The Mormon Temple Ceremony: You Make The Call

Ok, folks. Here it is: the endowment ceremonies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am not responsible for making this video, mind you, I'm only making you aware of it. And I gotta say, I hesitated to do that.

As we discuss in podcast episode #59, this video represents the laying bare of something that is held so sacred by the Mormons that even I, who never went through the temple, feel like I'm violating something by presenting it here. I've honestly had to wrestle with some fairly deep questions of conscience about it.

"But why, Dan? You don't believe in the Mormon church anymore. Why do you care about what other people think is sacred?"

Well, fictitious questioner, one reason is I know A LOT of Mormons and I have no desire for them to feel hurt or betrayed by me. It's tough because religious people in general, and ESPECIALLY Mormons, feel attacked soooooo easily. Anything you say that questions any aspect of their religion is instantly perceived as an attack. Even stating your own non-belief is thought to be an attack. So, as someone who has a blog and podcast dedicated to looking at the world through the lens of atheism, I'm bound to piss some folks off. That is not my intention.

What is my intention is to take a real, open and honest look at the world and ask the questions that come up. And this video brings up A LOT of questions. For those of you who were never Mormon yourselves, I'm guessing this will positively baffle you. And make you cringe. And possibly wish you could un-see it.

Oddly, it may be even freakier for those of us who were Mormon. To have known so many good, intelligent people who submitted to this weirdness and accepted it as something that would bring them closer to a god for me brings up a cognitive dissonance as powerful as what first-time temple-goers must feel. You have to understand: newbies to the temple go into this ceremony completely unprepared for what they're about to see and do. Nobody explains any of what's about to happen to them. Usually all they know is that what they're about to experience is sacred, and they'll walk out in new underwear that they'll then have to wear for the rest of their lives.

My mind reels thinking about it.

So, rather than droning on more, I'm just going to present the video and let y'all have at it. I'm really interested to hear your reactions. Is it weirder than you expected? More boring? Both? What stands out to you? 

 
UPDATE: As Mike commented below, "This is what Mormons call a "LIVE" session. The movie version of the endowment is a lot easier to hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VrsFEiTpsQ." So here it is:
 

See? Christians Aren’t The Only Douchebags…

Today I drove past the tree in my fair city where somebody saw the image of the virgin Mary.  Well, actually they saw one of the most commonly occuring patterns in nature, but it looked kind of like Mary to somebody.  I actually went to see it when it was first reported.  It was dumb. It has since changed quite a bit, but originally, it looked kind of like this:

Lazy artist's rendering

  Which I assume is meant to look like this:

 
 Non-lazy artist's rendering

Well, it's a stretch, but fair enough. Same basic shape, I guess. Then it started changing, though.  At first, the supposed neck area began oozing sap. Not quite the same as weeping, but interesting. I'm not sure, but the neck-ooze may have been the result of mild pocket-knife-style vandalism.  If so, it explains what happened next, which is that a hole started to grow where the sap was coming out. This made poor Maria look like she had suffered a mild case of shotgun-wound.

Later, some homeless guy tried to burn the thing down, and I'm sure there were other vandals.  The long and the short of it, though, is that it now looks like this:

 

 Old college game: spot the virgin

 Clearly, this looks even less like any discernable holy icon. Don't worry, though: the utter lack of any kind of resemblance to anything remotely like the blessed lady hasn't stopped the faithful from seeing her.  I stole this comparison from somewhere on the web:

 Madonna with child or Skeletor? You make the call.

 Uh…. O…K…

Whatever.  If they want to feel like something special is there, that's fine with me. It's no crazier than 90% of the other shit they believe.  But just so you don't think that this nonsense is strictly a dopey christian phenomenon, here's a fun video.  You can ignore the first two and a half minutes, as it's just boring footage of a lion yawning and licking himself. At the end, though, he very clearly roars the word "rrraaaaaghhhhhle" and then "mrrrooooooorrrrrggggh" and then goes into what sounds like a sneezing fit.  But somewhere in there, he theorectically spits out "Allah".  Enjoy:

 

They Had Gold?

Ok- I'm going to tell you a story, and you tell me if it makes any sense at all:

 
 "Hey- check out those frogs!"

Imagine, if you will, that you are a slave.  Every day for you consists of waking up, going to back-breaking labor building enormous structures out of giant pieces of solid stone, then coming home, only to start it all again the next day.  You eat, you drink, you worship a single god, and you do slave labor. This is your life.

