And while I’m linking to horrible blogs…

I’m just putting this here because it is actually largely non-awful and in places informative, as well as relevant to some issues we’ve been discussing recently. Larry Correia posted this essay on his blog entitled “Why are there so many Mormon writers?” https://monsterhunternation.com/2021/05/17/why-are-there-so-many-mormon-writers/

Clearly there is an iterative factor that there are so many because there are so many i.e. once you get enough people doing an activity, then there is more support for doing the activity, creating a virtuous circle.

Anyway, I thought it was largely not terrible.

101 thoughts on “And while I’m linking to horrible blogs…

  1. There might be something else in play here. I once had a girlfriend with an August birthday who followed astrology, and while discussing local fans I told her it seemed surprisingly many of them also had August birthdays. She laughed, “Of course. They’re all Leos — they WANT you to know when their birthdays are.”

    By the same token, why does it seem there are so many Mormon finalists in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future? Aren’t there any Scientologists entering? Or do only one of those groups call themselves out?

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    1. Are there any notable Scientologist sci-fi writers (I mean, aside from the one obvious one)? Like, they are famous for being a sci-fi writer in themselves and also openly a Scientologist? I can’t think of any other than Neil Gaiman as a kind of lapsed-scientologist.

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      1. I knew some fans who took Scientology training but I can’t say I’m aware of any established sff writers who are practicing Scientologists.

        In contrast, I could name an array of Catholic sff writers. They’re not geographically localized, though.

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      2. Neil doesn’t exactly hide that he grew up in a Scientologist family but it’s not something that he mentions very often either, and I can think of at least two of his works with autobiographical elements that don’t mention Scientology at all.

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  2. You mean when a minority group that was previously underrepresented as writers becomes equally-represented, it’s not due to a conspiracy or lowering of standards? Brad must be told! He’ll be de

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  3. It is interesting that he simply asserts that Mormon writers are more prevalent by population than writers who are not without feeling the need to actually do any of the legwork necessary to demonstrate that. I’m sure argument by assertion convinced somebody somewhere, but until someone comes up with some measurement that shows his conclusion is anything other than the confirmation bias he blithely dismisses, I’m taking his claims with a grain of salt the size of Io.

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    1. Yes, I don’t know if it is true at all other than that people keep saying it is (i.e. Mike’s point about Leo’s).

      There’s also another potential feedback mechanism there – a false positive stereotype (eg Mormon’s write sci fi) can be self-fulfilling.

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      1. I am especially dubious of Correia’s claims given the fact that (as you have demonstrated here and others have demonstrated elsewhere) when one can check his claims against the actual evidence, he is so very frequently wildly incorrect.

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        1. True but I’ve wondered myself whether Mormons or Utah helps foster interest in sci-fi.

          Alternatively, it may be just that of Americans more intense & socially conservative takes on religion, it is the one that isn’t anti-sci-fi (or anti-fiction).

          Looking at the writers in the Debarkle, there is one and only one who is openly and overtly an evangelical conservative Christian and that’s Vox D. Otherwise, they are people quiet about their religious/cultural affiliation, or Catholics, Mormons, Muslim or Jewish

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    2. I see that kind of assertion all the time. When I hear something like “Sure seems like there are a lot more X’s in field Y than should be expected – let’s make a guess why!” my response is first let’s find out if it’s true before investing time in theorizing about why.

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  4. Orson Scott Card, Tracy Hickman, Brandon Sanderson, Larry Correia, Dave Wolverton. That’s all I can think of. Nothing special.

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      1. camestrosfelapton: I can’t find the survey mentioned but digging into this rabbit hole I found this odd claim “In a literary survey of novels which have won the highest awards in science fiction, the Hugo or Nebula award, twenty-five percent (25%) had LDS characters or Utah/LDS references.”

        I’ve read many of those books, and this claim is utter hogwash. But then, if they’re jumping on some vague word or phrase as “that’s a coded LDS reference!”, I’m sure that they see a lot of LDS references and characters that aren’t actually LDS. And any Mormon reading those claims is of course going to be inclined to believe them, because why wouldn’t they?

        The reason that the incidence of Mormon SFF writers seems higher is because the Mormon church actually brags about its fiction writers in newsletters that it puts out. No other church or religious faith (other than Scientology… hmmmm) does that. Remember when the Hugo finalists were being announced on Easter weekend, what a huge number of them were affected by that, because they were Jewish?

        And I’m sure that the number of atheist and agnostic SFF writers outstrips the number of Mormon SFF writers by an exponential factor.

