US election 2012: Richard Dawkins calls Mitt Romney ‘gullible fool’ over Mormon faith


Richard Dawkins on Sunday accused Mitt Romney of being a “massively gullible fool” as he launched into a furious tirade against the Republican’s Mormon faith.

Britain’s most prominent atheist attacked the core tenets of Mr Romney’s religion, saying that the Church of Latter Day Saints’ founding prophet was “a fraud” and that the presidential contender was “too stupid to see it”.

“No matter how much you agree with Romney’s economic policy, can you really vote for such a massively gullible fool?” asked Prof Dawkins during an outburst on Twitter that lasted several hours.

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.

Prof Dawkins said Smith was a “19th century charlatan” and that the Book’s text appeared to be written in a falsified ancient tone, unlike the Bible and Koran which were “written in the language of their time”.

Written By: Raf Sanchez
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  1. We Americans will get the leadership we deserve.   

    In fairness to Romney, let’s remember he comes from a long line of Mormons; he did not take on that religion.

  2. There will undoubtedly be critics who accuse Professor Dawkins of being “strident” and “shrill” for his choice of adjetives in describing Mormonism and its adherents like Romney. Before jumping to that conclusion, I would strongly suggest that they first take a look at the actual teachings of the cult’s prophets, apostles, and general authorities:

    They should scroll down the whole page, open the earlier posts, read them all. They can then judge for themselves: would it not be foolish, gullible, and stupid to believe in such teachings? Can anyone, in good conscience, defend them?

  3.  Unlike Glenn Beck, solidifying him as possibly the stupidest public figure in the world.

  4. I know it’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again.  Romney’s religious beliefs are no more ridiculous than ordinary Christian beliefs.  Ergo, let’s be fair and say that Obama is also a gullible fool.

  5. When you’re choosing who to give the keys to the world’s biggest nuclear arsenals, it might be best not to choose a gullible, dinosaur denying, creationist in scratchy long johns who threw his critical faculties in the bin when he accepted membership of this celestial ponzi scheme.

  6. Hmmm.    Would it be ok to come from a long line of murderers ?   

    Lies stacked upon lies or foolery stacked upon foolery.    

    You are willfully ignorant if you believe this Mormon rubbish and morally corrupt if you represent it.

  7. Romney was raised a Mormon in a family that had roots in Mormonism going way back.  he did not “accept membership”.

  8. Fair comment.  Best not to elect anyone to high office who considers this life to be an entrance exam for the next.

  9. Honestly.  A man went
    walking in the woods and emerged with a cock-n-bull story about a “god” who
    commanded men have multiple wives? Really? 
    Can’t you just see that light bulb going off over his head while he was taking
    a siesta under a nice shade tree, coveting all his neighbors’ wives?

    I can completely understand how generations of men thought
    that was, indeed,  mighty fine deity
    Smith had dreamed up, and I can imagine the threats that rained down on the
    head of any female who expressed doubt about his utterly fraudulent creation. (Or
    maybe some of them were downright thrilled their husbands would be often otherwise

    Mormonism is nothing but the first “Playboy” club – an
    outlet for male entertainment long before Heffner provided men monthly “Playmates”
    through the mail. (Modern pornography is also more affordable” male escapism….all
    those wives/kids ARE expensive.) 

    Today, all that’s left of the original lie is the ‘big
    business” of a secretive, cult of small-minded, bigoted blowhards who think
    they’re simply “special.”  (And they’re
    right:  they’re especially naive, running
    headlong into unbelievably ignorant.)

    If this country is stupid enough to put fool Romney in the
    White House – they will surely reap what they sow. (I will be living in

  10. Mmmm… not so sure about that, John. Tell you what: read through some of these teachings by Mormon prophets and apostles:… And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

    Wouldn’t you say they are at least a tad more ridiculous that “ordinary” Christian beliefs?

  11. I dismissed the Mormons when I read the Book of Mormon as a child that I found at my grandmother’s.
    Why is this not obvious to Romney?
    1. he is lying. He imagines pretending to believe this will help him get elected.
    2. He thinks it is most probably untrue, but the consequences for dismissing it when it is true are unthinkable awful, or at least so said mummy, in that same tone of voice she warned about toasters and forks. 

    Religious cons are the most ancient and well polished and effective of cons. 

    In the Sting, Henry Gondorff, played by Paul Newman, explains the best stings, the mark never even figures out he has  been taken.  That’s Mormonism/Christianity!

    Joseph Smith mocks his believers.  The angel MORONI!  Give me a break.

  12. Mormonism is even sillier than Christianity.  It has not attracted the derision it deserves because up to now it had very little visible political power.

  13. No bias at all in that reporting…

    How is pointing out how patently ridiculous the tenets of Mormonism are a “furious tirade”?

    I also love how his statements are reported as being “outbursts”.

    Does the press even make a passing attempt at objectivity any more?

  14. Obama had better brush up on his economic policy else we’ll all be broke and Mormornism will be the least of our worries. Dawkins has made this too easy for him, Obama has to win.

  15. Is it even possible to indulge in a “furious tirade” in what amounts to a single line of text per comment on Twitter? I thought “tirades” had to be longer than that 🙂

    Anyhoo, journalistic hyperbole aside, I think Romney has bigger problems in this election than his batshit crazy faith. Paul Ryan lying through his teeth almost every time he speaks including “losing” over an hour from his own marathon run time might turn out in the end to bite Romney in the ass as hard as choosing Palin as a running mate did to McCain.