Now imagine that a man steps forward (one of your people), and starts to speak up. He says "God has told me he will see to it that you will all be free.  Soon!" Well, I'm sure you've heard that mess before, so you don't bother to pay much attention. But pretty soon after that, some truly bizarre shit starts happening!

Rivers turn to blood. Frogs swarm in by the millions. All your captors get horrible boils. Locusts descend on you.  I don't remember all ten of the plagues… I think flying monkeys swoop in and kidnap folks… little hazy on that one. I do remember that HAIL FALLS FROM THE SKY AND CATCHES ON FIRE ON THE GROUND! And then, to top all that, you're told to put blood on your doorway, because scary magic juju is going to kill the first-born son of every household that doesn't have the blood. And the juju actually comes! The sons of your captors are slaughtered left and right. It's a damned massacre!

Your captors, the very people who have managed to keep your people enslaved since before anyone can remember, possibly the most powerful race of people on the planet, are so terrified by the whole affair, that they actually let everybody go! Everybody packs whatever they have (which can't be much- remember these are poor slaves), and follow this prophet into the wilderness.

 
Just to be clear- this is actually not possible

But WAIT!  Your captors have changed their minds! They send a battalion of soldiers after you to kick your ass! What are you going to do? You have no way of defending yourself, you'll be slaughtered for sure, right?  Wrong! God swoops in again to help out. He sends a pillar of fire to stop the soldiers and then parts a fucking sea so you can escape! 

You get the gist. In the span of, who knows- a few months, maybe, you have personally witnessed some of the most unmistakable miracles the world has ever known. You went your whole life without seeing anything amazing at all, and then POW- you see shit that would make David Copperfield blow his colon.

My question is this: If you saw ALL THAT, and as a result went from a life of slavery and misery to a life of freedom in the blink of an eye, and you knew that all these miracles

 
Ain't no party like a gold-cow party!

were gifts from the god that you've worshipped your whole life… would you ever (and I mean EVER) think to yourself "I don't know… maybe I should worship somebody else for a bit- y'know, like a cow made of metal."

I mean what the hell?  It's just not plausible. I recognize that multi-theism was common at that time (though not among the "children of Israel" according to the bible), but honestly. They're going to turn their backs on that god? The one who not only brought them out of slavery, but did it in the most spectacular fashion imaginable? Right. I don't care who you are- you're not going to ditch pillar-of-fire part-the-seas god for a damned cow. It's too stupid.

Also- where the fuck did they get gold to make this idol? Moses ("the great babysitter") goes away for a bit to talk to god, and by the time he gets back, somebody has come up with enough gold that they've made an idol out of it.  They were SLAVES! Where is all this gold coming from? It's not like it was just littering the desert floor as they traveled around…

NONE OF THIS SHIT MAKES ANY SENSE! We're supposed to believe that all this bullshit actually happened???  Damned Bible makes me feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

Pat Robertson Knows EVERYTHING!

So I was just checking out the web page for Saint Patrick Robertson’s 700 club, and was startled by what I saw.  I knew Pat was a self-proclaimed expert on religion and politics, but I had no idea how deep his well goes!

Pat bling

Here’s just a sampling of topics he feels comfortable covering in his “Bring It On” Q&A section:

“Should I let my daughter’s boyfriend move in?” [No suprise here (I wonder what he's going to say???).]

“Is it biblical to get artificial insemination?” [More interresting, but again, no suprise.]

“How can I control my appitite?” “How can I exercise at home?” [He's like the fundamentalist Richard Simmons!]

“Can collecting unemployment hurt your financial record?” [And while we're at it, does Jesus take heaven points away for credit scores below 550?]

“Have large countries like China been holding strong financially?” [Keep buying Pat's DVDs at WalMart- China's going to be juuuuust fine.]

“I tend to go for ice cream and chocolate as my comfort foods. Have any healthier suggestions?” [Try Pat's favorite morning pick-me-up: a Metamucil-cocaine smoothie! It's delicious, and will give you the energy to hate bad people all day long!]

“I want to maximize my workout on the treadmill. Should I increase the time or increase the incline?”  [Who cares? When the rapture comes, Jesus will make us all skinny!]

“If Jesus said ‘by my stripes, you were healed,’ why do we as Christians still have afflictions?”  [I think that's obvious- anyone who ever gets sick clearly isn't christian enough. Illness: proof that you're faith sucks.]

The man’s a damned oracle!