Dennis Prager at Townhall.com defends Romney from the charge that Mormons hold irrational beliefs. Not by rationalizing all the irrational things Mormons believe, but by pointing out that Mormons are no more irrational than anyone else. Which isn’t much of a defense, but it’s the only rational defense I can think of.
Commentators on both the right and left and both secular and religious note with disdain that Mormons (Latter Day Saints, as Mormons refer to themselves) have irrational practices and beliefs. The former, we are told, includes the wearing of sacred undergarments and the latter includes posthumous baptisms and the claims by the prophet of Mormonism to have found and deciphered engraved golden plates in New York State.
I read and hear these dismissals of Mormonism with some amusement—because everyone who makes these charges holds beliefs and/or practices that outsiders consider just as irrational.
First, the irrationality of the Jews:
I believe the Torah is a divine book. I believe that God took the Jews out of Egypt and that He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. To atheists and secularists, these are not necessarily rational beliefs. And they are certainly not scientifically provable. As for practices that many would consider irrational, traditional Judaism has quite a few. Just to cite one: Orthodox Jews believe that they are not permitted to drink wine or grape juice poured by a non-Jew.
Then the Christians:
As for Christianity, non-Christians cannot be expected to regard the belief that God has a son who was born of a virgin as reason-based. (If they did, they would probably be Christian.) Nor do outsiders consider rational the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief that the wafer and wine consumed during Communion literally become the body and blood of Christ.
And the Muslims:
As for Muslims, the belief that the Koran was dictated by an angel to an illiterate man (Islam holds that Muhammad was illiterate) is surely not rational to a non-Muslim. Nor are myriad post-Koranic beliefs such as the requirement that women wear a veil.
And finally, the non-religious:
As for the secular world, irrational beliefs permeate the left. For example, a generation of Americans has been educated to believe that men and women are, beyond physical differences, the same. Boys don’t inherently prefer trucks and toy guns and girls don’t naturally gravitate to dolls and tea sets, we have long been told. Give boys dolls and tea sets and give girls trucks and they will love to play with those things. Is that rational?
Or how about the tens of millions of people who believed Marxist claptrap about the inevitability of socialism? It was “scientific fact,” the world’s left believed, that every society goes through three stages: feudalism, capitalism, socialism.
And given the inability of any welfare state to sustain itself economically, is it rational to advocate the continuing expansion of government, as supposedly rational New York Times columnists do?
Is the belief that 50,000 Americans die each year from secondhand smoke rational? Is the certitude that we know what the climate will be in a half century rational? Or declaring sixth-graders guilty of sexual harassment for engaging in innocent, normal-boy behavior?
His claim about boys and girls strikes me as a straw man. Does anyone really believe the difference between boys and girls extends no further than physical differences? Likewise his claim about the inevitability of socialism. No one believes that any more, do they? That claim is tantamount to claiming that Christians still believe the sun revolves around the earth.
I disagree philosophically with our drift toward bigger government, but I’m not sure that advocating the continuing expansion of government is on par with the virgin birth in terms of irrationality. Likewise for the effects of secondhand smoke and climate science.
He may have a point regarding sixth-graders and sexual harassment. Although from what I can see, this has been limited to a few, high-profile instances.