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      2. On the level at which 25% of Hugo and Nebula winners have “LDS characters or Utal/LDS references,” what percentage have Catholic characters or references? What percentage have California references?

        Many books have characters of more than one (existing, real-world) religion, and take place in multiple locations. If someone is (say) Jewish and has pagan, Muslim, and Christian family members, does setting a scene at their family dinner table make that a pagan book, or a Jewish one, or a Muslim one, or a Christian one? To me, the answer there is “obviously not”–and a pair of Mormon missionaries knocking on the door and being invited to dinner wouldn’t make it a Mormon book.

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        1. I’d like to send up a flare that this discussion is fading away into speculation about “what kind of dumbass assumptions can we impute to a thing we haven’t even read” which is never edifying.

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      3. Unless I’m missing something, the survey is listed on the linked article. It’s here: https://web.archive.org/web/20000818090542/http://www.adherents.com/lit/sf_lds.html

        I’ve also realized that I should mostly refrain from commenting about Mormonism. I have friends who are Mormon, though they don’t live nearby and I haven’t seen them in years. Regardless, those friends pointed out to me how Mormons have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past, so I try to be a little more understanding and less vitriolic toward the LDS than, say, the fundie culture I grew up in. But I still have a whole lot of anger toward the LDS because of its work to pass Prop 8 in California, and just can’t say anything nice about the church.

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        1. @Kathodus —

          “I’ve also realized that I should mostly refrain from commenting about Mormonism. I have friends who are Mormon, though they don’t live nearby and I haven’t seen them in years. ”

          I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — when I lived in Salt Lake City, I was very impressed with a lot of LDS social values. A lot of other groups could learn from the Mormon senses of community and cooperation and preparedness. I used to say that if anyone was going to survive an apocalypse it would be Mormons, and I still believe that. It’s just that they have some loonytunes religious beliefs to go along with those laudable community ideals.

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      4. You could even make a case that “The Expanse” is Mormon-influenced, because early on in the series, Mormons are the only religion that is mentioned (which irritated the hell out of me, considering I live in a place where Mormons are exceedingly rare and even small religions like Bahaii or Yezidis are more common). The TV series made this even more notable, because apparently no one could decide whether Chrisjen Avasarala was Hindu or Buddhist and so she’s surrounded by Buddha statues on one scene and Hindu artworks in the next. But at least the angel statue on the Mormon generation ship looked right.

        The first explicitly religious character who’s not Mormon is the female Methodist (I think) pastor who doesn’t show up until book/season 3 or 4.

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      1. I didn’t forget that Brad Torgersen was a Mormon. I forgot that he was a writer and not just someone famous for right-wing bloviating on Facebook.

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      1. Oh, and who is a heck of a nice guy. I also have real issues with the Church of the LDS thanks to Prop 8, and some very uncomfortable interactions when I was in high school, but Howard and I have had some wonderful conversations, including about those issues.

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  5. While the gist of the post – “Mormons value education and reading and Utah has a supportive writing scene” – is not terrible, though Correia still can’t help inserting jabs against literati snobs, the coastal elites the woke and anybody else he doesn’t like. Also, what has Brigham Young University ever done to him? Did they reject his application or what?

    Though it is notable that there seem to be a lot of Mormon writers. And not just in SFF either, there also are a lot of Mormon romance and YA writers.

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    1. One unexamined element is that there are lots of groups that say they are notably supportive of education and reading, and I have yet to find an author who has had professional success who doesn’t say their local writing scene is supportive. There is a reason what Garrison Keillor’s closing monologue about Lake Wobegon was “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” People tend to think of where they are as being the best place to be.

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      1. A supportive environment definitely helps, but you can find that in many places, not just in Utah. Most places have a local arts/culture/literature scene, where beginning writers can find support. Okay, mine wasn’t particularly SFF and genre fiction friendly (to the point that I haven’t even sent my “I’m a Hugo finalist” press release to the local literature newsletter, which I should probably remedy), but there were still classes, readings, events, small press magazines, etc…

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      2. I also think it is notable that Larry believes that because Mormon kids go on a single two-year mission when they are in their late teens are early twenties that this makes them somehow notably cosmopolitan. leaving aside the fact that lots of Mormon kids do their missionary work inside the United States (and wander around neighborhoods in pairs clad in white shirts while knocking on doors to spread the good word), that is an amazingly weak claim to exposure to the diversity in the world, and I think it is actually indicative of the parochialism that Correia is attempting to claim isn’t there.

