October 29th, 2011
10:00 PM ET

The shaping of a candidate: A look at Mitt Romney's faith journey

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

(CNN) – A cop arrived at the roadside wreckage of a June 1968 head-on collision in southern France, took one quick look at the Citroën’s unresponsive driver and, according to one of the driver’s friends, scrawled into the young man’s American passport, “Il est mort” - “He is dead.”

The man at the Citroën’s wheel was Mitt Romney, who may have appeared dead but was very much alive – as is his bid today for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Romney was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the LDS Church, when tragedy struck. It was a time of turmoil both in France and in the United States. Protests against the Vietnam War raged on, as did French disdain for Americans. Robert Kennedy had recently been assassinated, as had Martin Luther King Jr. a couple months earlier. France was still reeling from a May marked by riots, student demonstrations and crippling worker strikes.

There were six people in the car Romney was driving when friends say an oncoming speeding Mercedes, driven by a Catholic priest, veered into his lane. Among the passengers was mission president Duane Anderson – Romney was serving as his assistant – and Anderson’s wife. Anderson was injured, and Leola Anderson, 57, was killed. Like her husband, she’d been a parent figure to the approximate 180 Mormon missionaries in the field - their surrogate mother away from home. Now, she was gone.

“I don’t think [Romney] went around blaming himself, but in talking about it he’d shed some tears,” remembered Dane McBride, a fellow missionary and Romney friend ever since. “It was a very heavy experience for a 21-year-old.”

The mission president left France for six weeks to bury his wife and heal. A gloom spread over the mission field. Conversions dropped along with Latter-day Saint spirits.

These young men and women, who were already deep in a trying spiritual rite of passage, had to grow up and prove themselves in new ways.

In spite of his grief and a broken arm, Romney and a missionary companion – they always work in pairs – took charge. They traveled around the country visiting the others. Romney lifted up deflated missionaries with silly made-up songs. He taught them to visualize all they could accomplish and challenged them to raise their expectations, McBride said.

Romney increased the conversion goal for the year by 40%, believing they could and would recharge. In the end they surpassed Romney’s goal of baptizing 200 new members into the church.

It wasn’t such a stretch, though, for Romney to distinguish himself. Throughout his life, he’s been rooted in a faith that – whether he talks about it or not – helped shape the man and GOP presidential frontrunner he is today.

‘An American running for president’

Romney hopes to get the nod that eluded him four years ago.

Back then, during his first bid for president, he faced opposition from candidates including Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister and favorite of evangelical voters who billed himself as the “Christian leader.”

Romney has faced questions about his faith since first getting into politics in 1994, when he ran for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts against Democratic stalwart Ted Kennedy, whose attack on Romney’s Mormonism failed to gain traction.

Since then Romney, who was later elected Massachusetts governor, has played down his faith on the campaign trail. But he addressed it in a December 2007 speech, hoping to stem voter concerns about his faith and how it might influence him as a president. It was a speech he likened to John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech, when Kennedy was in the running to be America’s first Catholic president.

“Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president, not a Catholic running for president,” Romney said. “Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

He said, “No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith,” and that if he were to be elected president, he would “serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest.”

“A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” he said. “I believe in my Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs. Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it.”

Whether Romney’s confession of faith did sink him was a subject of debate. He hoped to deflect the focus on his religion while not speaking to doctrine or specific beliefs. In the whole speech, he only mentioned the word Mormon once.

Just days later, Huckabee would stir the pot.

“Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?” Huckabee said to a New York Times reporter. Huckabee later apologized for the remark.

This time around, Romney remains strong in the polls and counts among his backers New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who endorsed Romney shortly after saying he wouldn’t join the race.

But Romney also has been distracted by pesky background noise. After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the recent Values Voter Summit, Pastor Robert Jeffress said Republicans shouldn’t vote for Romney because Mormonism is a “cult.” 

Despite such efforts to instill doubt in voters, a recent CNN/ORC International poll showed that a candidate’s Mormon faith made no difference to 80% of Americans, and that 51% believed Mormonism was a Christian religion.

Beyond condemning Jeffress’s comments and Perry’s association with the pastor, Romney’s campaign has made it adamantly clear that it doesn’t want to discuss his faith. Repeated attempts to speak with the candidate, his wife, his children, his siblings - and, really, just anyone – about Romney’s faith journey were denied by campaign headquarters. Even the reins it has on those outside the inner circle appear tight. A local LDS Church leader in Michigan, contacted in hopes of finding childhood friends, forwarded CNN’s inquiry to campaign headquarters - prompting yet another slap down.

“What makes no sense to me is how you continue to push forward in writing about Gov. Romney’s faith journey when we’ve made it clear in every way possible that this is not a story we want to participate in,” campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

Mitt Romney -- with wife Ann to his left -- hopes to become the first Mormon U.S. president.

Without talking to him, it’s impossible to say exactly what Romney believes. But what Mormons generally believe is this:

They count themselves as Christian because they accept Jesus Christ as the son of God and believe people are saved through his atonement. They believe the Bible is the word of God, and that the Book of Mormon (subtitled “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”) is, too.

Opinion: Who says Mormons aren't Christian?

They believe The Church of Jesus Christ, which existed long ago, was restored by a prophet named Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS Church in 1830. Central to their belief system is that God still reveals truth to modern-day LDS Church prophets, as well as to individuals – Mormon or otherwise.

Explain it to me: Mormonism | Video: Mormonism defined

They attend weekly services in chapels, also referred to as “wards” or meetinghouses, while their large temples (accessible only to those deemed sufficiently faithful) are utilized for the most important and sacred ceremonies, including baptisms for the dead and celestial marriages - during which couples are “sealed” for eternity. Mormons with temple privileges wear special undergarments as a reminder of their faith, and those who are devoted abstain from alcohol, tea and coffee.

Through faith, prayer and service to others, they strive to be more like Jesus and get closer to God. Latter-day Saints place great emphasis on families, believing that through them – and not alone – people can find a place in the highest level of heavenly society.

Families, Mormons say, can be united forever.

Growing up while abroad

The 19-year-old Mitt Romney who showed up for missionary training was different than the rest.

“Mitt stood out from everyone else,” said Byron Hansen, who flew with Romney to France in July 1966. “He already spoke French pretty darn good, while the rest of us knew ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir.’ He immediately jumped out as a leader.”

Romney, like many of the other young men called by church leaders to serve, had finished a year of college before he got his missionary calling. But he’d gone to prestigious Stanford University and came from a privileged and powerful background.