    Of course Romney hardly having a single new or sensible policy idea, refusing to disclose almost any specifics about the few he does, declining to release any more tax returns and saying that his first step to reducing the national debt will be to give away a further 5 trillion in tax deductions to the super rich is hardly helping much either.

    WTF is it about Republicans and tax breaks for the rich anyway? They’ve done that every time in office for 30 years and it always achieves the same thing. The debt goes through the roof. It’s like a family trying to make ends meet and Dad saying he’ll fix the problem by going down to the car dealer in the morning and buying a new sportscar. It’s just fucking stupid. It’s a perfect example of Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over but still expecting a different outcome.

    What about Big Bill Clinton’s speech though? Brilliant. The man is just awesome. Massive intellect, a myriad facts at his fingertips, the most engaging speaking style of any orator for decades and half of it unscripted and off the top of his head for god’s sake.

    I’m wandering off topic. I’ll get me coat 🙂

  16. In another couple of thousand years will anyone be able to tell the difference? Or will they talk about Smith, Moon, and Hubbard in the same hushed tones people use for Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed today? Of course I’d like to think that religion will be dead and buried long before then, but I’m not wildly optimistic.

  17. I thought associating with elite fraudsters and rip-off artists was  the basis for sponsorship in right-wing politics!

  18. How is any of this more ridiculous than, say, Mr. Ibn Abd-Allah’s claims that extraterrestrials (“angels”) appeared to him in a cave and “revealed” to him that Jews were no better than apes? I’d contend that all cult mythologies are equally ridiculous when mistaken for historical fact. It just becomes more obvious the closer in time you live to their origin.

  19.  I agree that Mormonism is utterly crackpot!

    I wonder, however, if there is any possibility that given the number of people in the USA who

    1.  believe in any number of other crackpot religions


    2. are  generally antithetic to atheism,

    comments such as those made by Richard, though not out of the way in atheist circles, nor a harangue, are useful at this time. Might they not rebound to Romney’s advantage?

    I dread to to think what we are in for if the republitwerps get in.

  20. From a strategic point of view, this may be the ideal time to take aim at Mormonism.  Romney is making it relevant.  There must be Christians (both Democrat and Republican) worried if he becomes president he will find  ways to squash Christianity and favour Mormonism.  

    Mormonism is one of the goofier religions along with Scientology. It has heretofore avoided attracting pot shots because it was obscure. We used to tell “little moron” jokes. Now we need to tell “little Mormon” or “little Moroni” jokes that feature the gullibility of Mormons and the silliness of their beliefs.  

    One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent.
    ~ Henry Louis Mencken 1880-09-12 1956-01-29 

  21. Dr. Dawkins talked about 16th century language in the Book of Mormon written in the 18th century as evidence it was a fraud.  I think this argument went over everyone’s head.  

    Why wouldn’t a pompous charlatan write in the “thou shalt not” language that people of his era associated with religion?  They still do. 

    He needs to explain the CLAIMS about where the wording came from.

  22. Wonderful! Mormonism is a great example of how people are able to believe ridiculous nonsense if they are really stupid, and it serves as a great example of how religion dsitorts the mind – it is the definition of brainwashing. Why would anyone want to give someone this stupid any kind of authority? Unless of course they want more government corruption where the big industries are able to manipulate congress, via lobbying, because of their disgraceful lack of knowledge about how the world really works. We need smart, educated people in government, who are able to make rational decisions based on reality, otherwise we are in big trouble!

  23. There’s probably quite a bit of cognitive dissonance going on in the minds of most people of faith when it comes to the content of their holy books, and there’s no reason to believe that Romney and Obama are any different.

    Romney isn’t a complete fool; he must be aware that Joseph Smith’s account of Moroni and the golden plates is full of holes. And Obama doesn’t believe in talking serpents or virgin parturition any more than Richard Dawkins does.

    But, and this is an area where atheists often come crashing down because many of us just don’t seem to get it, religion works for them, as it does for a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be real for it to be effective, anymore than belief in the supernatural is required if one is to enjoy a horror movie.

    When people say that Obama just has to be an atheist because he’s too smart not to be, and Romney must be an idiot because he believes the Garden of Eden was in the American Midwest, they’re not taking into account how good we humans are at being able to juggle wildly inconsistent notions.

    Not everybody wants to get a look at the man behind the curtain; most people are happy enough wandering around the Emerald City looking for souvenirs and maybe getting their picture taken with a munchkin. 

  24. “Prof Dawkins outburst appears to have been prompted by an appearance on
    Swedish television, where he was interviewed alongside Brandon Flowers,
    the frontman of the band The Killers and a prominent Mormon”

    What outburst, fortunatly we can see for ourselves …

    ‘Richard Dawkins on Skavlan, TV talk show`

  25. The commonest riposte to my Mormon tweets (and it occurs in this thread too) is the superficially seductive one that all religions are daft, so why single out Mormonism? Isn’t Obama a Christian, and isn’t that just as bad. Two points:-

    1. There seems a good chance that Obama is an atheist. The fact that he professes Christianity means nothing. He’s an elected American politician and if you fail to profess some kind of religion you are not an elected American politician. Even if Obama is Christian (which I would estimate at  about 50/50) he most certainly is not the kind of Christian who believes in Adam and Eve. If he is Christian, he is surely the kind of Christian who regards biblical “miracles” as “symbolic” or “metaphorical” rather than literally true. Romney, on the other hand, seems almost certainly a true believer. He was a zealous Mormon bishop. A  woman here ( recounts how, after she left the Mormon church, Bishop Romney showed up on her doorstep in order to “excommunicate” her. She had already left of her own accord, so wasn’t it rather officiously presumptuous to “excommunicate” her? Is Romney, perhaps, a reformed character since his bishop days? In an even more obnoxious reprise of the same presumptuousness, he posthumously baptised (charming Mormon custom) his father-in-law, who had been a strong atheist, 14 months after his death ( Moreover, if Romney were professing religion for reasons of political expediency, he could easily renounce Mormonism (it is an electoral liability among the Christian Republican base) and relabel himself “spiritual” or vaguely “Christian”. Romney, it seems certain, is a strong, believing Mormon. 