        Utah is one of the more homogenous states in the U.S., both in terms of religion and race. By most measures of “diversity”, Utah ranks somewhere in the forties in terms of U.S. states. As a result, I think Correia vastly underestimates just how much exposure kids in those coastal areas he routinely expresses disdain for have to people from a wide array of backgrounds and cultures. I would not be surprised if it turned out that there was more diversity in the population of the building I live in than there is in Correia’s entire Ward in Utah – I suspect that I would not have to even leave the boundaries of the condominium association to find someone who speaks Tagalog.

        As a result, the kids who live in areas like mine spend most of their childhoods dealing with people from many ethic and cultural backgrounds, which seems to me like a greater claim to exposure to diversity than “grows up in really homogenous Utah and then goes away for two years before returning”.

        On an additional note, I don’t know if it is this way in Utah, but in the area I live in, which has enough of a Mormon population to support several churches, Mormons are incredibly insular. A Mormon kid is likely to have all of his social activities take place within the bounds of the church – if they are in scouting, they will be in a troop sponsored and run by the church. If they are in a youth sports league, they will be in a league sponsored by and run by the church. If they go to summer camp, they will go to a summer camp sponsored and run by the church, and so on. On the one hand, it is nice that the Mormon church spends a lot of effort building communities for its members, but on the other hand, it does tend to push them into seeing only each other on a regular basis. Like I said, I don’t know if it is this way in Utah, but it seems to be the way it works here.

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      3. Mormons range, like all of Christianity, from ultra liberal to right-wing extremists living in compounds. Throwing them all together as if all the sub-sects of Mormonism are the same with the same beliefs is the sort of thing conservative Christians do a lot, claiming they speak for all Christianity and that their particular sub-sect’s beliefs is Christianity (and thus, for example, that “Christian” America is in values right wing extremist.)

        Many Mormons don’t go on missions and/or are American. American ones who go on missions inside the country may be helpful in different communities as charity and re-building work or simply proselytizing to other white people. Mormons who go on missions outside of the country may genuinely help other communities in need dig wells and build schools (just like many other non-Mormon and non-Christian young people) or may imperialistically and bigotedly try to oppress them. These latter ones have included “missionaries” helping Ugandan leaders craft and implement laws about executing gay people and setting up operations that basically kidnap black and brown kids for adoption and abuse. (Likewise, many Mormons may legitimately adopt kids from other countries and raise them without abuse in loving homes.)

        So the basic premise Larry worked from — a number of Mormon people (who aren’t all the same in political values or specific religious beliefs) became SFF writers because of supposed general qualities and experiences of Mormons — is very faulty. Mormonism cannot be generalized to try to prove a correlation because there is not one type of Mormonism or Mormon person with all the same experiences and values. Larry can talk confidently about how his own version of Mormonism influenced him to write SFF and some other Mormon authors if he knows their stories. But Mormon is not a personality and it’s heavily split into sub-sects and many locations all over the world. Millions of people are not a school of minnows.

        What sociologists have found, however, is that people who live in very homogenous areas demographically and culturally tend to be right wing, exclusionary and highly panicked on average about outsiders. It is the whitest areas of the U.S., for example, with the least contact with BIPOC and other cultures than their own who are most freaking out on myths that (black and brown) immigrants will come in and take over. The more exposure people in culturally dominant and homogenous communities have to other people and cultures — and the more those “outside” people can operate as equal or near equal participants in the community — the less authoritarian, bigoted and xenophobic the communities become. This is why kids who go to university on average do become more liberal and why right-wingers are so intent on controlling and suppressing college students — because going to these places usually exposes the young folk to outside people from different cultures and they learn that those people don’t fit the bigoted myths they’ve been fed about the outsiders, that a lot of things they were told in their home communities as potential threats weren’t true. The same is sometimes true for those who go to live in cities, where the population is usually much less homogenous, which is part of the definition of cosmopolitan.

        So in that sense, Larry’s theory that Mormon young people doing missions makes them more cosmopolitan can be true — but will also tend to make them more liberal in values. But if they do the missions and those missions limit contact with the other cultures and/or teach the young people to view the folk they’re helping as inferiors who must be taught and controlled (imperialistic theocracy,) then that travel experience may make them more xenophobic rather than cosmopolitan. So again, a common experience for Mormons is not a defining trait for all Mormons, nor is it the same experience leading to the same outlooks for those who do it.