He was worldly, not intimidated, and he was eager to interact with people of different backgrounds, said Hansen, now a car dealer in Brigham City, Utah. “All the rest of us from no-name Utah had never been more than 500 miles away from home.”

Despite the comforts he’d known growing up, Romney wasn’t spoiled. Some apartments that housed missionaries around France lacked heat and water, but had plenty of fleas. Those sorts of conditions likely made Romney appreciate all the more the luxuries of the mission home, located in the ritziest part of Paris, where he worked and lived during the latter part of his two-and-a-half year mission. He and the others there were fed by a Spanish cook and enjoyed the benefits of maids.

What’s more, said fellow missionary and friend Dane McBride, the young men learned what time of day to peer through windows to watch Brigitte Bardot walk her poodles.

The scenery aside, “it was the nicest office I ever worked in,” said McBride, now an allergist and immunologist in Roanoke, Virginia.

Throughout his mission, Romney was the first to get out of bed each morning, forever focused on his goals and the lessons he’d teach, and he stayed gung-ho even when others faltered, Hansen said.

Romney didn’t shy away from approaching anyone. On Saturdays, a free day for missionaries, he’d be done with his laundry by 9 a.m. and coaxing everyone else out the door for bike rides in the mountains, tours in new places or football games.

“He was never one to sit around,” Hansen said. “You had to run to keep up with Mitt.”

He was both pragmatic and creative when it came to sharing Mormon teachings, McBride said.

“Neither of us cared for knocking on doors much,” said McBride, referring to the typical tact for Mormon proselytizing. “But we did it. We did it a lot.”

However, Romney was a big proponent of what McBride called “creative contacting.” In lieu of going door-to-door, he preferred to encourage conversations by building sidewalk kiosks or inviting French locals to play baseball or attend evening parties with American themes – complete with Western wear and guitar strumming.

Being a missionary in largely secular France deepened Romney’s faith because it forced him to wrestle with challenges, steep himself in study and prayer and face plenty of rejection, McBride said. Like others, Romney was no stranger to doors being slammed in his face or getting his behind kicked while heading down apartment stairwells. These sorts of encounters, his friend said, help a person mature and grow.

Establishing a connection with others in the face of adversity is central to the missionary experience, and it’s a skill Romney carries with him today, McBride said.

“Mitt knows how to find common ground with people,” he said. “You learn that being a missionary. … And it’s how you get things done in politics.”

Religious roots that run deep and strong

The groundwork for Romney’s faith journey was laid long before he put on a suit and, armed with his Book of Mormon, boarded a flight for France.

He comes from a long line of Latter-day Saints. Those who like to highlight what makes him different might point to how one of his great-grandfathers fled to Mexico, about 125 years ago, amid U.S. government crackdowns on what Mormons refer to as “plural marriage.” But many multigenerational Mormon families have polygamists in their family tree.

Plural marriage was introduced by church founder Joseph Smith but was officially banned by the church in 1890. Some 38,000 people aligned with fundamentalist offshoots of the LDS Church still practice polygamy, but they are a far cry and completely separate from the 14 million worldwide members in Romney’s church.

Romney’s late father, George Romney, was from modest means. He was born in Mexico to monogamous U.S.-born parents and left during the Mexican Revolution when he was 5. He went on to be CEO and chairman of the now-defunct American Motors Corporation, governor of Michigan and a presidential candidate himself in 1968.

Mitt Romney with his father, George Romney, who made his own mark as a leader in business, the LDS Church and politics.

Growing up Mormon in Michigan made Mitt Romney a member of a distinct minority. There were fewer than 8,000 Mormons in the state in 1945, two years before he was born, according to the LDS Church. It’s been reported that he was the only Mormon in his high school. While Mormon students in Utah could simply stroll across the street from school to attend early morning seminary before the first bell, longtime friend McBride said Romney didn’t have that easy, built-in outlet to strengthen his faith amid peers.

“Neither of us had benefited from that,” said McBride, who also grew up as a Mormon minority in Iowa and North Carolina. “We had been called on in school to defend our faith many times. … I remember from fifth grade on needing to defend my religion.”

Romney’s family, though, was active in the church. In 1952, his father was named Michigan’s first stake president. A stake is comparable to a diocese and has under its umbrella multiple “wards” or congregations, much as a diocese consists of parishes.

The LDS Church does not rely on professional clergy. Instead, church members are called to serve as volunteer leaders while holding down paid jobs. Church leaders rely on other volunteers as advisers. For instance, a ward bishop has two counselors, while a stake president confers with a high council of 12.

Being Michigan’s sole stake president meant Romney’s father – in addition to his full-time corporate work – oversaw ward operations, was the spiritual guide for the Latter-day Saint community and relayed messages from church headquarters in Salt Lake City.

Like many practicing Mormons, the Romneys enjoyed “family home evening” every Monday, a time reserved to pray, study and sing together, McBride said.

Romney has spoken publicly about how his parents took him and his three siblings on mobile American history lessons, McBride said, loading up the family Rambler for cross-country tours to national parks, with stops at places like Mount Rushmore, Valley Forge and Williamsburg.

But McBride said the family also likely visited LDS historical sites, including points along the path westward traveled by Mormon pioneers who followed the call of Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, and trekked through treacherous conditions to arrive in 1847 in what is now Utah.

While Romney’s parents made sure their children were deeply connected to their country and their faith, Romney didn’t reside in a Mormon bubble. He was part of a bigger and more diverse world.

Ann Davies, the woman he fell for and now calls his wife, was Episcopalian when he met her during high school, and he knew she was the one for him.

After he left for college and then his mission, she began studying Mormonism, attended church with Romney’s parents and converted. He returned from France and proposed to her immediately. After a civil ceremony in Michigan, the two were married and “sealed” for eternity in 1969 during a sacred ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple.

The couple returned to college and began a family at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, before moving to Boston, where Romney earned law and business degrees at Harvard.

Serving his LDS community

Romney rose in local church leadership while making his corporate mark. Along the way he applied many of the skills he’d displayed earlier, including his knack as a young missionary for turning challenges into possibilities.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, he served as a ward bishop – or part-time pastor – and stake president for the Boston area.

Romney delivered sermons, counseled couples, and made middle-of-the-night hospital runs. He monitored budgets, weighed welfare needs of immigrants and others, and drove outreach to different faith communities. He showed up at the homes of Latter-day Saints in need of help, taking on tasks such as removing bees’ nests.

