Sunday 16 September 2012

"Could You Really Vote for a Man Who Thinks the Garden of Eden was in Missouri?"

Over the weekend, Britain's most prominent atheist Prof Dawkins gave his views on Mitt Romney's Church of Latter Day Saints "no matter how much you agree with Romney's economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?" he asked. Obviously many can.
The Oxford academic focused his criticism on the Church's belief that its founder, Joseph Smith, was visited by an angel in 1820s New York, who guided him to a set of golden plates buried in a hill. Smith claimed to have translated runes engraved on the plates, and compiled them into the Book of Mormon. The text describes how Jesus Christ appeared in the United States after the Crucifixion and how Adam and Eve went to the site of present-day Missouri after being expelled from the Garden of Eden.
for the latter see here.

He does not mention the "Book of Abraham" translation which for me is a fascinating part of the whole Joseph Smith story as we now have the 1835 papyrus and can compare the text on it (which Smith called "Reformed Egyptian", in other words the same language as on the gold plates which he claims were the source of his translation of the Book of Mormon) with the original. Needless to say the spells of the Book of the Dead (which is what it is a fragment of) bear no relation to what Smith published as his 'translation', thus shedding considerable doubt on his ability to read what was inscribed on the "Gold Plates of Moroni" - if they existed.

Filling Washington with Mormon Romulans will possibly have some interesting effects on the sort of archaeological projects getting funded in the USA. Will we see a rise in Nephite and Lamanite archaeologies?  Maybe an updated fundmunzen type corpus of ancient coins and artefacts found on American soil? The mind boggles.

Raf Sanchez, 'US election 2012: Richard Dawkins calls Mitt Romney 'gullible fool' over Mormon faith', Telegraph   09 Sep 2012

UPDATE 17th September 2012:
It seems Peter Tompa (Religious Bigotry Finds Home in Archaeological Blogosphere) is one of those who would have no problem with people putting in the White House a person who earnestly believes Joseph Smith correctly "translated the Book of Abraham".

Also would Tompa consider somebody was "insulting" both Judaism and Christianity and was therefore a "religious bigot" if he said that he did not believe that Genesis Chapters 1-11 were an accurate presentation of the timing and origin of life on Earth especially its 'record' of a Great Extinction of 2348 BC (or thereabouts)?

The US is a funny place, apart from the infamous 'monkey trial', Nakoula Bassely Nakoula or whatever the anti-Islamic hate-film maker is really called commits no hate-crime because there is the First Amendment over there which gives citizens the right to freely insult other people's religions and shelter from opprobrium by calling it "free speech". I mention my doubts on the "translation of" the Book of Abraham and whether Native Americans are descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel and I am labelled a "religious bigot". Well so be it. I really cannot see any reason to believe they are, and I bet there are not many US archaeologists outside a certain university in Utah who believe there is any chance that they are either. Does that make us all "religious bigots", or does it mean that the evidence (archaeological, genetic and linguistic) tells a more coherent and contrary story which necessarily excludes the Nephites and Lamanites? But that was the point of my post, if by some misfortune the Romulans win, will archaeology react by changing some research priorities to get better chances of funding? This relationship between archaeology and politics after all is a topic which Tompa himself is always banging on about.

The point Dawkins was making (and with which I agree) is that the future President of the US really should be able to work out for himself the difference between truth and false prophets, not merely go on what others tell him he should believe. It is pretty important that the President is able to do that. Can Mr Romney?

Vignette: Mr  Romney did not make a very good impression on the British press during his recent UK visit.

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