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    2. @Cora: Larry’s (probably) got a chip on his shoulder because he (probably) couldn’t get into BYU and had to settle for the basically secular U of U. UU is a state-funded school which therefore has lower entrance requirements than a private school like BYU which can pick and choose. UU and UT State also don’t expel people for being gay, atheist, having sex, or drinking coffee.

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  6. There’s also the old running joke that if you look at Mormon beliefs from the outside, they can certainly sound like something out of a cheesy space opera novel.

    There have also been comments that the biggest difference between Mormonism and Scientology is a century’s worth of normalization of the beliefs, as well as the Mormon church becoming big and mainstream enough that it couldn’t maintain many of the more explicit cult-like aspects anymore. Both of them were started by individuals who wrote pretty incredible secret histories as the basis for their religions, after all…

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      1. Andrew, I didn’t say disagreement is gaslighting. I said “Claiming that terms like ‘cult-like’, grift, villain, etc, are just discussion free of value judgment is gaslighting.”

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        1. Except that literally nobody said that those terms are “just discussion free of value judgment”. They are very obviously negative judgments. You keep making up people in your head and arguing with them.

          I, and clearly others here, have negative views of aspects of LDS church history, based on what I and those others believe to be objective readings of history. It is neither uncivil or illegitimate to state those views, and nor is it hostile to do so. Your argument, that nobody should ever say anything about a religion unless adherents of that religion also agree with it (which *is* what you’ve argued) is one that renders discussion of these things literally impossible.

          If I think Joseph Smith was a fraud (and I think *all* the evidence points, absolutely conclusively, to that conclusion), there is literally no way of stating that fact in a way that someone who believes he received the literal inspired word of God will agree with it. There is also no less inflammatory way of saying it, without completely distorting what seems to me to be the plain truth.

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        1. OK, enlighten me:

          I want to have a civil discussion. I also want to state the blatantly obvious-to-me fact that Joseph Smith was a fraud. How do I do this, in your view, without a) using the word “fraud” or b) saying something totally different? What way of phrasing that would “civilly” get across the statement that Smith was a fraud?

          Because if you can’t find one — something that *actually conveys the exact same information* without using terms like that — then you’re not actually talking about using those terms at all. You’re talking about people disagreeing at all.

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          1. @Andrew —

            “I want to have a civil discussion. I also want to state the blatantly obvious-to-me fact that Joseph Smith was a fraud. How do I do this, in your view, without a) using the word “fraud” or b) saying something totally different? What way of phrasing that would “civilly” get across the statement that Smith was a fraud?”

            You didn’t ask me, but you know that rarely slows me down. Here are one or two thoughts:

            I generally try to avoid ascribing motivations to people. I try to stick with facts about *actions* rather than getting into someone’s mind. I can prove the action, but I’m not a mindreader.

            Thus I might say, “Joseph Smith had relationships with multiple women, some of whom were already married to other men, before polygamy was an accepted policy of the LDS Church.” But I would avoid saying “Polygamy was instituted by the LDS Church as an attempt to legitimize Smith’s multiple affairs.” The first statement is simple fact, but the second statement requires either mindreading or quotes from the church leaders that I haven’t seen and that likely don’t exist.

            Or I might say, “Joseph’s claims about translating the Book of Mormon by using a ‘seer stone’ in a hat seem ludicrous, especially given that he had previously unsuccessfully used the same technique for fortune hunting”, but I would avoid saying “Joseph was a con artist and snake-oil salesman”. As above, the first statement focuses on facts and my own internal response to them, while the second ascribes personal motivations and beliefs to Smith that I can’t prove.

            I don’t always follow best practices myself, but if it’s possible to get the facts across without unnecessarily inflaming the debate, that’s usually a good idea.

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            1. This is the way. Lots of the historical facts are clearly supported, others are still under debate, but it’s super important to keep the line between your opinion and the facts clear. The Puppies are often criticized for confusing facts and opinion. If we want to level that criticism at them, we should be sure not to do the same.

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            2. Please teach me the controversy. What facts are under debate? It’s pure silliness to give the existence of the golden plates the benefit of the doubt. It’s equally silly to consider the possibility that the story of the angel Moroni is true. I can imagine a slim possibility that Smith had some illness that caused him to have visions and remember things that didn’t happen, but it seems very unlikely to me that he could have spun an honest delusion into the profitable religion he created. As we witnessed in the past decade or so, it’s a bad idea to give a veneer of respectability to the obviously fraudulent.

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            3. Quite. “You don’t know what’s in his heart” is a standard line for defending the indefensible. “You can’t say Donald Trump is a racist, just because he repeatedly says and does racist things, you don’t know what he’s thinking”.