    2. Christianity, even fundamentalist Christianity,  is substantially less ridiculous than Mormonism (and Obama, if he is Christian at all, is certainly not fundamentalist). Christian scriptures are genuinely ancient. The translations from Hebrew and Greek that Christians use are in a language contemporary with the translators. The Book of Mormon is not ancient and the language of its alleged “translation” is ludicrously anachronistic. It was dictated by Joseph Smith, a man with a track record of charlatanry, purporting to translate it from “Reformed Egyptian” with the aid of a magic stone in a magic hat (Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish is not less plausible). The English in which Smith dictated it is not the English of his own time (1830) but the English of more than two centuries earlier. As Mark Twain cuttingly observed, if you remove all occurrences of “It came to pass” the book would be reduced to a pamphlet. The language in which it is written proclaims it to be a palpable fake – as if Smith’s cock-and-bull story of golden plates hadn’t already given the game away. Smith obviously was steeped in the King James Bible, and he made up a whole new set of “scriptures” in the same style of English.

    Setting aside the mountebankery of Smith’s English style, many of the core beliefs of Mormonism run counter to everything we now know for certain about the colonisation of America. DNA evidence, for example, utterly refutes the claim that native Americans are “a remnant of the House of Israel”. The idea that Jesus visited America is preposterous, and the idea the Adam and Eve did too is even worse (it is at least arguable that Jesus existed). The traditional Mormon belief in the inferiority of black people (only lately renounced for reasons of political expediency) is as scientifically inaccurate as it is obnoxious.The great “prophet” Brigham Young even prescribed the death penalty for inter-racial marriage.

    No, in the best of all possible worlds we don’t want a Christian President, but in the world of political expediency we are probably going to have to live with a President who at least pretends to be Christian. We most emphatically do NOT want a Mormon President, and there seems very little hope that Mitt Romney is only pretending to be Mormon.

  26. The other main retort to my Mormon tweets is an important one. It is that a candidate’s religion should be ignored unless he allows it to impinge on his policy. The principle of this was laid out by J F Kennedy, when his Catholicism was counting against him. It appears to some readers to be enshrined in Article VI of the Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Of course that is right. There should never be any law barring a person of any particular faith (or none) from holding office (as the law of England, for example, prohibits a Roman Catholic from occupying the throne). But of course that admirable constitutional clause doesn’t prohibit individual voters from taking the religion of a candidate into account when they make up their own minds in the voting booth.

    Even if Romney, like Kennedy (but unlike G W Bush) scrupulously kept his religion out of his politics, a voter would still be entitled to take account of his religious beliefs in deciding whether he had the intellect and the judgment to be a good president. It is rational to say something like this: Never mind whether Romney’s taxation policy, foreign policy, education policy etc is completely free of Mormon influence, I am still entitled to say that a man sufficiently gullible to believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet, and sufficiently unscientific to believe Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, is not qualified to be president of the world’s most powerful country.

  27.  I agree I was raised in that crazy cult and no one that believes in that religion should be a leader of a powerful country. For me it was easy to reject the Mormon god and all others all you have to look at it’s history and see through the lies. Romney is not a very intelligent person if he hangs on to these beliefs.

  28. Thank you for those informative posts expanding on your tweets.  They were wholly satisfactory.  I too had thought Romney might be a Mormon the way Obama was a Christian.  I had no idea that he had been a bishop engaging in silly and obnoxious faithful activities.

  29. No, they might not rebound to Romney’s advantage. I doubt any significant portion of the electorate will say “Gee whiz, I was thinking about voting for Obama, but now that this strident atheist Dawkins has spoken disparagingly of Mormonism, I have an overpowering urge to choose Romney.” And that miniscule minority who might reason in such a bizarre and flighty way is beneath our notice.

  30. Yes, all that is true. But spreading the social opinion that such acceptance of absurdities will get you branded a fool may go a long way to getting people not to assume they can engage in such doublethink without consequence. And bit by bit, such shoddy habits of mind wither, if not completely away, to the point where they no longer dominate our discourse. That is a worthy goal, and remarks like Dawkins’ are actually how we get there. What Sam Harris has called “conversational intolerance” for this sort of intellectual hypocrisy and buffoonery. It’s good and needful work.

  31. I would expand on your point that Article VI of the Constitution “doesn’t prohibit individual voters from taking the religion of a candidate into account when they make up their own minds in the voting booth.” It also doesn’t prohibit journalists and commentators from looking into the religion of a candidate, and sharing what they find, and giving their opinions on what the candidate’s religion says about the candidate.

    People in the US (and maybe beyond the US too) tend to think it does, just as people in the US and beyond tend to think the First Amendment extends everywhere. There’s a deep squeamishness about criticizing a candidate’s “faith” even though it’s obviously relevant to trying to figure out what the candidate will do.

