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  • Romney: Grounded in the Galaxy?
    by Lawrence M. Krauss posted on August 23, 2012 07:41PM GMT

    Up until this week, Mitt Romney had played down explicit demonstrations of his Mormon faith during the campaign. However, earlier this week he invited the press to follow him and his wife in to join him in a Church of Latter Day Saints Sunday service, and it was just announced that a member of the Mormon Church would deliver an invocation at the Republican National Convention. We may now feel freer to begin to openly question to what extent this candidate for the highest office buys into the explicit doctrines of his faith, because these doctrines defy common sense, history, and scientific knowledge.

    Much has been made of the fact that until 1978 the LDS did not allow blacks into their priesthood, but a history of racism, and sexism would not distinguish Mormonism from most of its sister religions. What is more remarkable, and dubious, are the origins of the Church, and the maintenance of the outrageous claims made by its founder.

    Joseph Smith had been involved in unsuccessful claims to be able to divine buried treasure (leading to a trial in 1826 based on a suit brought by a disgruntled business partner) for years before escalating his claims to a new level: to have found golden tablets left for him by the Angel Moroni, who helped him complete a translation of the otherwise undecipherable Egyptian script in 1830, not into the lexicon of the time, but rather into the 17th century English of the King James Bible. Needless to say, the tablets subsequently disappeared, and were returned to heaven by the accommodating angel before any independent confirmation of their existence could occur.

    Among the remarkably dubious claims within the translated book of Mormon and the ‘revelations’ that derive from it is that an otherwise historically and anthropologically undocumented and unrecorded lost tribe of Israel somehow made it to the Americas in antiquity and flourished here, and that the resurrected Jesus visited what is now Missouri, where the Garden of Eden apparently had been located, and where he will return as a part of his second coming, commuting from Jerusalem as time permits.

    It is difficult to imagine how such a history would not provoke at least a smidgen of healthy skepticism, and it would be good to know if Mr. Romney, who is vying to hold the highest office in the land, simply takes it on faith. Maybe it would be relevant to understanding whether similar faith is the basis of his assertion that his and Paul Ryan’s fiscal proposals will reduce the national deficit.

    However, as an astrophysicist, one of the most intriguing claims of the Mormon religion cannot help but be an astronomical one. It is that after an observant life on planet earth ends, good Mormons can achieve semi-divine status, each ruling a new planet somewhere in the Universe.

    In this regard, Mitt Romney can take solace from the discoveries of the Kepler satellite, which has revealed a plethora of new planets surrounding other nearby stars, over 2000 so far. The data suggests that perhaps every star may house a solar system, many of them with exotic properties hitherto thought to be at best unlikely, based on ideas about how our own Solar System formed. So there may be 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, more than enough to assign a planet for each person alive on Earth at the present time.

    Of course of the 2000 planets so far detected, no Earth-sized planets in what is known as the “habitable zone”, where liquid water and an Earth-like atmosphere might exist, have yet been observed. Most are either uninhabitable giant gaseous orbs or smaller scorched rocky planets that, like Icarus, have moved too close to their suns. But, by the evidentiary standards of Mormon faith perhaps this is merely an inessential detail.

    As a bishop of his church one might imagine that Mr Romney has bought into this doctrine, as well as the ones described earlier. If he does, all of this puts Mitt Romney in a position that is unique amongst all major previous presidential candidates. He cannot lose. Even if he does not win this election and with it the opportunity to govern the most powerful nation on Earth, he is guaranteed one day to rule over, not over merely an individual country, but an entire planet. One can only hope that in his case, it won’t be a gas giant.

    Lawrence M. Krauss is Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His most recent book is A Universe from Nothing.

  • You want a smidgen of healthy skepticism?.........Listen to "Reverend" Jeremiah Wright speak. His ramblings and teachings didn't appear to be a red flag to the voters and the media in the last election. There was a huge concern about John Kennedy and his Catholic faith. Some thought that his election would translate to the Holy Pontiff calling the shots in our country. This is all a distraction from the important isssues we face. The Mormons "ain't" one of those important issues.