              I can say Joseph Smith was a conman and a fraud as a fact, as certain a fact as that he existed at all. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is convicted in absentia of being a duck, is described by the testimony of multiple independent witnesses as being a duck, and flees the state to escape charges of being a duck, then saying “some people say it’s a duck, others that really it’s an invisible unicorn in a duck costume, nobody knows for sure” isn’t civility, it’s mealy-mouthedness.

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            4. There’s a sliver of doubt because of the time that has passed etc and that it can be difficult to judge accounts given the passage of time etc. But absolutely, if somebody made those claims now, we would rightly dismiss them as nonsense. In addition Smith had not founded a church on the basis of those claims and was not venerated, again nobody would blink an eyelid at Smith being discussed as a historical hoaxer.

              I absolutely get that members of the LDS church can regard that the subsequent existence and prosperity of the church demonstrates a diving blessing which would not occur if Smith had been a fraud (because God wouldn’t have rewarded lies). It’s an argument that makes a lot of sense *IF* you make a huge pile of assumptions about God (and you actually believe in not just God & gods but also an actively interventionist god) *AND* you avoid thinking about how that same defence works for say, Scientology.

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            5. I’m not really interested in having that discussion. My whole point has been to call out inability to handle the beliefs of others with respect here. I’m not interesting in litigating the historical record- there’s huge scope for discussion there, I’m not not interested in doing that here, and have not been from the start. Maybe in some other context. But when it’s been difficult to convince people of something as simple as that it’s uncivil to call people villains, you should not be surprised that they don’t consider it an environment of mutual respect.

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            6. Except that by that argument, it is completely inadmissible for anyone to express any opinion at all. Including “Lots of the historical facts are clearly supported, others are still under debate” and “it’s super important to keep the line between your opinion and the facts clear”, both of which are your opinions but stated as fact.

              You want other people to play by rules that you are either unwilling or unable to play by yourself.

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            7. The historical events from your examples require a lot of context to make sense of them the way an LDS person would see them, and it’s easy to spin things by including or excluding that context, but that’s a totally separate question, and not the one I’ve been worried about. Sticking to the facts means we can have a meaningful discussion.

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    1. That makes me wonder… are there any other religions than LDS and Scientology that were created as grifts before becoming popularized and generally accepted as a “true” religion? Not talking about all the various tent preachers, televangelists, and others who latch onto existing mythos as a grift, but something new (or at least as heavily modified as LDS is compared to Christianity). I wonder if even LDS counts – it started as a grift, but I don’t know if it’d count as something new. I feel like Smith was trying to position it as an addition to/replacement for Christianity, kind of like how the fundies I grew up with considered Christianity an addition to and replacement of Judaism.

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      1. are there any other religions than LDS and Scientology that were created as grifts before becoming popularized and generally accepted as a “true” religion?

        Pretty much all of them. The “oldest profession” is Priest, not Prostitute.

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      2. Some folks here are showing a regrettable failure to insulate their distaste for some specific adherents of a religion from their attitude towards that religion as a whole. I do appreciate the object lesson in ‘bad faith attacks’ mentioned in a previous post, though.

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        1. ?

          Dunno who you’re referring to, but I for one formed my opinions of the religion decades before I knew anything about any of the authors (aside from Card) — I lived in SLC for five years back in the late 80s and early 90s.

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      3. @ryanmillerjones – If you are referring to my comment, I think you’re wrong. The origins of the LDS as a scam are readily apparent.

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      4. I have some familiarity with the early history of the LDS – and I’ve read the Book of Mormon. So, yes I agree that it started out as a scam.

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      5. If you are able to see the problem with trusting only the Puppies version of how the Hugo Awards went down, you should be able to see the problems with trusting only hostile sources on LDS history. Obviously nobody expects you to believe as they do. But when your attitude toward their religion drips with contempt, you should not be surprised if any of them feel unwelcome. Or that any of them are slower to dismiss the claims made by groups like the Puppies, because the folks criticizing the Puppies are also hostile to them.

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        1. I’m not sure how you infer that I’ve trusted only hostile sources of the LDS history. That is not the case. Regardless, the basic origin story – the golden tablets – is absurd. The story is an obvious lie. Smith was the kind of snake oil salesman you find in Twain. He’s a very USian type of villain, cut from the same cloth as the 45*th president. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid religion, insofar as any religion is valid. I get the argument that any true religion requires belief in the unbelievable. My hostility toward the LDS didn’t begin until they put tons of resources into oppressing other people. They don’t longer deserve polite silence regarding their ridiculous, harmful beliefs.