    (I don’t know why I have a male avatar. Did Burton or Jacobi play Ophelia? I think not!)

  32. Well said, Professor Dawkins! I would challenge anyone to look at just these few Mormon teachings and not conclude that the cult is several degrees higher on the ridiculous scale than Christianity in general:… And one can be fairly certain that such beliefs would, indeed, have a marked affect upon a Mormon’s political decisions:

  33. …”Never mind whether Romney’s taxation policy, foreign policy, education policy etc is completely free of Mormon influence,…..”
    i.e. the things that actually affect the lives of voters. Hmmm…

     ….”I am still entitled to say that a man sufficiently gullible to believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet, and sufficiently unscientific to believe Native Americans are a lost tribe of Israel, is not qualified to be president of the world’s most powerful country.”

    Indeed you are; and the voters of the US are just as entitled to decide whether his silly beliefs will have any effect on his policies should he win the election. Since Mormons comprise about 2% of the US population, I doubt Romney will make his Mormonism the driving force of his presidency. I don’t think his beliefs proved much a problem to the voters of Massachusetts, that bastion of right-wing fundamentalism!

    This is all very reminiscent of the commentary in the run-up to the election in 2000, all of which proved to be quite silly.

  34. “There seems a good chance that Obama is an atheist.”

    If Obama is an atheist, he should come out and say so. If telling the truth costs him the presidency, so what. Surely any candidate’s first duty to the public he wants to lead is to be honest. If they knowing the truth reject him…well, that’s just bad luck.

  35. I’m not sure that Romney’s apparent zeal as a bishop is proof of his belief in the tenets of Mormonism, unless there’s evidence that his actions back then were off his own bat, so to speak, and he wasn’t just acting on the orders of his superiors in the Church. I’m not familiar with the heirarchy in the LSD, but don’t bishops in most denominations of Christianity usually have to answer to an archbishop or higher?

    In the Huffpost article, Lani Gerson says, “There was no curiosity on his part about who I was and what this was about.” This sounds like Mitt was simply following orders and didn’t really care one way or the other, not that he was motivated by religious zealotry. And there’s nothing else in the link to suggest that his past actions in his bishopric were those of a true believer. If anything, he seems to have been bored during this period.

    As to his refusal to renounce his faith being the clincher, I don’t think it’s as easy as RD says for someone seeking high office in the States to dump his religion. The American electorate may regard Mormonism as an unknown quantity and something not to be entirely trusted, but that’s as nothing compared to the contempt they have for those who discard their personal belief systems in order to get elected. If Romney had undergone a conversion to mainstream Christianity on the eve of his campaign for the presidency, or even in the few years preceding, then even the most knuckle-dragging Republicans would have smelled a rat.

    I’m still not sure why Richard seems to think Obama is an atheist, unless the wish is father of the thought. My impression has always been that Obama’s faith is quite sincere; unlike Romney, who seems always to have had his eye on big money and big power, culminating in his shot at the White House.
    And George W Bush’s conversion to faith never seemed to be anything other than a case of political expediency, a way of getting a coke-snorting, hellraising scion of the Bush dynasty into the oval office. None of his actions while Commander in Chief suggests that he was ever remotely concerned about the prospect of eternal damnation.

    I’m fine with Obama’s being a Christian, given that America is an overwhelmingly religious country. He seems to be a good man whatever his beliefs are. Whether that’s because of his faith or in spite of it, who can say? I would have a bigger problem if I found out that he’d been lying to the voters all this time. Not enough to make me vote for Romney, but still….

  36. Anyone who supports a religion that recommends more than one wife must be significantly below average intelligence or hoping everyone else is. 

    Stupid or greedy but that encapsulates his entire party. 

  37. It is much easier to play “armchair atheist candidate” than it is to “come out” as an atheist in the midst of a close Presidential campaign knowing that it will almost surely cost you the election.  If Obama needs to play the God card to be re-electable, I don’t begrudge him that.  I would rather he lie about it than tell the truth and hand the election to Romney and Ryan (as well as the domino effect that would surely occur in congress).

  38. Now hang on a sec. Either a politician’s private religious views are important or they’re not. If you are willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt by saying that his public pronouncements on religion are unimportant, lacking any conviction, and unlikely to affect his policies, you must surely extend the same courtesy to Romney? If you don’t, the obvious inference, in my opinion, is that you have a bias against one candidate.

    I think I’d look a bit more closely at some of obama’s past religious affiliations before I’d start throwing stones at Romney. And I must say that I despise this tendency among Democrats to believe that their supposed ideological superiority entitles them to mislead those silly voters, who don’t know what’s best for them and who need to be treated like children by their all-knowing political masters. Tell the truth…if the public rejects you, then you really shouldn’t worry too much about leading a group who don’t value you as a politician.

  39. RJMoore said “
    If Obama is an atheist, he should come out and say so. If telling the truth costs him the presidency, so what.”

    Oh how I wish I could agree with you – but I can’t. Politics is about changing things. Its about moving to a better place. But the system will, at best, let you move slowly a bit at a time. Jump too far too fast and it all collapses.

    So the guy has to hold onto as much of the Christian vote as he can. At a guess I doubt if Obama really wants to decide whether he is a Christian or not. He see more important things to worry about. Healthcare, if it sticks, will be a revolution no other President has achieved. The studied slow rollback of the stupid Bush Middle Eastern adventures is an intellectual tour de force in navigating seemingly impossible opposing pressures.