Philip Barlow, now the chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, served as a one of two counselors to Bishop Romney in the early 1980s.

Each Saturday, the counselors would meet with Romney in his home in Belmont, a suburb northwest of Boston. And while the work was serious, it didn’t mean Romney always was. Barlow recalled the time Romney busted out with a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and did a formidable moonwalk across the floor.

“The media is always reporting that he can come across as too polished,” Barlow said. “But there’s a real person there.”

Romney also was the kind of leader who built bridges with those suspicious of Mormons. When a chapel under construction in Belmont burned to the ground amid ongoing anti-Mormon sentiment, he turned the perceived arson attack into opportunity.

Non-Mormon churches offered their buildings to accommodate the needs of the displaced Latter-day Saints during the chapel’s reconstruction. While it would have been easier to pick one place to call a temporary home for services, classes and meetings, Romney accepted every viable offer he received – thereby forcing a rotation of interaction with different faith communities.

“It was an inspired move,” said Grant Bennett, who at one time served as a counselor to Romney when he was a bishop and later served on the Boston stake’s high council under Romney when he was president.

Experiencing the kindness of strangers offered relief to Mormons who had been feeling “a little under siege,” said Bennett, who first got to know Romney through church in 1978 and worked with him for five years at Bain & Company, a global consulting firm that Romney eventually led as CEO.

“In a religious context, Mormons are very good at serving each other and are often hesitant to accept help,” he said. “I think Mitt had the fundamental insight … that we’d be better off and [the other churches would] be blessed by helping us.”

It was the sort of decision perhaps born of being in the minority in Michigan and learning early to honor religious pluralism, said Bennett, now president of CPS Technologies, a high-tech manufacturing firm in the Boston area.

On the campaign trail and with media, Romney hopes to focus on matters other than faith.

In his religious roles, Romney had to delegate and call others to serve. Sometimes he believed in people more than they believed in themselves.

Andy Anderson, a retired researcher and writer in Kaysville, Utah, first got to know Romney amid tragedy. It was Anderson’s mother who was killed in the 1968 car wreck in France, and when his father returned to Paris, Anderson, his wife and children went along.

When Romney later moved to Anderson’s neighborhood in Massachusetts, Anderson said he helped Romney and his family settle in.

In 1989, Anderson said he was minding his own research business when Romney, then the Boston stake president, called him for a meeting. A group of new converts Anderson described as “Cambodian boat people” – united formally as a “branch,” which is smaller and less developed than a ward - had suddenly lost its president without warning.

In shock, he listened as Romney said, “Guess who’s the next branch president?”

Anderson said he’d been raised to accept church callings. But between the language barrier, the cultural differences, the poverty and the responsibility, this one seemed too much. He begged and pleaded with Romney. He told him he was unqualified, that he’d “never been president of anything.” He said, “It sounds like a really bad fit, Mitt.” But Romney wasn’t swayed.

“Andy, you know where this comes from,” Romney answered, referring to the Mormon belief that God can reveal truths to individuals. “It’s not me. You go talk to Him and tell me when you’re ready.”

For the next three years Anderson said he oversaw the poorest people in the Boston stake. The overwhelming task “nearly killed me,” he said. But along the way he not only fell in love with the community, he learned to believe in himself and see that he could be a leader.

“I count Mitt as a friend, and it has been a real pleasure to work under him,” he said. “If he was a real pain to work for, I’d know it. I’ve worked for people in the church I couldn’t stand.”

Women’s view of Romney

The Romney reviews from Latter-day Saint women in the Boston area were more mixed.

In the early 1970s, as the feminist movement gained steam, a group of Mormon women began gathering in Cambridge to explore the history of women in their church. They were looking for role models, stories that would inspire them.

With the help of LDS Church historians, they learned about their female ancestors and wrote a book, “Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah.” They discovered that a women’s newspaper, Women’s Exponent, was published in the late-19th and early-20th centuries and featured women’s writings that Judy Dushku described as “very feminist in their views.”

“We were reading about women we’d never heard of before,” said Dushku, a Suffolk University professor of government with an interest in gender. She and other “founding mothers” were moved to start a new publication, now a quarterly magazine: Exponent II.

That decision, however, was not received well by the LDS Church, Dushku said. She said the fact that it was independent and had no stamp of approval from church higher-ups, all of them men, rubbed some - including Romney - the wrong way.

Dushku said Romney encouraged friends to tell their wives not to participate. He made it clear he didn’t want the women behind the publication holding meetings on church property. Dushku and the others suspected it was under his direction that copies of the magazine displayed in congregations got dumped in wastebaskets.

The LDS Church is patriarchal in nature. Only men can serve as bishops, stake presidents and in higher leadership roles, including the combined post of church president and prophet. Only men are welcome in the priesthood, which in Mormon circles means having the authority, for example, to perform baptisms and offer sacramental blessings.

Dushku decided she could live with this and remains a faithful Mormon.  She said she and the others simply wanted an outlet for women to discuss issues unique to them. And while what they created may have seemed “radical” back then, she says there are Mormon women bloggers today who push boundaries much more than Exponent II ever did.

What got to Dushku about Romney was less his reaction to the magazine and more how she saw him treat women he was in a position to comfort and support as a local church leader.

Dushku has told the story of a woman, a mother of four, who was pressured by then-Bishop Romney to go forward with a pregnancy despite advice from doctors that a medical complication made it too dangerous.

She also recalled the story of a meeting between Romney and a woman whose ex-husband had been excommunicated from the church because of numerous affairs he’d had while serving as a bishop.

The woman asked Dushku to accompany her to the meeting, where Romney encouraged the woman to forgive her philandering ex so he could be re-baptized into the church and marry another woman.

The problem, Dushku said, is that the husband had never bothered to apologize to the wife he’d hurt, a fact she said Romney didn’t seem to care much about.

Since speaking out to media recently, Dushku said she’s been flooded with responses from Facebook friends. Most of the reactions are positive, thanking her for her courage.

But some friends have suggested she back off.

“How can you blame someone who has so many responsibilities?” one friend wrote. “He was young,” said another. “People change.”

Dushku said she affords Romney the possibility he may have changed, that he might handle such situations differently today.

“But compassion is a character quality,” she said. “I doubt he’s much different now.”

Her take on Romney, though, doesn’t jibe with that of Helen Claire Sievers, executive director of Harvard’s WorldTeach program, which brings volunteer teachers to developing countries.

