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Ch. 1: Angels and Devils 
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
Cattleman wrote:
I think we all may get little confused by some of Fitzgerald's writing style. I may have a leg up on many due to my personal experiences with the Mormons. As I was reading this chapter (and some of the later ones) I thought "Were all the people at this time so gullible?" Then I remembered Jim Jones and Jonestown, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, and the many other cults that have sprung up in my own lifetime.


You may be able to put Charles Manson in your list as well. Smith is handsome and tall and charismatic. While reading I am flabbergasted by how easily Smith is able to manipulate, but I suppose if you are in desperate need of something, a swindler will be at your door, and if your are open minded to it, you will buy what he has to sell. You can never underestimate the power of charisma!

I am enjoying the book, I look forward to reading it every night, so I guess I have to say I like the writing style, however, Fitzgerald tries too hard to be funny at times, and the humor somehow gets in the way. Maybe Fitz. wants this book to be easily assessable to all readers and his little snide remarks may be his way of achieving this.



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Cattleman
Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:45 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
Suzanne wrote:
, however, Fitzgerald tries too hard to be funny at times, and the humor somehow gets in the way. Maybe Fitz. wants this book to be easily assessable to all readers and his little snide remarks may be his way of achieving this.


Ah HA! I think you have put your finger on it!

I was expecting this book to be more analytically critical, and it's not. The author is trying to make it accessible in a way that it would not be if it were written in that more academic style.

Thanks for the insight!


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Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:01 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
Suzanne wrote:
Fitzgerald tries too hard to be funny at times

This is a superb book. What we have here in Joseph Smith is the greatest of the con men who rode the great wave of American frontier expansion in the nineteenth century, testing the limits of the possible in terms of fraud, personality cult, adultery, lies, imagination, murder, exploitation, twinkling blue-eyed charm and persuasion, energy, procreation, religiosity, social control, general self-serving bizarreness and making it up as you go. In the 1820s anything seemed possible with the rapid growth of America, and Jo Smith obligingly explained to anyone who would listen that yes, anything is possible through faith (in him).

The humour in FitzGerald's writing style is a way of coping with the utter tragic absurdity of Mormonism. If you didn't laugh you would have to cry. The material FitzGerald has to work with provides fertile resources for humour. How can people be this stupid? For fuck's sake, one of these maniacs just almost became President of the USA! What a crazy country.

Did you know that on the moon, men are mostly about six feet tall and dress mostly in the Quaker style? At least according to the greatest scientist of the nineteenth century, who sadly was shot dead in the wild west in a mob ambush, Joseph Smith. How could any serious person deal with such nuggets from Mr Imaginary Golden Tablets without a smile? These are some of the solemn facts unearthed by Mr FitzGerald.


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Sun Sep 22, 2013 5:07 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
I'm glad I discovered this group in time to participate in the discussion about this book. I'm a family historian and am frequently at the local LDS church doing research. The folks there are just the nicest people I've ever met, and still I find their beliefs and practices disturbing. Having just finished Reza Aslan's Zealot (which disappointed me in being more a bibliography than a biography of the historical Jesus) I'm really struck by the parallels between the births of these two religions. Both religions appeared at times of great political uncertainty--in both periods there was a strong sense that the "end of times" was near, and spiritual hucksters were popping up left and right. It's almost impossible at a distance of 2000 years to understand why Jesus, out of all the messiahs executed by Rome at that time, became the lighting rod of Christianity, so it's really interesting to have a recent similar case study to analyze.
Why are humans so obsessed with magic, anyway? Despite all our experience and evidence to the contrary, we chase after astrology, ghosts, wicca, crystals.... On the other hand, maybe it's just a different take on dogs cowering under the bed in a thunderstorm.



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Robert Tulip
Sun Sep 29, 2013 7:09 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
KayR wrote:
I'm glad I discovered this group in time to participate in the discussion about this book. I'm a family historian and am frequently at the local LDS church doing research. The folks there are just the nicest people I've ever met, and still I find their beliefs and practices disturbing.
Hi KayR, welcome to Booktalk, and to this interesting book. I have never had direct contact with Mormons, except for some nice young men in white shirts and ties who visited my home a few years ago and gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, which, sad to say, has languished at the bottom of one of my book piles. There is an immense trumpet of Moroni in Carlingford near where I grew up in Sydney. They really found a fantastic spot - in a saddle where Sydney's north meets west, at a cultural crossroads.