    Frankly if Obama can stick christianity back into the churches then its worth becoming a christian! The Kennedy position is the one to get back to. 

    Romney will do his best to exploit or even invent Obama’s equivocation on this issue. I don’t know what Mitt really thinks. It isn’t as important as to what the voters think he thinks. And whether it becomes a prime issue. Sadly “Its the economy, stupid” isn’t a strong diverting issue for Obama but I don’t think moving the election to a refenderum on God is a good idea for the Democrats right now.

  40. I think that, while it is technically correct to  say mormonism and the wider christianity it was derived from are equally ridiculous and stupid ideas, this misses the importance of our wider cultural approaches to religion in general.

    Since the Middle Ages, and even further back, we have made habitual connections between the ancient and the profound. There is a long cultural tradition in almost all societies that venerates ancient, traditional wisdom and treats it as a thing apart, deserving of special respect and status. While this is obviously not a helpful approach to take, it is ubiquitous and near-universal in our cultures. Which is why some vague adherence to or respect for the doctrines of christianity or islam is, de facto, a less ridiculous position to take. It can be excused, if not exactly justified, by the fact that it runs with the grain of our social prejudices, rather than against them. Christianity and islam have built up  vast stocks of this traditional cultural cachet over the centuries, and have very much become a part of the furniture.

    Devout and sincere mormonism has no such get-out. Its history is far too recent, its origins far too well-documented, its doctrines so blatantly self-serving and politically motivated. And its founder was a known charlatan and con-man.

  41. “Politics is about changing things.”
    No; its about presenting your policies and persuading voters that your vision best serves their needs and desires. I’m sure you’d balk at Norwegians changing their health care policy. Change isn’t everything.What should be important is character and honesty. If someone doesn’t have the bottle to admit he is an atheist, I wouldn’t like to see him facing down the Russians(apologies for time warp).

     “He see more important things to worry about.”
    As I said before, why dont you extend to Romney the same benefit of the doubt? What did he do in Mass. that was so radically ‘Mormon’?

    “Healthcare, if it sticks, will be a revolution no other President has achieved.”

    If that’s really true, voters will have no problem backing Obama, regardless of his beliefs. Futhermore, if such reform brings the benefits to the US citizens that you clearly think it will, I can think of no better ‘advertisement’ for atheism.

    “The Kennedy position is the one to get back to.”

    Anyway you look at it, Romney is more liberal than Kennedy.

    Has Romney said anything that would make you think his religion will affect his presidency more than Kennedy’s affected his policies?

  42.  RD said that Romney’s gullibility should disqualify him from becoming presidency. If Obama believes what you acknowledge is ridiculous, then he, as a highly educated and well travelled man, has no excuse to believe what he believes (in respect of Christianity); therefore, he, too, should be disqualified. Futhermore, as a leader of men, he should take the responsibility to be honest about his beliefs or non-beliefs.

    Your explanation of why Christianity is ‘less ridiculous’ than Mormonism might well be true for the average person, but it shouldn’t apply to the most powerful man in the world, who has everything he needs to know at his fingertips. 

  43. I know, surprise, surprise! I’m with Richard on this one. I, too, think Obama is a closet atheist and have since I heard his father was an atheist. I also think he tries to be sincere about his christianity – maybe hopeful about it? What if SOME sort of god exists and we humans just haven’t figured it out yet, but this god hasn’t shown itself so it seems content to let us go on believing in whatever, and most of my fellow americans believe in Jesus, so I will, too?

    I’m just trying to give the man the benefit of the doubt.

    Mitt on the other hand does seem to be a true believer. No wishful thinking, just straight up belief.

    I think it is great Richard is getting media attention shed on this issue. The more ridicule and mocking of mormonism that goes on the better, I say!

  44. Mormon officials have never actually renounced the LDS doctrine that states the ancestors of dark-skinned folk were cursed. They just updated the rules of the priesthood. Said nothing about the original doctrine being wrong.

  45. Professor Dawkins, I think there is another issue you are ignoring, that is the question of political strategy.  I have no argument with anything you’ve said about Romney’s beliefs. I do have issues with whether raising the question of his faith is the best political strategy for Atheists to pursue right now. 

    The likely result is that we won’t change very many people’s minds by doing so and we will alienate a lot more potential political allies. I remember the look of shock on the faces of people on the Chris Hayes show when you raised the issue. And these were all people from the secular left spectrum of US politics. Most of them were appalled at the idea. IMO a much better strategy is for us to push issues of science over irrationality: the insane things politicians are saying about women’s reproductive health (e.g. women can’t get pregnant after a rape), the fact that neither candidate is talking about global climate change, what the candidates believe about teaching creationism, etc. 

  46. Like all religions, the ideas don’t seem so implausible when you are brought up with them and you listen to people you honor and respect speak with passionate conviction that it is all true.  Once you leave the faith, you sometimes feel quite angry that you had been fooled for so long.  The ideas of Mormonism are only slightly less implausible than the stuff you get with Christianity, Islam, etc.  Mormons tend to be highly motivated and quite educated compared to many other religions.  But the power of myth allows these other-wise intelligent people to believe in unbelievable things.   I was an active Mormon until age 30, so I understand the power and staying power of myth, and just how much emotional and intellectual effort it takes to break free of it. 