Sievers, who’s been involved with Exponent II on and off since its inception, was the Boston stake activity director when Romney was stake president. She recalled being at a meeting in Dushku’s house in Watertown, outside of Boston, when women began wondering aloud about how their local church might better empower women.

“Often leadership in the Mormon church tends to pull far to the right, to out-orthodox the orthodox,” said Sievers, who later proposed to Romney that he should meet with the Boston LDS women to hear their frustrations and suggestions. Romney was willing to have such a meeting, even though it bucked the comfort level of church headquarters.

“I was really impressed that Mitt felt strongly that even if he could get in trouble with the hierarchy, he really wanted to hear what the women that were under his stewardship had to say so that they would feel as comfortable as possible in church,” Sievers said.

As a result of the meeting, which drew more than 150 participants, Sievers said adjustments were made, including allowing women to say opening prayers at church meetings. Romney didn’t have the power to change church doctrine, but Sievers said he could and did bend the norm to make women feel heard and more respected.

“Many Mormon men wouldn’t make that choice,” she said.

Serving outside the stake and ward

In his fulltime work life, Romney showed that his commitment to serving others extended beyond those in his ward or stake. His religious values came through in business decisions – sometimes trumping opportunities for financial gain.

Robert Gay, who was once a managing partner at Bain Capital, the venture capital firm Romney founded, recalled how Romney refused to put investment dollars into a deal with Artisan Entertainment because he didn’t want to profit from R-rated films.

But of greater note to Gay - who once served on the Boston stake’s high council with Romney - was something Romney did for him in 1996.

After Gay’s 14-year-old daughter went missing for three days in New York, Romney shut down Bain Capital in Boston and flew about 50 employees to New York to help find her.

The girl, who lived with her family in Connecticut, disappeared after going to a concert in Manhattan. Romney and the other Bain Capital executives put their “$1 billion investment firm” on hold, created a “war room” at a hotel, paid to print 200,000 fliers, set up a toll free hotline number and enlisted the help of a private investigator, the Boston Globe reported at the time.

They canvassed streets and talked to runaways. The girl was found in a New Jersey home, “dazed from a disorienting dose of a drug,” the Globe reported.

It’s not a story Gay likes to retell, though he did record a video testimonial about it during Romney’s 2008 presidential bid. Today, Gay would rather offer other insights, including the time another Bain Capital partner suddenly fell very ill and was hospitalized. Romney was the first person to show up for a visit at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Gay now lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, and manages an equity fund with Jon Huntsman Sr., father of another GOP Mormon presidential hopeful. Gay called Romney “a devout Christian,” someone who has always been committed to “leading a good and purposeful life.”

What faith means for future

Romney, like the other prospective candidates for president, will remain under the microscope in the months ahead.

His past will be combed, his policies scrutinized, his record examined.

How much his Mormon faith plays into his political journey remains to be seen. But whether he likes it, whether his campaign can control it, the fact that he may be on track to become the first Mormon president in U.S. history will garner attention.

It’s a reality that Romney friends like McBride acknowledge, even if it disappoints them.

“The issues of his church are not the issues of this country. Those are personal issues,” he said. “I hate to see further articles [about his faith], but, on the other hand, what do you do?”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (2,731 Responses)
  1. htaagency

    This is a good man and a brilliant man according to his life. I want a smart and capable leader again. Mitt Romney 2012.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Kristina

      Sheik, given your assertion, maybe you should ask Harvard Business School why they have such a disproportionately high number of Mormons in their ranks.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • UVA Fan

      Sheik, you are so funny. Your comments are so helpful. We need someone like you to run for office with your intellect and wit.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Wow, this is really a tough one. Hmmmmm. Perhaps because the have A LOT OF MONEY?

      October 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Kristina

      A lot of money? Yes Sheik, your comments are funny. Humor me some more! How did they get so much money if they are all so stupid? I know making up stuff is fun, but here's an article to read if you ever want to start making informed comments.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Father O'blivion

      @UVA Fan
      My dear child, I know the Sheik and I can tell you this, he would not be a good president. He spends most of his time petting his bunny and reading thrillers. If he were president, he would insult most heads of state in the first week and do something crazy like suggest that we invest in our own country rather than wage war.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Father O'blivion


      First of all, let me say thank you for debating. So many people in here NEVER respond to questions. Clearly, you think I don't respect others opinions. That is fine because in many cases it is true. We all have opinions. I have mine. You have yours.

      Now, you said, "A lot of money? Yes Sheik, your comments are funny. Humor me some more! How did they get so much money if they are all so stupid? I know making up stuff is fun, but here's an article to read if you ever want to start making informed comments.

      First of all, anything that says, "christianpost" is not going to attract my attention. I am a Temporal Agnostic. I don't believe in or support religion and I don't feel i t should be a part of our government relative TO government. Wealth is rarely associated with morals and ethics so I am not sure where you are going with that.

      If you have something to say to me that is backed up by science or common sense, I am all ears. I DO NOT disrespect you, I just disagree with you. Having said all of that, I respect you far more the most of these dweebs who can't answer a question.


      October 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  2. LMB123

    JIMBO – FYI – Nobody in the Mormon Church looks at Joseph Smith as a God nor was he as the God's new appointed savior as you put it. He was a modern Moses, who was called upon to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to its origins, since it had obviously become corrupted with man's influence (many religions are proof of that.) We do not pray to Joseph Smith. And those who saw the gold plates never recanted to their dying day. What you said about that is simply not accurate, but a lie spread by anti Mormon trash.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Moses is a fictional character. The premise of your argument has no foundation.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  3. Scott Stanley

    This article is among the first to try to examine the character of Mitt Romney by investigating what he believes and how he acts on those beliefs. The reporter's sources and search are a textbook display of professional journalism. Bravo, CNN. And why do you suppose this piece is so singular in its wholesome fairness?

    October 30, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Why should I care what a politicians religious beliefs are?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  4. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    Mormons believe in violating the separation of church and state – when it suites them.

    In Idaho and Utah there is a Mormon seminary building on virtually every PUBLIC high school campus. If not, they utilize PUBLIC school buses to bus the Mormon kids to-and-from the seminary.

    This is what Mitt Romney believes in. Would you want your kids feeling that kind of religious pressure and invasion at a PUBLIC school??

    I wonder what they would say about building a Mosque on the PUBLIC school grounds?

