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Mormon Zombies (From Space!)

Aug

11

by

Missionaries from planet Kolob invade earth to explain God’s bellybutton, eat brains


A DISPATCH FROM THE FRONTLINES OF THE CULTURE WAR

BY IAN MURPHY

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We should chain them up in your basement,” I offered. “You know, get all Gitmo on their asses— sensory deprivation, extremes in temperature, naked pyramids… That’s the only way to really get through to these things.

Debbie Goddard was silent.

“And then eventually, you know, we strap them to a chair, prop open their eyes and reprogram them like in Clockwork Orange, but, you know, to stop them from committing acts of the ol’ Ultra Mormon.”

Debbie Goddard was stoic.

“And, uh, we’ll probably have to use tape, you know, because who sells those little reverse eye clamp things? Walmart? And instead of ruining Ludwig van for them, let’s use… uh… the Osmonds! But, anyway, yeah. Yeah?”

Debbie Goddard was skeptical.

“Or we could,” I say, rolling my eyes, “you know, just be nice to them and learn their crazy ways.” Working over some Mormon missionaries and unbrainwashing them for the common good has long been on my Militant Atheist “Bucket List.” I’m only thirty-one, so there’s plenty of time.

“They’re here!” Debbie shrieks, peeling back the drapes to watch them creep up the driveway. She lives—I mean, works at a secular humanist nonprofit called CFI. It’s a Center For Inquiry, the world’s largest. Founded in ’91, when philosopher and prolific author Paul Kurtz joined two preexisting skeptical groups under the same Secular Humanist umbrella, CFI covers the rational spectrum from ghosts to gods and Jesus to Jenny McCarthy. Debbie’s in charge of organizing outreach to students and black people. She loves her job. She’s changing the world – the way people think about the world. I hope. That’s why she invited two Latter-day Saints over to her place on a Saturday. That’s why I was invited to stay, too, having had the dubious honor of sleeping on her couch after making several ill-fated sexual advances on her the previous night. On a recent panel discussion featuring PZ Myers and something called a “Skepchick,” she identified as LGB&T. All of them. Whatever that means. She’s a tall, zaftig, post-gender, post-racial, post-label, polymath with dark brown eyes deep enough for swimming. Her hair pulled into a tight, black bun, she looks every bit a wise and sexy lady Sumo. I want to wrestle her. You have no idea. Falling asleep on her couch at dawn, I found myself wondering, “Am I woman enough?”

From left to right:
From left to right: pre-earth life, Veil of Forgetfulness, Earth life, spirit prison, resurrection of Jebus and judgment, and the three kingdoms of the afterlife. So, yeah, that.

As in the battle of the sexes, I’ve knowingly been the stupidest kind of culture warrior: over zealous, belligerent and counterproductive—just being a jerk, for cheap laughs. Debbie, however, practices a skilled form of rationalist Jiu-Jitsu. Her goal is to use the Mormons’ own crazy momentum to throw them off their faith. I want Mormon Gitmo, but I’m a guest in her home, and I have much to learn at her feet. You have no idea.

Sisters Wilkinson & Doucette (not pronounced “Douche it,” we are assured with ruddy cheeks) beam as we make our introductions. They are modestly dressed, buxom and attractive, if toothy and pale, young women. Normally, they don’t meet with dudes, for fear of rape, I imagine, as I imagine raping them. But that would be sort of rude.

Sister Doucette wistfully picks an Iron & Wine song on one of Debbie’s guitars. I quietly taunt them by enjoying my coffee. Mormon missionaries are not allowed to listen to secular music, let alone play it, and coffee is the Devil’s drink. “Dang it!” she vulgarizes, ditching the guitar and inspecting her smarting fingers. “I used to scratch on the wall of the church to build up calluses,” she relays, with some inkling of irony. The younger of the two, about twenty or so, the Sister’s facial expressions betray her. Or at least that’s what I’m led to believe by “Lie to Me.” I’m also led to believe that to inspect someone’s face, one needs an elaborate and expensive, transparent room-cube with blue lighting, for no fucking reason. But I digress.

Forty-five minutes pass without mention of religion. Both sides till the soil, anticipating planting the seed of doubt and faith, respectively. Sister Wilkinson talks about Zac Efron, LEDs, screen resolution and technological progress. Debbie “geeks out” on the Blues Brothers (“We are on a mission from god.”), various zombie-themed video games and Star Trek, as she’s prone. We talk about the future prospect of teleportation. “I don’t think that will ever happen,” Sister Doucette peeps, looking away, intimating what would soon be revealed: Mormon theology is harder to swallow than a plastic baguette.

***

We usually don’t talk about this stuff at first,” Sister Wilkinson admits with incredulously darting eyes. “A lot of people say what we’re doing is,” she hushes, “blasphemy.” Perfect! I think. Debbie spearheaded CFI’s first annual Blasphemy Day. Contest winners were given cash, for their godless doodles and essays. It drew international excitement, but created an oddly public schism within CFI. Kurtz was hopping mad that CFI had become a bunch of “Angry Atheists.” Debbie was inspired to pursue the project based on Kurtz’s editorial decision to publish four of the Danish Muhammad cartoons in the April – May ’06 edition of Free Inquiry and his subsequently staunch “Defense of Blasphemy.” Debbie now keeps her own blasphemy in check.