I just came across a long term study (see below) which shows Mormons ilve ten years longer than average, due to clean living, good habits, strict morals, church going, friendliness and faith, not to mention eating breakfast every day. So it is fascinating that such a loopy cult can be so successful, producing such positive personal results. It seems the content of belief is secondary to its power as an organising framework for a community.
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Having just finished Reza Aslan's Zealot (which disappointed me in being more a bibliography than a biography of the historical Jesus) I'm really struck by the parallels between the births of these two religions. Both religions appeared at times of great political uncertainty--in both periods there was a strong sense that the "end of times" was near, and spiritual hucksters were popping up left and right. It's almost impossible at a distance of 2000 years to understand why Jesus, out of all the messiahs executed by Rome at that time, became the lighting rod of Christianity, so it's really interesting to have a recent similar case study to analyze.
The real similarity for analysis is that Jesus Christ was as invented as the Mormon plates. The case studies of evolutionary psychology of organisational power bear comparison between Mormonism and Christianity, and also communism.

Stalin showed that the real power potential of Marxist ideology rested in the position of general secretary of the communist party. While ideas have an inspiring power, a Joseph Smith needs a Brigham Young to adapt the ideas to social needs, just as Marxism-Leninism needed the brute effrontery of Stalin to make it work (for a time), and just as the Jesus story needed the orthodox church.

The original natural mystic Gnosticism of Christian beginnings needed the church to pare it down to a believable message that would suck in and keep the gullible, inspiring members to produce stable, durable and fertile institutional replicators, with a meme set that would adapt and evolve by the same laws of evolution that governs the success of genes.

With Christianity and communism, as with Mormonism, the question remains whether the false superstructure contains an authentic kernel which provides an adaptive power, serving to justify the flimflam in which it is packaged.
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Why are humans so obsessed with magic, anyway? Despite all our experience and evidence to the contrary, we chase after astrology, ghosts, wicca, crystals.... On the other hand, maybe it's just a different take on dogs cowering under the bed in a thunderstorm.


Religion claims to connect society to reality, in terms of a unifying story or myth. Human psychology insists that reality is a mystery, but a plausible tale needs to explain the unknowable while retaining respect for the fantastic, in order to serve as effective organisational and social glue.

The magical content of Mormonism provides an internally coherent and fecund vision of reality, but requires some desperate tricks to restrict its adherents attention to within the bubble. Mormonism has proven fertile and durable, but its stability has to be questioned since it is so unscientific.

As promised, more on the famed Mormon longevity. Attending church tends to be positive for health, due to the benefits of social interaction and learning on knowledge, behaviour and morale.

abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/03/25/ ... ur-health/ comments:
Dr Richard Besser wrote:
[abridged] Faith and medicine frequently intersect. A support system based on shared faith can be extremely helpful in the healing process. A twenty-five-year study of a group of California Mormons showed that the life expectancy of Mormon men was almost ten years longer than that of the general population of white American males. The longevity effect was most pronounced for those who never smoked, went to church weekly, had at least twelve years of education, and were married. Additional benefits were seen in those who were not overweight, got plenty of sleep, and exercised. The authors found similar benefits among Americans of any religion who practiced the same healthy behaviors.

The correlation between being a churchgoer and longevity was partially attributed to self-selection. Churchgoers were less likely to engage in high-risk health behaviors. The meditative nature of religious services can lower stress levels. Many services preach love, forgiveness, hope, and optimism, which foster a positive outlook on life that can translate into good emotional health. Many sermons address the importance of giving thanks, and we know that gratitude can be very important for mental health. The sense of community, the group aspect of organized religion, has a big impact on their health.

You don’t need to be religious to practice the healthful principles laid out by many of the world’s religions. Those should apply to everyone. Even if you aren’t religious, it’s worth embracing some philosophies espoused by many faith-based organizations that are good for your health and the health of others:
•Find a loving relationship and stick with it.
•Support those around you in their times of need.
•Give thanks for what you have. There are many benefits of being grateful. It has been shown to strengthen social bonds and makes people more likely to want to help us again. There is also promising evidence linking practicing gratitude to better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and less stress.
•Stay in school. Education is good for your health.
•Treat your body like a temple. Eat right, get regular exercise, get a good night’s sleep, don’t smoke, and if you drink, do so in moderation.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:50 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:46 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
Alain de Botton wrote an interesting book--Religion for Atheists--examining the benefits to society of different facets of religion, suggesting ways they could be incorporated into secular society. It definitely changed the way I look at religion.

NY Times review of "Religion of Atheists"



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Post Re: Ch. 1: Angels and Devils
Remember the name of the series and the intended audience "The Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion". A "light" writing style is good, we are looking for accurate facts, but don't need turgid academic hand-wringing. By the end of the book I doubt we'll consider the subject deserves a rigorous treatment. Already the fraud conviction and contradictory accounts of the "First Vision" give a sickening odor.

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KayR said On the other hand, maybe it's just a different take on dogs cowering under the bed in a thunderstorm.

:goodpost:



Tue Oct 08, 2013 6:13 pm
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