol

Offline Ħ

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2012, 12:02:05 PM »
while I think the things that were laughed at during the video are rationally illogical, I agree with the premise that it is not cool (at least for a Christian) to mock the beliefs of others.  It is human nature (Christian or not) to mock those things that are different than are own perspective, but it is not an appropriate nature.
Definitely. Mockery gets no one anywhere, regardless of who is being mocked and who is doing the mocking. It serves no other purpose than to feed the ego of the mocker.
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Offline ohgar

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2012, 10:06:54 AM »
It's like an American mocking the traditions of Muslims.
-

...because there are no American Muslims...

I agree that the Book of Mormon is not any more ridiculous than the Bible.
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Offline wolfandwolfandwolf

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2012, 08:31:01 AM »
It's like an American mocking the traditions of Muslims.
-

...because there are no American Muslims...

I agree that the Book of Mormon is not any more ridiculous than the Bible.
Have you read both?

Offline alirocker08

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2012, 01:54:16 PM »
Tad off topic, but let me know how the show goes, I'm crossing my fingers for a production in England at some point :)
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Offline theseoafs

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Re: The Book of Mormon and cultural tolerance to the outrageous
« Reply #19 on: July 09, 2012, 02:12:37 PM »
Tad off topic, but let me know how the show goes, I'm crossing my fingers for a production in England at some point :)

Yeah, you'll probably hear me yapping about it for weeks after I see it, so no worries there. :lol

Because of the show's rampant success thus far, I'd say all signs point to an English production at some point in the future, so that's something to be happy about. :tup