  • Here's another good one:

    Tikkun [1] / By James Martin, S.J. [2]

    What If Jesus Had Been A Republican?

    August 26, 2012 |

    This story was republished from Tikkun [3].

    Editor's Note: This was sent to Tikkun on email from Cath News and a column called "The Not-So-Social-Gospel." It is a powerful reminder both of how far sections of the Christian world have strayed from the teachings of Jesus, and also a reminder of the tens of millions of Catholics who are deeply dedicated to social justice, peace, generosity and love (even though unfortunately they are stuck in a church whose leadership is more interested in demonizing gays and abortions and attacking American Nuns who take Jesus' teachings seriously than in carrying on the progressive elements in Jesus' gospel). It saddens us at Tikkun to see how twisted that Church leadership has become, just as we have been saddened by how twisted the Jewish leadership has become to give blind support to the oppressive policies of Israel toward Palestinians, and reminds us to once again invite all Christians who do feel connected to the social justice, peace and love oriented Jesus to join our INTERFATIH Network of Spiritual Progressives at [4]so that we can work together to amplify these voices and provide comfort and support to those who are being "dissed" in their own religious communities for taking seriously the highest teachings of their God.--Rabbi Michael Lerner Editor, Tikkun magazine [5] and Chair, the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives.

    The Lazy Paralytic

    1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof? Do you have any idea how much that cost to install? Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof? The reeds alone cost five talents. I had them carted in from Bethany.” 6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions. He continued, “This house is my life. And the roof is the best part.” The disciples fell silent. 7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?” 8. “No,” Jesus answered. “This is a gated community. How did you get in?” The man’s friends grew silent. 9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems? I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends. “There is no one. His injuries are too severe. To whom else can we go?” 11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus. “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone? That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system. 12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why? Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.” The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus. “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic. “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.” “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.” 13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?” “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic. “I don’t know. Why don’t you sell your mat?” 14. All in the crowd then grew sad. “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof. Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed. 15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.

    The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd

    1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 2 But Jesus said to them, “Why not give them something to eat?” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 3 For there were about five thousand men. And Jesus said to his disciples, “You know what? You’re right. Don’t waste your time and shekels. It would be positively immoral for you to spend any of your hard-earned money for these people. They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves and brought more food. As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.” 4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching. “But Lord,” said Thomas. “The crowd will surely go hungry.” Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness. “That’s not my problem, Thomas. Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them on a regular basis. Where will it end? Will I have to feed them everyday?” “No, Lord,” said Thomas, “Just today. When they are without food. After they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so better able to listen to your word and learn from you.” Jesus was grieved at Thomas’s answer. Jesus answered, “It is written: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon contractual per diem. But he distributed none to the crowd, because they needed to be taught a lesson. So Jesus ate and he was satisfied. The disciples somewhat less so. “Delicious,” said Jesus. What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus, should he grow hungry in a few hours. The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.

    The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man

    1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 2. And Jesus said to him, “What have you done so far?” 3. And he said to Him, “Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents for a building with a nice reed roof, and now I have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk.” 4. Looking at him, Jesus felt an admiration for him, and said to him, “Blessed are you! For you are not far from being independently wealthy.” And the man was happy. Then Jesus said, “But there is one thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you will have a treasure indeed. And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen. Those are really nice.” The disciples were amazed. 5. Peter asked him, “Lord, shouldn’t he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?” Jesus grew angry. “Get behind me, Satan! He has earned it!” Peter protested: “Lord,” he said, “Did this man not have an unjust advantage? What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or who, despite all their toil, live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?” 6. “Well,” said Jesus, “first of all, that’s why I left Nazareth. There were too many poor people always asking me for charity. They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me. Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably rebound, and eventually some of it will trickle down to the poor. Blessed are the patient! But giving the money away, especially if he can’t write it off, is a big fat waste.” The disciples’ amazement knew no bounds. “But Lord,” they said, “what about the passages in both the Law and the Prophets that tell us to care for widows and orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee? What about the many passages in the Scriptures about justice?” 7. “Those are just metaphors,” said Jesus. “Don’t take everything so literally.”

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