  47. I think that the Professor has it about right. Any person who believes his magic skivvies will protect him from evil isn’t the person I want in the oval office.

  48. I’m not sure why Richard Dawkins thinks Obama is an atheist unless he’s also mindful of the fact that politicians lie all the time, Obama has labeled himself a Christian many times in writings and interviews.

    If Richard Dawkins is perfectly happy with Obama lying about his “hidden atheism” I wonder what makes RD believe that Obama will not lie about practical things that really matter? i.e. allegiance to minorities, bringing troops home, closing Guantanamo, legalizing immigrants, reducing the deficit; things that he was supposedly elected for and haven’t fulfilled.

    Whatever happened to honesty, integrity and values? Richard Dawkins may agree with the values that Obama openly profess, but what good are these if RD at the same time admits Obama is being deceitful. Sounds pretty much counter-intuitive to me.

    The President’s party and religious affiliation can hardly ever make a significant impact to everyday US citizens, much less the citizens of the rest of the world as both candidates end up ruling from the “center”, ie. on behalf of rich and powerful global interests. RD should already know that. War in the middle east is bound to happen regardless of which candidate wins. I don’t see a point of cheering for  one or the other and as an atheist I certainly don’t share RD enthusiasm for Obama.

    The argument that religious beliefs is a good indicator for a person competency is not a strong one, proof of that is sir Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest scientist of all time, who personally held religious beliefs too.

  49. Let’s not also forget that it is hard for some to come out as an atheist (to family for instance). I don’t think any of us want to “out” people; we should agree that it is their decision. Secondly, the man is the president. I’m sure the security requirements would triple if he claimed to be atheist. I could see his hesitation for the good of his wife, daughters and uprooting the positive direction he has set America on considering the loonies in this country just looking for an excuse to repeat Oswald.

    Perhaps when he is Carter’s age he will write a book and his atheism will be on display. Just a guess.


  50. It certainly is plausible and many argue probable. Just look at the Clergy Project: hundreds of pastors praying every week, not believing a word of it. For all I know Rev. Wright is atheist, though I have no reason to consider that.

    With Obama, I do. 


  51. No, lets be ACCURATE and note that Obama is clearly an Atheist in a country where: a.) One cannot be elected without professing religious belief …and… b.) The African community uses churches as community organization groups to fight for rights denied them — this is a tradition of longstanding and no leader can gain acceptance without some lip-service paid to “the almighty” in much the same way U.S. founding fathers did so, despite their lack of theistic belief.  Invoking “god” was often a way of expressing the unknowns of the universe in not so different a way than we use place-fillers like “dark energy” today.  Obama is no fool, and skipped National Prayer Day because he doesn’t pray in public, nor, I suspect, in private. Romney, on the other hand, is a lifelong believer in Mormon theology.  He spent FOUR YEARS as an overseas evangelizing missionary. He has been elevated to the exclusive position of BISHOP in the LDS Church – a post not lightly-bestowed or handed to anything less than the fanatically faithful, and which he has held for OVER 35 YEARS. Finally, Romney is a lifetime DONOR of $50 Million to the Mormons.  Nobody gives that much “for show”. Romney’s the REAL DEAL: a genuine, believing Mormon; a genuine abject FOOL.

  52. “Clearly an atheist”?? Your (blind) devotion is touching, but the facts dont support your statement.

    Obama(last month):
    “First and foremost, my Christian faith gives me a perspective and security that
    I don’t think I would have otherwise: That I am loved. That, at the end of the
    day, God is in control,”

    I think a belief in a god that is “in control” is the essential characteristic of a theist; correct me if Im wrong. 

    Either he is a theist or an out-and-out liar…. 

  53. So, to be fair, it must be equally plausible that Romney is an atheist going thru’ the (religious) motions, playing the same card that Obama is playing?

  54. Either he is a theist or an out-and-out liar….

    Both are unofficial requirements for politicians the world over, it’s more about the scale of each that seems to make the difference.

  55. Okay, so best of a bad bunch then, Obama still seems the best option to me. On the scale of woo woo believing lying lunatics, Obama seems an nth fold better a choice than Romney given the limited choice.

  56. A few things to consider…

    When Mitt Romney was running for Governor here in Massachusetts, which is predominantly made up of liberal democrats, he frequently mentioned that many of his personal beliefs were not 100% in line with official doctrine of the Mormon church and that many of the things he said while serving as a Stake President (not a “bishop”) were purely a result of him being required to promulgate the official doctrine while in a position of authority within the church.  While serving as Governor here, he claimed to support gay marriage and had a much softer stance on abortion rights than the official church stance, for example.

    Now, granted, the moment he started seeking national office his views suddenly changed to become much more conservative (in line with the national GOP stance, however, and not just in line with official church doctrine).  Which is to say that whatever Mitt Romney may or may not do as President, if elected, I sincerely doubt it will have anything to do with his attempting to be a “good” Mormon.

    As for whether a belief in the Mormon religion (assuming Mitt actually holds such beliefs) evinces a lack of critical thinking and should therefore disqualify him from office, I’ll echo what others have said.  As an ex-Mormon, it’s easy for me to now look at those of my friends and family who still profess to be faithful and wonder what is wrong with them.  At the same time, though, I am fully aware of the cultural pressures that come with growing up in a particular faith and the cognitive dissonance that causes one to not question or challenge the things taught to you on a daily basis.  Even though I didn’t actually have any personal belief in God (let alone Joseph Smith and all the Mormon-specific mythology), I still convinced myself that it must be true if my parents believed in it so strongly and therefore served a mission, went to the Temple, wore the special underwear, etc., until I finally decided to break way at the age of 30.  And even then, leaving the church was a traumatic experience I can only compare to coming out as a homosexual in many regards.

