A Case Study of Religious Blinders at Work

I was having lunch today with a bunch of my coworkers, and the topic drifted into the subject of religion (I promise, I didn't do it). The group consisted of three agnostics (including myself), a Catholic, a liberal Christian, and my boss, who is a Mormon.

Overall, the discussion was a refreshing, open exchange of ideas. No one was out to hurt anyone else's feelings, and everybody kept it respectful. However, I found one moment particularly eye-opening when we entered the subject of how religions start. My boss said something along the lines of, "Islam is obviously fake. Muhammad just went to his cave and borrowed ideas from Christianity and Judaism, and then added his own twist to it." Now, I more or less agree with this statement, but I was completely blown away by the mental blinders at work here. As I said earlier, my boss is a Mormon. Joseph Smith was an obvious charlatan who created a faith with parts of Christianity and Judaism before adding his own twist to it. I wonder if my boss even noticed the parallel. I kind of wish I had pointed it out, but I figured that wouldn't be the best idea.

Still, the whole thing blew me away. It's amazing how easily the human mind adapts itself to sectarian religious belief.

--Cross-posted from The Iron Chariot

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Comment by Cecilia on February 9, 2010 at 2:24pm
This is why I am so fascinated by Mormons. There is no evidence for the truth of the foundational myths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam yet people still believe them. But with Mormonism, not only is there no evidence of the truth of its foundational myths, there is actual evidence that proves them false!! And yet, Mormons still believe them! It blows my mind. And, in Judaism, Christianity and Islam there are many people who don't believe these things literally. When I meet a Reform Jew or a liberal Presbyterian, I generally assume (and am probably correct) that they view their religions' scriptures/teachings not literally but as myths/metaphors that provide ethical and moral guidance (like Aesop's fables). But I am not sure that that is true of Mormons and I have always felt that it would be rude of me to ask.
Comment by J.P.M. on February 9, 2010 at 2:17pm
Well, as a tenured professor, I don't have that employment risk.
But here I am, surrounded by a bunch of so-called scientists,
and every public occasion it is still automatically assumed that everyone is 'christian', i.e. grace before dinner, references to praying etc. It annoys hell out of me - why should christianity be the 'default state' for everyone!
I know, I know - I'm living in the wrong state.
But there's that tenure thing - kind of handy in this economy.
Comment by Lord J Bar on February 9, 2010 at 1:56pm
If it weren't my boss, I absolutely would have gone there.
Comment by J.P.M. on February 9, 2010 at 1:47pm
Bilnders are required equipment :)
In these situations I always ask what criteria they arrived at to 'choose' which religion to follow or which god to believe in. You never get a straight answer, but its always fun to watch them squirm a bit and come upp with a lame answer. You can follow it up with the observation that since religions have some very different teachings, they can't all be right. So how do you know which one is 'true'? And doesn't that mean that all the others have to be false?

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