    October 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Thisisweird

      He wouldn't put pressure on all public schools to include seminaries of any religion. This only happens in predominately Mormon populations. Since most of the tax payers in that area are Mormon and want to send their kids to seminary, they vote for it to happen. It makes sense economically. Your views on separation of Church and State appear quasi-extremist. Obviously not everyone is a Mormon, therefore Romney wouldn't try to pressure schools where Mormon populations are low to have a public high school Seminary, that's silly.
      In places like Utah and Idaho setting an hour aside during public school for seminary kids is fine. It's the democratic process. If the people really didn't like it they'd vote against it.
      You really have no clue what you are talking about do you?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Thisisweird

      Also they are not "Seminary Buildings" it's not like they attach churches to the schools. They just set aside an hour to give Mormon kids an hour of religious education. It's actually pretty interesting stuff and they always allow non-members to come and join them, debate, and talk. They are theology classes. They talk about the scholarly aspects of the Bible and the Mormon's "Book of Mormon." I study Biochemistry at Yale but I have taken a few religion classes there. I've attended Mormon seminary with a friend before. Mormon seminary is pretty akin to a religious class in my opinion. Go check it out for yourself. There is no weird brainwashing involved.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Lesley

      We also get these seminaries in Arizona, but I don't recall ever being given the chance to vote on them. I am always amazed that there just happens to be a piece of land available for the Mormons to buy adjacent to every single school that is built. The kids should get their religious education on their own time, like everyone else.

      I also don't like the way the Mormon church campaigned so heavily in California on the gay marriage issue. I don't really trust anyone from the Republican party who is overly religious to keep their religious views out of their political decision making process.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • SunnyDay

      The statement that seminary buildings are built on public school property or in any manner paid for by government funds is totally false. They are all build 100% with church funds, including any road improvements. You can easily verify this with your local government or school administrator. The poster making these false statements is not interested in educating others, only in spreading bigotry.

      October 31, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  5. Mercury

    Hey it is freakin' hot here!

    October 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  6. David

    It is discouraging to read a well-written article, only to hear angry rants in the commentary. It is as if few people read the text with an open mind and form insightful comments on the article itself. So much anger and mistrust. The article itself lays out a reasonable representation of Mormon's beliefs, yet we see paranoid, and bitter commentary. It is confounding how anyone can read this article and come away thinking Mr. Romney is an evil person, participating in a horrible religion.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      Romney is an idiot and he is participating in a horrible religion.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Do you want a former Moonie for president or a former Branch Davidian? If Obama had been a member of the Black Panthers in college, he would not be president now. Ones assoiation and religious belief system is a critical factor in our choosing a president. It is sad that so many people have lost the basic understandings that formed our country and made it great. They want to believe in the image so badly that they are willing to overlook the ugly reality underneath.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  7. Father O'blivion

    Sons and daughters, listen to what I have to say now....

    Don't be votin' for magic undies, Dubyas' or cancer lovers! No! If you be wantin' to vote for a tool, vote for me screwdriver! It is very useful indeed, far more so than any of the tools currently running for president! Now if we can find anyone in Congress smart enough to use a tool....

    God Bless ya then

    October 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  8. Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

    Find out more about Mitt and the Mormon religion by Googling the following: 🙂

    "Mormon celestial polygamy"
    "the planet kolob"
    "Mormon underwear"
    "posthumous Mormon sealing"
    "Mormon blood atonement"
    "posthumous baptism"
    "Mountain Meadows Massacre"
    "Mormon 1978 Black people"

    There's a reason Mormon males have that smug smile. They know they will own your terrestrial wife in heaven. 😉

    October 30, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Or, you could go to mormon.org.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Father O'blivion

      Well bless 'em then those little rascals!

      October 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      (psst – these are the truthful sites Abinadi doesn't want you to see.)

      October 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • Sircuts

      Yes I am sure mormon.org loves to discuss The Mormon Wars and the degree of Bringum Young's Racism...that is only for the privileged Temple Members all else get the generic version.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Sircuts

      Bringum Young Quotes
      Joseph Smith's wives
      Death Of Joseph Smith
      Mormon Wars

      Damn these Mormons are nuts

      October 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Kristina

      Yes and everything written on the Internet is true. If it's on the Internet, you can believe it! I've read sites claiming to be about what the LDS church believes and found them laughably ridiculous.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Golly, you guys are sure trying hard. What is it you are afraid of?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Sheik Yerbouti

      I can't speak for anyone else here, but I am afraid of spiders. I love me some Mormons because they are so stupid and easy to fuk with.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  9. Hasa Diga Eebowai

    Nothing more ridiculous then one cult thinking they are more right than another because the book their parents shoved down their throats says so.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Jimbo

      If you are referring to the Bible verses the Book of Mormon, consider this, there is a huge avalanche of historical evidence and acrheology that supports the historical claims of the Bible. Nothing exists at any scientific or archeological level to say anything the Book of Mormon says is true.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Kristina

      Jimbo, scholars of the Hebrew language have pointed out numerous areas of the BofM where the language is consistent with a text that has been translated from Hebrew (as Joseph Smith claimed he did). One example - rivers in the book are at times referred to as "rivers of water." Sounds redudant to us, but flowing rivers in the Middle East were referred to this way because of the dry climate - they weren't always rivers of water but sometimes just dry bed. There are also several hundred names in the Book that are consistent with the naming of people in the language and time period. There are also references to things the people did which are now understood to be customs, religious rituals, etc. Pretty impressive that a guy with a 6th grade education (Joseph Smith) could have known all this if he were to create the book himself. Do your research before you post please.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Abinadi

      Oh, I don't know. Paul believed, "5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,. He also said in 1 Corinthians, "10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of aChrist.13 Is Christ adivided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

      Golly, you could almost say that if Paul were alive today, he would be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He certainly would not be a Lutheran or a Methodist or a Baptist now would he?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • TR6

      @ JImbo: “there is a huge avalanche of historical evidence and acrheology that supports the historical claims of the Bible”

      I CALL BS ON YOU. Please provide references to articles in respected pier reviewed journals that support your claim

      October 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • Jimbo

      There is a word for how Smith did this, it is called "Plagerism" he stold the Text of a fictional manuscript from a writer named Soloman Spallding. Sidney Rigdon, one of the innitial witnesses of the Book Of Mormon, who later recanted his witness along with his excommunication from the church, is connected with this author. The trail was fairly well covered, but the facts point to the book being a complete fraud. The only people who defend the Book of Mormon are Mormons. They have no facts and present rhetorical arguments that have no real foundation, always quoting Hebrew scholars and Smithsonian experts who, not surprisingly, don't exist. They claim Divine inspiration for Smith, making Him Divine. No rational, logical argument can ever convince any Mormon that what they believe isn't true. If we choose to believe something because we want to believe it, that is our free will choice in this life. But if we choose to believe something and present that belief as scientific and factual when in fact it is not, we are dealing with another type of animal here. This quality should send up a lot of red flags for any potential presidential candidate.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Kristina