    One other thing I wanted to mention is that, while people here keep talking about the ridiculousness of believing the story of a “known con man with a track record of charlatanry,” the fact is that most faithful Mormons are unaware of that fact and would claim it was a lie if they were told about it.  You might as well ask why any Muslim would accept the preachings of a known pedophile — they probably don’t know the history of Mohammad and wouldn’t accept any proof of it if offered.

    I respect Richard Dawkins immensely, but I do feel he is being disingenuous to call out the Mormon faith as being somewhat stranger than other religious beliefs.  If anything, one of the appealing aspects of Mormonism is that it attempts to adapt to modern situations instead of being bound to 2000 years of tradition.  And there actually is a degree of logic to some of the core beliefs that is absent from traditional Christianity.  Yes, believing  that faithful members will become Gods in their own right and believing that dead people can be baptized posthumously is ridiculous, no doubt.  But it’s less ridiculous than believing that heaven consists of simply basking in God’s glory for eternity and believing that anybody who dies unbaptized — no matter how good and moral — is doomed to an eternity of damnation.

    The bottom line seems to be *not* that the actual doctrines of the Mormon Church are somehow more ridiculous than those of other “mainstream” religions.  Instead, it all seems to revolve around the thought that everybody knows what a charlatan and con man Joseph Smith was and anybody who believes anything he said is a complete moron.  As I pointed out earlier, though, that information is not promulgated within the church itself and would be strenuously denied if pointed out.

  57. To be fair? Certainly. But plausibility is only a minimum standard. Not all things that are plausible are probable. 

    As I said, I have no reason to consider Rev. Wright an atheist or even Mitt Romney, Mormon bishop & president (his words at the 15:10 mark:… ). You and I must agree, however that it’s plausible considering the Clergy Project.

    I do suspect, however, that Obama is a closet atheist. I have never claimed that I can prove this, but I have said that I have reasons to consider it and, as such, it remains my suspicion. 


  58. I am also an ex-mormon, and will second the motion that most members simply do not know about many of the cult’s most ridiculous claims. The reason for that, however, is because the cult’s leaders make a concerted effort to censure, hide, obfuscate, distract, and distort those facts from their own followers. Indeed, for years they have knowingly and purposely waged P.R. campaigns to show a slick, osmondized appearance to the world and eclipse what lies beneath the surface. That, in and of itself, makes the cult truly stranger than most. We just don’t see commercials like “And I Am a Catholic” or “And I Am a Lutheran.”

    I believe that what Professor Dawkin is pointing out, and rightfully so in my opinion, is that there are unique aspects of Mormonism that fly directly in the face of known scientific facts, even moreso than with other religions. There is not, as far as I’m aware, any other cult that claims to have brought forth within the last 200 years new Christian scriptures, via direct intervention by god no less, that supposedly narrate bona fide historical events. As early apostle Orson Pratt challenged the world:

    The Book of Mormon must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions.

    What is, therefore, more ridiculous about Mormonism than other religions is that, try as hard as they can, the cult’s hierarchy cannot hide from its members all the scientific evidence that has now proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it is, in fact, a complete and utter fraud. Surely now and then Mormons open an issue of “National Geographic” in, say, a doctor’s office, and can see the reality of the pre-Colombian Americas right before their eyes.

    This is what is truly strange, ridiculous, disturbing about Mormonism. That its members are so fettered, so blinded, so trapped, so disabled by social pressures of conformity and obedience to authority that they cannot –dare not– admit to others, let alone themselves, that the Emperor is naked.

    So whether or not Romney’s political decisions would be affected by his “attempting to be a ‘good’ Mormon” is not the crucial question to me. It is that he is either capable of staring reality squarely in the face and not see it (ignorant and stupid), or capable of maintaining a façade (liar and hypocrite). Like Professor Dawkins, I want to know what makes a candidate “tick” before casting my vote, and in either case those are not the qualities I want in a president.

  59. These posts go to show how even a world-renowned and respected expert can lower himself to the realms of the fool when he strays too far from his field of expertise.  A quick Google search for the top 10 most banal criticisms of Mormonism doesn’t make you an expert!  Professor Dawkins, you claim to have read some of the Book of Mormon (emphatically not all – that surely would have been a waste of your time!), but that still does not make you an expert.  Yet somehow you feel qualified to make public proclamations about the intellect of a presidential candidate on the basis of his adherence to the Mormon faith.  Would you publicly lambaste another branch of science, having briefly read only a couple of chapters of a core textbook on the subject and the populist statements of some of its critics?  I think not!  The only reason you and your friend Professor Krauss have got away with this approach to Mormonism, so far, is that your like-minded audience is equally ignorant and biased (dare I say bigoted?) on the subject.  Despite this being a forum for people who pride themselves on their intellectual prowess and academic rigour, the level of debate here regarding Romney’s Mormon faith has barely risen above the level of a playground argument about whose Dad is stronger/stupider!