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        2. “ you should be able to see the problems with trusting only hostile sources on LDS history”

          Straw man. Who here is actually doing that?

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      6. This is from Correia’s blog.

        “if you post anything talking shit about anybody’s religion in the comments I’m just going to delete it…”

        Seems like we should at least match if not exceed the level of conduct expected there (expected if not necessarily enforced- I haven’t spent enough time there to know)

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        1. Yeah, no. That’s just another way to say “ nobody better talk down my religious beliefs, but I can say anything I like about your moral or political beliefs as long as you don’t ascribe them to any version of Godhood.”

          I am not going to walk up to a Catholic’s face and start insulting their religion for no good reason. But if a discussion of the Trinity crops up for some reason, I’ll be happy to add my opinions about what a ridiculous concept it is.

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          1. Indeed – and while we should respect the power dynamics around minority religions and genuine cultural differences, skepticism about religious belief is a reasonable topic of discussion and certainly not off-limits here.

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            1. Right.

              And lest anyone start thinking something like “Well, she’s just a damned atheist so her opinion doesn’t count” — I’m actually not an atheist. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble!

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        2. Hold on thanks.

          I’m an overt atheist and I routinely discuss the origin and nature of religious belief skeptically on this blog. I’m not going to tolerate people demonising or dehumanising people of a given religion or except that religious belief is uncommonly stupid but I really do NOT expect people to pretend that myths are literally true just because people have sincere beliefs in them. Nor should we pretend that religious belief has not been used to dupe people for multiple non-spiritual motives.

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      7. The idea that putting the label “religion” on something means even mildly-phrased criticisms of it should be off the table is just as inimical to reasonable discussion as the belief of the Dawkins types that going around deliberately insulting religious people is a worthwhile endeavour.
        I doubt anyone here would object to the factual statements that Scientology and Spiritualism both very obviously started as grifts. I suspect most would be saying that without any intention of hurting or insulting any Spiritualists or Scientologists.
        To anyone outside the LDS church who has spent more than five minutes investigating the church’s roots, it seems like a matter of simple factual statement to say that Joseph Smith started out as a rather obvious con-man (though he may well have been one of those, like Hubbard, who ended up believing in his own con). When people say that, it’s not to insult or belittle Mormons, but just a simple, fairly neutral, statement of fact as it appears to those on the outside.
        It’s not a matter of “trusting only hostile sources”, it’s that to believing Mormons, any source that disagrees with their church’s official line is by definition a hostile one. And anyone who trusts those “non-hostile” sources would, by definition, end up a believer.
        Either Joseph Smith was handed golden plates covered in hieroglyphics by an angel, and translated those hieroglyphics using a seer-stone, or he was a liar and con-man. I don’t see any way to believe the former without becoming a Mormon (or a member of one of the LDS splinter churches), and that leaves the latter.
        Either Joseph Smith was given divine guidance and translated some Egyptian papyri into The Book of Abraham, revealing a book by the founder of all monotheistic religions that had been lost for millennia, or, as every single Egyptologist in the world agrees, those papyri are absolutely standard funerary documents, for a priest named Hôr, and Smith’s “translation” bears no resemblance to anything in the documents. If you believe the latter, it’s not because of hostility towards Mormonism, it’s because given the choice between “one con-man made some nonsense up” and “all Egyptologists since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone have, for reasons known only to themselves, perpetuated a totally-internally-consistent but utterly false understanding of hieroglyphics”, the former is much, much, easier to believe.
        Disagreement with dogma is not the same as hostility. It’s just unfortunate for Mormons, Scientologists, and so on, that their religions started in such comparatively recent times that there exist reams of documentary evidence about their origins, so where those who would wish to make claims about the character of Moses or Buddha would have to rely entirely on stories passed down by their followers, those who want to make claims about Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard have access to actual evidence.

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      8. Skepticism is no problem, and there are lots of legitimate discussions one might have about LDS impact on the world, for good or ill. Certainly there has been a lot of both. But calling the founder a grifter, a villain, a snake oil salesman, or the organization itself a cult, ridiculous, is not that. You don’t have to accept LDS beliefs to discuss them. But if you don’t see that some of the discussion here has been uncivil, then you are proving at least one of Larry’s points.

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        1. A legitimate question is whether:
          a. the supernatural events Smith described actually physically happened
          b. whether they happened in some actual sense but not in physical reality
          c. whether they didn’t happen but Smith sincerely believed they happened (i.e. not real events but real subjective experiences for Smith)
          d. he was lying

          I’d naturally reject a. & b. for prior reasons (likewise I don’t think an angel spoke to Mohammed or that Jesus was divine or that people get reincarnated).

