Michael Tracey Responds To Your Comments September 28, 2012

Michael Tracey Responds To Your Comments

This is a guest post by Michael Tracey. He is a journalist in Brooklyn, New York.


My previous post seems to have whipped up a bit of consternation among the commenters, so I thought I would reply to a few objections raised.

Why does Michael Tracey get to decide who qualifies as Christian?

I don’t get to decide that, nor does anybody else. Theoretically, a UFO-worshiping Satanist could call herself a Christian, so she would, in some sense, be a Christian. But that outlandish example illustrates why we must employ criteria other than mere self-description in assessing whether one might rightly or wrongly be considered a Christian. Given that the Church of Latter-Day Saints affirms a view of the Trinity — a core precept of Christianity — which is radically contrary to any straight-forward biblical reading of what the Trinity means, then I think it is fair to use this fact as a piece of evidence against the idea that Mormonism is just another sect of Christianity. This wiki page is a good primer on the the nontrinitarianism of Mormon belief.

By the way, the aforementioned standard would equally apply to many liberal/New Age Christians, whose conception of the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus, etc. are often so hazy as to be unintelligible. I have spoken with self-described “Christians” who contend that Jesus Christ is not actually the one true savior. To me, this makes absolutely no sense, and they ought not be considered Christians.

Are their [Mormons’] fake angels any less fake than the angels in mainstream Christianity?

I don’t personally believe in the truth of either Mormonism or Christianity, but that does not preclude me from recognizing the profound doctrinal impasses between the two religions. And yes, I do think — as Sam Harris pointed out in a link provided by another commenter — that the unique features of Mormonism make it a few notches more implausible than mainstream Christianity. Namely that Joseph Smith was a prophetic figure who roamed upstate New York in the early 19th century. (Joseph Smith was actually an obvious huckster) There is less good evidence to discredit mainstream Christianity, simply by virtue of its major events having taken place so much longer ago.

There are plenty of reasons not to be a Mormon, but I also know Mormons who’ve done good things in public office.

Me too. This argument has no bearing on whether there exist in America Mormons who’ve done good things in public office.

I am having a difficult time getting past finding “fact” and “Bryan Fischer” in the same sentence.

I mentioned my interview with Bryan Fischer because he, like other committed Evangelicals, are among the few who’ve been honest enough to identify Mormonism as a straightforwardly non-Christian religion. Granted, Fischer is motivated to do so because one of his theological goals is to spread the word of Jesus as he perceives it, and Mormonism contravenes that goal. So for him, it’s not entirely about intellectual rigor. Still, he provides a good prism through which to consider these issues. Also see Rick Warren‘s comments on the “fundamental” differences between Mormonism and Christianity.

Mormons are Christian. Like all Christians, they believe that they must accept Jesus in order to be saved. Like all Christianity, everything else is just fluff.

The Trinity is “just fluff”? Interesting.

As an atheist who believes firmly in the separation of church and state, I would say that Romney’s mormonism is none of your business, Michael Tracey.

Our modern understanding of the separation of church and state bars the government from imposing a religious test on candidates for higher office. It takes no position on whether citizens ought to factor in a candidate’s religious beliefs in determining whether or not to vote for said candidate.

President Obama’s church is pretty wacky, too.

Asserting that Christianity and Mormonism are in doctrinal conflict indicates nothing about my view of President Obama’s church, which I could certainly discuss in a future blog post.

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