“And are our spirits physical things?” I ask.

“Yes,” Wilkinson counters, adding that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Logically, my thought is how these “spirits” or “souls” can be empirically measured, but she quickly adds that it’s a “special” kind of matter, natch.

“And does god have a bellybutton?” After a bit of uncomfortable wiggling, Sister Wilkinson lands on “Yes.”

“And he’s from Planet Kolob, right?” Debbie asks with a tiny smirk.

“Yes,” was the ultimate answer. As it turns out, LDS doctrine was a big influence on the sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica,” which has as one of its main themes the quest to find the mythological, and similarly spelled, planet “Kobol.”

“Whoever wrote that show,” chirped Sister Wilkinson, “really knew something!” The creator of the original series, Glen Larson, really did, too. A devout Mormon, he incorporated LDS themes such as the fusion of time & eternity, and the “council of twelve [apostles],” into the plot. He also knew enough not to use too much Mormon theology, because it would have made the galactic war between the humans and the robotic Cylons too fantastic to believe. Larson, incidentally, created “Knight Rider,” which may explain why Kit was such a squeamish, little bitch.

I’ve been only vaguely aware of some of the more ridiculous facets of Mormon dogma: Jesus flew to America to hang out with the injuns, Joseph Smith was a demonstrable conman, and the church’s attitude toward blacks and gays has been atrocious. The Book of Mormon explicitly states that black folks are marked with melanin as a punishment for sin, and the massive Prop 8 effort to “protect marriage” from fags in California, though now taking a more civilized turn in court, was mostly Mormon bankrolled. They are dicks. Huge fucking cocks, slapping America in its face and insulting intelligence around the globe. But you have no idea!

So, here I am sitting next to the half-black, LGBT, atheist superwoman of my idiotic affection and two representatives from one of the most historically prejudicial religions in American history. I’m expecting Hiroshima. What I get is an intellectually mature (on Debbie’s part) discussion. Balls.

At the heart of this LDS “blasphemy,” which often inspires other Christians to protest, is this core belief: the reward of a good Mormon in the afterlife is to become a god. Literally. This is, as it was explained over the course of five long hours, why god has a belly button. Dude has parents, grandparents, great grandparents, ad infinitum. As the Sisters fancy themselves god’s “spirit children,” they too will become fecund deities in the pyramid scheme of Mormon theology – you know, if they’re not banished to the “outer darkness,” for drinking coffee. What this means in terms of a universe vs. a multiverse, or monotheism vs. polytheism is not exactly clear. “Does this make sense to you?” Sister Wilkinson asked.

“No!” I blurted. “It’s crazy!” This was my only outburst. I stared in unbelief at the quaint hand-drawn and laminated shapes splayed over Debbie’s coffee table (see image) and felt like I was back in my early childhood – looking intently over Jehovah’s Witness children’s books of genital-free angels and thinking something just wasn’t right. I went outside for a smoke, and when I returned, my coffee was soaking into the carpet. An “accident” Wilkinson claimed.

“The way I remember it is with ‘seaturtles’,” Wilkinson says. That’s her mnemonic device for recalling the three post-judgment day “kingdoms” – Celestial, Terrestrial and Telestial. They’re all groovy places, we are told. Celestial is the best, but those in the other kingdoms wouldn’t be able to fathom more joy than they are experiencing. And, as I mentioned, Satan’s ilk are banished to “The Outer Darkness.”


Of course, before you get to be a god in the Celestial Kingdom, you have to go through the whole pre-earth life and subsequent “Veil of Forgetfulness,” earth life, death, a spirit world lounge/prison and then a Jesus-led resurrection. Duh! Becoming a god doesn’t happen overnight.

(The phenomenal ego and political hubris demonstrated by a prominent Mormon like Glenn Beck (to say nothing of his explicit race-hate) makes a bit more sense after my Saturday afternoon encounter. A man on the path toward divinity is bound to revel in a delusional sense of power, importance and duty.)

***

The infinite quality of the Mormon deities has an oddly chutney flavor – gods upon gods creating for all time. Very Hindu. Very sci-fi. Add American Jesus, and it’s very stupid. The Sisters were visibly embarrassed when Debbie mentioned Scientology. How could they not? How could she not?

We made our goodbyes to the zombies, our brains intact, and theirs still clouded with nonsense. They are very curious as to what I’d been scribbling in my notebook all afternoon, because, they claim, there’s so much disinformation out there. Just like the Scientologists, I think.

Deferring to Debbie’s battle plan, there was no knockout. But her subtle jabs landed squarely, setting the LDS pugilists on uncomfortable footing. Will it result in the serious introspection needed to destroy their faith? Small seeds of doubt were planted this day, but they’ll likely not grow into atheist oak.

As much as I adore Debbie (you probably have some idea), I was slightly disappointed. She’s an intellectual heavyweight; she could have crushed those Mormon Zombies. We listened. She knows that overt confrontation will send them fleeing back into their fantasies. But I’m an impetuously Angry Atheist. She’s playing the long game; the smart game. She won’t panic as the zombie horde approaches. She will know herself and her enemy. She will battle beautifully, never tripping on high heels. She wouldn’t be caught dead in heels.