      TR, that there is tremendous historical support for numerous aspects of the BIble is more or less common knowledge, my friend. It is not really going to make you sound educated to suggest the Jesus Christ didn't exist and that many of the strories about him in the Bible aren't true. We can argue about who he was - i.e. man or God - but to suggest that the events didn't happen is kinda silly.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • TR6

      @Kristina: Jimbo claimed that “there is a huge avalanche of historical evidence and acrheology that supports the historical claims of the Bible”. While there are a few biblical incidents that have archeological support. I call BS on Jimbo about “a huge avalanche of historical evidence and archeology” and I call BS on your statement because you only refer to “common knowledge” I’ve seen what Christian common knowledge is like and it often runs a bit shy on facts..

      I stand by my challenge. I CALL BS ON BOTH OF YOU. Put up or shut up. Please prove me wrong and provide references to articles in respected pier reviewed journals that support your claim.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Kristina

      TR, please refer to my previous comment about sounding educated.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Sic transit gloria Munde

      October 31, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  10. Jimbo

    What exactly do Mormons believe? Joseph Smith taught that God resided on the planet Kolob, and Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. God was once a man, just like us, who achieved Divinity by proving himself (just like Mormons must do) by abiding by the rules of the Mormon church. So we can be Gods, eternally sowing our seed and populating planets of our own one day! For some reason, on earth, the plan went haywire and Satan wanted to compell people to serve God. God, was ticked, and sent Jesus to straighten things out. Jesus brought us all the rules of the Mormon church, but people killed Him and the rules Jesus taught were lost for 19 centuries until Joseph Smith, Gods new appointed savior, could find the golden plates ( that nobody ever saw and all 6 people who claimed to see them later recanted and said they were lying). Smith would restore this lost Gospel that Jesus was unable to establish securely on earth. Thus we have the Mormon church today, but there are at least 15 splinter groups claiming to be the authentic Mormon church. Milt Romney is a member of the largest, Salt Lake based church that traces its succession to Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. Both these founders were practicing polygimists, one with 18 wives, the other with 22, thus the inordinate membership expolsion in the early days.
    Do we really want a President of the USA with this kind of confusing and contradictory belief system? do we want candadates who might be Moonies, or ex members of the branch Davidians, or some other obscure cult. People can believe whatever they want and join whatever church they choose. God gave them that right, and who can argue with God. But we get to choose our presidents and we don't have to choose a president who is part of a religious organization with so many dark and confusing teachings.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  11. Jamie

    All religions are fairytales. It is pointless to argue that your fairytale is better than anyone else's. Let's move on.

    October 30, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Ergo, all fairytales are religiions. This is absurd. Nobody tries to form a moral frame work for existence from a fairy tale. In your opinion all religions are fairy tales. I accept your opinion, I reject your proposition.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Jamie

      I don't understand your logic. All humans are animals, ergo, all animals are humans? Would you prefer I used the term "make-believe"?

      October 30, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Jimbo

      You made a statement that is a value judgment and a personal opinion and you stated it as if it were a well established truth. But since the whole idea of God can neither be proved nor disproved, we can only talk about religion in the language of personal belief. It matters very much what a potential US president believes. Fairy tales of not, a belief system effects a persons decisions and actions. Dismissing religion as fairy tales doesn't address the fact that millions of people take their religious beliefs very seriously and make decisions and take action based upon those beliefs.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Jamie

      Romney is against gay rights, women's rights and has similar views to most Christian conservatives. Christian conservatives aren't against his politics but rather his beliefs regarding what are relatively minor details–such as exactly what kind of pie in the sky you'll get when you die.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  12. Greg

    He sounds like a tireless worker who has a knack for creative problem-solving. He's obviously very bright; you don't get into Stanford and graduate at the top of your class at Harvard without being pretty smart. I could handle a creative, smart, hard-working President. He's certainly more accomplished academically and professionally than Obama

    October 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Magic Underwear is the GOP Fad

      "Bishop" Romney believes in celestial polygamy and he will be coming to take your late wife to Mormon heaven as his own. 😉

      They've already done it to millions of holocaust victims. 😉

      Google "posthumous Mormon sealing" or "posthumous baptism".


      October 30, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  13. Sircuts

    All religion aside this faith is based on blood and treason..Joseph Smith and Bringum Young (The Racist) took arms against our country and are considered gods to the LDS Everyone needs to read the story of the Mormon Wars and Joseph Smith arrested for treason. It is all disturbing a candidate would call these guys gods and Prohets when they should be denouncing them.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Bret

      How about reading the Book of Mormon while you are at it? 🙂

      October 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Melford

      WOW, You quite obviously have not read or researched enough before stating something so wild. While one may call Joseph Smith and Brigham Young prophets, you are the first person to ever claim they have been called Gods. Neither Romney or other members of his church have ever made such a claim!

      October 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Kristina

      LDS people do not consider Joseph Smith or Brigham Young gods. That is just one correction to your entirely incorrect comment.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Jimbo

      If Mormonism is true, that means Jesus failed to establish the Gospel when He was here and the truth was lost for 19 centuries until the new savior, Joseph Smith, could bring the new gospel, that really isn't a new Gospel, but the Gospel Jesus was unable to firmly establish. Since Jesus said His Gospel would continually increase, He obviously missed the fact that the Gospel would not increase but go into obscurity for 19 centuries. This makes Jesus an incomplete savior and, of course, Joseph Smith a perfect savior, since it is only by abiding in the Mormon Church that true salvation can be achieved. Since the Mormon Church did not exist for 19 centuries, many are lost. The way to solve this problem is to innitiate a practice called "baptism for the dead". This will formulate a way to go back in history and try to fix the huge gaping hole in the Gospel that Mormonism is faced with. Thus, both Smith and Brigham Young are Gods. Millions are dependent upon them and their teachings for salvation. Only Gods can offer mankind salvation. Whether Mormons awknowledge them as Gods or not is rrrelevant. They occupy the place of Gods.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  14. Alya

    I don't care about Romney's religious background nearly so much as I do the lack of integrity he displayed in so readily backtracking on a number of important ethical and legal issues in order to appeal to the Republicans' conservative Christian national base.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Bret