          I think there’s a lot of reasons to pick d over c. Further d fits with a lot of other known, well documented cases of people duping other people with claims of supernatural events. So what kind of general rule can I make here?

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        2. Watch out, Ryan, you are treading close to straw men again. For instance, I don’t think anyone here has called the LDS church a cult. OTOH, I do actually agree with you that there isn’t sufficient cause to call Joseph Smith a villain. For all we know, he actually believed what he was saying — or at least believed that the things he was saying would help people in the long run.

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          1. Is it reasonable to question whether a figure from documented history (in this case not the distant past but 19th century America) was a villain? I think so and I can’t see a good reason for carving out an exemption on the grounds that the person later became venerated.

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            1. I think it’s reasonable to discuss whether or not someone was a villain, but IMHO one should not CALL someone a villain without presenting the hard evidence of their villainy. And I don’t think making up a new religion, even if one knows the religion to be a lie, necessarily makes one a villain; as I mentioned earlier, Smith may have actually believed that his new religion would benefit others.

              Now, if you want to talk about specifics of Smith’s inconsistencies, grabbing power and benefits to himself (including wives), and so forth over the years, again those are historical facts and I have no problem with them.

              Somewhat off topic, but is it worth mentioning here that people in my family tree were killed at the Mountain Meadow Massacre?

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      9. The discussion here certainly doesn’t read to me as uncivil. To use an analogy for something that affects me personally — I’m a meat-eater. If someone says “eating meat is morally wrong and bad for the environment, and I find it disgusting”, that’s civil disagreement, even though it’s stated in fairly strong terms. If someone says “all meat-eaters are immoral and disgusting and should be ashamed of themselves”, that’s not so civil. If someone compares meat-eating to historical genocides, or decides to personally insult an individual who eats meat (“Andrew Hickey is a genocidal monster because of all the meat he eats”), that’s definitely not civil disagreement at all. It might be *justified* incivility, depending on one’s stance, but it is incivility.

        Everything anyone has said against Mormonism here seems to me to fall into the first category. Yes, it might easily be taken as offensive by some Mormons, just as a hypothetical meat-eater might take a statement that eating meat is bad as offensive, but there is no more mild or non-confrontational way to state what seems to me at least to be simple fact, without distorting the truth.

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        1. You took at least one of those words out of context. For instance, your claim that someone called the church a cult seems to have come from a passing comment that the modern church had shed the “cult-like aspects” of the early church. Which is not at all the same thing as calling the church a cult. ( If I’ve missed some other relevant comment, please point it out to me.) So, yes, you were wandering close to straw men. Please try to avoid that.

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      10. No-one called Mormonism a cult. The only reference to cults prior to yours was Kathodus saying that Mormonism “couldn’t maintain many of the more explicit cult-like aspects anymore”, which a) is explicitly saying that Mormonism is not now a cult, and b) is merely saying that at some unspecified time in the past it had “cult-like aspects”, not that it *was* a cult.

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      11. I will walk back the “villain” accusation. While I think it is likely that Smith is a classic villain, and I see no reason to think he actually believed his claims, it’s possible, as Contrarius points out, that he believed he was doing good with his lies. I find that hard to believe, but it’s definitely a possibility.

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      12. I have to say that rejecting any discussion of the idea that Joseph Smith was a conman (including his preceding career) and rejecting all evidence of the fact because it comes from “hostile sources” seems to be as extreme a case of whitewashing as I’ve ever seen. Are we really to suppose that every founder of every religion – or just sufficiently large religions – must be immune from criticism?

        As I said I have read the Book of Mormon for myself and found it to be an obvious fake. And one rather obviously concocted about the time Joseph Smith wrote it. (The cod KJV-English is just one piece of evidence).

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        1. I think it’s an objective fact that Joseph Smith was a conman. Back when no one could translate ancient Egyptian, he “translated” some Egyptian papyruses, creating a new holy book, “The Book of Abraham.” Years later, when it became possible to translate those documents, they turned out to be nothing like what he’d pretended. To my way of thinking, that destroyed his credibility in all things–not just this one book. (Clearly other people disagree or else there would be no LDS church today.)

          Smith had the misfortune of living in modern times. It’s far more difficult for us to find similar facts about Moses (if he even existed at all), Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.