Maybe in the end, I jest, we Secular Humanists should pit one denomination of zombie against the other and watch from a high perch the battlefield clutter with dogma’s death. I think it’s an elegant idea. Debbie says nothing.

The End?!

MORMON-ZOMBIES

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  • Ana

    No, why did you bring up Jehovah’s Witnesses in this context? I am really tired of them being compared to Mormons. The beliefs could hardly be more different if they tried. I have no problem with things being said which are true (and not based on rumor) but if clothed angels are your big thing here, I don’t really see the relevance.

    Sorry, this just bugged me. The article itself was very well written.

  • admin

    Ana: Thanks. The only reason I brought up the J-Dubs was because the “teaching” materials the Mormons used reminded me of the silly, child-oriented nonsense I was, unfortunately, exposed to as a kid. And, sure, Mormons and J-Dubs take a different route to Crazy Town. But it’s still crazy town, Ana.

  • Alan

    No offense to Ana, but what is the difference in crazy here? JW’s just believe in a different fake story. I went to school with a girl who would go around saying she was one of the chosen, and wished there was no Christmas break. What kind of normal kid doesn’t want 2 weeks off? Oh right, she mentioned being ‘chosen’. I guess it’s over my head. Her along with the Mormons and their braided belts, it’s about all I can stomach.

  • http://bullmartin.blogspot.com Kyle

    You called yourself a Secular Humanist, which, as I understand it, rejects any form of god or spiritual rhelm. Fair enough. However, I also thought that the whole idea of Humanism is that we don’t need a God or Jesus to guide us into believing or knowing what is right and wrong and that we treat people in the right way because it is the right thing to do. Not because I’ll get a reward in the end. I say this because Christianity (should be) at it’s core about loving and serving people and placing others above self, so Humanists should embody this without the need of religion superstitious belief. The way that you speak about these dillusional youths doesn’t sound to me like someone who is interested in their well being, but simply in humiliating them and trashing their deeply held beliefs. Their beliefs, regardless of how ridiculous they might be are dear to them and may in fact be the way they are able to make sense of their world. I certainly understand your atheistic point of view, but I don’t get why, as you described yourself, an Angry Atheist wants to bully two young girls (or could have easily been boys) into abandoning a positive aspect of their lives. If they arrive at your conclusion on their own or through conversations with friends or family that’s another deal, but atheists who want to jar Christians, Mormons, or whomever out of their belief systems make me just as suspect as the Bible-thumping evagelist standing on the milk crate in the middle of a busy city warning everyone of the coming doom. Why do you care? It’s not as if these girls are Glenn Beck, who sets himself up to be challenged. They were invited there. Thankfully, your friend Debbie had enough respect to withhold some of your more calloused and aggressive conversion tactics, but still I wonder: why does she care? Why doesn’t she simply live her life the way she wants and leave others to their “dilusions” if that’s what they are? Christians who try to legislate their beliefs by voting on ammendments to constitutions, Muslims who terrorize with violence in the name of their religion and Militant Atheists who antagonize and berate believers all appear to me to be cut of the same cloth. There is something in all of these groups of people that just can’t stand people believing differently than they. Everyone needs to step back and say, “I could be wrong.” Because you could be. Atheists, Christians, Mormons, Muslims, whomever. You could all be wrong or you could all be right in some respect. It just really concerns me when people, anyone, claims to know, as fact, beyond a shaddow of a doubt, that which it is impossible for anyone to know.

  • DebGod

    @Kyle, you ask, “…why does she care? Why doesn’t she simply live her life the way she wants and leave others to their ‘dilusions’ if that’s what they are?”

    Because they *vote*, and they breed, and they teach, and they *do* affect my life and those of others. It’s not the fact that people believe weird things that’s the problem. The problem is the behavior that results from those beliefs. Weird beliefs influence:

    - perspective on the environment (e.g., if God made the world for us, and Jesus is coming back within our lifetime, then why worry about pollution?)
    - treatment of women and other ethnicities (Biblical justification for slavery, anyone?)
    - policy on Israel
    - science curricula
    - stance on same-sex marriage
    - views on medicine, vaccinations, contraception, abortion…

    Otherwise, thanks for the feedback. :)

  • Bruce

    Kyle, WTF is a militant atheist? Will someone please tell me?

    I thought militant meant some kind of armed nutter running around in a jungle/desert/whatever, who may or may not be a terrorist, depending on if we’re giving them money or not, blowing shit up, killing people – ya know, the whole raping and pillaging thing?

    If attacking the bullshit post-hoc apologetics and the so-called “nuanced interpretation” of texts inspired by illiterate camel herders and bronze-age carpenters with nothing more than razor wit and the steely gaze of rationalism is “militant”, then I fear my education has been poorly lacking…

  • Bruce

    PS Kyle, you may find this enlightening: http://xkcd.com/774/

  • Biff Squat-thrust

    Next time, try giving them some salt. I understand that’s a foolproof cure for zombies.

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