      Agreed. Much more than his religious views, his political history is something we all should evaluate. In all honesty though, the both sides usually move to the extreme until the get the nomination, then they try to appeal to the middle. Politics as usual.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • Jimbo

      You must care about his religious background. It he were a member of the Moonies, or a former Branch Davidian, you would want to know this. You need to know What the Mormon church is, what is believes and how those beliefs can influence and effect a persons personality and decisions. You cannot seperate a person from their beliefs. You are naive to not care about his religious beliefs. This is a dangerous posture for any American.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Alya

      Jimbo, I've worked with Mormons before, so I'm familiar with some of their quirks. But their religious beliefs aren't any stranger or more implausible than those of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. I'd probably prefer an agnostic candidate personally, but I think all religious denominations have folks both with and without integrity, intelligence, common sense, and any number of other attributes. The integrity, intelligence, and judgement of the individual candidates are far more important to me than whatever religion they happen to belong to.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Scott

      You’d better care about Romney’s religious background. Remember all the shti Bush got us into (including 2 wars) with his voodoo Christianity and his god speaks through me philosophy

      October 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Alya

      Scott, Bush's dubious religious beliefs and his intention to base his executive actions on them were apparent during the campaign. I certainly didn't vote for him, and neither did a majority of voters. But Romney made reasonable decisions as governor of Massachusetts, so it's clear that, unlike Bush, he's capable of ignoring any religious teachings to the contrary. I believe that his current political stances are not generally based on his own personal Mormon beliefs, but on a desire to please other powerful religious groups in the Republican part, namely conservative evangelical Christians.

      October 30, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  15. Sircuts

    Every issue Romney ever flopped on was by order of the LDS church...You can not separate religion and politics when religion is your politics. He made decisions based on his better judgment and was trumped by the LDS and he obeyed like the good brain washed cult member he is.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Bret

      I think you need a reference for a claim like that.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Kristina

      Such baloney. The LDS church has no doctrine or opinion on any issue that might be called political, with the exception of gay marriage, which they do not support. They do not even have an official doctrine on abortion. Please be informed before you post.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  16. Saturn

    A comment in response to sunshinegirl. It's a bit long, so bear with me.

    Those are innocent enough defenses, but unfortunately they all miss the point. No one can deny that Mormonism espouses moral principles that are praiseworthy. Most religions do. And no one can deny that, in many cases, a great deal of comfort and happiness can be derived from Mormonism or any other religious faith. Those things are all well and good, and so it is an even stronger indication of the problems of religion that atheists are intent upon challenging it, in spite of all the good it does or claims to do.

    The issues include:
    1) The idea the one derives happiness and comfort from a religious faith does not justify keeping to that faith unless one is unable to obtain happiness and comfort in any other way. It might make you happy to believe something, but that does not make it TRUE. Isn't it better to face an uncomfortable truth than to believe a comforting lie? And what you might ultimately come to find if you put aside what is comforting is that one can derive just as much peace from a secular life as from a religious one.

    2) While no one can dispute that religions promote many moral principles which might make the world a better place if they were followed, the real question is... do they follow them? There's not much point to having a moral foundation based upon religion if it does not make you more moral in your actual life. If the morality is motivated merely by a fear of eternal punishment, which many religions are, then you are not truly moral - you are simply under duress.

    3) There is no reason why religion should hold a monopoly upon morality, and I would go so far as to argue that any morality which is based on religion is always going to be weaker than a secular morality. Why is that? The reason is because secular people form their morality based on thought, and reason, and consensus, and based upon principles such as human rights. A secular morality is capable of continually changing and adapting as our understanding of humanity increases. This is something that a religious morality cannot do, being based upon authority, tradition, and inflexible absolutes, all of which discourage and forbid independent thought. As a result, there are many religious laws which seem outdated by today's standards (for example, stoning an adulterous wife to death). The only way we manage to reconcile those religions with modern sensibilities is by ignoring the obscene parts of their religious teaching (and there are quite a few obscene parts). Ultimately, there is every reason to believe that an atheist can be just as moral, if not more so, than the most devout religious follower.

    4) One cannot help but be concerned at how well a person will be able to confront and deal with situations in the real world if his private life is so strongly grounded upon faith, which, by its very definition, is the belief in something for which there is no evidence. For a political leader this is very important. What if he is confronted by an issue which conflicts with his personal faith? Will he choose to deal with the situation based solely upon doing what is best for the nation, based upon real world evidence - even if that evidence conflicts with his faith? Or will he stand by his faith? In most cases, it is the latter that a person will ultimately follow.

    These are a few of the reasons why we question religion. It has good intentions, of that I have no doubt. But many terrible things have been done in the spirit of "good intentions".

    October 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Sircuts

      But the problem is what this faith is based on...The story of Joseph Smith makes David Koresh look like a patriot...And Bringum Young is even more disturbing these guys too up arms against the country.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • LizM

      Saturn, excellent points! Thank you.

      I would dare say more Mormons ARE decent good people. My problem is, knowing Mormonism as intimiately as I do (former bishop's wife, temple worker, seminary teacher) I have HUGE issues knowing that, when faced with a terrible problem Romney may be tempted to take phone calls from the *other* President in his life, Thomas S. Monson. I'm more than a little concerned that I may have voted for President Romney and in turn now have President Monson running things. Afterall, follow the Prophet! 😉

      October 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Kristina

      Saturn, why do you assume religion is not also based on thought and reason. There is a saying in Christianity, "There is no such thing as blind faith." Just believing something because you are to naive to know better (i.e. a child believing in Santa) is very different from a person studying their religion, coming to truly understand it, and choosing to believe it. Neuroscientists say we only use a small portion of our brains. Perhaps religious people have learned to use a larger portion of their brains than non-religious people and tap into other sense that you do not understand because you have not trained yourself to understand them (in the same way a layman doesn't understand chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. if he hasn't studied). Just something to think about. There are A LOT of assumptions - not necessarily accurate and certainly not proven - built into your arguments, and I don't think you realize that.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
    • Kristina

      LizM, with your Mormon background you ought to know that the church has a long history of not getting involved in politics. It does not have a stance on any issue that is even arguably political, with the exception of gay marriage, which it does not support.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Saturn

      Religion may be based upon thought and reason, but it is a certain kind of reason. Namely, it is a reason which is ultimately based upon faith.

