Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Religious Tolerance or Intolerant Religion?

When I skimmed by this post at Wizbang! yesterday, I did not expect it to set the blogosphere afire in the way that it did. Quite a few people have weighed in on Jay Tea's comments concerning the Mormon practice of baptizing the dead. Bogus Gold, one of my regular reads, looks at the controversy from a sensitive Catholic perspective.

My own view of Mormon baptism is rather mixed; I do not see it from a Lutheran perspective, or from the perspective of any other belief system. Basically, I see it from the standpoint of an amateur genealogist. While online, I am either reading blogs, posting on this one, or doing genealogical research. My hobby is not driven by religious or racial interests, or by an interest in the social status of my ancestors. People who study their family's back ground for those reasons are often disappointed. Much of my work on "old country" ancestors was done via the Latter Day Saints' Family History Center (FHC). I have traced over three hundred years of ancestors by going through the Mormons. Did it bother me knowing that all of these people were "baptized" long after their deaths? Of course not. As far as I was concerned, the FHC was a place where I could do business at a reasonably cheap rate. At less than $5 to rent a roll of microfilm for a few weeks and a quarter per page for copies, I didn't care if they were performing arcane rituals involving the names of my dead ancestors. Their fates were decided long ago.

I felt the same way when some close family members died a few years ago, and some Catholic friends sent our family a fancy illustrated booklet informing us that some Capuchin Monks were now praying for the deceased. It was bizarre. What did anyone in my family have to do with a group of tonsured eccentrics? How dare they, I thought? If someone was dead, either they were in heaven or they were in hell. Case closed. And if the case was closed, what did it matter to me if complete strangers said prayers for my dead relatives? It didn't matter to me at all. And for that matter, how did I know whether or not these monks had the tonsure? I didn't. They were complete strangers. The Catholics who submitted the names of my relatives to the Capuchins did so in the belief that they were doing something good and positive -- just like the Mormons. Neither the Roman Catholic practice nor that of the Mormons affected my way of life. I am not going to worry about the religious beliefs of others, no matter how alien they may be to my way of thinking, unless their tenets include exhortations like "Kill the infidel". No Mormon has ever threatened to kill me, and we haven't been at war with Catholics in over 350 years. In fact, some of us have converted Catholics through intermarriage -- a triumph of love over faith, you might say.

The Mormons can do what they want. I am perfectly happy to tolerate another religion as long as its adherents are tolerant of me.

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