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        2. All of those are issues well studied, but if you only know the arguments on one side, you don’t understand the issue. There are in fact historical works on the origins of the LDS faith that have been praised both by inveterate opponents and devoted apologists, for their fairness and dedication to historical fast. If you can get both groups to agree a book is worthy, you’ve got something treating the topic fairly. However, I am not trying to discuss whether the LDS church’s historical claims are valid- I am very well informed on those issues, but that is not the discussion I was trying to have.

          I am done with this discussion, though. My point is not that you have to accept what LDS people believe to respect them. It’s that you alienate people by insulting their beliefs. You can have a legitimate discussion without the venom. Claiming that terms like ‘cult-like’, grift, villain, etc, are just discussion free of value judgment is gaslighting, thank you very much.

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        3. (and understanding the arguments on the LDS side does not imply that you would have to believe their faith, just that you understand how they make sense of these issues. If you don’t, you don’t understand the topic)

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          1. There is a difference between “understanding” and “agreeing”. I understand exactly how Mormons think about Joseph Smith. I think they are wrong. Disagreeing with someone does not mean not understanding their arguments.
            Disagreement also isn’t gaslighting. Saying things like “but if you only know the arguments on one side, you don’t understand the issue” when your opponents have repeatedly said that they do actually know the arguments on both sides does come rather close to it though…

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    2. It’s true that the Mormons are the only religion which specifically mentions God is from another planet*, and godly men can eventually get their own planet.

      *Or star. Ol’ Joe was a little vague on the difference. At least L. Ron knew that much.

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        1. Fantasy, I’d say. Although “planets” leans towards sf, “gods” and “angels” and things like magic underwear put us firmly in fantasy land. (I’m not just snarking about the underwear — I can show you quotes from early church members saying that Smith would not have been killed if he had been wearing his underwear, because it would have repelled the bullets.)

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    3. What Jenora said. There do seem to be a lot of Mormon sff writers — the more you look for them, the more they turn up — but it’s entirely understandable if you just take a look at their religion. Gods of their own planets? Mrs. God? Magic underwear? These guys are enculturated with fantastical beliefs their entire lives. It’s only natural that a relatively high percentage of them would go pro.

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      1. Anecdotally, I’ve run into a surprisingly high percentage of ex-Mormons who have become full-out Wiccans/Pagans/etc.

        As one of them told me “Well, ya know… not any weirder and much more feminist.”

        (More or less. It was years ago and we were both a few drinks in. Another thing she liked.)

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  7. If we’re going to go with an American Christian religious sect that favors reading and education, the Catholics would win over the Mormons there. I think on the science fiction and fantasy side, Mormons have science fictional aspects to their theology in some sects, as well as the religious (supernatural, divine) aspects of the religion overall. So some of them gravitating to write SFF is not any weirder than anyone else doing it.

    But on the publishing side, Mormons, at least in some locales, have had a bit of a boost in networking with each other and through conventions, which doesn’t guarantee them deals but does sometimes bring them to the attention of publishing professionals for a reading. OSC’s magazine, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and his community forums brought some Mormon authors attention or more involvement with fandom which led to them being able to interact with publishing pros at conventions, get a reading, etc. (This is not to say that Card’s magazine favored Mormon authors over others, just that it was an outlet.) Card’s existence as a bestselling Mormon author also interested other Mormons in writing SFF, as did past successful Mormon authors and authors like Stephanie Meyer.

    It’s not an organized cabal or anything. 🙂 Nor is it a characteristic of Mormons. It’s just humans being social.

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    1. *Please* do not ask Correia to write about Jews.

      (To be fair, I don’t know about anything he’s said specifically about Jews, just that the idea worries me.)

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  8. I think it says a lot that Correia’s idea of “literati snooty academic sort of writing” by people who can’t make a living is the stuff that makes Oprah’s Book Club, something that’s about as middlebrow (in a non-pejorative sense) as it’s possible to get, and that generated so many bestsellers that I believe you could actually easily see the effect of each pick on total book sales in the US…

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  9. Mike:
    “I’d like to send up a flare that this discussion is fading away into speculation about “what kind of dumbass assumptions can we impute to a thing we haven’t even read” which is never edifying.”

    Point taken. I’m just honestly curious, since it’s perfectly reasonable to decide that Stranger has Mormon themes, but the book is just very complimentary to LDS

    Ah. This article refers to the same study (I think) http://associationmormonletters.org/blog/2012/05/mentioning-mormons-in-science-fiction/ and says “It even categorizes the references as positive, negative, or neutral.” – and with that I can drop the subject.

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