      One can be very diligent, studious, and critical about coming to an understanding of his own religion. However, his studies of religion will ultimately come from two sources:
      1) Tradition/authority. Teachings are accepted by the authorities of your particular religion and handed down over time. They are accepted as fundamental dogma to the religion and it is generally seen that one cannot remain true to the religion without believing in those teachings. A good example is the virgin birth of Mary in the Christian church. It is a fundamental dogma in most denominations, and one who does not believe in it cannot really be said to be Christian.
      2) Holy scripture. Whether this be from the Bible, or the book of Mormon, the idea is the same. The holy book of your respective religion is always true, always right, and always accurate, being inspired of a higher source than human knowledge.

      In either case, the knowledge derived from each must ultimately come from faith that those two sources of knowledge are indeed derived from the divine rather than merely being the work of men. How does one know that to be true, know for a certainty? You see, the problem with knowledge derived in such a manner is that it can only be said to be true within a certain context, which is the context of believing in it.

      In other words, it's true if and only if you have faith that it's true.

      So, to say that religion can be based on reason isn't quite true. They can "study" their religion, but it still comes down to faith in the teachings, and personal experience, neither of which can ever be meaningfully tested true or false in any kind of objective way.

      And yes, I realize my point of view has many assumptions built into it, as all systems of thought inevitably do! But it is important to distinguish between constructive systems of thought which involve assumptions that allow one to increase one's understanding of the world and his situation in it, versus assumptions which simply lead to more unanswerable questions.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Kristina

      Saturn, I respect your views, but I still feel you overlook some things. You are correct, there are assumptions built into everything. As a scientist in my profession, people who understand science know that not much is really "proven." The atomic model, for example, is just a model that seems to explain the little bit that we do know and can observe about atoms. Many aspects of it may be incorrect and may be proved incorrect at a later time, but it is still useful. There is no difference between choosing to accept the "truth" of something like this than choosing to accept the "truth" of a religion. You as an atheist are not smarter that believing people because you accept one and not the other. I am willing to accept that humans have only scratched the surface of what there is to know in the universe, and that just because something cannot be proven doesn't make it impossible or even unlikely. I know that God exists as clearly as I know anything.

      October 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Saturn

      You say that there is no difference between the "truth" of accepting the theory of evolution or the atomic model versus the "truth" of religion, but that is not an accurate statement. There is a significant difference.

      The difference is that the supernatural claims of religious dogma are things which cannot ever be proven true outside of the context which I have already mentioned, which is the context of belief. If you believe they are true, then they are true within that context. But outside of that, they do not have a truth value that can possibly be said to be meaningful.

      But the claims of religion which touch upon things which can be observed and tested in the real world can be proven true or untrue as the evidence for or against those things is discovered. In the case of creationism, for example, scientific evidence now exists which contradicts directly with the creation myth (unless one thinks of the creation story as being an allegory or something like that). While there may be inaccuracies or things missing from the theory of evolution, the things that we know about it demonstrate to a high likelihood that the theory is an accurate model of the origin of species. In this case, where there is a clear contradiction between belief-predicated "truth" and objectively observable "truth", the latter MUST take precedence.

      One can certainly say that none of the principles of science, even the proven laws, can be said to be "True" in any kind of absolute sense, but that is not a weakness of science or the discoveries it has made. One can best understand it by considering the case of laws which apply wholly to the abstract, such as the Pythagorean Theorem. Can the Pythagorean theorem be said to be "true" in an absolute sense? No, not really. But what you CAN say about it is that it is consistent within the system and axioms of Euclidean geometry. If one accepts those axioms as being true by definition, then the Pythagorean theorem is "true" also, because it necessarily follows directly from those axioms.

      Scientific "truth" can be thought of as the same way. It is not an absolute "truth" (as perhaps absolute truth does not exist, or cannot possibly be knowable), but it allows us to discover what is true within the concept of a system. The system, in this case, is the observable universe. Scientific truth can only be said to be true within that context, the context of the observable universe. But, for all intents and purposes, that is good enough, unless one truly wishes to reject the observable universe as a whole (which is a whole different can of worms, which I will not open).

      This was an overly long comment, but I often hear religious people saying that even scientific truth cannot be said to be absolutely true and therefore one must accept it upon faith the same as you must do for religious truth, so I felt the need to clarify that there is a tremendous difference between truth in science and truth based upon belief.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Saturn

      Oh, and for the record, I would never make the argument that I'm smarter than a theist solely because I refuse to believe in god.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • Kristina

      Saturn, I'm glad you would not make that argument. It sets you apart from many, maybe most of your fellow atheists. It is a huge assumption that you make to say that religious things cannot ever be proven. Are you suggesting that it is not possible to ever prove the existence of God? We do not know how to do this. But what if he shows up in the world tomorrow? If he does exist and he did this, his existence could be proven in the same way you would prove the existence of any other being (I suppose this would be by seeing him, touching him, interacting with him, etc). The fact that this has not happened is not relevant evidence of his existence of lack of existence. Nor does it indicate that religious things can never be proven. As a further note, I'm sure if you would have asked many people on the world 200 years ago if we would ever fly, they would have said impossible. I'm sure they would have said the same about going to the moon, the concept of the Internet, or even more basic things. We don't know everything there is to know out there. I believe we know very little. As a last note, I don't consider the more or less scientific truth of evolution to be inconsistent with the existence of God or God as the creator. I believe God is the master scientist.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Kristina

      Signing off for the night, but have enjoyed hearing your views.

      October 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  17. The Dude


    October 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  18. The Dude

    http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=2JlxbKtBkGM

    October 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  19. Jamie

    Let me get this straight: You believe that a couple of thousand years ago an invisible man in the sky impregnated a virgin girl in the middle east, had a half-god/half-man son who traveled around doing magic tricks, and then rose from the dead and is now constantly watching all of us to see if we'll get pie in the sky when we die? But it's only the Morons who are gullible?

    October 30, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Sircuts

      Well they are the only ones who warship a racist known as Bringum Young. it was 1993 when they Baptized Adolf Hitler in the name of the dead...And did I mention The Mormon Wars? These are real people who are criminals not some story written 2,000 years ago.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Jamie

      Actually, Hitler was baptized as a Catholic first. And Christians have caused more than their share of wars and suffering. Fine, you can argue that Mormons are crazier than most. But it's kind of like arguing that believing in Santa is crazier than believing in the Easter Bunny.

      October 30, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Ned Nickerson and Nancy play golf with Mortimer

      B R I G H A M Y O U N G Duh

      October 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  20. imma notaraghead

    Mormons are crazy.

    October 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.