    Let me point out 2 ironies in this thread:

    Firstly, I love the irony of a bunch of atheists quibbling about the location of the Garden of Eden!  To take your own ‘teapot in space’ analogy, for you this is like saying that one group of teapot believers is more ridiculous than the others, for believing that the teapot is located between Saturn and Uranus, since that’s where their leader saw it recently, when the longer-held belief is that it floated between Uranus and Neptune.  How can you dispassionately distinguish between the ridiculousness of either claim?  Both examples are trivial, however.  The ancient location of the Garden of Eden is neither identified in Mormon scripture nor in any way central to Mormon beliefs.

    Secondly, and of far greater significance, is the irony that your ignorance has caused you to choose the wrong enemy.  Mormonism has no quarrel with science and reason, yet you have chosen to pick a fight with it!  Joseph Smith did more to rid Christianity of medieval and Greco-Roman dogma than any other modern Christian leader.  Yes, he replaced it with knowledge revealed direct from God, which is something of an affront to the atheist’s cause, but what of that knowledge?  It encourages learning of all kinds – “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom… Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, 79).  There is no opt out for knowledge and truths from other sources, including scientific ones (indeed these are listed first), even when they appear to contradict knowledge revealed from God.  Incidentally, the God revealed by Joseph Smith bears almost no resemblance to the ‘God Hypothesis’ of your book.  Although many Mormons have a tendency to deal in absolutes, there is relatively little, if anything, in terms of history and science that is contained in Mormon scriptures that is sufficiently detailed and absolute that understanding of it cannot be enhanced by knowledge from other sources.  Here is a wonderful piece of Mormon scholarship that highlights this harmony, both in your field of evolutionary biology and in Professor Krauss’s field of astrophysics: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.ed…  (NB this was written in 1980, so does not benefit from more-recent developments in DNA mapping.)

    It is a core doctrine of Mormonism that all truth is part of the same whole, and that means whether its source is divine or mortal.  Genuine Mormon beliefs (not the ridiculous caricatures so easily found on the internet), though entirely Christian in character, are far more closely aligned with your science-based views than you have imagined, certainly relative to the Christian beliefs that you describe and parody in ‘The God Delusion’.  Yes, there are gaps and apparent contradictions between scientific understanding and knowledge revealed from God – His very existence being the most obvious.  But, is this not also the case within the scientific domain?  As a scientist, you regularly express your faith (let’s call it what it is!) that the scientific method will eventually bridge the gaps and contradictions in our current understanding of the workings of nature and the universe.  As a Mormon, I have faith that all of the remaining gaps and contradictions will be closed that we currently perceive between scientific understanding and truths revealed from God, as the pools of knowledge from both sources continue to expand towards each other.  I have tested both sources and found them both to be reliable, and neither one causes me to reject the other.  Though there are still many gaps, from my perspective the apparent contradictions are very few, and I am quite prepared to wait as long as it takes until they are reconciled. 

    If you think me and Mitt Romney and our Mormon fellows to be gullible fools, then you still don’t understand enough about Mormonism to have a valid opinion on the matter.  As a proponent of science and reason, you have nothing to fear from a Mormon President.

  60. Tim B
    Would you publicly lambaste another branch of science, having briefly read only a couple of chapters of a core textbook on the subject and the
    populist statements of some of its critics?  I think not!  The only reason you and your friend Professor Krauss have got away with this approach to Mormonism, so far, is that your like-minded audience is equally ignorant and biased (dare I say bigoted?) on the subject. 

    Just more made up assertions and unevidenced assumptions that critics are uninformed.

    This site “lambastes” any unevidenced asserted nonsense from any source.

    Perhaps you did not understand yanquetino’s comment which immediately preceded yours?

    I am also an ex-mormon, and will second the motion that most members simply do not know about many of the cult’s most ridiculous claims. The
    reason for that, however, is because the cult’s leaders make a concerted effort to censure, hide, obfuscate, distract, and distort those facts from their own followers. Indeed, for years they have knowingly and purposely waged P.R. campaigns to show a slick, osmondized appearance to the world and eclipse what lies beneath the surface. That, in and of itself, makes the cult truly stranger than most.

    I believe that what Professor Dawkins is pointing out, and rightfully so in my opinion, is that there are unique aspects of Mormonism that fly directly in the face of known scientific facts, even more so than with other religions.

    I found this statement very clear as it should be to anyone with comprehension skills!

    Tim B –  Despite this being a forum for people who pride themselves on their intellectual prowess and academic rigour, the level of debate here regarding Romney’s Mormon faith has barely risen above the level of a playground argument about whose Dad is stronger/stupider! 

    Oh dear!  That theist mirror PROJECTION really does get things consistently backwards in the minds of the unquestioning faithful! 

    It’s a bit like the semi-literate fundamentalists who come here to happily assert atheists should read the bible, when they themselves have not read it, and think it is a history book – because THEY (spoon-fed by preachers), have negligible knowledge of its contents or the nature of their own religions. 

    That’s the thing about “FAITH”! 
    It is a substitute for knowledge and understanding, so it successfully preserves ignorance. 
    It also has its own special pseudo-“logic”, in which “cheerleaders for faith” claim agreement with their own versions of  dogma IS reasoning!

      Tim B – As a Mormon, I have faith that all of the remaining gaps and contradictions will be closed that we currently perceive between
    scientific understanding and truths revealed from God, as the pools of knowledge from both sources continue to expand towards each other.  I have tested both sources and found them both to be reliable, and neither one causes me to reject the other.

    A lot of basic study of scientific method seems to be required to clear up your mis-understanding of science, and to improve your methodology! 
    Many competent people have tested “revealed knowledge” as an information source, and it has consistently proved extremely unreliable and frequently false.

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